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…