Old folk at lunch

Monday, December 1, 1997

MERRY XMAS 1997



My academic career has at long last more or less ground to a halt. I retired from my Senior Lecturer's job at the University of NSW in 1983 when I was 39 but I still kept on writing for the academic journals. For quite a few years I would still be sending off a paper almost every week. I still do write a bit but only once or twice a year now. Nowadays I am a true retired man and really enjoy my afternoon naps. I saw a saying recently that I rather like: "The older I get the better I was".

My interests these days are very much in the personal sphere. I always have had a lot of fun with the ladies but in my 50s I really seem to be doing better than ever. I had my 4th marriage a couple of years ago to a magnificent red-haired creature named Kathryn. She was 47 but looked 35 and was roughly the same size and shape as Elle McPherson. Did she look good in a mini-skirt! We were both rather wilfull, however so the marriage lasted only weeks. It was a lot of fun while it lasted, however! Since then I have had lots of girlfriends but no more wedding bells are foreseen.

Jill and I recently ended our relationship after 18 months together. We do however remain very good friends. Jill is a very bright lady a little older than I am. In the course of doing her Bachelor of Arts degree (majoring in English and History) at the University of Queensland she got no less than five university prizes. She is the widow of a Church of England clergyman who was also head of the university English department for many years so she expects the man in her life to be both good and clever -- which was a bit too much of a challenge for a bad egg like me! My new girlfriend is the kind Diane -- 5'1" and aged 33.

My son Joey is now aged 10 and does well at school. There was recently in Australia a nationwide survey of childhood literacy done this year for the Federal Government by the University of NSW. Schoolkids from a sample of schools throughout Australia were tested for basic English language skills: Vocabulary, sentence comprehension, spelling etc. As you may know from the media, up to a third of Australian primary school students were found to be virtually illiterate. Joey's school (Greenslopes Primary) was one of those that took part. You would of course expect the highest score in the school to be obtained by one of the 7th Grade children as they have had the most English language teaching. In fact the highest scorer in the school was not a 7th Grader or even a 6th Grader but rather a pesky little 5th Grader. And that 5th Grader was Joey! Having a son who is the smartest boy in the school is, I think, pardonable cause for pride. When I got the results I was so pleased that I hardly slept that night. With brains and good looks all the boy needs now is luck! But as Joey was an IVF child maybe he had to be lucky just to be born!

Joey has been having piano lessons since age 4 but still seems to be enjoying them. He is also enjoying learning the trumpet at school. He has also recently taken up Tae Kwon Do -- a Korean martial art -- and seems very enthusiastic about it. He has been a devotee of computer games since he was 18 months old so I was very pleased to find that he also seems to be doing a lot of reading of books these days. He actually tackled the "Dune" science-fiction trilogy during the year --which is a huge book. He got interested in the book as a result of playing the computer game based on it. The first thing I ever saw him reading was a hint sheet for one of his computer games so computers can be good in surprising ways.

Jenny (Mrs Ray no. 3 and Joey's mother) is doing very well in her job helping to run the Queensland head office of Godfrey's Vacuum Cleaners and bought a new Daewoo car this year. She shows no signs of re-marrying however. She seems to think that all the good men are married already. As a much-married man (4 times!), how can I argue? Jenny and I remain on cordial terms. I did her tax-return for her this year with very good results so as a thank-you she made us all a very special dinner -- a Parsee Dhansak with green chutney and all the other Parsee trimmings. It takes about 5 hours to prepare so Jill and I wore evening dress in honour of it!

Joy (Mrs Ray no. 2) sold her $2 million waterfront mansion in Sydney during the year -- which was a great relief to her after many years of trying to unload it. She still has most of her other Sydney properties, however. Once she acquires a property she just hates selling it! She has now retired to the country but recently bought investment land on Bribie Island. We meet when she is in Brizzy.

Kathryn (Mrs Ray no. 4) completed her course to become a prison guard at Borallon MEN'S prison last year. With her nearly 6' of height I think she looks magnificent in her Prison Officer's uniform! She is in a new relationship now, however so I have not seen her recently.

Dawn (Mrs. Ray no. 1) is now a lecturer in Social Science at the Queensland University of Technology here in Brisbane. My brother Christopher (well-known as a media spokesman for Brisbane gun-owners!) got married at long last late last year. As he and Kym already had two delightful young children (Madeline and James), I suppose they thought they might as well formalize it. The wedding was however a good time to catch up with people I had not seen for a while. I was particularly taken with Katie -- the daughter of my sister Roxanne. Katie is the same age as Joey and has a quiet and serious nature that I could really relate to. She is pretty too! And I got the most delightful note in reply from her when I sent her a birthday card.

I felt greatly privileged in June this year when I saw the world premiere right here in Brisbane of David Williamson's latest play "After the Ball". It was a very funny play about family squabbles that also has to make you rather sad. As he now lives near Brisbane, the great man himself (Williamson) was in the audience. As he is about 6'6" tall, however, I was glad I was not sitting behind him! I have always been a great follower of his plays but maybe that has something to do with the fact that we both have an academic background in psychology.

Sunday, July 20, 1997

54th birthday



My 54th. birthday was another good one. Jill and I first had a pre-birthday dinner with some old friends of Jill (Wendy and Barry) at the University of Queensland Staff Club dining room. They did a brilliant Wiener Schnitzel there at the time. I wore black tie, which Jill liked, of course.

Then Jill and I went to The Clansmen for a celebration dinner on the day itself. In general we went to either The Clansmen at Annerley or Weis's in Toowoomba to celebrate special occasions. The Clansmen is a Scottish restaurant a long way from Scotland and Weis's is a seafood restaurant a long way from the sea! Going to The Clansmen gives me the chance to wear the kilt and on this occasion, being winter, I wore my Highland jacket as well. Fun!

I rang in advance and even managed to talk the cook into doing a chateaubriand for us -- a dish which was very much out of fashion at the time.

Sunday, April 20, 1997

A Moment in Time



It is surprising how simple the causes of great pleasures can be. One such occasion for me was when I was listening to a classical music programme -- the Margaret Throsby show -- on ABC radio on the morning of 17.4.97. I normally hate that programme because the music is chosen by an interviewee and there is usually a lot of inane chat interrupting the music.

On this occasion, however, my car radio was tuned to the ABC classical music station when I got into it so I just kept the station on, not really listening. Soon however, she put on Chopin's military Polonaise, which has always been a favourite of mine despite the fact that I am not a big fan of the piano. So I stopped and listened to that. Then she put on Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River" and I defy anyone not to be moved by that.

Then she started talking to her interviewee, who turned out to be Dr. Peter Doherty, 1996 Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine, an Australian and a graduate of my old alma mater -- The University of Queensland: Quite a change from the nonentities she usually interviews.

One of the things she asked him was did he enjoy being a Nobel Prize winner. He replied that he found it a great opportunity to promote the spirit of rational enquiry. That reply practically reduced me to tears. I hear so much from average people of all the so-called "alternative" and "spiritual" nonsense that they believe, that to hear a person speaking up for rationality and serious enquiry was such an enormous pleasure that it almost reduced me to tears.

So when she next put on Cherubino's song from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro", the tears really started to flow down my cheeks at the beauty of it. Then finally she put on the first movement of Elgar's first symphony. I have always been much moved by Elgar's more wistful music (e.g. "Nimrod" from the "Enigma variations" and "Where Corals lie" from the "Sea Pictures") but I did not at that stage know the first symphony.

Peter Doherty said in introducing the work that classical music was the only sort that moved him deeply and that this Elgar work always "froze" him with its beauty. It didn't quite "freeze" me but it was the wistful sort of Elgar that I greatly like so the beauty certainly did get to me in my own way: The tears of joy flowed again.

I have always however been remarkably responsive to classical music. I sometimes think that my deepest and strongest emotions are reserved for music rather than for human relationships. Jill once said something like that about me too.