Saturday, October 29, 2011

A busy weekend

Yesterday (Friday) Jenny had Von and Simon plus Anne and myself over for dinner -- with Vietnamese lemon chicken on the menu. It gave us all a chance to hear a bit more from Von while she was here.

We covered quite a bit of ground -- going back to when Von was a kid as well as talking about New Zealand in the present. Von was interested to hear the decision processes that went into the choice of her name. Apparently most people call her Yvonne. It is only family who shorten it.

Then this evening (Saturday) was the BIG Christmas in October party with 20 people attending. I held it in my thickly turfed backyard under party flares. I had two 6' trestle tables with foldup legs this time and they worked very well -- used in conjunction with the two tables that are normally downstairs. George seemed to have had his own chair this time -- seeing he fell out of one of mine last time!

We all wanted to try NZ cheesy rolls so Vonnie's Simon quite heroically made 120 of them for us-- and they were universally agreed to be very good. We also had pizza and champagne to enliven the occasion but the rolls were the special thing. The ladies all brought along goodies too so there were plenty of leftovers as usual. It was all as bit chaotic but that just added to the interest. You don't want to be too organized for a family get-together.

We had three toasts: One to our NZ visitors, a sendoff toast to Simon who is shortly deploying to Afghastiland and a toast to the newest arrival, Dustin Eddie who was all of 8 days old.

Simon is going over with the RAAF to help drop bombs on ragheads from a remotely-piloted vehicle. As such he is in a base and not in much danger of being shot at unless someone in the Afghan National Army goes berserk -- which is not unknown. So we were glad to be able to wish him the best of luck and tell him we looked forward to him coming back home safe and sound

Joe flew up from Canberra for the day and Suzie managed to get along for a while despite still being in some discomfort after her recent childbirth. The only one missing was Tim, who had a big Halloween party going on at his place that he could not get out of.

Hannah was a bit disturbed by the crowd at one stage so Von took her up to my second bathroom again and that settled her! The magic bathroom with the big shiny key!

We heard that Vonnie's Simon is taking on a new job when he gets back to NZ -- as a shepherd! Apparently he will be driving around the sheep paddock on an ATV watching the sheep and putting back on their feet ones that have fallen over! Strange things happen in NZ! From computer guru to shepherd is quite a career change too! I told Von that she would be the shepherdess from now on! From being a business high-flyer to being the fulltime carer of one daughter, one lamb and two dogs is rather a change for her too.

Von spent some time with Suzy every day that she was here from what I gather -- giving her twin both moral and practical support after the birth. So that was a bonus for both of them. Twins being together at such a time has a rightness about it -- as being there is just as important as anything said to one-another. And Von said that Suzy is already feeling in better spirits now that the childbirth problems are fading.

We had five babies/toddlers at the party so that pleased me. A family party with no children present is a sad thing in my opinion.

Joey and Nanna were there

George must have told Paul a VERY funny joke

A comment from Paul on the night:

Time passed quickly and before we knew it the night was over. It was great to catch up with everyone and do a special send off for uncle Simon who will be away for 5 months doing his military service for the country. Hats off to him spending so much time away from the family for the greater good.


A very sad update to my warning about the danger Simon faces in Afghanistan. The very next morning I read:

Three Australian soldiers killed, seven wounded by rogue Afghan soldier

THE Chief of the Australian Defence Force has expressed his deep sorrow after the deaths of three Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The three soldiers were shot during a parade yesterday morning. Seven other Australians were wounded and an Afghan interpreter was killed.

The lone gunman - an Afghan national soldier - was shot and killed as the Australians returned fire. The dead - a corporal, captain and lance corporal - were members of the Mentoring Task Force in southern Afghanistan.

Of the three, the corporal and lance corporal were on their first deployment to Afghanistan while the captain was on a second tour. The corporal and the captain had earlier this year taken part in flood and cyclone relief operations in Queensland.

Of the wounded, General Hurley said one soldier was being treated for life threatening wounds, four had serious wounds, and the other two had minor wounds.


Sunday, October 23, 2011


At lunchtime today (Sunday) I took advantage of Von and Simon being in Brisbane to introduce them to that South Indian staple -- dosas. The guy who runs the restaurant concerned makes great dosas but speaks a very Indian version of English so I don't understand him and he doesn't understand me. He is a man of goodwill, however, so we generally get something like what we order. And all his dosas are good anyway.

I am still not sure what we got but we all enjoyed them anyway. As well as Von and Simon and Anne and myself, Paul and Susan were there too -- not forgetting two very important little people: Hannah and Matthew.

After lunch we adjourned to my place for tea and coffee and chatted on until about 5pm. It was good to spend some time with Von and discuss life in NZ with her.

A slightly surprising thing is that Vonnie's Simon joined in the conversation to a considerable extent. Simon is famous as the strong silent one. But we WERE talking about New Zealand so that is THE topic to get him talking (He grew up there). Paul and I normally talk to him about computers -- in deference to his great knowledge on that subject -- but it was good to have another topic come up that Simon was happy to talk about. That he has talked his wife into moving from sub-tropical Queensland to sub-Arctic New Zealand probably indicates that although his words may be few they are very well-considered.

We also spent some time talking about when Paul, Suzy and Von were kids and having a laugh about the crazy things we did together then.

My sitting room has a small ensuite bathroom running off it -- containing just a bath and a handbasin. And Hannah loved that bathroom. She must have crawled the full length of it about 50 times. I felt rather sorry that I couldn't donate the bathroom concerned for Von to take back to NZ!

Matthew mostly did his usual trick -- sleeping -- but he displayed a good set of lungs when he got hungry!

With Von at the Dosa restaurant

Hannah in the bathroom

Anne was very good with Matthew

Hannah the tongue. She's a little charmer

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another birth!

To Suzy and Russell was delivered a son early this morning and both mother and child are well, though Suzy looked pretty exhausted when I saw her that afternoon, of course. Paul's comment on that is perhaps worth quoting: "When we saw sister Susan in hospital, I must say my heart went out to my exhausted-looking very pale faced sister". Suzy is of course a treasure to us all so we all want the best for her. Anne, being both a midwife and a 3-times mother herself, was able to tell me exactly what Suzy would have been feeling so it is something of a pity that all the attention prevented Suzy from just going to sleep and gradually sleeping it all off. But the wonder of a brand new human being who will become well-known as an individual to us all will not be denied, of course.

The delivery was induced 2 weeks early because of Suzy's blood pressure but the boy still arrived in the world at a healthy 7lb.

That's the 5th birth in the family in less than 2 years. And I foresee more in the not too distant future.

Von, with her usual uncanny ability at getting right anything she is interested in, arrived from New Zealand just a couple of hours after the birth. She had very much wanted to be there to give moral support to her twin and to see the baby. Suzy has moral and practical support from Russell and all the family but twins are close in a way that the rest of us only vaguely understand. It would not have felt right for them to be apart at that time.

Ken was at the Gold Coast airport to greet Von, Simon and Hannah as they arrived, with Paul and Sue turning up shortly afterward.

So it was a day for arrivals.

The boy himself: Dustin Eddie -- all of 1 day old. Sure to be known as "Dusty"

Happy Hannah. She's got her mother's happy nature

Matthew: happy with his plug in -- and a great pic of Susan

I got to hold Matthew for a while but he slept right through it -- perhaps fortunately

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Westside Music Circle again

A welcome revival yesterday (Sunday). We had some very competent musicians and we even had some Bach! And our pianist was an old white guy for a change. We always have good ol' Marjorie of course but our other pianists are usually Chinese

Jill was a bit crocked with her left arm in a sling but she still managed to get her hair into a long looped-back plait, which I though looked very pretty -- but I always have had a weakness for blonde plaits on women.

The supper was as good as usual and I made significant inroads into it as usual.

I was a bit concerned about the cooling systyem in the Humber but I had topped up the radiator before we left and it worked perfectly. One forgets that in the old days radiators had to be topped up from time to time.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Matthew update

Matthew is now 5 weeks old and my prediction that he will be tall is already being borne out. Paul says he is already unusually "long".

Something Paul said in his latest email is something that ALL single people should heed:
We look back at life before children (B.C) and although it wasn’t that long ago in physical time, it already feels like a completely DIFFERENT life!! An emptier life…. Something was definitely missing and now we know what it was … Susan and I are of course very close but turning the 2 of us into 3 has been a whole new, enlightening experience!

Some photos below:

Matthew with his gorgeous mother

The hat boy. Like father like son. I remember Paul when he was a kid going to bed with his hat on

UPDATE: Now the full truth can be told. After checking with Paul to see that it would not embarrass him, I can reveal that I recall him as a kid going to bed with TWO hats on!

And things haven't changed much. See below when Paul on a recent occasion was again wearing two hats. If you look closely, you can see that he is wearing a cap with a sombrero over the top of it

Die Wiener Philharmoniker

The heading above translates as "The Vienna Philharmonic" and it is one of the great orchestras of the world. You have to wait years in Vienna to get tickets to its performances so when they decided to tour Australia, Anne and I had to go along.

I was originally going to wear cords to the concert but Anne was most unhappy about me wearing such humble garb to such an expensive occasion so yesterday we went in to "down-low" Lowes at Mt. Gravatt where I bought myself a "Made in China" bag o' fruit. It was actually in charcoal grey with a chalk stripe, which was exactly what I wanted -- so Lowes can be surprising. But fancy China having taken over the ready-to-wear market for men's business suits!

So we toddled off to the concert earlier tonight with Anne in her Best Black and me in my Chinese suit. I hope it didn't LOOK Chinese. It seemed a reasonable sort of fabric but I dare not ask what fabric. Anne was pleased with the look of it so that was the aim of the exercise.

And the concert was worth all it cost. The highlight in my view was the opening work: Schubert's well-known and much loved "Unfinished". It is something of a favourite of mine so I was in a good position to judge the performance and it was far and away the most sensitive version I have ever heard. Quite wonderful.

The second work was Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, which is essentially a series of Lieder, so I was cross with myself for not having prepared for the performance by reviewing the text at home first. It's a lot better if you know what the guy is singing about.

I wonder if I should say something about the name: Des Knaben Wunderhorn? It is quite commonly left untranslated and if it is translated, it is generally rendered as "Youth's magic horn". But that is not what it means at all. If it meant that it would be Des Jugends Wunderhorn. The literal translation is: "The boy's magic horn". So I think by now you can see the problem.

The third work was Beethoven's 8th so that was good from the opening moment on of course. The conductor was Christoph Eschenbach, whom I had never heard of but he studied under Karajan apparently and certainly knew his trade.

He and the orchestra got a standing ovation at the end of the programme so they played us an encore from Strauss: Die schoene blaue Donau if I am not mistaken. A very lively version it was too.

A great feast of Austrian music. And to my great satisfaction, the conductor didn't say a word. He just conducted. I hate it when conductors blather on beforehand. I go for the music and if that doesn't speak for itself it's not good music.

But I am still rather stunned that I was able to hear a small part of the greatest music ever composed in Vienna performed right here in Brisbane by Vienna's greatest orchestra. Their performance of the "Unfinished" is still ringing in my head. The whole concert was a 3-hour one but it seemed like half that time to me -- so engrossing was the music

The concert hall at QPAC is very impressive. It has recently been done up with very extensive and successful attention to the acoustics. So I felt glad to be part of a civilization that provides so magnificently for its people even in a small city like Brisbane.

There was a full house too, mostly mature to elderly as usual but with a surprising number of young people too.


Anne made me porridge for breakfast next morning, followed by croissants with apricot jam. Wotta gal! I have always liked my porridge but men of my generation don't cook.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A new arrival in New Zealand

Vonnie is now the proud "mother" of a lamb. She's definitely adapting well to New Zealand at that rate.

Hannah is now 10 months old so she will grow up with sheep!

I wonder if Von knows the great poem by William Blake about lambs. I am sure she would agree with his feelings if not his theology:

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!