Old folk at lunch

Friday, May 27, 2016

Food review

When I was on the weight-loss diet that Joe prescribed for me last year I more or less had to cook for myself to keep inside my 1500 calorie allowance.  Joe prescribed grilled chicken as an evening meal but that got too bland after just two nights.  So I chopped the chicken up, added canned tomatoes and curry powder and threw it into my crockpot with a bit of onion -- and cooked it there for about 3 hours.  That was an improvement but not by a lot.  It was still pretty bland.  The curry powders I was using were local ones like Keens and Clive of India and I found that I had to put half the container of powder into the dinner to get much taste out of it.

So after a while I went to a local Indian grocer and got some real Indian curry powder -- such as Achar Gosht. It still didn't make a great curry, however. A good curry is fatty and I was trying to avoid that. So no added ghee or marrow-bones etc. So I ate a lot of rather basic curries last year. But I like curries! And, like Joe, I am not bothered by having the same thing night after night.

As you do, I eventually went off my diet so had to rethink my food.

Partly because I don't like driving at night anymore, and partly because I felt I needed to give Nandos, KFC, McDonalds, Chinese and Lebanese restaurants and such places a bit of a rest (splendid though their offerings are -- Sing Sing Chinese restaurant at Buranda gives a very nice Vietnamese lemon grass chicken dinner for only $13.99), I decided that I should mostly ditch going out for dinner and instead prepare my own meals at home. My first step in that direction was to buy frozen dinners. So all I had to do was pop them in the microwave. And that was very successful. The frozen dinners I get from Woolworths seem to me pretty much as good as what I would get from a restaurant. Over time they have really improved.

Then I moved on to things that just had to be heated up in my gas oven -- pizzas, pies etc.  And that worked pretty well.  I just followed the instructions on the label about how long to heat the product and that mostly worked out fine.  I did rather overcook a pizza once but most of it was OK. It was "good in parts", to quote an old joke

Recently, however, I have been tempted by "assisted" cookery -- where some packet or other says:  "Just add meat" -- or the like. The idea is that some corporate chef has put together some  flavouring substances into a sachet or bottle and that takes care of all the thinking, talent and creativity.  And it works.  Anne politely eats my creations of that sort and has always found them acceptable. I have made some reasonable curries by just adding a bottle of sauce to mince.  Mr Patak of Lancashire is a particularly good provider of such bottles.

 My best effort of that kind was a chili con carne.  I just added a can of diced tomato plus a can of beans to 500g of good beef mince and left it it to the oven and the flavour sachet to do all the work.  And Anne actually praised that creation.  A problem, however, is that both Woolworths and Aldi seem to be sold out of Chili con Carne sachets so if anyone reading this sees some on sale somewhere local I would appreciate the information

And I have just now dived deeper into complexity.  I bought a packet which described itself as a  "Tandaco one-pan dinner" with savoury noodles.  The packet contained a sachet of noodles and a flavour sachet.  It was a product to which I had to add measured quantities of a few things -- not just meat.  I had to add onion, garlic, Oyster sauce and curry powder.  Rather daringly, I added Achar Gosht for the curry powder.  The recipe was probably designed around Keens or the like.

And the result was quite good.  It was a pleasant taste but not like any other taste that I could describe.  A catch, however, was that the recipe produced rather a lot of food.  When it says on a packet "serves 4" I generally discount that and expect it to feed only two.  But this time the claim was spot-on.  It took me four days to eat it all!  So that worked out at less than $3 per dinner, which is very reasonable.

So that is where I am up to at the moment.  I have just bought myself a special pancake frying pan and a packet of pancake mix so strange things could happen soon.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A birthday celebration

It's Jenny's birthday soon so Nanna organized a BBQ today for a few of us to help celebrate the occasion.  Jenny had two out of four of her children along for the occasion -- which she was glad of.  Von and Paul were however of course missed.  Russ piloted the BBQ and we got some really good sausages.  It was in Jenny's special BBQ area in her backyard

Suz was in very good form, full of chat.  We all talked a lot of incidental stuff, as a matter of fact.  Suz has always been a talker but hostess duties tend to mean we don't hear as much from her when we meet at her house.  But today she just sat and talked. And everything she said was good-natured of course.

When Suz and Von were kids Suz used to do all the talking for both of them.  Von would just smile and nod. At one time we were a bit concerned about whether Von could talk much at all.  Then one afternoon Suz took a nap while Von stayed awake.  Rather to our surprise Von started talking to us in quite well-formed sentences.  Never underestimate Von!  The quiet types can have hidden depths.  Von is basically a happy person but not many really know what is behind her smiles.

The great joke of the day at our BBQ was sugar. I brought along for myself and Joe a 1.25 litre bottle of Woolworths Lemon, Lime and Bitters, which I drink a lot of.  Suz however promptly lectured me about it having too much sugar in it.  So it was then on for one and all.  We all had various comments about sugar after that.  I kept drinking the stuff and kept calling it  my "sugar".

Most of what we talked about was in fact about food and drink. I have been doing a bit of cooking lately and the ladies were of course full of wise observations about cooking.  Joe didn't say much and I know why.  Joe has a universal recipe that goes for cooking all food:  "Apply heat". Until recently I also had a universal recipe for good food:  "Eat out".  So, as usual, our thinking is not far apart.

Suz supplied the desserts, including a cake.  She also did some macaroons, which were excellent.

The littlies were very good.  Russ was lying down on the grass at one stage and they kept climbing all over him.

Jenny's friend Pam was there but didn't say much.  With big talkers like Jenny, Suz and myself she probably couldn't get a word in. Nanna complained about that a bit but she eventually managed to have her say.  It was a very jolly occasion.

UPDATE:  One of the things that I talked about is well known to older Australians:  Bex -- or as the Becker company used to advertise: "Bex, B.E.X. Bex". I have taken Bex myself in my earliest days.

I made the point that powders should be revived as an alternative to tablets -- as kids (young and old) often have difficulties with tablets.  More on my pro-Bex views here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A surgical day

I had stitches taken out of two excisions today.  In the morning I attended at the offices of my plastic surgeon to get the stitches out of an excision on my leg.  And I learned that what had come out was a keratocanthoma.  Yes, it is as nasty as it sounds but not dangerous.  I think I have had most of the skin cancers known to dermatology by now. No melanomas, however -- thankfully.  It seems you have to have a fair bit of melanin in your skin to get melanomas and I have the fair Irish skin, with freckles

It was on my right upper leg where the skin is quite tight so Russell had a job putting me back together when it came out. So the skin was fairly stretched and did not respond too well to that.  The site became rather inflamed.  So I deferred getting the stitches out for two weeks, instead of my usual 10 days.

But I am a fast healer so the stitches had become pretty embedded by that time. So the nurse could not get them out.  Russell had to put on his magnifiers and dig them out himself -- which hurt a bit. But it all seems to have settled down now and I remained in good cheer throughout.

Then in the afternoon I attended at the offices of my GP.  He took some stitches out of my right upper arm.  The excision was an easy one with plenty of loose skin at the site so I generally get my GP to do the easy ones.  Not many of mine are easy, however.  My tumours seem to have the habit of popping up in the most inconvenient places.

When my GP excises something it is free -- on Medicare. When a specialist excises something it costs a vast sum so Medicare only gives me about a third of it back.  After the Medicare contribution I can still be $1,000 out of pocket for just one excision.  But I need top skills for most of my excisions so I am glad I can afford it.  I put aside in my early life what I need now in my shaky old age.

When I go to the GP it is always a social occasion.  He is a very cheerful and lively chap from a background similar to my own.  He even knows Innisfail, where I grew up.  And we both have very similar conservative political views so we always have a laugh about the day's political follies.

The Housing Commission housed a lot of African refugees close to his surgery a while back and I have observed the evolution in his attitude towards them.  There are always a lot of Africans in his waiting room these days.  He started out reasonably optimistic about them but he is now very negative.  He has seen a lot of concerning behaviour from them and does not speak well of them. So what I have seen is no PREjudice from him at all but an evolution of POSTjudice due to experience.

So it was a rather interesting day and I rounded it off with a Thai Green curry and rice for supper plus apple and rhubarb pie with cream for dessert. And while I was eating my pie Joe came and sat with me and talked a bit about his future directions. So it ended up a really good day.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The importance of attitude

It's amazing how much difference your attitude can make.  The same event can be viewed either as a disaster or as a positive on some occasions -- and which it is can entirely be a matter of attitude.

One story I have often told is about Joe G., who used to do all my carpentry for me before he his health let him down.  Joe came from London and was in most ways a typical Cockney -- a cheerful chatterbox.  And one day he was telling me about a job he had been on recently.  He was manoeuvering a heavy beam into place when it slipped out of his hands and fell down across his saw stools, smashing both of them.  He told that as a great joke and said:  "I needed new stools anyway".  Most admirable.

And then there is Ken.  Ken was always a cheerful optimist. Some time in his '40s when he realized that lots of his dreams were not going to be fulfilled, he went through a slough of despond
but he eventually got past that. And he seems to have lots of friends.  He constantly says things that irritate his family but he has perfectly amicable relationships with everyone else:  George, Joe and myself for instance.

So something Ken once said struck me.  I said how I limit my driving to avoid traffic jams.  I hate sitting in traffic jams.  Ken however replied that he didn't mind them at all.  He said they were just a welcome quiet time for him.  You could just relax and take it easy with no pressure on you to do things.  I greatly wish I could have that attitude but I still don't.

And Anne has some good attitudes too.  I was saying how I hate the long flights one has to take in order to get almost anywhere from Australia.  I remember a Maersk flight that I once took to travel from Sydney to London via Copenhagen.  I was in that plane for about 30 hours and loathed it.

Anne said however that she likes those long flights.  She just settles down in a comfortable chair with a good book, gets up  once an hour to stretch her legs and people keep coming to her seat bringing food and drinks.  She thought it an ideal setting to read a book -- something she does a lot of. I would like to adopt that attitude but don't think I could.

Why did I say "slough of despond" above?  Did anybody recognize the allusion? It is one of the more notable situations in "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. I read it about 50 years ago but I liked that phrase and have used it occasionally ever since. I liked "the full armour of God" too but that is actually from Ephesians

And I suppose that brings me to something in my own life.  Most people who exit from Puritanical religions seem to have at least some anger towards the religion concerned.  But I went through a very fundamentalist, Puritanical phase in my teens and have no anger about it at all.  I view that time in my life with warm affection, in fact.  I was as happy than as I have ever been and I have had a very happy life in general. And I still enjoy reading my Bible.  I find it full of wisdom. And I also still think that the lessons I  learned then from a Protestant interpretation of the Bible put my feet on the right path through life.  So that's a different attitude from an atheist.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Indian watches

When I was in India, I bought a couple of Indian watches.  I was well aware of the poor quality of most Indian manufactured goods but I liked the look of them so I took a punt on them being OK.  But I was not surprised when they died a few weeks after I got home.   Paul got the watchbands off them.  He was collecting watchbands at that time. Maybe he still has them.

Then recently, Anne decided that she should buy me a watch for my birthday.  And there was a nearby Indian jeweller who had a good display.  I found one I liked and took bets on how long it would last.  It lasted about a week.  I insisted that Anne get her money back but had to get a bit heavy about it.

But there is also a nearby Indian bargain shop that usually has good stuff -- and they sell watches too.  Anne and I saw a ladies watch there that looked quite nice so I bought it for her -- for $11.  It lasted rather well  -- about a month.

So Indian watches are for fun, nothing else.

And let me mention something else amusing. I found a nice blue shirt in India that I wanted to buy. So I bought the biggest size of it that they had -- a vast tent-like creation. I did so because I knew how Indian fabrics shrink like buggery when washed. And after it had been through the washing machine and tumble dryer it was a good fit! I still have it, I think. It is actually a good shirt.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Some late night reflections

It's amazing the transition in education we have seen within living memory.  From my well-remembered and honourably-remembered grandfather who had no schooling at all (but was taught to read and write at home) to my son who went to a private school and who achieved academic distinction. I suppose it's progress.

A very old picture of my grandfather -- Jack Ray -- when he was young below.  He seems to have been a handsome Devil.

He certainly married two very nice ladies.  He married the second one within a week of the first one (my grandmother) dying of TB -- but that was the way they did things back then. There were little children to be looked after and Jack had an applicant -- the lovely Lucy Medlock. I remember her.

I know a lot about my ancestors and I am proud of them all. They were people of no formal distinction and negligible education but were quality people nonetheless. I am greatly privileged to have their genes.  I am in a very basic sense the person they have made me.

The miserabilism of the ever-whining Left and my own conservative contentment are a considerable contrast

Leftists these days often tell us to "check your privilege".  I do so often and am delighted by it but apparently you are supposed to be embarrassed and humiliated  by it.  In my case:  No way!

So does it mean that I am unkind?  I think not.  I give away more money than I spend on myself.  Can any Leftist say that?  They only want to give other people's money away!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothers' Day

Suz and Russ put on a BBQ lunch for a few of us for Mothers' Day.  Russ cooked a big rolled-pork roast on his space-age BBQ that smelled good whilst cooking and tasted good too when we got it. It was served with roast vegetables so was very traditional.

Surprisingly, Ken and Maureen were there.  I thought they would have been cruising.  That is what they do these days, I think.

Nanna showed me the watch that she brought with the $100 present I gave her last Christmas.  Jenny said that she spent that $100 three times over. Nanna was as bright as ever. Pretty good for 91.

Joe tried to explain his work to Ken but I am not sure to what degree that succeeded.

With his broad shoulders Joe looked more like an athlete than an armchair inhabitant.  I asked Joe recently what was his view of the Chinese after his recent visit to the Middle Kingdom.  He answered with one word:  "Unbeatable".  He was impressed by their work ethic as well as by their intelligence.  He has always had Chinese friends.

A lot of the conversation was very geriatric -- about ailments, health insurance, hospitals etc.  I showed the scar on my leg from my most recent surgery.

Sahara has grown into a very pretty girl and Dusty has slowed down a lot.  Joe brought back from China a transformer robot for them -- which they had a lot of fun with.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I know the poor

Poverty is a shortage of money, right?  It is not.  In our society, poverty is an effect of foolish decisions.  It is a behaviour problem, not a money problem.

I have seen it many times but I saw it most frequently when I was the proprietor of a 22-room boarding house located in a poor area. Many of the residents would buy basic groceries etc from a nearby service station, where the prices were about 50% dearer that at the supermarket.  And there was a branch of a large supermarket chain only ten minutes walk away.

And on "payday" (the day when government welfare money was paid into their accounts) it was a wonder to see the casks of "goon" (Sweet white wine in a cardboard box) coming into the place.  There was always money for alcohol.

And I had to be on the ball on "payday" too.  I had to get my rent before the money was all spent.  I even knew where some of them drank and would go in and collect my money from them at the bar.

And they would often have fights, usually over women.  And that often left me with property damage. I always had a glazier ready on call to fix broken windows.  I could have tried to claim that cost back off them but that would have been in vain. By the end of the week most had nothing left in their pockets.

And the fighting was not limited to my place.  They would also get into fights in bars and elsewhere.  And the loser in a fight generally had his money stolen off him, often on the night of "payday".  So, sometimes, if I had not got his money that day, he would have nothing left by the time I got to him.

But not all welfare clients are like that.  Many are prudent enough to have money left over at the end of the week and accumulate some savings.  One such was a tall black Melanesian man -- named Apu if I remember rightly.  When I approached him for his rent he said:  "I got into a fight last night and lost my money ... so I went to the bank and got some out".  He was the only man ever to say that to me.

So he was not poor. He had money for his needs and could put something aside as well.  He got the same "pay" as everyone else but he was more prudent in his behaviour.

I spent many years endeavouring to provide respectable accommodation for the poor but the poor did not make it easy for me.  Many are their own worst enemies.

And in my younger days I lived on Australia's student dole for a couple of years -- and led a perfectly comfortable life.  The student dole was actually a bit below what the unemployed got.  So I have NEVER been poor.

I sometimes had only a little money but I have always had savings, have always eaten well, have always had comfortable accommodation, have always had sufficient clothing, have always had lots of books (mostly bought very cheaply secondhand), have always had good access to the sort of recorded music that I like,  have always been able to afford the day's newspaper and have rarely been without an attractive girlfriend.

I did not however drink alcohol until I could afford it.  I was teetotal until I was about 28.  And I have never smoked or used illegal drugs.  So I made good choices -- for which I largely thank my fundamentalist Christian background -- and have always been contented


While I am enormously grateful to  my Protestant background for putting my teenage feet onto the right path, there seem to be some genetics involved too.  I say that because my son, who did not have that background, is a lot like me.  He seems to save as  much as he spends and yet has an attractive girlfriend, a job he enjoys and vast amounts of "stuff" - mainly books and computer games.

He does however have an addiction -- as young people these days mostly seem to.  So is he addicted to heroin, cocaine, marijuana  or "Ice"?  Far from it.  He is addicted to flavoured milk. He finds it hard to get past the flavoured milk display at our  local supermarket.  At a time when young people pour all sorts of foul things into themselves, I am overjoyed about that

Milk IS bad for his waistline but he has the self-discipline to  get that under control from time to time too.  I think that both he and I have inherited Puritan genetics.  I am convinced there is such a thing.  It is a great gift.

And let us not forget that Puritans founded America.  So Puritans can be people of considerable personal effectiveness.  And for some people Puritanism feels right.  It did for me.  People exiting restrictive religions tend to be resentful of their times in the religion concerned.  But I revelled in it. And it is still a fond memory of that time in my life

So in the end I have to agree with a great Rabbi:  "The poor ye always have with you". There may not be such a thing as "white privilege" (most of my lodgers were white) but there may be such a thing as an inborn Puritan privilege -- JR

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jason brings home the golden fleece

After Joe built my new Windows 10 computer recently, we had some leftover bits from my old Windows 7 computer that I wanted to re-use, an old hard drive and an A-drive. Joe bought an old secondhand computer for $80 for that purpose and set it up using Windows XP.  Alas, however, my leftover hard drive was so old (about 10 years) that it could not be used even with my old $80 computer. It is an IDE drive, now obsolete.

My old mate Jason had an idea, however.  He knew of an adapter that you can get from China for $20 that converts an IDE interface to a USB interface.  So he got me one. And today was the big day to install it.

It didn't work. But Jason is not accustomed to defeat by any computer.  He has been using personal computers since he was a kid -- starting out with the venerable VIC-20. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units.  So his brain is full of all sorts of understanding of computers.

So he kept trying all sorts of strategies to get the new system to work.  After nearly two hours of hard work and at least a dozen tries he finally did it.

It turns out that an IDE drive uses slightly more power than more modern drives -- so the power supply that came with the USB adapter was inadequate.  Fortunately, however, my old $80 computer was a originally a quality one -- a Hewlett Packard.  So it had inside it a variety of power outlets to enable use of various peripheral devices.  And one of them had the extra power that my old IDE drive needed.

So once we discovered that it was all plain sailing and I now have up and running an old XP machine complete with two functioning hard drives and an A-drive -- a genuine museum piece.  I now have 3 different old computers up and running in my mini-museum.  The others are a DOS machine and an Amiga 500.  Men like their machines.


There really was a golden fleece

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How old people give directions

When a young person wants to tell another person where something is, he will pick out prominent buildings or features that are nearby.

Old people do that too but they have another tool at their disposal.  When talking to another old person, they will often describe where something USED to be.  Anne and I do it often.  We might for instance say:

John:  Where do that young couple live these days?

Anne:  Opposite where the Thompsons used to live

John:  Opposite where the Thompsons used to live!  Ah!  Now I get you

So being old has some advantages

But health problems usually ensure that it is not a golden age. I think most of us oldies look back to the time when we were involved in bringing up children as our golden age.  Maybe not for everyone

But old age does have a few advantages.  We are under less pressure to achieve.  We know by then who we are and where we are.  We no longer have to strive to get somewhere or establish anything.

There is some tendency for older people to get more religious too -- particularly in women

I am still as atheist as ever but I will probably say on my deathbed "Shema Yisreal" -- not out of any expectation of a reward -- just in an appreciation of the good.  I would like to be able to say the whole prayer but I can't memorize anything much these days. I am glad I learnt a lot of poetry when I was young. Perhaps if I am compos mentis enough I could get a Rabbi to come and say it for me.    It's a prayer of devotion but I like its triumphant tone

Monday, April 25, 2016

A rather mad ANZAC day

Because everything was going to be shut up for ANZAC day, Anne came over to cook me breakfast.  I had a leftover pack of hot-cross buns in the freezer so that was the main focus.  Anne put them in the oven for an inscrutable time and they came out fine.  She also brought over the leftovers of a chicken she had cooked for her and June the night before so I cut my hotcross buns into two, buttered them, and ate them with chicken in the middle. Very satisfactory!

And somehow we used an amazing amount of crockery and cutlery for the process.  There ended up plates and cutlery all over the place on my verandah table afterwards

We both watched the march on TV after breakfast.  I watched only a bit of it but Anne watched it all.  She was on the lookout for people she knew  There were huge numbers in the march so that was not unrealistic.  She saw no-one this year, though.

Then that night I offered Anne a Thai curry dinner (out of my  freezer) while I cooked a pack of snags for myself.  But it didn't end up that way.  Anne cooked up some rice to have with her curry but I found when I opened my offered packet of curry that it already had rice with it.

So how to proceed?  I had expected to have toast with my snags but I decided that rice would be good too.  And six snags were a bit much for me alone so both of us ended up having three snags and rice for our dinner -- which neither of us had foreseen.

But the snags were good, the rice was fine and I had a new bottle of "Chipotle" (Mexican) BBQ sauce to have with the snags -- so we did well. The sauce was only a bit peppery.

I grabbed out of the fridge what I thought was a bottle of beer to have with it all but it turned out to be a bottle of ginger beer only.  But it was fine.  Chaos was still pretty good.  And we ended up with lots of cutlery on the table for that meal too!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

St. George's day

I missed out on celebrating St. George's day yesterday.  St. George is of course the patron saint of England and I do often celebrate it. I thought of it rather late in the week and Anne was ill the day before so it was all too hard this year.  I fly the flag of St. George daily on the flagpole at the front of my house but that is probably just a token of my eccentricity.  I also have a large brass Hindu idol (Ganesha) greeting people as they walk in my front door so I think my claim to be eccentric is on firm ground.  We bright sparks are allowed to be eccentric.

In Britain these days, the St. George flag has been adopted by people who are proud to be English rather than British.  People of immigrant origin from all over the world are described as British these days.  So I have a certain sympathy for that. My origins too are mainly English and I am most grateful for that.  Britain has a lot of troublesome immigrants these days whereas our main immigrant group are Han Chinese -- who are no trouble at all.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reflections about my forebears

Taking an interest in one's forebears is a very conservative thing to do. Leftists usually act as if the world started yesterday.  They are certainly slow to learn from history. Despite all the horrors that Communism has unleashed on the world, you still have a neo-Communist, Bernie Sanders, running for President of the United States at the moment.  His rhetoric is over two centuries old and there is no doubt about where it has previously led.

I am rather bemused by what the more addled Leftists in American universities call "whiteness" studies. Whites are an evil lot who should be ashamed of themselves and give all their goods to minorities -- is the general message.

But I am not at all ashamed of my whiteness.  I am very pleased by it.  And I am impressed by my white forebears.  Two of my ancestors came out to Australia from the other side of the world in frail little wooden ships.  When men went to sea in such ships there was always a high likelihood (a third?) that they would never come back  Yet they repeatedly did it  Why?

It was partly because of the way that men are fascinated by machines. And their ships were quite complex wooden machines, probably the most complex machines of their day. Sail was perhaps an even older technology than the wheel.  It enabled people to move things through time and space without being totally reliant on human or animal muscle

Bodies of water were the highways of the ancient world.  People  had little in the way of roads so you could not go far or easily on land.  But you could by water.  So your technology was focused on movement across water.  And thus you could move things long distances and bring back things from far places.  Sailing ships were a very USEFUL technology.  They expanded greatly what humans could do.  They could even remove humanely problem people from their society.

And two of my ancestors were such problem people.  But by dint of the great skills of white people they arrived safe and sound  after long and wearying transport across a vast distance. Another society -- e.g. a Muslim one -- might simply have killed off or mutilated those two of my petty-criminal forebears but the humane white people of England simply sent them far away.  I am proud to be of that ilk.

But what do we know of my more remote forebears? There is always disputation about these things but it seems that they were originally Celts, ancestors of most of the people who now living in Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland and Wales. And the people now living in Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland and Wales are very similar to the rest of the current British population.   So it seems likely that the Celts were much like we are today.

Most of what we know about the early Celts we get from Roman writers, particularly Caesar.  In Commentarii de Bello Gallico he tells us about his conquests of the Celts in Gaul (now France). We learn that they were big and fierce fighters who would rush into battle with great  enthusiasm.  They were too disorganized, however.  They were regularly defeated by the discipline of the little Roman troops.  Roman soldiers from Italy were mostly only about 5' tall but the taller Celts were regularly defeated by the  better organization and discipline of Caesar's troops.

When it came to the Germans however, the Romans had REAL trouble.  Those guys were even bigger and even more ferocious.  They wiped out whole Roman legions at times.  They stopped Roman conquest at the Rhine.

Caesar invaded Britain in 55BC but did not occupy it permanently.  That took place nearly 100 years later, leading to Britain being under Roman control for around 400 years.  And around 500 AD  later the Germans arrived, conquered and settled.

So you would think that modern-day British people  would have a blend of Celt, Roman and German genes.  And it is partly like that.  And I have no doubt both Celtic and German genes in me.  But what about the Romans?  The  DNA studies of the current British population find little or no trace of them.  We know that the first thing conquering armies did in the old days was to rape the women of the conquered population so what happened to all the Roman genes that should have entered the British gene-pool at that time?  Unlike the Greeks, the Romans weren't baby-killers so there does seem to be a mystery there.

But there is in fact no great mystery. Rome was very multicultural.  You did not have to be of Italian origin to have all the advantages of Roman citizenship.  Even St. Paul, a Hellenized Jew, was a Roman citizen.  And so it was with Roman armies.  It was very unlikely that many Italian troops ever went to Britain.  The legions that did go were probably raised from somewhere more conveniently located, most probably Celtic Gaul (modern France).  So Celts trained in Roman military discipline went to Britain and defeated Celts using Celtic customs.  The Roman conquest and occupation probably did very little to alter the Celtic nature of the British population.

So I have in me the genes of two very capable white populations, the Celts and the Germans -- plus a bit of Norman and Scandinavian probably.  And I know enough about both groups to be  rather pleased about all that.  I am privileged to be descended from such capable people.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Joe is back from the middle kingdom

The middle kingdom?  Has one of Joe's computer games come to life?  Not quite.  There really is such a place.  We refer to it as the land of the Chin, though the Chin dynasty is long gone -- China, in other words.  The Chinese name for their country cannot adequately be translated into English, though it can be translated well into German.  In German it would be Das Mittelreich.  So the "Middle Kingdom" is the best we can do.  The idea is that the Chinese see China as the centre of the world.  They always have and they still do.  And by the end of this century they will be right.

Joe went there with the CIO of the company he works for.  The firm is buying some hardware from China -- as you do -- and Joe had the job of working out how to program it.  The fact that his boss took Joe with him suggests to me that they see Joe as their hotshot programmer.  He probably is:  Not only because he is a versatile coder but mainly because of his problem-solving ability, I would think.  An old word for problem-solving ability is IQ.

Anyway Joe can himself see that he has hit the ground running in his new job so is looking forward to a bigger pay packet in due course. Pay packets tend to be healthy in his line of work.

They went to Shanghai on a Qantas airbus and arrived back yesterday at around midday.  Joe brought me back a big bottle of "Bombay Sapphire" London dry gin distilled for the Asian market.  To my limited palate, it tastes much the same as any other middle-range gin. All gin has lots of botanicals in it and the ones added to this one were Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorns.  How do I know that?  It says so on the bottle.  International trade is an amazing thing:  A gin distilled in England, named after a place in India and designed for China.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Innisfail State Rural School -- a document

If you google Innisfail State Rural School,  you will mostly get links to things that I have put online.  Other than that there are only some old newspaper clippings put online by Trove, the excellent service by the National Library of Australia.

So I want to put online a document that will show once and for all that it did exist.  It is one of my old report cards -- from Grade 4.

It is a rather tattered document but it is the only record I have of 7 years of my life.  It is from my primary school days.  A Rural School was a combined primary and secondary school in a place that could not support  separate primary and secondary schools.

Another Ingeborg Hallstein clip

I have just come across her singing "Ich bin die Christel von der Post", from  1973.  I am used to the version sung by Ute Gfrerer but they are both very good.  The operetta was "Der Vogelhandler" by Zeller

She once again uses heavy eye makeup.  I think that was characteristic of the time.

Below is another clip, with her singing the famous Nightingale song by Grothe. She has just the voice for that

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A quiet Easter

Anne was away camping with one of her sons and his family and Joe was in Canberra with Kate so I just sat in front of my computer for most of the time. But I got a lot of writing done so that was good.

My usual breakfast haunts were closed for Easter so I just went to Stone's Corner.  There are about six cafes in a row there so a couple were open and the breakfasts there are good. I did go to Buranda on the Saturday, however, as that is not an official holiday.  The restaurants were however all closed.  But Woolworths was having a sausage sizzle so I had some of that.  I like sausages so I was quite happy with that.

For my evening meals I had stuff out of my freezer -- which was excellent.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cheese quest

When I was helping to bring up kids many moons ago, computer games like Kings Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest etc were all the rage.  My present quest is obviously much less important than that but it has some importance to me.

Going back further: When I was a kid in the '40s and '50s there was no variation in what cheese we ate.  It was always Kraft cheddar cheese in the blue packet and with the silver foil inside.  That it didn't need refrigeration even in the tropics was probably part of its appeal.  And I don't think our household was much different from any other at the time.  I think Australia had something of a cheese monoculture at that time.

As time went by however, the available types of cheese proliferated -- and Kraft cheddar faded from view.  But the variety did not conquer all.  What happened was that a new monoculture arose: "Tasty" cheese arose to rule the roost.

And like a good Australian, I too for many years mainlined on Tasty.  Recently, however, I have looked outside my rut a bit and have tried some other cheeses.  And as part of looking more widely, I wondered if you could still get the old Kraft cheddar.  Rather to my surprise I found that I could.  My local Woolworths has it in a small corner down the bottom of one of its shelves.

So I wondered how it matched up against more modern cheeses.  I bought a packet. And it was still quite pleasant but a bit bland.  It goes very well as grilled cheese on toast however.  So Kraft cheddar was the beginning but not the end of my quest.

Other cheeses I have tried include Club Cheddar from the Mary Valley (Queensland) -- with pickled onion in it -- and Cracker Barrel black label.  The Onion cheese has the best taste in my view but both are a bit too crumbly for me.

So my quest continues. Is there a cheese with a strong cheesy flavour that is not crumbly?

Friday, March 11, 2016

A dinner with JM

I am rather bad at keeping up with old friends, which is rather regrettable, as I have come across some pretty fine people over the years.  Someone I saw a lot of around 20 years ago was JM.  He used to be my repairman for wonky Amiga computers.  Whenever I arrived at his shop, however, we would have a chat, which we both found rewarding. I think I had a lot of influence in getting him interested in real estate and he got me into options trading on the stockmarket.

Options trading is a bit of  a mug's game, I have concluded.  It's only the stockbrokers who do well out of it.  By the time JM and I both gave it up he a had lost big money and I came out about square.  But real estate has been kind to both of us.

When the fashion for Amiga computers passed, I lost touch with JM  for a long time.  One morning about a year ago, however he spotted me in a coffee place where I often go and we caught up with one another.  Since then he has been helpful to Joe in getting all my old Amiga gear going again.  Joe remembers spending years on the Amiga when he was a kid so likes to have an Amiga still available

Anyway, I woke up to myself and shouted JM and his lady a dinner at the Sunny Doll tonight, with Joe also coming along.  I am  resolved to keep in some touch from now on with the clever and pleasant man that JM is.

The Sunny Doll did their usual trick of putting before us some amazingly good Japanese food amazingly promptly.  We also arranged for JM to come over next Tuesday to do a bit more work on getting all my Amiga gear up to scratch.  I now have an Amiga hard drive going, which is a bit rare.

I am something of a sentimentalist, which is why I kept my old Amiga stuff.  I thought some of the kids might one day want their own kids to experience the old games.  And I always suspected that Joe would turn out to be a sentimentalist, since both his mother and father are.  And it has now happened.  He is sentimental about the old games and has in fact introduced some of his friends to them.  He and JM spent some time over dinner talking about them.

What is sentimentalism?  I think it is just an appreciation of how things once were.  Not all good resides in the present. It does not exclude being fully engaged with the present.  Certainly in his job as an IT professional, Joe is really at the cutting edge of how things are evolving.

The biggest sentimentalist in the family is Von, Joe's sister.  Mostly, to be a sentimentalist you have to have something to look back upon, so you usually become sentimental well into your adult life.  But Von has been sentimental since she was a little girl.  She has kept mementos of things she enjoyed throughout her life.  She is basically a very happy lady.  I think that is basically what underlies sentimentalism.  It is a capacity to enjoy many things.

A comment from my brother:

A view I can identify with. I still have my father's old rifle and I know every old tool in my tool box that Frank used to own -- and keep them in good order. Alas I have trouble passing the concept of history onto my children bought up with a throwaway society before certain possessions were supposed to last a lifetime or more. It is a rare pleasure that I fear few now understand to pick up an old hammer or pair of pliers and know that your father used to use the same tool.

Friday, March 4, 2016

A birthday

My brother CER has just had a birthday so I decided to buy him a dinner in celebration. He and his wife came along to my favourite Japanese restarurant near where I live and a few others came along to help with the celebrating. Anne came, Joe came  plus Jenny and Nanna so there were seven of us all told.

The restaurant was unusually busy but I had booked in advance so I got my preferred table and the kitchen was well prepared so our dinners came out as promptly as usual

We talked a bit about The Donald, with both my brother and myself saying we hope he wins.  I had my old faithful plumber over during the day and he also was hoping for a Trump win.

We washed our dinners down with Fourex Gold and Barossa pearl, which my brother declared he liked.  It's considered an unprestigious drop but that did not deter him.  Anne and I are very keen on it.  It was one of the earliest Australian wines but it went out of production in 1983.  Owing to popular demand, however, it was brought back a couple of years ago

We had quite as few dishes from the menu with some of them shared but they were all, as usual, good.  To save me the trouble of mentioning them, below is the sales docket I got.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A saint's day, a birthday and a funeral

14th was St Valentine's day, now quite shorn of any thing religious.  But the ladies like it so we men do it.  I bought Anne roses, chocolates and a card as usual and offered to take her to a restaurant we haven't visited lately.

On the day, however, I also gave her a table!  She wanted a table on which to lay out a big jigsaw so I took a 4' (1200 mm) one I had in storage downstairs and, with Anne's help, brought it upstairs and made a place for it in her room. I have had a fair bit of removalist experience over the years and I needed all of it.  Getting it through a series of narrow doorways was quite a job.  Anyway, getting a table as a Valentine's day gift must be a rarity.

Also on the day, however, Anne was feeling a bit down due to the fact that her eldest sister had died the night before.  It was very much an expected death after a long decline but the reality is of course still a blow.

So rather than go out to a restaurant, we just got in fish & chips from a local fish shop that we knew to be good.  We had it al fresco on my verandah with some champagne so we both enjoyed it.  Both Anne and I regard fish 'n chips as a treat.

And yesterday I put on a dinner for Jill's birthday.  Jill is one of the few people outside family that I keep in touch with. As usual we went to a West End Greek restaurant that we know.  I like to make the dinner one of 4 or 5 courses so the courses have to be small.  But the restaurant concerned offers many of its foods in appetizer form so we had a lot of them.  We had Keftedes, Haloumi, Tarama, Pastourma, traditional Greek salad plus alcohol and dessert -- all at a very modest cost.  It was good to catch up with Jill and Lewis and particularly good to see Lewis still hale and hearty in his 80s.

And today was the funeral for Anne's eldest sister.  I did not go to the interment but attended the church service afterward, mainly to give Anne support.  It was at the local Presbyterian church and attracted a full house -- as Anne's sister had been very active in the church for a long time.  Being a bit deaf, I understood very little of the sermon or the prayers but I doubt that I missed much.

The "wake" afterward was better.  The fare was very Presbyterian -- ham sandwiches and cold water -- but I am very keen on sandwiches so it was fine by me.

I cooked Anne a shepherd's pie for supper -- a ready-made one from Woolworths that just had to be popped into the oven for half an hour to cook.  I have no idea who the Woolworths cook is but he makes great dinners and we enjoyed that one -- helped by a cold bottle of Tyrrell's Verdelho.  Tyrrell does Verdelho much better than other vintners in my opinion.