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.


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.

Sunday, July 11, 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 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.