Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 1

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Friday December 21, 2007 (diary, language)
Michael on Silverseas Cruise, 2007 "You should start writing a blog Dad" my daughter Babette tells me. "You really, really should. Everyone is doing it" she presses.
"Blog, blog, what blog ?" I ask.
"Your biographical log" explains Doug, my son in law. He knows history, spelling, everything of every word ever written in the English language. Quite handy to have around for someone like me who writes just about every day.

As usual I am staying with them in Ilkley at the Sunshine Coast (SE Queensland, Australia) again this December, January. The camping grounds along the coast are always fully booked for the school holidays during this time of the year. Too full, too noisy, also too expensive at double the normal rate or more.

"BLOG" : funny, strange word really. Sounds like a rather soft punch with a large floppy boxing glove. Perhaps that is quite apt really. Something not too serious to hit you with.
I always have been interested in writing a diary, and usually write email travel logs to family and close friends. Writing a blog online is perhaps a good incentive to start and keep going. We'll see.

Where was I ? Oh yes : words !
When I grew up in Holland we had three compulsory foreign language subjects at High school : French, German and English. They have stopped that now, but it was quite a hurdle to get through your final exam and into Uni those days, many quite intelligent students, but with no aptitude for languages never made it.

In English one of the first words I had to learn I really liked was : "breakfast". It has such a grand festive sound and image to it. A feast at dawn break. (Doug likes my creative interpretation of the word, but points out that its real meaning of course is 'breaking one's fast'.)
The words "ontbijt, Früstück, dejeuner" are fine, but don't quite reach up to that same royal level. And when I did have my first English breakfast several years later the word was enhanced by images and smells : sizzling bacon, glittering poached eggs, crisp hash browns, baked tomatoes, beans floating in their reddish sauce, kippers, mushrooms ....., there was no end to it.

And then I came to Australia (in 1965). For a while everything was fine, but then I started to hear it : "Did you have your brekkie already?"   Brekkie, BREKKIE ???!!!
What an absolutely horrible word. Sounds like a dog's vomit ! It destroys in one burst all these wonderful images I had. The word is displayed on boards hanging outside Cafes everywhere, I can't stand it. I certainly never go into one of them and order anything.
I love Australia, wonderful country, laid back, relaxed people, especially in Darwin where I spend much of my time. Except for this one unspeakable word. Well, I suppose I can live with that. I have to, haven't I ?

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Saturday December 22, 2007 (diary, food, concept)
With daughter Babette at 'Jimmy's Place', Maroochydore, 22 Dec. 
2007 Today was a nice sunny day here at the Sunshine Coast.
Babette took me out to dinner tonight, while Doug (her partner) was off to a Blues night at one of the local pubs.
It is always nice to have a one on one with one of your children and last night was no exception.

We went to "Jimmy's Place", a tiny unpretentious Asian restaurant in Ball Street, Maroochydore (07 5479 2241). A well kept secret only the locals know.
The place is owned and run by a Malaysian Chinese couple Ju and Kween (not sure of the spelling, we always call them simply Jimmy and Queen). They originally had a couple of restaurants in Darwin, but some years ago moved to the Sunshine Coast. Queen, with the help of Jimmy cooks all meals herself, one by one, which ensures a quality meal every time you eat there.
After our almost traditional fried dim sims, I had the crispy beef in plum chilly sauce, a recipe past on from generation to generation of Queen's ancestors. It is a great dish. The beef has a foamy crisp texture like the crackling of roast pork and tastes delicious. Babette had the salty chilly prawns also very nice. Other great dishes of theirs are the roast duck (Doug's favourite) and the crispy pork.

Babette is a Vice President of the Pacific Gateway International College (PGIC), an organisation with a dozen or so English language Colleges scattered around the Globe. Babette set up and runs two of them in Australia, one in Brisbane, the other in Sydney. They are highly regarded state of the art institutions offering besides language a range of related modern business communication skills courses.

As one of her management tools (she explains to me as we eat) Babette puts every single teacher and staff member of her Colleges through a workshop and test on their individual personality characteristics. The system she adopted is similar but simpler than the well known Myers-Briggs program, with only 4 type models used instead of M-Bs 16.
Any such system is of course always somewhat artificial and limited in its value. However in the way Babette has infused the program into her schools it acts like a lubricant, facilitating smoother hassle free communications amongst all employees.
Wy ? They all observe and communicate with one another using an identical and shared analysis and judgement perspective. As a result everyone has become more tolerant of and indeed more interested in everyone else.
I find this a really great idea.

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Sunday December 23, 2007 (diary, bio, food)
Early this morning it was somewhat overcast, promising a pleasant but not a hot day, but in the end we did have some intermitted rain, which was very nice. The water reservoirs around Australia's capital cities which all were at critical lows earlier this year, have now filled up substantially, thanks to good rainfalls these last few months.

When I grew up in Holland, my mother being German, the main event of our Christmas celebration always was Christmas Eve in German style : Heilige Abend.
Several days beforehand we would commence preparations. First a large tree was selected and with some difficulty pulled into the living room and pushed upright reaching from floor to ceiling. From the forest we lived in we collected lots of green branches and twigs, which were then timbered onto anything that would hold a nail to decorate the living and adjacent dining room. Finally we all started throwing silver "lametta" and angel hair all over the place, and decorating the rooms and tree with balls, bells, angels, real candles and what nots.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve the living room became out of bounds for us 3 children. But we each were in turn permitted into it to place the presents we had bought for the others on their appropriate small tables, one for each person, arranged in a semicircle around the large tree. While doing this Dad would cover our own table with a white cloth, so that we could not see the presents destined for us.
At long last, when darkness finally fell, we all sat in the library or kitchen in full anticipation, while Dad lit all the candles and when ready rang a small silver bell : the entry signals we all were waiting for.

First we would quietly sit in chairs a little away from the tree, looking at the wonderful lights, trying to get a peak at the tables with presents still covered by white cloths, listen to a record and sing some Christmas songs.
Finally we were allowed to approach the tree and one by one the cloths were removed from the tables revealing our presents.Looking back at these evenings, they were always like magic to us. We usually had ordered several large platters with hors d'oeuvre (cold meats, salads, fish, boiled eggs, etc.) and the adults drank wine.

Babette, Doug and our lazy Christmas tree, 24 Dec. 2007 Throughout our married life Antien (my ex) and I did maintain a similar Christmas routine, and now that I usually am with my daughter this time of the year we still do the same. No presents, but plenty of lovely food and wine.
Previous years Doug and I would go out together, cut a large feral tree from somewhere along the road or the railway line, tie it onto the truck and bring it home. Their living area is quite large and has a high pyramidal roof. A 10 inch thick pole (painted gold) reaches right up to the tip of the pyramid, a good 6 meters above the floor. This means that we really need a tree of about 4 meters to make any impact.
This year however we have been lazy. I just bought some lights which we wrapped around a large plant in front of the pole. It is doing the job, and one needs a change now and then.

However there will be no change from my main activity for the evening : preparing Oysters Kilpatrick. I have ordered three dozen large and succulent South Australian oysters, arguably the very best you can have.
Preparations are simple but must be just right.
Place all oysters on a flat grill plate, cover them fully and liberally with small finely cut bacon cubes, then sprinkle them with Worcestershire sauce, not too much. Then for 5 minutes under the grill at 200°C. When the bacon starts to splutter under the grill, the oysters are ready. I'll show you a picture tomorrow.   Merry Christmas.

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Monday December 24, 2007 (diary, food, Jazz)
We had a really good day today.
In the morning I gave Babette and Doug a lesson in html writing. They were both quite enthusiastic about this first entry into web design. It really is so much more fun to do all the design yourself, rather than with one of the commercially available programs. Babette, as creative recreation and to counteract her hectic and stressful work, is into writing her second novel and loves it. Doug buys vintage cars and guitars online from Japan and imports then to Australia. They both want to start a web site, so learning html is most useful. Click on this picture for a closer look

After having completed our final afternoon shopping spree, the three of us got together for drinks, then onto dinner.
First an entree of Babette's delicious fried scallops with a tomato salad. Then my Oysters Kilpatrick. They were once again well up to expectations (for a mouthwatering closer look click on the picture). We kept some natural too, great with a drop of lemon and a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper.
We finished off with Moreton Bay Bugs in sweet chilli sauce with some couscous.

At first we listened to some compulsory Christmas music, but soon we switched over to Popular and Jazz recordings. After a while, as a tease to me, Bab's put on a CD of Chet Baker on which he sings as well. Quite pleasant, but the other two both know that after a few drinks I invariably tell Chet to stop his bloody singing and pick up his trumpet (he sings OK but his playing is magic).
I was very good this time for a short while, but when Chet started to sing 'You don't Know what Love is' (by Don Raye & Gene Depaul), one of my two or three most favourite ballads I could not control myself any longer, switched him off and my own keyboard on and started to play the hell out of that tune.

After I had settle down again we finished off with a CD of the Dutch Pim Jacobs Trio featuring his wife Rita Reys, a wonderful Jazz singer who in my view can mix it with the best in the world. Their first record together is called 'Just Married' and it is great. (Now available online as CD, check it out!   Philips - P 08052 L)
There were many great Jazz combos and bands in Europe in the 50s and 60s, but unfortunately not well know in the US I believe, which is a pity. A rare exception was perhaps the Dutch Swing College Band with leader reed man Peter Schilperoort. They originally started off as a College band of the University in Delft, but soon became professional and kept touring all over the world.

When I studied at the Jazz College in Adelaide in the mid and late 80s we had visits and residencies of several famous Jazz musos, like Lee Konitz, Red Rodney (who replaced Miles Davis in the legendary Charlie Parker Quintet) and the One O'Clock Big Band of the Texas State University. All had a great impact on us students, but non so breathtakingly as the Reiner Brüninghaus Trio from Germany with their, at that time, cutting edge contemporary Jazz.
Reiner played piano, Hugo Reed a curved soprano sax and an amazing Indian muso who's name I find too hard to recall on percussion. He would sit on a 6 ft square carpet on the floor with his magical instruments spread out all around him.
We all had a chance to play with them, and I remember (playing bari sax) trying to decipher Hugo's lead sheets, which consisted mainly of rough pencil scribbled words with only here and there a semibreve (whole note) on the staff to indicate a tonal centre. None of us were ever the same again (and happily so) after their exhilarating visit.

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Tuesday December 25, 2007 (diary)
If you are planning a hangover Good Friday and Christmas Day are definitely the best days to have one, certainly in Australia, because just about everything closes down for the day : shopping centers, stores, clubs, restaurants, pubs, the lot. Except for perhaps the odd fast food outlet here and there. It are bad days for people on their own like myself, for there is nowhere to go. Four legged guest at our BBQ
Although I am staying with my daughter, the feeling somehow still is there that this is a wasted day. So I had my hangover, did very little except for a BBQ at about 6pm with some of Babette's friends on the nature strip along the beach at Mooloolaba. Everybody brought some food and wine, Doug grilled some garlic prawns on the BBQ. We returned home at about 8. I was rather tired and went straight to bed.

For large families this is a great day, and a real Aussie tradition. Early in the morning they arrive at the beach, set up their temporary tents and tarps against sun or rain, whichever may prevail, and the party begins. There are lots of benches, tables and free gas BBQs along the coastal strip with plenty of shady trees to collapse under and fall asleep after too much food and drinks. The kids are on the beach, in the water having a great time. Today was a good day for it too, no rain, somewhat overcast, so not too hot and not much fear of getting sun burnt.

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Wednesday December 26, 2007 (diary, sport)
Still overcast and relatively cool. I am wearing a sweater as I drive to Mooloolaba for my regular lunch spot at the Mooloolaba Surf Club, right on the beach. The large floor to ceiling windows are all closed to keep the wind and chill out.
It is Boxing Day, so two major Australian sporting events are on their way. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht race and the first day (of the scheduled 5 day event) of the Cricket Test this year Australia against India.

Mooloolaba Surf Club, Christmas 2007 I often watch sporting events on one of the TV screens located all around in the Surf Club. I am too late for the Yacht race which has already left Sydney Harbour, but the Cricket is in full swing. Australia is betting, Hayden makes 124 runs and the Indians have six wickets by the time I leave, a good effort so far.
Matthew Hayden has now more test centuries to his name (19) than any other Australian player. Bradman and Ricky Ponting are next with 18 centuries each. Ponting will surely still improve on that, but not in this innings as he is already out for just 4 runs.

Back home I ring a few friends in Darwin, wishing them Happy Christmas and telling them that I plan to be back in Darwin sometime March, road access (floods) permitting.
I go online and book my Tiger Airlines flights Darwin-Singapore for April 15, to connect up with my already purchased flight with Lufthansa onwards to Basel, and my return to Darwin on July 31. I stuff up somewhere in the process and find out I paid $54 extra for free sports luggage to may take on the plane. What is that going to be, my walking shoes ? Anyway the fare is still good at $440 return (less than a single flight fare with Jetstar!).

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Copyright © 2007 Michael Furstner