Reverse Parking and Dancing

June 14, 2021

The above photos were taken within a week or so of our arrival In Australia 1956 January. It was during a heat wave. I took them with my Agfa Clack that I bought from money earned delivering fruit to Embassies in The Hague.

The photo on the left shows our living quarters in an unlined Nissan Hut. Unbearably hot and not at all like the films we were shown about Australia. The other photo is after disembarking from our boat. My mother clutching her handbag and dad looking around.

It was within a few years after that I decided to buy a car and combine it with taking dancing lessons at the same time. I was around 17 years and liked the look of cars and girls. It was already well known that owning a car would be looked upon favorably by girls and would make up for going out with a boy with a strange guttural accent.   It did not take me long after a few driving lessons to get my license and soon after a large car; a clapped out Ford V 8 with leather seats, an ashtray, cigarette lighter and a blue smoke spewing engine. My dancing lessons were alright too but not so with getting a date. The dancing school was in Sydney above a milk bar called Stavros. I bought a booklet of twenty tickets on ‘special’, giving me twenty dancing lessons on a wooden floor with the required dancing steps painted in green.

The female teachers were soft and moved with some grace. One had to dance ‘chest to chest’ with a book held firmly in between in order to gently with suppled grace yet firmly, swirl and dance around without dropping the book. I only dropped the book once. It was a large book with the title ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham. It was a very popular book at the time but a solid tome of over hundreds of pages. Of course the softness of the teacher was well protected by this heavy book and so it should have. It was a Phyllis Bates Dance academy and had a good name to behold and protect.

At the same time I had a good friend named Otto whose family was on the same boat as ours. He too took driving and dancing lessons at the same time. He was not so good with both of them and failed his drivers test on numerous occasions. He did not want to give up and decided to travel back to Holland to take both driving and dancing lessons. That’s just how Otto was. I can’t explain, but he was a good but somewhat unorthodox man. He passed away two years ago, well in his eighties but never been in conjugal bondage/married. He did get his driver’s license though!

During those years at one stage my mother rented out our previous living quarters, a humble converted fibro sheeted garage to a single divorced Dutch woman in her forties.  Otto watched her reverse parking her car. That was it! Otto became smitten. He would accept all sorts of blemishes, both mental or physical but if a woman could reverse park she would be his queen forever. Unfortunately for Otto, the woman had a boyfriend, a Dutch bricklayer with concrete and cement encrusted boots which he would kick off as soon as he arrived at the woman’s place from work and; according to Otto, most likely leap into her bed. Otto was that sort of generous man.

Here you have it; reverse parking was the overriding quality Otto looked for in a woman. As for my dating efforts? I’ll tell you next time.

Forced vaccinations?

June 8, 2021

There seems to be a rather unfriendly attitude towards China of late. Where does this come from? In Australia, which has done very well in its fight against the Covid-19, the suggestion has been raised to make the Covid vaccinations obligatory. And out of nowhere (or out of the blue) cries came about; ‘Oh are we going to be like Communist China now?’ To my mind to make Vaccinations obligatory by law makes a lot of sense. Don’t we have to have a license to drive a car? Air lines are hinting that travel will only be allowed on planes by people having proof of vaccinations. No jab no plane! It seems a fair exchange. I remember after being born and becoming a toddler my mum knew that no vaccination no kindergarten or pre-school. 

I think China did an amazing job of not only pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty at an amazing short time, but now also having beaten the Covid 19 pandemic.  I don’t understand this antagonism towards China. We would do well to look at the map and see how much closer we geographically are towards China than the US. We also trade very nicely with China. Let’s be realistic and be good neighbors, make friends! As for the accusation of human rights by China. Let’s look at the treatment of the Australian indigenous and our locked up refugees on Manus and Nauru!

The kettle calling the pot black!

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At the Rocks, Sydney.

Quotes by Ai Weiwei

Read moreAi Weiwei’s presents his ‘Manifesto without Borders’

“You can see in the film that young people, nurses and doctors and other health professionals came to Wuhan within days on buses. China is probably the only nation that could achieve that with such speed and spirit. You can see how the state built the infrastructure, including the emergency field hospitals, and equipped those on the frontlines with the necessary rescue equipment. Those details surprised me and are a profound revelation of human behavior under authoritarian control.” 

“China, as an authoritarian state, has been the most efficient in taking on a situation as challenging as a pandemic. In doing so, China’s suppression of human rights, individual rights, privacy, and personal will has been heavy. Basically, China has consumed everyone’s liberty into its own power. That is the basic character of this nation’s fast development and how it has closed the gap between itself and the West. It has worked very well over the last 30 years.”

The Stress test.

May 31, 2021

A stress test is a way of finding out how a heart function under duress and while alive. I had the good fortune to take this test because I was found to still be breathing and moving limbs in a fairly coordinated way. It is usually the job of the cardiologist to perform inspections or investigations of life people’s hearts. For a few years now I have been taking a medley of medications that were suggested by my cardiologist to increase the ‘efficiency’ of my heart. On a previous visit it was found that my heart wasn’t pumping at enough strength to bolster staying alive for as long as possible and bearable. I say bearable because each time I put on TV there are endless tales of Covid woes together with the latest sharks biting people…At times it makes one wonder about the efficacy of life. I hear the word ‘efficacy’ being bandied about so I thought of using it now as well. That word has become popular because of the different Vaccines ‘roll-out’

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Gerard on the treadmill.

‘Rolling out’ also has become popular but it doesn’t sound as nice as ‘efficacy’. ‘Esoteric’ is also a nice word to use now. The word ‘logistics’ has faded, and one needs to be fully alerted to witness seeing or hearing this word. Big semi-trailers with dual cabins still sometimes have ‘logistic’ written on large canvas coverings. Does it hint at deliveries on time?

But going back to my stress test at the cardiologist. My main aim was to find out the efficacy of all my tablets. My prescriptions include blood thinners and hypertension tablets as well as diuretics, thyroxine and Entresto which is the new very expensive pill on the block of medicines. I might imagine it, but when the chemist sees me coming with my list of prescriptions, he tends to smile, straighten up on his raised podium, and starts rocking on his heels. Of course, I get most of the medications subsidized and pay little. None the less, the chemists or apothecaries get a nice little earner.

I normally have low blood pressure, so why the hypertension tablets? I also query the blood thinner and the diuretic usually reserved for swollen limbs or overweight people which I am definitely not.  My nights are now spent more en passant my bed and lounging sullenly near the toilet. Why? However, the good news is that my test showed me improved from last time and much fitter than most my age. I am lucky. As for the questions relating to my tablets. This was all a bit  too esoteric and I was thrown by the cardiologist using the efficacies and combinations of blood pressure versus thyroid levels and organs. My companion and lovely Annette persisted with questioning but he gave her short thrift.  Told her; leave that for Gerard to decide.!!!

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The outdoor Café and Covid.

May 21, 2021

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If Covid-19 showed up anything it was the plight of people being denied the pleasure of outdoor coffee sipping. Distance keeping and avoiding each other became the norm and even now, dire warnings are still out to keep distance and avoid too much closeness with each other. At one stage last year, High Governmental Officers were toying with the idea banning conjugal cohabitations except between certain hours and within a space not larger than 6 sq meters while wearing special distance measuring guides. Numbers of guests at marriages were restricted to two only, excluding the couple to be married. ( no kissing or exchange of bands)

 

Australia is now threatening its own citizens with jail if they dare to even  think of the  idea of coming back home  from overseas, especially if having stayed in India.  The fear of contact lingers on!  As a compromise the lawmakers have now eased the rule on cafés and outdoor venues. And, boy oh boy, have we welcomed that! All that pent up demand. A torrent of coffee aficionados converging on the outdoor venues, people shouting with joy, dancing on the street.

It wasn’t always like that. After our arrival in 1956, coffee was frowned upon as a brown, filthy and decadent ‘foreign’ habit best left behind with other filth and Euro habits such as the dreaded incursion of strange languages never heard before, and certain foods, garlic and salami to name a couple. Banana sandwiches and cucumber pickle with ham was about as far our culinary courage dared go, with a nice cuppa tea afterwards.

I remember one of the first outdoor cafés to open up in Balmain where we were living from the sixties till the mid nineties.  It wasn’t without controversy. ‘Haven’t people got something better to do do than sit around drinking coffee’? What about pedestrians stumbling over the chairs on the footpath, was another objection’ ? Well, throughout the last few decades coffee drinking at outdoor cafes have been taken on as nowhere else in the world. We need the social aspect of meeting people and talk as much as we need food. Social isolation might have been necessary to avoid Covid-19 but it came at a price. The government is providing hundreds of millions of dollars into mental health care. We are not meant to keep distances and separations from each other. We need closeness, social intercourse and hugs more than ever before. 

Cafes offer us that opportunity to catch up. 

Man with a Coke and 5 KM a day

May 11, 2021

 

IMG_1711Onion soup

Onion soup (almost)

To try and make the day as fruitful as possible I usually go and shop daily. If not to Aldi’s Supermarket then to a Food-mall. Today’s visit to Aldi delivered the usual reward which often goes together with being alert.  I had filled my bag with some smoked sliced Tuna, two bananas, two boxes of paper tissues and a packet of green snappy beans. Today, I also went to the food hall and treated myself on a take away garlic, soya beef with rice.

But sticking to the Aldi shop and the satisfying experience. As I queued up near the shopping conveyer belt, I noticed a strange event involving a rather forbidden looking male. Most ‘forbidden’ looking people are often males. He was wearing a helmet, a scarf around his neck, sunglasses and a face mask. He was obvious very worried about getting contaminated by other shoppers. One could not see much of his face. He was tall and of normal build and carrying a backpack. If anything he looked almost athletic. So far so good, all is normal and still within the range of acceptance! However his total purchase was a medium bottle of Coke for which he was queuing. To my overt critical mind it looked a bit odd.

Why does a man so cloaked and in obvious deliberate incognito garb go through the trouble just to buy a Coke? He looked fit. Do fit people drink Coke? Anyway, as he reached the end of the queue the cashier asked him to open his backpack. The masked man obliged and there was nothing to worry about. No stolen goods nor a hand grenade. He paid by card! As I finished paying for my goods, I went outside and noticed the incognito male jump on a bicycle. Normal! Still, a bottle of Coke? Fitness. It doesn’t add up.

After that experience I walked to the food court to get a lunch which I often buy from a Chinese take away. His food includes a very generous supply of half raw pan fried vegetables. I chose beef with fried rice with the vegetables. So, really a good deal. I eat half and refrigerate the rest for next day or sometimes have it for dinner. Sadly, as the years go by, I notice the stealthy rise of bigger and large people and alarmingly, including now young overweight people, even children in those food halls. Fat shaming doesn’t do much but neither does ignoring. Many countries more progressive than Australia at least try and tackle the problem by education and taxing sugar, ban TV advertisements promoting unhealthy foods. Those food malls give a good idea of where we are heading when nothing gets done. More and more end up in wheelchairs. Diabetes and amputations. Not a cheerful prospect. Coke has a lot to answer for!

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Mussels

Any possible adverse results from my habit of take away Chinese food I alleviate by aiming to walk at least 5 Kms daily. If by about 9 PM I haven’t made the 5 Km I just walk around my generously sized lounge, dining and kitchen areas which gives me 48  meters each round. I keep walking till I have reached a bit over 5 kms recognizing that a step might be somewhat less than a meter.

My Jack Russell, ‘Milo’ looks worried.

  

 

Botticelli to Van Gogh

May 4, 2021

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Titian ‘Noli me tangere’. ( Don’t touch me) 1511-12

When Annette and I received the invitation to catch a bus to our National Capital Canberra, to see an international exhibition of  paintings on loan by The National Gallery , London, we did not hesitate and jumped on cheerfully, together with many other art enthusiasts. The bus was full. We had a coffee break at Lake George which had hardly any water but that was compensated by some home-made cake and a cup of coffee. I had coffee with two sugars. Why not, at my age? Annette had a coffee too. There were about 8 men and well over 50 women. Sad proof that males seem to disappear of late.

The Canberra exhibition offered a rare opportunity to see not only Van Gogh and Botticelli, but also works by Vermeer, Van Dyck, Cezanne, Monet, Titian and many others. The above painting by Titian was one of many that  struck me, especially when the title stated,  ‘Do not touch me’. Titian was about 20 years old when he painted this scene depicting Christ and Magdalene. Looking at it with my twentieth century eyes I can only assume that Magdalene was sorely tempting Christ. Reading up about this painting it deals mainly from a religious point of view with the notion of the rebirth of Christ and the adoration of Magdalene in the presence of her Lord. Nothing inappropriate was intended nor happening in this scene. However, Titian being hardly over his teenage years would have the testosterones that I imagine were just as rife during his time as they are now. Did he really not see a connection between the woman reaching up and the scantily draped man? What I thought so wonderful was the combination of the drama between Christ and Magdalene and the beautiful story of the landscape, the sea and this village perched on top of the hill. It all made for truth and conviction. The art reigned above all else.

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Vincent Van Gogh ’13 Sunflowers’.

With Vincent there can be no guessing. His work was of the most urgency. It was all he could do to stop the daemons in his head. Oh, the poor man, and how the brother Theo played such a pivotal role in at least giving Vincent the support he craved and needed to paint. He often went hungry and mad at the same time. He did not find, could not find peace, and vented his anger and confusion by painting with a mania that must have perhaps given him some degree of relief. One almost feels guilty looking at his work. He never sold a painting. No rich aristocratic benefactor for him, no Royal Court commissions, nothing!. His output was prolific, especially during the last two years of his short life. He could only paint, nothing else would work. And now, we are the benefactors. Apparently there are still over seventy of his works missing, many disappeared during the last war, taken by art looters. The output of art by Vincent was over 2100 works of which 860 were paintings. Vincent was 37 when he suicided by gun. Theo was 33 when he died of sadness and ill health. They are buried together.

How fortunate we are to now look at his work. I hope dear Vincent has found the peace he so craved.

A cube of sugar and the war.

April 23, 2021

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Gerard on the right getting a tubbing.

It’s funny how memories go hand in hand with ageing, almost as if begging not to let days go by, and so inexorably lead us to the grand finale, our final hoorah. I just thought I will tell you about a peculiar memory that hasn’t faded with the passing years, even though it is of such little consequence or perhaps it is, precisely because it so persistently lingers. 

This memory goes back to around 1945/46 when Holland was dealing with the results of ‘the hunger winter’, and scores of adults but especially children were suffering from serious nutritional deficiency. Food had run out and during the last few months of the war the importation of all food was stopped. The cities suffered most from this food shortage. I was born in Rotterdam 1940 which had the added disadvantage of having been bombed at the start of the war

The Famine Ended 70 Years Ago, but Dutch Genes Still Bear Scars – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

The Dutch government decided to send the children suffering from severe malnutrition and at risk, to camps to try and fatten them back to normal safe levels. I was one of those children chosen to go to those ‘fattening up’ camps. I can’t describe the anguish I felt leaving my mother and forcefully being torn away. Of course, the pain of separation was soon sweetened by the availability of food. I was five and knew hunger. A main source was bean soup and a cube of sugar before bedtime. The communal bedroom had many beds and the children were told they could only sleep on their right side.  Was it to protect their frail undernourished hearts? I used to be clever then, and slipped under the sheets and turned around to the other side as a ploy to overcome that strict rule. 

During the next year or so I was sent to three of those children colonies and each was of six weeks duration. I remained skinny and still am today. But, now comes the sugar cube memory so get a bit closer to the screen! The first children’s colony I was sent to by the Dutch health authority was at the coast within walking distance of the beach and North Sea. The female staff made up of young girls had the job of feeding us to better health and we were weighed daily to see if this was happening. As I stated before, all I remember was eating soups made of beans and long walks along the beach. It was during one of those beach walks that the nursing girls put up a competition to see who could climb a large sand dune the fastest. The prize would be a sugar cube.

You can imagine how I coveted this prize. I ran and clawed my way up to that dune and came up first. I was so proud. I expected the prize to be given after we got home to this fattening up facility. But, to my bitter disappointment, I did not get it, nor during the next few days. I decided to take it into my own hands and reminded the girl; where is my sugar cube? Even then I did not receive it. I keenly felt this but waited till the girls were all having their teatime that I went to their staff room and asked there and then for my prize. It was then that I triumphed and received my sugar cube.

I have never forgotten.

The Covid Jab and low Ejection Fraction.

April 13, 2021

 

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Surely I am not the only one to suffer from Covid vaccinations news overload? For more than year now whenever a radio or TV is turned on we are inundated by endless Covid news. From every conceivable angle the subject is discussed ad nauseum. It has even overtaken news about cricket or masturbating politicians concentrating over desks or sending lewd messages while the Chamber is in ‘progress’, or is it process? One sees those puckered up faces of politicians on TV offering the latest about the pros and cons of Pfeizer versus Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZenica. There seems to be dangers lurking about and experts are then hauled in front of cameras giving us the percentages of fatalities. One doctor offered the rather becalming  bit of information that the rates of people being taken by sharks is greater than succumbing to a jab by a vaccination needle. The elderly especially need not panic!

That latest advice about sharks getting to me in preference to death by needle gave me the impetus to brave up to the quack and get my vaccination jab. I had already filled in the form asking about my history of past ailments or disabilities. Most questions were answered in the negative. I have been remarkably free of needing limbs or parts exchanged and apart from low blood pressure and low ejection fraction, I am in good nick. I try and aim for doing my 5000 steps a day and with my recently found love, my ejection fraction is hopefully looking upwards as well. I am so lucky and never felt as happy as I do and enjoy now.

As I mentioned before, I had filled in the form already and my appointment was yesterday. The Medical Centre is just around the corner from me and this Centre was one of the first ones to give the AstraZenica vaccination to those over seventy. Being eighty years old I bravely held off till all the controversy about who dies and who doesn’t as yet, and having regards to the results of deaths by clots monitored by Norwegian experts giving percentages versus those in Germany, got passed and becalmed the anxious elderly that I walked into the Medical Centre yesterday at 3pm exactly. They asked, after I obediently stayed behind the red tape on the floor; what is your name? I said ‘Gerard Oosterman.’ This was followed by; Date of birth please! I was then directed to a room and told to wait for Doctor Jenny. I was soon taken to the friendly Doctor who asked about my low ejection fraction. I had filled in the form and given the information in the positive, to the question; do you take any blood thinners?  She wanted to know the level of low ejection fraction which normally ought to be over 50%. A few years ago it was at 28% which the doctor thought too low and indicative I must have had a heart attack. Not that I ever felt I had.’ Apparently you can have heart attacks without being aware of it.  She seemed amazed I was sitting opposite her with my burden of low ejection fraction. She looked me over, trying to conceal her amazement or was it admiration? 

Anyway, nurse gave me the jab and I felt nothing. All is good. In twelve weeks I get the second one.

It just shows there is hope for all of us.

 

Respect for the Agnostic Atheists, please!

April 2, 2021

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As Easter goes, I generally find religious holidays a bit hard to get through. I remember when spending time in Indonesia one forgets about holidays’ or even the days of the week. Each day seems a celebration of life and it is non-stop. I never forget the first day we set step on Australian shores. It was in 1956, January and in Fremantle-Perth which at that time was a small harbor-town nestling on the edge of the Indian Ocean. It was a Sunday and as we were warned before leaving Holland; ‘the English Sunday’  is something to be avoided at all cost. England’s Sundays were notoriously quiet and given to exuberant dinners of cold cabbage with cups of tea. Of course, Australia at that time was seen as an outpost of the UK. True to the dire warnings, that Sunday in Fremantle the town was totally deserted. The only people wandering about were Dutch migrants from the boat looking a bit nonplussed. The heat was palpable and the tarred roads were shimmering.

European Continental Sundays were for going out and walk the streets, go and have a coffee with friends, play cards or promenade through the town squares. A celebration of working week’s end. A joy with sharing wines and roses. Not in Fremantle Australia though, and especially not on a Sunday. It was surreal, walking through those empty streets and nobody about. It wasn’t a good start and oddly enough, after my marriage returning from Finland by boat in 1966, we landed in Fremantle and again on a Sunday. It hadn’t changed much. It was still eerily quiet but the birds were lively, possibly showing the future. Of course today, it is  throbbing with life and bubbling café lattes.

(20+) Watch | Facebook 

But, going back to religious holidays, how many do still go to church and listen to pulpits’ amblings and wonderings? Of course, living in the kitchen of give and take we ought to respect those that still do believe in a heaven for the pious and hell for the heathens, but can we, as a compromise to the Atheists, keep shops open on good Friday? I could not believe being told yesterday that all shops would be closed. I have family coming over and I am short of tinned (Italian) tomatoes for a nice chicken curry. Does the absence of open shops and tinned Italian tomatoes make us better people?

Respect for the Atheists please

French Onion Soup.

March 23, 2021

IMG_1711Onion soup

These are real onions.

Before anyone thinks about making this soup I would like to stress that the main ingredients are onions. Without them I cannot see how a genuine French onion soup can be made. Going around the shops I have noticed that increasingly foods are being substituted by artificial ingredients. Manufacturers are  following demands, often by the newly-wedded, for instant foods that preferably can be put into squeezable tubes, not unlike toothpaste. Cheeses, some vegetables such as carrots, cauliflowers and herbs are now available in tubes that can be squeezed onto plates making for instant meals. I have yet to see onions in tubes but no doubt scientifically bent manufacturers are feverously working on that.

The secret apart from using real onions is in the stock and the art of caramelizing the sliced real onions. I peeled and sliced 6 brown onions and in a heavy red coloured cast iron French pot slowly cooked them with about 60 gram of unsalted butter for about 40 minutes, till the onions got that golden brown colour. I then added sliced garlic and thyme. (not from a tube!) My first attempt then by adding a Campbell 1 litre of beef stock and cooking it slowly for another hour was a bad mistake. It tasted too salty.

After almost two hours of stirring, cooking and not having Annette to console me, this disappointment was not easy to bear but I reared up and got an inspiration which you readers might remember if you too are making a faulty French onion soup. I took a colander and drained the salty liquide into the garden thereby saving the cooked onions.  No doubt the salvia will benefit from this added real fertilizer. I then rushed over to the Farmers Market in Bowral through storms, flooded roads and severe tempest and bought a Maggie Beer beef stock. Maggie Beer is an Australian food Ikon well known for her stocks and brilliant recipes. I added this new stock to the caramelized onions and added some bay leaves and this time it was perfect.

of flooded plains

Of flooded plains

Of course on hindsight, it would have been better to make own stock by slow cooking a piece of cow with herbs and spices. Anyway, I put the French onion soup in the fridge together with a dozen rock oysters and a bottle of French champagne and now feverishly hope for the weather to turn sunny and thus enabling my darling Annette come and drive here, to sidle up next to me sampling the soup with gruyere cheese on toasted French bread, sip champagne while sliding the oysters down. And then some more!

It will be heaven on earth!