Old folk at lunch

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A pre birthday dinner


Anne has just flitted off on her latest trip -- to the Arctic of all places.  She could reasonably be called a travel-holic at the moment.

Which is ironic as I am travel-phobic these days.  I went everywhere I wanted to go in my 30s and it all seems too much bother now.  So she mostly travels with her good-humoured sister or goes alone.  She is a very friendly lady so she still has a lot of social interaction even when she travels alone.

But the amusing thing is that Joe and Kate seem to be in a similar situation.  Joe and I are very different people. He seems to be much more kind-hearted than I am, as one thing. Like his mother he is generally kind whereas I am kind mostly to people I approve of.

But "Like father like son" does emerge at times.  Joe is uninterested in travel too.  But Kate wants to see it all.  Joe took her on a trip all around Europe  about a year ago and apparently thought that he had done his travel duty with that.  When Kate wanted to flit off again he pointed out to her that he had visited eight countries with her.  "But that's just Europe" was her reply. Anyway, latest news is that she is visiting Canada on her own this year.

There are other ways that "Like father like son" emerges.  Two trivial but amusing ways are that we both buy rice bubbles but rarely eat them and we both sit down in an odd way, with the foot of one leg tucked under the other leg.  There is a rather attractive young lady below showing how it's done.  Both Joe and I do it quite unconsciously.  It just seems natural to us.



It so happens that Anne's 39th birthday will come up when she is away this year.  So I offered to take her out for a birthday dinner before she departed.  I took her to a dinner at the Yeronga digger's club.  We mostly go there on a Friday, when they have what must be the best smorgasbord in town.  So I thought that would be as pretty good birthday offering.  This time however we went on a Tuesday, which was quite different.  It was a "two for Tuesday" night.  Which meant that you got two meals for the price of one.  And the place was packed for it.  We were lucky to get a table.  The menu was rather small and basic so the only vaguely interesting thing I could find on it were "Toulouse sausages".  But it turned out that they were quite nice.

Anyway, I also took her to The Phams for breakfast next morning, where she had a Vietnamese omelette, a big and very tasty meal. 

While we were there a mother and a pretty little 10 year old daughter walked in. As soon as the mother lined up to order, the daughter zipped over to the the newspapers, got a "Courier Mail" and started reading it.  The wait was a bit long, however, so as soon as she had taken a good look at the local newspaper, she went over and  got "The Australian" and started reading it.  She was obviously VERY bright for her age.  Her mother had her in a pretty dress and her hair was nicely done so she seemed otherwise quite normal.  I would have LOVED to have her as a daughter.  I have seen many kids in that restaurant but she was the only one ever to display such adult behaviour.  It made my day.

I was an odd one in my childhood too. Most kids have on their bedroom walls posters of sports and movie stars.  I had a big map of Taiwan on my wall, which was big in the news at that time. I actually wrote to Taipei to get that map.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mrs Possum



One of the more pleasing aspects of Brisbane's older suburbs is that a lot of trees have grown up and that has attracted wildlife.  Scrub turkeys strutting up and down the street are a common sight.  And I once had a magnificent python in my back loo.

But because I have a very luxuriant Mulberry tree right outside my front verandah I occasionally see possums grazing there.  Australian possums are much nicer than American opossums but they are distantly related.  Anyway, our possums are rather bold creatures. They stare you down rather than run away from you.

So today on Saturday night we had an encounter with one.  And it was a Mrs Possum. She was in the middle of my front staircase when I popped out up top and Joe was coincidentally approaching from below.  To have people both in front of her and behind her was too much, however, so she scooted away.

How do I know she was Mrs Possum?  Because she had the most gorgeous baby possum on her back.  We were privileged by her visit.

I have seen lady possums on the tree in front of me in the past.  I have observed her marsupium.



Sunday, January 7, 2018

An interesting dinner



Early last year I initiated dinners with people I remember from my old army unit: 21 Psych.  It was interesting to catch up and hear what others had been up to since the '60s.

So I arranged another dinner tonight.  I was able to get Peter Muir along this time so that was good. I tried to get Peter Ridgewell along as well but I understand he has been very ill.  That reinforces my resolution to put on such dinners annually.  Someone from the unit whom I remember with affection is John French, who is now deceased.  So "do it now" is my resolve for catching up with people.

We were originally going to go to the Chinese restaurant next to the PA hospital at Buranda but they have just gone broke -- so I changed the venue to only a block away, at Zambreros of Buranda, a Mexican restaurant.  Some of the ladies were a bit wary of Mexican chillies so I may go back to Chinese next year.

Old times were of course discussed and even controversial topics like IQ were aired.  I mentioned the well established fact that American blacks are on average a whole standard deviation (15 points) below the white average on IQ and was rightly told that I could get into a lot of trouble these days by saying so. As it happens, however what I said is in fact the official position of the American Psychological Association.  But what scholars can say among themselves may not pass in public of course.

The late Chris Brand was a sad example of that.  Every serious student of ancient history knows that the brilliant civilization of ancient Greece was a pedophilic civilization.  Chris, however, was unwise enough to mention that to one of the newspapers.  Despite having tenure he was fired from his Edinburgh university job over it.  There was such an uproar in the papers that the university didn't have much choice

Anyway, everybody enjoyed the dinner.  Anne had quesadillas and I had a "classic bowl". I shouted the dinner but the total cost was only $88 so it was a small price to pay for good company.


The gathered company, men at the back, Rod Hardaker, Peter Hadgraft, myself and Peter Muir

Two larger photos here and here -- from the camera of Linda Muir, wife of Peter.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An unusual New Year


I don't usually mark New Year's eve in any way.  I stay at home, eat at home and am always in bed before the fireworks.  Anne however wanted to do something so decided to take another one of her many holidays.  She went up to Binna Burra Lodge for a few nights with some old bushwalking friends.  One of them was an old boyfriend of hers with whom she has often gone bushwalking.  Neither of them are capable of much walking these days but they enjoy what they can of their old bushwalking haunts. I believe that more such outings are planned.

Anne however made it up to me for not being with me on the big night by joining me for dinner on New Years day. We don't normally meet on Mondays.  We went to the Yeronga rissole, which had a very good buffet that night.  The food is always good there and there was such a range that Anne was able to put together for herself an almost entirely seafood plate, which she likes.  I had all sorts, including some quite good gyoza, which is Japanese food.

To drink I had Fourex Gold, which is my usual beer, and for Anne I ordered a glass of Chardonnay.  And there was something unusual about that.  In most pubs and restaurants, if you order wine by the glass, they hand you a glass that is only about a third full  -- which always annoys me.  At the club, however, Anne got a glass that was pretty full.  That will certainly encourage me to go back there.

I noticed a way in which the club had changed over the last couple of years.  The members were once almost entirely white Australians. It was a sort of holdout of the way Australia once was.  This time however, there was a substantial contingent of Chinese.  So they have finally woken up to what good value our  clubs are.  They fitted in perfectly, of course.  Most of the children running around were Chinese -- dressed and behaving indistinguishably from other Australian children. The Chinese are great at fitting in, which is a credit to them.

Then the next night, Tuesday, was one of our usual nights together so we went to the went to the Moreton Bay Sports Club, which is at the top of Anne's street.  It is always pleasant there and the Barramundi we both had for dinner was well cooked and well presented.  They don't have the variety of Yeronga, however.  The male membership there consists almost entirely of elderly white guys with expanded waistlines -- so I fitted in perfectly.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A good Christmas



On Christmas Eve Anne was still recovering somewhat from a minor illness but she got over to my place in reasonable shape.  I had our usual Christmas eve food -- French cutlets -- ready to cook and Anne cooked them nicely. They were rather thicker than usual so I ate only four of them, which is well down for me. I made my usual salad to go with them and added some pickled onions to it.  Anne LOVES pickled onions but they are bad for her (reactions) so I put in only two for each of us. Putting two strong tastes -- vinegar and onions -- together gives a very strong taste indeed.

It reminded me of when Jenny made seafood paella,  Maureen would always have some even though she was allergic to the seafood in it. I remember her once telling me about her reaction the day after -- adding "But it was worth it".  Apparently it's common for people to really like what they are allergic to.

Christmas day was a bit unusual.  Jenny had gone to the trouble of having four kids but not one was in town to celebrate Christmas with her.  And Anne's three kids were away too.  So Anne had her Christmas lunch with some old friends with whom she has had Christmases before and I went to Jenny's place.

It's interesting that Jenny's kids have gone to opposite ends of the earth, Scotland and New Zealand.  And yet both are completely at home -- speaking their native language freely and understanding how things are done in their new country.  It's because we are the descendants of brave British people -- seafarers and settlers who went to the ends of the earth despite the ever-present risk of death in their fragile little wooden ships. So many places on the planet are now home to us.

So there were only three of us at lunch -- Jenny, myself and Nanna.  Nanna was in good form however, depite her 93 years, so it was quite a jolly occasion.

And the opening of the presents had a real highlight -- a sturdy cardboard box all the way from Scotland.  Scotland has always had a place in my heart so presents from Scotland was really special to me.  It was of course from Paul and Susan.  It contained cups with artwork on them done by the kids and some excellent photos of them.  I reproduce below the one of Primrose.  She seems a great kid so I am looking forward to meeting her one day.



As she always does, Jenny went to great trouble with the dinner -- ham, roast chicken and all the trimmings.  The ham was particularly good.

And the dessert was remarkable, a big Pavlova, which is one of my favourites.  Nanna made it, despite her never before in her 93 years having made one.  And it was perfect.  I had two helpings.

Cats

It was very hot in Brisbane on Christmas day -- around 35 Celsius.  So when I got home at about 3pm, I immediately thought of the cats -- cooped up in Joe's flat while he and Kate were away.  I thought they might be suffering heat stress.  As it happened, they seemed to be OK but they must have been uncomfortable in their little fur coats. Humans are the only animal that can take its coat off. So I closed the verandah door, the front (lattice) doors and opened my door.  I thought they would sit in  front of the lattice door as the lattice enables full contact with the air outside.  With typical cat perversity, they didn't do that however.  They were much more interested in wandering around in my apartment.

Anne came over that night and we dined on some of the excellent leftover ham on bread rolls.  We do that every year as it's the only time we seem to get first-rate ham.

After dinner we watched a DVD of a rather peculiar French performance -- by a Norman (Rouen-based) opera company -- of Purcell's opera "Dido and Aeneas".  There was an awful lot of dancing and prancing and leaping about which added nothing to the story so I won't watch it again. If I want to see acrobatics I will go to a circus.  The mezzo who sang Dido --  Vivica Genaux -- was quite a fine looking woman and emoted very strongly.  I thought she would have to be French because of that.  We British types emote only sparingly.  But she was actually born in Alaska!  The words were all sung in English as that was -- for once -- the original language.

Anne thought that the visuals detracted too and suggested that we might enjoy it more if we turned the video off and listened  to the music only. As Purcell's music is excellent, I might just do that.

After we went to bed there was a lot of wind and heavy rain, which we both enjoyed

Friday, December 22, 2017

A busy week


I had some serious surgery yesterday (Thursday) after the events of Tuesday and Wednesday described below.  There was a large line of subcutaneous tumors at the left-hand margin of my face -- stretching from my jawline to my forehead.  And a previous punch biopsy had confirmed that they were SCCs, a nasty cancer type. And they were growing rapidly so had to be got out soonest, even if it was on the threshold of Christmas.

I was a bit unsure whether the surgeon would or could get it all in one go but the procedure I underwent was a same-day Moh's type -- as a day patient at a good private hospital -- so that inspired confidence.  And, in the event, good margins were apparently achieved.  So the procedure went well and I was in no pain even when the local had worn off.  My surgeon costs thousands but for that he delivers very close joinups of the cut surfaces, which leads to very rapid healing.

My second concern was how well such a long excision would take to heal, considering that I mostly sleep on my left -- so I looked like sleeping upon a fresh incision.  I steeled myself, however, to sleep on my back only that night and achieved it.  I also did not have my usual extensive late-night drinkies so took a sleeping tablet to adjust for that.  I thought I had some Temaz around but could not find it so I took a Stilnox.

Stilnox is a bit notorious for weird effects and I was not spared. I was in a strange state for most of the morning afterward and did not really wake up until about noon.

Anyway, as I write this late on Friday night, I feel back to normal already.  The dreaded cancer is gone and I can't even feel that an excision has taken place.  Paying for first-rate plastic surgery is hugely worth it in my view.

Joe is driving to Canberra in the morning for Christmas at Kate's parents' place so tonight I shouted him a  "bon voyage" dinner of a sort that both of us particularly like -- Japanese MOS burgers.  They are unique in my experience

We had our burgers at Sunnybank, which was greatly crowded, overwhelmingly with East Asians, mostly Han.  Joe and I share great respect for the Han so we were very much at ease with that. An oddity was that the MOS burger joint was one of the few that was not busy.  Do Chinese not eat Japanese?  Rely on it.

A small reflection: As an afficianado of hospital rules, I am aware that  the anaesthetist is supposed to come in before the procedure to explain things to the patient and deal with any questions.  Some time after that the proceduralist comes in too for the same purpose and shortly thereafter you are wheeled in to the operating theatre.

On Thursday, however that protocol gave way to the obviously good rapport between the anaesthetist and the surgeon  They both came in together to see me and we had a brief but jolly discussion about a few points.  They obviously knew that I was someone they could talk to easily.  As I am a retired academic, that is one of my privileges.  I am accepted as someone on their level  -- because I am.  Some people complain that their doctors won't talk to them.  They all talk to me.  All men are NOT equal.

So in the operating theatre, I was in the hands of people who were well disposed towards me.  That has got to be a plus.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A saga ends



The sharers I have living at my place mostly stay for quite a while and we get to know them well. So when they move out we tend to regret seeing them go. The good-humoured Sikh guy in the back room moved out in early October so we were sorry to see him go.  He had been there for 4 years. The guy in the front room has been with me for nearly 30 years.

The back room was a bit run-down, however, so Joe and I decided to renovate it before re-letting it.  In particular, it had an old plastic sink in it that had become very grotty. The sink cabinet was however a very solid one made of real wood so I wanted to preserve that and just get a new sink to go on top of it.  The existing sink was an odd size, however, so that gave us problems.  Eventually we decided to get a new benchtop from Bunnings and drop a caravan sink into it.  We managed to make that work only because of the great talents of Dudley, who even did the tiling around it once the sink was in.  It probably took us a month to get the job done with all the issues involved.

And then we had to get a tenant.  I advertised in both the Brisbane newspaper and on an internet site for finding flatmates.  But it was slow going.  Most of the applicants were on the dole and I didn't want that.  They too frequently get behind on their rent.

But after around two months,  today I finally  let the room -- to a quiet young Brazilian guy.  I think he will work out.  Below are a couple of photos of the room





Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A big reunion



One member of my birth family is already deceased but the three remaining were together for once on Tuesday night:  Roxanne, Christopher and I. Rox and Stefan came down from Rocky for a couple of days and this time brought their twins down with them:  Emmeline and Kelly.  Christopher arrranged the Tuesday night dinner at the Story Bridge hotel. It's a beautifully renovated old hotel but their prices reflected that. They were eventually full-up even on a Tuesday night so many people are presumably used to hotel prices (steaks around $35). The food took about an hour to arrive after being ordered but that is common in hotels and what did eventually arrive was good.

People were a bit slow to arrive but we eventually had both of Christopher's children: James and Madeline.  Madeline brought along her girlfriend, dressed in an American burlesque sort of way. 

Kym came too and readily took the bait when I made a few old-fashioned conservative statements, such as referring to Ceylon as Ceylon. Kym is very "Progressive" and politically correct but she has a good sense of humour too -- which she undoubtedly needs to get on with her husband, my brother, whose attitudes are similar to mine. One thing I noticed was that she tossed her hair a lot when she was trying to needle me.  She has a lot of hair so why not use it?

Anne came with me but Joe could not come due to a clashing engagement.

The twins were both nice-looking young ladies but one was short and one was tall.  Emmeline was the short one and Kelly was tall.  Roxanne is 5'4" so that explains Emmeline and Stefan is just over 6' so that explains Kelly. With her mother's pretty face and her father's long legs, Kelly was quite striking to look at.  Tall women do tend to have an advantage in that way. She is also socially pleasant and has the light of intelligence in her eyes.

I should explain that.  I find I can tell highly intelligent people just by their eyes.  I am not sure I can explain it but it has something to do with them taking long gazes at things.  They see more so take longer to look at people and things.  They have a "seeing" (reflective, searching or enquiring) gaze.  Kelly's father Stefan has it too.

Stefan is a great conversationalist so helped keep everyone near him interested. He could talk to me about house renovations and talk to Christopher about old motorbikes, for instance. 

Roxanne talked a lot about her experiences in Saudi Arabia and their attitude towards women.  She was in Saudi for a couple of years while Stefan was there making big money as a telecom technician.  Roxanne is quite critical of negative attitudes to women so you can imagine what she thought of the Saudis.  Her twins were born there so it is a small oddity that two very Nordic looking young women have birth certificates in Arabic.  There are not very many blonde and blue-eyed Arabs.

Christopher was in good form, buying drinks for a lot of people.  Business must be good at the moment. Anne enjoyed meeting the twins and talking to a lot of the family.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A pleasing moment


Macdonalds have just released a new  product:  A big Mac with BLT.  As a confirmed Macdonalds customer, I had to try it.

So I went into my local Macdonalds and was served by a attractive young lady.  She had her hair in two blonde plaits -- which I particularly like -- and she had a significant bosom which was revealed to an extent by an undone top button of her shirt.  She would have had some distracted male customers during her shift. Macdonalds in Brisbane had got it all!

And the burger was good too.  The bread was way too soft but the ingredients were great.. Macdonalds remains an unrivalled source of hamburgers.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A good Sunday and Monday



On Sunday 26th., Jenny put on a small "bon Voyage" lunch for Paul and Matthew.  It was an excellent lunch with all good things.  Joe was busy elsewhere but I attended and had quite a lot of chats with Paul. Matthew kept irritating Nanna by sitting on his chair with one leg up.  Little kids can do that but Nanna saw it as bad manners.  Matthew would put his leg down when told but would soon put it up again.

I understand little boys however so made a pincer of my fingers and nipped his leg next time he put it up.  I was smiling at the time of course.  And Matthew loved it.  I got the biggest laugh out of him for the whole visit I think. He would look at me to see if it was safe to put his leg up again and I would make pincer fingers much to his entertainment.  So I suppressed his unwanted behaviour by fun!  Win, win.  Kids find the threat of pain very entertaining.  I have often used it but adults are often dubious about it

Then on 27th., we were back at Nandos.  That was the real Bon voyage dinner at Paul flies out early Wednesday morning. Tuesday is for packing etc.  Paul and Joe had a lot of chats -- as did Kate and Jenny.  I just chimed in occasionally.  Matthew at one stage kept grabbing Paul's arm but I made pincer shapes  with my fingers and he immediately desisted amid giggles.

There we are below, with me enjoying my usual "Thighs and slaw".  Paul took the photo so isn't in it.



Bigger pic here

Occasionally, I like to put up the docket I get when I pay for a dinner.  It saves me saying what we had:




Friday, November 24, 2017

At Nando's again


Mon. 20th:  This time without Von but with Paul and Matthew


A nice photo of Joe at Nandos.  Apologies to Kate

Big pic here

On Thurs 23rd  I arranged a "Men's night" at my place for Paul and Joe.  I cooked Chili con Carne for us. Paul was most complimentary about it but certain Maggi flavour sachets were owed the credit.  Paul and Joe talked a lot about their aims in life and how they saw their futures.  My future is already here so I just listened mostly.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Before Von flies out



15th: On Wednesday Simon cooked a few of us a butter chicken curry at Jenny's place.  It was excellent

16th: Over the years I have shouted various Johnnsons food -- Ken, Paul and Von.  And they have always honoured my offerings  by eating every last crumb

But I have discovered that there is a small Johnson who has a very Johnson tummy too. At my High Tea on Thursday, Hannah made good use of the offerings.  After consuming a significant amount, she was ready for a choc-chip cookie but her mother put her foot down and would not allow it. Von is a surprsingly "taking charge" person at times.  Anyway, that quite small tummy that Hannah has inherited had true Johnson capacity: Large.

Something unusual on my cake-stand for the High Tea were Medjool dates.  They are a species that has been around for thousands of years but have become popular only recently.  They are very soft and juicy.  Israel is a major supplier of them but from my packet of them, they seemed to be Australian grown.  They all went down well anyhow

Anne did the cucumber sandwiches as usual and did a great job.

We also did one of my mini-plays on Thursday, just before the High Tea. It was, "Building the "Dreadnought"".  It was greeted as very educational. It is one of a series of three plays.

While we were doing the play, Hannah dropped over the railings of my verandah her miniature Thomas the Tank "Train", prompting as big a cry as you have ever seen.  It hadn't fallen far however so Matthew did a "Knight in shining armour" performance by retrieving it.

We also had some big political discussions about Scottish and NZ politics, with Paul being very vocal, as you would expect. Paul was particularly incensed at the money spent on putting up the Scottish Parliament building: £414 million, many times higher than initial estimates of between £10m and £40m. A lot of Scots were disgusted when it was completed in 2004 but Paul is maintaining the rage.  It's not even a dignified building:  Just a scrappy mess.  But that's "postmodernism" for you.

Simon never gets incensed as far as I can see but he was clearly disgusted by Jacinda Ardern becoming Prime Minister of NZ with around a third of the vote.  There are some odd electoral systems in the world.  Even Hitler got 44% of the vote in 1933.

Paul's house has Ruskin connections from when it was built and Susan is descended from him so I read out a couple of good quotes from Ruskin.  They were quotes I had collected in my late teens of long ago, not the ones you normally see online.  Here they are:

Resurrection:  "I fancy the goodly bricks of some of our family vaults will hold closer in the Resurrection day than the sod over the labourer's head" -- From "The Crown of Wild Olive"

Mankind:  "And truly it seems to me as I gather in my mind the evidences of insane religion, degraded art, merciless war, sullen toil, detestable pleasure and vain or vile hope, in which the nations of the world have lived since since first they could bear record of themselves -- it seems to me, I say as if the race itself were still half-serpent, not extricated yet from its clay; a lacertine breed of bitterness -- the glory of it emaciate with cruel hunger, and blotted with venomous stain; and the track of it on the leaf a glittering slime and in the sand a useless furrow -- "Queen of Air, p. 101.

The quotes  are masterful literary English -- which is why I collected them -- but that also meant that nobody to whom I read them understood a word of them.  I explained what was being said and then they were comprehended




The Ruskin birthday book.  Still in the family

Ruskin was a famous literary and art critic of the late Victorian era.  He was rather full of himself but was undoubtedly a brilliant man. Like most arty people, he was of the Left.  My second quote from him above is almost a Leftist catechism in its profound discontent with just about everything.

On Friday 17 I invited Von & Co to a lunch at my usual brunch place. I had Vietnamese Brioches, Simon had a chicken burger and Von had a chicken wrap.  We had some moderately serious discussions as you would expect from that being the last day of Von's visit.  Von is optimistic that she will be back next year.




Monday, November 13, 2017

The visit -- continued



On Tuesday 7th we all met at Jenny's at dinner time to welcome Paul and Matthew back to Brisbane.  Ken picked them up from the airport. Jenny made a BIG batch of egg-rolled pork as that is the family favourite -- and there were some big eaters among us -- 3 Johnson's no less (Von, Paul and Ken).  I think I got a total of five of the rissoles so I did OK too.  Jenny of course also provided salads and such things to go with the pork, including Kim Chee and Japanese ginger. I got a fair bit of those things too. Paul had a lot to tell us after a long while away so talked at a great rate.

8th: On Wednesday evening was a dinner arranged just for Paul and me.  It was to commemorate the life of Chris Brand.  Paul had brought all the way from Scotland a bottle of light Port that Chris had given him so he thought I was the right one to share it with  It was a "Cavendish" Port from South Afria laid down in 1956.  Some wine guide said it was worth 400 pounds.  I cooked meat loaf to go with it as Paul and I have fond memories of previous meatloaves and this one was pretty good.  It popped up at Woolworths about 6 months ago so I grabbed one with a view to sharing it with Paul some time  So all I did was heat it up and serve it with salad.  We were half way through our dinner on my verandah when Joe came by on his way home.  We managed to get him to join us as he too had met Chris.  So he got an unexpected dinner of Port, meatloaf and salad. Paul finished the Port off and Jenny was kind enough to come and pick him up after the dinner.

9th: On Thursday Paul joined me at brunch.  I ordered my special toasted sandwich for Paul.  Matthew got a poached egg on toast but also tried Paul's sandwich.  He had trouble with it. He struck a hot bit



11th: On Saturday we had Christmas!  Both Von and Paul will be gone when Christmas arrives so we decided to have one of our normal Christmases while they were still here. And it did work out as usual, complete with amusing games with presents.  Von took on the job of MC and did it very well.  I shouted the ham as usual, Anne contributed and iced a Christmas cake and Simon did great work frying lots of small kebabs.  The ladies also brought various cakey things which were all enjoyed.  It was good to see Timmy with us.  He brought along a very presentable girlfriend too -- another Kiwi. One of the more memorable events was when I tripped over but managed to fall sitting down in a chair rather than on the ground.  I dropped the fruit salad I was carrying, however.  But there was plenty more.

12th: And on Sunday it was Dosa lunch time.  We always have dosas when Von is here.  We mostly order masala dosas but Kate was feeling bold and ordered a Ghee dosa sight unseen.  It was enormous and she didn't finish it.  But the dosas were good as usual.  Indians have them for breakfast.

Mon 13th was another Monday so we all went again to Nandos -- this time including Paul and Matthew.  We took up 5 of their tables between us.  Quite a lot of chips were left over after the meal but Paul fixed that in his usual way.  There were a lot of  good reminiscences, mainly about assertive things I had done over the years  -- from my sitting on a glass shop counter to booming my way through a crowd at a Katoomba restaurant.  The kids enjoyed such antics at the time and probably enjoy them even more now in the retelling.

There was one memory we were all very hazy about.  I took the twins bike riding in the Botanic gardens and hired bikes for the purpose.  But one of the bikes had a flat tire and I apparently talked rather sternly to the bike hire people about it.  Suz might remember more details.



Monday, November 6, 2017

A visit


Von & Co. arrived at the beginning of this month (Wednesday 1st) for a couple of weeks and it has been something of a whirl ever since.  Jenny put on a sausage BBQ on the evening of their arrival.  Ken picked them up from the airport and Joe and I also were there to greet them. Hannah was wound up like a top and we were all of course a bit excited. Jenny supplied some wine with the dinner but nobody drank much, as usual.

Then on Friday 3rd I shouted Von & Co. a brunch at my usual brunch hangout in Woolloongabba. I got them all one of my special  toasted sandwiches with "everything" in it.  They went down very well.  They always do.  We went back to my place for tea and biscuits afterward until Ken picked them up at 11am for a trip to Southbank.

4th: Then on Saturday night I put on a small pizza and champagne night with the "supreme" pizzas from Pizza Hut being very good. Kate was helpful with dishing out the pizzas.

6th: Then on Monday night came time for Joe and me to have our usual excursion to Nando's.  So I invited Von & Co to that too.  As seems to be the norm at Nando's, we had trouble at ordering time but the food was good as usual.  I had the "thighs and slaw" in a wrap, which I always enjoy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My diagnosis: Osteoarthritis


I went in yesterday for a scan of my bones in my lower back and right hip.  You can read the report here

Basically, old age has caught up with me and I have a degree of bone degeneration in my right hip and lower back.  And that gives pain in response to certain movements.  I can walk without pain and sit in a chair without pain but other movement tend to give pain to some degree.  Since walking and sitting in a chair in front of my computer is all I do, I have got off lightly.

There is no cure but pain killers give some relief. Alcohol does too!  I have also learned how to move when doing various things and can often do them without pain if I go carefully.  I can still drive, for instance, but getting in and out of the car is a bit tricky.  My biggest beef is that it always gives me some pain to get in and out of bed.  I have normally had a couple of lie-downs during the day so that is a pest.

I believe that about half of all men of my age get osteoarthritis somewhere so time has just caught up with me

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Humber and a bad back


Yesterday I did my back in.  Most movements are now difficult and painful.  I am relying on aspirin to speed recovery and I think it has already done some good.  I think I did it by lifting a heavy kitchen benchtop into my car at Bunnings.  It's still there in the back of the car.  I am renovating an old kitchen sink downstairs.  The invaluable Dudley is doing the work.

Then today the sale of my Humber was finalized.  It took me over a month to get a roadworthy certificate for it as it needed some work that required replacement parts. There was however only one man who had the parts and he was in hospital!  So we had to wait until he got out.

Then the wife of the buyer went into hospital so that kept the buyer preoccupied for a few weeks.  So both the buyer and I had to be patient. So seeing it finally depart was a relief.  I bought it for $8,000 and sold it for $7,000 -- plus I spent a lot on it while I had it but I got some fun out of for around 10 years it so that is all fair enough. I sold it to a man who seems to be a collector of old cars.

I am due for new hearing aids soon -- at $8,000 -- so the Humber sale will help pay for that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lucky I have a cheerful disposition


Today I had a long set of sutures taken out of my arm.  I had a new excision from my neck.  I had a punch biopsy on my cheek. I had cryotherapy for a few things.  I booked a big (Moh's) procedure to remove some lumps in a few weeks time

And I don't feel the least bit bothered.  It helps that I have had a lot of that stuff done in the past

Monday, October 2, 2017

An interesting Sunday


Sunday night was another night of secret men's business.  Graham was up from Victoria, Christopher came and Joe joined us.  I cooked my usual savoury mince for 6pm dining.  Not flash food but satisfactory. The dessert was also humble: Tinned fruit with ice cream.  But the fruit was mango slices so that was good.

The others were all amazed at my method of serving ice-cream  -- with a carving knife.  You would have to see it to believe it.

The occasion was one for conversation but that was rather assisted when straight after dinner Christopher unveiled his collection of WW2 German daggers.  A dagger was part of dress uniform at that time and each branch of the armed forces had its own uniform and dagger.  There was even an SS dagger with Meine Ehre heisst Treue engraved on it.  Roughly translated that means "My honour is to be called faithful and true".



So Graham told us a lot about how to use daggers and we talked a lot about WW2 generally.  Christopher is also a gun collector and is very knowledgeable about them so we talked about the Sturmgewehr and many of the modern military rifles.  I was surprised to hear that the Tommy gun was used by American forces in WW2 -- though with a stick magazine instead of the famous circular one.

As part of our political discussions, I asked Chris whether Eric Butler's League of Rights still existed.  They were pretty far Right and Christopher used to have some interest in them but he  no longer does so, apparently. I see however that they still exist online.  They had some funny money beliefs (Douglas Credit) in the old days but I am not sure if they still do.

Graham wishes to publish a manual on the art of fencing and Joe advised him on how to do that as an E-book.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jai Hind!


India, India: Anne and I had planned to go on a cruise early in the New Year but we have now decided to fly to India instead.  I have always liked India and Indians and I have in fact been there three times already.  Past trips have been to Delhi and Bombay only however and this time I aim to get to know Tamil Nadu -- so will probably spend most time in Chennai, once known as Madras.

And Anne will enjoy India because I do. I know how to get on with Indians.  A smile is my passport and a very effective one it is too

I want to get to know Tamil Nadu because it is actually a very ancient culture.  Tamils say they are the last of the classical civilizations (such as ancient Greece and Rome) and they do have continuity that far back. The standard grammar for modern literary Tamil continues to be based on Middle Tamil of the 13th century.  Few of us can understand English of the 13th century.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Cash refund or credit note?



When a store accepts back unsuitable goods, the customer expects a full refund.  In the bad old days that often did not happen.  All you got was a credit note to enable you to buy other things at that store.

In the early '60s I bought some tapes for my tape recorder from Dixons in Elizabeth St., Brisbane.  Dixons was the local tentacle of a big British electrical goods retailer.  It still exists there.

When the tapes were not suitable I took them back and was hit with the credit note caper. I refused it and insisted on cash.  No luck

So the next Saturday morning I got an old white t-shirt and used a big black marking pen to write on it:  "Dixons are dishonest" in big letters.  I then wore that shirt and paraded up and down in front of the shop entrance -- chanting "Dixons are dishonest.  They swindled me. They may swindle you".  I saw no one enter the store while I was there so I gather I destroyed their entire Saturday trade.

I got a cheque in the mail for the required amount the next Tuesday.

As I understand it, the credit note caper has been long ago outlawed in most jurisdictions so I was surprised to encounter it at Officeworks last Sunday.  This time, however, I was a bit more wised up so simply wrote a letter to Mr Goyder, CEO of Wesfarmers, who own Officeworks.  Below is the letter.

----------------------

FROM:
Dr John Ray
Woolloongabba
Qld 4102
24 September, 2017

TO: Richard Goyder
CEO
Wesfarmers

Dear Mr Goyder,

As a long-term Wesfarmers shareholder, I have always taken a keen interest in the business and have written to you a couple of times before over policy matters.  I have been very impressed by your courteous responses.

I am writing this time over what seems to me to be a surprising refund policy at Officeworks.  As you will be aware, the ACCC recently levied large fines on some retailers over their illegal refund policies.  So I was surprised today when I took in a faulty armchair for a refund to be told that I could get only a credit note, not a cash refund.  My information is that a customer is always entitled to a cash refund for defective goods.

Being a cautious person I paid for an extended 2-year warranty when I bought the chair on 19/10/2015 for $190 and I still have all the relevant paperwork. So when the seat started to fall apart recently, I concluded that I was entitled to a full refund.

So I took it in today and was then told that I had to ring a number to get the return authorized and even then only a credit note would be issued.  As I needed a new chair immediately, I bought another one there and then for cash.  So a credit note would  be useless to me.

Please instruct Officeworks at Woolloongabba to give me a cash refund of $190.  They already have the chair and I have the sales receipt ready for inspection.

Yours faithfully,

Dr John Ray

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I emailed that letter on the Sunday night and got a phone call Monday lunch time telling me the cash was waiting for me!

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Praise of New Zealand



As we all know, New Zealanders hate Australians -- just as Canadians hate Americans and Scots hate the English.  Big brother is rarely popular.  But I forgive them.  They can't help it. So I am going to perhaps make them feel a little better.

For a small population, they have done remarkably well in business.  Take wines.  Australia has long had a lot of success in selling wines to the world.  The Poms buy twice as much Australian wine as French. So the idea that anybody could sell much wine to us is improbable. Yet the Kiwis have done it.  Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region is now a big seller in Australia.  The one I sometimes buy is under the "Giesen" label.

And New Zealand chocolate?  Not Belgian, not Swiss?  Yes.  For a long time Whittakers of NZ used to export small bars of milk chocolate filled with nuts to us.  Then they managed to get a big order from Australia's biggest supermarket:  Woolworths.  Now they have on offer everywhere a great range of all sorts of choolate.

And New Zealand cheese?  Australia has many dairies that make cheese but more or less forever New Zealand has been selling us a cheese called Epicure.  It was what you bought if you wanted a strong-tasting cheese.  Then a few years back they started selling us "Mainland" cheese in a number of varieties.

But here's the latest.  Australia is a big market for pre-sliced cheese.  And the odd thing is that sliced cheese is the only cheddar cheese that you can buy.  Presumably cheddar slices more easily.  The "national" Australian cheese is "Tasty".  From the look of the supermarket shelves "Tasty" is what 80% of Australians buy.  Lots of dairies make it.  It is basically a cheese that is made as sharp in taste as possible without becoming crumbly.  It is a compromise cheese and, true to their British heritage, Australians like to compromise.  It's less hassle than the alternative.

So when I was looking yesterday for a pack of sliced cheese I saw a newcomer there, a brand called "Hillview" that was cheaper than any other.  Being born frugal, I bought it.  When I got home I tried it and found it to be perfectly good so I wondered why it was so cheap.  So I studied the pack.  And there in small letters was, "Made in New Zealand". They have now invaded our big market for sliced cheese!  They will do well.

UPDATE: My trip to the supermarket this morning yielded a big surprise.  Hillview has really invaded the market. Today there was a big new display of Tasty cheese by them.  They have obviously stitched up a good deal with Woolworths and are here to stay.