By gerard oosterman
When I was told that ‘Dutchies’ were popular with the girls in Melbourne, I packed a small suitcase, kick-started the Lambretta and headed south. At age 17 the discovery of Ma paw and her five daughters some years before had grown a bit wearisome and needed reviving. The change from left to right hand did not quite satisfy the yearning. I longed for a real girl friend and tales of conquests from work mates at the factory of Spectacle Makers in Clarence Street only egged me on to at least give Melbourne a go.
I packed a suit, recently bought from Reuben’s Scarf. The two suits for the price of one was the deciding factor. The coats were a bit big and would have looked better on a Paganini just before his burial where some claim he could be heard to play his final violin concert even underground afterwards. In those days, the wearing of a suit was somewhat superfluous but with the fragile state of my confidence, I thought it would stand me in good stead with those Melbournian girls in need of a Dutchman.
My father was most circumspect of this journey by a 150cc scooter and held grave fears. Never the less, at departure I shook hands and kissed my mother. Strange, thinking back of that shaking hands business. Back in 1958 travelling to Melbourne had been undertaken before. My dad made me feel as if I was Mawson on discovery of another polar region.
The suitcase had survived the Trans Atlantic and Indian Ocean trip a couple of years before and even though battered, it did have locks on the lid with a key that fitted. It was made of leather looking carton and also had a handy strap with a buckle just to make sure it would not open un-expectantly. The rest of the suitcase included fresh singlets, shirts with ties and some Lambretta spares, contact points, spark plug and spanner, underpants. I still had the address of a Dutch family and a lovely daughter named ‘Annemarie’ whom I had met on the trip over a year before. The table tennis tournaments on board of The Johan Van OldenBarnevelt were made more interesting by the enthusiastic playing of Annemarie, she was fast and while bending over the tennis table I noticed her teen cleavage. I was lost already then!
‘Don’t forget the catechism Gerardus Antonius,’ mother urged me with some concern of my deeply soiled soul, no doubt worried about those nocturnal emissions on singlets. “Have you got your maps handy”, mum asked kindly? Yes, mum.” What about the spare spark plug?” ‘Yes dad.’ A final handshake and a kiss to mum, I kick-started the scooter and rode away like something out of ‘High Noon’. I looked in the mirror with mum still waving but dad had gone.
The beginning of the trip went past areas that I had been before, Bankstown, Liverpool and Ingleburn. Then new territory opened up and from then on it became the adventure that lasted about three weeks. Somewhere past Gundagai and Wagga Wagga I turned left and this is where the adventure became a bit more serious. Most of the roads became gravel or dirt tracks and through steeply mountainous terrain. After about travelling a hundred kilometres or so, a huge mob of cows blocked my way. I stopped and tried to look and behave as nonchalantly as possible. I was terrified they would trample all over me and my scooter and suitcase. ‘A rampaging herd of cattle trampled a lone traveller with scooter.’ ‘My dad would read in the afternoon edition of the Mirror, with an arrow pointing to my body and dead scooter.’
They were in their hundreds and did not want to budge. Their bovine manner got to me and I thought it best to pretend to be one of them. I started mooing and instantly became one of them, disguised my scooter with branches and just waited while smoking my Graven A’s, hoping the cows would understand!.
It seemed hours but the hunger for food must have got to the cattle. A couple started sauntering past me, bellowing, and signalling perhaps for the others to follow. Then, as on cue, they all started and with incredible agility they all ran past me. The dust was choking me but I had escaped the hooves and horns of the mob of cattle.
My expected arrival at Melbourne did involve a stop prior to knocking on the door of Annemarie’s parents place and behind an old eucalypt, changed into my Ruben’s Scarf suit and did a general spruce-up!
Annemarie, here I come!