Sunday, October 6, 2019

Cancer update


I am the cancer kid.  I have been having skin cancers removed since I was about 20.  And that has gradually got more frequent.  I now have that done nearly once a week. That is mostly done by a small local skin clinic and bulk-billed, so costs me nothing.  Nitrogen spraying gets rid of a lot of the bad bits and shave biopsies zap nearly all the rest.  As a frequent visitor I also get very friendly and courteous treatment there.  So having so many procedures does not get me down. I had a cancer underneath my left eyelid frozen last Friday.

I recently had a big operation for a cancer under my left jaw. In getting the tumor out, my left facial nerve was cut, despite the surgeon doing a lot to avoid that.  So there are now areas of numbness on my left face.  I have however had good recovery of function.  I don't have a sagging mouth or a crooked smile and I can eat and drink with no great problems. I do however have an itchy ear that we are working on and my left eye tends to get a bit watery outdoors. A pair of sunglasses helps that however --if I can remember to put them on!

I also have metastasized prostate cancer but it is controlled by an anti-androgenic injection once a month.  And that seems to be working well.  My most recent PSA score was 2.5, which is close to zero.  So my prostate cancer has shrunk, which is the desideratum.  The cost of the injections of "Firmagon" is interesting.  Each injection costs the government $400 but thanks to the PBS, I pay only $40.  So on the financial side, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Private health insurance cover


As most people reading this will be aware, you can get a range of cover for "extras" with private hospital insurance. And for services that are not too dear and not too often called upon that can be worthwhile. The cover is for such things as spectacles and hearing aids and dental costs up to a limit.  A small contribution to some medical costs can also be available.

I have maximum ("top") cover so my experience might help others to get a grip on what is available.  The premiums I pay to my fund (CUA) are higher than most but they are unusually generous with hearing aids.  My last lot cost nearly $4,000 and they paid nearly half of that.  I rarely have dentistry and what I have is simple so last time they paid all my costs.  There was also a substantial benefit for new spectacles.

But the most interesting case is what it cost me for my recent big cancer surgery. I was on the table in Brisbane Private Hospital within a week of the cancer being detected. I was in intensive care for a couple of days afterwards so that would have generated an enormous bill from the hospital which my fund paid in full.

The surgeon and her assistant sent me a bill totalling over $5,000, of which Medicare paid $1500 and my fund paid nearly $500.  So I was around $3,000 out of pocket.  In my younger days however I lived frugally and was able to put aside substantial funds to cover "a rainy day" -- so $3,000 was no problem.  Savings are the true health insurance.  It's towards the end of your life that you incur most of your life's medical bills. Proverbs 6:6-8 refers.


Saturday, September 14, 2019

A geriatric cook reaches out


For almost my entire adult life I have had both my breakfast and dinner made for me.  If there was not a lady on hand to do the honours, I would eat out -- for both breakfast and dinner. Some time around when I turned 70, however I decided that eating out twice a day was a bit gross -- and night-time traffic was a bit hairy.  So I decided that I would cook my dinner myself.  I have no background in cooking however so have bungled a few dinners along the way.  There are a few simple dinners I make that regularly turn out well, however, so I even cook for other people on occasions.

And last night I cooked for Ken.  It was for his birthday. As Maureen is quite ill these days, I surmised that there would not be much happening for his birthday -- so I offered to make him a home-made dinner to mark the occasion.

So I made him my "best" dinner, one that is routinely complimented -- a version of savoury mince.  And I even trotted out my best tablecloth for the occasion -- a pretty embroidered one from China that Anne gave me recently.  I seem to have accumulated rather a lot of tablecloths over the years

I don't think Ken noticed the tablecloth but he complimented the food and the champagne so all was well.  For canapes I offered salty biscuits plus a choice of three cheeses.  Quite to my surprise, however, he said he doesn't much like cheese these days.   I thought everybody liked cheese.  Maybe it was a polite way of saying that he didn't like the cheeses I offered. English politeness can be extreme. You have to know the English to decipher it accurately, as Kate Fox has shown us. He also said however that he didn't like tea or coffee very much these days and rarely drinks either.  So maybe he is just generally gloomy in his old age.

Ken and I always enjoy conversations and that is rather helped these days by the fact that Ken and I seem to agree a lot. We have known one-another for over 30 years so our conversations also  can be rather frank at times. We have many shared memories.

We talked a fair bit about real estate as Ken is selling his warehouse in order to invest in upscale retirement living.  I hope the vendors don't rip him off.  There is a history of it. The price you buy at can be critical for investments.

One topic that we disagreed on last night was the concept of "healthy" food.  I go against the almost universal concept that there is such a thing as "healthy" food.  I doubt that there is much difference in the goodness of various foods and if there is I don't think we know which ones are healthier than others. So Ken cannot be blamed for being unconvinced by such a radical view.

It is however a well-informed view.  I have been reading the medical journals for years and have even had a few things published in them. And I still read JAMA almost daily.  And from a statistical point of view it is mostly crap.  I used to teach research methods and statistics at the University of NSW so see the sleight of hand that underlies an awful lot of the statistics in medical journals.  Most of the "findings" they report are not significant in any important sense and may even  be totally wrong.

Despite his earlier disavowal of it Ken accepted my offer of coffee. My brain seems to have short-circuited at that point however as I gave him some instant coffee I had which turned out rather badly.

I should have given him the coffee that I usually drink as I recollect him once speaking well of it.  It is however the most unprestigous form of coffee: Bushell's coffee and chicory essence. It was the first coffee that the British and Australians  got to know. My father used to drink it.  So perhaps  I thought it was too humble to offer last night.  So that was sad note on which to end a generally pleasant occasion

Update:  I mentioned above that articles in even the most prestigious medical journals often report conclusions that are  poorly supported by the underlying statistics.  As it happens, the very next day I put up commentaries on two such articles -- here and here



Tuesday, September 10, 2019

My recollections of Harry Beanham




When I first came down to Brisbane from Cairns in 1963 I had left my Triumph Tiger Cub motorbike in Cairns for Frank to sell -- which he did with some difficulty.  So one of the first things I did in Brisbane was to look in the Courier mail classifieds for a secondhand motorbike.  I found and bought an old ex-army BSA -- a low revving 500cc single pot machine complete with manual advance/retard. Military equipment is often not reliable but this machine never let me down

I used it to get to work at my first Brisbane job, Abraham's Paper Sacks out at Rocklea, a firm that made heavy paper bags for the sandminers on Stradbroke Is.  But I have described that experience  elsewhere

Later in 1963, I got a job selling transmission machinery from a shop in George St., Brisbane. It rather strangely had 3 names: Gearco, Irvine's and Munro Machinery. That is such a strange job for a literary type like me that I think I should say a few words about how I got that job.

There were not many jobs advertised in the local paper for experts in Middle-English poetry -- which is what I knew most about -- so with some optimism I applied for a job as an engineering equipment salesman.

I was interviewed by Harry Beanham, who owned a chain of similar shops in other capital cities. I turned up for the interview in a green suit wearing a green fuzzy felt hat. That was not a good move. But Harry was a cautious man so he just asked me two questions which should have sent me on my green-suited way. He asked: What is a tap and what is a reamer? Being a country kid I answered both questions correctly. And if you think a tap is something you get water out of you don't know engineering machinery. Harry was so delighted to meet a kid who actually knew something that he gave me the job straight away.

Harry was usually resident in Sydney but he visited his interstate shops occasionally.  His Brisbane shop in George St. was mostly called Gearco.  The job was to run a business selling second hand factory machinery and some new machinery: Mostly to do with lathes and other machine tools. I found it interesting.

Harry was in partnership with a very smooth man (Bob Naesmith) selling new and secondhand photographic gear. I ran my (engineering) side of the shop and the other side of the shop was run by George Smith and Mrs Staer. I had for many years a SLR Pentax camera I acquired from the other side of the shop when it came in second-hand.

I once had a Pom come in to buy some chain off me. He was a bit vague about what he wanted but assured me that he was a great British engineer.  I gave him some 1/2 x 3/16 inch chain which he accepted. He came back next day rather irate because the chain did not fit.  It turned out that he wanted 1/2 x 5/16 inch chain.  I was a bit mocking about a great British engineer not knowing something as basic as the difference between 1/2 x 3/16  and 1/2 x 5/16 chain.  He couldn't recognize the difference between pushbike chain and motorbike chain.  He went away very angry with me!  A sad soul.

I made my mark in Harry's mind by being a very successful seller of diehead chasers. There was a complexity to them that interested me. He eventually sent his total stock of them up to Brisbane for me to sell. Don't ask what they are. You don't need to know. Mechanical engineers know already.

Harry was pleased to find that I was a motorcyclist as that was very much his hobby.  He was riding them well into his later years.  His favourite bike when I knew him was the Velocette, a high quality British bike.  He had one  stored in the basement of his Brisbane shop for his use when he was in Brisbane.  It was a bit like a motorscooter so I am pretty sure it was an LE model.


A 1953 Velocette LE

Harry seemed to monitor my sales and orders fairly closely and would send me up handwritten notes about them.  I suspect that he couldn't work a typewriter.  On one occasion he wrote that something I was doing was NBG.  He was a bit on the grumpy side but never unpleasantly so. He saw it as his job to teach me things about the business -- which I was glad to learn.

As well as selling new lathe gears and other new machinery.  Harry had a big stock of secondhand machinery which he had bought at auctions.  Auctions were his second favourite hobby, I gather.  So there were various things I had to do with his second-hand stock  to get it ready for sale.

And that stood me in good stead in 1968 when I was fired from the Dept. of Technical Education of the NSW public service.  You did not think ANYONE could get fired from the public service did you?  But I behaved unusually rebelliously.  I was not meant to be a bureaucrat.  Details of that episode here.

When I was fired, I went and saw Harry at his Sydney business -- in case he might want me to work for him again. He did. Harry remembered how I sold lots of diehead chasers for him in Brisbane so had a high opinion of my usefulness.  So he promptly put me to work preparing his secondhand stock for sale.  So I got a job that did not exist until I asked for it!

There are a number of affectionate stories about Harry online -- e.g. here

Monday, September 9, 2019

A new Ingeborg Hallstein channel on Youtube with lots of videos


See here.  Many of the videos are of her in her younger days.

My favourite is her version of Frühlingsstimmen Walzer (Voices of Spring Waltz) by Johann Strauss. I will never be able to listen to anybody else's version now.  See below:



The owner of the channel is "megadim" (megadimih@gmail.com), who informs me that he has a lot more videos of her that he will put up in due course.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A wonderful Brisbane afternoon in winter


For people who like warm weather -- as I do -- Brisbane is a great place.  Even our winter afternoons are almost always warm.  But yesterday Brisbane really excelled itself.  The midafternoon temperature was 34C -- which is a normal SUMMER temperature for Brisbane.

Warmists would regard that as a global catastrophe but for Brisbane people it is just a part of normal variations.  And if Brisbane people carry on regardless in such temperatures, does anyone need to fear the one or two degees of warming that the climate fanatics foam about?

Monday, September 2, 2019

An unusual Father's day


I am one of those people for whom it is hard to buy gifts because they already have everything.  So when my birthday or fathers' day comes up, I make it easy for Joe by saying that all I want is for him and Kate to make me a dinner for us all to have on the verandah -- which suits us all. I have got some good dinners that way.

This year however, I complicated things a bit by inadvertently scheduling something else for Sept., 1st, which is when Fathers' day is observed in Australia.  I scheduled one of my men's dinners for that day

So we had my "day" a little early instead.  I suggested that instead of a Sunday observance I would be happy for Joe to join me at a breakfast on the Thursday beforehand -- to take place at the Gold Leaf coffee shop at Kangaroo point.  I particularly like the Lot burger they do there and wanted Joe to try it too.  We both had other things already on that morning so we set out at 7:30am to fit it in.  And it all went well, a very pleasant breakfast in a pleasant milieu. 

Then on the Sunday Joe and I breakfasted together again -- as we always do on Sundays.

And that evening we had our men's dinner.  Present were myself, Joe, Chris, Graham and H**.  It was the first time H** had attended.  H** is a jolly soul and has political views similar to mine so he fitted in very well and helped the night to roll along as a fun occasion. 

We did talk politics as usual -- with particular derision for global warming -- but a whole range of other things as well.  Speaking from his background in counselling, Graham was informative about pedophiles.  He said that most of them had themselves been abused in their childhoods.  From there we went on to discuss homosexuality.  Graham was again informative there and noted the extreme bitchiness that is often found in "bottom" male homosexuals. There have been two Lesbians in the Ray family so it was a topic of some interest to Chris and myself.  I noted that I had always got along well  personally with any homosexuals in my orbit.

To feed the horde, I made my usual mince dish, Chili con carne this time, which all went right down.  I also provided tinned fruit salad and icecream as a dessert, and that vanished rapidly too.

Chris brought long a replica Gladius for "show and tell" which was much admired.  The possibility of him bringing along a classic machine gun next time was discussed.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Dressings off!


A happy day today.  The dressings on my surgical wounds came off.  So I once again have a normal-looking face.  Emily took the dressings off and said that the healing was good so there was no need for any more dressings.  I still have a lot of subsurface stitches but they will dissolve of their own accord.

I am far from totally out of the woods, however. I still have to undergo radiotherapy to kill off any stray cancer cells that might still be there. But that won't be invasive.

I am still feeling a bit washed out after all my experiences but I hope that I will gradually bounce back from that. I have had rather good recovery of function.  My left eye gets watery only occasionally now and I can eat anything I want with no great trouble.  I will always have a crooked smile henceforth however.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Free at last!


I did not enjoy my time in hospital.  Who does?  So I was very glad when Joe came and picked me up at 10am this morning. As soon as I got out, Joe and I went and had Sunday morning breakfast together as we usually do. Routines must be observed! We talked mainly about American politics as we usually do.  Politics is a great interest for both of us. There was no point in saying anything much about my health as what is done is done.

An unexpected blessing while I was in hospital was that there were a few things things on TV -- mainly history -- that I found interesting. That helped with the boredom.

The Brisbane Private Hospital on Wickham Tce. is a VERY good hospital.  In some respects, it even pipped the Wesley, to my surprise. Each room had its own temperature control, the meals were first class restaurant standard and the TV controls were better.  Such things may seem trivial but they are not trivial when you are in there.

My captor who kept me in hospital for four days was the pretty and gracious "Emily" (Dr. Emily Perry), the highly regarded head and neck surgeon.  Outside the office, she dresses like a young woman about town rather than the very serious professional that she is.  So her daily visits to check on me were definitely a bright spot in my day. See her  below with Chris Perry, her father, also a distinguished surgeon.  They are both very self confident people.  She is in mufti there, not at all glammed up, as she can be.




I had an aggressive tumour on my neck which had metastasized (spread) from one of my skin cancers (SCCs). SCCs are known for spreading so my luck just ran out eventually.  That I had something like 100 SCCs removed that did NOT spread is the wonder. I always said that cancer would get me one day.

The tumour was in my parotid gland (one of the salivary glands) and was wrapped around my left facial nerve so I lost both the parotid gland and the left facial nerve, which was an unexpectedly bad result.  It was a two hour operation and Emily said she tried for half an hour save the facial nerve but it was just too entangled.

My face looks much as it did -- no saggy features -- but I do have to be careful eating and my left eye is rather watery so it is still no fun.  But it is certainly not fatal so I plan to carry on as before until something else gets me.  I do expect to live to help celebrate Mr Trump's second inauguration.

A small update: When I was being interviewed by the anesthetist prior to the procedure, he asked me what medications I was on.  None, I said perfectly truthfully.  He did not believe me at first. He said I was one in a thousand at my age who was not taking anything regularly.  That was rather pleasing.  It suggests that I might have had a long life span without the cancer.

Monday, August 19, 2019

More scans


After my failure to cop the MRI machine at Mater Private, alternatives were sought.  But I was already down today for a scan on a PET/CT machine at Mater Private.  That scan was however scheduled at the ungodly hour of 7am.  So they thought a second scan that day to get an MRI result should be possible.  And that scan was scheduled for 1:20pm at the QE2 branch of Qld Xray

Joe drove me in for the PET scan and it went ahead without a hitch.  That machine did not bother me and it was only a 12 minute scan anyway.

But the MRI scan was another story.  I knew I would need some sedation so I got Jenny to bring me over some Valium and she then drove me to QE2 and waited to pick me up afterwards.  She is an old hand at QE2 visits and has things she takes with her to entertain herself while waiting there.

We talked about old times in the car driving over and we still got a laugh about how we got her a good parking spot for the Expo fireworks.  We parked her little yellow Daihatsu the previous night and left it there.  We went home in my Ford Laser after doing so.  So she had a prime parking spot on the day

The situation at the MRI machine was a little better than previously but not enough.  The machine was still very narrow and rubbed on my elbows as it moved.  But the worst part was that for a head scan they put a tightly fitting plastic cage over your head -- presumably to keep your head immobile.  That really freaked me out. I felt like The Man in the Iron Mask.  I could not even close my jaw.  I could probably have hacked it for 5 minutes but that scan is 25 minutes and that would have distressed me greatly.  So I refused to go ahead.

One hopes that all the other scans I have had will suffice.  I had a couple last week at Qscan.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Some pesky surgery coming up


I have a tumor under my skin beside my bottom left-hand jaw. It has biopsied as a metastasized SCC from my  skin cancers. So it has to go.

 It needs serious surgery to get it out so I will be in hospital for a couple of days recovering.  The tumor is in my Parotid (salivary) gland but the surgeon will be Emily Perry who has a record of doing that sort of thing well.  It does look like I will lose that salivary gland -- but I have a few others so the salivation should still be OK.

The procedure is on Wednesday but getting  various preliminary scans done continued today.  I was due to have a MRI at Mater Private.  It did not go ahead however. The machine they wanted to put me in was an old one with an aperture much smaller than any other scanner I have encountered.  I have never got claustrophobia before but this machine did it and from the moment I went in to it I asked to be let out -- which I was.

I am booked for a PET scan tomorrow morning so I may be able to do the MRI in the afternoon with a better machine

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A dinner with history


Anne and I had dinner last night with Gordon and Julia, old friends of Anne.  Gordon and I get on well so we do have a few dinners together.  Anne and Julia see one another a LOT.  Julia is of English birth and is noticeably English in some ways, though she is no fan of English triumphalism.  Gordon is a bit more exotic.  He is not only from Norn ("Northern" in Irish vernacular pronunciation) Ireland but he is a genuine son of the Manse, with the Manse concerned being located in the Crumlin Rd, no less.



Because of the "Troubles" in Belfast over the years, the whole world has heard of the Crumlin Rd and the Shankill Rd. but to Gordon both were simply local places. Despite his Presbyterian background, however, Gordon is no Orangeman. He condemns religion generally in fact.  To a considerable extent he came to Australia to get away from "all that".

The Protestant "lads" of Belfast have some reputation of being tough guys.  If many of them are much like Gordon they could be alarming to encounter. He is around 6' tall and an imposing well-built man even in his '70s. The Rev. In Paisley was a tall man too: 6'5".

I rather adored Paisley. When Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother met Pope John XXIII in 1958, Paisley condemned them for "committing spiritual fornication and adultery with the Antichrist". When Pope John died in June 1963, Paisley announced to a crowd of followers that "this Romish man of sin is now in Hell!". Paisley also believed that the European Union is a part of a conspiracy to create a Roman Catholic superstate controlled by the Vatican.

I don't agree with any of it but to hear it is like stepping back 400 years into our religious past.  I admire its sheer committment and conviction. That I was a very fundamentalist Protestant in my teens, with beliefs not too different, means it has good resonances for me.  I could see his point of view and admire the energy he put into his evangelism.

Anyway, I am guessing that the "lads" of Belfast were not in fact generally tall.  If they are like their brethren in Glasgow they will be "wee bauchels" (stunted).

Gordon's big peeve is Australia's many governments.  He sees that as inefficient and thinks the States should be abolished and be replaced by one central government along (presumably) French lines.  I pointed out to him that he originates from a Federal state.  The Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has five legislatures:  in London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and the Isle of Man -- and the voters for those assemblies are rather attached to their arrangements.  And, of the other nations most closely related to Australia, the USA and Canada also have Federal systems, as do Germany and India.  But I think I managed to moderate his views only a little.

Something unusual about Gordon is that he frequently speaks highly of his wife!  And I am told she hates that!  I think he means it though.

Anyhow we had chats about lots of things.  One thing all present seemed interested in was my explanation about why Pius XII (Pacelli) is most unjustly called by some, "Hitler's Pope". Before he became Pope, in the '30s, Pacelli was posted to Germany as a representative of the Holy See and he condemned Nazism often.  He wisely shut up when the Nazis came to power however and that is the thread that Soviet disinformation seized on to condemn him.  And the Western Left always swallowed Soviet propaganda hook, line and sinker. Pacelli in fact rescued many Jews while Pope. He was a true man of God.

So it was a good dinner with good company and good food.  Gordon had made what he called a Canadian crumb cake for dessert, which was particularly good.  I think I ate most of it.

Towards the end we started to sing -- very badly -- but it indicated good times being had.  And we weren't even drunk!  Only half a bottle of champagne was consumed all night.

Footnote for people of our current irreligious times:  A Manse is where a Presbyterian minister lives.  A child of the Manse is expected to show various influences from that background.  And Gordon can in fact quote scripture appropriately


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A very small incident but perhaps worth a mention


Anne and I have recently been noting the disappearance of Chinese restaurants -- once a great Australian tradition where you could get Chinese food unknown in China.  The big phenomenon now is Indian restaurants.  There are two excellent Indian restaurants within a very short walk of where I usually shop.  So I asked Joe if he knew any nearby Chinese restaurants. He said the one in Ipswich Rd. near the Subway and near Beaurepaires had good food.  He gets takeaway food a lot.

So I went there to try it out.  I found that is really just a takeaway with a few tables and chairs.  But seeing I was there I decided to eat in and ordered BBQ pork with plum sauce, which can be very good.  Cost with rice: $15.50.  To pay I took out a $10 note plus a pocketful of change.  I counted out $5 in change and was about to pick out a 50c coin for the remainder when the Chinese girl serving said, "No, That is enough for you".  She took only the $15.

Now why did she do that?  Why the small discount?  I think I know.  I come across as very old and frail (which I am) and my fiddling around with change probably suggested that I am poor (which I am not).  So it was just kindness to the elderly.  I get a lot of  kindness and helpfulness from all sorts of people now that I am old so I am very pleased that there is so much civility in Australia. I am grateful for it.

And the food was a good standard notable for the big size of the serve. So if you are feeling like takeaway Chinese, drop into the "Gabba Chinese" at Shop 4, 80 Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Brisbane.  There they are below:



People may remember that I received similar kindness from a Vietnamese pie shop owner last year

Monday, August 5, 2019

More Hyderabad


I took our Monday dining group to the "Hyderabad Flavours" restaurant in Buranda tonight. It is just a couple of doors from the Dapur Dahlia.

My recent visit there had been good so it was an opportunity to explore more of their menu. There is both an Indian Hyderabad city and a Pakistani Hyderabad city but I think our Brisbane Hyderabad restaurant is of Indian origin.  The waitresses were wearing Western dress so I think that settles it

And I do get the impression that the offerings were meant to be similar to what you would get in Hyderabad, India.  The specialty of the house seemed to be Mirchi Bajji (battered green chillies) so I did order some of those.  I enjoyed them.

Everybody ordered something different but we all found the food to be first class. I think the chicken Korma I had was the best I have ever tasted.  And I have eaten a lot of chicken Korma in my day

And all the meals were LARGE.  So nobody went away with room for more.  Kate was talking of going back another day with Joe to try more of their offerings.

As a memento I reproduce the docket to show what we had:




Saturday, August 3, 2019

Some good dining recently


The day after the twins had departed, I took Anne to the Dosa Hut restaurant at Mt Gravatt.  We had not been there before.  I ordered Masala dosas and a couple of idli.  Our previous dosa restaurant, the Riverwalk in Gladstone Rd., had gone out of business, much to our disappointment.

But the new restaurant was just as good and was even better in that our previous place did not do idlis, not that idlis are great. They are just a traditional thing that go with dosas.

The menu was enormous and the prices were reasonable so we were perfectly happy with our new source of dosas

On Nanna's birthday I took Anne to the Hyderabad, which is just a couple of doors from the Dapur Dahlia.  It was leaping.  There were brown people everywhere and lots of brown people coming and going.  We were the only white faces there.  And the food was good and the servings were enormous.  One dinner would have done both of us.  A specialty of the house seemed to be battered green chillies so we ordered some as an entree.  They were really good and only a little bit "hot".  I think the Hyderabad will be our regular Indian from now on.

And just yesterday, Jenny and Pam cooked Anne and me a Dhansak with all the trimmings.  A genine Parsee Dhansak is a rare privilege. It took the two of them many hours to make it all.  As usual it had a rich taste and was very filling.  I particularly got into the kachumber (Parsee salad). It leaves all other salads for dead.  I am not a big salad eater but I ate lots of the kachumber.  And Jenny served up two chutneys -- the traditional green chutney plus an eggplant chutney.  Both were first rate.

And today, I got a new dinner table in my dining room. It is a very fine traditional brown dinner table.  I got it from Vinnies a few days ago and Joe and Aristides brought it up and put it in my dining room this morning.  The old pine dining table went on the verandah and the Laminex table off the verandah is now in the garage.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Why I was once fired from a State government bureaucracy


It has just occurred to me that I have never written anything about the time I was sacked from the NSW Public Service.  It has never been a secret.  It just didn't seem important in my scale of values.  But maybe there are some small lessons to learn from it.  Though it was over 50 years ago now.

When I had completed my B.A. degree with honours in psychology from the University of Qld. at the end of 1967, I decided I needed a change of scene from Brisbane so I moved South to Sydney.  Being Mr Frugality, I had a comfortable level of savings, no debts and a sky blue VW beetle -- so the transition was an unproblematic one.

I did however want a job.  So I went along to the Army recruiting office.  From my time in the CMF in Brisbane I was a fully qualified Sergeant in the Psychology corps so thought I might get work there.  They grabbed me.  An extra qualified hand was very welcome.  So within days of arriving I  was back in the Army!

I was not however interested in an army career so I looked around for an alternative.  So I took the selection test for the NSW public service.  Taking tests is one of the few things I am good at so I got an immediate welcome.  One of the tests I did was a test of computer aptitude.  Bill Bailey was the man in charge of that so he called me in for a chat. He revealed that I had gone off the scale for the test. I had got every single item right.  Bill wanted to see who this freak was!  The reason I did well, however, was not very freakish.  I was by that time already an experienced FORTRAN programmer.  When I told Bill that he was greatly relieved.  It meant that his test had given the right answer after all

I was assigned to the Dept. of Technical Education as a graduate clerk.  Their graduate clerk program was however a typical bureaucratic bungle.  The only work they had for me was filing, something I had done years ago as a junior clerk in the Queensland Dept. of Public Works.  I was quite miffed at being given such dumb work so I refused to do it.  And it was all downhill from there.

Eventually I was transferred to Head office where they gave me some slightly more interesting work. I did what was asked but there was not much of it so I had a lot of spare time on my hands.  I was at the time enrolled with the M.A. program at the University of Sydney so I mostly used the spare time on academic work.  The managers apparently felt unable to do anything about that.

But one morning, just after I had handed in my Master's thesis at U Syd towards the end of the year, I unintentionally slept in and arrived at work late.  That was it!  They had me. Lateness was something they could act on.  So I was promptly fired that day.  There would have been access to an appeal but I didn't bother. I knew I was going on to other things next year.

So I went and saw Harry Beanham, whom I had worked for at one time in Brisbane.  Harry had been impressed with my work in Brisbane.  I sold lots of diehead chasers for him, if anybody knows what they are. Few do. Anyway Harry promptly put me to work preparing his stock for sale.  So in the space of less than a year I had got 3 jobs, none of which were advertised!

Lessons:  Don't be late in a bureaucracy and finding a job is easy if you have usable skills and qualifications.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A natal anniversary and Timmy


What is the difference between natal and Natal?  One is  a province in South Africa and the other refers to birth. So a natal anniversary is what is normally called a b*rthday. We are advised by security people never to use the normal term because evildoers can google our writings and find out what our natal anniversary is.  And that is an important form of ID, enabling evildoers to impersonate us and perhaps steal our money.  The age of the internet has its own problems.

So on Saturday last we had an evening  party to celebrate Joe's natal anniversary.  The first thing that morning however was to bring upstairs another of my furniture purchases from Vinnies.  It was a rather magnificent sideboard that I had bought about a week before and had it delivered into my garage.  Getting it upstairs needed two strong men so Joe and the ever-helpful Aristides got it upstairs at about 9am.  Much furniture re-arrangement was needed to get it into place but it is now adorning Anne's bedroom.  Its front features some very clever veneer work.



The party  was a quiet occasion, as Joe wanted it to be.  There were only 12 people present in Jenny's backyard for the occasion -- Joe's old friends plus close family. The twins came over from NZ especially for the occasion.

There was no music, no dancing and only a tiny amount of alcohol.  I supplied one bottle of Seaview champagne for toasting purposes and that was it. It could almost have been a fundamentalist Protestant occasion.  But it wasn't.  Joe is a baptised and confirmed Roman Catholic but he doesn't believe in anything much at all these days.  So why was it such a Puritanical natal anniversary?  It's because what we like to do is talk -- and we have no difficulty talking to one-another.  For many other people, music and dancing are substitutes for conversation.

So what did we talk about?    We just covered a lot of ground.  Mr Trump got a mention, of course.  Von sat with me for a while, as did Jenny and Joe, but we didn't talk about anything specific.  Paul's Susan once told me that talking about family matters was gossip, which was rather hard to refute.

I shouted us a number of pizzas for the food and Jenny provided several side dishes and canapes.  Pizzas are humble food but Jenny ordered a variety of them so they went down well. I asked Joe the next day what was his best memory of the occasion and he said that it was just seeing everybody together.  He has very good friends but the family does not normally see much of them. It was actually quite a jolly occasion and Joe had a good share of the laughs.

I left after about 2 hours there -- which is my usual socialization capacity -- so I missed the cake.  Jenny had asked me what sort of cake Joe would like and I hazarded a guess that it would be icecream cake. And that was apparently well received.  I hear that the party wound up not long after the cake ceremonies.

Then on the Sunday nothing much occurred -- though Joe and I had our usual leisurely bacon 'n eggs breakfast at the pie shop.  We talk continuously for about an hour there every Sunday -- mainly about American politics.  We both follow closely the many crazy events there.

Then on Monday, we welcomed Timmy back from his travels. Jenny put on a dinner of butter chicken and many accompaniments for the occasion.  Timmy and Rachel got married recently and did a lot of travel in Europe for their honeymoon. Timmy had some rather strange girlfriends in the past but when he met Rachel he recognized quality so he did not waste too much time before he married her. She is a pretty and sensible Kiwi dental nurse and is slowly getting used to our strange family.  Timmy these days is a bank Johnny. He has what has always been seen as one of the best jobs in Australia -- a job with the Commonwealth bank.

A significant part of our evening was a wedding present for Timmy.  I had said that I had an ideal wedding present for Timmy when he invites me to a proper wedding celebration.  His actual wedding was a minimalistic affair. He too doesn't like a lot of fuss.  The news that I had a mystery present for Timmy did get around so I suspect that Jenny put on the dinner in part to find out what the present was.

Before I delivered the present I told the story behind the present.  I told how the 4-year-old Timmy always raided the jar of choc chip cookies the moment he arrived at our place in Queen Bess St. I gather that Ken and Maureen didn't allow many cookies at their place so I understood Timmy's practicality.  The jar holding the cookies was a rather distinctive hexagonal one and was still in good condition many years later so that was my present to Timmy -- filled with Arnott's premium choc chip cookies.  So it was a link to Timmy's 4-year-old self and Timmy greatly appreciated it.

We always adored Timmy when he was a little kid because he was so smart.  So in all the many family dinner invitations I sent out over the years, I always included a special shout-out to Timmy. And he is a really nice guy now that he is grown up.

During the rest of the dinner I periodically piped up with stories about the young Timmy. I even repeated the old story about two cents for blood -- as Kate had not heard it. And the marvellous curative powers of the "red stuff" (Mercurochrome) were also mentioned. With a two cent coin and the red stuff I could dry all tears from all of the kids.  I used to plaster it on and Tmmy in particular loved having big patches of red on his limbs. And the story about Timmy as a 4-year old lawyer was a classic. Von greatly enjoys the old stories even after she has heard them many times and I noted that she did this time too.

So it was a great dinner and we broke up after a couple of hours or so.  Joe drove Anne and me to the dinner and looked after me generally.  I am a bit unsteady on my feet these days so Joe walks with me on uneven ground in case I trip over.

Dusty and Hannah playing  in Jenny's back yard

Friday, July 19, 2019

The arrival


It was difficult to get our New Zealand families over for our birthday month because of clashes with school times for the kids. So they couldn't get here for everything. But they prioritized Joe's birthday. And on Thursday night they arrived with Jenny and me to welcome them: Von, Suz, Hannah and Dusty. Sahara got left behind in Invercargill in the care of her father for some reason.   Ken picked them up from the airport and transported them to Jenny's place.  Maureen was there too

Von was looking gorgeous as usual -- in her woolly singlet -- and even Suz had made an effort at dressing up, something she is not much inclined to do. Von was in great form  -- as happy as a lark -- and Hannah was full of beans too.  Dusty was quite serious at age 7.  Hannah has grown quite tall and quite confident at age 8 and was full of feminine mannerisms as she talked.  She is already the lady you would expect of Von's daughter. At one stage she said -- to general surprise -- that she likes flies.  Ken then said that he did too.  It's amazing what can be genetically transmitted.

Hannah is a very lucky girl in this day and age.  Because she and her mother are so alike, she has a mother who understands her readily plus she has a father at home who adores her.  You don't get much better than that and it's becoming rare these days.

A lot of the talk was about New Zealand and the trip over -- to fill in our Brisbane people about the other lives in New Zealand.  Von, Suz and their kids seem to be regular New Zealanders now.

Fortunately they do not seem to have acquired the strange New Zealand accent so far.  The Kiwis are the only English language group to have lost an entire vowel.  Cockneys have lost a consonant -- Theta -- but losing consonants is fairly common.  Only the Kiwis have lost a vowel.  They replace the short i sound with the grunt vowel.

An amusing story was about their reception by the immigration authorities when they arrived in Brisbane.  Apparently the officer asked the girls whether they were they closely related.  Dusty piped up saying they were twins.  He was ignored even though he was right.  No surprise that he was ignored though. The  girls  never did look at all alike and these days the differences seems to have grown.

I got  a few expressions of sympathy about my prostate diagnosis and they all seemed to be surprised that the treatment was so simple.

The arrival was at dinner time so Jenny put on spag bol for us all plus a big bowl of salad. Jenny timed it well as we sat down shortly after the twins arrived.

On previous visits to Brisbane by the twins, we have made a point of going to a nearby restaurant that did good dosas, a South Indian offering.  Such vists were much enjoyed.  Sadly, that restaurant went under recently and there is nobody else nearby that does dosas.

The Dapur Dahlia has however acquired similar popularity with people I know so I wanted to get the twins to experience them as well.  So I took them there, plus Jenny and their kids on Friday night (tonight).

The first dinner to arrive was for Dusty. It was a nice wire basket full of chips plus some chicken nuggets.  As soon as I saw it, I said, "I want Dusty's dinner".  The others agreed with me. It was quite a big lot of chips so we all had a few to taste.  There were still tons left for Dusty and he did in fact polish them all off.

Suz and I had Nasi Goreng Pattaya (below) but I forget what the others had. It is basically fried rice with chicken plus an omelette on top.



We talked about various family matters and reminiscences.  Von was still upset over a memory from wayback.  This was at Gordonvale where we often took our dinners down to the Gazebo to have. One night we were having spaghetti and all took our plates of it down to the gazebo.  On the way, Von's dinner slipped off the plate onto the ground so became uneatable. Spaghetti is very slippery stuff so it was not really Von's fault but she was understandably upset at the time.  And she is still mourning that lost plate of spaghetti.

Once again, everybody spontaneously commented how good the food was so it did turn out to be a good replacement for the dosa place. Hannah got a full-size meal but ate only about half of it so Von wanted to doggy bag it.  The restaurant accommodates that but to do so sells you a nice container for a small sum.  The container has Dapur Dahlia written on it in large letters.  Knowing how Von collects mementoes I am betting that that container will be going back to New Zealand.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The celebrations continue


On Monday, Joe was off work in the morning to allow him to deal with some bureaucratic matters so we had breakfast together at our favorite coffee lounge.  Bacon and eggs for both of us.  I forget what we talked about but it would probably be about Mr Trump's latest tweets.

Then that night Anne made me a dinner with things I particularly like:  Sydney rock oysters to start followed by meatloaf and finished by fruitcake.  She made the meatloaf and cake according to her own recipes.  And both worked out very well.  We washed it down with a bottle of Henkel Trocken, a German "champagne" Anne likes.

And on Tuesday, yesterday, I hosted a big dinner for close family and friends at the Dapur Dahlia, a Malaysian restaurant I often go to these days.  They are particularly good for hosting a group.  Their tables for two are largeish and can easily be pushed together to make one long table.  There were 11 of us so we needed that.  And people always make appreciative comments about the food.

I made a special request for Geoff to come down from his perch in the near North for the dinner as it was a long time since I had seen him.  I used to see him about monthly when he was my handyman.  So I wanted to hear how he was going these days.  We had a good chat and he did seem to be in better form now that he has retired.  Some stresses have been taken off him.

George was there as he always is when I am doing the invitations.  Lewis and Jill were also there and Lewis had never met George so Lewis asked a lot of questions to figure how George fitted in to the family.  Lewis has still got a keen and enquiring mind even in his advanced years.

At one stage I was talking to a couple of people and pointing out how much of their religion the Muslims had stolen off the Jews -- even down to "Allah" being originally a Hebrew word (Eloah in Hebrew).  Lewis looked a bit uncomfortable about that but he knows I am a fanatical supporter of Israel so he was probably wondering about the attitudes of other people there.  For me Israel can do no wrong and I put my money where my mouth is by occasional donations to Israeli charities.  Israel has to spend so much on its defence that the government does not have much to spend on welfare work.

Anne spent a lot of time talking to my brother and his wife Kym. I put up some teases to Kym about Aborigines to which she responded well.  She does welfare work with Aborigines. I talked a bit with my brother about motorbikes, getting the latest on English motorbikes, an interest we share.

Joe spent a lot of time talking to Lewis which he enjoyed and when I asked him afterwards how he found the dinner he said it was "fun".

Kate was her usual social self and talked mostly to Jenny.

I had pretty well healed up after my Friday surgery so could enjoy the occasion.  I talked to George and Jill and most of the people there.  At one stage, I announced to Jill in my usual cheerful way that I had recently been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and Jill remarked that she had never heard me complain about anything, which may be true  My instinct is to look at the positive.

Everybody liked the food as usual. It was both filling and tasty. I provided a couple of bottles of Seaview champagne to help wash it all down.  Below is the docket as a memento of what we had.  The overall cost was embarrassingly small. I actually could have paid it in cash




Figure that lot out!


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cold calls


Almost every day around mid-afternoon I get a junk phone call --   Sometimes on my mobile, sometimes on my landline;  Most are are polite, some are threatening;  Some know my name, most do not; some claim to be official from the tax office or the telephone company and others have all sorts of introductions.

I can usually decide within 5 seconds that the call is a scam and simply hang up immediately without saying a word.  I guess that is impolite of me but I have no qualms about being impolite to crooks.

The interesting thing is that -- as far I can remember -- all the callers have had a strong foreign accent. Being a bit deaf I don't understand foreign accents well at the best of times so that alerts me from the first word they say.  So they are optimistic.  For best results they should put someone who is a native speaker of Australian English on the line. That would be more likely to get attention.  So they are all evidently just small-time crooks from somewhere abroad taking their chances.

I understand foreign accents over the phone so badly that I really have little idea what they are saying.  So I am occasionally in doubt about the call.  I think it might be legit.  So in those cases I am perfectly frank.  I tell them that I cannot understand a word they are saying so get a native speaker of Australian English to call me back.

They rarely go quietly.  They keep jabbering.  So I then hang up.  Occasionally, that frustrates them so much that they keep calling back -- often in angry voices. Having their pronunciation condemned seems to frustrate them more than losing the call.   Which amuses me. Once again I hang up as soon as I decide the call is a scam.  Some call back a few times.  They are determined that their English will be understood.  But it isn't.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

An excision and a dinner


On Friday I visited my usual skin clinic for an excision on my left temple.  I normally go there just for biopsies and cryotherapy. So this was a first. The lady doctor -- Sandy -- who normally attends to me did the excision. Most of my excisions in recent times have been done by Russell, a brilliant plastic surgeon who gets exemplary results, so I was a bit concerned about how well Sandy would go.

She was meticulous and it went very well:  No subsequent pain and no inflammation. The result was in part because it was an easy job with enough loose skin at the site for an easy post-excision joinup.  If it had been a tricky job needing flaps etc I would have gone to the plastic surgeon.

And Sandy's post-op care was extraordinarily good.  She gave me her personal mobile no. and said I could call her at any time if I had any concerns about the excision.  And she said she would home visit me if there were any serious problems.  And the morning after the procedure she rang me personally to see how I was. 

I actually took advantage of that to ask if I could come in to have the dressings minimized as the existing ones were itchy. She agreed and within 20 minutes she was attending to me.  I had no idea that such a level of service was possible.  She says she usually does about four surgeries a day so she is just a very capable lady. And she is a great communicator too. I would recommend her to anybody with bad skin bits.  She is only a little thing but is 100% quality.

So my recovery was very rapid and by Sunday I had only steristrips on the wound.  I was already hardly aware of it.  Which was a good thing because I could enjoy my dinner that evening without distraction. 

And my dinner was a special one.  July is birthday season for Joe, me and Nanna.  So as usual, Joe and Kate cooked me a seasonal dinner to have on our verandah.  It was a dinner of devilled sausages.  As I am something of a sausage freak it was a very well-chosen offering.  It was greatly enjoyed.  I supplied Seaview champagne as usual

Most ladies have a special dinner they do for special occasions so I think Kate could well use that dinner as her special.  Now that she is a married lady she will probably be doing a bit of entertaining.

It was a good opportunity for me to have some relaxed chats with Kate.  As Kate has recently got her psych degree, we talked a lot about issues in education and the parlous state of academic research in the social sciences and medicine.  The replication crisis has shaken a lot of people -- though I personally thought it was long overdue.  The glaring holes in most research in those fields were obvious to me from wayback.  I even had a lot of critique articles published which said so. Journal editors don't like publishing critiques so I was obviously making strong points.