The vexatious uncle now wanted to put all his rancour on my conscience. His loss of two chess games to my friend lumped together with his unfortunate marital experiences now seemed to have become part of my doing. At the time when I was living with him the vexation was still owned and shared by his ex-wife, even though they had been divorced for many, many years. At least I wasn’t involved and remained free of any blame. However, since my introduction of my English friend and the subsequent chess games, it ( the vexation) was now shifted in my direction. I warded the blame off and felt that at least with my diligence in mixing and making the mincemeat-bread-eggs and chilli fricandelles, this should have been taken into account when his vexatious behaviour took the better of him. I never promised he would be cured from his cancer and often just agreed that the mixture would do no harm. I mean, the chilli would not harm him, especially not since he seemed to enjoy the spicy taste.
He was a man in his fifties and ought to have been wiser than me. He suffered from cancer but that was well before my arrival and/or the chilli laced patties. It is true, I introduced the chilli as I used it already back in Australia. I had Dutch friends that had been born in Indonesia where the chilli is almost an institute. There is some suggestion in medical circles that chilli is somewhat addictive but that can be only good seeing it contains lots of good vitamins. I mean compared with Coca Cola or sugary drinks I would rather have a chilli addiction! It was the loss of his chess games that tipped it all over with the vexation sheeted home to me for having introduced him to my uncle. Of course, that sort of reasoning is illogical if not unjust as well, but with people there is not always a straight course in justness or logic. One always has to be on the qui vive for unpredictability, especially in oneself. He might have, deep down in the recesses of his inner-self, realised that the chilli wasn’t helping him but chose to cling to this wrongly held belief in the magic curing quality of it anyway. Perhaps today I would have had more understanding of his plight. After all, he was in the last few weeks of his life!
As previously explored in some detail I wanted to have the prestige of working somewhere wearing a suit. It is an odd ambition to have but better to have achieved and overcome an oddness than to forever long for it. Nothing gained if not tried. One could question why the wearing of a suit was so important but I had not really explored the working in an office. My jobs since the age of 15 and a few months were mainly around machinery inside factories, where in the fifties the moods were rather grim and grimy, ( and that, apart from the very fashionable but dubious ‘dating’ habits between the leering men during the fifties and sixties, proving somehow they were hetero after all)’. After the factories, there was a short stint in spectacle making, grinding glass lenses fastened on convex steel chucks by hot pitch with a rotating concave hood on top of the lens; again very dirty work. This time it wasn’t dating but the smearing of ultramarine- blue dye around the testes of hapless apprentices that was popular. God only knows what went on in England at the time. I am pretty sure this all was an import of initiation ceremonies/rites from the old mother country on the convict transport ships.
The very first office job I applied for I got. It was a small branch of The Rotterdam Bank in the east of Amsterdam. It had three people working including me. I was ‘afdeeling boekhouding’. or department book-keeping. A title that seemed loaded with prestige. I still had my suit from Sydney and had bought a small Hermes portable typewriter on which I furiously learned to type. It took me many seconds just to find an ‘a’ or a ‘f” but on arrival at the bank was shown this enormous bulldozer of an electric typewriter. Even so, I lasted the important first few days and soon understood that debit and credit were terms that one used and spoke about in banks. There weren’t any hints of dating or dyeing of testes.
The director/manager had his own special chair that swivelled while cashier and bookkeeper had chairs with fixed seats. The manager smoked cigars and read a financial news- paper. We had cigarettes and no paper. My job also included making the tea and leading customers to their downstairs safes where they would count diamonds or share certificates. The manager had the curious habit of smoking his cigar while tilting back his swivel chair and exhaling the smoke wishfully looking up towards the ceiling. It was one of those peculiar habits that most of us have. A kind of personal expression of something, like rubbing hands together, cupping our chin, doing a little quick step during a fleeting moment of a spontaneous and joyful thought.
One morning while manager was exhaling, the chair escaped underneath him and he fell back while still holding his cigar in one hand and the financial paper in the other. The cashier and department bookkeeping (me) couldn’t stop laughing but the manager could not. Now, that showed he wasn’t ripe for a managerial post. He was unsuitable and was given the sack soon after. I kept up catching the tram to work all dressed in my Reuben Scarf suit and holding my all important attaché case that included documents and all detailed architectural drawing for an opera house I had designed for Italy’s Milan. Except it held my sandwiches and an apple instead. It also came about that I received a letter that I would be required to enlist for possible National Service and if found healthy enough do a stint of two years in the Dutch Army. It took me just two hours to pack my suitcase and bid farewell to my uncle. I did not pick up any due wages or holiday entitlements from the bank. I took the train to Bressanone- Italy and joined my chess playing friend Bernard in the chalet. The sun shone from then on.
I was cured from my suit wearing.