Paul is about to go overseas to Britain for 10 months so I will not see that little family for a while. So I put on a farewell dosa lunch for them. I also invited Paul's mother and father as they will undoubtedly miss him too. Nanna and Maureen also came along of course.
Matthew got a whole dosa to himself and ate the lot -- good eaters, the Johnsons. Elise also ate up well, as usual.
After dosas we went back to my place for tea, coffee and choc chip cookies. Between Paul and Ken the biscuits disappeared at lightning speed.
Paul is suffering from a wog at the moment and appeared very listless when he arrived at the restaurant. After a dosa and a coffee, however, he livened up and gave Ken a hard time as usual.
We talked about travel and Paul was amazed that I had been to Thailand. I seem to be the only person I know who hasn't been away on trips lately.
Elise loved Joe's piano and had a great time thumping it. As she is only one year old, however, her little hands could not have damaged it. Matthew spent a lot of time with his latest toy, a foldout city.
Maureen discovered that the mulberry tree overhanging my front verandah was in fruit and managed to get quite a few berries to eat. It's Maureen's birthday next weekend so I gave her a present of something I knew she liked -- a leather-look coffee table
One thing we spent quite a lot of time discussing was England. Paul is off to England and Ken was born there. In particular we discussed the class system and its effects. Discussing social class is a rather deplored thing to do in both England and Australia but I am a retired sociologist with a couple of published research papers on the subject in the academic journals so I can say the unsayable with some justification. It's actually within my field of professional expertise. I amused the company by quoting George Bernard Shaw's famous saying: "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him"
Ken made the interesting point that class enmities have diminished in recent years with the large influx of uncongenial immigrants to England. The English are more likely to see themselves as one by contrast with the Africans, Muslims etc who now make up a substantial fraction of the population. Both Paul and I think that the old divisions are still influential however.
But I did comment that what Ken said was convincing in terms of what Hitler did. It was only Hitler, with the many enemies he saw, who created among Germans a sense of German identity. Up until that time Germans mostly had a mainly regional identity -- as Saxons, Rhinelanders, Bavarians etc. To quote: "Vor uns marschiert Deutschland; unter uns marschiert Deutschland; hinter uns marschiert Deutschland". That got wild applause.
We also discussed Nederland a bit as Susan is of Dutch ancestry and they plan to visit the old family stamping ground while they are abroad. Dutch and German are quite similar languages so it amused me to translate Susan's maiden name into German: "Von der Quelle". And it sounds almost the same too. All Nederlanders think they can speak German and are equally convinced that no German can speak Dutch. They think in fact that only Nederlanders can speak Dutch properly, which may be true
I know a little about Dutch pronunciation so usually try to pronounce the surname of Vincent van Gogh in the Dutch way. But if I do that no-one understands what I am talking about -- they probably think that I've got a sore throat. And a Nederlander would undoubtedly say that I get it wrong anyway. I use German gutturals (the "Ach Laut"), which are apparently a bit different from Dutch ones.
Susan is quite rightly enthused about her Dutch heritage so she even had a wooden jigsaw puzzle of the sort you usually give to toddlers wherein the pieces were all the provinces of Nederland
Susan is even thinking of having Elise Christened in the hometown of her Dutch family, which would be a great affirmation of continuity (only conservatives understand the importance of that) but it is a bit regrettable after the good family time we all had in Brisbane with Matthew's Christening.
Even anti-religious Ken came along to Matthew's Christening. In my jocular way, I asked him afterward if he had felt the power coming down as Matthew was "done" and he assured me that he had! I probably joke too much sometimes
I mentioned the Japanese custom of omiyagi (bringing back presents from a trip) but it didn't seem to get much traction.
I asked Ken if he had managed to get along to the Philip Glass opera recently performed in Brisbane (for only the THIRD time in the world). He replied that he did not go as he did not like opera. I understand that to some extent as I am not big on opera (through I LOVE all the great arias from 19th century Italy -- "O mio caro babbino" etc.) but I was surprised he did not make an exception for Philip Glass. I wondered if he had been put off by the price. ANYTHING at our entertainment centre seems to cost $200+ per seat. Knowing how much he likes Philip Glass I would have shouted him a ticket if that was the problem. He has recently spent $50,000 on a new VW, however, so that may not be the case.
It's probably evil of me but I am betting that his VW breaks down before my 2004 Toyota Echo does. See here. I am a great fan of Toyotas. I own two of them and have donated one each to Jenny and Joe!
Acknowledgements! Jenny and Susan made the teas and coffees and Maureen did the washing up. This family is a traditional one.
Ken reaching for the cookies -- and Elise eyeing them