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"


DECEMBER 29, 2016


Because they seem to live in an eternal present, I would be surprised if many Leftists were proud of their ancestors.  I am proud of mine -- mainly because I know a fair bit about them.

Most people start taking an interest in their genealogy in their '60s.  I started in my early '40s.  And because a lot of Australians survive into their '90s, a lot of my older relatives were still there, plugging on.  And the people they remembered lived long lives too.  So living memory was able to take me back a long way -- to my great-great grandmother, who arrived in Australia in the hold of a wooden convict ship in the 1840s and who lived into her '90s.

And from what I heard, my father and his father  were typical of the breed: Quiet, hard-working, uncomplaining men who never made a splash but did hard things for the benefit of their families.

My father was a timber contractor ("lumberjack") and his father and grandfather were bullockies. ("teamsters"). As a kid, I watched my father cut down big forest trees with just an axe and a crosscut saw.  There were no chainsaws then.

And if you want to know what bullockies were like, Henry Lawson's poem "The Teams" is both graphic and accurate.  It is my favourite poem.  My grandfather, "Jack", never went to school as he was working a bullock team by the time he was 10. He was however taught at home how to read and write.

My grandfather's team

Jack Ray's father was Frank Ray.  His obit in The Cairns Post of 28 February 1910 describes him as the first carrier (bullocky) on the Palmer [river goldfield] up Cooktown way.

A couple of small, illustrative details: I remember my grandfather, "Jack", well.  He got a small splinter of steel in his eye in an accident.  He didn't trust doctors so he just squinted for the rest of his life.  In his time, distrusting doctors was probably wise.  And my father's cousin, old Alex Fletcher, tended to get skin cancers, as I do.  But he was a farmer living a long way from town so he just put his hot soldering iron onto the cancers to cure them.  I blanch when I think about it.  But he had it all thought out and explained to me how he did it.  If you admire hardiness, how could you not be proud of such men?  Once upon a time men were men and were in no doubt about how to do it.

The Australian pioneers worked hard to wrench a modern and highly civilized society out of a harsh natural environment -- and I am proud that my ancestors were among them.  My only sadness is that  I am not worthy of them.  I am a degenerate compared to them.

An amusing coda:  My father was far from dumb but the only way he knew to put bread on the table was by hard manual work.  He was  born in 1915 and that was how it was for most people in that era.  So because I spent so much time reading books and not doing outdoor things, my father thought I would never amount to much. He had a vivid way of putting that which I won't relate.  But when he heard how much money I was making from teaching at a major Australian university, he sat bolt upright with surprise and immediately reversed his opinion of his eldest son!

27 December, 2016


On Saturday,  Christmas eve,  Anne was staying home to make last minute preparations for going down the coast to join her family on Christmas day.  So I emailed Jenny on Friday to see what she was doing on Christmas eve.  She had nothing planned so offered to cook me a Christmas eve dinner, which I accepted with alacrity.  Jenny makes very good dinners.  I took over my usual Tyrrells Verdelho.

Jenny in fact cooked me one of my favourites:  real Wiener Schnitzel -- veal Schnitzel.  You mostly see chicken Schnitzel these days.  So that went down well with salad etc.  As I do, Jenny puts feta cheese in her salads and I noted how well Feta went with the Schnitzel.  Something to remember.

And on Christmas day Jenny drove herself, Nanna and me down to Suz's place for the family get-together.  We arrived about 11am, with heaps of presents. Jenny had been a very busy shopper.

An interesting pre-dinner feature was a big box of prawns that Timmy had brought over.  The only seafood I eat is fish'n chips but a lot of the others bogged in.

The main feature of the dinner was a big ham cooked masterfully by Russ on his big BBQ.  With salad and various odds and ends, of course.  Suz had made us some bread rolls in her bread-making machine that came out like damper.  So we had a bit of a laugh with Suz over her insistence that they were bread rolls.  They went down anyway.

Tracy, Simon, their children and their dogs were in attendance.  It was nice to meet Ted, a big Labradoodle with cream-coloured curls for hair.  He looked like a sheep and was very good-natured.  He had come all the way from Woomera with Tracy and Simon in their car.  Dogs love cars but I thought the doggy smell might get a big much on such a long trip.  Ted looked beautiful but he smelt like a dog.

I talked mainly with Simon and Ken.  And what did we talk about?   A worldwide topic of conversation at the moment:  Mr Trump!  Mr Trump is a risky topic these days  as there are many criticisms of him.  But we managed to have a congenial conversation about him nonetheless, probably because we are all on the conservative side of the fence. 

Simon was fairly critical of Mr Trump at first but I pointed out some of the things Trump has going for him and Simon did end up conceding that Trump would probably do some good.  I asked Ken what did he think of the claim that Trump is a misogynist? Ken said:  "No more than any other man" -- which was pretty realistic answer, I think.

We had our usual mystery presents game, which got everybody involved.  I ended up with a dashboard camera, which is probably a good thing, but I do so little driving these days that I will probably give it to Joe.  Not that he does a lot of driving.  He WALKS amazing distances.

A few people were drinking beer but no-one got noticeably affected by it.  We are a pretty sober lot.  I avoid drinking during the day because I drink a fair bit at night.

Then on Christmas night, Anne came over and we had ham and mustard sandwiches at about 8pm -- using leftover ham from the lunchtime ham.  It's always the best ham of the year.

Monday was of course Boxing day so Anne stayed over at my place all day.  For breakfast we jointly cooked up some bacon and eggs for breakfast, with some savoury mince thrown in.  I had the mince already cooked and in the fridge.  So it helped make a good breakfast.

Then for dinner Anne cooked up some good sausages I had in the freezer -- beef and pork sausages.  They cooked up very well, a humble but most enjoyable dinner.  And we had some very small Christmas puddings with cream as a dessert.

And on Tuesday morning, we had the last of the Christmas ham for breakfast -- as ham and mustard sandwiches.  Anne then left to prepare for a trip to Stanthorpe with some friends.

21 December, 2016

Monday was a good day

Monday was a good day.  Jenny and I invited Sandi over for a pre-Xmas dinner.  With the help of Mr Patak of Lancashire, I cooked up a beef curry in my crockpot and Jenny provided the trimmings: Yoghurt, chutney, pappadums.  We had it amid the breezes on my verandah.  I even got out my best plates for the occasion! And the curry and rice tasted good. Congratulations to Mr Patak! And Jenny excelled herself with the dessert: Pavlova plus rum balls. And all washed down with Tyrrells Verdelho as usual.

I ate so much that I had to go and lie down for a rest after a while but Jenny and Sandi carried on chatting.

And then on Tuesday Anne and I had absolute ambrosia from the Greek fish shop at Manly. That lot sure know what they are doing.  I think it was the best fish 'n chips I have had. So no wonder that the place was leaping: customers everywhere and lots of staff behind the counter.  I imagine people go there from all over. The battered Barramundi, the chips and the Greek salad were all first class. We had it at Anne's place, with, guess what?  Tyrrells Verdelho.

17 December, 2016

A maple syrup day

Joe and Kate are off on an overseas holiday at the moment so this morning I offered to cook them a "bon voyage" breakfast.  Kate had mentioned that her favourite breakfast was a Canadian one -- pancakes, maple syrup and bacon.

As it happened, I had in one of my cupboards a bag of pancake mix which I had bought from Woolworths for 99c.  So the die was cast.  A pancake breakfast it would be.  I had cooked pancakes only once or twice before so the young couple were taking a risk. 

And it was a bit chaotic. With the help of my premix, I brewed up plenty of batter and poured it nicely into my special teflon-coated pancake pan. And they cooked well.  But then came the problem:  Getting them out of the pan.  My psychomotor skills have never been great and my tendency to the shakes has slowly got worse over the years.  So I could not get the pancakes out in an orderly way.  They came out rather crumpled up. 

Fortunately, Anne was to hand so I gave the job to her.  She also claimed to be no good at it but, oddly, she found that if she made big pancakes nearly as big as the pan, she could do a reasonable job of it -- which she did.  While she was doing  that I concentrated on cooking the bacon and also did some fried eggs.

I had kept aside the messed up pancakes that I had made and offered them to Joe before Anne's pancakes arrived.  They disappeared like lightning.  He must have been hungry.

I had a bottle of allegedly genuine Canadian maple syrup so with its help we had a good breakfast.

And the syrup made an appearance later on as well.  I made Anne and myself a chicken salad for our evening meal.  I think I will draw a veil over its contents but it was not completely filling so there was room for a dessert of waffles.  And it just so happened that I had a pack of pre-cooked waffles to hand.  So waffles with maple syrup and Streets Blue Ribbon ice-cream  finished off the day nicely.

15 December, 2016


Peignoirs originated in 19th century France.  They were a rather utilitarian garment at that time.  The Lady would often sleep in the nude for the convenience of The Master so a garment was needed for getting out of bed the next morning. And that was the peignoir. 

So The Lady would get out of bed, have her morning pee in the chamber pot kept under the bed, go back to bed and ring for the maid to remove the pot.  While the maid was doing that The Lady would choose and don one of her peignoirs.  It was not fitting for the maid to see The Lady in the altogether. That was a pleasure strictly reserved for The Master.

The maid would come back and The Lady would take a seat while the maid brushed her hair.  The peignoir was a garment for hair brushing time.  The Lady of course wore her hair long to please The Master and long hair can get rather messed up in bed -- so brushing it out was the first order of the day. After that other preparations for facing the day would begin.

So the peignoir was a practical thing -- a dressing gown tied at the waist -- but The Lady would NEVER wear anything that was just practical.  It had to look good too -- in case The Master came in during preparations.  So the peignoir was usually in silk or satin and often in white.  It had to be simple but flattering.  So it could not be voluminous but should rather flatter the figure.

So that is how peignoirs originated.  In more modern times their privacy use has largely disappeared and they come in sheer fabrics, cut in revealing ways and accompanied by matching panties:  Not your old peignoir at all.  I have however been old fashioned since I was aged six so I really enjoy seeing a lady with a nice figure in an old-fashioned peignoir.

But where do you buy one?  There are many advertised for sale on the net but they all seem to be modern  interpretations.  Anne has a figure so I offered to buy an old-style one for her years ago -- but we just couldn't find one.

But lo and behold!  Anne walked into my bedroom recently wearing a very nice peignoir in the original style.  Anne's mother  passed away a year or so ago and Anne inherited most of her clothes.  Her sisters were to fat or too slim for them to fit.  And among them Anne found exactly the type of peignoir I like. A bit sad that you need to have a 93 year old mother with good taste to acquire one but that is how the cookie crumbled.

11 December, 2016

Another busy weekend

On Friday night, I shouted a pre-Xmas dinner for Jason -- at the "Sunny Doll" Japanese restaurant. Joe, Kate, Anne and myself were the other diners.  We ordered mainly off the Don Buri menu as you will see from the receipt below.  Jason is a very clever man in all sorts of ways and he demonstrated his social skills by being a model guest.  He made a point of spending some time talking to each of us.  If anybody needs a guest to make up numbers at a dinner party, invite Jason.  He manages to be both polite and self-effacing while at the same time knowing amazing amounts of stuff.  He is a genuinely good man.

Saturday morning started out interestingly.  I attempted to make ham, cheese and tomato jaffles for breakfast for Anne and myself.  They came out pretty well but the difficulty was getting them out of the sandwich machine.  Both Anne and I had a go at it but they all came out in something of a mess.  We had to use knives and forks to eat them.  But they tasted good.

Later on Saturday morning Suz put on an open house -- from 10:30am on -- as part of the celebrations for Sahara's birthday. Joe, Kate, Jenny, Nanna and I went along.

For once, I chose for myself what presents to bring so I brought four: A dolly-sized chair and bucket, some Peppa Pig cards and a small frying pan in the shape of a heart. But she got so many presents that it was hard to see what she thought of my presents.  Maybe Suz will tell me if she plays with any of them.

Joe seemed to be in a rather glum mood but the kids soon livened him up. He spent a lot of time picking them up, throwing them around, chasing them etc -- to enormous shrieks of amusement from them.  Dusty in particularly had a very loud scream. They kept coming back for more, as kids do. Toys are nowhere nearly as amusing as adult attention.

In chats with Suz I discovered something I did not know about her.  She is a real sentimentalist.  I always knew that Von had a box of little mementoes of all sorts of times in her life -- from when she was a kid.  But Lo and behold, Suz does too.  She got out her neat little wooden box and showed us all her mementoes.  She may well be just as sentimental as Von. One item is a tiny plastic baby that Von wanted too so that has been a bit of a game between them: Hiding and finding the baby

The sawmill:  There is an old sawmill up for sale near where Von lives and it would be a dream for Russ to buy and run it. But moving to New Zealand would entail lots of difficulties.  As a mother of two, Suz in particular is conscious of those difficulties, though she absolutely hates standing in the way of something that would be so good for Russ. So I spent a lot of times exploring the possibilities with her.

Russ is already a keen woodworker and you could see the dream in his eyes when talking about the sawmill.  A woodworker with his own sawmill is in woodworking heaven.

We had rum balls etc with a cup of tea when we arrived and at lunchtime Suz made us ham and cheese rolls.

Joe must have felt the need to be in a family environment because he spent more time at Suz's place than he usually does.  So I got the chance to lie down on a comfy couch there and have a nice nap -- as I usually do after lunch.  When I woke up it was to the sound of screaming kids being chased around my couch by a monster, which was very entertaining.  It was of course Joe doing his best monster impersonations.

Kate played with the kids a bit so she is getting used to our  boisterous ways with kids

9 December, 2016

News of Chris Brand

I put up the following post on my main political site because Chris is a conservative blogger -- but I think it has a place here too

Chris seems to have weathered the storm and looks like he will make a good recovery.  He is however still in hospital. 

Some background:

A great co-incidence is that my dynamic stepson Paul moved to Edinburgh over a year ago and in fact lives only 5 minutes walk down the street from where Chris lives.  And Paul shares my views on most things so he and Chris got on famously from the get go.  So Paul has been a great proxy for me during Chris' grievous illness.  He has fought for Chris all the way. 

Paul and my son Joe also get on exceptionally well so Joe is travelling to Britain soon and will be staying with Paul for Christmas and should therefore meet Chris.  There will be some VERY conservative conversations between THAT trio!  Joe and I also see eye to eye on most things.

With that background I think I can share the latest marvellous email from Paul.  (Shiou is Chris' wife and Matthew is Paul's 5 year old son):

"Last night I spent 4 hours up at the Hospital with Chris, Shiou and his son, Tom who made a surprise visit up from London.

It was a really joyous occasion, celebrating the strong recovery of Chris. He hopes to be home for Christmas.

We had so many great chats and laughs but it was great to see Chris so talkative and strong in his will and being the main contributor to the many stories being told.

He is keen to assist Matthew in the future with his speech and cultural stories and of course we are all excited to have Joe Ray here over the Christmas period.

What a very lucky outcome!!"

The mention of Matthew refers to the fact that Matthew has acquired a slight Scottish accent which Paul rather deplores.  He knows how much your accent typecasts you in Britain.  So he is hoping to familiarize Matthew with RP, which Chris speaks. Matthew is a bright little boy so being able to switch accents should come easily to him.


8 December, 2016

Michael Darby

Michael is an old friend from wayback. He is a fellow strong conservative and also has the distinction of having the loudest voice I have ever heard.  He is a modern-day Stentor. One index of his individuality is that for a time he used to drive around Sydney in an old Dennis fire engine. He is definitely an irreplaceable original.

So I was pleased to get a call from him tonight.  He is in the Mater Private hospital in Brisbane recovering from a double hip replacement.  Michael is actually two years younger than I am and my hips are fine  -- but Michael is a great fan of the dinner table so has put on a lot more weight than I have -- not that I have anything to boast about in that department. And overweight is of course bad for hips. But Michael has risen to the dismal challenge of weight loss and tells me that he has slimmed down a lot since I last saw him.

I hope to have him over for a dinner some time soon  -- when he has completed his convalescence.  We have a mutual friend in Jill, who remembers him with affection, so I might try for a combined dinner in January.  Jill does a lot of cruising these days so I would have to fit in with her too.

Michael and I are both blessed in that we have capable sons who mostly share our political views.

24 November, 2016

A nice picture of Elise in the plane on the way home

She's won a lot of hearts.  Look at those eyes.  They will be regarded as mysterious in her adulthood

20 November, 2016

The benefits of a low light level

Part of the “Gemütlichkeit” (pleasant social environment) thing in Germany is to have things darker and more intimate. And bedrooms around the world tend to have reduced illumination.  My bedroom is lit by a side lamp powered by a 10 watt fridge globe on the more private occasions, so it has a very low light level indeed.  But one's eyes adjust of course.  10w is sufficient.

I will get back to that but I now want to comment on a TV program that I did not watch.  The only TV I watch these days is the Melbourne cup, a great event.

There was apparently on TV a program called "The Bachelor", in which a lot of young women were introduced to one lucky man in the hope that one of the ladies would become the love of his life.  There were all sorts of activities before the man made his choice and the viewing public had the challenge of deciding which lady he would choose. 

There was apparently a broad consensus that one lovely lady, Nikki Gogan, would be his choice. She was in love with him. But he in fact ended up choosing another lady, which caused him to be called "the most hated man in Australia" at one point. 

All that it of course is just leaves in the wind and is already well on the way to being forever forgotten.  There was however one picture from the final episode that was repeatedly broadcast.  It was a picture of Nikki receiving the bad news. And it was in fact so frequently reproduced on the net that even I eventually noticed it.  And I could see why people were fascinated by the picture.  To me it had a Mona Lisa quality.  See below.

It is somehow an image of a quality lady.

So now we get back to light levels.  Anne wears her hair in a style similar to Nikki's and has a similar-shaped face.  So when I kiss her in my bedroom I am reminded of Nikki.  I have my own Nikki Gogan!  The low light level erases most of the evidence that I am kissing a lady in her 70s.  Now, isn't that a good thing?  Romance is not dead!

19 November, 2016

A busy time

Now that Mr Trump has well and truly arrived, I have taken some steps to reduce the time I spend on blogging.  I think I need to get out more.  And that seems to be working.

On Wednesday evening I cooked some pork porterhouse steaks for Anne and myself which went down very well.  Once again prepared by Woolworths.  I just heated them up in my large cast-iron saucepan. A Greek salad went with it.  Anne brought over some Camembert that had to be cooked (!) as an appetizer and that was quite good too.

Anne stayed over so for breakfast next morning, we got pies from the Yeronga pie shop and took them down to the Yeronga waterfront to eat them. We were not quite sure where we would end up so Anne took her nice mainly red checked travel rug along in case we had to sit on the ground.  It turned out that there was a seat where we ended up but Anne brought her rug with her to the seat anyway.  The pies were good but messy to eat. 

When we left Anne forgot her  rug, leaving it on the seat.  We went back to get it but could not again find the place where we had been.  It is a real rabbit warren around Orsova st. So that was vexing.  We must have driven around for over half an hour but neither of us could figure out where to go.

Anyway, Anne stayed on so that night we went to the pub at the Woollongabba fiveways for dinner.  The chicken schnitzel dinner there was quite good. And the pots of Fourex Gold helped too.

Then on Friday night we went to the Yeronga RSL club for dinner, as we had had good food there in the past.  It was buffet night and they had a big range of tempting offerings, of which I tried many.  A very good night.  Again with pots of Fourex Gold helping.

Then on Saturday morning we took pies from the Fiveways pie shop down to the park at the end of Kangaroo Point.  Again the pies were good.  The outlook onto the Brisbane river was pleasant too.

Anne had various arrangements with choirs and such things for the rest of the weekend but my social life still carried on.  Ken arranged a BBQ at his house on Saturday afternoon for us to spend time with Paul while he is still here.  He is just back from NZ and flies back to Scotland on Monday. Suz and Russ and the kids were there too.  I arrived at about 3pm and the BBQ was about 5pm.  Paul and I talked a bit about Chris Brand's illness.  Chris was in a very bad way but is now convalescing.  We both hope that he will be able to keep company with Paul in Edinburgh for a few years yet.

We very daringly talked about the big no-no for modern conversations:  Mr Trump.  Mr Trump has replaced religion and politics as something that is too divisive to discuss socially.  There seemed generally to be at least guarded approval of Mr Trump.  Even Ken said he was glad to see Trump elected -- but mainly because Ken loathed Hillary. He would not be alone in that.  Feminism is all very well but it's not a good way to get the male vote, as Julia Gillard also found out. 

At one stage I was talking to the kids and mentioned that only girls have dolls.  Both Sahara and Dusty agreed with that. My ideas about sex-roles are very much accord with both biology and tradition.  But perhaps in an effort at modernity, Ken said to Dusty: "but boys these days sometimes have dolls too".  Dusty's reply to that was memorable. He said "AAARRGGH!" -- a real boy.

Ken was a very diligent BBQ cook, turning over the snags all the time.  They were thin snags -- pork, I think. And the end result was just right.  I enjoyed them greatly.

I have always showed my complete lack of class by CUTTING my bread rolls instead of tearing them apart by brute force.  Cutting them helps to get them buttered evenly in my opinion.  I even have a big breadknife for the purpose and have donated a similar knife to Anne for use at her place. So I was rather pleased to see that Ken has adopted the same practice.  He has a big knife which he keeps in its own sheath for the purpose of cutting bread rolls (Inter alia, one presumes).  He had better not let any of his relatives in England see it, though.

Do you see what I did above?  I immediately restored my class position by using a Latin expression.  It's crazy but it is very British.

And I got good farewell cuddles as I left the party: from Elise, Sahara and Dusty.  What more could one ask?

Paul's side-trip to NZ was apparently a great success.  The three born Ladies (Von, Hannah and Elise) might have been different ages but the rapport between them was very obvious, according to Paul.  Von sent me a Thank-you note for sending Paul over so there is no doubt that the visit went very well

And tomorrow morning I should be sharing our usual Sunday morning breakfast with Joe.

UPDATE:  I did indeed break fast with Joe on Sunday morning.  We talked mainly about Mr Trump and the reactions to him.  One thing I mentioned was something that seems rarely mentioned:   His beloved and devoted daughter Ivanka is married to a Jew and has herself converted to Judaism.  So the constant Leftist accusation that Donald is a racist and an antisemite jars greatly with that reality.

But on the same day I also had lunch with an old friend:  Peter H.  We were in the army together long ago so it was well and truly time to catch up.  We had a very good lunch at the "Memorizable" Chinese restaurant at Buranda -- where the Sing Sing used to be.  It's a strange name for a Chinese restaurant and is quite new so does not appear on the internet at the moment.  The food was great.  I had satay lamb and Peter had beef with vegetables. The cook there knows his stuff.

We had no trouble finding things to talk about.  We have both had a quite varied life after the army. So it was a most congenial occasion.  I remembered Peter from way back as a nice guy -- and he still is.

12 November, 2016

Two little ladies

Hannah and Elise playing together in New Zealand .  Note all the pink.  Picture received from Paul

12 November, 2016

Much fun

When Anne started going out with Mr New, she and I continued to see one-another once a week.  So at one stage I made her a promise that the next time we saw one another twice a week, I would put on our favourite dinner, which is lamb cutlets.  They are a bit dear for everyday dining but make a great special meal. They are very tasty.  I like them with plenty of salt and well-buttered  bread.

So on Wednesday I got a heap of them from my freezer and made a good salad to accompany them.  We had a Wyndhams bin 555 Shiraz to wash it down. And it was a great evening.

Then on Friday morning, Paul and Elise joined me at breakfast at my usual cafe.  Paul and I talked about all sorts of things, including Mr Trump.  We both like Mr Trump but I told Paul never to argue about him.  The things people don't like about Mr Trump -- bad manners etc. -- are real and excusing them will not be well received.  Even many of those who supported Mr Trump are aware of his faults but we overlook them because we like his policies.

When we got back to the car after brekky. Elise stopped and carefully took her sunnies out of her gold handbag, put them on and then clicked her handbag shut before she went any further.  All completely ladylike at age 3.

And on Friday night Anne and I had one of our two annual dinners with Jill and Lewis. As usual for the one late in the year we went to The Sunny Doll and had some of their scrumptious Japanese food. I ordered some vegetable tempura as an appetizer before the main meal as Anne particularly likes that.  She never fails to remind me to order it! Lewis knew what he wanted for his main course  -- Omurice -- but for the rest of us I just ordered a selection of the rice dishes (Donburi).  When the dishes arrived, I said that Anne and Jill could choose one and I would have the other. That caused momentary confusion but one of them came with salad so that was an obvious choice for Anne, who is something of a salad devotee. We were all rather naughty as none of us finished our beautifully-cooked rice. I reproduce the docket below as a memento of what we had.

Then on Saturday night we had one of our big Bollywood dinners so everybody would get a chance to see Paul and Elise.  I offered a toast at the beginning of the evening to "A very special person" -- Elise.

Sahara was very vivacious at the dinner, playing mainly with Tim until she wore him out. She was looking more beautiful than ever.

Sahara looking alert

Anne mainly talked to Ken, as she often does.  They both do a lot of holiday travel so discuss that, among other things.  I was particularly pleased to see all the littlies running about.  I mainly talked to Jenny and was sad to hear that Nanna has had a bad turn.

I talked briefly with Ken about Mr Trump. Anne in the middle

Anne counted 22 people at the dinner, including about 6 kids. Paul invited some of his friends along so that increased our normal numbers.

I got to pick up Elise and give her a hug as I was leaving and was amazed at how heavy she was. Like Joe, she seems to have inherited Jenny's big bones. But it was her boyfriend that Elise was interested in cuddling

Below is a brilliant portrait that Ken did of Elise.  Ken is a man of the arts.  He draws, he plays music and he writes stories.

Then Joe and I were due for our usual leisurely Sunday morning breakfast -- where we mostly discuss politics

7 November, 2016

The meatloaf appreciation society

This evening was the inaugural meeting of the The meatloaf appreciation society -- on my verandah.

Paul and I are connoisseurs of meatloaves but our favourite one has long ceased to be available. So when I came across one in Aldi that was pretty close to the legendary one I put one in my freezer against the day when I could share it with Paul -- who usually lives in Scotland these days.

But Paul is back in Brisbane for a few days so I shared my treasured meatloaf with him tonight.  It was a great hit with him and I of course liked it too.  My inexpert cookery did not manage to ruin it. 

Jenny and Joe were also present so I proclaimed today as  the inaugural meeting of the The meatloaf appreciation society.  Our next meeting will be the next time Paul is in Brisbane.  We should have rounded up another good meatloaf by then.

Rather to my amusement, Paul did his usual vacuum-cleaner  performance.  Both Paul and his father are renowned for that.  As I think most housewives will tell you, they like to see the dinner they put out eaten up. There  is no fear about that when either Paul or Ken are around.   In tonight's example, I had provided  both an appetizer and a big Greek salad to go with the meatloaf.  That all vanished in the course of the evening, including ALL the many cracker biscuits I put out with the appetizer.  And when Joe did not finish all of his meatloaf -- probably out of waistline considerations -- Paul finished that off too.  And he was ready for the dessert when that arrived too. Fun!

The little lady was overtired so went to sleep on my bed.  She was offered a bed in my guest room but rejected that. She chose the room where male pheromones were strongest.  Again the perfect Lady already at age 3.  I predict a great future for her.

6 November, 2016

A good weekend

I didn't do anything much on Friday night but on Saturday night I put on a dinner for an old Army friend, Rod H., who was my Sergeant Major in my Army days. And Rod was a born sergeant major, nearly 6' tall with a deep strong voice he could command any army parade like a natural -- because he is a natural.

Sadly, however, he didn't stay in the Army, on the grounds that he didn't think much would be happening in the peacetime army. He guessed wrongly there, though, as the Australian army has been deployed in all sorts of places ever since -- mainly in peacekeeping roles but also involved in a few hot wars -- Afghanistan, Iraq etc.  If Rod had stayed in he would have been a Colonel by now, which is a real distinction.

Anyway, we have kept up contact in a very desultory way ever since so I thought it was time to do a proper get-together.  I shouted him and his lady a dinner at the newest Chinese restaurant near me.  The food was good but the communication with the staff was very fragile.  I am inclined to think that one of the waitresses knew as much English as I know Chinese! 

Rod brought along his lady, named Michelle.  She was a very jolly person which helped entertain us all.  She and Anne got on very well too.  Rod and I did to some extent lapse into the convention that the women talk and the men listen. I don't know what the feminists would make out of that!  We old Army bods would be non-persons to them anyway, I guess.

Rod and I talked to some degree on Army matters but we mainly exchanged reminscences and stories from our past generally.  But the conversation flowed, making it a very good night. 

We finished with coffee and chocky bikkies on my verandah.

And on Sunday night I cooked a dinner for Sandy and myself. My idea of cooking is to heat something up but there is a lot on offer for that purpose in Woolworths. On this occasion I bought a set of pork porterhouse steaks with garlic and herbs -- and it turned out quite well.

Sandy and I talked mainly about her personal matters and about her late parents, who were both good friends of mine.

After dinner we listed to a disc of operatic arias sung by Caruso -- music that was a great favourite of her late father.

4 November, 2016

Much happening

In late August, Anne told me she had found another bloke.  In response I said that I had obviously not been meeting her needs so I was to blame for her defection and I would try to treat her better in future.  It was a typical Dale Carnegie thing to say  but I am proud of saying what I mean and meaning what I say so that was in fact my conclusion.  So there was  no acrimony and we remained on amicable terms and continued to see something of one another. 

Forming new relationships between people in their 70s is a most unlikely exercise so I was 99% certain that Mr. New would soon blot his copybook and be given his marching orders.  That happened at the end of October.  And Anne then came straight over to me and we have been living happily ever after! LOL!

And that was in some evidence this week.  Anne and I dined on bacon chops (Yummy!) on Wednesday night on my verandah  and on Thursday night we went to a small sausage BBQ arranged by Jenny so that I could greet Paul after his arrival from Scotland the previous night.  It was great to see him again and we talked away as we usually do -- about politics and much else.  Anne and Jenny talked a lot to one another too. Both Paul and Jenny are big talkers but that suits me as I am not.  So something I was glad to see was that Nanna got a word in fairly often.  She is much more confident now she is in her 90s.

In the past Anne and I usually dined together twice a week as we both had other interests to keep us busy.  So by dining together on two nights consecutively this week we were definitely back on our old footing.  And this Saturday she will accompany me to a small dinner I am hosting for an old Army friend. So we have gone from strength to strength.

And this morning, Paul and little 3-year-old Elise joined me for brunch.  What fun that was!  I had heard what a little lady Elise was and how she was a Daddy's Girl but she exceeded my expectations by far. 

For a start, as soon as she got out of the car she would go no further until she had her sunglasses on and her gold handbag slung over her shoulder.  And then she walked in a very sedate way to where we were going:  No leaping or skipping about -- just a dignified walk.  What a gal at age 3!

In the restaurant, she wanted various things from time to time, looked to Paul for them out of the dark pools of her eyes -- and Paul immediately jumped to give her what she wanted.  And on some such occasions, she would give a little smile of satisfaction when she got what she wanted.  She was a complete little princess. 

Paul tells me that Susan gets a bit tired of her ladylike ways at times but it is quite apparent that Elise now is what she always will be. And she will always have a father who understands and enjoys what she is.  I would be the same with her.  I got on very well with another little lady once.

Some would of course call her a spoilt child but both Paul and I understand Daddy's Girls so we know that a bit of spoiling is part of that relationship.  Elise wasn't vocally demanding:  Nothing like any tantrums.  Just a quietly expressed wish got  her what she wanted -- as befits a lady.  She is gorgeous and will go far.  The other little lady in the family -- Von -- has certainly done very well.  Among other things, Von always wanted a man who would do all the cooking -- and Simon does.  Being a Lady is a powerful thing, much as feminists would rage at that.

1 November, 2016

The cup!

As I usually do, I watched the Melbourne Cup. It's always a great occasion.  Most people watch it at work or at some gala so I sometimes don't have company when I watch it at home.  This year, however, Kate was at home so we watched it together.  I made her a Martini (stirred, not shaken) to thank her for having me in.  She seemed to like it.  But she didn't eat her olive!

Both Jenny and Anne put me in a couple of sweeps but none of them got up.  Early in the race I had three placegetters but that soon evaporated. But it was, as it often is, a very exciting race with the winner coming from behind and still winning by a nose.  The horse, Almandin, was German-trained and owned by Melbourne identity Lloyd Williams

I always check who won the Fashions on the Field.  Of all the world's fashion parades that is the only one which rewards wearable outfits, in my opinion.  And it was quite a surprise to see that both the winner and the runner-up were sisters from NZ.  I certainly don't think of NZ being a fashion Mecca but I know nothing about fashion anyway.  There's the winner below: Olivia Moor.  The hat is a bit much but it's a sensible outfit otherwise. Her sister's hat was much more extreme so I suspect she may have won by a hat!

28 October, 2016

Viktoria und ihr Husar

Viktoria with her husband -- in his dreadful shiny blue jacket

A close-up of the hair

I have just finished watching my DVD of "Viktoria und ihr Husar" for the second time.  It was written well outside the Golden Era of Operetta so I did not expect it to be of the same standard, and it was not.  Both the libretto and the music disappointed to some extent.  The composer, Paul Abraham, did apparently get some acclaim in his day but seems to be forgotten now, for good reason, I think. I had certainly never heard from him. To me, none of the songs were memorable.

So why did Dagmar Schellenberger decide to put it on at Moerbisch?  I would say that she put it on just as a piece of  light entertainment.  The plot was so corny that it could not have been much else.  So the show was, at a rough estimate 90%singing and dancing and capering around, all done very colorfully.  So I imagine that the audience would have appreciated the ever-changing colorful scenes that flitted before them.

Some writers have described the show as a "Revue operetta",  meaning that the story was just a small framework around a whole series of light sketches.  It is that. So if that is what the audiences expected, they got it.

I wonder a little what the costume dept. was up to.  The "American" was presented in some weird get-ups.  The shiny blue jacket he wore in the early part of the show was was quite revolting and I have never seen anything like some of his later ensembles on any live American.  Possibly they have absorbed the British stereotype of Americans, that they dress in a tastelessly flashy way. 

Americans do tend to dress more colorfully than the English but the costume dept. seems to have let their imaginations rule the day here.  Mind you, when a deplored minority of the English get into their shell-suits, anything goes -- so the Moerbisch designers may have been aware of that.

A shell suit

Before I started watching the show, I did not look to see who was in the cast.  So I was vaguely curious to see who the young woman was who had the leading role.  She looked in her 20s so I just assumed that she was some new singer.  So when I looked up the cast I was amazed to see that the leading lady was none other than KS Dagmar Schellenberger herself. 

At the risk of extreme ungallantry I note that it is some time since Dagmar was in her 20s.  So it is amazing what stage makeup, stage lighting and careful cinematography can do.  I note that there was not much in the way of close-ups on her this time.  But she was as sprightly as ever, running around the set  with great energy. She even drove off on the motorbike. The singing was not very demanding vocally but she managed to pump out some big notes here and there.

 That she took the leading role for herself was no great surprise.  Her predecessor at Moerbisch, Harald Serafin, also usually cast himself in major roles in his own productions.

I have not yet been able to find much in the way of reviews of the show but, as a revue, I imagine it was a great success.  I have never enjoyed revues so my limited appreciation of this one should not be read as a general criticism.

Viktoria (Dagmar) finally get her Hussar

Aren't those Hungarian costumes gorgeous!

24 October, 2016

More wonderful singing from Anna Netrebko

I have of course over the years heard many renditions of "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini. It would go close to being Puccini's best aria. So I was pleased to see two versions of it by Netrebko. And I think she is the best yet at it in my judgment.

A performance at the Waldbuehne outside Berlin if I am not mistaken

But that's not the end of it. She did another version of it that is now online. I suspect she is a little older in this version. It is however a bit hard to tell. She was fairly informally presented in the first version, with very little makeup on. In this version, however she has the full slap on. It does look very elegant and romantic.

It's interesting that Netrebko looks quite Italian in this performance. Since the whole song is set in Firenze (Florence) -- with references to the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno etc -- that is very appropriate. Netrebko is from Southern Russia -- Cossack country -- so she probably comes from a latitude nearly as Southerly as Firenze.

23 October, 2016

Another good weekend

On Saturday night I arranged a dinner for Sandi to meet Jenny. Sandi is the daughter of Joyce -- and Jenny knew Joyce from age 17 on -- so Sandi was keen to hear some history about her late mother.

We had the dinner on my verandah so Jenny came over early and cooked us up a gluten-free lasagna. Fortunately, Jenny is a keen cook so she can make even gluten-free food taste good.

Jenny and Sandi hit it off together immediately so there were many stories told. I mainly supplied a bottle of my favourite Tyrrells Verdelho.

Then on Sunday I was again social. Joe and I had our usual Sunday brunch at the nearby pieshop and then Joe drove us over to Suz & Russ's place to deliver presents to Dusty, whose birthday it was. He was already swamped with presents but no matter. That's the way of it these days. One of the things I gave him was a plastic trumpet, on the grounds that all boys should have a trumpet. It was however a very quiet trumpet. He liked it, though.

I got into quite a long discussion with Russ about matters connected to his work -- refrigerants, occupational licensing, trade training etc.

I also had a good chat to Suz, reminiscing about when she and Von were kids and teeners. I asked her why she had been such a grouch when she was a teen. She said it was just teenage hormones and rebellion. I used to call her Lady Fun when she was a kid and in her post-teen years she has resumed that happy disposition.

Joe played a Pokemon game with Sahara. We left around noon.

16 October, 2016

A visitor

Two or three months ago I began a fairly frequent email conversation with GR, a reader of my blogs. He found that my observations closely reflected his own so was interested in sharing his experiences as confirmatory of what I write. We are both fascinated by the psychology of the Left. He works in a social work context so has seen a lot of them and their hypocrisies close up.

After a very good correspondence had developed, he decided to come up and see me. He lives in Victoria. I don't normally encourage visitors whom I don't already know as my degree of deafness can make conversation difficult. This was however clearly an exception and, as it turns out, GR has a loudish voice that I could hear quite well.

The visit went well but, out of caution, I had arranged only for us to have a brunch together -- so the visit was rather brief. In the circumstances, I felt that I should arrange a longer visit with me shouting the airfares next time. That happened this weekend. GR arrived via the Airtrain just after 10am on Saturday so I drove us both directly to the Buranda shopping centre and my usual brunching place. My usual place was very busy at that time, however, so we went to the Japs instead and had some excellent Chicken Teriyaki Don.

We then adjourned to my place and continued the discussions -- interrupted by both of us having a mid-afternoon nap. I have a guest room so that was no problem.

We spent most of our talking time on my verandah, a place that gets a lot of praise for its breezes, outlook etc. And we do see wildlife in the mulberry tree in front of it. On this occasion we watched a pair of Australasian Figbirds feeding on the mulberries.

We discussed the Trump phenomenon and the widening of the Overton Window.

GR spoke on symbolism in the 23rd psalm.

We talked about the nature of money, about how there will always be a need for services, and about economies being self tightening like a tablecloth with weights on it.

I had my little joke about my art "Installation" (A vise clamped onto my writing desk)

I mentioned the contrast between vicious and virtuous cycles in interpersonal relationships.

And we spoke about anger never feels itself to be in the wrong, but always feels itself to be in the right and that is why the habitual anger of the Leftist is hard to give up, because wanting to feel/be right is naturally part of human nature -- from the basic physical survival drive, through intellect and moral issues we like to be right. And leftism has a very strong anger component, at society/reality, at how things are, so leftism always feels itself to be in the right.

For dinner I cooked us a "Tandaco one-pan dinner". It was just mincemeat and noodles basically but an all important "flavour sachet" was included -- turning the meal into quite a good one.

Later that night I played GR some Bach via Youtube, which he was interested to understand.

Next morning I gave him a light breakfast and had a cup of tea with him. I have a customary Sunday Brunch with Joe from about 9:30am each Sunday so while that was going on GR went to church. He is a Christian but is not much fussed about the denomination, which is common these days. So he went to Holy Trinity Anglican, which is nearby to me.

In my experience the Rev. Paschke is not much of a preacher but GR liked his sermon. It was based on Luke 18:

"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I like that scripture too and believe that it forms part of my values. GR saw the Pharisees there as directly analogous to the modern-day Left, who think that they know it all and are confident in their own righteousness. So it is no wonder that Leftists hate Christianity. Christ condemned them. Leftists much prefer the arrogant religion of Mohammed. So we discussed that at some length.

For lunch, I heated up a couple of pies. Then GR had to get a move on to make sure he first caught the Airtrain and then his flight. There is an Airtrain station just a couple of minutes drive from me so it makes sense to use it.

14 October, 2016


I have some vague pretensions to being a cook these days. I get ready-prepared meals from Woolworths or Aldi and just heat them up. But Woolworths and Aldi have good chefs so I think I mostly serve up pretty good food. But even in that humble role I was this week "relegated", if I understand that sporting term aright.

I had some Kassler chops (smoked pork chops done the way they do them in Kassel, a German city) so asked Anne over to share them with me on Wednesday. I thought I had done rather well preparing some horse doovers and a pickle collation in advance. Germans eat a lot of pickles. And I also cut up a couple of onions and fried them. But as soon as Anne arrived, she took over cooking of the smoked pork and did things that didn't seem to correspond to the instructions on the packet. But in deference to her great culinary experience, I left her to it and just hovered in the background. And she got the smoked pork just right in the end. And she also brought over a potato bake that went well. So we had a great dinner, albeit with more food than we could eat. My pickle collation was rather underused so it went back into the fridge. So I was glad to be relegated

And then the next night I invited Jenny over to share a gluten-free feast. I had acquired a variety of gluten free products and was interested to see if they were any good. We started with a guacamole dip and went onto the main dish of pork sausages. I started out cooking the snags but Jenny also took over there. So once again my feeble culinary skills were sidelined. But Jenny got the snags just right so we again did well. I also trotted out the pickle collation and we got near to finishing it that time. I had the rest for a late-night snack. My third and fourth courses were not needed. Again we had too much food.

So I was lucky to be in the presence of two most accomplished cooks. My own feeble skills were rightly bypassed.

I suspect that when a man offers to cook a dinner for a lady he might often end up with the lady doing most of the work. He has just got to look feeble and the lady steps in to save the dinner from disaster!

10 October, 2016

A busy weekend

I have on a number of occasions on the past put on a party late in the year in my backyard with the theme being "Pizza and champagne". I shout the pizza and champage for all. For one reason or another, I have not done it recently, mainly because two families who used to come now live far away -- one in Scotland and one in the Shaky Isles.

But at short notice it occurred to me that I should do it again while Von & Co. are here. We decided to have it at Jenny's place, which limited the guest list a bit but I made sure to get George along, as I always do. Jenny sent out the invites and also ordered the pizza. That way she could get a gluten-free pizza that she was happy with. I brought along three bottles of Seaview Brut -- which people always seem to like -- but only two were opened.

There were ten people present, including Joe and Kate -- plus the three kids. When Joe arrived he was grabbed by the kids even before he could get though the door. So Kate was left standing outside for a bit while Joe fended off his young admirers. He plays rough games with them, which they can't get enough of. The mothers of the kids concerned are not worried about what Joe does -- for the excellent reason that I used to play the same sort of games with them when they were kids. Generational succession!

George was in great form. He entertained the kids with nursery rhymes -- little Miss Muffett etc. But George acted the rhymes out so he had the kids all sitting enthralled in front of him. The bit about the spider coming down was infinitely popular. George had to do that bit over and over again.

George also spent a bit of time with Anne and she later commented how she could always have an interesting conversation with him. He and I talked a bit about the way the media present Aborigines. George was disgusted that everything is said to be our fault rather than the fault of the Aborigines themselves. I heartily agreed.

At my request, Von dressed Hannah in her little red Gingham dress and Von herself wore one of her long skirts. Such skirts look very good on her in my opinion. The one she wore was a 3-tier skirt, which I last remember as being fashionable about 30 years ago. But I liked that fashion at the time so that is probably another instance where Von and I see eye to eye. Von was born glamorous so doesn't need to spend much money on clothes. She tells me she spends more on clothes for her daughter than clothes for herself

I have always spoken of Suz as having a good heart and I have now become a beneficiary of it! She has noticed that I am a bit doddery these days so does small things to help me -- like standing up to offer me her seat. She has got her mother's good heart 100%.

Jenny was aware that there have been some difficulties beween Anne and myself recently so Anne wondered how welcome Jenny would make her. I told her not to worry and, in the event, Jenny was particularly welcoming to Anne, which really touched Anne.

We had the pizza in the BBQ area out the back of Jenny's place, where the kids could run around like mad things, which they proceeded to do. Russ was not present because of work demands.

Then on Sunday we had a lunchtime BBQ at Jenny's place, with Jenny cooking sausages, kebabs etc. George sent his apologies and Anne had another engagement but my brother came and Russ came. Kate was busy working on her thesis for her M.A. So we would have had similar numbers to Friday.

Simon did up a quantity of his NZ cheese sandwiches and there were some good Dim Sims too. We had another bottle of Champagne plus a bottle of Houghton's white that Jenny particularly likes. With so many good things, I rather overate but still had room for a couple of small pieces of cold watermelon at the end.

Joe was pretty quiet until he got up and played with the kids. Then he ran around like a mad thing too!

Nanna also took charge of a couple of games for the kids. She in fact got around a fair bit. She helped clean up at the end of proceedings too. It was great to see a 92 year old lady still making herself useful. Since most people present shared some of her genes it must have been a great source of hope for a good old age.

At one stage someone mentioned Aborigines. My brother is married to a lady with some Aboriginal ancestry. But practically everyone chimed in to say that Aborigines are mostly a pretty hopeless lot and need to stand on their own two feet more. There were of course several Pauline Hanson supporters present.

My brother noted the red Gingham dress that Hannah was wearing and said she looked like a tablecloth in an Italian restaurant. Neither he nor I are big on tact!

I mostly talked to Simon and my brother but I spent most of my time watching the kids, which is always a great pleasure to me.

At one stage we revisited a lot of the old family stories -- about Suz being denied a cream bun, about me getting her drunk at the time of Joe's birth and about Von telling me that I couldn't have her hair! -- etc. The old stories are the best stories. Always good for a laugh.

I subsequently remembered a couple of stories I should have told -- about Von telling me she was cold -- what a fool I was there! -- and when Suz had lost her "Pacer" (propelling pencil).

6 October

Meatloaf update

I have posted previously on my quest for the perfect meatloaf. So I was pleased to see in Woolworths a Jamie Oliver beef meatloaf. Definitely worth a try. Anne came over to share it and I served it with my basic salad and toast. My basic salad had tomato, cucumber, avocado, olives and Feta but no onions, lettuce or dressing.

We both thought the meatloaf was quite good, though Anne prefers the one she makes and I prefer the one I got from Aldi. To welcome Anne over, I put a couple of bunches of flowers in her room to greet her when she arrived -- mainly red and yellow roses. They were a MUCH bigger hit than the meatloaf. When Anne got home next day she photographed them and sent me the picture. See below:

For breakfast next morning I took Anne to a place called "Medley" at the end of Wharf St., Kangaroo Pt. It is right beside the Brisbane River and seems pretty trendy. I ordered the Shakshuka in order to find out what it was. It seemed to comprise mainly tomato, beans and chick peas plus two poached eggs. It was served as a sort of soup in a very hot cast iron dish. It tasted quite good but it was too soupy for me. Anne had an avocado & Feta dish. It was at any event a pleasant location, but you do of course pay for that.

2 October

A lively weekend

Von and Co. joined me for Friday brunch. I took them to the Caffe di Moda at Stones corner. I ordered my personal version of the lamb salad, Von had the regular version and Simon had a bacon & egg meal with various trimmings. Hannah had chicken nuggets with chips.

Von and I covered a lot of ground with reminiscences and family discussions and it was a pleasure to see that we still see eye to eye on a lot of things. Von remarked that she likes Kate so she gives Joe permission to marry her. It was a joke of course but like a lot of jokes it had something real in it. Von's judgment is greatly respected in the family so if she had been critical of Kate it would have caused concern. Her approval does mean something.

So we agreed that Joe is getting a good deal with Kate. I added to that by saying: "Kate is getting a good deal too. Joe is tall and well-built and that is 95% of it for most women". Von simply replied: "It is". Von is a born psychologist. She has been closely observing people and thinking about them since she was a little kid.

I spent a bit of time playing silly games with Hannah, just as I used to play with Von when she was that age. Hannah was certainly ready for fun. She initiated a lot of the play. She is quite a fun kid, actually.

Then for Saturday lunch we went to our usual dosa place. We always go there when Von comes over. Jenny joined us but Joe was down in Sydney and Suz already had something on that night. Von had dressed Hannah in a pretty little red Gingham dress.

We once again mentioned my favorite story of Von getting into my bed when she was a little girl. I have often told that tale so it was interesting that Von for the first time gave her reminiscences of it. She remembers it well, including how she felt at the time

After dosas we went back to my place for tea and coffee -- helped down by a packet of Afghans that Von had brought over from NZ. I really enjoyed talking to Von. She is so sensible and cheerful. And after that we got my old Amiga computer going so Hannah could play some of the old games

I mentioned that Von and I used to get around together at that time without a word being spoken. We understood one-another well enough so that we didn't need to talk to enjoy one-another's company. Simon is very quiet so I told him that I had prepared Von for him by giving her the experience that much talk was not needed to get on well. Von chats quite well these days, though. She is her mother's daughter after all.

Then on Sunday Suz and Russ hosted the whole family for a lunch. Jenny drove me out there as I don't fancy that long drive much these days.

They served up a nice mild curry. Kenneth was there so we discussed his book and his invitation to Government house. Ken is now The Author. Anne has asked for a copy of his book so we arranged that. And Maureen had brought along one of her excellent Pavlovas. I really like Pavlovas so I congratulated Maureen on it.

The kids all played well together -- loudly, of course. And they discovered Dan at one stage so climbed all over him in search of fun -- which Dan delivered. Walking around with a kid slung over each shoulder is great fun for the kids concerned.

And when I got home, I finished up the afternoon with a good nap.

29 September, 2016

A haggis plus tablet!

Haggises are of course always a memorable event and when they come with tablet, it is a bonus. Most people think tablet must have something to do with pharmacies but Scots know better. Tablet is a great favourite in Scotland. It's available just about everywhere. It is basically fudge minus the cocoa. It really does melt in your mouth.


So when Anne bought a haggis recently, she bought some tablet to go with it. And she bought both over to my place last night. So we had a haggis dinner. After many years of cooking it, Anne has become an old hand at cooking haggis and I think the haggis I had last night was the best yet.

And Anne went the full hog and cooked tatties and neeps to go with it. She is famous for her neeps. She knows how much I like cabbage so she did some of that too -- cooked in cream! Very yummy. I ate the cabbage first. Health freaks would scream!

We had it with Tyrrells Verdelho, as usual. And we had the tablet with a cup of tea afterwards. So it was a pretty Scottish night. I didn't get into Highland dress for the occasion but I did don a white shirt as a token of "Dressing for dinner".

Anne stayed overnight so this morning I took her to the cafe at the "Cottage Garden" plant nursery in Coorparoo. It is a bit on the trendy side but a pleasant venue anyway, with lots of greenery around, as you would expect. We had their breakfast special, which was huge but very tasty.

The two breakfasts plus coffee cost me just over $50, for anybody who might be weighing up whether or not to go there. The service was very slow, even though we arrived just after 9:30am, which is usually a quiet time at most places. The coffee was good, though.

26 September, 2016

A welcome back dinner for Von

Von & Co. arrived late on Saturday night so on Sunday I put a family dinner at the Bollywood so that we could all catch up with her. The Bollywood has hosted so many dinners for us that it is part of "home". The owner has grown a beard but is otherwise the usual cheerful host. As a Sikh, he SHOULD have a beard.

We had 13 adults there plus kids. I booked for 12 on a guess so that worked out well. Getting RSVP replies is always patchy so I have to guess. I made a point of ensuring that George got an invite, as I always do. And that worked well too. George was in great form.

Kate and Von seemed to get on well and I think I know why. Both are real ladies. Kate is always very careful of her self-presentation (makeup, dress) so that fits. And as we all know, I have been referring to Von as "Lady Von" since she was 5. From what we hear of Elise, she is already a complete lady too -- at age 3. The fact that she has a gorgeous and very feminine mother may have something to do with that. It will be great to see Elise in November. Feminists greet the thought of someone being a lady with horror, but the men don't. So who's the winner there?

Maureen got Tim along, which was good to see. Maureen spent a lot of time with the littlies. She was always devoted to her boys when they were growing up so she obviously misses having little ones around.

Joe didn't say much but seemed to enjoy the occasion in his own quiet way. He talks 19 to the dozen with Brenton but they are both computer programmers so have things in common that even baffle me -- and I WAS a computer programmer in the good ol' days. But Joe does talk to me a fair bit when he is in the mood. I hear quite a lot of his thinking.

Ken was his usual interesting self. He has an enquiring mind, which leads well into conversation. He talked a bit about his literary endeavours and he mentioned that he gives away copies of the novel he has written. So if you have not got one, you can now go for it.

Both he and George were scornful of this "cultural appropriation" fad which seems to have become very pervasive. Everybody adopts lots of our Anglo-Saxon culture so why should we not use bits of various native cultures at times? I suppose that we use Sombreros, Indian head-dresses and the like for entertainment, while others adopt our usages in deadly seriousness. But what's harmful about entertainment? The new Puritans of the Left seem to be comprehensively against humour. Joe and I laugh our way through the day so it fits that we are not Leftists.

The littlies ran around like mad things, which I like to see. They get such enjoyment out of simple things. The restaurant mostly has a takeaway trade so there was mostly no-one else in the restaurant to be bothered by them. A family dinner NEEDS shrieking kids to be a proper family dinner, in my view. I was particularly pleased to see how well Hannah got on with her cousins.

I supplied some bottles of Seaview "champagne", as I usually do but everyone was very sparing about drinking it. None of us need to drink to have a good time and it was in fact a great night.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2016

A marvellous rendition of Meine Lippen, die küssen so heiss by a young Anna Netrebko

From Giuditta (Judith) by Franz Lehar

I know this song well in a performance by the gorgeous Natalia Ushakova. Ushakova is good but she can't beat the passion Netrebko puts into this performance. The singer is supposed to be half-mad and Netrebko conveys that

Netrebko seems in fact to be particularly associated with that aria. She has certainly recorded it often. And like the great thespian she is, she has done it in a number of ways. With the Proms performance being particularly jolly. But the above performance is truest to the plot of the operetta.

And I know what she likes about that aria. It gives her great opportunity to show what she can do. Grand opera is very boring. People are either dying or about to die. In Carmen he kills his lover and in Aida the lovers get immured. How ghastly! But it is much jollier in operatta. Guiditta is undoubtedly the darkest of the operettas but in the end the reunited lovers just acknowledge one another and go their separate ways. So this aria gives Netrebko scope to show what she can do. It allows all sorts of expression -- which she delivers brilliantly.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

Fish, Pergolesi and coconut ice

Anne has been in the grip of a nasty winter wog for over a week. Her heroic sister June has been supplying her with chicken soup and savoury mince with complete disregard for her own health but she is a former nurse so nurses are like that.

Anyway, as Anne was fighting her way out of the worse effects of the wog, I realized that she had been rather housebound and would like an outing. So I tempted her with an offer of fish n chips on my verandah.

That may not seem like an offer for the ages but both Anne and I have enough English in us to be great fans of good fish n chips. And I do have a fish shop near me that is spot on.

And my verandah might seem rather humble but it is mostly open to the outdoors, has a vigorous Mulberry tree in front of it and gets good breezes. And it has wildlife in it -- possums mainly. But last night was a real highpoint. Anne actually saw a fruit bat in the Mulberry tree. But most people reading this will probably know from experience that my verandash has its merits

So anyway the deed was done last night and we dined well -- accompanied as usual by the excellent Tyrrells Verdelho. But what to have as dessert? I had a couple of offerings but one thing I had was Darrell Lea coconut ice, very traditional. Anne went for that.

We reluctantly agreed that with her woggy state we should not kiss but other actions were allowed of course. What's a four-letter word meaning intercourse? You think you know don't you? Well I will tell you. The word is "talk". Couldn't resist that old joke.

Anyway, after dinner we listened to music, as is our wont. We heard some good Schumann and Brahms piano music but the highlight was a recent performance of the Pergolesi "Stabat Mater": One of the greatest pieces of religious music ever written. It was amazingly good and got through fully to both of us.

And I gave Anne some of the coconut ice to put in her purse and take home. So it was a great night.

You can access the Pergolesi here:

12 September, 2016

A dinner and a disgusted dog

The two things above are not related but they are alliterated

I took Sandy to dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant last night. As she is the daughter of two deceased people I was very fond of, it was unsurprising that we got on well. She has inherited her father's love of classical music too. So we arranged to dine together again from time to time. I have always regretted not having a daughter and she has lost her father so we decided, half seriously that from now on she would be my daughter and I will be her father.

When I went into the bathroom at my place this morning I saw out of the window the dog next door relaxing quite close to where I was. So I woofed at him. He looked up, saw it was me and put his head down with a very disgusted look. Dogs and people are good at interpreting one another's feelings but I have never before seen a dog do such a clear expression of disgust. He was right to be disgusted, of course.

4 September, 2016

Another supper

It was Fathers' Day today so Joe asked me what I wanted for it. After some deliberation, I replied that I wanted him and Kate to cook me a dinner for us to have on the front verandah. So they cooked me a very nice dish of Spaghetti Bolognaise followed by Profiteroles for dessert. The Profiteroles were very chocolatey so Joe polished off what was left in the dish once they were eaten.

I spent most of the time telling Kate about events in the family when Joe and Timmy were young. I also told her about what a little lady 3-year-old Elise is and how she and Paul have a very strong "Daddy's Girl" relationship. I pointed out how Von too was a born lady and how well that has worked out -- with Von leading just about her ideal life in a small NZ country town. So it's a fair bet that Elise will do well too.

So it was a good Fathers' Day.

2 September, 2016

A last supper

Anne and I had a last supper last night. It was the 11th anniversary of us meeting and we had our favourite dinner -- lamb cutlets with salad, bread and red wine. It was meant to be a farewell dinner to our relationship but it was not at all sad. It was great night, actually.

It's not really a last supper as we will still be seeing one another periodically. We are both happy with that.

What sent Anne and me apart is my declining energies as I got older. These days all I want to do is sit in front of my computer all day, whereas Anne still wants get out doing things and going places. Perfectly reasonable.

The new lady I had in my life didn't last long but I have a couple of other possibilities in mind. I even got a message from an Ekaterina -- a beautiful Russian lady. But it turned out that she still lives in Russia -- which was no good to me. Interesting, though.

30 August, 2016

A big change

Anne has found someone who suits her better than I do. After an 11 year relationship that was a bit of a surprise but it shows what a juicy lady Anne is -- to get herself a new bloke whilst in her 70s. There were some things important to Anne that I just could not give her. We still have warm feelings for one-another but will no longer be seeing one another regularly for the foreseeable future. It is best for both of us to put our energies into our new relationships.

My new lady, D., is not an academic type but is bright nonetheless. She owns and manages her own small shopping centre. You have got to be both bright and tough to do that. I also, of course, have real estate interests so that is helpful.

She is a widow so that is rather good. Divorcees tend to be always keeping an eye out for a better offer whereas widows just want committment, usually. I have twice given unwavering committment -- to Jenny and to Anne -- so I am capable of it, even though it has not been reciprocated so far.

Unwavering committment means intending to stay together until parted by death.

25 August, 2016

Some surgery with a difference

I rarely remark on my plastic surgeries to remove skin cancers. There are so many of them. But one I have just been through had me pretty anxious about it. It was in the aftermath of an excision that was unsuccessful. There was originally this tiny lump near my right nostril that I realized from long experience was probably a "bad 'un". The surgeon cut it out but the pathology report came back to say "incompletely excised". The report suggested that the tumor was aggressive and had spread both widely and deeply. So to get it all, a rather nasty hole in my face seemed needed.

I hate having my face sliced up and I hate anything affecting my nose so I was pretty tense as soon as I knew what was ahead. What was ahead was a Moh's procedure -- where the surgeon cuts out what he thinks is needed and then promptly puts the specimen under the microscope to see if the cut had got it all. If not, there is a second cut.

Mohs can be done as an in-office procedure at a suitably equipped surgery but this looked like being a pesky one so I arranged for it to be done in a private hospital. And last Tuesday was the day. I was first on the list at 1:30pm and did not get out until 7:30 pm. During that time I was on the operating table four times -- 3 to get all the bad bits and a 4th time to put my face back together. There was a hole in my lower face about the size of a 10c piece to be patched up. I don't know how the surgeon did it but he somehow did get it all covered up. He is quite brilliant. So my face will be back to normal as soon as the stitches come out.

The drama was not over, however. Next day I had a lot of facial swelling, which indicated that a bacterial infection had got into the wound. On some past occasions like that I have had to be admitted to hospital and be put onto a Vancomycin drip to deal with it. With the benefit of experience, however, I promptly put myself on a high dose of clindamycin -- two capsules every 6 hours. And it worked! By next morning the swelling had reduced.

So I have come out the end of all that completely fixed up without too much trauma and am once again feeling on top of the world!

20 August, 2016

My brother gets noticed by the ABC

The ABC wanted to know who these strange people are who voted for Pauline Hanson's "One Nation " party.  So they searched around for One Nation supporters to interview.  And one of the people they found was my brother.  I always vote for Pauline as well.

Chris, looking quietly amused

The ABC reported:

Chris Ray, who runs a business selling spare parts for British-made motorbikes, believes in an Australia that makes things.

He is worried about the decline of local manufacturing and is not convinced globalisation has been a good thing for the country.

"What really happened with globalisation is the multi-national corporations decided it was going to be a lot cheaper to produce goods in third world countries at virtually slave labour prices, so that's what they did," Mr Ray said.

"Of course, in the West, we've now become addicted to really, really cheap appliances and goods but the question that comes to mind is how are we going to earn the money to pay for those goods?

"We've not only shipped that technology overseas, we've shipped the jobs overseas as well and there's a real shortage of jobs for everyone in the community."

Mr Ray points to Brexit and Donald Trump as proof voters are mounting a worldwide rebellion against the status quo.

"There's been a big reaction against that among ordinary people, working class people, and small business people," he said.

"They're pretty much fed up to the back teeth with it and I guess we're all looking to the smaller alternative parties, who are more willing to call it out as they see it, for a real alternative."

Mr Ray said it was "gratifying" to have so many minor parties to vote for in this year's election, including Pauline Hanson's One Nation.

"I don't pretend for a minute that Pauline has all of the answers. I know she often struggles to explain things but we don't care that she's not perfect," he said.

"She speaks to us with the same voice. She's one of us. She's an ordinary working class person, a small business person and she talks to us and I think with our help and support she'll eventually get it right."


14 August, 2016

The best Pergolesi yet?

I came across a new video of a great favourite -- Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" just recently. It is the best rendition I have heard and I have heard many. You need to go on to YouTube to see and hear it. Plug in the address below when you do:

You may have to rewind it to the beginning when it comes up. I don't know how to defeat dynamic linking

The way the soprano threw herself into it was truly impressive. Never has "pertansivit gladius" been sung with greater passion. Sadly, whoever put the video up gave no information about it. So I had to do a bit of digging to find out all about it. But I did in the end find this:

"Accompanied by the French musical ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, Spanish soprano Sabina Puértolas and American mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux perform Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. It is composed in 1736, in the final weeks of Pergolesi’s short life (4 January 1710 – 16 March 1736), and scored for soprano and alto soloists, violin I and II, viola and basso continuo (cello and organ). Conductor: Christophe Rousset"

The performance seems to have been in April this year. In Spain, Ms Puértolas is not Spanish. She is Aragonese (from Aragon, ancient Aragon). There is an artistic history of her here, which shows her as a very busy singer -- so she is obviously widely appreciated. I tried to find out some personal history, even trawling through the notices in Italian, but could not find a thing.

I may have to take more notice of Spanish singers. I was greatly impressed by the performance of Evelyn Ramirez Munoz as the divine voice in the premiere version of Falvetti's "Il Diluvio universale". Munoz is a Spanish surname so I assume Ms Munoz is Spanish but you can never be sure these days. Argentinian? See below:

I note that there is another rendering of the Falvetti just out and she seems to have grabbed her old role in the latest version as well. See below. She is the lady in black.

I guess that by Northern European standards she over-acts but in singing a work from Sicily, what the hell?

12 August, 2016

A very pleasant lunch

I had a rather bad week with a heavy cold but by Friday morning I was just about right again. And that was just in time for a visitor up from Melbourne. He is a psychologist like me who also takes an interest in politics. He and I have corresponded about the psychology of Leftist politics in a rather desultory manner for some time now. And I was very impressed by the depth of his insights. And he finds my analyses pretty spot-on too. So he finally decided to come up and see me. We arranged to have lunch together.

Because I am a bit deaf, I don't normally go in much for such meetings but his thinking seemed well worth an effort to communicate in person.

And he actually told me some things about myself that I had been aware of but which I had tended to ignore. One thing was that in my blogging I tended to speak quite harshly of people I disagree with and that I could therefore come across an an angry person. He was of course quite right. Joe once told me the same. Since I am in fact a very cheerful person who virtually NEVER gets angry and who laughs his way through the day, that impression is a bit unfortunate. I will have to see what I can do to correct the misimpression.

He had some comfort for me, however. He said that although my writing is harsh, he could always see a kind heart behind it and meeting me in person had confirmed the kind heart. So the psychologist was psychologized! I actually put a lot of little jokes in my writings but they may be a bit on the subtle side. I do wonder at times if anybody gets them.

So that was an unexpected lunch topic. I thought we would be talking mainly about politics -- global warming and all that sort of thing. And we did have a few laughs about the poor old Warmists and their inability to debate. But mostly we talked about personal things. And one of them was a most unusual thing.

I am a great fan of Yuja Wang as a classical pianist. I think she is the world's best. And G., my visitor, shared that feeling. He was even familiar with her interpretations of Schubert Lieder, which I particularly love. So a quite unexpected meeting of minds there. We are both filled with wonder at the emotional rightness of her interpretations.

That a Chinese lady from Beijing would have such depth of perception of a rather arcane Western artform seems incredible on the face it of but Yuja Wang IS incredible. G. and I even had in mind a couple of Lied interpretations that we both particularly liked: "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Der Erlkoenig".

Yuja Wang

There were other meetings of minds over lunch but those were the two big ones, I think. It was certainly a very rare sort of meeting in my experience.

6 August, 2016

Proof that I ignore food correctness

Below is what I had for my supper tonight. It said on the packet to bake them for 10-20 minutes -- which was a bit vague. So I cooked them for 15 minutes. They were however not very puffy so I should have cooked them for 20 minutes.

I had them with sliced pickled cucumbers and green tomato relish

1 August, 2016

Nanna's birthday

It was her 92nd but she was still mentally all there and could even get up and down a long flight of steps. An example to us all!

We had the celebration yesterday -- a Sunday buffet lunch in the BBQ area at the back of Jenny's place. I gave Nanna a handbag! Jenny selected it so Nanna might like it.

Jenny put on a wealth of sandwiches and such things and I really bogged into the ham sandwiches. Yet there were still sandwiches left at the end! Suz and family were there as were Joe and Kate, plus Anne and me. Joe didn't say a lot, which is usual for him at family occasions. He talks up a storm with his friend Brenton, however, so it obviously depends on the degree of common interests. Anne had a big chat with Russ. Anne is good at chats. I contented myself with making jocular remarks from time to time. Mostly I talked to Jenny.

An odd thing I did stemmed from the fact that I had a big cleanout of my kitchen cupboards the night before -- with Anne's enthusiastic assistance. The result was a big bag of pots and pans on the way to Vinnies. But I took the bagful to the party in case someone fancied some of it. Suz enthusiastically grabbed three big pizza dishes that Joe had originally bought and various other bits went off too. The bag was much lighter when I handed it in next morning, which was good.

I had a small but amusing conversation with Russ as I left. He had been giving Sahara a lot of attention and help with Pokemon matters. So I said as I went past:

Me: You are being a good father Russ. Is Sahara a Daddy's girl or a Mummy's girl?

Russ: She's definitely a Daddy's girl, which is good. Not so good is the fact that Dusty is a Mummy's boy.

Me: Oh Dear!

Russ: But don't worry. I'll knock it out of him.

Russ has a very good sense of humor. I think we all do in the family, as a matter of fact

30 July, 2016

Cucumber magic

When you eat out somewhere and order a salad with your meal, you normally get some cucumber with it. As it happens I REALLY like cucumber, particularly if it is not long off the vine. But the salad you get in restaurants is obviously cut up by people who DON'T like cucumber. It is cut up into such thin slices that you get almost no cucumber taste from them at all.

And I have been experimenting with that. I make a lot of salads these days and cucumber features in most of them. And what I have found is that the bigger the slice of cucumber, the more you get that great cucumber taste. And if you have never experienced a great cucumber taste, I suspect that you need to find a better greengrocer.

I slice my cucumbers diagonally, as most restaurants do. Just cutting them into circles is uncool. And I cut the slices at least a quarter of an inch thick. For children of the metric era that is about 1 centimeter (I think). A slice of cucumber should be a delicious lump!


24 July, 2016

Birthday month!

There are 3 of us with birthdays in July, Nanna, Joe and myself. So our celebrations began on the Friday before last. It was a small informal dinner on my verandah with myself and Anne plus Joe and Kate. Anne had offered to cook us anything we fancied but I felt like fish & chips so that is what we had. There is a nearby fish shop that is very good-- called, surprisingly, "Fish Kitchen". It is opposite the Dutton Park bonefarm.

So I ordered 4 battered Barramundi, chips, a Waldorf salad and some coleslaw. Anne said there was something missing from the Waldorf salad -- croutons, I think -- and the coleslaw was the worst I have had. But the fish 'n chips were brilliant. Expertly cooked fish n chips are one of life's great pleasures.

I was aware that the English often have vinegar with their fish n chips so decided to try that myself for the first time, using just white vinegar. I liked it! Somebody may care to advise me whether you put the vinegar on the chips, on the fish or on both. I put it on the fish.

We had a bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho to wash it down.

Then on the Sunday of that weekend, Jill shouted Anne and me a lunch at her place. It is a very nice little villa that Jill has made into a very pleasant environment.

Lewis had learnt of my liking for Tyrrells Verdelho so we had that with the dinner. Jill cooked a very nice meal of seafood and pasta, as she usually does. For dessert we had pancakes. I had mine with maple syrup and icecream.

And Jill carried on a great dinner party tradition that most women observe. She prepared some food which she forgot to bring out -- in the oven as usual. Good old Lewis eventually reminded her however so we got some rather well-done garlic bread with our meal. It was fine by me.

At one stage I congratulated Jill on her crystal salad servers. She had inherited them from her mother. Some people use silver salad servers and Jill has a lot of silver. Silver reacts with the vinegar in the salad and gives you a nice little dose of silver oxide, which can be toxic.

I made a blunder. Having recently become a pancake cook of sorts, I congratulated Jill on how nicely done the pancakes were. It transpired, however, that she had got them from Woolworths!

Anne has recently come back from a cruising holiday and Jill & Lewis seem to cruise half the year away so a lot of the conversation revolved around that. We also talked a bit about politics as we are all conservative. Lewis made the point that Turnbull has been unfairly criticised for his narrow win in the Federal election. As Lewis said, narrow wins are very common in elections, so the result was nothing new. There is even an explanation of why that is so here

Then on the Friday just gone, Jenny cooked up one of the big dinners she does so well -- featuring egg-rolled pork! A great family favorite. It is a Korean regional dish and even Korean restaurants rarely have it. There is quite a story to how we got a recipe for it. And Jenny served a complete Korean feast, with plenty of Kim Chee, Kujeol pan and Japanese ginger. I have never come across Korean ginger but it is bound to be similar to the Japanese product. The two cuisines are very similar.

And for dessert we had chocolate cake, which sparked discussions of chocolate cakes past -- Schwarzwalderkirschentorte and Sachertorte in particular. Jenny very tactfully did not put any candles on the cake

Nanna was very lively, taking part energetically in the discussions. Kate tried to give her a ginger cat but did not succeed. "Mr Brown", a splendid Burmese cat, was remembered in that discussion. "Mr Brown" was the perfect cat. I am holding him in the picture below -- taken some years back

UPDATE: It was a little remiss of me not to say anything about the various birthday greetings I received. This is the age of the internet so I received only two cards, a jokey one from Anne and one from Von. The one from Von was particularly appreciated as she included a DVD of some recent doings of Hannah. Having the littlies growing up far away does mean that I miss much but with modern technology I can still get some substitute for that.

It's not often I acknowledge it but I am basically an old Celtic sentimentalist so that matters to me. I have plenty of Celtic ancestry (Scottish and Irish) so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say.

Among my internet greetings, I was particularly pleased to hear from Pat Timbs, whom I had rather lost touch with. I was pleased to see that he is back in Sydney these days. Ladies from China do beguile him but he can find that in Sydney too. Almost every day I see little Chinese ladies on the arms of Caucasian men so Pat is not alone. Joe too knows a bit about that.

One can observe daily that the forever unhappy Leftists are wrong in calling Australians racist: The number of Asian ladies on the arms of Caucasian men around the place tells you all you need to know about that. Clearly, neither party is racist.

But perhaps the most remarkable greeting I received was from Moerbisch -- in German, of course. And being from Austria it was sung! Moerbisch is of course the last redoubt of Viennese operetta and, as such, is my artistic lodestar. I buy DVDs of their performances whenever a new one comes out.

17 July, 2016


What are "hoddox"? I have encountered hoddox only once. It was on my first trip to South Africa in 1979. I was in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg, then a rather "vibrant" (in a good way. I don't like some vibrations) area. It was a safe area to walk around in then, unlike in the "rainbow" South Africa of today.

Anyway, I wanted some food so walked into a small cafe and asked the proprietor what he was selling. He listed a number of things, one of which was "hoddox". It sounded interesting so I ordered it. It was a hot dog. The proprietor was Greek -- and a Greek version of a South African accent had foxed me.

I very rarely eat hot dogs because I don't like frankfurts, which are their usual filling. Although there is something about franks that I don't like, I have never been quite able to pin down what it is. I think I may have found out, however. I think the following information from a food chemist might put a lot of people off:

"One thing about hot dogs, they're in a category called emulsified sausages and they're a bit more complex than, say, your typical sausage. In summer sausage, meat and fat are ground up into small chunks, and them mixed with spices. You can still see those chunks and tell the meat apart from the fat though. In an emulsified sausage like hot dogs, the meat and fat are ground into much tinier chunks, until it forms a uniform paste. The paste then mixed in powerful, high speed mixers together with spices, additives, water, and air. If regular sausage is like pesto, emulsified sausage is like vinaigrette. There's a lot of things going on in there that you just can't see without a microscope"

I am very keen on sausages generally so it must just be the texture of franks that I dislike. A jocular name for sausages is "mystery bags". I think the mystery is most pronounced with franks.

I acquired the information above in pursuit of something I encountered on one of my trips to L.A. I was living in a cheap motel and had the radio on a fair bit. I mostly had a station called KFWB on, as it was an all-news station then and I wanted to keep abreast of what was going on in America at that time.

And they did of course have advertisements, very frequent advertisements. And a much repeated advertisement was for "Ball Park" franks. Below is what Wikipedia says about them:

"A Livonia, Michigan meat-packing company called Hygrade Food Products won a competition in 1959 to be the exclusive supplier of hot dogs to the Detroit Tigers and Tiger Stadium. Hygrade Food Products launched a contest to its employees in order to come up with the best brand name for their Detroit Tigers stadium hot dogs. Mary Ann Kurk, one of Hygrade Food Products sales people at the time, won the contest with the name "Ball Park Franks". She won a leather living room chair and a cash prize of $25 (equivalent to $203 in 2015). It was from this venue that Ball Park Franks gained popularity and became known in American pop-culture. Sara Lee acquired Hygrades from Hanson Industries in 1989"

And the great slogan advertising Ballpark franks was:

"They plump when you cook em".

That seemed very strange to me. It sounded like an apology for their franks being small. It seemed a strange thing to focus your advertising on. And, perhaps because that seemed odd to me, it has remained in my memory to a most unfortunate degree. Often, when I see sausages of any kind, that stupid slogan runs through my head. My mind has been infected by a virus that I most deplore and cannot get rid of. I guess I must regard that as just one of the many injuries we suffer as we slide down the razorblade of life. (Hats off to Tom Lehrer).

4 July, 2016

The election

I had a good election even if Australia as a whole did not. The night before I took Anne to a newly opened Guzman y Gomez Mexican restaurant near me at Buranda. I ordered a taco, a fajita, an Enchilada and a Burrito and they were as good as ones I have had in the Los Angeles area. A bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho helped them to go down. We drink a lot of that.

Then next morning I cooked pancakes. I cheated of course. I bought a bottle of mix into which I just had to pour milk and shake. I poured the result into a lightly greased Teflon pancake frypan and waited only a few minutes for the result to be lifted out. They were fine. We had them as an American breakfast with genuine Canadian Maple syrup and shortcut bacon. I didn't make as many as I could have because I wanted to leave room for a sausage sizzle. I am very keen on sausages and Australia has a lot of sausage sizzles as fundraisers.

So after breakfast we went and voted at the church hall of St. Philips Anglican at Buranda. They have a large fine church hall there which they use for Highland dancing.

So, after voting, we went looking for the sausage sizzle and soon found it. Anne and I both had one. I saw an old guy there whom I deduced would be the Rector, though he was dressed in Mufti. So as I was leaving, I asked him if he was and he said he was. I then asked him if he was high or low and he said medium. A very Anglican reply!

Then that night Jenny very kindly put on a pork roast for a few of us so we could watch the votes coming in together on TV. I contributed another bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho. Jenny and Nanna were present plus Joe and Kate and Anne and I. Jenny really did us proud. As well as the roast she cooked spuds, sweet spuds, carrots, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and apple sauce. A real spread! And most of all Jenny cooks good CRACKLING. The cracking is of course the pinnacle treat of a pork roast. Muslims will never experience it. Dinner was for 7pm so a bit after 8pm we sat down to watch the broadcast from the tally room. And everybody now knows the pesky result.

There was quite a bit of discussion as the results were coming in and I think all of us were looking out to see how some candidate or seat would go. I remarked at one stage that I always vote for Pauline and I don't think I was the only one. Everybody seemed very comfortable with that choice anyway, though Kate may not have been. After several years of university brainwashing, she finds Joe's conservative family a bit of a shock at times, I think. We even discussed global warming briefly at one stage.

Then next night I still had some pancake mix and bacon left over so I made a big heap of pancakes for my supper that night. Very easy cooking with a very tasty result.

I still have a bit of bacon left so I am looking forward to making myself a bacon butty tonight. A bacon butty really needs nothing to go with it but I think I might try one with chutney.

10 June, 2016

My life as an outsider

Being an outsider is much decried these days. That everybody should be "included" in everything is the hot gospel of the modern-day Left. Men are not to be included in women's "safe spaces" and conservatives are not to be included in university debates, but let that ride.

So let me put forward the outlandish proposition that one can be quite happy as an outsider. If you are of an envious disposition it might not be possible but there are a lot of folks of a contented disposition and they have it made. They don't get burned up by much at all. I am one of them.

I was in fact an outsider from the time when I was a child until the day I retired. At school I had absolutely no interest in any sport or game. Doing the crossword was as near as I came to that and I did not do that often. But I was born and bred in a small Australian country town where the entire social life revolved around sport. So I was as complete an outsider as I could possibly be there. I was on a few occasions abused over it and called a poofter [homosexual] etc. The fact that I have now been married four times probably gives the lie to that last accusation.

But it was all water off a duck's back to me. I read books, initially kids books of English origin. So mentally, I lived a lot of the time as a prewar English schoolboy. It was vastly different from the world about me but that just made it more interesting. The English schoolboy had few fears about nature, nettles mainly. Whereas in my tropical environment I had to know about crocodiles and sharks that might eat you, pretty fruit which could send you blind if you ate it, jellyfish that could sting you to death and a great range of highly poisonous snakes and spiders. You could die within half an hour of being bitten by some of them. So, odd as it might seem, I had a happy childhood and never got bitten by anything other than mosquitoes. I lived in the world of the mind.

I didn't actually learn to read until I was 7. Kindergarten and pre-school were rarities in that time and place -- and childminding was generally informal. My parents were also great readers but saw no need to prepare me in any way for school. They had no ambitions for me where school might be important. So I was fascinated when I got my first ABC book at age 6 and remember it vividly to this day.

But I caught on rapidly and was reading well from our reading book by the end of the year. One tale I have told before, but which still amuses me, was when the class was doing chain reading. One kid would read one sentence, the next kid would read the next sentence and so on. We got pretty good at it. So eventually the teacher asked us to close our books and read the same sentences again. Everyone could. I was the only one who could not. I was the only kid who had been reading. The other kids just memorized it. Young memories are very good. I initially got a few scornful looks from the other kids but that turned to amazement when the teacher praised me.

I think it was from that point on that my exclusion started. The other kids could see that I was different from them and mostly avoided me from then on. And the blue boy story reinforced that. But there were a couple of kids who did talk to me.

One rather important thing that I had in common with the English boys that I read about was an Eton education. I did not in fact attend that illustrious institution in Berkshire but I had much the same curriculum at my school. Politicians of the day wanted "the best" for their children and English Public Schools were indisputably the best at that time. So little working class kids in country towns had to learn their Latin declensions and read poems about daffodils, skylarks, nightingales etc. And I did. Though in my environment, instead of the "blithe spirit" of the skylark, we had the "demonic laugh" of the Kookaburra. I was even introduced to Chaucer and Homer, which pleases me to this day.

For most of the students exposed to such "irrelevant" arcana, it went in one ear and out the other -- but I remembered it all. So I didn't have the pressures that the kids at Eton underwent but I could have passed any of their exams as easily as they could. So I in fact had good opportunities before me and I took them.

And when I got to university, I was also an outsider, though for different reasons. Being a contented soul, I have always been a conservative. Being contented is a pretty good definition of being conservative. But universities are of course a hotbed of Leftism. Lots of people there think the world about them is all wrong and they know how to fix it.

I had however done some very wide reading in my teens -- Aeschuylus, Sophocles, Plato, Herodotus, Augustine of Hippo, Thucydides, Descartes, Aquinas etc -- and was already aware of the Leibnitzian doctrine that we may live in the best of all possible worlds. The point of the doctrine is that some bad things may be an inevitable outcome of good things and that one might therefore destroy good things while trying to destroy bad things. The long history of Leftist "solutions" to problems having "unexpected" and destructive "side effects" certainly validates the Leibnitz doctrine.

So I was skeptical of the intellectual miasma of Leftism from the day I set foot in a university. And it showed. In response to some Leftist assertion, I would say: "But what about....". And there is nothing a Leftist hates more than debate. To challenge his beliefs is to attack his person. But I was not discouraged. I was quite active in student politics, disrupting the cosy consensus wherever I could -- and having a lot of fun in the process. I did have some friends, mostly from Catholic DLP families, but I was otherwise as excluded as could be. I did however join one of the part-time army units hosted by the University of Qld, and that delivered a degree of fellowship.

When I was doing my Ph.D. at Macquarie university, I kept a fairly low political profile. I made no secret of my conservative thoughts but tended to present them in a humorous and self-deprecatory way so that it didn't put people offside. So I had a pretty normal social life for those two years.

So when I applied for a job teaching sociology at the University of NSW, enquiries were made at Macquarie and nobody mentioned my politics. So I got the job -- appointed WITH TENURE. So they couldn't fire me. The Sociology school was a hotbed of Marxism so it very rapidly came up that I saw old Karl as nothing more than an obsolete economist. Everybody was rather staggered but they were in fact pretty nice to me. I was certainly not included in a lot of things but I did get invited to some of their parties. They were generally pretty decent people. They were like theological students, actually. They read and studied their Marxist writings as avidly as fundamentalist Protestant Christians read and study their Bibles.

So am I included now? I am, in a sort of a way. I mostly socialize with family and old friends these days. And my brother, my son, my stepson and the lady in my life all have conservative views similar to mine. If, on some social occasion, I attribute some bad weather event to "global warming", everybody laughs. So at age 72 I look back on a very happy life of exclusion. Anyone can do it. You just adjust to it.

FOOTNOTES: "Demonic laughter" is the way early English invaders settlers described the cry of the Kookaburra, a large Kingfisher. Most Australians these days are pleased to hear their cry, however. DLP stands for the Democratic Labor Party, a Catholic conservative party, now almost extinct but influential in the '60s.

8 June, 2016


Paul and I both remember with great fondness a meatloaf that Jenny used to get from John the South African butcher

We have both had excellent meatloaves since but none were quite as good as the one we remember.

But I have just now discovered one that is very similar -- the same idea if not exactly the same

I got it from Aldi and attach a photo of the label

UPDATE: The next-day leftover meatloaf was of course heavenly in between two slices of well-buttered toast -- assisted by Mrs Ball's chutney

I went to my local Aldi next day and got the only meatloaf that was left there. If ever I have very privileged guests, I may cook it for them

7 June, 2016

Joe the water baby

I gather that Joe has been "down the coast" -- only a couple of times in the two years he has been back from Canberra so he is no water baby now. But once he was.

Going "down the coast" is how Brisbane people describe a trip to the beaches in the far South of the State. It's about a one-hour drive. Brisbane shores are lined with mangroves.

When Joe was about 18 months there were a few of us in the above-ground swimming pool out the back at Faversham St when Jenny let Joe go downstairs to join us. He climbed the ladder, got to the top and promptly fell in. I had my eye glued on him however so I fished him out in a couple of seconds. After a big cry he was given to one of the girls to hold, which he clearly enjoyed.

Then next day something similar happened. He reached the top of the ladder and, being Mr Independence, cautiously tried to make his own way down the steps. But he still slipped in and again had to be rescued. But he clearly liked that pool.

And another time when he was about two, we were in the far North at one of the beaches -- Etty Bay, I think. So we took him into the water with us, which, again he clearly enjoyed. But when we got him out he was blue! He was freezing but was having too much fun to complain. We put him under the tap and that thawed him out. He liked being under the tap too.

Then there was a time a little later when we wanted to get him swimming lessons. So we took him to a local pool that had a kiddy section only about 3' deep (900mm). As soon as we put him in, there would be a big smile on his face and that smile stayed plastered on for all the time he was in there. He didn't learn to swim then, though. That happened when he went to school.

He never became much of a swimmer though. He once said rather dejectedly to me that the only thing he could do well was the "dead man's float". I told him that was about my level, too, which cheered him up.

4 June, 2016

Darrel Lea

For many years in Queensland, Darrell Lea was a much-loved name. I presume that there was a Mr Lea named Darrel but I may be wrong.

Anyway, there were rather a lot of Darrell Lea shops around the place and what they sold was CHOCOLATE - but not just any chocolate -- chocolate confectionery in all its forms -- with ginger, with nuts etc. And they did a good Rocky Road too, if I remember rightly.

So when the twins were still around 9 or 10 or 11 or around that age, Darrel Lea was a magnet.

At that time Jenny would usually feel an urge to go out somewhere on a Friday night. Being a homebody, I did not feel part of that. So I helped by giving Jenny $10 to spend each Friday night. $10 bought a lot more then than it does now. More like $50 now.

So on Friday night Jenny and her girls would go out to "spend John's money". And the first port of call was the Darrell Lea shop in Queen St. -- sadly no longer there.

But despite the great following they had, Darrell Lea messed up big time and just about went broke.

At the last ditch, however, they got in some chap as manager who revived the business. They no longer have their own stores but they now have little kiosks in chemists etc. that sell their stuff. They trade on the good name they have,

And much to my surprise, I found that Woolworths have their stuff too. I bought a box of of that enormously traditional Australian confection called "coconut ice" recently when I was in Woolworths -- and it was a Darrel Lea version. And it tasted exactly as it should! So there may also be generations to come who enjoy their Darrell Lea.

27 May, 2016

Food review

When I was on the weight-loss diet that Joe prescribed for me last year I more or less had to cook for myself to keep inside my 1500 calorie allowance. Joe prescribed grilled chicken as an evening meal but that got too bland after just two nights. So I chopped the chicken up, added canned tomatoes and curry powder and threw it into my crockpot with a bit of onion -- and cooked it there for about 3 hours. That was an improvement but not by a lot. It was still pretty bland. The curry powders I was using were local ones like Keens and Clive of India and I found that I had to put half the container of powder into the dinner to get much taste out of it.

So after a while I went to a local Indian grocer and got some real Indian curry powder -- such as Achar Gosht. It still didn't make a great curry, however. A good curry is fatty and I was trying to avoid that. So no added ghee or marrow-bones etc. So I ate a lot of rather basic curries last year. But I like curries! And, like Joe, I am not bothered by having the same thing night after night.

As you do, I eventually went off my diet so had to rethink my food.

Partly because I don't like driving at night anymore, and partly because I felt I needed to give Nandos, KFC, McDonalds, Chinese and Lebanese restaurants and such places a bit of a rest (splendid though their offerings are -- Sing Sing Chinese restaurant at Buranda gives a very nice Vietnamese lemon grass chicken dinner for only $13.99), I decided that I should mostly ditch going out for dinner and instead prepare my own meals at home. My first step in that direction was to buy frozen dinners. So all I had to do was pop them in the microwave. And that was very successful. The frozen dinners I get from Woolworths seem to me pretty much as good as what I would get from a restaurant. Over time they have really improved.

Then I moved on to things that just had to be heated up in my gas oven -- pizzas, pies etc. And that worked pretty well. I just followed the instructions on the label about how long to heat the product and that mostly worked out fine. I did rather overcook a pizza once but most of it was OK. It was "good in parts", to quote an old joke

Recently, however, I have been tempted by "assisted" cookery -- where some packet or other says: "Just add meat" -- or the like. The idea is that some corporate chef has put together some flavouring substances into a sachet or bottle and that takes care of all the thinking, talent and creativity. And it works. Anne politely eats my creations of that sort and has always found them acceptable. I have made some reasonable curries by just adding a bottle of sauce to mince. Mr Patak of Lancashire is a particularly good provider of such bottles.

My best effort of that kind was a chili con carne. I just added a can of diced tomato plus a can of beans to 500g of good beef mince and left it to the oven and the flavour sachet to do all the work. And Anne actually praised that creation. A problem, however, is that both Woolworths and Aldi seem to be sold out of Chili con Carne sachets so if anyone reading this sees some on sale somewhere local I would appreciate the information

And I have just now dived deeper into complexity. I bought a packet which described itself as a "Tandaco one-pan dinner" with savoury noodles. The packet contained a sachet of noodles and a flavour sachet. It was a product to which I had to add measured quantities of a few things -- not just meat. I had to add onion, garlic, Oyster sauce and curry powder. Rather daringly, I added Achar Gosht for the curry powder. The recipe was probably designed around Keens or the like.

And the result was quite good. It was a pleasant taste but not like any other taste that I could describe. A catch, however, was that the recipe produced rather a lot of food. When it says on a packet "serves 4" I generally discount that and expect it to feed only two. But this time the claim was spot-on. It took me four days to eat it all! So that worked out at less than $3 per dinner, which is very reasonable.

So that is where I am up to at the moment. I have just bought myself a special pancake frying pan and a packet of pancake mix so strange things could happen soon.

21 May, 2016

A birthday celebration

It's Jenny's birthday soon so Nanna organized a BBQ today for a few of us to help celebrate the occasion. Jenny had two out of four of her children along for the occasion -- which she was glad of. Von and Paul were however of course missed. Russ piloted the BBQ and we got some really good sausages. It was in Jenny's special BBQ area in her backyard

Suz was in very good form, full of chat. We all talked a lot of incidental stuff, as a matter of fact. Suz has always been a talker but hostess duties tend to mean we don't hear as much from her when we meet at her house. But today she just sat and talked. And everything she said was good-natured of course.

When Suz and Von were kids Suz used to do all the talking for both of them. Von would just smile and nod. At one time we were a bit concerned about whether Von could talk much at all. Then one afternoon Suz took a nap while Von stayed awake. Rather to our surprise Von started talking to us in quite well-formed sentences. Never underestimate Von! The quiet types can have hidden depths. Von is basically a happy person but not many really know what is behind her smiles.

The great joke of the day at our BBQ was sugar. I brought along for myself and Joe a 1.25 litre bottle of Woolworths Lemon, Lime and Bitters, which I drink a lot of. Suz however promptly lectured me about it having too much sugar in it. So it was then on for one and all. We all had various comments about sugar after that. I kept drinking the stuff and kept calling it my "sugar".

Most of what we talked about was in fact about food and drink. I have been doing a bit of cooking lately and the ladies were of course full of wise observations about cooking. Joe didn't say much and I know why. Joe has a universal recipe that goes for cooking all food: "Apply heat". Until recently I also had a universal recipe for good food: "Eat out". So, as usual, our thinking is not far apart.

Suz supplied the desserts, including a cake. She also did some macaroons, which were excellent.

The littlies were very good. Russ was lying down on the grass at one stage and they kept climbing all over him.

Jenny's friend Pam was there but didn't say much. With big talkers like Jenny, Suz and myself she probably couldn't get a word in. Nanna complained about that a bit but she eventually managed to have her say. It was a very jolly occasion.

18 May, 2016

A surgical day

I had stitches taken out of two excisions today. In the morning I attended at the offices of my plastic surgeon to get the stitches out of an excision on my leg. And I learned that what had come out was a keratocanthoma. Yes, it is as nasty as it sounds but not dangerous. I think I have had most of the skin cancers known to dermatology by now. No melanomas, however -- thankfully. It seems you have to have a fair bit of melanin in your skin to get melanomas and I have the fair Irish skin, with freckles

It was on my right upper leg where the skin is quite tight so Russell had a job putting me back together when it came out. So the skin was fairly stretched and did not respond too well to that. The site became rather inflamed. So I deferred getting the stitches out for two weeks, instead of my usual 10 days.

But I am a fast healer so the stitches had become pretty embedded by that time. So the nurse could not get them out. Russell had to put on his magnifiers and dig them out himself -- which hurt a bit. But it all seems to have settled down now and I remained in good cheer throughout.

Then in the afternoon I attended at the offices of my GP. He took some stitches out of my right upper arm. The excision was an easy one with plenty of loose skin at the site so I generally get my GP to do the easy ones. Not many of mine are easy, however. My tumours seem to have the habit of popping up in the most inconvenient places.

When my GP excises something it is free -- on Medicare. When a specialist excises something it costs a vast sum so Medicare only gives me about a third of it back. After the Medicare contribution I can still be $1,000 out of pocket for just one excision. But I need top skills for most of my excisions so I am glad I can afford it. I put aside in my early life what I need now in my shaky old age.

When I go to the GP it is always a social occasion. He is a very cheerful and lively chap from a background similar to my own. He even knows Innisfail, where I grew up. And we both have very similar conservative political views so we always have a laugh about the day's political follies.

The Housing Commission housed a lot of African refugees close to his surgery a while back and I have observed the evolution in his attitude towards them. There are always a lot of Africans in his waiting room these days. He started out reasonably optimistic about them but he is now very negative. He has seen a lot of concerning behaviour from them and does not speak well of them. So what I have seen is no PREjudice from him at all but an evolution of POSTjudice due to experience.

So it was a rather interesting day and I rounded it off with a Thai Green curry and rice for supper plus apple and rhubarb pie with cream for dessert. And while I was eating my pie Joe came and sat with me and talked a bit about his future directions. So it ended up a really good day.

13 May, 2016

The importance of attitude

It's amazing how much difference your attitude can make. The same event can be viewed either as a disaster or as a positive on some occasions -- and which it is can entirely be a matter of attitude.

One story I have often told is about Joe G., who used to do all my carpentry for me before he his health let him down. Joe came from London and was in most ways a typical Cockney -- a cheerful chatterbox. And one day he was telling me about a job he had been on recently. He was manoeuvering a heavy beam into place when it slipped out of his hands and fell down across his saw stools, smashing both of them. He told that as a great joke and said: "I needed new stools anyway". Most admirable.

And then there is Ken. Ken was always a cheerful optimist. Some time in his '40s when he realized that lots of his dreams were not going to be fulfilled, he went through a slough of despond but he eventually got past that. And he seems to have lots of friends. He constantly says things that irritate his family but he has perfectly amicable relationships with everyone else: George, Joe and myself for instance.

So something Ken once said struck me. I said how I limit my driving to avoid traffic jams. I hate sitting in traffic jams. Ken however replied that he didn't mind them at all. He said they were just a welcome quiet time for him. You could just relax and take it easy with no pressure on you to do things. I greatly wish I could have that attitude but I still don't.

And Anne has some good attitudes too. I was saying how I hate the long flights one has to take in order to get almost anywhere from Australia. I remember a Maersk flight that I once took to travel from Sydney to London via Copenhagen. I was in that plane for about 30 hours and loathed it.

Anne said however that she likes those long flights. She just settles down in a comfortable chair with a good book, gets up once an hour to stretch her legs and people keep coming to her seat bringing food and drinks. She thought it an ideal setting to read a book -- something she does a lot of. I would like to adopt that attitude but don't think I could.

Why did I say "slough of despond" above? Did anybody recognize the allusion? It is one of the more notable situations in "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. I read it about 50 years ago but I liked that phrase and have used it occasionally ever since. I liked "the full armour of God" too but that is actually from Ephesians

And I suppose that brings me to something in my own life. Most people who exit from Puritanical religions seem to have at least some anger towards the religion concerned. But I went through a very fundamentalist, Puritanical phase in my teens and have no anger about it at all. I view that time in my life with warm affection, in fact. I was as happy than as I have ever been and I have had a very happy life in general. And I still enjoy reading my Bible. I find it full of wisdom. And I also still think that the lessons I learned then from a Protestant interpretation of the Bible put my feet on the right path through life. So that's a different attitude from an atheist.

11 May, 2016

Indian watches

When I was in India, I bought a couple of Indian watches. I was well aware of the poor quality of most Indian manufactured goods but I liked the look of them so I took a punt on them being OK. But I was not surprised when they died a few weeks after I got home. Paul got the watchbands off them. He was collecting watchbands at that time. Maybe he still has them.

Then recently, Anne decided that she should buy me a watch for my birthday. And there was a nearby Indian jeweller who had a good display. I found one I liked and took bets on how long it would last. It lasted about a week. I insisted that Anne get her money back but had to get a bit heavy about it.

But there is also a nearby Indian bargain shop that usually has good stuff -- and they sell watches too. Anne and I saw a ladies watch there that looked quite nice so I bought it for her -- for $11. It lasted rather well -- about a month.

So Indian watches are for fun, nothing else.

And let me mention something else amusing. I found a nice blue shirt in India that I wanted to buy. So I bought the biggest size of it that they had -- a vast tent-like creation. I did so because I knew how Indian fabrics shrink like buggery when washed. And after it had been through the washing machine and tumble dryer it was a good fit! I still have it, I think. It is actually a good shirt.

9 May, 2016

Some late night reflections

It's amazing the transition in education we have seen within living memory. From my well-remembered and honourably-remembered grandfather who had no schooling at all (but was taught to read and write at home) to my son who went to a private school and who achieved academic distinction. I suppose it's progress.

A very old picture of my grandfather -- Jack Ray -- when he was young below. He seems to have been a handsome Devil.

He certainly married two very nice ladies. He married the second one within a week of the first one (my grandmother) dying of TB -- but that was the way they did things back then. There were little children to be looked after and Jack had an applicant -- the lovely Lucy Medlock. I remember her.

I know a lot about my ancestors and I am proud of them all. They were people of no formal distinction and negligible education but were quality people nonetheless. I am greatly privileged to have their genes. I am in a very basic sense the person they have made me.

The miserabilism of the ever-whining Left and my own conservative contentment are a considerable contrast

Leftists these days often tell us to "check your privilege". I do so often and am delighted by it but apparently you are supposed to be embarrassed and humiliated by it. In my case: No way!

So does it mean that I am unkind? I think not. I give away more money than I spend on myself. Can any Leftist say that? They only want to give other people's money away!

8 May, 2016

Mothers' Day

Suz and Russ put on a BBQ lunch for a few of us for Mothers' Day. Russ cooked a big rolled-pork roast on his space-age BBQ that smelled good whilst cooking and tasted good too when we got it. It was served with roast vegetables so was very traditional.

Surprisingly, Ken and Maureen were there. I thought they would have been cruising. That is what they do these days, I think.

Nanna showed me the watch that she brought with the $100 present I gave her last Christmas. Jenny said that she spent that $100 three times over. Nanna was as bright as ever. Pretty good for 91.

Joe tried to explain his work to Ken but I am not sure to what degree that succeeded.

With his broad shoulders Joe looked more like an athlete than an armchair inhabitant. I asked Joe recently what was his view of the Chinese after his recent visit to the Middle Kingdom. He answered with one word: "Unbeatable". He was impressed by their work ethic as well as by their intelligence. He has always had Chinese friends.

A lot of the conversation was very geriatric -- about ailments, health insurance, hospitals etc. I showed the scar on my leg from my most recent surgery.

Sahara has grown into a very pretty girl and Dusty has slowed down a lot. Joe brought back from China a transformer robot for them -- which they had a lot of fun with.

MAY 1, 2016

I know the poor

Poverty is a shortage of money, right? It is not. In our society, poverty is an effect of foolish decisions. It is a behaviour problem, not a money problem.

I have seen it many times but I saw it most frequently when I was the proprietor of a 22-room boarding house located in a poor area. Many of the residents would buy basic groceries etc from a nearby service station, where the prices were about 50% dearer that at the supermarket. And there was a branch of a large supermarket chain only ten minutes walk away.

And on "payday" (the day when government welfare money was paid into their accounts) it was a wonder to see the casks of "goon" (Sweet white wine in a cardboard box) coming into the place. There was always money for alcohol.

And I had to be on the ball on "payday" too. I had to get my rent before the money was all spent. I even knew where some of them drank and would go in and collect my money from them at the bar.

And they would often have fights, usually over women. And that often left me with property damage. I always had a glazier ready on call to fix broken windows. I could have tried to claim that cost back off them but that would have been in vain. By the end of the week most had nothing left in their pockets.

And the fighting was not limited to my place. They would also get into fights in bars and elsewhere. And the loser in a fight generally had his money stolen off him, often on the night of "payday". So, sometimes, if I had not got his money that day, he would have nothing left by the time I got to him.

But not all welfare clients are like that. Many are prudent enough to have money left over at the end of the week and accumulate some savings. One such was a tall black Melanesian man -- named Apu if I remember rightly. When I approached him for his rent he said: "I got into a fight last night and lost my money ... so I went to the bank and got some out". He was the only man ever to say that to me.

So he was not poor. He had money for his needs and could put something aside as well. He got the same "pay" as everyone else but he was more prudent in his behaviour.

I spent many years endeavouring to provide respectable accommodation for the poor but the poor did not make it easy for me. Many are their own worst enemies.

And in my younger days I lived on Australia's student dole for a couple of years -- and led a perfectly comfortable life. The student dole was actually a bit below what the unemployed got. So I have NEVER been poor.

I sometimes had only a little money but I have always had savings, have always eaten well, have always had comfortable accommodation, have always had sufficient clothing, have always had lots of books (mostly bought very cheaply secondhand), have always had good access to the sort of recorded music that I like, have always been able to afford the day's newspaper and have rarely been without an attractive girlfriend.

I did not however drink alcohol until I could afford it. I was teetotal until I was about 28. And I have never smoked or used illegal drugs. So I made good choices -- for which I largely thank my fundamentalist Christian background -- and have always been contented


While I am enormously grateful to my Protestant background for putting my teenage feet onto the right path, there seem to be some genetics involved too. I say that because my son, who did not have that background, is a lot like me. He seems to save as much as he spends and yet has an attractive girlfriend, a job he enjoys and vast amounts of "stuff" - mainly books and computer games.

He does however have an addiction -- as young people these days mostly seem to. So is he addicted to heroin, cocaine, marijuana or "Ice"? Far from it. He is addicted to flavoured milk. He finds it hard to get past the flavoured milk display at our local supermarket. At a time when young people pour all sorts of foul things into themselves, I am overjoyed about that

Milk IS bad for his waistline but he has the self-discipline to get that under control from time to time too. I think that both he and I have inherited Puritan genetics. I am convinced there is such a thing. It is a great gift.

And let us not forget that Puritans founded America. So for some people Puritanism feels right. It did for me. People exiting restrictive religions tend to be resentful of their times in the religion concerned. But I revelled in it. And it is still a fond memory of that time in my life

So in the end I have to agree with a great Rabbi: "The poor ye always have with you". There may not be such a thing as "white privilege" (most of my lodgers were white) but there may be such a thing as an inborn Puritan privilege -- JR

28 April, 2016

Jason brings home the golden fleece

After Joe built my new Windows 10 computer recently, we had some leftover bits from my old Windows 7 computer that I wanted to re-use, an old hard drive and an A-drive. Joe bought an old secondhand computer for $80 for that purpose and set it up using Windows XP. Alas, however, my leftover hard drive was so old (about 10 years) that it could not be used even with my old $80 computer. It is an IDE drive, now obsolete.

My old mate Jason had an idea, however. He knew of an adapter that you can get from China for $20 that converts an IDE interface to a USB interface. So he got me one. And today was the big day to install it.

It didn't work. But Jason is not accustomed to defeat by any computer. He has been using personal computers since he was a kid -- starting out with the venerable VIC-20. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units. So his brain is full of all sorts of understanding of computers.

So he kept trying all sorts of strategies to get the new system to work. After nearly two hours of hard work and at least a dozen tries he finally did it.

It turns out that an IDE drive uses slightly more power than more modern drives -- so the power supply that came with the USB adapter was inadequate. Fortunately, however, my old $80 computer was a originally a quality one -- a Hewlett Packard. So it had inside it a variety of power outlets to enable use of various peripheral devices. And one of them had the extra power that my old IDE drive needed.

So once we discovered that it was all plain sailing and I now have up and running an old XP machine complete with two functioning hard drives and an A-drive -- a genuine museum piece. I now have 3 different old computers up and running in my mini-museum. The others are a DOS machine and an Amiga 500. Men like their machines.

27 April, 2016

How old people give directions

When a young person wants to tell another person where something is, he will pick out prominent buildings or features that are nearby.

Old people do that too but they have another tool at their disposal. When talking to another old person, they will often describe where something USED to be. Anne and I do it often. We might for instance say:

John: Where do that young couple live these days?

Anne: Opposite where the Thompsons used to live

John: Opposite where the Thompsons used to live! Ah! Now I get you

So being old has some advantages

But health problems usually ensure that it is not a golden age. I think most of us oldies look back to the time when we were involved in bringing up children as our golden age. Maybe not for everyone

But old age does have a few advantages. We are under less pressure to achieve. We know by then who we are and where we are. We no longer have to strive to get somewhere or establish anything.

There is some tendency for older people to get more religious too -- particularly in women

I am still as atheist as ever but I will probably say on my deathbed "Shema Yisreal" -- not out of any expectation of a reward -- just in an appreciation of the good. I would like to be able to say the whole prayer but I can't memorize anything much these days. I am glad I learnt a lot of poetry when I was young. Perhaps if I am compos mentis enough I could get a Rabbi to come and say it for me. It's a prayer of devotion but I like its triumphant tone

25 April, 2016

A rather mad ANZAC day

Because everything was going to be shut up for ANZAC day, Anne came over to cook me breakfast. I had a leftover pack of hot-cross buns in the freezer so that was the main focus. Anne put them in the oven for an inscrutable time and they came out fine. She also brought over the leftovers of a chicken she had cooked for her and June the night before so I cut my hotcross buns into two, buttered them, and ate them with chicken in the middle. Very satisfactory!

And somehow we used an amazing amount of crockery and cutlery for the process. There ended up plates and cutlery all over the place on my verandah table afterwards

We both watched the march on TV after breakfast. I watched only a bit of it but Anne watched it all. She was on the lookout for people she knew There were huge numbers in the march so that was not unrealistic. She saw no-one this year, though.

Then that night I offered Anne a Thai curry dinner (out of my freezer) while I cooked a pack of snags for myself. But it didn't end up that way. Anne cooked up some rice to have with her curry but I found when I opened my offered packet of curry that it already had rice with it.

So how to proceed? I had expected to have toast with my snags but I decided that rice would be good too. And six snags were a bit much for me alone so both of us ended up having three snags and rice for our dinner -- which neither of us had foreseen.

But the snags were good, the rice was fine and I had a new bottle of "Chipotle" (Mexican) BBQ sauce to have with the snags -- so we did well. The sauce was only a bit peppery.

I grabbed out of the fridge what I thought was a bottle of beer to have with it all but it turned out to be a bottle of ginger beer only. But it was fine. Chaos was still pretty good. And we ended up with lots of cutlery on the table for that meal too!

24 April, 2016

St. George's day

I missed out on celebrating St. George's day yesterday. St. George is of course the patron saint of England and I do often celebrate it. I thought of it rather late in the week and Anne was ill the day before so it was all too hard this year. I fly the flag of St. George daily on the flagpole at the front of my house but that is probably just a token of my eccentricity. I also have a large brass Hindu idol (Ganesha) greeting people as they walk in my front door so I think my claim to be eccentric is on firm ground. We bright sparks are allowed to be eccentric.

In Britain these days, the St. George flag has been adopted by people who are proud to be English rather than British. People of immigrant origin from all over the world are described as British these days. So I have a certain sympathy for that. My origins too are mainly English and I am most grateful for that. Britain has a lot of troublesome immigrants these days whereas our main immigrant group are Han Chinese -- who are no trouble at all.

23 April, 2016

Reflections about my forebears

Taking an interest in one's forebears is a very conservative thing to do. Leftists usually act as if the world started yesterday. They are certainly slow to learn from history. Despite all the horrors that Communism has unleashed on the world, you still have a neo-Communist, Bernie Sanders, running for President of the United States at the moment. His rhetoric is nearly two centuries old and there is no doubt about where it has previously led.

I am rather bemused by what the more addled Leftists in American universities call "whiteness" studies. Whites are an evil lot who should be ashamed of themselves and give all their goods to minorities -- is the general message.

But I am not at all ashamed of my whiteness. I am very pleased by it. And I am impressed by my white forebears. Two of my ancestors came out to Australia from the other side of the world in frail little wooden ships. When men went to sea in such ships there was always a high likelihood (a third?) that they would never come back Yet they repeatedly did it Why?

It was partly because of the way that men are fascinated by machines. And their ships were quite complex wooden machines, probably the most complex machines of their day. Sail was perhaps an even older technology than the wheel. It enabled people to move things through time and space without being totally reliant on human or animal muscle

Bodies of water were the highways of the ancient world. People had little in the way of roads so you could not go far or easily on land. But you could by water. So your technology was focused on movement across water. And thus you could move things long distances and bring back things from far places. Sailing ships were a very USEFUL technology. They expanded greatly what humans could do. They could even remove humanely problem people from their society.

And two of my ancestors were such problem people. But by dint of the great skills of white people they arrived safe and sound after long and wearying transport across a vast distance. Another society -- e.g. a Muslim one -- might simply have killed off or mutilated those two of my petty-criminal forebears but the humane white people of England simply sent them far away. I am proud to be of that ilk.

But what do we know of my more remote forebears? There is always disputation about these things but it seems that they were Celts, ancestors of most of the people who now living in Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland and Wales. So it seems that they were very little different from the rest of the current British population

Most of what we know about the early Celts we get from Roman writers, particularly Caesar. We learn that they were big and fierce fighters who would rush into battle with great enthusiasm. They were too disorganized, however. They were regularly defeated by the discipline of the little Roman troops. Roman soldiers were mostly only about 5' tall but the taller Celts were regularly defeated by better Roman organization and discipline. When it came to the Germans however, the Romans had REAL trouble. Those guys were even bigger and even more ferocious. They wiped out whole Roman legions

And, as we know, the Celts of Britain were first overrun by the Romans around 2,000 years ago and then by the Germans about 1500 years ago. So you would think that modern-day British people would have a blend of Celt, Roman and German genes. And it is partly like that. And I have no doubt both Celtic and German genes in me. But what about the Romans? The DNA studies of the current British population find little or no trace of them. We know that the first thing conquering armies did in the old days was to rape the women of the conquered population so what happened to all the Roman genes that should have entered the British gene-pool at that time? Unlike the Greeks, the Romans weren't baby-killers so there does seem to be a mystery there.

But there is in fact no mystery. Rome was very multicultural. You did not have to be of Italian origin to have all the advantages of Roman citizenship. Even St. Paul, a Hellenized Jew, was a Roman citizen. And so it was with Roman armies. It was very unlikely that many Italian troops ever went to Britain. The legions that did go were probably raised from somewhere more conveniently located, most probably Celtic Gaul (modern France). So Celts trained in Roman military discipline went to Britain and defeated Celts using Celtic customs. The Roman conquest and occupation probably did very little to alter the Celtic nature of the British population.

So I have in me the genes of two very capable white populations, the Celts and the Germans -- plus a bit of Norman and Scandinavian probably. And I know enough about both groups to be rather pleased about all that. I am privileged to be descended from such capable people.

21 April, 2016

Joe is back from the middle kingdom

The middle kingdom? Has one of Joe's computer games come to life? Not quite. There really is such a place. We refer to it as the land of the Chin, though the Chin dynasty is long gone -- China, in other words. The Chinese name for their country cannot adequately be translated into English, though it can be translated well into German. In German it would be Das Mittelreich. So the "Middle Kingdom" is the best we can do. The idea is that the Chinese see China as the centre of the world. They always have and they still do. And by the end of this century they will be right.

Joe went there with the CIO of the company he works for. The firm is buying some hardware from China -- as you do -- and Joe had the job of working out how to program it. The fact that his boss took Joe with him suggests to me that they see Joe as their hotshot programmer. He probably is: Not only because he is a versatile coder but mainly because of his problem-solving ability, I would think. An old word for problem-solving ability is IQ.

Anyway Joe can himself see that he has hit the ground running in his new job so is looking forward to a bigger pay packet in due course. Pay packets tend to be healthy in his line of work.

They went to Shanghai on a Qantas airbus and arrived back yesterday at around midday. Joe brought me back a big bottle of "Bombay Sapphire" London dry gin distilled for the Asian market. To my limited palate, it tastes much the same as any other middle-range gin. All gin has lots of botanicals in it and the ones added to this one were Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorns. How do I know that? It says so on the bottle. International trade is an amazing thing: A gin distilled in England, named after a place in India and designed for China.

3 April, 2016

Innisfail State Rural School -- a document

If you google Innisfail State Rural School, you will mostly get links to things that I have put online. Other than that there are only some old newspaper clippings put online by Trove, the excellent service by the National Library of Australia.

So I want to put online a document that will show once and for all that it did exist. It is one of my old report cards -- from Grade 4.

It is a rather tattered document but it is the only record I have of 7 years of my life. It is from my primary school days. A Rural School was a combined primary and secondary school in a place that could not support separate primary and secondary schools.

3 April, 2016

Another Ingeborg Hallstein clip

I have just come across her singing "Ich bin die Christel von der Post", from 1973. I am used to the version sung by Ute Gfrerer but they are both very good. The operetta was "Der Vogelhandler" by Zeller

Access it here:

She once again uses heavy eye makeup. I think that was characteristic of the time.

Below is another clip, with her singing the famous Nightingale song by Grothe. She has just the voice for that

29 March, 2016

A quiet Easter

Anne was away camping with one of her sons and his family and Joe was in Canberra with Kate so I just sat in front of my computer for most of the time. But I got a lot of writing done so that was good.

My usual breakfast haunts were closed for Easter so I just went to Stone's Corner. There are about six cafes in a row there so a couple were open and the breakfasts there are good. I did go to Buranda on the Saturday, however, as that is not an official holiday. The restaurants were however all closed. But Woolworths was having a sausage sizzle so I had some of that. I like sausages so I was quite happy with that.

For my evening meals I had stuff out of my freezer -- which was excellent.

13 March, 2016

Cheese quest

When I was helping to bring up kids many moons ago, computer games like Kings Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest etc were all the rage. My present quest is obviously much less important than that but it has some importance to me.

Going back further: When I was a kid in the '40s and '50s there was no variation in what cheese we ate. It was always Kraft cheddar cheese in the blue packet and with the silver foil inside. That it didn't need refrigeration even in the tropics was probably part of its appeal. And I don't think our household was much different from any other at the time. I think Australia had something of a cheese monoculture at that time.

As time went by however, the available types of cheese proliferated -- and Kraft cheddar faded from view. But the variety did not conquer all. What happened was that a new monoculture arose: "Tasty" cheese arose to rule the roost.

And like a good Australian, I too for many years mainlined on Tasty. Recently, however, I have looked outside my rut a bit and have tried some other cheeses. And as part of looking more widely, I wondered if you could still get the old Kraft cheddar. Rather to my surprise I found that I could. My local Woolworths has it in a small corner down the bottom of one of its shelves.

So I wondered how it matched up against more modern cheeses. I bought a packet. And it was still quite pleasant but a bit bland. It goes very well as grilled cheese on toast however. So Kraft cheddar was the beginning but not the end of my quest.

Other cheeses I have tried include Club Cheddar from the Mary Valley (Queensland) -- with pickled onion in it -- and Cracker Barrel black label. The Onion cheese has the best taste in my view but both are a bit too crumbly for me.

So my quest continues. Is there a cheese with a strong cheesy flavour that is not crumbly?

11 March, 2016

A dinner with JM

I am rather bad at keeping up with old friends, which is rather regrettable, as I have come across some pretty fine people over the years. Someone I saw a lot of around 20 years ago was JM. He used to be my repairman for wonky Amiga computers. Whenever I arrived at his shop, however, we would have a chat, which we both found rewarding. I think I had a lot of influence in getting him interested in real estate and he got me into options trading on the stockmarket.

Options trading is a bit of a mug's game, I have concluded. It's only the stockbrokers who do well out of it. By the time JM and I both gave it up he a had lost big money and I came out about square. But real estate has been kind to both of us.

When the fashion for Amiga computers passed, I lost touch with JM for a long time. One morning about a year ago, however he spotted me in a coffee place where I often go and we caught up with one another. Since then he has been helpful to Joe in getting all my old Amiga gear going again. Joe remembers spending years on the Amiga when he was a kid so likes to have an Amiga still available

Anyway, I woke up to myself and shouted JM and his lady a dinner at the Sunny Doll tonight, with Joe also coming along. I am resolved to keep in some touch from now on with the clever and pleasant man that JM is.

The Sunny Doll did their usual trick of putting before us some amazingly good Japanese food amazingly promptly. We also arranged for JM to come over next Tuesday to do a bit more work on getting all my Amiga gear up to scratch. I now have an Amiga hard drive going, which is a bit rare.

I am something of a sentimentalist, which is why I kept my old Amiga stuff. I thought some of the kids might one day want their own kids to experience the old games. And I always suspected that Joe would turn out to be a sentimentalist, since both his mother and father are. And it has now happened. He is sentimental about the old games and has in fact introduced some of his friends to them. He and JM spent some time over dinner talking about them.

What is sentimentalism? I think it is just an appreciation of how things once were. Not all good resides in the present. It does not exclude being fully engaged with the present. Certainly in his job as an IT professional, Joe is really at the cutting edge of how things are evolving.

The biggest sentimentalist in the family is Von, Joe's sister. Mostly, to be a sentimentalist you have to have something to look back upon, so you usually become sentimental well into your adult life. But Von has been sentimental since she was a little girl. She has kept mementos of things she enjoyed throughout her life. She is basically a very happy lady. I think that is basically what underlies sentimentalism. It is a capacity to enjoy many things.

A comment from my brother:

A view I can identify with. I still have my father's old rifle and I know every old tool in my tool box that Frank used to own -- and keep them in good order. Alas I have trouble passing the concept of history onto my children bought up with a throwaway society before certain possessions were supposed to last a lifetime or more. It is a rare pleasure that I fear few now understand to pick up an old hammer or pair of pliers and know that your father used to use the same tool.

4 March, 2016

A birthday

My brother CER has just had a birthday so I decided to buy him a dinner in celebration. He and his wife came along to my favourite Japanese restarurant near where I live and a few others came along to help with the celebrating. Anne came, Joe came plus Jenny and Nanna so there were seven of us all told.

The restaurant was unusually busy but I had booked in advance so I got my preferred table and the kitchen was well prepared so our dinners came out as promptly as usual

We talked a bit about The Donald, with both my brother and myself saying we hope he wins. I had my old faithful plumber over during the day and he also was hoping for a Trump win.

We washed our dinners down with Fourex Gold and Barossa pearl, which my brother declared he liked. It's considered an unprestigious drop but that did not deter him. Anne and I are very keen on it. It was one of the earliest Australian wines but it went out of production in 1983. Owing to popular demand, hoewever, it was brought back a couple of years ago

We had quite as few dishes from the menu with some of them shared but they were all, as usual, good. To save me the trouble of mentioning them, below is the sales docket I got.

19 February, 2016

A saint's day, a birthday and a funeral

14th was St Valentine's day, now quite shorn of any thing religious. But the ladies like it so we men do it. I bought Anne roses, chocolates and a card as usual and offered to take her to a restaurant we haven't visited lately.

On the day, however, I also gave her a table! She wanted a table on which to lay out a big jigsaw so I took a 4' (1200 mm) one I had in storage downstairs and, with Anne's help, brought it upstairs and made a place for it in her room. I have had a fair bit of removalist experience over the years and I needed all of it. Getting it through a series of narrow doorways was quite a job. Anyway, getting a table as a Valentine's day gift must be a rarity.

Also on the day, however, Anne was feeling a bit down due to the fact that her eldest sister had died the night before. It was very much an expected death after a long decline but the reality is of course still a blow.

So rather than go out to a restaurant, we just got in fish & chips from a local fish shop that we knew to be good. We had it al fresco on my verandah with some champagne so we both enjoyed it. Both Anne and I regard fish 'n chips as a treat.

And yesterday I put on a dinner for Jill's birthday. Jill is one of the few people outside family that I keep in touch with. As usual we went to a West End Greek restaurant that we know. I like to make the dinner one of 4 or 5 courses so the courses have to be small. But the restaurant concerned offers many of its foods in appetizer form so we had a lot of them. We had Keftedes, Haloumi, Tarama, Pastourma, traditional Greek salad plus alcohol and dessert -- all at a very modest cost. It was good to catch up with Jill and Lewis and particularly good to see Lewis still hale and hearty in his 80s.

And today was the funeral for Anne's eldest sister. I did not go to the interment but attended the church service afterward, mainly to give Anne support. It was at the local Presbyterian church and attracted a full house -- as Anne's sister had been very active in the church for a long time. Being a bit deaf, I understood very little of the sermon or the prayers but I doubt that I missed much.

The "wake" afterward was better. The fare was very Presbyterian -- ham sandwiches and cold water -- but I am very keen on sandwiches so it was fine by me.

I cooked Anne a shepherd's pie for supper -- a ready-made one from Woolworths that just had to be popped into the oven for half an hour to cook. I have no idea who the Woolworths cook is but he makes great dinners and we enjoyed that one -- helped by a cold bottle of Tyrrell's Verdelho. Tyrrell does Verdelho much better than other vintners in my opinion.

28 January, 2016

Anne's birthday plus two things that did not happen

Anne was deadset on going to the Hilton for her birthday so I took her there on Saturday. I almost always find fancy places like that disappointing. The food is often "innovative", which usually means "strange". So I was not totally surprised at the strange dinner we did get. I thought that ordering a mixed grill for the both of us would be pretty safe but it wasn't. It allegedly included: "slow roasted pork belly. outside skirt. kangaroo fillet. lamb cutlet. duck breast. handmade italian sausage. lemon. salsa verde. micro greens."

That sounds OK on a quick glance but the "sausage" was just some sort of small rissole and the last two items were just some kind of sauce. I am quite keen on mixed grills but I have never before come across one consisting of meat only. No eggs, no bacon, no fried onions, no salad etc. And I didn't even get a bread roll with it! And the dessert I ordered again sounded good on paper but turned out to be tiny: Good for the waistline, I guess. And the ambiance was non-existent. We were seated facing a blank wall! A very poor return for the nearly $200 I spent. No wonder they had so many empty tables on a Saturday night. I didn't complain about it to Anne or any one else at the time but I will never set foot in that place again. I often host family dinners at the Bollywood which cost me $300+ so I don't mind spending the money. I just like to get good food and good value for money.

Next morning was better. Anne and I went along to a breakfast organized by her son Byron at "Lock & Load", a West End cafe we know well. Byron has two little boys so I sat with them and had the sort of fun I always have with little kids. They amuse me and I amuse them. The food was good as it always is there. We had it in the back garden, which makes a pleasant venue. A much better ambiance than at the Hilton. If I were a Muslim I would say: "Death to the Hilton". Fortunately, my values are Christian.

The things that did not happen: I have in past years put on a Burns night on 25th but that got a bit hectic for an old guy like me. With a birthday on 23rd and Australia day on 26th it was a lot of celebrating. So I no longer do a Burns night.

But, as it happens, our usual family BBQ on Australia day was cancelled at the last minute so I had a quiet day.

That evening, however, Joe came in to help me set up a small computer museum. So, in addition to my Windows 10 main computer and my notebook computer, I now have a DOS machine and an XP machine up and running. Joe did all the work as he knows a lot about hardware as well as being a programmer. He told me recently that he is writing some firmware for his employers, which I found impressive -- though I suppose it is just another "C" exercise.

UPDATE: Joe wrote the program using C#, which is blue, he tells me, in a rare burst of synesthesia. C# is a Microsoft version of "C"

1 January, 2016

A quiet New Year

With Anne being away I spent my New Year's eve pretty much alone. Joe came in however and connected the new DVD drive for my computer so that was good. The new drive does work well. I watched an operetta DVD on it and the new drive did not hang up on a bad patch where my other DVD players did.

And I decided to go shopping at Aldi to see what the latest of their ever-changing range was. I was rather pleased to see that Aldi do markdowns on slowly-moving stock too. I bought a few things, including an allegedly Angus beef family pie for $3.59.

That night I microwaved a frozen dinner of Gyoza plus Udon noodles that was quite good. Frozen dinners have improved a lot these days. I had it with leftover salad from Tuesday, a leftover bread roll and some leftover tomato juice. It added up to a reasonable dinner.

Today I went in search of breakfast at the Buranda shopping center, as I often do. As I expected, it was all closed up but as I also expected, the Pakistani kebab shop over the road was open. They do quite a good kebab so I had that. One of the sauces offered for the kebab was "chuckney" sauce. I deduced that "chutney" was meant so ordered that. It was nothing like any chutney I know but it was OK.

I then decided that I needed a treat so noted that the frozen yoghurt shop was open. I went in and had a bowl of half mango and half chocolate flavour topped with mulberries. A definite indulgence.

And for dinner I had the discounted pie that I bought from Aldi. It was fine.

For posts on this blog in 2015, 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"
Western Heart