This Game this Life.( Maggots at Scheyville Camp)


Maggots at Scheyville Camp.

By gerard oosterman



If any more proof was needed to show the abundance of Australia, of course shown already on the day after arrival at Scheyville camp with all those oranges on trees, it would have to be the provisions in that huge communal dining room during breakfast, lunch and dinner of huge gallon drums of very chunky IXL melon and pineapple jam, with no control on how much one ladled out.

Real fruit jam in Holland was expensive and mother just used to give our sandwiches not much more than a slight hint of jam in order to save for our future. Imagine our joy with being able, and totally unshackled from any restrictions, to scoop unlimited ladles of jam out of those huge drums of fruit laden conserve on top of mountains of pre-sliced white bread. It was totally out of dad’s control but he managed to accept it for what it was.

A few days later our perception in all that abundance of goodness and sweetness was somewhat dented and damaged. We often just used to ladle our food on plates and walk to our hut, eat in private, away from the swills and spills of the food hall where everyone just used to eat sitting on large benches and wooden tables.  Well, eating was a bit of a euphemism, more as if the whole of Europe were on a trough and had been waiting for a good feed. Some of those hungry souls used to straddle the wooden seats horselike and eat with the food plate tucked between their legs. Perhaps they felt is was a more secure way of remaining in possession of the food.

It was when we had just arrived back to our hut with plates full, got seated and ready to fork into the lamb chops, when a man on a pushbike was riding fast from hut to hut shouting,  ” there are maggots in the meat.”  Now, we had experienced war and famine, head lice, tobacco shortages and indeed food shortages but no way would it have been even remotely possible to have had the experience of ‘maggots in meat’. There simply never was any meat during the 1940-45 second world war.

Peering onto our plates and deep into the crevices of the chops in particular, it only took a second to see what the pushbike man had heralded a minute earlier. Maggots indeed. This of course took the edge of our sojourn into this new country somewhat, if not those chops as well, but what the heck; we were told Australia needed people with pioneering spirit.

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