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”.

Uncopy;

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.

Law and Order

October 12, 2022

LAW AND ORDER.

Has anyone ever been called up for jury duty and ended up being a juror?  During the last fifty years I have been called many, many times but never chosen.  How do they know that I am so suspicious of the whole jury system?  Are those defense or prosecution people gifted in clairvoyance?  The courts that I was mainly called to in order to be chosen as a bright and promising juror were in Balmain, Goulburn NSW and City of Sydney Courts.

 I suspect that most Court Houses conform to my experiences in being old, cold, and dusty, riddled by rats and guilt.

Both Balmain and Goulburn Court Houses have those round roofed domes and solid columns and have some sort of pretence to architecture of glorious colonial days.

This is the Balmain Experience.

 We step inside through a formal entrance and this is the area where the last of the cigarette butts are often forsaken in sandy bins.

 The formal part of the jury selection kicks off by an Orderly or other Court attendant who has a list of names. The names are being called out, this is done by the rocking backwards and forwards on heels to add some form of importance and dignity, I suppose.

The whole lot of us then walks into the court room whereby we sit down on the most uncomfortable seating that seems to have been specifically designed for immediate repentance.

We sit on long narrow wooden benches with seats twenty or so centimetres wide, but the wooden backrests actually lean forward, the angle being around 80 degrees to the seat.  This makes all those that are seated feeling that they have done something terribly wrong, or that they should spend the time there on knees instead of sitting, or are in church at a funeral of a bishop. Mixed messages for potential jurors here?

This is nothing compared with the acoustics. The only sound absorbing material in those dank court rooms could be those silly wigs, kept in Arnott’s biscuit tins, or those blue duffel bags that lawyers are so fond of slinging over their shoulders, perhaps even the shriveled judges, if they turned up. Not a word can be understood by anyone, but perhaps that is part of this curious juror choosing spectacle. The point might well be to impose solemnity on the whole court system… How can anyone not be found guilty under those terrible conditions? My own guilt immediately went into automatic.

A special video is shown to the jurors to be chosen which is mainly brown in colour and content.

We were then told that ‘deliberations’ had to be performed and this would take until after lunch. Now, I expected to at least be given a sandwich and coffee, but no, nothing, not as much as a Nescafe, not even a warm room to retire to. No, just hanging around the entrance with the bins of butts and other outcasts.

After lunch we are asked to enter the Court Room again and this time we are seated on the side in slightly more comfortable arrangements. Now the selection starts.  An assortment of the most devious looking characters is looking us over now, and this is also the moment where I invariably get not chosen. I am a legal reject, time and time again, this is perplexing. Why am I always kicked out? What do they look for in a juror?

 In any case, they are right. I don’t like a set up as anachronistic as the way all this is done. It is a hangover from colonial times. Why are those Court Buildings (apart from some City Courts) so dingy and Charles Dickensian? Why, are the acoustics so atrocious and where are modern conveniences with buildings that are suitable for to- day’s use of justice? Is justice being served best when it seems almost deliberate to make one feel so uncomfortable and intimidated by a process so cumbersome, time wasting and lacking in logic. It must also be enormously costly. Why not do away with jurors all together if conditions for jurors are so bad? Is there not a bias formed in jurors suffering those discomforts?

Of course, the whole issue of whether justice is served best under a jury system is also debatable. Has anyone done any statistics on numbers of guilty or not guilty amongst gloomy courts and more people friendly courts with comforts such as canteen availability with refreshments, good sound absorbing materials and amplification systems that are clear so everyone gets to hear what is being said?

Here at the NSW Goulburn Court House (the Mecca for crime and punishment) the court has a friendly reminder and map pointing where the last prisoner was hanged in the garden just in front. Most of the time spent between and during the jury selection process was outside on the veranda in temperatures of about 6c above zero.

The overwhelming feeling one is left with is; that a juror is only slightly better than the accused. Why is that so, and should the jury system dispensed with altogether?

Why not abolish it, if it has also proven to be so often flawed?

(This was first published many years ago)

A Grave issue (first published August 2013)

September 28, 2022

A grave issue.

Some time ago I decided, together with grandchildren, to have a closer look at the local cemetery here at Brayton, NSW. My grandkids at that time were dealing with death and dying and the prospect of Opa carking it as well, sooner or later. Thomas, who was 6 at the time and a bit of a thinker, pondered about Oma’s statement that, at some stage you arrive at a ‘spot’ in life when one would die. He thought deeply about this; when I get at that spot, I will jump over it, he said brilliantly. Oma answered by laughing; and what a clever boy you are. He slept like an angel that night.

The graveyard at Brayton is one of those lovely forgotten and forlorn bush places where in the past, swags could easily have been rolled out with bushies camped in between the contented and silent stones. It is surrounded by an old fence that leans higgledy piggledy now, but even so, were then hand hewn with posts and rails that survived fires and hungry ants, rammed in hand dug holes decades ago by men now buried there. It keeps out the curious cows but not the incorrigible wombats. Argyle eucalypts with leaves so silvery and fragrant keep guard and give shade to all those dearly departed country souls. The view from this burial place is so beautiful and to die for. The surrounding paddocks carry the black stumps of bushfires which wiped out the settlement many times over, including Post Office, Church and local single class school. The graveyard is all that Brayton now is. Someone carried the brick steps of the burned out church to this burial place as well. A small and modest reminder of big rural lives then.

Of course, the grandkids were overawed by this chance of seeing places where bodies of dead people were kept. One stone of simple concrete had moved ajar through erosion, unhurried time and drought, allowing the boys to squat down and peek inside. They looked, but darkness inside prevented any remnant of Joh.D with d o b 1912, passed 1986, to be shown.

Things became serious when I asked if they would prefer Opa to be burned (cremated) or buried and if buried what spot would be suitable? I mentioned this because a few weeks earlier their dad’s mum passed away. The funeral included the grand kids who viewed their daddy’s mum’s body in its resting casket for all to view before a big funeral with lots of kissing, singing and crying. After, the body was flown back to Croatia for another large burial. Some of the kids went for that funeral as well. A few years earlier when another old relative had passed away, little four year old Jack asked; who shot him? They grow so much faster now a days, don’t they?

Someone said; a country’s culture is defined by how they look after their dead. If true, then Argentina with Buenos Aires’ La Recoleta cemetery would have to be at the top, perhaps closely followed by Russia. The Argentine cemetery is amazing with vaults many stories high and a favourite for week-end visits by relatives and tourists alike. Thousands are crowding complete streets of Mausoleums and graves not unlike Mc Mansions here except much better build with marble surely outlasting brick veneer and hollow columns. Flowers on graves are real too with regular replacements and so are the urns and vases. No fading or windswept plastic petunias there. Some burial palaces are so large it would almost take a whole day just to take it all in. Of course, it depends on personal fondness of visiting grave yards in the first place.

Russians are also big on burials and cemeteries, with many making it a week-end family picnic.  Again, some of the graves are magnificent and often surrounded by ornate cast iron fences. My better half used to insist that in Finland the graves are the best and the dead also most revered.

My query is how do we deal with our temporary stay here? How are our young prepared for death? Or do we pretend it all goes on forever?  Rookwood cemetery in Sydney is vast but the abundance of all those dreadful plastic pretend flowers seems insulting to the dead. Then again, most people happily have those while alive, so……. C’est la vie or c’est la mort.

Bucket Rex Jackson

September 22, 2022

The Illustrious career of Rex (bucket) Jackson

12TuesdayMar 2013 A re-run of a post.

Posted by gerard oosterman in Uncategorized

[Edit]

The illustrious career of Rex (bucket)Jackson

March 12, 2013

The illustrious career of Rex (Bucket) Jackson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I8QiBsnhSk

With the latest finger pointing at Obeid and his antics in front of Icac I wonder if some of you still remember Rex Jackson. There is a world of difference between the two!

Rex (bucket) Jackson was really the epitome of a charming effervescent man. He was also  minister for Youth and Community services, of Corrective services and a little later minister for Transport in the NSW Labor Government during the mid seventies and early eighties after which he suffered his spectacular fall from grace.

His love of dogs is what is supposed to have led him to his downfall.  He was a regular fixture at Dapto dogs and Wentworth Park.  It must have been unfairly tempting when he started to make nice little earnings from allowing prisoners out before their time was up for a bit of handy cash. He wasn’t minister for Corrective services for nothing!  One of the things he fought hard for was rehabilitation for prisoners. What could be more re-habilitating than giving prisoners a chance to start afresh, letting them out of prison before the sentence was fully served? Of course, a bit of cash in return would be appreciated. There were monthly waves of prisoners being led out on parole which gave rise to suspicion all wasn’t on the level!

Who can forget the video footage of Rex in a car casually accepting a bundle of notes which later on included him having a boot-full of cash at the back of his car?

He was born at Wagga Wagga, the son of a railway fettler. He knew poverty but despite or because of this he grew up an irascible optimist and larrikin with more than a streak of compassion and strong sense of reform for the needy and the underdog when running the tough portfolio of Youth and Community services.  In other words, he was a good bloke, a decent man with strong words for those opposing him. That’s how he got the tag “Bucket Jackson.” He lost both his parents when in his teens and was then separated from his siblings. He was taken up by a family and soon he started work at week-ends at their shop selling lollies and ice cream.

His career included having won 16 out of 17 boxing matches as a professional light welterweight with one fight ending in a draw. At twenty six he won the seat of Bulli against 14 other candidates. When minister he fought to improve condition in jails and was successful in raising the budget for his department from 44 million to 78 million dollars within two years. He was acutely aware of the plight of deserted wives and fought hard to improve their lot and felt that child support was of a ‘Dickensian. ‘age

It was his dogs gambling addiction and hopeless debts that got him in the end. It was the sentencing judge who ‘looked at the quality of the man’ and sentenced him seven and a half years, showing some compassion. This was appealed against by the Crown and Rex was given an increased sentence of ten years with non parole of five years. He felt condition at jail were atrocious! Good behaviour got him out after serving three years and three months.

While incarcerated he was sharing time and space with some of those sent to jail when he was still minister of Corrective services. It would not have escaped Rex Jackson the irony of life and its unpredictable crooked path that sometimes ends up being followed. No more racing of dogs inside.

Rex Jackson

But, and this really summed up the humility and innate quality of the man. After doing his time in jail, he reared up and started a take away hamburger kiosk at the top of Stanwell Park, a popular spot for hang-gliding.

There can be no doubt that his dog gambling days were not his best but when looked at all the good things he achieved, the balance of the ledger would have to be very strong in his favour. You could never talk of Jackson and Obeid in the same breath. Could you?

Rex Jackson died on New Year’s Eve 2011.

Fried Air.

September 7, 2022

It was noticed years ago that fried air was the domain of politicians. The more successful used fried air so well they made it to the top. Remember Trump or our own Scott Morrison? Who would have thought that fried air could be made to good use?

Often on my walks through shopping centers I used to notice the latest in household items or gadgets. Readers might remember I bought an induction top. To my astonishment it uses magnetism to cook food, hence only magnetic responsive steel cookware can be used to heat food. The induction stove itself does not heat and that in itself has me intrigued. Cooking or heating food has always been achieved by using and burning fuel, either by gas or wood and electricity. The induction method:

” In the heating hob induction coils made from copper wire create a magnetic field as electricity is passed through them. If a pan with a magnetised base is placed on the hob, the magnetic field causes it to heat up directly. The hob will remain cool, with only some residual heat from the pans. Non-magnetic pans put in the same place will remain cold.” I have one of those and it cooks perfectly, very fast and food can’t burn.

I thought the induction method would be the last of modern cooking but that was wrong. Things move so fast in kitchens. (Or I am the one who is slowing in comparison with the world spinning out of control.)

The latest to arrive in culinary delights are the Air Fryers. It cooks by hot air the same as politicians when shouting in parliament or to their spouses. When things get too hot in parliament with hot air scorching so badly, in Australia there is a special man sitting in a kind of elevated throne at the front who then shouts ‘order, order’ and gets red in the face. This is a tradition of the inherited adversarial British way of governing as no one actually keeps order. The air frying is tolerated in parliament, they often leave half cooked.

But going back to cooking I bought one of those air fryers and astonishingly it was a mere $ 29.99 from Aldi. Now, don’t go yet. If anything, get a bit closer to the screen. It cooks fantastic and last night I tried it on a marinated dish of pork belly. Pork belly is the Mount Everest of nice tasting food especially with the pork crackling. My own cardiologist was overcome with delight when I confided in him about my new air fryer and pork belly.

https://www.choice.com.au/home-and-living/kitchen/benchtop-cooking/articles/air-fryer-vs-oven-cooking-test

You can imagine my delight when this cheap Aldi air fryer came on top when Choice tried and gave an update of the best overall air fryers which they had investigated and made go through their paces. Sometimes the cheapest is not good but in this case it was THE BEST against air fryers of hundreds of dollars.

Chorizo Salami benefits.

August 21, 2022

Read the rest of this entry »

Truth telling about Australia, “Dark Emu”.

August 12, 2022

There is a book that does just that. It was given to me for my recent birthday a week ago or so and I was so thrilled and taken by it I bought another copy, and sent it to my brother. It debunks the myth that Australia was by and large an empty continent. When captain Cook took it he declared it to be a discovery ready for the picking and did so by annexing it to The British empire. True, there were people wandering about but they were seen as a primitive race scarcely able to exist and did so merely by hunting and gathering. The book is titled; “Dark Emu” and is compiled and written by Bruce Pascoe.

It tells the truth about Australia and its indigenous culture which for decades was often described through the blinkered eyes of appropriation and White superiority. It thoroughly demolishes the concept that Australia pre colonization was peopled by just hunters and gatherers.

Bruce Pascoe convincingly proves through early records, astute notes of early explorers and interviews of aboriginal people that this was not a country just peopled by nomadic tribes but that they had in place a highly sophisticated production scheme with farming, growing crops, tilling the land, nurturing the soil, slow burning , fishing and storing food, building towns and villages. For many decades this was deliberately kept hidden in order to justify the colonials in their aim in ‘absorbing’ the aboriginal people in the hope that the land would eventually become an Anglo extension of King , Country, and all would play cricket.

Please, try and get this book. It is an Unputdownable read.

Peter Dutton, our future PM? The horror, the horror!

July 23, 2022

https://www.facebook.com/111767424745908/videos/450245203306449

We know that during the reign of last few Liberal governments the well nurtured and manured vitriol against refugees were their main ally. Dutton was the architect of this dreadful change in our previous tolerance for those that come from different countries and cultures. The demonization of refugees found favor earlier on with a former Liberal prime minister saying ; “We will chose who come to this country and the methods whereby they will come.” This was a political move to capitalize on refugees escaping from their war torn and bombed out countries in leaky boats. ( we were of course aiding the US in bombing those countries!) This was blown up beyond all reason and facts. It was made out that those boat people would soon come in such numbers that it threatened our safety. They would clamber over our dunes, invade our cities and rape our women. It found fertile ground and the Liberals were in power mainly by using this xenophobic tool very effectively. The peasants were frightened.

Fortunately, at the last election, the liberals were chucked out and there was a move away from the main parties, especially towards the Greens and even more especially, to the warm embrace of many more women in power. The anti refugee rhetoric has shrunk and hopefully the plight of refugees still in detention will soon be over and given permanent visas to give them access to health, work and a normal free life away from detention.

The only cloud on the horizon is that the dreaded Dutton is now the leader of the opposition. He is hard at work polishing a more benign image but he is still Dutton. A thoroughbred xenophobe.

IMG_1477 sunflower