Earlier times

Scanning through a box of photos which seemed to have escaped from being organised in an album, I thought of showing them for your enjoyment. I assume somewhat in a dictatorial manner that you would have the slightest interest let alone enjoyment in someone you have only met here on the internet. Still, I do feel I have met many of you troubling yourself in reading my words, even if not in the flesh.

Me 1942 wearing wooden klompen and pull-ups.

Me 1942 wearing wooden klompen and pull-ups.

The photo above is with my cousin Eva and taken on her parents property that had fruit trees. I don’t know much more than the fruit trees but it must have taken hold because apart from that, I can’t remember anything else. I was just two years old. Holland had capitulated two years before and Germany was now running Holland. The worst was yet to come. When I told my mother many years later how I remembered her cooking some porridge on one of those pump primus’  little heater/stove one very early and frosty morning, she was amazed because I was just 2 years old. She was cooking some porridge before taking me somewhere to a distant relative who still had more food than us. He was a tailor, married but no children.

On the way there my mother pulled me along on a snow sledge. The uncle lived some kilometres away from our place. While she pulled me along she spotted some German soldiers coming our way. She quickly pulled sledge and me and jumped into a ditch hoping they hadn’t noticed us. We kept hidden till they walked past. They had either not noticed us or they were just not bothered. The primus was a solid baked  enamelled green cooking device as was our green bucket that we kept the milk in. Saucepans too were enamelled and lasted for years, lifetimes even. Even when they developed a hole, a special man used to go a round and patch them up. Everything was patched up, restored and fixed. Now we chuck it out and rivers are full of debris choking up reeds, dams and trees during flooding rain. I spotted a perfectly good travel case stuck high up a tree during last weeks rain. I assumed it was in good order because that’s how it is. We buy new not because the old has worn or broken but because that’s how consumerism works. It has got us in its magic (rotten) spell.

1955/56 Just before migration to Australia with friends.

1955/56 Just before migration to Australia with friends.

This photo of me pondering in the middle was  during one of the best times of my life. The peak of teen years having just discovered the roseate softness of budding  breasts and smouldering hot eyes in a lovely  and eager girl. I was full of wonder what else there was still to discover about her? Her name was Margo. All this rudely interrupted with my parents decision to go so insanely far away. I had to live of those fleeting memories with Margo for a very long time after! The Australian suburban nightmare never  quite managed to wipe the good memories away. Of course, ‘the best times of my life’ should not be taken too literally. Times of unlimited possibilities and boundless optimism and belief in everything and nothing, is experienced by most but perhaps all too briefly during those teenage years. Later on it changes and seriousness so easily takes over for many. A routine becomes the enemy but I can say that I have been somewhat successful in fighting this routine and dulling repeats. I never did become an insurance actuary  or dedicated estate agent. Lacking a burning ambition in following a single profession was my forte. But how is one to know?

I did have a period whereby I suffered from not going to work while wearing a suit. I seemed to do jobs always wearing overalls or just work-wear with steel capped boots. I had fantasies of gaining some importance and recognition or worth, by going to work in a proper suit, and if possible with an attaché case carrying important papers. I returned to Holland and achieved this by working for a bank and  wore a suit for a few months.  It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. In the tram (line 22 to East Amsterdam)no one took notice and it was a lonely time in the office. No recognition al all. I did learn some book-keeping and typing.

After a few trips backwards and forwards, an escape from Dutch National Service, the bank job with suit, I ended up coming good after all. I married Helvi in Finland, who I had met a year or more before while skiing in Austria. She was still studying and I was painting pictures.

It was a long time ago. (with apologies to Actuary and Estate Agents)

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19 Responses to “Earlier times”

  1. berlioz1935 Says:

    That is how life is for most of us. We take opportunities or we don’t. Life is a haphazard undertaking. Setting goals and pursue them is a gift not given to us all. You have become a wise person not many of us are able to do that. Many people in their quest for fame and fortune fail, go under or even end up in jail. You did not sell your soul to the devil. Be happy that you are who you are. Your dignity is more valuable than anything that can only be expressed in money terms.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Life is haphazard indeed. We make the best of what floats by and regret is a waste of time better spent reflecting on the magic of what might still turn up. Your mother’s diary written during the last few days in Berlin at the end of WW2 sure is a bit of that unexpected magic.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dorothy brett Says:

    Another lovely story Gerard I love to hear about your life pre and list Helvi.
    Have you thought about writing your memoirs. I bet it would be a good read. Cheers your old friend Dorothy Brett

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rod Says:

    As far as I can see, actuaries while away the time figuring out when we’re going to die – so I wouldn’t feel inclined to apologise to them.

    Excellent reminiscence.


  4. Yvonne Says:

    Everyone has a story, we tend to think our lives have been so ordinary, but look how yours interests us!


  5. Julia Lund Says:

    Once again, lovely reflections. My mum used to say she wished she’d achieved more in her life – she felt the burden of having had to leave school at 15. In the last few weeks of her life, she had somewhat of a revelation as the countless people whose lives she had touched wrote letters or visited and she was astonished to learn how impact-full her life had been. It’s not what we earn or the status society awards that weigh our worth – those things are just what we do. Who we are is something else entirely


  6. Patti Kuche Says:

    Three gorgeous photos which cover such a treasure trove of rich memories. The fascination with spectacular childhood memories, such as your mother jumping into the ditch with you on the sled because of the Germans must at times feel like something out of another universe but then so was your move to Australia!


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I was lucky that the box of photos still survived, Patti. Some of those used to be in an album that I bought before migrating with my parents to Australia. They were put in there by using little squares to fit the photos in without using glue or tape. At some stage some of those photos must have been taken out and put in a box. It is a mystery of why or how that happened.
      I still have that album but with many of those little squares without the photos they once would have held.


  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Another engaging story Gerard. We have a large pair of klompen in our garden house and another small single one made by an uncle which was discovered under a cousin’s house.

    Dr. A put an attache case on top of his car and took off down the freeway. When several motorists kept pointing up, he stopped & retrieved it.

    Just because we are only cyber friends we are all grateful to have met.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Kayti. Your Dr. A briefcase on the car is the mirror of what happened to me. I drank a coffee while working on my car. I put the cup and saucer on the roof, forgot all about it, and drove all the way to North Sydney and back, including over The Harbour Bridge with people pointing to me and laughing.
      Coming home I noticed the cup on its saucer still on the roof intact. It was a solid Finnish ‘Arabia’ item. A combination of good careful driving and good Finnish ceramics.


  8. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Another time—I was on a morning run when I noticed something in a roadside ditch—a rusty cookie sheet. Took it out and recognized it as mine which I had put on top of my car a year before!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Master of Something Yet Says:

    “Lacking a burning ambition in following a single profession was my forte.” Oh, me too. I never did become an astrophysicist. Done the suit thing. Now revelling in wearing jeans and sneakers to work and playing with playdoh and shaving cream. But always with half an eye for what might be around the next corner.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. bkpyett Says:

    Enjoyed reading about your earlier life Gerard. Interesting photos too!


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