Old folk at lunch

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weather report



Some people reading here may just possibly be aware that Brisbane had a major storm this afternoon which produced quite a lot of flooding in some parts of the city.  Where I am at Buranda is fairly elevated, however, so we had no flood grief at all.  My son and I simply drove to our usual local Japanese restaurant (Sunny Doll) for our supper and got marvellous food as usual. There are some brilliant Chinese, Thai and Indian cooks but Japanese cooks are the best.  They know about umami.

At the Sunny Doll, Joe always orders Jasmine tea to go with his meal.  You might think you know all about that but you would be TOTALLY wrong. Japanese Jamine tea is not remotely like Chinese Jasmine tea. It tastes rather odd to me but it is MILKY -- and Joe is a milk freak.  He also always orders Lassi at Indian restaurants.  Milk is his addiction -- for which I am profoundly grateful -- considering all the other foul things that young people get addicted to these days.





Monday, November 17, 2014

A final visit from Von & Co. before their departure



They came over at 2pm for afternoon tea.  It was a pretty hot day so we met in Joe's room, as he has the best air-conditioning.  Joe even tidied up his room in advance!

I had some Japanese curry products ("Golden" curry sauce and "Vermont" curry sauce) to give Von & Simon just by way of introducing them to Japanese curry.  They can probably get the stuff in NZ if they know what to look for.  I also gave Simon a bottle of ready-made Teriyaki sauce, which he looked at with great interest.

On her visits to my place Von has on a couple of occasions said how much she likes my tea.  It is Tetley tea, an English brand.  I have a big box of it so I gave her a small pile of it to take home.

Von gave me a packet of a Pakistani curry sauce which they like.  Simon makes mutton curry with it.  It is Achar Gosht Masala and Von says it is their favourite curry.  Apparently I can just toss it into my crockpot with a few other ingredients and that is all there is to cooking it.  Hopefully, I can find some mutton to try it with.  Anne is very keen on mutton so she might be able to track some down.

Joe spent a lot of time playing with Hannah, which she greatly enjoyed.  He plays the sort of impromptu games I played with the earlier generation and he is very popular with the littlies because of it.  He really livened her up but she wore out after a while.  That was a bit of a surprise as in my day I always wore out before the kids did.

An amusing thing was Von on chocolate drinks.  She thinks that things like Milo are too weak.  She goes for the original cocoa, which she can put in large quantities into a drink.  She likes dark chocolate (as I do) so she likes her drinks dark too.

Von is an amazing sentimentalist. Paul and I are great sentimentalists but Von leaves us both in the dust.  She has mementoes of almost all of her past  -- starting from when she was a little girl.  So it was amusing that she remembered my writing desk -- which I still have -- from way back.  She was pleased to see it again.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Back to the Bollywood


I put on a sendoff dinner, starting at 6pm,  for Von & Co. -- as they fly out early next week.  There were 9 or 10 of us there plus kids.  Sahara was looking very pretty in a mainly green sundress.  Suz has got a real girly girl there.  The dress went well with her blue eyes, blonde hair and very white skin, in my opinion.  Von was wearing one of her long full skirts, which is what suits her best in my opinion.

The story of my fountain pen got a re-run to considerable hilarity. I mentioned that Simon couldn't work it out until he read the instructions and he said "I hate instructions".  I agreed with him .  Men don't read instructions unless they are desperate.  It is against our religion.

Von was very lively and kept us interested with her various comments.  She has become as good a talker as Paul -- but not as  loud.  She speaks in quite a soft contralto voice, like the lady she is.  She spent a lot of time trying to convince George that he needed to take a holiday in NZ.  But George, like me, is off holidays these days.  Building things is George's holiday.

I had always been a bit concerned about Dusty's good nature,  I thought people might use it to push him around.  But I saw that my fears were unfounded.  At one stage Russ suggested something to him that he disagreed with -- which he responded to with a loud "No" and a big frown.  Russ was thrown back by it.  So I was delighted to see that.

Hannah was mostly minded by Simon while Von talked to us all. Davey was there but without Anna-Marie.  For once the kids didn't run around the restaurant like mad things, partly due to Matthew not being there, I think.  I rather like to see them running around as it means they are having fun.  And the Bollywood rarely has other customers.  Their trade is mostly takeaway.

The food was good as usual.  George and I had Tandoori chicken, Suz had a peanut curry and Anne had Moglai lamb.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

With Von & Co at the Sunny Doll


I was keen to introduce Von to the Sunny Doll as it is by far my favourite restaurant these days.  It is Japanese food cooked by very polite Japanese people and the Teriyaki Chicken Don really is magic.  Von departs very soon so we had to squeeze it in whenever we could.

Hannah was in a really "High" mood, full of smiles and chatter. And she got through an entree serve of Karaage (fried) chicken with no trouble. She is a great little kid and good-looking like her mother.

As expected, we all enjoyed our dinner and went back to my place for tea and bikkies afterwards.  On sorting out my desk drawers recently, I discovered that I am the owner  of about 30 pencils and 7 pencil sharpeners.  I have no idea how I acquired any of them but there they are.

So when Von suggested that I find Hannah something to draw with I was able to provide a selection of pencils, which Hannah enjoyed using, though she can't really draw as yet.  I never use pencils myself.  I think some tenant or tenants must have left them behind.  Von said they are a good resource for whenever I have littlies visiting.

I drove us all to and from the restaurant in the Starlet, which I enjoyed.  It really is a great little car, but a bit noisy in its old age.


Teryaki chicken don


Karaage chicken

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Morning tea with Von


Von & Co came over to my place about 11 for morning tea.  Now that their house is under contract they have a lot more time to spare.

I had two puzzles for Simon:  A strange gadget that seemed to have something to do with opening bottles and cans but nobody so far has been able to guess exactly what.  Simon was stumped too.

A much more interesting puzzle was a Parker fountain pen that George gave me a couple of birthdays ago.  It was one of those "some assembly required" gadgets and I could never figure out how to assemble it.  I gave the job to Simon on the grounds that he is very clever technically.  But it nearly stumped him too. He actually had to read the instructions! And even then it took him a while.  I now intend to use the pen to sign cheques.

At one stage Hannah slipped off her seat and hurt herself slightly -- making her cry.  We were at the time however opening the box of  choc-chip cookies that I customarily provide for morning and afternoon teas.  So Von said to Hannah:  "Want a biscuit?"  And as soon as Hannah saw the cookie, she stopped crying and gave a big smile instead.  She likes her food.

It was a very pleasant morning tea.


UPDATE:  I think Von does not like to be beaten.  When she got home she hit Google hard until she found the source of my little mystery gadget.  See the illustration she found below.  The bottom part of it is obviously a bottle opener for crown-sealed bottles but the top protrusion was the mystery.  The accompanying text  said that the gadget is used to open bottles AND cans.  So it must be to help lift up the ring on a ringpull can.  I would have thought that fingernails could do that but maybe ladies with long nails might prefer to use a tool.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another "3 sisters" lunch



November/December is of course party season as everybody gets into the mood for Christmas.  And I seem to be in the middle of that.  Anne and her sisters put on a lunch today in honour of their parents' wedding anniversary. Anne put out cold meats and salad and the other ladies brought along stuff too, so there was plenty of good nosh.

Ralph looked pretty glum when I arrived but, after  a while,  all the jolly chatter livened him up so much that he even gave us a jokey riddle to solve.  None of us could do it.  But the answer was amusing.

There were profiteroles for dessert and there were two left over when everybody had had one so Ralph and I declared male privilege and polished them off.

There was much talk of clocks as Anne had just that morning got the family mantelpiece clock back from the repairman. I was rather horrified that Anne has got the repairman to silence its "dong".  It is an hourly chiming clock but Anne says that its "dong" is horrible.  I lived happily with Westminster chimes for many years -- which mark not only the hour but also every quarter hour -- so I was unsympathetic.

There were of course various discussions about food and I mentioned that dripping is back in vogue.  Leading chefs are using it again with their roasts, fish'n chips and even in cakes and lasagne.  That was received with great interest and comment as we had all grown up on dripping cookery -- before the great oil  takeover some decades back.




Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Friday dinner at Ken's


Von is houseminding at Ken's place while he is away on another cruise.  She wanted to put on a "Thank You" dinner for Jenny and me so she had it at Ken's place.  It was so many years since I had been there that I was not at all sure I remembered how to get there.  In the event, however, I managed. I drove Anne's car in case I needed a SatNav to help.  Her new Corolla has got all the bells and whistles.  Anne drove us home with a few directions from me.

Simon made us an excellent curry and there was icecream afterwards.  The curry was originally intended as a mutton curry but Simon could not find any butcher here that sold mutton.  The dreaded fashion again, I suppose. So Simon made it with beef, which was not as good, he said.  I believe him. Mutton is quite strong-tasting so would go well in a curry.

I teased Von a bit about slaughtering Rosemary  -- her original pet lamb which very rapidly turned into a large sheep.  But she assured me that Rosemary was "safe".  There was some conversation for a while about the characteristics of the various  sheep in Von's small flock.  Lambs keep popping out so Von has trouble keeping the numbers in her flock down.  All very New Zealand, of course.  Von and Simon sometimes get a slaughtered full sheep from locals as a thankyou for something or other, so they always have mutton on hand in their freezer.  It's sheep country where they are.

When the desserts were being considered, I made the observation that even if your main tummy is full, your dessert tummy still always had room.  That amused everyone but they all hastened to agree.

I took along a bottle of Alsatian wine, which everyone spoke well of.  Nanna abstained so the remaining 5 adults got a small glass each.  there was no other alcohol.

Hannah plowed into her curry like the Johnson she is.  After the meal she brought out a "Thomas the Tank Engine" toy from Ken's toy room and played with it for a while.  It was a rather clever gadget.  Ken's toy room is full of toys to cope with visiting grandchildren.

Von wore her LBD ("Little Black Dress") but I would have preferred her to wear the long full skirts she usually wears.  I think she looks very feminine in them.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Joe and I watched the Melbourne Cup on TV


There were two great races on at Flemington. And the horse race was a nail-biter as usual:  Another amazing finish, marred only by the fact that two of the runners had to be put down after the race.  A truly sad aftermath.  I had 4 horses in various sweeps and none of them got anywhere!

I always take an interest in the other major contest of the day:  The fashions on the field.  I know nothing about fashion and for 364 days of the year take no interest in it -- but I figure I can once a year try to inform myself about it.  And what I thought I knew was turned upside down yesterday.  I thought the winning fashions were bound to be pretty sober and wearable anywhere.  That's not what happened.  I couldn't get past the winner's aluminium hat!

Anyway, some pix from the great day:


Christine Spielman in her aluminium hat


The dress was OK but are those leather gloves?


The winner with the runners up


Megan Gale let colour do the talking



And the anti-skin rules were not always enforced

More HERE

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Another High Tea



I put on a high tea at 4pm today to give people another chance to chat to Von while she is over here from NZ.  There were about 10 adults present plus kids.  Von came over a half an hour early to make the cucumber sandwiches.  I had the cucumber sliced and  soaking in white vinegar and all the rest of what was needed laid out for her.

I provided some good lamingtons, some cupcakes, some chocolate mini-croissants and NZ Afghan biscuits and the ladies all brought stuff as well so there was plenty to eat and a fair bit left over.  Simon made his NZ dip which was yummy.

I noticed that Von and Tracy had a good chat but Von spoke to most of us at some time.  It was a pleasure to see her and twinny Suzy with their beautiful blue-eyed children.  Sahara and Dusty got into the cakes and biscuits as they are given little of that at home.  Suz said that they associate my place and family occasions generally with yummy food.
 
Jenny made the tea and organized various things, including the washing up -- which was most appreciated.  Nanna also came along, which was good to see at her age. She told me I was young!

Joe brought along his friend Eugene and had his usual play with the littlies. He even played cars with them for a while. They like Joe because of that. Joe said the Tea was "fun"

An interesting thing to see resulted from Von bringing along a box of toy cars from Ken's place, where she is staying.  Ken is off on another cruise.  Dusty, as expected, got into playing with the cars but the two girls did likewise.  Car mad girls!

If there had been any feminists present, they would have thought that Von is a feminist.  In fact she took a wrong turn altogether from a feminist viewpoint.  She was in a high-earning job and had that "career" that feminists idealize for some strange reason.  So what did she do?  She chucked it in and moved to a quiet country town in New Zealand to live as a housewife, enjoy her little daughter growing up and grow her own vegetables.  She in fact lives a life that really is idyllic and she greatly enjoys it.  A wise woman.  She was even wise enough to get a husband who cooks!

I introduced a couple of the blokes to Clayton's ("The drink you have when you're not having a drink").  You see and hear very little of it these days and in NZ you can no longer buy it at all.  I really like it however.  And it is low calorie so it suits my diet.  I drink heaps of it.

Tracy approved of my putting on a High Tea at the "correct" English time of 4pm.  Australian afternoon teas are mostly at 3pm or thereabouts.  The occasion was only partly English, however, for various reasons -- one of them being that I greeted my guests wearing not a shirt but an Australian worker's blue singlet.  It was a hot day.  But if I had worn that in England, everyone would have been deeply puzzled, no matter how hot it was.  And while lamingtons are an essential at a good Australian afternoon tea, that is not so in England.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dosas and an old letter


I put on a small dosa lunch mainly just for Von & Co. but I also invited Anne, Jenny and Joe.  Since Von is not always here in Brisbane, I like to see a lot of her and Hannah when they are here.

We had a good dosa lunch as usual and we all admired Hannah.  She speaks in intelligible sentences now and always looks beautiful, of course.  Young though she is, Hannah is an old hand at eating dosas, and having a Johnson appetite, she gets through them well.  At one point the proprietor was obviously a bit concrned about her eating a dosa and came over and asked her if she liked it.  She turned to him with a mouth stuffed full of dosa so that was an eloquent reply.

Joe joined in the conversation very well, which he does not always do. Like me, I think he prefers small gatherings. 

We talked a fair bit about old times but Von trumped all that by producing a letter I had sent her when she was a little girl.  Von is a great sentimentalist and likes to hang on to her past so she has a little treasure chest of mementoes of things in her past life, including two letters from me.  We have already seen one of those but she has now found another one.  I reproduce it below.  As you'll see, I used the pet names we had for one-another.

After lunch we repaired to my place for tea.  Except that most of us did not have tea.  I persuaded Von to see what she could do with my packet of Orzo -- an Italian coffee substitute.  Von was the only one who liked it so I gave her the rest of the packet.  I tipped my cupfull out.  Again we mostly talked about old times, including Sarah Ferrett.  I liked bold little Sarah but the twins have lost touch with her.

Another thing we discussed was the problems Von & Simon are having with renovating their Brisbane property.  The tenants left it in a mess and they are now trying to repair the damage and bring it up to a saleable standard.  Before I could say much, Jenny piped up with some very good advice:  Get it up to respectability but don't spend too much on that as the new owners may want to re-do the kitchen etc anyway.  I would have said much the same and Jenny has lived through a number of my renovation projects so she has obviously drawn her own conclusions.

Von also presented me with a selection of NZ groceries, mostly things she knew that I liked already.  I am greatly looking forward to eating them in due course

Simon was our source of wisdom on culinary matters.  As well as being a computer whiz he also does most of the cooking at their place.  He is thinking of making his own dosas.  I wish him luck with that!

Sociology, University of NSW P.O. Box 1, Kensington, 2033, NSW

29 March '90 

Dear Lady Von, 

Thank you for your nice letter. By the way, there is no such word as "dubble". It is "double". 

I was pleased to hear that you have been having fun with Nanna on the weekends. Nanna knows lots of good things for girls. 

Are you looking forward to going up to Cairns at Easter? I seem to remember that neither you nor Suzy like very long car rides. If you do not want to go to Cairns, I am sure that Nanna would let you stay with her instead at our pink house if you wanted to. 

Jenny and I have a very pretty house in Sydney. It has big rooms like our Faversham St house used to have and there are lots of trees in the street outside. I even have a very pretty fireplace in my room so I will be able to light a fire and keep warm in winter. 

I now go to work every day. Do you know what I do at work? I write things. I spend nearly all the time writing. But I still have time to write to a special girl like you. 

I hope to be back in Brisbane for a little while around the time of the July school holidays. 

Joey can repeat almost anything that people say now and he seems to understand almost everything. He still pronounces a lot of words in funny ways, however. Jenny used to call him "honey bun" and he thought she was saying "honey bum". 

Love, 

JOHNNIE

The other letter Von found among her treasures is here

Monday, October 20, 2014

A dinner for our visitors


Von & Co. arrived from NZ last Friday so I put on a Bollywood dinner for them on Sunday (19th).

There were 10 people present  -- a bit down owing to some people being overseas etc.  I took host's privilege and sat next to Von so I could listen to her lively commentary about all sorts of things.

Ken mostly talked to George and Anne mostly talked to Jenny, Maureen and Davey.  Hannah stuck pretty close to her mother for most of the evening but Joe got a cuddle as we left.

Joe is popular with the kids as he plays fairly boisterously with them  -- just as I did with the previous generation.  Kids love something a bit daring or risky but that does put a responsibility on the adult to make sure that they don't get hurt.  I always managed that and Joe does as well.

The food was good as usual and at Joe's suggestion I had Tandoori chicken.  That kept me within the guidelines for my diet, making it a fairly yummy diet.  The diet is based on Joe's theories with an emphasis on low carbs and low fats and it does work for me.  I've lost .3 of a kilo in just the last few days.

It was a pleasant evening with lots of lively conversation.  As usual it was not a bibulous night.  I always supply toasting champagne but only two bottles of it were drunk among the 10 of us.  We need neither booze nor music to enjoy a social occasion. We talk.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A final sendoff


Paul and Susan have been going around saying farewell to various people individually and they came to see me late this afternoon.

I got three "Supreme" pizzas home delivered from Pizza Hut and also had a packet of New Zealand ginger nut biscuits on hand. Everything got eaten, with even little Elise tucking into pizza. I don't think she has got any teeth yet but she gummed it pretty well! I don't like Australian ginger nuts much but the NZ ones were definitely better.

We talked a lot about politics, as we usually do.  Someone had been poisoning Paul's mind about Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen  KCMG, who ran Queensland  from 1968 to 1987.  "Joh" was always controversial and all these years later he still is.  Much that was and is said about him is distortion, however.  As a member of Joh's party at the time, however, I am in a good position to balance the account, which I did.  The half-truth about Joh holding power only because of a gerrymander is particularly pernicious.  Yet in In 1974, his government gained a remarkable 59% of the popular vote  --  a majority so large as to be almost unheard of in a Western democracy. Only Ronald Reagan has done as well, as far as I know. Interesting that both Ronnie and Joh were known for crushing arrogant unionists

So how come?  The fact of the matter is that some rural seats in Queensland were much less populous than most urban seats.  They did however cover large geographical areas so the difficulty of getting around them was put forward as the reason for their being less populous. But that gerrymander did not originate with Joh.  It went back at least to the premiership of Vince Gair and may have even gone back as far as Ned Hanlon. Gair and Hanlon were Labor Party premiers.

So why did the Labor Party favour country seats?  Because they used to win most of those seats.  With the Country party revival first under "Honest Frank" Nicklin and then Joh, however, almost all those seats swung to the conservatives.  And since the Country party and the urban-based Liberal party always governed in coalition, the end result is that Joh's government always got a majority of the popular vote.  Joh himself put it well when he was addressing a meeting of students at Sydney university.  He asked them:  "Do you think a party that gained only 45% of the vote at the last election should rule Queensland?"  Resounding "Noes" were heard in reply.  Joh then said:  "Well, that's what the Labor party got last time". Embarrassment!  The gerrymander disadvantaged the Liberal party, not the Labor party.

Much more could and has been said about Joh -- his "inarticulateness", for instance.  But I have written on that before

Paul and I talked about other things as well -- deficiencies in the school curricula, why Ken and Paul disagree, the nature of Leftism -- but nothing that we haven't gone over many times before.


Cuddling little Elise -- tummy to tummy!


UPDATE: "Joh" made me proud to be a Queenslander. And even subsequent Labor Party governments have done little to erase his legacy (though the mismanagement of his big Wivenhoe flood-control dam is a disgrace). So maybe I should say more about something else that he is known for: He crushed the electricity workers union. They really thought that they ruled the roost until Joh showed them otherwise. They were a plague on Brisbane people with their cutting off of the electricity supply in support of their egregious demands.

But it could be argued that Joh's response was neither Left nor Right but Queensland. In the 40s there was a Labor party Premier of Qld called Ned Hanlon. In his youth he was a real red-ragger. But as he got older he went "so far right that he was almost out of sight" -- as they used to say of Syngman Rhee (you don't know who Rhee was? Look him up). So Ned used his police to break up strikes. Joh was milder. He just used threats. But the unionists were just blustering cowards so the threats worked.

Queensland electricity supply is very good these days. No more do people have to throw out the contents of their fridges and freezers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tax


Getting your tax return done is not a minor event in anyone's life.  It is a major headache.  So I was most pleased to get my tax done today.

I went to a very knowledgeable lady named Janet Ortiz at my local ITP branch at Stone's Corner, 5 minutes drive from where I live.  She even told me where to park my car!

I know it is completely irrelevant but she had the olive skin one would expect of a person of Spanish ancestry  -- not like the awful whiteness of Poles or the Irish -- or the golden brown of the Norwegians and the Swedes.

Like most Australians, both Jenny and I have substantial Irish ancestry so it was no mystery how Joe would end up.  When he was a toddler I used to call him "the white boy" as his skin was just about as white as a sheet of white paper.  And now in adulthood he simply goes red if he gets much sun -- as my father did.  Though my father was a redhead.  But Joe has a red beard so it all fits.  Because Jenny's grandfather was a redhead we had great hopes that Joe would be a redhead but a "bluebeard" is certainly a good alternative.

Anyway Janet sat me down for one and a half hours and turned my heap of paperwork into a proper return  -- and even told me what  refund I would get.  And the cost --$200+ -- was worth its weight in gold to me.

In my youth I used to do lots of things myself  -- not only tax returns but simple plumbing, electrical work and even some (rough) carpentry.  But I am pleased that I can hand all those things to the experts these days.  I don't even hang my own pictures now.  Geoff has just put up a whole heap of them for me -- mostly family photos


Sunday, September 28, 2014

A sendoff and a birthday



Paul is about to go overseas to Britain for 10 months so I will not see that little family for a while.  So I put on a farewell dosa lunch for them. I also invited Paul's mother and father as they will undoubtedly miss him too.  Nanna and Maureen also came along of course.

Matthew got a whole dosa to himself and ate the lot  -- good eaters, the Johnsons.  Elise also ate up well, as usual.

After dosas we went back to my place for tea, coffee and choc chip cookies.  Between Paul and Ken the biscuits disappeared at lightning speed.

Paul is suffering from a wog at the moment and appeared very listless when he arrived at the restaurant.  After a dosa and a coffee, however, he livened up and gave Ken a hard time as usual.

We talked about travel and Paul was amazed that I had been to Thailand. I seem to be the only person I know who hasn't been away on trips lately.

Elise loved Joe's piano and had a great time thumping it.  As she is only one year old, however, her little hands could not have damaged it.  Matthew spent a lot of time with his latest toy, a foldout city.

Maureen discovered that the mulberry tree overhanging my front verandah was in fruit and managed to get quite a few berries to eat.  It's Maureen's birthday next weekend so I gave her a present of something I knew she liked -- a leather-look coffee table

One thing we spent quite a lot of time discussing was England.  Paul is off to England and Ken was born there.  In particular we discussed the class system and its effects.  Discussing social class is a rather deplored thing to do in both England and Australia but I am a retired sociologist with a couple of published research papers on the subject in the academic journals so I can say the unsayable with some justification.  It's actually within my field of professional expertise.  I amused the company by quoting George Bernard Shaw's famous saying:  "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him"

Ken made the interesting point that class enmities have diminished in recent years with the large influx of uncongenial immigrants to England.  The English are more likely to see themselves as one by contrast with the Africans, Muslims etc who now make up a substantial fraction of the population.  Both Paul and I think that the old divisions are still influential however.

But I did comment that what Ken said was convincing in terms of what Hitler did. It was only Hitler, with the many enemies he saw, who created among Germans a sense of German identity. Up until that time Germans mostly had a mainly regional identity -- as Saxons, Rhinelanders, Bavarians etc. To quote: "Vor uns marschiert Deutschland; unter uns marschiert Deutschland; hinter uns marschiert Deutschland". That got wild applause.

We also discussed Nederland a bit as Susan is of Dutch ancestry and they plan to visit the old family stamping ground while they are abroad.  Dutch and German are quite similar languages so it amused me to translate Susan's maiden name into German: "Von der Quelle".  And it sounds almost the same too.  All Nederlanders  think they can speak German and are equally convinced that no German can speak Dutch. They think in fact that only Nederlanders can speak Dutch properly, which may be true

I know a little about  Dutch pronunciation so usually try to pronounce the surname of Vincent van Gogh in the Dutch way.  But if I do that no-one understands what I am talking about -- they probably think that I've got a sore throat.  And a Nederlander would undoubtedly say that I get it wrong anyway.  I use German gutturals (the "Ach Laut"),  which are apparently a bit different from Dutch ones.

Susan is quite rightly enthused about her Dutch heritage so she even had a wooden jigsaw puzzle of the sort you usually give to toddlers wherein the pieces were all the provinces of Nederland

Susan is even thinking  of having Elise Christened in the  hometown of her Dutch family, which would be a great affirmation of continuity (only conservatives understand the importance of that) but it is a bit regrettable after the good family time we all had in Brisbane with Matthew's Christening.

Even anti-religious Ken came along to Matthew's Christening.  In my jocular way, I asked him afterward if he had felt the power coming down as Matthew was "done" and he assured me that he had!  I probably joke too much sometimes

I mentioned the Japanese custom of omiyagi (bringing back presents from a trip) but it didn't seem to get much traction.

I asked Ken if he had managed to get along to the Philip Glass opera recently performed in Brisbane (for only the THIRD time in the world).  He replied that he did not go as he did not like opera.  I understand that to some extent as I am not big on opera (through I LOVE all the great arias from  19th century Italy  --  "O mio caro babbino" etc.) but I was surprised he did not make an exception for Philip Glass.  I wondered if he had been put off by the price.  ANYTHING at our entertainment centre seems to cost $200+ per seat.  Knowing how much he likes Philip Glass I would have shouted him a ticket if that was the problem.  He has recently spent $50,000 on a new VW, however, so that may not be the case.

It's probably evil of me but I am betting that his VW breaks down before my 2004 Toyota Echo does.  See here.  I am a great fan of Toyotas.  I own two of them and have donated one each to Jenny and Joe!

Acknowledgements!  Jenny and Susan made the teas and coffees and Maureen did the washing up.  This family is a traditional one.

Waiting for the dosas to arrive. Maureen is helping Matthew with his jigsaw of Nederland


Ken reaching for the cookies  -- and Elise eyeing them

Saying farewell. Note Susan's fashionable hemline and my St George flag


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The immerser



It was only when I was about 9 that my mother first acquired an electric jug.  Such things were not common in Innisfail at that time.  The lady down the road, Mrs Young, did however from early on have an immerser ("immersion heater") -- which is basically an electric jug without the jug.  It was just a heating element that you could attach to a power cord and immerse in a bowl of water. It would then heat the water in the bowl until you turned it off.

Horace Young and my father were in the same business -- timber getting -- so the families knew one-another but were certainly not close  -- rivals more



In those days back doors were not usually locked (only people you didn't know came to the front door) and if a neighbourhood kid walked in your open back door you would say Hello and treat the kid more or less as one of your own.  And I had been in the Young's house on a number of occasions and seen the immerser in use. I was only about 4 at the time but was fascinated by this unfamiliar gadget.

Then one day I wandered into the Young's house and found no one home.  I went straight to the immerser, put it in a bowl of water and turned it on.  I watched the little bubbles in the water for a while and then lost interest.  I wandered off leaving the immerser ON!

It must have been a pretty sturdy piece of kit because it evaporated all the water, broke the bowl and then proceeded to burn a hole in the wooden  floor.

Eventually the Youngs came home to this scene of disaster and tried to make sense of it.  Eventually someone asked me if I had been in the house and in my usual honest way I said I had.  So partly because of that honesty I was not punished for it but was taken to see the hole in the floor.  It had burnt almost through one of the floorboards.

I was too young to know of any other repercussions.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dosas with Ken plus a Philip Glass opera


Last Sunday, I shouted Ken and Maureen a dosa lunch.  Both had been ill recently but they were in a recovered state for the lunch.  It was Ken's birthday the day before so it was in part a birthday lunch.  But it was mainly just to catch up with Ken. Ken has a most enquiring mind so is always interesting to talk to.

We talked a lot about both art and religion with the debate being over what drives both.  Along the way I mentioned that Anne had a Picasso print on her bedroom wall at my place so when we got back to my place for tea and coffee, Anne took Ken to have a look at it.  It is a line drawing of Don Quixote and is most evocatively done.  Ken was greatly impressed by it - as Anne and I are too.

I suggested that ego is the key both to artists and religion. Artists tend to think that they are special and religious people want to feel special.

Then last night Anne and I went to "The perfect American" by modern composer Philip Glass. It was a good opera, with lots going on, lots of drama and lots of dramatic music.  It even had a death scene.  So, except for Glass's unique music, it could have been a 19th century opera.  I went to it only for the music but it was a good show as well.  One's attention did not wander.

The whole point of the opera was to lampoon Walt Disney.  The intelligentsia will never forgive Disney for being anti-Communist but to my mind those who make excuses for Communism are the ethical cripples.

Disney was portrayed as a pathological egotist.  I am in no doubt that a hugely successful entrepreneur such as Disney had  to have a considerable ego but I am equally sure that a man who built up from scratch such a huge organization as the Disney organization had to be a very good people manager -- and no-one likes an egotist.  So whatever ego Disney had must have at least been kept in check most of the time.  So I very much doubt the accuracy of the Disney portrayal by Glass. But much in the opera was admittedly fictional so I suppose one should not take it as history



Another historical blooper was the portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as a champion of blacks and a believer in equality.  That is schoolboy history.  Lincoln was neither of those things.  In his famous letter to Horace Greeley Lincoln said that it was only the union he cared about, not blacks.  And after the war he wanted to send them all back to Africa, but was shot before he could implement that.  Let's have some words from the man himself, words spoken at the White House and addressed to a group of black community leaders on August 14th, 1862:

"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated."

Got that?

And Glass's history is equally shaky in portraying Disney as a racist.  His biographer Neal Gabler in his 2009 book 'Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination' concludes, "Walt Disney was no racist. He never, either publicly or privately, made disparaging remarks about blacks or asserted white superiority. Like most white Americans of his generation, however, he was racially insensitive."

And in describing Disney as the perfect American, Glass was largely disparaging America as a whole -- something Leftists such as Glass generally do.  The opera has yet to be performed in America.  I predict a very mixed reception to it when it is performed in America.

Why the opera first went to Madrid, then to London and then to Brisbane I do not know.  It was a very extravagant production in Brisbane with a far larger cast than needful and a huge (4-ton!) mechanical  contraption in the roof used to change scenes etc so maybe it was that only the Brisbane arts community felt able to afford it.

UPDATE

Below is a picture of the front cover of the program notes for the opera.  It is supposed to be a blending of Walt's face with the face of Mickey mouse.  The effect, however, is to make Disney look insane, and certainly two-faced.  So it is all part of the demonization of him.  A most unpleasant and disturbing piece of Leftist art.



Leftists customarily envy other people's success and Disney was VERY successful, so this attempt to pull his memory down might have been expected

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My diet


As soon as he moved in to my place, Joe appointed himself as my personal trainer -- for which I am very grateful.  I had slid so far down the razor blade of life that my health and fitness might have been unrecoverable if he had left it for another 6 months.

One of the beneficial arrangements is that of a morning we now go for a walk around 2 neighbourhood blocks that includes 3 hills.  And that has definitely improved my aerobic and general fitness.  I can now get around most of the Rocklea markets on Sunday again.

But the big change is the diet that Joe has put me on.  It is a semi-paleo diet that is very low in fats.  The same diet has kept Joe's own weight under control so I adopted it with confidence.  And I seem to be losing about a kilo a week on it.  I started out at 123 kilos and am now down to 117.  A long way still to go but encouraging progress.

The food Joe has prescribed for me is however mostly very dull. Bananas and small yoghurts are fine but Joe restricts the evening meal to a breast of chicken and restricts lunch to a small tin of salmon.  So I had to find ways to cope with that.  I now have two things I do with the chicken, a chicken curry and chicken teriaki.  I am no cook but with the help of my crockpot I turn out a passable chicken curry mainly based on using a LOT of "Clive of India" curry powder.  It also has in it tomato, onion, coriander and garlic.  I have always liked curry so I can eat it frequently without bother.

I also use a shortcut with the Teriaki chicken.  I found a bottle of ready-made Teriaki sauce down at my local Korean deli so just marinate and baste the chicken in that.  Again, a passable result.

Joe's recipe for making the tinned salmon palatable is to pour low-cal mayonnaise on it.  That didn't help a lot though.  I found that mixing curry powder in with it helped a lot but I did not want to eat curry twice a day.  So I asked Joe for an alternative to the fish.  He said I could have four eggs.  That suited me.  I have always liked scrambled eggs and cooking them in the microwave only takes 2 minutes.  Eggs are very cheap too.  My 4 eggs cost me about a dollar.  So I am now an experienced scrambled egg cook and look forward to my lunch once again.

I initially let Joe cook the chicken but his cookery is VERY plain.  So it is no surprise that he appreciates my amateurish offerings

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The last days of this trip by Von and family


Von has been with us for nearly 3 weeks this time so it is sad to see her go.  She flies out to the Shaky Isles tomorrow.

On Friday she put on a dinner for me at Jenny's place with Simon cooking.  She wanted to thank me for getting her over.

Unfortunately I had a really bad wog on Wednesday and Thursday so, even though I was improved by Friday, I was still clearly infective so spared them that by staying home  -- with great regret.  I sent Joe along to take my place and since Joe is good-humored, I gather that they had a nice evening.  And no-one can beat Von's constant good cheer.

Then today, Saturday, I had already arranged, via Von, to have a last day with all the littlies together -- to be preceded by the ever-popular dosas.  So it was the biggest dosa lunch I have hosted so far.  There were the three sets of parents plus Anne, Joe and myself:  A total of 9 adults and 5 littlies.

As usual, Hannah and Matthew conferred throughout the lunch.  Both have only inchoate language skills so far but they seem to understand one-another.  I gather that it was the first time Suz and Russell had attended one of my dosa lunches and I gather that Russ found that he really liked dosas.

The restaurant was a bit slow in getting the dosas out so we were obviously a bigger party than they expected.  I should have booked and warned them.

I ordered masala dosas for all the adults as they are always a hit and the mothers ordered for their children.  I think the kids got egg dosas and onion dosas.

I had Von sitting next to me so I had the benefit of the best conversationalist present.  Even as a little girl Von was a great observer and couple that with her good native intelligence and she has lots to say that is worth saying.  She is certainly a most rewarding stepdaughter.  And her constant happy outlook is a tonic to us all.

I felt pretty well after my encounter with a cold so felt able to attend the lunch without too much fear of infecting anyone.  The original post-lunch plan was for us all to retire to my place for tea, coffee and biscuits but I thought that was a step too far in the circumstances.  So Von arranged for everyone to go over to Jenny's place instead. Regretfully, I just went home, with Anne following me shortly thereafter.

Waiting for our dosas.  Amusing that Von is the only one talking.  Anybody who knew her as a little girl would never have predicted it

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More birthdays



Paul and Susan put on a morning tea celebration for their two children,  whose birthdays are close together.  Matthew's birthday cake was in the shape of a train as he is a real devotee of toy trains.  Via Jenny, I got him some Noddy books as a present.

Susan invited a few mothers from her playgroup so there were lots of kids running around and having a good time.  The trampoline was popular but despite having a safety fence around it there were  still a couple of falls and tears.  Von asked Hannah if she wanted to go on the trampoline but Hannah replied: "No.  Someone might hurt me".  An early display of wisdom.  Von had dressed Hannah in gold sandals, which suited the little lady that Hannah is

There were many good things to eat set out but the plate of sandwiches was an early casualty.  Being the perfect hostess, however, Susan promptly replaced it with another plate of sandwiches.

Susan seems to be mistress of all the domestic arts.  She showed a skill with a very 21st century such art by making "hats" for the kids out of long twistable balloons.  Even Susan's mother ended up wearing an elaborate such "hat".

I had a chat to Paul about his business plans but he is very much in limbo at the moment.  I talked quite a bit to Von and also to Jenny.

Little Elise slept for much of the time,  which was a bit of a surprise to Susan as Elise is not normally a good sleeper.  Elise has however taken to her grandfather Mark as she was a little lamb while Mark was holding her.

I had a little laugh with Von over the fact that Simon does all their cooking. I mentioned to her that Simon said once to me that he couldn't cook at all until he found out that Von could cook only noodles. Simon was sitting beside me at the time so that got a rare smile from him. And Von was amused too. She said that on one occasion she cooked them one of those bottled "Chicken Tonight" offerings. And it was so bad that from that point on Simon took over. Von does a lot of work in their vegetable garden, however, so she puts food on their table that way.

Despite his dour exterior, Simon is quite a bright spark, particularly in technical matters. I gather that he is well appreciated in his NZ town as he fixes all their computer problems for a small sum. Most people need someone who can do that. And when Paul and Timmy were trying to put the tent up in the backyard today, Simon stepped in and in a few deft moves made it all happen.

Von has undergone a quite surprising change since her childhood. When she was a little girl, either her (fraternal) twin sister Suz or I would usually speak for her. I would often answer a question addressed to her and she would usually indicate in some way that she liked that reply. So one would have thought that she would have married another highly verbal person. But she did the exact opposite. She married a man silent enough to be a Karellian. So she now does all the talking for both of them and does a very good job of it. You can never tell how children will end up. You can only enjoy them while you have them.


Hannah and Matthew opening presents


The birthday cake train

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A real party


Suz and Russ put on a Saturday "afternoon tea" for us all in celebration of Nanna turning 90.  And at Nanna's request it was a real party with party games.  We first played bingo then pass the parcel then a fantasy game of Joe's devising.  And it was great fun.  It kept us thoroughly livened up.

And then there was the afternoon tea.  The ladies had gone to great trouble so there was an amazing array of tempting food on display.  I have been rather sandwich deprived lately so I got into some excellent sandwiches. But there were all sorts of cakey things too.

Then there was the photography.  Susan lined us all up and took lots of photos.  She really worked hard at it.  There should be some below shortly.

Paul had arrived back from England just that morning so was less active than usual.  Initially he just sat there on a settee with his little daughter blinking happily on his lap, a picture of contentment.  She will turn one soon.  His trip to England to investigate the possibility of living there has left him very disillusioned. He encountered too many of what the English call "chavs".  He thinks that England's chavs are worse than our "Yobbos".

Joe and I sat together for much of the time so we were each able to observe the other violating all principles of our diet.


The gang


The festive board


Matthew and Hannah


With the son

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sausages!


Von noticed that I was missing my sausages on Wednesday so arranged a BBQ sausage lunch for me today -- with Simon doing the cooking at Jenny's place.  Friday is my non-diet day.  Nanna joined us eating some leftover spaghetti.  Neither of the Susans could join us but Matthew and Elise were dropped off so we had children to amuse us.

Von also used the occasion to give me a swag of NZ groceries she had brought over for me.  You would think that Australia and NZ would have the same grocery brands but a lot of NZ groceries are quite different.  One thing she gave be was a bottle of L&P -- a lemony NZ softdrink  -- and it was really good.  I drank half of it on the spot. Joe had some when he was over there and he liked it too.  Von also got me a couple off bottles of green tomato chutney, which I particularly like.

The sausages were good and Von kept me interested with comments about food and about NZ.  She is as slim as a rake and eats enough to feed two so she is a wonder.  She also seems to be in very good health.  She attributes her slimness to being constantly active,  mainly with gardening.  Their garden feeds them  all the vegetables they use.

Von  was a corporate high flier on a large salary who could afford anything that she wanted once but she had the wisdom to retire not long after she turned 30 and move to her idyll in NZ.  Even as a little girl she was always wise.

And with a beautiful little daughter that she always has time for  plus a devoted husband who does all the cooking and who has been able to set up a successful business in a small NZ town plus a garden that delivers the freshest produce without great effort plus her husband's parents who live next door who are always glad to help in all sorts of ways, she has got it made.