The Caravan and Uncle Bill with dusty lungs. Memoires

October 8, 2015


When school holidays were coming, the list would be ticked off. Sleeping bags, tents, tarpaulins for over the tents, rubber sheets for under the tents, water containers, fishing rods, papoose, saucepans, cutlery, plates, cups, beakers, books, toys, barbeque tongs, matches, wine casks, food  including a bewildering arrangement of breakfast cereals, potatoes, tinned sardines, tuna, some biscuits, crackers, cheeses, Bismarck herrings, sausages, some lollies (for during the car trip),  Hanso-plast plasters, a solid supply of head-ache tablets, unguents for driver’s constipation, food poisoning and/ or for frequent and copious discharge of abnormal liquid faeces. Fly sprays, mosquito coils, sun tan oils,  pink sun tan burn medication, mosquito screens for  tent openings. Matches, swimming gear including boards and body surfing equipment. Spare fishing hooks, lines and weights. A fish scaling knife, fish filleting knife, a fish net, lemons for the oysters. Children and shorts, lots of clothing and spare shoes. Children’s friends, including James Crow and others. Finally, the esky to keep the milk in!

It was all put together with military order and discipline the day before.  Each item would be ticked off carefully. After a few years we got a trailer to put it all in. This required another tarpaulin to put over it, in case the polystyrene surf boards would fly out. This then required a strong rope like netting to put over the tarpaulin to stop it from flapping. The car had to be fitted with a tow-bar. I often had severely bruised shins having walked around the van checking things and walking straight into the tow-bar. I would limp for the entire holiday.

When the children reached teen years we went over to the caravan owners side. No more tents! We were so over all the rigmarole of packing and unpacking of stuff. Many times we would have had downpours and packed up everything sodden.  This then had to be spread out over the garden lawn back home in Balmain. The drying and storing took days and whatever rest and recreation we enjoyed during camping was soon soaked up in all this work. Our faces had become lined and crinkly. Camping became a chore after so many years. We needed rest from all that.  We bought  the caravan. It had a baffling name;  As is,  is!  It was on-site and at a terrific spot overlooking the ocean. “Dad, dad shall we buy it”?

Before this new period, we always looked a bit down on caravan owners. Somehow they were not ‘real’ campers and not really people worthy of sitting around with at camp-fires. They even used to have  antennas on the roofs of the vans and could be heard watching the Dick van Dyke show or worse, the hideous loud cackle of ‘I love Lucy’ infiltrating the Lantana and waking the Possums. I don’t really know how we made the transition from tent to caravan. Was it a mixture of hypocrisy and swallowing pride? Perhaps it was because we got to know a couple of ex coal miners suffering from ‘dusty lungs’. They lived permanently in caravans with large canvas annexes. A kind of happy mixture of both tents and caravans.

One of them we got to know as uncle Pudding. He was a rather shy man but very good with our kids. They loved him. He would go fishing with a mate who had a boat and give us part of his catch afterwards. Despite the condition of his lungs, he smoked ready rubs. I can still see him taking a pluck of tobacco out of its metal container, rub it in his hands while keeping the Tally-Ho tobacco paper sheet between his lips. He would roll his ciggy, lick the edge of his Tally-ho and light up. He kept his camp site scrupulously clean and the happy sound of his raking in the morning could be heard each day. For many years he was a figure known to us and many campers. But suddenly uncle Bill was gone. He had succumbed to ‘dusty lungs’.


The Campervan. Are we there yet? Memoires.

October 6, 2015


When still in Holland we drove around in VW Campervan. Strictly speaking it was not but we made it a van that could be slept in. With some help from self-tapping screws, eyelets and wires, we fashioned curtains. We took the back seat out and with chipboard also made a bed-base of some 3/4 width, enough for both of us if sleeping in spoon fashion (or forks when amorous). We used the space underneath this bed for storage.

After our return to Australia I promptly bought another VW van but left it as it was with a backseat for the kids. What I forgot to check was the size of the engine. The one in Holland had a two litre engine, while the one in Australia that I bought was a 1600cc engine. A big difference, especially fully laden and towing a small trailer. The road that had to be turned left , to go to our favourite camping spot was still a dirt road and muddy after rain. During wet days it would almost take an hour to travel the 20km or so. There were some hills that were steep and it would not be difficult to find oneself almost unable to either go down or up those hills.

The adv. that had the young kid asking ‘are we there yet, daddy?’ must have been inspired by so many families travelling with children. The on-board DVD had yet to be discovered. Even that gadget has now been overtaken by I-Phones, pad and pods and heaven knows what else kids are now stooped over,  pushing buttons with a rapid-fire machine gun speed. Has anyone noticed how nimble the kids are with the gadget being manoeuvred with their two thumbs writing commands on that little key-board? Truly amazing. When I put my finger down, the whole keyboard follows or the English changes into Chinese.

We still try and engage our grandkids with the game of ‘ I spy, I spy, with my little eye’ and as yet, and most times, even the fifteen year old still respond during the trip to Sydney and back. Squabbling between young siblings inside a moving car is the stuff of family punch ups at the rest-stop, which can never come quick enough. Dear H is an angel during car trips and the punch ups usually prevented. If it persists we threaten a sound belting or an ejection from the car on an isolated bush-track. ;)

The usual squabble with grand-kids is the same as it was with our own kids forty or more years ago with…”Mum, ..mum, he has taken over my space and has his hands near me”. H. “Move back and try and stay there, you are annoying your sister.”  After five minutes of peace. “Mum…mum, she is laughing at me now, again.” The ‘again’ doubles the annoyance. H.” stop laughing at your sister, were are nearly there”. Again, almost immediately (and I am white knuckled over the steering wheel) Mum…mum.. She is yucky looking again and has her foot on my foot”, H takes out the expendable steering lock and swings it threateningly towards the back seat. It stays quiet for more than a whole twelve minutes. It starts again. Mum…mum…dad…dad… are we there yet?

Of course, the real cruelty is for kids to be locked up in a small confined space. Every time watching young kids, they hop and skip, move about constantly. They can’t even take one single straight step without doing gymnastics or somersaulting on the footpath. They are growing up and a car is not for kids. Even so, now there are electronic gadgets that seem to help somewhat.

Are we there yet?

The country of ‘long week-end’. Memoires.

October 4, 2015
The mussel party

The mussel party

The long week-end would inevitably start by packing the van and go camping. We have most of our photo albums packed with camping shots. We finally got it down to an art form. In the days when our children were young, camping was big. Especially down and up from Sydney. The bush was still bush and it wasn’t till caravan parks started to spruik up that camping was pushed in the background and bush-camping lost its charm. Now camping grounds are controlled and camper vans and caravans  are parked neck-on neck. It is like going to the local Drive- In of yesteryears.  Watch Quo Vadis with a 2 kilo pack of pop-corn. The kids and mum dressed in pyjamas, ready to hit the sack after driving home.

This week-end we had the grandsons staying with us after mum had them all week. School Holidays used to be the worst time for mothers, the stuff of nightmares. Now, of course with the average family of 1.9 children it should be a much easier ride for mums. But is it? Sipping a coffee with our grand-kids yesterday I noticed the grimly-faced mums walking the Bowral streets with kids in tow. There was an air of resignation but also of a hope springing eternally. Another couple of days and all will be back at school. Order again, and bored kids getting what they deserve, an education.

In the fifties and sixties camping shops were big business and tents used to be put up on show. Parramatta road had huge camping shops and one would go there as an outing, feel inspired by stakes, axes, pocket knives, foldable water containers and mouth watering port-a-loos. Tents were made above those shops by Hungarian experts or strongly calved ex Austrian mountaineers. We loved camping and used to hack away the Lantana to clear a spot for our tents. With bush-saws we would cut a dead tree and sit around the camp-fire drinking cheap hot wine spiced with cloves. The headaches next morning were legendary and have till now never been surpassed.

All this has changed. On the highways enormous double bogey vans are being pulled along by equally enormous multi storey vans. There are air-condition units on top and at the back of the van. At times a smaller car is being towed along and multi layers of canoes with mountain-bikes strapped on top. I am not sure but I suspect that multi electronic devices are being held by those that are not driving. The selfie sticks at the ready and even while driving, images and selfies are instantly being beamed around the world by the kids sitting on the lower deck of the SUV.

Our camping days are over and I could not imagine crawling out of a tent with a bad headache and then having to cook porridge on a dead fire. This week-end no camping, instead I got up early and prepared the pan-cake mixture with the butter milk bought the previous day. It is the least I could do and the kids love it more than camping. Things have changed.

After a few days with us and before the mother came to pick them up I had promised them a bit of a gourmet supper. Apart from pancakes, the kids have also been,  by sound grandparental grooming, encouraged into liking sea-food. If there is one thing I wanted achieved, is for them to enjoy the delights of herrings and mussels. Even during the grimmest of times, a good herring or bowl of steaming mussels would pull me through during the blight of my suburban youth! It does no harm to kids and is as good as camping. I  bought two kilos of mussels and after steaming them up in some white wine, crushed tomatoes and lots of garlic, were consumed by a fervour not even experienced during their much earlier discovery of the I-Phone.

It was a great week-end. One of the best really.

The forbidden words formed long queues; memoires.

October 2, 2015
 Some time back

Some time back

The seventies were already getting very modern. You would have thought the world belonged to those wearing jeans and perms. Yes, that’s right, I too had a perm done. It was a sign of male emancipation. The journey ( and who is not on ‘journey’ now-a-days?) of freeing  the shackles of the sixties started in my case a few years earlier with a vasectomy performed by two female doctors, one of whom had the word ‘Cock’ in her surname. I remember both of them crouched down at the bottom of the bed, intent on the snapping of my vas deference.  A good omen. The perm ensured acceptance and added to confidence.  The vasectomy a discontinuation of the family who already counted three in an over-populated world. Why could the world of blond curls and untidy beards not be an outward sign for  those who owned the world?

What was not so modern though, and it seems ludicrous today, that words were still banned. Portnoy’s Complaint and Lolita were banned. The literary experts whose job it was to look after our morals and employed as Censors needed an ambulance after they had ploughed through those books. They were maimed for life. That’s what words can do. Words like ‘cunt and masturbation’, ‘breasts and erection’ and the unspeakable ‘penis’. When the books were finally released from being pent up by the tens of thousands on our wharfs in grey camouflaged wooden crates, pandemonium broke out. Police on horseback had to whip back and restrain rain-coat wearing men, blunt-stone women, all queuing up to get a copy and read all about banned words. There were no signs, as feared, of anyone going in a sexual frenzy. There were no rapports of fornication on the foot-path outside Hans delicatessen with the signs of Heisse KnackWurst for sale, or indeed inside the KFC take-away.

A few years earlier, similar horse-backed police had to restrain theatre patrons in front of the Metro in King’s Cross where after weeks of parliamentary arguments ‘Hair’ was finally allowed to be shown. Permission was given after agreements were reached whereby during the ‘nude’ part the undressing of all the actors and dancers were to be strictly performed under a large army canvas which would then be hoisted up by a crane. The nudeness had to be done in absolute stillness and no body parts moving. A single quiver in testicles or breasts and the show would be cancelled. It was an electrifying moment that we all waited for. Slowly the large canvas was lifted. The audience mouse-still. Not a flitting of an eyelash. Real nudes. Unbelievable. Afterwards, the patrons silently left the theatre, overwhelmed by it all. Many went home got undressed and looked in the mirror!

Next morning people queued up for the bus. Life seemed to go on the same as before. It always does. On week-ends the lawnmowers happily rattled on and the suburban nature strip wasn’t forgotten either. Petunias were being planted, rockeries cemented and fences re-painted.

It was always thus.

From 1976 onwards. Memoires!

September 30, 2015

The Balmain kitchen with my mother.

Now that the medical investigations of physical health and other possible upcoming frailties in the future have been dealt with I can perhaps go back to my earlier musings about the past.  They were all bundled under the somewhat pretentious title of ‘Auto-biography’, towards the end morphed into autobiography’ or perhaps were even  referred to as ‘memoires’. Perhaps memoires is the most suitable. Who knows? It has a hint of someone getting ready for the softness of blissful forgetfulness but would still like to leave behind a story of when that was not so. A kind of evidence based of the purpose that life once might have held.

Not that life is totally without a purpose now. The garbage bin has to be put out, not forgetting the alternative weeks (fortnightly pension day) that the yellow lidded  recycle bin has to be put outside but the red bin always weekly. A routine that is now well established and I never forget. There is something very endearing about those bits of routine. It beds us down, makes us feel secure. One can imagine the millions of refugees on the run from bombs and terror. All routine of daily life stolen at a moments notice. You can see it in their eyes. Frightened of what the future holds. How fortunate we are. It is only the luck of our birth that separates us from those running the gauntlet of many borders, clambering over train windows, desperate to escape from the uncertainty. Nothing more than that.

As I remembered, after our family’s return from Holland in 1976 we  moved into our house back in Sydney’s Balmain and had taken delivery of our furniture and all other remnants of our previous three years in Holland. I enjoyed the artists salary, had some exhibitions, sold some paintings but also missed our large extended family. The Australian bush as well as the disorder of rusted roofs and the chaos of Parramatta Rd beckoned. Those yawning second-hand car sales yard seemed so attractive. A funny thing. The Dutch sense of order and discipline had taken its toll. The breathing space that we have in Australia is not to be underestimated.

When life got back to ‘normal’ the children back to school and a smooth transition into work and paying bills, life resumed its path with routine getting established once more. The garage was transformed in a place to make the stretchers for paintings. Part of it was made into a darkroom. I suddenly developed a keenness for taking photographs and with my brother used to develop our own black and white shots of people and city/ landscapes. A very prolific period of paintings followed. I entered many in local art competitions which many councils annually held all over Australia. Balmain was attractive to artists and in our street alone there was a group of them all beavering away inside their studios. Some of the artists were very ‘arty’ and used to delve into mysticism or were very esoteric to the extreme. Bach remedy was used for everything, even giving birth or a dog’s broken leg. Dreadlocks and smoking dope was very popular and so were music of a kind sung by the massively curled Carly Simon,  especially ‘You are so Vain’. Of course, we were united all against war, especially nuclear war and used to march in rallies together with Patrick White, whose popularity as a Noble Price winning writer of fame seems now to have waned.

Nurse: The jar need not be full!

September 29, 2015


Here is a good Governmental initiative. Never let it be known that positivity is not absent from me on Mondays. I made the appointment last week for a one and half hour of a thorough assessment for any future home-care. A triumphant government must have announced it some time ago, but I never heard about it. It is for those that turn seventy-five. They must keep a tab on all of us. No birthday cake though. Just the possibility of subsidised grab rails in the bathroom or electronic ejection elevated toilet seat. Can you imagine the feeling of elation being lifted and ejected from the toilet seat? What next?

The appointment was for 2pm on Monday. After duly showering,  some sprucing and copious anti deodorant H and I arrived. I was curious and was given a synopses of the procedure. My state of health, both mental and physical would now be taken under the loupe.  I was at fever pitch and alertness. A squirrel taking command of his booty of hazelnuts could not be a better example. Finally a reward for all those years of Kipfler spuds, herrings, sardines, numerous curry dishes, the occasional pork sausage and butter-milk would be brought to fruition as proven by this extensive investigation and following rapport. It would all come out now.

I was met by a friendly nurse with a Latvian or Estonian look. Blue eyes and blond with a mid-fifties age as indicated by the creases around her friendly mouth and alert eyes. Someone who had gone through some living, carrying the evidence with aplomb and courage.  “Do you think you could do a pee or would you first like a coffee or glass of water,” she asked looking at me all blue-eyed and with some ease? She knew some man might get a bit ruffled by that, and clamp up their urinary tract. She was generous and professional, giving me a way out in case of embarrassment, related to shrinking man when anything is mentioned to their impedimenta of an organ that has other function as well as for manically going up and down.  Not me though. “I’ll do my best”,  I’ll do it now, if you don’t mind.”   “Where is the toilet”? I took the initiative. Very often a ploy of the somewhat insecure. Especially some men.

I had noticed she had snapped on some plastic gloves and gave me a little clear plastic jar with a yellow lid, a plastic envelope and showed me the toilet. “You don’t have to fill it right up”, she said. As if I could not!  I dribbled a bit in the jar and perused the level as if on a scientific journey. I judged it not enough, and put a bit more in, surprised at my agility above the narrow bottle and also the ability to stop and start at will. It isn’t always like that getting up in the middle of the night when the procedure seems not always as spontaneous as it once was… I came back as soon as I could. I did not want to give the impression I was struggling in that section and lose points on my rapport.  One never knows with urine and stools. I noticed she was testing it with some little strip afterwards above the sink. I suppose the PH. I used to do the same on our farm swimming pool water.

She explained all the other things we would go through and held up the first part of the test in the form of a large lettered  laminated sign ‘close your eyes’. I duly closed my eyes. “Very good”, nurse said. I was beaming. “Can you tell me the day, month and year?” Again, 10/10. And so it went on. “I will say three words and please repeat”. “Apple, table and chair.” I duly repeated. After a few minutes again, can you recall the three words? I thought deeply, but managed another faultless reply.

“Can you now fold a piece of paper, hold it in both hands and put it on the floor in front of your feet”. I did it in record time but hoped the fold length-wise instead of across would not be rated against me. I need not fear. “Excellent she said. You have no trouble following instructions”.

When talking to the doctor afterwards he asked for Helvi to be present. What would we do if I ever got an accident or physical affliction and quality of life would be almost non- existent ? I was given a rather cheerless list of option of procedures just to keep me alive. What would I choose? A pipe in my chest to breath and food through my nose.?

No thank you. No keeping alive just for the sake of it. If I am no longer aware of being alive, don’t inflict life when it is not really there anymore.

He said also, and that is what I really loved hearing. You do not even have a hint of Alzheimer. Full marks, he added.

A great afternoon. It will be H’s turn in a couple of months.

Overcoming the Sunday. (Handy hints)

September 27, 2015


Soon it will be dark.  It is reassuring that Monday always follows a Sunday. This is what we must cling too, no matter how slow the Sunday is passing. On our daily walk we noticed even nature was struggling  with a bad case of Sunday gloom. The tulips were a bit despondent with the Camellia buds rotting even better than normal. The morning is usually the least gloomy and for some the best part. Many get the Sunday paper, scan the adds for Fiji holidays or  three metre TVs with inbuilt DVD capability. After that, many will settle for sweaty rugby or tennis ball whacking. The rot sets in after that.

‘Don’t go to Australia my friends warned me back in 1956, there too is the dreaded English Sunday.’ No one ever went to England for a holiday. France, Spain or even Austria and Germany were preferred. As it was, each time we arrived back to Australia our first port of call was Fremantle, worse…  on a Sunday too. The English Sunday always held some notoriety as being very peaceful and dormant, and more than just quiet. Many Continental friends keen to spread bad tidings told us that you could not get a beer on Sunday. Can one imagine? The very day that one would go out with family ,visit a café and perhaps enjoy a beer or even a shifter of advocaat or jenever on the one day off, the Sunday in Australia forbade all that. It would be many years before a beer would be allowed on Sunday.

Of course, all that has changed. England rocks and as young people will is really cool there now. Australia is now being swamped with tourists looking for excitement and space to move around without having to wear oxygen masks or be shot at. Even so, I am still struggling with passing the Sunday. I try and remain optimistic and look for things to happen. The Bowral tulip festival is one good escape, even if just to watch all the tourists. Another one is to prepare for a really complicated dish needing lots of ingredients that you might have to go and shop at Aldi for. Aldi shopping is one of the greatest Sunday gloom escape diversions to engage in. I relish the chance and go each Sunday. Of course, some of you might prefer Woollies or Coles. Each to their own. It all helps and we have to stand together in overcoming a Sunday.

On Sunday many products get down-priced as the date of expiration gets closer. You can observe customers carefully weighing up the pros and cons of getting a discounted meat product against the risk of a bout of intestinal hurry. What to do with a pig’s trotter that is one day from extinction? Or what to make of a slightly discoloured packet of double smoked ham but for a mouth-watering $1.50? Or a suspiciously pale looking salmon cutlet, but for $3.99?  Should it be taken home and the discounted ticket peeled off with the suspicious husband left in the dark. What to do with your conscience, especially after he is doubled over the porcelain bowl heaving and wracked with dreadful diarrhoea? There has to be a limit. Be careful, don’t overdo escaping the Sunday. You would not want to be charged with manslaughter.

Many take to gardening in the Sunday afternoon. The lawnmower taken out. A bag of soil opened, a plant to be potted. Discussions about the state of this year’s Hellebores. Questioning the state of mites on up-coming roses. Is it too early yet for the white-oil? Should the shears be sharpened, the shed re-organised?  The ingenuity of the Sunday escapee knows no bounds. A good husband might offer help in the kitchen. ‘Would you like me to spin the lettuce, darling,’ I overheard our neighbour saying. It was a particularly bad and difficult Sunday but it helped him pull through.

All of a sudden it was 6.30 pm and we rushed to the SBS News. Then at 7,the ABC. A quick glance at e-mail and at 9.30 in bed.

It will soon be over…glorious Monday is knocking.

Australia preventing scrutiny on asylum seekers in detention.

September 26, 2015

United Nations special rapporteur for asylum seeker human rights delays Australian visit, cites Border Force Act

The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants has postponed a planned trip to Australia, claiming the Federal Government’s immigration legislation preventing people talking about what happens in detention facilities does not allow him to carry out his job.

Francois Crepeau said he was invited to travel to Australia by the Commonwealth and planned to gather information about the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in the country and on offshore detention centres.

He was due to arrive tomorrow.

“In preparing for my visit, it came to my attention that the 2015 Border Force Act, which sanctions detention centre service providers who disclose ‘protected information’ with a two-year court sentence, would have an impact on my visit as it serves to discourage people from fully disclosing information relevant to my mandate,” Mr Crepeau said in a statement.

“This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable.

“The act prevents me from fully and freely carrying out my duties during the visit, as required by the UN guidelines for independent experts carrying out their country visits.”

Mr Crepeau said he had asked the Government to give him a written guarantee people he interviewed during his tour would not be at risk of sanctions under the Border Force Act.

“As the Australian Government was not prepared to give the written assurances required by the official terms of reference for fact-finding missions by special rapporteurs, it was not possible for me to carry out the visit in my capacity as a UN independent expert,” he said.

“Since March 2015, I have repeatedly requested that the Australian Government facilitate my access to its off-shore processing centres.

“I was also extremely disappointed that I was unable to secure the cooperation needed to visit any offshore centre, given the international human rights and humanitarian law concerns regarding them, plus the Australian Senate inquiries on the offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, which raised concerns and recommendations concerning these centres.”

The ABC has contacted Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s office for comment.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the announcement highlighted Australia’s immigration shortcomings on a global stage.

“The lack of transparency, the lack of free and unfettered access means that Australia is continuing to keep all of their operations in the dark, hidden even not just from the Australian media, but now from the United Nations itself,” she said.

“The Government should guarantee that any staff or professionals working inside Australia’s detention camps can speak openly to the United Nations, without fear of persecution, prosecution, or indeed the two-year jail sentence.”

Doctor will see you now.

September 25, 2015
Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

It used to be simple matter to see the doctor. As a child you stuck your tongue out, said aahh, and that was it. All doctors looked senile and had a foul breath. Now it has become far more complex and doctors look like teenagers. You more likely to have your bum looked and poked at than your tongue.

I received a serious letter, that, since I had turned seventy-five the Government would like to make sure I would still have some years left without needing to be looked after. Could I make an appointment for a thorough investigation of my levels of health. It would take about one- and- a- half hour. I like their optimism and clear despair of having to look after another grand-pa. It hints at a chair in ‘blue Haven retirement village’ with a bus trip to the Tulip Festival, nurse wiping my chin if not something else as well.

The letter gave details of what the health assessment would comprise off;

. Measurement of Blood pressure, pulse rate and rhythm.

( I do have good rhythm and keep it up till the end with happy ending.)

. assessment of medication, continence, immunisation status, physical function, activities of daily living, fall status.

Oh no, not continence again? Not another nervously strained stool sample with gloves, wooden stick and screw-top container? Look doc, I hover between deep seated constipation and voluminous bouts of diarrhoea, give me a break. I’ll invite you for a prawn barbeque, mow your lawn, but no more stool samples. Concentrate on my tinnitus and my wobbly feet. I do still remember the good times when I slept all night without leeks and straining the potatoes three times a night. My physical functions do include being able to still take  two steps on the stairs at the time and to run to Aldi’s when the Shiraz is on special. My fall rate is perfect and I generally put my hands out to brake the fall. I remember my pin numbers and have a fairly good idea of passwords and know how to put photos on the internet.

. assessment of mood and memory.



It’s been no picnic. I do enjoy the good times and relish the friends I still have. I do get down but know that it passes almost unnoticed.  I know you mean well, doc, but no anti-depressants. I love my depression. Look where it go me? I am on my 757th article of folly and nonsense and still able to put down words in certain order with the help of a keen despair, but also with some sun and hope for a still liveable world for all Grand-kids.

. social setting and whether you are caring for another person.

I care for my partner of many years and she does for me. We still do a little dance.   I don’t have many ailments or suffer from gout, insomnia, or nervous ticks, nor sit in the park forgotten how to get home. Sure, moments of finding the impetus to keep going are joined with acute feelings of having done it already. Putting socks on is a drag on the day, but relish the first coffee. At times I feel even food resisting and I have to fight the urge to a regurgitation in having tasted it all too often before. But, what can one do?  A fresh herring or smoked eel is still the answer.

A walk along the creek helps.

The tuna dish.

September 24, 2015
wives waiting for their men at Scheveningen

wives waiting for their men at Scheveningen

We all know that fish is good. As we get older and start to stumble with memories and forget the name of a previous world champion runner or a failed Prime minister, it is time to call in the fishing fleet. As a child I used to watch this fleet coming in with the first herring which would be rushed and presented to the Dutch queen. Those first herrings used to cost a fortune. Our family would wait for the price to fall before able to buy them. The fishermen’s wives were waiting anxiously  at the peers for the boats to come in.

I was at the tail end of the herring fleet still being under sails. I might have been nine years or so. It wasn’t always that the boats would come back. It was a risky business and storms on the North Sea were frequent and dangerous. Many a husband would be lost. In those days the women waiting at the peer still wore traditional clothing, dark brown billowing skirts down to the ankle, and white head- gear. Perhaps they also wore a lacy scarf around their shoulders. It was all so long ago.

Now-a-days, fishing vessels are so large and so sophisticated they graze the ocean floor like never before. The whole area would be covered in miles of netting more or less depleting everything that swam. I remember two years ago a huge Dutch factory boat tried to enter Australian waters to fish. The local protesting fishermen were successful in fighting for their own rights to fish. The Dutch ship retreated and lost their case. Why has everything become so unromantic? I know losing your life while fishing isn’t romantic but so much of the past made and held memories. What memories will our grandchildren nurture in their old age? Perhaps in the future the Alzheimer will be cured by simply living along life’s path without anything remarkable to imprint on our memory’s storage. Memories will simply not be there anymore to lose!

Here is a dish to remember though. It is simple, cheap, healthy and guaranteed to refresh memories of failed Prime ministers and long time champions including Zátopek.

Its ingredients are potatoes, a good leek, onions, garlic, milk, herbs, a bit of butter, a bunch of bok-choy, tinned tuna in oil and little salt, pepper and chili. Also, young grated cheese.



Simply slice thinly a few potatoes and in layers interspersed with all the above sliced ingredient, place in a oven-proof ceramic dish. Soak the whole lot in milk level with the top of the dish and bake for an hour or so at 150C temperature. Make sure you are generous with the grated cheese on top to make sure this is brown and crusty. You then eat it with your spouse without saying a single word, except at times, just say mmm and again mmm.

I do hope my grandkids will remember my pancakes made with buttermilk.

We will all be lucky to get out alive.



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