Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nanna's 88th

To reach the grand old age of 88 is something very much worth celebrating, particularly as Nanna still seems to be in reasonable health and is still in full possession of her marbles.

So I hosted a small dinner for her at a Sunnybank Chinese buffet restaurant (her choice). Sadly, Von was ill so I got Jenny to take her home for a rest rather than make herself worse by trying to join in. Hannah and Simon stayed on, however. Hannah was very good. She just sat quietly in her high chair feeding herself with a spoon.

Matthew also seemed to be a bit ill as he was very clingy and did not want anyone but his mother to hold him. So at one stage Susan was doing her photography while also holding Matthew -- an impressive bit of juggling.

Paul as usual ate enough for about six people. It is his reward to himself for staying on a very restrictive diet normally. So he combines gluttony with slimness, which is pretty unusual.

The restaurant was packed, with roughly equal numbers of Chinese and Caucasians. Chinese are never any trouble to co-exist with. They are probably more civilized than us, if anything.

The food was good, though not spectacular, and the cooks kept up by sending out fresh trays of food as the previous ones got emptied. There was a fair bit of seafood, which always goes down well.

I have no idea what we talked about -- just everyday things, I suppose.

Nanna with co-celebrants

Hannah can make Simon smile

Any similarity in looks between the boy and his father? Maybe in the forehead

That caterpillar on my forehead comprises sutures from a recent excision -- which also explains the droopy eyelid. "Edematous swelling" is the technical term for that. It's transient

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The diaspora reversed

While the family diaspora is temporarily reversed (which is a fancy way of saying: While Joe and Von are back in town) Jenny put on a small dinner party at her place to enable me to see a little more of them while they are here -- seeing I got them back here one way or another. Anne and Nanna were also in attendance, as were Simon and Hannah.

Jenny put on a real spread centred around some excellent sausages, including some exceptionally good cevapi. She has discovered a place that makes them daily.

Simon was fairly loquacious by his standards but we were discussing their life in NZ and NZ is one of the few things Simon likes to talk about. True to his Dutch ancestry he seems very well organized. He gets free wood off the farm where he works and told me he has a two-year supply in stock. They use the wood for heating so have free heating, which is a good thing when you live as close to the Antarctic as he does.

I am a bit worried about Von. She is VERY slim, slimmer than I have ever seen her, I think. In my usual blunt way, I told her she needed to put on a few pounds but she says that it is her active life that keeps her slim as she eats plenty. Since Simon does all the cooking and is by all accounts a good cook, she is a lucky lady foodwise so it is rather a wonder she is not overweight. Anyway, she seems fit and healthy so that is the main thing.

Hannah was very good. She didn't disrupt anything but played for ages with a pink plastic kiddies' chair she found. It is sad that she will grow up unable to say "fish and chips" properly, though.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Celebrating Joe's 25th

With Von, Simon and Hannah over from NZ we had a BIG turnout for the birthday dinner at our usual "Bollywood" Indian restaurant at Stone's Corner. I originally booked for a party of 18 but there must have been more than that. Even Timmy turned up, which is rare for him. He brought his tall, slim and colourful girlfriend with him.

Squadron Leader Bartlett was in attendance and his usual lively self but Tracy was missed due to a wog. There has been a lot of that around so I am glad I haven't caught it. Anne has had it and it was only last night that she was fit for socializing again.

The large numbers defeated our usual attempt for us all to be seated at one table but people moved around a lot so that was not too bad.

Anne and Ken had a very lively chat as they are both big on going out, travel etc.

And with four littlies in attendance it felt right -- making it a proper family occasion. The youngest two were imprisoned in their high chairs so that simplified things a bit. Sahara paid a visit to the kitchen at one stage, though. She is nearly 3 now.

The food was good as always and the kitchen did a pretty good job of getting it all out for such a large party, plus various takeaway orders from their other customers.

We forgot to organize a cake but I supplied my usual toasting champagne so a toast and a song had to do. Joe got around the room quite a lot, however, and clearly enjoyed the occasion

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A most pleasant day

I put on a "Welcome Home" lunch for Von today. She arrived from the Shaky Isles last night. Present were Von, Simon, myself, Paul & Susan and Joe and his friend from Canberra. Plus the littlies, of course: Hannah and Matthew.

We were intending to go to my usual Indian restsaurant for lunch as they are supposed to be open for Wednesday lunch but they were closed, to my surprise. I had rung to check that they would be open.

Anyway, it was no problem. We just went to the Thai over the road and, as Chaucer would say: "And wel we weren esed atte beste" (And we were well looked after). The food was good as was the service. We rearranged their tables to suit us but they didn't seem to mind. We were there at 12 so we were their first guests. We talked a bit about blogging, as Von blogs too.

After the lunch, we all came back to my place for tea and coffee, with Susan again doing the honours. Anne is still off sick. And we just sat there for maybe a couple of hours, not doing anything but watching the little ones and chatting desultorily. We just enjoyed being in one-another's company again.

Joe did not join us for tea as he has inherited my insomnia so was behind on his sleep. So he went off to a bedroom for a nap while we all chatted in the sitting room.

The small bathroom off my sitting room was again something of a hit -- with both Hannah and Matthew exploring it. It also functioned as a changing room for nappies.

I have got a pulldown blind in the sitting room and when Hannah started fiddling with it, I was waiting for her reaction when she pulled the cord enough for it to shoot up. I thought it would give her a fright and it did! The fright was only momentary, however.

We discovered something that was very good for drying tears. Matthew is very active and bumps his head etc from time to time but on THREE occasions his tears were dried by picking him up and showing him the big chrome coat-hook I have on the bathroom door. It was like magic! Instant tear-drying. Curiosity deleted all other emotions, apparently. And Hannah once again enjoyed the big shiny rimlock keys I have in the sitting room.

Both Paul and Susan had cameras in operation from time to time so we should have a good photographic record in due course.

Helping Hannah across the road after the lunch

That big shiny key in the sitting rooom sure was interesting

Matthew exploring the bathroom

Sunday, July 15, 2012

More birthday observances

My birthday celebrations generally stretch over a period of days and today I took the initiative of inviting family over for one of my pizza and champagne nights. It's simple fare but always goes down well

Anne was due to contribute to the celebrations by cooking me a haggis last night but she has the flu so could not. For the same reason she could not come tonight.

Nanna was also not feeling well and other people could not come for various reasons so there were only 9 of us tonight -- but we were a jolly company, including Joe, just up from Canberra.

We were going to have it downstairs in my backyard under party flares but the cold weather plus the smaller numbers meant that it made more sense to have it upstairs, so we did.

It all went well with lots of chat. George kept Ken and Paul engaged in conversation for a while -- with George reminiscing about it being REALLY cold in his native Yorkshire. Both Ken and George were glad to have escaped to Brisbane instead.

Paul's Susan was an absolute tower of strength to me. In Anne's absence, I had to take care of various hospitality duties but my bumbling efforts were not getting far so Susan took over. She even opened one of the champagne bottles! She is surprisingly good at that. And to top it off she bought over a PERFECT Schwarzwalderkirschentorte as my birthday cake. What a woman!

Matthew entertained us all by trying to get his little fingers into everything he shouldn't and Dusty was also crawling around with great energy. It's always a pleasure to have the little ones present. It was amusing how Matthew kept heading for the kitchen tidy bin. We all had to take turns keeping him out of it. It was like a magnet to him.

At the start of proceedings I had a 3 question quiz with a prize for the first person to get the third question right. The first two questions were who lives at no. 10 and no. 11 Downing St, which were easy, but when I asked who lived at no. 12 Downing St., there was a great hush. I gave a few clues and Paul eventually guessed it: The Chief Whip of the majority party in the House of Commons.

We also have a Whip system in Australia so Paul's interest in Australian politics paid off. Or maybe memories of "Yes Minister" did the trick. I remember that in one episode the Chief Whip was described as a "terrorist". So Paul got a bottle of champagne as his prize. As Paul remarked, with Australia's current fragile majority in the Federal Lower House, the Whips must be pretty busy.

Nobody knew what a three-line whip was, however, so I explained that and pointed out that there had been a mass rebellion against one in Britain very recently. A great shock!

I have never heard of a whip system in the USA and it probably would not make much sense there, given the "broad tent" that both major parties constitute there. There is plenty of (metaphorical) arm-twisting in in the corridors and offices of Congress, nonetheless.

The cake

Sahara was very good at handing out kisses & cuddles to the other littlies

A video of the cake-cutting below with Matthew in attendance

A reflection

It's interesting that a quiz about a small street in London should not only be seen as entirely legitimate by people on the opposite side of the world but was in fact answered correctly. Admittedly, two of the people present were England-born but they too are Australian citizens (whether de facto or de jure I am not entirely sure) and the answer to the hardest question was in fact given by someone Australian-born.

I think it underlines how small is the PSYCHOLOGICAL distance between England and Australia -- one of the more amazing events in human history. Normally psychological distance and geographical distance are closely allied.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"The City of Truro"

After I had finished blogging at about midnight last night, I spent about an hour and a half looking at videos of "The City of Truro". Many men are entranced by steam trains and I am afraid I am one of them. And "The City of Truro" is very special of course. I almost wept when I saw how well the Brits had looked after that century-old machine in their National Railway Museum.

For those who are unaware of it "The City of Truro" was the first manmade thing to exceed 100 mph

In later decades, the Brits built even more formidable steam locomotives -- such as the magnificent "Bittern" (below)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lunch with Jill

Yesterday was the beginning of my birthday celebrations -- which generally stretch over a few days. As she usually does, Jill put on a lunch for me at her place. Anne came along too and Jill invited Jenny as well. So there I was with my birthday being feted by one ex-wife, one ex-girlfriend and one current girlfriend. It's obvious that I don't have any secrets!

Lewis was also there and we all mostly talked about travel, as everyone except me has been travelling recently. My travel is all well in the past.

At one stage I amused myself in a typically academic way -- when someone mentioned the Canary Isles. I promptly asked: "What where they named after"? Lewis gave the sensible reply and I imagine everyone agreed with him: Canaries. I pointed out however that they were actually named after dogs. How come? Hint: Latin helps.

Jill put on an excellent lunch to her own recipe as usual and we greatly enjoyed the setting of lunch on her patio, backing onto bushland as it does and with frequent visits and occasional warbles from the "feathered friends".

Jill had J.S. Bach's Brandenburgische Konzerte playing in the background for all the time we were there -- which was greatly appreciated.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I wanted to introduce Paul and Susan to the sort of poetry that normally gets discussed only at university level so I organized a dosa lunch followed by a discussion at my place.

While we were at the dosa restaurant I also offered some thoughts about the way forward for Matthew, including a recommendation that he get a good background in some sports: Rowing, cricket, tennis and horseriding in particular. Sports are a very good way of relating to other people. We also later discussed getting him into a school army cadet unit and getting him taught German from an early age.

I then went on to read T.S. Eliot's "Prufrock" and pointed out some of the reasons why it is so highly esteemed despite its dismal tone. As a stream of consciousness poem it is of course open to a variety of interpretations but I offered my interpretation that it is the young and frustrated T.S. Eliot bemoaning his inability to understand and get on with women.

Matthew was his usual lively self and developed at one stage a determination to bite my big toe. I successfully avoided that for a while but he got me eventually.