With a magic car on three wheels, a dog on three legs, many normal rats on all fours, but against that a factory owner with a creaking wooden leg, it was time for our family to bring some normalcy about. With dad’s discovery of the Southern night’s sky and with his beloved study of the Milky Way restored, things were on the upper trajectory once again. I was working earning money and so was my brother Frank. Even dad now donned a blue Yakka overall and put shoulders under the task of pitching in towards a better future. The premise of ‘ we do it for the children’ had to be fulfilled. No good regretting and mulling over what was. Past is past and Holland is cold and probably raining as well.
In those days jobs were everywhere and I managed to learn a lot on all sorts of heavy engineering machinery. The lathe, heavy presses and milling machines seemed to be everywhere I went and piece work was introduced as an incentive for workers to earn more than just a wage. Of course the shields that were there to protect workers from getting limbs cut off were often disabled to save time in cutting or pressing and milling the next bit of bolt or drilled bracket. I noticed hands with missing fingers. With piece work and overtime I just about doubled my weekly earnings and my metal box was singing its praise with all those savings tucked inside. I wasn’t too stingy though and allowed myself a packet of ten Graven A’s cigarettes and the occasional Fanta orange drink with pie. A glorious celebratory gesture towards the golden paved Australia.
Mother decided that we needed to get away to our own accommodation as quickly as possible. Our Dutch friends gave us the opportunity to achieve this by asking very little in rent or perhaps none at all. I can’t remember. I do remember that the place they lived in was not theirs but belonged to the timber yard owner. A bit of confusion but ‘owning’ own house was a concept we had no real understanding of anyway. That was yet to come! Apart from overtime earnings, all our income was pooled and given to Mum to try and move away to a better place away from being surrounded by piles of timber with dust and mud. One of the daughters taught me the basics of photo developing which we did in the back lean-to which was also the bathroom with the hot gas geyser above it. There was nothing like the hot weekly bath to luxuriate in at the end of a 6o hour work week languidly thinking of Anna Magnani of ‘The Rose Tattoo’, that I had seen during those cultural lean times. As I was taking this hot bath I noticed the friends’ Liebeth walking by outside looking at me inside and in the bath. It might have been a case of being curious about the nude male. There might also have been a healthy awakening of her hormones. She was about twelve or thirteen. In any case, she had a quick look but from the angle of her eyes she observed more than just my face.
During the six months or so that we lived with the Dutch friends a rather pleasant memory involving the bathroom looking inside with Lies installed itself that I have not forgotten. On Sundays it was the norm still then to dress up in Sunday best. My pants would be pressed and its crease would be preserved as much as possible at least during the morning. I would hitch up the crease when crossing legs and so did my dad and other brothers wearing long pants, at least till coffee and cakes had been consumed. With the ironed pants came a nice blue shirt and tie fastened by a clasp to be perfectly centred at all times. On top of that a sports jacket but kept off during the Sunday cake eating.
When cake eating was finished, Lies and I wondered off to the next allotment behind the house that was somewhat secluded from views with stacks of baths (my mother’s dream) and some bushes. I have forgotten on the why and how but suddenly Lies grabbed my tie clasp and ran away with it. I gave chase and caught her quickly. She laughed but I remained serious. It was my tie clasp. I tried to take it back but she would not give in and kept it firmly in her grip while tucking both hands between her legs. I wrestled but was too religious or too shy to act deliberately inappropriately by grabbing her between her legs and hands to retrieve my tie clasp. I instead went to safer grounds and put one of my hands upwards on her tiny breasts knowing full well that the clasp would not be found there. It was a moment of daring and my second exploration of the female softness. Keen readers would remember a previous attempt less than a year before when still in Holland.
There was a shout from the house. One of the sisters who taught me the photo developing thought it had gone far enough. She was hanging from the top window and called us back home. And that was that. I never got my tie-clasp back. They were lean times in exploring the sexual awakenings of my youth. My mother always taught me to make the best of things. ‘Gerard’ she often said; ‘you have to row with oars that you were given.’