The decision to return to Australia came unexpectedly. I was the last one to recognize its coming. As noted before; things were steaming along nicely. Painting was in full flight. Money was being earned as a fully fledged artist. I was teaching adults. Our children were growing and thriving. We lived in a lovely farm-house. The Shetlands were settled and the beady eyed Barneveldt chickens were very happy and laying generously. What more could one want?
There are several possible explanations that led to this decision. None are valid enough on their own but perhaps together and in total, might shed some light on this sudden and strange ‘out of the blue’ return to Australia. Let me start on just a couple of explanations of events that I remember as if from yesterday.
We decided to go swimming in a small lake popular for swimming during those rare warm days that even rainy Holland sometimes gets rewarded with. The province that our village was situated in is the least populated area in Holland. At that time, one could still find small areas of wilderness to enjoy, without huge swarms of people crowding out all pleasurable activities. When we arrived there were some people and kids about but that only made it even more enjoyable. This little lake used to be a sand quarry in the past but had been surrendered to mother nature when the sand digging had ceased. It was a lovely spot surrounded by bushes seeking shelter under pine trees. Included in those bushes was a haze of purple heather, somewhat shy. There was laughter and joy about. The perfect day!
After arrival we all jumped in. It was a kind of jubilation, a celebration of unbridled joy and fun day. There was a large family also jumping about with a tribe of children skirmishing and splashing up and down in the shallow water mucking about with a large log that they had dragged into the water. They seemed to talk in a foreign language. Perhaps they were Turkish or Moroccan immigrants. In any case, they had a lot of fun. The parents were looking on. All were safe.
Out of the bushes and all of a sudden a person of some grey authority appeared almost like something out of a faded book of doom or The Treaty of Utrecht. He went to the edge of the water and ordered in no uncertain manner for the children to take that unauthorised log of wood out of the water. The kids looked somewhat frightened. The parents got up to find out the problem that this killjoy figure seemed to have. They understood that the log had to be taken out of the water. An argument ensued after the parents wanted to find out the reason why this log seemed to be so difficult to accept in the water. They wanted to know what the problem was. At this stage, the man of authority could have just shrugged his shoulders and walk away. He did not. He started on a long prologue and explanation on what would happen if everyone would take a log into the water. “What then, he demanded?” “Suppose we all take a log?” “What then, he added again?” A cloud came over the event. The kids dragged the log out of the water and back into the bushes. The parents said something in their own language and gave in, not wanting to risk a fine or Court appearance for non-compliance of an order. Order in Holland has to be maintained at all cost.
A similar event occurred a few months after the unauthorized log event. There exists a lovely and unspoilt piece of original nature. It is called Mantingerzand. It was within a twenty minute drive from were we lived and a very beautiful, original and unique nature reserve.
We decided to go for a pick-nick and had packed sandwiches to take with us for a lunch. Throughout this nature reserve are walking paths which one has to follow. Of course, in order to not disturb the uniqueness of this original piece of nature it is pointed out and fully understandable, to stay within the pathways. As we were walking along, absorbing the beauty of the place, we all were getting hungry. The fresh air in nature does that, doesn’t it? And decided to just stop, sit down on the pathway and eat our cheese and peanut sandwiches. Within a few minutes and within the time-frame of having swallowed the first vigorous bites into our sandwich, the faded and dreaded figure of authority turned up on his bike. “What do you think you are doing NOW?, he said?” We turned pale and the kids looked frightened. We are eating sandwiches, I stated with some hesitancy, in case we were doing something else, considered to be so dreadful, it wasn’t worth thinking about.
“Now just think a bit”, the grey man stated! We immediately started thinking feverishly but obediently. Our sandwiches were patiently waiting to be chewed into further. But we had all gotten strangely un-hungry. “Just imagine, just imagine”, the grey figure was now warming up to his favourite phrase. (He had honed the wording in front of his proud wife the very night before). “Just imagine if all of us would sit down and eat sandwiches in nature, just like that, he said.” “What would happen then, he asked”. He looked at us in turn. We gave in, got up and resumed our walk. We put the patient sandwiches and thermos back in the bag and silently walked on.
Order was maintained.