Old folk at lunch

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A welcome back dinner for Von


Von & Co. arrived late on Saturday night so I put on a family dinner at the Bollywood so that we could all catch up with her. The Bollywood has hosted so many dinners for us that it is part of "home".  The owner has grown a beard but is otherwise the usual cheerful host.  As a Sikh, he SHOULD have a beard.

We had 13 adults there plus kids. I booked for 12 on a guess so that worked out well.  Getting RSVP replies is always patchy so I have to guess. I made a point of ensuring that George got an invite, as I always do.  And that worked well too.  George was in great form.

Kate and Von seemed to get on well and I think I know why. Both are real ladies. Kate is always very careful of her self-presentation (makeup, dress) so that fits. And as we all know, I have been referring to Von as "Lady Von" since she was 5. From what we hear of Elise, she is already a complete lady too -- at age 3. The fact that she has a gorgeous and very feminine mother may have something to do with that. It will be great to see Elise in November. Feminists greet the thought of someone being a lady with horror, but the men don't. So who's the winner there?

Maureen got Tim along, which was good to see.  Maureen spent a lot of time with the littlies.  She was always devoted to her boys when they were growing up so she obviously misses having little ones around.

Joe didn't say much but seemed to enjoy the occasion in his own quiet way.  He talks 19 to the dozen with Brenton but they are both computer programmers so have things in common that even baffle me -- and I WAS a computer programmer in the good ol' days.  But Joe does talk to me a fair bit when he is in the mood. I hear quite a lot of his thinking.

Ken was his usual interesting self.  He has an enquiring mind, which leads well into conversation.  He talked a bit about his literary endeavours and he mentioned that he gives away copies of the novel he has written.  So if you have not got one, you can now go for it.

Both he and George were scornful of this "cultural appropriation" fad which seems to have become very pervasive.  Everybody adopts lots of our Anglo-Saxon culture so why should we not use bits of various native cultures at times?  I suppose that we use Sombreros, Indian head-dresses and the like for entertainment, while others adopt our usages in deadly seriousness.  But what's harmful about entertainment? The new Puritans of the Left seem to be comprehensively against humour. Joe and I laugh our way through the day so it fits that we are not Leftists.

The littlies ran around like mad things, which I like to see.  They get such enjoyment out of simple things. The restaurant mostly has a takeaway trade so there was mostly no-one else in the restaurant to be bothered by them.  A family dinner NEEDS shrieking kids to be a proper family dinner, in my view.  I was particularly pleased to see how well Hannah got on with her cousins.

I supplied some bottles of Seaview "champagne", as I usually do but everyone was very sparing about drinking it.  None of us need to drink to have a good time and it was in fact a great night.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A marvellous rendition of Meine Lippen, die küssen so heiss by a young Anna Netrebko



From Giuditta (Judith) by Franz Lehar



I know this song well in a performance by the gorgeous Natalia Ushakova.  Ushakova is good but she can't beat the passion Netrebko puts into this performance.  The singer is supposed to be half-mad and Netrebko conveys that

Netrebko seems in fact to be particularly associated with that aria.  She has certainly recorded it often.  And like the great thespian she is, she has done it in a number of ways.  With the Proms performance being particularly jolly.  But the above performance is truest to the plot of the operetta.

And I know what she likes about that aria. It gives her great opportunity to show what she can do. Grand opera is very boring.  People are either dying or about to die. In Carmen he kills his lover and in Aida the lovers get immured.  How ghastly!  But it is much jollier in operatta. Guiditta is undoubtedly the darkest of the  operettas but in the end the reunited lovers just acknowledge one another and go their separate ways.  So this aria gives Netrebko scope to show what she can do. It allows all sorts of expression -- which she delivers brilliantly.

When? When and where was the aria recorded? It was recorded on 7 July 2006 in a grand concert with Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon at the Waldbühne ("Forest Stage") near Berlin -- before a huge audience of 20,000. Germans like their music and this aria was after all in German.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Fish, Pergolesi and coconut ice



Anne has been in the grip of a nasty winter wog for over a week.  Her heroic sister June has been supplying her with chicken soup and savoury mince with complete disregard for her own health but she is a former nurse so nurses are like that.

Anyway, as Anne was fighting her way out of the worse effects of the wog, I realized that she had been rather housebound and would like an outing.  So I tempted her with an offer of fish n chips on my verandah.

That may not seem like an offer for the ages but both Anne and I have enough English in us to be great fans of good fish n chips. And I do have a fish shop near me that is spot on.

And my verandah might seem rather humble but it is mostly open to the outdoors, has a vigorous Mulberry tree in front of it and gets good breezes.  And it has wildlife in it -- possums mainly.  But last night was a real highpoint.  Anne actually saw a fruit bat in the Mulberry tree. But most people reading this will probably know from experience that my verandash has its merits

So anyway the deed was done last night and we dined well -- accompanied as usual by the excellent Tyrrells Verdelho.  But what to have as dessert?  I had a couple of offerings but one thing I had was Darrell Lea coconut ice, very  traditional.  Anne went for that.

We reluctantly agreed that with her woggy state we should not kiss but other actions were allowed of course.  What's a four-letter word meaning intercourse?  You think you know don't you?  Well I will tell you.  The word is "talk".  Couldn't resist that old joke.

Anyway, after dinner we listened to music, as is our wont.  We heard some good Schumann and Brahms piano music but the highlight was a recent performance of the Pergolesi "Stabat Mater":  One of the greatest pieces of religious music ever written. It was amazingly good and got through fully to both of us.

And I gave Anne some of the coconut ice to put in her purse and take home. So it was a great night.




Monday, September 12, 2016

A dinner and a disgusted dog


The two things above are not related but they are alliterated

I took Sandy to dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant last night.  As she is the daughter of two deceased people I was very fond of, it was unsurprising that we got on well.  She has inherited her father's love of classical music too.  So we arranged to dine together again from time to time.  I have always regretted not having a daughter and she has lost her father so we decided, half seriously that from now on she would be my daughter and I will be her father.

When I went into the bathroom at my place this morning I saw out of the window the dog next door relaxing quite close to where I was.  So I woofed at him.  He looked up, saw it was me and put his head down with a very disgusted look.  Dogs and people are good at interpreting one another's feelings but I have never before seen a dog do such a clear expression of disgust.  He was right to be disgusted, of course.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Another supper


It was Fathers' Day today so Joe asked me what I wanted for it.  After some deliberation, I replied that I wanted him and Kate to cook me a dinner for us to have on the front verandah.  So they cooked me a very nice dish of Spaghetti Bolognaise followed by Profiteroles for dessert.  The Profiteroles were very chocolatey so Joe polished off what was left in the dish once they were eaten.

I spent most of the time telling Kate about events in the family when Joe and Timmy were young.  I also told her about what a little lady 3-year-old Elise is and how she and Paul have a very strong "Daddy's Girl" relationship.  I pointed out how Von too was a born lady and how well that has worked out -- with Von leading just about her ideal life in a small NZ country town. So it's a fair bet that Elise will do well too.

So it was a good Fathers' Day.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A last supper



Anne and I had a last supper last night.  It was the 11th anniversary of us meeting and we had our favourite dinner -- lamb cutlets with salad, bread and red wine.  It was meant to be a farewell dinner to our relationship but it was not at all sad.  It was great night, actually.

It's not really a last supper as we will still be seeing one another periodically.  We are both happy with that.

What sent Anne and me apart is my declining energies as I got older.  These days all I want to do is sit in front of my computer all day, whereas Anne still wants get out doing things and going places.  Perfectly reasonable.

The new lady I had in my life didn't last long but I have a couple of other possibilities in mind.  I even got a message from an Ekaterina -- a beautiful Russian lady.  But it turned out that she still lives in Russia -- which was no good to me.  Interesting, though.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A big change


Anne has found someone who suits her better than I do.  After an 11 year relationship that was a bit of a surprise but it shows what a juicy lady Anne is -- to get herself a new bloke whilst in her 70s.  There were some things important to Anne that I just could not give her. We still have warm feelings for one-another but will no longer be seeing one another regularly for the foreseeable future.  It is best for both of us to put our energies into our new relationships.

My new lady, D., is not an academic type but is bright nonetheless.  She owns and manages her own small shopping centre.  You have got to be both bright and tough to do that.  I also, of course, have real estate interests so that is helpful.

She is a widow so that is rather good.  Divorcees tend to be  always keeping an eye out for a better offer whereas widows just want committment, usually.  I have twice given unwavering committment -- to Jenny and to Anne -- so I am capable of it, even though it has not been reciprocated so far.

Unwavering committment means intending to stay together until parted by death.



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Some surgery with a difference


I rarely remark on my plastic surgeries to remove skin cancers.  There are so many of them.  But one I have just been through had me pretty anxious about it.  It was in the aftermath of an excision that was unsuccessful.  There was originally this tiny lump near my right nostril that I realized from long experience was probably a "bad 'un".  The surgeon cut it out but the pathology report came back to say "incompletely excised".  The report suggested that the tumor was aggressive and had spread both widely and deeply.  So to get it all, a rather nasty hole in my face seemed needed.

I hate having my face sliced up and I hate anything affecting my nose so I was pretty tense as soon as I knew what was ahead.  What was ahead was a Moh's procedure -- where the surgeon cuts out what he thinks is needed and then promptly puts the specimen under the microscope to see if the cut had got it all.  If not, there is a second cut.

Mohs can be done as an in-office procedure at a suitably equipped surgery but this looked like being a pesky one so I arranged for it to be done in a private hospital.  And last Tuesday was the day.  I was first on the list at 1:30pm and did not get out until 7:30 pm.  During that time I was on the operating table four times -- 3 to get all the bad bits and a 4th time to put my face back together.  There was a hole in my lower face about the size of a 10c piece to be patched up.  I don't know how the surgeon did it but he somehow did get it all covered up.  He is quite brilliant.  So my face will be back to normal as soon as the stitches come out.

The drama was not over, however.  Next day I had a lot of facial swelling, which indicated that a bacterial infection had got into the wound.  On some past occasions like that I have had to be admitted to hospital and be put onto a Vancomycin drip to deal with it.  With the benefit of experience, however, I promptly put myself on a high dose of clindamycin  -- two capsules every 6 hours.  And it worked!  By next morning the swelling had reduced.

So I have come out the end of all that completely fixed up without too much trauma and am once again feeling on top of the world!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The best Pergolesi yet?


I came across a new video of a great favourite -- Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" just recently.  It is the best rendition I have heard and I have heard many.   See and hear below:



The way the soprano threw herself into it was truly impressive. Never has "pertansivit gladius" been sung with greater passion. Sadly, whoever put the video up gave no information about it. So I had to do a bit of digging to find out all about it.  But I did in the end find this:

"Accompanied by the French musical ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, Spanish soprano Sabina Puértolas and American mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux perform Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. It is composed in 1736, in the final weeks of Pergolesi’s short life (4 January 1710 – 16 March 1736), and scored for soprano and alto soloists, violin I and II, viola and basso continuo (cello and organ). Conductor: Christophe Rousset"

The performance seems to have been in April this year.  In Spain, Ms Puértolas is not Spanish.  She is Aragonese (from Aragon, ancient Aragon).  There is an artistic history of her here, which shows her as a very busy singer -- so she is obviously widely appreciated. I tried to find out some personal history, even trawling through the notices in Italian, but could not find a thing.

I may have to take more notice of Spanish singers.  I was greatly impressed by the performance of Evelyn Ramirez Munoz as the divine voice in the premiere version of Falvetti's "Il Diluvio universale".  Munoz is a Spanish surname so I assume Ms Munoz is Spanish but you can never be sure these days.  Argentinian? See below:



I note that there is another rendering of the Falvetti just out and she seems to have grabbed her old role in the latest version as well.  See below.  She is the lady in black.



I guess that by Northern European standards she over-acts but in singing a work from Sicily, what the hell?

Friday, August 12, 2016

A very pleasant lunch


I had a rather bad week with a heavy cold but by Friday morning I was just about right again.  And that was just in time for a visitor up from Melbourne.  He is a psychologist like me who also takes an interest in politics. He and I have corresponded about the psychology of Leftist politics in a rather desultory manner for some time now.  And I was very impressed by the depth of his insights.  And he finds my analyses pretty spot-on too.  So he finally decided to come up and see me.  We arranged to have lunch together.

Because I am a bit deaf, I don't normally go in much for such meetings but his thinking seemed well worth an effort to communicate in person.

And he actually told me some things about myself that I had been aware of but which I had tended to ignore.  One thing was that in my blogging I tended to speak quite harshly of people I disagree with and that I could therefore come across an an angry person.  He was of course quite right.  Joe once told me the same.  Since I am in fact a very cheerful person who virtually NEVER gets angry and who laughs his way through the day, that impression is a bit unfortunate.  I will have to see what I can do to correct the misimpression.

He had some comfort for me, however.  He said that although my writing is harsh, he could always see a kind heart behind it and meeting me in person had confirmed the kind heart.  So the psychologist was  psychologized!  I actually put a lot of little jokes in my writings but they may be a bit on the subtle side.  I do wonder at times if anybody gets them.

So that was an unexpected lunch topic.  I thought we would be talking mainly about politics -- global warming and all that sort of thing.  And we did have a few laughs about the poor old Warmists and their inability to debate.  But mostly we talked about personal things. And one of them was a most unusual thing.

I am a great fan of Yuja Wang as a classical pianist.  I think she is the world's best. And G., my visitor, shared that feeling. He was even familiar with her interpretations of Schubert Lieder, which I particularly love.  So a quite unexpected meeting of minds there.  We are both filled with wonder at the emotional rightness of her interpretations.

That a Chinese lady from Beijing would have such depth of perception of a rather arcane Western artform seems incredible on the face it of but Yuja Wang IS incredible.  G. and I even had in mind a couple of  Lied interpretations that we both particularly liked:  "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Der Erlkoenig".


Yuja Wang

There were other meetings of minds over lunch but those were the two big ones, I think.  It was certainly a very rare sort of meeting in my experience.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Proof that I ignore food correctness


Below is what I had for my supper tonight.  It said on the packet to bake them for 10-20 minutes -- which was a bit vague.  So I cooked them for 15 minutes.  They were however not very puffy so I should have cooked them for 20 minutes.

I had them with sliced pickled cucumbers and green tomato relish



Monday, August 1, 2016

Nanna's birthday


It was her 92nd but she was still mentally all there and could even get up and down a long flight of steps.  An example to us all!

We had the celebration yesterday -- a Sunday buffet lunch in the BBQ area at the back of Jenny's place. I gave Nanna a handbag!  Jenny selected it so Nanna might like it.

Jenny put on a wealth of sandwiches and such things and I really bogged into the ham sandwiches.  Yet there were still sandwiches left at the end!  Suz and family were there as were Joe and Kate, plus Anne and me.  Joe didn't say a lot, which is usual for him at family occasions.  He talks up a storm with his friend Brenton, however, so it obviously depends on the degree of common interests.  Anne had a big chat with Russ. Anne is good at chats.  I contented myself with making jocular remarks from time to time.  Mostly I talked to Jenny.

An odd thing I did stemmed from the fact that I had a big cleanout of my kitchen cupboards the night before -- with Anne's enthusiastic assistance.  The result was a big bag of pots and pans on the way to Vinnies.  But I took the bagful to the party in case someone fancied some of it.  Suz enthusiastically grabbed three big pizza dishes that Joe had originally bought and various other bits went off too.  The bag was much lighter when I handed it in next morning, which was good.

I had a small but amusing conversation with Russ as I left.  He had been giving Sahara a lot of attention and help with Pokemon matters.  So I said as I went past:

Me:  You are being a good father Russ.  Is Sahara a Daddy's girl or a Mummy's girl?

Russ: She's definitely a Daddy's girl, which is good.  Not so good is the fact that Dusty is a Mummy's boy.

Me:  Oh Dear!

Russ: But don't worry.  I'll knock it out of him.

Russ has a very good sense of humor.  I think we all do in the family, as a matter of fact

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cucumber magic


When you eat out somewhere and order a salad with your meal,  you normally get some cucumber with it.  As it happens I REALLY like cucumber, particularly if it is not long off the vine.  But the salad you get in restaurants is obviously cut up by people who DON'T like cucumber.  It is cut up into such thin slices that you get almost no cucumber taste from them at all.

And I have been experimenting with that.  I make a lot of salads these days and cucumber features in most of them. And what I have found is that the bigger the slice of cucumber, the more you get that great cucumber taste.  And if you have never experienced a great cucumber taste, I suspect that you need to find a better greengrocer.

I slice my cucumbers diagonally, as most restaurants do.  Just cutting them into circles is uncool.  And I cut the slices at least a quarter of an inch thick.  For children of the metric era that is about 1 centimeter (I think).  A slice of cucumber should be a delicious lump!


Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Birthday month!



There are 3 of us with birthdays in July, Nanna, Joe and myself. So our celebrations began on the Friday before last.  It was a small informal dinner on my verandah with myself and Anne plus Joe and Kate.  Anne had offered to cook us anything we fancied but I felt like fish & chips so that is what we had.  There is a nearby fish shop that is very good-- called, surprisingly, "Fish Kitchen".  It is opposite the Dutton Park bonefarm.

So I ordered 4 battered Barramundi, chips, a Waldorf salad and some coleslaw.  Anne said there was something missing from the Waldorf salad -- croutons, I think -- and the coleslaw was the worst I have had.  But the fish 'n chips were  brilliant.  Expertly cooked fish n chips are one of life's great pleasures.

I was aware that the English often have vinegar with their fish  n chips so decided to try that  myself for the first time, using just white vinegar.  I liked it!  Somebody may care to advise me whether you put the vinegar on the chips, on the fish or on both.  I put it on the fish.

We had a bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho to wash it down.

Then on the Sunday of that weekend, Jill shouted Anne and me a lunch at her place.  It is a very nice little villa that Jill has made into a very pleasant environment.

Lewis had learnt of my liking for Tyrrells Verdelho so we had that with the dinner.  Jill cooked a very nice meal of seafood and pasta, as she usually does.  For dessert we had pancakes.  I had mine with maple syrup and icecream.

And Jill carried on a great dinner party tradition that most women observe.  She prepared some food which she forgot to bring out -- in the oven as usual.  Good old Lewis eventually reminded her however so we got some rather well-done garlic bread with our meal. It was fine by me.

At one stage I congratulated Jill on her crystal salad servers.  She had inherited them from her mother.  Some people use silver salad servers and Jill has a lot of silver.  Silver reacts with the vinegar in the salad and gives you a nice little dose of silver oxide, which can be toxic.

I made a blunder.  Having recently become a pancake cook of sorts, I congratulated Jill on how nicely done the pancakes were.  It transpired, however, that she had got them from Woolworths!

Anne has recently come back from a cruising holiday and Jill & Lewis seem to cruise half the year away so a lot of the conversation revolved around that.  We also talked a bit about politics as we are all conservative.  Lewis made the point that Turnbull has been unfairly criticised for his narrow win in the Federal election.  As Lewis said, narrow wins are very common in elections, so the result was nothing new.  There is even an explanation of why that is so here

Then on the Friday just gone, Jenny cooked up one of the big dinners she does so well -- featuring egg-rolled pork!  A great family favorite.  It is a Korean regional dish and even Korean restaurants rarely have it.  There is quite a story to how we got a recipe for it.  And Jenny served a complete Korean feast, with plenty of Kim Chee, Kujeol pan and Japanese ginger.  I have never come across Korean ginger but it is bound to be similar to the Japanese product.  The two cuisines are very similar.

And for dessert we had chocolate cake, which sparked discussions of chocolate cakes past -- Schwarzwalderkirschentorte and Sachertorte in particular.  Jenny very tactfully did not put any candles on the cake

Nanna was very lively, taking part energetically in the discussions. Kate tried to give her a ginger cat but did not succeed.  "Mr Brown", a splendid Burmese cat, was remembered in that discussion. "Mr Brown" was the perfect cat. I am holding him in the picture below -- taken some years back




UPDATE: It was a little remiss of me not to say anything about the various birthday greetings I received.  This is the age of the internet so I received only two cards, a jokey one from Anne and one from Von. The one from Von was particularly appreciated as she included a DVD of some recent doings of Hannah.  Having the littlies growing up far away does mean that I miss much but with modern technology I can still get some substitute for that.

It's not often I acknowledge it but I am basically an old Celtic sentimentalist so that matters to me.  I have plenty of Celtic ancestry (Scottish and Irish) so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say.

Among my internet greetings, I was particularly pleased to hear from Pat Timbs, whom I had rather lost touch with.  I was pleased to see that he is back in Sydney these days.  Ladies from China do beguile him but he can find that in Sydney too. Almost every day I see little Chinese ladies on the arms of Caucasian men so Pat is not alone.  Joe too knows a bit about that.

One can observe daily that the forever unhappy Leftists are wrong in calling Australians racist:  The number of Asian ladies on the arms of Caucasian men around the place tells you all you need to know about that.  Clearly, neither party is racist.

But perhaps the most remarkable greeting I received was from Moerbisch -- in German, of course.  And being from Austria it was sung!  Moerbisch is of course the last redoubt of Viennese operetta and, as such, is my artistic lodestar. I buy DVDs of their performances whenever a new one comes out.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hoddox



What are "hoddox"?  I have encountered hoddox only once. It was on my first trip to South Africa in 1979. I was in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg, then a rather "vibrant" (in a good way.  I don't like some vibrations) area.  It was a safe area to walk around in then, unlike in the "rainbow" South Africa of today.

Anyway, I wanted some food so walked into a small cafe and asked the proprietor what he was selling.  He listed a number of things, one of which was "hoddox".  It sounded interesting so I  ordered it.  It was a hot dog.  The proprietor was Greek -- and a Greek version of a South African accent had foxed me.

I very rarely eat hot dogs because I don't like frankfurts, which are their usual filling.  Although there is something about franks that I don't like, I have never been quite able to pin down what it is.  I think I may have found out, however.  I think the following information from a food chemist might put a lot of people off:

"One thing about hot dogs, they're in a category called emulsified sausages and they're a bit more complex than, say, your typical sausage. In summer sausage, meat and fat are ground up into small chunks, and them mixed with spices. You can still see those chunks and tell the meat apart from the fat though. In an emulsified sausage like hot dogs, the meat and fat are ground into much tinier chunks, until it forms a uniform paste. The paste then mixed in powerful, high speed mixers together with spices, additives, water, and air. If regular sausage is like pesto, emulsified sausage is like vinaigrette. There's a lot of things going on in there that you just can't see without a microscope"

I am very keen on sausages generally so it must just be the texture of franks that I dislike. A jocular name for sausages is "mystery bags".  I think the mystery is most pronounced with franks.

I acquired the information above in pursuit of something I encountered on one of my trips to L.A.  I was living in a cheap motel and had the radio on a fair bit.  I mostly had a station called KFWB on, as it was an all-news station then and I wanted to keep abreast of what was going on in America at that time.

And they did of course have advertisements, very frequent advertisements.  And a much repeated advertisement was for "Ball Park" franks.  Below is what Wikipedia says about them:

"A Livonia, Michigan meat-packing company called Hygrade Food Products won a competition in 1959 to be the exclusive supplier of hot dogs to the Detroit Tigers and Tiger Stadium. Hygrade Food Products launched a contest to its employees in order to come up with the best brand name for their Detroit Tigers stadium hot dogs. Mary Ann Kurk, one of Hygrade Food Products sales people at the time, won the contest with the name "Ball Park Franks". She won a leather living room chair and a cash prize of $25 (equivalent to $203 in 2015). It was from this venue that Ball Park Franks gained popularity and became known in American pop-culture. Sara Lee acquired Hygrades from Hanson Industries in 1989"

And the great slogan advertising Ballpark franks was:

"They plump when you cook em".

That seemed very strange to me.  It sounded like an apology for their franks being small.  It seemed a strange thing to focus your advertising on.  And, perhaps because that seemed odd to me, it has remained in my memory to a most unfortunate degree.  Often, when I see sausages of any kind, that stupid slogan runs through my head.  My mind has been infected by a virus that I most deplore and cannot get rid of.  I guess I must regard that  as just one of the many injuries we suffer as we slide down the razorblade of life.  (Hats off to Tom Lehrer).


Monday, July 4, 2016

The election


I had a good election even if Australia as a whole did not.  The night before I took Anne to a newly opened Guzman y Gomez Mexican restaurant near me at Buranda. I ordered a taco, a fajita, an Enchilada and a Burrito and they were as good as ones I have had in the Los Angeles area.  A bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho helped them to go down.  We drink a lot of that.



Then next morning I cooked pancakes.  I cheated of course. I bought a bottle of mix into which I just had to pour milk and shake.  I poured the result into a lightly greased Teflon pancake frypan and waited only a few minutes for the result to be lifted out.  They were fine.  We had them as an American  breakfast with genuine Canadian Maple syrup and shortcut bacon. I didn't make as many as I could have because I wanted to leave room for a sausage sizzle.  I am very keen on sausages and Australia has a lot of sausage sizzles as fundraisers.



So after breakfast we went and voted at the church hall of St. Philips Anglican at Buranda.  They have a large fine church hall there which they use for Highland dancing.



So, after voting, we went looking for the sausage sizzle and soon found it. Anne and I both had one.  I saw an old guy there whom I deduced would be the Rector, though he was dressed in Mufti.  So as I was leaving, I asked him if he was and he said he was.  I then asked him if he was high or low and he said medium.  A very Anglican reply!

Then that night Jenny very kindly put on a pork roast for a few of us so we could watch the votes coming in together on TV. I contributed another bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho. Jenny and Nanna were present plus Joe and Kate and Anne and I.  Jenny really did us proud.  As well as the roast she cooked spuds, sweet spuds, carrots, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and apple sauce. A real spread!  And most of all Jenny cooks good CRACKLING.  The cracking is of course the pinnacle treat of a pork roast.  Muslims will never experience it.  Dinner was for 7pm so a bit after 8pm we sat down to watch the broadcast from the tally room.  And everybody now knows the pesky result.

There was quite a bit of discussion as the results were coming in and I think all of us were looking out to see how some candidate or seat would go.  I remarked at one stage that I always vote for Pauline and I don't think I was the only one.  Everybody seemed very comfortable with that choice anyway, though Kate may not have been.  After several years of university brainwashing, she finds Joe's conservative family a bit of a shock at times, I think.  We even discussed global warming briefly at one stage.

Then next night I still had some pancake mix and bacon left over so  I made a big heap of pancakes for my supper that night.  Very easy cooking with a very tasty result.

I still have a bit of bacon left so I am looking forward to making myself a bacon butty tonight.  A bacon butty really needs nothing to go with it but I think I might try one with chutney.

Friday, June 10, 2016

My life as an outsider



Being an outsider is much decried these days.  That everybody should be "included" in everything is the hot gospel of the modern-day Left.  Men are not to be included in women's "safe spaces" and conservatives are not to be included in university debates, but let that ride.

So let me put forward the outlandish proposition that one can be quite happy as an outsider.  If you are of an envious disposition it might not be possible but there are a lot of folks of a contented disposition and they have it made. They don't get burned up by much at all.  I am one of them.

I was in fact an outsider from the time when I was a child until the day I retired.  At school I had absolutely no interest in any sport or game.  Doing the crossword was as near as I came to that and I did not do that often.  But I was born and bred in a small Australian country town where the entire social life revolved around sport.  So I was as complete an outsider as I could possibly be there.  I was on a few occasions abused over it and called a poofter [homosexual] etc.  The fact that I have now been married four times probably gives the lie to that last accusation.

But it was all water off a duck's back to me.  I read books, initially kids books of English origin.  So mentally, I lived a lot of the time as a prewar English schoolboy.  It was vastly different from the world about me but that just made it more interesting.  The English schoolboy had few fears about nature, nettles mainly.  Whereas in my tropical environment I had to know about crocodiles and sharks that might eat you, pretty fruit which could send you blind if you ate it, jellyfish that could sting you to death and a great range of highly poisonous snakes and spiders.  You could die within half an hour of being bitten by some of them.  So, odd as it might seem, I had a happy childhood and never got bitten by anything other than mosquitoes. I lived in the world of the mind.

I didn't actually learn to read until I was 7.  Kindergarten and pre-school were rarities in that time and place -- and childminding was generally informal. My parents were also great readers but saw no need to prepare me in any way for school.  They had no ambitions for me where school might be important.  So I was fascinated when I got my first ABC book at age 6 and remember it vividly to this day.

But I caught on rapidly and was reading well from our reading book by the end of the year.  One tale I have told before, but which still amuses me, was when the class was doing chain reading.  One kid would read one sentence, the next kid would read the next sentence and so on.  We got pretty good at it.  So eventually the teacher asked us to close our books and read the same sentences again.  Everyone could.  I was the only one who could not.  I was the only kid who had been reading.  The other kids just memorized it.  Young memories are very good.  I initially got a few scornful looks from the other kids but that turned to amazement when the teacher praised me.

I think it was from that point on that my exclusion started. The other kids could see that I was different from them and mostly avoided me from then on.   And the blue boy story reinforced that. But there were a couple of kids who did talk to me.

One rather important thing that I had in common with the English boys that I read about was an Eton education.  I did not in fact attend that illustrious institution in Berkshire but I had much the same curriculum at my school.  Politicians of the day wanted "the best" for their children and English Public Schools were indisputably the best at that time.  So little working class kids in country towns had to learn their Latin declensions and read poems about daffodils, skylarks, nightingales etc. And I did.  Though in my environment, instead of the "blithe spirit" of the skylark, we had the "demonic laugh" of the Kookaburra. I was even introduced to Chaucer and Homer, which pleases me to this day.

For most of the students exposed to such "irrelevant" arcana, it went in one ear and out the other -- but I remembered it all. So I didn't have the pressures that the kids at Eton underwent but I could have passed any of their exams as easily as they could. So I in fact had good opportunities before me and I took them.

And when I got to university, I was also an outsider, though for different reasons.  Being a contented soul, I have always been a conservative.  Being contented is a pretty good definition of being conservative.  But universities are of course a hotbed of Leftism.  Lots of people there think the world about them is all wrong and they know how to fix it.

I had however done some very wide reading in my teens -- Aeschuylus, Sophocles, Plato, Herodotus, Augustine of Hippo, Thucydides, Descartes, Aquinas etc -- and was already aware of the Leibnitzian doctrine that we may live in the best of all possible worlds.  The point of the doctrine is that some bad things may be an inevitable outcome of good things and that one might therefore destroy good things while trying to destroy bad things.  The long history of Leftist "solutions" to problems having "unexpected" and destructive "side effects" certainly validates the Leibnitz doctrine.

So I was skeptical of the intellectual miasma of Leftism from the day I set foot in a university. And it showed. In response to some Leftist assertion, I would say: "But what about....".  And there is nothing a Leftist hates more than debate.  To challenge his beliefs is to attack his person.  But I was not discouraged.  I was quite active in student politics, disrupting the cosy  consensus wherever I could -- and having a lot of fun in the process.  I did have some friends, mostly from Catholic DLP families, but I was otherwise as excluded as could  be.  I did however join one of the part-time army units hosted by the University of Qld, and that delivered a degree of fellowship.

When I was doing my Ph.D. at Macquarie university, I kept a fairly low political profile.  I made no secret of my conservative thoughts but tended to present them in a humorous and self-deprecatory way so that it didn't put people offside.  So I had a pretty normal social life for those two years.

So when I applied for a job teaching sociology at the University of NSW, enquiries were made at Macquarie and nobody mentioned  my politics. So I got the job -- appointed WITH TENURE. So they couldn't fire me.  The Sociology school was a hotbed of Marxism so it very rapidly came up that I saw old Karl as nothing more than an obsolete economist.  Everybody was rather staggered but they were in fact pretty nice to me.  I was certainly not included in a lot of things but I did get invited to some of their parties.  They were generally pretty decent people. They were like theological students, actually.  They read and studied  their Marxist writings as avidly as fundamentalist Protestant Christians read and study their Bibles.

So am I included now?  I am, in a sort of a way.  I mostly socialize with family and old friends these days.  And my brother, my son, my stepson and the lady in my life all have conservative views similar to mine.  If, on some social occasion, I attribute some bad weather event to "global warming", everybody  laughs. So at age 72 I look back on a very happy life of exclusion.  Anyone can do it.  You just adjust to it.

I must concede however that I was in a much better position to be an outsider than most.  Two things I inherited from my very independent mother were a clear help:  I was born with great self-confidence and a low social need.  Because I was very self-confident, the disapproval of most people I came into contact with me did not dent me a bit:  Duck's back stuff.

And my low social need meant that as long as there was someone in the world who thought well of me, I felt no distress that many people did not think well of me.  So I am happily a great skeptic:  I don't believe in Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Karl Marx or the evils of dietary fat, salt and sugar. I actually doubt  that there is such a thing as "healthy" food. Can you get more skeptical than that?

FOOTNOTES: "Demonic laughter" is the way early English invaders settlers described the cry of the Kookaburra, a large Kingfisher. Most Australians these days are pleased to hear their cry, however.  DLP stands for the Democratic Labor Party, a Catholic conservative party, now almost extinct but influential in the '60s.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Meatloaves



Paul and I both remember with great fondness a meatloaf that Jenny used to get from John the South African butcher

We have both had excellent meatloaves since but none were quite as good as the one we remember.

But I have just now discovered one that is very similar --  the same idea if not exactly the same

I got it from Aldi and attach a photo of the label


UPDATE:  The next-day leftover meatloaf was of course heavenly in between two slices of well-buttered toast  -- assisted by Mrs Ball's chutney

I went to my local Aldi next day and got the only meatloaf that was left there.  If ever I have very privileged guests, I may cook it for them



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Joe the water baby


I gather that Joe has been "down the coast" -- only a couple of times in the two years he has been back from Canberra so he is no water baby now.  But once he was.

Going "down the coast" is how Brisbane people describe a trip to the beaches in the far South of the State.  It's about a one-hour drive. Brisbane shores are lined with mangroves.

When Joe was about 18 months there were a few of us in the above-ground swimming pool out the back at Faversham St when Jenny let Joe go downstairs to join us.  He climbed the ladder, got to the top and promptly fell in.  I had my eye glued on him however so I fished him out in a couple of seconds.  After a big cry he was given to one of the girls to hold, which he clearly enjoyed.

Then next day something similar happened.  He reached the top of the ladder and, being Mr Independence, cautiously tried to make his own way down the steps.  But he still slipped in and again had to be rescued.  But he clearly liked that pool.

And another time when he was about two, we were in the far North at one of the beaches -- Etty Bay, I think.  So we took him into  the water with us, which, again he clearly enjoyed.  But when we got him out he was blue!  He was freezing but was having too much fun to complain.  We put him under the tap and that thawed him out.  He liked being under the tap too.

Then there was a time a little later when we wanted to get him swimming lessons.  So we took him to a local pool that had a kiddy section only about 3' deep (900mm).  As soon as we put him in, there would be a big smile on his face and that smile stayed plastered on for all the time he was in there.  He didn't learn to swim then, though.  That happened when he went to school.

He never became much of a swimmer though.  He once said rather dejectedly to me that the only thing he could do well was the "dead man's float".  I told him that was about my level, too, which cheered him up.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Darrel Lea


For many years in Queensland, Darrell Lea was a much-loved name. I presume that there was a Mr Lea named Darrel but I may be wrong.

Anyway, there were rather a lot of Darrell Lea shops around the place and what they sold was CHOCOLATE - but not just any chocolate -- chocolate confectionery in all its forms -- with ginger, with nuts etc.  And they did a good Rocky Road too, if I remember rightly.

So when the twins were still around 9 or 10 or  11 or around that age, Darrel Lea was a magnet.

At that time Jenny would usually feel an urge to go out somewhere on a Friday night.  Being a homebody, I did not feel part of that. So I helped by giving Jenny $10 to spend each Friday night.  $10 bought a lot more then than it does now. More like $50 now.

So on Friday night Jenny and her girls would go out to "spend John's money".  And the first port of call was the Darrell Lea shop in Queen St. -- sadly no longer there.

But despite the great following they had, Darrell Lea messed up big time and just about went broke.

At the last ditch, however, they got in some chap as  manager  who revived the business.  They no longer have their own stores but they now have little kiosks in chemists etc. that sell their stuff.  They trade on the good name they have,

And much to my surprise, I found that Woolworths have their stuff too.  I bought a box of of that enormously traditional   Australian confection called "coconut ice" recently when I was in Woolworths -- and it was a Darrel Lea version. And it tasted exactly as it should! So there may also be generations to come who enjoy their Darrell Lea.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Food review


When I was on the weight-loss diet that Joe prescribed for me last year I more or less had to cook for myself to keep inside my 1500 calorie allowance.  Joe prescribed grilled chicken as an evening meal but that got too bland after just two nights.  So I chopped the chicken up, added canned tomatoes and curry powder and threw it into my crockpot with a bit of onion -- and cooked it there for about 3 hours.  That was an improvement but not by a lot.  It was still pretty bland.  The curry powders I was using were local ones like Keens and Clive of India and I found that I had to put half the container of powder into the dinner to get much taste out of it.

So after a while I went to a local Indian grocer and got some real Indian curry powder -- such as Achar Gosht. It still didn't make a great curry, however. A good curry is fatty and I was trying to avoid that. So no added ghee or marrow-bones etc. So I ate a lot of rather basic curries last year. But I like curries! And, like Joe, I am not bothered by having the same thing night after night.

As you do, I eventually went off my diet so had to rethink my food.

Partly because I don't like driving at night anymore, and partly because I felt I needed to give Nandos, KFC, McDonalds, Chinese and Lebanese restaurants and such places a bit of a rest (splendid though their offerings are -- Sing Sing Chinese restaurant at Buranda gives a very nice Vietnamese lemon grass chicken dinner for only $13.99), I decided that I should mostly ditch going out for dinner and instead prepare my own meals at home. My first step in that direction was to buy frozen dinners. So all I had to do was pop them in the microwave. And that was very successful. The frozen dinners I get from Woolworths seem to me pretty much as good as what I would get from a restaurant. Over time they have really improved.

Then I moved on to things that just had to be heated up in my gas oven -- pizzas, pies etc.  And that worked pretty well.  I just followed the instructions on the label about how long to heat the product and that mostly worked out fine.  I did rather overcook a pizza once but most of it was OK. It was "good in parts", to quote an old joke

Recently, however, I have been tempted by "assisted" cookery -- where some packet or other says:  "Just add meat" -- or the like. The idea is that some corporate chef has put together some  flavouring substances into a sachet or bottle and that takes care of all the thinking, talent and creativity.  And it works.  Anne politely eats my creations of that sort and has always found them acceptable. I have made some reasonable curries by just adding a bottle of sauce to mince.  Mr Patak of Lancashire is a particularly good provider of such bottles.

 My best effort of that kind was a chili con carne.  I just added a can of diced tomato plus a can of beans to 500g of good beef mince and left it to the oven and the flavour sachet to do all the work.  And Anne actually praised that creation.  A problem, however, is that both Woolworths and Aldi seem to be sold out of Chili con Carne sachets so if anyone reading this sees some on sale somewhere local I would appreciate the information

And I have just now dived deeper into complexity.  I bought a packet which described itself as a  "Tandaco one-pan dinner" with savoury noodles.  The packet contained a sachet of noodles and a flavour sachet.  It was a product to which I had to add measured quantities of a few things -- not just meat.  I had to add onion, garlic, Oyster sauce and curry powder.  Rather daringly, I added Achar Gosht for the curry powder.  The recipe was probably designed around Keens or the like.

And the result was quite good.  It was a pleasant taste but not like any other taste that I could describe.  A catch, however, was that the recipe produced rather a lot of food.  When it says on a packet "serves 4" I generally discount that and expect it to feed only two.  But this time the claim was spot-on.  It took me four days to eat it all!  So that worked out at less than $3 per dinner, which is very reasonable.

So that is where I am up to at the moment.  I have just bought myself a special pancake frying pan and a packet of pancake mix so strange things could happen soon.