The period post Italy but pre- Finland. (Auto-biography)

Dolomites

Dolomites

The walk from Bressanone rail-station uphill to Bernard’s chalet must have been steep and long. Did I ask for a map or directions? I cannot remember. Consider that in those years suitcases on wheels were yet to be discovered nor were back-packs as progressive as they are now! Today I see young women with such towering back-packs getting from airports to taxi almost to the point of other bystanders ready to give an ovation.  Mind you, even back-packs are now on wheels as well.

I must have had a rough idea and perhaps asked a local for the address. This area was pre-dominantly German-speaking and I was fluent in that language. Bressanone, even though now Italian, used to be part of Austria and still today pre-dominantly Austrian in culture and population. The area is South Tirol.

I do remember reaching the chalet and my friend coming out greeting me. It was definitely sunny. The view was breath-taking with Bressanone nestling down in the valley and at the back of the chalet the towering Dolomites climbing forever upwards, glistening with their limestone faces. The chalet was a small and solid white washed adobe house with ornately carved gables,  window and door architraves, of which that area is famous for, and really an extension of the same architecture of  the medieval town in East Tirol of Lienz were I had spent time skiing during the winter and were I had met the girl with the beautiful eyes from Finland. It was at Lienz where I also had a ski fall and broke my glasses, as well as meeting my future wife. ( while dabbing my bleeding proboscis).

It was all such a liberating event. Liberated from the suburban ennui back in Australia with my family and Frank.  A liberation from wanting to work while wearing a suit hoping for recognition, admiration or at least something of achievement. A kind of something that young people are supposed to work towards. A career that would cement a solid future and  distinguish one from failure. All those things are not always so clearly defined but yet one grows up with as an obligation to fulfil to parents. As those early years passed by I did have a skill to earn some money and that stood me in good stead. However, the making of money is pretty boring unless compensated or alleviated  by an all encompassing and absorbing activity for  soul, spirit or psyche.

There are often moments of great significance that are recognised as such at a much later time. The meeting up with Bernard Durrant was one of those chances that on hindsight proved to be of great influence.  At the time in Italy we met for the second time. I had known Bernard in Australia. It was through him I took to chess playing and reading books and visiting State library.  He gave the advice to run your hand over the back of books at a library and pick the dustiest books! ‘They are often the best’, he said, especially in Australia! Reading in the early fifties was somewhat frowned upon. It was much healthier to play rugby or cricket, spear-tackle opponents. Libraries  visits by young men were rare.

I give you here a very short and copied biography of Bernard from a website by one of his friends.

“Already serving in the Army, Bernard was recruited by British Intelligence on the eve of the Second World War and was smuggled into Germany, but was soon discovered by the Nazis due to an inadequate cover story. Offered the choice of switching sides or death, he was posted to Alexandria, Egypt, where his brief was to spy on Allied shipping in the Mediterranean.When he arrived in Egypt, he escaped his German paymasters, and eventually made it back to the British Consul in the country.By this time he was considered tainted goods and was shipped back to Britain.

Once back on English soil he was promptly imprisoned in the Isle of Man under the Defence Regulation Section 18b, which was used by the Government to lock up more than 1,000 suspected traitors during the course of the war”. ( end of quote)

Girl with the 'Beautiful eyes' at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Girl with the’Beautiful eyes’ at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Bernard become the lifebuoy that saved me from going the normal way of career, block of own land and a house in the suburbs. I came so close to it. He got me to accept and understand that life ought to be inclusive of beauty and art. He went further and told me that life is all about exploration and finding what would give the greatest of joy and satisfaction. It all gelled and came together and I finally felt that my search for the essential would have to come through expressing what I felt strongest about. It might also relieve me from having to worry about career and job. It was so helpful that there were people like Bernard who had also travelled that same path and had found that creativity and expressing it was as much a ‘normal’ part of someone’s life as becoming a cigar smoking bank manager. Apart from all that we would continue to play chess high up the Tirol mountains.  I started to paint while Bernard already was writing poetry, some of which he managed to get published here and there. He had contacts and spoke both German and Italian which for an Englishman was somewhat unique.

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33 Responses to “The period post Italy but pre- Finland. (Auto-biography)”

  1. Andrew Says:

    It is remarkable how these turning points arise and the impact they have on us. I loved the library advice, looking for the dustiest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, It is remarkable and often recognised much later on. I could so easily have turned into an actuary or a stool specialist.

      Like

      • Andrew Says:

        Stool specialist???? What does a stool specialist do, Gerard? I shudder to think.

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Andrew, You are right to shudder. I was just harking back to when I was given a stool-kit after a bout of intestinal hurry. I found out that only the most hardy of apprentice pathologists ever really make it. They have to go through a period of solid stool peering for 18 months before they go to the next level. (Teeth and toes)
        The stool kit contains a scoop, a plastic jar and rubber gloves. Oh, the horror!

        Like

  2. elizabeth2560 Says:

    Great post of finding joy in following a different path in life rather than the ‘normal’ way. Did you continue down that path?

    Like

  3. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    I think the twenties is the most difficult decade of one’s life. I’m glad you didn’t settle for the suit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      No, I can’t remember I wore a suit last. I don’t have a suit. Just a drawer full of socks, a few shirts, pants etc. A very fine pair of boots and some sandals. Lots of saucepans and unlimited knives and forks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Sometimes all it takes is a suggestion from a respected friend on finding a new path. I’m gld you found yours.

    Like

  5. auntyuta Says:

    I doubt that I would find books with dusts on them in today’s libraries. But I agree that really good books are not being read enough by the general public. I think people mostly like to read for entertainment and what they can easily understand.
    This morning it said Dapto had 5 C and felt like 4 C. I can vouch for this, that this is how it felt! But it is promising to be another beautiful sunny day. We enjoyed yesterday a wonderful walk in the sun along the lake. Hope yours and Helvi’s weekend has been perfect so far. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
    If the weather stays fine like this, we might be travelling up Macquarie Pass on Tuesday or Wednesday.🙂

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Dapto at 5c would be cold, yet here a normal or even warm morning. Wednesday would suit us fine and are looking forward in (finally) meeting up. I think tomorrow Monday we have a grandson job in Sydney when our daughter works.
      My eyesight now has to be preserved and I read and write on blogs but not so much books anymore.
      Getting older is a bit of a bummer. Thank goodness for Bali.😉

      Like

  6. Dorothy Brett Says:

    Gerard, another lovely story about your life, I just love your. Writings especially whilst I am in Den Haag. Love Dorothy

    Like

  7. bkpyett Says:

    Your photo absorbs the atmosphere of not only a beautiful girl, but that wonderful snowy climate. Umberto, my 1st husband’s grandparents lived in Tarvisio in South Tirol, so we spent many holidays there. Their 1st language was German, 2nd Italian. A magical place. I’m glad you found the fuller life!

    Like

  8. gerard oosterman Says:

    The photo of Helvi was actually taken on the platform of a local train station at Ankeriasjarvi, Finland where we had rented a cottage on a frozen lake after our marriage. To stop the train one had to raise an arm. It was Dr Zhivago country with – 35C on some days. Not on that day though!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. berlioz1935 Says:

    Your friend Bernard sounds great. I never got to know anybody whom I could describe as a guiding voice. My parents were not like that at all. There was no encouragement or praise. To follow one’s inclination was unthinkable. You had to knuckle under. The process of liberation for me only started here in Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Hello Peter,
      My parents were so busy with all of us they just were flat out providing bed and shelter. We all knew we had to make our own lives as they did. They loved and cared for us. They did not drive us to soccer or school, taught us the violin, ballet, nor did they endlessly hug and cuddle and praised us for scribling nonsense or for lazyness and non efforts.

      Like

  10. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Everybody needs a Bernard in their life but not every one finds one. I’m glad you found your St Bernard.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. rod Says:

    Given that Bernard was discovered by the Nazis, he was fortunate to survive the war. Just as well he did.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I am amazed he lived that long. We both married at roughly the same time. He married a Japanese girl and moved to live in japan while H and I moved back to Holland with our three young children. We were both avid smokers. Bernard had a heart operation in Japan and we lost contact for decades till fairly recently when I googled his name and we had a few exchanges by letter. He died at 92 after the publication of another book of poetry and his memoires.

      Like

  12. Curt Mekemson Says:

    This certainly speaks to the value of mentors, Gerard. I was fortunate to have several. It sounds like Bernard was a great one. FYI, I am going to be off the Net for a couple of months. After five years of steady blogging, it’s time for a short break. I’ll see you in September. –Curt

    Like

  13. petspeopleandlife Says:

    I suppose you could say that Bernard rescued you from the mindless
    chore of looking for a job that required wearing a suit. Lottie had it right when she referred to him as St Bernard since he saved the day/life for you with sage advice.

    Helvi is quite the looker and you did yourself proud when you charmed her and then snagged her to be your wife.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, The last time I wore a suit was possibly at my bank job when I was in my early twenties. I have a second hand Pierre Cardin jacket that used to belong to Chris Murphy who is a well known lawyer. That is for another story though.
      Helvi and I snagged each other really., but it is true, she is so much better looking than I.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Charlotte Hoather Says:

    Our language education in the UK is really poor, I didn’t really learn English grammar until I started studying languages and I was introduced to conjugating verbs!

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I think languages are not very popular here in Australia either. Many seem to think that everyone ought to get by just speaking English. I never understood why my English in Holland was taught at a higher level and was better than that of the locals in Australia.
      They did not seem to have any rules about grammar.

      Like

  15. Julia Lund Says:

    Perhaps we could all do with a Bernard in our life? What a legacy to have touched and shaped someone’s life for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sartenada Says:

    Greetings from Finland!

    Like

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