By gerard oosterman
The cleaning at Roger’s Chains factory lasted just a few weeks, by which time I had earned some money which I gave towards the family for saving better accommodation. I kept some which I put in a tin. My regular weekly spending was for a small packet of Graven A filter cigarettes, and the occasional orange drink called Fanta. An apple pie, just once a week was a special treat.
My next job, without even losing one day was at another engineering factory, just a few streets behind the old job. It was run and owned by a man with just one leg. I seemed to be destined to meet creatures with missing limbs! Why was that so? Was life so fraught with accidents or danger here in Australia, that, people, dogs and cars would so casually go without important parts? The owner’s other leg was made of something artificial, perhaps wood, that used to creak when he slowly walked around the factory floor. Did the leg’s hinges need lubricating?
His house was just in front of the factory. I sometimes used to see the wife. She was very prim and proper and polite; contend to mind the petunias in the front garden, and keeping well away from the factory. The factory owner always had a cigarette hanging from his mouth which made the (bad)word fucking even more sinister sounding. The F seemed to go on forever, hissing with spittle as a lubricant. He did obey the rule though of never saying that in front of his wife.
The job of cleaning the factory floor was sometimes relieved by learning to work on machinery, a capstan lathe and milling machines, making nuts or bolts, putting threads on them, in fact, a bit of skill creeping into my daily routine. In the meantime I had saved for an old bicycle and saved bus money by travelling to and from work by bike.
The job was not what I intended to do when still back in Holland. I had some vague idea of studying to become an aircraft engineer. Sweeping a factory and buying lunches for factory workers was not all that inspiring, nor was the blatant homosexual capers that used to be played out very edifying. The non-stop pretend buggering was endemic, and the tolerance towards it staggering. Here was a really curious bit of factory culture. Most of the adult workers were married, had families or if not married, spoke about their girlfriends. Yet, it was almost as if all that homosexual pretend buggering was proof of being hetero sexual. To not partake in it, as I refused to do, was considered to be sissy. The social gatherings at that time showed similar traits. To be with women at a party was seen as having ‘poofter’ inclinations. You would not want to be seen with the opposite sex as this was being ‘soft’ and not masculine. Perhaps it had again something to do with the acute shortage of women during those penal times some decades before, and many just had to do with what was available and that was each other, and of the same sex. Old habits die hard. Another habit was to stick fingers up an unexpected worker’s bum through overalls or apron. It was called ‘dating’.