Old folk at lunch

Monday, January 16, 2017

Carpet and I


When I was growing up in the tropical North, nobody had carpet on the floor.  We had lino (linoleum; Congoleum) on the floor.  Lino was cool, somehow.  On really hot days, people would lie down on the lino to keep cool.

So my first encounter with carpet was down in Sydney, when I acquired an offcut of Westminster carpet. If you don't know Westminster carpet you have missed something.  It was indestructible. Nothing seemed to harm it.  And that was appreciated for a while.  It was widely laid in the '60s and '70s.  But it came in plain colours only.  No patterns. So after living with the stuff for 10 years and having it look as new as when it was laid, people got very bored with it.  They ripped it up and threw away perfectly good carpet. After a few years, I also ended up abandoning my offcut somewhere. It is still available but probably not from your local carpet shop. I believe you can get some patterns in it these days.

In Sydney I became quite an expert on carpet. Joy and I owned 22 flats (apartments) between us so we had a lot of tenants.  And tenants are hard on carpet.  So I was replacing a carpet somewhere pretty often.  So to cut costs I would go to carpet auctions and buy it by the roll.  A roll of carpet is HEAVY.  Special forklifts are needed to move it.  But somehow I managed.  And I would hire layers to cut and lay it.  Layers are a bit of a breed of their own but we got on one way or another.

My next bit of amusement was when I needed carpet for the anteroom of my present house.  Carpet is expensive stuff but I needed only a small piece so I went to a shop that sold secondhand carpet.  When carpet is ripped up, it mostly goes into a landfill but some shops save a few good bits.  The bit I got looks like an Axminster, a very expensive carpet. It is all browns and golds in floral patterns.  I like it.  But it is in fact not an Axminster at all.  It is a bit of rubberback (a cheap carpet) that has lost its rubber.  But it acts like an Axminster.  It has been down about 20 years now and still looks as good as ever.

My most recent adventure was when Anne decided to change the carpet in her living room.  She had a nice plain oatmeal colour down.  I believe that The Lodge in Canberra was once laid with carpet in an oatmeal colour.  But it stains rather readily and is hard to keep clean so Anne was tired of it. So she went around the shops and found something she liked.  I however insisted on seeing what she had chosen.  It was a mid-brown and looked like poop.  So I went around the shops with her to look at other options.  To my amazement ALL the options were shades of poop.  It must be a fashion.  The only thing floral I could find was Axminster.  So I bought that for her.  It cost $1,000 more than poopy carpet but was well worth in it in my opinion. There's a sample of it below



People all seem to like it but one of Anne's sons referred to it as "granny carpet", which I suppose it is.

And another carpet experience was only nominally with carpet.  It is really a rug.  But people do call handmade rugs carpets so I guess I can too.  The floors in my house are all polished boards so, perversely I suppose, I have lot of rugs down. There are three "Persian" (handmade) carpets and three Belgian cottons (machine-made).

And there is an interesting story about one of them.  A friend was throwing it out as it had been badly treated and was all stained and dirty.  I am however something of a salvor.  I don't like seeing useful stuff being thrown out. "Waste not, want not", as my old Presbyterian mother used to say. And this was a large and heavy carpet so must have been worth a lot once.  So I collected it and managed to talk to a dry-cleaning man and persuade him to do a run of his drycleaning machine with just my carpet in it.  So I ended up with a carpet that was both clean and stripped of any oil and grease.  Sadly, however, there were still stains on it so it didn't look clean.  So I just put it away.

Recently, however, I decided to put it on my verandah.  But it got very dirty again and the sun faded it a bit.  So I got a man with a truck-mounted cleaning machine over to clean it up.  I thought that with lots of detergent, lots of warm water and the big brushes of his scrubbing machine he might get my carpet cleaner than the dry-cleaning man did. He got the carpet smelling as fresh as a daisy but there were still stains there. So I now have it laid at the foot of my bed.

And if this were England, having an old and worn Oriental carpet down might not be bad at all.  An eccentricity of upper class people in England and to some extent in America is that they like having old things around.  And they regard fitted carpet as common.  You mainly have old oriental (Persian, Baluchi etc) rugs down on your floors.

I inadvertently verified that once when I was first in England and rather unaware of the myriad social rules there.  That unawareness actually got me a girlfriend from the aristocracy -- a lady who can trace her ancestry back 1,000 years.  No Englishmen of common origins would have dared approach her but I did.  And she was a very nice girl and we got on well.

But one day when I was in her apartment at Holland Park, I remarked that someone had given her a pretty tatty carpet. It was of course an old Oriental rug.  She just smiled and said nothing.  We had a nice time anyway.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Barley


A new taste sensation!  Last night I had a dinner that I had never tasted before.  I have been eating out off and on since I was 16 and I am now 73 so it is rare to find a dinner that is new to me.  I have eaten much from all the world's cuisines.  I have had Chinese food in Hong Kong, Philippine food in the Philippines, Mexican food in Mexico, South African food in South Africa, French food in France, Indian food in India and Indian food in England (don't mention English food).  And during my 15 years in Sydney just about all the world's foods were available right there anyway. So I was surprised to encounter a taste I had not had before

It all began when I somehow noted that people in Northern Europe grow and eat a lot of barley.  I had never had anything made from barley.  So I bought some. And I wandered around the net looking for barley recipes.  I found one that looked promising.  But it looked a bit complicated for me to make so I put off making it.  Eventually I told Anne that I was going to cook some barley for our next dinner.  She was amused.  She was even more amused when she saw the recipe.  "You'll never make that!", she said. She knows that most of my cookery is just heating up something already prepared by the chefs at Woolworths.

So in the kindness of her heart Anne offered to make it for me.  There was clearly a lot of time and work in the recipe so I gladly accepted her offer.

And I have just had the result.  It was very good.  On the plate it looked rather like savoury mince but the taste was quite different:  Not a strong taste; a subtle taste but very more-ish.  I am going to be asking Anne for more of it.  I got the recipe off the barley organization so I imagine I might be getting some free barley soon if Google leads them to this post.

The recipe is below.  Anne used pork mince and cut up the mushrooms finely. The recipe says "cooked barley" without explanation so Anne soaked it in for half a day and then boiled it until it was soft.   Anne was surprised about the amount of salt but it was OK.  Despite what the food freaks say, salt is good for you.

Barley Mushroom Stroganoff

Family favorite with a twist.

1 pound lean ground turkey, chicken
or beef
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon chicken seasoning base
2 cups low-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 cups cooked pearl barley*
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Spray large skillet with non-stick cooking
spray; heat over medium heat. Add ground
turkey; crumble and cook until turkey is no
longer pink. Remove from pan and drain.
Pour off liquid from pan. Add olive oil,
onion and mushrooms; saut‚ 4 to 5 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Season with oregano,
salt and pepper. Cook 4 more minutes. Stir
in water and chicken seasoning. Blend
together sour cream and flour. Stir in sour
cream mixture, cooked barley and meat.
Continue to cook over low heat until heated
through. Garnish with parsley, if desired,
and serve.

Makes 8 servings.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Something nice


The female voice in song can be a most exciting thing. And none better than the voice of beautiful Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins below.  It reduces me to tears. She sings it in the original Italian.  Italy has given us much. The best known performance of the song is a duet between Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli at the Piazza dei cavalieri in Pisa but Jenkins has a much more powerful voice.  She is, incidentally, a Christian.



The words and translation are here.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My new kettle




What is the difference between a kettle and a jug?  It seems to me that a jug has the handle at the side and a kettle has a handle at the top.

I have a perfectly good plastic jug that boils water in an exemplary manner and has never given trouble in many years of use.  So why did I buy the kettle above?  Because I liked its retro looks.

But how well does it work?  It's not quite as convenient as the jug because its water level indicator is hard to read.  You have to jiggle the kettle to see it.  It's easier to keep an eye on the water level as you fill the kettle. That's certainly retro!

The brand is Ambiano but that is an Aldi house brand.  Most designer kettles are up around the $200 mark in price so getting this one for $30 seemed very Aldi.

Something that struck me as soon as I got the kettle home was the booklet that came with it.  It may be the most defensive booklet I have ever seen.  It was full of all sorts of conceivable warnings and claims of no responsibility for this and that.

And I think I now know why.  I have googled Ambiano products and there are quite a lot of complaints about them.  They are obviously trouble-prone.  But the one I have does not seem to have been complained about so here's hoping!

My prediction about a possible problem?  The handle will come off!  I don't like the look of how it is fastened.  That will of course make the kettle unusable.

Friday, January 6, 2017

And a good time was had by all



We somehow didn't see George over the Christmas period and Anne and I both always find George interesting to talk to.  He often has something different and interesting to say.  And he was around a lot somehow when I was helping to bring up kids -- so I was missing his cheerful face.  Any family dinner or party I host always includes an invitation to George.  He feels like part of the family.

So sometime around New Year I arranged to host a dinner for both George and Ken.  George and Ken came out to Australia on the boat together so seem in my mind to be some sort of a pair.  They certainly get on well.  So tonight we got together --- including Anne and Maureen -- at my favourite dinner haunt:  The Sunny Doll Japanese restaurant at Buranda.  Meeting at 6:30.

Ken very kindly picked up Anne and myself on the way to the restaurant as he had noticed that I don't like driving these days.  His newish VW car has all sorts of knobs and buttons in it that do things so that was interesting.  The roof was a bit low for my 5'10" frame though. That's the penalty for sportiness, probably.

George got lost trying to find the restaurant.  I told him it was next to Woolworths but "next" was a bit too imprecise apparently, and George at first picked the wrong Japanese restaurant.  There are three of them at Buranda for some strange reason.  So we initially thought he had forgotten but none of us had his mobile no.  Anyway, he arrived just as I was ordering so that was no problem.

When we were arriving, I said to Maureen that she must have been well to come along.  But she denied it.  Maureen is always ill.  She was pretty lively and alert at the dinner though.  She is on some sort of restrictive diet so chose prawn tempura for her dinner because it fitted in with her diet somehow.  She tried bits of the other dishes on the table though so the diet must be flexible.

I brought along a bottle of Wolf Blass "champagne" for drinks and we had a variety of dishes, chicken karaage, chicken teriyaki, omurice, vegetable tempura, Wagyu beef etc.  The grilled Wagyu beef was unbelievable: a symphony in tenderness and taste.  I think it is the best steak I have ever had.  But I rarely eat steak so may not be a good judge.

Ken did his usual job of cleaning up the leftovers.  I like to see that.  "Waste not, want not" was a motto when I was growing up.  A lot of Westerners at Japanese dinners just eat the meat and leave a lot of the beautifully-cooked rice.  But between myself and Ken just about all the rice went down this time.

After the dinner we repaired to my verandah for tea, coffee and Arnott's Premier chocolate chip cookies.  I always buy them for either Ken or Paul as both of them vacuum them up.  If both Ken and Paul are there, the whole packet gets rapidly dispatched.  Anne very kindly got us all our teas and coffees.  She only does that for people she likes.

And during the evening the major topic of conversation was probably the world's most popular topic at the moment:  Mr Trump.  I did my little bit to campaign for Mr Trump, of course, so all conversations about Mr Trump are pleasant to me.  When people are unenthusiastic about him, I assure them that most people find fault with him -- even those who support him -- but his policies have so much appeal to many of us that we overlook his faults.  "Let him who is without fault cast the first stone", anyway (To paraphrase John 8:7).  That Trump offers peace with Russia is alone enough to recommend him in my view.  Any war with Russia would be just too dreadful.

Anyway, Ken thought Trump's policies were just common sense, which I agreed with.  George was more doubtful.  He was against Mr Trump during the campaign but has warmed to him after he won the election.  The ladies just left politics to the men, in the traditional way.

So we wrapped up about 9:30 after much good food and much good conversation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pie technology


Australians are great lovers of meat (steak) pies. and of course we prefer freshly baked ones -- at around $4 each.

But in most supermarkets you can get a pack of 4 pies for $4.  So what are THEY  like?

An odd feature of them is that they are microwave friendly.  Heat up a freshly baked pie in the microwave and the pastry comes out soggy.  But put one or two of your $1 pies into a microwave for 4 minutes and they come out about right.  By contrast, put a $1 pie in a conventional oven and they come out with "cast-iron" shells.

So the great discovery about frozen supermarket pies is the exact opposite to the wisdom about fresh pies.  Microwave them! In the microwave, the crust softens and makes a perfectly nice pie.  Not a great pie but pleasant enough.

I have had a couple recently accompanied by a few pickles: Cucumbers, Manzanilla stuffed olives and cocktail onions.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year!



I saw in the new year in what seems to me to be a very good style.  I had a naked woman beside me in my bed and a glass of gin on my bedside table.  Can you beat that?

And where I live is close to Brisbane's Southbank so I could hear the Feuerwerk  -- fireworks -- from my bed - even if I couldn't see any of it.

But I think that once you have seen one fireworks you have seen them all. Yes. I know. I have no soul.

As she returned to her bedroom, Anne wished me a happy new year.  I replied in Latin: "et tu" (you too).  But Latin is a European language so it probably made some sense to her.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ancestry



Because they seem to live in an eternal present, I would be surprised if many Leftists were proud of their ancestors.  I am proud of mine -- mainly because I know a fair bit about them.

Most people start taking an interest in their genealogy in their '60s.  I started in my early '40s.  And because a lot of Australians survive into their '90s, a lot of my older relatives were still there, plugging on.  And the people they remembered lived long lives too.  So living memory was able to take me back a long way -- to my great-great grandmother, who arrived in Australia in the hold of a wooden convict ship in the 1840s and who lived into her '90s.

And from what I heard, my father and his father  were typical of the breed: Quiet, hard-working, uncomplaining men who never made a splash but did hard things for the benefit of their families.

My father was a timber contractor ("lumberjack") and his father and grandfather were bullockies. ("teamsters"). As a kid, I watched my father cut down big forest trees with just an axe and a crosscut saw.  There were no chainsaws then.

And if you want to know what bullockies were like, Henry Lawson's poem "The Teams" is both graphic and accurate.  It is my favourite poem.  My grandfather, "Jack", never went to school as he was working a bullock team by the time he was 10. He was however taught at home how to read and write.


My grandfather's team

Jack Ray's father was Frank Ray.  His obit in The Cairns Post of 28 February 1910 describes him as the first carrier (bullocky) on the Palmer [river goldfield] up Cooktown way. The was no road to the Palmer in those days so it is an abiding mystery how he got his bullocks up there.

A couple of small, illustrative details: I remember my grandfather, "Jack", well.  He got a small splinter of steel in his eye in an accident.  He didn't trust doctors so he just squinted for the rest of his life.  In his time, distrusting doctors was probably wise.

And my father's cousin, old Alex Fletcher, tended to get skin cancers, as I do.  But he was a farmer living a long way from town so he just put his hot soldering iron onto the cancers to cure them.  I blanch when I think about it.  But he had it all thought out and explained to me how he did it.  If you admire hardiness, how could you not be proud of such men?  Once upon a time men were men and were in no doubt about how to do it.

The Australian pioneers worked hard to wrench a modern and highly civilized society out of a harsh natural environment -- and I am proud that my ancestors were among them.  My only sadness is that  I am not worthy of them.  I am a degenerate compared to them.

An amusing coda:  My father was far from dumb but the only way he knew to put bread on the table was by hard manual work.  He was  born in 1915 and that was how it was for most people in that era.  So because I spent so much time reading books and not doing outdoor things, my father thought I would never amount to much. He had a vivid way of putting that which I won't relate.  But when he heard how much money I was making from teaching at a major Australian university, he sat bolt upright with surprise and immediately reversed his opinion of his eldest son!


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas


On Saturday,  Christmas eve,  Anne was staying home to make last minute preparations for going down the coast to join her family on Christmas day.  So I emailed Jenny on Friday to see what she was doing on Christmas eve.  She had nothing planned so offered to cook me a Christmas eve dinner, which I accepted with alacrity.  Jenny makes very good dinners.  I took over my usual Tyrrells Verdelho.

Jenny in fact cooked me one of my favourites:  real Wiener Schnitzel -- veal Schnitzel.  You mostly see chicken Schnitzel these days.  So that went down well with salad etc.  As I do, Jenny puts feta cheese in her salads and I noted how well Feta went with the Schnitzel.  Something to remember.

And on Christmas day Jenny drove herself, Nanna and me down to Suz's place for the family get-together.  We arrived about 11am, with heaps of presents. Jenny had been a very busy shopper.

An interesting pre-dinner feature was a big box of prawns that Timmy had brought over.  The only seafood I eat is fish'n chips but a lot of the others bogged in.

The main feature of the dinner was a big ham cooked masterfully by Russ on his big BBQ.  With salad and various odds and ends, of course.  Suz had made us some bread rolls in her bread-making machine that came out like damper.  So we had a bit of a laugh with Suz over her insistence that they were bread rolls.  They went down anyway.

Tracy, Simon, their children and their dogs were in attendance.  It was nice to meet Ted, a big Labradoodle with cream-coloured curls for hair.  He looked like a sheep and was very good-natured.  He had come all the way from Woomera with Tracy and Simon in their car.  Dogs love cars but I thought the doggy smell might get a big much on such a long trip.  Ted looked beautiful but he smelt like a dog.

I talked mainly with Simon and Ken.  And what did we talk about?   A worldwide topic of conversation at the moment:  Mr Trump!  Mr Trump is a risky topic these days  as there are many criticisms of him.  But we managed to have a congenial conversation about him nonetheless, probably because we are all on the conservative side of the fence.

Simon was fairly critical of Mr Trump at first but I pointed out some of the things Trump has going for him and Simon did end up conceding that Trump would probably do some good.  I asked Ken what did he think of the claim that Trump is a misogynist? Ken said:  "No more than any other man" -- which was pretty realistic answer, I think.

We had our usual mystery presents game, which got everybody involved.  I ended up with a dashboard camera, which is probably a good thing, but I do so little driving these days that I will probably give it to Joe.  Not that he does a lot of driving.  He WALKS amazing distances.

A few people were drinking beer but no-one got noticeably affected by it.  We are a pretty sober lot.  I avoid drinking during the day because I drink a fair bit at night.

Then on Christmas night, Anne came over and we had ham and mustard sandwiches at about 8pm -- using leftover ham from the lunchtime ham.  It's always the best ham of the year.

Monday was of course Boxing day so Anne stayed over at my place all day.  For breakfast we jointly cooked up some bacon and eggs for breakfast, with some savoury mince thrown in.  I had the mince already cooked and in the fridge.  So it helped make a good breakfast.

Then for dinner Anne cooked up some good sausages I had in the freezer -- beef and pork sausages.  They cooked up very well, a humble but most enjoyable dinner.  And we had some very small Christmas puddings with cream as a dessert.

And on Tuesday morning, we had the last of the Christmas ham for breakfast -- as ham and mustard sandwiches.  Anne then left to prepare for a trip to Stanthorpe with some friends.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Monday was a good day


Monday was a good day.  Jenny and I invited Sandi over for a pre-Xmas dinner.  With the help of Mr Patak of Lancashire, I cooked up a beef curry in my crockpot and Jenny provided the trimmings: Yoghurt, chutney, pappadums.  We had it amid the breezes on my verandah.  I even got out my best plates for the occasion! And the curry and rice tasted good. Congratulations to Mr Patak! And Jenny excelled herself with the dessert: Pavlova plus rum balls. And all washed down with Tyrrells Verdelho as usual.

I ate so much that I had to go and lie down for a rest after a while but Jenny and Sandi carried on chatting.

And then on Tuesday Anne and I had absolute ambrosia from the Greek fish shop at Manly. That lot sure know what they are doing.  I think it was the best fish 'n chips I have had. So no wonder that the place was leaping: customers everywhere and lots of staff behind the counter.  I imagine people go there from all over. The battered Barramundi, the chips and the Greek salad were all first class. We had it at Anne's place, with, guess what?  Tyrrells Verdelho.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A maple syrup day


Joe and Kate are off on an overseas holiday at the moment so this morning I offered to cook them a "bon voyage" breakfast.  Kate had mentioned that her favourite breakfast was a Canadian one -- pancakes, maple syrup and bacon.

As it happened, I had in one of my cupboards a bag of pancake mix which I had bought from Woolworths for 99c.  So the die was cast.  A pancake breakfast it would be.  I had cooked pancakes only once or twice before so the young couple were taking a risk.

And it was a bit chaotic. With the help of my premix, I brewed up plenty of batter and poured it nicely into my special teflon-coated pancake pan. And they cooked well.  But then came the problem:  Getting them out of the pan.  My psychomotor skills have never been great and my tendency to the shakes has slowly got worse over the years.  So I could not get the pancakes out in an orderly way.  They came out rather crumpled up.

Fortunately, Anne was to hand so I gave the job to her.  She also claimed to be no good at it but, oddly, she found that if she made big pancakes nearly as big as the pan, she could do a reasonable job of it -- which she did.  While she was doing  that I concentrated on cooking the bacon and also did some fried eggs.

I had kept aside the messed up pancakes that I had made and offered them to Joe before Anne's pancakes arrived.  They disappeared like lightning.  He must have been hungry.

I had a bottle of allegedly genuine Canadian maple syrup so with its help we had a good breakfast.

And the syrup made an appearance later on as well.  I made Anne and myself a chicken salad for our evening meal.  I think I will draw a veil over its contents but it was not completely filling so there was room for a dessert of waffles.  And it just so happened that I had a pack of pre-cooked waffles to hand.  So waffles with maple syrup and Streets Blue Ribbon ice-cream  finished off the day nicely.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Peignoirs


Peignoirs originated in 19th century France.  They were a rather utilitarian garment at that time.  The Lady would often sleep in the nude for the convenience of The Master so a garment was needed for getting out of bed the next morning. And that was the peignoir.

So The Lady would get out of bed, have her morning pee in the chamber pot kept under the bed, go back to bed and ring for the maid to remove the pot.  While the maid was doing that The Lady would choose and don one of her peignoirs.  It was not fitting for the maid to see The Lady in the altogether. That was a pleasure strictly reserved for The Master.

The maid would come back and The Lady would take a seat while the maid brushed her hair.  The peignoir was a garment for hair brushing time.  The Lady of course wore her hair long to please The Master and long hair can get rather messed up in bed -- so brushing it out was the first order of the day. After that other preparations for facing the day would begin.

So the peignoir was a practical thing -- a dressing gown tied at the waist -- but The Lady would NEVER wear anything that was just practical.  It had to look good too -- in case The Master came in during preparations.  So the peignoir was usually in silk or satin and often in white.  It had to be simple but flattering.  So it could not be voluminous but should rather flatter the figure.

So that is how peignoirs originated.  In more modern times their privacy use has largely disappeared and they come in sheer fabrics, cut in revealing ways and accompanied by matching panties:  Not your old peignoir at all.  I have however been old fashioned since I was aged six so I really enjoy seeing a lady with a nice figure in an old-fashioned peignoir.

But where do you buy one?  There are many advertised for sale on the net but they all seem to be modern  interpretations.  Anne has a figure so I offered to buy an old-style one for her years ago -- but we just couldn't find one.

But lo and behold!  Anne walked into my bedroom recently wearing a very nice peignoir in the original style.  Anne's mother  passed away a year or so ago and Anne inherited most of her clothes.  Her sisters were to fat or too slim for them to fit.  And among them Anne found exactly the type of peignoir I like. A bit sad that you need to have a 93 year old mother with good taste to acquire one but that is how the cookie crumbled.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Another busy weekend


On Friday night, I shouted a pre-Xmas dinner for Jason -- at the "Sunny Doll" Japanese restaurant. Joe, Kate, Anne and myself were the other diners.  We ordered mainly off the Don Buri menu as you will see from the receipt below.  Jason is a very clever man in all sorts of ways and he demonstrated his social skills by being a model guest.  He made a point of spending some time talking to each of us.  If anybody needs a guest to make up numbers at a dinner party, invite Jason.  He manages to be both polite and self-effacing while at the same time knowing amazing amounts of stuff.  He is a genuinely good man.



Saturday morning started out interestingly.  I attempted to make ham, cheese and tomato jaffles for breakfast for Anne and myself.  They came out pretty well but the difficulty was getting them out of the sandwich machine.  Both Anne and I had a go at it but they all came out in something of a mess.  We had to use knives and forks to eat them.  But they tasted good.

Later on Saturday morning Suz put on an open house -- from 10:30am on -- as part of the celebrations for Sahara's birthday. Joe, Kate, Jenny, Nanna and I went along.

For once, I chose for myself what presents to bring so I brought four: A dolly-sized chair and bucket, some Peppa Pig cards and a small frying pan in the shape of a heart. But she got so many presents that it was hard to see what she thought of my presents.  Maybe Suz will tell me if she plays with any of them.

Joe seemed to be in a rather glum mood but the kids soon livened him up. He spent a lot of time picking them up, throwing them around, chasing them etc -- to enormous shrieks of amusement from them.  Dusty in particularly had a very loud scream. They kept coming back for more, as kids do. Toys are nowhere nearly as amusing as adult attention.

In chats with Suz I discovered something I did not know about her.  She is a real sentimentalist.  I always knew that Von had a box of little mementoes of all sorts of times in her life -- from when she was a kid.  But Lo and behold, Suz does too.  She got out her neat little wooden box and showed us all her mementoes.  She may well be just as sentimental as Von. One item is a tiny plastic baby that Von wanted too so that has been a bit of a game between them: Hiding and finding the baby

The sawmill:  There is an old sawmill up for sale near where Von lives and it would be a dream for Russ to buy and run it. But moving to New Zealand would entail lots of difficulties.  As a mother of two, Suz in particular is conscious of those difficulties, though she absolutely hates standing in the way of something that would be so good for Russ. So I spent a lot of times exploring the possibilities with her.

Russ is already a keen woodworker and you could see the dream in his eyes when talking about the sawmill.  A woodworker with his own sawmill is in woodworking heaven.

We had rum balls etc with a cup of tea when we arrived and at lunchtime Suz made us ham and cheese rolls.

Joe must have felt the need to be in a family environment because he spent more time at Suz's place than he usually does.  So I got the chance to lie down on a comfy couch there and have a nice nap -- as I usually do after lunch.  When I woke up it was to the sound of screaming kids being chased around my couch by a monster, which was very entertaining.  It was of course Joe doing his best monster impersonations.

Kate played with the kids a bit so she is getting used to our  boisterous ways with kids


Friday, December 9, 2016

News of Chris Brand



I put up the following post on my main political site because Chris is a conservative blogger -- but I think it has a place here too

Chris seems to have weathered the storm and looks like he will make a good recovery.  He is however still in hospital.

Some background:

A great co-incidence is that my dynamic stepson Paul moved to Edinburgh over a year ago and in fact lives only 5 minutes walk down the street from where Chris lives.  And Paul shares my views on most things so he and Chris got on famously from the get go.  So Paul has been a great proxy for me during Chris' grievous illness.  He has fought for Chris all the way.

Paul and my son Joe also get on exceptionally well so Joe is travelling to Britain soon and will be staying with Paul for Christmas and should therefore meet Chris.  There will be some VERY conservative conversations between THAT trio!  Joe and I also see eye to eye on most things.

With that background I think I can share the latest marvellous email from Paul.  (Shiou is Chris' wife and Matthew is Paul's 5 year old son):


"Last night I spent 4 hours up at the Hospital with Chris, Shiou and his son, Tom who made a surprise visit up from London.

It was a really joyous occasion, celebrating the strong recovery of Chris. He hopes to be home for Christmas.

We had so many great chats and laughs but it was great to see Chris so talkative and strong in his will and being the main contributor to the many stories being told.

He is keen to assist Matthew in the future with his speech and cultural stories and of course we are all excited to have Joe Ray here over the Christmas period.

What a very lucky outcome!!"


The mention of Matthew refers to the fact that Matthew has acquired a slight Scottish accent which Paul rather deplores.  He knows how much your accent typecasts you in Britain.  So he is hoping to familiarize Matthew with RP, which Chris speaks. Matthew is a bright little boy so being able to switch accents should come easily to him.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Michael Darby


Michael is an old friend from wayback. He is a fellow strong conservative and also has the distinction of having the loudest voice I have ever heard.  He is a modern-day Stentor. One index of his individuality is that for a time he used to drive around Sydney in an old Dennis fire engine. He is definitely an irreplaceable original.

So I was pleased to get a call from him tonight.  He is in the Mater Private hospital in Brisbane recovering from a double hip replacement.  Michael is actually two years younger than I am and my hips are fine  -- but Michael is a great fan of the dinner table so has put on a lot more weight than I have -- not that I have anything to boast about in that department. And overweight is of course bad for hips. But Michael has risen to the dismal challenge of weight loss and tells me that he has slimmed down a lot since I last saw him.

I hope to have him over for a dinner some time soon  -- when he has completed his convalescence.  We have a mutual friend in Jill, who remembers him with affection, so I might try for a combined dinner in January.  Jill does a lot of cruising these days so I would have to fit in with her too.

Michael and I are both blessed in that we have capable sons who mostly share our political views.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A nice picture of Elise in the plane on the way home






She's won a lot of hearts.  Look at those eyes.  They will be regarded as mysterious in her adulthood

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The benefits of a low light level


Part of the “Gem├╝tlichkeit” (pleasant social environment) thing in Germany is to have things darker and more intimate. And bedrooms around the world tend to have reduced illumination.  My bedroom is lit by a side lamp powered by a 10 watt fridge globe on the more private occasions, so it has a very low light level indeed.  But one's eyes adjust of course.  10w is sufficient.

I will get back to that but I now want to comment on a TV program that I did not watch.  The only TV I watch these days is the Melbourne cup, a great event.

There was apparently on TV a program called "The Bachelor", in which a lot of young women were introduced to one lucky man in the hope that one of the ladies would become the love of his life.  There were all sorts of activities before the man made his choice and the viewing public had the challenge of deciding which lady he would choose.

There was apparently a broad consensus that one lovely lady, Nikki Gogan, would be his choice. She was in love with him. But he in fact ended up choosing another lady, which caused him to be called "the most hated man in Australia" at one point.

All that it of course is just leaves in the wind and is already well on the way to being forever forgotten.  There was however one picture from the final episode that was repeatedly broadcast.  It was a picture of Nikki receiving the bad news. And it was in fact so frequently reproduced on the net that even I eventually noticed it.  And I could see why people were fascinated by the picture.  To me it had a Mona Lisa quality.  See below.



It is somehow an image of a quality lady.

So now we get back to light levels.  Anne wears her hair in a style similar to Nikki's and has a similar-shaped face.  So when I kiss her in my bedroom I am reminded of Nikki.  I have my own Nikki Gogan!  The low light level erases most of the evidence that I am kissing a lady in her 70s.  Now, isn't that a good thing?  Romance is not dead!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A busy time


Now that Mr Trump has well and truly arrived, I have taken some steps to reduce the time I spend on blogging.  I think I need to get out more.  And that seems to be working.

On Wednesday evening I cooked some pork porterhouse steaks for Anne and myself which went down very well.  Once again prepared by Woolworths.  I just heated them up in my large cast-iron saucepan. A Greek salad went with it.  Anne brought over some Camembert that had to be cooked (!) as an appetizer and that was quite good too.

Anne stayed over so for breakfast next morning, we got pies from the Yeronga pie shop and took them down to the Yeronga waterfront to eat them. We were not quite sure where we would end up so Anne took her nice mainly red checked travel rug along in case we had to sit on the ground.  It turned out that there was a seat where we ended up but Anne brought her rug with her to the seat anyway.  The pies were good but messy to eat.

When we left Anne forgot her  rug, leaving it on the seat.  We went back to get it but could not again find the place where we had been.  It is a real rabbit warren around Orsova st. So that was vexing.  We must have driven around for over half an hour but neither of us could figure out where to go.

Anyway, Anne stayed on so that night we went to the pub at the Woollongabba fiveways for dinner.  The chicken schnitzel dinner there was quite good. And the pots of Fourex Gold helped too.

Then on Friday night we went to the Yeronga RSL club for dinner, as we had had good food there in the past.  It was buffet night and they had a big range of tempting offerings, of which I tried many.  A very good night.  Again with pots of Fourex Gold helping.

Then on Saturday morning we took pies from the Fiveways pie shop down to the park at the end of Kangaroo Point.  Again the pies were good.  The outlook onto the Brisbane river was pleasant too.

Anne had various arrangements with choirs and such things for the rest of the weekend but my social life still carried on.  Ken arranged a BBQ at his house on Saturday afternoon for us to spend time with Paul while he is still here.  He is just back from NZ and flies back to Scotland on Monday. Suz and Russ and the kids were there too.  I arrived at about 3pm and the BBQ was about 5pm.  Paul and I talked a bit about Chris Brand's illness.  Chris was in a very bad way but is now convalescing.  We both hope that he will be able to keep company with Paul in Edinburgh for a few years yet.

We very daringly talked about the big no-no for modern conversations:  Mr Trump.  Mr Trump has replaced religion and politics as something that is too divisive to discuss socially.  There seemed generally to be at least guarded approval of Mr Trump.  Even Ken said he was glad to see Trump elected -- but mainly because Ken loathed Hillary. He would not be alone in that.  Feminism is all very well but it's not a good way to get the male vote, as Julia Gillard also found out.  

At one stage I was talking to the kids and mentioned that only girls have dolls.  Both Sahara and Dusty agreed with that. My ideas about sex-roles are very much accord with both biology and tradition.  But perhaps in an effort at modernity, Ken said to Dusty: "but boys these days sometimes have dolls too".  Dusty's reply to that was memorable. He said "AAARRGGH!" -- a real boy.

Ken was a very diligent BBQ cook, turning over the snags all the time.  They were thin snags -- pork, I think. And the end result was just right.  I enjoyed them greatly.

I have always showed my complete lack of class by CUTTING my bread rolls instead of tearing them apart by brute force.  Cutting them helps to get them buttered evenly in my opinion.  I even have a big breadknife for the purpose and have donated a similar knife to Anne for use at her place. So I was rather pleased to see that Ken has adopted the same practice.  He has a big knife which he keeps in its own sheath for the purpose of cutting bread rolls (Inter alia, one presumes).  He had better not let any of his relatives in England see it, though.

Do you see what I did above?  I immediately restored my class position by using a Latin expression.  It's crazy but it is very British.

And I got good farewell cuddles as I left the party: from Elise, Sahara and Dusty.  What more could one ask?

Paul's side-trip to NZ was apparently a great success.  The three born Ladies (Von, Hannah and Elise) might have been different ages but the rapport between them was very obvious, according to Paul.  Von sent me a Thank-you note for sending Paul over so there is no doubt that the visit went very well

And tomorrow morning I should be sharing our usual Sunday morning breakfast with Joe.


UPDATE:  I did indeed break fast with Joe on Sunday morning.  We talked mainly about Mr Trump and the reactions to him.  One thing I mentioned was something that seems rarely mentioned:   His beloved and devoted daughter Ivanka is married to a Jew and has herself converted to Judaism.  So the constant Leftist accusation that Donald is a racist and an antisemite jars greatly with that reality.

But on the same day I also had lunch with an old friend:  Peter H.  We were in the army together long ago so it was well and truly time to catch up.  We had a very good lunch at the "Memorizable" Chinese restaurant at Buranda -- where the Sing Sing used to be.  It's a strange name for a Chinese restaurant and is quite new so does not appear on the internet at the moment.  The food was great.  I had satay lamb and Peter had beef with vegetables. The cook there knows his stuff.

We had no trouble finding things to talk about.  We have both had a quite varied life after the army. So it was a most congenial occasion.  I remembered Peter from way back as a nice guy -- and he still is.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Two little ladies




Hannah and Elise playing together in New Zealand .  Note all the pink.  Picture received from Paul

And breakfasting



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Much fun


When Anne started going out with Mr New, she and I continued to see one-another once a week.  So at one stage I made her a promise that the next time we saw one another twice a week, I would put on our favourite dinner, which is lamb cutlets.  They are a bit dear for everyday dining but make a great special meal. They are very tasty.  I like them with plenty of salt and well-buttered  bread.

So on Wednesday I got a heap of them from my freezer and made a good salad to accompany them.  We had a Wyndhams bin 555 Shiraz to wash it down. And it was a great evening.

Then on Friday morning, Paul and Elise joined me at breakfast at my usual cafe.  Paul and I talked about all sorts of things, including Mr Trump.  We both like Mr Trump but I told Paul never to argue about him.  The things people don't like about Mr Trump -- bad manners etc. -- are real and excusing them will not be well received.  Even many of those who supported Mr Trump are aware of his faults but we overlook them because we like his policies.

When we got back to the car after brekky. Elise stopped and carefully took her sunnies out of her gold handbag, put them on and then clicked her handbag shut before she went any further.  All completely ladylike at age 3.

And on Friday night Anne and I had one of our two annual dinners with Jill and Lewis. As usual for the one late in the year we went to The Sunny Doll and had some of their scrumptious Japanese food. I ordered some vegetable tempura as an appetizer before the main meal as Anne particularly likes that.  She never fails to remind me to order it! Lewis knew what he wanted for his main course  -- Omurice -- but for the rest of us I just ordered a selection of the rice dishes (Donburi).  When the dishes arrived, I said that Anne and Jill could choose one and I would have the other. That caused momentary confusion but one of them came with salad so that was an obvious choice for Anne, who is something of a salad devotee. We were all rather naughty as none of us finished our beautifully-cooked rice. I reproduce the docket below as a memento of what we had.



Then on Saturday night we had one of our big Bollywood dinners so everybody would get a chance to see Paul and Elise.  I offered a toast at the beginning of the evening to "A very special person" -- Elise.

Sahara was very vivacious at the dinner, playing mainly with Tim until she wore him out. She was looking more beautiful than ever.


Sahara looking alert

Anne mainly talked to Ken, as she often does.  They both do a lot of holiday travel so discuss that, among other things.  I was particularly pleased to see all the littlies running about.  I mainly talked to Jenny and was sad to hear that Nanna has had a bad turn.


I talked briefly with Ken about Mr Trump. Anne in the middle

Anne counted 22 people at the dinner, including about 6 kids. Paul invited some of his friends along so that increased our normal numbers.

I got to pick up Elise and give her a hug as I was leaving and was amazed at how heavy she was. Like Joe, she seems to have inherited Jenny's big bones. But it was her boyfriend that Elise was interested in cuddling



Below is a brilliant portrait that Ken did of Elise.  Ken is a man of the arts.  He draws, he plays music and he writes stories.




Then Joe and I were due for our usual leisurely Sunday morning breakfast -- where we mostly discuss politics


Monday, November 7, 2016

The meatloaf appreciation society



This evening was the inaugural meeting of the The meatloaf appreciation society -- on my verandah.

Paul and I are connoisseurs of meatloaves but our favourite one has long ceased to be available. So when I came across one in Aldi that was pretty close to the legendary one I put one in my freezer against the day when I could share it with Paul -- who usually lives in Scotland these days.

But Paul is back in Brisbane for a few days so I shared my treasured meatloaf with him tonight.  It was a great hit with him and I of course liked it too.  My inexpert cookery did not manage to ruin it.
Jenny and Joe were also present so I proclaimed today as  the inaugural meeting of the The meatloaf appreciation society.  Our next meeting will be the next time Paul is in Brisbane.  We should have rounded up another good meatloaf by then.

Rather to my amusement, Paul did his usual vacuum-cleaner  performance.  Both Paul and his father are renowned for that.  As I think most housewives will tell you, they like to see the dinner they put out eaten up. There  is no fear about that when either Paul or Ken are around.   In tonight's example, I had provided  both an appetizer and a big Greek salad to go with the meatloaf.  That all vanished in the course of the evening, including ALL the many cracker biscuits I put out with the appetizer.  And when Joe did not finish all of his meatloaf -- probably out of waistline considerations -- Paul finished that off too.  And he was ready for the dessert when that arrived too. Fun!

The little lady was overtired so went to sleep on my bed.  She was offered a bed in my guest room but rejected that. She chose the room where male pheromones were strongest.  Again the perfect Lady already at age 3.  I predict a great future for her.