On the boat to Turku-Finland ( Auto-biography)

Old Turku, Finland

Old Turku, Finland

There is a Writer’s Festival on this week in Bowral. They seem to pop up everywhere now. I have never been to one yet. They are at the drop of a hat (or book) in Bali too.  Each day this week something to do with books and writing is on somewhere in this region. Helvi has read the pamphlet. It combines writers and their published books with lunches and sumptuous dinners. The prices range from $25.- to $150.- per person. A large banner is hung across the main street in Bowral advertising the event.  You wonder if writer’s festivals are in cahoots with restaurants to bolster trade?

There are two book shops in Bowral. One right next to the other. They have been here for years. Both often feature the same books. Mainly cooking. Lots of colour photos of pork crackling, almost to the point that the books seem to sizzle in sympathy. This week they both feature the Writers Festival. A good selection of known and unknown (by me)  writers will grace the festival to talk to and answer questions by interested readers and budding writers.  The Writer’s Festival advertisements also feature in the windows of chemist shops vying for space with the incontinence pads for the mature. Is there a link between reading books and incontinence? Does a Paracetamol tablet help? Does reading give cause for intestinal hurry syndrome? I must investigate.

I am not sure that if having a book published, and the deal includes also sitting at a dinner table and field questions from eager readers, would be worth it. How keen would I be to go through that? Would I not remain mute, staring at my plate with the rare-cooked beef-mignon  and Kipfler spuds? Or would I do a chameleon and change in a stand-up raconteur? There are those who write brilliantly and also perform well in public. I don’t.

Some years back I was asked if I would like to be interviewed on radio by someone called ‘Red’. The radio program was a light early breakfast kind of show. It was meant to be filled with laughter and happiness.  I should have been suspicious. The interview was  a result of what I had written on the ABC  ‘ The Drum.’  I had never heard of him but my daughters had. I remember sweating all night on what I would say and how my answers would come across. I knew the date and time when this short few seconds interview would take place, and had settled in a comfortable chair an hour before the interview.  I had also taken a shower, brushed my teeth.I was phoned up by ‘Red’s’ secretary and advised to turn my radio off. A time lapse would only confuse me!  I never heard or listened to the interview.

Many years before I was interviewed on TV about my experiences having undergone a vasectomy. Millions watched this, including my mother. “How is your performance now, post vasectomy, Mr Oosterman?” ” “Has it improved, or are you still recovering”, I was asked by the smirking but attractive Channel 9 girl.  Did I shrink? The local butcher had watched it too. “You had it cut off?, he asked while packing the snags.  Confidence is a strange animal. Fortunately, no interviews since.

I remember after boarding the boat to Finland that I had taken a suit on board in my suitcase, together with some of my small paintings with the gum trees and blue sky.. Was it the same suit that I wore in the Bank during my stint in Amsterdam? I have forgotten. I do remember lots of Australians on their way to England for their first experiences of a different country. A few passengers are worth mentioning. One was a large stomached Australian man with huge feet clamping equally large rubber thongs between enormous toes. Each day one would find him on the deck giving court to many listeners, all of whom seemed to crack tinnies of beer all day long. As the day grew in tandem with the mountain of tax-free empty tinnies, it became more and more raucous. On one particular day he held forth on the item of ‘love’.  “Oh love, he said dismissively, “it is nothing but something with hair on it!”   It resulted in a huge outburst of mirth by his disciples, almost an applause, certainly an approval. And then…, he did not come on deck anymore. Questions were asked. He had died midway between Aden and Port Said. I wondered if he died wearing his thongs?

Another person on-board was a Finnish boy named Pirkko.  He was on his way back to Finland, permanently. He did not like it in Australia. He had worked at Mount Isa, a large mining town and was somewhat reticent and shy, the opposite of the garrulous Aussies. I confided in him that I was going to Finland to marry a  Finnish girl and showed him a photo of Helvi. He was impressed and spoke about his family and background. The Finns are known for avoiding small talk and Pirkko was no exception. We would spent hours talking in silence. He disappeared soon after we both arrived by ferry on the Finnish shore from Sweden’s Stockholm. I thought too then that he wanted  to meet a girl from his home country.

From Genoa on I took a train to Stockholm and then the ferry to Finland. As the boat berthed at Finland’s Turku, I looked down from the deck of this huge ferry, she was there, waiting for me. She looked up and recognised me too.

She smiled.

24 Responses to “On the boat to Turku-Finland ( Auto-biography)”

  1. berlioz1935 Says:

    Australians are great with small talk and so much so, that it is hard to get a proper conversation going.

    Another good slice of your life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. auntyuta Says:

    You say: “I never heard or listened to the interview.”
    This reminds me, that I never listened yet to the interviews that were recorded for the National Library of Australia. Both Peter and I had been interviewed for hours and hours a few years ago. A bit later we were sent CDs of these interviews. I do not know whether I am ever going to listen to any of them! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Well, perhaps you might, Uta.
      Many people, especially the young have a video of their marriage. Do people ever watch them? I remember a couple getting married and watching the video afterwards. The wife was shown frantically unwrapping the presents while he was just drinking a lot with finally collapsing on top of the remnants of the wedding cake.
      They split up soon after.

      The omens were not so good.

      Marriages are in the hands of businesses and are now so expensive having to include limousines, photographers, printed invitations, ferries, overseas honeymoons, trestle tables and cotton napkins, forks and sharp knives, oysters and lemon tarts, lots of dresses and after-wedding gear with belts and feather hats.

      The expense in direct proportion to the duration of the marriage. The more expensive the sooner the divorce and the wedding video sadly left behind in the corner of the wardrobe.

      Liked by 3 people

    • berlioz1935 Says:

      I hate my voice and don’t like to listen to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Julia Lund Says:

    Yet again you have mixed the hilarious and the poignant. I often think there is nothing as evocative, nor as strangely sad, as those moments and people who are destined to be the ships that pass us in the night. But wouldn’t our lives be the poorer without them? I too shall sometimes think of Pirkko now. And the Australian with the big toes …

    I’m so glad Helvi smiled.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Patti Kuche Says:

    For some reason I imagine you doing very well at a book reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Patti. Is NYC now at its peak or is it yet to come? Look forward to you terrific art.


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        For those contemplating a holiday/honeymoon combo, this might be worth looking at. It is compliments from Sedwith.


      • auntyuta Says:

        Thanks for the link, Gerard. I found this interesting:

        ” . . . The propeller plane from Fiji Airways arrives twice a week and is the only fast way to get in or out. There is also the very occasional cargo slash passenger ship (with emphasis on cargo) between Fiji and Tuvalu.

        Why still visit?
        This country is one of a kind. People are more genuine and more welcoming than in most other places and everything seems more authentic than what is the case in ‘the real world’. The friendliness I experienced in Tuvalu is second to none, expect plenty of offers to ride on the back of random people’s mopeds. . . . “


      • Patti Kuche Says:

        Honestly Gerard, I would love to go to your book reading, always such a treat reading your latest adventures even if I am slow and so far behind. Very warm here in NYC and slowly working my way out of the summer stupor – are you still thinking of visiting here one day? Hope so! And thank you so much for your lovely comment -art!


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Well Patti, you would be most welcome and I’ll keep the best words for you.
        One day we will visit NYC and walk those Brooklyn pavements of which you have been so generous with in your photography.


  5. algernon1 Says:

    Fancy being interviewed about a vasectomy. The plumbing still works but it only fires blanks. I recall after min It felt like I’d been riding a horse for a week. Seemed to walk with that gait that Tony Abbott has, though I suspect its because he has something stuck somewhere.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      In the early seventies a vasectomy was a bit of a novelty. My doctor with the appropriate name of Barbara Simcock has performed thousands of them by now.
      I think T. Abbott’s gait is something to do with his brain being much lower than first thought.


  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I’m sure it’s not a beach of confidence, but Dr. A is one of those talkers. I pick my victims, he just takes a chance.


  7. Lilith Says:

    again a witty and very enjoyable blog…I’ve sent onto my Daughter. I liked many things, am particularly taken with ‘we would spend many hours talking in silence’. I’m also very partial to Finnish Films…I think ‘Rare Exports…a Xmas tale’ was one. Strange, eccentric, fantastic!


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