All aboard to sunny Australia.

April 27, 2015

‘Let’s now move forward to, or back to, depending on what you might have read so far, to our period of migrating to Australia. The first murmurs I heard involved Argentina followed by South Africa. Australia came about because some war-time friends had already taken the step in the very early fifties or perhaps even the late forties. It took them 9 days to fly to Australia, so I am inclined to think it was the late forties. Their choice had been Australia. Many letters were exchanged and they were of the most euphoric kind. The streets of Australia were paved in gold and all was possible, own cars, own homes, cake eating on Sunday with mountains of cream, you name it, Australia had it all. My mother was really taken in by it,  ‘own home’ was beckoning more than anything, and especially with a bathroom.

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

Here a quick look again at those earlier war time periods. I seem to be joking or having fun still… Thirteen years later and I would find myself in Australia. It took a while for ‘fun’ to surface again.

But getting back to migrating and those last few weeks. The planning stage evolved rapidly with a visit to the Australian embassy and inspection by Australian Doctor. X rays were taken and the basics of our health determined by standing around in underpants while chests were listened to and asked to turn this way and that way. We had to touch toes and stick our tongues out to the Doctor. All our vaccinations were always strictly adhered to. Soon we all were deemed to be fit for Australia. We were the perfect white family for migrating and as there were six of us, Australia must have been drooling licking its still very British oriented but recent Australian Federation lips. Not a hint of a brown colour or smidgeon of Dutch colonial imprint of any kind. Blond and fair, just what the Doctor ordered

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo onboard.

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo on-board.

Above photo shows the gate-way to five weeks on-board a luxury boat full of Dutch migrants. There was a little band that would play over and over, ‘t was on the isle of Capri that I found her, with ‘O’ sole mio’ after we left Genoa. All hell broke lose when the boat pulled away from Sicily’s Messina. Many of those sons of Italian families would never be seen back again in those ancient villages.  Their mothers would be milling together, shedding tears around the water-wells for many months yet. The journey away from shores and love, so sadly final and permanent. A return impossibly expensive and at the time would not have been contemplated. Luigi, the best cobbler in Palermo now gone so was Antonio the dressmaker’s son. When the boat pulled away from Amsterdam and harbour, my mum and dad must have felt that too, but with six of us needing to find our cabins, they soon kept busy.

 

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Photo above; Bye, Bye Holland. I took this photo with my newly bought camera earned from delivering fruit and vegetables to Embassies in the many weeks before. (mainly from American Embassy tips, which were extraordinarily generous,and with hot soup as well)

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

Of this photo I remember the on-board film shop developer praising me. I think it might also have been a moon shot. I don’t see any sun, but…it was a long time ago now. The time on board was amazing, a holiday as never before. Can you imagine getting a new menu to chose from each time?  The decisions to make; pork or beef, chicken, and in morning, eggs boiled or fried? There was table tennis, a sweep stake which we always won some money with. And that little orchestra; It was on the Isle of Capri that I found you, forget about the walnuts! The Italians were still doe eyed, sad!

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

The two weeks after leaving Aden to Freemantle was mainly spent by my parents getting their luggage trunks from down the bowels of the ship on deck to make an inventory and make sure we would all be ready for Sydney. My parents wanted us to make a good impression in Australia and only Sunday best would do. The arrival in Freemantle was on a Sunday.  I have to go back a few months  now. A good friend told me; tell your parents to think twice before going to Australia. ‘It is a very boring country and on Sunday everything is closed’.

The arrival in Freemantle on a Sunday proved his warning and I remembered. The only people walking around were the passengers from the boat. It was something like out of the Neville Shute book and film ‘On the Beach’ that was yet to be made. All of us looking at each other, all of us dressed Sunday-best with proper coats and ties, cleanly scrubbed necks and underpants. But, what for?

Freemantle was empty or at least it looked empty. I did hear a cricket score filtering through the blinds, not that I knew a cricket score then, but do know now.

FREMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

FREEMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

 

Arrival in Sydney.

Sydney's arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the 'quality'.

Sydney’s arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the ‘quality’.

 

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Earlier times

April 26, 2015

Scanning through a box of photos which seemed to have escaped from being organised in an album, I thought of showing them for your enjoyment. I assume somewhat in a dictatorial manner that you would have the slightest interest let alone enjoyment in someone you have only met here on the internet. Still, I do feel I have met many of you troubling yourself in reading my words, even if not in the flesh.

Me 1942 wearing wooden klompen and pull-ups.

Me 1942 wearing wooden klompen and pull-ups.

The photo above is with my cousin Eva and taken on her parents property that had fruit trees. I don’t know much more than the fruit trees but it must have taken hold because apart from that, I can’t remember anything else. I was just two years old. Holland had capitulated two years before and Germany was now running Holland. The worst was yet to come. When I told my mother many years later how I remembered her cooking some porridge on one of those pump primus’  little heater/stove one very early and frosty morning, she was amazed because I was just 2 years old. She was cooking some porridge before taking me somewhere to a distant relative who still had more food than us. He was a tailor, married but no children.

On the way there my mother pulled me along on a snow sledge. The uncle lived some kilometres away from our place. While she pulled me along she spotted some German soldiers coming our way. She quickly pulled sledge and me and jumped into a ditch hoping they hadn’t noticed us. We kept hidden till they walked past. They had either not noticed us or they were just not bothered. The primus was a solid baked  enamelled green cooking device as was our green bucket that we kept the milk in. Saucepans too were enamelled and lasted for years, lifetimes even. Even when they developed a hole, a special man used to go a round and patch them up. Everything was patched up, restored and fixed. Now we chuck it out and rivers are full of debris choking up reeds, dams and trees during flooding rain. I spotted a perfectly good travel case stuck high up a tree during last weeks rain. I assumed it was in good order because that’s how it is. We buy new not because the old has worn or broken but because that’s how consumerism works. It has got us in its magic (rotten) spell.

1955/56 Just before migration to Australia with friends.

1955/56 Just before migration to Australia with friends.

This photo of me pondering in the middle was  during one of the best times of my life. The peak of teen years having just discovered the roseate softness of budding  breasts and smouldering hot eyes in a lovely  and eager girl. I was full of wonder what else there was still to discover about her? Her name was Margo. All this rudely interrupted with my parents decision to go so insanely far away. I had to live of those fleeting memories with Margo for a very long time after! The Australian suburban nightmare never  quite managed to wipe the good memories away. Of course, ‘the best times of my life’ should not be taken too literally. Times of unlimited possibilities and boundless optimism and belief in everything and nothing, is experienced by most but perhaps all too briefly during those teenage years. Later on it changes and seriousness so easily takes over for many. A routine becomes the enemy but I can say that I have been somewhat successful in fighting this routine and dulling repeats. I never did become an insurance actuary  or dedicated estate agent. Lacking a burning ambition in following a single profession was my forte. But how is one to know?

I did have a period whereby I suffered from not going to work while wearing a suit. I seemed to do jobs always wearing overalls or just work-wear with steel capped boots. I had fantasies of gaining some importance and recognition or worth, by going to work in a proper suit, and if possible with an attaché case carrying important papers. I returned to Holland and achieved this by working for a bank and  wore a suit for a few months.  It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. In the tram (line 22 to East Amsterdam)no one took notice and it was a lonely time in the office. No recognition al all. I did learn some book-keeping and typing.

With Helvi on our rowing boat in Finland. 1965

With Helvi on our rowing boat in Finland. 1965

After a few trips backwards and forwards, an escape from Dutch National Service, the bank job with suit, I ended up coming good after all. I married Helvi in Finland, who I had met a year or more before while skiing in Austria. She was still studying and I was painting pictures.

It was a long time ago. (with apologies to Actuary and Estate Agents)

The Lunch and WordPress.

April 25, 2015
The flooded creek

The flooded creek

The inability to print my writings from WordPress directly, did not get resolved. It had me flabbergasted which is easily done. Even a spontaneous ‘good morning’  from a stranger on my walk with Helvi and Milo gets me into a spin. It invites me to ponder, what have I done now again? To question another’s walker intention to a simple greeting  shows how easy it is to wallow too far in  introspection. Surely by now, one can accept things for what they are? A motley collection of not getting anywhere near understanding and truths? A hopeless individual flailing about in life’s drying rivers, his arms trying desperately to grab the overhanging weeping willow. Is this what one is doomed to?

I spare you the details of my print ‘direct from WP’ efforts and subsequent derailment from sanity. It was all futile. The language of Micro-soft is as foreign to me as Swahili. Not for me Tags and Collapsing menus, Browsers and Internet Explorers, Tools and Http’s, IClouds and Dreamweaving.

I just remembered in time a good friend that loves computers and who has helped us before, solving stressful problems, including mind- boggling technical manoeuvres for us. Yet a few presses here and there by our friend and the nightmare problem gone.  The deftness of our grandkids when we are faced with an insurmountable glitch on an IPhone we struggled with for hours are resolved without even looking up from what they are busy with. What hope for us? Our grandkids look at us now with barely hidden mirth and knowing glances to each other. Poor Opa, he is starting to slip. He had a hard life! I don’t tell them that I have been slipping ever since I shunned anything more complicated than yes or no, on or off, warm or cold. At their dawning we encourage them too and explore and find out thing by themselves. They too will travel and experience both the sun, shade and storms of life.

As predicted, when our friend arrived it was over in no time. Instead of Internet Explorer I have to go now to do a Google Chrome. Google Chrome is a web-browser. How does anyone know this? What secret  exchanges of Internet knowledge goes on without our knowledge? Do experts meet in the dark wearing gabardine worsted rain coats under dripping awnings,  giving funny handshakes and knowing glances?

When all the Google Chrome changeover was finished we had lunch at The Emporium pub. Our computer friend and Helvi chose barramundi fish with chips and salad. I chose the two sausages with mash and avocado mixed with Dijon mustard. A nourishing highly aromatic sample of this dish was already waiting for a customer under a hot-keeping light. Smoke was seen curling up from the brown sausages as from an old comfortable weatherboard’s  chimney, waiting under an ageing tree with leaf litter and some kindling.  It smelt delicious and the mash was equal sauced in brown gravy.  At times, the lure of a well proven dish becomes very attractive to a man who is slipping. I have senior times now where I lose courage and the fortitude  required for a pork belly or strips of exotic marinated puffer-fish with brandy jelly.

We waited at our table  for the buzzer to start vibrating. In the meantime, a waiter whose kitchens and menus are his domain, spoke to us. His face was deeply lined and I knew why. He worked very hard setting up his latest venture, a real Italian pizza café. He wanted to know what we thought of his new wood-fired pizzas. He imports  special milled flour and tomatoes from Italy and uses the finest of ingredients. Imported Portuguese anchovies, the best of lean strips of wood smoked black forest ham with prosciutto and speck with enough of a rind to be a challenge for kids who go for ‘the meat-lover’ variety. The pizzas get served up on a  polished wooden plate and are the finest in town. There are at least four pizza places now.

There might be other reasons for his lined face. People go through life dealing with hard issues never mentioned in everyday banter. ‘Oh, I am fine when asked, really good lately’. ‘How are you?’ Oh, yah, really good. Tops really, could not be better!’

We can never be sure, but bravely keep going like most of us. Laughter helps.

On the Farm

April 23, 2015

I remember it well, our life on the farm. It has been five years since we sold and moved where we are now. Our present house is just perfect with all the conveniences that we require. It includes a level entrance, both at the front and to the back garden with the Salvias, the Cyclamen numerous bay trees and hidden barbeque. But…it isn’t the farm! That fatal looking back came flooding in when I found the string of photos that the Estate agent took when he was engaged to try and sell our farm.

Here are some glimpses.

Rivendell on 117 acres

Rivendell on 117 acres

When remembering past we might tend to dwell on those that gave us the most joy, the best of experiences of laughter and joy,  splashing in the pool with grandkids and friends. Picking wild flowers and the smell of lemon scented eucalypt with swimming in the dams and river. We also remember growing grasses with autumnal colourings of the poplars. We planted over two hundred of them. I remember ordering the poplars and arrived with a trailer thinking It might even take a couple of trips. I was surprised to be given two bundles of sticks of a hundred each. They were two metres tall and all did have some roots and subsequently all took after we planted them along the four hundred meter driveway to the gate.

The Farm

The Farm

Bedroom with home made bed from Holland and my paintings.

Bedroom with home made bed from Holland and my paintings.

We might have forgotten the years of droughts, looking at the sky, watch the rain fall a mere seventy kilometres away, might well have been a thousand. We could not understand how that small distance could make or break a farm.  And yet, when rain broke the drought we would be dancing in the rain, it was all over and magic  made spell, spun its voodoo.

Lounge room with my biggest painting yet.

Lounge room with my biggest painting yet.

Dining room

Dining room

The plant on the left of the picture is now growing on our stairs having survived a frost during a stay outside bringing it back to a stump at soil level. It is now reaching for the top of the ceiling again. The pine table and chairs came with us from Holland 1976. Wall hanging from Sumba (Indonesia)

Convict built cottage as a holiday B&B

Convict built cottage as a holiday b&B

Kitchen of 'give and take'.

Kitchen of ‘give and take’.

The house never looked as tidy as shown. It was done for the Real estate photo shoot. With two stoves, cooking and heating was a delight. It has seen mountains of pancakes.

View from our bedroom

View from our bedroom

The cattle crush

The cattle crush

Spare bedroom

Spare bedroom

My lovely pizza oven

My lovely pizza oven

The Strasbourg knob.

April 22, 2015
My paternal grandparents wedding

My paternal grandparents wedding

It has been a long time in coming but are now getting warm to taking another trip overseas. The closest I have been lately to anything away from these fair shores, is the eating of the occasional Danish biscuit or a generous thick slice of Strasbourg sausage sometimes called a ‘knob of Strasbourg.’. The latter I get at special events. I never get much encouragement when eating anything with bits of white fat embedded in a sausage with H wrinkling up her nose and chucking it back dismissively between its bulging brothers waiting in the frigidly cold part of miles of other waiting and competing sausages with white goods.

The history of the sausage is interesting and dates back to Roman times when the left bank of the Rhine( Alsace)already then supplied sausages to the Romans. In fact, even the word knackwurst dates back a few thousand  years. The work ‘knack’ relating to the sound a good tight sausage makes when biting into it. It is even suggested that long pauses in German composers incidental pieces of music is thought to be caused by the composer taking a break to get stuck into another bite of a good sausage. If a lunga pausa ( long pause) together with a fermata (pause) is indicated on a piece of music it is not always that the composer took a breather, no he simply took a bite of knackwurst. It is well known amongst students of German and Italian music that Bach was known to fancy a bite or two. Glenn Gould, rest his genius soul, indicated that by a humming at every pause while playing the piano. Of course in the performance of an opera one could hardly expect a long pause by Pavarotti or Dame Sutherland taking a bite of a sausage instead of catching their breath.

It was a kind, bearded and ruddy looking man in the supermarket who saw me looking pensively at a Strasbourg knob who said; ‘ I buy one of these every week, they are fantastic value’. I appreciated his honesty and effort to include me in his culinary secrets and answered somewhat meekly; ‘I never had one of these.’. ‘Oh, you should, I love them,I would not go without the Strasbourg, I really love them, one a week for me, I tell the wife each time’.

I tried one after that inclusive and intimate conversation. I did like it but not at the rate of one a week. I have one a year or even less. The one in the fridge I bought yesterday in the lull of a terrible storm, is the third in my life. I just felt a need for it. They are 99% energy, according to the inscription on its taut skin.

Who can resist that during this cold weather?

A Man’s shed with rabbit hutch.

April 21, 2015
In Belgium at 5 or 6 years. ( to put on weight).After the war.

In Belgium at 5 or 6 years. ( to put on weight).After the war.

With the weather blowing down large trees on top of cars with boats and houses being swept into raging rivers and stormwaters, we decided to stay put and hover around our computers. You know, with that cold  listless and all persuasive lack of motivation I ended up clicking aimlessly here and there, waiting for  a thought to bubble up. It wasn’t easy. Even Milo was uninspired laying under the table with a depressing view of all the cables knotted up  plugged into an assortment of  electric multi plug boards that are supposed to save us from getting an electric shock during thunderstorms. I don’t know what goes on during the night but all those computer leads are now knitted and twisted into one another as if also in anxious dread of what might come next.

Our state  had a storm that has cost lives and our premier will appear on TV soon to put at ease the people that have been affected by this huge storm. Politicians only now appear to alley our fears and dread.  Last week it was an ice epidemic then an Isis related terrorist teenager with intend to behead someone.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-21/nsw-hunter-weather-threat-could-worsen-after-dungog-deaths/6409968

Sometimes good things happen. Last week on a walk we went into one of those markets that seem to pop up without us knowing anything about it. This is no wonder because we don’t really are involved much with the local community. Even though we walk daily through this town, we don’t have the pulse on the latest of events or happenings. Most of social life seems to be centred around the churches and its parishioners of which many are sprinkled around the neighbourhood. I do tend to read their latest messages of a profound insight such as ; “Jesus carries the only safe arms” or, “Jesus loves confessing sinners.” They also often put on a good sausage sizzle no doubt to lure in hungry sinners. But, we are not church goers and yet I confess, will callously eat the sausages.

This  latest market was put on by a Uniting church who also give out warm and healthy meals to anyone who walks in. Anyway, we too walked in and scrounged around, always ready for a bargain. Helvi bought a bag with an imprint of Newspaper articles on the outside cotton material, looking very smart. I scanned for something in the nature of food which is sometimes resented by H. “Can you  think of something better to look at and do then just eating.” It is the ‘just eating’ that has the sting in its tail.

At the bottom of where the churches stall was being held are several large sheds. They are being used solely by men and are called logically ‘Men’s shed.’ I heard about the movement of ‘men’s shed.’They sprouted up as a result of many men being affected by depression or anxiety,trauma from  wars or marital whiplash, unemployment, loneliness or just wanting company. The government sat up an organisation called http://www.beyondblue.org.au/where amongst many other forms they would try and help men whereby it was hoped men would feel more comfortable in sheds and make things, work with tools or play with computers,  or just sit around,  perhaps have a coffee, feel free to unburden to an uncritical and supporting network of only other males.( no females!)

After going in to see what the shed was about, two friendly men greeted me warmly. They were selling some stuff as well, saw benches, electric planes, wood working machinery and some bicycles given by the police. I told them I was interested in buying a bike if it could have brakes. I did not want to risk riding home down-hill on a bicycle without brakes. They promised it would be fixed by next Tuesday which is today. I went there and noticed many men working the machinery, but no bike and no one seemed wanting to say  a hi or just give a look. Everyone was steeped over what they were making. One man was making a rabbit hutch. I knew because he had a large rabbit in a small wire box looking on.  I coughed a bit, swirled around some , trying to catch attention, hoping for a response. I remained invisible. I went outside at the back where they stored all sorts of wood panelling and odds and ends but no bike or man. In again I went, but no talking or a look. The rabbit looked at me, a bit concerned but not its owner.

My paternal grandparents

My paternal grandparents

It struck me then if it would have been a women’s shed the talk would be there. I am sure that many men seem to not want to talk, even when together. It is all such a serious business being a man. I love talk but can’t force other men to talk. There are no women sheds.   I suspect because women are natural talkers and givers of recognition and acknowledgments to other people.  They don’t need a shed to make things in order to unburden themselves or talk with each other.

Perhaps I am wrong and talk too much!

Old fools and The Anzacs.

April 19, 2015

This photo taken during an Anzac parade in the 1990′ Sydney

Just when we thought it safe to go outside the front door, our colds came back. It seems the lull in sneezing and coughing was just the eye of the storm. The worst was yet to come. We are now in full flight of a solid cold but with an appetite for food not diminished it can’t possibly be that bad. It just feels like that. We had booked a flu shot for last Thursday but had to cancel it. In all surgeries signs appear not to visit the doctor while having a cold. Hardly an encouragement for seeking help.

In any case I also noticed a sign blue-tacked below the secretary’s window, ‘the 2015 flu vaccination will not be available till after 23 April’. That date is yet to come. So, why was it possible to get this shot last Thursday? A friend of us told the same story and was told by doctor he could also get his flu shot now but it would be last year’s serum! What the hell. Are we oldies being taken for a ride or what? Who needs a flu shot for last year’s flu? The world is a dangerous place with lurking deceptions as common as specials of Super market’s butter reduced from $ 1.80 to a mouthwatering $ 1.95.

The stubbornness of our colds could also be due to the relentless campaign for the 100 years remembrance of the fallen soldiers at Turkey’s Gallipoli. All TV channels now seem to only feature Doccu-entertainfomation footage of war and mayhem at Gallipoli. The spirit of the Australian Anzacs, the legends and  stories of heroism and bravery, sacrifice and duty for Mother England so the world can live in freedom. On on and on it goes.

And yet, what has it taught us? Our foreign minster Julie Bishop, scouring  war ravaged Middle Eastern countries trying to get agreements, including of all place by Iran, to take back by  force from Australia hundreds of Iranians that sought our refuge, a safe haven, freedom from oppression and bombings!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-18/julie-bishop-arrives-in-iran-for-talks/6402776

“Iran has reportedly been reluctant to agree to the repatriation of failed Iranian asylum seekers.

Earlier this week, Iranian ambassador Abdolhossein Vahaji indicated his country was unlikely to agree to a deal on the issue.

“We cannot put any pressure and impose any forces on them in order to send them back to Iran,” he said.

“This is against the law and regulation and we cannot [do it] according to human rights [laws].”

Even Iran is telling Australia that it would be a breach of human rights. So where does this leave us? Australia is clearly flouting its obligations, but it gets worse. People in detention on Australian soil while getting the refugee status dealt with, in most cases taking years, will be send to Nauru if women fall pregnant. Babies of refugees will not be allowed to be born on Australian soil to avoid a claim for residency status. Can you believe it? While Italy and other countries are sending boats and helicopters to try and save hundreds from drowning, Australia sends warships and tow the refugees back to  where they fled from.

We will remember the fallen of the thousands of Anzacs in private and spend time in ‘Lest us forget’ in silence and contemplation, without all this Government’s phoney hoopla and shabby mean-spirited ploys to a pretence of care.

The Anzacs would understand.

 

Lamb cutlets and Bok Choy.

April 18, 2015
My parents wedding photo.

My parents wedding photo.

Don’t ever make the mistake of calling lamb cutlets, lamb chops. There is a big difference. We used to like both and didn’t really mind one above the other and never were guilty of bias when it came to eating lamb. Some readers might now well call it quits. I understand and have full sympathy when some of you object to eating animals. I would too, but have found giving up eating meat even harder than smoking and I really loved smoking! A meek excuse hereby offered is that we haven’t eaten lamb cutlets for years. I have to confess it wasn’t due for concern of lambs but more for the concern of money. Lamb became more costly than smoked trout or caviar with Finlandia Vodka.

Sorry about inserting yet another Sibelius’ Finlandia but that’s what you get contemplating lamb cutlets. A beautiful piece of music that I cannot listen to without shedding tears.

I wonder if Australian lamb compares with the Dutch butter mountain some years ago? The Dutch had conquered the world market in butter. It was so successful that other countries  gave up on butter and despaired of their dairy industries. Cows were sold off and lush paddocks were left fallow. Farmers instead went into cabbages,  turnips and many took to the bottle. Stout buxom wives resorted to locking bedroom doors, forcing husbands to sleep off their drunken stupor on top of slow combustion wood stoves or in the hay loft with languid but faithful old horses. Poverty was knocking at many a dreaded midnight farmer’s door. There were scuffles at local town-halls and Russian dignitaries at world conferences were pelted with frozen Dutch butter.

And then, like magic it resolved itself. The Dutch had become so intoxicated with success they went mad making so much butter, so plentiful, it became a butter mountain, the price dropped! An oversupply of butter that no one wanted. (A bit like the iron ore in Australia at present). In order to keep selling this huge oversupply they sold off butter at a loss and compensated somewhat by  increasing the local price of butter in Holland. But…nothing is simple. Hordes of Dutch would now drive to Russia and buy the cheap subsidised Dutch butter, fill up their car- boots and drive back, all snug with having overcome the exorbitant prices now charged for their own butter in Holland.

Years ago in Australia lamb was as cheap as chips. Farmers were not worried because the wool was really the money earner. Then came synthetics and the market collapsed. The logical answer was selling lamb to eat. Soon shipload after shipload of lamb was sold overseas. The locals soon noticed a quad doubling of price. Lamb cutlets are sold now on par with a rare Penfold’s Hermitage wine or a pair of manacled  Diesel jeans.

imagesCAGVCW15

My granddad painting while smoking his pipe. His wife in left bottom corner.

Today I noticed lamb cutlets almost at the due date at half price.  I snapped up two packets and barbequed them a couple of hours ago with bok- choy and spuds. A really lovely meal. It might well be another couple of years before we have saved enough for another lamb cutlet or two.

Nothing is easy but we all keep going the best we can!

A life uncertain but ducks remain calm.

April 17, 2015
first'rickety' house in Balmain 1968.

first’rickety’ house in Balmain 1968.

So much seems to be in flux lately. My local bank branch and ATM machine have suddenly moved to the other side of town. Why is it that familiarity and permanency  of everyday life is rapidly disappearing, going away? There is so much nervous movements about. I still keep walking to the old ATM to try and get our daily bread in cash.  For the last two week I  have still walked to the old address and end up staring at a brick wall covered over with black plastic. That is where the old ATM used to be. A sign tells me where the bank and cash machine have moved to. I am not the only one to end up looking at the brick wall which is a great relief. I still marvel each time when the money comes out. If ever there was a bit of magic! The ATM at the new address is now in an alcove and has bits of electronics bolted on the ceiling. I know I am being watched and now make sure I wear my RM Williams instead of casually dressed in long black socks and open sandals. You just never know of being called to a police line-up after a large SUV has driven into the ATM and made a grab for cash. It does happen. My grandsons refuse to go with me when I wear those sandals.

I find the message  to cover the pin numbers with one hand while at the same time pinning in the numbers with other hand complicated. You would have thought that technology could improve on that  a bit better. Today there was a long queue at the ATM with an employee of the bank patiently explaining the ATM routine to an elderly client. Please note that the word customer is rapidly being replaced by ‘client’. Even a prisoner now is likely to be called a client. The elderly client had great difficulty with understanding ATM protocol and the queue was getting longer. The employee did her best and I overheard common terms being used that now is assumed everybody knows. I overheard the elderly lady asking what is a ‘pin’ number followed by the lengthy and patient explanations. However, the queue of other clients was getting  restless, brows were being raised , feet were shuffling and some words being uttered, albeit still muffled.

I have some sympathy for the elderly though. I mean, how far will this go? The technology is mainly to cut out employing people and save the bank money. It is not designed to improve service. It is all so faceless and impersonal. I mean that mindless electronic message at the end of having scanned all the shopping through, after money has been pushed in that slot, change given, you get that inane message ‘Thank you for shopping at Woolworth, the Fresh food people.’  Don’t you feel like hitting the machine? Where is the warm smile, and personal contact or exchange of pleasantry?

Creek

Creek

We now try and compensate and get warm contact with many uncritical ducks in the small creek that never stops flowing over muddy pebbles at the back of our house. Some of them know us and expect a crust of bread, especially a large white duck. Milo understands and behaves with a degree of decorum by not barking madly. Often similar people, seeking a smile or greeting, take that walk too and escape from the wiles of ATMs and overhead rotating sinister black eyes, electronic blinded thanks from shops and the IPhonic cluttered up youth in holey Diesel jeans, with some so iced up, hurling trolleys into creeks or around telegraph poles.

We should be so thankful for calm ducks.

Cevaps and pancakes.

April 16, 2015
The Cevaps and grandsons with Milo

The Cevaps and grandsons with Milo

This last week has been spent nursing a well earned cold. My dad used to shout, “close the door”, over and over again, often to no avail. As kids we never did, as cold wasn’t something we felt. In fact we were always warm and running. Dad was the keeper of our warmth in winter and felt it his duty to keep living areas warm. He was the stoker of fires. It is strange how men are drawn to fire much more than women. In the period between post WW2 and pre our migration period, heating by dad was done with the help of coal in ornately decorated cast iron combustion heaters. The coal was taken up two flights of stairs in jute bags carried on the back of strong Dutch coal carriers. Mum used to put drop- sheets down from the bottom of the stairs all the way to the top and leading through a corridor to the back balcony were the coal was dumped in a small coal shed. The jute bags would be  taken back empty. It was one of those yearly events in early autumn for the coming winter. My mother’s job would be to make the amount of coal last as heating was expensive. A severe winter was never welcome.

These were some of my limpid flu inspired  thoughts trying to make the best of the situation as well as having two of our grandchildren for a couple of days giving their mum a break. She had to work and school holidays are not easy on working mums. Both grandsons have a father born in Australia but from Croatian background. No need to dwell on its history but most will agree that the eating of chevatis always played a big role not just with Croatia but also Serbia and surrounding States, that vacillated between bloody endless wars with each other, yet never forgetting that sharing the cevaps also held promise of peace between neighbours. With that in mind and a promised barbeque made inescapable by gloriously warm weather I made my way to Woollies with grandsons hopping behind and around me,  busy on IPhonic mania of which I have long given into and surrendered.

I love the Super market’s somewhat hidden  counter proudly displaying the items ‘close to out of date’ and spotted a packet of twelve cevaps for just $ 5.75 reduced from $7.85 and still two days left till being be a bit off or rotten. I bought them quickly and after buying a loaf of white sandwich bread rushed home. The kids were ravenous and probably ready to eat anything irrespective of any dates. The rugged Croatian blood line and the frugal Dutch a perfect combination. I pointed out to grandsons that we should be so happy to have rescued those almost out of date cevaps from getting thrown out. Many in this world go hungry, why waste food at all?

pancakes

Thomas looked a bit serious after that little sermon. He could well end up telling his mum to go and loiter around the ‘out of date’ food items, which might be a good thing apart from saving money. I lit the barbeque and all twelve but one of the cevaps were packet between the white bread and eaten quickly. My flu symptoms were pushed  in the background by the show of grandsons concentrated enthusiasm for their, no doubt inherited love, for the Croatian  cevaps. It was a joy to watch. Next morning it was always going to be pancakes. I mentioned many posts ago about having an inscription;  ‘Here rests a good Opa, he made very fine pan-cakes and loved bargains.’ For those that wondered about the twelfth cevaps, that was given to Milo.


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