SOME MEMOIRS -- by John Ray
Some occasional personal notes from a quiet life...
John Ray's Home Page; Email John Ray here. The Blogroll. Photo album for this blog here. A link to memoirs from previous years can be found just above the flag at the foot of this page. More sites for John Ray's blogs: Greenie Watch, Dissecting Leftism, Political Correctness Watch, Education Watch, Gun Watch, Recipes, Australian Politics, Tongue Tied, Immigration Watch, Eye on Britain and Food & Health Skeptic.
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"
11 June, 2013
A very social weekend
On Friday Anne's sister Merle put on a dinner for the three sisters plus partners at her place. Her place is in an old people's complex but the unit she has does not seem cramped and has full facilities. She cooked us some chicken and vegies which was very nice. She dressed the chicken in a complex sauce. I enjoyed it. Ralph was back to his old jocular self, which was good to see. I said the Selkirk grace before the meal as we were all Presbyterians one way or another.
Then on Saturday Anne put on a special dinner party for Paul and Susan -- WITHOUT Matthew present -- to give Susan a bit of a break. Jenny minded Matthew. The menu was one suggested in a Dick Smith mailout -- using a lot of Dick Smith products: Appetizers, chicken entree, main course of roast pork, dessert of some sort of rice pudding, finishing up with fancy chocolates
We had a rather spirited debate about music, with Paul critical of popular music. I think I was a moderating voice.
Then on Sunday, Anne's son Byron and his wife Bonnie put on a lunch for a few of us. There were sausages, frittata and lots of other good things. There were a lot of family reminiscences plus some discussion of hospitals, as Anne is being admitted for some surgery soon. The surgery is "elective" so she is going private, probably to the Wesley if they get their Legionnaire's bug under control in time. She would have to wait for years to get the work done in a government hospital.
I gave each of the little boys a present that consisted of a collection of toy cars and a selection of lollies. That seemed to be a great hit.
25 May, 2013
I hosted a small dinner in celebration of Jenny's birthday this evening. And no-one mentioned which birthday it was! The idea was that Jenny would celebrate along with the two of her children left in Brisbane but with the addition of spouses etc, there were 7 adults at table and 3 toddlers.
At Jenny's request we had the dinner at Montezuma's Mexican, which is a very popular venue for families.
I bought along a present for Jenny which I knew she would love -- a complete hamper of all of Dick Smith's foods. And she did visibly enjoy opening it and inspecting the loot.
The talk was of course mainly about kids but my mention of Tom Waterhouse got approval. The ladies clearly like Tom's looks.
After the dinner we adjourned to Jenny's place for coffee and cutting the cake. Susan made the cake. It was a a bit different but very good. It was covered in strawberry slices.
I got a good cuddle from Sahara there -- which was a nice change. She was afraid of me for a long time but now she is three and a half I seem to be in her good books. Sahara is very pretty with her pronounced Nordic looks and Suz had done her hair in plaits, which I have always thought is the most attractive way to present blonde hair
Dusty was as usual good as gold but he did have fun at one stage by having a screaming contest with Matthew. They are roughly the same age.
Sahara and Dusty
Jenny with her birthday cake
22 May, 2013
Jenny postponed her Mothers' day celebrations for a week and it certainly turned out to be a Mothers' day last Sunday. The five mothers present were: Jenny, Nanna, Susan, Suzy and Anne. In the circumstances much of the talk was about babies and children but I take part in that too so the conversation flowed.
And the three toddlers present: Matthew, Dusty and Sahara, were a lot of fun
We had the lunch on Jenny's back deck and I supplied some of the food. The weather was a typically fine Brisbane winter's day and Paul expressed particular appreciation of that.
Paul has had some problems with both his business and his investments lately so he and I spent a fair bit of time talking about that. He is thinking of letting out all his properties here and moving to NZ.
The Greens are responsible for a lot of Paul's investment losses so the Green/Left in Australian politics generally came in for a lot of excoriation.
13 May, 2013
A courteous man
Two bits of background are needed for this story.
1). I admire successful people. I have, for instance, always admired Bill Gates -- even when he was the bete noir for most computer users. That he can make a vast computer program like Windows work most of the time contrasts with the repeated failures by big businesses and government agencies to get their programs working at all. The British health service, for instance, spent close to 20 BILLION dollars to trying get a health records system working for their hospitals but eventually had to write it off. And here in Queensland the Health Dept. has spent years trying to get working a program that just does their PAYROLL. It's still not working and is projected to end up costing over a billion dollars.
And other successful people -- such as super-bookie Tom Waterhouse and retail boss extraordinaire, Richard Goyder I admire too. Goyder has come from nowhere to run Bunnings Hardware, Officeworks, Coles supermarkets, chainstores K-Mart and Target plus a couple of coal mines and lots of other stuff.
And admiring success is part of the American Dream. Americans traditionally see success as a promise of what is possible for themselves rather than as something to be envied. I am not American and most of my dreams were fulfilled years ago -- with one large exception that is now unattainable. But I still admire rather than envy success.
Leftists, by contrast, hate success in others. As that poisonous old Leftist Gore Vidal once said: "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little".
2). With all the blogging I do you might be forgiven for thinking that I have no time to write letters. But I do: Perhaps one a fortnight on average. Being a bit deaf I write letters rather than make phone calls and being a customer of Telstra is good cause for LOTS of letters. Getting Telstra services to work is no joke.
But as well as letters of complaint, I also sometimes write letters of advice -- and that is where we come to the point of this post. I am a shareholder in Mr Goyder's company (Wesfarmers) and I am also a repeat customer of Target -- which is currently the most underperforming arm of Mr Goyder's company.
So I sent him a letter offering my observations of where Target was going wrong and suggesting some quite specific avenues for improvement.
Yesterday I got, by way of a reply to my letter, the courtesy of a handwritten note from Mr Goyder in which he said, inter alia, "Your comments are spot on". And he went on to say that they are already working on implementing the ideas concerned.
I was greatly pleased.
12 May, 2013
A Mothers' Day with three mothers!
At her request, Jenny's Mothers' Day celebrations were postponed to next weekend. So I joined Anne for her Mothers' Day at the place of one of her sons -- Warren -- a purveyor of shiny trinkets to the gentry. But Danish trinkets so that's different.
Present were 2 other mothers: The wife of her son Byron and Byron's mother in law: Two very cheerful and congenial ladies of Dutch origin. It was a morning tea so I supplied a Schwarzwalderkirschentorte. It amuses me the way Germans run lots of words together to make one. We say: "Black Forest Cherry Cake". That cake is a great favorite of mine so I bought it off a cakeshop the day before. Scones with Jam and cream also arrived for the party and were delicious.
Also present were Ethan and Koen, young sons of Byron and Bonnie. They got a lot of attention. Koen is a Dutch name. There seem to be Dutch people everywhere in my social/family circle. Maybe it's not a coincidence. A Dutchman once told me that I would make a good Dutchman.
The conversation flowed but I can't remember a single thing we talked about. I am bad that way. But it was a very pleasant and relaxing time.
4 May, 2013
Susan is very keen on dosas at the moment. And as the food preferences of pregnant ladies have to be respected, I shouted her, Paul and Matthew a dosa lunch, with an adjournment to my sitting room afterwards. Paul seems to like the atmosphere of my sitting room.
Paul is a bit down in the dumps at the moment after having made a big loss on mining shares so the lunch helped brighten him up a bit too. He actually feels quite chastened by his losses and is now strongly impressed by how much unpredictability and unknowability there is in life. He started out conservative and his own experiences have reinforced that. Leftists, of course, think that they know it all.
We discussed hybrid cars, Italy and the strange ways of the English. I pointed out the large class gap between the English who go to Spain for holidays and retirement and the English who go to Tuscany.
I have recently been reading Kate Fox's book on the English so passed on a few things that she had reminded me of. "Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour" is, I think, the funniest book I have ever read. It repeatedly has me in tears of laughter. As an Australian who knows the English well, I can recognize the truth of her observations without being embarrassed by them. And there is one sentence from her book that sums up the English well: "Everything is embarrassing".
During the course of the discussions, I think we agreed on a name for the forthcoming daughter, though Paul is keeping his options open at this stage. I have been recommending names for the in utero daughter that would suit the upper levels of English society.
Susan is a very crafty lady so was making little colourful crafty things while we were talking. But she was still able to take full part in the conversation at the same time.
Matthew spent a lot of time with balloons again and was a bit upset when he punted one right out the window at my place.
We talked briefly about nursery rhymes. I mentioned that nursery rhymes deal with death rather a lot and can sound rather ghastly to modern ears -- but that trying to shield kids from all that is a big mistake. It turns out that Susan has been studying nursery rhymes and traditional children's stories (Die Gebrueder Grimm, for instance) rather a lot recently so heartily agreed with me. So Susan's children will get a good dose of traditional culture in due course.
Susan is a bit fussy about what she will drink. Apparently at home she and Paul mostly drink milk. Joe is a milk fiend too and I like milk so that is a bit of a coincidence. Anyway, today I found something that Susan will drink at my place. I have recently started to use one of those water-filtering jugs to give me good mixer water for my gin and Susan was happy to drink purified water from that.
So it was a very relaxed and pleasant lunch and afternoon with quite a lot of laughs amid more serious dicussions about money etc.
A crafty creation by Susan
27 April, 2013
Surgery and a party
This week was one of contrasts. On Monday I had some surgery to remove a skin cancer from my face and on Tuesday Anne had surgery on her legs. Companions in surgery! Both of are now in recovery. Anne was on a Zimmer frame at first but is now back walking unaided.
I picked Anne up from the hospital in Wickham Tce about midday on Wednesday and also took over some fish and chips for tea that night. Merle and Ralph were also there to share our fish and chips so it was a pleasant social occasion. We talked a bit about Presbyterian church doings. The church Merle and Ralph have been going to has gone "modern" and we all agreed that that was no good. Ralph told a funny story about someone who kept calling him "Vince".
And on Thursday lunchtime there was a party for Suz's birthday, held at her and Russ's place. The party was quiet but pleasant and the gift that I had bought via Jenny was well received. It was a Japanese box filled with Body Shop products. Twins being what they are, I also sent Von a cheque similar in amount to what Suz's present cost and told her to buy something nice for herself. She seemed very pleased by that.
Russ as usual did the honours with his hi-tech BBQ machine and produced some good sausages and rissoles. I for once had some of all the salads. We all admired Russ's new big wooden table and chairs on his patio. The table seats 10 so Russ's hospitable inclinations were evident.
We talked about various things but at one stage debated whether people who avoid genetically modified crops are motivated by fear of the unknown. I think Ken, Simon and I were inclined to think that might be.
Maureen donated a bottle of her excellent cumquat jam to me. She hadn't made that jam before but got a result that was as good as any I have had. And I am a cumquat jam fancier from way back.
Paul and family had the wog so did not stay. Davey was there so he has obviously made a partial recovery. With her blonde looks, Sahara was looking beautiful and Dusty was his usual good-natured self. He mostly just sat in his high chair and sang out "more" when he ran out of food. LOL.
A curious event was that no-one could find matches to light the candles on the birthday cake: A pleasant reminder that nobody there smoked.
20 April, 2013
The travellers return (again)
Paul and Susan got back from another cruise this week -- mainly visiting China and Japan -- so I shouted them a small welcome home lunch at the dosa restaurant. Susan had a particular yen for some dosas and we all know that the food desires of pregnant ladies must be indulged. I had a few personal matters to discuss with Paul so there were just the 4 of us -- including Master Matthew, who was a great asset to the occasion, of course.
Paul and Susan were both very impressed with the very civilized Japan
We mainly discussed possible plans for the forthcoming little daughter but since none of us have met her yet, all discussions had to be in the most general terms. It seems reasonably likely, however, that she will have her mother's good looks and Paul's assertiveness so in that case a few things about her future can be discussed.
The big issue was what to name her and all three of us had different ideas about that -- but I think we edged towards an agreement eventually.
7 April, 2013
I normally go to church on Good Friday to honour the event which is the foundation of the central Christian doctrine of Redemption. Which is how I came to attend St. John's Presbyterian at Annerley for the first time last Good Friday. I was quite impressed by various things about the church and its congregation, however, so I decided that a return trip was in order. So I went there again today.
To my surprise, the congregation was even larger than on Good Friday. The church was about 80% full. That is remarkable vitality for a Protestant church these days -- when many churches have been abandoned through disuse.
The service was simpler than any other that I can remember: No doxology and no "amen" after each hymn. Though there was the triple "amen" at the end of the service. And they didn't even call the church announcements "intimations"! Small things that you have to be in the know to notice but they confirmed my suspicion that this was an unusually fundamentalist congregation in the "Wee Free" (Free Church of Scotland) tradition.
So I attended the morning tea afterward and had a chat to a few people. And we were able to discuss scripture and church doctrine! Mouths would have been agape had I tried that among an Anglican congregation! I was in fact slightly humbled when I mentioned Spurgeon. It turned out that the people I was talking to knew even more about him than I did!
So I was able to confirm that this was indeed a very old-fashioned congregation. And in fact I was told that quite a few of the congregation were refugees from other Presbyterian churches that had "modernized". Hence the large size of the congregation. As my own religious background was very fundamentalist, I felt very much at home there.
Anne enjoyed the visit too. Church figures largely in her background too. She even liked the sermon!
1 April, 2013
Jenny wanted to see both her daughters together while Von was in town so put on a BBQ at her place. Present were the twins with partners plus Jenny, Nanna and myself. Plus littlies, of course
I had lot of chats with Von and along the way I could see that Von really appreciated my shouting her and hers the trip to Brisbane. I also lent them Joe's Brisbane car to get around so that must have been handy seeing they came for a fortnight. They depart later this week.
We talked about the kids mostly: Hannah's little brown arm and Saharah's pretty blue eyes etc. You would never think they were cousins but then you would never think Von and Suz were twins. Both little girls are of wholly Caucasian ancestry but Hannah could almost pass for Asian with her tanned skin and rather slit eyes. She gets the eye shape from Ken. Timmy has it too. Hannah's eyes are blue, however. And for contrast, Sahara looks like a little Nordic goddess, with her paper white skin, big blue eyes and golden-blonde hair. Joe looked like that too when he was a toddler.
31 March, 2013
While Von and family are in town we obviously want to see as much of them as we can so I arranged a dosa lunch for us today. Dosa lunches are always very much enjoyed. The restaurant near me that does them makes a big thing of them on weekends and pulls out all the stops. So when you get a huge chrome plate with an even huger dosa on it, you know that good things lie in store. And they do.
The puzzle is of course how to eat them. I have no objection to eating them the Indian way (with hands only) but I try nonetheless to use cutlery. I am sure it is a lot easier with hands only!
The surprise of the day was to find we had an accomplished little Indian among us in the form of 2 year old Hannah! She tore up her pancake and dipped it in the various sauces like a veteran. She particularly liked the chili sauce.
The dosa girl
Jenny, Nanna, Von, Simon, myself and Anne were the other participants. We went back to my place afterwards for tea and coffee and another hour or so of chats. I think what we mostly talked about was Hannah and New Zealand and family matters generally. We were all greatly saddened to hear how poorly Davey is.
29 March, 2013
I usually try to get along to church on Good Friday and I did so today -- but to a different church. I went to St. John's Presbyterian at Annerley. I normally go to Ann St. Presbyterian in the city.
I "discovered" St. John's only recently, when I was driving in the area and took a wrong turn. As I was driving down the "wrong" street, however, I noticed a very well-maintained and attractive church in it. So I went along to the 8.30am service there today to find out a little more about it.
It is built in a Queensland 1920's style, with an exterior of both weatherboards and stucco. The stucco is painted cream and the weatherboards maroon. The overall effect is very pleasant. See below
The interior was quite impressive, with hammerbeam ceiling supports and NO GRAVEN IMAGES. There was very attractive leadlight coloured glass in the casement windows but no stained glass, no pictures. And there was neither a crucifix nor a cross in sight. Presbyterians of old were quite iconoclastic and this congregation was obviously happy to continue that. The second picture below -- looking towards the entrance of the church -- gives you some idea of it.
Note the steel bracing for the ceiling. That was a custom in the 1920s for giving structural strength to large open spaces. Schools used it too. I grew up in such spaces so felt at home with it.
The congregation tended to be elderly as usual but filled up most of the back of the church. I would say the church was about two thirds full, so that is quite creditable.
An interesting custom among the congregation is that they nearly all followed the Bible readings in the pew Bible. The pew Bible was a very fine one: A NKJ version with references, concordance and a good clear black font well adapted to being read by old eyes.
The minister was VERY elderly, walking with the help of a stick, and his message was a very traditional one, focusing on salvation -- which is of course entirely appropriate at Easter.
So it was a pleasant way to reconnect with my Presbyterian background. Anne enjoyed it too. I never have to twist her arm to get her to church.
And straight after church, Anne shot off back to her place to put on a piece of roast pork. Two of her sons were expected for a late lunch by way of an Easter visit.
I turned up about 1.30pm and the pork was taken off at 2pm. And it turned out perfectly -- something not always certain with a roast. Both sons had partners with them so it was six at table. It was a relaxed and congenial affair.
26 March, 2013
A home-cooked curry
As a thank you to me for getting Von and Simon over, Simon cooked me his version of a Balti curry for dinner over at Paul's place. He is a good cook and normally does all the cooking for his little family. There were just six of us present, including Anne. Susan made a very nice cheesecake for dessert which she informed me was really an American Key Lime pie. Susan is a keen cook too so Paul is a lucky man. American pies are a marvel. No wonder so many Americans are fat.
So we talked a bit about food in NZ and Von tried to encourage me to come over there for a visit. I said that the food was the thing that was likely to tempt me. As well as all the fresh fruit and veg., I gather that the meat pies are particularly good and I would of course be more than happy for Simon to try out his best recipes on me. I was rather amazed to hear that even in the small town where they live, there are two restaurants and two cafes, including an Indian restaurant.
We talked a bit about current Australian politics and the mining industry, in which Paul has shares. I have a few BHP shares.
But I think we mainly talked about the two little kiddies in front of us and their future prospects -- how tall they would end up etc. We also of course talked about the little girl who is due to make her debut into the world in early August. All the adults present were parents so that line of talk came easily to us all.
24 March, 2013
To make the most of Von being in town, Paul put on an open house today. Most of us arrived at lunch time and there was a lot of food to go around. Just about all the gang from last night turned up -- plus Tracy and Simon. So several hours of relaxed chats were indulged in. I heard quite a bit from Von, which I enjoyed.
As happens from time to time she reminded me of something I did in the past which I had quite forgotten. She remembers my house at Gordonvale with particular fondness so she reminded me of a time there when I paid the kids to weed my pumpkin patch. The pumpkin vine there was a very vigorous one which spread right out and I rather admired it -- so I must have wanted to encourage it. Or maybe I just wanted to give the kids some pocket-money.
It seems that Davey was again too ill to come along but there was some idea that he might turn up that evening. He has a quite serious illness, which is particularly sad in one so young.
23 March, 2013
I am a lucky person. I am in a position to give happiness to others. As I often do, I hosted a big family dinner earlier tonight -- this time for Paul's birthday. And free dinners make everyone happy! We had it at a local Indian restaurant at Mt. Gravatt which provides both good food and a good ambiance. Also as usual I provided toasting champagne, my trusty Seaview.
But I was able to go the extra mile this time. Although I had invited everyone to Paul's dinner a month in advance -- as I usually do -- Russell and Suzy had apparently already arranged a birthday dinner for Russell on the same night. So Suzy was unable to attend Paul's dinner. That was rather hurtful to Paul as he puts great store by family and is always ready to do what he can for family.
As has long been the case, however, and as everybody knows, Paul and I are as thick as thieves so when I saw how down in the dumps Paul was over having NEITHER sister at his birthday celebrations, I decided to do what I could to put things right. I succeeded! I got Paul's New Zealand sister, Vonnie, over for the occasion. I shouted the airfares for Von, Simon and little Hannah and they put their New Zealand life on hold for two weeks in order to make the most of the occasion. Paul was of course delighted. And everyone was delighted to see Von & family again.
There were 13 of us present plus two littlies. It was good to have George along and we got Timmy along too, which was good. Before he had a regular girlfriend it was a bit hard to get Timmy along to family occasions.
The food was good as expected and Jenny provided a fancy cake. The conversation at my end of the table centred heavily around Cyprus and related issues. I think there are lots of people worldwide at the moment who are a bit jittery now they realize that their government can just seize a slice of their savings if it wants to. A Greek island with only one million people has certainly got the world's attention at the moment.
The Cyprus banks all lent lots of money to the Greek government and eventually had to take a 75% haircut on that -- so are now broke. Whatever happens it looks like at least one of them is now finished.
I left after a couple of hours as I usually do but some of the rest went back to Paul's place to kick on.
Self with Paul
Self with 2 beautiful ladies
13 March, 2013
Viscount Monckton, an hereditary peer, is in Queensland this week doing his usual thing: Giving talks that expose the global warming fraud. He is arguably the world's most prominent climate skeptic.
So on Monday last Michael Darby put on a party for him, to which I was invited. I thought that Ken would like to meet Lord Monckton too so was successful in getting him added to the guest list. I have known Darb for many years so was readily obliged.
There were about 30 of us there and I got into a conversation with Monckton as soon as I arrived. We talked about tactics and I offered some help for his latest project.
He is a tall man -- about 6' -- aged 61, with grey hair and a manner of relaxed confidence. Being a peer is obviously a great help with the latter. Considering that he is not a well man, he presents very well. He suffers from Graves disease, which is hereditary and mainly a thyroid problem, and the most obvious symptom is bug-eyes. That symptom is now quite marked in him so the disorder would seem to be gaining ground on him, which is a great pity.
I took note of how he dressed. He dressed in a classic "smart" casual way, with grey woollen trousers and a dark blue jacket with metal buttons, sometimes known as a reefer jacket. It was once quite a uniform for social occasions but anybody I see wearing it in Australia these days seems to be elderly. I wore it myself on occasions for a while and still have a couple of jackets -- which, sadly, no longer fit. On this occasion I wore a plain white shirt plus a pair of dark suit pants.
Monckton did of course give a short talk which was fluent, relaxed and witty. He is a first-class public speaker who would adorn any occasion.
Ken found lots of people to talk to and seemed to enjoy himself.
Michael Darby made a good MC with his stentorian voice and he recited his poem about the church at one stage. He is a good bush poet.
To feed us Michael got in a heap of pizzas and various hors d'oeuvres. A couple of nice ladies talked to me, including a lady who seemed to be some sort of organizer for classical music concerts in Brisbane.
A famous American in blue and grey -- in the 60s
4 March, 2013
An excision and a visit
These days I don't usually note here my surgical procedures but one I had last Thursday is perhaps worth a note. I had a largeish BCC on my upper back where there was not a lot of loose skin. So I was dubious about how successful the excision would be. I thought that even if the surgeon got a good closure there was a chance of the wound opening up as I rolled onto it during sleep etc. So I was a bit freaked out going into surgery. It looks like Dr Hills did a good job, however, as it is now four days on and nothing adverse has happened. It seems to be healing more slowly than usual but it is healing.
The procedure I had was done at the Spring Hill Eye Hospital (a private outfit a short drive from where I live) and I was probably a bit more crusty than usual because I was feeling a bit freaked. So when an Eye hospital Privatbeamte (a good German word for a private bureaucrat) rang me a couple of days beforehand and told me I had to have someone pick me up after the procedure I rebelled. I explained that I was only having a local anaesthetic so there was no reason why I could not go home by taxi. He then insisted that it was Eye Hospital policy for someone to call and take me home. Whereupon I told him to stick his policy up his posterior (I used a much less polite word) and slammed the phone down. He then rang the surgeon who confirmed that it was OK for me to go home by taxi. The bureaucrat couldn't argue with a medical opinion so conceded defeat.
And when I got to the hospital on the day, there was a long delay. A procedure that should have begun at 8.45am did not and I was still on a trolley waiting at 10.30am. So I said at that point I was going home. Whereupon I was immediately wheeled off to theater and underwent the procedure. The squeaky wheel gets the oil!
The day after the procedure, Paul & family turned up for a visit. Paul was a bit down in the dumps over a family matter but I eventually found a solution to that. I still look after both Paul and Joe in various ways at times.
Young Matthew was a delight as always with his enthusiasm for balloons.
21 February, 2013
A sociable week
I wouldn't normally choose to host dinner parties two nights running but sometimes things just work out that way. And some very capable restaurateurs did the hard part anyway.
Croucher is in Brisbane at the moment visiting rellies. Since he usually lives in China, such appearances have to be exploited for the purposes of remembering old times etc. We have known one another since 1971 and have remained in frequent contact via the internet, so the opportunity of once again meeting in person was not to be missed.
We dined together on Tuesday, accompanied by another member of our old merry band, Henningham. Henningham is an extremely jocular figure when his wife is not around so we did well to get him along in a solo state. Croucher, however, was accompanied by his Cantonese wife. Anne and I were dining together the day after so Mrs Croucher was the only female person present.
I shouted the dinner as I don't travel these days. So the least I can do is shout for those who do. I offered to take us all to a local Chinese restaurant where you can get Chinese food you won't find in China but that was understandably treated as suspect. Instead we went to my local Indian restaurant: The "Bollywood", where the food is always good. I shout lots of dinners there so I get very good service there.
Henningham wanted us to order dishes to share, which is a custom I do not normally honour, but I agreed anyway. When it transpired that Henninghanm liked his curry mild and Croucher and I wanted it medium, however, he suffered some revenge for that. We ordered all the curries medium. He survived without notable discomfort.
After the dinner we repaired to my place for tea and coffee and continued the deliberations. We discussed many things -- from social class to IQ. In his usual Sinophilic style, when Croucher was asked whether there are any class distinctions in China, he said: "Of course not". But he did row back a bit from that later.
I am a bit deaf these days but I am reasonably OK with male voices. It is the higher frequencies that one loses in old age so I understand women rather poorly unless they are fairly close to my ear -- but male voices use quite low frequencies so I did not miss too much of what was said. Mrs Croucher's contributions were however something of a mystery to me.
Then on Wednesday I shouted a dinner at the Kafe Meze in celebration of Jill's birthday. Anne and Lewis also took part. The food is always good there and we again repaired to my place afterward. There was a lot of talk of travel and foreign places as Jill and Lewis are off on a cruise again soon.
15 February, 2013
A Saint's day was commemorated
In accordance with proper form I gave Anne flowers, a card and chocolate on St Valentine's day yesterday. Anne decided to cook so I took advantage of that by getting some Merguez out of the freezer. And at Anne's request I also got a Greek Tourte for dessert. The one I get is basically a chocolate trifle.
Anne supplied some Sydney rock oysters for starters and we washed it all down with my usual Seaview champagne.
We had it on the verandah, which is a pleasant venue of a summer's night and afterward I put on music by Schumann, Chopin and Sor.
So it was a high quality night across the board.
1 February, 2013
Despite the lights coming back on on Tuesday evening, only one of the three power circuits available to me came back on -- which was rather odd. So I got out a great string of extension leads to feed power to my computer from the one circuit that was working.
On Wednesday I decided to get to the bottom of the problem power circuits and by a bit of trial and error discovered that one of two paired circuits was the problem. It was wet somewhere from all the rain and therefore flipping the circuit breaker governing the two curcuits. So by isolating that circuit I got a second circuit going, which was the one running my computer, fridge and freezer -- so I was happy about that.
But then my internet cable went off the air. Telstra were apparently repairing some storm damage in my area so I had power but still no internet.
Anyway it didn't matter a heap as I had a lunch at Anne's place to go to and afternoon tea with Paul and Susan after that. I would not have been on the internet anyway.
The lunch was put on by Anne for the birthday of her sister Merle. It was another "three sisters" lunch with partners invited too and I always enjoy such occasions. Anne made a big lot of her champion ham and salad sandwiches for the occasion and there was lots of other foods too.
Paul came over with Susan and Matthew about 3pm to finish putting all the old family videos on my computer. We also had some chats about family relationships which seemed to be helpful to Paul. I heard later that he even took some advice that I gave him! As advice is the world's most spurned commodity, I was impressed!
Anyway, the internet was still off when Paul left so I went over to Jenny's for about an hour to catch up with a few things.
On Thursday morning my net access was still out and so was the light circuit downstairs. So I got into my car and visited various electrical wholesalers in a quest to buy a few more plug-in circuit-breakers, in case the light problem was at the board. I visited 5 wholesalers but only three had what I wanted. I ended up getting one breaker from each of three wholesalers -- taking the last of their stock in each case. Very strange.
Anyway my net access came back Thursday afternoon and has been OK since then. So to celebrate the end of a chaotic week I took Anne to a good Chinese restaurant on Friday evening and ordered Peking duck. It lived up to all expectations.
29 January, 2013
Sunday and Monday (yesterday) were sub-cyclonic in Brisbane -- with big winds and pouring rain. On Sunday evening, however, I just felt like fish 'n chips for dinner so went and got some. The best fish 'n chips place I know at the moment is out at Manly, near where Anne lives, so it is a 20 minute drive. I was one of the few on the road in the circumstances and I was nearly held up by some minor flooding across the road at one point. But I got there and took the fish back to Anne's place to share. I felt it was well worth the trip through the heavy weather.
And yesterday (Mon.) I woke up at 9am to find that the power was out. I attempted to carry on blogging using my battery-powered netbook but the wireless dongle failed after only about half an hour. I was rather displeased to find that my backup system had failed too. But that's Telstra for you.
Anyway, I had a backlog of work I wanted to do on my geneology files so I got on with that for the rest of the morning. The eventual product is now online here.
When afternoon had arrived with no restoration of power, I rang Jenny to see whether she had power, She did so I went over there to do a bit of catching up on her computer.
Around 4:30, however, I went home to see if my own power had come on. It had not. But it did come on about 5pm so I caught up with a few things then.
Jenny had however invited me over for a dinner of chicken curry, which I was very pleased to accept. So I went back to her place about 6pm and had an exceptionally good curry. So I drove through heavy weather twice yesterday. There was not much else on the road. But good dinners are worth some trouble, I think.
26 January, 2013
We had our usual Australia day lunch for my rellies on my mother's side today.
It was raining heavily all day so that may have been why the gathering was smaller than usual.
Christopher had a range of old family photos on display which sparked a lot of discussion. I was amused to see my father in what looked like a gangster hat.
Kym did the cooking this year and provided us with lots of good things. As usual, I stuck to sausages.
It's nice to be in the company of intelligent people and I think my rellies fill the bill there. There was a small example of it today. I asked what is the difference between Swedes and turnips? That would floor most people but my cousin Shirley immediately trotted out a good descriptive answer.
Swedes are called rutabagas in the USA. They are traditionally eaten with haggis on Burns night and called "neeps" (after "Napus", the Latin word for a turnip) in Scotland. "Swede" is short for "Swedish turnip", though it's not actually a turnip!
25 January, 2013
I held what I intend to be my last Burns night tonight. I have been putting them on sporadically for around 30 years so I think I have done my bit. The big problem is that 25th is sandwiched between Anne's birthday and Australia day and my social energies are not quite up to that any more.
Anyway, it was only a small gathering and we skipped most of the customs. Jill and Lewis were there as well as Anne and myself. Anne did a great job of catering the occasion and the haggis was much enjoyed by all. I still managed to get into my kilt but just barely!
I enjoyed the occasion but I was nonetheless not completely with it: I prepared some Scottish music to play but forgot to turn it on; I forgot to run the Scottish saltire up my flagpole; I needed quite a lot of help from Anne to get into my kilt and I even spilled my beer at one stage. I was halfway through my first beer at the time (Fourex Gold, a medium strength beer) so I was not Elephant's Trunk.
I ate so much haggis, neeps and tatties that I had no room for dessert -- so I missed out on some clootie dumpling. And the Tablet went untouched! A surfeit of good food.
23 January, 2013
Birthdays are of course a time for special dinners and chateaubriand is for both Anne and me a much appreciated dinner. Probably because it is inevitably expensive, however, very few restaurants offer it these days. I used to be able to get it from both the Clansmen and Siggis but both those excellent restaurants are now only a memory.
With the help of Father Google however I was able to establish that there is ONE restaurant in Brisbane that still offers it: One of the restaurants of the Hotel Bravo in Brunswick St, Valley. Their menu is here.
I was not very sanguine about them doing a good job of the dish but I booked anyway and we went along. Below is what we got
To my surprise it was perfectly done. Even the accompaniments were good. And when I asked them to turn the music down, they did! Service was good generally.
So we actually had a rather memorable dinner. We were too full for desserts
18 January, 2013
After 60 years playing in London, Agatha Christie's "Mousetrap" rather amazingly came to Brisbane -- so I had to go.
I am a bit deaf even with my hearing aids in so I missed a lot of the finer points but I understood enough to follow the main points. With its evocation of a snowed-in London and mention of child abuse, it could have been written in London yesterday
I did guess correctly who the villain was and there were many fine points of staging and dialogue that kept the audience amused.
An odd point about the production was that everybody shouted at one-another all the time -- which is most un-English. I think that contributed to my incomprehension.
I would have thought that amplification of normally-spoken voices would have been much better. And supertext would have been a boon. There were a lot of elderly people in the audience who also most likely had age-related hearing loss.
6 January, 2013
Anne's mother has just turned 95 and is still mentally with it but physically frail of course. Such an occasion could not go without celebration of course so we had a small party in the BBQ area of the nursing home late yesterday afternoon
The ladies all brought along their specialties for the party food and we had quite a good fruit punch to wash it down: Anne brought along one of her sandwich specialties -- Hungarian open sandwiches with Liptauer cheese spread. Rather peskily, Anne has to make her own Liptauer as it is not on sale anywhere in Brisbane that we know of. Anne got it just right this time, however.
It was a very Presbyterian occasion -- no alcohol and no music -- which I entirely approved of. Having myself once been a very strict Protestant, I am still at home with that outlook.
There were about 12 people present plus 3 littlies aged between 2 and 4. It was a great pleasure to see the littlies doing what littlies do: Running around like mad things. They had a great time and we had a great time watching them.
Anne and her two sisters were present plus attached menfolk. I talked mostly to Ralph as I usually do. I think he is a real gent and is still pretty good at age 80.
I was a little bit hypnotized by one of Anne's nieces once removed. Zenia is a tall blue-eyed blonde university student with the emphasis on tall. She arrived wearing short denim shorts that revealed what I think are the best pair of legs I have ever seen. She could have stepped out of a fashion magazine. "Legs that go on forever" certainly describes Zenia. I was pleased to see that she also seemed very self-confident and relaxed in the setting. Confidence is a great asset and a pretty good predictor of strong mental health.
2 January, 2013
Lunch and videos with Joe
Joe and I had lunch at my usual haunt and we went back to my place to look at some videos I had made about 20 years earlier. The first was a video of some bits of advice I wanted to leave with Joe in case I died when he was young and the second was family home movies in which he was the star -- starting when he was about 6 months old and ending when he was 3. There were of course some amusing bits and Joe got to see himself during a time that he had almost entirely forgotten. He actually came out as a rather wise child -- certainly a cautious one anyway.
Joe was far from the only one in the video and little Timmy came across as rather gorgeous and we both enjoyed Paul's early views on girls.
For posts on this blog in 2012, 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
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.
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!