Old folk at lunch

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.


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


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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The visitors arrive

Von and family arrived from the shaky isles last night: A family reunion that we were all looking forward to.  It was particularly good because Joe was also with us this time. Paul was in England, though.  Paul does a great job of livening up our family gatherings with his constant flow of extraversion and out-loud thinking so I have sometimes wondered how we would go without Paul.  But we did fine.  The chats flowed constantly.   There are some pretty verbal ladies among us -- including Von.  Von was really quiet as a little girl but she is as talkative as her mother these days.  She has interesting things to say too.

So we had a BBQ lunch today put on by Jenny, using her new bells-and-whistles BBQ.  Not so long ago a BBQ was a sheet of steel over a fire but these days it is an outdoors gas stove.  And Jenny cooked barramundi for us all on it.  So we now know that the BBQ can cook fish too.

Big Susan was there with her two but little Susan was at work so could not join us.  Anne had a class at that time so could not come.  Nanna was there  -- our own nonagenerian and with all her wits still about her.

We talked a lot about NZ and Von's life there but in the absence of Paul I don't think we said much about politics.  I mostly listened.  One great topic however was my diet and Joe's role as a hard taskmaster.  That did evoke some amusement.  Everybody was however impressed to hear that the weight is already coming off and that my fitness has noticeably improved.  Joe has appointed himself as my personal trainer and I really need that. I had got to the point where I could only just get up my front stairs. Everybody was amused to hear that instead of my usual sausage and egg breakfasts, I now have only all-Bran.

The kids were amusing as usual.  Matthew sat next to me at one stage and I gave him a heavily buttered bread roll to eat, which he really got into.  The boy likes butter.  Hannah just lounged around mostly, looking like a perfect languid lady.  Her mother was a born lady too.  I used to call her "Lady Von" and sometimes still do.  Von and I always got on well so that is the main reason I shout them the occasional trip across the water.  She has an ideal lifestyle in NZ but not much money.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

At Jill's

As the final episode of my birthday celebrations, Jill shouted Anne and me a lunch at her place yesterday.  She served a home-made egg and tomato pie which was very good -- plus a sort of cheesecake as a birthday cake,

Jill and Lewis told us a lot about their cruising adventures.  They go on ocean cruises quite a lot and have become very  experienced about getting good deals on such trips.

Lewis is involved with all sorts of organizations these days.  He has made a remarkable recovery from his stroke. He is having a very productive retirement.

We reminisced a bit about old times and Jill updated me about some of the people we both know.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Flame guided dinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fruit slice packet

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

Monday, July 14, 2014

A busy weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

Those yummy meatballs

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Carpet inspection

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

So I arranged for Anne to give them lunch today.

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

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

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

Paul and I mostly talked about business matters.

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

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

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

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

Mr Shorthair

Friday, June 27, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June's birthday party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dosas again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 8, 2014

No names

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BBQ and carpets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew and Dusty doing what boys do

Jenny's birthday cake -- a Tiramisu pavlova

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I am a bad churchman

And you will see why shortly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

3 stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dore Gold

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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