Old folk at lunch

Friday, December 1, 2000

Merry Xmas 2000



The year 2000 seems to have passed without Armageddon occurring yet so lots of fundamentalist Christians who were expecting the end of the world will have to go back to the drawing board -- yet again. They have been doing it ever since the first century. Like the Judaism from which it sprung, Christianity has always basically been a Messianic and Chiliastic faith (i.e. the "end of the world" is always just around the corner) but that tends to get lost within the more established Churches.

This time last year my son Joseph was a 5'8" tall 12 year old. Now, at 13, he has reached 5'10, as tall as I am. One reason I have always liked tall women is that I wanted to have tall sons so my aims in that regard seem to have been attained. Joey's mother (Jenny) is 5'8" tall and her father was 6'1" tall so I suspect Joey will end up well over 6' tall. Great!

Height is a bit hard to predict, though. Joey's cousin Katie (daughter of my sister Roxanne) was born within a week of him but is 8" shorter -- even though her father (Stefan) is just under 6' tall. Although she is of normal height, however, Katie is well above average in good looks and quiet intelligence. She is the daughter I would like to have had so having her as my niece is pretty good.

Joey started High School this year -- at Clairvaux McKillop College near where his mother lives at Mt Gravatt. It has around 1,000 students. He seems happy with it. He likes being one of the crowd so going to a Catholic school suits his religious convictions -- not that he is very religious. He just likes to belong. As I was a Jehovah's Witness for a couple of years in my teens, I understand him. His main religion is still computer games.

I started teaching Joey computer programming during the year using the FORTRAN language. FORTRAN is still the main language for mathematical applications so it should stand him in good stead later at university and it is a good introduction to other computer languages too -- since most of them are descended from it. Joe was of course delighted to learn and picked it up much faster than the second-year university students I used to teach it to! The traditional role of fathers in teaching their children useful things has been much eroded in the modern world so I was pleased that I could fulfil that traditional role to at least some extent with Joe. Kids these days tend to know more about computers than their parents do so respect for parents can be rather eroded by that in many families. As I have been a computer programmer for over 30 years, however, I am in a better position there than most fathers.

Just before the end of last year, my personal life became rather complicated. I was jogging along nicely with the shapely and brainy Judy as my girlfriend when TWO former girlfriends (Dorothy and Geraldine) both indicated that they wanted me back -- after having pinged me off earlier on in the year. It's very nice to be wanted and since they too were shapely and brainy I had an interesting but confusing Christmas season. So what did I do for Christmas lunch? Spent it at Jenny's place with my good friend Jill (who is also Joey's Godmother) present there too. In other words, the man with plural girlfriends spent Christmas with none of them but spent it with an ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend instead. If that's not a complicated life I would like to see one.

I also had the very great pleasure just before Christmas of getting a long letter from my very first girlfriend whom I have not seen for over 30 years -- Janet. We were soul-mates in the swinging 60s. She has been living in Paris for most of the time since and has been happily married for 25 years or so. She has three gifted children and at 51 thinks her husband is the finest man she knows. Isn't that great! Even in randy France, living happily ever after does happen. Studying French at University can have far-reaching consequences!

Anyway, it was no contest as far as deciding what woman I want in my life these days. I saw in the New Year with the quiet Geraldine and we have ended up very close. It was a bit pesky that she had a 2 week walking holiday (the Milford Track!) in New Zealand booked for mid January but we made the email run hot while she was there. Shortly after she got back we put on a Burns Supper on the traditional date (25th January) for a few friends. I got into full Highland dress and much Haggis was eaten. It was even enjoyed! I get it from a butcher who knows his stuff.

Geraldine is 53 and very fit. I am 57 and very idle. She is a Primary teacher by trade (teaching Grade 1 this year) and has an Education degree. She is 5'5" tall and slim with blue eyes and brown hair. Her maiden name is Trivett. "Right as a trivet", as they say. She is for me anyway. Do you know what a trivet is? Geraldine doesn't say a lot but there is a keen and ironical mind always at work there. As I am mostly pretty quiet too we understand one-another.

She is a Brisbane gal born and bred of the usual Anglo-Celtic stock. She has a mainstream Protestant background too -- basically Church of England but she went to Somerville House for her High School -- which is a very pukka Presbyterian/Methodist establishment. As I was brought up a Presbo, we share a common culture there -- not that either of us are at all religious. She had 3 children (now adults) in a long-term marriage that broke up many years ago. She was a keen bushwalker when I met her but my sedentary habits seem to have eroded much of that.

We also like a lot of the same music. I was most pleased when I found that she and I shared the same favourite aria from Bach's Matthew Passion -- "Mache dich mein Herze rein". We go to classical music concerts a lot -- which we both greatly enjoy. Geraldine particularly enjoyed (she called it "out of this world") a 2-hour rendition of part of Bach's Klavier Uebung done on the organ by Christopher Wrench at the Brisbane Conservatorium of Music. As someone who likes every note Bach wrote, I did find her response highly reasonable! Her favourite orchestral work however is not at all Baroque -- The Brahms second piano concerto. That is however a very dramatic and marvellous work so it is a not unsurprising preference in a former piano teacher. We are both however transported by the great Bach chorales -- "Wachet auf", "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern", "Jesu meine Freude", "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" etc.

We seem to go to something cultural most weekends. We go to the monthly concerts given by the University of Queensland Music Department at the Old Customs House. We go to the Friends of Antiquity talks given each month by the University of Queensland Department of Classics and Ancient history and we even saw a quite enjoyable amateur performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Gondoliers" at the Old Power House at one stage. And the year 2000 being the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, there were lots of great Bach concerts to go to: At the Conservatorium, at St John's cathedral, at the Old Museum etc. It just shows what a cultural desert Brisbane is doesn't it?

Speaking of music, while I am writing this, I am playing on my computer a CD of selections from the work of a composer who is still alive -- Phillip Glass. It is marvellous stuff. He is an American Jew. Nearly as good as Bach in my view. As soon as the CD finishes I will put it on again! I am pleased to say that Joey likes Philip Glass too. I imported some Philip Glass CDs directly from America during the year -- which seemed to impress Joey very favourably.

Jill and her partner Lewis made up a foursome to go with Geraldine and me to the big "Scotland the Brave" concert in May. Geraldine fed us all haggis with tatties and neeps beforehand to get us in the mood and I of course went in full Highland dress. It was a good concert but the only tempo the conductor (Colin Harper) seemed to know was "presto"!

Jill and I continue to dine together once a week --every Wednesday night. We have had a lot of fun with Shopper Dockets. Some of Brisbane's more expensive restaurants offer a free meal to anyone who brings in a supermarket cash register docket with one of their promotions printed on the back of it. Jill is very good at collecting such dockets so we have been eating at a lot of fancy restaurants for half price. So I would turn up at places like The Summit on Mt Cootha or The Tower Mill on Wickham Terrace dressed in jacket and tie with a beautiful and brilliant blonde lady on my arm and get good food with good views, good service etc and still have it cost me only $20 or thereabouts. Pleasant!

Another memorable dinner was when Jenny cooked a Parsee Dhansak for us all -- Geraldine, me, Jill and Lewis. It was exceedingly kind of her as it took about 3 hours to prepare --with the Kachumbar, green chutney, special rice etc as well as the Dhansak itself. A Dhansak seems to become the favourite dinner of anyone who tastes it.

I had big fights with Optus early on in the year. I had both my mobile phone and my landline phone through them. I always thought that nobody could be worse than Telstra but Optus proved me wrong. They took two months to put an STD bar on my landline phone. They paid me $315 compensation for that stuff-up though. Then I found that their system was breaking off a lot of my internet calls. They would not even acknowledge that problem. I finally emailed the head of their parent company (Cable & Wireless) in London about it. After 6 months of havering, they eventually gave me a $140 credit for all my broken-off calls. They are real bastards so you have to be very, very persistent.

I sold several of my properties during the year: my houses at Gordonvale and Innisfail (both near Cairns in North Queensland) and one of my Cairns houses. Real estate is getting to be too much of a hassle for me these days and the net income had become very low in relation to the funds invested. So I have put a bit of money into company shares (mostly banks) instead. And given that the stock market has been rising generally, the results have been pleasing.

I have gradually improved my management of my big boarding house at Ipswich. The major improvement came when I stopped accepting women! I know it sounds bad but most of my problems went when they did. Having women in the place just seemed to mean big fights (mostly drunken) between the tenants all the time.

My 24 year-old "stepson" (Jenny's son) Paul got engaged to his girlfriend Julie in September, much to everyone's surprise. Julie looked a dish and both of them seemed on top of the world at the engagement party. Paul got thrown into the swimming pool towards the end of the party, which sounds very Australian, but most of those who threw him in were in fact Chinese! Multiculturalism lives. Paul initially tried to get me to throw his 14-year-old brother David into the pool but I have always had a very big soft spot for Davey so I wouldn't. "But you used to throw me in!" Paul said, in what was obviously a fun recollection.

Geraldine's son Tom got the University of Queensland medal for Mining Engineering during the year -- which is a considerable distinction. I would find it a bore to have the mother of an Olympic medallist as a girlfriend but the mother of a University medallist suits me just fine.

I was very glad that I was not living in Sydney during the Olympics. I have never been able to see why it is so important that one person can run a fraction of a second faster than someone else. Running is now a pretty obsolete means of getting around, it seems to me. Brains, however, are more needed than ever before.

I got myself a new computer late in the year -- a 600mhz Celeron running Windows ME. My previous one was all of two years old, which was, of course, prehistoric in computer terms. The new one was still a very modest purchase, however, as processors running at over a gigaherz are now readily available. Ken Johnson (Jenny's first husband) supplied the new machine so I could be sure I would not get a lemon. Instead of putting a CD reader in the machine I specified a "burner" instead, so that I can both read and write CDs with the one device. Handy. I find rewritable CDs to be really impressive (when they work). I have two of them that I use just like floppy disks except that just one of them has the capacity of over 400 floppy disks! I have backed up a whole cupboard full of old floppy disks onto just 4 CDs! And blank CDs cost only a dollar. Information storage is a wonder of compactness and cheapness these days. I did specify a very fast (7200 RPM) hard drive for my new computer and it is amazingly better as a result. I also got a new internal modem with the machine that routinely does downloads at 52k Baud! 46k used to be the best I could get with my previous machine.