Old folk at lunch

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.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A birthday celebration



It's Jenny's birthday soon so Nanna organized a BBQ today for a few of us to help celebrate the occasion.  Jenny had two out of four of her children along for the occasion -- which she was glad of.  Von and Paul were however of course missed.  Russ piloted the BBQ and we got some really good sausages.  It was in Jenny's special BBQ area in her backyard

Suz was in very good form, full of chat.  We all talked a lot of incidental stuff, as a matter of fact.  Suz has always been a talker but hostess duties tend to mean we don't hear as much from her when we meet at her house.  But today she just sat and talked. And everything she said was good-natured of course.

When Suz and Von were kids Suz used to do all the talking for both of them.  Von would just smile and nod. At one time we were a bit concerned about whether Von could talk much at all.  Then one afternoon Suz took a nap while Von stayed awake.  Rather to our surprise Von started talking to us in quite well-formed sentences.  Never underestimate Von!  The quiet types can have hidden depths.  Von is basically a happy person but not many really know what is behind her smiles.

The great joke of the day at our BBQ was sugar. I brought along for myself and Joe a 1.25 litre bottle of Woolworths Lemon, Lime and Bitters, which I drink a lot of.  Suz however promptly lectured me about it having too much sugar in it.  So it was then on for one and all.  We all had various comments about sugar after that.  I kept drinking the stuff and kept calling it  my "sugar".

Most of what we talked about was in fact about food and drink. I have been doing a bit of cooking lately and the ladies were of course full of wise observations about cooking.  Joe didn't say much and I know why.  Joe has a universal recipe that goes for cooking all food:  "Apply heat". Until recently I also had a universal recipe for good food:  "Eat out".  So, as usual, our thinking is not far apart.

Suz supplied the desserts, including a cake.  She also did some macaroons, which were excellent.

The littlies were very good.  Russ was lying down on the grass at one stage and they kept climbing all over him.

Jenny's friend Pam was there but didn't say much.  With big talkers like Jenny, Suz and myself she probably couldn't get a word in. Nanna complained about that a bit but she eventually managed to have her say.  It was a very jolly occasion.

UPDATE:  One of the things that I talked about is well known to older Australians:  Bex -- or as the Becker company used to advertise: "Bex, B.E.X. Bex". I have taken Bex myself in my earliest days.

I made the point that powders should be revived as an alternative to tablets -- as kids (young and old) often have difficulties with tablets.  More on my pro-Bex views here.



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A surgical day


I had stitches taken out of two excisions today.  In the morning I attended at the offices of my plastic surgeon to get the stitches out of an excision on my leg.  And I learned that what had come out was a keratocanthoma.  Yes, it is as nasty as it sounds but not dangerous.  I think I have had most of the skin cancers known to dermatology by now. No melanomas, however -- thankfully.  It seems you have to have a fair bit of melanin in your skin to get melanomas and I have the fair Irish skin, with freckles

It was on my right upper leg where the skin is quite tight so Russell had a job putting me back together when it came out. So the skin was fairly stretched and did not respond too well to that.  The site became rather inflamed.  So I deferred getting the stitches out for two weeks, instead of my usual 10 days.

But I am a fast healer so the stitches had become pretty embedded by that time. So the nurse could not get them out.  Russell had to put on his magnifiers and dig them out himself -- which hurt a bit. But it all seems to have settled down now and I remained in good cheer throughout.

Then in the afternoon I attended at the offices of my GP.  He took some stitches out of my right upper arm.  The excision was an easy one with plenty of loose skin at the site so I generally get my GP to do the easy ones.  Not many of mine are easy, however.  My tumours seem to have the habit of popping up in the most inconvenient places.

When my GP excises something it is free -- on Medicare. When a specialist excises something it costs a vast sum so Medicare only gives me about a third of it back.  After the Medicare contribution I can still be $1,000 out of pocket for just one excision.  But I need top skills for most of my excisions so I am glad I can afford it.  I put aside in my early life what I need now in my shaky old age.

When I go to the GP it is always a social occasion.  He is a very cheerful and lively chap from a background similar to my own.  He even knows Innisfail, where I grew up.  And we both have very similar conservative political views so we always have a laugh about the day's political follies.

The Housing Commission housed a lot of African refugees close to his surgery a while back and I have observed the evolution in his attitude towards them.  There are always a lot of Africans in his waiting room these days.  He started out reasonably optimistic about them but he is now very negative.  He has seen a lot of concerning behaviour from them and does not speak well of them. So what I have seen is no PREjudice from him at all but an evolution of POSTjudice due to experience.

So it was a rather interesting day and I rounded it off with a Thai Green curry and rice for supper plus apple and rhubarb pie with cream for dessert. And while I was eating my pie Joe came and sat with me and talked a bit about his future directions. So it ended up a really good day.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The importance of attitude



It's amazing how much difference your attitude can make.  The same event can be viewed either as a disaster or as a positive on some occasions -- and which it is can entirely be a matter of attitude.

One story I have often told is about Joe G., who used to do all my carpentry for me before he his health let him down.  Joe came from London and was in most ways a typical Cockney -- a cheerful chatterbox.  And one day he was telling me about a job he had been on recently.  He was manoeuvering a heavy beam into place when it slipped out of his hands and fell down across his saw stools, smashing both of them.  He told that as a great joke and said:  "I needed new stools anyway".  Most admirable.

And then there is Ken.  Ken was always a cheerful optimist. Some time in his '40s when he realized that lots of his dreams were not going to be fulfilled, he went through a slough of despond
but he eventually got past that. And he seems to have lots of friends.  He constantly says things that irritate his family but he has perfectly amicable relationships with everyone else:  George, Joe and myself for instance.

So something Ken once said struck me.  I said how I limit my driving to avoid traffic jams.  I hate sitting in traffic jams.  Ken however replied that he didn't mind them at all.  He said they were just a welcome quiet time for him.  You could just relax and take it easy with no pressure on you to do things.  I greatly wish I could have that attitude but I still don't.

And Anne has some good attitudes too.  I was saying how I hate the long flights one has to take in order to get almost anywhere from Australia.  I remember a Maersk flight that I once took to travel from Sydney to London via Copenhagen.  I was in that plane for about 30 hours and loathed it.

Anne said however that she likes those long flights.  She just settles down in a comfortable chair with a good book, gets up  once an hour to stretch her legs and people keep coming to her seat bringing food and drinks.  She thought it an ideal setting to read a book -- something she does a lot of. I would like to adopt that attitude but don't think I could.

Why did I say "slough of despond" above?  Did anybody recognize the allusion? It is one of the more notable situations in "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. I read it about 50 years ago but I liked that phrase and have used it occasionally ever since. I liked "the full armour of God" too but that is actually from Ephesians

And I suppose that brings me to something in my own life.  Most people who exit from Puritanical religions seem to have at least some anger towards the religion concerned.  But I went through a very fundamentalist, Puritanical phase in my teens and have no anger about it at all.  I view that time in my life with warm affection, in fact.  I was as happy than as I have ever been and I have had a very happy life in general. And I still enjoy reading my Bible.  I find it full of wisdom. And I also still think that the lessons I  learned then from a Protestant interpretation of the Bible put my feet on the right path through life.  So that's a different attitude from an atheist.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Indian watches


When I was in India, I bought a couple of Indian watches.  I was well aware of the poor quality of most Indian manufactured goods but I liked the look of them so I took a punt on them being OK.  But I was not surprised when they died a few weeks after I got home.   Paul got the watchbands off them.  He was collecting watchbands at that time. Maybe he still has them.

Then recently, Anne decided that she should buy me a watch for my birthday.  And there was a nearby Indian jeweller who had a good display.  I found one I liked and took bets on how long it would last.  It lasted about a week.  I insisted that Anne get her money back but had to get a bit heavy about it.

But there is also a nearby Indian bargain shop that usually has good stuff -- and they sell watches too.  Anne and I saw a ladies watch there that looked quite nice so I bought it for her -- for $11.  It lasted rather well  -- about a month.

So Indian watches are for fun, nothing else.

And let me mention something else amusing. I found a nice blue shirt in India that I wanted to buy. So I bought the biggest size of it that they had -- a vast tent-like creation. I did so because I knew how Indian fabrics shrink like buggery when washed. And after it had been through the washing machine and tumble dryer it was a good fit! I still have it, I think. It is actually a good shirt.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Some late night reflections



It's amazing the transition in education we have seen within living memory.  From my well-remembered and honourably-remembered grandfather who had no schooling at all (but was taught to read and write at home) to my son who went to a private school and who achieved academic distinction. I suppose it's progress.

A very old picture of my grandfather -- Jack Ray -- when he was young below.  He seems to have been a handsome Devil.



He certainly married two very nice ladies.  He married the second one within a week of the first one (my grandmother) dying of TB -- but that was the way they did things back then. There were little children to be looked after and Jack had an applicant -- the lovely Lucy Medlock. I remember her.

I know a lot about my ancestors and I am proud of them all. They were people of no formal distinction and negligible education but were quality people nonetheless. I am greatly privileged to have their genes.  I am in a very basic sense the person they have made me.

The miserabilism of the ever-whining Left and my own conservative contentment are a considerable contrast

Leftists these days often tell us to "check your privilege".  I do so often and am delighted by it but apparently you are supposed to be embarrassed and humiliated  by it.  In my case:  No way!

So does it mean that I am unkind?  I think not.  I give away more money than I spend on myself.  Can any Leftist say that?  They only want to give other people's money away!


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothers' Day


Suz and Russ put on a BBQ lunch for a few of us for Mothers' Day.  Russ cooked a big rolled-pork roast on his space-age BBQ that smelled good whilst cooking and tasted good too when we got it. It was served with roast vegetables so was very traditional.

Surprisingly, Ken and Maureen were there.  I thought they would have been cruising.  That is what they do these days, I think.

Nanna showed me the watch that she brought with the $100 present I gave her last Christmas.  Jenny said that she spent that $100 three times over. Nanna was as bright as ever. Pretty good for 91.

Joe tried to explain his work to Ken but I am not sure to what degree that succeeded.

With his broad shoulders Joe looked more like an athlete than an armchair inhabitant.  I asked Joe recently what was his view of the Chinese after his recent visit to the Middle Kingdom.  He answered with one word:  "Unbeatable".  He was impressed by their work ethic as well as by their intelligence.  He has always had Chinese friends.

A lot of the conversation was very geriatric -- about ailments, health insurance, hospitals etc.  I showed the scar on my leg from my most recent surgery.

Sahara has grown into a very pretty girl and Dusty has slowed down a lot.  Joe brought back from China a transformer robot for them -- which they had a lot of fun with.





Sunday, May 1, 2016

I know the poor


Poverty is a shortage of money, right?  It is not.  In our society, poverty is an effect of foolish decisions.  It is a behaviour problem, not a money problem.

I have seen it many times but I saw it most frequently when I was the proprietor of a 22-room boarding house located in a poor area. Many of the residents would buy basic groceries etc from a nearby service station, where the prices were about 50% dearer that at the supermarket.  And there was a branch of a large supermarket chain only ten minutes walk away.

And on "payday" (the day when government welfare money was paid into their accounts) it was a wonder to see the casks of "goon" (Sweet white wine in a cardboard box) coming into the place.  There was always money for alcohol.

And I had to be on the ball on "payday" too.  I had to get my rent before the money was all spent.  I even knew where some of them drank and would go in and collect my money from them at the bar.

And they would often have fights, usually over women.  And that often left me with property damage. I always had a glazier ready on call to fix broken windows.  I could have tried to claim that cost back off them but that would have been in vain. By the end of the week most had nothing left in their pockets.

And the fighting was not limited to my place.  They would also get into fights in bars and elsewhere.  And the loser in a fight generally had his money stolen off him, often on the night of "payday".  So, sometimes, if I had not got his money that day, he would have nothing left by the time I got to him.

But not all welfare clients are like that.  Many are prudent enough to have money left over at the end of the week and accumulate some savings.  One such was a tall black Melanesian man -- named Apu if I remember rightly.  When I approached him for his rent he said:  "I got into a fight last night and lost my money ... so I went to the bank and got some out".  He was the only man ever to say that to me.

So he was not poor. He had money for his needs and could put something aside as well.  He got the same "pay" as everyone else but he was more prudent in his behaviour.

I spent many years endeavouring to provide respectable accommodation for the poor but the poor did not make it easy for me.  Many are their own worst enemies.

And in my younger days I lived on Australia's student dole for a couple of years -- and led a perfectly comfortable life.  The student dole was actually a bit below what the unemployed got.  So I have NEVER been poor.

I sometimes had only a little money but I have always had savings, have always eaten well, have always had comfortable accommodation, have always had sufficient clothing, have always had lots of books (mostly bought very cheaply secondhand), have always had good access to the sort of recorded music that I like,  have always been able to afford the day's newspaper and have rarely been without an attractive girlfriend.

I did not however drink alcohol until I could afford it.  I was teetotal until I was about 28.  And I have never smoked or used illegal drugs.  So I made good choices -- for which I largely thank my fundamentalist Christian background -- and have always been contented

UPDATE

While I am enormously grateful to  my Protestant background for putting my teenage feet onto the right path, there seem to be some genetics involved too.  I say that because my son, who did not have that background, is a lot like me.  He seems to save as  much as he spends and yet has an attractive girlfriend, a job he enjoys and vast amounts of "stuff" - mainly books and computer games.

He does however have an addiction -- as young people these days mostly seem to.  So is he addicted to heroin, cocaine, marijuana  or "Ice"?  Far from it.  He is addicted to flavoured milk. He finds it hard to get past the flavoured milk display at our  local supermarket.  At a time when young people pour all sorts of foul things into themselves, I am overjoyed about that

Milk IS bad for his waistline but he has the self-discipline to  get that under control from time to time too.  I think that both he and I have inherited Puritan genetics.  I am convinced there is such a thing.  It is a great gift.

And let us not forget that Puritans founded America.  So Puritans can be people of considerable personal effectiveness.  And for some people Puritanism feels right.  It did for me.  People exiting restrictive religions tend to be resentful of their times in the religion concerned.  But I revelled in it. And it is still a fond memory of that time in my life

So in the end I have to agree with a great Rabbi:  "The poor ye always have with you". There may not be such a thing as "white privilege" (most of my lodgers were white) but there may be such a thing as an inborn Puritan privilege -- JR