Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Tweede Kamer

For the whole of my adult life I have had Dutch people around me in some way and without exception I have thought highly of them. A Dutchman once told me that I would make a good Dutchman and I regarded that as a high compliment

But I must admit that for no good reason I find the name of the Dutch parliament amusing. "Tweede Kamer" sounds like "the tweedy chamber". "Tweedy" is most often used in a derisory way in English (with apologies to the good people of Harris and Lewis).

But it is of course just a routine example of low German: "Zweite Kammer " (second chamber) would be the Hoch Deutsch version of it

It just means the "lower house" of the Dutch parliament. And bicameral parliaments are after all common in the Anglosphere too (though we don't have one in Queensland, where I happily reside)

We hardly ever hear anything about the "Eerste Kamerlid" (the Dutch Senate or "first chamber") and I don't know enough Dutch to read easily what information about it that is available online. I gather, however, that a member of that august body is called a "volksvertegenwoordiger", which would blow anybody's mind. I think it means something like "Worthy people's representative".

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Dosa lunch

I put on a "welcome home" lunch for Simon today after his recent deployment to Afghastiland.  We went to the "Riverwalk Tandoori" at Highgate hill  -- run by Sikhs.

Being in the military during wartime is a hard life even if you are not being shot at.  You are away from your family for months on end in some rather unpleasant places so you not only miss your family but are aware that you are not there to support and protect them.  So the difficulties of war affect not only the serviceman himself but his family as well

Although I did volunteer for service in Vietnam during my time in the army many years ago  I never got there so I speak not from experience but rather from having seen a lot.  And what I have seen makes me very appreciative of  the men in our military.  So putting on a welcome home lunch for Simon was the least I could do from my viewpoint. It was my way of saying "thank you" for his service and an  expression of appreciation for him personally.

Due to illness and other things there were a few people who had to cancel at the last minute but there were still about 10 of us there and the dosas made their usual good impression.  Simon rapidly cleaned his plate so there is no doubt he enjoyed his.  Dosas were new to most people there so I was pleased to have been able to introduce a few more people to the dosa experience.

The restaurant was packed and there was even a small queue outside at one point so we were where it was  at.  And many of the diners were Indian so that is a strong testimonial for any Indian restaurant.  There was such a big demand placed on the kitchen that it was dosas only.  The normal Indian menu was not available.  Our dosas came reasonably promptly.

Simon and I talked about Afghastiland and agreed that the Western withdrawal from there will be not a moment too soon.  The Afghans will have to fight it all out between themselves from now on but at least the whole population now know that there is an alternative to a 7th century theocracy so hopefully we will have left a legacy of awareness in Afghan minds that there are options about how to live their lives and run their country.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A letter to a little girl

One of the reasons I put this blog up is as an aide memoire to myself. I have an atrocious memory for events in my own life but have an excellent memory for factual things like the date and purpose of the Peace of Westphalia (1648, ending Europe's religious wars). I have forgotten something like 99% of the events in my own life. So this blog is a sort of substitute for the memory I don't have.

I was therefore greatly pleased that one of my twin stepdaughters recently found in her things a letter I had written to her many years ago when she was 12. I had forgotten just about everything in it. I was in Sydney at the time while she was in Brisbane. And her mother and I had our toddler son with us in Sydney: Joey. Below is the letter. You will note that we had pet names for one another. We always got on well.:


Lady Von,

Thank you for the letter that you wrote to Mummy and me.
I am pleased that you enjoyed your trip to Cairns. I thought that you might get car sick. Maybe you are growing out of that.

You will like my place in Sydney when you see it. It is quite a pretty house. In my room there is a marble fireplace. It has very pretty green and brown tiles around it. When it gets cold I may light a fire in it to keep warm. It is not very cold at the moment but when we do have cold days I normally just put the electric heater on. It is a lot easier than lighting a fire.

Did you have lots of rain in Brisbane? In Sydney it has been raining almost every day except for the last week. For the last week there has not been even a cloud around so it has been a nice time to go for trips. Yesterday we went for a ferry ride on Sydney harbour. Everything looked very beautiful. Joey loved looking at the water as it went by. He always likes looking at water. He loves fountains.

We also went to the beach yesterday. Sydney has lots of beaches so we go to one every weekend. Joey always plays ‘sandcastles”. He has his own little plastic bucket and spade to help him build them. One day last weekend we went to places that did not have beaches. When we went to go home, Joey cried and shouted out ‘sandcastles”. He didn’t want us to go home until he had been to the beach. He has never had enough of the beach.

Whenever we want to go home from the beach he always complains. He would stay there all day if we let him. We never stay long, however. Neither Joey nor I can take a lot of sun. We would get burned. So instead of going to the beach once for a long time we go to the beach often for short times. It only takes a short drive to get to the beach in Sydney so it is not as hard to go to the beach as it is in Brisbane. I am sure your mother will take you to the beach when you are in Sydney.



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday lunch

Paul and Susan very kindly invited Jenny, Anne and me to lunch today. Susan put on another one of her usual masterful spreads with the curried prawns being particularly good.

I took over a donation to Paul: My complete library of books about Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen. "Joh" was a very influential and hence controversial figure in recent Queensland history and Paul had expressed regret that it was all before his time and he hence knew nothing about Joh. My collection comprised about 7 books so that is a lot to be written about a non-national politician.

We talked a lot about politics with the other major topic being the future education of young Matthew. Paul wants to get him taught German from Primary school on but is finding that not many schools offer it. It is certainly easiest to learn a language when you are young.

At one stage we were lamenting that Susan knew not one word of Dutch despite her Dutch ancestry. So I told her how to pronounce Gouda cheese in the correct Dutch way -- complete with the initial guttural. I can't remember her exact response but it was something like "Good Heavens"! Dutch pronunciation does sometimes have that effect!

The party below:

A very busy day -- Easter Saturday

Suzy and Russell decided to bring their two little ones over to visit Jenny for lunch today. Jenny promptly rang me and we all met at her place for a 1pm lunch.

Being resourceful, Jenny whipped up an excellent lunch at short notice featuring a range of foods -- including sausages. Being a sausage enthusiast that's the only detail I really remember as I really got into them -- with bread rolls and salad accompaniments, of course.

Saharah seems finally to have lost her fear of me and allowed me to hold her for the first time today -- at age two and a half. Little Dusty had grown a lot since I last saw him and seemed a very placid and contented child.

We spent almost the whole time talking about baby and toddler matters of course but I take a great interest in the little ones so that was fine by me.

About 3pm I went home and had a nap

Then at about 5:30 pm I rolled up at Anne's place for the annual dinner that she gives for her two sisters. Ralph was also there. We had roast lamb with lots of good accompaniments.

It might seem a bit much having a big lunch followed by a big dinner but I normally miss breakfast and have an early lunch between 11am and 12noon anyway so it was only a minor variation of my usual routine

Since we were all getting on in years and all of a Presbyterian background we had a rather jolly time discussing old times and also spent a fair bit of the time discussing church matters.

An unexpected event was that Anne had just bought a "radio turntable" -- something on which to play the collection of old LPs that most of us oldies have about the place. Anne unpacked it and I set it up and we played a record of Bing Crosby singing old favourites. Can you get more geriatric than that? It probably sounded like a nursing home! We enjoyed it anyway. It is is a small machine but it produced quite good sound.

I weaved my way home at about 9pm and caught up with the remaining blogging I had to do.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Easter is going to be a busy time for me -- by my standards anyway.

I DID get to church this morning. I grumble every year about the Good Friday service being at 9am. It is apparently so people can get away a bit earlier on their vacations. So as a late riser I have to make a special effort.

Anyway, Anne woke me up at 8am so I was able to get ready and arrive at Ann St Presbyterian in good time. Fortunatelly it is only about 5 mins drive from where I live. I even got a parking spot just over the road! I was still pretty bleary walking into the church however so it was fortunate that Anne was with me to do most of my talking for me. We were greeted at the door by a very chatty and good-natured lady, which was nice.

Because my appearances there are so rare, someone always asks me if I have been to the church before -- whereupon I inform them that I was was a member there way back in 1964 -- which always seems to get a respectful response.

Anyway the sermon was quite good. Our interim minister (Ron Clark, a former moderator) put the events of Christ's final days into the context of his times. Clark seems a very learned man even though his academic qualifications are modest. We had him last year too so a whole year has gone by without a new minister being called. I suppose our retired minister (Archie McNicol) would be a hard man to replace

The Good Friday service is of course a communion service and I decided to take the tokens today. Although I am not now a believer, doing so does celebrate a momentous event and expresses solidarity with the other people there -- people of the sort I grew up among.

It was good to go back to my metaphorical roots. And Anne likes going back there too, as it is her old church too.

And for my being a good boy, Anne made me some porridge for breakfast when we got home -- followed by hot cross buns that were actually hot.