The commission for a mural and teaching adults.(Auto- biography).

With roughly more than seven decades between the beginning and now, one has to allow for some discrepancies on this heap of memories. The order and dates might not be exact but the events are true. One might also have to allow that the events are somewhat embellished to make them more readable  or perhaps even enjoyable. A French polished table doesn’t make it less or more of a table if presented in raw oak.  The specimen of my life is not any different from the multitudes of other lives. It is also not any more unique in its minutia than those other lives of this world.  I write what I feel was important. But the nature of writing an autobiography  implies a certain amount of egoism. I do it to continue with my life as I have in the past. Keep myself off the street. I enjoy the confessional  part of it, but also realize it is a race against time with the inevitability of those final last words that befalls all of us. The pole vaulting days are over but writing about it makes solid the past. A kind of coagulation of a mishmash of memories rusted onto the years gone by. The words as yet not said do remain ringing.

The school that our daughter went to was about a ten minutes bicycle ride along a sweet little country lane into the small town. She used to come home for lunch and go off again for afternoon lessons. At no stage did we even contemplate that there were dangers of traffic or bad people prowling about. Children getting to school on their own was the norm. At least in The Netherlands. It was idyllic. Even in the country, no distance seemed beyond a ride on a bicycle. No helmets were worn either. All was safe and there were bicycle path separating riders from cars. We had sheep, chickens and a pregnant Shetland pony. What could one ask for more?

One winter morning there was a furious tapping on our bedroom window. Our bedroom was at the front of the farm overlooking the meadow in which the sheep and pony grazed. It was our neighbour. He was a serious farmer unlike us. “You have a foal, Gerard.”   “Get up and hang the afterbirth” he said. Of course it wasn’t in those words. The dialect in the area we lived in was as unlike Dutch as Scottish is from English, or Welsh from Irish. Is there some unwritten law that men respond to tapping on bedroom windows and not the female? In any case, it had snowed outside and our bed was warm. Even so, I did admire and liked our neighbour’s care for our pony. He had already told us it looked she might un-pack at any moment. I got out of bed and went outside just wearing slippers and a morning coat. Indeed there was this lovely little foal barely able to stand up and take its first suckle.

Sorry for the B/W picture only. It was a triptych painted in acrylic..

I don’t know why an afterbirth had to be hung up from a tree away from ground hugging predators such a  canny fox or, indeed a wolf or bear. It was a tradition steeped in folklore and we apparently had chosen our farm in a village that were the harbingers and last owners of some very ancient habits which must not be disregarded.  We, after all were living here as strangers and really almost imposters more than traditional owners and had to tread carefully with respect to keeping their traditions. I stumbled about found the afterbirth and flung it over the large elm next to the farm house. Both mother and baby Shetland were doing fine. Our neighbours were happy too.

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16 Responses to “The commission for a mural and teaching adults.(Auto- biography).”

  1. bkpyett Says:

    Fascinating, Gerard. As for writing your autobiography, it is a wonderful thing to do, and doing it before forgetting those stories. In my case, it helped me remember more! Loved the story of the after birth being flung into a tree. Wonderful being asked to do a mural for the school, it looks fun!

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Barbara. I enjoy writing those pieces but have to move on as I am still in the early seventies. I give headings at the top of the pieces but then get lost in so much other stuff. Doing the mural was driven by wanting the primary school kids to enjoy looking at it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I have just been told by a very good Dutch friend that the throwing of the afterbirth high in a tree is meant so that the foal will always keep its head high. I think that explains a lot and is rather sweet. I was never told!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. auntyuta Says:

    I can assure you, Gerard, that these events you write about are truly

    enjoyable to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. auntyuta Says:

    Is this just one part of the mural and are there two further parts?
    I imagine how beautiful this mural looks in colour . . . .

    I wonder when it first came up that children were not allowed to walk to school anymore. I mean I see these days always heaps and heaps of cars parked in front of schools to drop children off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. But why so many cars? Is it really because parents are too afraid to let children walk?

    Our children here in Australia went to school in the 1960s and the youngest reached school age in the 1980s. They only had a short distance to walk to school, so walking was not a problem. Our youngest ended up in high-school in Wollongong which she could only reach by bus or her Dad driving her there.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      No it is in three parts. If you look careful you can see the different sections. It was quite big. A pity I don’t have a colour photo

      I think that the Government and media ramp up fear because that seems to indicate (wrongly) that they care about your safely and in return hope it brings them votes.
      Statistics proof we live in a safer world.
      But everyone in Australia drives their kids to school in mainly double story growling SUVs often painted in a very threatening black colour. The mothers and sometimes fathers, look so tense.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dorothy brett Says:

    I’m sure you know that children still ride to school in the Netherlands, and that bicycles have rights over cars. And I love your writings Gerard.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    It’s interesting how we can’t remember what we ate yesterday or why we found the socks in the freezer, but we can remember so many things that happened decades ago 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I have never found my socks in the freezer. I do sometimes tuck one in my pocket and it is not unusual to end up blowing my nose in a sock which Helvi really hates and might well give rise to discord and stern rebuke.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Andrew Says:

    I am a little younger than you Gerard but so many of your tales strike home. They remind me of my parents and indeed my own childhood. We walked to school unaccompanied, rode our bikes and kicked our footballs in the quarry. All without fear (except of the milkman’s dog).Times were different. You are leaving a social documentary of value. One that entertains even through its honesty. I feel no ego at play here.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I go along clicking “like” under everything everyone else says! I have evolved into a loud echo. Wonderful triptych.


  8. Patti Kuche Says:

    Another great piece thank you Gerard and what a nugget that is about the placenta.


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