One cannot live off disillusionment alone.

etching by G O

etching by G O

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.

The farm in Holland

The farm 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.’

So true.

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26 Responses to “One cannot live off disillusionment alone.”

  1. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Love, love, love your etching. What a talented fellow you are Mr Oosterman. PLEASE show us more of your work.

    Who’d have thought a tie-clasp could be such fun, eh? I well remember those early attempts at hanky-panky – there was a lot of giggling and chasing involved. However, since I’ve never been fleet of foot, the chase was inevitably short and well, you can guess the rest….

    Your farm in Holland looks very similar to the one that my grand-parents had near Almelo with its thatched roof.

    I like your mother’s saying. As it happens, I’ve got to have a serious talk with my son later and I might just throw in ‘you have to row with oars that you were given’ for good measure.

    Liked by 5 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I’ll scan some more of those works and put them on ,Lottie.

      Hanky panky is what one did when young. When getting older it is often more hanky than panky! Almelo wasn’t all that far from us near Assen, futher north. The place was Eursinge.
      You tell your son, Lottie. We all have to row, often up the creek and without a paddle.
      How are you going Lottie? How is the Spanish garden and court-yard right now? At its best I bet?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lottie Nevin Says:

        I know exactly what you mean about the creek and no paddle! All is good here and I must write a post soon. There’s so much going on and we are very busy but all is bueno. I’ll post some photos of the courtyard and home improvements very soon. It’s a work in progress but we are getting there and of course this time of the year is perfection. Lots of wild flowers, glorious sunshine and an endless stream of visitors which I love. After reading your post I went to see if I could find anything about the farm on the internet, photos etc but I can’t find it. It was just outside Tubbergen and we used to bicycle for miles and miles along the sandy farm tracks and through the forests. Very much looking forward to seeing your work. We are about to set up a large print studio complete with etching press, printing presses and silkscreen. Exciting times!

        Liked by 2 people

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        That is an exciting programme Lottie. An etching press is not something you find in the local paper. I used a converted mangle but also had the use of a proper press at East Sydney art college.
        Glad that you are busy and have lots of visitors. I just painted our place, both walls and celings. Stark white.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. rod Says:

    One of the best titles you’ve come up with in this post – but in today’s climate stealing someone elses’s paddle isn’t unknown.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Rod. In Australia there is a saying; I am up shit-creek without a paddle- meaning, things are pretty hopeless. Australians are good at hopeless situations. A shrug, a schooner of beer and tomorrow will be better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Silver in the Barn Says:

    Lately I’ve been thinking about finding the time to study the night sky. Our here in the country we really see the stars so vividly – huge masses of them and bright points which might be planets and I don’t like that I can’t “read” the sky just a bit. I like to imagine your father finding some sort of connectedness by gazing up at all that wonder.

    Your etching is lovely. I agree with Lottie – would like to see more.

    And clearly that girl was crazy about you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gerard oosterman Says:

    My dad had a passion for the stars and also for radio signals, loved working on his short wave sets that he built himself. He was forever buying special valves, resistors and bits and pieces he would solder onto his radios.
    Glad you like my etching, Barbara. I would invite you to come and see my etchings if we were closer. 😉


  5. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    Ahh, I just met Gerard the young explorer :-).


  6. Andrew Says:

    A very vivid and entertaining tale, Gerard. Much enjoyed.


  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Very touching story about your father and his love of the Milky Way. The move to Australia was obviously not what he had imagined and sent him into a mild depression. What a wonder that the night sky rescued him. Great story and I liked the etching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Kayti. Dad always had a fascination with what was above him in the sky. He made peace with his wife’s wishes for migrating away from his own country to try and give the kids a better future and above all, to have own bathroom. This all seemed reasonable enough at the time. But…so much more to come!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Gerard, Gerard you little devil. You and the girls. I get a good laugh when I read your posts. I like your mom’s saying but I’ve always heard “you are up a creek without a paddle” which is not the same meaning. My mother used to say, Everybody has to hoe their own row.” That means get on with it because you are responsible for how you make your life and how to earn your way in the world.”

    PS: That’s a cool etching. Very talented man, you are.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Ivonne,
      The girl episode together with the Polish taxidriver’s wife in the shower cubicle gave some relief to what otherwise would have been an almost impossible and unforgivingly hard landing in Australia. We had to paddle hard to get us going towards a future. My mother was the driving force behind it all. A very unusually strong woman.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Julia Lund Says:

    Love that: ‘you have to row with the oars you were given.’ I’ll remember that …

    Your etching is stunning.


  10. bkpyett Says:

    Lovely etching Gerard and the story sweetly told!


  11. Says:

    I’m very taken with the idea of rowing with the oars I have been given.


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