A peculiar story with an enigma.


Manchurian pear.

Only two days ago I visited again my old place at Bowral. It will soon change hands to the new owner who, according to the Estate Agent, wants to let it, and thought it best for me to remove the old washing machine. That was the reason for this trip. I had taken a trolley which had a lot of use over the last few months. It is a good sturdy trolley and I don’t understand how anyone can get through life without a good trolley.  But, prior to that trip, and on a number of occasions I came across a female renting the place next to my old place and that person is really the reason for this article. A peculiar set of circumstances or perhaps just all coincidental.  An mixture of a conundrum and an enigma.

Many years ago it just happened we came across a diverse group of people living in the inner city suburb of Balmain. We ( my late wife  Helvi and I with three children) lived in Balmain between 1967-1973 and again 1976-1996. It was a hive of unruly students, their brick throwing professors, hairy artists and equally hairy girlfriend, anti Vietnam protestors, foreshore defenders , and many others of often undefinable and sometimes dubious backgrounds. Was it really Tom Uren and Patrick White hand in hand marching and protesting against the Vietnam war during those early days?

As it happened we became friendly with a few that were associated with books and publishers. It was the time someone thought up to start a children’s library in the disused Balmain Watch house, which through the lack of thieves and vagrants had stood empty for some many years. I helped out working on that library, mainly through covering the books, and manning the Watch-house when open to the children to take out books.  Libraries in those early days were of short supplies, unlike pubs of which Balmain in its heyday had almost more than citizens. We all know that the Labor Party was also born in Balmain. But I digress.

We made friends within an indefinable and often chaotic world of all sorts of people who seemed united in wanting change, and change did happen. One woman, who is the source of this article , started up very successful bookshops, including in Woollahra and Double Bay which bore her name till at least 2015. She was also part of a group of publishers and book seller friends that included a giant of publishing whose house we stayed in for a week or so in London. Till 2015 he was a former group CEO of the second largest British publisher, Hachette UK. Our female friend, with the successful bookshops, was riding a wave of selling books often promoted by good reviews with the help of the Hachette publisher and coterie of writers. She also had a knack of knowing what would sell with an acumen that is very necessary in the world of books and sales.

But, as the years went on, as they do invariably, and through moving about to different addresses, contacts were lost and as we know, lives can change and often youthful enthusiasm and exuberance can grow mould or a seriousness creeps in whereby a stocktaking has to take place. New horizons are to be explored and as kids grow older times become more serious. It did with us. We left Balmain.

But going back to my recent visits to our former home in Bowral and meeting the new tenant next door. I waved to her and she waved back. This happened a few times, we chatted and discussed the state of the gardens (that were still being cut back to almost ground level,) I noticed this way of her speaking. It was an educated English. She seemed, but I could be mistaken to know me. A small and slim female, nicely dressed and with a face that showed she had lived through much, a well leafed book, yet smiling and still sunny.

I could not get her out of my mind and went to bed that evening mulling and thinking how she had spoken to me, and how she also had patted Milo inside the car. She might get a dog again, she said and looked at me.  Her voice! I had heard it before. It was familiar. Next morning, an epiphany. She is, I am pretty sure the woman with the book shops. I was so happy to have solved it. But, how could I be sure? I decided to try and solve it and bought a small flowering plant on which a attached a small card; To ‘L.M’ which are her initials, from ‘Gerard’. I put it at her front door.

I went back today and the little plant had been taken inside. I now feel I might be mistaken and that she is a different woman altogether, so many decades have past; however she did introduce herself, and her Christian name tallies with our friend with the book shops. She also loved dogs, as did this woman.

I introduced myself and if she is the book woman she would also remember me. It might be she doesn’t want to renew former acquaintances. Who knows and I don’t want to force it? Should I buy her another plant and see what happens next? Her face is very much like the face on Google which still has her bookshops. She has aged as is the nature of getting older. I have to try and solve it. But, why did she not want to recognize me as well.?

The picture above is of the Manchurian pear tree that Helvi and I planted when we first moved into that place. isn’t it lovely now with its autumn colouring?

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27 Responses to “A peculiar story with an enigma.”

  1. leggypeggy Says:

    The tree looks amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. auntyuta Says:

    I am curious now! Beautiful tree. 🙂 Sorry, you hd to leave it behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I still haven’t solved it but I will keep going back till I see her again and engage her in a talk. She likes dogs. The tree is beautiful. We did make the place better than when we moved in first.

      The Virginia creeper on the garage wall we had to defend by tooth and nail, the chairperson banned them and had them all removed from the other 7 town-houses, but not ours. We stood up to him, especially Helvi..

      Liked by 1 person

  3. pethan35 Says:

    What a great story. It could be a short story turning into a novella. Keep adding to it. Life is sometimes like that and brings people together after years of losing contact.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Peter. I will keep you informed. The lady with the bookshops had a charming farm house as a week-ender . We stayed there a few times. It was the introduction to farm living which eventually resulted in us selling Balmain and going and live on our farm at Brayton, near Goulburn.
      Life throws up all sort of coincidences and then turn up unexpectedly in a mix of chaos.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert Parker Says:

    You could leave the washing machine by her front door, that would get her attention. I’d say, screw your courage to a sticking-place, and ask her if she’s the bookshop person!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I had a heck of a job removing this washing machine from the previous cupboard called , a ‘Paddington Laundry’. I suppose referring to smaller houses with limited space whereby the laundry was build in a cupboard. Paddington is a place of small compact houses, hence the name.
      It is now resting in the garage of my old place. A well earned rest. It came from Balmain to the farm in 1996 and served us well till now. A fantastic washing machine.
      It needs some respect. Should I leave a small plant to the washing machine as a ‘thank you’?
      I’ll let you know about the bookshop lady.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. rangewriter Says:

    I look forward to reading of your next step in solving the conundrum/enigma.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dora Jahnes Says:

    Lovely story Gerard. Maybe tell her how much she reminds you of this woman?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. gerard oosterman Says:

    She might not want to reveal herself. Who knows what goes on or has gone on in peoples lives ? Life is so overrated. Life does throw up so much and can be as painful as joyful. A glass of wine late in the evening helps a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. freefall852 Says:

    In regards to the mysterous lady..perhaps fate has made you the caretaker of that memory and it would want you to just keep it safe rather than solve it…I have made the mistake several times of thinking that a dormant fire must needs stoking..
    I like this song..: “The Windmills of Your Mind”… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEhS9Y9HYjU


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I like that song too, Jo.
      I don’t want to stoke anything but always thought women were lovely and worth knowing better. Their minds are so much more subtle and intriguing. I am not yet old enough to forego another relationship. Women are curvaceous both in minds and bodies.
      It gets a bit lonely at times too.


  9. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    The pear tree is lovely!
    And your story even lovelier! Maybe explain to her that she reminds you of someone…and see how she responds. ???
    You never know who will come back into your life! 🙂
    Let us know what you find out! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) for you!!!
    PATS and RUBS for Milo!!!
    PS…some of our bookshops have closed over the past 10 years. 😦 Guess more people are reading books in other ways than by buying book-books from shops.
    PSS or PPS…”equally hairy girlfriend” made me laugh. 😀


  10. catterel Says:

    I don’t think I could leave this mystery unsolved. Maybe you could just tell her she reminds you of someone? Sounds like a corny chat-up line, but it may bring enlightenment. If she doesn’t want to reveal herself to you, why is she responding?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, you are right. I will sort it out. I will just leave her a note with another potted plant inviting her for a coffee at the cricket oval. If she doesn’t ring me then that is the end.
      I am a bit churned up about it all but am not ready to dismiss the issue. I am not ready yet to end up just doing puzzles or crosswords. And want some yielding softness.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sandie Harvey Says:

    A mystery Gerard. Sounds like fun. Now do some digging, I mean check her out in depth.
    How fun with this and let us all know how you went!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Big M Says:

    I’m on tenterhooks waiting for the next episode (plus all of those comments that I love reading!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      So am I, Big M. Out of the blue another woman popped up who remembered me from our days living in Balmain. We lived in the same street. She recognised me after about forty years, and now lives in my area. She shouted; ‘Gerard, Gerard’. I was totally perplexed.
      It looks like a lot of coffees coming up.
      I had coffee with her.
      How are you going, Big M?


      • Big M Says:

        We are all well, thanks Gerard. My eighty three year old mother has dementia, so we seem to spend plenty of time with her!


  13. shoreacres Says:

    That’s quite a tale, Gerard. Isn’t it odd when we get that sense that we’ve known someone before? Of course, just as odd is the experience of having someone from the past appear, and then realizing that if they hadn’t already been identified, you never would have recognized them on the street — or anywhere else, for that matter.

    I tend to be a direct sort, so if it were me I’d simply ask something like, “By any chance, did you once work with [fill in the blank — publisher, perhaps]. There’s no reason to take offense at such a query, and if she did take offense at it, she might not be the woman for you anyway!


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Bingo, Linda!
      It is indeed the lady of the bookshops era. This morning I was again at my former house to take in the garbage bin and she came outside with two little dachshunds. I kind of sauntered up to her, and as is so often the case, our dogs gave the excuse to engage. I told her she reminded me of someone called Lesley years ago, and I wondered if you are the same Lesley.

      She did not answer immediately but started laughing. Are you Lesley…. so and so, I said? She admitted she was, and she knew me too.

      What a good morning I had, and am so glad I persisted. She was with a man who is even more known than she is, one of Australia’s best known cartoonist.

      At times the world is a wonderful place.

      What was not so wonderful though was how the garden is now so terribly damaged, beyond saving. Years of nurturing and many memories with Helvi. One of her biggest pleasures. And now…in ruins.

      All because of a man who must be very unhappy.

      Watch the next space!

      Liked by 2 people

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