Old folk at lunch

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Some surgery with a difference


I rarely remark on my plastic surgeries to remove skin cancers.  There are so many of them.  But one I have just been through had me pretty anxious about it.  It was in the aftermath of an excision that was unsuccessful.  There was originally this tiny lump near my right nostril that I realized from long experience was probably a "bad 'un".  The surgeon cut it out but the pathology report came back to say "incompletely excised".  The report suggested that the tumor was aggressive and had spread both widely and deeply.  So to get it all, a rather nasty hole in my face seemed needed.

I hate having my face sliced up and I hate anything affecting my nose so I was pretty tense as soon as I knew what was ahead.  What was ahead was a Moh's procedure -- where the surgeon cuts out what he thinks is needed and then promptly puts the specimen under the microscope to see if the cut had got it all.  If not, there is a second cut.

Mohs can be done as an in-office procedure at a suitably equipped surgery but this looked like being a pesky one so I arranged for it to be done in a private hospital.  And last Tuesday was the day.  I was first on the list at 1:30pm and did not get out until 7:30 pm.  During that time I was on the operating table four times -- 3 to get all the bad bits and a 4th time to put my face back together.  There was a hole in my lower face about the size of a 10c piece to be patched up.  I don't know how the surgeon did it but he somehow did get it all covered up.  He is quite brilliant.  So my face will be back to normal as soon as the stitches come out.

The drama was not over, however.  Next day I had a lot of facial swelling, which indicated that a bacterial infection had got into the wound.  On some past occasions like that I have had to be admitted to hospital and be put onto a Vancomycin drip to deal with it.  With the benefit of experience, however, I promptly put myself on a high dose of clindamycin  -- two capsules every 6 hours.  And it worked!  By next morning the swelling had reduced.

So I have come out the end of all that completely fixed up without too much trauma and am once again feeling on top of the world!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The best Pergolesi yet?


I came across a new video of a great favourite -- Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" just recently.  It is the best rendition I have heard and I have heard many.   See and hear below:



The way the soprano threw herself into it was truly impressive. Never has "pertansivit gladius" been sung with greater passion. Sadly, whoever put the video up gave no information about it. So I had to do a bit of digging to find out all about it.  But I did in the end find this:

"Accompanied by the French musical ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, Spanish soprano Sabina PuĂ©rtolas and American mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux perform Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. It is composed in 1736, in the final weeks of Pergolesi’s short life (4 January 1710 – 16 March 1736), and scored for soprano and alto soloists, violin I and II, viola and basso continuo (cello and organ). Conductor: Christophe Rousset"

The performance seems to have been in April this year.  In Spain, Ms PuĂ©rtolas is not Spanish.  She is Aragonese (from Aragon, ancient Aragon).  There is an artistic history of her here, which shows her as a very busy singer -- so she is obviously widely appreciated. I tried to find out some personal history, even trawling through the notices in Italian, but could not find a thing.

I may have to take more notice of Spanish singers.  I was greatly impressed by the performance of Evelyn Ramirez Munoz as the divine voice in the premiere version of Falvetti's "Il Diluvio universale".  Munoz is a Spanish surname so I assume Ms Munoz is Spanish but you can never be sure these days.  Argentinian? See below:



I note that there is another rendering of the Falvetti just out and she seems to have grabbed her old role in the latest version as well.  See below.  She is the lady in black.



I guess that by Northern European standards she over-acts but in singing a work from Sicily, what the hell?

Friday, August 12, 2016

A very pleasant lunch


I had a rather bad week with a heavy cold but by Friday morning I was just about right again.  And that was just in time for a visitor up from Melbourne.  He is a psychologist like me who also takes an interest in politics. He and I have corresponded about the psychology of Leftist politics in a rather desultory manner for some time now.  And I was very impressed by the depth of his insights.  And he finds my analyses pretty spot-on too.  So he finally decided to come up and see me.  We arranged to have lunch together.

Because I am a bit deaf, I don't normally go in much for such meetings but his thinking seemed well worth an effort to communicate in person.

And he actually told me some things about myself that I had been aware of but which I had tended to ignore.  One thing was that in my blogging I tended to speak quite harshly of people I disagree with and that I could therefore come across an an angry person.  He was of course quite right.  Joe once told me the same.  Since I am in fact a very cheerful person who virtually NEVER gets angry and who laughs his way through the day, that impression is a bit unfortunate.  I will have to see what I can do to correct the misimpression.

He had some comfort for me, however.  He said that although my writing is harsh, he could always see a kind heart behind it and meeting me in person had confirmed the kind heart.  So the psychologist was  psychologized!  I actually put a lot of little jokes in my writings but they may be a bit on the subtle side.  I do wonder at times if anybody gets them.

So that was an unexpected lunch topic.  I thought we would be talking mainly about politics -- global warming and all that sort of thing.  And we did have a few laughs about the poor old Warmists and their inability to debate.  But mostly we talked about personal things. And one of them was a most unusual thing.

I am a great fan of Yuja Wang as a classical pianist.  I think she is the world's best. And G., my visitor, shared that feeling. He was even familiar with her interpretations of Schubert Lieder, which I particularly love.  So a quite unexpected meeting of minds there.  We are both filled with wonder at the emotional rightness of her interpretations.

That a Chinese lady from Beijing would have such depth of perception of a rather arcane Western artform seems incredible on the face it of but Yuja Wang IS incredible.  G. and I even had in mind a couple of  Lied interpretations that we both particularly liked:  "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Der Erlkoenig".


Yuja Wang

There were other meetings of minds over lunch but those were the two big ones, I think.  It was certainly a very rare sort of meeting in my experience.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Proof that I ignore food correctness


Below is what I had for my supper tonight.  It said on the packet to bake them for 10-20 minutes -- which was a bit vague.  So I cooked them for 15 minutes.  They were however not very puffy so I should have cooked them for 20 minutes.

I had them with sliced pickled cucumbers and green tomato relish



Monday, August 1, 2016

Nanna's birthday


It was her 92nd but she was still mentally all there and could even get up and down a long flight of steps.  An example to us all!

We had the celebration yesterday -- a Sunday buffet lunch in the BBQ area at the back of Jenny's place. I gave Nanna a handbag!  Jenny selected it so Nanna might like it.

Jenny put on a wealth of sandwiches and such things and I really bogged into the ham sandwiches.  Yet there were still sandwiches left at the end!  Suz and family were there as were Joe and Kate, plus Anne and me.  Joe didn't say a lot, which is usual for him at family occasions.  He talks up a storm with his friend Brenton, however, so it obviously depends on the degree of common interests.  Anne had a big chat with Russ. Anne is good at chats.  I contented myself with making jocular remarks from time to time.  Mostly I talked to Jenny.

An odd thing I did stemmed from the fact that I had a big cleanout of my kitchen cupboards the night before -- with Anne's enthusiastic assistance.  The result was a big bag of pots and pans on the way to Vinnies.  But I took the bagful to the party in case someone fancied some of it.  Suz enthusiastically grabbed three big pizza dishes that Joe had originally bought and various other bits went off too.  The bag was much lighter when I handed it in next morning, which was good.

I had a small but amusing conversation with Russ as I left.  He had been giving Sahara a lot of attention and help with Pokemon matters.  So I said as I went past:

Me:  You are being a good father Russ.  Is Sahara a Daddy's girl or a Mummy's girl?

Russ: She's definitely a Daddy's girl, which is good.  Not so good is the fact that Dusty is a Mummy's boy.

Me:  Oh Dear!

Russ: But don't worry.  I'll knock it out of him.

Russ has a very good sense of humor.  I think we all do in the family, as a matter of fact

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cucumber magic


When you eat out somewhere and order a salad with your meal,  you normally get some cucumber with it.  As it happens I REALLY like cucumber, particularly if it is not long off the vine.  But the salad you get in restaurants is obviously cut up by people who DON'T like cucumber.  It is cut up into such thin slices that you get almost no cucumber taste from them at all.

And I have been experimenting with that.  I make a lot of salads these days and cucumber features in most of them. And what I have found is that the bigger the slice of cucumber, the more you get that great cucumber taste.  And if you have never experienced a great cucumber taste, I suspect that you need to find a better greengrocer.

I slice my cucumbers diagonally, as most restaurants do.  Just cutting them into circles is uncool.  And I cut the slices at least a quarter of an inch thick.  For children of the metric era that is about 1 centimeter (I think).  A slice of cucumber should be a delicious lump!


Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Birthday month!



There are 3 of us with birthdays in July, Nanna, Joe and myself. So our celebrations began on the Friday before last.  It was a small informal dinner on my verandah with myself and Anne plus Joe and Kate.  Anne had offered to cook us anything we fancied but I felt like fish & chips so that is what we had.  There is a nearby fish shop that is very good-- called, surprisingly, "Fish Kitchen".  It is opposite the Dutton Park bonefarm.

So I ordered 4 battered Barramundi, chips, a Waldorf salad and some coleslaw.  Anne said there was something missing from the Waldorf salad -- croutons, I think -- and the coleslaw was the worst I have had.  But the fish 'n chips were  brilliant.  Expertly cooked fish n chips are one of life's great pleasures.

I was aware that the English often have vinegar with their fish  n chips so decided to try that  myself for the first time, using just white vinegar.  I liked it!  Somebody may care to advise me whether you put the vinegar on the chips, on the fish or on both.  I put it on the fish.

We had a bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho to wash it down.

Then on the Sunday of that weekend, Jill shouted Anne and me a lunch at her place.  It is a very nice little villa that Jill has made into a very pleasant environment.

Lewis had learnt of my liking for Tyrrells Verdelho so we had that with the dinner.  Jill cooked a very nice meal of seafood and pasta, as she usually does.  For dessert we had pancakes.  I had mine with maple syrup and icecream.

And Jill carried on a great dinner party tradition that most women observe.  She prepared some food which she forgot to bring out -- in the oven as usual.  Good old Lewis eventually reminded her however so we got some rather well-done garlic bread with our meal. It was fine by me.

At one stage I congratulated Jill on her crystal salad servers.  She had inherited them from her mother.  Some people use silver salad servers and Jill has a lot of silver.  Silver reacts with the vinegar in the salad and gives you a nice little dose of silver oxide, which can be toxic.

I made a blunder.  Having recently become a pancake cook of sorts, I congratulated Jill on how nicely done the pancakes were.  It transpired, however, that she had got them from Woolworths!

Anne has recently come back from a cruising holiday and Jill & Lewis seem to cruise half the year away so a lot of the conversation revolved around that.  We also talked a bit about politics as we are all conservative.  Lewis made the point that Turnbull has been unfairly criticised for his narrow win in the Federal election.  As Lewis said, narrow wins are very common in elections, so the result was nothing new.  There is even an explanation of why that is so here

Then on the Friday just gone, Jenny cooked up one of the big dinners she does so well -- featuring egg-rolled pork!  A great family favorite.  It is a Korean regional dish and even Korean restaurants rarely have it.  There is quite a story to how we got a recipe for it.  And Jenny served a complete Korean feast, with plenty of Kim Chee, Kujeol pan and Japanese ginger.  I have never come across Korean ginger but it is bound to be similar to the Japanese product.  The two cuisines are very similar.

And for dessert we had chocolate cake, which sparked discussions of chocolate cakes past -- Schwarzwalderkirschentorte and Sachertorte in particular.  Jenny very tactfully did not put any candles on the cake

Nanna was very lively, taking part energetically in the discussions. Kate tried to give her a ginger cat but did not succeed.  "Mr Brown", a splendid Burmese cat, was remembered in that discussion. "Mr Brown" was the perfect cat. I am holding him in the picture below -- taken some years back




UPDATE: It was a little remiss of me not to say anything about the various birthday greetings I received.  This is the age of the internet so I received only two cards, a jokey one from Anne and one from Von. The one from Von was particularly appreciated as she included a DVD of some recent doings of Hannah.  Having the littlies growing up far away does mean that I miss much but with modern technology I can still get some substitute for that.

It's not often I acknowledge it but I am basically an old Celtic sentimentalist so that matters to me.  I have plenty of Celtic ancestry (Scottish and Irish) so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say.

Among my internet greetings, I was particularly pleased to hear from Pat Timbs, whom I had rather lost touch with.  I was pleased to see that he is back in Sydney these days.  Ladies from China do beguile him but he can find that in Sydney too. Almost every day I see little Chinese ladies on the arms of Caucasian men so Pat is not alone.  Joe too knows a bit about that.

One can observe daily that the forever unhappy Leftists are wrong in calling Australians racist:  The number of Asian ladies on the arms of Caucasian men around the place tells you all you need to know about that.  Clearly, neither party is racist.

But perhaps the most remarkable greeting I received was from Moerbisch -- in German, of course.  And being from Austria it was sung!  Moerbisch is of course the last redoubt of Viennese operetta and, as such, is my artistic lodestar. I buy DVDs of their performances whenever a new one comes out.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hoddox



What are "hoddox"?  I have encountered hoddox only once. It was on my first trip to South Africa in 1979. I was in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg, then a rather "vibrant" (in a good way.  I don't like some vibrations) area.  It was a safe area to walk around in then, unlike in the "rainbow" South Africa of today.

Anyway, I wanted some food so walked into a small cafe and asked the proprietor what he was selling.  He listed a number of things, one of which was "hoddox".  It sounded interesting so I  ordered it.  It was a hot dog.  The proprietor was Greek -- and a Greek version of a South African accent had foxed me.

I very rarely eat hot dogs because I don't like frankfurts, which are their usual filling.  Although there is something about franks that I don't like, I have never been quite able to pin down what it is.  I think I may have found out, however.  I think the following information from a food chemist might put a lot of people off:

"One thing about hot dogs, they're in a category called emulsified sausages and they're a bit more complex than, say, your typical sausage. In summer sausage, meat and fat are ground up into small chunks, and them mixed with spices. You can still see those chunks and tell the meat apart from the fat though. In an emulsified sausage like hot dogs, the meat and fat are ground into much tinier chunks, until it forms a uniform paste. The paste then mixed in powerful, high speed mixers together with spices, additives, water, and air. If regular sausage is like pesto, emulsified sausage is like vinaigrette. There's a lot of things going on in there that you just can't see without a microscope"

I am very keen on sausages generally so it must just be the texture of franks that I dislike. A jocular name for sausages is "mystery bags".  I think the mystery is most pronounced with franks.

I acquired the information above in pursuit of something I encountered on one of my trips to L.A.  I was living in a cheap motel and had the radio on a fair bit.  I mostly had a station called KFWB on, as it was an all-news station then and I wanted to keep abreast of what was going on in America at that time.

And they did of course have advertisements, very frequent advertisements.  And a much repeated advertisement was for "Ball Park" franks.  Below is what Wikipedia says about them:

"A Livonia, Michigan meat-packing company called Hygrade Food Products won a competition in 1959 to be the exclusive supplier of hot dogs to the Detroit Tigers and Tiger Stadium. Hygrade Food Products launched a contest to its employees in order to come up with the best brand name for their Detroit Tigers stadium hot dogs. Mary Ann Kurk, one of Hygrade Food Products sales people at the time, won the contest with the name "Ball Park Franks". She won a leather living room chair and a cash prize of $25 (equivalent to $203 in 2015). It was from this venue that Ball Park Franks gained popularity and became known in American pop-culture. Sara Lee acquired Hygrades from Hanson Industries in 1989"

And the great slogan advertising Ballpark franks was:

"They plump when you cook em".

That seemed very strange to me.  It sounded like an apology for their franks being small.  It seemed a strange thing to focus your advertising on.  And, perhaps because that seemed odd to me, it has remained in my memory to a most unfortunate degree.  Often, when I see sausages of any kind, that stupid slogan runs through my head.  My mind has been infected by a virus that I most deplore and cannot get rid of.  I guess I must regard that  as just one of the many injuries we suffer as we slide down the razorblade of life.  (Hats off to Tom Lehrer).


Monday, July 4, 2016

The election


I had a good election even if Australia as a whole did not.  The night before I took Anne to a newly opened Guzman y Gomez Mexican restaurant near me at Buranda. I ordered a taco, a fajita, an Enchilada and a Burrito and they were as good as ones I have had in the Los Angeles area.  A bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho helped them to go down.  We drink a lot of that.



Then next morning I cooked pancakes.  I cheated of course. I bought a bottle of mix into which I just had to pour milk and shake.  I poured the result into a lightly greased Teflon pancake frypan and waited only a few minutes for the result to be lifted out.  They were fine.  We had them as an American  breakfast with genuine Canadian Maple syrup and shortcut bacon. I didn't make as many as I could have because I wanted to leave room for a sausage sizzle.  I am very keen on sausages and Australia has a lot of sausage sizzles as fundraisers.



So after breakfast we went and voted at the church hall of St. Philips Anglican at Buranda.  They have a large fine church hall there which they use for Highland dancing.



So, after voting, we went looking for the sausage sizzle and soon found it. Anne and I both had one.  I saw an old guy there whom I deduced would be the Rector, though he was dressed in Mufti.  So as I was leaving, I asked him if he was and he said he was.  I then asked him if he was high or low and he said medium.  A very Anglican reply!

Then that night Jenny very kindly put on a pork roast for a few of us so we could watch the votes coming in together on TV. I contributed another bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho. Jenny and Nanna were present plus Joe and Kate and Anne and I.  Jenny really did us proud.  As well as the roast she cooked spuds, sweet spuds, carrots, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and apple sauce. A real spread!  And most of all Jenny cooks good CRACKLING.  The cracking is of course the pinnacle treat of a pork roast.  Muslims will never experience it.  Dinner was for 7pm so a bit after 8pm we sat down to watch the broadcast from the tally room.  And everybody now knows the pesky result.

There was quite a bit of discussion as the results were coming in and I think all of us were looking out to see how some candidate or seat would go.  I remarked at one stage that I always vote for Pauline and I don't think I was the only one.  Everybody seemed very comfortable with that choice anyway, though Kate may not have been.  After several years of university brainwashing, she finds Joe's conservative family a bit of a shock at times, I think.  We even discussed global warming briefly at one stage.

Then next night I still had some pancake mix and bacon left over so  I made a big heap of pancakes for my supper that night.  Very easy cooking with a very tasty result.

I still have a bit of bacon left so I am looking forward to making myself a bacon butty tonight.  A bacon butty really needs nothing to go with it but I think I might try one with chutney.

Friday, June 10, 2016

My life as an outsider



Being an outsider is much decried these days.  That everybody should be "included" in everything is the hot gospel of the modern-day Left.  Men are not to be included in women's "safe spaces" and conservatives are not to be included in university debates, but let that ride.

So let me put forward the outlandish proposition that one can be quite happy as an outsider.  If you are of an envious disposition it might not be possible but there are a lot of folks of a contented disposition and they have it made. They don't get burned up by much at all.  I am one of them.

I was in fact an outsider from the time when I was a child until the day I retired.  At school I had absolutely no interest in any sport or game.  Doing the crossword was as near as I came to that and I did not do that often.  But I was born and bred in a small Australian country town where the entire social life revolved around sport.  So I was as complete an outsider as I could possibly be there.  I was on a few occasions abused over it and called a poofter [homosexual] etc.  The fact that I have now been married four times probably gives the lie to that last accusation.

But it was all water off a duck's back to me.  I read books, initially kids books of English origin.  So mentally, I lived a lot of the time as a prewar English schoolboy.  It was vastly different from the world about me but that just made it more interesting.  The English schoolboy had few fears about nature, nettles mainly.  Whereas in my tropical environment I had to know about crocodiles and sharks that might eat you, pretty fruit which could send you blind if you ate it, jellyfish that could sting you to death and a great range of highly poisonous snakes and spiders.  You could die within half an hour of being bitten by some of them.  So, odd as it might seem, I had a happy childhood and never got bitten by anything other than mosquitoes. I lived in the world of the mind.

I didn't actually learn to read until I was 7.  Kindergarten and pre-school were rarities in that time and place -- and childminding was generally informal. My parents were also great readers but saw no need to prepare me in any way for school.  They had no ambitions for me where school might be important.  So I was fascinated when I got my first ABC book at age 6 and remember it vividly to this day.

But I caught on rapidly and was reading well from our reading book by the end of the year.  One tale I have told before, but which still amuses me, was when the class was doing chain reading.  One kid would read one sentence, the next kid would read the next sentence and so on.  We got pretty good at it.  So eventually the teacher asked us to close our books and read the same sentences again.  Everyone could.  I was the only one who could not.  I was the only kid who had been reading.  The other kids just memorized it.  Young memories are very good.  I initially got a few scornful looks from the other kids but that turned to amazement when the teacher praised me.

I think it was from that point on that my exclusion started. The other kids could see that I was different from them and mostly avoided me from then on.   And the blue boy story reinforced that. But there were a couple of kids who did talk to me.

One rather important thing that I had in common with the English boys that I read about was an Eton education.  I did not in fact attend that illustrious institution in Berkshire but I had much the same curriculum at my school.  Politicians of the day wanted "the best" for their children and English Public Schools were indisputably the best at that time.  So little working class kids in country towns had to learn their Latin declensions and read poems about daffodils, skylarks, nightingales etc. And I did.  Though in my environment, instead of the "blithe spirit" of the skylark, we had the "demonic laugh" of the Kookaburra. I was even introduced to Chaucer and Homer, which pleases me to this day.

For most of the students exposed to such "irrelevant" arcana, it went in one ear and out the other -- but I remembered it all. So I didn't have the pressures that the kids at Eton underwent but I could have passed any of their exams as easily as they could. So I in fact had good opportunities before me and I took them.

And when I got to university, I was also an outsider, though for different reasons.  Being a contented soul, I have always been a conservative.  Being contented is a pretty good definition of being conservative.  But universities are of course a hotbed of Leftism.  Lots of people there think the world about them is all wrong and they know how to fix it.

I had however done some very wide reading in my teens -- Aeschuylus, Sophocles, Plato, Herodotus, Augustine of Hippo, Thucydides, Descartes, Aquinas etc -- and was already aware of the Leibnitzian doctrine that we may live in the best of all possible worlds.  The point of the doctrine is that some bad things may be an inevitable outcome of good things and that one might therefore destroy good things while trying to destroy bad things.  The long history of Leftist "solutions" to problems having "unexpected" and destructive "side effects" certainly validates the Leibnitz doctrine.

So I was skeptical of the intellectual miasma of Leftism from the day I set foot in a university. And it showed. In response to some Leftist assertion, I would say: "But what about....".  And there is nothing a Leftist hates more than debate.  To challenge his beliefs is to attack his person.  But I was not discouraged.  I was quite active in student politics, disrupting the cosy  consensus wherever I could -- and having a lot of fun in the process.  I did have some friends, mostly from Catholic DLP families, but I was otherwise as excluded as could  be.  I did however join one of the part-time army units hosted by the University of Qld, and that delivered a degree of fellowship.

When I was doing my Ph.D. at Macquarie university, I kept a fairly low political profile.  I made no secret of my conservative thoughts but tended to present them in a humorous and self-deprecatory way so that it didn't put people offside.  So I had a pretty normal social life for those two years.

So when I applied for a job teaching sociology at the University of NSW, enquiries were made at Macquarie and nobody mentioned  my politics. So I got the job -- appointed WITH TENURE. So they couldn't fire me.  The Sociology school was a hotbed of Marxism so it very rapidly came up that I saw old Karl as nothing more than an obsolete economist.  Everybody was rather staggered but they were in fact pretty nice to me.  I was certainly not included in a lot of things but I did get invited to some of their parties.  They were generally pretty decent people. They were like theological students, actually.  They read and studied  their Marxist writings as avidly as fundamentalist Protestant Christians read and study their Bibles.

So am I included now?  I am, in a sort of a way.  I mostly socialize with family and old friends these days.  And my brother, my son, my stepson and the lady in my life all have conservative views similar to mine.  If, on some social occasion, I attribute some bad weather event to "global warming", everybody  laughs. So at age 72 I look back on a very happy life of exclusion.  Anyone can do it.  You just adjust to it.

I must concede however that I was in a much better position to be an outsider than most.  Two things I inherited from my very independent mother were a clear help:  I was born with great self-confidence and a low social need.  Because I was very self-confident, the disapproval of most people I came into contact with me did not dent me a bit:  Duck's back stuff.

And my low social need meant that as long as there was someone in the world who thought well of me, I felt no distress that many people did not think well of me.  So I am happily a great skeptic:  I don't believe in Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Karl Marx or the evils of dietary fat, salt and sugar. I actually doubt  that there is such a thing as "healthy" food. Can you get more skeptical than that?

FOOTNOTES: "Demonic laughter" is the way early English invaders settlers described the cry of the Kookaburra, a large Kingfisher. Most Australians these days are pleased to hear their cry, however.  DLP stands for the Democratic Labor Party, a Catholic conservative party, now almost extinct but influential in the '60s.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Meatloaves



Paul and I both remember with great fondness a meatloaf that Jenny used to get from John the South African butcher

We have both had excellent meatloaves since but none were quite as good as the one we remember.

But I have just now discovered one that is very similar --  the same idea if not exactly the same

I got it from Aldi and attach a photo of the label


UPDATE:  The next-day leftover meatloaf was of course heavenly in between two slices of well-buttered toast  -- assisted by Mrs Ball's chutney

I went to my local Aldi next day and got the only meatloaf that was left there.  If ever I have very privileged guests, I may cook it for them



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Joe the water baby


I gather that Joe has been "down the coast" -- only a couple of times in the two years he has been back from Canberra so he is no water baby now.  But once he was.

Going "down the coast" is how Brisbane people describe a trip to the beaches in the far South of the State.  It's about a one-hour drive. Brisbane shores are lined with mangroves.

When Joe was about 18 months there were a few of us in the above-ground swimming pool out the back at Faversham St when Jenny let Joe go downstairs to join us.  He climbed the ladder, got to the top and promptly fell in.  I had my eye glued on him however so I fished him out in a couple of seconds.  After a big cry he was given to one of the girls to hold, which he clearly enjoyed.

Then next day something similar happened.  He reached the top of the ladder and, being Mr Independence, cautiously tried to make his own way down the steps.  But he still slipped in and again had to be rescued.  But he clearly liked that pool.

And another time when he was about two, we were in the far North at one of the beaches -- Etty Bay, I think.  So we took him into  the water with us, which, again he clearly enjoyed.  But when we got him out he was blue!  He was freezing but was having too much fun to complain.  We put him under the tap and that thawed him out.  He liked being under the tap too.

Then there was a time a little later when we wanted to get him swimming lessons.  So we took him to a local pool that had a kiddy section only about 3' deep (900mm).  As soon as we put him in, there would be a big smile on his face and that smile stayed plastered on for all the time he was in there.  He didn't learn to swim then, though.  That happened when he went to school.

He never became much of a swimmer though.  He once said rather dejectedly to me that the only thing he could do well was the "dead man's float".  I told him that was about my level, too, which cheered him up.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Darrel Lea


For many years in Queensland, Darrell Lea was a much-loved name. I presume that there was a Mr Lea named Darrel but I may be wrong.

Anyway, there were rather a lot of Darrell Lea shops around the place and what they sold was CHOCOLATE - but not just any chocolate -- chocolate confectionery in all its forms -- with ginger, with nuts etc.  And they did a good Rocky Road too, if I remember rightly.

So when the twins were still around 9 or 10 or  11 or around that age, Darrel Lea was a magnet.

At that time Jenny would usually feel an urge to go out somewhere on a Friday night.  Being a homebody, I did not feel part of that. So I helped by giving Jenny $10 to spend each Friday night.  $10 bought a lot more then than it does now. More like $50 now.

So on Friday night Jenny and her girls would go out to "spend John's money".  And the first port of call was the Darrell Lea shop in Queen St. -- sadly no longer there.

But despite the great following they had, Darrell Lea messed up big time and just about went broke.

At the last ditch, however, they got in some chap as  manager  who revived the business.  They no longer have their own stores but they now have little kiosks in chemists etc. that sell their stuff.  They trade on the good name they have,

And much to my surprise, I found that Woolworths have their stuff too.  I bought a box of of that enormously traditional   Australian confection called "coconut ice" recently when I was in Woolworths -- and it was a Darrel Lea version. And it tasted exactly as it should! So there may also be generations to come who enjoy their Darrell Lea.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Food review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A birthday celebration



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A surgical day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

The importance of attitude



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Indian watches


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

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

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

So Indian watches are for fun, nothing else.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Some late night reflections



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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothers' Day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Sunday, May 1, 2016

I know the poor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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