Guns before butter?

March 15, 2023

The latest news has us believe we are under imminent threat of being occupied by China. But, no worries. Australia at the behest of our mates the US is going to spend 380 billion on underwater boats which is supposed to check China in its track. For some time now we have been fed anti-China porridge with plenty of golden syrup. Some time back it was France that was going to supply us with those nuclear submarines, but that idea was scuttled when our previous PM, Scott Morrison leaked a text by the French President Macron much to the annoyance of the French. As has been pointed out before, much needed funds for aged care or public education seems to have been pushed back into the never never.

Some people far better with words than I have written some compelling arguments that should warn us not to follow ad nausea the US in its war mongering habits. Looking at their disastrous wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan resulting in millions of refugees, one would have thought it prudent to avoid following the US in agitating for another war with China.

You might like to read up on some facts instead of being swept up by propaganda.

Red Alert: news media ‘Sleep-Walking’ into US war propaganda

I quote some of those words from the above link by John Menadue.

A Labor government has puts guns before butter… how extraordinary! Today, Pearls and Irritations has taken the unusual step of devoting our issue line up entirely to articles on the drive to war with China and the disastrous commitment of $368 billion dollars of Australia’s public funding to nuclear submarines.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced an extraordinary commitment of $368 billion dollars to purchase nuclear submarines designed for an aggressive war against China under the AUKUS arrangement. The submarines are not designed to defend Australia. They are designed to cooperate with the Americans off the China coast.

In return, Australia will receive submarines on the ‘never never’, some old hand me downs from Uncle Joe.

This follows an unprecedented propaganda drive in Australia’s major media outlets over the past year by American and Austral-American lobbyists to manipulate public opinion. The intent has been to manufacture fear and soften the public up for a commitment of taxpayer funding for massive weapons purchases from US arms industries, followed by an Australian participation in a US led war with China.

This fear of China has been manufactured in Washington to protect its hegemony. The US is not militarily threatened in any shape or form by China, and neither are we. But the US keeps goading China at every opportunity in the hope of China responding.

The US has a record of almost always being at war. It has overthrown countless governments and interfered in numerous countries. It wants us to join it again in yet another disastrous war.

Not since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the 20th anniversary of which will occur on the 20th of March 2023, has a US led disinformation campaign been so blatant, so openly misleading, and so successful as we now see.”

I mean, our aged care and hospitals are at breaking point. Schools and education are lagging behind on world standards. People are sleeping in cars and derelict houses.

Pardon me Sir, your Plantar Fasciitis is showing.

March 1, 2023

One tries and anticipate what might happen in the future fully expecting that certain things will occur connected to ageing. They even say that none of us will survive forever which has proven to be true, still many hope that life will go on its merry way. And if not merry, at least with worthwhile moments of enjoyment which the French call, joie de vivre. So far, I am proof of that and still jump jollily out of bed still alive and fleet footed.

My dear friend Bentley, the Tibetan spaniel will vouch for that when I accompany him for at least two walks daily which my iPhone tallies up at around 6 kilometers daily. In between I sample coffee and lately even let the devil take the hindmost and eat a cheese and bacon croissant.

But then, some three weeks ago I did not jump jauntily out of bed. I had a very bad pain in my left foot and when I touched base on the carpeted floor, I was most surprised. It was at the bottom of my heel which at the age I am at is a difficult area to inspect. It took a mirror on the floor to scrutinize but nothing looked broken or sore. I did not give it much attention and continued on with my breakfast of single banana, an apple and a cuppa tea.

Did the usual domestics of washing previous night’s dishes and a general tidy up. I noticed that it is a great idea to have a kind of discipline to divide the day in certain activities to keep enjoying life without sinking in feeling isolated living by oneself. Of course, if this oneself is amicable and generally friendly disposed then living on one’s own is not all that unsurmountable. Of course, the daily social intercourse at the café and people and dogs at dog parks help enormous as do the internet blogging friends

I went to see the doctor who suggested an Xray and ultrasound of my leg’s arteries. My left foot has always looked a bit different and years ago had injections for the veins. Nothing very dramatic showed up but I heard someone at my coffee group mention that it could be a spur inside the foot. It sounded spooky. I know that a family member had a case of a sore foot that dragged on for a long time. It called for further investigation and it was suggested I had Plantar Fasciitis. It sounded like an exotic dish from a Greek Island. It was not and it is the grim reality.

My life is reduced to rolling my foot over a bottle filled with water backwards and forwards, doing exercises on my toes and heel to strengthen calves and ankles. It is not the most exciting thing to do, and I am limping now.

Can you believe it? Any suggestions on what people do with that sort of strange thing it would be most appreciated.

Why gardening has become so noisy.

February 13, 2023

It wasn’t long after our arrival in Australia in 1956 that I discovered the important relationship that Australia has with their gardens, especially the lawns. The discovery and implementation of title gave former renters the opportunity to buy their own block of land and build their own house. It took off like wildfire and it infected migrants the same. Own block with own house was the aim of life above much else. It is one reason why protecting this asset became important with fences and borders denoting the exact position of own house and own block.

With that became the need to protect and enhance by having lovely gardens and so it was that the grass lawn was born. An inherited gene from the English. But it also soon became apparent that trees and their shedding of leaves were not in tune with maintaining the perfect lawn. I remember well our neighbour in a very silent, peopleless and quiet suburb spending whole weekends on his knees tending the sacred lawn next to where we were living. The dying leaves from shrubbery would be quickly removed even before they dared to hit his lawn. Trees were forbidden to grow above gutter heights.

In those early days there were brooms and rakes to keep grass tidy but with time all sorts of innovative equipment were designed to keep the lawns tidy and obedient. Of course, with our own blocks of land and own homes the suburbs were born and with that came the stillness and quietness of lives lived in a somewhat isolated fashion but of great comfort were our gardens and lawns, so green and verdant.

As I said though, new equipment was discovered but they came with great fanfare and noise and now in 2023, our autumn has arrived, and an orchestra of noisy leaf blowers is heralding it in no uncertain terms. Not just leaf blowers but petrol driven edgers and leaf mulchers, ride on mowers with sometimes huge but proud owners astride teaching those lawns a lesson.

I am speculating here but is all that noise a reaction to the stillness and forlornness of the suburban way of life. Our houses on own blocks, fenced off, curtains drawn with added protection of tropical wooden blinds or venetians, privacy till we die? The streets so quiet and empty. Where are the people? Is all that noise, blowing leaves and whipper snipping, edging the pathway on the ‘nature’ strip our way of escaping this lonely quietness? It at least gives us the opportunity to meet our neigbours when they are about and tackling the leaves. I often pop out if I hear petrol driven garden noise curious who might be about.

I mean how important is it to keep leaves away and the grass lawn so perfect, or the edges on the concrete walkway so neat?

Perhaps we could spend more time together sharing gossip and coffees.

The excitement of life, including porridge.

February 3, 2023

Yes, with the years passing, robust health for the aged goes out of all proportions. I had a scare when playing croquet a few days ago and had to be helped off the greens. Fellow players reckoned it was due to dehydration. The elderly simply don’t drink enough water and the dehydration made me almost faint. Having low blood pressure as well, I discovered that eating bananas are not good because of the b p lowering potassium. I did not know that fact. A banana was the first thing that I would greet and eat each morning.
I am now having acute banana withdrawal symptoms which I was advised to counter with morning porridge. I try and remain excited about life.

My first porridge.

Memories of porridge go back decades and I can still see my mother making the porridge each morning in a large heavy enameled saucepan, green in colour and with two handles. At one stage this saucepan sprung a leak but, in those day a man on a bicycle would go around fixing leaking enameled saucepans of any size or colour. I think a little metal plate would be hammered into the leak and it worked!

Our milk was delivered daily, and the milkman had a one litre scoop which he would dip into a large container and deposit it into our enameled bucket. Again, from memory, we ordered roughly 4 litres daily or perhaps it was once every two days. Anyway, enameled kitchenware was to last decades and became part of our furniture, living equipment and my memory.

But going back to the porridge, my first effort in cooking it was yesterday but it failed and even though I ate some of it, it needed improving, I asked my kind neighbour for advice, and she gave me the proportion of rolled oats in relation to liquid. This morning I reheated yesterday’s failed mixture but added some water to make it at a bit more viscous. Even my dog Bentley walked away!

The reader must realize how porridge had been embedded in my life in those early years. They are somber being tainted with war and dreadful hunger. Porridge in mornings cooked by mother on a kerosine cooker in winter’s darkness with dad assisting in giving light. Bombed Rotterdam had no power nor running gas, but dad did have a bicycle with a dynamo fixed to the back wheel which would give light from the front wheel when pedaled on its stand. The porridge was fantastic and often our only meal of the day. And now some eighty years onwards I have to really not be fussy and eat my daily porridge irrespective of its viscosity or lumpiness.

I owe it to my memory.


January 18, 2023

 A Heartbreaking And Hilarious Existential Masterpiece

This is a masterpiece of film making but it is no Oklahoma or Hunchback of Notre dame. It is uncompromising and doesn’t cater nor care for the audience. I was recommended to see it and given warnings. It is a movie made on a small Irish island, stunningly beautiful and that beauty makes up for the black comedy that is advertised as being the main body of this film. The audience did laugh hesitantly sometimes and so did I although I looked around to see if I was being watched. My chocolate coated ice-cream cone was smarting in my mouth to its core.

And here I quote.;

” One of the most prominent characteristics of writer/director Martin McDonagh’s filmography is his penchant for melding mordant, off-kilter humor with striking moments of pitch black severity. It’s a trait that has shaped his entire body of work, but the alchemy arguably worked best in his brilliant feature debut, 2008’s In Bruges. Joined by actors Colin Farrell and Brendan GleesonMcDonagh successfully spun an ostensible fish-out-of-water comedy about two hitmen hiding out in the eponymous Belgian city into a darker, more sophisticated mediation on sin and death.

That kind of balancing act can be increasingly difficult to pull off, and for his latest film, The Banshees of InisherinMcDonagh has re-teamed with Farrell and Gleeson for an even trickier subject: the precipitous dissolution of a close friendship and all the grim consequences that follow. McDonagh’s film is packed with moments of emotional devastation, to the point where it could potentially be a borderline unbearable sit…were it not also absolutely hysterical, handily emerging as one of the funniest films of 2022. It’s a considerable achievement that McDonagh accomplishes with aplomb, cementing The Banshees of Inisherin as one of the year’s greatest films. It truly is a sublime motion picture.” Unquote

I admit I left the cinema reeling. Two days later and I am still mulling over it.

A masterpiece indeed.

The tale of an obstinate jar of German Liverwurst.

December 26, 2022

Each year I try and make the best of the Christmas festivities with fine foods which often include Dutch Herrings, my beloved butter milk and if available German liverwurst. To my delight, and well beyond my wildest dreams, just before Christmas, Aldi had the German liverwurst up for sale. I could not believe how fortuitous my life of late has become. Without lingering I bought the Liverwurst together with butter milk and a packet of Brussel Sprouts. I like to sauté the Sprouts in butter milk before blanching them to eat semi raw. This dish I often serve up on Boxing Day to an unsuspecting guest as a special treat after usually a big dinner or lunch on the previous Christmas day where most of us overeat and overjoy. (The pavlova did not disappoint nor the chicken curry beforehand. Remnants are now in the fridge.)

Sadly, when it came to the German Liverwurst, I could not open it. I tried everything, even a hammer and plyers. I held the glass jar in water, an old trick that Helvi taught me. Nothing would budge this jar to release the glass lid held in its steel ring and rubber seal. See the photo above! Fortunately, the shops reopen on Boxing Day so I quickly went back to Aldi to get my refund or given a jar of The German Liverwurst that would give up its contents for normal eating. This is not too much to ask, is it?

On arrival, I gave the jar back to the cashier together with a bottle of wine, some cheese and a leek that I wanted to buy. The girl asked me if I still had the receipt of the German liverwurst. I said I don’t keep receipts of German Liverwurst or any other items. She looked as if she was fronted with a difficult decision. So, in order to avoid any time wasting I said I would gladly keep the German Liverwurst if the jar could be opened. This struck the right chord. I mean, would I try and get this item by subterfuge or stealing? Do I look like a Liverwurst thief and do that on Boxing Day? An elderly gentleman wearing a cap?

Try as she might she could not open the jar, so she called in for reinforcement. A burly Aldi man turned up who looked as if he could open the jar by just looking at it. But try as he might the lid would not budge. I could see his pride in front of the female cashier was at stake. Again, I came to the rescue to resolve the matter and said that perhaps another jar would be more compliant and open up. He quickly agreed to get another jar of German Liverwurst so off he went. It took a while, but he came back a bit red in the face but had a jar that he showed could be opened. I was very happy with that and returned home.

The jar of German Liverwurst is now resting in the fridge. I will have some tonight and light a candle.

Such a nice Christmas.

Christmas is nigh. Stay alert.

December 18, 2022

Helvi 1965

The best way to experience the closeness of Christmas is around the large shopping centers. A nervousness that without fail is palpable each year. I had to go to my local shopping center to stock up on some Brussel sprouts and buttermilk for Christmas. The shopping center itself sits on a very large underground carpark and today it was full of cars beeping horns with huge trolleys being emptied into yawning bonnets and boots. After having gone around a few times I managed to find an empty park lot that had a disabled sign depicted by a wheelchair. For some months now I proudly sport a disabled sign in my car. It is amazing how many now have those signs stuck on the front windows of their cars. I don’t particularly suffer major disability except a kind of anxiety when away from a nearby toilet. It is strange how age seems to announce itself with an angst when away from this convenience.

My first task when going about unfamiliar places is to sass out the local public toilet situation. Once that is done, I get about fulfilling the purpose of my visit with confidence and even some swagger. It is odd though that no sooner do I get home near the front door and this call of nature is calling frantically and urgently. I try and think of being with the Royal family or having to give a speech with the aim to ward off this strange urgency to use the toilet. It is the same when I wash up and turn on a tap. What is that about? Luckily those disabled parking places are often strategically placed near public conveniences. It must be fairly normal for the elderly to be in some kind of bladder urgency, or worse with intestinal hurry.

Anyway, I am straying off subject here and with Christmas just seven days away, shoppers are in full flight. I noticed a queue at the large smoked ham section. One customer was lifting a huge plastic wrapped large ham sniffing it, turning it around, holding it up to light as if a fine Shiraz. She was obviously a ham connoisseur. I don’t know what ham and Christmas have to do with each other. We did not have that tradition in The Netherlands, nor the minced pie festivity. At first, I thought they were mini meat pies but oh no, they are sweet and very sticky. My friends know I am a herring and buttermilk man and not at all into sweets. Still, Christmas is for everyone, and I have finished buying the presents that I will spread around my family and friends. The shopping frenzy will get worse and the predictions that spending will be less than last year hasn’t been borne out. In fact, it is a little higher than last year already. Shopkeepers are rubbing their hands together (in glee).

With this cheerful note, may I wish you a nice Christmas and all the best for the New Year?

All things Greek. Especially when by Theodorakis.

December 3, 2022

Over the last few evenings, I have been listening to Greek music, Specifically the music composed by Mikis Theodorakis. Of course, many will remember him as the composer of the memorable tune in the movie Zorba the Greek with Athony Quinn.

Here some details copied from Wiki.

“Mikis was a legendary composer and was active in the Greek resistance (1941–44) during World War II and the resistance against the Greek military junta (1967-74). Theodorakis’s works were censored for his political views and activities. He was jailed, tortured, and forced into exile”.


Of course, Mikis Theodorakis survived all that turmoil and passed away just last year in 2021 at 96 years of age, after having composed hundreds of pieces of music. The history of Greece is well worth reading up about. The years of the military junta were horrific. In their fanatic anti-communism, fueled by the US, they held Greece in the folds of terror by horrific executions and torture. In my mind the music by Mikis seems to reflect those times of horror, terror with great sadness but ultimately a great survival. What a bonus to have all that music now.

The above photo was taken in Greece in 1966. It shows my Helvi a year before the overthrow of the legitimate Greek government by the Junta. I think it might be the Acropolis or the temple of Zeus. Our boat stopped at Athens, and we went on a tour. How lovely she looks in her Marimekko top that she so proudly wore.

If you type in this little poem; ‘strose to stroma sou’ (You made your bed, sleep in it) in your computer, you most likely get to the music of Theodorakis.)

It gives me hours of memories and beautiful sounds. I listen to it by using Blue Tooth on my hearing aids and the music that comes through my iPhone is in absolute magnificent stereo sound.

A first date.

November 10, 2022

First dates and concrete bras

Gerard Oosterman
Gerard Oosterman

I don’t know about you, but first dates have a habit on infringing on memories as nothing else will. The catastrophes of life certainly include my attempts at romance many years ago as a just arrived migrant family’s son, looking even nerdier then now, although slightly younger. On top of having a strong guttural accent and no car, the hopelessness of my situation can well be imagined by some of you.

I soon found out that my chances of dating a sheila would improve greatly if I had a car. This is where my 1949 Ford Single Spinner came into being. It was light blue and had leather seats back and front and used oil almost as much as petrol.

I had already found out through bitter experience that just to get a girl to dance was fraught with difficulties. There were so many men and so few girls willing to dance with nerds and reffos.( refugee) The Ford V8 had to achieve what Dutch panache could not. The trick was to let it be known that you had car. The fifties and sixties dance places in Sydney were the Trocadero in George Street, which is now a gaudy cinema complex, and Vic’s Cabaret at Strathfield. Both had different bands and ambiences. It was also the period of TV serials Bonanza and 77 Sunset Strip. In one of those there was a character called Little Joey or was it Cookie, who was forever combing his hair while posing at a rakish angle to the movie camera. There were thousands of pretend Joeys, Cookies and James Dean lookalikes and the competition was fierce.

My trump-card was the Ford V8 and, I tried with copious Brylcreme bouffant coiffure, to emulate a mixture of all three of the TV stars. As I was already 6ft I could not be ‘little Joey’ but with a little practise, might just convey a hint of mysterious masculinity and excitement.

The Pride of Erin was the only dance ensuring blokes of at least getting one dance in. The multi mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling was throwing fascinating effects all around, and as was the norm then, sheilas with bee-nest hairstyles and hooped skirts with steel ironed petty coats holding them out, budding breasts safely encased in conical shaped concrete bras shackled at the back with rustproof buckles (pressed against a lucky hand when dancing), would be coyly seated on one side, and shiny eyed, horny and well brilliantined blokes on the opposite. No matter how the girls twirled and swirled while dancing, no body parts would ever bounce up and down or move, perhaps, just in case male desires would get aroused unnecessarily or even involuntary. Bras and other attire would resist the pesky hand even of a Houdini.

This Pride of Erin was a dance whereby partners would change at every swirl or so, hence refusals by girls were kept at a minimum. You would have to be legless if you did not get a dance in.

My Waterloo had arrived.

The band struck up a cheery “What’s the Matter with Kids today?” Everyone rushed forward and I got a ‘yes, please’ at the request for a dance. After changing with different girls I got one with a friendly smile and kind look. I only had seconds, so, suppressing my accent as much as possible, and flicking my hair back with practised Cookie nonchalance, asked for a date the following Saturday. Unbelievably she agreed.

That Saturday I turned up with a brand new Van Heusen shirt and polished Ford V8 and after a thorough inspection by a very large father we drove off for a drive to Gosford, taking in culture and the home place of William Dobell at Wangi Wangi, also inspected Woy Woy, a fascinating place then. The previous week there had been a Willy Willy (alate tornado) at Woy Woy and for an unfathomable reason I included the devastation and mayhem there on our itinerary. She was very quiet but kept saying, ‘oh, how nice’, interspersed with ‘thank you’, which at least was something. It was a difficult day, and I took good care, going up any steep hill, to take it easy on the V8 not wishing the burning of oil and blue smoke to spoil things.

At the end of the day and drive, I took her back to her formidable dad and she thanked me generously again. There was not an encore, ever.

Years later having outgrown the Trocadero, Vic’s cabaret, Brylcreme and the Ford V8 I decided to go to Europe and get a proper job. I went to work in a bank but escaped about four months later and went to Austria where I met my late partner Helvi from Finland on the ski slopes at Lienz, in Ost Tyrol, Austria.

A lucky and very fortuitous break.

1945 After the liberation,

October 24, 2022

Those first few weeks, after Holland was liberated, were filled with joy and pride, with dancing on the streets and kids waving little orange flags. Swaggering Anglo soldiers with keen girls on arms. Loudspeakers, urging us in English, to come out of hiding and that the war was over.

One of the worst problems of the war which caused my dad untold misery and almost brought my mother’s ingenuity to breaking point, was the tobacco problem, or rather, the lack of it. My father was hopelessly addicted to tobacco smoking. The chance of having tobacco during the occupation was not unlike and perhaps even on par with the chance of becoming obese. The shortage of tobacco was worse than shortage of food, at least for my dad. It must have been at its worst just shortly after liberation.

My mother urged me to walk the streets and follow those smoking Canadian and English soldiers who were our liberators.  ‘Put the cigarette butts in this little box’, she urged me. What a wonderful wife my dad had. What a magnificent woman. The problem was that there was stiff competition from bigger and stronger kids who were sent on the same mission. I was faster though and managed to get many cigarette butts and came home feeling a bit like a soldier myself.

Dad soon unpicked the butts and rolled his ciggies, lighting up the secondhand Camel and Lucky Strike like a king, tomorrow would never come. it was the first time that awareness seeped in my psyche that taking action could have rewards and a world of possibilities had opened up.

I was almost 6 years old.