The Safari suit.

Balmain cottage downstairs room

Balmain cottage downstairs room

We are now going back to a period when our children numbered just two. It was a long time ago. We were living in our second house on Sydney’s Balmain harbour peninsula after having lived in a 1 bedroom apartment in a somewhat  bohemian area called Pott’s Point which is next or part of Kings Cross, Sydney. It was an area of artists, crooks,  prostitutes with sandaled souteneurs, and priests. There were also many delicatessen where one could buy real coffee , prosciutto, cheeses not named ‘tasty’ and books. If I remember correctly there was also special dispensation given to some  Euro-continental shops allowing to stay open after 6pm. It was still frowned upon as decadent by some who tried desperate to uphold decent ‘peace and quiet’ Anglo closed up traditions. This all during the  sixties when our marriage was so young, sprightly and sprouting  first babies.

The one bedroom apartment was soon crowded out with birth of our second daughter. We bought a very old and rickety weather board cottage that just had one large sitting-kitchen-dining-bathroom downstairs and two small bedrooms upstairs. The downstairs would  originally have had rooms but the previous architect owner had taken all walls out leaving just one spacious room that looked out over a glorious and vibrant harbour. In those day it was always sunny.

That the bathroom was part of our sitting area could not have worried architect nor did it us. In the middle of this room was a round wood burning cast- iron heater with the name ‘Broadway’ on it. It was  lined with stone on the inside and as chimney had a large galvanised pipe going through the ceiling and upstairs bedrooms ending finally through both levels  on top of the roof. It was capped by a china- man’s hat to keep out rain.  It heated the whole house during winter with cut up old wooden rail sleepers.The cottage had a waxed wooden floor downstairs and upstairs I painted the floors white. This was a typical workman’s cottage that might have housed some years back, a family with three or four children with a husband who could well have been employed in the stevedoring industry. He might  have smelled of tar, salt and rope each time he arrived home with his wife making tea and his children playing outside.

The harbour in front of this cottage was less than 100 metres away and always busy with towing of large boats of which the house would vibrate each time the propellers reversed. We made own furniture and made do with little.  Milk came in glass bottles and bread by baker doing the rounds announced by barking dogs. Even roosters were still around. We could afford the luxury of a nappy service and had a second hand washing machine of which the only drawback was that the pump had packed it up.  No worries, we sucked on the hose to get the gravity of flow going and let it run into our court yard. That is how it was. Not anymore now.

And at Christmas we had parties and fondues with friends and family sitting on planks suspended between paint drums while listening to the Beatles’ Sargent Pepper or Peter, Paul & Mary  thumping out from home made giant speaker boxes with 12 inch woofers, tweeters and cross-overs. Did we not also drink cheap headache wine squeezed out of bladders but yet into nice fluted glasses?. We would meet and compare the tie dyes. Wives sometimes dressed in pantsuits, men with hair the longer the better,  jeans dangerously flared. The enormous shoulder pads were yet to come, waiting in the wings.  They were the best years but aren’t all years of past the best?

 In Athens

In Athens

During that time when things had settled and some money coming in Helvi decided to visit her family in Finland taking our two young children with her. Our youngest daughter would be carried in a papoose while her sister was old enough to walk at airports  during change- overs while helpful in carrying her own little bag. It was quite a trip from Sydney with another plane to catch in Finland to the closest airport where her family lived. Finland is a huge country,  greater than the UK.

It  was going to be a six weeks holiday and I would be on my own. I could hardly wait for their return but had to do with receiving letters for the time being and the rare phone call. It was a lonely time and I missed my family.

It is then I made a choice that till this day I am still haunted, remembered and reminded of. I bought a wine-red knitted Safari suit. It had flared pants and a double breasted jacket held together with brass gold buttons and a belt of same material above my hips but below armpits with large gold coloured ostentatious looking  buckle. The pants were held up with its own wine red belt made of same knitted material.I also bought  something resembling shoes that were from Egypt and made of rope that was coiled around the toe  and heel  part above the sole with in between the rope arrangement  a  cream leather-like material and  a buckle on top. I completed the whole outfit with a modest gold chain worn unobtrusively but magnificently opulent, around my neck.  My idea was to look a new man or at least a reborn man.  A proud prince of unsurpassed passion and vibrant vitality. I wanted to impress my Helvi. I looked of course a one hit pop star failure, but at the time wasn’t aware of this, blinded as usual by foolish folly.

Finland, just married.

Finland, just married.

I went to the airport on the day of my family’s return to Sydney. All good things come to an end. As my little family passed through customs and into the  arrival hall I spotted them first. The look on my wife’s face was of utter disbelief soon followed by a scowling disapproval. ‘What are you wearing now?’ she said. My daughters too looked frightened. Of course we drove home all excited to be together again but Helvi kept on looking at my suit and shaking her head. I never wore the suit again nor ever shopped for clothes without Helvi having an input. I am fashion blind.

The shoes went into the slow combustion Broadway.

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41 Responses to “The Safari suit.”

  1. sedwith Says:

    Wanted to send you a pattern cover photo your post encouraged me to search for wine red safari suit….cant show the photo but its called Vintage wear on etsy. Nice to know the style is merely that -a style. I blame the BG’s for those high waisted pants. Funny thing is my sister took a rear end shot of one of my sons standing next to their grandfather and their pants were both hanging off their bums…one was style the other….vintage!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    A proud prince of passion! What a great sentence and what a great memory. We had a friend who was a wealthy clothier who went in for a baby blue jumpsuit at that time, also with an ostentatious gold pendant hanging around is neck. The good Dr. also had a fashion faux pas when he met me at the train dressed in a bright plaid jacket. Blame the designers and the media.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patti Kuche Says:

    This is priceless, coming from the “proud prince of unsurpassed passion and vibrant vitality” all wrapped up in the ultimate suit of seduction. A great story Gerard, great times!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, they were great times. That cottage was so charming and being right near the water. The suit was a disaster but I just could not see it then, things have improved a little since

      Like

  4. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Oh my, Gerard, I haven’t laughed this much in a long time. You must have stunned poor Helvi into total disbelief. I can only imagine what you looked like in that red suit, shoes and, chain necklace. I bet you could have rivaled any vaudeville act.

    Excellent writing here. I relish the posts that make me laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. gerard oosterman Says:

    Laughter is best medicine and I am very encouraged when I make anyone laugh. Thank you for those lovely words,Ivonne

    Like

  6. M-R Says:

    And the suit …?

    Like

  7. algernon1 Says:

    Gerard I never thought of you as a medailan man nor can I picture it. Great story though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dorothy brett Says:

    Gerard with your long blond hair, and chiselled cheekbones you must indeed have looked a Prince. But who In Their right mind sold it to you?
    I can just imagine the shock you gave Helvi and the girls. Keep the blogs coming my dear friend we need lighthearted reading these days. Dorothy Brett

    Like

  9. Julia Lund Says:

    Love your reminicences and the comments too. Each one is a mini novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. roughseasinthemed Says:

    So where’s the Liberace pic? We lived in Potts Point. McDonald St. It was still the same in the 80s, as was the Cross.

    Like

  11. Silver in the Barn Says:

    Here’s just some of the things I love about this post: Cheeses not named “tasty.” He might have smelled of tar, salt and rope. Roosters were still around. Jeans dangerously flared. Something resembling shoes….oh, never mind, I love this post with an unsurpassed passion and vibrant vitality.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Andrew Says:

    I really laughed at this Gerard. Everybody makes ‘fashion’ mistakes. I owned a pair of crimson crimplene flares. A constant danger of static shock. And a pair of yellow and black sports shoes. Hideous. But evidently I saw them differently at the time. You are lucky Helvi didn’t divorce you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Everybody makes fashion mistakes. That is reasuring but I fear without my H i would be walking around in hideous outfits and arrested for disturbing the peace.
      I notice now young people walking around with more holes in their clothes than there is material.

      Like

  13. Jackie Says:

    Great story – I enjoyed it very much.

    Like

  14. elizabeth2560 Says:

    Your description of your first homes brought back vague memories of my grandmother’s and aunt’s houses. It is amazing back then how material possessions did not matter. It was all about people.

    Like

  15. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    Potts Point Liberace! Fabulous. A feast of visual imagery and a great improvement on the walnuts in an old sock! Always great to have a high laugh when I visit your blog, Gerard.

    Like

  16. rod Says:

    A wonderful post. They’re coming thick and fast now, so it occurs to me to hope that they are not only on WP. I hope you have them all saved somewhere else as well. Because what is on WP can disappear overnight, as happened to someone I know when they decided to cancel his account. This is unlikely, but can happen.

    I hadn’t realised Finland was so big even after the evil Soviets grabbed a chunk of it by force.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Rod,
      Thank you for your advice and I shall heed it now.
      Andrew said the same. I haven’t saved any except my original book of 75.000 words ( Frank’s story) that I printed and is in a drawer somewhere.
      I will start printing them tomorrow as I have a laser B/W printer and even if I do 20 a day it won’t take that much time to go through the 670 posts I have done so far..
      Yes Finland is big and lovely country. Sibelius summed it up in his music, I think. Finlandia was banned during Russia’s occupation of Finland as it whipped up the Finns it such a patriotic fervour it threatened their grip on Filnand.

      Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Try as I might but can’t print any of it. Is there some secret to it? I have two printers and none will print from W P.

      Like

      • rod Says:

        I have never tried to print from WP. I usually draft posts in Word then paste them into WP. So now I have quite a big file of posts on my PC. If I wanted to print any out I could.

        So one solution would be to copy posts from your WP into Word, Google Docs or whatever, then print out what you want.

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        I have tried for two days to print from WP. I have cut and paste, moved it to all sorts of files, and done just about everything apart from hurling the computor out of the window. I can print from everything but nothing from WP.
        I am getting a friend over in the week-end who is an expert at settling problems and their owners.
        Wndows 8.1 should be banned..
        Thanks Rod. I will persevere.

        Like

  17. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    We belong to the same era, so this was all funny, familiar territory. My paisley bellbottoms linger in my memory, but the lime-green flared mini-skirt with the pink skinny-ribbed sweater stands out as my worst sartorial choice. What, in the name of Beelzebub, is a sandalled souteneur?

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I thought a souteneur is English but now I know it is French and Dutch. It means someone procuring a woman for prostitution. In other words a pimp. (in my case wearing sandals as they wont to do).

      Like

  18. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Oh Lord! I can just imagine the scene……It was the discreet gold chain that did it for me. Poor Helvi!! Thank God that you didn’t have a comb-over to complete the look😉

    Like

  19. ThePoliticalVagina Says:

    I dunno, it sounds like the epitome of sartorial elegance! At least you got to shine once Gerard🙂 My eldest brother Merv had a pink gabardine safari suit and I thought he looked smashing! My dad had a pale blue one which he wore for a very long time past fashionable but he wore it well. Those were the days my friend….

    Like

  20. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist Says:

    A wonderful description of a time past. I remember the safari suit although I can’t recall seeing one in red. You would have been a sight for sore eyes indeed. And yes, they were great times.

    Like

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