Mirror mirror on the wall.


While recovering from all the Christmases coming at once and blowing out on the settee, my vision came to rest on a hollow faced bearded man opposite me. It was a frightening vision. Where did all those years go? Did I not summersault ( not long ago) over six school pupils stretched out on the gym’s floor at my school on the Hortensia Street, The Hague?

This mirror with my reflection totally tenable did not lie, could not lie. But, there is more to it. We all know about the missing Pierre Cardin pyjamas and my paranoid theory of those having been stolen. This mirror too holds a mystery. No mystery in what it reflects but more on what is being hidden. The mirror pane used to have a bevelled edge. Not anymore. It vanished too. It vanished long ago.

It is an old mirror and came with the farm we had in Holland back in nineteen hundred seventy-three till seventy-six. The mirror as well as much of our present furniture was part of the deal. The man who sold us this old thatched roofed Saxon farm house had fourteen children. Amazingly, seven girls and seven boys. He was a well to do textile merchant. The farm was used as his holiday week-ender.

I remember trying to bargain about the price and he proposed that instead of a lower price he would leave most of the old antique furniture. There were three armoires, lots of old Hungarian cane thatched-seated kitchen chairs, a few oil lamps that were suspended from the ceiling by a mechanism of a steel ball counterweight to adjust their distance from the ceiling. A couple of round tables and a few sets of drawers, and of course the old mirror with the bevelled glass. We were very happy.

We decided to get the lot shipped over to Australia. A reputable removalist was engaged and 17 cubic meters in 2 large timber crates was the total freight to be included in the bill of lading. We took just one of the armoires and sold off the fridge and washing machine to the next door farmer-neighbour.


Now,… and here comes the mystery. Within a few weeks of our arrival back in Australia I received news that the crates had arrived. The depot was in Chullora Sydney. This was the place where all good were taken from the ship to be cleared through customs.

The letter from customs that I received also held the rather ominous advice that a crowbar needed to be taken. I arrived with crowbar and soon found the two wooden crates. They had OOSTERMAN writ in large letters on them. Odd, to see your name so emblazoned amongst thousands of other crates and ship arrivals. I almost felt a sense of fame, if not a kind of acknowledgement, that we did indeed exist.

I had difficulty opening them because the wooden lids were the platforms on which I was standing. At first I could not even get on top of the crates. They did not advice taking a ladder as well. Anyway, I managed to prize open the lids by hopping around on top of those crates. The custom man was helpful and after he peered into them, gave the required documentation for their release.

After the arranged truck delivered the crates, with lids once more hammered down, to our house in Balmain, we opened them. Slowly we filled our house. The legal settlement of the house in Balmain and the arrival of the crates must have synchronised pretty well. I can’t remember any major dramas.

We left the hanging of paintings and other paraphernalia till last. The beds were of the first order. You can’t sleep standing up or on a hard floor. The mirror mirror on the wall would have been a last priority. The mirror was not stared at too much. But, after a while I found that the bevelled edge mirror-glass part was now sans bevel. What happened?

There were no signs of having been tampered with. It is now with the peace and time of retirement that I decided to dwell over this mystery once again. The backing paper at the back seemed a bit loose but undisturbed so how did the new pane of mirror get inserted?

I noticed that at the right hand corner the gilded frame, (now tarnished somewhat) both at the top and bottom on the right-hand side, seemed to have opened up somewhat. Just a hairline crack, nothing more. There is a bit of damage on the gilded edge, nothing much.

So, I reckon, instead of the glass being inserted from the back which would have shown tampering of the parched and very fragile backing paper, a very important part of its age and authenticity, the new unbevelled mirror was slid and put in from the front in Holland before shipping. Clever and cunning. It would have been done with some degree of expertise.

Anyway, it is all so long ago, and it certainly is not doing a Dorian Gray…

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15 Responses to “Mirror mirror on the wall.”

  1. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Well, I’ll be danged. someone really loved that beveled mirror and they knew you would not be returning to Holland to make a case of who stole your bevel looking glass. It’s to bad for anything beveled seems so much nicer/prettier. Loved the story.

    For what it’s worth. You are not the only one who “marvels” at how we got to where we are now compared to what or who we were back when. I often wonder how in the world I have made it this far and then run the past years through my mind. “Did I really do all of those things and how did I perservere to arrive at the present?”


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I am not sure if the bevelled mirror-glass was actually stolen, more likely it broke during the packing and the removalist did a cheap forgery.
      Yes, our lives are amazing. Thank you Yvonne and a happy new year to you with even more adventures, either real or imaginary…


  2. auntyuta Says:

    Looking forward to reading more of your stories in the New Year, dear Gerard. Wishing you and dear Helvi a very Happy and Healthy New Year 2014!


  3. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    Weird and wonderful story. I absolutely sympathise with wanting answers to these long-term mysteries.


  4. Lottie Nevin Says:

    What a strange thing to happen. Oh the mysteries of shipping! Our 7cm2 arrived on Christmas Eve – it took 3 months to get here from Indonesia. There were no surprises apart from the astronomical amount of money that it cost us to have 36 boxes sent over. Never mind, at least we have all our books again, and my old dutch pots that follow me round wherever I travel.
    A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR to you Gerald. I look forward to many more of your wonderful stories and memories. Thank you for entertaining us so well in 2013. All the very best, Lottie 😀


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Happy New Year to you too Lottie and Irish. May your Dutch pots bring you lots of stews and Spanish delights. Glad your boxes arrived. Back in 1976 when our crates arrived in Australia we managed to make shelving out of the crates which we took to the farm in 1996. We left them there, hopefully the new owner is storing his stuff on them now.


      • Lottie Nevin Says:

        This shipping may have cost us a small fortune but, you should see the crate that it came packed in! TEAK!! so yes we shall be using every single bit of wood on there for shelving etc. My dutch pots are ceramic, old delft which I keep my wooden spoons in. I’ve also got a wonderful ancient spice tin which I suspect may have originally come from Indonesia. I hope the new owner of your farm is still using your shelves, what a lovely thought 😀


  5. Patti Kuche Says:

    A wonderful story of travel and time Gerard but I am sure in H’s eyes you haven’t changed at all! Happy New Year wishes to you and family!


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Patti. We are now packing the sun lit twinkling lights back in their boxes. Soon the cards will follow suit. The last of the ham and chicken has been given to Milo. Post Christmas blues are on the radio and soon life will get back to normality. I love normality.
      All the best to you and may your creative lens be made to delight us even more. 🙂
      Happy New Year


  6. Office Diva Says:

    I like the bit where you felt a bit famous at seeing your name on your crates. Your detailed observations and self disoveries are what makes your writing so great. Thanks again for the entertaining trips through your past……..always a delight. Happy 2014, and best of health to you and your lovely wife.


  7. rod Says:

    I have never liked mirrors – they remind you that you exist.
    And now, in a house containing several, from time to time
    they catch me unawares.


    • berlioz1935 Says:

      It sounds like you don’t want to exist? Mirrors mean different things to different people. Have you noticed, when you compare a person with his or her mirror image that they don’t look the same? That is the same with you. It is not you you see, but an image of a person you think it is you.


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