Saturday, December 31, 2016
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
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
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. 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
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 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
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
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.
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 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.