Peace and quiet for overwrought Seniors.

Our Pizza oven at Riven dell.

Our Pizza oven at Rivendell.

With all the shenanigans on the political and abusive side of life in Australia last week, I am really ready for garlic prawns or a good solid potato bake, perhaps even both. The prawns as an entrée and the potato bake with just some tuna in between the thinly sliced potato layers with leeks, and some sun-dried tomatoes might just do the trick. Well, not strictly sun-dried. This our last jar of home bottled ‘pizza oven’ dried, not strictly ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes. It just sounds better. Let me explain.

While finally now on our last jar of those sun-dried tomatoes, it brought back memories. We left our farm in 2010. I should now heave, perhaps with a sigh, and question where all the years have gone? That’s what many people over seventy do. Don’t they? Agile readers might well remember the large pizza oven I built while living on the farm. It was huge, and one could at a pinch, even have slept in it, as well as making pizzas, although not at the same time. I would not be the first one to sleep in a pizza oven. In Russia, many a husband after coming home drunk would be refused the share of the matrimonial bed by his stout and possibly very formidable wife, and told to sleep off his stupor on top of the stove instead.

The first attempt at building the pizza oven was disastrous. I underpinned the arched brickwork with plastic tubing while laying the bricks. The mud-mortar was nice, with the cement, lime and bush-sand mixture of the right sloppy consistency. It sat nicely on the trowel. A joy to work with. As the arched brickwork reached towards the middle from both sides I noticed a slight but ominous wobble. I should have stopped then. Helvi and our daughter were sipping tea watching me at work. I felt justified in being proud. It could well have been the reason why I continued on, despite the structure with its wobble clearly telling me to stop and let it dry out till the next day.

We all know that arches are very strong. Look at Venice, nothing but arches where-ever one looks, from bridges to buildings. Even some people when ageing, form an arched back, allowing them to go on, despite life’s tragedies or because of it. It might have been my foolish pride in front of Helvi and our daughter (sipping tea in the Northern sun) that made me go on. It might also have been the challenge that, if I could reach the middle and close the gap between both arches coming together, there would not have been a chance in the world it could ever collapse. An arch in brickwork is almost indestructible

Alas, hundreds of bricks went a flying. The plastic tubes buckled. My immediate reaction was that of total dismay. I worked for days, cleaning the old bricks I had scavenged elsewhere. I had poured the concrete floor base on which were built the walls that would carry another concrete base that had to carry the actual pizza arched oven totally enclosed on four sides but allowing a small door for fire-wood to enter and the pizzas to be cooked. The secret of a good oven is the total insulation of all the walls including the floor. My pizza oven had two layers with generous insulation between each layer. Even the chimney consisted of inner and outer stainless steel pipes. Helvi thought it was a work of art. And it was.

After the collapse, the initial moments of dismay turned into unstoppable laughter. I knew Helvi was genuinely and lovingly concerned, but our combined love for the ridiculous always takes over. What was one to do? Call an ambulance or the cops? Just ride with it, was the only answer. I got stuck in building proper formwork the next day, and re-built the arches again.

It was a great pizza oven. It would be used for pizzas, roasts,  sour-dough breads and drying those delicious small tomatoes that just about grew anywhere.

A lovely memory.

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13 Responses to “Peace and quiet for overwrought Seniors.”

  1. rod Says:

    You did well in the end. I was nearly taken out by a chunk of slate from a fireplace I was rebuilding from the inside. Lucky escape. But we’re both still here to tell the tale.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      A chunk of slate could easily cut through necks, especially when the head is confined within the space of a fireplace. You were lucky. Of course with a pizza oven one only goes inside to retrieve the food and even then usually with a large paddle.


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        One could just imagine the headlines in Murdoch’s paper.

        ‘Head found in Scottish Fireplace’ with the obligatory photo, and large arrow pointing to the fireplace.

        Perhaps even a little teddy bear at the very bottom to add extra poignancy.


  2. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I laughed at the collapse of your pizza oven spewing bricks and cement everywhere. Having had similar catastrophes in the past with plaster over poorly made forms. But we do learn and the second or third try is usually successful. Good post and I will try the potato, tuna dish!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      After I used proper sturdy formwork to support the arch, a problem was how to remove the formwork from within the pizza oven. It was enclosed from all sides and it would have been a tedious job cutting it from within the small opening.
      It was simple; after all the concrete, brick and cement had dried and cured, we built a large fire and burnt the wooden formwork from within.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    I great project, I’m glad it came off after the initial setback. Be very proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I am, Hilary. Helvi still mentions she misses the pizza oven. Each time we used it it became an almost spiritual event. The preparation of the food and starting it up took almost the entire day.

      The grandkids would arrive with our daughters and remaining spouses. They would help with the fire. They were of the age that playing with matches still held magic. One of the grandkids was even caught sitting under a table eating salt! Can you believe it?

      Next day the pizza oven would still be hot, which we would then use to bake the bread, followed by drying the tomatoes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. shoreacres Says:

    I’m impressed beyond words.Having a pizza oven is wonderful enough. Having one you built is glorious. Arches are so neat. In Waterloo, Iowa, there’s a Melan arch bridge across the river. I used to roller skate across it when I was a kid. Then, Grandpa and I would sit on the bank below, and admire the arches while we had our picnic.

    I must say — plenty of people suffer from fallen arches, but you did it up right!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I loved roller- skating too and remember hiring them. Later on I bought Norwegian ice skates which are used for racing. I took them with me to Australia in 1956 and kept them hanging from a nail. I used them once again in 1973 when I returned back to Holland, this time with Helvi and our three children.

      I like your memory of sitting under the arched bridge with your Grandpa at Iowas’ Waterloo. In Sydney we too have a suburb named Waterloo as well as a Woolloomooloo.


  5. Curt Mekemson Says:

    My smoker and grill come from the folks at Webber, I’m afraid, Gerard. My daughter’s husband, on the other hand, built a very nice smoker that has fed me many a fine meal. I encourage that although now he has moved and gone to work for Google, I am not sure there will be time to build another one. A fellow teacher of mine in Africa liked to quote “And the edifice shall crumble to shambles.” I think it was Biblical. Anyway, that would be me in building a pizza oven. 🙂 –Curt


  6. Patti Küche Says:

    You had me with the prawns and the potato bake but I always feel as though I have missed something with the very soggy sun dried tomatoes. Glad all turned out well with the pizza oven!


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