On the Farm


One measure of getting older is that one sees a bit less of grandchildren. Two of them are in their early teens. The other one is still friendly, is not scowling and is still only ten. The two thirteen year olds are like bean shoots. Each time we see them, I feel like asking for their names. They have changed into modes of extreme vacillating personas. One minute they are on their bikes and next they are skyping in secrecy with the bedroom door closed. When they sit on a chair, if you can call half way between the chair and on the floor ‘sitting’, their knees look like rhubarb sticks.

How are things, I’ll ask, trying to be as nonchalant as they would so desperately like to be? FinejustfineIamdoingOK, they answer in the rapid speech that has gained enormous world-wide popularity. I have noticed that the cadence or the lilt at the end of each sentence is now becoming a bit jaded. Not before time. I could hardly believe that even newsreaders had fallen for increasing the last few words of each sentence into a slide going upwards. “Thirty thousand people have died in battles between rival forces in Syria.” The “forces in Syria” would move from middle C into F minor higher up the scale. Or, “A man was stabbed by a reveller at a party in Ashfield”, again a celebratory kind of upward singing end in “paaaarty in Aaashhhhfffield!”

It must be difficult now to face a world so fast and restless. I remember Tolstoy with his war and peace. Things were slow and one would relish the words while slowly eating mother’s ladling out of mashed potatoes and rookworst cut in equal pieces so the children would not knife each other over an imagined favour to a rival brother with a piece of sausage one millimetre bigger. ๐Ÿ˜‰ At least we talked without machinegun rapidity or a nauseating lilt at the end.


The first picture is two of the boys in our farm’s lounge-room, playing chess. I am not sure they still play that game. At least they know the moves and might pick it up when they get bored with skyping.

The next picture was taken by the Agent selling the farm in 2010. The room was magic. Such lovely proportions and the open fire used to be on almost day and night during the 5 months or so of winter. I know it would go through a barrowfull of fire wood a day. I was quite manic swinging the axe around. Later on I used a hydraulic wood splitter, petrol driven, with a force of 22ton. Now, that was really manic.

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17 Responses to “On the Farm”

  1. auntyuta Says:

    The room looks magic all right. You must have loved it. But maybe having to have an open fire during the winter months was too much work to keep up?
    Rapid speech is difficult for me to understand. I am always grateful when people speak a bit slower for me.


  2. Lonia Says:

    wat was ik daar graag een keer geweest!


  3. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    Love the great rug in such an attractive room. One of our daughters was a passionate chess-playing tot, then firmly moved onto other games and interests aged about seven. I still think it contributed to problem solving skills.


  4. Rosie Says:

    Love the room. Two fires in my home – slow combustion stove in kitchen/dining (as well as electric) and slow combustion glass fronted fire in lounge room. Last Winter, for the first time, I knew I was too old to swing a chainsaw and load heavy hardwood and then split same although I loved the self-sufficiency process. With that decision came the realisation that a move into a town was imminent.

    Grandchildren – I need a translator at times with the rapid speech. Your sentence “it must be difficult now to face a world so fast and restless” certainly rings true to me.

    Gerard, today the New York Times is running the story by the Dutch and American reporters who travelled to Christmas Island on an Indonesian fishing boat with asylum seekers. Google New York Times and the story is called “How Far Away is Christmas Island?” Sorry, that is if you don’t already know that it has been published.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      We also had a slow combustion and a bottled gas cooker. Apart from the huge open fire we had another slow combustion wood heater in the dining room as well as several gas heaters.
      Thank you Rosie. The NY piece I have put on Ellis’s blog and the Pig’s Arms.
      I did not know it had been published.


  5. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Your farm home was truely magic. Lovely decor with the great fireplace in the “great room.” Good looking grandsons in the photo.

    It is some sort of trend to speak with the last word going up an ocatve. I heard the fad began in California but it could have been in Timbukto or in the jungle somewhere. :-)Frankly,
    I think it sounds disgusting.


  6. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, those boys are great. We saw one this morning in the big city of Sydney. He wanted to Skype with his friends. That’s all that seems to be happening. I feel silly Skyping, seeing my large nose moving and rotating around in front of the screen. I also sound dreadfully pompous. I don’t Skype now. I used to skate.


  7. Andrew Says:

    What a magnificent room, Gerard. I think you are fortunate if the boys still speak. Most teenagers adopt a catatonic state. What baffles me is all the shorthand writing and smiley things. I have no idea what they mean.


  8. Steve Gingold Says:

    That was, indeed, a quite lovely room, Gerard. We’ve never had children but have experienced the silence of the teen and I still split my own firewood, but with that gas driven contraption now as did you. Bursitis put an end to the axe swinging.


  9. Patti Kuche Says:

    Oh my God, those teenage boys and their grunts but stick with them long enough and they truly are grunts of love. And then they will tell you how much they loved the chess, the warmth of the fire and that magic red room. They know how lucky they are!


  10. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Yes grandsons are curious creatures! We have several, and past a certain age, the phone calls are spaced out, and of shorter duration. Strange that if something is desired, a phone is always handy. What a wonderful room Gerard, and the rug is magnificent.. Tell me about it. Where is it from? We love rugs and have a number of oriental as well as Navajo. Neither of us like wall to wall carpeting, so we have none in this house.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes kaytisweet,

      Wall to wall carpet is not in our genes. My dad was flabbergasted after arrival in Australia about ‘wall to wall’ and even translated it in Dutch, ‘van muur tot muur’, wrote about it to their friends and family in Holland. Where had we landed?

      We had brand new wall t wall on the farm, pure wool and WHITE! We took the lot out and had the floor tiled and used rugs. The rug in the picture is a Kilim and from Turkey. The Kilims are made all the way from Iran, Turkey to Pakistan. The narrow ones are used as prayer rugs.


  11. Office Diva Says:

    Yours is the only blog I read that consistently makes me laugh howl out loud. The speech thing was hilariously well done.


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