Sunday, January 26, 2014

A busy few days

Last Thursday (23rd) was Anne's birthday so I took her to the New Sing Sing for Peking duck.  Peking duck is both an elaborate and expensive meal so goes well as a birthday offering.  We have eaten often at the New Sing Sing and the food has always been good.  And so it was on Thursday.  The proprietor himself expertly carved our duck and we got very attentive service throughout the meal.

Anne had a glass of wine with it and I had a stubby of Fourex Gold.  As it was a hot day, I really enjoyed that beer.  The Chinese are big beer drinkers so beer and Chinese food partner well.

And it was a big duck.  We did not quite get through it all.

I also gave Anne a present -- a tin of sweets such as I mentioned in my previous post about caketins.  So I am hoping for a fruitcake to find its way into that tin in due course.

Then yesterday (25th) was the anniversary of the birth of a wonderful poet.  I invited Paul and Susan over to share some haggis but I did not attempt to do all the Burns night customs.  I did not even get into Highland dress.  I did however read part of the Ode to a Haggis before I carved it and we sang Auld Lang Syne at the end.  Anne as usual did a great job cooking the haggis, neeps and tatties.

One thing we did was try to remember the time when I first met Paul  -- when he was 7.  He is now 37 so I have known him for 30 years.  It was shortly after Jenny and I had begun seeing one-another.  Jenny said that I had better meet her kids and I agreed.  So we drove to Camlet St and I waited in the Gemini while she went in to collect them.  Shortly, she came out with 3 little kids bobbing along  behind her.  They piled into the back seat and were totally silent for the drive to my place.  It was the first and last time that they have ever been silent.

I don't really remember what we did at my place but I would have played with the kids -- as I regularly did subsequently. Anyway the kids were favourably impressed and told Ken and Maureen so that evening when they were back at home.  Paul remembers all 3 of them waxing enthusiastic about me -- with Ken and Maureen greeting that enthusiasm with some caution.  I guess stepfathers are not supposed to be popular!

Taking orders for beer and Scotch immediately after carving the haggis

And today was Australia day so my rellies on my mother's side got together at my brother's place for our usual BBQ.  We talked a bit about Aborigines as Kym is in the Aboriginal industry.  I talked a bit to my nephew James to see how he is going.  He didn't do very well at High School but has a great interest in philosophy.  Anne  did not come along as she was doing a short bushwalk as part of her rehab after her recent knee surgery.

It was the first time I had seen sister-in-law Kym in a dress. It was a mainly red dress and she looked very good in it. She has kept a remarkably good figure for a 50-year-old lady.

My brother is in the motorbike trade so the question about how he is affected by Queensland's anti-bikie laws arose early on. He replied that he had little contact with bikie clubs these days so was minimally affected. I put it to him that the laws were really aimed at the Lebanese Muslim clubs and he confirmed that the problem clubs were Middle-Eastern. The clubs comprised of older Ockers gave nobody any problems.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bill Glasson meets Leftist hate

I am enrolled in the electorate of Griffith, Kevin Rudd's old seat.  I used to get a nice Christmas card from Kevvy every year while he was there.  So I will be voting in the by-election caused by Kevvy's retirement.

The LNP candidate for the by-election is Dr. Bill Glasson, a most energetic campaigner and an ophthalmologist by trade.  His father, also Bill Glasson, was a minister in the long-running Bjelke-Petersen government of Queensland.  So the present Bill has name recognition.

I was sitting in my usual Buranda brunch destination about mid-morning yesterday when Bill and a campaign assistant walked in -- also seeking brunch.  The assistant was a nice-looking young lady who might have been his daughter.  She had "Vote Bill Glasson" written all over her t-shirt so she was at any event a helper.

Bill & Co. sat down beside a lady in a green dress.  The restaurant was busy so some tables were right up against one another.  Bill chose one such table.  As the lady beside him got up to leave, she launched a furious verbal assault on Bill:  Quite egregious behaviour in a restaurant.

I was too far away to hear what she was saying and I am pretty deaf anyway but a professional actor could not have done a better job of portraying rage and hate  than this woman did  -- finger pointing, tensed-up body and all other conceivable hostile body  language.  Bill just sat there.  She gave up after a few minutes and walked out.  She must have thought of more things to say, however, as she shortly thereafter came back into the restaurant and resumed her angry tirade at Bill.

It was a most remarkable assault on a man the woman did not know personally and who has never been a member of any government.  She appeared to have been blaming Bill for something some government had done but why she blamed Bill for it was  obscure.

When I had finished eating, I went over, shook Bill's hand, introduced myself as a Griffith voter and said I would be voting for him.  I then asked him what the lady had been on about.  He said it was confused but it was something about hospitals.  All Australian public hospitals are in a mess so that might be understandable.  The government that got Qld. hospitals into a mess was however the recently departed Leftist government.  So again, why blame Bill?

I then said to Bill:  "She was full of hate, wasn't she?".  He agreed.  Just his conservative political identity was enough to fire her up.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tingalpa is where it's at!

Tingalpa has long been one of Brisbane's lowliest suburbs -- notable only as a place you pass through on your way to the seaside at Wynnum.

But a miracle has happened.  Tingalpa now hath all that the heart desires, as Dr Johnson might have said.

It started with the IGA.  The IGA is a small supermaket that is much more convenient to get around than the huge Coles and Woolworths stores.  And it seems to have lots of good things and a friendly staff.

And it all took off from there.  It now even has a Sushi train.  And that, I think, is a prime marker of being in tune with modern international civilization.  Japan has lessons for us all.

And the Chinese bakery there is marvellous -- with bread like you had forgotten was possible -- and the Indian there does a Lahori curry that beats any other curry I have tasted.  And I have eaten  curries in India (plus Sydney and London).

And the latest thing is that they now have a Mexican there ("Chidos").  Anne and I went there last night and it was very good Mexican.  And, at the risk of being boring, I have tasted Mexican in Mexico.

Plus they have a Thai etc etc.

But they do have a very strange Australian bottleshop there.  If you knock on his door a few minutes after he has closed (at 7pm!)in order to buy liquor from him, he won't open his door.  Indians  and Chinese would regard him as a very strange creature.  I do too.

I suspect that he may be Scottish.  Scots can get very rigid about their customs.  And I speak as someone who wears the kilt on occasions!  And I have been to Scotland three times.  I have even done research there.  See here.

Friday, January 17, 2014


I am probably being repetitious here but I wonder if the young people know what we oldies went through by way of diet.

For CENTURIES the British diet consided of "meat + 3 veg".  The veg were potatoes  plus cabbage and carrots or beans of you were lucky

And the meat was somethinhg hacked off a dead animal --  such as steak or if you were unlucky sausages.  And if you were REALLY unlucky it was liver.

The vegetables had s**t out of  boiled out of them and the meat was fried to death

For my hospital admissions, I always go to the Wesley  -- Brisbane's top private  hospital.  But even there it helps to be one of the people.  You get  to choose your dinner if you are there in the morning but if you are an afternoon or evening admission you get the default dinner!  And it is very ethnic:  Australian ethnic.  Something might be  done with the smashed potatoes to make them more edible but that is about the  limit.

But somehow we survived.  Rather Paleo, I guess.  And I must confess that that I can still eat such a presentation  -- though not without amusement.  I recognize that it it is good if boring food.  If you ever go into an Australian/British hospital, you had better get used to it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cake tins and poverty

I have always been aware that my parents were poor.  My father was a hard worker so they always managed to put sufficient food on the table and kept a good roof over our heads -- but that was about their limit.  They rarely saved anything and doctor's bills were stressful for them.

And one of the indexes of that is that my mother would occasionally borrow money from me even when I was a child.  I got pocket-money of a florin a week (which bought about what $2 would buy today) and usually saved it in my moneybox.  Even when I was a kid I was not big on spending money on myself.  So sometimes I would have the equivalent of about $50 in my moneybox.  And that was enough for my mother to do her essential shopping.  I always got the money back so didn't mind.

Jenny remembers her father borrowing money off her too when she was a kid.  So maybe it was a generational thing.  But he used to pay her interest on his borrowings  -- which was fun for both of them.

But I have just remembered another poverty episode that I thought strange even at the time.  My mother did not have a cake-tin to keep her boiled fruitcakes in (You boil the fruit, not the cake).  Boiled fruitcakes are something of a tradition in Australia, particularly around Christmas time.  They are  often kept for a month or more and eaten only gradually.  So you needed a tin with a lid that sealed fairly well.

A popular source of caketins were tins of toffees and other candies that were often bought as gifts at Christmas times. They were tins of about 8" in diameter so were a good size for keeping fruitcakes in after all the contents had been eaten.  But my mother could not afford one.  So when I was about 6 or 7 she went down to our genial Chinese grocer in Innisfail ("Joe Charles") and asked if she could buy just the tin.  I was with her at the time and to my amazement he agreed.  He tipped the toffees into a big candy jar -- for sale as individual sweets -- and sold my mother the tin for some small sum.  Amazing.  Times were different then.  I remember wondering what the original contents of our caketin would have been like.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

3 sisters again

Anne has 2 sisters and the 3 of them get together once or twice a year for a sisterly lunch or dinner, with an early January gathering being particularly customary  -- with customary male companions also being invited.

So last night the 6 of us met at Oliver's restaurant at Manly. It's a rather fancy place so I expected bad service but it was not too slow.

My hearing was a bit of a problem as the place had a tiled floor and was very busy with lots of chatty people.  I find it very difficult to hear people under those circumstances.   But I gathered with the men down one end of the table while the ladies were at the other end so the louder male voices got through to me fairly well in the end.  Colin had to lean over and shout in my ear, however, which he very kindly did.

Colin is 90,  It must be a sign of my own antiquity that I find myself dining with 90-year-olds.  We discussed various environmentalist issues and agreed that the Greenies and animal lib people go too far.  Why birds such as Galahs are protected while they are a real pest  -- with great flocks of them -- in Western Queensland really is hard to understand, for instance.  Surely trapping them for export should be allowed.  They're worth big money overseas.  And we all agreed that the Northern Territory should be opened up for buffalo hunting.

The food was good.  I had the lamb fillet, which was very tasty, but there was a rather small serve of it, which I had expected of such a restaurant.  The others had grilled fish.

We adjourned to Anne's place afterward for tea and coffee.  We could all hear one-another perfectly there so we chatted on for quite a while.

A small meditation: It has always amazed me that there seems to be an inverse relationship between restaurant prices and restaurant service. One would think that dearer restaurants would excel on service -- but it is the other way around. Service in expensive restaurants is almost always dilatory and snooty. You can wait a long time even to get a menu put in front of you. That happened at Olivers. I had to get up, find the menus, and distribute them to my table.

The food however arrived in a reasonable time but then there came the "issue" of paying for it. You would think that paying would be the last thing to be an issue but it was. I requested the bill but after it was not forthcoming I had to walk out into the kitchen to stir things up there. That did work. I got a bill. But then there was nobody to pay the money to! Nobody seemed to want it! I left it on the desk hoping that it would go to its proper place in due course! Amazing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Have I gone over the top?

Yes.  I have gone over the top.  In my view there is nothing more beautiful than a child with golden curls and brilliant blue eyes.  And gorgeous Dusty is just such a child at the moment.  But my son Joe was such a child too.  And even I was.  Though I think my hair was more white than golden -- as I can still remember my father's friends addressing me as "Snowy".

So when I encountered a young mother outside Bunnings today who had THREE little blondies with her, I of course turned to water.

I was there to buy a bolt cutter (Don't ask) but Bunnings have a charity sausage sizzle outside their front door and I am a sausage tragic.  I can't go past them.  So I was stopped eating a sausage in bread there (with mustard) when a young mother rolled up with her 3 littlies,  One of them was about 4 and said:  "Mummy, Can we have a sausage?":  Obviously well-brought-up Australian kids.

The mother said:  "I don't know,. I don't think I have got enough money for that.  And she opened her change purse and was scrabbling around in it to see what she had.  I had finished my sausage by then so immediately got up, put my hand in my pocket and pulled out all my change and dropped it into the lady's purse.  She was a bit startled but looked up and saw me smiling at her so  said "Thank You".  I just walked on.

After I had brought my bolt cutter and left the shop I did however note that all the kids had a sausage.  I was most pleased.

I was wearing my blue singlet at the time so the lady would probably have seen what I did as just normal Ocker kindness.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I own a Tardis

A Tardis car to be precise.  As everybody knows, a Tardis is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  It sounds impossible but Toyota achieved it years ago.

I am referring to my Toyota Starlet.  As everybody knows it is a very small, light car.  It was the smallest Toyota available for a while in the '90s and today even my Toyota Echo seems big and heavy alongside it.  Yet it can carry four people and has a big boot for luggage as well.

I bought the car off Anne mainly for Joe's use while he is in Brisbane.  She was upgrading to an automatic Corolla for the sake of her bones.  And she used to carry around in it a big bootful of all sorts of equipment needed for her work as a school nurse:  Audiology machines etc.  So she can tell you about the ample boot.

And when Jenny was driving Von & Co to the airport on 5th, she had to take the Starlet as it was the only way to fit in both them and their luggage.  I gather that they had acquired more possessions whilst here.   So 3 people plus Hannah in a kiddy seat got to the airport with all their luggage courtesy of the Starlet.

How does such a little car manage to be so big?  I suspect that only Toyota and Dr Who could tell you.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A jammy sendoff

For some reason, I have accumulated a great range of jams ("Jelly" in U.S. usage).  If I see what looks like an interesting jar of jam I buy it -- and people make jam out of all sorts of things these days.  The big problem however is that there is one sort of Jam I REALLY like:  cumquat jam.  I even have my own cumquat tree which provides me with the fruit for it.  So whenever I want to put jam on my breakfast toast or croissant, I reach for the cumquat and the other jams never get touched.  So when I found I had about 20 jams in my cupboard, I decided that I had to do something about it.  I put on a special jammy breakfast at my place this morning.

Cumquats ready for jam-making

Both Joe and Von were due to return to their present homes this weekend so I made it a breakfast sendoff.  I had some especially good fresh white bread sourced from a small local baker to go with the jam plus small croissants and raisin bread.  The fresh bread lived up to its expectations and both it and the croissants soon ran out.  And if people found a jam that they particularly liked they were given it to take home.  I greatly reduced my collection that way.

Present were Paul, Joe, Ken, Von, Simon, Davey, myself and Anne  -- plus littlies.  Suz and Russ were late arrivals but there was still raisin bread left so they did not miss out.  The kids had great fun with my Sao biscuits (cookies)  -- laying them as a row of tiles here and there on the floor and elsewhere, breaking them up into pieces and occasionally eating them.  Large cracker biscuits clearly have a lot to be said for them.

It was very hot, as it usually is at this time of the year but everybody seemed to think the breakfast was a fun thing anyway.  The temp at my place rose to 37 degrees C later that day  -- 98 degrees in the old money.  It was humid too.

Something that Anne pointed out to me is that the gathering was mostly male.  That was however mostly happenstance, I think.  I don't know why Olivia and Maureen did not come but Jenny was crook and Paul's household had family obligations.  Susan's family were staying there for a couple of days at the time.  And Susan's father, mother and stepmother are all lovely people whom you would not want to offend.  Somehow however Paul made his apologies and came to my crazy breakfast, without Susan but together with Matthew.  So we had a full complement of littlies running around.  And run they do.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Another recovered memory

Timmy was such a great little kid when he was a toddler that I often tell fun stories about the things he did.  One story that I don't think I have told before has just come to mind.

It was just after we had moved to Faversham St and all the gang were there.  Jenny was in the kitchen busy cooking and Timmy was talking to her -- about what I do not know.  But he was distracting her from her cooking so she told him to get out of the kitchen  -- which he did, standing in the doorway about one inch from the kitchen.  And he resumed talking to her.  So she said:  "I told you to get out of the kitchen".  He replied: "But I am out of the kitchen".  A little 4-year-old lawyer.  Jenny was much amused.