Thursday, November 29, 2018

A cold and a sub-woofer

I arrived back from the wedding on Sunday afternoon in good health. By nightfall, however, I was a bit sniffly and on Monday I had a very runny nose and most of the symptoms of a cold.  I applied my stock of medicines to it but by Tuesday I was so congested that I had lost my voice.

Anne is however having her kitchen revamped this week and Tuesday is an evening we usually dine together so I felt obliged to cook the dinner that day.  It wasn't difficult. I tipped 500g of beef mince into my crockpot followed by a bottle of Taylor's readymade curry sauce -- and 3 hours later we sat down to a very good curry -- albeit a silent one on my part

During the day, however, I had been looking for something among my great stores of "stuff" and had came across something I had forgotten that I owned: A sound-system for a computer featuring a "sub woofer".  The normal sound systems you get for a computer  these days are very good but tend to be a bit weak in the bass. Woofers cure that.

Next day I was feeling a fair bit better and decided to use my woofer.  That meant disentangling my existing speakers from all the cables that infest the back of a computer but I sat down and did it.  But then I found that my woofer system lacked the cable to connect it to the computer.  I had a pretty good idea of what the cable was, however, so got my son to pick one up from Jaycar.  He did and it worked!  So  I now have Hi Fi music from my computer

So when I went to bed that night I put on the whole of Bach's Passio secundum Matthaeum.  They were much more comfortable with Latin in Bach's day so we call it the "Matthew Passion".  So I was woofed to sleep.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The mystery of the vanishing neck

The real title of this post should be:  "My son gets married".  I tried to suggest to him that marriage is a bad idea but the fact that I have myself been married four times put me in a very weak position to argue that.

But his bride is a fine woman so my prophecy is that they will stay together -- unlikely though that is in the modern world.  She is a woman of sterling character and my son admires that in her even though they have different musical tastes and she tends towards the political Left.  She is quite open to reason however so that is the main thing.  She is a friendly and sociable person so that helps a lot too.  She and my son met when he approached her in a university cafeteria while she was eating a banana! One imagines he thought she did it well!

She has a first degree in psychology  and expects to enter a higher degree soon.  Her most amazing exploit has been to get a job in psychology.  She wrote around 200 applications before she got that job so that showed dogged determination.  Only a minority of psychology graduates ever get a job in it.

The wedding was on Saturday at her parents' property South of Canberra.  Anne and I flew into Canberra on a Friday Tiger Air flight as I liked their departure times around midday. We flew on a crowded A320 is an all-economy configuration.  And the Tiger Air configuration is what one might call a Japanese configuration -- only comfortable for very short people.  I had noticed however that they have some "bulkhead" seats that offer more legroom so booked them.

When I arrived however I was booted out of those seats and given seats where my knees were against the seat in front.  One of my knees is a bit gammy so I was pretty annoyed about that. Nobody had told me that bulkhead seats were for the young and fit and I am undoubtedly decrepit. People in bulkhead seats on Tiger have to be able to help other passengers escape during any emergency. Had I known of that restriction, I would have flown on another airline that had more varied options.

Anyhow the flight from Brisbane to Canberra was only 100 minutes so I survived in a very grumpy mood.

We were picked up at the airport by the mother of the bride, which was very kind of her as she lives quite a long way out of town.  Accommodation had been arranged for us at a place I had never heard of -- a satellite city to Canberra called Tuggeranong.  It was about a 20 minute drive South of Canberra. We stayed at an apartment hotel there, which was very high quality.

We arrived at the hotel a bit after lunchtime seeking a late lunch as we had shied away from Tiger food. Most places seemed to have gone into siesta mode by that time however but good old Coffee Club was open and we both ordered the unusual "Bacon & Avo Flat Grill" there, which was surprisingly good and served promptly.  Coffee Clubs are all franchises, however, so other outlets will be different.

Our Friday night stay was comfortable assisted by some TV and some gin.  We had twin beds as Anne and I have different sleeping times.

We didn't stray far on Saturday morning -- wedding day -- as we were due to be picked up at 11 by a kindly local couple.  So we again hit the Coffee Club and were lucky to get a seat.  An elderly couple got up from their seat especially to give it to us.  We both had the Big Breakfast menu option which was excellent. Neither of us got through it all

We arrived at the wedding venue rather early so had a good opportunity for chats.  I was particularly pleased to have some chats with Von.  She and I have always been pretty much on the same wavelength but I don't see her so much now she lives in the Shaky Isles.  She looked after me in some ways on the wedding day as I don't get around very easily these days.

We all eventually ended up outdoors where the wedding was to be held.  Von had kindly set up a seat for me under a tree as my skin cancer gives me a great aversion to direct sunlight.  Ken arrived after a while and we ended up chatting a lot while we waited, which we often do.

The actual wedding was reasonably formal in that the celebrant had arranged some very romantic wedding vows, which the bride giggled at on one occasion -- possibly out of nervousness.  Now here is an odd thing:  I liked the bride's makeup!  Brides often do great things with makeup but this was a modest affair as the bride has generally good skin and features anyway. So what this makeup did was to accentuate the bride's brilliant blue eyes.

I am definitely a fan of blue eyes.  Before political correctness set in, Germans used to say that blue eyes are treu, and I think there is something in that, but mainly I just think blue eyes are beautiful -- like blue gems in a face.  So I married four blue-eyed women.  But all my family are blue-eyed so maybe I an entitled to that eccentricity.  Some people close to me have brown eyes, I might add.

There was lots of photography going on  -- many amateur efforts supplementing professional efforts.  And that is when we come to the vanishing neck!  Look at the photo below.  Anne has a perfectly normal neck but I have no neck at all!  Where has it gone?  If anybody has a suggestion about where it might be, please let me know.

And my geriatric self with my youthful son

The happy couple

After the wedding came the dinner, which was varied and well done.  It was held indoors with 50 diners so there was something of a roar of conversation -- which left both Anne and me out of it to some extent as we both suffer from old age hearing loss.  I had Von sitting right next to me so I was able to converse with her.  Suz was sitting opposite Von and was obviously in good and happy form -- the Suz we all knew from when she was growing up.

At one stage she did something characteristic of her loving heart.  The dinner was a buffet but she was seated next to Ken when she brought her plate back to the table.  Ken saw that she had bread as part of her dinner and asked where she found it.  She told him and he went to get up and find it.  Suz, however, immediately put her piece of bread on Ken's plate so he would not have to get up, which he didn't! What a good daughter she is to him!

I also managed to have a good chat to Simon, which I often do.  He has just got a Masters degree in defence studies so we discussed his dissertation. It emerged that his thinking on self-interest versus morality led him to a conclusion of which one of Mr Trump's policies is an example.  I announced a little loudly that Simon agrees with Mr Trump, which was potentially embarrassing to him -- but my sense of humour sometimes gets away from me.  He took it in good part however.  With a smile he said that he had been called many things in his life but that was the lowest yet. I suspect that he does see some virtue in Mr Trump. Mr Trump is an endless source of entertainment to me.

And after the dinner came the bridal dance.  My son had heroically learnt how to do a version of it.  It was not quite a Floral Dance but it fulfilled custom.  It started to rain as the dance wound up so maybe that said something.

Anyway, another kind lady drove us home to our hotel and I was able to introduce Anne that night to Tanqueray gin plus Cascade tonic water.  The water was a sophisticated one with a lot more than quinine in it so it enables a very good cold and fizzy highball.  Anne is always suspicious of my food and drinking explorations but liked that one.

Next morning, Sunday, Tuggeranong was as silent as the grave but we found a Chinese cafe opening at 8am nearby called the Milligram.  I had a Reuben sandwich and Anne had basic bacon and eggs.  And both were good

There was a bus station right next to our hotel so we then got a bus into Canberra and another bus to the airport,  The seating in the bus was again "Japanese".  The flight home departed a bit late but was otherwise uneventful.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A visit from Paul

Paul arrived in Brisbane from Scotland a couple of weeks ago. He now has a business in Scotland but Brisbane is still home to him as he grew up here and still has friends and family here. With a bit of financial help from me he makes the long trek out here every year, bringing one of his three little children. This year he brought his 3 year old daughter Primrose.

He brought with him three bottles of "Silent Pool" gin plus some cans of a British tonic water called "Fever Tree", both of which are very dear here but top quality.  Britain is the home of gin -- and tonic water (containing quinine) has been a very common additive to gin since colonial times, when it warded off malaria. Paul and I are both gin drinkers so it was good to get a new perspective on what is available.

I was most impressed by both the gin and the tonic water but was a bit unimpressed by their price here so I looked for alternatives that would deliver a similar taste in combination. 

And I found one that worked for me anyway. Cascade Brewery is a brewery established in 1824 in South Hobart, Tasmania and is the oldest continually operating brewery in Australia. As well as beer, the site also produces a range of non-alcoholic products. And their tonic water is a sophisticated product, with much more in it than just quinine.  So I paired that with my usual Tanqueray gin and found that the combination was pretty much what I was after. The tonic came in small cans so a finger of gin plus a can of cold tonic made a very nice highball

Some of us had never met Primrose so that was eagerly awaited.  And she did turn out to be quite a character.  She is actually rather aggressive but I suspect that that is mostly because Paul is very indulgent with her.  Jenny had little trouble reining her in and her mother no doubt does the same in Scotland. She climbs over Paul a lot so she clearly is a "Daddy's girl".  Having had such a bond with her father will help her confidence throughout her life.  She will always know that she can be loved.

Breakfasting with Primrose

At the end of the day (to be rather cliched) I suspect that Primrose is born aggressive.  Personality generally is mostly inherited. So it looks like she got most of her personality off Paul, not her ladylike mother. Paul is very assertive. I am too, which Paul has always related well to.  Paul has channeled his assertiveness into productive ways so Primrose in adulthood should do the same.

Paul had an active schedule of visits while he was here but he and I managed to fit in two or three breakfasts together and I also got to see him at the various family activities arranged for him, including some of Jenny's excellent dinners.  He had a big private chat with Joe on one occasion which reflected how highly they think of one-another.  Joe does not say much when he is part of a group. I used to be like that and I still can be sometimes.

Paul and I had one breakfast together without Primrose present when we got to cover a lot of issues, both family and political. Unlike his usual style, Paul mostly listened when I offered my observations and explanations.  Paul always listens to me and we have always talked a lot.

Von arrived a couple of days before Paul left as she wanted to meet Primrose.  Jenny had on a big chicken dinner for her arrival and I was pleased when Von swept into the room looking gorgeous all in black and gave me a big hug.  Von and I have never chatted a lot but have always liked being around one-another, sometimes quite silently.  She knows that I understand her and I know that she knows.

The last actual function of Paul's stay was a BBQ at Ken's place on Saturday.  Ken doesn't do much hospitality that I know of these days but his eldest son was an obvious exception. Timmy was there too with his attractive fiancee so I took the opportunity to tell funny stories about what Timmy said and did when he was little: Including the famous "two cents for blood" stories.   He was a great little kid in the day.  Fortunately he is good humored so I don't think my stories bothered him.  It may have helped his fiancee to understand him better, however.

Paul's flight out was tonight so a few of us went over to Jenny's place to take one last opportunity to talk with him and see Primrose.  Jenny made us some excellent ham sandwiches for lunch.  Joe, Kate and Von were there.  Over lunch we spent a lot of time talking about old times, when we were all a lot younger. 

I gave Paul a very small going away present: A can of "Cascade" tonic water.  He might be able to get it in Britain.  Australian beers are very widely available there.

Monday, November 5, 2018

I get a dagger and a sword

We had tonight one of the dinners for male friends and family that I put on about 3 times a year.  I cook for the dinners concerned so a certain bravery is required to attend.  I usually cook some form of mince and tonight I made chili con carne, which generally works well with help of certain sachets

As usual I got Graham up from Victoria for the dinner and it was mainly my doing that I was able to get Paul along too.  Present were Paul, Graham, Joe and myself.

It was a great evening with lots of well-informed comments about American politics.  Mr Trump was the center of attention, of course and we wondered about how iconoclastic he is.

Joe had given me a bottle  of a single malt -- Laphroiag -- for my birthday so I decided to give everyone a "wee dram", using my collection of port glasses.  And Graham had brought with him some Irish beer.  So we were able to honour the Scottish custom of whisky with a beer chaser.  Graham was particularly impressed by the Laphroaig

But the highlight of the evening for me was my acquisition of a sword and a dagger. The Sword was a 1909 British cavalry sword in amazingly original condition, including the leather straps. Graham bought it for a large sum at a militaria show at my request.

But the dagger was amazing too.  I had owned for many years a rusty old dagger that had seen better days.  Graham undertook to rehabilitate it last time he was here  and brought it up with him tonight.  It was a work of art.  Graham is a very able craftsman.  I think it is the best present I have ever been given.  He made a new handle for it out of a deer antler and added brasswork.  A picture below.