Old folk at lunch

Monday, April 1, 2019

What does this mean?

"Its musculoskeletal system was originally adapted for terrestrial bipedal saltation but over its evolution its system has been built for arboreal locomotion"

If you can tell me what it means without googling it I will shout you a curry.

It's an example of scientific text.  Sometimes such text is needed for precision but the above text means something really simple

With my background in Latin I understood it immediately but such a background is rare these days

Words and names from Latin and Greek are very common in scientific text

Here's one name that was a common spelling test when I was a kid.  Very few could remember the spelling of it or even the pronunciation.  It is "ornithorhynchus".  It simply means "bird nose".  Can you guess what it is?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Breuer chairs and I

It all began with bentwood. Around a century ago, people discovered that when you put wood in a steamer, you could bend it into all sorts of shapes without it splintering.  A practical use of that was to make lightweight chairs.  And bentwood chairs were very fashionable in the early 20th century

But what should you use for the seat? To keep the chair light rattan was a popular option. British colonialists came across it in Malaya where the rattan plant grows prolifically -- and it is light but strong -- so woven rattan was well known at the time, as you see above. So rattan was also favoured for the seat of Breuer chairs when they arrived

Breuer is the German word for brewer so the chairs are also called brewer chairs.  They come from the Bauhaus architectual movement of Germany in the 1920s and 30s -- self-consciously innovative.  And they are in fact a bit mad.  Innovativeness that leads to no back support!

Aside from looking rather stylish, they are very light: Strong  steel tubing plus Rattan seats and backrest.  So they have some practicality.  They looked very fragile however so the vogue for them did not last long.

Anyhow they had some revival in Australia about 30 years ago.  And I bought 8 of them!

As with bentwood chairs before them, however, the seat of the Breuer chairs tended to fail, with a big hole left in the middle.  And that is the reason why if you see any bentwood chairs around these days you will see that the seat has been covered with a layer of 3-ply -- not elegant any more but at least usable

I did not pay a lot for my Breuer chairs however -- they came in a flatpack -- so when they failed I did not bother to save them but just threw them out.  And I was down to 3 of them left when a tenant moved out of one of my properties and left another 3 behind.  They too had obviously concluded that they were not much good. So I now had 6 Breuer chairs again.

They continued to fail however and I continued to throw them out. But I also found a couple at charity shops so restocked a little there.

When I was down to 5 chairs however, I had a rethink.  As lightweight chairs they were rather handy and they looked rather interesting so I decided to do what the earlier generation had done with their bentwood chairs.  When I was growing up, ALL the bentwood chairs I saw had had their seats repaired with plywood. So I stopped throwing my Breuer chairs out and repaired their seats with plywood.  And I even have two with the original seats.

And when the council had one of their rubbish disposal weeks recently, I spied a complete set of them put out by the side of the road.  So I took them in.  That lot however has upholstered seats so that may be why they lasted better.  So why did the owners chuck them out?  Maybe they thought the upholstered seats were looking a bit fragile.  I guess I will find out.

But, anyway, after about 30 years, I once again have 8 Breuer chairs.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A controversial hat

Above is an image of a hat that Kate bought for me in NYC.  She even bought it from Trump Tower.  It is not actually a true Trump hat. A Trump hat says: "Make America great again".  The one above says something slightly different.  But very few people would notice the difference.

I wore it on my morning shopping trip a couple of days ago in suburban Brisbane.  Brisbane is a long way from the USA so I wondered if it would get a reaction.  Consistent with their aggressive nature, American Leftists do sometimes attack the wearers of such hats.  Would that hatred spread to Brisbane?

It did, sort of.  When I had finished my shopping around about 10am, I stopped off where I usually do for a morning cup of coffee.  The girl on the counter took my money for it but then went out the back.  She came back and told me they had run out of coffee! 

I didn't argue. I just left for another place a few doors down that had plenty of coffee!  What do you think?  Do you think a coffee joint would really run out of coffee?

There's a famous Australian Country and Western song called "The pub with no beer".  So I did one better. I encountered a coffee joint with no coffee!  I am not going to name the shop concerned as the people there are usually pleasant and I like their coffee.  They served me as usual yesterday.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A very pleasant occasion

Jenny is an exceptionally kind and generous person.  And one manifestation of that is that she frequently shouts excellent dinners for friends and family -- dinners "with all the trimmings".   I was talking to Joe about that and we agreed that of all the dinners we have the ones we get from Jenny are our favourites.

I have always been a bit conscious of a lack of reciprocity in that regard.  Who shouts dinners for Jenny?  I have done a little in that connection.  I do give Jenny bits of money at times to defray her expenses and I do shout her a Nandos dinner every Monday.  But that is a very slight recognition.

So I put it to Joe that we should do a joint dinner for Jenny -- "with all the trimmings".  So I invited Jenny to one of my verandah dinners tonight.  My verandah is by common consent a very pleasant dining venue.  My curries have been turning out well lately so I put one of those on.  Joe cut up the onions for it and got in the yoghurt as an accompaniment for it

Anne made a big dish of Liptauer for the canapes.  Liptauer is ubiquitous in South Central Europe but seems unknown here.  The only place where you can get it in Brisbane is from Anne.  It always goes down well with cracker biscuits

Kate made mini-Pavlovas for the dessert.  With strawberries and blueberries they went down well

I always invite George for any family do I arrange so he was invited too.  He brought along two bottles of Porphyry wine for the occasion.  That was a real blast from the past.  I think I last had it about 50 years ago. It is a type of Sauternes.

Anyway it all came together well so although that was only a very small thank you to Jenny it was one from us all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The host

It's an unlikely change but in my old age I have become something of a host.  In the past I have always relied on the lady in my life to organize that sort of thing.  I even cook simple meals for people on occasions these days.

One of Anne's oldest friends is a lady I will call Mrs M. -- who is married to Mr M., funnily enough.  I get on particularly well with Mr M., who is a genuine original. I have lots of fun discussions with him.  So I insisted that Anne invite them both to dinner at my place. I even had the house cleaned for the occasion.

So on Tuesday I cooked up a curry using a very safe procedure -- which consisted of tippng a bottle of Sharwoods curry sauce into a frying pan of mince. As my guests both hailed from the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I intended it to be a mild English curry.  So I added sultanas to the mince.  I am a bit slack on reading labels, however, so I failed to notice that the sauce bottle had "Medium" written on it. The end result tasted very good to me but I noticed that my guests drank a lot of water with theirs.  They were very brave.

I served my usual Seaview Brut champagne. I have become rather fond of fizzy drinks these days.  I also tip Bundaberg Lemon Lime and Bitters into my late night Vodka these days.

We talked mostly about our families but also ventured a little into global warming and such topics.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Saint was honoured once again

Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest and bishop in the Roman Empire who ministered to Christians who were persecuted there. He was martyred on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine's Day) since 496 AD. So he was a definite good guy.

I did most of the customary things.  I put a vase with a mass of yellow flowers and some pink ones in Anne's room with one added red rose plus one lily.  Lilies have bad connotations but Anne likes them.  So that was my version of Ikebana.  I guess I failed the class but Anne liked it

Anne presented herself with her hair long, blonde and out, wearing a dark blue floral frock which  proved she had both a waist and a bosom and she wore shoes with slight heels on them.  We are both pretty unsteady on our feet so the heels were a definite concession to the occasion. She looked pretty good.

For presents I gave Anne a big box of Maltesers, a packet of Aspro Clear, a packet of Quickeze, a bottle of Apricot jam, a bottle of Cumquat jam, three shopper dockets for petrol discounts and a bright green bedsheet.  Life is different among the oldies.  Anne appreciated the offerings anyway.  We both gave one-another jocular cards.

For dinner I took us to the Indian Brothers near where I live.  It is a bit fancier than most Indian restaurants.  I took along my last bottle of Barossa Pearl to drink.  We had Onion Pakora, Punjabi chicken (which was very good), cheese & Spinach Naan, eggplant sabji, and some other chicken curry which we didn't finish.

After dinner we listened to Ottorino Respighi on YouTube and at bed time Anne put my pressure sock on my Left leg for me.  Isn't that Romantic?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A small army reunion

Once a year I like to host a dinner for people I remember from my army days. There were only three of us this year, plus significant others, but it was a jolly dinner anyway.

I am not much of a cook so, rather than have something at home, I took us all to a restaurant and let them do the clever bits. We went to the Dapur Dahlia, a Malay restaurant in Buranda.  I really enjoyed my dinner and I think we all did.  I started out with a couple of Samosas followed by Nasi Goreng Pattaya -- which was fried rice with chicken topped by an omelette.

The ladies -- Anne, Linda and Michelle -- spent most of the dinner talking to one-another while we men mostly talked to one another: very Australian but also very normal.  I tried to break that up initially but I was not in the race

Peter M. brought along some old original Army documents he had saved from when we did our basic training together.  The notation against my name was "Seems slow to learn military skills".  I am naturally a bit clumsy so that was spot-on.

I talked to Peter about David South, with whom I had got on well in my Army days.  I remember that he was very keen on Gustav Mahler (the composer).  Peter had kept in touch with him for a while but had eventually lost touch.  Peter said he would see what he could do to restore contact.

As it was a Sunday dinner I made it an early one so we sat down at 6pm and finished up about 8pm.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

An Australia Day BBQ

Jenny put on a late afternoon BBQ in her very pleasant back yard for a few of us.  She had found some excellent beef sausages which went down well.  There were also some good dips and Pavlova for dessert.  I brought along a bottle of Australian champagne.

We noted the Leftist attempts to destroy the day because some Aborigines don't like it. But I gave short shrift to that. Why should I do otherwise?  In Matthew 8:22 Jesus said, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead”, meaning that there are more important things to do than worrying about those who cannot be helped and who are therefore as good as dead.

I did raise a champagne toast to what we were celebrating however -- the First Fleet -- as two of my ancestors came out to Australia as convicts on such ships.  Why should my culture and history be dishonoured in order to promote Aboriginal beliefs?  It is my ancestors and their ilk who made Australia the advanced and peaceful civilization that it is today

Something that rather annoyed me today is that I saw no cars driving about with Australian flags on them.  There were probably some but I saw none. In past years there has been a lot of that but the media barrage attacking the day appears to have led people to keep their thoughts to themselves -- as people are often pressured into doing these days in the name of political correctness

I think it is precisely because Australia day had become such a popular patriotic celebration that it has now come under such heavy Leftist attack. Leftists want everybody to be as unhappy as they are.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A procedure and a play

I went in on afternoon of 23rd to the Wesley with a 3:30 appointment for a colonoscopy.  There was a fear that I might have bowel cancer. My father died of that at age 65.

The preliminary literature that the hospital sent out  was mostly of little interest but I liked one piece of advice they gave.  It said "There may be delays so take a book".  And I did.  I had for years been meaning to read "The cocktail party" by T.S. Eliot and I did own a copy so took it along.  It was good that I did as it was in fact 3 hours late -- 6:30 -- that I was wheeled into theatre.  I had in fact just finished reading the play shortly before that so it fitted in well.

It is a good play.  It is about people coming to terms with the ordinariness of their lives.  It is an English drawing room play much like Agatha Christie's novels and there is in fact a substantial "who dun it" element in it.  But the over-riding theme is the actors talking about their feelings.  So it is a sort of psychological "who dun it".  There is a famous quote in it that I have known for some time:

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

Eliot wrote that as a comment on interpersonal relations, highlighting how that thinking distorts and destroys relationships.  I also see it as a comment on Leftism.  The Leftist too is always trying tp puff himself up as better than he is. "Virtue signalling" is the modern term for it.  "I am better than you" is the basic message.  Toxic!

It's possible that Eliot did mean it politically too, as he was a conservative

Eliot's famous poem "Prufrock" also portrays  the ordinariness of English life and reflects on what to do about it. As such it is rather dismal piece of work but is nonetheless important and famous. It does have some good lines in it (e.g. "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons") and it seems clear to me what it is all about -- though there are various versions of that. A stream of consciousness poem does lend itself to various interpretations. The epigraph in the poem is from Dante so Prufrock is apparently speaking from Hell, metaphorically

Anyway, the colonoscopy was a great success.  There was no cancer and only two polyps were found and zapped.  Only two polyps in a man of 75 is very much at the upper end of desirability. So I was allowed to go immediately back on to a normal diet, which I did.

So I have actually got a rather heroic bowel, considering that I drink like a fish and eat lots of "wrong" foods -- such as bacon and eggs -- and eat very little "right" foods such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.  I do like cabbage, however, so maybe that helps

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A delightful photo from Scotland

Matthew and Elise looking very brotherly and sisterly

I note that they are wearing the same school tie

Monday, January 14, 2019

Moscow nights

Moscow nights is a simple romantic song in which the singer relives the magic summer days of his youth when the world seemed fresh and love was in the air.  I think most people are able to identify with it.  I can.  It reminds me of summer nights in 1968 when I was doing my M.A. at the University of Sydney and eating chicken Maryland at the Forest Lodge hotel -- in company with Michael Crowley, the wonderful Lesley Johnson and various "Sydney Push" types like David Ivison.  And not to mention taking out the daughter of the West German consul, Isabella Schmidt-Harms. For some reason, Shostakovich's "Second Waltz" also reminds me of those times.

Lesley Johnson was from a Communist family, though she was more into philosophy than politics. When I was dating Lesley, she had a beauteous sister who was being dated by Mark Aarons, son of Laurie Aarons, boss of the Communist Party of Australia.  So I have had Moscow nights in more ways than one

Moscow nights has been much sung and recorded in the West so I think I am right about its popular appeal.  It is a great favourite of mine so I think I will not be controverted if I say that the best performance of it was the famous performance in Red Square with Netrebko and Hvorostovsky singing.  Anna Netrebko is a supreme soprano and Dmitry Hvorostovsky is a famous Russian baritone from (of all places) the industrial city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

Hvorostovsky (sadly now prematurely deceased) was a very handsome and manly man so presented his songs in a very strong, confident and dignified way while Netrebko is a rather shy person who is easily embarrassed -- which leads to her being able to throw herself into her parts. She does not have to present her own personality so can be wholly devoted to expressing in every way what she is singing.  And she does that very well.

I have come across a version of the Red Square performance that has both English subtitles and fairly good sound.

The beginning of the performance is very Russian, with Hvorostovsky dragging a submissive Netrebko onto the stage but then pledging undying love to her. In her reactions you will see how easily embarrassed she is but will also see how much she enjoys Hvorostovsky and his declarations. Most Russian ladies would envy her as Hvorostovsky is a very attractive man. Feminists will hate the whole thing.

There is a version with better resolution and better sound here:
but it is wholly in Russian

And look at the audience.  They are our people.  They are just like us.  They could be an American audience. We MUST not have a war with Russia -- despite what Congress would seem to want.  I have friends of Russian origin.  If there were a war between Russia and the West I think I would kill myself to get out of a crazy world.

And here's an interesting footnote.  Even the brilliant young Alma Deutscher has got into the act:  In June 2018, the English teenage composer Alma Deutscher adapted the song for piano to entertain Russian President Vladimir Putin during a State Visit to Austria, at the request of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Given three days to arrange it, Deutscher started with a sad lament that transformed itself into a Viennese waltz. Kurz explained that the melding of the two musical styles illustrated well the bond of friendship between Austria and Russia.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Another early morning trip to the hospital on monday 7th

But I was out again the next day.  Various tests and consultations have led to a diagnosis of a problem that needs fixing.  But I am booked for a procedure next week that may fix it.  I am feeling quite well and I think things are under control

Friday, December 28, 2018

"Firm but Fair"

Being Firm but Fair is often recommended as the best way of handling conflict situations and a rather amusing example of that working well arose in my life recently.

Around 5 years ago a certain businessman had his business licence taken off him because he was an exceptionally bad driver, much given to speeding.  Most of us have had speeding tickets etc so we probably see minor traffic offences as forgiveable -- so a lot of people would have thought that the punishment was a bit excessive. One of the journalists for News Corp. appears to have thought so too so he wrote it up as a news report.

The businessman protested that the government had treated him unfairly and a report of his protests also appeared shortly thereafter in which he defended his driving

I thought the initial report was interesting too so reproduced it on one of my blogs at the time.  I did not bother with the follow-up article however. And there the matter rested until this December -- when I got a very aggressive email from the businessman concerned demanding that I delete my online copy of the initial report as he had already got the newspaper to delete their report.  It was quite a threatening and unpleasant letter.

A wiser person might have begun his email in a classically polite English way as something like this:

"Apologies for bothering you but I wonder if you would mind ..."

Given my largely English culture I would of course respond well to something like that.  I do normally respond favourably to any requests about my blog posts.

Anyway, there are various ways to respond to threats and some are more devious than others.  So I did exactly as he asked and deleted my copy of the original article.  I went further however.  I replaced it with the article in which he defended himself -- an article which of course repeated all the original criticisms!  That article was still online at its original source so there was nothing he could say about that -- and he didn't

I was still not finished with him, however, so I put up a recent (December)  article on the matter which included the original government report about him.  That was still online too if you were good at digging into government reports

He was of course upset and apologized for his earlier rough approach to me. In English/Australian culture apologies are a big deal so in response to his apology I deleted my recent article.  I think I was firm but fair.

And guess what?  He and I now seem to be pretty matey.  "Firm but fair" works well.  It would be too much to say that I have converted an enemy into a friend but the change is in that direction.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A good Christmas and a bad Boxing Day

Jenny hosted a few of us at her place for Christmas, Joe, Kate, myself and Nanna.  We started at 12 noon and in her usual way Jenny did us proud with all sorts of good things to eat.  Ham and a chook were the main features plus all sorts of veggies and additives. I brought along a bottle of Seaview champagne and Joe and Kate did their bit by coming over early to help set things up.

We had it in Nanna's apartment because Nanna was not up to getting up the stairs after her recent two heart attacks.  It was the highlight of the occasion to see her still in reasonable form at 94.  The two people present who had Nannas's genes in them must  have been much encouraged by that.

We started off by opening presents under the Christmas tree.  Kate got lots of things to do with cats and I got booze -- both of which reflected certain realities.

Sadly, I wasn't feeling very bright so could not do justice to the food.  But the brain was still working so I was able to inject a number of different topics into the dinner table conversation.  One that was of great interest to Kate and Joe was the place in history of Jon Burge, a notorious Chicago police chief recently deceased.  Joe was rightly horrified and outraged at what Burge had done but I suggested some ameliorating circumstances.  I am putting up an expanded version of that discussion on Thursday (27th.) on Dissecting Leftism

The trifle -- one of my favourite desserts

So after a few hours I went home for a nap and Anne arrived a bit before 6pm after having spent most of the day with her sons.  We were of course not up to having much to eat for dinner after a big lunch so we had our Sunday evening dinner in the form of leftover ham with mustard on sandwiches.

I got Anne for Christmas a number of things that I hoped would be useful, chief of which was a silver gravy boat by Rodd, big-time Australian silversmiths since the '30s.  I believe some of their stuff ranks as collectibles these days.  One of the things Anne got me was a cocktail shaker.  I make her a Martini occasionally but have always stirred the mix rather than shaking it.

And that night the family nearly lost me.  At around midnight I began making multiple trips to the toilet.  And the trips were all ones where I passed lots of blood.  After 7 such trips I had to consider that I might be a goner.  My good natural clotting ability cut in at that point however and the bleeding from my bowel stopped.  But for that clotting ability I might not be here to write this.

As soon as the bleeding seemed to have stopped, therefore, I got Anne to drive me in to my usual private hospital -- where I was very promptly seen to. I have a history of diverticulitis  -- so severe diverticulitis was the provisional diagnosis -- later confirmed by a scan.  Getting a CAT scan at 2am in the morning of Boxing Day was pretty good going but that is the sort of service we get from at least some Brisbane private hospitals.  And thanks to my health insurance, it will not cost me a cent.

So I was admitted to the hospital for the rest of the morning without incident and was seen by a gastroenterologist about lunch time -- who discharged me.  My body had basically done the job of curing the problem and all the hospital had to do was diagnose and watch over me until I was sure I was in the clear.  Had the bleeding resumed, they would have had to operate.  So that was a very bad Boxing Day.

I got some pics from the twins in NZ however and they clearly had a much less troubled time.  One of the presents I bought the kids (via Von) was a Garden Tennis set, which was apparently a great hit with the kids.  Pic below.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Why a great Protestant hymn breaks my heart

I don't know if I will be able to convey what is after all a feeling but I cannot listen to the original version of the great Lutheran hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A mighty fortress is our God) without being upset.

The hymn is now best known in the marvellous setting by J.S. Bach -- a supreme work of musical art -- so we usually overlook the original hymn.  Both the original work and the Bach setting are works expressing Christian triumph over evil and adversity  but in the original version you get a feeling for what Christians of hundreds of years ago had to triumph over.

The world they lived in was full of tragedy, hardship and disaster  and they attributed it all to demons and the Devil himself.  To them the Devil was real and powerful and present in their lives. They saw his cruel deeds all about them on a daily basis -- in sickness and death and disaster.  There are few things, if any, more upsetting than the death of a child but they had to endure such deaths often.

So what the hymn conveys to me is both how awful their lives were and how their Christian faith gave them the heart to power on.  Their faith was their only rock, their only comfort. They had no power to combat the evils around them. It cuts me up that they had so little power over their lives when we have so much.  Their survival truly is a wonder.

But I have said as much as I can.  Just listen to the starkly simple words of a very simple hymn and feel for those poor people.

As students of foreign languages always tell you, you cannot adequately translate a poem and that is certainly so here.  The song is even more powerful in the original German: Simple punchy words

The words: "Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib: lass fahren dahin" are not well translated above.  They say that your possessions, your honour, your child and your wife can all be lost but the Devil still has not triumphed. What tragedies they had to expect!

And now listen to the wonderful things Bach did with that ultra-simple hymn:

Bach had joy in the Christian triumph over the Devil

Footnote:  The opening image in the first video above depicts Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church.  In the background is the Wartburg castle where Luther hid from his imperial pursuers

Sunday, December 9, 2018


I should not be writing about this topic at all.  As an Australian, I don't have the fine-tuned perception of accents that Brits do.  They can tell all sorts of things about a person from their accent -- and just about none of it is good.

There is only one accent that is prestigious in Britain: RP -- the accent of the upper and upper middle class in the home counties -- also the accent of the "public" (private) schools.

Broadly, there are only two Australian accents -- educated and broad.  And neither of them opens  or closes  doors.  You can do well with either -- though an educated accent is by far most common among the movers and shakers of Australian society.

We even had a very popular Prime Minister -- Bob Hawke -- who changed his accent from educated to broad during his entire time in office.  To some amusement he changed back to his native accent as soon as he lost office.  Can  you imagine present British PM Theresa May adopting a Cockney accent? It is literally unimaginable.

In Australia, all British accents are perceived as British but none of them are perceived as of higher or lower status.  We just don't get or value the class distinctions that they index.  You can speak Cockney or RP and you will be treated just the same in Australia.

I presume that my accent was originally broad but many years in the educational system have left me with an educated accent. And an educated Australian accent is remarkably close to RP. So when I spent a Sabbatical year in Britain in 1977, I found myself in unexpected "Good" company.  I had a degree of social acceptance that most Brits would envy.  I was routinely told that my accent was "soft" -- meaning that although I was not one of the top people, I was close enough

All that came back to me recently when I was talking to a distinguished member of Australia's armed forces. He was British born but some years ago had transferred from a British unit to an Australian one. And his career has taken off after the switch.  He was a native of one of Britain's regions so was not a native speaker of RP.  He had of course -- like all people of ambition in Britain -- modified his accent in the direction of RP but his original accent was still detectable.  And if I could detect that 100% of Brits would be able to.  So I hypothesize that his move to Australia was a wise one.  His accent would have held his career back if he had remained in Britain

So despite my very limited awareness of British accents, I was brought up short by something he said in a recent conversation with me.  He pronounced the word "master" as "masster", where I speak it as "marster".  I literally did not understand him for a while.  We had the situation where I was using and expecting a near RP pronunciation where he was using a regional accent.  A strange thing to happen in Australia.  And except for my observer's interest in accents I would not have realized what was going on.  Like just about all Australians I deplore Britain's class distinctions but they are an influential  reality. We do well not to have them here.

So a Brit migrating to Australia can cast off the burden of an unprestigious accent. As long as he can be understood (not always guaranteed) he will be treated like any other person.

But not all Brits want to be liberated from their background.  I know a very well-presented lady from England's North who has been in Australia for a long time.  She apparently speaks prestigious versions of two European languages -- but is still detectably "Northern" in English speech.  And she recently expressed to me contempt for the "posh" people of the South.   The British class system runs deep.

But a truly sorry tale is what happens when a Scot moves to London -- as many do for the greater opportunities there.

A Scots accent in London is completely hilarious so to get by at all in London a Scot has to change his accent.  And many do produce a passable version of RP. But the Scots are very proud of all things Scottish so when a Scot living in London goes home he risks great contempt and contumely if any hint of his London accent creeps into his speech.  It cannot be easy

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Musical discoveries

In idle moments I prowl the net looking for bits of musical entertainment.  And in doing so, I occasionally come across performers who are new to me.  And some of them are very good.  Walter Berry's rendition of the great Mache dich mein Herze rein from Bach's Matthew Passion is absolutely the best I have heard.  His bass baritone voice is as good as you get.

The Bach song is very devout. Rough translation:

Make thyself pure, my heart,
I will myself entomb Jesus.
For he shall henceforth be in me
For ever and ever
Take his sweet rest.
World, begone, let Jesus in!

Another recent discovery is Stepan Hauser, from Croatia.  He seems to have single-handedly revived interest in the cello as a solo instrument. The great power of the cello is very engrossing and emotionally moving so it deserves more prominence. The great champion of the cello for a time was Jacqueline du Pré but, sadly, she is now long gone -- so it is good to see a successor emerging

And it was in a duet with Hauser that I discovered American violinist Caroline Campbell.  One expects lady violinists to look rather dowdy but Campbell in the opposite.  She is a real glamor girl  -- who also happens to be mistress of the violin while also being a most expressive interpreter of what she plays.  Watching her play is very easy on the eye.

Below are some more videos, first  a popular duet between Hauser and Campbell.  They play the popular song "Return to Sorrento", which just about everyone should be able to get with

"Torna a Surriento" is a Neapolitan song composed in 1902 by Italian musician Ernesto De Curtis to words by his brother, the poet and painter Giambattista De Curtis.

English translation ("Come Back to Sorrento")

Look at the sea, how beautiful it is,
it inspires so many emotions,
like you do with the people you look at,
who you make to dream while they are still awake.
Look at this garden
and the scent of these oranges,
such a fine perfume,
it goes straight into your heart,
And you say: "I am leaving, goodbye."
You go away from this heart of mine,
away from this land of love,
And you have the heart not to come back.
But do not go away,
do not give me this pain.
Come back to Surriento,
let me live!

Then there is a duet in which Hauser and Campbell do a Hungarian Csardas -- which starts out slow and ends very fast.  They both handle even the fastest notes effortlessly and with great panache.

I think this performance might be my favourite classical music performance. Both players really live the music and in addition to the lady being both an excellent artist and a good humoured person she is such a dish.  We men are allowed to admire the female form.  The human race would rapidly grind to a halt if we did not.

The venue for the performance appears to be the Arena Pula in Croatia, the best preserved Roman amphitheatre

There are some good pictures of Campbell in a variety of settings here

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Kaimak, a discovery

When I lived in Sydney, I would usually have Yugoslav food about once a week. I would usually order pola pola -- half Raznici and half Cevapcici.  The Cevapcici -- a type of meatball -- were particularly good.  So I was dismayed when I came to Brisbane and  found NO Yugoslav restaurants.

But you can occasionally buy from a continental smallgoods shop or Woolworths trays of cevapi -- skinless sausages -- which you can cook up yourself. Cevapi and Cevapcici see to be just different shapes of the same thing.  So all was well. I could cook up my own Cevapi, and I do.

But all was not quite well.  With cevaps you always have Kaimak, a type of sour cream.  And ordinary sour cream is NOT as good as Kaimak.  A cevap meal is always good and tasty but it is not the same without Kaimak.  And there seemed to be no solution to that.  So I just had to do without Kaimak

But Lo!  I have disovered a product that is very much like Kaimak.  And it will certainly do me in lieu of Kaimak.  It is a product of Bulla, a private Victorian dairy company.  It is called "Spreadable Feta with Greek style garlic and herbs". It comes in small tubs and also makes a nice dip with cracker biscuits.  Woolworths have it.

Let me be clear (as 0bama used to say when he wasn't) I DON'T think the Bulla product is as good as Kaimak but I think it is the best substitute for those of us living in the benighted depths of the Anglosphere

Monday, December 3, 2018

Memories of a young person

When he was one he devised big toe power to drive his ride-on toy on the polished boards of the verandah at Gordonvale. It was the only part of him that would reach.

When he was a few months older he insisted on correct daily ritual -- a morning outing between 9am and 10am.  It was our custom but if we were a bit slow he would complain.  He liked his outing.

One one of those outings he saw a small novelty plastic Big Mac in a supermarket.  He pointed to it and said "Gamisch" -- which was as near to "sandwich" as he could get.  He categorized it observantly

When we came home from the outing, he could only crawl but was confident that he could crawl up the long flight of steps to the backdoor of our house.  We let him go part way but baby knees on dressed hardwood could have suffered.  But he was Mr Independence so always objected when we picked him up and carried him up those steps

His pronunciation developed slowly so at age 2 he used to sing in his beautiful little silvery voice "Twinkle twinkle little car".  He disliked me singing as I drove, however, so used to shout at me "Don't ding a dong"

In Brisbane he was fascinated by the ritual of opening and closing the gate when we got home from an outing.  He recognized a ritual again so if we were slow to close the gate he would point and order, "Close the Glate".  He went missing on one occasion and was found nearby in someone else's yard trying to close their "Glate"

At a party George used some sauce from a bottle but did not replace the lid.  The little 18 months old enforcer of correct ritual pointed to it and said several times "lid on".

At about that time he used to call Ken "Daddy" -- because all the other kids did.  Ken loved it and used to refer to him as "My sixth child" with a big smile.  Maureen, however hated it.  I just thought it was understandable and did not interfere.  I think it was Suz who eventually explained it all to him.

On one occasion he was sitting on the floor trying to get his own knickers on -- not an easy task. It was then that he uttered his first full and correct sentence.  He said: "Don't help".  So his independent nature came out in his very first sentence

When at home I would usually just wear shorts.  So when I was going to go out, he would again detect a ritual.  As soon as I started putting a shirt on he would point to my hat -- the next thing I would do.  As soon as I picked up my hat he would point to where I kept my keys, thus completing the ritual.

Once when he was 3, he came storming into the  loungeroom, threw himself down on the sofa and raged "I can't always win". He had been used to educational games which require only patience and had just tried a commercial "Shoot-em-up" and lost.  His tears lasted only 10 minutes, however. One of the girls showed him how to get "unlimery" (unlimited) lives. He has been playing games ever since

Also when he was 3 I  tried to correct his pronunciation.  I said: "It's not "nake".  It's "snake".  He was unimpressed. He replied "naker, naker, naker".

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Talking to Suz

Jenny had arranged some time ago to put on a small dinner in which I would have a chance for a good chat with Suz -- and so it was on Friday. I had got over the worst of my cold but was still obviously affected.  So I just sat in a corner while Suz was seated nearby and we caught up.  I was keen to hear of her life in a sub-arctic place. She has a great capacity for love and happiness, however, so nothing seemed to be bothering her.

I was however aware of what a rough time she had had in her teens so knew that her happiness could not be taken for granted.  Fortunately a man who really appreciated her came along and gave us back the happy person we had always known.  We all owe a great debt to Russ.

The evening was complicated by the fact that Nanna had had a heart attack just days ago.  So Jenny was spending most of her time at the hospital.  She therefore had no energy to cook so made the dinner a pizza and champagne night, which I shouted.  But the pizza -- from Pizza Capers -- was excellent and varied so we all ate well.

Nanna is apparently on the mend so Jeff came down to make changes to her bathroom needed for her reduced capacities. It was good to see him. He has now got a funny hat.

It was great to see the children.  Sahara has developed into quite a pretty girl and Dusty is looking good too.  Both were full of beans and laughter.  They have inherited their mother's nature. I was impressed that Sahara really likes her maths lessons.  That is a bit of a rarity for a girl but it is early yet to make much of it.  She is in 4th grade.  She is still a very girly girl and firm that she is a princess.  Since she has the looks to go with that she may well go further with that than with maths.  The great thing with both kids, however, is that both seemed to be brimming over with good health and vitality.



Anyway, I did get to have a good chat with Suz, which was the aim.

When we got home Anne made me a nice cup of tea, which went down well in my woggy condition. I then introduced her to my sub-woofer, trying it out with Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, a work using a lot of bass.  It performed faultlessly, to the pleasure of both of us. Below is the work concerned.

The organist is the late Hannes Kästner on the great cathedral organ of St. Steven at Passau in Bavaria. The German lands are truly the lands of music.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A cold and a sub-woofer

I arrived back from the wedding on Sunday afternoon in good health. By nightfall, however, I was a bit sniffly and on Monday I had a very runny nose and most of the symptoms of a cold.  I applied my stock of medicines to it but by Tuesday I was so congested that I had lost my voice.

Anne is however having her kitchen revamped this week and Tuesday is an evening we usually dine together so I felt obliged to cook the dinner that day.  It wasn't difficult. I tipped 500g of beef mince into my crockpot followed by a bottle of Taylor's readymade curry sauce -- and 3 hours later we sat down to a very good curry -- albeit a silent one on my part

During the day, however, I had been looking for something among my great stores of "stuff" and had came across something I had forgotten that I owned: A sound-system for a computer featuring a "sub woofer".  The normal sound systems you get for a computer  these days are very good but tend to be a bit weak in the bass. Woofers cure that.

Next day I was feeling a fair bit better and decided to use my woofer.  That meant disentangling my existing speakers from all the cables that infest the back of a computer but I sat down and did it.  But then I found that my woofer system lacked the cable to connect it to the computer.  I had a pretty good idea of what the cable was, however, so got my son to pick one up from Jaycar.  He did and it worked!  So  I now have Hi Fi music from my computer

So when I went to bed that night I put on the whole of Bach's Passio secundum Matthaeum.  They were much more comfortable with Latin in Bach's day so we call it the "Matthew Passion".  So I was woofed to sleep.