Bullying, and the shame of it all.

February 22, 2020

This speaks for itself.

untitled Quaden Bayles

A farm in Australia?

February 16, 2020

A continuing memoir.

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Son Nicholas and a painting.

The first few weeks from our latest return from French farm-house mania, our friends’ patience would be severely tested and without letting up. Talk about an obsession. I just kept saying; ‘the stone walls in France were that thick’. And I would then demonstrate by spreading my arms as wide as I could. This would be followed by some remark denigrating the flimsy Australian domestic architecture. You know, paper thin walls made of gypsum plasterboard and fibros sheeting. ‘They are mere wind breaks’ I would continue, adding insult to injury or reverse. Helvi, would poke me in the side.

After a few more weeks of insults and self absorption, things would calm down. The photos of French farm houses would be stored away, not to be seen again till recently when the majority of photos that were stultifying and boring got thrown out. We are not photo lookers, and I can’t think Helvi ever took more than a handful of photos, even though she did have a camera. She would leave that to me.  I enjoy taking photos, especially now that you can see the result immediately.

my lovely pizza oven

I remember the excitement waiting for photos to get developed by the photo and camera shop. It would take a week to get hem back, and as for coloured ones; they were send off to Melbourne. The black and white photos were small and had serrated edges. How time and science has now all changed that. Instant gratification in photography is normal, and now the world keeps taking selfies, nauseating really, but I am guilty as well. Go to any public event and one sees a forest of sticks in the air with excitable tourists busy taking selfies. In the next second the picture is forwarded and looked at in Taipei or Amsterdam, immediately. Tourism is really people paying to go somewhere taking selfies and looking at their own  images with the country they are visiting of least importance or at best an extra. Amsterdam and Venice are now desperate to try and get tourism to scale back with the locals feeling they are being trampled upon.

w800-h533-2008019426_9_pi_150224_081333dining room

The Australia farm

I am not sure when I suggested to Helvi we perhaps ought to think of making a move and buy a farm or country place locally, in Australia. It was during the latter half of the 1990’s. There was a kind of feverish ‘break away from the large cities’ movement when the term, city dwellers or townies were starting to be coined for those seeking an alternative life-style. A week-end farmer was another one. Of course the more serious of large scale farmers were called Pitt Street farmers, suggestive of landlords leasing out huge tracts of land for the cattle industries, often managed by real farmers running hundreds of thousands of acreages. The owners themselves were well heeled lawyers doing their utmost to lower their tax obligation while whooping it up in Sydney’s Pitt Street cavorting with crooks, souteneurs (сутенер) with their shady ladies of pleasure…

A memoir in progress( Farm house)

February 13, 2020

IMG_0440 In Fance

Helvi on a  French terrace.

After numerous inspections and having driven both the French and the English Estate agents around the bend with our ceaseless requests to see even more farms, we ran out of steam and decided to return to Australia. We drove the ;leased Citroen back to Marseille airport and, after the obligatory custom check-outs with many s’il vous plaits to see our passports, we ‘hopped’ on the plane, totally Frenched out. Why do we not walk onto the plane, why is it hopping? We have never hopped at all, let alone onto a plane. Perhaps it is a deliberate ploy by the large multinational airline companies to make light of the sheer torture of long flights. You can just see the advertising moguls at board meetings trying to get a handle on making flying  joyful again. Someone uttered; ‘ the hopping kangaroo.’ worked well, didn’t it? And so it was that the ‘hopping on board’ was coined. A eureka moment for the flight industry. The whole world now uses the term and one can imagine the hopping of tens of thousands of cheerful air travellers hopping about at international airports all over the world, and at any given time.

IMG_0443 Helvi in France

Searching for a French farm.

Of course, coming back and land at Mascot, Sydney, and then the dreary ride to the city along the notoriously ugly Botany Road with its peppering of large advertising hoardings, doesn’t make for much of a hopping back home. I clearly remember an enormous sign, all in a gaudy yellow, advertising a medication to cure sexual dysfunction. How anyone can get enthusiastic about their levels of tumescence after twenty one hours on a plane escaped us entirely. We badly needed our own very soft and kind mattress giving us a twenty-four hour uninterrupted deep sleep. But, before any thoughts of a good sleep we had the melancholic task of emptying our luggage, chuck our underwear and socks in the washing machine.

At a previous trip to Holland and France we decided to follow the advice of a seasoned traveller who had written books about travel. He had travelled the world just carrying overhead luggage, stored on board above the seat. He suggested it could easily be done by simply buying a shirt or singlet if such a need came about. I had no trouble with that. My wife was a bit reluctant at first but nevertheless followed suit.

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Carcassonne.

( to be continued.)

 

French Farmhouse checking.

February 6, 2020

The ladder to the loft.

IMG_0421 French farm house checking

The ladder to the loft.

 

I can still see the ladders leading to the lofts of old farm-houses in the South of France. Anyone who has ever been to France might know and acknowledge the lure of old farmhouses. They were being advertised over the world and in the eighties and nineties, it wasn’t unusual to meet people that in conversation around the fondue set, would casually drop, ‘we have bought an old French farmhouse, and we are going there each year now for our holiday’. ‘We are getting a bit tired of holidays at Coffs’s Harbour and its Big Banana!

Old farmhouses with lofts are littered over the whole of the French country like confetti at nuptials. Mouth-watering ancient villages usually have a crop of those old places on cobble stoned lane ways where horses and cladded hooves have carved through the centuries little gutters which during gentle rains directs its water to a bubbling stream. The picture perfect would be the local church.

Of course, those old farmhouses were often riddled with woodworm hence the first task was to inspect the lofts and attics. In modern Australia most houses have internal man-holes to clamber through into the roof space. French farm- houses had access through a little door outside at the very top just below the pitch of the roof.

After several visits to France and numerous clambering on top of ladders inspecting lofts we were so badly infected with French farm-houses we could only think of buying one. Talk about getting a bean in the bonnet!

You know when life has reached a stage when a total change might just give a much needed and restorative impetus to keep plodding and have a go at a fresh start, try something a bit different. There is a term for it that lingers forever once you have absorbed the meaning. Is it called ‘mid-life crisis? The year of the sixty fifth birthday would soon be nigh and with that ‘The Senior Card’ with getting old, so often the banana skin on the doorsteps of the retired.

Of course, change involves risks but so does not doing anything. The risk of middle age ennui and bitter regrets of things we wanted to do but never did, nor tried. What can be more exciting than trying to live in another country? We could not think of a more glorious way of warding off retirement than making this change and move to France and learn the Franco lingo as an extra bonus.

We had already tasted the magic of rural France, the poetry of the potted geraniums on ancient window sills, the endless lanes of plane trees winding around the grape vines of the coming vintage, and the village squares all alive with men playing boule with women around the water-wells gossiping about the newly born or the recently departed.

France is contagious like that, and as mentioned previously, we knew a few couples already who had taken this brave step, and had escaped the dreariness of routine with those predictable daily habits. Marital whiplash with boring squabbles are often relieved by making changes well before the onset of mindless routine with silent evenings before the TV with morbid partner and Dr Phil.

 

(A work in progress.)

 

After we decided to go to France, my wife suggested to stay calm and not rush hastily into something we might regret. She reminded me that I often questioned the wisdom of my parents migrating to Australia from The Netherlands back in 1956. “Do you really want to give up on all your friends and acquaintances made through the years? We are living in quite a lively inner city suburb, within walking distance of so many amenities, shops, libraries, a stately Court-House and with a handy police station for extra measure”. We were living in cosmopolitan Balmain at the time of the birth of footpath dining and cafes.

All that was true. I tended to go on a bit about our first few years after arrival In Australia during the mid-fifties. We, after a short stint in the Nissan-hut Migrant camp, which was a horror on its own after the joy of a five week cruise on the boat between Holland and Sydney ended up living in an outer suburb of Sydney.,

We had moved to Balmain when the apartment in Pott’s Point became too small with the birth of our two daughters, Susanna in 1968 and Natasha in 1970.

We already tried moving back to Europe during a stint as an artist between 1973-1976, but after a while the lure of my large family of brothers and sister with their spouses and children, the Australian bush, and above all, to have the freedom of having rusted corrugated iron roofs and weedy footpaths, the chaotic or total lack of town planning attracted me back a again. Those Fatal Shores by Robert Hughes, spring to mind.

To be followed!

 

 

Insurance?

February 2, 2020

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In Finland.

Nothing riles more than getting a bill for insurance. Now-a-days they sneak in on the computer, silent thieves in the night, with the stealth of someone walking past your window wearing soft slippers checking up if you have any visitors. Strange unknown cars parked in the visitors section of your villa/townhouse might indicate you have a visitor. The depth of interests of some residents in shared housing often brings on a mindless curiosity, and an ennui, whereby the merest diversion from the norm, brings on an excitement in the minds of  lonely residents.  Sociologists whose jobs are to study societal ills write often that loneliness is a major contributor to mental illness. They sometimes also point out that even when in the company of people, many suffer isolation.

I have often wondered that isolation and a fear of isolation draws us into taking out insurance. There is no doubt that fear is used to attract people to take out insurance, even though we know the odds are stacked in favour of the Insurance companies and that the consumer of insurance is at the shortest end of the stick. Anyone who took up the shares in NRMA (IAG) some years ago will now be sitting on a nice little packet today. My advice is to take up shares in Insurance companies but don’t get insurance. You will be the winner, not the other way around.

Lately there have been a spate of advertisements on TV dealing with deaths. However, death is dealt with in such a happy and jovial way the viewer almost ends up wishing to hurry along into the welcoming arms of a warm and cosy pre-heated crematorium. Expert actors, always at the prime of their lives, are showing wives and husbands jubilantly bending over a pram or dancing along a verdant meadow obviously happy  full of life and avocados, when suddenly and without warning, and through the sheer magic of advertising genius, the wife quickly takes the opportunity, while taking a curt little side-step,  mentions still all smiles, and beaming with happiness but a certain determination, that good responsible wives are good at, and comes out with a bit of a downer to all this family content-ness and asks; ‘but who might pay for the funeral?’

Not to be outdone; the husband all gleaming pearl-toothed, and hugely smiling whips out a death and funeral policy and proudly shows the wife he has done it already. No fear, all is well and taken care of.  The advertisements ends up with the couple bending again over the pram or rolling down the meadow. The wife so proud of her hero husband. All is taken care off.

Till the end

Folding bedsheets.

January 24, 2020

images Loving Couple

oosterman etching

It is not a new or a recent discovery that the running of modern households is often done by two people or even more, organised in such a way that is fairly shared. Perhaps before the invention of beds, clothes and footwear, the only thing to organise was the hunting and gathering of food, eating and sleeping with, of course, the occasional curious but well-known joining of bodies with up-down rhythmic shudderings lasting a few seconds, ensuring that life would go on in caves and other hollowed out interconnected warrens fit enough for human habitation.   Life was simple and there were no issues of life-style. Keeping up with Joneses wasn’t much more than perhaps having a bigger cave or better accuracy with the spear throwing.

Swivelling chairs, smart TVs or Apps were unknown, and so were washing machines, irons, vacuum cleaners, electric toothbrushes, dishwashers, air conditioning, hotplates, refrigerators, wine racks, dictionaries, Facebooks, tablets, micro waves, crosswords, (including cryptic) climate change, coal, Morrison, Hawaii, sport grants, Fitted Sheets.

Most of the above items would be familiar to most readers. Perhaps even owned by them. I have found out that I have been sleeping on top of fitted sheets for many years and now that I am widowed am slowly coming to terms in washing and folding them. I haven’t yet reached the much wanted stage of logic and rationality that I have stopped wanting what I can’t have anymore, ever, and that is Helvi…

The best I can do is to continue doing domestic things, as much as possible without hesitation or fear,  and hope the evening comes and I can fall in a deep sleep while still in my chair, slowly slipping into a heavenlike unconsciousness whereby most nights, I do spend with Helvi, albeit in dreams but her voice is real, and I am with her. On awakening in my own bed through some miracle, (perhaps levitational moving about) I find Milo on the floor next to my socks. He nudges me to get up and let him out.

I have to fold the sheets

And so, the next day starts and I put on the kettle for a cup of tea and look around what needs doing. Perhaps a quick vacuum? No, I have to fold the sheets I took out of the cloth- dryer the night before. I can’t dry washing outside. Since the bush- fires ash is still falling from the sky and coats cars, plants, the roads and rooftops. We had some rain and it turned the ash into a frothy slush.

The aim in folding the bedsheets is to have them in such way as to make the bed look newly made with, if possible a fold in the exact middle making it easy to have equal sides hanging over the edge of the bed. The modern way of making beds is to first have a matrass cover. I suppose it is to save the matrass of getting stains, from heaven knows what. (Nocturnal emissions or involuntary bowel/intestinal leakages.?)

Anyway, just leaving that aside. Above the matrass cover at least on my bed I have a ‘fitted sheet’. This is a queen size sheet that have the corners turned and sewn in such a way as to form a loop around the corners of the matrass. If sewn properly it makes a perfected tight fit on which to put a normal queen size top-sheet. Those fitted sheets are hard to fold neatly so I have found it best to just give up on folding them neatly and just roll them up in a fashion hoping for the best.

Of coarse making the double bed was always a job for both of us but on my own I now leave it to a good friend who every two weeks renews my sheets and makes the bed. The first night in a newly made bed with crispy sheets is very nice and I go early to bed so I can enjoy it while still awake for some time. She also cleans the house, top to bottom and as a good friend of Helvi is a wonderful companion who knows to listen to my woes and cries without criticisms or undue advice.

I never leave the bed unmade. Even on the fortnightly day the sheets gets taken off. It helps to have a discipline. I never really was much for routine but now I found out it helps.

It is a new situation I am in.

 

The incorrigible Jack.

January 21, 2020

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Milo.

You can tell that the above Jack Russell dog is one of the most intelligent breeds of mammals around. This particular one is our dog Milo, so that explains my prejudice, but just have a good look at him. He exudes wisdom and a certain clear-sightedness of the world that he, together with billons of other creatures, shares with lesser mammals, the human variety. It has been known for a long time by some scientists the truth that the humans are now belonging to an inferior placenta mammal whose lack of intelligence made them introduce bows and arrows, nuclear bombs and endless wars with an innate desire to kill their own species. Some of those mammals belong to a special sub-species named poli-tic-ions, some of whom eat lumps of coal, are now busy resisting climate change of which most normal intelligent mammals are now acutely aware of and indeed have been trying to point the verity of climate change to the less intelligence endowed mammals for years…

The recent bushfires in Australia are responsible that over a billion animals have now perished. The cause of those fires are now well known to have been part of ignoring what the world of the more advanced mammals (phylum chordata) have been pointing out to the lower human mammals for years. Thus on a worldview, human mammals are just shown to be much lower on the evolutionary scale than the much more evolved mammals such as the koala, the kangaroo and of course the Jack Russell. Humans are not fundamentally different from mammals according to an evolutionary worldview, but certainly less evolved…

“The world’s species and habitats are under more severe pressure than at any time in human history. Over 10,000 tree species are threatened with extinction, as are almost 8,000 species of bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and fish. The number one contributor to this alarming state of affairs is habitat loss, all of it driven by human activities, but the problem is compounded by unsustainable exploitation in all its forms. This collective mismanagement of our planet’s resources is leading to widespread declines in biodiversity and driving increasing numbers of species to the brink.”

https://www.fauna-flora.org/approaches/species-and-habitats

 

This is what the  human mammal is thriving for unless it changes course!

This morning while having a coffee with friends I took this photo of Milo and his girlfriend. You can tell they are a good couple. Milo is now almost sixteen years and Helvi and I used to wager who would go first. Sadly, Helvi did, and my morning coffees at the Bradman cricket Café named suitably ‘The Stumps’ are a real treat with good friends and they help to get used to the new situation of my quiet house, silent mornings and single plate at the sink.

 

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Milo and girlfriend. They are both great companions.

The unbearable sadness of the silkworm moth.

January 17, 2020

Image result for Silkworm moth

As I was ironing my Ralph Lauren shirt for the second time, after patching the inside of the torn sleeve as well as the outside, it occurred to me, that the softness of this shirt could meant it might have been woven from silk. Can one imagine wearing a silk shirt? I checked on the back of the collar but it tells me curtly; 100% cotton, Made in China! At least it was made in a country where the silk industry preceded that in the west by more than two thousands years before the Christian calendar, under the rule of emperor Huangh Ti. who assigned his wife, His-ling-shi, to devise a scheme whereby she take the silkworms into her own garden in which the necessary Mulberry trees were growing in great numbers.

This then marked the beginning of an industry that propelled China to be synonymous with an inexhaustible wealth of silk. Merchants in silk would travel the heights and widths of Asia selling the products of that small mulberry leaf eating insect as if their lives depended on it. Well, of course the insects did and it was by no little efforts of the many following empresses who took the task of manually feeding the worms knowing full well that they in a very short time turn they would perform the metamorphosis needed to become the cocoon where within another short period it became a moth. Each cocoon holds a mile long thread of silk. Can you imagine the joy of the moth when it finally breaks free to conquer the world and able to fly and get away from those bloody mulberry trees and empresses?

That’s what I thought too…but it has a sad ending. When the moths leave it seems that all they are interested in is mating. They have special antenna which tells them who is male or female. They just live long enough to mate. The male after mating sinks into a deep and very melancholic mood and no amount of counsel helps. He dies deeply depressed almost within the post coitus languor. The female still scurries along a bit with just enough time to lay her,  hopefully fertilised eggs, several hundreds of them. She then passes as well.

As a passing note, I seem to remember that the silk industry was guarded by China for thousands of years and it was on punishment of death if anyone informed other empires of the secrets of this amazing silk worm moth, known today as the Bombyx mori.  Legends have it that the secrets of the silk worm was introduced by two Persian friars during the Byzantine Emperor Justinian reign. The cocoons were smuggled inside the hollows of their walking canes. Both friars had worked and lived in China for a long time and knew where the magic of silk came from.

So, there you have it, friends. It seems the sole purpose of the silkworm moth is to propagate and nothing more. One keeps wondering if a male Silk worm moth decides to stay celibate. Would that choice prolong his life? It might be prudent to investigate. The same of course for the female, except she might still be burdened by her eggs, infertile as they may well be.

So much to discover.

 

 

A widower’s attempt at mending his Ralph Lauren shirt.

January 15, 2020

IMG_0388Ralph Lauren shirt

Gerard’s shirt.

The above photo is of a shirt that I had re-arranged to fit over Helvi’s arm after she broke it on the 26th of June, 2019. I remember it well. It was a sunny day and I went bowling, but unbeknown to me and about an hour before I was due back home, Helvi while taking Milo for a walk, stumbled over a raised concrete footpath, and broke both her arms. What followed has already been exhaustively described on previous posts and I am still too mangled and upset to go back to it.

Helvi’s right arm was in plaster and had a steel or alloy plate inserted to help it heal. Her other arm had wires inserted to again help heal the arm. It did mean that her clothes would be hard to fit over her arms, especially her right arm. What amazed us was that we noticed many women ( and men) with enormous arms that were always clothed. The arms were tightly wrapped, but even so. Those arms were encased in material, shirts jumpers. You name it. How did those huge arms get into the garments?

So, why did I have such difficulty fitting clothes over Helvi’s plaster encaged, but reasonably slim arms, especially her right arm? One problem was that her arms were very painful and  the slightest force would result Helvi suffering pain, and she wasn’t one to complain easily! Her face would let me know! It was pitiful.

I did not really have the time to ponder about how large people managed to get dressed and instead investigated on overcoming my problem of dressing Helvi in clothes that would fit easily without causing too much pain while dressing her. I had shirts that were fairly wide-armed, men’s’ shirts generally are fitted loosely. I made them even easier to fit by cutting the right arms open to where the sleeve met the shoulder. This gave Helvi’s right arm the freedom to move about without any pressure on the shards of her broken bones. Of course the cuff would be left uncut so that the sleeve could still be buttoned up.

Now that all this has moved into the past, and Helvi gone since 29th Oct, it occurred to me to mend the shirts that were cut. I looked into Helvi’s mending basket and amongst all the bobbins of cotton, the needless, the boxes of saved buttons , her zipped-up container of small scissors, knitting needles and all other bits of haberdashery, I found a tape that one can actually iron on to mend tears in clothing items. I remember having used this form of tape before. It needs to be ironed on without actually ironing. You put the iron on ‘wool’ temperature and press it down on this magic tape. It is a type of clear material that adheres to the material without any visual changes. A bit of a true miracle repair tool really.

I went about first threading a needle with black cotton and stitching the long tear in my shirt sleeve as good as possible. I remember Helvi getting the cotton thread through the eye of a needle fairly quickly. I took a lot longer. After the threading I filled the sleeve with some padding to expose the stitched up sleeve and tear.  I took out the iron put it on ‘wool’ and ironed on the tape of mending material. Here is the shirt now. All as good as possible, The mend is on the inside so hardly noticeable.

IMG_0396 the iron mending

Here is the final result. Of course I could have thrown all the shirts out but I believe in not polluting the world. It is also a very good and comfortable shirt. I am so proud of my achievement.

The first house and Billabong

January 12, 2020

Billabong by Oosterman.jpg

Billabong 1972 entree for the NSW Wynne Prize. https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/prizes/wynne/1972/24292/

It is a miracle that this painting has survived because, as indicated above, it was shown decades ago in 1972 at the NSW State Art Gallery. Each year this gallery runs a competition for the best portrait, the best Australian landscape, and the Sulman for the best genre or subject painting. It is a yearly well published artistic event followed keenly by the public almost as enthusiastically as the Melbourne Cup, which is a world famous yearly race-horse event where many women turn up wearing funny hats and many men with ties get drunk. Well, not all men, but some do, and then some of those inebriated men end up grabbing women inappropriately (who are wearing the funny hats), and end up in court charged with indecent assault or even worse.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/billabong

But the real miracle about the painting is that it is still in my possession. I am not sure when I painted it because it is not dated. The year after we moved to The Netherlands so I must have taken it with me and then some years later back again. It now rests in my garage at Bowral. Amazing. Another oddity is that not only was this painting accepted for hanging but the very walls on which the paintings were hung were also painted by me. I had won the contract for the painting of the new addition to the gallery of NSW. I am sure that this combination of painting walls and the art object hanging, from the same person, was unusual. I have now been asked to provide a photograph of Billabong in order for the Gallery to update their electronic data. The photograph was taken yesterday by my American friend who has the right very large and heavy cameras.

After the taking of the photo we decided to go around our old haunts where we lived in Balmain so many years ago. The little cottage where I painted Billabong is still standing upright . Here it is. Helvi and I lived there between 1969/73 and from 1972 with three lovely children.

IMG_0384 18 St Mary's Str

We bought the house for $12.500.-in 1969. It was built in 1869 on a very small block of just 135 Sq. m. It has extensive harbour views including Sydney’s harbour bridge, the city itself with lots of water including the coming and going of boats, both large and small, luxury yachts, ferries, pleasure boats, anything that can float and move about on water. Large freighters when being pulled ashore by tug boats and reversing their engines used to make the landmass shake including our old weatherboard cottage. It was probably the nicest place to bring up children and paint pictures. It was a life of excitement. The house was stimulating to live in. In fact all of our places we lived in have been stimulating or at the minimum they were made to be inviting and stimulating.

Here an old photo from the inside;

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Our daughter on the phone

Notice the modest b/w TV now-a-days  overtaken by many people showing giant screens to such an extend they have to have ‘home theatres’. Some TVs are now so large they are being sublet to small families. The house was completely open and all walls downstairs had been taken out by the previous owners, an architect, leaving a large living space that included the kitchen and bathroom. Right in the middle was a slow combustion old cast iron heater that heated the whole house. With the exposed wooden floor and a mat here and there we made it into a lovely and glorious home. Oh, the nicest memories I have of that period now.

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Our little daughter in front of the cast iron solid fuel heater.

Here a photo showing the living room. Behind the pine wall is the bathroom and laundry which we partitioned off. Previous the bath was fully exposed to the living area which our friends thought as rather progressive.

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Christmas party. Helvi looking at the camera.

Notice the modest sitting arrangement on paint drums and wooden planks! We felt like Lords. A real pine Christmas tree on the left.

Those were the times!

( the present value of that timber house is estimated at 2.7 to 3.5 million dollars)