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.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A celebration of American independence in Australia

From an Australian viewpoint, the initiation of America's first civil war by the declaration of independence does not seem a good idea.  The declaration by itself does not bear close scrutiny -- as Canadian Conrad Black points out.  It was mainly a complaint about more laws being needed and the King not allowing them!  Read it here if you doubt that.

And Australia gained its independence from Britain just by a few old guys signing some papers -- without a drop of blood being spilt and no disruptions of any kind.  Which is why Australia is still a monarchy with Queen Elizabeth as head of state.  And the basic cause of the American dissatisfaction -- a request that Americans pay a small tax which the British themselves were already paying -- hardly seems worth mass bloodshed.

Nonetheless, inauspicious beginnings have led to worthy results in the long term and, up until recently, America really was a light of liberty for all mankind.  Whether the slide into Fascism accelerated under the Obama administration will ever be reversed is a moot question.  The land of the free has become the land of the regulated.  Will a third civil war be needed to re-light the beacon of individual freedom?  Many American gun owners are bracing themselves for that possibility

But respect for the individual in America has already survived such assaults as Abraham Lincoln's totally unnecessary war -- in which he limited  government "by the people" to Northerners only -- and the fortunately foiled dash for Fascism by FDR  -- who described dictator Mussolini as "That admirable Italian gentleman'.  And in that context the birthday of the USA is well worth celebration.

So I invited a few family members over to my place for a small celebratory dinner earlier tonight.  I hoisted Old Glory from my flagpole out the front, broke out the champagne and ordered in some food.  The dinner was held on my front verandah so we ordered in food from our local Indian restaurant.  Indian food on my verandah has become something of a family tradition.

Even though she is at the moment heavily pregnant, Susan cheerfully did her usual highly appreciated job of taking our orders, phoning them though and then going to pick the food up.  Vonnie went with her to help with the pickup.  Girl talk ensued, no doubt.

Curry is not exactly an American food but Susan brought along an excellent apple pie ready to go into the oven so we had hot apple pie to round off our dinner.  That at least was iconically American.  If you get the impression that Susan is a treasure, you are right!

A good pic of Susan, Paul and Matthew on an earlier occasion

As we all know one-another very well it was a very relaxed and congenial meeting with discusions mainly about family matters and the children. As they often do, little Matthew and Hannah played very well together.

Paul kept up his usual tirade against Leftism and Simon was his usual paragon of taciturnity -- though he did enlighten us at one stage about the New Zealand sheep-meat trade.  Anne talked mainly to Susan and Vonnie -- about secret women's business.

It has emerged recently that Vonnie is at least as big a sentimentalist as Paul and I are so we discussed Vonnie's little collection of keepsakes that remind her of special times, places and events.  I mentioned that I still had Joe's tricycle and ride-on toy so Von and Paul asked to see those -- as they too remember Joes's childhood in which he used those things.  So there was a pilgrimage to the garage to view those.

My house is of the "Old Queenslander" type, a  big timber house with a central corridor.  And when Paul and the twins were little they loved running around in circles INSIDE the Queenslander I had then  -- something made possible by  verandahs and the corridor.  Tonight Paul realized he could do the same in my present house so he revisited his youth by doing so, running around in partnership with Matthew, who enjoyed it greatly.

The gathering

The trike -- untidily stored away in my garage