Old folk at lunch

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Flame guided dinners

On Tuesday Anne put on a special dinner for me in honour of my birthday   -- for which I got out the candelabrum (a bit more elaborate than the one above), plus a few other candles.  So we had a genuine candlelit dinner.  I bought 16 lamb cutlets for the two of us so with fried onions, bread rolls etc that made a big dinner.  Anne brought along some Sydney rock oysters for starters, which were, as ever, excellent.  And we had a McGuigan red to wash it down.

And Saturday dinner was also flame illuminated.  I have a fairly wide backyard so on rare occasions I like to do something there.  And just about all I do is put on the very occasional dinner there.  I have the dinners at night under party flares.  So I do my bit towards consuming fossil fuels, as the party flares run on kerosene.

So I put on such a dinner last night in honour of Joe's birthday.  As usual, it was a pizza and champagne dinner.  That is humble fare but everybody likes pizza and I supply the champagne, a Seaview one that everybody likes.

Paul was waxing eloquent about England and how real estate is cheaper there than in Brisbane.  He was talking about the Cotswolds rather than London, however.  He likes a lot of things about England and, as a  UK citizen by descent, he is entitled to live there.  His ebullient personality is very un-English, however, so how well he would get on with the English is a bit of a question.

Paul had apparently done a Rolf Harris impersonation at a mining function recently, which was a bit close to the bone in view of Harris's recent conviction for pedophilia.  When he told us about that, Jenny was very critical, saying that he should be more careful of upsetting people, but I defended Paul, pointing out that the gathering was a conservative one and as such unlikely to be politically correct.  I have always defended Paul -- even from his own mother!

Russ and Suz brought their kids and both kids were greatly entertained by Joe -- playing games that consisted mostly of him tossing them about.  They loved it and even came back to him with demands for "More"!  It reminded me of the same demands on me by an earlier generation of kids.

We had 12 adults present, including Nanna but Timmy and Dave were missed.  No doubt they had other fish to fry on a Saturday night, being both single again.  George again lent his calm and sensible presence to our deliberations.  Russ spent a lot of time talking to Joe.

One thing that amused me was after the dinner when we had adjourned upstairs preparatory to everyone going home.  Paul discovered my biscuit barrel.  I normally set out  biscuits (cookies) for him after a dinner as he has the most incredible appetite.  So when he discovered on my kitchen bench a big bottle of fruit slices he really got into them.  He was at one stage walking around eating one slice while he had another one in his  hand. And he made a final raid on them immediately before he actually left.  They are very yummy so I don't blame him.

Fruit slice packet

The pizza was home delivered from Pizza Hut so I had very little to do.  Joe and his friend Christian got the tables and chairs out and Jeff set up the party flares the day before.  I may be the world's laziest host but everybody must enjoy my dinners or they wouldn't keep coming.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A busy weekend

Paul came over to my place at lunchtime on Saturday to have a look at Joe's new arrangements.  Joe has moved into what was my sitting room and has crammed an amazing amount of stuff into it.  He must have done some steady accumulating during the years he was in Canberra.  In his new quarters he has his own bathroom and toilet so he has moved a step up from living in student digs.

Shortly thereafter we all went for a dosa lunch.  Anne joined us.  Dosas are always greatly appreciated.

After lunch we call came back to my place and sat around a table in my garden over cups of tea and coffee.  We had some pretty heavy discussions with my explaining Hitler's rise to power, the intrinsically authoritarian nature of Leftism, IQ differences and such things.  They had got very little enlightenment on such things from the usual sources.  The fact that Fascism was "One big happy family" socialism versus Communism's "Class war" socialism would have been completely new to them.

Then on Sunday evening we had one of our big Indian dinners at our usual place to mark my birthday.  For a variety of reasons some of the family group were unable to come but there were still 12 adults at table plus kids.  Since we all know one another well it was a very happy and convivial occasion.  George was there making his usual sterling contribution.

Paul was in high spirits and kept us all livened up.  One of the things we discussed was the poverty of a modern school education.  Paul was particularly critical of how little he had learned about history,  English history in particular. At one stage I recited a few verses of Cowper's "Boadicea" and Paul felt incensed that he had been taught so little about those events.  He had been taught Australian history almost exclusively, when the far more important history of Britain should have been outlined to him.  Anne and I assured him that it was not always so.  We in the older generation had been taught plenty of British history.  George commented that when he had studied history in Britain years ago, history had started at the beginning, with ziggurats and the like.  Paul felt mortified that he had never heard of them.

But it was a jolly meeting nonetheless.  Very little alcohol was consumed.  We were able to have fun without it and the conversation never stopped.

Joe had a good time with Dusty and Sahara, his nephew and niece.  He plays with them much as I used to do with the earlier generation of kids.  Matthew accidentally knocked a picture off the wall at one stage which embarrassed him but no harm was done.

Anne had good chats with Ken, as she often does.  They have similar interests.

I think that what I enjoyed the most about the dinner is that it was in a sense traditional.  I have been hosting dinners for family at that restaurant at least since 2006 so the tradition is not a long one  -- though it is the life of a large dog!  And I have put on dinners for various occasions -- sometimes more than once a year.  And the recent dinner felt exactly the same as all those that went before.  Some people could regard that as boring but I saw it as a pleasing affirmation of continuity.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Joe and I had a very amusing expedition to Ikea.  Joe needed a bookcase for his new quarters at my place so to Ikea we went.  And the one at Logan in ENORMOUS.  It sort of never ends.  I am convinced that without staff to call on for guidance you could die there through never being able to find your way out.

Anyway, we found the bookcases but then we had to find the way out. Joe had some ideas but we walked and walked until we found someone who gave us directions.  That happened about 3 times.  Eventually I buttonholed one of their employees and got him to guide us all the way to the checkouts.

Then we had to find the car.  Joe kindly let me sit down while he went and found it but I was ecstatic when we finally drove out of the place.

A very small thing that happened was interesting.  I have never been one to sweat the small things.  I in fact ignore small things by and large.  And it seems Joe is the same.  At one stage during our hopeless wanderings we were passing some laundry baskets  and Joe picked one up and took it with him.  He didn't say:  "I need a laundry basket", nor did I say:  "Do you need a laundry basket?"    In fact neither of us said one word about it and we still haven't!  I was proud of my boy!  I gave my credit card to buy it at the checkout but even then neither of us mentioned anything about it! Rather mad I suppose but it made sense to me.

Perhaps I should mention that when we arrived at about 6pm, we immediately queued up for one of their excellent suppers.  The Swedish meatballs plus mashed potatoes plus Lingon sylt (jam) were brilliant as usual.  I normally dislike mashed potatoes but the way Ikea did them I really enjoyed.  Mr Kamprad (owner of Ikea) is a clever cookie.  He gives you the food you need to fortify you for your expedition around his store.

Those yummy meatballs

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Carpet inspection

Despite initial reservations from some friends and relatives about laying an Axminster, when people actually see Anne's new carpet,  the  reaction has always been quite favourable.  So I thought that Paul and Susan might like to see it too.

So I arranged for Anne to give them lunch today.

But what a shock when they arrived!  Matthew had just has his first barber-haircut!  And he looked almost unrecognizable.  From a kid who was a bit wild and woolly, we had a perfect little gentleman, dressed in a crisp blue-checked shirt, albeit a gentleman not quite 3 yet.  Apparently Matthew liked his old hair better so they have decided to grow it back.

Anne did us proud for lunch with an excellent meatloaf clad in prosciutto.  Plus vegies and strawberries after. Paul and I reminisced about a certain meatloaf we used to get in the past but which is no longer available.

And Susan in particular was enthusiastic about the carpet.  I think an Axminster does convey that it is quality.

Paul and I mostly talked about business matters.

I was pleased to see that Elise crawls well now.  She made a beeline for my big toe at one point.  Matthew used to do that too. Elise gave us some very good smiles at times too

Matthew played by himself quite well for a while and I was amused to hear that when he plays cars he doesn't stop for petrol.  He  charges up when his car gets home.  His father has an electric car so that is what he knows.

I asked Susan at one stage what sort of food she had grown up on and was rather sad to hear that it was extremely simple.  We old timers grew up on plain food but Susan's was even plainer by the sound of it.  We all used to get fried meat plus 3 boiled veg for dinner nearly every day but sometimes it seems, Susan wouldn't even get the veg!  Anyway, she is 6' tall and as healthy and good looking as you can ask so it obviously did her no harm.

She would have initially been amazed by Paul's diet.  His mother fed him food from all over the world so he was as well fed as you can imagine.  Susan said that Jenny had been a great help to her in developing cooking skills.  I can believe that as Jenny is a  very keen cook.  I can imagine Paul asking for some food that was normal to him but quite exotic and Susan ringing up Jenny to find out what it was all about.  She is a most accomplished cook nowadays, though.

Mr Shorthair

Friday, June 27, 2014


I stopped wearing a watch as soon as I got my first mobile phone.  Why wear a watch when I could just look at my phone to get the time?  A few years ago, however, I got a phone that made you press two buttons to get the time.  That was a little bit pesky but I put up with it.

About a month or two ago I saw a story in the papers about a Swiss guy who had set up in Australia making "Australian" watches.  They looked like the fancy Swiss ones that cost you thousands. So I looked into it and found that they cost $800.  I thought that sounded like fun and was about to buy one when Ann pointed out to me that they had the "12" on the dial where "2" should normally be.  Something to do with yachting, I gather.  So I scrapped that idea and looked at what else was on the web.

I found, rather to my surprise, that there were tens of thousands of watches that you could buy.  I did actually find a couple that I liked but both were out of stock.  So trash that idea.  Anne was a bit disappointed as she wanted to buy me a watch as a thank-you for buying the Axminster in her sitting room.

So a couple of weeks ago, were were ambling past the Indian jewellers in the Buranda shopping centre when we noticed a large display of watches.  I saw one I liked so Ann bought it for me.  It cost $35.  It had a good expandable band on it, was very plain looking and seemed to keep good time so I was rather pleased with it.  I was told it had a Japanese movement in it.  Since Switzerland and Japan are the two big makers of watches that sounded good.

But after a week it stopped!  So I took it back and the proprietor -- a tall dignified Indian man -- put a new battery in it. That only lasted a couple of days when it stopped again.  So I took  it back for a refund.  The lady behind the counter would not give me one.  She said her policy was to send it for repair. That suited me not at all as the thing was obviously junk.  So I persisted but she would not budge.  I even tried my stentorian voice on her but she still would not budge -- though it made her cringe.  I have a very loud voice when I want to... not up to Michael Darby's standard but getting there.

Anyway, when I got home I sat down and emailed the shopping centre management about her -- pointing out that the jeweller was breaking the Trade Practices Act by not giving me a refund for defective goods.  And I suspect that broke the logjam.  They would have advised her that her lease agreement with them obliged her to stay within the law.

So a couple of days later I went in again at a time when the bloke was due to be there.  He was a lamb and agreed to give me the money back.  So I took Ann and her credit card back a few days ago and the debit was reversed with no fuss.

But I had got a bit energized about watches by this stage so got out an old watch that Joe had given me years ago when I asked if he had any spare watches.  It is rather fancy looking but all it does is tell the time. So I got a battery put in it and it works fine so far.  It is an "Eternity" brand, which I had never heard of.

I had become rather interested in watch brands by that time, however, so I looked up "Eternity" watches on the net.  I was surprised that there was no web page for that brand.  The only place that seemed to have a big range of them was a NZ supermarket called "The Warehouse".  They were selling them for around $NZ12.00 each!  So I eventually looked at the back of the watch and it tells me that it is from China with a Japanese movement in it.

So I am rather amused and pleased after all that.  My watch accords with my usual policy of getting value for money.  It's also one of a number of occasions over the years when I have walked into a shop with money to spend in my pocket but have walked out again with my money still in my pocket because the retailer was not on the ball.  This time there were LOTS of retailers who were not on the ball.  Anne will have to find something else to buy me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June's birthday party

Anne's sister June has had a birthday recently so Anne put on a "3 sisters" Wednesday lunch in honour of that.  The third sister, Merle, was also present, as were the associated male persons.

Anne started us with a type of French onion soup that actually had lots of onions in it!  Plus pre-postioned garlic bread in it. All very tasty.  For the main course she made a type of Moussaka.  Both courses were Jamie Oliver recipes, I gather.  And we had a cream-filled sponge cake with passionfruit icing for dessert.  Definitely a lady's cake.

The main topic of conversation was Anne's new carpet and the tyranny of fashion.  The only way I could get Anne a pretty carpet was to go to an Axminster so I was vocal in condemning the pressure of a fashion that dictated that only brown carpet could be on general sale.  The Axminster (below) did however seem to meet with general approval.

Other than that, I cannot think what we talked about as it was neither religion nor politics.  We do sometimes talk about church matters but not this time.  Ralph was clearly feeling poorly when we arrived but he soon livened up with company and even told some jokes.

I brought along to the party a mini-play that I had written -- as I sometimes do these days.  People seemed keen to do it -- June particularly -- and it worked well.  It was my "Unselling" play.  June took the part of the customer and Colin was the shopkeeper.

Anne had gone to some trouble with her hair so I pointed out to all and sundry that she had done it in a currently fashionable way.  Brownie points gained there I think.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dosas again

I thought that Paul was probably getting pretty frazzled with all the reorganization of his life that he is doing lately so I offered to shout the family a Sunday lunch just to give him a break.  And I know of NO lunch that is more attractive than dosas.

So it was agreed and we turned up at our usual venue.  The adults all had Masala dosas but Matthew now has his own dosa  -- an egg dosa.  Elise also got some of the egg dosa and chewed away in her usual serious manner for most of the lunch.

Paul and I talked about our usual things  -- politics and investment -- while Anne mostly talked to Susan about lady things.

After lunch we adjourned to my place where Paul got his usual dessert -- a box of choc-chip cookies.  On this occasion, we spent a little time talking about the mini-play that I wrote for Jenny's birthday party.  Paul, Susan and Anne gave high praise to its free-flowing and colloquial wording and Paul assured me that I had wasted my talent by not being a playwright.  They even seemed to think I could make money out of writing plays.  That was of course pleasing and I decided to write another mini-play for Nanna's birthday party.

My new childproof front gates were appreciated as Matthew ran around like a mad thing -- in his usual way.  My old Queenslander house is well adapted to kids and it was pleasing to hear the thunder of little feet in it. It was also pleasing to see that Elise can now crawl  -- albeit only commando-style so far.  She escaped most of the way down my long hallway at one stage.

Paul seemed very devoted to little Elise so she is a lucky girl.  Daughters with a father who adores them get from that a psychological strength and balance that lasts for the rest of their lives.

In total we spent over 3 hours together so that must have been a bit of a slice out of Paul's busy life but he seemed totally relaxed so it seems he did not miss his chores.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

No names

I was for much of my life a great reader of fiction.  And the very English  Somerset Maugham was one of the authors concerned.  And I think it is in his stories that I encountered the phenomenon of the old lady who had a good friend in a young "bachelor" of unstated sexuality.  The old lady was culturally inclined so liked to go to plays, operas etc.  But either the lady was an old maid or old muggins the husband had shuffled off some years back.  So the lady was alone.

And the lady could not happily go to all her cultural occasions alone.  So this bachelor (maybe a friend of her son, a nephew etc.)  could be called on for  such occasions.  The friend was also culturally inclined and was usually ready to accompany the old lady to something and discuss it with her afterwards with proper interest and enthusiasm.  And that arrangement continued for years.  So it was an excellent arrangement that the old lady had with the young "bachelor".

But as Oscar Wilde often said, nature imitates art.  And I know of two real-life people who have a very similar arrangement to what I remember from Somerset Maugham.  Good luck to them!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BBQ and carpets

Jenny put on a BBQ lunch for close family on Sunday.  I had recently bought her a new space-age gas BBQ for her birthday so this was a first social use of it.  The days when a BBQ was just a piece of metal are long past.  It is now up there with dishwashers and fridges and stoves and such things.

We sat in Jenny's back yard while the kids ran around there -- and run they did.  Dusty, Sahara and Matthew were all more or less perpetual motion.  Elise was her usual inscrutable self.

Jenny tried once again to make her own cevapi.  We are all rather keen on cevapi but the only place you can get them in Brisbane at the moment  is out at woop woop so the idea of making your own is attractive.  But although they are simple peasant food, getting them just right is difficult.  And, as on previous occasions, Jenny failed again.  Her attempt at them made perfectly nice rissoles but cevapi they were not.  Since Jenny had gone to considerable trouble over them, it was a real disappointment to her.  I am convinced that there is a secret ingredient in real cevapi that none of us knows about.  Trip to woop woop coming up.

Towards the end of the festivities, I got the assembled company to take part in a small play I had written.  Creating your own entertainments at parties seems to have largely died out these days but I like to revive it.  The play I put on was "The King's trip"  -- about Edward VII -- and it seemed to be much enjoyed.  Russell got to play the part of the King and he really loved it.  People were a bit dubious when I proposed that we do a play and I am sure they only agreed to it as a favour to me but in the end they certainly saw the point of it.  The play is online here.  Susan was very good minding the kids while the rest of us got into the play.

And yesterday, Anne got her sitting room re-carpeted.  Her old carpet was getting difficult to maintain so I offered to shout her a new one.

But buying a new carpet turned out to be easier said than done.  In its inscrutable way, fashion seems to have decreed that the only new carpet you can buy is in various shades of poop.  Different patterns and shades other than brown are just not for sale.  So the only way we could find of getting something attractive was to buy an Axminster -- which is not cheap.  But the one we got was very pretty indeed so it was worth it.  There it is below.  "Summer Bouquet" is the name of the pattern.  Anne's son said:  "But that's an old lady's carpet".  But then he twigged:  "But I suppose you are an old lady".

I think I see in the matter a business opportunity for Ken or Paul.  There must be other people who want an affordable  carpet in something other than poo colours so a shop devoted to that should do a good trade.  Getting the stock would be a problem but a friendly carpet miller could perhaps be persuaded to re-run some of his old patterns.

Matthew and Dusty doing what boys do

Jenny's birthday cake -- a Tiramisu pavlova

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I am a bad churchman

And you will see why shortly.

Although my visits there are infrequent, I have always enjoyed going to a service at Ann St. Presbyterian church.  Just the smell of old varnished wood as I walk in pleases me.  And I like the feeling of continuity with both my own and my ancestral past that it gives me.

So I was interested to see what the new minister there was like.  The elders and congregation  took 3 years to call a replacement of their old minister (Archie McNicol) who passed away.  I liked Archie McNicol and thought he left big shoes to fill  -- and the congregation generally obviously thought similarly.

So Anne and I went along there this morning.  We knew that the new minister was a Welshman named David Jones (how Welsh a name can you get?) so we were keen to see him.

And I can see why he was called (Via their Elders, Presbyterian congregations "call" their own ministers.  They don't have one imposed on them, which is the deplorable Anglican practice).  He has all the passion of the traditional Welsh chapel and preaches very skillfully and confidently.

I had a few initial niggles.  He preached in a grey suit.  Scots Presbyterian ministers in my experience always wear an academic gown over their other clothes.  But I guess that is not the practice in Wales. And I know I am a bit silly here but church announcements at Ann St have always been "intimations".  Today they were just "announcements".  There were a few other departures from Ann St. practice but nothing grave enough to mention.

What really bothered me however was the length of the sermon.  It was a perfectly good sermon but could have been preached without loss in many fewer words.  But when somebody bothers me, I don't just whine about it to my friends.  I go tho the bothersome person himself.  So, being as polite as I could,  I emailed the minister the following after lunch:
Dear Mr Jones,

Although I joined Ann St church back in 1964, I have been only a sporadic attender over the years.  But I have always regarded Ann St as my "Home" church. I was married there in November, 1985. Today was my first visit during your ministry.

I was pleased to see how large the congregation was.  You must be outstanding at outreach. And you are clearly a sincere and skilled preacher.  Your sermon made some good points but was wearisomely long-winded.  I expected the service to end roughly on the hour but due to your sermon, it went on to 20 minutes past the hour.

Were you especially enthusiastic today and are normally more succinct?  I hope so.

Because of car-parking problems, I have popped into St John's Presbyterian at Annerley a couple of times in the past year and I am beginning to wonder if they might not be a better "Home" church for me.


(Dr) John Ray
Mr Jones was on the ball.  I got the following reply from him in a matter of minutes:
Dear Dr Ray,
Thanks for your constructive criticism. I need reminding to be more succinct. Sorry I was not able to speak with you as we had our congregational meeting immediately after the service. Please make yourself known to me when you are next in the congregation.
If Annerley is more convenient for you I am sure that would be an excellent choice.
David Jones
So what makes me a bad churchman?  This blog post. I think it is rather bad form for me to publicize this correspondence.  So why have I done it?  I have done it because I really do want to put pressure on the excellent Mr Jones.  I like to be comfortable when I go to Ann St. and a service that greatly over-runs makes me uncomfortable.  I can hear people saying "Boo, Hiss" to that and I am sure I deserve it.

UPDATE: I guess that the above sounds rather negative so I thought I should note some positives too.

The big positive was the large congregation. Under previous ministers such as Percy Pearson and Archie McNicol there were always plenty of empty pews but the church was already pretty full when Anne and I arrived and there were a lot who streamed in after us. It may have been standing room only eventually.

And there were about 20 kids present, who were called forward shortly after the beginning of the service to receive their own talk. After that they trooped off to their own Sunday school elsewhere in the church. I remember being such a Sunday school kid myself.

So was the big congregation Mr Jones's work? Probably. He seems much more dynamic than his elderly predecessors. But I cannot help wondering if some of those present were following the money. After selling off their centrally-located church hall to help build a big office block, the church is now a very rich one and some people might like the idea of helping to manage such money.

And another thing I liked was that the congregation used the original King James version of the Lord's prayer, complete with "trespasses" etc. It's the version I grew up with.

I also liked the provision of tea and biscuits outside after the service. There used to be such an evening provision but not a morning provision. It enables congregants to mix.

I also liked the fact that Allan Morton was given hand-shaking duties after the service. The minister would normally do that but had to attend the congregation meeting after the service. Allan is a stalwart of the church but has some health problems so has to put in a big effort to get to the services these days. That he was chosen to stand in for the minister is a fitting acknowledgment of his steadfastness.

Friday, May 16, 2014

3 stories

I was just lying in bed when 3 little episodes from my past came into mind so I thought I might write them down. I think they have some entertainment value and two of them I doubt that I have written down before.

In the first I was in an office with some others when one of the guys there, Andrew, started to tell me off about something.  As soon as I got a word in, I said "mea culpa, mea maxima culpa".  That immediately turned his mood around --  from cross to gay, which amazed all the others around.  What was this gibberish spell that I had cast on Andrew?  "What did he say?  What did he say? -- the others said to one another.

When you know it was Latin that still doesn't help much, does it?   You have to know that Andrew was about my age and a Catholic.  And what I said was from the Latin Mass, with which he was perfectly familiar.  It means "I am to blame, I am maximally to blame".

The second story is when I gave one of my tenants a student discount.  A common thing and something to be pleased about one would think.  At first the young student was pleased but after I explained why I did it by saying that he was one of the university tribe and I am also of that tribe, it apparently preyed on his mind.  He eventually moved out over it.

He was a young idealist who thought that the United Nations was a great thing, for instance.  That the United Nations could teach the Sicilian Mafia a thing or two about corruption he apparently did not know.  Just the constant U.N. resolutions against Israel should have told him something but he may not have known of that either.

And that brings me to my third story.  The Israeli ambassador to the U.N. for a couple of years was American-born Dore Gold (Dore pronounced as "dory" and Gold being one of the most emphatically Ashkenazi names I have come across  -- up there with "Finkelstein").  And Dore was a master diplomat.  I saw him being given a hostile interview on (where else?) ABC TV.  Despite the hostility, Gold was as cool as a cucumber.  But the callow interviewer (Dempster?) did all he could to trip Gold up.

But Gold was a master of facts and figures and appeared to know every U.N. resolution about Israel both by heart and by number.  So every time the interviewer displayed his ignorance, Gold would reply along the lines:  "As U.N. resolution no. 248 said  ....".  Gold just cruised while the interviewer fumbled.  He had clearly heard it all a thousand times before and had a comprehensive answer ready for every point. It was a stellar performance and I have always wanted to shake Gold's hand over it.  The interview seemed to be as easy for Gold as if he had been reciting nursery rhymes  -- which in a way I suppose he was.  He is still an eminent man in Israel.

UPDATE:  Readers will no doubt get the accurate impression that I am a great admirer of Dore Gold.  Here is another anecdote which summarizes what I see in him:  Impeccable preparation.

"Brandeis University invited Gold to debate Justice Richard Goldstone on November 5, 2009. The subject was the U.N. Gaza Report. Jeff Jacoby wrote in an opinion piece in the Boston Globe on November 7: "Dore Gold, Israel's former ambassador to the U.N. brought facts and figures, maps and photographs, audio and video in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Last night's encounter marked the first time Goldstone publicly debated the report's merits with a leading Israeli figure. It would not surprise me that he is in no hurry for a second."

It is rare for a diplomat to generate admiration but Gold deserves it.

Dore Gold

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' day

Mothers' day seems to be celebrated in all sorts of different days around the world but today was the day in Australia.

Susan and Paul put on a small lunch at their place to honour Jenny and Nanna -- to which I was also invited.  So I was among three mothers!

Susan cooked up some excellent roast pork with roast vegies and a potato bake.  And followed it up with a rolled pavlova that included banana.  I thought the banana went particularly well.  I probably disgraced myself a bit by having a big second helping.  As he sometimes does on these occasions Paul over-ate and was groaning from a too-full tummy at one point.  But with such good food, you could hardly blame him.

We had some very animated conversations -- mostly about England.

A large part of our conversation was an attempt by me to explain England to Paul  -- a rather optimistic enterprise considering the oddities of the English.  The pesky thing about England is that there are important things that everybody knows but nobody mentions.  You almost have to be born there to be "in the know".  I was trying to fill Paul in on such things.

I was particularly keen to get Paul familiarized with the shibboleths of the Home Counties.  Paul has been to Britain in the past but mostly visiting relatives in regional England.  And, as even the English admit, North and South of Watford are rather different places.

"Rather different places" is a Home Counties way of putting it.  If I were an American I would most likely have written "worlds apart"!  They even pronounce "butter" in the German way North of Watford.  Such pronunciation would always be greeted with silence South of Watford but it will be silent contempt!  I was, inter alia,  trying to help Paul hear such silences.

And as for the Northern pronunciation of "bubble gum" (booble goom where "oo" is as in "look") subsequent washing out of ears is almost required. And "Home Counties" has become a somewhat unmentionable expression these days too!  Complications!

Paul was naive enough to expect that hard work would be respected in the upper echelons of English society.  I had to disillusion him and tell him that it is in fact effortless ease which is the desideratum there.

And use of Latin expressions always earns cautious respect there!  Latin is redolent of public schools and Classics at Oxbridge.  No Englishman will ever ask you for a translation of a Latin expression, however.  He would feel crushed to admit he needed one!  See here.

And the English are right not to challenge Latinists. For instance, I sometimes use in my writings the phrase Sui generis so it is possible that I might use it in speech one day. If I did, I would pronounce "generis" with a hard "g", which is not the most common pronunciation. If some poor soul challenged me on that, with the claim that the G should be pronounced as a "j", I would say: "Ah! You are using the church pronunciation. I prefer the Augustan, myself". It seems a small point but in England the humiliation of my interlocutor would be massive.

Even if the person knew nothing about issues in Latin pronunciation, the steady gaze of my bright blue eyes upon him accompanied by a small smile would tell him all he needed to know. The English are very sensitive to manner and a quietly confident manner is a hallmark of the upper class. And arguing with the upper class will generally earn nothing but scorn

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An old friend and a cure for asthma

I was waiting for my brunch in my usual haunt yesterday when in walked someone I had not seem since last century  -- Jason the Amiga guru.

I saw quite a lot of him in the 80s and 90s when Amiga computers were big.  He was my fixit man for faulty hardware.  And whenever we got together at his little shop over some faulty component we would always enjoy a chat.

Later he introduced me to options trading on the stockmarket.  I got out of that just about square but Jason blew a lot of money before he gave it away.

Anyway, back in the 90s he got whooping cough, despite having been immunized as a child. And he told me a bit about it yesterday.  It took him months to beat it and really knocked him around.  Listening to his account of what he went through I am glad we got Joe a booster shot for it in his late teens.

But there was a bonus.  One of the reasons whooping cough hit Jason so hard was that he was also an asthmatic.  So he sometimes felt he could breathe neither in nor out!  Nasty.  But when the whooping cough went so did the asthma!  It's not a cure anybody would recommend, however.

A lot of my old friends have died by now so I am glad that Jason is a fair bit younger than I am.  I think we will see a bit more of one-another from now on.  We have a shared history!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A dinner and a train

Both Anne and I have had a lot of illness and disability in recent months.  Sometimes both of us were crocked at the same time.  But just lately we seem both to be more or less back to normal so in my pessimistic way I decided to a have a small celebration of our "temporary" return to good health.  Getting from 60 to 70 is so problematical that many people don't survive it so 70+ can not be expected to be a bed of roses.

So I got Anne to come over and cook us one of our favourite foods:  Lamb cutlets.  Lamb cutlets are fiendishly expensive in Brisbane these days but I bought us 16 good ones for the occasion.  We combined that with a good red wine plus fresh bread rolls and real butter -- and I even bought flowers for the table.  Beat that!  Anne contributed a salad with chick-peas in it  -- somewhat to my puzzlement.

It was a great success.  Anne cooked the cutlets just a bit short of well-done and with plenty of salt on them to bring out the flavour it was a great meal.

And for some reason a small episode from long ago popped into my mind.  Children can sometimes upset parents unwittingly and this concerns a small instance of that:

When Joey was about 3, Jenny and I spent some time in Sydney  -- living in a beautiful old Federation house in the Inner West that would now be worth about $2 million, I think.

Once a week we used to  visit Miroma  -- a huge second-hand shop run by the Salvation Army.  And we would always buy Joe a new toy while we were there.  One day we bought him a toy train which he really seemed to like.  Afterwards we went off somewhere else to visit a market.  The market was very crowded and Jenny was wheeling Joey around in his stroller while he was carrying his train.  After a while however Joey started to cry.  Jenny stopped and asked him what was wrong.  "My beautiful train", he replied.  He had dropped his train.  Jenny of course immediately went into reverse to find the train but had no success.  Some other kid had picked it up.

Jenny was however very upset that she had not noticed Joey losing his "beautiful train".  She may have been upset for only a day but it did get to her.  We went and bought him some other train but it was not the same.

Friday, April 25, 2014


My only ANZAC observance was to put up an article about it on my  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog.

My main activity was to attend the lunchtime birthday party of little Suz.  Her birthday was in fact earlier but she felt that having the party on a holiday would make it easier for everyone.

So Anne came over on Thursday night to be ready for the party.  We dined at one of our favourite restaurants but found it had changed hands, so was pretty empty.  With Anne's assistance I ordered something not on the menu.  I ordered spaghetti "with the works" -- all the spaghetti additives they had.  They did of course charge a bit extra but it was delicious.

When I came to pay, I found that their EFTPOS machine had not yet arrived.  I normally walk around with a pocketful of cash so that would not normally have bothered me but, just for once, I had only a few dollars in my pockets and intended to pay with a card.  So it was quite vexing. I had to go to an ATM a few doors down to get money  -- and that machine was a bit bomby.  I had to put my card in 6 times to get it accepted.

Anyway, Anne made me hot porridge for my breakfast next morning, which I always enjoy.

At Suz's party, I talked to Susan, Simon and Paul mainly.  I also had a chat with Ken about the monarchy.  I am quite surprised that he is so vehemently against it.  He seemed quite passionate in his views.  Apparently views such as his were rather common in his childhood in the Northern milieu from whence he springs.  Had he been simply indifferent to the monarchy I would have understood it better.  There is huge support in Britain for the monarchy, generally reckoned to be in the 90% range.  Simon's view of the monarchy is one I understand.  He stands for the national anthem out of courtesy but doesn't really believe in any of it.

I also talked a lot with the admirable Susan -- but mainly about kiddy things.  Little Elise was amusing.  She just sat there eating the whole time.  She definitely has Johnson genes.  She even managed to get some spaghetti down.  She's got no teeth so presumably just gums her food.  Dusty's blond curls were curlier than ever and Sahara was dressed as a princess.  Russ told me that when he said to her that she was a princess today she replied that she is a princess every say!  Lucky girl!

Suz made us spaghetti for lunch followed by a cheesecake with caramel topping.  Very nice.

Ken was at one stage saying that you need government to ensure that Australia's vastness is settled.  I had just asked why when Simon sat down near us.  So Simon too pelted Ken with whys while I just looked on.  I felt a bit sorry for Ken as he was clearly outgunned.  Simon is a military man and the main argument for more decentralized settlement in Australia is that it helps to defend the country.  That is however a very dubious argument, which Simon pointed out at length.

I am buying Jenny a new BBQ for her birthday so she has been making enquiries to find out what would suit her best.  As Russ has a BBQ that doubles as a spaceship, she talked to him about BBQs.  After that she came over to me with a clearer idea of what she wants.  She said:  "I have just been talking with the BBQ King who lives here  ..."  I am sure she got good advice.

Anne drove us to the place and also on the way back.  Suz & Russ have just moved and their new place was quite outside my ken.  Anne knows that area fairly well and also used the TomTom (SatNav) in her new Corolla.  Those things are fairly impressive.  It amused me by frequently telling Anne that she was exceeding the speed limit.

When we got back home I made up a lemon mocktail for each of us and we had them on my verandah.  Like a cocktail, they are slow-drinking but are also very tangy and refreshing.  I only give the secret recipe for them out to people I know.

Then for supper we had steak sandwiches and chips from our local hot food place washed down with Alsatian wine.  Both were excellent.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

St. George's day

I had a rather full day today, with plastic surgery at 2pm and a small party I hosted at 5:30pm.

The party was a celebration of St George's day, a celebration of Englishness, as St George is patron saint of England.  St George was a Roman soldier in the early days of Christianity and is venerated as a Christian martyr.  The legend of him slaying a dragon in Libya and thus saving the King's daughter is a medieval accretion.  Devotion to him in England goes back at least as far as the venerable Bede in Anglo-Saxon times.

Two of the party were English-born but glad to be no longer living there.  They did however have some attachment to their old English ways so brought along pork pies and ordered cod n' chips for their dinner. I shouted whatever people wanted but half of us ordered Indian on the ground that Indian food has become thoroughly English these days.  The fish shop and the Indian restaurant are side-by-side so having a choice was convenient.

Susan as usual  did us the signal honour of fetching the food  -- which we had on my verandah.  She also provided us with a magnificent bread 'n butter pudding  with icecream.  She also washed up, so when she was leaving I told her she was my hero.  She also managed two little kids amid it all.  In Longfellow's words, she is “A noble type of good. Heroic womanhood. ”

A small thing I noted:  When Susan arrived carrying Elise, Jenny immediately got up and held out her arms.  Nothing was said but Elise was immediately given to her. Grandma was of course the most trusted custodian of the precious bundle.

The men talked a lot about English food and the stockmarket.

When it was time to go, I suggested that we sing "God Save the Queen".  Our two expats jibbed at that however, saying that they came to Australia to get way from all that.  The rest of us rose and sang the anthem but they remained seated.  All very amusing.

I told them that Australia is a monarchy too but they were unmoved.  The fact that three members of the  Royal House are in Australia at the moment and getting front page coverage in the papers day after day only made the disgruntlement of our expats all the more poignant.

 It was a pleasant party anyway.  I forgive them for disrespecting the Royal anthem so I hope they will forgive me for singing it.

I think that people who don't like the monarchy have got no romance in them.

St. George's day is a big deal in England these days

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

Anne is away at the moment so I did not go to church on Good Friday as I most usually do.

But today Jenny put on an Easter lunch for a few of us.  It was first class.  The main course was roast pork with GOOD CRACKLING.  Jenny seems to be one of the few cooks who can do crackling.  I was actually suffering from a mild case of diverticulitis so should really have been eating mushy food but I was not going to miss out on roast pork!  And we had apple and rhubarb crumble for dessert.  What more could one ask?

Elise was surprisingly lively.  She vocalized quite a lot and even smiled occasionally.  Matthew played trains most of the time.  Very boyish!

We discussed our celebration next Wednesday of St George's day quite a bit and everybody was looking forward to it.  We are all appreciative of our varying degrees of Englishness.    We also discussed the varying speech patterns you encounter in England.

The future of Paul's business is still in flux but Paul has good hopes that he can rescue it.

Nanna kept us on the ball at various points.  Being nearly 90 seems to have given her extra confidence

Susan arrived wearing a rather ragged denim skirt which I commented on.  Everybody assured me however that it was just fashion.  Nanna assured us all that she still keeps her hems straight.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Sunday breakfast

This was the second celebration this year of Paul's birthday.  I put it in the format of my jammy breakfasts.  The last such breakfast rid me of some of my large stock of jams but I needed to move even more. And on this occasion also I think everybody found a jam they were happy to take home with them.

Anne brought along a loaf of the excellent bread that she gets from her local Chinese baker and also some croissants.  So bread 'n jam is humble food but with good bread and a big variety of good jams, I think everybody ate well.

Anne made us all cups of tea

Susan brought along a bombe Alaska cake for a birthday cake which went down well.   I was impressed by her culinary blowtorch.  I had no idea such a thing existed.

Matthew and Ava Marie played together well, tearing around my house with great energy.  Ava Marie seems to be quite a bright little girl.  She was very interested in the baby -- Elise.  Elise was her usual solemn self

Jenny, Ken and Davey were the others in attendance (plus kids) so it was a small gathering but perfectly pleasant.  It went on from 9am to about 11am.  I had some sort of wog but I don't think that disrupted anything.

At one stage I took Paul aside to discuss men's business

A small point:  Susan is very fussy about what she will drink.  She is not even keen on tea.  I gather that she mostly drinks milk at home.  Joe would agree with that!

But I have found a way to get her something.  I have a big filter jug that filters tap water for purity.  So I run a jugful of that the night before she is due over and put it in the fridge.  I call that "Susan's freshly squeezed water" and she is happy to use it.

And today she knew to look in the fridge for "her" water.   And between herself and her son she drank most of it.  Later that afternoon however she came back via my place and asked to get a drink of water  -- whereupon she drank the last of "her" water.  So I was most pleased that my place was seen as an oasis where one could get "Good" water!

The cake

An interesting conversation?

Ava marie


Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I have now received from Amazon my copy of Falvetti's interpretation of Il diluvio universale (Noah's flood)

It is amazing. The music could be by Monteverdi

And as a CD, it is shorn of graphics.  But that seems to be good.  Just as music it is superb

It is one of the most marvellous pieces from the Baroque era to be rediscovered recently.  It was written in 1682 in Messina, Sicily by Sicilian priest  Michelangelo Falvetti.

The video is here:

The first aria is particularly worth watching as the contralto has the most expressive face.  I see that her name is Evelyn Ramirez Munoz, which sounds Spanish.  In expressiveness however she could be Sicilian.  The conductor is from Argentina so maybe she is too.  Argentinians are about 50/50 Spanish and Italian.

The feminist claim that the RC church is "patriarchal" has always been amusing -- considering the devotion that the church devotes to the Blessed Virgin.  Catholics very often direct their prayers to the Virgin Mary.  And the rosary has a lot more Hail Marys than Paternosters.

So I was amused to see that the contralto in Falvetti's oratorio was in fact speaking for God!  How patriarchal!  A Sicilian priest obviously saw no problem with giving a woman the top job.

Feminists sometimes appear to think that they have done something clever by referring to God as "she" but that in fact poses no theological difficulties for any Christian (not sure about Muslims).  God is conceived as neither male nor female, with "he" being merely a linguistic convention.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Henry Thomas Schäfer

Some years ago I was given a framed print of a famous painting by Schäfer.  I like it and have it on my wall to this day.  And I am not alone in liking it.  Thousands of such prints seem to have been made.  Schafer has been a very popular artist.

So I was surprised that when I Googled his name, I could find out virtually nothing about his life.  I gather that his art is seen as "chocolate boxy" and hence below the notice of anybody seriously interested in art.  I of course deplore such elitism so would like to put a decent biography of him online if I can get more information on him.  I reproduce below the only two biographical notes I could find and hope that there might be a reader of this blog who can tell me more.

"Henry Thomas Schafer was born in the Lake District in England during the mid 19th-century. His exact birth date is unknown; however, his work was most well known from 1873 - 1915. Both a painter and an accomplished sculptor, Schafer exhibited his figurative studies at the Royal Academy in London in 1875, receiving the prestigious Academia award for excellence. Schafer's signature style was his study of women dressed in "goddess-like" classical vestments. It is for these portraits that he is best remembered."

"Henry Thomas Schäfer (British, 1854?-1915).  Henry Thomas Schäfer is a British Victorian-era genre painter and sculptor, elected in 1889 to the Royal Society of British Artists. He exhibited at the Royal Society, the Royal Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, and other galleries starting in 1873. Several of his paintings have been widely reproduced and distributed in the form of posters."

Below is the picture that hangs on my wall

A Time of Roses