Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New year's eve

Jenny very kindly put on a party in her BBQ area at her place for a few of us even though she was not feeling very well.  It was basically for the twins with family plus Nanna, Anne and myself.

Simon did most of the cooking and made some kofta for us, which was very good.   Anne brought along a bowl of Liptauer for the occasion, which was much appreciated as a dip.  I asked Simon how come he does the cooking in his house and he replied that Von was so limited that he HAD to learn.  Apparently he was not much of a cook before meeting Von.

The kids had a great time running around Jenny's back yard with Dusty in particular being a ball of energy.

At one stage the ladies were upstairs so I had the two young fathers to myself.  I used the occasion to propagandize them about the importance of fathers to daughters -- something that is not always realized.  But I am sure that both Simon and Russ love their daughters anyway so I probably did not need to speak.  Von said later that Hannah is a Daddy's Girl and Russ involves himself very actively with his children so both girls should have it all.

At the end of the evening, I took Von upstairs and announced that I was going to tell her a secret.  She said she is good at keeping secrets.  There will be much curiosity about what the secret is but I doubt that it will leak out -- though I think she will have to tell her husband  -- but he doesn't say anything anyway (OK, I'm exaggerating -- a little).  It's just a fun thing.


Anne stayed at my place overnight and helped us to welcome in the new year with a good breakfast the next morning.  It was fried pork chipolata sausages with plenty of fried onion, a fried egg and fried tomato -- plus toast of course.  It was a traditional English breakfast in other words.  Though I think she fried it all in olive oil.  I don't keep a fat pot.  Fat pots have far from died out in ethnic British circles but they are on the wane.

So the breakfast was delicious and much enjoyed despite it being everything that the food freaks deplore.  I have always ignored all food fads anyway but the latest thinking is that fat is good for you so I think I have the last laugh one way or the other.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A double celebration

For lunch today I went to a small do put on by one of Anne's nephews principally for his immediate family. Not much happened except that two little girls aged about 2 or 3 ran around all the time.  They had such a good time that it was a delight to see.

And the lady with the legs was there.  Her father was some improbable height so her long legs were to be expected.  And I was pleased that she obviously knows that they look good  -- as even at family occasions she keeps them well displayed.  She wore a very short skirt today.  She is, however, a perfectly amiable young lady.

And tonight I went over to Jenny's place for a BBQ.  Paul, Joe  and Von were meant to be the principal guests but Paul felt too knackered to come.  He has had a very active Christmas.  So present were Von, Simon, Hannah, Joe, Nanna, Jenny and myself.  We had it in Jenny's backyard.

Jenny cooked up a variety of BBQ meats plus lots of extras.  One lot of extras that I particularly liked were some sliced mangoes.

As I have become something of a cook myself in recent months, I noticed something that I might not otherwise have done.  I noticed that Jenny had given us a profusion of fried onion to go with our meat.  I deduced that Jenny must  have cut up a lot of onions to give us that.  So I said to her: "You must have cut up three onions for that".  She replied:  "Yes.  Three big ones".  Jenny enjoys cooking so she clearly has learnt important stuff.  And the importance of fried onions is hard to overstate

Joe did various gymnastics in the yard to entertain Hannah and that really got Hannah in.  She tried to imitate what Joe did.  She got pretty wound up.

I gave Joe a 75X telescope as a Christmas present.  I felt I should have given him one as a boy so I hope he still has some boy in him.  They were all planning to look at the sky through it when I left.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Christmas that was

My Christmas celebrations began last Sunday with a visit to a Christmas carols service at Wynnum Presbyterian church, where Anne's sister Merle goes.

The selection of carols was excellent and they were well performed.  My only beef was that the minister inserted a long and boring sermon into the middle of it.  The sermon was about trust in God and may in fact have been well-tailored to the young people in the congregation but was too repetitious and old-hat for me.  Anne didn't like the sermon much either.

They also however put on a supper afterward which had quite good food -- including some Sushi.  I was going to say something clever to the minister about his narthex but, being old,  I couldn't quite  remember such a hard word.  So I made a comment about his transept which he didn't reply to at all.  Maybe he was wise.

And today, Christmas day, was a big gathering of the clan at Paul's place.  Anne and I arrived in my 50-year-old Humber Super Snipe at about noon.  Susan did a great job glazing the big ham and there was all sorts of other food.  Somebody forgot the bread, though.  I was sitting opposite Tracy's Simon at table which was lucky as he always has interesting things to say.

Being a bit crass, I said at one stage:  "Simon is being very well mannered, eating his drumstick with a knife and fork".  Simon shot straight back with a smile "British officer".  And indeed he is, though he is in the Australian armed forces these days.

He started out in the Royal Navy at age 16. Transfers from the Australian armed forces to the British ones and vice versa don't seem to be much trouble.  The similarities in practice are large.

As evidence of that look at the two pix below.  One is the redoubtable Capt. Mainwaring from "Dad's Army" set in WWII and the other is of me in Australia back in the 60's.  We are wearing the same uniform, now superseded I believe.  It was called "Battle Dress" and was nice and cosy for the cool English climate.

And Simon is no chocolate soldier.  Australia deployed him to Afghanistan 2 or 3 times.  There was some comment about it being bad to wear uniforms but since both Simon and I have worn our  country's uniform we didn't agree with that at all.

Simon, Ken and I talked quite a bit about ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Simon sees a lot of continuity between those times and now.

We didn't talk much about modern times, though I mentioned the tragic sinking of the Royal Oak at Scapa Flow during WWII. So many drowned children!   The commander of the base at Scapa Flow had made the most urgent representations to navy HQ about the harbour not being safe against submarine penetration and urging more barriers.  The navy ignored him.  So when a sub got in and sank the Royal Oak, who did the navy blame for the loss?  If you know anything about the British armed forces, the answer is obvious:  The commander of the base at Scapa Flow

We discussed various religions for a while and we all agreed that Warmism is a religious cult.

Paul has recently revived his swimming pool and all the kids had a good time in it.  The kids got heaps of presents.

Anne and I were both pretty tired by about 4pm so we left at that stage.   After I took Anne home I went home and had a big nap but I was back up again in time for the Queen's Christmas message.  I actually missed a couple of minutes of it as someone had switched off the power switch at the side of the TV.  It took me a while to figure that out.  There have been some little fiddle fingers in that room recently.


I took some nice big slices of ham home from the party  (I bought the ham in the first place) so next morning I made up some big ham & mustard sandwiches, picked up Anne and went to North Wynnum to have  breakfast by the sea.  Anne bought a thermos for the tea. It was very quiet and we had great breezes so we really enjoyed it.

It was a bit of a drama buying fresh bread for the sandwiches as most of the bakeries were closed.  I finally got a very fresh loaf from a Chinese bakery at Tingalpa.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Everybody likes dosas and we have a good dosa restaurant near me so any excuse is a good excuse for dosas.  As I have done before, I took Von and Co. to the dosa restaurant as part of their welcome back to Brisbane.

It was a jolly occasion much taken up with the kids -- Matthew and Hannah particularly.  Those two walked to the restaurant from their mother's car holding hands!  Matthew is definitely in love -- and with such a good-looking girl to love you can understand it.

Hannah as usual acquitted herself well with the dosa  -- getting into it like an old pro.  Part of the attraction of dosas is the fun of figuring out how to eat them.  The ones we get are enormous.

After the dosas we went back to my sitting room and just relaxed over cups of tea.  I had choc chip biscuits as usual for Paul but he didn't get as many this time.  Others got into them as well.  At my place the kids provided most of the entertainment too.  Hannah and Matthew rediscovered the way my house is good for running around in circles.

Von was nicely dressed in a full skirt and a summery top but she always looks good anyway.  When she was a little girl Jenny and I used to say that she would look good in a paper bag.  Vonnie greatly disliked that saying as she thought that we might one day actually dress her in a paper bag!  I had the privilege of driving  Von from  the restaurant to my place in my Humber Super Snipe.  As Von remarked, it was a revival of the many drives I took her on when she was a girl.

The lovers

Thursday, December 19, 2013


This time of the year is of course a big time for socializing and I have got into that too

On Tuesday, Joe and I had lunch at the Phams.  We mainly talked about what he expects to be doing next year and talked about his interest in becoming a romantic novelist.  He has lots of options now that his Ph.D. studies seem to have ground to a halt.

On Wednesday (yesterday) Von & Simon moved from Ken's place to Paul's.  They don't like to impose on any one person for long.  Susan let me know about it and we arranged for me to come over that night for a chat.  Susan fed us some very good spring rolls.  We mainly discussed family matters but it was a good night.

Paul was a bit louder than usual.  I suspect he had been doing a bit of Christmas drinking.  But he keeps us talking, which is all to the good.  I talked to Von a fair bit.  We had a bit of a laugh about her food intake.  She is as slim as can be but Hoovers up any food around the place  -- just like Paul and Ken.  A lot of women would like to know how she does it.

Another thing we discussed: Jenny told Von recently that even when she was a little girl she said she wanted to marry a man who does the cooking.  Von has done exactly that, of course.  Being beautiful has its privileges.  But Von does most of the childminding and a lot of gardening. Their garden feeds them to a significant extent.

We also discussed that when the twins were around 10 or 11, they both wanted to "marry" me.  Jenny used to say: "But he's married to me".  But Suz would just wave that off. It was a fun time.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A "Welcome Home" dinner

For the first time in about 3 years we have both Joe and Von back with us for Xmas so I put on one of my usual dinners at my local Indian restaurant.  There must have been about 20 of us there, counting the littlies.

Dusty nearly made his escape at one point but I caught him in time.  He likes wandering about by himself. Hannah was there looking every inch a lady,  just like her mother was when she was a girl.  Hannah has got real model looks.  She just looks good all the time.  And still only aged 3!  Von had dressed her in a very fashionable-looking sundress.  Despite looking rather delicate, however, Hannah got into some hot curry in her usual way.  She has liked hot curry right from when she was very little.

The kids ran around shrieking a lot, which the family all liked to hear but I don't know how the restaurant staff found  it.  But I have been taking large parties there for around 10 years so I always get an appreciative welcome.

Paul was there without Susan as Matthew was crook so she had to stay home to look after him.  We sent her a takeaway curry so she would not miss out too much.

I talked mainly to Ken, Paul and Joe as usual and I conveyed to Ken Anne's appreciation of his taste in books. She reads whatever Ken gives or recommends to her.  Anne herself is still convalescing so could not come.  Nanna was missing too.  Apparently loud family gatherings have got a bit much for her.  At age 89 that is not too surprising.

On some occasions, a big gathering around a long table can be a bit restrictive in whom you can talk to but that is not the case with our gatherings.  We all know one-another of old so people swap seats and generally move around a lot.  George in particular must have got to talk to just about everyone.  George and kids are essential to a good family dinner in my opinion.

I lent the Toyota Echo to Von & Simon so I will be getting around in my big green Humber Super Snipe for a couple of weeks.  It goes quite well but is a bit awkward to park.  Joe is driving the Toyota Starlet so all 3 of my cars are actually in use for once.  I am a great fan of Toyota but it's the Humber that gets the admiration from others.  It is 50 years old so that accounts for a lot.

Some pix of the travellers below:

Lady Von and Miss 4

Joe, flanked by John and Hannah

Despite all the  glassware on the table, it was not a bibulous occasion.  Our family dos never are. Drunkenness would be boring.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A lunch and a birthday party

Last Thursday, Joe and I had a lunch together at the Phams.  He is just back from Canberra so we covered a lot of ground.  He has not made much progress with doing his Ph.D. and is now considering other options.  I have always thought that he had a greater talent at literary things rather than mathematics and that seems to be emerging.  He gave me a novel to read that he has just written.  I don't know much about the genre concerned but in my view it should be a goer.  A mainstream publisher would be unlikely to take it but the self-publishing options are good these days.  I also encouraged him to revive the novel he wrote in his early teens.

And today, Sunday, was the birthday party for little Sahara.  I gave Sahara a large pink soft toy of Peppa the pig which was immediately cuddled.  Sahara is now FOUR!  -- a great age.

There was a good rollup but I mainly talked to Simon and to Joe. I tried to interest various people in a discussion of Evangelii gaudium (The latest Papal document) but only Simon was interested.

Little Dusty looked gorgeous in a Hawaiian shirt and cowboy boots while Matthew had a well-fitting Hawaiian shirt on too.

The birthday girl plus dear little Dusty and devoted father Russ

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A recovered memory!

I have a very poor memory of my own past  -- which is why I write a lot down.  I have a particularly poor memory for my earliest life.  But I have just now for some reason remembered something from when I was about 3 or 4.  I think it is my earliest memory.

At that time there were a lot of advertiserments in the newspapers and magazines which just showed the head of a lady  -- presumably advertising hats, cosmetics, soap etc.  They showed what sculptors call a "bust" of a lady -- a cut-off figure.

These used to upset me,. I used to cry over  these "broken ladies".  My mother used to try to explain it to me and she must have eventually succeeded.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Confessions of a clever clogs

"Clever clogs" is a derogatory British term for someone who escapes difficult situations with style or who keeps getting things right.  If you know anything about England you will not be surprised to hear that such people are hated and despised.  For good or ill, however, I have always been a clever clogs.  I regard that with a little pride but mostly with amusement -- so I thought I would note down some of the episodes in case they amuse one or two other people.

It all started in Grade 2.  Our "English" lessons consisted of the class repeatedly reading a story out of our school reading book until every pupil knew and understood every word in it.  And we could eventually all do that.  One kid would read one sentence and the next kid would follow with the next sentence and so on.

Then one day the teacher did a dastardly thing.  She asked us to close our reading books and tell the story as usual.  And all the kids could do that  -- except for me.  I had no idea what the next sentence was.  To the slack-jawed amazement of the other pupils, I was mightily praised for that.  The teacher realized that I was the only one who had actually been reading.  All the other pupils had simply been memorizing the story.

I was treated very warily by the other pupils from that point on. They clearly saw me as some sort of alien and mostly avoided me.  But I had never known anything else so it bothered me not a whit.  I was after all having a lot of fun reading.  For many years I used to borrow and read 2 to 3 books a week from the local library.

Then there was Grade 3. An episode there that lingers is when the teacher read out the "Little boy blue" poem.  I burst into tears at such a sad poem  -- again to the slack-jawed amazement of the other pupils.  I was the only kid that had understood the poem.  The teacher was much upset at my upset and we heard no more of that poem thereafter.

Something that occurred throughout primary school at that time were frequent spelling tests.  The teacher would read out words and we would have to write them down in correct spelling.  I of course always got 10 out of 10 for that, which again saw me looked at askance by the other pupils.  And when a new word popped up in our  reading, I always knew what it meant  -- which led to my primary school nickname of "The Walking Dictionary"

Another memory of those days was when we were doing parsing.  Yes:   Grade school kids at that time learnt grammatical parsing.  It is not even taught in High School these days I gather.  Anyway there came a day when the teacher (Mr. Madden) had a trick question for us.  He asked us to parse the word "Please!".  Slack jaws all round of course and even I had to think about it for a few seconds.  I promptly popped my hand up and said:  "Verb with subject and object understood".  I remember the teacher looking at me with some disgust. No-one was supposed to be able to answer that.  But he gave me an early mark anyway.

Something that only I knew about at the time concerned our school reading books.  At the beginning of each year we were all issued with a book that formed the basis for all that year's English lessons.  We would spend the whole year ploughing though about a quarter of the stories and poems in the book, trying to make sure that each pupil understood them.

I enjoyed the stories in our reading books and to this day consider them well-chosen.  They were mostly moral and sentimental stories and I still think well of morality and sentiment.

So from about  Grade 4 on I would sit down and read right through the reading book from cover to cover as soon as it was issued. I would do four times the year's work in one day, in other words.  Quite disgusting, of course.  I would even read through the prefaces and introductions, a strange habit I have to this day.

That did make lessons rather boring but I would amuse myself by always knowing the answers to the teachers' questions.  It would get to the point where the teacher would say:  "Yes, John. We know that you know but does anyone else know?"  He would then look around hopefully but often find all the other pupils with heads down.  So then he would call on me.  So I entertained myself in my own way.

I was also an occasional pesky question-answerer in High school.

One one occasion we were looking at an excerpt from Joseph Conrad that mentioned the "throbbing" of a ship's engine.  Our English teacher (Fastiere) asked what was meant by that.  I popped my hand up and said (approximately):  "That would be the triple expansion steam cycle at work".  Fastiere responded hastily: "Yes, yes, reciprocating engines".  The marine triple expansion cycle probably used by the engines at that time was apparently well beyond his ken so he rapidly changed the subject.

In High School, a much wider range of subjects was covered than in primary school.  So my general knowledge came more to the fore there. Again I always seemed to have all the answers and again it was noticed, so that my High School nickname was "The Walking Encyclopedia".

Throughout my schooling I encountered IQ tests fairly often.  We seemed to get one about once a year.  They were as fashionable then as they are unfashionable now.  The most predictive part of a IQ test is the vocabulary scale:  A list of words in increasing order of rarity --  where you have to pick the correct meaning for each one.  The last word on the list is so rare that only oddballs are expected to know it.  But I always got all of them right without effort.

Then one day I got a shock.  The final word on the list was one I had never seen before: "Inchoate".  And the derivation wasn't obvious either.  But I knew how English compounds are formed and I knew the use and meaning of the common English prefixes and suffixes.  So after a minute or two under my gaze the word emerged as meaning something like "unformed". So I ticked the answer "just beginning", which was of course right.

Note that I got the answer not from luck or a guess but as  a deduction from a prior body of knowledge.  That is how a clever  clogs works.  He doesn't know everything.  Nobody does.  But he has a set of strategies that enable him to figure out the right answer from the knowledge that he does have.

That was very evident in the mathematics questions of an IQ test.  I consider myself hopeless at maths but I did pretty well on the maths questions in IQ tests.  Why?  because most of the questions were just sequence detection tasks, which require only the simplest of strategies to work out.  Numbers are much simpler than people.

My best feat in High School, however, was completely unintentional.  The final junior German exam came up and, in my chronic absentmindedness, I forgot it was on.  I was however, something of a favorite of my German teacher (Leonard Gavrishchuk) so he sent another kid around to my place on a pushbike to remind me.  So I got on my pushbike to school and walked in half way through a 3 hour exam.  I imagine Gavrishchuk had to pull a few strings to get me admitted at all at such a late juncture.  Anyway, I finished with half an hour to spare.  I knew the answers so just had to write them down,  And I ended up getting an "A" for my answers, of course.  I still chuckle to myself about it.

But it gets worse.  I taught myself for the Senior exam  -- as an evening student.  Evening students were supposed to take three years to do it but I did it in one year.  I initially studied 4 subjects but later learned that you got judged on your best 4 subjects so it was advisable to sit 5 subjects.  So, just 4 months before the exam I started to study Italian.  I had not studied Italian before.  So in 4 months  as an evening student I did 4 years of full-time work.  I got a "B"! It was a crazy thing to attempt but I knew my strengths by then.

I think I will stop at that stage, though my Master's degree was amusing -- and I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in 6 weeks.  It normally takes years.  My clever cloggery has never faltered.

A critic might say that if I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in 6 weeks, it must have been pretty lightweight.  It was not.  I got about 10 academic journal articles out of it  -- which is about as good as you get.

But a germane question that somebody might reasonably ask at this stage  is:  "If you are so clever, how come you can't figure out your mobile phone?"  The question is a good one and the answer is a sad one.

I have become like a bacterium that has become resistant to  certain medications after prolonged exposure to them.  I wrote my first computer program in 1967.  That was at a time when there was no "off the shelf" software.  You had to write your own. And within a couple of years I was writing quite complex statistical analysis programs -- 5-dimensional matrices, anyone?  I ran the programs on university mainframes.  There were no personal computers then.

So I have participated in the tech revolution much longer than most people.  And I have got tired of having to learn how to work new stuff all the time.  I have learnt how to work dozens of electronic and electrical gadgets and most of that knowlege is now  useless -- as old gadgets are replaced by new ones.  So I just refuse to put in any effort to learn how to work new gadgets any more. I don't want my brain  cluttered with any more knowledge that will soon be obsolete.  Maybe I am just old.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Saved by Vancomycin

I am eternally grateful to a bacterium in Borneo from which Vancomycin is derived

On Wednesday I had a few small skin cancers cut out of my face.  As has been happening lately, however, some nasty staphylococci got into the wound and caused rapid facial swelling  -- which threatened to send me blind.  So I promptly took myself off to the Wesley for some infusions of lincomycin.  But that didn't work this time though.  The bacteria had probably become habituated to it.

So the infectious diseases specialist put me onto a drip of Vancomycin, which is something of a "last ditch" drug, though there are now a couple of alternatives to it.  It worked like a charm.  After two days in hospital, I am back home with the swelling almost completely gone.

I am getting to the stage where I will simply stop having anything on my face removed unless it is very aggressive.  I will become a permanent "Mr Blotch".  I am anyway.

Anne was unable to visit me as she can still barely walk after her recent knee replacement.  And Jenny is in New Zealand. Visitors would not have helped me much anyway.  I could have asked for Paul and Susan to come up but they are very busy with two little ones and a business to run.  But there was no need for me to bother them, anyway.

The nursing staff at the Wesley were as usual first class.  I took an overnight bag up to hospital but forgot a few things I should have put in it.  I think I will have a bag permanently prepared in future -- not a good aspect of being 70.  One of the nurses said I did't look as old as 70.  I have had so many bits cut out of my face that I have had a sort of facelift.


I should perhaps have mentioned something above:  The Wesley is a relatively small hospital compared to some public hospitals.  It has only about 500 beds.  And as a very popular hospital, it is often stretched to the limit.  So I had to wait most of the day for them to find me a bed.  So I spent most of the day in a treatment room of the Emergency Dept.  But I was well looked after, getting an infusion of lincomycin as a first-stage response and  frequent and friendly attention generally   -- including coffee and sandwiches etc.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A prosciutto party

Woolworths have started stocking a particularly good (strong tasting) prosciutto so I thought I should introduce Paul and Susan to it before Woolworths destocks it.  Often when you find something you particularly like there it suddenly ceases to be available.  I am pretty sure the prosciutto is prosciutto crudo and it seems to be made locally.  A long way from Parma!

Paul, Susan and kids came over in the electric car at about 3pm.  We initially sat on my verandah.  None of us had had lunch so we got into a trayful of rolls with prosciutto and lettuce fillings that I had made up.  I put plenty of prosciutto on each to make sure Paul and Susan got the full taste of it.

Paul as usual ate up  -- so much so that he complained of an aching jaw at one stage.  Good prosciutto is pretty chewy.

After the prosciutto was disposed of we adjourned to my sitting room where Susan made tea and also cut up some mangoes for us.  It was ages since I had been  given diced mango so I expressed my appreciation.  I also had some choc-chip cookies on hand  which Paul got into.

We mostly talked about family matters, though I did at one stage explain to Paul what the West Lothian question was.

The kids were good.  Elise made no fuss at all and Matthew babbled on in his usual way.  He was wearing a rather swish Panama hat.  If he keeps that up into later life he will do well with the ladies.  He is very proud that he can say "Buddha".  It may be the first word he has learned to say clearly.  Pretty multicultural!  I usually have a Thai Buddha on the table when we dine on the verandah.  He gives us blessings  -- I think.  I also have a Ganesha up in my anteroom so I imagine I am well-stocked  with blessings.

I asked Paul if he wanted to plug his car in but he thought he had plenty of charge.  Since that time when he got a lot of criticisms for plugging his car in at my place he has never plugged in here again.  The criticisms seem to have got to him to a degree.  I have wiped them all now anyway.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lincomycin to the rescue

On Monday, I had a rather large patch cut out of the skin on my forehead in order to remove some skin cancers.  From past experience, however, I knew there was a risk of facial swelling  after surgery on my forehead.  And that is no joke.  The swelling can close my eyes completely, leaving me blind.  The first time it happened I did lose vision in my right eye completely.

I have learnt from that however so arranged for Jenny to stay at my place overnight in case I woke up next morning unable to see. We had an Indian dinner that evening and Jenny admired my new crockpot.  And we had big chats about family matters

On Tuesday morning, however, there was no swelling so I thought I was out of the woods.  About 9:30am, however the swelling started so I arranged for Jenny to come back that night too.  By 9:30pm, however, the swelling looked quite bad so I got Jenny to drive me to the Wesley so I could get an intravenous infusion of lincomycin.  That was all a bit pesky but the Wesley staff were as ever first rate and I got prompt, attentive and friendly service. The visit cost me $200 but the decision was the right one as the lincomycin did hit the infection for six.  The swelling had already gone down a bit by next morning and at the time of writing on Wednesday evening, was largely gone.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

More dosas

We all like dosas so welcome an excuse to have some.  I suggested a dosa lunch to Paul and Susan on a couple of occasions recently but other committments have precluded it.  Yesterday however it all came together and we arrived at the dosa restaurant just as the doors were opening for lunch.  The owner greeted us with a big smile as he knows me as a frequent diner.

As well as 3 masala dosas I ordered 3 pieces of meat samoosa plus a cheese and spinach naan for Matthew.  It was all first-rate when it came.  We decided that beer would go well so Paul went over the road and got a sixpack of Crown Lager, a premium beer.

Even though she is not much of a drinker herself (like Joe, her drink is MILK!) Susan specified Crown, probably because she knows that is what I mainly drink, on the odd occasions when I drink beer.  An observant woman!  And when the beer arrived, she organized the glasses for it!

After the lunch we retired to my place for a cup of tea, with choc chip biscuits to help.  Susan of course made the tea.  A paragon!

Matthew was kept busy with various toys brought along for the purpose and Elise just slept.  When she got hungry, she let out a  roar, however.

Paul had just seen a TV program about Scotland that morning which revived his appreciation of Scotland.  So we talked a lot about the place, its history and its present arrangements.  Paul was amazed at the generosity of its welfare system, all paid for with English money.  Even a university education is free to Scots, unlike England, the USA or Australia.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


I mentioned some weeks back that I had started to do a bit of cooking for myself.  I have various packets and bottles that claim to make that easy for me.  I tried them out with variable success.  I found I could make reasonable rissoles and various versions of keema (curried mince aka ground beef).  I could also do a reasonable spaghetti mince for spag bol.  My keema was always pleasant enough but mostly not inspiring.  I would cook it up in the electric frypan with some sort of curry additive in about 10 minutes.

I reasoned that longer cooking times were what I needed so I bought myself a bachelor-size crockpot, aka a slow cooker  -- for all of $19 from Woolworths.  And it is brilliant.  I am now a chef!  I tip chopped meat of some kind plus a bottle of Mr Patak's curry sauce, some chopped onions, a bit of garlic  and a tin of tomatoes into the crockpot and leave it for a couple of hours.  And the result is first class  -- mainly thanks to Mr Patak.

I dish up out of the crockpot with a slotted spoon, which leaves a good quantity of "gravy" left in the pot.  I save that and use it to cook some more meat in the next day.  And that is good too!  I have become quite attached to my crockpot.  It feeds me well.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A famous book arrives

For decades in English-speaking countries, the "Oxford Book of English Verse" (in either the 1900 or 1918 editions) reigned supreme as the most often prescribed school anthology.

Eventually, however, sales tailed off a bit and OUP decided to bring out a new edition.  Being politically correct these days, they chose a woman editor for the new edition.  It was not a success.  She chose to include a lot of poems by woman authors.  People wanted their poems to be chosen for quality, not for what the author had between her legs.

So after some years, OUP had another try.  This time they chose an American editor!  Bomb!  For all I know, the new edition sold well in America but practically nobody bought it in England.  Since most of the great poems in English were written by Englishmen, the idea of a non-English editor seemed absurd.

I imagine that there must have been a lot of dissension over it at  OUP but they did a little while ago bow to reality and reprinted the 1918 edition, edited by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, a great authority on English poetry.  Sir Arthur also edited the original 1900 edition. As soon as I saw that the "real" OBEV was once again available I bought one for my son Joe, who has been poetry-deprived by a "modern" education.  And the re-run seems to have been snapped up generally.  It soon ran out and has not since been reprinted.

So earlier this year when I wanted to buy Paul an OBEV for his birthday, I was reduced to the secondhand market.  And such is the demand for a good edition of the OBEV that prices are sky-high.  I did however order one eventually but it was destroyed in the post by a flood in Germany!  I took a breather for a while after that but I eventually secured a first edition that arrived safely. It was an American reprint from the 1930s in reasonable condition. It arrived only a couple of days ago so Paul came over to collect it last night.

We had pizza on my verandah and lots of chats about the OBEV and poetry generally.  I read and explained "Sumer is icumen in" and Clough's "Say not the struggle naught availeth".  We also talked for a while about the amazing response to my post about Paul's electric car!  Susan, Matthew and baby Elise were of course also present and Elise was very good, not disturbing us at all.

I have often said that, in Susan, Paul has the perfect wife.  She proved it again in ordering the pizza.  I was about to look up the number of Pizza Hut in the phone book when she rattled off the number by heart.  She then made some remarks about the best deals at Pizza Hut.  I of course handed the phone to her at that point and she did manage to get me a "free" bottle of lemonade with our order.  Some women might be able to tell you the atomic number of the most common isotope of uranium but Susan knows the important stuff!


A small note:  In the Preface to OBEV, "Q" quotes on a couple of occasions ancient Greek sayings using the Greek alphabet.  The sayings are neither transliterated nor translated.  In the 19th century it was just expected that an educated man could at least puzzle out a Greek saying.  A "Greekless" man was held to be not fully educated.  What a far cry from today when even Latin is now known only to enthusiasts.  I can just manage in both Latin and Greek but I have not had time or energy to figure out Q's sayings.  For the benefit of people better educated than I am, the sayings are online here:  https://archive.org/stream/oxfordbookofengl00quiluoft#page/n15/mode/2up

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear little Dusty is now two

And it was his birthday party at Russ and Suzy's place yesterday.  There was a good rollup with about 12 adults and nine littlies present.  One of Russ's friends brought along his 3 daughters,  one of whom had red hair and green eyes. I liked her.  She was pretty bold, too, which augurs well for her future.  But there were plenty of blondie kids too, a couple being VERY blonde, with the paper-white skin that Joey had as a toddler.  They all played well together, running around like mad things a lot of the time.  It was great to see so many of them.

One thing a few of us noticed was that little Elise has rather brown skin.  When Olivia was holding Elise the two seemed to have skin of the same colour.  Olivia is Chinese. How the baby of a mother with freckles could have brown skin seems rather mysterious.  Even Susan's mother is pretty fair.  Yellow skin indicates jaundice so a few tests on Elise might be in order.

Paul was not his usual talkative self due to some drinking with Davey the night before.  There was much talk of hangover cures -- with lemonade my recommendation.  I mostly talked to Jenny.

Dusty's birthday cake was in the shape of a racing car  -- with lots of red icing.  He really enjoyed it, as you can see in the pic below.   He once again deployed his favourite word:  "More".

Russ as usual fed us well with BBQ sausages and lots of entrees.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

New car

Paul has just bought a Mitsubishi electric car  -- for fuel economy.  It seems a very good car -- as long as you keep its range limitations in mind.  He brought it over to show me at 4pm today so we had a sort of high tea  -- with me making sandwiches.  Susan and Matthew were also there and we had good chats.

A preliminary view of the car below.  Note that it is plugged in.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A journey ends

Anne's mother has just died.  She was 95.  She had been fading visibly so her 3 daughters took turns to mount a vigil by her side in her last days and hours.  So she had a loved one beside her to the end.  Anne was at my place when she passed away.  It was of course enormously upsetting for Anne, June and Merle and their children to lose someone who had been such a strong presence in their lives for so long but appreciation of how much time she had given them was a consolation.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A pleasant accent

Your accent is hugely important in England.  It indexes your social class.  And your social class greatly governs your life chances.  So British parents who can afford it send their kids to private schools  -- where they will acquire an RP accent  As a result, the 7% who have been to private schools run the country and are, generally speaking, hated by the rest of the population.  Tony Blair vowed to end all that but social mobility under his regime in fact worsened.

There is some echo of that in Australia  -- but only a faint one.  The "official" ideology in Australia is egalitarian and that is widely heartfelt.  Your chances in life can be good regardless of your background and you will not be held back by your accent.  The large number of immigrants to Australia from Europe who have prospered despite starting out with very little English at all are instructive.

Nonetheless, many Australian parents feel that private schooling does give their kids a leg-up and Australia does as result have one of the world's highest rates of private schooling.  40% of Australian teenagers go to private High schools (including Catholic schools).  I sent my own son to a Catholic school.

All schools are not equal, however, and those private schools with the highest academic and sporting standards are in my home State of Queensland grouped as "GPS" (Great Public Schools) schools.

That long preamble was needed to explain the context of a very small event in my life this norning.  I was in the pharmacy of the Wesley private hospital to pick up a prescription when I was attended to by a pleasant, nice-looking and well-presented Chinese lady.  That was not at all unusual.  All the pharmacies that I know are overwhelmingly staffed by well-presented people of East Asian appearance.

What made this young lady different, however, was her accent.  It was a very familiar one.  She spoke perfect English with a GPS accent!  I said to her that she sounded as if she had been to a GPS school and, with a blush, she confirmed that she had:  Brisbane Girl's Grammar. Brisbane Girl's Grammar advertises itself as "the best girls private school in Brisbane".

I was pleased to hear that accent because much of my early life was spent in the company of other women with that accent.  In proof of what I say about Australian mores, my own working class background has never been any obstacle to such associations.  If a young lady knew about Bach, Chopin and madrigals, she had almost certainly learnt it at a private school so my own obsession with that music led inevitably to a  meeting of minds with ladies of a GPS background.

So it was a nice surprise to hear that pleasant and familiar accent coming from the mouth of a very Chinese-looking lady. She will do well and I certainly wish her well. I told her that she would go down well in England -- which she will. A GPS accent and RP are very similar. Her parents invested wisely in the education of their lovely daughter.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A lunch for Anne

Anne has been unable to get about much for a couple of months so had not seen baby Elise.  Now that Anne is walking again, however, Susan and Paul put on a lunch at their place so that Anne could finally see the baby.

Susan put on Reuben sandwiches plus a very rich trifle to follow. Paul of course ate enough trifle for two people and got a bad stomachache shortly thereafter.  We weren't very sympathetic.

We mostly talked about politics as Paul was very jubilant over the advent of Mr Abbott.  We even drank a toast to Mr Abbott.  Abbott has not yet had time to do much since his election on 7th but his mere arrival has greatly perked up business confidence.  As a result, Paul's mining shares have risen appreciably in value and Paul's own business is making more sales.

I had to explain how the probable double-dissolution will work if the Greens block Abbott's agenda in the Senate.  Paul had not even heard of a "joint sitting".  It's disgraceful that you can get a High School education in a good Australian school and not be told  the basics of how Australian democracy works.  But that's modern education for you.

I also explained that the "bad" result in Queensland on 7th was really just a case of the other States catching up with Queensland.  The ALP was already down to a "hard core" in Qld even BEFORE 7th., so even the gain of one seat was an achievement.

Anne brought along a present for the baby in the form of a set of Russian dolls all hidden inside one another.  Susan was fascinated by it and immediately took it apart.  Paul liked it too.

Eating Susan's mighty trifle. She used brownies instead of sponge cake -- which made the trifle delicious but very heavy. Paul was caught out by its unexpected richness and even I felt a little heavy in the tummy that night. I had no supper that night. I was too full.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Brisbane 2013 Festival of male voice praise

Anne finally got me to go along to a concert  -- as above.  She knows I like religious music so she grabbed the chance of the above performance.

It was held this afternoon at the Hillsong church in Mt Gravatt.  There is a huge first-class auditorium there and church members helped as ushers etc.

We arrived just as the choir was filing in and were just in time to hear a rousing rendition of "Advance Australia Fair" as the opening song.  It was a Christian version of Australia's national anthem -- a version much deplored by secularists.  The usual version these days is not the same as the original anyway.  The version given in the program was the orthodox one but that is not what they sang!  All the words of all the songs were projected on a big screen

One of the songs I particularly liked was "Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky".  It was originally a medieval Latin song and the usual tune for it is adapted from Palestrina.  As such, however, there are lots of different versions of it and most are not too impressive in my view.  The version usually sung in Protestant churches is brilliant, however, as is the tune used.  I can't find a decent version on YouTube, unfortunately.  Anyway, the words as sung today were:


Tr. J.M. Neale; melody from 1623

1. Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky;
Heaven thunders forth its victor—cry;
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The glad earth shouts her triumph high,
And groaning hell makes wild reply.
Hallelujah! (x5)

2. The pains of hell are loosed at last;
The days of mourning now are passed;
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
An angel robed in light has said,
"The Lord is risen from the dead."
Hallelujah! (x5) ’

3. All praise be Yours, 0 risen Lord,
From death to endless life restored:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
All praise to God the Father be,
And Holy Ghost eternally.
Hallelujah! (x5)

The repeated hallelujahs are particularly powerful.

As well as the 50 or so male singers there were two attractive young blonde ladies singing duets.  They call themselves the Elan Sopranos.  At one stage they sang a durchkomponiert version of the Via Dolorosa  -- unusual in a Pentecostal church  -- which normally goes for musical simplicity.  There is a recent video of them singing here

The auditorium was pretty full and, looking around, all I could see was pink skin.  There was a fair age range though.  I gather that the audience was mostly drawn from Pentecostal congregations  -- who are good at outreach

The whole meeting was a lot like an old-fashioned revival hour, but I didn't mind that.  Being totally secure in my unbelief, expressions of faith don't bother me.  I rather admire them.


I have now found a video of that powerful Hymn:

It is Hymn 126 in Hymns Ancient and Modern

Friday, September 13, 2013

Optus never ceases to amaze

Optus is probably not the world's worst phone company.  Some British company would probably beat them for that title.  But they would be in the running.

Would you like to take over somebody else's phone number?  If they are with Optus it is a cinch.  You just sign up with some other company  -- say Dodo -- and tell them that you want the number.  Dodo will then simply ask for it and Optus will give it to them no questions asked.  You would imagine that Optus would ask their customer if he wanted to lose his number or not  -- but no siree!

Sound crazy?  It is.  But Optus have just done exactly that to me.  They cancelled my number and gave it to Dodo -- even though my account was paid in advance and I have had it for ten years without giving them any problems with late payments

I of course protested and it was then that I was told that they perform no checks if another phone company asks for a particular number.  It's obviously a cost-saving measure for them.

After I wrote to Paul O'Sullivan, their CEO, about the matter, they got my number back from Dodo but tell me that they are so hard worked that it will be another week before my account will actually be restored.  Most people who ring me have my mobile number but otherwise it would be a read teeth-grinder to lose my landline for 3 weeks.  It could happen to you.  Change to another provider.

I have been battling with Optus since the year 1999.  You can read some of the correspondence here

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A puzzling event

A cop car followed me home a few nights ago and pulled up behind me when I pulled up.  I hadn't been speeding and the cop did not allege that I had.  But he asked me to do a breath test.  I guess there must have been something about my driving that looked over-confident or something.

Anyway, I had drunk only a small amount of wine with my dinner so would have been within the allowable limit.  Just to be on the safe side, however, I applied my special technique and registered 0.00 on his alcometer.  He looked surprised and I was amused  but that was the end of it.

An anniversary

Anne and I have been together for 8 years now so we celebrated  yesterday -- in a low-key way.  I bought her a couple of bunches  of red flowers and took her that night to the Kafe Meze.

I have been going there for a couple of years so the owner greeted me and we actually snared "his" table out the front. It is an unusual restaurant in that both the very young and the elderly go there.  We arrived just after 6pm so witnessed a parade of fashionably dressed young ladies arriving with their parents or grandparents.

The food was good as usual and again we over-ordered.  One thing we had was a REAL Greek salad.  They also offer an "Australian" Greek salad.  The Greek one does not have lettuce in it but has lots of other good stuff.

Afterwards, we repaired to my place, which was something of a milestone as it was the first time Anne had tackled a flight of stairs after her knee operation.  She did OK.

The day was also Father's day but the only greeting I received was from little Suzy. She is always a dear heart.  I was grieved to hear recently what a rough trot she had delivering dear little Dusty.  I paid for her first confinement so she could go private and I would have paid for her second if she had asked.  I paid for big Susan's recent confinement and, despite a difficult birth, both she and her babe emerged unharmed from the experience -- thanks to top flight obstetric care.  But you have to go private to get that level of care.  I am very fond of both my stepdaughters so am sad that little Suzy was hurt when my money might have prevented that.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An adventure with mince (aka ground beef)

I have got lots of packets and bottles of stuff in my kitchen for making "easy" meals.  Very little of it ever gets used. I think I have had some of it for over 10 years.  So I decided to do something about it.  I would become a packet cook!

My first effort was to get out my little tin of Keen's curry powder, which was once found in every Australian household.  It made curry suitable for people who were used to "plain food".  I cooked up some mince and onions, added Keen's toward the end and got a passable meal of mince.  There was only the faintest taste of curry to it, however.  So I tried again

My theory was that I should first marinate the mince in Keens.  So I converted a pound of mince into a slurry by adding water and stirring with my fingers (Indian!).  I then added 4 dessert spoons of Keen's and left it to marinate for about 8 hours.  I also added salt, two small chopped onions and a handful of mixed dried fruit.  I was looking for some stock to add to give it more body but I could not find any so added a dessert spoon of Bisto (normally used for making gravy)

I put the lot into my electric frypan with water and butter, stirred until everything looked to be cooked through (about 10 minutes).  And I STILL got no real curry taste in the result.  It was very nice mince though. So my mad methods did produce a good result -- just not the result intended.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Master two

Matthew has just turned two.  So Susan and Paul put on a party for him.  There was a good crowd and lots of good food.  Sandwiches cut into jigsaws were a novel approach.  Susan is a very creative caterer.

Baby Lizzie got a lot of attention as she is still only days old.  I think all the ladies in sight got a cuddle.  She was passed from one lady to another without a break.  So she slept well.

Matthew spent a lot of time on the trampoline with the other children.  One of Susan's friends brought along her two little blonde daughters and both of them enjoyed the trampoline too.  The 5 year old was particularly pretty and I said to her mother that she will probably be a model when she grows up.  But her mother said that she wouldn't make the height.  She is a bit small for a 5 year old and models have to be at least 5'8', preferably taller.

Dusty quietly wandered around by himself in his usual amiable way.  Sahara and Russ were absent with the 'flu.  Davey and Olivia turned up with their little daughter.  Davey looked well, considering.

Ken was very involved with political discussions and Paul was appalled at Palmer and Katter giving the Greens their preferences in the Senate.  You have to understand the Australian electoral system to understand what that is all about, however.

Pia mater

Even the birthday cake was in jigsaw shape

Who is that old guy in the background as Matthew is opening his presents?

Monday, August 19, 2013

More visits to the babe

I arrived at the hospital yesterday at about 4pm to find Ken, Maureen and Matthew already there.  Ken and Maureen are minding Matthew while Susan is in hospital.  Matthew's speech has much improved recently.  He speaks intelligible sentences now and can even say such hard words as "avocado".  And he never stops talking (Paul's son!), which is wearing Ken  and Maureen down a bit.

Maureen grabbed the babe as soon as she could and cuddled it for the rest of the time she was there.  She is a good baby-cuddler!  The big feature was introducing Matthew to his new sister and there are a couple of videos of that below.

Paul and Susan have the Presidential suite at the hospital so are living as if in a first class hotel.  Paul and I spent a fair bit of time talking politics, as we usually do.

After my hospital visit, I drove straight to Anne's place, where I was greeted by a roast lamb dinner.  Very nice!

I again went up earlier today at about 6pm, arriving just before Jenny and Nanna.  And I got to eat there.  Susan had ordered two dinners for herself so gave me one.  I got a dessert too!  I even ate my vegies.

The babe was good.  Susan's milk has come in so the babe was a keen feeder, which kept her pretty pacified.

We also had Von with us via Skype.  Von had wanted to be at the birth but Skype had to do.

We talked about politics for a while.  Everybody was down on the Greenies and down on Kevvy.  Somebody asked me for a definition of Greenies and I replied:  "People haters".  I was also asked for a definition of Leftism and I repled "People who hate the world around them".  You can see why Greenies and the Left get on.

And while I was there Paul managed to get all the pictures off my old cellphone.  Their quality was poor, however.  The picture I most wanted, however, is recognizable and I add it below.  It is of a fig tree that sprang up out of the brickwork of my front  fence.  I admired such survival and flourishing from such small resources.  It eventually put down roots that were cracking the concrete, however,  so I unhappily had to remove it.  The picture is my memorial to what I saw as an heroic tree! I must be a Greenie of sorts!  More likely a Buddhist, actually.  I am a great respecter of life.  I even avoid killing ants if I can.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A babe is born

Elise Daphne was born to Paul & Susan last night at 10pm. Susan had an expert obstetrician in attendance at a local private hospital and so suffered no tearing or other injury despite some initial difficulties.  And the babe was born in the best of pink health.  So it was a perfect delivery.  She was 54cm long and weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces ....

Elise at about 2 hours old. Already good-looking like her mother

I paid for Susan to go private so am getting some of the credit for the excellent result of the delivery.  In my view every cent was well spent if it helped to avoid harm to Susan and her babe

Elise is a name well known to all lovers of classical music after Beethoven wrote a beautiful short piano piece ("fuer Elise") for a little girl named Elise who was learning to play.  It has been used as a learner piece ever since so is sometimes not appreciated as the masterpiece that it is.

Elise is actually the continental version of Elizabeth (pronounced eleeza in German) so there is a possibility that she will be nicknamed "Lizzy".  I imagine that Susan hopes not.

Parents often have different ideas about the version of their child's name that should be used.  My son has convinced most people to call him "Joey" but I call him "Joe".  I think his mother mostly calls him "Joseph" when referring to him.

Another picture of the beautiful babe

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mobile phone blues

Mobile phones (cellphones) have definitely exceeded my understanding of them.  Ten years ago I could send text messages on them but I got a new one about three years ago that did so many things that I have never quite dug text messaging out of all the available functions.  I was pleased that my new phone included a camera and took some photos with it but I have never figured out how to get the pix out of my phone and into my computer.  I imagined that some sort of USB cable to connect phone and computer would be needed but none was supplied.

Recently, however, my phone began to play up so I needed a new one.  Obviously, the thought came to me, I needed to upgrade from my old button phone to a new-style touchphone.  Experience of not understanding my phone, however, had made me wary.  Before I bought a touchphone, I needed someone to show me how to work it.  So I went to three different retailers, including Dick Smith, and sought to have the product demonstrated to me before I bought it.  Nobody had the time to do that.   They all told me that I would "pick it up".

"Phooey to that!" I thought, and walked out of the store with my money still in my pocket.  So I went down to the post-office and bought myself another old-style button phone for $49.  Maybe I will work IT out one day. At least I can make and receive calls and I can at least read text messages.  It's got a horrible ringtone that I would like to change but I don't know how to do that either.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Romance and turning points

I think that those who know me would agree that I am not a romantic type of person.  And I have no problem with that.  But anyone who has been married 4 times would seem to have some claim on being romantic.  So let me wander a little through my past.  At age 70, such wanderings are, I think, par for the course.

In my teens I was too much concerned with religion to have any interest in women but I do remember two married ladies from my congregation as thoroughly admirable women.  I imagine that both Ruth and Sylvia Reynolds of Cairns are by now deceased but I retain my high opinion of them both.

When I was about 19 or 20, I became a member of Ann St. Presbyterian church in Brisbane and joined the PFA group there.  I was rather taken with Kay Houseman.  I liked the way she did her hair and admired her beautiful blue eyes.  But am not sure if I ever got to take her out. She is still known at the church and I believe is now a married and divorced lady.

I did however take out fellow PFA member Rhoda Roberts.  She was a sensible, good-natured, down to earth girl.  When we were  walking past a pub once, however, I said to her that maybe we should go in for a drink.  Since we were at the time both teetotal in the best Presbyterian way, it was a joke.  But Rhoda mentioned the utterance to her mother -- who thereupon forbad Rhoda to have anything more to do with me.  So no romance at that time.

About a year later I met Janet at a folk-music place. She was my first real girlfriend.  She was 16. We did have a rather intense relationship but was it romance?  The relationship went on until her parents forbad it so I think it had some claim in that direction.  Her parents did not like that I had a beard.  I still think Janet was/is an exceptional lady.  She used to play me Chopin's Fantasia Impromptu on her goanna. I can still hear it.  Surely Chopin is ineluctably romantic?  She now lives in France with a French husband whom she greatly admires.  Lucky man!

Life after Janet had a lot of ladies in it but the next one that stays in my mind is Isabella Schmidt-Harms.  I met her at a Goethe Society function at the University of Sydney.  She had the bloom of youth upon her and fitted the Scots description: "a bonny lass".  She was the daughter of the West German Consul in Sydney.  I took her to a musical  -- Man of La Mancha, I think  -- but basically did not know what to do with her.  I get on easily with English and Australian women but I don't really understand German women at all.  I think that German women expect German men to order them about whereas I am more used to good old Anglo-Saxon "signals" to guide behaviour.  So I never asked her out again.

I felt rather foolish about that at the time.  It would not really have been hard to progress matters further and if romance had developed I might well have followed her back to Germany.  My German wasn't too bad at that stage and I would have been fluent within 6 months.  And there is a lot of German in my personality -- Prussian punctuality etc. I am even a devotee of sausages!  And a diplomat's daughter would have socially elevated contacts so I might have ended up among the movers and shakers in Germany.  And Germany is a much more important place than Australia.

I saw all that at the time but deliberately opted out.  I could have been a very good German -- the high culture would have suited me greatly -- but it was a lot easier to be a relaxed Australian.  I was lazy and unambitious.  Still am. So that was a turning point  -- a road not taken.

High culture:  Dr. Merkel, above, at the opera.  She is Germany's "Kanzlerin".  She attends the opera regularly.  Classical music is widely followed and esteemed in Germany (most of it is German anyway).  Most German federal politicians have doctorates (some dubious)

Another such turning point came my way when I was in England and met Margaret.  She was/is a member of Britain's hereditary aristocracy  -- a genuinely upper-class person.  She was/is a lovely lady and wanted to marry me at the time.  I seem to have very good acceptance among the upper echelons of English society so I have no doubt that I could have developed my standing in England to whatever degree I wanted if I had married Margaret.   But again, life in Australia seemed a lot easier.  Margaret is very tall, too, which I like.  We have stayed in contact, though very infrequently.

The next possibility of romance is probably my second wife, Joy.  Joy was/is a very good natured lady with a very good figure.  I met her at Mensa so she was/is bright too.  We were together for 7 very amicable years so I think some romance has to be allowed there.  We used to dine out every night of the week.

And then there was Jenny, my third wife.  She was the only woman to whom I ever gave total committment.  But she let me down.  She gave me a fine son, however, so there are no hard feelings.

Then there was Geraldine, whom I still think of as my little sweetheart.  She let me down too  -- repeatedly.  But there is still a strong feeling between us. We just don't do anything about it any more.

I met a lot of nice ladies after Jenny and I broke up and I even married one of them!  I married big Kath (she was a 5'11" tall redhead and looked great generally) 6 weeks after we met and the marriage lasted 3 weeks!  I think that was a romance in the best Hollywood style!

And then there is the present lady in my life -- Anne.  I have told her -- and mean it -- that I am with her to the end so maybe that counts as romantic -- in my stiff Anglo-Saxon way.

So I now live an obscure life in an obscure part of an obscure city and am quite happy about it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nanna's 89th

Nanna's trip on this earth still rolls on with Nanna still getting about well and with plenty to say for herself.  She is an example to us all.

We had a small backyard lunch to celebrate her 89th birthday today.  Jenny and Nanna wanted to keep it small so only Nanna's descendants plus spouses were invited.  I guess I was there on an honorary basis.  Von went back to NZ about a week ago and Jenny herself was out of action with a nasty cold.  So it was a small gathering.  Nanna however had 3 grandchildren present:  Joe, Paul and Suzy.  Great grandchildren were Matthew, Sahara and Dusty.

I had a present for Dusty  -- a dustpan and brush.  He showed such a liking for one at my place that it seemed an obvious gift.

The food was some good Chinese bought in from a nearby Chinese restaurant.  Susan as usual provided a cake -- a very "naughty" cake with layers of cream etc.  Nanna blew out the candles on it.

I talked mainly with Paul, mostly about the inimitable Mr. Rudd.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


For some years now I have not bothered to note here anything about the various surgical procedures that I undergo with some regularity.  None of them are pleasant but a lot about them has become routine.

The procedure I had today does however warrant a small mention, I think.  I had a large red and intermittently bleeding cancerous spot on my nose.  It was most unsightly and must have made it a little difficult for people to look at me on occasions.  I thank those who put up with it.

As the lesion was shallow, I had thought that freezing with nitrogen would always get it -- and it did.  But then it came back bigger than ever.  So my dermatological surgeon persuaded me that it was time for an excision.  The only trouble with that was the difficult position of the lesion.  There is not much loose skin on my nose so where was the skin to come from that would cover up the bit that had been cut out?

It was a difficult problem but dermatological surgeons often have to deal with cancers on noses so there was experience to call upon.  So when I was finally on the operating table I asked the surgeon if he was sure he could get a closure.  He was not sure at first but after moving the skin on my nose around in various directions with his fingers he simply said:  Right!  -- and got on with it.  He had seen in his mind how he was going to do it.  And he did it!  Even his nurses were impressed with how he got it all back together.

So that was my major fear put at rest:  Was the job actually possible?  If not a graft would be needed and I did once "lose" a graft so I was not keen on that.

My next fear was infection.  I seem to have some rather pesky skin bacteria that survive all aseptic procedures and so get into a surgical wound occasionally.  In a previous job on my face they got so out of hand that my face swelled up almost to the point of blinding me.

Clindomycin seems to beat the bugs concerned, however, so I took some of that shortly after I emerged from surgery. It is now 9 hours later and there is no swelling so I am fairly optimistic at this stage.

Because of the fear that I might be temporarily blinded, I got  Jenny to come over and stay the night at my place.  Anne would normally be able to help in that way but she is out of action at the moment, being in the Wesley rehab unit after a knee replacement.  I called in on her briefly on the way home as my procedure was on the same campus.  I took Jenny to an Indian restaurant for dinner.

The procedure cost me well over a thousand dollars, which is a lot in an Australian context (but chickenfeed in an American context) but it was well worth it to get such outstanding skill deployed on my behalf.  I believe that health insurance gives me some of that back but not much.

Instead of spending all my money on beer and cigarettes in my youth, I saved and invested.  So in my declining years I can afford any medical care I need.  And the declining years are certainly when you need it!  I am also in a position to pay for some others to get private medical care, which I have done on some occasions.

The standard of medical care in government hospitals is so poor in Queensland that there are private hospitals all over the place in Brisbane.  Where I normally go -- the Wesley -- the service is impeccable.  And I can usually get an appointment with my surgeon with only a week's notice.  It can be months and years in the government system

UPDATE: 24 hours later and all is well.  I think I am out of the woods now.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Another birthday celebration

I put on a rather humble dinner in celebration of my son's birthday tonight.  At his request, it was another of my champagne and pizza events.  I like to have such events downstairs in my back yard and I had the party flares all up and ready to light but it turned out a rainy day so we had to have it upstairs. But the Seaview Australian "champagne" was good, as was the home-delivered Pizza Hut pizza.  So all was not lost.

I ordered 8 pizzas and that seemed about right.  It took a while for it all to vanish.  Von got the last piece.  I was as usual complimented on the champagne despite the fact that it is a rather humble drop.  People at these parties are not big drinkers however.  I had 4 bottles in the fridge but only 3 got opened.

I had given everybody only short notice of the event so, as expected, the turnout was down a bit on the usual.  Paul, Susan, George and Timmy were particularly missed.  We nonetheess had 15 adults present plus littlies so it was a good gathering.

Dusty (Dustin) distinguished himself by wandering out onto my back balcony and discovering some cleaning materials there.  He came back into the room wielding a dustpan and brush convincingly. Dusty with a dust pan!  I think I know what to give him next Christmas.  Surely he deserves no less.

Hannah did her usual act of cramming food down at a great rate while at the same time mysteriously staying slightly built and slim.  Her mother is also a miraculously slim big eater.

I spent most of the time talking to Von.  She is very articulate these days, which should be no surprise considering that both her mother and father are also good at putting words together, but I still have memories of the silent child that she once was. We talked mainly about New Zealand.  A place where there are no snakes, cockroaches or mosquitoes sounds pretty good.  Almost like science fiction.

When it came to toasting time, Saharah expressed a wish to be toasted so I was happy to oblige by giving her the first toast.  She seemed pleased.  I said very little to go with my toast to Joe and he was equally concise in reply.  He did however thank all those who helped bring him up.  There were 5 present in that category by my calculations.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A small reflection about children

When I arrived at the party for my 70th birthday, I was immediately grabbed by the 3 year old Saharah and led through the house to where the presents were.  How come?  Was that not a rather ignominious entrance?  How come an old gent was being led around by a 3 year old?  Should I not have been greeting my hosts  and other adults present?

I in fact regarded it as a great honour to be led in by a child.  And those who know me well would not find that surprising.

When I arrived I was met at the door by several people  -- one of whom was Saharah.  In my usual way it was the child I spoke to first.  I said "Well. We've got a pretty little girl here", or something to that effect.  Sahara likes me these days anyway so she took that greeting as her cue, grabbed my hand and towed me through the house.

So it was just a reflection of the way I get on with children. I talk to them and give them attention above all.  Children often have difficulty in getting the ear of their parents but when I was helping to bring up Paul  and the twins, I talked to them a lot.  I discussed things with them.  I would sometimes say silly things in fact.  And they would get great satisfaction correcting me.

I am not very good with the littlest ones  -- though I adore them of course -- but once they can talk we get on well.

I am so in favour with Saharah these days that when I was leaving she also helped to carry my presents out to the car!

Opening my presents with Saharah observing

And, after all, a great teacher once said:  "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matt.: 19:14 NKJV).  Jesus was a good guy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A lunch and NZ food

Joe came over at 11am Wednesday and we went for lunch at my usual haunt.  In conversation, we explored the options for his future a bit more. He seems pretty set on coming back to Brisbane around this time next year and staying with me.  Part of the reason for that is that he wants to help me lose weight.  As I have already made some moves in that direction, that could work.

I was due to go in for some rather pesky surgery on Wednesday afternoon but got a bad cold that morning so had to cancel. I suspect that all colds are bad colds at my age.

I had however made arrangements for that night which were predicated on the surgery.  Von & Simon were going to come over and make me NZ food for my supper and Jenny was going to join us and stay overnight in case I got into any difficulties that night.

I  saw no point in cancelling the supper so I was pleased to have Von and Simon come over.  Jenny couldn't eat the food because of her gluten allergy but brought her own version with her.  Von demonstrated her idea of how best to have NZ Marmite and Simon made us some NZ cheesy rolls.  And it was all very tasty.

My nose had stopped running by that stage so I was able to engage in the conversations fairly well.  Jenny brought along some Lego for Hannah, which Hannah played with devotedy.  Hannah's mother and grandmother had fun with it too!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A birthday lunch

Paul and Susan put on a  great lunch in honour of my 70th.  Susan is one crafty lady so had decorated the dining room with lots of photos from my life plus various things commenting on the number 70.

She also as usual provided some very good food.  At my request the food was sandwiches but Susan did a variety of American ones that we don't normally see in Australia.

About 30 people turned up, including people I don't often see, Henningham, my brother Christopher, cousin Shirley, Jill & Lewis.

I had a good chat with several people,  mostly about politics.  We were all wondering whether Kevvy will stick to his new conservative line.  Joe found himself among a wholly conservative gathering, which must have been a contrast to university.

I got lots of presents, all of which were good but Vonnie's present of a whole selection of NZ groceries was particularly interesting.  I now have a jar of NZ Marmite! Plus other rarities.

I am really in Saharah's good books lately.  She met me at the door when I arrived and led me by the hand though the house to where the presents were.  Being well regarded by a beautiful blonde 3-year-old is definitely a privilege.

As I was departing, I noted that Henningham is still a devoted customer of the Ford Motor Co. of Detroit.  I arrived in my 1963 Humber Super Snipe.  Detroit iron vs. good taste?

Many thanks to Prof. Henningham for the photos immediately below.

Cutting the cake
Joe with his old father
Blowing out the candles
With Prof. Henningham
With my brother -- looking his most skeptical
Joe, Sahara and the Humber
My short speech

And now for some pix from Susan, the hostess with the mostest:

 Cuban sandwiches
 The Photo wall
 Schwarzwalderkirschentorte -- my ideal birthday cake
 Jill with our hostess, Susan
Opening the prezzos with Saharah observing

Joe and Nanna with Sahara in her pretty dress which she loves

Lunch with Joe

I took Joe to my usual hangout for lunch today.  He updated me on the progress and prospects for his studies and shared his thoughts for his life ahead.  He also told me about his new Chinese girlfriend and how she acquired him.  Asian patience paid off!  Joe is hard to impress when it comes to ladies but this lady broke through.

After lunch we went back to my place for tea and cakes on the verandah, where we mostly discussed politics.  I updated him on the facts and history that you don't normally hear -- about apartheid, early 20th century politics etc.

Anne had a rather awful surgical procedure today so I went up to the hospital in the evening to see her.  Getting old is no fun.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Another dinner!

Joe arrived back in Brisbane today so I organized a small impromptu "Welcome Home" dinner for him on my ever-useful verandah.  We got takeaway Indian food as usual and washed it down with some of my champagne reserve.  Joe didn't say a lot but he was obviously pleased to be back.  Like me he is on the taciturn side.  But he did update me on how his Ph.D. studies are going.  He is now thinking of taking a Master's first.

Vonnie took a lively part in the conversation, which is surprising when she was such a silent little girl.  When she was about 10 or so, I used to take Von on short outings which we both enjoyed but not a word would pass between us for the whole time.  We understood one-another and it just didn't seem necessary, somehow.  But we were talking about old times and the kids tonight, which are favourite topics for her.

After dinner we retired to my sitting room for tea and coffee.  Hannah and Matthew then discovered the joys of running around in circles in the corridors of my "Old Queenslander" house and it was good to hear the thunder of little feet again.  There was plenty of happy squealing too.

Jenny made our tea and coffee as Anne is out of action at the moment.  She has a surgical prodedure on her knees tomorrow morning.

Simon made himself very useful. I told him last week that there was no jack in the Toyota Starlet and suggested that he chase one up while he was driving it.  He did.  He found the missing jack in its own special compartment inside the Starlet!  Apparently, no-one had ever opened the compartment concerned!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My birthday observances have begun

For reasons of convenience, my birthday observances generally stretch out on either side of the actual day.  Since this year is my 70th., people are being extra kind.  Tonight, Jenny put on a Dhansak dinner for me -- always impressive but so much work that she does them rarely.

And Jenny went the full hog tonight, not only offering the Dhansak itself but also Kachumbar (an amazing Parsee salad), Parsee pillau, green chutney and various other accompaniments.  If you think you know chutney you don't until you have had green chutney.

Present were Jenny & Nanna, Paul & family, Von & family.  We  dined in Nanna's granny flat as it was a bit too nippy for our usual rendezvous on the back verandah.

Paul is a bit given to excess on occasions and he suffered for it tonight.  He likes "hot" food so bit into some chillies Jenny had.  But they were REALLY hot so he had a very sore mouth for a while.  He wasn't as talkative as he usually is for a while after that.

In the circumstances a lot of the conversation was about food and I got the impression that both Susan and Simon had some interest in learning how to do a Dhansak.  The one Jenny does is the real thing, not the bland curry you usually get under that name in Indian restaurants.

The Dhansak. It tastes a lot better than it looks

At table

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Welcome home to Vonnie and family -- and Timmy's birthday

Von arrived back in Brisbane from her happy home in New Zealand on Tuesday and Paul and I tried to arrange a Welcome Home dinner for shortly thereafter.  But work commitments and such things meant that today, Saturday, was the earliest date that suited everyone.

It so happened that today was also Timmy's 30th birthday so Timmy elected to join in the Welcome Home dinner rather than have something of his own.  And he certainly had a real family birthday.  Not only were his mother and father present but so were both his brothers and both his sisters.  In these days of people moving around, that was pretty good.

Seeing it was a 30th., I decided that it was a good time to tell stories about Timmy's childhood.  Nearly everyone has heard them all before but Jade (Timmy's colourful partner) had not and everybody enjoys hearing old stories about their past anyway.  So I told the story of Timmy being knocked over by Pepper the dog, of his dash for the biscuit barrel, of his squeezing his scratches to get blood, of his wonder at being talked to by a fireman, of his hatred of being "little" and his cartwheel on reaching 3ft. tall.  Paul and Ken also told a few stories.

I forgot to tell of his delight at getting splotches of "red stuff" (mercurochrome) over his bumps and scratches.  It is only meant to be an antiseptic but with Timmy it cured everything!  I was a sort of witch doctor who could dry all tears.  He was a great little kid and we all have fond memories of his childhood.

We went to the Bollywood as usual and the curry was good as usual.  There were about 16 of us all told.  Nanna and Anne were missing for health reasons.  I sat beside Suzy for about half the time so that was a good opportunity to hear something from her.  Dusty and Sahara were both being charming so she was a rightly proud mother.

In fact the kids spent a fair bit of time running around the restaurant with much squealing etc so it was a proper family occasion.  We all like seeing the little ones enjoying themselves and for most of the time we were the only ones in the restaurant so I doubt if the kids bothered anyone.  The restaurant is quite nicely set up but most of their trade is takeway.

And I was greatly privileged in that Sahara came and wanted to sit on my lap at one stage.  Not long ago she was always frightened of me.  But now I get lots of smiles.  Times change!

Von came and talked to me for a while but we had already had long chats on Thursday so it was more important that she talk to others -- which she did.  With her usual wisdom she seated herself in the middle of the table where she could talk to most people.  Aside from Suzy, I mostly taked to Ken, as I usually do.  We predicted the result of the next Federal election!  Despite Kevvy's strong showing at the moment, we foresaw a close Abbott win.

I have used the word "usually" rather a lot above and I imagine that some people might think it boring to keep doing "usual" things.  But our dinner was in fact nearly identical with lots of previous such dinners and we always enjoy them so the familiar can have its charms.

UPDATE:  Something I should have mentioned above:  I had of course been told that Saturday was also Timmy's birthday but when I arrived and sat down near Suz she was very quick to remind me of that.  She clearly wanted that to be acknowledged.

So when I got up to do the toasts, she got up too to say something in case  I missed out.  I did of course toast Tim and it was as  soon as we had done that that Suz led us all in the "Happy Birthday" song.  She really is a little dear heart, full of love.  She went through a fiery furnace in her teens but we are very lucky to have the original Suz back among us.