With the first sex and my curiosity about it somewhat satisfied and the Maltese woman and gun in wardrobe fading into Oosterman history, I concentrated with renewed vigour into saving and planning to go back to Holland. Readers (if there are any) might remember I had a little metal box into which I saved as much as I could. Of course while living at home I gave all earnings to mother with the getting of own block of land and own house. This too had been achieved within a few years. The garage was now being used to rent out to other migrants which was handy to top up mum’s income running a very busy household. Who would have thought the take up in the new country had made such rapid progress in such a short time. There was mum now collecting rent, the Merchant of Prosperity and now a Rent Lord.
With Frank now coming and going, from the nightmare of what was Callan Park, at his whim, the atmosphere was often tense. The first sight of Frank we would all just scatter to friends. The impasse between what we thought Frank would and ought to finally get in care, and the rough reality, went on without resolutions. We either had to sign up for his permanent incarceration at a lunatic asylum or put up with Frank basically doing what he liked at the hospital, coming and going whenever and in whatever condition he might find himself in. It was absolutely dreadful and remained an unimaginable horror, not only to Frank but to the rest of the family. Friends urged my parents to send him back to Holland. Things were supposed to be so much better and more advanced in The Netherlands.
This wasn’t easy done with a mentally ill person. He would have to have nursing staff to accompany him as well as my parents and how would Frank feel being left in Holland without anyone? A conundrum if ever there was. This would finally resolve itself when both Frank and my parents went back for good to Holland in 1974. They had enough. On hindsight that was always the best thing to have done. Pensions and healthcare had improved well above the level in Australia. The pension here was ‘means and asset’ tested. This was achieved in an office of the Social Securities. On top of everything my parents were asked to empty all in pockets and handbags on the table in front of the person dealing with my parents pension. My mother never felt so humiliated in her entire life. In Holland everybody works towards a pension, rich or poor get the basic pension. Not means test. Even today, a pension in Australia is regarded as ‘welfare’ or ‘hand-out’ as is unemployment relief, and single mother’s income etc. and not as entitlements that civil societies work towards.
It might all have contributed to the fomenting and nurturing of my rich curmudgeon psyche but I really wanted to go back and try regain what I had left. This was a mistake. But really, making mistakes is a good way of spending years in preparation for adulthood. I always felt that. Never regret a mistake is my motto. I don’t know how but I had saved up for a trip to Holland within a few years. It was still the old monetary English system of complicated pounds and shillings, pennies. The single boat fare to Genoa and then the train to Amsterdam was 110 pounds in 1962/63. The boat trip over was fantastic. Can you imagine; the orchestra playing jaunty music, games of tombola, the daily sweepstake and lots of young people on their first trip overseas? I do remember the orchestra’s players being so bored playing the same music, day in day out, week after week, month after month. It was a job so much like everybody had to make a job. Is the chopping of steaks or the soling of shoes any better ( year in year out)?
I also wanted to work in an office and wear a suit and attache case. In Australia, especially during the first few years doing piece work on machinery and clocking up lots of overtime, I was wondering how it would be to go to work with something like having some importance. I don’t know why I thought this would be better suited in Holland. The arrival by train in Holland was without fanfare. There was no one greeting me at Central Station. I could not have expected it. Even so, I almost thought; can’t people see I am a returned migrant from Australia? An absurdity of thought. I moved into a distant uncle place who had a bed that folded into a wall but who was also dying with cancer and an ex chess master. He was forever berating his ex wife and expected me to cheer him on. I used to mix great lumps of mince meat mixed with hot spices. He loved it and even felt the spices to cure his cancer. He wasn’t used to chilli but red in the face he would eat lots of the spiced minced steak to the exclusion of everything else. It might well have hastened his final demise.
My old school friends I revisited and within ten minutes they were watching TV. It had all moved on and they weren’t interested in re-visiting that which had gone by. One of my friends had married and with two children gave me the sage advice and unhappily said ; ‘never get married.’ As is known today, I did and it was the best thing I ever! So, there is so much uncertainty about life. It is all such a risk and bobbing about on tides that can sweep you out as well as sweep you ashore. We do our best.
I haven’t yet even come to ‘business and Dutch National service. That will come next time.