Old folk at lunch

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas



My Christmas started on Christmas eve with the usual big family gathering. We all get together for a big dinner plus present-giving on Christmas eve and then there are smaller gatherings on Christmas day.

Seeing that Christmas eve gatherings are more a European custom than a British one, it was decided that there would be an Italian theme this year. Tracy's Simon was our host again and also our cook. He is a very good cook and this time turned out some magnificent lasagnas for us. There were also starters in the form of Prosciutto ham etc.

Quite often at our Christmas dinners we have a visitor or two -- usually someone who would not otherwise have a family Christmas. This time Simon invited along a queer couple who are friends of his. Leftists would probably be surprised to find a military man with homosexual friends but Simon is British born and bred and acceptance of homosexuals is very advanced there.

In fact it used to be said of British "Public" (meaning private) schools that homosexuality was not so much condoned there as compulsory.

I was sitting next to Vonnie's Simon at the dinner table and he and I had quite a good chat about a few things -- mainly New Zealand, where he hails from. He and Von are moving to NZ soon. Simon is the strong silent type so I wonder if Tracy had noticed that I do chat a bit to Simon and deliberately placed me next to him. I also had quite a bit of conversation with Von about her new baby and plans for New Zealand etc.

After dinner we had our usual game of getting and exchanging random presents. That is always a raucous occasion with lots of people shouting advice. It gets everyone interacting energetically so is good fun.

After that we each got our "Secret Santa" presents.

The babies were a big feature of the night with three of them there -- including Von's recently-born Hannah. Hannah is very placid so she got passed around like a parcel all night. And Paul announced that he and Susan are having a baby too. Sue is 5 weeks pregnant.

As usual, most of us were casually-dressed for the occasion but Susan and Tracy both glammed up so that was nice to see.

Joe had good news: He has now been accepted into a Ph.D. course in Mathematics at ANU. He even gets a new scholarship to go with it.

It's very rainy here at the moment so the drive home at night through the rain in my Humber was no picnic. The visiblity was poor so I was in fear of crashing the car throughout the drive. Quite nerve-racking.

And today I was at one of the smaller lunches that various family members put on. Jenny had me, Joe, Nanna and Pam at her place. She cooked up a very traditional lunch consisting of many things but with turkey and ham being the main features. The ginger-glazed ham was particularly good.

And Anne came over this evening with plans to stay for a couple of days. We had leftover ham and mustard sandwiches for tea, something I often do on Christmas night.

Update:

Anne stayed on at my place for the rest of the 4 day Christmas break -- cooking me some excellent breakfasts and dinners -- which undoubtedly saved me from starvation, considering that my usual providers were closed for the break.

Memorably, we had HAGGIS one night, which was so good that I overate somewhat, something I rarely do. It was one left over in my freezer from my last Burns night -- which I had got from "Syd's pie shop". Syd is a brilliant cook.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The waterpump saga



A few months ago, the waterpump on my 1963 Humber failed -- and failed so badly as to be unrepairable. Then began the search for a replacement. No new ones were available anywhere and all the secondhand ones were nearly as bad as the one that failed.

After several months of hoping that the main supplier of Humber parts would turn up a usable secondhand one, I was feeling pretty hopeless about the matter. So I tried my last hope. I rang the mechanic associated with the local Humber club and asked him if perchance he had one.

He did not but said to bring out the old one and he would see what he could do. He is a very clever man so what he did was take parts from my old pump plus a couple of other failed pumps he had saved and put together what was virtually one brand new waterpump!

Dieter was the one who had been hunting for a replacement waterpump on my behalf so I took the "new" one straight around to him and said: "Have a look at this". So we both stood there for a few minutes staring in admiration at this shiny new carpart. Anyone watching would have thought that we were rather mad but if they knew how this perfect solution to a long quest had suddenly emerged, they would understand.

The Humber is now back on the road as good as ever.

Monday, December 13, 2010

An educational night



Both Paul and Joe enjoyed the last educational night I put on for them (See 27 Sept.) so I arranged another one. This time I discussed the basics of politics, starting out with "What is a conservative?" I pointed out that defining conservatism as "preference for the status quo" was propaganda of the shallowest kind since all governments -- Left or Right -- busily legislate away to change various things. NEITHER side of politics is happy with the status quo and even BIG changes (e.g. the Reagan/Thatcher changes) can emanate from political conservatives.

But if a wish for change does not differentiate Left and Right, what does? Left and Right want DIFFERENT changes so what drives those different wishes? I said that we have to go down to the psychological level to understand that. I pointed out that Leftists are basically angry people, angry with "the system" -- i.e. with very basic things in the world about them. Conservatives on the other hand are merely dissatisfied with some aspects of it and, although they may get emotional about some specific things on occasions (e.g. abortion) they are not pervasively angry with the world about them. They are basically happy people.

And the greater emotionality of the Left explains their almost invariably destructive policies. Anger is not a good frame of mind in which to make well-balanced policy decisions. And I went on to trace how the anger leads to a belief in big government and how conservatives advocate individual liberties in order to limit the damage that big government does.

I also pointed out that Leftist leaders are sometimes psychopathic rather than angry (e.g. Barack Obama) so are simply driven by a yen for power. They will say anything that sounds good and the large and unrealistic promises that Leftists commonly make do tend to sound good at the time. And psychopaths live in the present with no thought for the adverse reactions of people when the promises are not delivered -- as Americans reacted in the November 2010 mid-term Congressional elections.

So the discussion was an attempt to provide a foundation to an understanding of all politics. I have of course expanded greatly on the very brief outline above here.

To get the evening underway we got curries from my usual Indian restaurant and discussed family matters etc while we were eating. It was only after the dishes had been cleared away that we got on to politics. As usual, I was pretty hoarse after a couple of hours so at that point we went on to desserts. Both Anne and Sue brought along some good stuff so that ended the evening well.



The photo above was taken by Paul's Sue so she is not in it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A birthday



A first birthday celebration today for Saharah, daughter of Suz and Russell. Photos below by Paul's Susan, definitely the best-looking photographer in Brisbane. She takes good photos too. I even don't look too bad in the one immediately below! And that takes some doing. The next photo is of the proud parents with the babe.





The do was held in a Forest Park near where Paul lives. Given the very variable weather at the moment, we were fortunate to have a big open-sided shed to shelter us. But being among all the trees was very pleasant.

There was a big turnout for the occasion and Tracy's Simon even brought the family dog! Very English. Von couldn't come of course, after having had a C-section, just a couple of days ago.

In my usual way, I spent most of the time talking secret men's business with Paul and Joe. I gave them a good run-down on just what IQ is and what the evidence about it shows. I talked a bit to Joe about how best to get by in academe but as usual he had it all pretty well figured out anyway.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New baby





On Thursday night Anne and I went up to Mater Mother's hospital to see Vonnie's new baby, Hannah Ashley M**

One could already see that little Hannah is going to be as good looking as her mother.

There were various other family members there of course but I got to have a good chat with Von about her choice of name for her babe. I congratulated her on choosing a Biblical name

Von was in her usual good spirits. You would not think that she had just had a Caesarian. The most exhausted person present was probably her husband Simon. He actually witnessed the C-section. Glad it was him and not me!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I have become a victim of a hate crime



And I'm "all shook up", as Elvis Presley used to say.

As most readers of my blogs will be well aware, there are a lot of America-haters in America. The further Left you go, the more of them you meet. Even low-lifes like the Palestinians are seen as better than America by some Americans.

So it should be no surprise that there are a lot of America-haters in other countries too. And Australia is one such country.

I fly various flags from the flagpole in front of my house, depending on what is happening at the time. Last Thanksgiving, I ran up Old Glory in honour of that occasion. When I run up a flag, however, I tend to leave it there until something else crops up. So Old Glory was still flying at midnight on Monday.

Some young bigot didn't like that, however, so at midnight on Monday dumped a big rubbish bin full of domestic rubbish in my driveway. When I went out to see what the noise was, he went into a rant about what a dreadful place America is and what a bad person I must be to fly the American flag. He then strolled off down the street with his empty garbage bin.

Our bigot was not too bright, however. Among his garbage was something that probably identified him so I spent most of the next morning endeavouring to interest the police in what they saw as a trivial matter. I did manage to get them moving so I await developments.

If they catch him, I will try to have him prosecuted under State hate crime laws. That could be interesting. Such laws are very rarely used here but to have them used against a genuine hate crime would be good.

Update

On Tuesday afternoon I put some of the rubbish in my bins and got the council to clean up that part of the rubbish that was on the footpath

And some time on Tuesday night one of my wheelie bins disappeared completely -- contents and all! Did the nut who did the dumping realize that he had left identifying information in his rubbish and come back to retrieve it? If so he failed, as the police have it now.


Update 2

Just after 7pm on Saturday night (4th) I observed 3 police cars in the St just around the corner from my street. As I passed by, I observed the police hustling out of one of the houses there someone who appeared to be the garbage dumper. The police have not contacted me about it so far (Wed. 8th) but most likely the offender has made admissions and is at present going through the court system.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

BBQ for visitors from Britain



Given the unending stream of people moving between Britain and Australia, a BBQ for visitors from Britain is quite a common social occasion in Australia. The visitors may be Australians returning or Britons visiting relatives who have migrated to Australia.

Today was an example of the latter. Kenneth has always been keen on keeping in touch with his immediate family in Britain and a few years ago even managed to get his sister Tracy to move to Australia. So relatives back in Britain now have a double incentive to come here. Today it was sister Pat and her husband Jon -- with the BBQ at Simon & Tracy's place in semi-rural Carbrook. Kickoff was at 2pm and I had faded by about 4pm

Jon has long been much involved in British politics -- mostly in the Liberal cause -- so we had lots to talk about -- given that I keep a close track of British politics. The British Liberals are moderate Leftists -- moderate enough to be in a coalition government with the Tories at the moment -- so Jon is very open to reasonable argument and we covered a lot of ground. We were of course both appalled at the proposed new arrangements for support of university students in Britain -- arrangements which are mainly the work of the Liberals but which fly in the face of all reason.

Some elements of the arrangements make sense but the net effect would seem to be the segregation of graduates from poorer families into low-income jobs and leaving high income jobs to the children of the rich -- and that is from a party that parades itself as friends of the poor! But Leftist politics are always a mess.

Simon was chef again as usual and did his usual magnificent job: Some of the best sausages and chicken kebabs I have tasted. And Maureen supplied a large and first-class Pavlova again.

There were over 20 of us present and poor Becky (Simon and Tracy's beautiful teenage daughter) was trying to figure out how she was related to everyone present. It is quite a complex tale but I think she got most of it in the end.

Anne spent a lot of time talking to Simon about Oberammergau and I spent most of my time talking to Jon -- largely about topics (such as the West Lothian question) that would have been pretty impenetrable to others present. But I rarely get the opportinity to talk to someone close to the action in British politics so I hope I didn't annoy anybody.

I provided three bottles of Australian Seaview brut "champagne" as my contribution to the deliberations and they went down well as usual. Maybe I am just a peasant but I find it hard to distinguish Seaview from Moet -- even though Seaview is a fraction of the price of Moet. I do buy Moet for special occasions with Anne (birthdays etc.) but it for symbolism rather than taste. I used to buy Veuve Cliquot for special occasions but I eventually concluded that I liked Moet et Chandon better. All three are nice wines, however.

But I used to like the now defunct Barossa Pearl so that pigeonholes me among Australian wine gurus ("old fool" would probably be one of the kinder epithets).

It was a hot day but Simon embraced the Australian/Indian tradition of wide verandahs in the design of his house so we ate at a looong table on the verandah, where it was perfectly cool.


A pretty good photo of late in the occasion. I am in the white shirt talking to Jon diagonally opposite me


The two bubbies getting to know one another. They were both very "good", without a cry of complaint out of either of them


Von will have one of her own in a couple of weeks

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A small personal note on customer service in Australia and Britain



A Sunday morning reflection

I have spent time in England on three occasions -- including a Sabbatical year. There are a lot of similarities between England and Australia (the constant flow of English immigrants to Australia helps ensure that) but I noted one major difference: How customers are treated in shops, cafes and the like.

I am always pleased by the almost universal cheerful and friendly service I get in such establishments in Australia but in England customers tend to be treated like a bad smell. Just getting staff to recognize your presence is not always easy. Hence the old tradition of the "floor walker" -- immortalized in the TV comedy series "Are you being served".

Fortunately, however, most small businesses in England (particularly London) have now been taken over by people from the Indian subcontinent -- and all it usually takes to get good service from them is a smile.

But how did the English become such unhappy people? It seems to go back to a sense of entitlement. They mostly seem to think that they should not have to work at all -- and routine work in particular is greatly disliked. And the millions of Brits who have never worked and live on welfare payments is some testimony to that. "Pommy bludgers" are also a byword in Australia: Australians who see much of the English almost always end up seeing them as being in general work-shy.

So whence the sense of entitlement behind all that? It seems to be partly the result of official British propaganda, which the English are very good at. They are very good at trumpeting their own virtues in particular -- sometimes in an understated way but propaganda can be all the more effective for that. Even Hitler admired British wartime propaganda -- and he knew more than a little about that subject.

British government propaganda these days is nowhere as jingoistic as it once was but memories of empire persist and Britons almost universally believe that Britain saved the world from Hitler. The fact that over 80% of German wartime military casualties were on the Eastern front is rarely mentioned. It was Russia that defeated Hitler.

But perhaps the biggest source of the sense of entitlement is the welfare State. Since 1945 Britain has had an extensive and generous system of welfare payments which make work optional. Successive Britain governments have made it clear that Britons are ENTITLED to support from the government, come what may. So no wonder that those who do choose to work for whatever reason feel that they should not really have to.

It seems to me that Britons who have some go in them tend to emigrate -- to Australia, Canada, the USA etc. Britons abroad and Britons in Britain sometimes seem like two different races to me -- JR

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Glasgow



Glasgow is a strange place. It has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime. The crime mostly consists of the "Jimmies" (usually young working class Glaswegian males) sticking shivs (an improvised stabbing knife) into the gizzard of one of their friends on Friday or Saturday night. Sinking lots of whiskies with beer chasers does that to you.

So it's not really serious -- and even the Jimmies don't seem to think it is.

I have a memory of standing outside a pub in Sauchiehall St that reminded me strongly of a traditional Australian pub. I guess we got our pub culture from the Scots. Scots certainly like a "wee dram" -- but only the males of course. The women drink tea to set the men a good example. But that is how it was. I imagine that younger Glasweginan women have now given up that futile effort.

Anyway, I even seem to rembember seeing outside the Sauchiehall St pub a woman sending in her children to extract her husband from the pub and get him to come home for his dinner.

Does that seem strange? Not to me. That was part of my life too. Men are very consistent about where they drink. So their friends and wives generally know where to find them after hours. And my mother did too. It was generally my sister who was sent in to get my father out of the pub (usually the "Crown" in Innisfail) but I guess I would have had that job if my sister had not been a cuter kid than I was.

So I rather like Glasgow. I feel that I understand it. The fact that my second wife was a very fine Glaswegian woman may have some influence on that conclusion, however.

Glaswegians are generally very good-humoured people (as long they are not talking to the English) and Joyce Anne Burns Lipp certainly has a full measure of Glaswegian good cheer. She even gets on well with the English! So that is extremely good-natured by Scottish standards.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another "old times" night



Held, as before, in my backyard under party flares. I provided Seaview champagne and Pizza Hut pizza as people fuel. Maureen brought along a huge Pavlova which very much topped off the menu. Fortunately the rain held off once again. There were about 14 of us present. Sadly, Suzy was ill with the flu and Tracy's Simon had just done his back in so they were unable to get along. And Timmy must have been off "jamming" with his band or something.

Olivia and Davey brought along their baby and it was the BEST baby you could imagine: Looked cute but not a sound out of it all night. That Han Chinese patience really takes some beating.

We were all pleased to welcome George, whom we rarely see these days. He was in great form and personally provided about half of the funny stories about things in our collective past. And he topped his performance by falling off his chair! So that will be an episode to be remembered at future gatherings.

Somewhat embarrassingly, however, I fell of MY chair too -- shortly thereafter. My backyard was newly turfed about a year ago so the surface was rather soft after all the rain we have been having -- so the legs of chairs kept sinking into it, which meant that people were rather in danger of tipping over if not careful. Combined with champagne that peril was rather magnified. But the grass was very lush and the surface was soft so neither George nor I came to any harm.

Paul was his usual lively self and we even got Joe up to tell a few recollections of his childhood. We tried to get Vonnie's Simon to tell us about his happy childhood in Invercargill but we didn't get much out of him. People think Vonnie is quiet -- until they meet her husband. Simon is greatly respected however because he knows all about computers -- which we are all into in various ways, including two retired computer retailers among us. So when Simon DOES say something, it is valuable information which is much heeded.

I told my story about Ken the super salesman. Every time I tell that story it gets longer but my embellishments must have been not too far off the mark as Ken did not contradict any of it. The story is about how and why Ken "unsold" a lady off the carpet she wanted to buy when Ken had his carpet shop.

But we had hours of laughs and I was quite exhausted by the end of it

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A recollection of my arrival at High School in 1956



When my parents moved from Innisfail to Stratford in Cairns they did not take me along to enrol me at a new school -- as it would be done these days. They left it entirely up to me. So I got on the bus from Stratford one morning and found my new school by myself.

I did not think much at the time of the fact that my mother or father did not go along to help enrol me but in retrospect it does seem odd. Though I suppose I was an independent little bugger (aged 13).

So I got onto the bus to North Cairns school only to be told when I arrived that I was at the wrong school. I needed to go to the High School in Sheridan St.

So I waited for the next bus and got on with no money to pay another fare. But the bus driver was indulgent in a typical country way so that was no problem. He just dropped me off at the High School.

By that time the High School was "in" so I just wandered around looking for someone to speak to. Coincidentally, one of the classes I walked past was being taught by a "Miss Gagno" -- who had taught me in Innisfail. So when I stopped outside her class, she simply said "Hello John" and took me down to where the Principal's office was.

Some luck there, I think.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pavan Kumar



I have had many sharers/tenants over the years and most of them are just a blur in my memory now. But Pavan Kumar stands out. After 6 years of living at my place he has just moved out into an apartment of his own. He is going back to India to get married shortly so has to have a home of his own to which he can take his bride when he arrives back in Australia. He is an Australian citizen now so I hope the immigration department don't create difficulties for him.

He particularly stands out in my mind as perhaps the most cheerful person I have ever known. It's hard to put much more than that into words but it was a pleasure to have him around. He is certainly a great gentleman. I am sure he will have every happiness in his new life.

He is religious so if he does have trials and tribulations, his Hindu religion will be a help to him. Even Westerners go to India to sit at the feet of Hindu Swamis so there is no doubt that Hinduism can be very helpful to people. India is of course also the source of another great world religion: Buddhism. India does religion well.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The traveller returns



Anne has just arrived safely back from Germany. She came straight to my place from the airport and was wound up like a top -- but who wouldn't be after witnessing the magnificent spectacle at Oberammergau and seeing one of the great Mozart operas at the Bayerische Staatsoper?

I gather that the performance Anne saw closely replicated the original performance of Cosi fan tutti conducted by Mozart himself -- so that is hard to beat. I absolutely HATE it when some producer is arrogant enough to think that he can "modernize" a classical play or opera.

Germany/Austria is of course the home of the passion for Originalinstrumenten -- the view that the exact sounds originally intended by the great composers should be respected -- and I wholeheartedly agree with that. If that makes me a dinosaur so be it -- but that would also make the home of music (the German-speaking lands) dinosaurs. And I don't think that proposition is remotely sustainable.

Anne was very impressed by the quality of the music at Oberammergau. It was originally written in the early 19th century -- and subsequent changes and additions have remained true to the Romantic style. So it is very easily assimilable. Anne brought back a CD of it and I must say I am impressed too. Some of the chorales are as good as any chorale in the classical repertoire, in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oberammergau



The Oberammergau passion play (about the crucifixion of Jesus) is the last of the Medieval passion plays. They were once common but even in Oberammergau the play is now put on only once every ten years. So it is of course a great and famous cultural event.

And 2010 is one of the years that it is performed. And knowing how much Anne likes such things, I would not have been able to rest easily on my deathbed if I had not sent Anne to see it this year. I wrote her a cheque that made it possible.

Below is her comment on what she saw:

"What a magnificent show! Perfectly done and just the grandest occasion. A large choir, orchestra, wonderful props and costuming and a great story. I just loved it... Thank you so much. I have bought a book and a CD which I think you will enjoy. 400 in the audience and not a spare seat. And they came from all over the world. I followed the English translation all the way using my trusty torch for the last 3 hour session. The weather has been great and even though I took lots of warm clothes to wear only 2 layers were needed."

While Anne was in Bayern ("Bavaria" to the English) she also saw Neuschwanstein and Cosi fan tutti (by Mozart) at the Bayerische Staatsoper so she made good use of her time in Germany.

Her comment on what she saw at the Staatsoper:

"The opera was great. I went in early to find the place as I have found finding the entrance to these places can be tricky. I had dinner and a beer over the road.... traditionally Bavarian of course and then wandered over. I had read the full libretto in the morning and just took the synopsis with me. Was a beautiful opera with all the cast having great voices. Female conductor who also played the harpsichord. The venue was just magnificent..... similar in the theatre to the one in Paris. I was impressed with the velvet on the hand rails."

Seeing one of Mozart's most marvellous operas in Muenchen was actually an unusually good opportunity. Bavarians and Austrians are quite closely related and speak much the same Southern German dialect so Mozart's thinking would have been very easily followed there.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A small anecdote and some reflections on race and culture



A few days ago I went in to a private hospital to get my hearing tested and a hearing-aid prescribed. I've already got one plastic eye lens so a computerized ear comes next! That's aging for you.

Greenslopes private hospital does however have one of those murderous automated car-parks. You have to deal with a machine to get in and out. And it is not easy. I got so frazzled trying to get the machine to let me out that I left all the documentation from the audiologist on top of the machine concerned and ended up driving home without it.

It was only when I got home that I realized that I did not have my receipt etc. So what did I do? One thing I was NOT going to do was negotiate that accursed car-park machine again. So I just thought to myself that some kind person would find my documentation and take it to the audiologists -- who would return it to me. And that is exactly what happened. I received it in the mail today.

Now isn't that nice to live in a largeish city and still get treated with village courtesy? But it is no coincidence. I find that my fellow Anglo/European-Australians are generally like that: Good kind people.

And that largely happens because the Australian population is still overwhelmingly white. You would have to go to Eastern Europe to find a whiter country. The most recent figures I can find show that Australians are 70% Anglo-Celtic, 18% European and 5% East Asian, with most of the latter being Han Chinese racially. The balance are mainly Indians Pakistanis and Arabs, with Africans less than 1%.

Now it does of course sound racially bigoted to attribute Australia's friendly civility to race but it is in fact mainstream sociology. Robert Putnam in particular is known for his studies of racial homogeneity. Sociologists are almost universally Left-leaning and Putnam is too -- but he was man enough to publish his findings (after some hesitation) even though they did not suit him ideologically.

What he found was that people who live in racially mixed neighbourhoods (he is American so that means neighbourhoods with a lot of blacks or Hispanics in addition to whites) were much more likely to keep to themselves. They stayed home at night a lot more, for instance. Racial admixture killed community feeling, to put it bluntly.

Fortunately Australia has largely escaped that. Until recently our population had ancestry that was almost exclusively from Europe or the British Isles. And regardless of whether your origins were Lithuanian, Irish, Italian, German or English, we all saw one another as simply Australian. Ancestry made no difference in most cases.

In more recent years, however, Australia HAS acquired one largeish "minority": East Asians, mostly Han Chinese -- now about 5% of our population. But the Han are admirable people. They are in general quiet, peaceful, patient, intelligent, hard-working people who strive to get on well with everybody. So they fit in very well and do nothing to cause anyone to stay home at night. So even though they have disrupted Australia's racial homogeneity, they have, if anything, enhanced its social harmony.

So it was no accident that some kind person returned my papers. It is what happens in a society where people are in general kind to one another because they can identify with one another and sympathize with one another.

But all silver linings have a dark cloud and Australia has recently acquired one of those too. Australia has in recent years accepted a considerable number of African "refugees" and they already figure prominently in crime . Sad that they may destroy the remarkable and valuable harmony that Australia still has.

Mind you, Australia's native blacks -- Aborigines -- are not bad people. They often live in appalling squalor but they mostly keep to themselves and are undoubtedly one of the most polite populations on earth. They also have an excellent sense of humour and some perceptual abilities that are quite eerie at times. But alcohol is their great downfall. The lady in my life -- Anne -- knows them particularly well and has great affection for them -- something that I understand.

They are actually extraordinarily sociable people -- which is why it is so effective when they "sing" transgressors among them. The transgressor dies of grief.

Much to learn of human diversity. And shrieks of "racism" when it is discussed come only from fools or the ill-intentioned.

Update

With my permission, David at Majority Rights has posted there an "amped-up" version of this post in which he says more about the social science involved.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Travellers night



I put on a small discussion night last night for the recently returned travellers, Paul Susan and Ken. Jenny also joined us. The idea was to add a bit of background to things that the travellers had seen.

I shouted curry and champagne for the gathering and Susan brought along her latest creation -- a torte that even a Yiddisher Momma would have found entirely acceptable for her Kaffee Klatsch.

I talked initially about the UK being in fact a DISunited Kingdom and the conversation went on from there. Nobody knew what a Cockney really was and the West Lothian question was also a mystery. I dispelled both mysteries, remarking along the way that the people born within earshot of the bells of St. Mary le Bow are in fact most likely to be of Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin these days.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A small memorial to "Bluey" Ray



My father's real name was Frank Edward Ray but only my mother and his kids called him "Frank". To everyone else he was "Blue" or "Bluey" -- because he had red hair -- a feat of logic that you may have to be British or Australian to understand.

His religion was work -- hard manual work -- and he did that throughout his life. He started out cutting down forest trees for the sawmills -- with an AXE and crosscut saw -- long before chainsaws were heard of. And he also was a cane-cutter in his younger days. He would come home "as black as a n*gger" from that work -- as sugarcane was burnt before harvesting in those days,

But in his later years be worked in the tallow rendering section of the Queerah meatworks outside Cairns. He used his very developed biceps to move around 44 gallon of drums of tallow -- a job in which he seemed to be much appreciated by his employers. And if you have ever tried to move a 44 gallon drum of anything (usually motor fuel) you will know how heavy they are. And when filled with a dense material like tallow (rendered-down animal fat) they are REALLY heavy. But he would have enjoyed that challenge.

I also remember him while I was just a kid sharpening and "setting" his crosscut saws -- something that was part of his trade as a "timber feller" (lumberjack). He would be out in the bush during the week and come home for the weekend. And that was saw sharpening time.

He also had an old .22 rifle. He said that where he was camped out in the bush he could hear crocodiles roaring -- so he was definitely wary of them. What good a .22 would do in an encounter with a croc I do not know. If you were a good shot it might help, I suppose. But I remember him buying bullets off "Thompson" (the Stratford store keeper) as a prelude to a trip.

My brother still has the .22 concerned. If I ever had to deal with crocs, I would want a .50 cal sniper rifle for the purpose -- though I suppose an old .303 might also be useful enough (and a lot more available).

And, as I think I have mentioned before, Frank was a "king hitter". The biceps developed through many years working as an axeman were very handy for flattening anybody who disrespected him. He once hit a man so hard that he broke his hand. He did have a short temper. I remember his flashing blue eyes when he was annoyed. Though he never laid a finger on any of his family and was a real gentleman unless provoked. How can eyes flash? I don't know. But his did somehow.

I am sad that my father is no longer among us. He was a man of his time but was perhaps the better man for that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Red hair



There is a lighthearted article in the Emerald City rag about red hair. The female writer says being a redhead is only a minor bother to her but some redheads get a bit disgruntled. Excerpt:

"I think I have suffered enough for my colouring," wrote one woman, who noted she had occasionally been asked if the carpet matched the drapes. "I don't think my own government should contribute to the belittling of a minority."

The carpet DOES match the drapes in my experience!

I have brown hair (now grey) but I claim associate membership of the red hair club on the basis that my father had red hair and my son has a red beard. My first girlfriend was a redhead, the first lady I lived with was a redhead and I have twice married redheaded ladies! So I am comfortably ensconced in my genetic niche, it would seem. I am always delighted to see redheaded children about the place.

England would seem to be the only place where there is actual prejudice against redheads, probably because they associate it with the Irish and the Scots. Old enmities linger on.

Update:

I should have mentioned that in my youth I did myself actually have some red hairs in my beard (all now gone white). So I am not only an associate member of the red hair club but am also to a very marginal degree an actual member of it!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Judith Middleton



This is just a small and disorganized memoir of a lady of whom I still think highly. Jude was the lady in my life before Anne. A curious thing about her was that she was what American sociologists call a "skidder" -- someone who moved during her life from the middle class to the working class.

Her father was a successful Melbourne businessman who sent both his daughters to Melbourne MLC (Methodist Ladies College) so she had just about the best education money can buy. MLC ladies acquire an accent, attitude and manners that enable them to glide easily into the "best" circles of English society.

An educated Australian accent is in any case pretty close to RP (Received pronunciation: The accent taught in British "public" [meaning "private"!] schools) and at MLC and other Melbourne private schools that accent is refined even more towards an English upper class standard. And Judy's sister did make that transition -- marrying a rich Englishman.

Judy however is a born rebel and all middle class values were not for her. She looked with horror at the middle class life that lay before her and wanted out. So she left school as soon as she could, took a humble job and never wanted anything more.

Mind you, she was very good at accents and could slip into a very good facsimile of RP if ever she wanted to. Though she normally spoke with a fairly broad Australian accent.

Another curious thing that quite stunned me was the effect of shoes on how she presented. I have never understood the way women collect shoes but Judy gave me at least a hint of it. She normally wore very flat shoes and in such shoes looked like the hippy she is. She just had to put on heels, however, and she immediately became a lady. Amazing. She is quite a pretty girl so that had something to do with it but I doubt that I will ever understand it fully.

And it was of course she who looked after her father in his final years. I am pleased to have known her.

Addendum

I know this is completely mad but I thought I might note another way in which Judith seemed to me to be something of a chameleon.

Optometrists make a great play of spectacles being some sort of fashion statement and it is undoubtedly true that different spectacles do somehow seem to convey different images of the person. And Judith's choice in spectacles did somehow convey the impression of a Melbourne Lady to me. She could be sitting in bed with her specs on talking on the phone and I definitely got the impression of being in the presence of a Melbourne Lady.

It was for a few moments almost like being in the company of the ultimate Melbourne Lady -- the redoubtable Susan Rossiter/Peacock/Sangster/Renouf -- a lady who definitely cut a swathe through her social circle in her time -- but in the nicest possible way, of course. No wonder Barry Humphries found/finds his native Melbourne infinitely amusing. Perhaps Jude was well out of it.

Addendum 2

I suppose this post is getting a bit discursive but maybe memoirs tend to be like that.

As I said, Jude was NOT a Melbourne Lady (and didn't want to be) but she did fleetingly remind me of where she came from occasionally. There was in fact another lady in my life who reminded me of Susan Rossiter/Peacock/Sangster/Renouf quite strongly: Jennifer Warner Wilson. And she was a Sydney lady rather than a Melbourne one. Jenny was a lecturer in Social Work at the Uni. of NSW while I was a lecturer in Sociology there. So we were formally well suited to one-another. She is a fine woman (do I ever get involved with any other?) and we got on well in lots of ways.

And she was demure and feminine but also with quiet assurance and a strong eye -- things that I see in Susan Rossiter (etc). I liked her confidence. Did she go to a private school? I don't remember but probably.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lunch with Simon and Tracy



My sendoff for Simon in connection with his recent deployment to Afghanistan was a bit of a mess as I was too ill at the time to attend it. But a good time was had by all who were healthy enough to attend so when Simon got back to Australia recently, he and Tracy were kind enough to invite Anne and myself to a roast dinner at around midday last Sunday.

Simon is a talented cook as well as his many other virtues so he served up a feast.

One thing I particularly liked is that Dan and Becky ("the kids") joined us at the table and to a degree took part in the conversation.

Simon was in great form so our conversation covered a wide range -- from Jeremy Bentham to Julia Gillard. I was a bit surprised by Simon's wide reading. It would normally be only academics who had heard of Bentham (the "father" of utilitarianism in moral philosophy) but senior members of the military are often well-read and Simon is obviously one of those.

An exceptionally pleasant afternoon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A welcome home night



On Saturday 5th I hosted a welcome home dinner at my usual Indian restaurant in Stone's Corner (the "Bollywood") for Paul and Sue after their 3 month world cruise. They got off the ship in Sydney on Friday 3rd so I left them a little time to to get a breather.

Ken and Maureen had also returned from a month of cruising around the Mediterranean a few days earlier so it was a welcome home for them too

We had a good turnout with 15 of us present. Suzy couldn't come because baby Sahara was ill so she sent her apologies at the last moment.

The conversation never stopped but I as usual spent most time talking to Joe and Paul: my "boys". They are both grown men by now but old guys like me are allowed to live in the past. I mostly talked to Joe about his academic activities and to Paul about the conclusions he had drawn from his trip. A pic of the occasion below. I'm not in it, thank goodness.



Friday, September 3, 2010

The clock in my head



I have in my head something which is, I think, exclusive to people of Northern European ancestry: A clock.

It is a clock which has both conscious and unconscious components -- and even works in my sleep. For instance, I wake up most mornings pretty well on the dot of 7am -- Sometimes literally on the dot of 7am. These days I mostly just look blearily at the clock and turn over and go back to sleep but 7am was once my getting-up time and my subconscious still thinks it is.

Another interesting example was when I booked my car in for servicing with Dieter, an old friend who also is my mechanic: He keeps my cars on the road. Dieter is German (as the name implies) and I told him that I would bring the car over at "about" 8am. I of course arrived on the dot of 8am and there was Dieter waiting in the driveway with his arms folded -- waiting for me. We understood one-another. Neither of us are in fact in any ancestral way Prussian but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. And there was a second occasion quite recently, when I said to Dieter that I would bring the Humber over for servicing at "about" 9am. I of course arrived on the dot and, as I arrived, Dieter had just completed the preparations he needed to deal with the servicing concerned.

There are many examples of this unconscious clock (Could I make it work deliberately? Perhaps not) but the most recent example is quite eerie. These days I buy a lot of frozen dinners that just need 5 minutes in the microwave to produce a very acceptable dinner at the end of it.

So I put on the dinner in the microwave and set it for 5 minutes. I then leave the kitchen and return to my computer at the other end of the house. After a while on the computer, however, I feel that my frozen dinner should be just about cooked so I get up to go and check it. And as I walk towards the kitchen what I often hear is the last chirp of the microwave announcing the end of its program. In other words, I go and get my dinner at exactly the right SECOND!

Even I am amazed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Old fashioned"



The meaning of words is often well outside what you will find in a dictionary. For instance I once asked Jill about her very kind regular visits to her severely disabled and demented elderly ex-husband. I asked her did she take him up snakes and milk-bottles. She replied, No, but she did take him up snowballs.

That could have sounded like all three of us were pretty demented but in fact it was a perfectly sane enquiry on my part and Jill understood it immediately. Snakes, milk-bottles and snowballs are types of children's candy and we both knew that Brian liked them.

So I wonder a little what people meant when during my childhood adults regularly described me as "old fashioned". I always took it to mean that I seemed old beyond my years but I wonder now did they mean it literally? Were my ideas during my childhood even then of a past era? It's possible because I was a great reader of old books almost from the time that I first learned to read.

I will have to find someone in their late 80s or early 90s to tell me what they might have meant if they had in their younger years described some kid as "old-fashioned"

Update, 3 Sept. 2010

Another culture specific reference which would, I think, boggle non-Australian users of English is the word "vanity". I said to Geoff, my handyman, today: "I'll get you to pick up a new vanity from Bunnings for me" -- where Bunnings is a hardware store. What could I possibly have meant? Any Australian could tell you. A "vanity" is a cupboard and sink for a bathroom. The full usage is "vanity unit" and must have been a bit of marketing puff from way back when.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A marvellous muffin



I went out to Jill's place this morning (Friday) and went before I had had any breakfast -- as I usually have my breakfast lateish and planned to have it after I got back from Jill's.

Jill however very kindly gave me a cup of tea and a large fruit muffin -- and that was a remarkably filling muffin. I got home about noon and did not feel at all hungry. By about 2pm, however, I thought I should have something and ordered a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich at my usual coffee place.

And that sufficed. I had one of my usual TV dinners at about 6pm.

I was out at Jill's place again to raid her books. She is moving soon so wants to reduce her library. I mainly carried off Bible commentaries that once belonged to her late clergyman husband. I am rather a sucker for Bible commentareies as the background to Old Testament stories in particular is not always obvious.

Something I covet in that line is a copy of the Companion Bible. It was put out by the Oxford University Press way back when and is about the biggest book you have ever seen. I have only ever seen one copy of it. Maybe I will chase it up one day.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Some rambling reminiscences with a small point at the end



Most people don't seem to realize that mechanical ability correlates quite highly with general intelligence. A good motor mechanic will generally be pretty bright as a lot of mechanical work is pure problem solving.

So while I have always been good at academic tasks, I was also pretty good with my hands as a kid. If the family toaster or electric jug ceased working, I would be the one to sit down and fix it. And if a fuse blew I would fix that too.

And when I was about 13 the family moved into a house that had been occupied by my recently deceased grandfather -- with some of his possessions still in it -- including all the books that the family had got as kids for school and Sunday school prizes. I read them all from cover to cover of course and still remember something of their content.

Underneath the house, however, we also had lots of bits of junk, including parts of defunct bicycles. I found enough parts to put together a complete bicycle and even got some paint and painted it a fetching shade of maroon. At one stage my father used to borrow "my" bike to ride to work on.

And when my mother was in hospital giving birth to my brother, I took her up a newspaper she liked to read: "The Sunday Truth" -- light reading and something of a scandal sheet. Newspapers become all messed up as people read them, however, so when that newspaper arrived in the house, I punched two holes in its spine and used them to bind the newspaper together with a piece of light wire. So when she got the newspaper it was in perfect order. I remember that being greeted with surprised appreciation.

And I have always been interested in locks. Any house where I live always has all its door locks working, complete with keys. I can't specifically remember fixing locks in the parental home but think that I must have. I could never fix clocks, however. I just used to end up with a collection of parts.

With adulthood, however, I found more interesting things than working with my hands and to all appearances became a "typical academic", who left such tasks for others.

That had an amusing consequence once when I was living in a shared apartment at Bondi with two bright and attractive ladies. The deadlock on the apartment door developed problems, so after taking one look at me they decided to fix it themselves. As soon as they got the back off, however, a spring went SPROIINNGG!!!, as springs do, and they just had parts scattered everywhere and no idea what to do further.

At that stage I gathered up the parts, put the lock back together and soon had it working perfectly. There was a stunned silence when I did that. They had no idea that I had it in me. I later married one of the ladies concerned so maybe being good with locks has its advantages.

Now the point of all this is that my mother and father had a very conflicted relationship and, somehow related to that, my father was often rather hostile towards me. I inherited my mother's serene self-confidence, however, so it never bothered me.

I always attributed his hostility to his devotion to hard physical work. In his life that had always been the way to make money so the ability and inclination to work hard was something of a criterion of virtue to him. And with my bookish ways he could never see me as living up to his work ideals. On several occasions he said to me in disgust: "You'd never make a quid in a week". A quid was two dollars and was even then a small amount.

It is only recently, however, that another explanation for his hostility has occurred to me. My mother had what my father called a "caustic tongue" and she certainly used it in arguments with him. So I am almost sure that there would have been at least one occasion when she said to him: "John does all the work around the house. You do nothing". That was pretty true in its way but would of course have been very wounding -- and could well have contributed to his hostility towards me.

In later years, however, my father and I got on perfectly well. When he heard how much money I was making in my university teaching job, he considerably modified his ideas about work.

NOTE: I am slightly embarrassed by the fact that I still have a small reserve store of 19th century rimlocks. There are not many Victorian houses in Brisbane and I have stopped buying old houses anyway. So I will never use them. My present house has some Edwardian rimlocks but no Victorian ones.

I built up most of the stock when I was in Sydney as it was not uncommon there to find Victorian rimlocks that were completely broken or gutted so could only be replaced rather than repaired.

So if anyone comes by this blog who knows what a Victorian rimlock is and who needs one, it might well be to their advantage to contact me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WPR revisited



I think it must have been in 1969 that I rented a terrace house in Wentworth Pk. Rd., Glebe, in Sydney. It had 3 bedrooms so I asked among friends to find people who might move in and share the cost with me.

I was referred to two young men with a love of cars, Henningham and Croucher by surname. We almost immediately adopted the practice of addressing and referring to one-another by surname only -- indicating that the friendship we formed was a jocular one.

We greatly enjoyed our times at "WPR", in part because we shared attitudes that were at least not incompatible, including a liking for the music of Leos Janacek and "The wonderful world of Barry McKenzie" by Barry Humphries -- a comic book, no less.

In fact, when I was first introduced to Henningham and Croucher, they gave me the McKenzie book to look at as a sort of test of cultural compatibility. They regarded it then (and I think still do) as the apogee of Australian humour. After I had been chuckling over it for ten minutes or more somebody said wonderingly: "He's still on the first page". So my credentials were firmly established.

One interest we did NOT share was an interest in sporty cars so my purchase of a humble Mazda 1300 was greatly derided. When a car-lovers' "Bible" (called "Wheels", I think) came out and named the Mazda 1300 as "car of the year", there was therefore great embarrassment. That issue was hidden from me and no mention was made of it until many years later.

We were there only for a year or so but we had lots of fun ribbing one-another and laughing at many things generally so we have kept in contact ever since.

And with the arrival of the internet we were able to create a "virtual" WPR, with frequent emails exchanged: almost entirely of a jocular or even nonsensical nature. We even have a sort of strange language that we use only between one-another.

We have rarely met again in the flesh, however. But today we did. Croucher is on sick leave from his university lecturing job in China so took the opportunity to visit friends and relatives in Brisbane.

We met for lunch at the Cafe San Marco at Southbank, a pleasant but rather expensive place to eat. And for about 3 hours we sat and traded a mixture of serious and jocular conversation. The conversation was very discursive so I doubt that any of us could remember much of it except that we enjoyed it just as we did in times past. We did talk a lot about philosophy and I was able to enlighten Henningham on why we have 7 days in the week but other details are already lost to me.

It was just as it was in the days of the original WPR. We amused one-another just as we have always done for 40 years on and off.

Update:

I am reminded that other topics discussed were Henry VIII, the extent to which complex philosophical theories can be reduced to a sentence or two and the relationship between the underground and the state-sponsored forms of the Catholic church in China -- so we can be serious too.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Joe is now 23



Joe was too busy at university to celebrate his birthday on the actual day so instead invited friends and family to join him at "Sizzlers" on Saturday night. Being Saturday night, the queue to place our orders was pretty tedious but it was clear why Joe chose that venue. He has not lost his teenage appetite and made great inroads into the buffet food there. Anne did pretty well too.

As usual, Joe's friends were noticebly "multicultural" and we even had with us an attractive Korean lady with chopsticks in her hair. (I have noticed that some Western women also do their hair that way but I have never been game to ask why). Clearly, the only prejudice Joe has is in favour of intelligence and his Asian friends of course are examples of that.

Joe seems fully back on track with his doctoral studies in mathematics, which I was very pleased to hear. I think he has his future pretty well-sorted out now.

Joe doesn't have quite the right "look" for a mathematician. Brilliant mathematicians tend to be either Han Chinese or Jewish and Joe's completely Nordic looks are at variance with that (though some Jews also look completely Nordic, of course. I have met several. The Book of Ruth may be relevant). But whether Joe makes a great mathematician or not his pleasant personality should get him to be the head of a university Mathematics Department one day -- and that is where the best money is anyway.

Below is a picture of Grigory Perelman, a brilliant Russian Jewish mathematician who finally proved a very difficult mathematical conjecture of long standing. He was awarded great sums in prize-money for his achievements but refused it all on the grounds that he already had all he needed -- even though he is reputed to live in great squalor.



Joe is not like that. Though he does have a beard -- a RED beard. Could be that being a bluebeard is just as good as being Chinese or Jewish, I guess.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Another birthday down!



I am now definitely 67!

Anne came over on Thursday and cooked me one of my favourite dinners: Roast pork. It went down well. I even ate all my potatoes, which I often do not! We had a bottle of good Australian red to wash it down. Anne brought over some chocolately desserts as well but I was too full to have any.

She also gave me a large and very warm blue dressing gown in anticipation of my future visits to hospitals. A bit of realism at my age.

And on Saturday Jenny gave me a lunch at her place, as she usually does. Tandoori chicken was the main feature of the meal, which was appreciated by all. There were some great desserts as well.

The twins and Joe were all in attendance but the star of the occasion was young Sahara. She was the cynosure of all eyes, as the saying goes. It's so long since we have had a baby in the family that it was a great pleasure to see her. There's a picture of her, myself and mother Susan below



Vonnie is also pregnant at the moment so there was much talk of babies and maternity.

I did however get to have a good chat to Joe about his future plans for his Ph.D. studies and was pleased to find that he had it all pretty well sorted-out in his mind now.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My birthday week begins



I usually have several kind people help me celebrate my birthday -- on the day, before the day and after the day. This year Jill got in first -- giving me an excellent lunch of pasta and seafood followed by strawberries and cream

Anne and I Humbered out to Riverhills but we did not go to Jill's own place because she has it up for sale and it was "open for inspection". Instead we went to Lewis's place, which is nearby,

Lewis has a very attractive apartment which has had a few modifications done to it as a result of a stroke he had a year or two ago. One of the modifications was that they fitted "elephant's feet" to his settee, which raised it up about 9" further off the ground. I was much taken with that as my old bones are a bit creaky too and it does help you to get up. I can see elephant's feet in my future too.

I got a very good bonus of books also this year. Jill will be moving house soon so her late husband's theological library has become rather surplus to requirements. I had for many years had my eye on one book in it: A student's edition of the Septuagint (The OLD Testament in ancient Greek). Anne must have thought she had a very strange bloke in one who wanted a copy of the Old Testament in Greek! But I think she expects eccentricities from me by now.

Anyway, Jill gave me a lot of first-rate Bible-study books, including the Septuagint. One book she gave me was a very early copy of Cruden's concordance, which was originally published in the 18th century. The copy Jill gave me was published in 1828 so is not a first edition but it looks very much like it might be off the same plates as the first edition. So it is something of a treasure. It is in a pretty battered condition so I don't foresee using it much. I normally use Strong's Exhaustive concordance anyhow. But it is nice to have such an historic book.

I also got another book I had rather coveted: Liddell & Scott's Greek lexicon. I normally use Abbott-Smith but it is covers New Testament Greek only. An unexpected bonus was the Bagster Analytical Greek Lexicon, which I had vaguely heard of but never seen before. It gives every case of every noun in full. Most useful if your Greek grammar is shaky. Mine is virtually non-existent but I struggle on if there is an important exegetical point to explore.

I also got some commentaries, including a whole volume on Isaiah and one on Revelations. Both will be handy as both those Bible books have plenty that is open to interpretation and I am sure I can learn much from the scholars who have gone before me.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A dinner with kids



On Tuesday evenings I generally go over to Anne's place for dinner. Last Tuesday was a little different, however. Her son Byron and family joined us. It was good to see the kids: Koen aged nearly 5 and Ethan aged 2 1/2. As usual Koen was pretty quiet but Ethan was something of an extravert: A very bright and lively little boy. They both liked a humming top that Anne had bought for them to play with. Its hum changed notes as it got slower or faster and that was given rapt attention. Byron had some fun with it too!

The boys' colouring is a bit unexpected. Both parents have dark hair and brown eyes but Koen has blue eyes and Ethan has blond hair! Their mother is Dutch, however, so that was not entirely unexpected.

Anne played safe and served up a very traditional meal: Meat pie plus boiled peas and carrot.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An ancestral centenary



On this day in 1910 my grandparents on my mother's side were married. See the photo below. He looks a rather handsome devil and the ladies were clearly into big hats even then.



The couple were Joseph and Margaret and he was the eldest son of another Joseph. The Josephs are clearly hard to get away from. That my second name is Joseph and that my son is Joseph rather reinforces that impression. And my convict ancestor was Joseph too.

Maybe I should make a donation to the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. It is an Australian order, after all. And my son Joseph went to a school named after their founder.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Like father like son



Most of us manage to get on well with all sorts of people. It's a mark of maturity to do so. But it also sometimes helps to be among people to whom you are genetically related. Joe and I are a good example of that. People often remark how much of me they see in him. And it's behavior rather than looks that they are talking about. Luckily for him, he's got his mother's looks rather than mine.

And it does get amusing at times. When he did his first university course he went to lectures in the same building where I went for most of my lectures and probably in fact sat in a classroom that I had sat in 40 years before.

And driving home from university one night during that time he had his first car accident: Of roughly the same sort and in roughly the same spot where I had had my second car accident whilst also driving home from university. So he got amusement rather than criticism over that.

And today he drove up in his Toyota Corolla with a noticeable scratch along the rear of one side of it. Since I had bought him the car, one might have expected me to be peeved -- but not so. I pointed out that I had scratched my car in roughly the same way in roughly the same spot on the car. Resemblances can get a bit eerie at times.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June's birthday



Anne's sister June has just had a birthday and we foregathered to celebrate it on Sunday evening, starting at 5pm, rather to my surprise. Anne cooked up a big leg of lamb and we had it with the usual gravy, mint sauce, potatoes etc. It went down very well. I was on the wagon and Anne's sister Merle is teetotal but the others had white wine with the dinner.

Present were Anne and myself, June and Colin and Merle and Ralph. The discussion was lively and at one stage I even recited some Chaucer -- in Middle English, of course. That always leaves everyone rather stunned but I have to be in a certain mood to do it. Jovial company helps.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Baby Sahara in her walker






She clearly loves her walker. All kids do.

The do-gooders rail against them as "unsafe" and the like but don't the kid's feelings count for anything?

Both Joey and Davey fell down flights of stairs in their walkers but babies are pretty rubbery so they came to no harm. I think it shows that parents like to please their children if they give their kid a walker.

Where I grew up it was almost a rite of passage for teenagers and young men to fall off a motorbike and break a leg. I did so myself. But the fun of riding motorbikes was worth it. I see falling down stairs in a walker in a similar light.

But there are no stairs where Sahara lives so there will be no problems for her.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A great gentleman



With much sadness I report that a great gentleman passed away this morning. He was by occupation a sawmill worker but he was one of those natural gentlemen you often used to find in country Australia. My father was one too.

I am not sure how I would define a gentleman formally but an unassuming man who instinctively does his best to put other people at their ease would certainly score highly -- and Bill was one of those. He was the second husband of Anne's mother -- married after Anne's father died at a relatively young age.

Bill was 93 and slipped quietly away -- with the primary cause being cancer. He was much loved by those who knew him well and despite my having known him only a little, the quality of the man was always evident to me and I feel keenly how sad it is for the world and his family to have lost such a great gentleman

Requiescat in pace Reginald William Wilkinson

Friday, May 28, 2010

A birthday dinner



I hosted a small gathering to celebrate Jenny's birthday on Thursday. We dined at an Indian restaurant she likes near where she lives.

Present were Jenny, Nanna, Joe, Anne and myself. The dinner was good as always and I brought along a bottle of Seaview "champagne" for toasts.

Joe however didn't want to drink his champagne so Anne got it -- as she was the only one not driving and Nanna was on some medication. I used not to like champagne either so I was not surprised by Joe's reaction. He says that Scotch is his drink. I am mostly a Scotch drinker too.

Joe seemed in good spirits and that was probably in part due to the fact that his recent breakup with Samantha was amicable. I have mostly managed amicable breakups too.

Jenny told us a bit about her recent adventures down in Sydney when she went to see Paul and Sue off on their world trip aboard an ocean liner. We talked quite a lot about the dragon Japanese lady who runs "Wafu" -- Sydney's best Sushi restaurant -- where Jenny, Paul and Sue dined just before the departure. The lady is Yukako Ichikawa and she is famous for demanding that her customers eat up everything on their plates. As her food is so good, however, people are prepared to be bossed around a bit.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The "Nazi" Pope



I originally wrote the piece below for my DISSECTING LEFTISM blog, but as it was written with considerable personal feeling, I thought it might have some place here as well



I am not going to say one thing below that is original. But it always appalls me when people believe the opposite of the truth and I have to speak up about it.

Eugenio Pacelli was a small but determined man of great intelligence and high principle. He became Pope Pius XII in 1939 and was Pope throughout WWII. He had been papal nuncio in Germany for many years prior to that and came to speak perfect German -- a remarkable achievement for an Italian who had all his education in Italy. During his time in Germany he saw of course the rise of Nazism and regularly condemned it in no uncertain terms.

In 1937 he wrote on behalf of Pius XI the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("With burning sorrow") -- a condemnation of Nazi persecution of non-Nazis. Encyclicals are usually written in Latin so writing this encyclical in German showed how determined the church was to speak up on behalf of all those being oppressed by the Nazis.

The tiny minority of Pacelli's critics who have some knowledge of history sometimes point to the fact that in his role as nuncio, Pacelli was responsible for a Konkordat with the German Federal government that was signed in 1933. Pacelli's job was to arrange concordats (agreements) with various governments that would safeguard the independence of church schools, allow the preaching of Catholic doctrine etc. And he did in fact achieve many such agreements, an agreement with the Southern German (and very Catholic) State of Bayern (Bavaria) being one of the earliest. German Laender, were, like American States today, substantially independent and had their own legal and school systems etc.

Pacelli had been trying for some time to get such an agreement with the Federal German government but had always been knocked back. When Hitler came to power, however, he was keen to legitimate himself so he changed the prior Federal stance and signed up. At that stage Hitler was simply the newly-elected German Kanzler (Prime Minister) and there was of course no knowledge of his future deeds. So how was Pacelli at fault about that? It may be noted that when Mit brennender Sorge was issued Hitler broke his agreements in the Konkordat and persecuted Catholic clergy. So the arrangement of a Konkordat was a wise precaution, even if it was a precaution that ultimately failed.

Pacelli did however learn from what happened when Mit brennender Sorge was issued. When war broke out, Pacelli fell largely silent. He saw that he would probably bring down further persecution of the church by adding to his existing criticisms of Nazism. Instead he concentrated on deeds rather than words. The Vatican became a lifeline for endangered Jews. It supplied money to get them out of Germany and false ID documents saying that they were Christians. And note that this was at a time when the church regarded the Jews as enemies. In the theology of the time, the Jews had killed the Catholics' God and that was one hell of a bad way to start a friendship.

And when the Germans came to Italy itself, Pacelli rose to even greater efforts. He exempted monasteries and nunneries from their normal rules so that they could take in and hide Jews that the Nazis were pursuing. Even his own summer residence at Castel Gandolfo was said at one time to be hiding 3,000 Jews, though nobody knows the exact number.

And this is the man whom many Leftists refer to as "Hitler's Pope"! So why the lie? Why is this exceptionally fine man "controversial"?

Easy: Soviet disinformation. As we all know, the church utterly opposed "Godless" Communism and the Soviets rightly perceived the Vatican as an important enemy. So the Soviets and their fellow travellers in the West put about this abominable lie that Pacelli was antisemitic and sympathetic to the Nazis. And it suits the anti-Christian stance of modern-day Leftists to believe it too.

So it grieves me greatly that this true man of God is taken for the opposite of what he was. The world needs more men like Eugenio Pacelli -- perhaps now more than ever. Even I as an atheist salute him.

There is an interesting story here about how one man finally broke through the lies and found out the truth about Pacelli.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Leftists and the armed forces



I originally wrote the comments below for my DISSECTING LEFTISM blog but I think they have some place here too

I have long argued that the difference between Left and Right can only be understood psychologically rather than ideologically. Leftists run on pure emotion. Conservatives have emotions too but they are governed by reason as well.

Leftists will use ANY argument that suits their emotional needs of the moment. They have certain recurrent themes in their arguments -- such as "poverty" being the cause of all ills -- but such themes are little more than verbal tics. They are not a serious attempt to explain anything.

A rather hilarious proof of that is that Leftists for quite a while after 9/11/2001 explained Muslim antagonism to America as being caused by poverty -- even though Osama bin Laden is a billionaire! The Leftist mouths uttering such nonsense were clearly not engaged in any serious way with thought or any sincere effort to understand.

And one of the things that Leftist emotions will never engage with is the army. Leftists just can't understand why anybody would LIKE being in the army and Leftist governments will always cut back military funding if they can plausibly do so. Australia's Leftist government has done so this week, even though there are frequent calls on the Australian army for overseas deployments to various theatres of conflict, Iraq and Afghanistan included.

Yet lots of people DO like being in the army, including women. In my far-off military days the corps with the longest waiting list was the WRAACS (Women's Royal Australian Army Corps). Each corps has a certain "establishment" -- meaning that the corps can only enlist as many people as they are allocated by the defence bureaucrats. So a popular corps will often have a waiting list of people waiting for a vacancy in the establishment. And LOTS of women wanted to get into the WRAACS.

And that continues to this day. Even exceptionally attractive women often love the army. G.I. Jill won a beauty contest as Miss Utah but still was keen to get back to military duties. And Miss England (aka "Combat Barbie") at the moment is keen to get back into army uniform too. And my most recent bride spent 9 years in the army and you can see what she looks like here (scroll down).

And who could be more privileged than a member of the British Royal family? But it IS a military family and Prince Harry in particular is well known for his devotion to the army and his keenness for active service. He even once said of his very attractive girlfriend, Chelsy, that he loves Chelsy but the army comes first! I doubt that any Leftist mind could comprehend that! I can, though.


Left to right above: Prince Charles, Chelsy Davy, Prince Harry. Photo from earlier this month

And in the most minor of ways, my own totally undistinguished military career shows a little of that spirit too. In the Vietnam era I was at a university in Brisbane where there were vast anti-Vietnam rallies. So I joined a local army reserve unit. While most of my fellow students were marching around with placards, I was trying my best to acquire some military skills. And I enjoyed it immensely.

After completing my first degree, however, I moved down to Sydney and naturally assumed that I would join the Sydney reserve unit of my corps. But they were "up to establishment"! They had no vacancy for me. So did I just say "too bad!". No way! I went on full-time duties with the regular army instead! The regular unit of my corps had vacancies even if the reserve unit did not!

I can't imagine that any Leftist would understand that. Personally, I think they are inadequate people who are simply too cowardly for the army. They will of course think that I am simply stupid but as I have a Ph.D. and 200+ academic publications that explanation would be as silly as their "poverty" explanation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A history night



Paul and Sue are off on another big world trip shortly so we had a small get-together at my place to discuss history and politics before they went away. They want to know as much as possible about the many places they will visit worldwide and Paul in particular wanted to fill in his knowledge of the history and politics of the places they will visit.

That is of course a very large order so we mostly talked about current British and Australian politics but also about how the world got Hitler. I gave a broad outline of how Hitler rose to power and what the secret of his success among Germans was.

I pointed out that Hitler had many predecessors as a Leftist nationalist, noting particularly Napoleon, Napoleon III and Mussolini and that the combination of nationalism ("we are great") and socialism ("we will look after you") has powerful appeal.

But I cover that all in great depth here of course

Surprises for Paul were where the word "Nazi" came from and the fact that the Nazi Hakenkreuz was NOT a Swastika. I showed Paul what a real Asian Swastika looked like, and assured him he would see thousands of them in India.

Sue very kindly took on the job of feeding us as well as taking part in the discussions. Her Cuban sandwiches were a great hit and the apple and rhubarb crumble she followed it with was a most pleasant surprise. Maybe she knew I am a great fan of rhubarb. There is a picture if it below:



We washed it all down with a bottle of Seaview champagne. Sue even opened the champagne for us. What a woman!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers' Day today



My mother is deceased but Jenny, the mother of my son Joe, is certainly not. All four of her children wanted to visit her today and with partners etc., there were about 10 of us in all. So Jenny put on a BBQ lunch for us all at her place and we had a good and harmonious time with lots of laughs and recollections of times past. There was much talk of babies with one present and one on the way.

The lunch included some very good Boerewors and satay sticks as well as the usual chops and sausages. Despite his current stockmarket woes, Paul was his usual ebullient self but Joe seemed rather quiet. I figured that he had some problems on his mind. I think that your teens and early 20s is a time for problems but we all work them out eventually.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Baby Sahara at 5 months






She can sit up now. Last time I saw her, I was surprised at how chubby she was -- but Anne tells me that she should be chubby at that age. And Anne is a former mothercraft nurse so she should know.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A concert of "Royal" music



That mostly meant Handel of course. It was held in St John's cathedral tonight and all the brass that Handel uses sure sounded good in the great stone cavern of a neo-Gothic cathedral. We had both the Fireworks and the Water music. Plus a rousing rendition of "Zadok the Priest", complete with enthusiastic cries of "God save the King". It did my old Royalist heart good.

It was given by the Camerata of St. John, who have an unfortunate addiction to talking about the music before they play it. Music should speak for itself in my opinion. You get it or you don't and talking about it won't alter that.

We also had Elgar's "Land of Hope and Glory" both as a program item and as an encore. Looks like patriotism is not dead yet among those of us of British origins.

One program item had me puzzed: "Old 100%" by Vaughan Williams. But as soon as I recognized what it was I got the joke. It was a powerful setting of the popular hymn "All people that on Earth do dwell".

Update:

I should have mentioned that we went to the local Sushi train for dinner before the concert. And they had some excellent offerings that Anne had not seen before so I put some of them on her plate and she was most pleased. A Japanese dinner and a Handel concert to follow comes pretty close to the high life in my humble world

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Bible study



Paul has had NO religious education whatever and recently expressed some regret at the hole that left in his knowledge and understanding of the world. So I volunteered to explain the basics of Christianity to him.

We met at my place over a curry dinner with Joe and Susan present also.

It was amazing what Paul did NOT know. He did not know that the Pope was the head of the Catholic church, for instance. He was however very keen to learn and we covered a lot of ground.

I am afraid that, as an unbeliever, I pointed out to him many of the Christian beliefs that have no basis in the Bible: Christmas, Easter, the Trinity, Sunday observance, that Christ died on a cross, belief in an immortal soul etc. I have of course covered all those points in great detail on my Scripture blog

But at least he now knows something about those topics, even if from a skeptical viewpoint.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A small personal reflection of no importance



In chapter 30 of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Mr Pickwick falls into a pond and is hauled out with some difficulty. We then read:

"Dear old thing, said Arabella. Let me wrap my shawl around you"

That is surely a fairly mundane comment but I remember my late mother regarding it with great scorn. Why? I do not know. It would have been in an excerpt contained in one of my school reading books that she read it and I was too young to question her at that time.

She was a woman of little education but considerable knowledge so did she know that "Arabella" is almost exclusively an English upper class name? I doubt it.

I suspect that she just identified it (correctly) as English upper class speech and disliked that. Who knows?

It's perhaps a sad thing but I rememember almost nothing that either of my parents ever said to me. The strongest influence on my youthful self was undoubtedly the New Testament. And compared to those powerful words, my parents were the palest of pale shadows in the background

Update

I should have asked a woman what my mother most likely meant. I told the story above to Anne and she pointed out what I now see as the most likely explanation: A shawl is usually a fairly diaphanous thing so wrapping it around a dripping wet person would achieve nothing. Hence my mother's scorn.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ANZAC DAY





Today is the most solemn day of the year in Australia. It is the day we remember our war dead. Australians have died in many wars and there can be few families not affected to some degree by the deaths resulting. I had a much loved uncle die in WWII.

Wherever British or American forces were fighting, there have generally been Australians fighting alongside them -- in two world wars and many smaller wars both before and after that.

And Simon of course is deployed in Afghanistan at the moment. I had news of him today from Tracey. He is OK but finds it no picnic to be wearing body armour in high Afghan daytime temperatures at the moment.

Our flag above

I am afraid that I am very remiss at Anzac day observances. I think I have been to the dawn services only twice in my life. Getting out of bed at 4 in the morning was easy once but is so no longer. Most Australians just watch the marches on TV but I now don't often do that either. I have however myself worn my country's uniform so I don't think it can be dismissed as cheap talk when I say that I am with them in spirit.

But it was a great day anyway because the twins had a party to celebrate their birthday this afternoon. And the news that Von is pregnant was the best thing of all.

I talked mainly to Paul, Joe and Ken as usual. And I really got into some excellent sandwiches that Maureen made.

We had three babies present -- from Olivia, Susan and Lena -- Lena being an old friend of the twins

Saturday, April 24, 2010

St George's Day





Friday 23rd is of course St. George's day -- England's national day. So as I am mainly of English descent, I thought it appropriate to mark the day -- which I did. I had the St George cross flying from my flagpole all day yesterday and at very short notice I arranged a small commemorative dinner last night. Only Paul, Susan and Jenny could come because of the short notice.

We started the evening by standing and singing "God save the Queen" (the English national anthem) followed by a toast to the Queen and a toast to "St. George and merrie England". Then we sat down to a meal of England's favourite food: curry.

We washed the curry down with some good Australian "champagne" and a very pleasant evening was had by all. The chat over dinner was very wide-ranging and at one stage I even read a couple of choice excerpts from the 39 "Articles of Religion" from the 1662 "Book of Common Prayer" of the Church of England. None of us are religious but we still enjoyed the power of those historic words.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A sendoff and the flu



I arranged a sendoff for Simon at the "Bollywood" last night in connection with his imminent deployment to Afghanistan but was unable to be there myself due to illness.

I was in the grip of the first day of the flu, which meant that I could hardly talk but was doing a lot of coughing and had a very runny nose. It would have been most unkind of me to risk giving that to others even if I felt up to it.

But it was family do where everyone knew one-another well so I hear that a good time was had by all. Photos forthcoming maybe

The main thing is that Simon had a good sendoff and that everyone had a chance to wish him a safe return

UPDATE:

Von sent me some great photos of the event. Below is a group shot with Simon (in blue shirt) with his lovely wife Tracey in the middle. Anne is not there as she left early to bring me some medicine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday afternoon tea at Paul's



Paul celebrates his 34th birthday soon so he and Susan put on a celebratory afternoon tea at their place.

There was a goodly turnout and the ladies all brought plates of their specialty so the table was a sight to behold. Pictures coming, I believe. I ate mainly sausage rolls -- which was a bit mad in the presence of so many other good things. There was a very good Pavlova too -- with chocolate layers. I ended up eating enough to feel very tired so went home early to sleep it off.

Joe was very abstemious -- trying only a few things. He knows that he has to keep an eye on his weight if he is not to balloon out in the way that his genetics threaten. Paul is a good influence in that way, though. He has really slimmed down.

It was good to see two babies present. Babies have been missing from family gathering for far too long.

I had a bit of a chat with Simon about his forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan. He vows to stay on base for his whole deployment -- which is wise in someone who has that opportunity and a family to come back to. He will be in an air-traffic control tower most of the time so that should be pretty well protected.

Update:

The festive table -- with Joe and Samantha in the background

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An ophthalmological encounter



I bet you can't spell that hard word in my heading. Look aside and write it down now and see how you go.

Did you get two letters 'h' in it? It's tricky.

Anyway, last Monday (15th) I had the cataracted lens in my right eye replaced by a plastic one: An "interocular lens implant". So if you now call me "Old Mr. Plastic Eye", I can't object. Vision in that eye had got so blurry that I was squinting a lot to block it out.

The procedure went "very, very well" according to the ophthalmic surgeon, so rapid healing will hopefully ensue. The private clinic I went to could not imaginably be better, I think. Private medicine in Australia is very, very good -- as good as public medicine is bad. Yet my private health insurer is covering 100% of the charges from the clinic and from the anesthetist but I have to pay something towards the fees of the surgeon.

I was in and out quite rapidly and experienced only minimal pain and discomfort. I got the dressings off the morning after and my eye was pretty red and watery that day. It is now Wednesday evening as I write this and most of the redness and watering is now gone. My eyes are normally a bit bloodshot these days so the eye in fact looks normal. And the vision in my transformed eye was remarkably good from the moment the dressings came off. I no longer squint!

The ophthalmologist -- Kleinschmidt of Porter Eye Care -- went to a lot of trouble to make sure he had a lens that would be just right for me and he seems to have done a first class job of that.

The only odd thing was that he started operating at a Godforsaken hour in the morning. I had to be at the clinic before 7am. As I usually get up around 9am that was a bit of a wrench. Joe drove me in so that was a bit heroic from him too as he tends to be a late riser as well. The clinic is at Mt Gravatt where Joe lives so he at least had a short trip back to bed.

Paul picked me up after the procedure at about 9am and stayed with me for the rest of the day until Anne got home from work at about 5pm. It is apparently strongly recommended that you have someone with you for the whole of the day after a procedure. I was not very strongly affected by the sedatives they pumped into me so had only a short nap while Paul worked away on his laptop. Paul spent quite a lot of time looking at some computer problems I have so that was very useful.

Paul and I also had a lot of chats about family matters so I caught up on some news. Paul is very family-oriented so keeps tabs on what is going on.

All that is now outstanding is for the incision to heal through which the new lens was implanted but all signs are that that is proceeding apace. I always heal well so I expected no problems there, barring accidents.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A sandwich dinner and a new photo



On Saturday Anne, Susan, Paul and I had a specially convened sandwich dinner at Paul's place. The concept was to practice the sandwich-making skills that both ladies have learnt recently. We had Reuben sandwiches, Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches, Cuban sandwiches and Hungarian open sandwiches with Liptauer. Anne makes her own Liptauer as you cannot buy it in any Brisbane shop.

The ladies did us proud with products which were just about as good as could be and Paul got so carried away that he overate and got a stomach-ache out of it. Definitely a compliment to the food!

I had never had a Cuban sandwich before. Susan worked out how to do one through eating them in NYC while she and Paul were there recently. They were undoubtedly a great sandwich concept but very complex to make. Susan did a great job on them, though.

And below is baby Sahara now 3 months old and looking great

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Old cars



Last Sunday was supposed to be a static display put on by a group of car clubs at Wynnum. But it was cancelled at the last moment due to rain. Three of us more determined souls still turned up anyway: I arrived in the Humber, another guy arrived in a Sunbeam Talbot and a third man brought his beautiful old '30s Singer along.

The Singer owner had acquired it in a dilapidated state after it had been converted into a truck so the beautiful vehicle we saw on Sunday was the product of an immense amount of work. Because so much of the original bodywork had been lost, he restored it as a tourer. And that really got to me. When I was about 4, I was given a ride in the back of a tourer and I have wanted one ever since. And if you don't know what a tourer is, you haven't lived. It has no modern equivalent.

Anyway, I survived the heartburn and had a good talk with the owner. It really was a beautiful car.

Anne and I then moved to a nearby park and had a picnic lunch/brunch. Anne had made some Liptauer for the occasion and I brought a thermos so we had a very good brunch by the sea.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A nasty memory of bigoted Leftism among American academics



My career as a social science researcher was not a difficult one. As a conservative, I had to write at a much higher standard than if I had been a common or garden variety Leftist but I could do that so 200+ of my articles got published in the academic journals.

One episode from the '90s, however, I still remember with displeasure. In the early '90s the editor of Sociology & Social Research was David Heer -- a sociologist who was basically interested in the facts of the matter rather than pushing an ideological wheelbarrow. He was located then and still seems to be at USC.

And I did at one stage submit a paper to him for publication in S. & S.R. which he accepted for publication. He seems however to have been too mild for the frantic Leftists in USC sociology and got pushed out of the journal editorship shortly thereafter.

And his successor at the journal -- Marcus Felson -- did something almost unheard of in academe: He "unaccepted" my paper. It was apparently too conservative for him, though he gave some other quite specious reason for rejecting it. He seemed to be a young man in a hurry so I appealed the matter to his Department Head at the time: Paul Bohannan. Bohannan was unmoved. So I appealed to the university President. But he was unmoved too.

The paper eventually appeared in another journal so Heer was vindicated and Felson was shown up as the nasty piece of work that he is. Without blowing the dust off some very old files (which makes me sneeze) I cannot remember for certain which paper it was but I am pretty sure that it is this one. I submitted the paper to S. & S.R. because it dealt with a matter originally raised in that journal.

I did write a scornful letter to Bohannan when the paper finally appeared in print. Felson I regarded as beneath contempt.