‘Words,’ please stay a bit longer.


With a post this morning showing Venice clad in fog, I was trying to remember the composer’s name whose music was used in ‘Death in Venice.’ It would not come. I gave up and asked my wife, Helvi. It was Mahler. Of course it was. Am I slipping? The urgency to put down words is there but is the re-call  lagging? Perhaps it is just the result of so much emphasis lately, on the aged loosing memory. All that publicity is affecting me. Am I going gaga? Don’t go there!

All those TV medical shows on Alzheimer and close ups shots of the pulsating vibrant full brain of the healthy maniac and those of an old dithering bloke’s blacked out bits of a withering brain. Why anyone is so keen on having to remember all and everything, is so soul destroying.  So much of it could well be overrated? Has it become obligatory to remember Mahler at all times? Surely a reward of getting old is blissful forgetfulness!

Even so, I do notice a tapering off. I will use less words and condense. That might help and could well be my answer as well as to other sufferers. Would it not be marvellous to have a book all written down in using just one word. In music sometimes just a single note hangs in there so hauntingly beautiful. Why not in words? A simple unadorned word like ‘Carrot in Middle c’ . Would that suffice? Would a book titled ‘Carrot’ sell?  Perhaps not many. What about extending it to ‘A Carrot for Rudolf?’ The imaginary reader could well link this further. What about ‘Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer and his fondness for carrots?

I remember reindeer and Santa’s homeland. Suomi. That wonderful country of birch, spruce  and fifty thousand lakes. Some call it Finland. I was there during 1965/66. I remember the stopping of the train at Ankeriasjarvi with my Helvi. We walked over the frozen lake and made tea in the surrounding forest on a fire of twigs and pine with water made out of snow.  I made a hole in the ice but did not catch a single fish. It takes an expert and a true Finn to do that. But, I did try out the -34C and threw water over the grinding wheel to hone he axe which turned into instant ice. I thought my eyes would freeze but they did not. I was no Dr Zhivago nor a Boris Pasternak.

I remember as well the glorious stillness of Finland in winter and the inside warmth of Helvi’s parents farm-house. The huge lounge and fire-place above which we would, on New Years Eve, slowly melt lead and throw in water to figure out our future  from the randomly formed leaden ingots. (Uudenvuodenaatto) Surely those memories will never escape into the fogginess of advancing years.  I also cannot  forget  JP Sibelius and his wonderful music. His wife Aino was still alive when I was in Finland.  He did not write anymore music for the last thirty years of his life. He must have felt he had done it all. He also had six daughters.

So, there you have it. All from a single word, ‘carrot.’


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23 Responses to “‘Words,’ please stay a bit longer.”

  1. Yvonne Says:

    Just think what you can produce if you use a different word. For example “cabbage”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Aah this was a good “carat” all because of your “carrot.” Stop worrying about memory loss. In the past I worried about losing my memory and the harder one tries the worse it will become because that leads to anxiety and that prevents recall. I just move on and say “oh well, the words escape me for now.”

    The odd thing is that stress and worry and excitement leads to a dulled memory so I try to avoid those things which of course are un-avoidable. My worriers intensify as I age. More family problems. but I keep on doing and try not to dwell on age.

    Just keep writing, reading and, doing math or puzzles which all help to exercise the brain.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. gerard oosterman Says:

    The main thing is moving on and try not look at those film-clips of normal brains and those brains with memory loss. They say carrots are excellent for active brains and a lot healthier than slabs of Christmas ham. 😉 Thank you for your kind advice Ivonne.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dorothy brett Says:

    Whatever you write Gerard I enjoy, keep on keeping on.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Rosie Says:

    Is that a photo of you, Gerard, at the top of the article? I would give a lot to be able to squat on my haunches like that again and then bounce upright.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. snowsomewhere Says:

    Lovely nostalgia post, my favorite kind 🙂 Have you been to Finland since? I can imagine your ice fishing outing so well (never tried it myself though, too cold!). Your writing flows so well, it’s very engaging and seems effortless to the reader. I’m sure your words aren’t escaping you quite yet! 🙂 Though I’m “only” 37, I sometimes worry about future memory loss too, because I keep changing jobs. So far my CV counts 17 jobs (it’s a long story, but I’ve never been fired! It’s more about opportunity). And what has that got to do with potential memory loss? I’m constantly in a learning state, always the new one at a job, cramming more and more information into my brain. How this company does things, wait, no forget that, now this other company does things differently with different programs and priorities and don’t you know all the people here yet? Add to that everything I’ve studied and learned outside of work. I just feel like my memory capacity is close to full. But worrying doesn’t help! 🙂 And who knows what’ll happen to any of us. So just enjoy life. Say hello to Helvi – or “terveisiä” 🙂 PS. Great photo, too!

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      What a kind person you must be. Praise is always welcome- but from a Finn it is received as an ovation. Paljon Kiitos!
      I am curious about your stay in Australia and how you managed to now live back in Finland.
      I have never been back to Finland since 1965/66. Helvi has several times, when our children were young. She is from a large family of five brothers and three sisters, all of whom I met while in Finland. Twice, two of her sisters visited us here in Australia.
      Seventeen jobs? That is quite an achievement. I did the same, but hardly ever worked being employed except for a stint in a bank in Holland during a stay there before I met Helvi.

      Liked by 2 people

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Hardly ever worked being employed? I meant, I have mainly been self-employed during my life and still am. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      • snowsomewhere Says:

        I was born in Sweden, spent my childhood in Brisbane, and was 9 when we came to Finland. English was my first language and Finland’s never felt like home to me really. That’s why I ended up working in tourism, so I could travel. Also spent some years living around the Mediterranean, in different places. Well, that’s the very short and concise version of it, not exactly the whole story but maybe another time 🙂 Are you of Dutch descent? I think I read it somewhere a while ago on your blog, but then couldn’t find my way back to that post or page anymore.


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Hello Snowsomewhere.
        I was born in Holland and lived there till I was fifteen when my parents decided to migrate to Australia. The migration had mixed benefits. After meeting Helvi while skiing in Austria, things improved enormously. I lived in Finland for about 6 months (with Helvi and family) and have never forgotten part of the Finnish language which I still practise with Helvi. We all went back and lived in Holland for a few years with our small children before returning to Australia.
        We did travel in the past to France, Chile, Argentina but mainly Bali. Wherever we travelled too in the past, I almost invariably want to sell up in Australia and move there. ( especially France) Fortunately Helvi restrains me from making reckless and totally irresponsible moves.
        I am now in the process of self-publishing a book of vignettes.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrew Says:

    Word association football match stick. I think we become more selective in what we remember as we age. Odd words trigger find memories. I do recall Mahler’s 5th. But I can’t remember where I put my car keys. If not carrot or cabbage, perhaps cauliflower?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Julia Lund Says:

    I loved reading your description of heating water – I have both a visual and emotional picture of it thanks to your words.

    I often struggle to retrieve words when speaking, but when it comes to writing, that problem diminishes. Just keep pulling those carrots up, Gerard.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Julia, ‘boiling the billy’ is an Australian expression. A billy is a can into which workman would boil water to make tea during ‘smoko’. Morning break from work to drink tea and smoke a cigarette. Back in 1965 during a very cold winter even for Finland, I introduced Helvi to ‘boiling the billy’ in the forest at Ankeriasjarvi.


  9. berlioz1935 Says:

    Not to worry, some of your memories will never disappear. The old times are ingrained in your grey matter. Not all, but the feelings of it and the impressions they made at the time.

    I prefer Sibelius to Mahler. The latter is too negative for my taste.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Berlioz. I think both composers are good and the slow movement of Mahler was so apt in that tragic scene of “Death in Venice” movie. Sibelius’s music, I feel, is much more nationalistic, made and composed out of the boulders and forests of Finland.

      I do hope the words will stay but in any case have now written over 800 pieces and a book into which, I hope, most of the words have been bedded down.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    My sympathy, I know too much about brain degeneration, so I see mine oozing away with very missing word. However, take heart, there are two distinct memory streams: episodic memory, or your memory of life events and experiences, and semantic memory, your memory for facts, figures, names etc. So all your happy episodic moments in Finland are clearly there to stay. I love Mahler (and Sibelius).


  11. gerard oosterman Says:

    Thank goodness for straightening that out, Hilary. I was always very vague on facts and dates etc. Do you mind if I use your term of ‘episodic memories?’ What a great way to introduce at a conversation. ‘How are your episodic memories going?’ Mine are still fine, thank you!


  12. GP Cox Says:

    With all of us aging, we can see the memories lost and memories that return for no reason, we need to stay strong and hope for the best. I am sorry Gerard.


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