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Of Tomatoes and things…

The week’s wild weather made it impossible to do too much outside, and I have been fearful for my growing children, in the form of the tomatoes I planted too late in the season. I have been tending like a mother hen and am only sorry that I did not wax enthusiastic a month earlier, for the cooler weather means they are reluctant to turn red. A couple of days ago I found one of Janet’s strawberries had turned a bright red. I plucked it, then took it to each tomato bush in turn and showed it to them; first congratulating them on the many tomato children they are all carrying, then urging them to turn their children into the same lovely rich shade of red as our friend Christine’s tomatoes, for I’ve already shown them the beautiful photos of the rich, red tomatoes that Chris grew. They are beautiful, and the bushes are covered in them! My tomato bushes stared obediently at the photos, although I thought – only thought, you mind, a response I would identify as a touch of jealousy. Anyway, they all nodded in agreement, but when later I told Janet that all the bushes appeared only too willing to cooperate, she suggested that their nodding may be due to the gale that was raging around them at the time. I prefer not to think so negatively and I think I may be right in that, for this afternoon I found three tomatoes that while not exactly red, are pale pink and by this time tomorrow should be a much deeper shade.

I have a reasonably new scanner (scanner only) but upon taking it home discovered it stubbornly refused to work on this Mac, but is most obliging and helpful when put to work on my elderly PC laptop. To scan anything, I had to drag out the old laptop, plug in a memory stick, scan onto it then transfer the memory stick to the Mac.

Heather, upon noting this cumbersome way of doing things, suggested that I download the scanner driver onto the Mac. I didn’t like to tell her that I’d tried it previously and had completely failed.

We had to go out somewhere that day and Heather said she’d have a go at it. I agreed, for I’ve noticed before that she has a natural, intuitive way of working these things out. When we got back, I was delighted to learn that the driver was happily downloading – and when finally it did, Heather showed me how, being originally made for a PC, it could work just as well on the Mac when certain procedures were followed. How she learned that I do not know – but it does, and it’s a brilliant little scanner.

Our clever daughter also discovered that an invitation had arrived at my old Newcastle University online address, inviting me to the attend the graduation ceremony on 21 April at Newcastle University. If she hadn’t found it, I’d have missed out on attending the ceremony and would have received the bit of paper in the mail, which would have been a bit of an anti-climax. I printed the invitation out… it’s not as if they do anything for nothing. I mean, it’s going to cost $218.00 (it has in fact, for I’ve sent in the shekels) which includes attending, having three guests, (only three… I’ve invited Janet, Heather, Laura), hire or purchase of academic gear and supper for all, as well as the privilege of getting the piece of paper pressed into my eager and trembling paw by the Dean or someone of similar rank. The money includes the purchase of the academic Master’s hood and trencher (cap), which are the same as MA graduates of the University of Cambridge, which I found to be very uplifting news and helped make all the study involved worthwhile.

There is a somewhat surreal quality about all that; in fact I really wish some of my former school teachers, half of whom regarded me as “a stupid boy”; vague and dull of intellect while the other half believed me to be a devious and cunning child … whatever, they all sought to cane either intelligence or honesty into me. I still remember old Wotisname, the science master, after I’d sinfully erred, glaring at me redly through his tiny little eyes: “Repeat after me, Lang: “Loch Ness has one – I AM one!”

“Loch Ness has one – you ARE one!”

Of course  that resulted in extra beatings which was a bit tough, for I had not idea at the time of the connection with the monster and was trying to appease the enraged scientist. I never did pass science as a subject. Oh well, if they (the beatings) did me nae good, they didnae do me any harrrm, as my old Scots granny would say…

The other news received on Friday was from the lady who is painting my portrait for the Newcastle Portrait Artists’ annual exhibition. The portrait is now complete and will be on show, with many others, in the Uniting Church hall at Adamstown, cnr Brunker Road and Glebe Road this coming weekend, 9.00am – 4.00pm. She told me this while putting the finishing touches to the portrait and in fact that very day there was an invitation in the mail. I am a bit concerned what the painting will look like, in view of the fact that this year’s theme is: “Let’s Face It – When Nature gets it wrong” (Let’s Face It – rather clever, for a portrait artists’ Association).

My brother Bill and wife Jenny from Canberra departed from here for sunny Qld on Tuesday. Bill did some work on my Mac before he left which made it run a lot better. I am so fortunate to have such hi-tech family members in Bill, Heather, Pat and also among friends, as in George. It is particularly in the hi-tech area that I am indeed a stupid boy. In fact I was thinking of George because on Friday I was fiddling around among the wires and things under the desk and somehow pulled the plug out of the modem, which immediately stopped. I could not get it to work, even after I plugged it back in again. Finally I had to call George. He took one look and said “It’s probably not working because you haven’t replaced the phone line back into the modem.” He found the loose phone line and plugged it in.. “It should work now” said George confidently. It should have – but it didn’t. He did everything except dismantle the modem. With bits and pieces and wires and things scattered around him, I was rather reminded of a sausage surrounded by chips. He adamantly refused to let me help him, apart from prayer, for in the past, as he knows only too well, my ‘help’ has added hours to his work. He was  the science teacher at Coonamble in 1970, so we’ve known each other for a long time. He came to our Church in Coonamble, and has retired at Buttaba here on the lake. He attends St Andrew’s Newcastle. Finally he shook his head, completely baffled. “I can’t understand it! It should work! The modem seems to be searching and searching but can’t seem to find the password… er, you didn’t change the password recently, did you?”
“Yep– I changed it yesterday.”

George is good at hiding his feelings, although I noted his fingers making clutching motions, as if holding a cane. I could tell he wasn’t happy by the level of hysteria in his voice, and his complaint that it would have helped if I’d passed on that critical piece of information an hour before.

He put everything back and went into the computer’s settlings, I think he called it, and finally, after I gave him the password, the computer resumed it usual workings. It was five minutes to midnight. Hooray!

Reflecting on that has  happened these past couple of years or so, with the ill-deserved OAM awarded a couple of years ago (but which I regard as a great honour), it occurred to me that the real person who should be receiving accolades is Janet. She has been quietly (or mainly quietly) and with remarkable efficiency, running the home, as she has these past 55 years come next September, and all the time, quite unfairly it seems to me, yrs trly has been getting the kudos. – Without the life’s partner, not much of it would have happened, when one thinks of times when I’ve been away, or involved all sorts of activities associated with work in which she could not participate, back home running the daily activities, seeing to the childer’s many needs. It seems rather unfair to me, but it’s the way it’s been … The walls of this study are covered with plaques; detailing a busy life – but not Janet’s busy life. Maybe hers are seen in the lives of our five (reasonably) well-adjusted childer. Any mal-adjustment would be down to my chasing them around the house, snip-snipping with the salad tongs, or with a large and hairy spider on the end of a broom etc; finding other useful ways to terrorize them.

Of course we’ve had some wonderful times together in places such as Scotland and the North Isles of Shetland.

In the meantime, I will reflect on all that I have written, as a stupid boy, or cunning and devious… I dinnae think it matters much. Those teachers are dead these past years anyway, leaving me to enjoy the latter years of family life with Janet, and Tonkie and Jock our gorgeous four-footed children, and two-legged children grown and falling loosely within the guidelines of what is generally regarded as sanity, and the company of the wee birds I feed daily, and those tomatoes….

I thank God for the many ways in which He has blessed, and continues to bless, His bumbling servant …

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