Old folk at lunch

Friday, March 30, 2018

And the Lord was praised


I rarely go to church these days but for good Friday I thought I should make an exception.  Anne likes going to church so she came along too. We went to St John's Presbyterian at Annerley



So why did I go?  I went for the same reason that most go:  To praise the Lord.  I am immensely thankful for the truth and wisdom I find in the Bible and am as such clearly a product of the Protestant Christian tradition.

Would I still have been the same person without my years of Bible study?  Perhaps.  But I am sure that Bible teachings have helped me to live a wiser life.  I was 17 in 1960 and the 60s are now legendary as a time when many young people cast off all restraints, often harming themselves and their relationships in the process. But Christian ideas of self-restraint protected me from all that. I not only took no drugs but I was even teetotal, in the best Presbyterian way. So you see that I had a lot to be thankful for when I went to church this morning and my going there was an expression of appreciation for that.

And it did feel like coming home.  St John's is very much a traditional Presbyterian church -- right down to the fact that there were no pictures or statues of anything on display and not a single cross to be seen.  As Exodus 20:4 says:  "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."  That could hardly be clearer and Presbyterians take their Bible seriously.  In theology they are iconoclasts.

Yet the interior of the church is beautiful. It does have colour -- some very attractive patterned leadlights -- but the main point about the decor is all the old polished wood.  You can smell old polished wood when you first walk into older Presbyterian churches.  It is a very sentimental smell to me and tells me I am in the right place.  The whole well-kept interior generally tells me that:  The pipe organ centrally placed at the focus of attention and lots of small details. It gives me the feeling that I am among my own people ("My ain folk", as the Scots say). The shot below gives you a general idea of the decor.



Presbyterians are an independent lot so each church has its own traditions and each minister does things a little differently.  The minister on this occasion seemed to do more prayers than usual and yet did not at any stage lead us in the Lord's prayer, which was unusual. And he did not speak extempore in his sermon at all.  He just read out his sermon from a prepared text. It was a perfectly good and devout sermon but would have been a lot more engaging if it had been delivered as a talk.

A couple of other oddities:  In the long prayer at the beginning of the service it is customary to pray for "the Queen and all the members of the Royal family". He left that out.  Another customary part of that prayer is to pray for the conversion of the Jews. I was glad that he left out that bit. Jews are already a holy people. I suggested to him afterward that a better prayer in today's world would be to pray for the safety of the Jews.

My Good Friday visit to St John's pleased me enough so that I will probably go there again for my next church visit -- at Christmas.

When we got home at about 10am, Anne and I breakfasted on hot cross buns.  And for much of the rest of the day I watched and listened to lots of Bach on video.  In particular I listened to the John passion right through.  A very appropriate thing for good Friday.

Then that evening, Jenny put on a good Friday dinner for a few of us -- featuring fish. Jenny is a very good fish cook. Some of us were of nominal Catholic background so Jenny was respecting that, I guess.  Food regulations are not part of the Protestant tradition.  It's the booze that bothers us.

As Kate works in psychology, we got to talk quite a bit about psychological assessment -- with me being very skeptical about most current methods of psychological assessment.  Probably a bit unkind of me but dispelling illusions has to be kind in the end and psychometrics is my special field.

UPDATE: One thing that invited universal hilarity in the discussions we had was the idea that Russians were responsible for everything bad.  There were a variety of political opinions present but this media nonsense about the Russians evoked a lot of hilarity among us all. If anything dubious came up in the conversation, "It must have been the Russians" was the response. I imagine that the hardy inhabitants of Rossiya (which is what Russians call their country) are rather pleased about the great powers that the American media attribute to them.

A musical update: Anne did not accompany me to Jenny's dinner as she had a prior arrangement to go to the cathedral for a Good Friday concert with her sister.  And that worked out a bit amusingly. 

During the day, for part of which Anne was present, I had actually listened to Bach's John passion right through twice.  So what was the program at the cathedral?  It was the John passion! So Anne got the John passion that day willy nilly.  Lucky she likes it.  The performance at the cathedral appears to have been competent but would have been much enhanced by the venue.  The great  stone arches of the Metropolitical cathedral of St John give a brilliant sound and of course are particularly suited to sacred music.

So what did I put on for music when Anne got back to my place that night?  The Passio Secundum Johannem!


Monday, March 5, 2018

The war on "Throaties"




Note the little birdie

I gather that "Throaties" are officially regarded as confectionery rather than medicine.  On the rare occaion when I get a cold, however, I find them helpful.  And Woolworths is the obvious source of supply for them.

"Throaties" do contain various volatile compounds (menthol etc.) which are the active ingredients.  So "Throaties" are one of the cough lollies that come carefully double wrapped in order to prevent the volatiles from evaporating off.

Some lamebrain at Woolworths, however, didn't see the point of all that double wrapping so put all the lozenges together in a little plastic bag -- into which all the volatiles promptly evaporated.  So as soon as you opened the plastic bag, all the stuff you wanted promptly escaped into the air.  So your "Throatie" no longer had any active ingredients.

I found that very frustrating but was consoled to find that a Bangladesdhi grocery on a corner near where I go had the olde "Throaties" in stock.  So I promptly bought 4 of them to tide me over.

Sadly, however, the Bangladeshi grocer is now a Mexican restaurant so when I got a cold recently I had to go in search of "Throaties".  My local chemist did not have them in any form.  Too grand for "Throaties", I guess.

But I knew how widely "Throaties" used to be stocked so on a hunch I called in to my local newsagent.  And there they were.  I bought 4 packs straightaway!


A visit to China


For quite a while now, Joe and I have had the practice of taking a leisurely brunch together on Sunday mornings.  We go to the same place the same time and order the same thing week after week.  That might seem boring to some but Joe and I subscribe to the old Mortein philosophy:  When you are on a good thing stick to it.

Life is change however and that has now come to an end.  Joe and Kate are both workers and Kate thought that weekends were the best time for her and Joe to do things together.  And having Joe spending most of Saturday morning with his old father was inimical to that. So, being obliging souls, Joe and I changed our arrangements to Sunday dinner, with a trip to Sunnybank for Japanese hamburgers being the first case of the new arrangements on Feb 25th.

And Sunnybank is so Chinese that you might almost be in China while there.  I greatly enjoy my occasional trips to the land of the Chin.  They are only 15 minutes drive away so why not.

The Australian population is about 5% Han Chinese these days.    So you see Asian people all around the place in Brisbane -- and many were  born here.  And they do not stand out in any way.  Except for their eyes, they look and behave like any other Australian.

I am always bemused a little by the way the young Chinese women dress.  In summer they wear a lot of short shorts and loose tops -- just as our Anglo ladies do. We also have a few Muslim ladies around the place -- in their vast wrappings -- so the contrast with their "modest" behaviour is great.  The Chinese are not "modest" in that sense. They are one with us.  I mentioned this to Joe -- that normal Chinese dress these days is totally Western -- and he told me that it is the same in Shanghai. He has been to China on work assignments several times.

Anyway, Joe has always been Sinophilic -- as I am -- so is very comfortable with all things Chinese.  And one of the results of there being so many Han in Australia is that we have a couple of suburbs where they tend to congregate.  And Joe and I went there last night for dinner again. And where we went -- Sunnybank -- is almost entirely Chinese.  You could as well be in China.  And I am always delighted to be in a crowd of people who are instinctively civilized.  3,000 years of civilization does leave a mark.

I have no idea how many eateries there are in Sunnybank but there are a lot -- and they are all different. The one Joe took me to last night was very modern.  You ordered from a computer kiosk rather than from a waiter. They have no waiters. That is not very remarkable in that various U.S. McDonalds restaurants also now do that.  But it was a first for Brisbane, I think

But the modernity didn't stop there.  The food was assembled by the chefs onto a very hot iron plate and delivered to you semi-raw. Each dinner would have taken them only minutes to put together.  And when the dinner arrived at your table, you mixed it around for 5 minutes and it was done!  And given the Chinese expertise with herbs and spices, the result was pleasant to eat. It was a good dinner despite minimal human contact in arranging it!

A little sad, however that it took the Chinese to get us up with the latest