September 5, 2017
Roxanne as a kid
Roxanne in her '40s (0n right). With brother Chris and daughter Kate
By John Ray
I sometimes nearly forget that I have a sister. She lives quietly in Rockhampton and it was many years since I have been to Rockhampton.
She is however a very vivacious woman so I was greatly pleased that when she was briefly in Brisbane this evening, I was able to shout her a dinner at the "Sunny Doll". Her equally lively husband was with her plus her daughter Katie. Katie is rather quiet. Maybe she could never get a word in edgewise when she was growing up with two very chatty parents.
My brother Christopher was also in attendance as was Jenny. Joe had to work back so arrived rather late but everyone was pleased to see him when he did arrive.
Roxanne was in good form and many things were discussed. I was updated on why and how Rox was "bumptious" during her schooldays and we decided that she got it from her very independent mother. Her mother was also a great talker. We decided that there should be more bumptiousness.
We also mentioned my Aunt Maude. Yes. I did have an actual Aunt Maude! How oldfashioned can you get? My mother was a very critical woman -- I probably get my irreverence from her -- and I recollect that there were only two people she normally spoke well of -- her niece Shirley and her sister Maudie. Stefan said that when he met Maude, she dismissed him as "blue collar". That would have been Maudie. She was a toughie.
In her youth Rox was something of a hippie. Yet now she is a contented wife and mother. How come? In her youth she found most of the males she met to be too shallow. But then along came Stefan, who was just right for her. He is intelligent, very verbal and with a very positive outlook. And they have been together a long time now and still seem to greatly appreciate one another. The pretty little shop assistant met the tall slim telecom technician. And that was it. Roxanne is a teacher these days.
Joe had a few chats with his cousin Katie and it was an amusing contrast to see them together. Katie is rather short and slight and Joe is 6' and well-built so he rather towered over her. Her father Stefan is about 6' tall so her height is a little surprising. Roxanne is also rather slight so Katie seems to have taken after her mother entirely.
At one stage I mentioned that I am a great fan of Mr Trump! Both Rox and Stefan could see that the constant barrage of negative comment about him from the media was biased and unbalanced
The food was good as usual and we had coffee there afterwards
I eventually decidedthat it was about time for me to go to Rockhampton to visit my sister. So Anne and I took the tilt train there.
I was annoyed that the Tilt Train doesn't tilt any more. That's one of the most glaring proofs of how the super cautious bureaucrats at Queensland Rail have totally misused one of the few trains that they could have been proud of. It is one of the few bits of "modern" (it is 20 years old) technology that could have given passengers a modern journey time.
It chugs along at a speed averaging about 80 kmh versus the 160 kmh it is routinely capable of. It goes a little faster than the old "Sunlander" but the "Sunlander" was REALLY slow. You could have walked faster at some points on it. There were a few spots when the train showed something of what it can do and that was rather exciting but they never lasted for long.
I must however give credit where it is due. The food aboard is remarkably good for railway food. Their chef clearly knows what he is doing. The hot food came around hot and the cold food around came cold. And the prices are very reasonable, though the portions are rather small. And the food carts come around with great frequency, perhaps to take the minds of passengers off the painful progress of their train. I am guessing that the food supply is the only thing outsourced to private enterprise. What might upset international visitors, however, is that they only take cash. Remember that stuff? Credit cards are not accepted.
Anyway, after 7 hours we arrived in Rocky
When Anne and I arrived we were met by Rox and Stefan, The Smiths. They had booked us in to a very flash motel so Anne and I just dropped our bags off there and we all went to dinner at a nearby Malaysian restaurant. It was rather flash as such restaurants go but the menu had us all a bit bamboozled. I have been in Malaysian restaurants before so I immediately suspected that the cook might be rather "creative", which is often not good. Anyway we ordered and found that the food was indeed "creative". But we got it down. I paid the "creative" bill.
But the company was good so the food was not an issue. I have seen the Smiths rarely over the years so getting to know them better seemed long overdue. We discovered fairly soon that our political views are not lightyears apart. The Smiths even had a good word to say about Mr Trump! You see why I am preserving their anonymity! We are actually something of a conservative family. Myself, my son and my brother rarely disagree on much in our extensive discussions. The twin studies tell us that Left/Right orientation is highly hereditary so that should not have been a surprise.
What the Smiths approve of in Mr Trump is mainly his opposition to political correctness. As Stefan said to me, "If I think a think why can't I say it?" And they also saw Trump's shaking up of the existing political system as being a very good thing.
Stefan is a technician by trade so is good with his hands. He enjoys putting mechanical things right. So even though he is now officially retired he still does stuff like that for its own satisfaction -- though he also is well paid for it. There are zillions of people knowledgeable in the arts but practical men are in short supply.
An interesting thing that I share with the Smiths is that we have both done rather a lot of real estate renovations and made good money doing so.
And their most recent project has been to build a really swish place for themselves to live in. The result is immaculate. It would even get approval in Amsterdam. From the outside it just looks like a simple and humble suburban home but once you get inside you find lots of rooms with every conceivable facility. And it has great views from the top story.
When they bought it, it was basically sound but a big mess -- a big enough mess to deter most buyers. So they got it for a very reasonable price. Then over a period of many months they got it right, doing a lot of the work themselves -- but getting in the experts where appropriate. They are justly proud of their result.
Rox has done many jobs over the years, including a spell at a meatworks where our father also worked. She liked the orderliness of how the place was run. You didn't know that an abbatoir could be orderly, did you? It hadn't occurred to me. Nowadays she is a senior teacher at a Primary school. She does not teach a regular class but fills in doing all sorts of jobs that keep the place running.
She is very critical of the Department of Education. She says that they are always issuing new instructions about things that should be taught -- thus taking time away from the regular curriculum. But the innovations tend to drift away after a while and the school gets back to doing the same things they always did. The bureaucrats can propose and instruct but it is the workers "at the coalface" who determine what is actually done. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
The Smiths are very health conscious and avoid eating any food that might be a bit suspect. They are big on vegetarian food but are not fanatical about it. My indulgent lifestyle rather horrified them so I did mention to them that my last blood test showed me to have the internal organs of an 18-year-old. Even my blood sugar was dead centre. So my indulgent lifestyle hasn't hurt me yet. And seeing that Rox and I share 50% of our genes, what is OK for me is probably OK for her too. So I wonder whether that will move them towards a more relaxed diet in some way.
But they have me totally beaten in their fitness. They still walk miles on a daily basis and do things like cycling up hills!
On Saturday morning the Smiths took Anne and me on a tour of the region, seeing mountains and seascapes and localities etc. I was particularly impressed by the many old buildings from the Victorian and Edwardian eras that still stood in Rockhampton. Instead of tearing their beautiful old buildings down like a lot of fools elsewhere have done, the Rockhampton people have renovated most of their old buildings to look as good as new. That was a most pleasant surprise to an old sentimentalist like me
The thing I was most interested in seeing in the region was the immensely controversial Iwasaki resort at Yeppoon -- now known as the Capricorn resort. It is mostly dormant at the moment awaiting a refit but nothing has ever moved fast there. The extensive buildings are still all there but the grounds are not up to an immaculate standard at the moment. In one of the few parts of the resort that is still operating is the Japanese restaurant -- so the Smiths were kind enough to stop there even though Rox is very suspicious of Japanese food. I of course am a great fan of Japanese food.
I shouted lunch there and Rox decided on ordering the Japanese curry. I encouraged that by noting that Japanese curry is always delicious without being "hot". In the end she did seem to enjoy it. Anne and I had the pork Tonkatsu, which was as good as it comes. The restaurant was pretty packed when we arrived so many of the locals must share my opinion of the food there.
After lunch we went to have a look at Yeppoon, which I had heard of as a beach to which people from inland go for their holidays. So I expected a small village. I found however that it was a substantial town with lots of shops and facilities.
As it happened, Emu beach was nearby where Anne used at one time in the now distant past to go for holiday breaks. A friend of hers once owned a holiday house there. So she was interested to revisit the house and take some photos of it, which she did
All in all, the Smiths went to a lot of trouble to make our stay comfortable and interesting, which was much appreciated.
The Smiths also insisted on paying for our two nights at the motel. It was a large and imposing apartment motel which was very spacious and comfortable and with good views of the huge Fitzroy river.
It was however odd in having neither a minibar nor room service. Life is full of surprises.
On Saturday night neither Anne nor I felt like a big dinner after our Japanese lunch so we just had Angus burgers at a nearby steak house. And they were remarkably good.
We managed to get up at 6am the following Sunday morning to get a taxi back to the railway station. And the taxi driver was a chatty Australian, which was rather a blast from the past You mostly get Indians with limited English as drivers in Brisbane
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