Life drawing with a fondue. (Auto-biography.)



‘Billabong’. From Wikipedia;

“The etymology of the word billabong is disputed. The word is most likely derived from the Wiradjuri term bilabaŋ, which means “a watercourse that runs only after rain” and is derived from bila, meaning “river”,[3] and possibly bong or bung, meaning “dead”. One source, however, claims that the term is of Scottish Gaelic origin.[6]Billabongs attained significance as they held water longer than parts of rivers and it was therefore important for people to name these areas.

Gaelic or aboriginal, I’ll settle for the latter and painted accordingly in the ochre, chrome yellow, sienna colouring and avoided any kilt hues. You’ll be hard pushed to see any well hung MacDonald’s quarter pounders in my Billabong.

The above painting ‘Billabong’ must have got the nod of approval by the panel of judges and was hung in the NSW Gallery in 1972. The seventies was a period, not only of vegie co-ops, baby sitting clubs and going bra-less, it was also a period of enormous cultural change in Australia..  It all started in the late sixties and had its origin in a couple of cafes around the Cross in Sydney. I think Frank Morehouse, an Australian writer, was savvy to this and even wrote a book called ‘ Days of Wine and Rage.’ Up till the late sixties, the Nescafe instant coffee was the preferred brown drink. For many years TV advertisements used to swear each cup had 43 beans of  ‘real coffee’, implying that there were coffees around that were not ‘real’, conveniently forgetting that Nescafe instant coffee is as far removed  from being real coffee than ‘tasty cheese’  is from being an honest cheese. Most readers of this blog would know my stand on ‘tasty cheese’!

Towards the end of the sixties a coffee lounge opened up named ‘Reggios’ at the corner of Crown street and near Chapel Street, Sydney. Not only was it one of the first ‘real’ coffee lounges to open, it was also selling the best coffee in town and it was ‘real’ coffee percolated from ‘real’ beans. Reggio’s was frequented by a lot of Italians. Many were migrants from boats such as Roma and Sydney. Most were single. If one looked carefully it was noticed that many looked somewhat doe- eyed. The tragedy of a shortage of available women was expressed in their eyes after they  lifted their faces from the  empty coffee cups and looked into mine. I understood their plight.

A few girls of the night soon cottoned onto this Mediterranean loneliness and for a modest sum would allow some relief to the forlorn of Messina or Napoli. It wasn’t the kind of love those men sought but it was better than nothing. The coffee afterwards helped. But it was a love so bitter and not helped by the dusty train journey home afterwards to their even lonelier suburb.

Soon more coffee lounges followed. Today it has become a mile long stretch of coffee lounges and cafés, catering for the well-heeled,  the property developers, the gangsters, toy boys and their  well coiffured owners. All now are sitting under the striped awnings together with their barristers or  Labor Ministers. All are wildly gesticulating and doing their sipping. Of course there is so much more to coffee now. There is a bewilderingly long list of different coffees available. It frightens me, as I have long ago given up in remembering the latest of this or that. We still ask for a simple ‘latte’. Does anyone in our age group ask for a macchiato coffee? I doubt it. What is it?

Our daughters 'Susanna and Natasha in Finland. Nr 3 and 4 on the right.

Our daughters ‘Susanna and Natasha in Finland. Nr 3 and 4 on the right.

In between running a business we also found time to do life drawing and have fondue parties. The fondue set would come down from the top cupboard and with the help of a little dish with methylated spirits we would cook bits of raw meat in a container with oil which was heated by the metho. The meat was held at the end of steel prongs. The fad lasted for a few years together with exercise bikes. I noticed there has been an upsurge of exercise machinery. Some look as if they are ready to go on an outer space journey. So massive,  I wonder if they can double as a diesel truck or prime mover or a good lathe? Would it not be better to go for a walk or has that become too dangerous with perverts stalking the streets?

In any case, society had progressed and nothing was not tried and experimented with. It came about that some would eagerly strip off for a spontaneous life drawing session all inside our Gertrude cottage. Of course, that is finished. Can one imagine the horror of stripping off now. There would be a stampede out of Gertrude’s cottage or a call to the police, even an ambulance!.

Those were the days.

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31 Responses to “Life drawing with a fondue. (Auto-biography.)”

  1. Yvonne Says:

    Yes, I always order a macchiato. It’s a short black with a little bit of milk. I ask them not to include any foam. So fussy, eh?

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Well, in that case we will try the macchiato next time. How do you pronounce it; with a soft macssschiato or a hard makkiato? Of course, you spent so much time in coffee land.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yvonne Says:

        Yup. mak-kiato is the way to say it. And, if I ever hear you ask for an ex-presso, I might have to do severe harm to you!

        The building and pest inspectors were here today, so hopefully I can start packing (for the move down to Victoria) sometime next week. Change is as good as something or another. 🙂


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Thanks for the tip Yvonne, No, I won’t ask for an expresso, more of a latte man.
        Good luck with the packing and move. Don’t stress too much, have a latte!


  2. bkpyett Says:

    Love your Billabong painting Gerard, it is so painterly. You do bring back those wonderful memories of fondue dinners. We had the cheese ones, living in Switzerland. Yes, and nude models was all part of our background too. It’s amazing how quickly things changed. The 50s tea was the main drink, the 60s Nescafe, and the 70s onwards coffee went from a simple cappuccino to a plethora of varieties. Wonderful jog of the memory. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gerard oosterman Says:

    Thank you, Barbara. I took Billabong from the garage where it has been resting for a bit over a year or so.
    Of course, now the latest fad is to drink out of screw top jam-jars. I never had a cheese fondue, yet that’s what the fondue was meant for.
    I feel a bit nauseous thinking back on all that cooking of meat in the oil of the fondue-set.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. elizabeth2560 Says:

    I remember when the coffees shops first started appearing and they were ridiculed by true-blue ozzies. Now look at all the coffee lounges! It is amazing! And everyone upon everyone is an expert on which type of coffee is really the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, one good friend of ours but also bitterly opposed to coffee sipping during working hours, commented; what are all those people doing sitting around?
      There was a real belief in the early seventies that ‘sitting around’ sipping coffee was akin to being a slothful no-hoper, a sexual European deviant, a morally reprehensible lazy thug who probably avoided going to Vietnam to fight a ‘just’ war…

      Liked by 1 person

      • elizabeth2560 Says:

        It is ironic that taking time out for coffee is now accepted – yet only if slotted into the agenda of still too-busy lives.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, so true. The work ethic is very strong. Wasn’t there a play based on an unemployed man who used to still dress up and go out pretending he still had a job?
        Was the wriret a man called Miller? The wife called out ‘terrible things’ are happening to this man?


  5. Andrew Says:

    I am about to christen a new bean to cup coffee maker Gerard. I may go on a barista course. Apparently I will not come out as a lawyer but I should be able to make patterns on my coffee of choice. I intend to do this fully clothed and without the aid of a fondue set. Too ambitious do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Great painting Gerard. I’m glad you rescued it from retirement. I remember feeling so European when the first coffee shop opened here in town in town. I was filled with the idea of writers and artists sitting and doing their thing while whiling away the time. It was situated on a side street where no one could find it easily, so that never happened, and it didn’t last long. Now there is a Starbucks on every corner, and no place to sit.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you, Kayti. Yes, often those early coffee shops crept in by stealth, in little lanes and side streets. People used to point the finger and whisper , ‘there goes another coffee sipper’.
      Yet tea was totally accepted but only behind the blinds and after dark. Never during working hours, accept on the Queen’s Birthday when tea came out into the daylight and people waved little flags.


  7. Says:

    Happy memories, we had fondue parties and they were a great treat. The time we had a fondue fire, we were lucky enough to have a firman among our guests. He made a very impressive exit backwards carrying the flaming receptacle. (I whisper it, my husband likes a macchiato).


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, fondue parties were everywhere but we always stuck to cooking bits of beef which we then dunked into tom sauce or was it soya? I don’t think soya sauce made its entrée till the late nineties. I could be wrong. Did we talk about the Vietnam war? That was in the sixties though. Perhaps we just talked about our little children and their foibles. In any case, it was always a great evening, we talked and that is now getting so rare.
      I saw someone yesterday crossing the road talking on their IPhone in one hand and holding a coffee in the other.


  8. rodhart (@roderick_hart) Says:

    I remember once in Canada trying to order a coffee, but it seemed to be impossible unless you selected one of their additional flavours.
    The coffee shop I use a lot is inside a bookstore. Very civilised!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, here too coffee shops and books are now getting married. A great combination. The big supermarkets now too have coffee availability but somehow it doesn’t work. The whiff of consumerism is so overpowering. They have now changed the shopping trolleys able to hold a coffee in a special holder. Most times though, I have noticed people use that special holder to put in a bottle of Coke while they study the dairy division.
      Can you believe it?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. berlioz1935 Says:

    I like the content and the turn of phrases you are using in your posts.

    I love a macchiato, but it is never enough. I like to sip my coffee and contemplate life while doing so. That takes time.

    While in Italy, we watched real Italians gulp down their real espressos. They don’t even sit down. They drink it like Russians drink their Vodka. What the Italians are not doing, is smashing the tiny cups on the wall.

    They are so quickly out the door, that you think you saw a ghost.

    We too noticed the change from Nescafe to what we are getting today. Coffee in the sixties was undrinkable. The “cuppa” was the elixir of life and, I would say, it still is.

    Tea reestablishes equilibrium. Coffee is for the taste buds.

    Still, I remember, after the war, when we were introduced to the American PX rations. They always contained some Nescafe. The woman nearly experienced an orgasm when tearing the coffee bag and the first waft of coffee escaped into the air.

    Coffee then was an antidote against the horrors of war.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, I heard too that coffee in Italy is a hurried affair. What is less known is that Finland is one of the greatest consumers of coffee. The coffee sipping is endless and goes on all day and all night. I remember arriving in Finland and was immediately immersed in coffee drinking.
    During the war it was one the horrors of my parents going without coffee. They had a wall mounted coffee grinder that held a glass container underneath in which the ground coffee would be deposited.
    During the war that container was always empty. For my dad it was a double whammy also having to go without his cigarettes.
    Tea drinking is going down. Have you tried getting tea in leaf form lately? Shame on this culture for giving in to those loathsome dusty tea bags. Who would have thought? I feel like writing a complaint to Prince Phillip. He might as well do something for his Knight-hood and restore the proper tea leaf.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    Still laughing as I write this. And funnily enough, I also have nostalgic memories of the fondue set ( bright orange of course to go with appropriate sixties decor!). Fondue sets were definitively imprinted on my psyche as a panacea of meat and three vege middle class dinners in Australia. I still have the original set but can’t convince my family to get quite as excited about it as me. The cheese fondue in Switzerland contained enough cheese to constipate a buffalo and enough bread to feed Jesus’ loaves and fishes crowd!! I couldn’t finish it myself. My favourite coffee place today is a Italian shop of Venetian extraction! I steer clear of the Starbucks and any place that attempts to give me a hot drink in a polystyrene container! Yuk! But your painting is really good, Gerard. Well done! I hope it is available for future generations to appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. berlioz1935 Says:

    “They had a wall-mounted coffee grinder that held a glass container underneath in which the ground coffee would be deposited.”

    We had the same and I will look for one next year when we are in Germany.

    Yes, we are still buying “leaf tea”. Nerada is Australian and should be available at Woolies or Coles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The coffee grinder my parents had was a ceramic bowl with a ‘willow’ design and the glass container slotted in underneath.
      Now there are electric grinders that give a dreadful shriek as if someone is getting murdered. Yes Peter, we bought a bag of Nerada tea last week at Coles.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Lottie Nevin Says:

    I love your painting and I hope that you are going to keep it out of hiding from now on, it deserves to be seen. I’ve never had a fondue set, I think that they were very popular in the 70’s along with Black Forest Gateau and prawn cocktails. I wish that I was more ‘in to ‘ coffee, I like it but don’t love it. I’m more of a tea girl. Give me Lapsang Souchong anyday!


  14. Patti Kuche Says:

    You should have a coffee salon of your own Gerard, make mine an Americano please!


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