Business and National Service in Holland.



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.


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19 Responses to “Business and National Service in Holland.”

  1. Carrie Rubin Says:

    I imagine your wife and kids are happy you never took that advice to not get married!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Great writing Gerard. Your life is getting more interesting with each successive post. I’m glad your folks moved back with your brother Frank so that he could have proper care. Australia sounds as if it’s a backward country. I would never have known since it seems to be so progressive in everything else. Certainly not functioning on a decent social and mental health program for its citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Australia has many good things going but on a social level it has moved towards the right and this means that if you miss out on a job or health and other things of misfortune one gets left behind. One could end up sleeping rough or under a bridge.
      We are all supposed to be ‘leaders and not leaners’, but…leaders lead those that don’t care for leading or just want to be part of the community and don’t have the ambition to get rich or have three TVs and lots of bathrooms and multiple electric pepper grinders or electric lettuce spinners.
      Leaders can also exploit and corrupt, so…we need a good just humanity more than just only leaders. I love leaning.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Andrew Says:

    Fascinating times and such difficult decisions for your family, Gerard. I did not realise a pension was regarded so poorly in Australia. We pay in when we can so we take out when we can’t. Isn’t that how it works?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It was a difficult decision for my parents to take Frank back but as we had all grown into our own lives, it was a great move. They received a better pension and Frank has good care. Right now I am looking at my latest bank statement and for the few years I worked in Holland our Dutch part pension is actually more than my Australian pension for which I worked for over forty years. Amazing!
      And then they talk about ‘double dipping’ as if a pension is somehow a hand-out.


  4. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    I like to get to know you better and better. A good friend of mine died when we were both very young. She had no regrets, even though her life was cut short. I talked with her a lot and decided then and there to live my life without regrets as well. So far, I don’t have any…even though I made some really questionable choices…but what can I say, they are part of me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Regrets are pretty useless and it is not even like a coffee or a walk along the river. It never sustains or nourishes. I like your reminiscing about past costs of ciggies and rolling your own. I made a pipe from hollowing an acorn and sticking straw grass through it. Gee, I did enjoy that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nonsmokingladybug Says:

        How old were you? I remember that we smoked similar stuff when we were really little. I have no idea what it was, because the older boys built it. Maybe that’s a good thing 🙂


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        I would have been about 13 or so. I had pinched the tobacco from the milkman who left his stuff on the steps because he was serving a customer. He would have looked forward to continue his rolling of his cigarette when it just all was gone. I never confessed it was me. Of course, we were one of his best customers with a large family.


  5. rod Says:

    I think I read that Abbott was opposed to gay marriage, though his sister is a lesbian. Though things are moving on well in Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Abbott is dragged, kicking and screaming into accepting marriage in any shape or form. His sister is leading the charge. Ireland made a move and Australia is following but Abbott is gnashing his teeth. He so likes to be pious and genuflect in front of Prince Phillip. He is weirdo.
      He now wants to take citizenships away by his minister without any court of law. He loves punishing and whipping.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Patti Kuche Says:

    Sorry to hear about the tv going on so soon after your triumphant return . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I understand the reference to lack of interest of your old friends. I returned for a visit to my old job at which I had worked for some 20 years in a somewhat elevated position. There were no bells and whistles set off at my arrival, and new people received me with blank faces.


  8. Julia Lund Says:

    You are right about regrets. If we could go back and change things, I guess we’d all have something we like to think we wouldn’t choose again, choices that perhaps hurt or damaged those we love. But we can’t go back, not that that gives us carte blanche to waltz about doing just what we like without regard for consequences. Perhaps the best part of regret is that it changes us, makes us love the life we have and makes us relish the opportunities we can still grab rather than wallowing in the despair of what we got wrong?

    I can only imagine how hard it must have been for your parents to move so physically far away from their children for the good of one (and all?). But ultimately, as parents, all we can hope for is to do the best we can to launch our offspring into independent and, hopefully, happy lives. It seems your parents were the particularly successful sort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Julia.
      We could so easily have turned right instead of left, done this instead of that, we could have stayed or gone away….
      My parents made a wise move to go back. It helped Frank and the rest of us had found our feet in Australia.
      Overall, they did a good job.

      Liked by 1 person

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