Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A good Nando's

Our trips to Nando's usually have only 3 people,  Jenny, myself  and Joe.  Kate comes along sometimes.

But last night we had some welcome extras: Paul, Jess and Anne.  Paul likes our Nando meetings so tries to get along when he is in town. He came along this time despite flying out tomorrow.

Jess is Kate's sister but I had not previously seen much of her.  So tonight was something of a first.  So I was pleased to find that she is cheerful and good-humored:  Great assets.  She is also quite slim, which is another asset.  She teaches High School English.

Anne does not usually come to Nandos as it is our custom to dine together the day after. She didn't come to dine today either but just dropped in to grab the last chance of seeing Paul before he departed.  He greeted her warmly so that worked well

Earlier in the evening Anne had dined with one of her sons but she left early enough to drop in on our Nando's meeting.  Anne had a bad cold for the first half of December so had to postpone a lot of her socializing at that time and then Christmas got into gear so she was pretty frazzled by her many social activities by Sunday yesterday so was too zonked out do anything much.  So she missed the bon voyage dinner that Jenny put on for Paul and Susan yesterday. So she had not seen Paul at all this time around.

Paul did most of the talking as he usually does. We discussed the bushfires, Shakespeare, Brexit, John Ruskin and much else. Paul also did a remarkable job of eating up all the leftover chips so nothing was wasted.  He is regularly our human vacuum cleaner..

A photo of the gathering taken by Paul below. Note Joe's customary way of sitting.  I used to sit like that too. Too old and stiff now. Joe has also got himself a rather military haircut recently, though he has no military inclinations.

For a bigger pic, click here

Monday, December 30, 2019

A last supper

This evening Jenny put on a dinner mainly aimed at giving Joe and me a last chance to talk to Paul and Susan before they depart for Scotland.  It was held in the BBQ area of her back yard but was not a BBQ.  Jenny and Susan had cooked up a delicious dinner in the kitchen.  It was a Mexican curry of their own devising with guacamole and rice.  It also included some of the leftover ham from Christmas day.

We always buy a large first class ham for Christmas. I have been shouting it as my contribution to the dinner for around 30 years now.  It is always the best ham of the year and we always have plenty of leftovers so it features in everybody's dinners for some days afterward.

We talked about many things but Ken's activities with the waterfall punchbowl on Christmas day were noted. We also noted the possibility that Timmy's wife Rachel is related to Nanna.  There is the unusual surname Cairns in both ancestries and a similar place of origin in Britain in both ancestries

Joe was an exemplar of good manners in not starting to eat his dinner until Susan had sat down.  The rest of us were more slack about that.  I think it is modern manners for someone to start if the hostess is taking a long time to sit down.  As soon as one person starts, others follow suit.

The kids were all present and Bambam had to be roared at a couple  of times, as was to be expected.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Liptauer spread

Anne stayed over for another night, so early on 28th we again braved the crowds at the Gold Leaf.  Anne had the Canadian breakfast. She went home about 10 am

As is often the case, we had got in more food for Christmas than we actually used so it was not only the ham that was left over.  Almost untouched was  a dish of Liptauer that Anne had made and brought over. Liptauer is ubiquitous in central Europe so in her travels there Anne had got a good idea of what Liptauer is all about and now makes a good version of it. It's readily available at delis in Sydney but as far as I know, Anne is the only source of it in Bribane.  So if you want to sample Liptauer here, you have to get to  know Anne.

So when it came to around 6pm, it was time for my dinner and the availability of Liptauer made itself felt.  I spread a thick coat of Liptauer plus some fresh tomato slices onto toast and had a mega-Yum dinner

There is a recipe for Liptauer here but Anne didn't get it quite right until she had been to Austria and Hungary and got the original idea of it.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Yummy leftovers

Anne stayed over so we went to the Gold Leaf again for breakfast. It was very busy so we had to wait a bit for our food.  Anne had Dim Sims.

After brekky we made a stop an the Annerley Vinnies and both came away with some new treasures.  The Annerley Vinnies seems to be particularly good for nice things

For lunch we had mainly leftover ham from Christmas day.  It was very good.

For dinner we polished off the leftover ham from Christmas day plus we had leftover cutlets from Boxing day. Anne made a good salad to go with it so we ate well

Friday, December 27, 2019

Boxing day

Anne had her Christmas lunch with her three sons at a very upmarket Italian osteria (hostelry) in Yeronga where everything went well.  But they did not finish up until 5pm so by that time she was fit only to go home to bed.

So on Boxing day evening Anne came over and we had our special dinner: Sydney rock oysters followed by lamb cutlets. Anne cooked the cutlets just right and we had them with plenty of salt and a salad so they were delicious.  For dessert, we had some of George's Christmas cake which went down well

After dinner I did the traditional British tea ceremony -- with leaf tea in my traditional teapot, an ornate teaset (cups and saucers, not mugs), an ornate tea strainer and an ornate milk jug.  I also own an ornate glass sugar bowl but neither Anne nor I take sugar so it was not deployed.

A British tea ceremony is just as complex as a Japanese tea ceremony.  Tea demands it.  I must confess that I did leave out two elements of the traditional ceremony:  I did not add the tea with one teaspoonful for the pot and one teaspoon for each cup.  The English like their tea very strong but I go for the much milder Scottish version, with just one teaspoon for the pot. For the same reason I did not turn the pot around once the boiling water had been poured.

Anne said it was "a good cup of tea".  She was still very tired so she went to bed early that night.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The blessed day has arrived

I engineered it this year so that all of my stepchildren and their children were home for the Christmas period.  Unfortunately "the girls" could not be present for the actual Christmas day but it was still great to see them and their children very recently.  It is amusing that although the two mothers are not at all alike, their two daughters are growing up as little ladies.  Both mothers are very indulgent, however, so both little girls are free to be themselves.

It may help to realize how good our Christmas reunion has been if you know that the families literally came from opposite ends of the earth, from Scotland and New Zealand respectively.  It is one of the wonders of geography that despite their great distance apart, both families speak their native language in their native accents in their new homes and are perfectly understood and respected. Our seafaring British ancestors did a great thing through their voyages.

Some great journeys of emigration are well known -- the Mayflower etc. -- but one of the greatest is little known outside Australia -- the convoy of 11 ships known to Australians as The First Fleet.  In fragile little wooden ships of mostly under 400 tons, powered only by the wind, the fleet sailed half way around the world and arrived at their destination in good order.  From England, the Fleet sailed southwest to Rio de Janeiro, then east to Cape Town and via the Great Southern Ocean to Botany Bay, arriving in 1788 and taking two thirds of a year to do it (May to January).

It was a military expedition -- run by the Royal Navy, including marines -- so that no doubt helped in maintaining order. But it was still an heroic enterprise.  In a very British move, the personnel even included a judge. I love that. It is because of them and other intrepid British sailors that you can now move from one end of the earth to the other and still freely speak your native English.  We have been very well-served by our ancestors.

So we have had Paul, Susan and their three with us for most of December and have them with us today.  They have three exceptional children: A boy who is exceptionally bright, a girl who is exceptionally feminine and another girl who is exceptionally naughty.  They are all a great delight.

I am writing this early on Christmas morning and the BOM have forecast rain.  I have little respect for the BOM and their forecasts but we had a big storm yesterday so they may be right this time. In the circumstances we are all going to crowd indoors rather than having our activities around the BBQ in the back yard.

In times past Anne and I used to go to the magnificent St. John's cathedral for the Christmas service but we have got out of the way of doing that these days.  That the sermons were always complete mush did not help.  It is an Anglican cathedral. Spurgeon would weep


The gathering at  Jenny's place was a large one, with David, Timmy and Timmy's wife Rachel also turning up. I arrived at about 9:30am.  Nanna even appeared at the dinner table.  She is very old and frail so her appearance was a rarity.

Paul and Ken had one of their usual arguments, with me taking Paul's side.  Ken thought that cash will be abolished one day while Paul and I thought there would be too much opposition to that.  Joe talked about shares, bitcoin and finance generally.  He is facing some absurdly high closing costs in buying his new house.

I talked quite a lot with Susan and Jenny about Bambam and how to understand her exceptionally naughty behaviour.  We agreed that she is bright so will probably learn better behaviour as she grows up.  She ran around very energetically for a couple of hours and then flaked out in the middle of the living room. She must have exhausted herself.

I also talked to Paul about Matthew's future and we speculated about getting him into Eton eventually.  We also talked about Scotland generally, Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson.  Both of us are very pleased by the advent of Boris and see in him great hopes for the future prosperity of Britain

The BOM was right for once.  We had some quite heavy rain. We were under cover, however.

The dinner was excellent, featuring kebabs and some very good ham.  I left at about 3pm

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve

We all foregathered at Jenny's place for a meal of roast chicken and veg.  It was very traditional but very nicely done.  I arrived at about 6pm and left around 9pm. There was of course a lot of chatting throughout with Paul keeping us all involved. Nobody drank any alcohol.  I had ginger beer to drink.  We are sufficiently mentally alive not to need alcohol at a party.

Bambam (Primrose) was exceptionally naughty as is her way.  She can pull the most awful faces.  She made some amazingly aggressive faces at Ken several times, even though he was being nice to her. Basically, she just wants attention, I think.  She reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt, a very extroverted American president of around a century ago.  TR's son once said of him: "Father wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral"

Since both Jenny and Matthew are celiacs, there was on hand a range of biscuits and candies that are OK for celiacs.  Matthew made the most of it.  It was amazing the amount he could fit into that little tummy.

Ken put it to me that the story of the Emperor's new clothes is implausible.  I suppose it is  but was it meant to be plausible?  I think not.

As I was getting up to go home, I had sunk far down into one of Jenny's couches so doubted that I could get up.  Susan solved that very smartly.  She came and pulled me up without further ado.  Joe will tell you that that is a heavy task so Susan's strength was a real surprise. Being smart, kind and good looking are not the end of her talents.  She looked very glamorous in her ankle-length strapless yellow gown

It had just been raining as I left so Joe escorted me to my car in case I slipped over.

Monday, December 23, 2019

An unusual day

Paul, Matthew and I breakfasted at the Phams at about 9:30.  I had a breakfast muffin plus a Fillo.  Matthew had boiled eggs and salad.  Paul had some avocado creation. Something Matthew said at breakfast interested me.  He said that he always finishes what he starts instead of leaving the finishing to another day.  That is a statement at a high level of generality for an 8-year-old and is another sign of his high IQ

After breakfast we went back to my place. Paul left me alone with Matthew so we could get to know one-another a little better.  I had heard that Matthew liked classical music -- again unusual in an 8-year old and again an indicator of a high IQ.   Even most adults don't like classical music.  It's much more complex than popular music

So I played for him on YouTube some of the favorite classical pieces -- Sibelius Musette, Nimrod; Mache dich mein Herze rein; Chiome d' Oro; Karelia Suite; Sheep may safely graze; Largo from Xerxes; Stabat Mater etc.  I asked him towards the end if there was one piece he particularly liked.  He said "I liked all of them"

After that I went on to teach him a bit of German, which Paul wants him to learn.  An unexpected obstacle was the Ach Laut.  He could not say it.  Yet he lives in Scotland where everybody can and does say it. He himself does not speak Scots.  He does a reasonable version of RP.  He will eventually move to England so that is all rather a good idea.  Anyway I gave him some very basic vocab, got him to say it and gave him a list for him to practice some time.

Then at just after 6:30 we had our Nandos visit.  Paul, Matthew, Susan, Elise, Joe and I were there and Ken and Maureen joined us a little later. The six-year old Elise was looking glamorous with her wonderful hair. Some women pay a fortune to hairdressers to get hair like that.

The talk was mainly about Joe's new house.  It's costing him a bomb but he is getting a large modern house in an immaculate state of repair.  It's a 1950s timber house on low blocks that has recently been done up.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Another visit to the Gold Leaf shop

Paul and Susan joined me for breakfast at the Gold Leaf coffee shop last Tuesday (17th).  We had their usual top quality breakfasty stuff.  I had their cheeseburger as I often do.  And we all had iced coffee.

The main point of the meeting was to allay Susan's worries about various things.  She and Paul are in business and that is always a bit precarious so both Paul and she have good grounds to be worried about something going wrong and sending them broke.

I tried to damp down that worry by assuring them that I would not let them go broke.  I would bail them out if they ever faced a bill they could not pay.  I think that may have helped Susan to be more relaxed

We also talked about Matthew's future now he has been accepted into the Fettes Prep school. We speculated that he might go into politics at Westminster in the distant future -- once he has made his fortune.   He already seems quite conservative, has two conservative parents  and will be going to a conservative school -- so he should end up with views as conservative as Paul's and mine.  It would be good to hear such views espoused in the House of Commons one day.

We also talked more about Susan having another baby but had to leave that for Susan to mull over.  She is keen but it all depends on how much help she can get while she is heavily involved with their business.  We discussed some possibilities.

After breakfast we all came back to my place, where I had a gift of a pair of very fancy doilies to give to Susan. I am a great believer in the usefulness of doilies and have lots of them  protecting various surfaces at my place.  Susan enjoyed looking at some of my recent purchases of classic old furniture.  Paul investigated my photo farm.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The cousins

Von has just put up a lot of pictures from her recent visit to Brisbane.  The one below rather took my attention -- of the two young cousins strolling along together in an obviously relaxed way.  Will they have a future together in adulthood?  The fact that they come from families with similar values would facilitate that.

And to go really out on a limb:  Matthew will one day be rich and Hannah will always be beautiful.  And a rich man needs a beautiful wife and a beautiful lady needs a rich man.

Sorry if I seem maudlin.  I am even sober as I write this


I was indeed maudlin in writing the above.  Cousin marriage is in general inadvisable but can reasonably be risked  if the parents on both sides are healthy.  Cousin marriage is of course the norm in Muslim societies.

In the case above however both parents of the two young people have inherited their father's bad bones so a marriage there would be most inadvisable.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hah! The BoM predicted a day ago that we would have no more rain until April or May

I initially put this up on my Australian Politics blog but it clearly has a place here too

So we have just had tonight the most colossal downpour in Brisbane.  It came down like a waterfall for a solid hour.  It reminded me of my boyhood in tropical Innisfail, where they measured their annual rainfall in yards -- 7 yards, usually.

I don't know how widely it rained but I would be surprised if there are any bushfires still burning anywhere near Brisbane.  It was such a powerful downpour that there must have been a big weather system behind it, suggesting that the rain would have been widespread.  New Zealand had heavy weather -- planes grounded etc. -- a few days ago -- so maybe that system reached us.

When the rivers drain all the catchments, Lake Manchester will be full and even Wivenhoe will be up a few inches. Lake Moogerah too. Both needed it.  No water rationing for Brisbane!  Sydney eat your heart out.

We did have a blackout where I am.  There was a huge crack of thunder about 10 minutes into the storm and everything went out.  I had started putting up my blogs a bit early as I foresaw a blackout.  So I had finished that only seconds before the blackout.  The electricty workers were good.  The power was back on only 45 minutes after the end of the storm


Brisbane smashed in powerful rainstorm

Brisbane has been hit by a powerful rainstorm overnight, with more than 100 millimetres [4 inches in the old money] falling in the space of an hour.

The storm passed through Darling Downs and the Scenic Rim before hitting Brisbane and Moreton Bay just after 10pm.

The downpour caused flash flooding as drains struggled to cope with the amount of water gushing through them and almost 2000 homes lost power at the height of the storm.

There was localised flooding at Ipswich Road, Stanley Street, the Pacific Motorway near east Brisbane and on Duke and Vulture Street in Wooloongabba. Some streets in Annerley were also affected.

At Brisbane Airport. Wind gusts hit 80km/h with some flights being diverted as a result.

There were no significant reports of damage to property.


Further update here

A departure

Wednesday was departure date for both Von and Suz, though not on the same plane, I gather.  They were leaving rather late in the evening so Jenny invited me to come over and share some leftovers for dinner

Jenny was still unwell so big Susan did most of the cooking.  And it was good.  Susan revived the lasagna from the night before with great success -- served with vegies.

I had some good talks with both Von and Susan so it was a good night. I actually learned some things from them that I had not previously realized.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Family fun

Here's my list of recent events

Sat 30 Nov - Paul & family arrive in Bris, welcome dinner at Jenny's

Sun 1 Dec - I breakfast with Joe, Paul & Matthew

Mon 2 Dec - I breakfast with Paul

Mon 2 Dec - Dinner at Nandos with Jenny, Paul & Elise

Wed 4 Dec - Breakfast with Paul and Susan at Buranda

Thur 5 Dec - welcome Dinner for Von at Jenny's

Fri 6 Dec - Breakfast with Paul and Susan at Vietnamese cafe

Sat 7 Dec - picnic at park next to Ken and Maureen's house

Sun 8th - Dinner at the Dapur Dahlia with Jill and Lewis

Mon 9 Dec - Breakfast with Von at Vietnamese cafe

Mon 9 Dec - Dinner at Jenny's with all visitors Paul, Von and little Suz

In detail

On Saturday evening 30th Nov. Paul arrived in Brisbane from Scotland together with his whole family.  It was 5 years since we had seen Susan and it was good to see how his children had grown too.  Jenny put on one of her excellent dinners for his arrival and there was a bit of a  crowd to welcome the family:  Susan's father Mark plus his lady plus Ken and Maureen.  Anne couldn't come.  So it was a lively occasion as we all got to know the littlies, Matthew, Elise and Primrose.

The next morning (1st Dec.) we arranged a breakfast at the Phams for Paul, Matthew, Joe and myself.  The idea was for me to get to talk to Matthew but he was a bit shy so that did not work.  We did however discuss Matthew's probable translation to Fettes.  I will be helping with the costs of that.

Von arrived late on 4th so her welcome back was on Thurs evening the 5th --  again at Jenny's. I managed a bit of play with Elise and Primrose.  Whatever school Primrose goes to she will be the naughtiest girl in the school. At age 4, She has got a really mean look most of the time

On 6th I shouted Paul and Susan a brekkie at my usual Vietnamese coffee shop.  The food was as usual good and Paul said the Banh Mi was the best he had ever had.  It turned out to be about a 2 hour breakfast as we were looking at all angles of Susan having another baby.  I said to her that her first 3 had been so interesting, I really wanted to see the 4th.

Both Sue and Paul are very keen to have another one.  The problem  is that Susan has a very time-consuming job, and babies are VERY time-consuming.  And her job is part of how she and Paul make a living. I offered to pay for any arrangement that would give her time off but nothing firm emerged. I was impressed when Susan said her life was for her kids: She's real female, not a feminist.

We also discussed more about Matthew and Fettes.  It seems highly likely that he will get in but I did outline a Plan B in case he does not.  There was even some talk of him going to Eton for secondary school.  He has the IQ and other attributes for it so he would be looking to become a "Scholar" and Eton does offer quite a lot of bursaries.

On Saturday 7th we had a big BBQ at Ken's place. Timmy, Dave and Avamarie turned up, which was good to see.  At age 11, AvaMarie has got a very pretty face, great skin and an athletic body.  She will go far. Her great skin comes from her Chinese mother but her eyes are only a touch narrow. You can see that not all of her ancestry is from the British Isles but the difference is quite subtle.

The thing that most amused me at the BBQ was the margarine supplied for our bread rolls.

A regular spread of what??  It is in fact a perfectly good canola-based margarine but margarine must sound bad, I guess.  It is a quarter the price of butter so it is a very clever product.

Jenny kindly picked me up for the party and drove me home.  I don't like driving any distance these days.

Joe arrived very late and neither of us felt very lively so we both ended up having a lie-down in Ken's living room.  Sometimes just being there is the point.

On Sunday 8th, I had a long-arranged pre-Christmas dinner with Jill and Lewis at the Dapur Dahlia. I had gone down for a nap around 5pm so was rather horrified when I woke up at 2 minutes before 6  -- the appointed time for us to meet.  So I jumped into some clothes and did a demon drive to Buranda.  I got all the lights my way, happily, so I did that drive in 5 minutes flat and arrived only 7 or 8 minutes late.

Jill and Lewis had previously been favourably impressed with Dapur Dahlia so were pleased to take another trip there.  We all ordered the Nasi Goreng Pattaya and it was again excellent.  I also ordered some samosas to start and they comped us with a strange salad that included bits of tofu. Jill and I caught up with one-another's family news. She seems pleased with her two grandsons and does some caring for them -- despite being in her 80s.

For lack of preparation, I had to go to the toilet during the dinner.  The toilet was however in the middle of a real rabbit warren so I got lost coming out.  I eventually found a way out onto the street, however, so ended up going out the back door and coming back in via the front door!

On Monday morning 9th., Von and I got together for a brekky at my usual Vietnamese. To start, Paul kindly dropped Von at my place and picked her up afterward. Before we set off to the Viets, I showed Von all my recent acquisitions of old furniture and she seemed to like them.

Paul and Susan had liked the Viet place so I wanted Von to try it too.  She had the Banh Mi and I had a hamburger.  For drinks I ordered iced-coffees, which was apparently a rare treat for Von. Von and I have always been good mates so the conversation was animated, with lots of reminiscences.  I was delighted to hear that Hannah and Simon have a real "Daddy's girl" relationship.  That is tremendously positive for a girl growing up.

I also noted that Von writes very well on her personal blog -- with very rare spelling and grammar mistakes.  As she was a duffer at school, that is a little surprising. I had a put her poor marks down to her simply being uninterested in schoolwork but she told me something more at our brekky.  She told me that she just did not agree with all the feminist-influenced stuff they were teaching.  So she just ignored her lessons as a whole.  She had me at home telling her quite different stuff and that was what she related to

Monday 9th was the welcome home dinner for little Suz. Bad weather delayed her flight from New Zealand so she arrived a day late. It was good to see her plus her kids.  Dusty had changed little since I saw him last but Sahara was definitely more of a lady -- at age 10.  The ladylike genes are definitely strong in that family, with both Suz and Von having girly girls.  I was pleased to hear that both Sahara and Dusty are going well at school.

Big Susan appears to have done most of the cooking for the night as Jenny was unwell. But cooking is one of Susan's many talents so we had an excellent lasagna that was even gluten-free!  I got a fair bit of it onto my shirt so you could tell it was a good one!

I had catch-you games with Elise and Primrose and Joe had hand-games and so on with them too. It was quite a riot there for a while.  Joe plays the same sort of simple games with the littlies that I used to play with their mothers and father.  It's emergent continuity: unplanned.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

My Vinnie forays

Where I go to get my weekly skin cancer treatments happens to be close to an outlet of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul.  The saint is a purveyor of interesting second-hand items. So I usually look in on my way past.

I have refreshed my furniture by tossing out a lot of ElCheapo items and replacing then with classic pieces supplied by Vinnie. Lately, I have also started buying more portable items.  Below is my latest. It is a 16" silver salver by Hecworth, a firm of Australian silver platers. The salver is in Sheffield plate, which means EPNS silver on a copper substrate.  The substrate for EPNS is most usually brass.  It is a remarkably heavy item.

Silverplate from Hecworth was advertised in the 1930s. “Hecworth” was a brand name sold through a shopfront in Collins Street Melbourne.  Hecworth plate was made by Platers Pty Ltd in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda at 39 Greeves street. The “Hecworth” brand was taken over by Rodd Pty Ltd in 1940.

There is a LOT of Hecworth plate on eBay and such places so is not generally dear. I paid $30 which is only a touch below the norm.