Monday, December 26, 2011

A magnificent Christmas occasion

Four of us got to the sung Eucharist at St. John's cathedral in good time this morning. We arrived early so got good seats. It was a great celebration.

A snippet of the ecclesiastical procession, led by Archbishop Aspinall

The opening hymn was that great hymn of faith: "O come all ye faithful". With a mighty organ located high up near the stone-vaulted ceiling and a big congregation lustily singing, the performance was as impressive a beginning to the service as one could wish. And the ecclesiastical procession with its various crosses, banners, vestments etc was so long that it lasted almost until the end of the hymn. Practically everyone associated with the cathedral must have been present and robed up.

Just about everything that could be done in an Anglican service was done, including a good bit of Anglican chant, which I rather like. It has a sort of eerie and timeless feel to it for me. I imagine that they did something similar in the temples of Isis and Osiris in ancient Egypt.

The censer was deployed energetically on several occasions, so much so that the transept was almost filled with smoke at one stage. Quite strangely however, I heard no bells during the service. "Bells and smells" normally go together. Joe reckoned that the guy with the censer seemed to be having the most fun

Even though I had my hearing aids in, I could not understand a word of the sermon. The PA system at the cathedral is rather amazingly bad. Anne however tells me that it was about relationships and such things -- but with no mention of the wonders of the incarnation. VERY C of E!

But we got to sing a lot of the great traditional hymns so that was the best part. Being an atheist, I don't participate in the prayers but I can't resist the hymns. They are a wonderful testimony to the faith that built Western civilization.

After the service Joe and Cianne took tea with me for a while, while Anne had to zoom off to get to lunch with her children.

Jenny put on a lunch for just 5 of us at 1pm, which was very traditional: turkey, ham etc. It was good of her to do both a Christmas eve party and a Christmas day lunch.

Anne came back to my place for Christmas night. After big lunches we were not very hungry so I made us some ham and pickle sandwiches on toast for dinner -- using leftover ham from lunch. That is my usual Christmas night fare.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas eve

Jenny put on a party for a small group of us on Christmas eve. Present were Anne and myself, Jenny and Nanna, Joe and Cianne, Jill and Lewis plus twinny Susan, Russ and Sahara. We also Skyped in our NZ connection. Paul and Susan are visiting there for a month or so.

I used the netbook for skyping with a wireless connection so we were able to pass it around so everybody could have a chat with our NZ family members. Lewis was much impressed to see that video phones are now a reality.

Jenny cooked up cevapi and chicken kebabs for us which went down well. There was a present or two for everyone under Jenny's tree so distributing and opening the presents was a big, amusing and chaotic occasion as usual. Nanna knitted me a tea cosy for my big brown teapot but I at first thought it was a beanie and wore it for a while until someone wised me up.

Sahara has gained a lot of confidence lately and no longer seems scared of me.

If I can get up early enough, my Christmas day plans call for a visit to St. John's cathedral for the sung eucharist at 9:30 am. They do a good show there, including an ecclesiastical procession, but I can't remember whether they do "bells and smells" as well. My son has said he wants to go in order to introduce the arcana of the Church of England to his Korean girlfriend, even though all three of us are unbelievers. I took him there a few times when he was a kid and he enjoyed it. Both of us particularly like the Christmas hymns. And a great stone neo-Gothic cathedral is a remarkable environment. Definitely the best show in town on Christmas day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A small laugh

Despite my atheism I have rather a lot of religious artifacts in my home.

As people walk in in the door they see a Thai Buddha plus a small image of India's Ganesha

My Indian residents warmly approve of the latter of course

And among the many things on my bedside table is a Presbyterian hymn book. And I even have a copy of the old (Tridentine) Roman Missal. And the book of Common Prayer with Hymns Ancient and Modern, of course.

Beat that!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saharah's birthday

The desert girl had a slightly belated birthday celebration today. I believe her actual birthday was on 5th. I was there on the day of her birth but my typical male-pattern memory is not good for such information.

Anyway we had a good time both with chats and observing the birthday girl. It was all rather amusing. My gift was very well received. Jenny bought it and she has a talent for such things. I just pay for it. Many years after our divorce Jenny still has my credit card. If that is not an amicable divorce I would like to know what was!

So my gift to Saharah was a toy musical choo choo train. She definitely liked it.

Sadly, Joe's gift of a soft toy in the form of a giraffe got thrown back at him! Two-year olds are not big on social graces!

Anyway Russell cooked up a storm on his BBQ and I greatly enjoyed the resultant sausages. I don't claim the mantle as a sausage connoisseur but I am certainly a sausage enthusiast.

Ken and I spent a fair bit of time chatting as usual but I was a bit ahead of him in knowing what was meant on our childhood toy trainsets by "LNER". Ken got part of it -- to give him his due -- but I was pleased to decipher it as "London and North Eastern Railway"

Very trivial fun, I guess, but much enjoyed nonetheless.

The birthday girl gets help from Dad

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I went into Woolworths to buy Christmas cards yesterday. I am not fanatical about it as I am an atheist but I like to buy Christian-themed cards out of respect for the Christian basis of the holiday. But although Woolworths had a big range of cards I could find none with Christian themes. Pretty poor for Australia's biggest retailer!

So I went to the Indian shop next door where I occasionally see the owner reading a nicely-bound copy of the Bhagavad Gita in Hindi. Sure enough he had packs of cards with Christian themes. So he got my business.

A sad day when it takes a Hindu to show what tolerance is like! Why on earth would Woolworths be so bigoted against Christianity? Who is going to be offended by them including a few cards with Christian themes in their range?

Australia is not a religious country but there are still a lot of committed Christians about so they would find the Woolworths offering unsatisfactory and would go to (say) a newsagent to buy their cards. So bigotry is also bad business, as it usually is.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dosas for lunch

I took Joe and his Korean lady to our local South Indian restaurant today to introduce him to dosas.

The waiter knew what my order would be without my needing to say it: Three Masala dosas. And they were as good as usual. They were quite a big meal actually. All three of us had a bit of a battle to finish them. Joe was favourably impressed.

We went back to my place for tea on the verandah afterwards when we discussed quite a few things about Korea. I have rather a soft spot for Koreans, seeing that about 20% of them are Presbyterians -- which is my old religion.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Joe arrives back in Brisbane

Paul will be in NZ for Christmas so he wanted to give Joe an early Christmas dinner to make up for that. So Joe landed in Brisbane at 5pm and at 6pm Paul and Susan had a dinner laid on for him.

It was actually an American dinner. When Paul and Susan were in NY I directed them to the various different types of American sandwiches and they now share my conviction that America is the home of sandwiches. So the dinner principally consisted of Reuben sandwiches and Cuban sandwiches, which were much enjoyed. In Australia there are no diners where you can walk in and order such things so they have to be home-made. And Susan is a talented cook so she did very well.

And for dessert she made an excellent apple pie by following an American recipe she got off the internet.

We had the usual lively conversations about many things. Paul always makes sure of that! He loved the story about how I helped to sabotage Arthur Calwell's Brisbane election meeting.

Joe had his Korean girlfriend with him. He brought her up to Brisbane from Canberra for a month. Fortunately she speaks quite good English -- rare in Koreans. She was a bit shy but that was not surprising in the circumstances. Finding herself in the middle of boisterous family conversations must have been a bit of a shock.

She must have been surprised to find she was amid a family of Kim Chee lovers. Kim Chee is a sort of pickled cabbage that is massively popular in Korea but is little known elsewhere and not to everyone's taste. Paul, Joe and the twins grew up with it however, as both Jenny and I like it so we always had it on the table when Korean food was served, which was fairly often.

I was pleased to hear that Joe is taking an active part in university life -- joining the Kabuki play etc. Some fathers would disapprove of "fun" activities at university in fear that their kid might not be taking their studies seriously enough but with Joe it is the other way around. There is no risk of him not working hard on his studies but in his undergrad days he seemed to take little part in university life. I have often told him that your university days are a time to have fun.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hannah's 1st

Hannah had her first birthday yesterday and most of the family were in NZ to help celebrate it. So I suggested that the rest of us join them via Skype while having our own party here in Brisbane.

So Paul, Susan and I went to Russell and Suzy's place bearing various party foods and had lunch there, with Suzy making some very good sausage rolls and also giving us some home-made chicken burgers.

Von knew we would be meeting at around 12 noon so rang us on Skype just a bit after that time. So we had a party going on at both ends of the Skype connection. We could see their party and they could see ours. The audio was a bit poor though so conversations were a bit restricted.

The NZ end had only one baby present but we had three: Matthew, Dusty and Sahara. So there was a lot of baby talk. But I can talk babies pretty well so that was fine by me. Inevitably the conversation got on to when I used to mind Paul and the twins when they were kids so there were some laughs there.

Paul is holding Dusty and I am helping Matthew to sit up