17 December 1996
John Ray's Christmas letters from 1996 to 2005
MERRY XMAS 1996
I got married (for the 4th time) late last year to a tall, slim, nice-looking redhead who is the same height as I am. Her name is Kathryn. I proposed only a month after we met and we broke up three weeks after the wedding! Not long after we got back from the honeymoon we fell out and neither of us was prepared to back down so she moved back to her own house at Ipswich. We have remained friends, however. It all sounds a bit like Hollywood, doesn't it? The genuine whirlwind romance. It was however great while it lasted and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Since February this year I have been involved with Jill -- a very nice and very blonde blue-eyed lady who is a little older than I am and only 5'6" tall this time. She is an administrator at the Uni of Qld. and did her Arts degree late in life but got five university prizes in the course of it. So I still like smart ladies! We share interests in classical music, history and literature. Jill and I get on extremely well but she refuses to marry me so no more weddings are expected in the near future. Being Mrs Ray no. 5 is probably not such an attractive idea to her when you think about it! I expect that you may meet Jill at the next family do.
Joey is now 9 and has just finished 4th grade at St Joachims. Next year we will be sending him to Greenslopes State school as Jenny and I both feel that such a small school as St Joachims no longer gives him enough scope.
1 Dec 1997
MERRY XMAS 1997
My academic career has at long last more or less ground to a halt. I retired from my Senior Lecturer's job at the University of NSW in 1983 when I was 39 but I still kept on writing for the academic journals. For quite a few years I would still be sending off a paper almost every week. I still do write a bit but only once or twice a year now. Nowadays I am a true retired man and really enjoy my afternoon naps. I saw a saying recently that I rather like: "The older I get the better I was".
My interests these days are very much in the personal sphere. I always have had a lot of fun with the ladies but in my 50s I really seem to be doing better than ever. I had my 4th marriage a couple of years ago to a magnificent red-haired creature named Kathryn. She was 47 but looked 35 and was roughly the same size and shape as Elle McPherson. Did she look good in a mini-skirt! We were both rather wilfull, however so the marriage lasted only weeks. It was a lot of fun while it lasted, however! Since then I have had lots of girlfriends but no more wedding bells are foreseen.
My 54th. birthday in July this year was a good one. Jill (my then girlfriend) and I first had a pre-birthday dinner with some old friends of Jill at the University of Queensland Staff Club dining room. They do a brilliant Wiener Schnitzel there. Then Jill and I went to "The Clansmen" for a celebration dinner on the day itself. I generally go to either "The Clansmen" at Annerley or "Weis's" in Toowoomba to celebrate special occasions. "The Clansmen" is a Scottish restaurant a long way from Scotland and "Weis's" is a seafood restaurant a long way from the sea! Going to "The Clansmen" gives me the chance to wear the kilt and on this occasion, being winter, I wore my Highland jacket as well. Fun! We even managed to talk the cook into doing a chateaubriand for us.
Jill and I recently ended our relationship after 18 months together. We do however remain very good friends. Jill is a very bright lady a little older than I am. In the course of doing her Bachelor of Arts degree (majoring in English and History) at the University of Queensland she got no less than five university prizes. She is the widow of a Church of England clergyman who was also head of the university English department for many years so she expects the man in her life to be both good and clever -- which was a bit too much of a challenge for a bad egg like me! My new girlfriend is the kind Diane -- 5'1" and aged 33.
My son Joey is now aged 10 and does well at school. There was recently in Australia a nationwide survey of childhood literacy done this year for the Federal Government by the University of NSW. Schoolkids from a sample of schools throughout Australia were tested for basic English language skills: Vocabulary, sentence comprehension, spelling etc. As you may know from the media, up to a third of Australian primary school students were found to be virtually illiterate. Joey's school (Greenslopes Primary) was one of those that took part. You would of course expect the highest score in the school to be obtained by one of the 7th Grade children as they have had the most English language teaching. In fact the highest scorer in the school was not a 7th Grader or even a 6th Grader but rather a pesky little 5th Grader. And that 5th Grader was Joey! Having a son who is the smartest boy in the school is, I think, pardonable cause for pride. When I got the results I was so pleased that I hardly slept that night. With brains and good looks all the boy needs now is luck! But as Joey was an IVF child maybe he had to be lucky just to be born!
Joey has been having piano lessons since age 4 but still seems to be enjoying them. He is also enjoying learning the trumpet at school. He has also recently taken up Tae Kwon Do -- a Korean martial art -- and seems very enthusiastic about it. He has been a devotee of computer games since he was 18 months old so I was very pleased to find that he also seems to be doing a lot of reading of books these days. He actually tackled the "Dune" science-fiction trilogy during the year --which is a huge book. He got interested in the book as a result of playing the computer game based on it. The first thing I ever saw him reading was a hint sheet for one of his computer games so computers can be good in surprising ways.
Jenny (Mrs Ray no. 3 and Joey's mother) is doing very well in her job helping to run the Queensland head office of Godfrey's Vacuum Cleaners and bought a new Daewoo car this year. She shows no signs of re-marrying however. She seems to think that all the good men are married already. As a much-married man (4 times!), how can I argue? Jenny and I remain on cordial terms. I did her tax-return for her this year with very good results so as a thank-you she made us all a very special dinner -- a Parsee Dhansak with green chutney and all the other Parsee trimmings. It takes about 5 hours to prepare so Jill and I wore evening dress in honour of it!
Joy (Mrs Ray no. 2) sold her $2 million waterfront mansion in Sydney during the year -- which was a great relief to her after many years of trying to unload it. She still has most of her other Sydney properties, however. Once she acquires a property she just hates selling it! She has now retired to the country but recently bought investment land on Bribie Island. We meet when she is in Brizzy.
Kathryn (Mrs Ray no. 4) completed her course to become a prison guard at Borallon MEN'S prison last year. With her nearly 6' of height I think she looks magnificent in her Prison Officer's uniform! She is in a new relationship now, however so I have not seen her recently.
Dawn (Mrs. Ray no. 1) is now a lecturer in Social Science at the Queensland University of Technology here in Brisbane. My brother Christopher (well-known as a media spokesman for Brisbane gun-owners!) got married at long last late last year. As he and Kym already had two delightful young children (Madeline and James), I suppose they thought they might as well formalize it. The wedding was however a good time to catch up with people I had not seen for a while. I was particularly taken with Katie -- the daughter of my sister Roxanne. Katie is the same age as Joey and has a quiet and serious nature that I could really relate to. She is pretty too! And I got the most delightful note in reply from her when I sent her a birthday card.
I felt greatly privileged in June this year when I saw the world premiere right here in Brisbane of David Williamson's latest play "After the Ball". It was a very funny play about family squabbles that also has to make you rather sad. As he now lives near Brisbane, the great man himself (Williamson) was in the audience. As he is about 6'6" tall, however, I was glad I was not sitting behind him! I have always been a great follower of his plays but maybe that has something to do with the fact that we both have an academic background in psychology.
1 December 1998
MERRY XMAS 1998
Well, the BIG news for me for 1998 is that my son Joey reached 5' tall early this year whilst still aged only 10 years old. At the time of writing he is 5'3". What bets for an eventual height over 6'? I am 5'10 and Jenny (his mother) is 5'8" but Jenny's father was 6'3". Since Joey is quite strongly built he seems likely to be a big man in general. Hard to believe of the cute little tot I knew for so many years! He has already got markedly broad shoulders plus his mother's regular features so he should have an easy time with the ladies in years to come.
Joey also decided during the year that he wanted to be baptised. He had not been Christened as an infant. So at age 11 on 8.11.98 Joey was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith. Jenny and I are unbelievers with a Protestant background but we sent Joey to a Catholic school for his first four primary years and he has continued to go to Catholic religion classes at his State school (Greenslopes Primary). The Brother who takes the religion classes felt that Joey understood what he was doing in wanting to be baptised so Father Brady of the Little Kings movement (a Catholic charity for handicapped children) consented to baptise Joey despite his not coming from a Catholic family.
The Brother who takes Joey's religion classes is from the Little Kings movement and the baptism took place in the Little Kings chapel. I arranged for Prof. John Henningham and Jill Hillman-Marks to be the Godparents. Religion can be a support to people so neither Jenny nor I endeavoured to dissuade Joey in any way. His main reason for getting baptised seemed to be a wish for a religious identity of some kind.
The staff of the Little Kings movement were obviously much taken with the sight of a little 11 year old boy from a non-Catholic family embracing Rome of his own accord and quite a few photos of the ceremony were taken. I gather that any baptism at all was a rare event in that chapel as they had to use a glass bowl for a font. There were eight of us in the chapel to lend Joey moral support and Jenny bought him his first pair of long pants for the occasion. Father Brady is a very kindly old priest and it was a delightful occasion for all. Joey himself must have enjoyed it because he said afterwards that he was now looking forward to his confirmation.
The next biggest piece of news is, I suppose, that I bought a 20-room guest house at Ipswich, near Brisbane, last January for the grand old sum of $185,000. Is that a lot of bedrooms per dollar or what? Guest houses do take a fair bit of management but can be lucrative in theory. I was in fact quite happy with my financial situation previously but when I saw 20 bedrooms for the price of a Sydney bachelor flat it was just too much of a bargain for me to pass it by. So I am now a genuine slum landlord providing accommodation to the poor! For the price of a free room, however, I have caretaker there who does most of the managing and collects some of the rents for me. Good in theory but the first caretaker I had soon decamped with a fortnight's rent (the police eventually caught him and got him convicted, however) and the next three after him also scarpered. I am supervising the present caretaker on an almost daily basis however and he seems OK so far. I have still not succeeded in getting full occupancy -- even at the pensioner rate of $40 per room per week -- so the place is in fact only barely paying its way. Being a slum landlord is not all beer and skittles!
One of my great-grandfathers (Joe Copelin) was a rough-tough goldfields publican who made money selling booze to the miners so I think he and I might have a similar outlook. I am sure his drunken miners were as big a pain as my drunken tenants! I had a bit of difficulty borrowing the money to buy the guest house with but the National Australia Bank ended up financing the entire purchase at their best interest rate (5.49%). They do seem to have somewhat more sanity than most of the other banks in Australia. The Colonial State Bank wanted to charge me huge fees plus high interest and Metway Bank solemnly informed me that they could only finance me into a $45,000 purchase. Isn't competition wonderful?
Metway were particularly hard to believe. When I rang them what I got was a girl in front of a computer screen who knew nothing beyond what was on her screen. I pointed out to her that I had very large assets and no debts but I was wasting my time. All she knew was what was on her screen. Why a bank would put its big borrowers into the hands of airheaded teenagers quite eludes me. I would have thought that any sanely managed bank would treat housing borrowers as VIPs. Metway also could not find the title deeds to two of my other properties that I had once mortgaged to them. They swore blind that they did not have them and it was only when I faxed their general manager with threats of legal action that they finally found them. And I always thought that banks had to take good care of their records!
Another acquisition late this year was a new computer -- a bottom of the range job running a 266 mhz Celeron chip. It may be bottom of the current available range but I have still not filled up its 4 gigabyte hard disk. I have plenty of games for Joey that I could put on but 4 gigabytes just takes so many of them. 4 gigabytes is of course 4000 megabytes. Compare that with the first computer that I bought in 1989. It ran at all of 8 mhz and had a 20 megabyte hard disk! Time marches on! In less than 10 years, processing speed went up 33 times and storage capacity went up 200 times. Another amusing contrast is with the first computer I ever programmed for -- the GE mainframe at the University of Queensland. It had 16 kilobytes of RAM compared to the 32000 kilobytes on my Celeron. But that WAS over 30 years ago.
Buying the computer also had its amusing side. When I was ready to replace my old one, I found the cheapest Celeron being advertised in the paper (by a firm called Global Computers) and rang up and ordered one. When I arrived I asked to test the machine to see that it worked, only to find that the computer was nowhere near ready for use. All they had done was put it together. They had not even formatted the hard drive. So I had to partition and format it myself (warned by past experience with computer shops, I "just happened" to have a DOS boot disk in my pocket) plus set up access to the the CD drive plus set up the soundcard -- all of which took me about 20 minutes while the salesman just sat on his bum staring into space.
At the end I found that the sound did not work and pointed this out. He asked his technician about it and was told that a special piece of software would be needed to get the sound running. I asked if he would like my phone number so he could let me know when the sound was running. He did not seem to want to be bothered so I just walked out the door with my cash still in my pocket. As I walked out he said: "Thanks for wasting my time". He was angry with me because I would not buy an inoperable machine! So I then rang someone I had long known ("Game Dude") and asked him for a quote. He charged $1321 -- about $200 cheaper than what the moron was charging. And when I went to Game Dude he had everything all set up. I just had to walk in, test it and hand over the cash! Shopping around can make an amazing difference. Game Dude was of course an owner/operator of his business.
Although Jill Hillman-Marks and I split up over a year ago we have continued to see a lot of one another as friends and still quite often go to classical music concerts etc. together. Jill had a new 11-room house built for herself at River Hills which she moved into in April and which seems to suit her very well. I helped her with the moving in, of course. It is not every lady in later life, however, who moves from a big house into a bigger one! The house is of a somewhat Tuscan design with a portico and lots of ceramic-tiled floors so she has named it "Siena" -- after her favourite Tuscan (Italian) city.
Jill also retired from her administrative job at the University of Queensland during the year so she could easily have become a lady who lunches. Because of her very friendly nature, she has lots of friends to lunch with. Being used to a busy life, however, she has now got herself a part-time job as Librarian for St. John's College at the University of Queensland. Jill and I still usually have a picnic lunch together each Sunday but some Sundays we get a bit more fancy and go instead to either a classical music concert at the old Customs House or a service at St John's Cathedral. Neither of us are religious but St John's often has very good music. After the music we then stroll down to the Hilton where we have one of their fabulous club sandwiches between us for lunch. One club sandwich there is such a big meal that it feeds two of us!
Not long after Jill and I split up I met and got involved with Judy Power. She has a generally very slim figure (but takes a DD-cup bra!) so my nickname for her is "skinny" but she herself thinks that she is fat! She was born in Mackay and is a 5'7" tall blue-eyed blonde. She had a month-long trip overseas during the year in which she went for a trip along the Trans-Siberian railway and also visited Mongolia. Judy is a nurse who still works in nursing but is by now heartily sick of it. She can hardly wait to reach pensionable age. She owns her own house at Rocklea (5 minutes drive from my house at Moorooka: Very handy!) and has some investments so she expects to retire in some comfort.
Although Judy and I first got together only a year or so ago, we have had several bust-ups in that time but we now seem to have settled into a stable relationship. Despite the bust-ups the attraction between us made us keep coming back to one-another. Romance among the oldies! I am 55 and Judy is a little older. As Judy is a shift-worker we see one-another only a few times a week at the moment, however. Judy finished doing a Masters degree in the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at the University of Queensland during the year so our common background in the social sciences is a help in some ways. She and I ate out a lot together at first but I eventually realized that she is not really much into food unless it is chocolate! She and I in fact both love dark chocolate with nuts in it -- which has a much more unfortunate effect on my waistline than on hers. She was only 3lb when she was born so I think she is just constitutionally slim.
Judy did, however, appreciate it when I took her to the well-known "Clansmen" restaurant at Annerley here in Brisbane for a "bon voyage" dinner before she went overseas. "The Clansmen" is in a gracious old building set in spacious grounds which is vaguely modelled on an old Scottish country house so it has good decor, good service and good food. A hard combination to beat! I always wear the kilt when I go there so I have become one of their better-known patrons.
Judy is very soft-hearted so when she told me that one of her cats needed $70 spent on it to fix an eye problem I suggested that maybe it was time to trade in the cat on a new cat. She said, "I knew you would say something horrible like that!". We both knew it was just a tease however and had a laugh about it. Perhaps another sign of how soft-hearted she is comes from the following little story: Judy reported to me once something of a conversation she had had with one of her friends. Apparently her friend asked her about me and asked was I "nice". Judy replied: "No, he's not nice at all. He's quite arrogant in fact. But he is also unfailingly courteous, considerate and kind." Isn't romance wonderful?
Someone interesting I met during one of the break-ups with Judy was a rather remarkable young lady named Irena Mavroleon: A very attractive French girl aged 30 who also happened to be a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Queensland. As I have had papers on philosophy published in the academic journals we could have been well suited to one-another. Unfortunately her French existentialist philosophy clashed with my British empiricist philosophy so we parted company with some regret on both sides. We both enjoyed having dinner-table conversations on such rarefied academic topics as "causality" and "self-theory" -- two topics on which we did see eye to eye.
I had an attack of what seemed suspiciously like chronic fatigue syndrome around last Xmas and into the new year. My main symptom was a complete lack of energy to do anything. I took it very easy with lots of bed rest but it still took me a month to get over it. I suppose I was lucky to get over it at all. At least I lost some weight during it. I seem subsequently to have found that lost weight again, however!
I had a robbery in March in which my old Hi-Fi and a lot of old cheque books and credit cards were stolen. The police caught the thief about a month later in Darwin but only after he had bounced cheques and run up credit-card bills in my name all over North Queensland and the Northern Territory. He put over $4,000 on one of my credit cards alone. As it was not my signature on the cheques or credit-card vouchers however I did not have to pay. Interestingly, he did not steal my credit card itself. I always carry it on me so he couldn't. He just found an old statement for the card and had a new card forged using my numbers. So keeping your card itself safe is not always enough. To be really safe we would have to destroy immediately all receipts and statements arising from its use.
My fourth wife Kathryn divorced me during the year, which saved me $500 and a lot of paperwork. So she must be aiming at remarrying. As it will be her 5th marriage she has a lot of heart! My ex-wife Jenny (mother of my son Joey) had to go into hospital for a minor operation in April but recovered well and is now feeling fighting fit. She still seems to be a long way off remarrying, however. I like to think that I am hard to replace! She does however have a very good friend in Jeff Roberts -- someone we have both known for many years.
My retirement from academic life is now more or less complete. I am no longer an academic. I am now a slum landlord. My only paper in the academic journals for 1998 will be a letter in "Political Psychology". My major hobby activity is going to classical music concerts -- of which Brisbane has lots.
1 December 1999
MERRY XMAS 1999
This time last year, my son Joseph was 5'3" tall. By the time he turned 12 this year (in July) he was already 5'6". Perhaps I am easily pleased but I rather liked having a 5'6" tall 11-year old! He now towers over his 5'1" Nanna and is also much taller than Suzy -- one of his adult half-sisters. He is something of a premature teenager -- his voice has cracked already and he spends hours talking to his friends on the phone -- but he is still quite jocular and cheerful so I suspect that he will end up the gentle giant type.
He has been learning piano since he was 4 but is no virtuoso. He still seems to enjoy it, however, and claims he does "heaps" of practice. I am also pleased that I now have a son with his own email address: Josephray@hotmail.com. Perhaps that is the modern day coming of age rite.
He has now finished up at Greenslopes Primary School after three years there. He was Dux of his school in the English language attainment test again but was only in the top 30% Statewide so it is obviously a pretty undistinguished school. For next year we have had him accepted to do High School (year 8) at Clairvaux McKillop College -- a large Catholic school at Upper Mt. Gravatt. I don't know that St. Bernard of Clairvaux is a role model I much admire but Roman Catholic organizations these days seem to be more bureaucratic than theocratic so St Bernard will probably not rate much of a mention despite having the school named after him!
As private school fees go, the fees for Clairvaux are pretty reasonable -- at around $2000 all up per year. The school does however appear to have a good name and it suits Joey's religious convictions. I rather hope that he does not end up wearing a long black dress and putting the letters "S.J." after his name but you never know. I do at least like the intellectualism of the Society of Jesus and clerical celibacy will probably become optional with the next Pope. I was very religious in my teens and still ended up a thoroughgoing sinner so it is all very early days yet. I am betting on the attractions of sin, myself.
Joey was however -- at his own request -- confirmed into the Roman Catholic faith on 4th June. He was baptised only late last year. He greatly enjoyed his preparatory studies in the faith and is now probably more of a Catholic than many of those born to it. He tries to say grace before dinner etc but sometimes forgets -- He then describes himself as a "forgetful Catholic". We have assured him that there are many of those.
Even though we are both unbelievers, Jenny and I were delighted to arrange his confirmation for him as faith seems to have a valuable disciplinary and protective role in the difficult teenage years. If we said he could not be a Catholic and he turned to drugs instead we would never have forgiven ourselves, would we? His confirmation ceremony was something of a family occasion at St. Bernard's Church, Mt. Gravatt with those present being: Jenny, myself, his sister Suzy, his Nanna Lena, his Godmother Jill, his Godfather Prof. John Henningham, John Henningham's wife Helen and my then girlfriend Cheryl Jorgensen.
Judy and I had another one of our breakups early in the year and I met Cheryl in March. She is a flautist, a schoolteacher and a Communist, among other things. A genuine Red in the bed! She is multi-orgasmic and wears a D-cup bra, however, so that tended to make up for ideological eccentricities. We got very much involved for a few months but the relationship did not last. I of course tend towards the Tory persuasion, so that was a slight problem. We were both very keen on classical music, history and literature and Cheryl has in fact had some success as a writer of fiction.
After Cheryl, I restarted my affair with another old girlfriend -- Dorothy. Dorothy has a higher degree in psychology and actually is in private practice as a psychologist. She is also very tall, very slim and very busty -- an unusual but entirely desirable combination from my point of view. Dorothy is however always complaining about something. She is a neurotic. I tell her how destructive that is but she cannot seem to help it. Perhaps her being a Pom has something to do with it ("whingeing Poms"). I have certainly had happier ladies in my life but we have finally got to the stage where she is just a friend now, not a girlfriend.
In October I took a short trip to South Africa. I had got to know an Afrikaner lady called Hester -- a Classical pianist -- on the Internet and seemed to get on especially well with her. She lives in Bloemfontein so I went there to meet her in person. It was interesting and expensive but not a success from a romantic point of view -- which was a considerable disappointment to both of us. I guess that going half-way across the world to meet a lady was pretty romantic, though. For "romantic" read "foolhardy"? I was in South Africa in 1979 under Apartheid and it is notable how much it has now gone downhill under black rule. I sure know how to be politically incorrect, don't I?
Recently, however, Judy and I have started an affair again. We first met over two years ago and it seems to have taken that long for us to sort out our differences! Perhaps we are both a bit pig-headed. After all the girlfriends I have had in the last two years, it is nice to be back with someone familiar and the fact that Judy has a higher degree in the social sciences and a great figure does not hurt either! I am resolved this time to do all I can to make her a happy lady. She too was a Communist in her youth but now dislikes both Aborigines and the welfare state! She was once a nurse working among Aborigines so her views about them are at least well-informed.
Judy had fairly short hair when I first met her but she has since let it grow to well below shoulder length and all that long soft blonde hair is most attractive, in my view. Too bad if it's not fashionable! Why so many women crop their hair these days I do not know. Both the Bible (1 Corinthians 11:13,14) and the human race's oldest known literary work (the Epic of Gilgamesh) say that women should have long hair and men all seem to agree with that. I suspect that cropped hair is often in fact a sort of anti-man statement.
Two things that I go to regularly are the Westside Music Circle and the Friends of Antiquity. The Westside group arranges classical music concerts in private homes with live performers and the Friends are associated with the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland. They give an interesting talk each month on some topic in Roman or Greek history. The archeology of Pompeii and Latin Romantic poetry are two topics I particularly remember. I do not go to a lot of plays but Sheridan's "The Rivals" and Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" were fairly memorable this year. During Cathedrals week I also went to St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Cathedral to see a play based on the life of Hildegard von Bingen. It was actually a monologue but was very effective nonetheless. The best (most amusing) film I saw was without a doubt "Analyse This". It was about a psychologist who got tangled up with the New York "mob".
My favourite classical music concert venue is the Long Room at Brisbane's old Customs House. It is a magnificently restored and gracious old Victorian building and I seem to go there at least once a month. The building is now owned by the University of Queensland and it is their Music Department that puts on most of the concerts there. The Sunday morning ones are free.
I had only one bout of 'flu for a few days in midwinter but have been otherwise remarkably healthy during the year considering my idle lifestyle. I take no drugs or pills for my health at all. Even my blood-pressure is fine so I am unlikely to die of a heart attack. I did however do the right thing and had a scan during the year to see if I had any prostate problems. I was told that only 20% of men in my age-group have no prostatic enlargement but I am one of that happy 20%! The fact that I do not smoke, drink alcohol or use any psychoactive drugs (not even caffeine) may have helped there. It seems fair to me that wowsers should have better health!
I do however keep having to have skin cancers removed -- growing up in the Tropics was not a terribly good thing to do for someone with skin as fair as mine. So I may be pretty healthy but all that sun-damage has made me look even older than I am. When I was 55 people were telling me that I could easily pass for 60!
On my 56th birthday this year, my good friend Jill, Lewis (Jill's companion), Cheryl and I went to "The Clansmen" (an upmarket Scottish restaurant in Annerley) for dinner. I wore full Highland dress (including my Glengarry to walk in and out) and ordered the orange duckling, which was perfect. The next evening I dined with Dorothy at the University of Queensland Staff Club and on Saturday Jill shouted me a lunch at K&Ks -- an Austrian restaurant where I slightly overindulged on their delicious cakes. On Sunday Jenny gave me a very nice family lunch at her place -- with Nanna, Joe and Suzy (Joey's half-sister) also present. So my 56th birthday was a good one.
Business has been bad for me recently. My boarding house at Ipswich is not going at all well and is mostly more than half empty. All the defectives who live at Ipswich do not make a good customer base. They move in, steal from one-another, have drunken parties, fight with one-another and then move out again to get away from one another, leaving a mess behind. They are mostly on the dole and the first thing their dole money goes on is beer and cigarettes. From my experience at Ipswich, I would say that the poor are usually poor for good reasons. I have been trying to sell the boarding house for a while now but nobody seems to want to buy it. Funny that!
My ex-wife Jenny recently moved into a new house at Upper Mt Gravatt. She sold her old house for a lot more than the new one cost her so it was a good move financially and she likes the new house better anyway. It is also only a short walk from Joey's new school. It was cheap because its walls are made of fibro and anything with asbestos in it is mega politically incorrect these days, even though nobody even claims that fibro has ever hurt anyone. The new house has a big granny flat downstairs so Jenny's mother (Lena) has moved in -- which suits everybody. It gives Lena company and it helps to have someone keeping an eye on Joey after school while Jenny is at work. Jenny and I still normally dine together once a week.
Joey's speech has always been a bit unclear so we are going to have him "elocuted" next year. Elocution too is now politically incorrect and elocution teachers no longer appear in the Yellow Pages. They are now called "Speech and Drama" teachers. What a crazy world we live in! Thank goodness for friends and family.
1 December, 2000
Merry Xmas 2000
The year 2000 seems to have passed without Armageddon occurring yet so lots of fundamentalist Christians who were expecting the end of the world will have to go back to the drawing board -- yet again. They have been doing it ever since the first century. Like the Judaism from which it sprung, Christianity has always basically been a Messianic and Chiliastic faith (i.e. the "end of the world" is always just around the corner) but that tends to get lost within the more established Churches.
This time last year my son Joseph was a 5'8" tall 12 year old. Now, at 13, he has reached 5'10, as tall as I am. One reason I have always liked tall women is that I wanted to have tall sons so my aims in that regard seem to have been attained. Joey's mother (Jenny) is 5'8" tall and her father was 6'1" tall so I suspect Joey will end up well over 6' tall. Great!
Height is a bit hard to predict, though. Joey's cousin Katie (daughter of my sister Roxanne) was born within a week of him but is 8" shorter -- even though her father (Stefan) is just under 6' tall. Although she is of normal height, however, Katie is well above average in good looks and quiet intelligence. She is the daughter I would like to have had so having her as my niece is pretty good. Joey started High School this year -- at Clairvaux McKillop College near where his mother lives at Mt Gravatt. It has around 1,000 students. He seems happy with it. He likes being one of the crowd so going to a Catholic school suits his religious convictions -- not that he is very religious. He just likes to belong. As I was a Jehovah's Witness for a couple of years in my teens, I understand him. His main religion is still computer games.
I started teaching Joey computer programming during the year using the FORTRAN language. FORTRAN is still the main language for mathematical applications so it should stand him in good stead later at university and it is a good introduction to other computer languages too -- since most of them are descended from it. Joe was of course delighted to learn and picked it up much faster than the second-year university students I used to teach it to! The traditional role of fathers in teaching their children useful things has been much eroded in the modern world so I was pleased that I could fulfil that traditional role to at least some extent with Joe. Kids these days tend to know more about computers than their parents do so respect for parents can be rather eroded by that in many families. As I have been a computer programmer for over 30 years, however, I am in a better position there than most fathers.
Just before the end of last year, my personal life became rather complicated. I was jogging along nicely with the shapely and brainy Judy as my girlfriend when TWO former girlfriends (Dorothy and Geraldine) both indicated that they wanted me back -- after having pinged me off earlier on in the year. It's very nice to be wanted and since they too were shapely and brainy I had an interesting but confusing Christmas season. So what did I do for Christmas lunch? Spent it at Jenny's place with my good friend Jill (who is also Joey's Godmother) present there too. In other words, the man with plural girlfriends spent Christmas with none of them but spent it with an ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend instead. If that's not a complicated life I would like to see one.
I also had the very great pleasure just before Christmas of getting a long letter from my very first girlfriend whom I have not seen for over 30 years -- Janet. We were soul-mates in the swinging 60s. She has been living in Paris for most of the time since and has been happily married for 25 years or so. She has three gifted children and at 51 thinks her husband is the finest man she knows. Isn't that great! Even in randy France, living happily ever after does happen. Studying French at University can have far-reaching consequences!
Anyway, it was no contest as far as deciding what woman I want in my life these days. I saw in the New Year with the quiet Geraldine and we have ended up very close. It was a bit pesky that she had a 2 week walking holiday (the Milford Track!) in New Zealand booked for mid January but we made the email run hot while she was there. Shortly after she got back we put on a Burns Supper on the traditional date (25th January) for a few friends. I got into full Highland dress and much Haggis was eaten. It was even enjoyed! I get it from a butcher who knows his stuff.
Geraldine is 53 and very fit. I am 57 and very idle. She is a Primary teacher by trade (teaching Grade 1 this year) and has an Education degree. She is 5'5" tall and slim with blue eyes and brown hair. Her maiden name is Trivett. "Right as a trivet", as they say. She is for me anyway. Do you know what a trivet is? Geraldine doesn't say a lot but there is a keen and ironical mind always at work there. As I am mostly pretty quiet too we understand one-another. She is a Brisbane gal born and bred of the usual Anglo-Celtic stock. She has a mainstream Protestant background too -- basically Church of England but she went to Somerville House for her High School -- which is a very pukka Presbyterian/Methodist establishment. As I was brought up a Presbo, we share a common culture there -- not that either of us are at all religious. She had 3 children (now adults) in a long-term marriage that broke up many years ago. She was a keen bushwalker when I met her but my sedentary habits seem to have eroded much of that.
We also like a lot of the same music. I was most pleased when I found that she and I shared the same favourite aria from Bach's Matthew Passion -- "Mache dich mein Herze rein". We go to classical music concerts a lot -- which we both greatly enjoy. Geraldine particularly enjoyed (she called it "out of this world") a 2-hour rendition of part of Bach's Klavier Uebung done on the organ by Christopher Wrench at the Brisbane Conservatorium of Music. As someone who likes every note Bach wrote, I did find her response highly reasonable! Her favourite orchestral work however is not at all Baroque -- The Brahms second piano concerto. That is however a very dramatic and marvellous work so it is a not unsurprising preference in a former piano teacher. We are both however transported by the great Bach chorales -- "Wachet auf", "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern", "Jesu meine Freude", "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" etc.
We seem to go to something cultural most weekends. We go to the monthly concerts given by the University of Queensland Music Department at the Old Customs House. We go to the Friends of Antiquity talks given each month by the University of Queensland Department of Classics and Ancient history and we even saw a quite enjoyable amateur performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Gondoliers" at the Old Power House at one stage. And the year 2000 being the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, there were lots of great Bach concerts to go to: At the Conservatorium, at St John's cathedral, at the Old Museum etc. It just shows what a cultural desert Brisbane is doesn't it?
Speaking of music, while I am writing this, I am playing on my computer a CD of selections from the work of a composer who is still alive -- Phillip Glass. It is marvellous stuff. He is an American Jew. Nearly as good as Bach in my view. As soon as the CD finishes I will put it on again! I am pleased to say that Joey likes Philip Glass too. I imported some Philip Glass CDs directly from America during the year -- which seemed to impress Joey very favourably.
Jill and her partner Lewis made up a foursome to go with Geraldine and me to the big "Scotland the Brave" concert in May. Geraldine fed us all haggis with tatties and neeps beforehand to get us in the mood and I of course went in full Highland dress. It was a good concert but the only tempo the conductor (Colin Harper) seemed to know was "presto"!
Jill and I continue to dine together once a week --every Wednesday night. We have had a lot of fun with Shopper Dockets. Some of Brisbane's more expensive restaurants offer a free meal to anyone who brings in a supermarket cash register docket with one of their promotions printed on the back of it. Jill is very good at collecting such dockets so we have been eating at a lot of fancy restaurants for half price. So I would turn up at places like The Summit on Mt Cootha or The Tower Mill on Wickham Terrace dressed in jacket and tie with a beautiful and brilliant blonde lady on my arm and get good food with good views, good service etc and still have it cost me only $20 or thereabouts. Pleasant! Another memorable dinner was when Jenny cooked a Parsee Dhansak for us all -- Geraldine, me, Jill and Lewis. It was exceedingly kind of her as it took about 3 hours to prepare --with the Kachumbar, green chutney, special rice etc as well as the Dhansak itself. A Dhansak seems to become the favourite dinner of anyone who tastes it.
For my 57th birthday on 15th July, Geraldine and I with Jill and Lewis made the customary trip to The Clansmen restaurant for dinner. I pre-ordered Chateaubriand for 4 as it is not usually on the menu and the cook made a superb job of it. At another restaurant I sometimes go to (The Casablanca) I customarily order something not on the menu (North African Merguez) and the cook there does a great job of it too.
I had big fights with Optus early on in the year. I had both my mobile phone and my landline phone through them. I always thought that nobody could be worse than Telstra but Optus proved me wrong. They took two months to put an STD bar on my landline phone. They paid me $315 compensation for that stuff-up though. Then I found that their system was breaking off a lot of my internet calls. They would not even acknowledge that problem. I finally emailed the head of their parent company (Cable & Wireless) in London about it. After 6 months of havering, they eventually gave me a $140 credit for all my broken-off calls. They are real bastards so you have to be very, very persistent.
I sold several of my properties during the year: my houses at Gordonvale and Innisfail (both near Cairns in North Queensland) and one of my Cairns houses. Real estate is getting to be too much of a hassle for me these days and the net income had become very low in relation to the funds invested. So I have put a bit of money into company shares (mostly banks) instead. And given that the stock market has been rising generally, the results have been pleasing.
I have gradually improved my management of my big boarding house at Ipswich. The major improvement came when I stopped accepting women! I know it sounds bad but most of my problems went when they did. Having women in the place just seemed to mean big fights (mostly drunken) between the tenants all the time.
My 24 year-old "stepson" (Jenny's son) Paul got engaged to his girlfriend Julie in September, much to everyone's surprise. Julie looked a dish and both of them seemed on top of the world at the engagement party. Paul got thrown into the swimming pool towards the end of the party, which sounds very Australian, but most of those who threw him in were in fact Chinese! Multiculturalism lives. Paul initially tried to get me to throw his 14-year-old brother David into the pool but I have always had a very big soft spot for Davey so I wouldn't. "But you used to throw me in!" Paul said, in what was obviously a fun recollection.
Geraldine's son Tom got the University of Queensland medal for Mining Engineering during the year -- which is a considerable distinction. I would find it a bore to have the mother of an Olympic medallist as a girlfriend but the mother of a University medallist suits me just fine.
I was very glad that I was not living in Sydney during the Olympics. I have never been able to see why it is so important that one person can run a fraction of a second faster than someone else. Running is now a pretty obsolete means of getting around, it seems to me. Brains, however, are more needed than ever before.
I got myself a new computer late in the year -- a 600mhz Celeron running Windows ME. My previous one was all of two years old, which was, of course, prehistoric in computer terms. The new one was still a very modest purchase, however, as processors running at over a gigaherz are now readily available. Ken Johnson (Jenny's first husband) supplied the new machine so I could be sure I would not get a lemon. Instead of putting a CD reader in the machine I specified a "burner" instead, so that I can both read and write CDs with the one device. Handy. I find rewritable CDs to be really impressive (when they work). I have two of them that I use just like floppy disks except that just one of them has the capacity of over 400 floppy disks! I have backed up a whole cupboard full of old floppy disks onto just 4 CDs! And blank CDs cost only a dollar. Information storage is a wonder of compactness and cheapness these days. I did specify a very fast (7200 RPM) hard drive for my new computer and it is amazingly better as a result. I also got a new internal modem with the machine that routinely does downloads at 52k Baud! 46k used to be the best I could get with my previous machine.
1 December, 2001
MERRY CHRISTMAS! 2001
Merry Xmas and a prosperous new year! Yes, it is that time again! The Xmas card season has arrived. I am pleased that lots of the people I write to at Xmas seem to enjoy my letters. I actually try to make them as boring as possible (e.g. by rattling on about my son Joey) but they seem to be amusing despite my best intentions.
This time last year my son Joseph was a 5'10" tall 13 year old. By his 14th birthday this year (20th July), he had reached 5'11". It seems only yesterday that he was a tot. Now he is towering over everyone. Rather hard to get used to! Joey's mental maturity seems to be advanced too. He discusses things as diverse as anger management, the Emperor Nero, German grammar and the Big Bang with me. Recently, he mentioned the Epic of Gilgamesh (the human race's earliest known literary work -- from ancient Sumeria) and when I remarked that I had a copy of it he asked to borrow it so he could read it! How many 14 year olds would even have heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh, let alone be interested enough to want to read it?
And his musicality is progressing too. At the Xmas concert put on by his piano teacher late last year while he was still 13, Joey played the "Solfegietto" by K.P.E. Bach. After listening to a lot of boring stuff at the concert it was wonderful to hear suddenly the whirl of just the sort of complex contrapuntal music that I like coming from the hands of my own son. It is of course a difficult piece and Joe put a lot of practice into it solely because he liked it. I had no influence on what he chose to play at all. I didn't even know what he was going to play.
Despite the vast body of evidence for the overwhelming importance of genetics that is now available, I must confess that I am still a bit amazed by how much Joe is a chip off the old block despite the fact that he does not live with me and that I usually see him for only about an hour each week. Once when he was about 12, I said to him that maybe he should learn to play games like cricket, golf and tennis to help him fit in with other people. His reply was that he could not see the point of chasing a little ball around the place. That is of course exactly what I think but as far as I know I had never said as much to him. As with me, computers are more his thing.
The similarities between us can be very helpful to his happiness, however. Once when he was about 8 he said to me rather dejectedly that he was no good at swimming and that the only thing he could do well in the pool was the dead man's float. I said, "That's about all that I am good at too, Joe" and that cheered him up greatly. That I have similar eccentricities to his legitimates them for him. There is no doubt that fathers can be important to sons.
Joey did Grade 9 this year -- still at Clairvaux MacKillop Catholic college -- which he seems to think highly of. He seems fairly decided now that he wants to be an academic eventually. I explained that academics only work about 12 hours a week and get paid lots of money for talking about what they are interested in so he thought that sounded pretty good. He appears very bright so he has a good chance of getting there. He even likes Maths -- which is more than I ever did.
As a sort of Xmas present to myself last year (other people mostly give me socks or hankies), I had the floors at my 100-year-old timber house at Forest St sanded and coated with polyurethane. To my eyes the old wide floorboards in polished state really look beautiful. I enjoy such a floor practically every time I walk on it! A polished floor also feels a lot cleaner underfoot than carpet. Anybody who has ever pulled carpet up knows what filthy stuff it is. I also opened out the front verandah of the place again. Previous owners had enclosed it. When I pulled off all the fibro, I was pleased to find most of the original dowel railings still underneath.
Later (on 3rd August) I sold the house for a goodly sum -- hence the new postal address at Longwood St. above. More money to put into the stockmarket! My email address and mobile phone nos. remain the same, however. My new landline phone no. is 3891-1380 but the mobile is still the best way to get me. I have owned the Longwood St. house for many years and have lived there before but this time I got the floorboards sanded and polished before I moved in. It was a pretty rough floor to start with but the chap who polished it (David Smith) is very good at replacing dodgy boards so the end result was still first-class. It has 10 bedrooms so I let part of it out. It is a 1920s timber house and I very much like its central location. Woolloongabba is also now a rapidly gentrifying suburb. I may open out part of the verandah there too in due course. With lacework railings it would look really good.
At long last I managed to sell my big Ipswich boarding house -- on May 4th. It was a great relief no longer having to deal with the dregs of society all the time. The proceeds of the sale went straight into the stockmarket. What sort of person would have bought the boarding house do you think? Go on.... Guess ---- guess ... guess. Well I will tell you. It was an absolutely gorgeous looking Dutch woman. A real dream walking! You wouldn't see better on the cover of a magazine. Life has some strange twists and turns. Apparently she grew up in country hotels and does seem quite tough underneath a charming exterior so she thinks she understands the clientele and may therefore well make a go of it. She even spent $60,000 on doing it up!
A rather silly thing I did early this year was to buy myself a second car. I think it was just because I could not resist a bargain. A Chinese tenant of mine was returning to China after a couple of years studying here and wanted to sell his car for $2,000. As I knew that the car had been running well, I snapped it up. It is however a 10-year old Ford Festiva with a lot of minor dents and scratches etc in its panels so I doubt that he could have sold it for much more anyway. I did however spend $400 on getting its airconditioning going again so I find that very handy on hot days. Since installing new airconditioning in my existing car would have cost me about $2,000 anyway, one could perhaps say that I got the Festiva almost for free! I also found out that the trade-in value of my 1995 Daihatsu Charade was only $3,000 so I am the king of cheap cars these days. The upholstery of the Charade's driver's seat came apart recently but Cahoon the motor trimmer fixed it like new for only $50. Motor trimmers seem to be very clever and handy chaps.
I started buying company shares around the middle of last year with the expectation of only modest capital gains but in fact gained around $100,000 overall in my first year! Earning an average of $2,000 a week by doing nothing was a lot of fun! Though sharemarket gains are of course "paper" gains. They can just disappear overnight. For instance, on the last day of the 00/01 financial year I was $125,000 ahead but after the New York disaster my portfolio had dropped back to being worth only what I paid for it. Though that was probably pretty good in the circumstances. Lots of people did big dough at that time. Just a couple of weeks later I was back to being $70,000 ahead though.
A few days after the N.Y. attack, shares in QBE (an Australian insurance company with some exposure to New York) dropped from $10 to $3. So lots of galahs actually sold at $3! I hung onto mine and just two weeks later they were back up to $6! It must have been a lesson to those who sold at $3. Fancy selling shares on a scare and then seeing them double in value almost immediately! Much heartburn! And a lot of those who sold would have been wise-head superannuation fund managers and other "professional" investors. It is a great pity that managed funds generally do so poorly when so many average people pay them a small fortune to take care of their nest-egg. I always tell people to make their own mistakes rather than pay someone else to make them for you. If you buy into a range of blue chip companies you are unlikely to lose overall and you will most likely gain heaps.
Despite the odd setback, share gains make Real Estate look very poor. Funnily enough, a lot of the big superannuation funds went backwards over the same period in which I was getting well ahead. Even though people put money into their fund during the year, they found that their super was still worth less at the end of the year than it was at the beginning! Nasty! The funds must have had a lot invested in computer-related companies or in Japanese companies. The total value of listed Japanese companies dropped to just half what it was in the last 12 months. And some of the computer companies went broke entirely and even the big ones lost an awful lot. "Yahoo", for instance, went from selling at $200 per share down to $18 per share and even Microsoft halved in value. I had no shares in such risky companies. Given that I did so well relative to many professional investors, I am rather kicking myself that I did not suspect earlier that I had some talent for picking good stocks. My investment strategy is in fact very conservative. Like many others, I have tried to learn from Warren Buffet -- the world's most successful investor. I try to pick big "blue chip" companies that do relatively simple, old-fashioned things well and pay a dividend of at least 4% of the share value: A very old-fashioned approach but it seems to work well.
Some of the shares I bought were lemons, however: Nothing as bad as HIH or One.Tel etc. but I lost a bit of money on AGL, PBL, Telstra, Goodman Fielder, News Corp, etc. Telstra shares have caused a lot of pain in a lot of people's pockets, of course. Fortunately, I had relatively few of them. And I bought Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp at $19, sold at $18 and saw it later fall to $12. Anyway, keeping track of my shares has now become one of my major recreations. I log on to see the prices a couple of times a day sometimes but I don't trade actively. I buy for the medium to long term. I am no day trader. Day traders nearly all go broke eventually anyway. If you have ever watched the way share prices jump around during the day, you will understand why. I rather hate weekends now because there is no share-trading then and so I cannot watch my stocks move!
On the cultural front, I was pleased to discover that Brisbane has an amateur archaeologist's group meeting at the Museum called the Diggings Club. At the first meeting I attended (in May) I heard a very interesting talk on the Phaistos disc -- a well-known puzzle to followers of Minoan (ancient Cretan) civilization. So in Brisbane one can even attend learned talks on arcane points of archaeology! If you should just happen to be interested in the Phaistos disc, it was the Fischer interpretation that was discussed. A modern History club also started up in August at the Museum and I gave the first talk there on Prince Otto von Bismarck (the founder of modern Germany).
The Friends of Antiquity club also continues to flourish in conjunction with the Classics Dept. at the University of Qld. and there were several interesting talks given during the year. At one of them a British archaeologist (John Tubb) gave reasons for believing that the Old Testament was almost entirely composed during the Babylonian exile rather than being written over many centuries.
My interest in academe has revived a bit this year. I have submitted a couple of papers (one now provisionally accepted for publication) and I also now have my own Website
(http://jonjayray.tripod.com) to make my past papers more available. It is even cached by Google.com so anyone in the whole world who does an internet search will now find my site if what it covers is of interest to them. There is even a recent piccy of me on the internet at: http://jonjayray.tripod.com/homepage.html
My birthday celebrations this year were once again extensive. On the Friday, Jenny made a Paella for seven of us which was much enjoyed. Jenny has always done a great Paella. And on the Saturday Geraldine and I with Jill and Lewis made the customary trip to The Clansmen restaurant for dinner. They are one of the few restaurants who can do duck well so that is what I had. Lewis was in good form and we had a lot of laughs. And it was alcohol-free too! It is a pity that The Clansmen was taken over about a year ago by a Greek, however. I liked it better when Mr Campbell was in charge -- despite his obvious liking for "a wee dram". And the Greek bloke went broke a few weeks after I had been there but was back in charge via a new company a couple of months after that so goodness knows what is happening there now. And on the Sunday, Jenny's son Paul had Geraldine and me over for lunch at his new house.
Jill and I are still the best of friends but we no longer dine together once a week. Geraldine and I dine out only occasionally. Often when Geraldine and I do dine out these days, we go to Lefkas Greek Taverna at Hill End. Nobody else seems to have starters as good as their Taramasalata and Haloumi. I think Greeks are best at running Greek restaurants.
In summer, Geraldine and I also occasionally have a picnic tea at various places -- including the park at the Figtree Pocket boatramp -- which is very cool and scenic of a summer's evening. Geraldine cooks the dinner at home and we take it to a riverside park to eat.
We celebrated Burns Night that way on 25th. January this year. Geraldine and I met Jill and Lewis at twilight at the Figtree Pocket boatramp park for our dinner. There are a couple of good picnic tables by the river there and it is a cool spot to go to at the height of a Brisbane summer. We did not get a haggis this year but I did don the kilt for the occasion and I read out a few of the more famous poems before dinner. I even sang "Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon"! There weren't many passers-by but they did seem curious.
The day after that I was very pleased to take photos of some of my cousins twice removed. For around the last 20 years, all of my many Brisbane relatives on my mother's side have been meeting every Australia Day for a get-together over a barbecue lunch. From the beginning, they brought their children along with them. Most of those children are however now grown up and some have families of their own so they still come along but now bring their own children too. And those children are my cousins twice removed. And the little ones are of course a great delight to us all.
On Easter Sunday, Geraldine, Jill, Lewis and I went to St John's Cathedral for the sung Eucharist at 9.30pm with the Archbishop (later to be Governor General) officiating. It is a wonderful setting for a colourful ecclesiastical occasion and the music was great. Although they don't seem to believe in anything much these days, the Church of England can still put on a good show. Since Lewis is Jewish and the others of us are Protestant only by background, that suited us pretty well. After that we all went to nearby Mowbray Park by the Brisbane river for a two-hour picnic lunch. Luckily it was a sunny day.
I was quite inspired by the various interviews on TV with His Grace Bishop John Shelby ("Jack") Spong when he was out here from the U.S.A. in July. His is a very modernized version of Christianity so it is lucky that he is an Anglican (an "Episcopalian" in American terms). He would be too heretical for anyone else. At one point he said that he sympathized with the man who said: "I am not a member of any organized religion. I am an Anglican". I also liked it when he said that he did not think prayer should be like a letter to Santa Claus. I think he is brilliantly intelligent, very scholarly, very honest, very sincere and a true follower of Christ. If I were not a atheist I would probably have to be a Spong-type Anglican. Despite that, however, I think his could only ever be very much a minority pastorate. The most successful diocese in communion with Lambeth is undoubtedly the Sydney one and Sydney Anglicans are unusually faithful to the original Church of England doctrines -- i.e. they are very heedful of the letter of the New Testament. If Anglicanism generally has lost its way, the huge Sydney diocese shows what it might have been. Where else do you find Anglican churches full of committed young people? A few old ladies in flowered hats would be a more usual Anglican congregation as far as I can tell.
In May, Geraldine and I went to a concert of sacred choral music at St John's Anglican cathedral. The program was headed by Allegri's "Miserere nos" so the place was packed -- and for good reason. The soaring stone arches of a big Gothic cathedral were the perfect setting (both visually and acoustically) for such music -- and with a big choir (the State & Municipal) and a first-class alto giving a top quality performance it was a peak musical experience. For my taste, Brisbane is an amazingly good place for classical music concerts.
Geraldine sold her big house at Figtree Pocket early in the year also for a goodly sum and had another one built for much less at River Hills. So both Geraldine and my old friend Jill now live at River Hills! River Hills is not at all a prestigious address like Figtree Pocket but who cares? Geraldine's new house almost overlooks the Brisbane river so that is pretty pleasant. Like Jill, the money Geraldine gained by her move she used to fatten up her sharemarket portfolio. We both like bank shares and have both done well out of National Australia Bank and Suncorp-Metway shares in particular.
2 December, 2002
Merry Xmas! 2002
I am going to be much briefer with my life-update this year because this year I have discovered blogging! The definition of a blog: A personal website that is upgraded approximately daily -- an online diary, in other words. Some blogs (short for "weblog") are diaries of what is happening in the writer's life and some are diaries of what the person has been thinking. Mine is in the latter category. So my Xmas email this year has a very large supplement at: http://jonjayray.blogspot.com.
There are a lot of links to my blog on other people's blogs so that means that lots of other people like reading my blog. That is mainly because mine is mainly about politics -- and politics is of interest to many people. It has always been a major interest of mine so reading other political blogs and writing my blog now takes up most of my day! I spend most of my day glued in front of my computer. I think it is a harmless pastime for a retired 59-year-old but I must admit that it seems to have taken over my life. I still go out for dinner most nights (generally with company) but other than that I hardly go out at all. I always was a bit antisocial but now I am VERY antisocial. And I hardly even watch TV now.
I also ended up having a total of 5 papers on conservative politics published during the year on "FrontPage" online magazine. It has over a million readers a month so surpasses even the big newspapers in reach -- and unlike newspapers, its reach is worldwide. You can find it at http://frontpagemag.com. I got heaps of interesting email out of it. My papers are at:
My son Joe continues to thrive. He was 6' tall on his 15th Birthday in July so is already towering over everyone around him. I gave him a faster computer for his birthday so he can play the latest games.
He starts sub-Senior at school next year so is now only two years away from university! He has enrolled for a whole host of demanding subjects -- chemistry, physics, top-level maths etc so he should get into the science faculties at uni easily. I am encouraging him to think of the biological sciences as a career. The best predictor of whether anyone will get a doctorate is whether his/her father has one so Joe should have an easy ride into an academic career. His school report cards continue to be every parent's dream.
I continue to be amazed and pleased at how much he is a chip off the old block. He gets a good nature and good looks off his mother (lucky for him) but the rest he seems to have gotten mainly off me.
The stockmarket was my major hobby until I got into blogging (I am still $150,000 ahead despite the recent market downturn) and Joe is mad-keen to get into it too. He even got himself a part-time job helping in a shop so he could save money to start investing with. He reads the financial press and often discusses the prospects of various companies with me. Since good stock-pickers are extremely rare (some of the worst being those who are professionals at it -- ask almost anyone how the money in their superannuation fund is going) Joe is lucky to have a good stock-picker as a father.
He continues, however, to be enormously interested in classical music -- as I am. I took him to a performance of Handel's "Messiah" at St John's cathedral again this year, which he greatly enjoyed. One of his teachers at school recently had a part in a big 19th century opera being performed here in Brisbane and tried to get kids from the school (Joe is still at Clairvaux McKillop Catholic college) to go along to see it -- and Joe was the only kid in the school who took up the offer! He has asked for a recording of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" for Xmas so I have got that for him -- all 14 CDs! He has been learning piano since he was aged 4 and has recently taken up singing lessons as well.
He has also now written his first novel and is working on the second. He knows that the chances of getting anything published are almost zero but it is just something he wants to do. So both he and I spend much of our day writing -- though on different subjects. What he writes is fantasy/horror fiction. I was literary at his age too but I only wrote poetry.
My personal life is too complex at the moment to bear discussion but I am pretty pleased with it nonetheless. I continue to dine with Jenny (Joe's mother) once a week, however.
For my birthday in July, my old friend Jill gave me a Sunday lunch, I went to an Indian restaurant with a girlfriend on the Monday and on Tuesday Jenny cooked me one of my favourite dinners (Korean egg-rolled pork).
I am now firmly ensconced in my 10-bedroom "Old Queenslander" house at Woolloongabba in the heart of Brisbane. I have a separate flat with two large bedrooms to myself and let out the remaining rooms to tenants -- the income from which pays most of my bills. I recently had airconditioning installed in my part of the house so I am already enjoying that. I am close enough to the famous "Gabba" cricket-ground to hear the crowds roar when somebody hits a six.
I have had no significant health problems so far but my visits to the dermatologist for the purpose of zapping skin-cancers continue to be frequent. Growing up in the tropics with fair Celtic skin is not a good combination.
My stepson Paul had an eventful year. He and his computer business went bankrupt during the year so he promptly started a new one under the name "Floppy Dick's" -- with the motto "Where you won't get screwed". I kid you not. He has incredible good humour and enjoyment of life. He has always been one of the few who always get my jokes. His new business does seem to be doing well and he now has two shops and employs his father! He also got married during the year to a very nice and attractive young lady who, despite being of partly Filipino ancestry, is 6' tall!
1 December, 2003
MERRY XMAS! 2003
I no longer seem to have a copy of this letter -- if I ever sent one out!
10 December, 2004
MERRY XMAS! 2004
Not a lot of news to report this year. My blogging keeps me busy in front of my computer for about 12 hours a day so I have become more sedentary than ever, if that is possible. I certainly go out very little these days except for frequent excursions to local eateries. Neither Judith nor I are keen on cooking so someone has to feed us. Judith Middleton has now been living with me for some time. I am not sure what she sees in me but it is certainly not good looks. She is a geriatric nurse by occupation so that must make her feel at home with a moth-eaten old curmudgeon like me. She says that if I sat down to dinner with the residents at the nursing home where she works, no-one would notice anything out of place. She is a very kind-hearted soul so that when the more friendless residents of her nursing home go into hospital, she sometimes goes to visit them in hospital in her own time. It probably needs someone that kind to put up with me.
I am constantly in and out of surgery for my skin cancers these days. I just had three lots done at once yesterday. Rather remarkably, all the local anaesthetic the dermo pumped into me seems to have had a lasting but beneficial side-effect: For the last 4 months or so I have had a very sore left shoulder that I could move only in certain ways without pain. I never could work out for sure where the pain came from but it seemed to be tendonitis rather than arthritis. Anyway, six hours after surgery on my OTHER arm, the pain was all gone and I could move both arms any way I liked! I only hope the effect lasts! They put a lot of adrenaline into local anaesthetic so maybe that had something to do with it. Frozen shoulders are a rather common problem among oldies so now you know how to cure it! There are not many instant cures around for anything these days so it may be worth remembering. There was a famous case in America where some sort of surgical anaesthesia cured a kid of his autism so there may be more in these anaesthetics than meets the eye.
My son Joe is now 17, six foot tall, blue-eyed and blond-haired and definitely a young man. He seems to have inherited my jocularity too. He did a university course in maths this year even though he was still in his final year at High School and got a Distinction (6 out of 7) in it so the Maths Dept. at the University of Queensland have given him a small scholarship to encourage him to study there next year. More about that here. Like his father, he is a born academic. He also seeems to be popular too, so he is not really a nerd, though he loves sims (brainy computer games). Rather amusingly, when people ask him what occupation he is aiming for, he always says he wants to be an actuary. That completely stuffs everyone as nobody has ever heard of such an occupation. I think I must be the only person who understood immediately what he meant. But I did teach statistics at the University of NSW for some years so I would.
He has shown no signs of mechanical aptitude yet, though, which slightly surprises me. I was always good at fixing things as a kid and I remember when I was 13 my family moved into an old house that had various old bicycle bits and pieces around and I managed to make a whole bike out of them, to the surprise of my parents. I remember that my father used to borrow "my" bike to go places at times. I painted it a fetching shade of maroon too. Joe is however a keen pianist so perhaps that satisfies his needs to do things with his hands. Like me, he is keen on classical music. Music, politics and history are mainly what we talk about and he does seem to be a born conservative like me. There are some pics of him here
I went up to Cairns for a week's holiday in August and you can see some of the resultant "snaps" here or here
So there you have it: Aches, pains and boasting about kids -- what else are Xmas letters for?
19 December, 2005
MERRY XMAS! 2005
Yes. That motheaten guy looking at you above is I -- photo taken this year.
Again not a lot of news to report this year. My blogging keeps me busy in front of my computer for about 12 hours a day so I am the sedentary man. I do however go out a lot to eat -- usually for both brunch and dinner. I have only those two meals per day. There is a small anecdote about my breakfast adventures here and a note about one of my dinner adventures here.
Judith Middleton moved out a few months ago to return to Melbourne and care for her aged father -- who is now very frail. So I was left without a companion for a short while but I now have a new lady by the name of Anne. She is such a keen chorister that she is in two choirs so she and I share a lot of musical interests -- including an interest in early church music. Through her choral contacts she hears a lot of what is going on in the Brisbane music scene so if there is some good Gregorian chant or the like being performed somewhere she lets me know and we go along. That has meant rather a lot of visits to churches lately -- even though we are both unbelievers (though both of us were, coincidentally, once communicants at Ann St Presbyterian church). There is an account of our visit to "Our Lady of Victories" Polish Catholic church here and a memoir of our visit to "Our Lady of Protection" Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church here
Anne is a pretty individualistic lady but she is very kind to me -- perhaps because I am the individualistic type too. She has even been to Iceland -- a place I often talk about but only admire from afar. She is a nurse by trade and tells me that everything you hear about the Queensland Health bureaucracy is true. See here for an example of what I mean.
I reported as follows last year:
"I am constantly in and out of surgery for my skin cancers these days. I just had three lots done at once yesterday. Rather remarkably, all the local anaesthetic the dermo pumped into me seems to have had a lasting but beneficial side-effect: For the last 4 months or so I have had a very sore left shoulder that I could move only in certain ways without pain. I never could work out for sure where the pain came from but it seemed to be tendonitis rather than arthritis. Anyway, six hours after surgery on my OTHER arm, the pain was all gone and I could move both arms any way I liked! I only hope the effect lasts! They put a lot of adrenaline into local anaesthetic so maybe that had something to do with it. Frozen shoulders are a rather common problem among oldies so now you know how to cure it! There are not many instant cures around for anything these days so it may be worth remembering. There was a famous case in America where some sort of surgical anaesthesia cured a kid of his autism so there may be more in these anaesthetics than meets the eye.
And I am pleased to say that my shoulder problems did indeed vanish. I am now as good as gold in that department. My dermatological adventures are however unending and there is a report of the most recent one here. I am now more or less over the procedure concerned but it sometimes takes months before everything is 100% again and that seems to be the way of it on this occasion too. It's surprising whom you sometimes meet when you frequent hospitals, however, as I noted in October.
My son Joe is now 18 and has just finished his first year at university -- majoring in Mathematics. He got marks of 7 out of 7 for all his mathematics subjects so we are all pretty pleased about that. I have arranged a celebratory dinner in honour of the achievement for this Thursday, at which a bottle of Grange will be opened. For those who do not know the wonders of Grange, it is Australia's most famous wine and costs around $500 a bottle for the current release (1999). So I hope I don't give Joe a taste for it. It will keep him poor if I do. There are some pics of Joe here
I started a new blog recently devoted entirely to Australian politics and events of interest and it seems to have taken off well. See here.
And what about a funny photo to finish up with?
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