Thursday, January 26, 2012

A time for traditions

The Left have done their best to destroy all that is traditional in our society but people like traditions. They like connections with their past and with other people past and present. A couple of billion people in the Far East actually worship their ancestors!

So the traditions that have survived the Leftist onslaught are much celebrated. A great Australian tradition is ANZAC day in which we remember our war dead. And far from it being a celebration for old fogies, it goes from strength to strength, with young people joining in the ceremonies in droves. Precisely because they have so little left in the way of traditions, many young people seize on ANZAC day eagerly as a way of helping them understand and relate to their past.

And yesterday and today were days of other traditions that are growing rather than dying out. The first was on Wednesday: Burns night. It is of course a celebration of the life and work of Scotland's greatest poet, always held on his birthday, 25th January -- and there now more Burns Night suppers in England than in Scotland, which is another indication of how people grab onto those traditions that have not been snatched away from them. And Burns Night is in fact a cluster of traditions. There are quite a lot of things that one traditionally does on Burns night and I usually do a fair few of them, varying from year to year.

We had all the traditional food yesterday -- led of course by the haggis -- but also including tatties and neeps, oatcakes, Dunlop cheese, clootie dumpling, tablet etc. We played pipe music, welcomed in the haggis with a recitation of the Burns poem to that effect and then toasted it in Scotch whisky.

Present were Anne and myself, Jill and Lewis and Paul and Susan. And we also had Vonnie with us for a while via Skype from New Zealand. She seemed very pleased to see me in the kilt.

I am normally pretty quiet on social occasions but I got into the Scotch rather a lot so that loosened my tongue and I may in fact have talked as much as Paul, which takes some doing. I probably made admissions that I shouldn't! Anyway, we all enjoyed the food and the poems and I even ventured a solo rendition of "Scotland the brave". It was probably pretty brave of people to listen to me as I am not much of a singer.

Matthew wearing a Scottish cap -- with proud mother

5-month-old Matthew was of course the star of the occasion and in good sentimental style we talked at some length about his education. We decided to send him to a Catholic primary school, followed possibly by a secondary education at Eton. He should be smart enough and robust enough to do well at the latter. But Paul and I would have to find the large fees involved to give him that advantage, of course.

It was quite late when we wound up after all that.

At table eating our Burns supper

And today was Australia Day. Australia Day commemorates the landing in Australia of the first settlers from England and there are always grumbles from the miseries on the Left that it should really be called "invasion day" or the like. For many years it was little celebrated but again the very fact that it is a tradition and commemoration that has survived makes it popular these days. Lots of people now fly the Australian flag on their cars on that day.

My family on my mother's side have celebrated it for many years with a lunchtime BBQ and it was good to see today quite a rollup, with people we hadn't seen for a while. I brought along some leftovers from Burns night and talked mostly to Peter and my brother as I usually do.

Peter is very au fait with all things Chinese and I know a fair bit about German so we agreed that the expression that the Chinese use to describe their country can adequately be translated into German ("Mittelreich") but not into English. Many are the woes of translators!

And, as usual, it was a great pleasure to see and hear Peter's vivacious Eurasian daughter, Michelle.

Peter is my cousin once removed and we are the "brains" of the family. It's a very bright family but Peter and I are the only academics.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anne's birthday

January is usually a pretty quiet time for most people, I think, but it is not so for me -- not by my standards anyway. Burns night will be on in a couple of days and tonight I took Anne out for a birthday dinner.

Anne got all glammed up and I even put on long trousers and wore shoes! Shorts and thongs are my usual attire.

We went to George's Paragon fish restaurant in the city. I used to go to the one in Sydney and have also been to the one at Sanctuary Cove (about an hour's drive South of Brisbane). And all of them really are paragons! Tonight we had great views across the river from the big windows, a good ambience generally and first class service. I don't mind expensive restaurants if everything is just right. In some of them the service is snooty and the portions small.

We started with Sydney rock oysters and both then went on to whole Sole for the main course. The whole Sole used to be their specialty at Sanctuary Cove and Anne has also had it there so it was an obvious thing to order -- and it was as good as ever: A very tasty fish -- fried in butter, I think.

I had to ask for a salt shaker, though. They obviously think their food is perfect without added salt. I in fact added nothing to the fish: Neither salt, Tartare sauce nor lemon juice. But I did need salt for the chips. I like my chips very salty and you can't have fish without chips, of course.

I am getting a bit shaky in my old age so the Sole was rather difficult to eat (being slippery and very flaky) but I managed. And I DID eat both sides!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

An expedition and a sendoff

A busy day yesterday. In the morning, Anne and I got into the Humber for our annual expedition to Syd's pie shop down Beenleigh way -- to pick up Scottish supplies. Burns night is soon so I stocked up on haggis, tablet etc. Syd makes an excellent haggis.

As soon as we arrived, however, I ordered a pie and chips for both Anne and myself. Anne first discovered the delights of pie and chips there and it seems to have become an annual treat for her. The pie, gravy and chips are all first class.

I did quite a big shop-up of British foods, including an apple and rhubarb pie, which is a great favourite of mine but is very hard to find in Brisbane.

And in the evening I put on a big sendoff dinner (15 people) for Joe at our usual Indian restaurant. He flies back to Canberra tomorrow for the academic year. Joe invited 5 of his Brisbane friends along to the dinner and I was rather impressed by Kim, a young woman who seems to act as his chauffeur when he is in Brisbane. She seems a real lady. I hope he makes sure to keep in touch with her.

Young Dan, son of Simon and Tracy seems to have grown up fast. He kept Joe engrossed in conversation for most of the night. I could hear a lot of Simon in him. I mostly talked to Ken, as I usually do.

We tried to Skype our NZ family in but there was something wrong with the Skype software so we failed. I have now reloaded it and hope for better luck next time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


In the aftermath of Christmas, I thought I might reflect on a few events about presents.

I am a very BAD present buyer and Jenny is good at that so I have for many many years given Jenny the job of buying presents on my behalf. If the present envisaged is a bit expensive she sometimes seeks my OK for it but I always say Yes to it anyway. These days the presents come from "Anne and John" but everybody knows who has selected them

But there have been a lamentably few occasions when I myself successfully chose presents. I thought I might mention those occasions

On one occasion when we were at Queen Bess St., I bought two reams of A4 typing paper, divided each ream into appprox. 10 quires, wrapped it and left the 4 packages under the tree before Christmas: Marked for Ken, Paul, Von and Suzy.

Now as everybody knows, kids feel presents left under a tree to try and figure out what they are getting. But my 4 packages stumped everybody. Even Ken was drawn into it. But when they finally got to open their presents, they were a great success. As Ken said: "It has got so much potential".

And on her 70th birthday I gave Nanna a much wanted present. Like most other people in the family, Nanna is a keen player of computer games. And computer gamers are very fussy about their joystick. A joystick that is not just right can cause them to lose a game. And Nanna had found one joystick that really suited her. So she had tried to buy another example of it for when her existing one died -- as they all do eventually. But she had failed. It was out of production.

But I had one. I had got it with an Atari computer that I had bought. So I kept it and gave it to her on Christmas day. It was obviously a big hit. Giving a 70 year old lady a computer joystick must seem odd but it was just right on that occasion.

And for the Christmas just gone I bought Anne a big glass frog. Being a nature-lover Anne likes frogs but being a woman she doesn't like thing hopping or scuttling. So a frog figurine is an ideal compromise. I just happened to see it in the window of an Indian shop. So when I went into the shop I sang: "How much is that froggy in the window?" to the tune of the old doggy song. Such good humour pleased the proprietor so much that she gave me a substantial discount on it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A very quiet new year

In the early afternoon on new year's eve Joe rolled up accompanied by TWO young female persons, Kim and Cianne. So which was the Korean? If you know anything about Korea you would plump for Kim -- but it wasn't. Cianne is Korean and this Kim is a blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon. They gave me a very colourful Nepalese bedspread. I used it as a tablecloth that evening, where it did very well.

Anne was up in Nambour visiting her mother for most of new year's eve but she arrived at my place at about 7pm bearing a dozen Sydney rock oysters for each of us. I had put a small piece of pork into the oven at 6pm and with the addition of vegetables by Anne it made a good roast pork dinner with an excellent oyster appetizer. Sydney rock oysters are not the largest but they are the tastiest in my view.

We washed it all down with Australian "champagne". I have in the past bought Moet or Veuve Cliquot for such occasions but although they are nice wines my favourite Seaview brut from South Australia seems just as good to me. Seaview have always made good wines.

We drank only about half the bottle with dinner and kept the rest for a toast to the new year at midnight.

After dinner I put on some music, as I usually do when Anne is here. I had intended to put on Scottish music but forgot and put on Vivaldi and Mozart instead. A forgiveable forgetting, I think.

Anne stayed overnight so for lunch today I took her to the South Indian restaurant for dosas.

To both Anne and I they are celebratory food. They are that good.

Then for dinner today Anne cooked up some mint and rosemary lamb sausages which were excellent.