Old folk at lunch

Monday, December 27, 2004


My comments about my Christmas day generated a few comments of interest. There was some skepticism about my comment that the Scots "loathe" the English. I guess that was too strong a term. How about "profound suspicion" of the English instead? I first went to Scotland accompanied by a Scottish wife so I saw one side of Scotland that way. I also personally did a randomized doorknock survey in Glasgow for publication in the academic journals -- and several journals did in fact publish the results. So I got another view of Scotland that way: A community-wide view. So I saw Scottish people both intensively and extensively, as it were. So I do have some grounds for saying what I do. But one experience I repeatedly had is one that many Australians report: Scots cannot tell the difference between an educated Australian accent (or to some extent any Australian accent) and a Southeastern English accent. So Scots normally assume that an Australian visitor is English -- I was told on several occasions that I "sounded like the TV". And so they usually give the visitor the frozenly polite treatment that they reserve for the English. It is that treatment which causes the English to come to the remarkably false conclusion that the emotional Scots are "dour". When the Scots learn that you are Australian rather than English, however, they are greatly relieved, the frozen mask drops immediately and you are given a thoroughly Scots sentimental welcome. It is a joy to experience and sad that the English never do experience it.

Some readers also doubted that the Scots see the English as oppressors. The Scots certainly shouldn't and perhaps in their objective moments they don't, but one must not forget that Celtic memories are long and I can assure you that the execution of Mary Queen of Scots by Elizabeth I is still a lively memory in Scotland. So perhaps "oppressors" is a bit strong too but again I think "profound suspicion" does a pretty good job of characterizing the Scots attitude to the English. The Scots certainly see Australians in a much more positive light than that.

One reader also commented that the pervasive Leftism of Scotland is a fairly recent phenomenon. That could well be true, though I have some reason to doubt it, but in any case I did explicitly say that I thought the Leftism concerned was "not genetic" -- which means that it could change with circumstances.

There was also some dissatisfaction that I did not criticize the multicultural emphasis of the Queen's Christmas message. I did not do so because I think the Queen was being perfectly realistic in her approach. The English egg has now been thoroughly scrambled and the dark-skinned population is not going to go away. So what the Queen was very strongly saying was that each group should honour both its own traditions and the traditions of others. And that way the different groups could live together without friction. What the multiculti Leftists want, on the other hand, is for the tolerance to be all one way. At the very least they want Anglo-Saxons to be tolerant while Muslims can be as intolerant as they like and it would be better still for Anglo-Saxons to lose their own traditions, customs and identity altogether. The Queen, by contrast, was saying that EVERYONE should be tolerant and that EVERYONE should honour their own traditions. And I agree in seeing that as the only viable solution for community harmony in modern Britain. No doubt there are more than a few people in Britain who would like to kick all the darkies out but that is not going to happen.

I suppose one could argue that the Queen could have stressed assimilation more but, on the other hand, the ethnic community members she showed did seem, as far as one could tell, to be highly assimilated. Assimilation does not imply uniformity -- just a familiarity with and respect for the ways of the majority community.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


As I always do, I attended a large family gathering on Christmas morning -- with "family" being very loosely defined. It is however essentially the same gathering I have been attending for many years. And, like most Australian Christmas gatherings, it is totally secular -- with no religious allusions at all. All the people there are however very good-hearted unbelievers. They even laugh at my jokes, so what more can I ask?

A small sadness for me was that, out of the 17 people present, there were only two children and one teenager. What used to be a very child-centered gathering still is a child-centred gathering but most of the "children" have now grown up and are young adults. No doubt the young adults concerned will one day have children of their own but the longer they leave parenthood, the fewer children they will eventually have, of course. So my family occasion did in a very small way encapsulate a problem that the whole of Western civilization is having -- too few children to replace itself.

I was delighted to see that one of the presents received by the small boy present was a pictorial "Encyclopedia of modern military aircraft" -- something that almost any boy would enjoy but which is of course totally politically incorrect. But the boy's father is a former Royal Air Force man so no doubt he too would be incorrect to the unhappy minds of the Left.

We had a "secret Santa" session before the "real" presents were given out and it was a really fun thing to do, with lots of laughs. I ended up with a "crumb sweeper" -- a small ceramic pig made in China that had a tiny electric motor in that turned it into a mini-vacuum-cleaner. I promised to take it with me next time I go to a Chinese restaurant -- to suck up straying grains of rice!

One of my stepdaughters spent a year in the U.K. recently, most of it in Scotland, and I asked her over breakfast what she thought of the Scots. "Loved them. Lovely people", she said. "But they were glad I was Australian". I too have great affection for the Scots. I even married one once. But Australians probably see the Scots in their best light. The Scots still loathe the English and they see Australians as fellow-sufferers from English oppression! Rather mad, really. But there is a definite streak of craziness in the Scots -- not the least of which is their intensely socialist outlook. But Scots outside Scotland seem to be heavily conservative -- as we know from America's Scots-Irish population (See also here). So it doesn't seem to be genetic. I once did some survey research on the Scottish difference which is reported here.

The weather was normal Australian Christmas weather -- hot and humid. So the various Bing Crosby Christmas songs that were being played in the background ("Jingle Bells" etc.) were referring to a different world. It did however show that culture trumps climate. I did of course eat too much but I think I will draw a discreet curtain over that.

In the evening, I watched the Queen's Christmas message on TV, as I usually do. Every Christmas day the Queen broadcasts a short message to Britain and the other Commonwealth countries and it is always a positive message stressing important basics. She started out this time by stressing that Christmas is a Christian holiday so according to the politically correct brigade she was being most offensive to millions of people. In the British sphere of influence, however, what the Queen does and says is proper by definition so she does not have to worry about petty would-be dictators. Her message also stressed the importance of Britain's different ethnic communities living peacefully together and there were lots of shots of her and her family talking to British subjects of Indian origin. I have always liked Indians and got on well with them so I was delighted to see her extending such acceptance to them.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Below is the letter I sent out with my Christmas cards in 2004

Not a lot of news to report this year. My blogging keeps me busy in front of my computer for about 12 hours a day so I have become more sedentary than ever, if that is possible. I certainly go out very little these days except for frequent excursions to local eateries. Neither Judith nor I are keen on cooking so someone has to feed us.

Judith Middleton has now been living with me for some time. I am not sure what she sees in me but it is certainly not good looks. She is a geriatric nurse by occupation so that must make her feel at home with a moth-eaten old curmudgeon like me. She says that if I sat down to dinner with the residents at the nursing home where she works, no-one would notice anything out of place. She is a very kind-hearted soul so that when the more friendless residents of her nursing home go into hospital, she sometimes goes to visit them in hospital in her own time. It probably needs someone that kind to put up with me.

I am constantly in and out of surgery for my skin cancers these days. I just had three lots done at once yesterday. Rather remarkably, all the local anaesthetic the dermo pumped into me seems to have had a lasting but beneficial side-effect: For the last 4 months or so I have had a very sore left shoulder that I could move only in certain ways without pain. I never could work out for sure where the pain came from but it seemed to be tendonitis rather than arthritis. Anyway, six hours after surgery on my OTHER arm, the pain was all gone and I could move both arms any way I liked! I only hope the effect lasts! They put a lot of adrenaline into local anaesthetic so maybe that had something to do with it. Frozen shoulders are a rather common problem among oldies so now you know how to cure it! There are not many instant cures around for anything these days so it may be worth remembering. There was a famous case in America where some sort of surgical anaesthesia cured a kid of his autism so there may be more in these anaesthetics than meets the eye.

My son Joe is now 17, six foot tall, blue-eyed and blond-haired and definitely a young man. He seems to have inherited my jocularity too. He did a university course in maths this year even though he was still in his final year at High School and got a Distinction (6 out of 7) in it so the Maths Dept. at the University of Queensland have given him a small scholarship to encourage him to study there next year. More about that here. Like his father, he is a born academic. He also seems to be popular too, so he is not really a nerd, though he loves sims (brainy computer games). Rather amusingly, when people ask him what occupation he is aiming for, he always says he wants to be an actuary. That completely stuffs everyone as nobody has ever heard of such an occupation. I think I must be the only person who understood immediately what he meant. But I did teach statistics at the University of NSW for some years so I would.

He has shown no signs of mechanical aptitude yet, though, which slightly surprises me. I was always good at fixing things as a kid and I remember when I was 13 my family moved into an old house that had various old bicycle bits and pieces around and I managed to make a whole bike out of them, to the surprise of my parents. I remember that my father used to borrow "my" bike to go places at times. I painted it a fetching shade of maroon too. Joe is however a keen pianist so perhaps that satisfies his needs to do things with his hands. Like me, he is keen on classical music. Music, politics and history are mainly what we talk about and he does seem to be a born conservative like me. There are some pics of him here

I went up to Cairns for a week's holiday in August and you can see some of the resultant "snaps" here or here

So there you have it: Aches, pains and boasting about kids -- what else are Xmas letters for?