A week away and Kalinka.

November 18, 2014

Helvi and I are taking a week or so away from domesticity including blogging. We are visiting family in Brisbane and on the way will visit Byron Bay again. See you dear friends, keep well.

Our favourites. The Finnish group Leningrad Cowboys with Red Army choir.

He died while watching Bonanza.

November 17, 2014


Our neighbours living opposite us in Rotterdam migrated to Australia in 1949. They were my mother’s best friends and helped us out during the war, even though it was a habit of theirs to put us in the coal shed if we had done a number 2. The pedagogues today would have a field-day and the issue no doubt worthy of a Royal commission. Anyway, they did that to their own kids as well, so we oft shared the same coal shed.

My parents never did this and I am not aware if doing nr 2′s stopped after a while or if we got cunning and somehow ditched the load before getting home from the Montessori pre-school/kindergarten. My mum was forever in hospital with undefined ails or perhaps complications in birthing as that seemed to be, despite wars and lack of food, a yearly event. I was born one year and four days after my brother was born. After I saw the gloom of daylight first, my younger brother came out 1 year and four months later. So they were really rollicking rocking times.

After the neighbours’ migration to Australia, which then took 6 days by air, we were given jubilant reports about Australia which we found out later had been somewhat festooned and given balloons with cup-cakes instead of the reality of gruel and leached out mutton. They too had six children, five girls but only one boy while I had the reverse four brothers and one girl.

We arrived in Australia in 1956 and my mother immediately regained the previous friendship. I was to turn sixteen that year. For a while we shared the same house which they claimed they had bought. It turned out it was rented! They had an old Chevy ute on three wheels with the missing wheel propped up by bricks. Their three legged German Shepherd used to chase very large but frightened looking rats.

Of course memories of having shared the coal shed with their girls, many years before, were rapidly fading and I became reconciled that sharing nr 2s might well change into sharing better and more pertinent intimate details of a different softness and lushness. The roseate looking young girls that they had turned into were tantalisingly near. It was my first experience of true love. That is if you can call the first viewing of a pair of budding breasts ‘love’. I do still have fond memories of those first sexual discoveries and remember as if yesterday. The breasts were offered without any coercion or even asked for. She just bared them as if they were toffees.

The friendship between my parents and theirs continued. When my parents returned to spend their retirement back in Holland the friendship became more distant. I certainly moved on and away from pre-teen budding breasts into marriage and starting family of my own. It was during the late seventies that my mother’s war-time and migrated friend turned up in Holland. Her husband had died. He was a concrete form worker.

My parents in front of 'own' home in Revesby.

My parents in front of ‘own’ home in Revesby.

Australia could not get enough workers spreading concrete far and wide. Australia was expanding its suburbs as far as the eye could see. Hill after hill were bulldozed and concreted over. It was hard work but the husband got by with smoking and help from his supportive very Dutch wife. They had achieved a better life with own bathroom and cake eating on Sunday. The daughters had married well and the son became a potter. One girl married a fire-man, another a car salesman in Hunter’s Hill. I never found out what happened to the daughter who was so helpful in easing my curiosity about breasts.

“Yes, she told my mother, we were watching TV and I thought he was his usual grumpy self. Not a word out of him.”. When the show was over, I told him, why are you so quiet again? He refused to answer. I prodded him, he was dead.”

He died while watching ‘Bonanza’.


Mr Hoover; Look what you have done!

November 15, 2014

First flush of love

First flush of love

One of my all time heroes is Quinten Crisp. He proudly stated that in having lived for over four decades in a London bedsit, he never once cleaned it. “After a while, all dust just settled in the corners of my room just like snow.” You could not define this more poetically, could you? How utterly sensible and wise. The advent of so many suffering with respiratory lung troubles is now seen as a problem asescerbated by the overtly cleanliness and obsessive use of Pine-o-Clean and other disinfectants, killers of benevolent bacteria. We seem to kill the goodness in dirt and filth. The biggest problem and cause of this obsession though is the vacuum cleaner.

However, and here comes the catch. Dirt and dust don’t easily combine with domestic bliss. They don’t marry and live comfortably in the presence of conjugal stability and effervescent cohabitation between the different or not so different sexes. The Hoover Company knew that back in the thirties and cunningly took advantage of the hunt to eliminate dust and dirt. The broom was doomed! The original Hoover was called ‘a suction sweeper’ developed by a man called Spangler who suffered from asthma and blamed his lung problems on dust. The war on dust had begun.

And yet, what could be simpler and more aesthetically pleasing than to observe the workings and sounds of the simple broom. Remember this simple broom with willow twigs bound together around a nice and smooth handle? I remember the lovely swishing sounds it used to make. Now, one has to go to simple villages of Cambodia or Bali to yet see again, hear and get back into touch of the broom and their early morning swishing sounds. This sound and crowing roosters, how honest, earthy and essential.

Now look what damage you have done Mr Hoover. Please, go and ponder the hideous looks of the modern vacuum cleaner. A monstrous design. Mr Alvar Aalto would turn in his grave. The bulbous multi buttoned rocket look. Is it meant to land us on a comet or double as a spare bazooka trained onto foe and neighbour? This hideousness is rampant in the world of so many household aids but especially vacuum cleaners. It is promoted as having ‘cyclonic and climatic ‘ properties. Cyclonic? All those buttons and twisting hoses, wheels and gyrating whirling motors, just for dust? Give me back my willow broom!

My mother and Hoover

My mother and Hoover

But, in the quest for domestic harmony, I too have succumbed, like my parents did, back in Rotterdam, to a vacuum cleaner. I too do the rounds, listlessly but with enough determination to fill the bag. I too pull this machine around obstacles and sincerely lie, when asked if I have removed all the bedside tables, or vacuumed under the bed. (I avoid doing that because it always sucks up a sock.) It is painful and mind dehydrating. At the end, the machine disgorges its bag with dog hair and grey dust, a strange pink rubber ring, a hairpin or Milo’s abandoned crust of Pane di Casa into the bin of discontented household garbage.

Look at the happiness on the faces of my parents, seduced by a new Hoover. The newly weds. They would have been the last of the Mohicans in willow broom usage.

It makes me weep bitter tears.

Time at the Petrol Bowser

November 13, 2014

The humble Kalanchoe

The humble Kalanchoe

We all have to do this. Fill up the car’s fuel tank at the petrol station. With the price of oil dropping by about twenty percent we would expect a similar drop in petrol. Not so, it has dropped, but not by as much as the Brent Crude oil price. It figures. The companies have to make up for the lower price by holding onto the higher price paid at the bowser for their dear life or dear profit. ‘Our Dear Brent Crude give us our daily Bollinger Oh la la French Champers;

The oil devout execs must be praying, eyes slanted piously upwards.

I can’t think of anything less inspiring than poking the fuel hose through the inlet opening of the fuel tank. In my car it has a spring loaded cover under which is a black cap with below it a dire warning ‘Diesel.’ It is about as far as my reading goes. Just one word, ‘Diesel’. However on the bowser itself are several items that one can read. ‘Please pay before moving car’ is one sentence, but there is more. Several options and grades of fuels with their different prices to study, but,… there is more, much more still. ‘Spend another five dollars you get another 4c off’ it states frankly but insistently.

Those words include vivid images of an ice cream called ‘Gay-Time’ and a slanting open soft drink bottle. (usually a 600 ml Coke bottle). The slant and the gushing out of the brown liquid is to invoke a kind of latent or hidden thirst in the petrol purchaser, almost imagining the fluid going down the throat and giving the two second joy as a decoy for true happiness. That’s what those images promise, true satisfaction of fake thirst sated and a more happy, happy feeling.

The problem is that once the hose is in the aperture one just has to watch the bowser tick over. This is when an overwhelming ennui takes over. I am desperate for a diversion, any diversion away from the maddening ticking over of the bowser. But I get drawn in each time. It is an addiction. I don’t want to miss out on the exact Fifty dollar amount that I always use as a limit and aim by the cent to achieve this. Don’t ask where this originates from. Perhaps the bombing of Rotterdam or maybe the Kipfler potato.

It is a small ambition, I know, but heaven help me out of this dreadful concentration of such a stupefying event. As I get nearer the fifty dollar mark my concentration reaches fever pitch. I slowly, cent by cent increments crawl towards the forty nine dollars eighty eight cents and then take a breather, surveying the situation calmly, collect my thoughts and try not to look down the floral blouse of the lady next to me, also bending and busy with bowser. I ignore the distraction and bravely continue on till the Fifty dollar is reached, right on the dot. Such triumph!

I walk to the garage and hand over my previously extracted fifty dollar note that I have kept in my closed fist just for that purpose. ‘Receipt?’ ‘No thanks.’ I walk out, relieved it is over.

And that’s that. More me, me.


November 13, 2014

From this excellent blog.


Life Insurance and getting away from Yourself!

November 12, 2014
My paternal grandparents wedding

My paternal grandparents wedding

It is a bit presumptuous to expect people to read everything or even anything that has been put down in writing. I mean so much is put into writing, everyone has become an author.. Could it be or even follow, that those who do, suffer from self-absorption and are delusional of their own importance. Have we all gone into me, me, and more of me?

Take an Insurance Policy. Who can possibly read a document like that? What does the Insurance Company expect? Well, they largely hope you don’t read it, especially not the fine print. Their aim is for you to fork out the moolah and fervently hope you don’t notice they have excluded any claims you might ever initiate. The most interesting part in reading, in large lettering, is where they jubilantly point out the enormous benefits of what you will get when you are dead.

Of course when you are dead they expect you to prove you died of an unexpected accident before any consideration of the payout that you have insured yourself for. Most deaths are pretty unexpected even when the doctor declares, “well, you’re pretty crook, expect not to wake up tomorrow morning Mr Oosterman, good night!” “Good night doc”, the expiring patient sighs somewhat despondently. The door bangs shut.

Of late the TV on the SBS channel has an almost indecent obsession with running many Life-Insurance advertisements. They sometimes show a couple on a grassy knoll lovingly enjoying a pick-nick. He is situated a bit higher than her, she kind of lingers a bit lower between his firm conjugal legs. Children are even lower down, playing with a hoopla or being chased by a slobbering Labrador. The wife is a bit concerned and puckered-up about the future, but he is beaming and says. “Oh darling, I have just taken out an Accidental Death Insurance and we will be fine when I am dead”. The next shot shows the wife, this time, she beaming, and gloriously optimistic, deep baking a chuck-steak casserole. Husband sits on his desk thumping down his paid Life-Insurance receipt on a special sharp receptacle for receipts. He casually leans back in a black leather office chair, as if a Robert Taylor from Quo Vadis just having slain savage lions and obstinate Christians, all at the same time, against a burning background of Rome…The Insurance Company, not unlike the Peter Ustinov, has grown even fatter!

I have always resisted Insurances. Right now we don’t have a single insurance. That’s right…not even one. The compulsory green slip on the car is the exception. Years ago, my younger brother was a sucker for life insurance. The usual ploy of: ‘Surely, you don’t want your parents to pay for your funeral,’ got him each time.” He would keep payments up for a few years and then just let is slip. He did this several times until I pointed out that a payout after death is of dubious use if not also totally un-spendable.

I mean, so what, if in the event there is no money for a decent burial? Do they keep you bolt upright, stiffly sitting in a bed forever? I don’t know of anyone who remained unburied because he did not have the money. Do they say, while wagging a finger at you, a very dead corpse; ‘sorry, no money- no box, you should have signed up a Life Policy?’ That would be so heartless. Still, a great consolation I forever keep in mind…Mozart ended up having a pauper’s funeral. In an unknown grave and very grave but his music still alive, all glorious and getting better.

And furthermore, what about the weekly event sponsored by Ancestry.com on SBS? Whereby someone, often a famous celebrity or sports hero, trying to find out their great, great, great grandparents with endless forefather’s and foremother’s struggles in ancient life’s so lost and forgotten, only to find out a prostitute, single mother or axe murderer, even bearded convict, lurking about somewhere in those dank Births and Deaths cathedral’s archives.

The result is the close-up tearstained or sunny exultant, (depending on the inherited gene) face of the searchers, fumbling through some frayed document or standing in front of a Czechoslovakian village ruin, pondering the hardships endured two hundred fifty eight years ago just to give, after many generations, birth to you, the present ageing celebrity or kicking-ball sports man of yesteryear and still having to go on with the present stage of life. Me, me and more me!

And so it goes on, Quo Vadis?

More Words or,… when Words fail me.

November 11, 2014
The cluster of cables united

The cluster of cables united

There is something about putting words down that relieves the spirit of falling into despair or should that be disrepair. Is it a bit like confessing ones sins? The sins of not having put to paper the words that keep piling up in the queue of ‘what the heart is full of, the kettle/pot boils over’. In any case, it is encouraging that the latest medical science seems to support the idea that keeping a mind occupied is good for the physically diminishing, failing and rapidly ageing, thus preventing the dismal slide into dementia and the inevitable nurse with the snapping glove on hand asking’ how is Mr Oosterman today’, had your toilet this morning alright, or would you like some boiled pears to encourage and beget a good motion on its glorious downwards journey? She, of course, would never use those words. That’s why I wrote them and not the nurse!

If there is anything that will keep one going it would be to avoid ‘the boiled pear’ question in aged Methodist ‘Even-Tide’ care facility. If the reader detects a somewhat sombre note amongst these words; you are right. The weather is grey and listless. Not a leaf is moving and even the lawnmower rattle, usually busy in verdant distant gardens filled now with Rhododendrons, is eerily silent. Luckily, for all the years having passed there is wealth of memories still welling up to be put on record just in case that facility slides into the gloved nurse and boiled pear facilitated morning motion as well.

The previous reference to the rhododendron is one such memory.

Many years ago and back into our life in inner city Balmain, I gave private art lessons in our home. I had previously taught art to adults in Holland and thus had some experience in doing that. One of my students of the Balmain period was a woman who at a younger age had worked as a professional ballet dancer. She was an exceptionally good artist but sought encouragement and companionship with the other students.

Then, one day she said goodbye. She had bought a place in the Blue Mountains. She had often complained about the inner city becoming popular with the professional lot. Lawyers, bankers and high earners were infiltrating and Balmain was losing its bohemian and artistic ambience and slipping into respectfulness with middle class ambitions and inevitable life-stylers keen on privacy and exclusion, seclusion.

Then about two years later we met again on a street in Balmain. She was beaming and when I asked what happened she told me she was back again in Balmain. Despite the gentrification of Balmain she felt the Blue Mountains was worse. When pushed she said; “I could not stand the incessant talk in the Blue Mountains about those bloody Rhododendrons and Azaleas.” “It drove me nuts.” The neighbours, first thing in the morning; “oh how good your garden looks, oh, look at Mrs Kensington’s Rhododendron with the rolling r’s and vowelled o’s”. “I love flowers morning mists and rich friable soils but…I missed the inner city.” I am ready now to accept the lawyers and middle class.

So, there you are. Nothing is ever perfect but we can keep on finding it. It is elusive, but..it is the search…more than the outcome.
Thank you for reading a few more of my words.

I feel better now.

Gravy Beef or Chuck Steak? (You are getting worse!)

November 10, 2014


“Why did you take your own plate back and not mine”? “I don’t know, perhaps my childhood. Is there a problem?” “No, but if you get up, it doesn’t take any more trouble to take two plates and not just your own”. “Well, I gladly take the walk to the sink twice, if that makes you happy.” “By the way, how was the curry last night?” “Oh, that was nice, but take my plate now away too.” “Ok dear, but I think the gravy beef is not really all that good for a curry.” “Well, you bought it remember?” “We both looked at it and you even remarked it had little fat on it.” “I thought then that gravy beef is not all that great for a curry, and even asked the rhetorical question and likewise pondered out loud to you; do people still make their own gravy?” People now buy pre-digested gravies and pre-digested everything else.”. “Yes, it makes me vomit.” “So do you.”

The conversation keeps going!

It begs the question; if people don’t make own gravy, what is gravy-beef used for? “Well, it was cheap and looked very lean.” “Ok, so we both agreed on it and bought the gravy beef, next time I’ll get the chuck steak seeing I cook and you don’t.” “No need to get haughty and revert to carping, I do everything else.” “Don’t bloody well cook, if you’re going to take the high road on the bloody curry”. “Well, that’s the best I will ever get to, take it or leave it.” “I won’t improve, am incapable and you know it”. “Yes, I do but you are getting worse.” “Getting worse? Surely not possible, at this stage?” “You started with those plates, I offered to do it twice, and then you refused to acknowledge the disadvantage of the gravy beef, that you had chosen, just because it had little fat.” “Who is getting worse now?”

“Ok, the day is young, can we get over this?” Right-o, what shall we eat tonight then? Well, what do you think? “Let’s both decide and not just one of us? I thought we always both decided.” “No, it often is just you.” “Ok, but what about tonight’s dinner?” I fancy the cattleman’s beef cutlets with boiled Dutch potatoes and lots of gravy. They are always nice and firm, just like your husband and I’ll wear my boots and leggings during dinner as a special bonus.” “No, I am really keen on baked pumpkin and a cut of salmon with crispy skin”. “Ok, then, salmon with crispy skin it is but no boots then.” “A man has to take a stand somewhere.” “It is give and take, I’ll wear my apron instead”.

“You are getting worse!” No, you’re getting worse.photoInterior

Waste not want not. Just eat your lumpy Porridge.

November 5, 2014
 Some time back

Some time back

I was abused from an early age by having to eat lumpy porridge. It has left its mark and no psychologist or therapist has given me any insight into how this continues to shape me into the present dysfunctional personae, still grappling with life so fraught with fits of uncertainty as to its real meaning or purpose.(Phew)

The weeks just prior and after the end of WW 2, Holland was on its knees. Oats, Biscuits and Spam was fought over by people running towards the US, Canadian and English Lancaster bombers overhead, dropping food parcels. I remember my dad running on a field towards one and bringing home a huge metal box with rock hard but very nutritious English biscuits. The sky was dark with food being parachuted , raining down on Rotterdam. How glorious a liberation it was! Dancing in the streets.


untitled food at last

Despite the biscuits saving us from starvation, I still remember being very churlish about having to eat porridge with lumps and preferred the biscuits soaked in water. It was years later, when ‘easy oats’ came into being that could be cooked with milk without resulting in uneatable lumps. The porridge cooked by my mum then became silky smooth and with the Golden Syrup was delicious, a real delectable food. Even so, I have hardly touched porridge ever since. The lumps left their mark. That’s what a war does to you.

Walking around, pondering and practising a pensive thought or two is now a well earned pastime in advancing years together with offering adages and words probably so wasted on the much better informed. Together with Helvi and Milo, I traipse through our town forever hoping to find solutions to life and purpose. How this can be found by walking with a dog, hand-scooping his toilet habits in plastic bags, and drinking a latte in between is questionable but probably as good as studying Plato or taking Prozac.

images Food drops

But going back to lumpy porridge and hunger, we are surprised how much food can now be found just on the streets and parks. A half eaten hamburger here, bags of chips there. I sometimes, much to the horror of Helvi, lift a lid on public rubbish bins to see what has been discarded, much the same as I am curious about peoples washings on the line. Don’t ask, why? There is no hope. There is so much that can be gleaned from washing lines. Is the husband an office worker or tradesman? Are there children? How lithe and slim (or large) are they? What are the favourite colours etc. (Even that little joy is getting less with so many now lazy and using a cloth-drier).

But for discarded food…Only last week an entire ‘meat lover’s’ pizza in its specially designed aerated box was thrown out in the bin. Half full drink bottles, chips, steaks, even calamari rings, all gets thrown out.

It is nice to know that if ever I became destitute and homeless, food will not be a problem. I could probably make a living as well from sitting near a supermarket with Milo at my side, a cap with a few coins next to him and holding up a sign. “Help, I have still not found the purpose of life.”

There is hope where there is life!

The Haircut.

November 2, 2014
our 3 grandsons

our 3 grandsons

The most avoided event for young boys and perhaps girls as well was the looming of the haircut. That’s why I cannot remember this ever happening when I was very young. I am sure it was done and most likely by my mother or perhaps even dad. There were vague references to a terracotta flower pot being used to snip around the perimeter after it was placed on the hapless victim. Money was scarce and seen as a waste spending it on kid’s hair.

Adults would go to a barber and a women’s hairdo were referred to in French as in coiffure or bouffant to give it a special and heightened sense of feminine importance. With men it would be a shave and a cut. A flick knife with a frighteningly long blade would be sharpened in front of the victim on a leather belt before the stubble or beard would be tackled. You would not want to have a violent disagreement with the barber and politically savvy positions would be taken at all times. The barber would politely ask ‘brush good and warm today, Sir?’ The reply was always a mumbled, ‘yes, very nice and warm.’ The brush would be soaped up in warm water and rubbed around the palm of the barber’s hand or a special dish to get a nice lather, not too sloppy nor too firm. There were skills involved that seem to have got lost.

However, my last haircut a few days ago, those lost skills were re-discovered. I had held off as long as possible but after Helvi’s remark I looked like a Hottentot, I felt I should really get a cut, especially as our fiftieth marital milestone had been reached. I decided to try a new barber shop. It looked rather snazzy and had a computerised system with special rewards for loyal customers. Now-a-days, any business has to have some gimmick and what more gimmicky than having some connection with the electronic world, especially a computer. I punched in my name and phone number. Out came a ticket with a number and I sat down waiting for my turn.

I was immediately struck by the performance of one of the cutters. He was hair cutting enthusiasm incorporated. He had a dark complexion and with a full head of pitch black hair, always a major plus in my opinion. I mean a bald hairdresser doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the world of hair. I don’t know why; perhaps an odd prejudice on my part?

He displayed a barber agility I had never seen before except perhaps in the world of gymnastics or even ballet. He danced and jigged around the man he was haircutting. The amazing part was that the customer did not have much hair to cut. He was an elderly gentleman of slim proportions with the only hair available at the back of his head creeping towards the lower part of his neck. Even so, the hairdresser was clicking his scissors as if approaching a fully fleeced Merino. The customer’s wife was sitting next to me, giving gentle instruction to this dancing and swiftly darting about hairdresser who, in full flight, was giving every strand of his remaining hair full and undivided attention.

photo Gerard

I could not wait for him to do my hair. I was fully rewarded. He was overjoyed to work on my still fully bouffant head of hair and soon got in his stride. Fever pitch would be an understatement. It turned out his darkness was not Spanish but originated from a Philippine mother and Australian father. He learned his considerable skills on the job and did not go to a technical college. Towards the end he rubbed some fragrant pomade between his hands which he did by holding them above my head. I felt I was getting some kind of laying of hands, it was almost religious. He looked at my head and turned it a bit here and a bit there, almost like an architect contemplating a new opera house on the banks of the Danube at Bratislava. He finally rubbed it on my hair, gave a sigh of utter satisfaction and was finished. I must say it was the best haircut I ever enjoyed.

An improvement on the terracotta job of so many years ago.

Be gentle:photoselfie 2

A more provocative one. I am the one at the front.


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