Sunday, January 30, 2011

Secret men's business and philosophy

Tonight was one of the occasional "educational" nights I put on for Paul and Joe. The topic was analytical philosophy but while Anne and Sue were away picking up the curry, I also went through some secret men's business with Paul and Joe. I took them through my old house and gave them the names for all the fittings in it. I identified for them:

A nightlatch plus its tongue and keeper
A batten holder and a surface switch
A padbolt and a barrel bolt
A breadloaf handrail, stringer, treads and a Newell post
A bargeboard, guttering and a hosecock
A bibcock, Fiddian hosecock and a pillar cock
A mortice lock, an Edwardian rimlock and a Victorian rimlock
An architrave, a picture rail, a casement sash
A cabin hook, a telescopic casement stay and a Whitspur
French windows

And if you don't know what all those things are, neither did they. They both made a great effort to remember it all though. It was a revelation to them how many everday things they did not know the names for.

Then we went on to philosophy. I trotted them very quickly through the major questions: What is mind, cause, knowledge etc.

I spent a bit of time on moral philosophy as that is an issue of some general interest. I pointed out that the idea of an objective or discoverable right and wrong has big problems but went on to trace the idea to the fact that we are all born with certain moral instincts and that those instincts have evolved to enable us to function as part of a group. It is those moral instincts that are the location for some ideas of non-arbitrary rights and wrongs. More on that here.

We had a very lively discussion and both Paul and Joe were thoroughly involved with the questions concerned.

Sue provided an excellent Schwarzwalderkirschentorte for dessert and everyone ended up full of curry, cake and complicated thoughts.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A gorgeous lady in pink

Baby Hannah at 8 weeks old

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day today

It commemorates the arrival of the first white settlers in Australia in 1788 and has become an increasingly popular celebration. As the Left-run schools have robbed Australians of their history, the few shreds that remain in people's consciousness are seized on eagerly. The same goes for Anzac Day, which goes from strength.

My family on my mother's side have for many years celebrated the day in a good Aussie way -- with a family get-together over a BBQ lunch. It was held today, as usual, at my brother's place and I enjoyed the lively conversation as usual. The occasion was "dry". We had no need of alcohol to make us sociable. On my way there and back, I saw quite a few cars with Australian flags on them -- something that is a phenomenon of recent years only.

I was pleased that two young relatives at present in high school expressed a considerable interest in history and knew quite a bit about it. They were scornful of how it it taught in the schools and expressed regret that so little British history is taught -- on the grounds that British history is both more interesting and more important. And the very vivacious girl (Michelle) who expressed that most strongly is half-Chinese!

I heard sounds of partying from a couple of places near me during the day so my relatives were not alone in making good use of the holiday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Burns Night

All around the world people celebrate the birthday of Scotland's greatest poet on 25th January, and I have been doing that since sometime in the '70s. There is no other poet who attacts that devotion but if you have got any of the sentimental Celt in you, you just have to read his most famous poems to see why.

I had just a small gathering, as my entertaining area is quite small. It is a verandah that gets lots of good breezes, important in the midst of a sub-tropical summer. I had over my son and stepson (Joe and Paul), plus old friends Jill and Lewis. Paul's admirable wife plus Anne and myself completed the party.

I managed to get some very fresh neeps (Swedes) for the dinner this year and Anne is good at cooking them anyway so that really helped the dinner. I got the haggis from "Syd's Pies" as usual and it was excellent as usual. Syd is a brilliant cook. Paul was particularly enthusiastic about the haggis and proved it by eating up all the leftovers.

We had three desserts: Tablet, some very light shortbread and clootie dumpling. Anne did a great rum sauce to go with the clootie dumpling.

As usual I skipped a few of the customs but we did most of them. Saying Grace and the loyal toast are a bit old-fasioned these days so I made sure I did both of those customs. The Grace was of course the Selkirk Grace and a toast to the Queen is entirely appropriate in Australia, considering that she is Australia's Head of State.

I flew the saltire of St. Andrew from my flagpole in honour of the day and wore the kilt. In recognition of the climate, I teamed the kilt with an Hawaiian shirt!

The conversation was largely about politics. Luckily we are all on the conservative side of that divide. I did at one stage tell the remarkable story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi and pointed out how thoroughly it undermines the conventional hysteria about ionizing radiation.

And it was a very traditional Scottish occasion in that the men just sat around and pontificated while the women did all the work! I try to give my son Joe a good example!

About to carve the haggis

Two views of dessert time

Monday, January 24, 2011

Anne's birthday

I gave Anne a new laptop computer for her birthday as the old one she was using was too slow to handle a wireless broadband connection properly.

Getting Telstra's system to recognize the new computer was very much the battle I expected however. I installed the connection up until the point where Telstra's system demanded a password. Crash! No password worked.

Anne spent about two hours on the phone to the Telstra helpline before she could get connected. It was such a marathon effort that she flattened the battery of the cordless phone she was using along the way. It was fully charged when she began.

Anyway Anne has a lot of patience (she puts up with me!) so she was a bit exhausted at the end of it but pleased with her new computer. It was "as slick as a chick", she said.

That evening we went to a local Thai for dinner, where the food is always first class.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A frog

I gather that all the rain we have had in Brisbane in the last few months has been good for the amphibian population.

When I was at Anne's place last night, we left the front door open. And as we were sitting on the settee not far from the door, a small green frog came hop, hop, hop into the room through the door. His body would have been less than an inch long but he did hops about six times that distance.

Anne freaked, of course. She is pretty pro-life but things that hop unnerve her. So I had to shepherd the little fellow out the door again. After he landed on the mat outside the door he stopped there for quite a while, no doubt to recover from the terror of being chased by a huge monster.

I thought he was gorgeous and Anne did too -- once he was outside. I rather marvelled that in that tiny body were heart, lungs, liver, kidney, stomach, bowel, mouth, tongue, eyes, nose etc, just like us, roughly. If I were still a Christian, I would probably have said:

O Lord my God, When I in awestruck wonder
Behold -- the world that thou hast made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout The universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The wonders of the internet

I put up a post nearly a year ago about a memory of a childhood poem -- a memory from when I was in second grade. I re-run that post below and add to it some excellent feedback I got in the comments box of the original post:

When I was a kid -- in grade 2, I think -- I remember the teacher reading out a story about a "Little blue boy". It was a sad story and I cried. I was the only one who did, probably because I was the only one who understood. The teacher was upset that I was upset and that story was never referred to again.

I recollect only the title of the story and none of its content so I wondered if I could find it on the net. Unfortunately that name seems to go with lots of different stories but I think I may have found the one I was looking for. It is apparently an old English Lullaby!

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
The little tin soldier is red with rust,
And the musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

“‘Now, don’t you go till I come,’ he said,
‘And don’t you make any noise.’
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamt of his pretty toys;
And as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our little Boy Blue–
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true.

“Aye, faithful to little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place–
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.”

And below is the comment I got from a lady who obviously had similar feelings to mine:

"My mother used to recite this poem to us when we were children and all of us cried every time. She had learned it as a child to recite on a children’s Saturday morning radio show out of Chicago in the 1920′s. It’s actually a poem written by Eugene Field sometime in the late 1800′s about the death of his young son.

According to the story he and his wife were having dinner with friends when he suddenly left the table, went to his study and wrote this piece then and there. I’m 70 years old now and I still remember every word and I still cry. I’m glad to know it had as much impact on other children decades later".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Uncle Bill

We always knew my mother's brother was a bit of a rogue but the report below fleshes it out a little:

From: The Cairns Post, Thursday 3 May 1928:




The public portion of the Supreme Court this morning was crowded, probably on account of the retrial of Williams and Mclaughlan. The calendar of cases had a surprise collapse in that five of the eight accused pleaded guilty, one was found not guilty and two were remanded until Monday. Tomorrow morning, Chief Justice Blair will preside.


William Elliott C**, Rupert Emanuel Hoggett (alias Jack Williams) and Thomas Flynn were charged with having stolen in company on January 14, 1928, at Townsville, from Kwai Hing with actual violence the sum of 5 pounds. They were also charged with having on January 21 at Townsville assaulted with violence, Mary Ann Revesgard with intent to steal.

Each pleaded guilty.

Hoggett was sentenced to 12 months, In the case of Flynn, His Honor stated he would take into consideration that he was 17 years of age. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, the sentence to be suspended upon his entering into his own recognisance of 50 pounds to come up for sentence during that time if called upon.

In regard to C**, his Honor said be had no power to sentence him, but if he had he would have been given the same treatment as Flynn

As he was under 17 years of age, he came under the State Children's Department and would be sentenced to the custody of the department.

Thanks to Marty for sending me the above info

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The floods

There sure has been a lot of flooding in Brisbane yesterday and today. Only a few unlucky people had their houses go right under, however.

My house is situated half way up a hill and there is no flooding near here anyway -- so my life has not been disrupted at all. In fact I have been unusually well looked after. Both Anne and her sister June have moved into my place until everything is back to normal -- so I have been getting some good breakfasts and dinners.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A holy missile

Anybody who knows me well will be aware that I am quite sentimental. Anne is too. Most people become at least somewhat sentimental as they get older but not everyone does. Both Anne and I have/had mothers whe are/were not at all sentimental. If something was no longer in use it would be thrown out, regardless of what history or associations it might have.

So I am somewhat sad that I have in my possession something that I think would be a sentimental treasure to some family. It is a nicely bound Roman Missal from the days when the Catholic church still had the Tridentine (Latin) mass. I bought it at a flea market some years ago.

Inside the front cover is inscribed: "To Joyce Allen, November, 1934" and at the bottom of the page is written: "Remember in your prayers sometimes the giver". Then on the next page is written: "To Janek, from Joyce, 1953"

It is clearly a much-used volume and has between its pages a lot of holy pictures with Polish writing on them so Janek clearly used it.

There are however three pictures with English writing on them. There is one commemorating the Jubliee of ordination of Father A.J. Hogan P.P. at St Stehens's Cathedral in 1961 and another marking the ordination of a Brian Thomas Taylor in 1963. Then the last picture has on the back "From your loving sister Anna, Brisbane, 17.6.1962.

If it were something from my family I would regard it as a great treasure so I would gladly hand it to any member of the family concerned who wanted it. I imagine that someone like my mother threw it out but there are probably other members of the family who are more sentimental.

I can't see any chance of my tracing the family concerned, however, so at least it will remain respected in my possession.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy mother and babe

Von and Hannah

Monday, January 3, 2011


There have been only two occasions when I have been tailgated and on both occasions I dealt with it effectively.

The first was on Victoria road in Sydney. I tapped my brakes and then drove on. That made the guy behind look foolish so he then passed me and came to a stop immediately in front of me. He then got out of his car to abuse me and I got out to push back. I told him that tailgating was a dangerous and illegal practice. This pulled him up a bit and when he saw that I had a witness in my car -- Nola Holland -- he backed away and drove off

The second occasion was on the Southeast freeway in Brisbane. I was going at the precise speed signed when a car came up close behind me. I gradually eased off my speed until I was doing about 40kmh

At that stage the car behind passed me, stopped in front of me and the driver got out. He was a cop. I pointed out however that he had been tailgating me, which was a dangeous and illegal practice, and that there was no minimum speed. At that point, he became somewhat more humble. In a last ditch effort, however, he said that he would have to talk to his sergeant about it. I said he should and that was the end of it

The law has subsequently been changed so that there now is an offence of "obstructive driving" and I sometimes wonder if I had a hand in that.

I don't foresee it but if ever I were driving on a major highway and some great truck began to tailgate me (there was a recent report of that in Victoria), I could be inclined to jam on the anchors and cause a huge crash. I would probably die in the aftermath but I might cause a truckie or two to think twice before bombing himself out with ephedrine. Better an old guy like me dying than some young family. And there have been plenty of reports of young families dying in collisions with trucks.

Most likely, however, I would just slow down, as I have in the past. I've got the strong nerves needed for that

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year

As usual, New Year's eve was a quiet one for me -- which is how I like it. Anne has her nonagenarian mother visiting so Anne arranged a small dinner party -- including her sisters June and Merle, plus Merle's husband Ralph and myself. It was a 6pm start, with the good ol' French onion dip to begin the prodeedings. We also had some Riccadonna to start out. A bit too sweet for me.

Anne cooked us some excellent Moussaka for the occasion and we watched the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on TV afterwards. It was this year dubbed the ROYAL Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the apparent grounds that King Abdullah of Jordan was in attendance

The Tattoo contains a fair bit of light entertainment these days which in my view detracts from the dignity of the occasion. But I enjoyed all the piping, particularly the tunes I recognized, of course. There was a good moment when the crowd joined in singing "The Flower of Scotland". Scots are sentimental people and the memory of all their young men lost in Scotland's many wars moves them deeply.

O flower of Scotland
When will we see your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

The Highland regiments are of course the world's most splendidly attired soldiers so it was good to see them still going strong. Collapsing most of them into the Royal Regiment of Scotland was regrettable though. The historic Black Watch (once the senior Scottish regiment) is since 2006 now just a battalion within the RRS. That dastardly Labour government!

I noted that all the men in Highland units seemed to be wearing spats, in a rather delightful but still impressive anachronism. Spats were fashionable in the '20s and '30s. Mussolini even wore them. Anyway, I decided that I should look into getting spats to wear with my Highland outfit.

I didn't stay to drink the new year in but went home at about 9pm.

This morning I was frustrated that my usual breakfast/brunch place was closed so I took a drive to West End -- not far away. I found a small Greek Taverna open (The Greek New Year is at a different time to ours) called the Kafe Meze (meaning "The entree cafe", I think). I was delighted to see that they had keftedes on the menu, which I hadn't had for years. They came as a meal accompanied by haloumi, Greek salad and flat bread -- and were excellent. I will go there again some time.

Not far from where I was sitting was a table of three middle-aged Greek guys Greeking away (passionately debating some unknown topic in Greek) -- rather as they once did in the days of Pericles, I imagine.

(That last comment will endear me to any Greek who happens to read this. Modern Greeks are very emphatic about their direct descent from the ancient Greeks -- though I gather that it is Athens rather than Sparta that they idealize).