Friday, December 28, 2012

Pics from NZ

In the belief that some of the many  beautiful pics Von sends us from NZ might gain appreciation outside the family, I occasionally put some up on Facebook accompanied by my comments. Here are the latest:

My comments:  Little lambs are cuddly.  And they inspired one of the greatest poems in English -- by Blake.  But in no time at all you have a large SHEEP instead

My comments:  A little Dutch girl with her Dutch grandfather.  She's eating peas fresh from the garden.  In New Zealand.  Such a kind face. No wonder she loves her "Poppy".

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I got up too late to go to church.  Had a leisurely breakfast of croissants and jam with Anne instead.  I am rather nonplussed at how early most of the Christmas church sevices are.  There is a rather nice Anglican church just one block away from where I live but their Christmas service is at 7am!  Whom are they kidding?  At least it is 9:30am at the cathedral.  When I used to be a regular at Presbyterian services in the '60s, the morning service began at 11am!  Much more civilized.

I got to the family Christmas do at Paul's place at about noon and talked mainly to Joe.

The lunch was ham plus roast lamb plus roast chicken, all of which were good.

After lunch Paul skyped Vonnie in from NZ and we all had a chat with her. I missed seeing her at the do on 23rd.  Practically all the family were there except her.  So it was good to catch up.  I discovered that I had bought Hannah a bicycle with trainer wheels for Christmas, which she really liked.  I just tell people (mainly Jenny) to buy whatever they think fit as presents from me and I just pay, which is a very satisfactory arrangement for all concerned.  I have selected some great gifts that way!

The biggest excitement for the day (aside from seeing Von) was the dessert:  Trifle PLUS  Pavlova -- two of my favourites.

I found Timmy lying flat on the floor of the billiards room at one stage.  I think he had been bending the elbow a bit much.  But otherwise everybody just sat around talking.  It was a relaxing and congenial party rather than an eventful one.

About 3pm Joe and I left for my place and we had chats over a  cup of tea on my verandah -- discussing "secret men's business".  I was pleased that he seems to have no money problems.  He lives on his scholarship income without difficulty.  I have always been that way too.  We also discovered a few more parallels between our lives -- things that I did when I was younger and similar things that he has done recently.

Joe has taken a great interest in diet, health and fitness in recent times so he told me a bit more about that.  He seems to be  putting it into practice in a reasonable way.  He certainly looks fit.

Hannah on her new bike

Monday, December 24, 2012

Big Christmas lunch

Suz and Russell put on a traditional Christmas lunch today that also featured what has become a family tradition:  A secret Santa event plus a mystery present event.  Everybody brings along a wrapped $10 present for the latter event and people draw lots to select a present one after the other.   And presents can be claimed from  previous lot-drawers, which is always a high-spirited event.

And after that we had the kiddy present event, where only the little ones got presents.  For that I gave Sahara a "First Bible", which was a rather kiddy-proof collection of illustrated Bible stories.  Susan reminded me that I had given her a book of Bible stories when we sent her to the Catholic schoool in Gordonvale -- which she had good memories of.  So Saharah's "First Bible" got a good welcome.

Russ cooked some good ham and roast pork and after the present hi-jinks we had a variety of dessert offerings.  I plumped for the trifle as usual.

Simon was seated across from me at the dinner table with Joe and Paul also in close proximity.  Simon's British background makes him surprisingly politically correct for a military man so we had an interesting discusion when we somehow got into mention of Africans.  I made some observation about the high rates of African crime and Simon asked me to what I attributed that. I replied that it was ancestral, which agitated Simon a bit.  He had been told all his life that it was "poverty" that lay behind disruptive black behaviour and saw that attribution as a moral issue:  To see any ancestral influence was immoral.

I replied along the D.P. Moynihan lines that you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts  -- pointing out that every African population everywhere was poor and crime-ridden, regardless of the quite varied social and government arrangements under which they live.  So that can be seen as a problem regardless of your opinion of its genesis.

Someone had apparently told Simon that Brazil was an example of a society without racial frictions depite its large African and mestizo population -- but I pointed out that wealth and poverty are highly correlated with skin colour there too, with blacks at the bottom, mestizos in the middle and whites running things. That seemed to wrap things up for Simon

I am quite sorry that I appear to have distressed him but "facts are chiels that winna ding", as the Scots say.  And facts have the last say as far as I am concerned.  Paul was quite pleased that I just presented the facts in a calm and dispassionate way as he sees no moral issues in the matter either.

The festive table

Ava Marie was looking pretty in her red frock

Everybody loves Dusty but there's no love like mother love

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dinner with Joe

Joe mostly lives in Canberra so opportunities for us to get together for a chat are few.  Last night, however,  I shouted him a dinner at my usual Greek restaurant, including beer.  I think it is the first time I have had a beer with my son so that is a bit of a landmark.

He arrived at my place about 5:30 pm so before we left I took the opportunity to play him my latest audio discovery:  An immaculate performance of Beethoven's piano concerto no. 5 with Emil Gilels as soloist.  It reduced me to tears (of joy) when first I heard it.

Fortunately, Joe likes classical music too.  Here is another audio treasure I must also play him some time soon.  An amazing performance of Bedrich Smetana's "Vltava" by two Japanese ladies.

Amazing what you can do with a Steinway.  Joe is himself a pianist so he may have a particular appreciation of both above works.

Anyway, Joe told me a lot about his life in Canberra over dinner, which  I was interested to hear.  I offered various words of advice at different stages but, as usual, he had already arrived at similar conclusions by himself.  He and I are quite different in personality and appearance but the mental similarities are considerable.

After dinner we went back to my place and had a cup of tea with some Smetana selections playing in the background.  Joe asked me quite a bit about my recollections of times past and there were a few laughs in that!  I myself find it rather amazing that I wore platform heels in the 70s!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Christening

Matthew is now a Catholic.  Neither Paul nor Susan are religious but Susan was brought up a Catholic so liked the idea of her son  following in her footsteps.  I also pointed out to Paul that religion can be helpful at giving direction to young people so, despite his own lack of background, Paul was quite happy to give Matthew that identity.  Ken has always been basically anti-religious but even he came along to the ceremony.  So Matthew had all four grandparents along to witness his introduction into the church.

Joe acted as godfather and a Filipina lady who is Susan's stepmother acted as godmother.  Both were very pleased to do so.  Joe became a Catholic by choice and religion was his best subject at school! Like a lot of Catholics he is pretty "lapsed" these days, however.

Matthew is only one-and-a-bit years old but he's more the size of an average two year old.  Having a 6' tall mother is responsible for a lot of that.  So when his godmother was holding him during the blessing, it was a bit amusing.  Like almost all Filipinas she is a little lady of only about 5' tall and Matthew looked quite a lump for her to be carrying.

The church at Kedron was quite nice.  It was modern without being too modern -- something that only Catholics seem to be able to carry off in their church designs.  Modern Protestant churches usually look horrible to me.  I like some old-fashioned dignity in a church building.

The service was conducted by a young priest from Vietnam.  There is such a lack of vocations in Australia that the church is now very dependent on clergy from overseas.

Matthew didn't much like getting the chrism put on his forehead but he liked the font.  He managed to get his hand in and have a bit of a splash at one point.  The priest poured quite a bit of water on his head (affusion), slightly to my surprise.  Most Protestants just give you a sprinkling (aspersion), I think (Baptists excepted, of course).

I gave Matthew about a dozen old boy's books as a baptismal present.  Paul wants him to be a reader and the old books have plenty of good yarns in them.  They are the sort of books I read as a boy.

After the service, we adjourned to Susan's father's place for a BBQ, where we got plenty of good food and had lots of chats. With Joe in town we wanted to hear from him and it was a good occasion to do so.  Joe has put himself on a "Paleo" diet and it seems to suit him.  There is no fat on him.  He also does gym, boxing, weightlifting etc so he is in very good shape physically.  Unusual for a mathematician, I think.

Someone asked me today about the difference between a Christening and a baptism.  And the answer is that "Christening" is the popular term for what happens when you take your kid to get baptised.  But a Christening actually includes two rites (a rite is a church ceremony):  The rite of Chrismation and the rite of Baptism.  Chrismation is when the kid gets the holy axle-grease spread on his forehead.  So most people are not aware of it but there is a difference in meaning between the two terms.

Receiving the affusion (He got a taste of the holy water)

With parents and Godparents

A strong likeness between Matthew and his maternal grandmother

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A third car

At my stage in life, I don't like driving very much but I have somehow become the owner of 3 cars.  I have had the Echo since 2005 and that is what I mainly drive but I also have my 1963 Humber Super Snipe for Sunday driving

Anne has however just bought a new car -- a Corolla -- and the car dealer offered her only $500 for her 1998 Toyota Starlet, which rather upset her as she has found it a very good car.  So I upped the offer and bought it off her instead.  Fixing minor problems, re-registering it and insuring it however cost me a bit too  -- but not as much as I expected.

But in the end I think I got a good car very cheaply and have set it aside for Joe to drive whenever he is in Brisbane.  By my count that is 4 cars I have given him but the first two were on their last legs.  He never asks for things but he has an indulgent father.  It doesn't seem to have spoilt him.

Anyway, arranging the insurance and changing the registration took Anne and me most of the morning, which I had predicted  but certainly did not enjoy.  There must be a simpler way!  It's amazing the questions insurance companies ask and everybody knows about the long lines of people waiting to talk to government car registration agencies.

Joe, Anne and I had lunch together at my usual haunt before I handed over the car and Joe filled us in a bit about his life in the ACT.

Tonight I shouted Anne a dinner at a restaurant we like to make up for all the aggravation during the day.  They have very cold beer there, which drags me in rather often now that it is summer.  One of the food items I ordered was Nachos.  It came with a pink topping comprised of sweet chilli sauce combined with sour cream.  It tasted great!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A welcome home

Anne put on a lunch for the weary travellers just returned from the USA and UK -- Paul, Susan and Matthew

Anne made  some very good ham sandwiches to her own recipe which went down rapidly -- and she followed that up with some mini-Pavlovas topped with mango, cream etc.

We talked mainly about the big trip and Paul seemed to like Scotland best of all the places he visited.  We also talked about British public schools and the possibility of Matthew being sent to one in due course.

Matthew had of course forgotten me completely so seemed a bit scared of me at first but he soon got over that.  He had great fun with a pink balloon which entertained us all.  He sure is a little livewire.

But that was not the end of the day's social activities.  That night Joe rang me to say that officialdom required my birth certificate as part of his application for a passport.  I think they dream up these things just to make life difficult for people.  There was no such requirement for around 100 years so why now?

Anyway I scrabbled around and found a copy of the certificate and ran it over to Joe at Jenny's place.  And while I was there we all had a cup of tea and discussed family trusts, real estate, divorce etc.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dr Cotter, the local doctor during my childhood in Innisfail

Probably the greatest misfortune of my life occurred at a time when I was totally unaware of it.

I have frequently-occurring skin cancers, far more frequent than anything my parents ever had.  White people growing up in the tropics do tend to suffer a lot from skin cancer  -- mostly BCCs and SCCs -- as fair skin of Northern European origin (particularly Irish skin) is not at all suited to the direct sunlight of the tropics. The grey skies of England, Scotland and Ireland are its natural habitat.

But my frequency of BCCs and SCCs is extreme.  I have at least  half a dozen procedures a year to zap the worst of them.

So how come?  How come I get them so badly?  The answer is rather clear.  In about the first two thirds of the 20th century lots of kids were given low doses of arsenic for various reasons.  One such preparation was "Bell's compound" cough syrup.  It appears to have originated in the USA but was very popular for a while in Queensland.  And its legacy years later, for those who had a lot of it, is arsenic-weakened skin that frequently degenerates into  cancer.

And I had a lot of upper respiratory ailments as a kids, largely due, I think, to the fact that I have a deflected septum.  I was not in fact given Bell's compound but rather Dr Cotter's own "pink mixture" which would appear to have reflected the popular wisdom of the day about the utility of arsenic in combating coughs and colds.  So the fact that I had a LOT of it has come back to haunt me.  The toxicity of everything is in the dose so for most people the arsenic probably did no harm.  It's only when arsenic builds up that the harm occurs.

So Doctor Cotter unwittingly harmed me.  He died in 1972 so it is too late to remonstrate with him now and he was in fact a distinguished medical scientist in his day.  He was in fact responsible for eliminating Weil's disease from the sugarcane industry. Seeing my father was a canecutter for a while Dr Cotter may well have also done me a great favour.  The biography of Timothy John Patrick Cotter  is here.  He was of Irish Catholic origins and an opponent of government-run healthcare.  As the bio notes, he was an early adopter of sulfonamides  and I do remember his prescription of "M&Bs"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why don't all Greenies move to New Zealand?

I put this up on one of my daily blogs (Greenie Watch) but I thought perhaps it had a place here too:

New Zealand has a-plenty the sort of clean Green life that Greenies claim they want while also being a modern country where you can drink the water and speak English to everyone.  An excerpt from a private blog written by a mother who has moved to a small town in New Zealand:

"The vege garden is another place my and Simon's time disappears into -- as we plant, weed & fertilise our pretty vast garden in the hope of having a large enough crop so we always have access to fresh organic veges whenever we like.  It is an amazingly liberating feeling to have control of our food sources and we are learning more and more everyday about what it means to be a vege and fruit gardener.  Also stay tuned as my Roses have just started to flower.. They are BEAUTIFUL!!

Last Monday the Playcentre organised a trip to a farm which is owned by one of the Playcentre families.  The farm was HUGE and on arrival we all met and drove up to the cow milking shed.  We had a tour then headed to a paddock which contained some pigs and also a herd of calves.  There were great hay piles to climb and we enjoyed watching the calves being fed by a big trailer full of milk covered in teats for the calves to suckle.  We then had some morning tea near the farm houses and then fed some lambs.  Once that was done we headed to the farm owner's house and enjoyed a sausage sizzle and the kids played together in the large back yard and tennis court.  We also had a celebration for one of the boys who is turning 5 which means  he starts school.  Kids start school on their 5th birthday in New Zealand which I feel is a nice way to transition the kids into school."

And the little two-year old girl in the family loves the lambs her family has adopted (Below)

I don't think Greenies know what they want

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lunch with Joe

Joe arrived back in Brisbane yesterday so we had lunch together today.  I  wanted to tell him a few things that you only learn from experience about Ph.D. studies, so that he could cruise through his.  I also wanted to sort out a few things about my will and was pleased that Joe looked forward to inheriting the Humber.  We also talked about me selling my present house  as I should be able to make a better job of that than Paul and Joe would after my death.  So it was mainly a fairly serious conversation.

We lunched at my usual brunch haunt in Buranda

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The first "Frank" Ray

Picture of him above.  His full name was Edward Arthur Walter Francis Burnside Ray.  Burnside was his (convict) mother's maiden surname so it looks like it just got in as an afterthought amid all that clutter.  Family tradition is however that he was normally known as "Frank", and his grandson (my father) was named Frank after him.  My father recollected him as a bit of a villain (Taking timber logs off crown land, for instance) and a press cutting has come to light which may give some substance to that. The 1884 government Gazette tells us:

"Edward Arthur Walter Francis Burnside RAY, alias Frank Ray, is charged, on warrant issued by the Cooktown Bench, with deserting his wife Elizabeth, of that place, on the 19th ultimo. Description :--A native of New South Wales, 38 years of age. 6 feet high, medium build, dark complexion, dark hair, whiskers, moustache, and beard (the latter turning grey), hazel eyes, follows the occupation of sawyer or bullock-driver; wore light tweed trousers and coat, white helmet hat with black band. He left Cooktown by the S.S. "Maranoa" or “Quiraing" on the 19th ultimo, and it is believed he will go to New Guinea.
4th August, 1884."
Of interest is that the clipping confirms that he was popularly known as Frank and that he was 6' tall.  Seeing his mother, Anne Jane, was only 4'9 3/4" tall that is a surprise  Her short stature must have been due to early nutritional deficiency. His father was a sawyer so that fits.  And his father Joseph (Height 5 ft 6 and a half inches) had hazel eyes too. "Frank" was born at Narellan in Sydney in 1844, so his NSW origin is also correct.

Note that the Quiraing is a landslip on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye.  So the ship had a Scottish Gaelic name.  It's not a misprint.  The Government Gazette got it right.

And in the Cairns post of 29 August, 1891 we read:

On Thursday, a bullock driver named Frank Ray, in the employ of Lyons and Downey, Myola, met with a nasty accident through a cask of cement rolling on him.  Dr. Dobie was called in, who found the man's leg badly fractured and he, after doing the needful, advised the removal of the patient to Cairns hospital.

Myola is on the outskirts of Kuranda in Far North Queensland and the Warren family were also there at the time.  Frank probably knew Bob Warren.  His son and Bob's daughter married, from whence my father sprang.

And in the Morning Post of April 23, 1901 we read.

Mr Frank Ray

The  Post is pleased to learn that Mr Frank Ray, the well-known timber getter is recovering satisfactorily after two severe operations performed by Dr. Koch.
My father was also a timber getter (lumberjack in American parlance).  Timber getters were normally independent contractors rather than employees so Frank was in effect a prominent businessman in his little pond.

The above excerpts came to me by the courtesy of the inestimable Silvia, wife of Peter Fletcher, a determined explorer of "Trove", the Australian government's online record of early newspapers..

Finally, I put up below a picture of Elizabeth Ann Ray, (nee Holt), who was born at Bury in Lancashire in 1859.  She was Frank's wife and hence my great grandmother.  Does the picture suggest why he might have shot through on her at one stage?

Friday, November 16, 2012

More from the archives

The "horns" episode has energized me to scrabble around in my portful of photos for ones that go back a long way.

And here is one when I was about 4 and my sister Jacqueline 2.  Colour photography was in its infancy then so they took the photos in B&W, developed them in sepia and then hand-coloured them.  I am sorry to say that the sepia in the photo below is now coming through in spots but at least the scanned copy should stay stable

And below is a real treasure:  It is my father aged 2 in 1917  They had a custom back then of dressing little boys like little girls but I can only speculate why. We had a few laughs about it at home every few years and I enquired why but my parents simply said it was the custom then.   On the back is written (presumably by his mother):  "My dear little Frank, Xmas, 1917"

And I suppose wedding photos are fair game here.  Below is the wedding photo for my parents.  My mother and father are on the Left, followed by my  father's brother Hal, my mother's sister Maude and Robert Nankerville [Nankevell?]. The Nankervilles were family friends and there was a convict Nankerville in the early days.

I have another wedding photo in which my father is looking particularly spiffing.  He is on the far right.  It is the wedding photo of my uncle Hal and his wife Dorothy.  That attractive lady beside my father would have to be his sister Lucy and the guy in the middle would be the father of the bride.

And, finally, when I was going through everything, I came across  this nice photo of my second wife Joy in her bumble-bee bikini:   Taken at Peregian beach on our honeymoon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More from the old days

The photo below denotes considerable pride.  Jack Ray (in the middle of  photo) often used his team to "snig" (drag) out of the bush (forest) some of the huge trees they cut down in those days.  He also felled trees himself and I suspect that he both cut and moved the monster in the photo.  Jack was about 6' tall so that is the diameter of the tree

Imagine cutting down a huge tree with just an axe and a crosscut saw then imagine getting it to the railhead with bullocks pulling it along an unmade bush track and you will see the reason for the pride behind the photo.  Those guys were not supermen so it is rather amazing what they accomplished with just brains and doggedness.  They understood the challenges they took on and rose to them.  And they were just ordinary men.  Jack never went to school but was taught at home to read and write.

The second photo is of my grandmother's father Bob Warren.  He was a dairy farmer among other things and at one stage moved his herd via ship from Kuranda to Home Hill.  I have an idea he got some sort of land grant at Home Hill. The farmhouse and creamery at Kuranda is in the background, which I believe he built himself.  He was also a carpenter.

The photo above appears to be from 1909 and an interesting thing is that we actually still know the names of the beasts in the picture.  Their animals were like people to their owners in those days. Bob is with his bull "Sultan" and the cow in the picture is the prize-winning "Coconut".  In the background is "Bluebell".  I think it was Vin Warren (Bob's youngest son) who gave us those details.  He knew those animals himself.  I was looking at a picture of another one of Bob's cows at one stage and Vin said:  "That's Buttercup".  I asked how he knew which cow it was.  "By the curl in her tail" he answered.  The animals were all real individuals to him.  He remembered them like people.

The photo was taken at Myola, near Kuranda in North Queensland.

I actually remember Bob Warren myself.  We visited them at Home Hill when I was about 6 and he gave me a penny.  Even at that time the amount seemed small but he was an old man then and a penny would have bought a lot in his youth.

Vin's sister, Annie, my grandmother, died young and her death was deeply felt in the family.  Vin would have been in his 80's when I asked him:  "And what sort of person was she, Vin?  He replied:  "She was a lovely person".  And his eyes filled with tears.  So I too now feel grief about the death of a person whom I never knew.  But she was my grandmother so maybe that is allowed.

Grandfather Jack Ray and grandmother Annie nee Warren

Did my brother grow up in a drain?

In a conversation recently, my brother said he grew up in a drain. That amused me  -- not least because it is true.

So what are we talking about here?  Bombay, Calcutta or some Third World slum?  Not at all.  We both grew up in a spacious three bedroom house with all mod cons in the pleasant Australian city of Cairns.

99% of what my brother was talking about is explained by the picture below  -- a photo I took myself about 50 years ago.  It shows the local kids playing in a stormwater drain out the front of our house in Cairns.

Kids in the photo are: Nolene Kelso in red raincoat, Ray Kelso standing on the bank.  In the water are my sister Roxanne, brother Chris and Carl Foster, from Fosters auto spares, next door.  Geoff Michna wasn't there that day!

Chris says that for most of the year the drain was quite "yucky" but was a fantastic place to play after the tropical storms came and the flood waters washed it clean and filled it up .

Note also from the foreground that we grew up in a house with a white picket fence  -- which is, according to our "intellectuals, an unimaginable horror  -- though I have no idea why.  I have subsequently put up a few white picket fences myself.

For birthdays and Christmasses these days, kids get DELUGED with plastic toys from China.  I have bought a few such toys for little kids myself at times.  But NO such toys are as remotely as satisfying to kids as a half-overgrown stormwater drain  -- particularly if you never wear shoes and are allowed to play without adult supervision.

So my brother and I were discussing that photo and what he actually said was:  "Geoffrey Michna and I grew up in that drain" -- referring to his childhood friend from a couple of doors down.  He is not in the picture above but he sure was often in the drain depicted!

Perhaps these days computer games do far more for kids than a drain ever did but I wonder.  There is no doubt of the endless fascination that drain offered to the neighbourhood kids.

So what my brother meant was that he spent many happy hours in that drain during his childhood.  He made his remark when we mentioned that the drain has long since been sent underground and so is now lost to kids forever.  It felt to Chris that an important part of his childhood had been buried.

The picture above is a bit rough but it is off a colour slide so I should be able to put up a better version of it in due course

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A big trip

Being something of a hermit these days, twenty minutes is usually the maximum journey time for me.  But today I excelled myself.  I took a three hour trip to Kingaroy!

So what incentive was behind that?  Bullock horns.  Yes:  Bullock horns.

About a quarter of a century ago, I visited my father's cousin,  Alex Fletcher (now deceased), at his farm in Ban Ban springs.  And when I noted a set of bullock horns mounted in his living room, I asked after them.  And he told me that they were actually the horns of my grandfather's favourite bullock.  My grandfather and great-grandfather were both bullockies (teamsters in American parlance).  They were the heavy carriers of their day, using teams of bullocks.

And I am actually rather proud to be a descendant of bullockies.  Henry Lawson's poem "The Teams" tells you most of what you need to know about them.  Lawson portrays the men as strong silent types and that is certainly my memory of my grandfather Jack.

So when I saw the horns I thought that I should ask for them when Alex died.  I did not keep in touch, however, so was not around when Alex died.  Not long ago, however, I received an email from Peter, Alex's son.  Peter was seeking help with genealogy in general and the identification of old photographs in particular.

I mentioned the bullock horns to Peter and -- wonder of wonders -- Peter not only had taken them with him when he had to give up the family farm but actually offered to give the horns to me!  It was good luck that I hardly deserved.

So my brother Christopher and I got into his ute today and drove up to Kingaroy for a prearranged meeting with Peter.  We went to a local cafe for morning-tea/lunch and spent a lot of time looking at old family photos and trying to identify them (without much success).   I was pleased that I was able to give Peter a rarity in exchange for the horns.  It was a copy of a large old family photo, taken in about 1880, of his and my great-grandfather.

Handing over the horns.  Christopher, myself and Peter (L to R)

Peter turned out to be a very nice man and his wife too was very pleasant so it was a good  meeting.  Peter rather surprised me when he told me he liked the little jokes in the genealogy I have put on line.  People usually seem to miss most of my jokes.  It's probably a tribute to Peter's own good nature that he got them.

On the way up and back Chris and I had lots of discussions.  We rarely do that because we tend to think alike on most things so there is nothing left to say!  We are both a bit fired up over the persistence of global warming nonsense, however, so we both spent a lot of time pointing out absurdities in that theory.

When we got back to Brisbane, I left the horns in my brother's keeping.  He lives only 10 minutes drive from where I do and already has a small private museum of family mementoes so he is the obvious person to look after the horns.

Christopher took a big collection of family photos to Kingaroy with him and there were quite a few with me in them that I did not have copies of so he left the collection with me temporarily.  And out of the collection, I have reproduced one below.  It is about 60 years old and was developed in sepia.  I put it up because I think that it is the last photo in which I looked reasonably good-looking.  It has been a long slide downhill since then!

There is a larger copy of the photo  on Facebook.

I think my little brother looks rather gorgeous in the photo and he is still as good humoured to this day.  I am on the right (as ever) and my sister Jacqueline (now deceased) is in the middle.

And, last but not least, my grandfather's team

Peter, who is a cattleman, thinks that the best bullock in a team was always up the front to steady the mob.  So  the horns should be from one of the bullocks in the  photo. And he thinks that the one on the nearside of the team at the front, looks to have the same shaped horns as the set we have.  If only we knew the name of the bullock concerned.  Bullocks all had names that they were known by.

Friday, November 9, 2012

I don't know if I should comment on this ...

But I note that Britain's Daily Mail has put up very derogatory coverage of the Melbourne Cup, Australia's most beloved horse race.  As happens at almost any race meeting anywhere, there were some people who stayed on after the horses had finished running and partied on -- leading to some unattractive drunken behavior.  The "Mail" photographed some of that behaviour and used the photos to condemn the Melbourne Cup generally and the patrons in particular.  They used photos such as the ones below

But the photos above were not taken in Melbourne.  They were taken at Aintree, location of Britiain's premier jump race, The Grand National.  I got the pictures not by wandering the grounds with a camera and looking for the worst I could find but rather by spending 5 minutes looking at the pix returned by Google in response to the search term "Aintree".

There were many other pictures I could put up  -- of tarts in short skirts, ladies showing a lot of breast and, above all, more painted FAT ladies than you would ever want to see.  But I will be kinder than the "Mail".

So why are Brits in glass houses throwing stones?  It's simple, really.  For 200 years Brits have been migrating to Australia for a better life.  And they still do.  A recent survey suggests that half of them would move to Australia if they could.  So that puts "The Old Dart" in a poor light, does it not?  All those Brits voting with their feet don't make Britain look very attractive.

So to retain their self-respect and explain to themselves why they are still in grey and poverty-stricken Britain instead of sunny and comfortable Australia, it helps a little to find a few faults with Australia.  Freud would understand.


I wonder how this fits in with British criticisms of Australian racecourse behaviour?

CCTV images have been released by police investigating a mass brawl between Swansea and Cardiff City fans which brought terror to an afternoon at the races.

Between 50 and 60 people clashed in front of families at Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire at around 4pm on July 14.

It is thought the violence erupted on the ground floor of the grandstand and then spread to the racecourse, marring what should have been an enjoyable afternoon at the Newbury Summer Festival.

Superintendent Robin Rickard said: 'This was a nasty incident involving up to 60 people fighting in the middle of the afternoon and impacted on lots of innocent people and families who had planned to spend an enjoyable day at the races.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The cup!

I am no gambler or follower of the neddies but like most  Australians I do watch the Melbourne Cup on TV.  It is a great occasion that generates a lot of excitement.  The ladies all get into hats and fascinators and glam up generally and the men place their bets.

I didn't do too badly.  I know nothing about form so I go into sweeps only.  And one of the horses I got in a sweep came third.  So I think I am ahead on the day.

Anne was off to a fancy ladies' day at the Sofitel (once known as the Sheraton) so I looked like viewing the race at home on my own.  As it happened, however, Jenny had resigned her job a couple of days ago so was free to come over and join me.  Most people I know were working or out of town.

Jenny and I had a very restrained cup party  -- with watermelon and freshly squeezed orange juice instead of cakes and champagne.  I guess we are getting old.

It was a very exciting race with the winner coming from well behind but ending well ahead.  The cup is like that, though.  I was rather pleased that it was not a photo finish this year.  Last year was so close that I would have been inclined to call it a tie, or at least a draw.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were in attendance and the Duchess presented the cup to the owner.  Both seemed to be in good form.

I noticed that the jockey made the sign of the cross at the end of the race.  I wonder if anyone will criticize that?  They would be well advised not to.  Any cup winner is close to God in Australia.

I also like to have a look each year to see who won the "Fashions on the Field" prize.  It's said to be Australia's richest fashion prize.  Ladies as well as horses compete at the Melbourne Cup.  And the fashions are always wearable, unlike the monstrosities that appear on Paris catwalks etc.  The winner this year, Lauren Andrews, has been competing in such events for about 5 years so the prize this year went to a stayer.  That is she in the middle below

I can't really see what's good about the outfit but what would I know?  Someone who appears to know informs us:  "Ms Andrews purchased her winning outfit more than a month ago, a navy-and-neon-yellow tweed pencil dress with a half peplum on the waist, from British label Erdem. Her winning pleated headpiece was by Melbourne milliner Kim Fletcher... she backed some of the day's most popular trends: neon colours, a fitted pencil silhouette and a peplum ruffle."

So there!


At great risk of political incorrectness, there is one small thing that I noted during the hour or more that I was watching the events at Flemington:  I did not see one black, brown or East Asian face.  So it was one of the last holdouts of the old Australia.  And having the Heir to the Throne present (Australia is still a monarchy) certainly underlined that.

The absence of East Asians was a little surprising.  Not only are the Chinese great gamblers but they generally fit in seamlessly with our traditions.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A youthful birthday

Yesterday was a celebration of Ralph's 80th birthday.  Ralph is the husband of Anne's sister Merle.  And Anne's mother was there -- aged 95.  I should have felt youthful in such company but there were also lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren there so there was no chance of that.  It was a great pleasure to see the littlies running around.  There were two little girls who were in perpetual motion, one blue-eyed blonde and one half-Korean girl. Asia has come to Australia in a big way.  All the waitresses and kitchen staff in the restaurant where we were were Asian too and did the good job you expect of Asians in hospitality. We are lucky to have them.

I seem in fact to have not only Asians in my life but also New Zealanders and Dutch people.  And so it was again. One of Anne's sons is married to a Dutch girl and the other to a Kiwi.  I have had Dutch people in my life ever since my teens, in fact.  One or other of my friends always seems to hail from that windy place.

The do was in a big club -- an ex-football club at Sunnybank.  The menu was the sort of basic food you expect in Australian clubs -- steak or seafood.  The cooks knew what they were doing however.  I had the seafood basket and got Barramundi for Anne.  Both were expertly done.

Anne and I had our dinners with Anne's sister June and her man Colin.  Colin is in his 80s and has had lots of health problems but is still fighting the good fight.  He was talking with Anne about going on train trips, the Gulflander specifically.  So he is not giving up yet.  Anne greatly enjoyed her recent trip on it.

Anne in fact was just back that day from a week on Norfolk Island.  She got off the plane and took a taxi to my place so we could go to the party together.

As we left the party I was greatly honoured to get a cuddle from Zenia, Anne's niece, once removed.  Zenia is a slim and pretty blue-eyed blonde who is also over 6' tall!  She is a university student.

We came out of the club at a different place to where we had originally stopped but I didn't realize that immediately so was disoriented and could not find my car in the carpark.  As a  big club it had lots of carparks.  So we took a taxi home.  On the way home however I figured out what had happened and when we took a taxi back this morning, we went straight to my car.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A strange thirst

I have long been a rather thirsty soul.  I drink fizzy drinks by the gallon.  And despite all the dental alarmists, my teeth are fine.  I haven't had a filling since childhood.

The amount I drink has however alarmed me at times as a big thirst is a symptom of diabetes.  So a couple of years ago I had a glucose tolerance test which came back dead-centre: No sign of diabetes.  So I continued enjoying my soft-drinks.  I put my fluid consumption down to the fact that I have a lot of salt with my food.  Salt makes you thirsty.

In recent months however my thirst seemed to be greater and I started to do something I hadn't done since childhood:  drink  orange softdrink.  I had previously been a confirmed drinker of lemon squash.  So I once again had a diabetes test and came back within  the normal range.  So I continued to enjoy my orange softdrink.

Today, however, things got out of hand.  I needed to get up and drink my orange softdrink almost every five minutes.

Now I have always believed that your body tells you what you need.  If you note the strange things that pregnant women eat, you will understand.  They will eat ANYTHING to get what their unborn baby needs.

So I thought that my body must be telling me that what I needed was not orange softdrink but real oranges.  So I got out a mandarine (mandarin orange) from the fridge that I had bought some time before (I normally never buy fruit) and ate it -- swallowing only the juice.  And my thirst vanished!

I normally have some salady things with both my breakfast and dinner so I thought it most improbable that I would have a vitamin C deficiency but it seems that I did.  Despite my extensive reading in the medical literature on diet I have never heard of thirst as a symptom of vitamin C deficiency so it seems that my body was wiser than the medical journals are!

I would be pleased to see any references I might have missed, however.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dusty's birthday

The gorgeous boy is all of one now.

I got to Suz & Russ's place about midday and found quite a crowd already there.  The boy obviously has a lot of fans!

He just sat in his high chair for a couple of hours feeding himself so goodness knows how much he got down the hatch in that time.  I don't think he is going to be skinny.

There were a lot of kids running around, which I was pleased to see.  Simon & Tracy had their two along but they are hardly kids these days.

I talked a bit with Simon & Tracy about the education of their kids though I don't know that we reached any conclusions.  I rather naughtily remarked that Becky is a beautiful woman so will probably marry well -- which means that any educational choice she makes will be fine.  Far from being being critical of such "chauvinism", Simon wisely remarked that Tracy is a beautiful woman too  -- which she is.  Tracy just smiled.

Timmy was there with his colourful lady plus Jenny, Maureen, Davey etc.

I spent a bit of time talking to Simon & Tracy about the hazards of renting out properties and I think I may have changed their plans in the matter.  Simon has a new job in S. Aust. starting in January so they want to move down there but have to sell their house first.  If they could not get a sale before then they were going to rent their very nice house out.  I think instead Tracy will now stay on here until the place is sold.  Being in the services, Simon is rather used to being away from his wife -- though he doesn't like it of course.

I said to Simon that it would be fine to let his house out if he was around to punch pesky tenants in the gizzard and a definite glint came into his eye at the thought of that.  He has a martial arts hobby which is entirely appropriate for a member of the services.

The birthday boy got a mountain of presents, some of which Russ seemed to fancy for himself!  Definitely a traditional father.

Russell has a new space-age BBQ which produced some good snags and lots of onions, which I like.  The BBQ looked like a short trip  to the moon would be within its capabilities.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A good night and some good reading

Yesterday was Anne's last day at work before her retirement.  I tell her that she is now a pensioner but she rouses at me about that.  She doesn't like the sound of her changed status.  She does however have some health problems so it was high time she retired.

Anyway, to celebrate her retirement I took her to dinner at the Kafe Meze.  I ordered the usual: Tarama, Haloumi, Keftdes and Fourex Gold (beer).  It was all outstanding as usual and the beer went particularly well with the food.  I observed many years ago that Greeks in Greek restaurants mostly drank beer with their food so decided to learn from them -- and have never regretted it

But today has been rather pesky.  My cable connection to the net has been down all day.  Telstra say it is some sort of local area issue.

I do have a prepaid Telstra wireless connection as well for just such occasions but it is so much slower than the cable connection that it discourages me.  I have been able to get most of my usual stuff up today but my preparations for tomorrow are zilch.  I just cannot be bothered accessing things at a snail's pace.

I actually kept a promise to myself and spent some time instead  by re-reading Exodus (in the Bible).  It is actually quite a good story, retold with some repetition rather like a cantata.  Once again I was amused to note how unmodern Yahveh was.  But it is our  civilization that is out of step.  Yahveh's values were much like those than men have had throughout history:  Self-aggrandizing and vengeful.  He thought it greatly to his credit to wipe out the Egyptian army, for instance:  Not exactly a God of mercy.

But the one thing that stands out in Exodus is the cry of religious men throughout all time:  "Why won't people BELIEVE?"  Not only the Egyptians took a lot of convincing about the power of Yahveh but the Israelites were nearly as bad.  Yahveh was constantly having to prove himself to them.

So I actually enjoyed my time away from the internet.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The latest pix from the shaky Isles

Hannah with tulip. That looks a cosy jumper too. I wonder who knitted it?

A real live pixie

Monday, October 8, 2012

Some recent pix

Some recent pix that I like -- also on Facebook

Amish lawnmowing -- photo by Ken

The happiness that only a baby can bring: Katie Brown's smile says it all

A Queensland blue heeler. Those eyes don't miss much. Just watch out for your heels

Two cousins


Unions. It's specifically a comment on a predatory American union, the SEIU

Hannah shows how grown-up she is

Hannah the snow bunny

Matthew in the snow -- photo by Ken

Sunday, September 2, 2012

An anniversary and a sendoff

Saturday was the 7th anniversary of Anne and me meeting so by way of celebration I took her to the Kafe Meze. The last time we were there I ordered too much and I was so full I could not even finish my beer! So this time I wised up and ordered only Tarama, Haloumi and keftedes -- plus a stubby each of Fourex Gold to wash it down. It was all excellent. Keftedes can be rather basic but the keftedes at the Kafe Meze are first class food.

And today I shouted Paul and Susan a small sendoff dinner at my place in recognition of their imminent departure for a trip across the USA -- on Route 69, of course.

Susan as usual fetched our food. I just paid, as usual. This time she got it from the Riverwalk Tandoori restaurant and on my recommendation she ordered some filled naan bread. Their garlic and cheese naan has to be tasted to be believed. It is ambrosia.

Matthew was in perpetual motion during the visit but Paul is full of beans too so coped with him while Susan was away fetching the food. The restaurant was busy so Susan was away for a while so Paul was glad when she got back -- to help with Matthew as well as being "mother" to us all (serving out the food etc.). What would we do without her?

I gave them a set of binoculars as a going away present. Paul is going to watch the U.S. Open tennis match live while he is in NYC so needs the 'nocs to get the most out of the vast amount he is spending on tickets to the match.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A busy weekend

The Hamburg Philharmonic is in town at the moment so it saves a trip to Hamburg to hear a noted orchestra! And all the players are Hamburgers! Its arrival was of course announced well in advance so at the time of my birthday, Anne bought two tickets for one of their recitals as a birthday present to me. And I actually managed not to lose the tickets! I did lose them actually but Anne found them again.

So I got into my Chinese suit again and off we went to the concert hall at QPAC last night.

The recital consisted of one work only: The Mahler 2nd. It is truly a magnificent work and ideal for the concert hall. It has a large dynamic range with lots of crashing crescendoes etc. so trying to listen to it off a CD or DVD would miss a lot of the impact. The audience gave the orchestra an extended standing ovation at the end of it.

The conductor was a little Australian lady who put enormous energy into her task. She literally danced around the podium and even leapt up and down at times. I found her slightly distracting actually and looked away for most of the performance. She would be a good actor in a Bollywood movie. She obviously loved the music however and did a good job with it.

And today was a lunch in celebration of the birthday of Mr. 1. Matthew is now all of one year old, a year many of us have been delighted to share in. He was actually rather subdued by all the people around him and looked at us as if we had all gone mad when we sang Happy Birthday. Susan lit a candle on his cake and in best toddler style he immediately made a grab for the flame. Susan caught him just in time however. You have to be fast around him.

And something of an unexpected star of the day was Dusty. He is unbelievably good natured. He just sat there in his high chair when nobody was holding him and gave us lots of smiles and no complaints.

Susan as usual put on lots of good food with a large glazed ham being particularly good. I got into the cheesecake too. And there was a pirate theme for the day that Susan had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to set up. I don't know how many people were there -- perhaps 20 -- including all the old gang except for those who are out of town.

Susan had both her mother and stepmother present, which I was pleased to see. There is a strong resemblance in looks between Susan and her mother.

Paul was his usual ebullient self and ate too much again. His latest scheme is to import dubious health pills from China! Being a good salesman he is going to take them himself so I hope they don't poison him. You never know what's in stuff you get from China.

The festive table -- showing the work Susan put into the occasion

Matthew with his Gran (Susan's mother) looking a bit overwhelmed

Dusty -- Mr. Smiles

Caught enjoying a ham butty

Monday, August 13, 2012

A great milestone: Matthew walks

He took his first steps today and has been walking ever since. He is just short of 12 months old so it is within the normal age for walking but it is very exciting to see for those close to the boy

Two more recent pictures of the boy below -- with his father at the Ekka (Royal Queensland Show) and at the Mt Gravatt baby show with his mother and grandmother where he won “Junior Champion for 2012” (on Sunday the 29th July)