Friday, April 29, 2011

Dinner with Kenneth and Maureen

We arrived at Kuraby at 5pm after a bit of demon driving through the peak-hour traffic and as we walked in the door Ken was playing mood music on his new electric goanna. It certainly sounded good. Maybe acoustic pianos will become obsolete soon.

Maureen dished up an incredible spread with various appetizers and lots of different dishes for the main course. And everything was excellent. And I got a reward for always mentioning how good Maureen's pavlovas are. She made a super-duper layered one for dessert.

At one stage we were discussing old cars and houses -- which Ken sees little point in and I remarked that he was just not sentimental. Ken said: "Yes, I am". Whereupon Maureen shouted out from the kitchen: "You are not"! So Ken got a bit undermined there. But he retained his good cheer.

I can't remember much of what else we talked about but I think we covered a lot of ground.

At one stage Ken got Von and Paul on Skype from NZ so we heard a live account of their canoe adventure.

Towards the end of the evening we got talking about Pauline Hanson and racism -- in complete defiance of the old advice never to discuss religion and politics on social occasions. But Ken and I know one-another of old so we retained good cheer despite Ken having the usual view about Pauline while Anne and I think well of her.

Ken seemed at first to be in favour of "affirmative action" but my claim that it was racist seemed to moderate his views somewhat. Not your everyday dinner-table topic! But Ken is good natured and knows that I am pretty ornery so I think he just enjoyed the back and forth: Which is more mature than a lot of people could manage.

I pushed my luck with the beverages a bit, having champagne, Merlot and Cointreau. But I got home without police challenge so all was well. I took the Echo as I had surgery on my hand yesterday and it was still a bit sore. The Humber has very heavy steering so that was out of the question with a sore hand.


Another very small incident which may nonetheless be worth recording was when I very "incorrectly" remarked: "When I see reports of people younger than me dying, I tend to feel rather pleased". Maureen was in the kitchen area at the time but I got a big smile from her in response to that. I imagine that she enjoyed the "incorrectness" and frankness of it.

The older you get the more you feel pleased at your survival, I think. Almost the very first thing nonagenarians say to you is: "I'm 90, you know!" There are a lot of nonagenarians in Australia so I have heard it often. Anne's mother is still alive at 93.

Update 2

After Paul had related on Skype how their canoe had got out of control and tossed both him and Von into the freezing river water, Ken chimed in with an admonition that they should have been wearing life jackets. That went down like a lead balloon with Paul -- as I could tell from his silence in response. Father and son there do NOT see eye to eye in most things. I had some sympathy for Ken on that occasion, however. Hearing that two of your children had nearly drowned has got to be stressful.

Unless I have been directly asked for advice, I don't think I ever tell Paul or Joe to do anything. I just offer information about what the consequences of any course of action are likely to be and leave them to integrate that into their own thinking however they may. I have never been disappointed at the result of that.

And I never really need to say anything to Von. She always makes good decisions. Or I think so anyway.

Good new and bad news from NZ

The good news is a great photo of Hannah being fed solids for the first time. She seems to be saying, "Wow! This is great stuff".

The bad news is that Paul and Von nearly killed themselves in a canoeing accident. They ended up OK though.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Paul is in New Zealand

He and Sue helped Von to celebrate her birthday. Paul is once again greatly enthused about the unspoiled and very scenic natural environment in the South Island. The pic below is from a trip they all did on lake Te Anau.

Apparently, they didn't have an appropriate beanie for Hannah so Sue whipped one up out of some red and white wool she was given. And very attractive it looks. Sue is the perfect wife.

Von looks happier than ever in the photo. She has good reason to be. And I like her hat too!

Suzy's birthday

About a week ago, I had heard nothing about a birthday celebration for Suzy and wondered what was happening. Suzy said that it felt "weird" celebrating her birthday for the first time without her twin present so she herself had arranged nothing. And Ken is apparently birthdayed out so has declared that he is not celebrating any birthdays any more.

So I immediately offered to put on something for her at short notice. I arranged for an afternoon tea on my verandah. Jenny and Nanna also came along of course. My verandah gets a good breeze and is always a popular spot for a small gathering. Present were Suzy and Russ, Anne and myself plus Jenny, Nanna and, of course Sahara, who was the star of the occasion. She is 17 months now and walks quite well but she is scared stiff of me! Being shy is normal enough at that age, of course.

When everybody was seated I brought out my 3-tier cakestand absolutely loaded down with big pumpkin scones and huge lamingtons -- so that immediately made a good impression. I offered rosella jam to go with the scones. So it was an all-Australian offering on ANZAC day.

A most enthusiastic consumer of the lamington offering was Sahara. She grabbed handfulls off one and scoffed them down at a great rate. Apparently she had never had a lamington before so she showed she is a born Australian. Very appropriate on ANZAC day.

I asked Suzy about how Sahara was going with her landmarks and talked a lot about her current pregnancy but beyond that I cannot remember what we all talked about. Lots of things, I think. As usual, it was a jolly occasion, though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A busy Easter

With two Easter activities already behind me I had another one tonight. Anne likes to put on a dinner for her two sisters around this time and that happened tonight. Two mere males in the persons of myself and Ralph were also invited.

I talked to Ralph for a bit about Byzantium as his Masonic order is the Red Cross of Constantine and Byzantium is one of my enthusiasms in history.

Then we sat down to an excellent dinner of roast lamb. We were all Presbyterians of one sort or another at table so a lot of the discussion revolved around church matters. That might sound very dull but it was not at all. We had quite a jolly time in fact.

Anne had brought home with her a copy of "New Directions", a Presbyterian church newspaper that was handed to her at the Good Friday service -- and that was something of a hit. I think everyone had a look at it.

We were all rather surprised to read that the church now has its own theological college in Queensland. In the past a lot of our ministers have come from Scotland.

I was pleased to read in the paper that Archie McNicol had been given a good sendoff. He "demitted his charge" (retired) earlier this year due to ill health. He had been the minister at Ann St. for about 10 years and I always had a good impression of him

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The great tribe of Rays

I have no idea of the actual numbers but at a guess I must have about a thousand relatives in Queensland and more interstate. And that is just on my father's side! Much the same would be true on my mother's side.

The Ray family are so numerous because we go back to the convicts. The convict couple had a big family and their kids had big families and their kids ... Even in my own family I was one of four.

I am of course completely out of touch with most of my fellow descendants of the convict couple but every now and again someone in the family takes an interest in genealogy and a few contacts are established.

My third cousin Jan Bemrose is one of those. She is a very smart lady who has done an immense amount of work on the family genealogy and she eventually tracked me down as well. Most conveniently, she lives only about half an hour's drive from where I do so I arranged to meet her today over an afternoon tea at my place. I got my brother Chris along as well. It was a very lively afternon with lots of reminiscences, information and stories being exchanged -- and lots of laughs. We seemed to have quite a lot in common too.

And Anne made some excellent cucumber sandwiches to go with our tea. I also managed to get the local baker to make us some pumpkin scones, which are an old Queensland favourite. And to fill the top level of my three-tier cakestand I made something that could hardly be more Australian: A bully beef sandwich. I cut it into quarters and each person's quarter seemed to go down well. It was a rather mad thing to serve at an afternoon tea but I wanted some real Australiana to go with our discussions of the old timers in our past. And it seems that both Jan and I actually LIKE bully beef!

We have arranged to meet again.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I made it!

Although I have been an atheist for nearly 50 years now, I still like to pop in to my old church once or twice a year -- particularly on Good Friday and at Christmas. Getting out of bed in time is the big problem, however. Easter services tend to start early and I get out of bed late.

Today however Anne woke me up at 8:15 for the 9am service at Ann St. Presbyterian so I got going as quickly as I could and arrived blearily but in good time at church.

The Ann St. church stayed out of the "Uniting church" when that takeover was on. The "Uniters" are pretty wishy-washy these days but the continuing Presbyterians remain old-style. So when Anne and I attended there this morning it was the Gospel of salvation only that I heard. To preach anything else on Good Friday would be very peculiar Christianity indeed. And it was the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland that we had preaching.

He was an enthusiastic and learned preacher but shouted a bit too much for my liking: Rather un-Presbyterian I thought. But as he "heads" the whole church in Queensland, I guess he knows better than I do about that.

Our old minister retired recently because of ill health and I missed him. I liked old Archie McNicol. He was a tall and dignified Scot.

When I go to church I feel reconnected with my past and my ancestors -- and conservatives generally do tend to like their connections with other people. Leftists are more into criticizing other people.

Anne says she just goes for the music but I think there is more to it than that. It is her old church too and she does her best to get me along whenever she thinks I might be amenable to it. I never have to twist her arm.

We had a lady in a big hat sitting up the front so I presume it was Penelope Wensley. Having two State governors in a row support that church must mean something but I am still figuring out what. Quentin Bryce used to turn up in a big hat too.

So it was a pleasant morning and Anne cooked me up a good breakfast afterwards of scrambled eggs and Haloumi with toast.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A greeting from a NZ babe

You can tell she's a NZ babe by the rugging up. It's already snowing on the mountains where young Hannah is (below).

Here in Brisbane some trees are stiil flowering and the days are warm. And it's STILL raining!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's autumn in the shaky isles

Some recent photos from Lady Von

Invercargill beach looks a bit muddy to me but locals like the fact that you can drive on it

Von is a bit worried about the impending winter but her good cheer (and some good house heating) will carry her through

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A mustard taste test

I have run wine tastings and whisky tastings in my time but a mustard taste test must be something of a departure.

I organized one last Thursday night with just Anne and myself as judges. The aim was to decide what mustard went best with Pastrami on rye. I got in some light rye bread and Crown lager to wash it down and made up four sandwiches. I cut the sandwiches in half so Anne and I would have the same.

Each of course had a different mustard on it and all had plenty of butter on them. There were: Dijon mustard, English mustard, wholegrain mustard and mustard pickles.

For me it was a tossup between wholegrain mustard and mustard pickles but Anne was firmly in favour of wholegrain mustard

I already use Pastrami in Reuben sandwiches. Maybe I should try Pastrami with Russian dressing next. I have never seen Russian dressing in the shops here but I have ketchup, mayonnaise and horseradish on hand so I should be able to make up my own. There are various recipes for Russian dressing on the net but I have found a simple one:

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup (4 Tbsp) chili sauce, cocktail sauce or ketchup
1 Tbsp drained horseradish
1 tsp minced onion

With a bit of coleslaw it could be good

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Went down to the St. James Infirmary...

Whoops! Wrong song. My sense of humour will be the death of me one day

Last night was a meeting of the Westside Music Circle, which I have been attending for around 10 years.

We had a violist who rather made me sit up. I didn't realize how low a viola could go. He even played one of the Bach cello suites on it. Marjorie, the human pianola (she can play anything) was in good form too and I particularly liked some Schumann that she played.

The old gang were there, including of course Jill and Lewis.

Anne gave me an excellent meat pie to eat before we set out which was a rather civilizing influence. I normally make rather a pig of myself at the supper afterwards but the pie filled me up rather a lot so I was more restrained than usual. I did try one of each of the sandwiches on offer, however.

I was a bit dubious about the Humber as I suspected that the battery was on the blink. It performed faultlessly, however.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

More news from Lady Von

Von is always a happy lady but she seems even happier in her new abode. An excerpt:

During the picturesque drive [to Queenstown] it dawned on me that we really are living in paradise... I have never felt like this about anywhere I have ever visited or lived until now, I have fallen in love with this place.

It is amazing how much the sun can make a cold temperature feel warm, it was only 14 degrees but the sun made it feel like 25 degrees and we could easily walk around without a jumper on.

We also visited Arrowtown yesterday which is near Queenstown and is famous for the Autumn colour in the leaves and the whole town has restored the original old buildings so the town has a lot of character not to mention GOLD. Yes, you can still find gold in the river that runs through Arrowtown. There are still many rivers where gold can be found in NZ but commercial mining of gold has been banned to preserve the natural environment.

Some pics of Von's new environment

Friday, April 1, 2011

The New Zealand news

A picture of Von's humble home

And an excerpt from her latest email that would make big city dwellers worldwide envious:

"Another thing I want to mention was about our garbage collection. Our wheelie bin is collected each Thursday morning and Simon and I managed to fill it to the brim with the lid poking up over the top.

We unfortunately slept in on Thursday and didn't get the bin out in time so it wasn't collected. We thought we would just leave it there anyway and deal with the rubbish later.

At about 4pm that afternoon the rubbish truck sped past then noticed our bin and reversed back to our house and emptied it!! We were amazed! How nice. We really are living in the country when you get service like that."

By the river again