Archive for the ‘Gerard Oosterman’ Category

In between the years ( Auto-biography)

July 2, 2015
on the frozen lake of Ankeriasjarvi 1965.

on the frozen lake of Ankeriasjarvi 1965.

The years between being self employed, the running of a modest business, and meeting up with Helvi  again in Finland in 1965 could not have been as remarkable as those prior or since that event. I can’t remember too many outstanding occasions on par with first meeting her in Austria, arriving and living in Italy  after the ‘bank with suit’ months and the boat journey back to Australia. I do remember arriving in Fremantle again on a Sunday. Nothing much had changed. A deja vu of a return to a bright blue sky, simmering heat and empty streets with the weatherboard houses and their covered up windows staring out like so many blindfolded eyes. The Sunday Telegraph pages still being blown about. The street dogs scratching. I knew the score.

Another item was my dad picking me and Bernard up from the boat at Sydney’s Woolloomooloo and the stalling of his car up a steep hill at a red light. The traffic light turned green and red several times before dad finally managed to pull away. We were all a bit nervous but Bernard afterwards remarked he would not be driven again by my dad. I was subsequently told by my brother that at one stage an infuriated driver had followed father all the way home, ran out of his car and told him; ‘right, put them up you bastard’ and wanted to fight him. That’s what his driving had managed to achieve. Dad got a screwdriver and was threatening him as well. It was mum who stopped the melee and managed to calm things down. Even so, that he passed his driving test to get a driver’s license at all at his age was remarkable. Driving his car with my mum gave him great pleasure. I can still see him, washing his car holding the garden hose. In winter this hose was often frozen up and he used to have to boil a kettle to get the ice from the car window before driving off to his work.

We had the painting business running in no time at all. I used to either walk around the job and estimate a quote just by looking at it or if the job was really big and was drawn up and designed by architects, worked out the price by using an extract of a bill of quantities, relevant to the decorating and painting trade. Bernard then drew up and type a letter of quotation on the before mentioned buff coloured letter head and matching envelope. Once we had done a few jobs we used the success of previous jobs and builders as a reference as to our expertise and skills to perform the task in time and within the limits of the quotation. We soon had teams working all over Sydney.  Australia certainly proved to be an easy country to set up a business. In Holland that would have been much harder, being riddled with laws, rules and regulations. Australia was and still is an entrepreneur’s paradise.

Helvi and I kept in contact sporadically by letter but our hearts grew fonder. I found it hard to believe that such a beautiful  and kind girl liked me.  I had a photo of her in my wallet and could not get over her smiling face.  The photo had her wearing a university student cap.

waving down the upcoming train at Ankeriasjarvi 1965.

waving down the upcoming train at Ankeriasjarvi 1965.

In the intervening years of returning to Australia and going to Helvi in Finland  I managed to again squirrel together a small but important amount of savings. As I was wandering around the inner city one day I noticed a block of town houses going up and promptly put down a deposit for small bachelor one room studio on the top floor. It showed a view from that top floor that on reflection I felt could not be really true. I figured it had been taken from the top of the crane that lifted the building materials on the site. I knew about heights and had worked on swinging stages. I returned to the office of the agents and demanded my deposit back. I then found another much older apartment in an existing building in Kings Cross. It had a bedroom as well as a lift and glorious city views over the area and bang opposite the Way-side chapel. This chapel was a hang out for hippies, prostitutes and drug addicts. A haven for the destitute and a safe place for the lost souls that any society ought to care for but not always does.

In later years it became a place for the trendies and celebrities to get married in. I bought this apartment which included all the furniture, had a gas-run fridge and small gas stove with oven. It was also on the top floor right underneath the lift mechanism which used to make a grinding noise each time it was used. Never mind- it was perfect. If I remember right, it cost 7750.- Aus. Pounds.

Less than two years later, Helvi and I would be living in it!

This business of earning Money. ( Auto-biography)

June 29, 2015

IMG_20150629_0002

While the stay at the chalet high-up at Bressanone was a ‘life changing event’ ( as modern parlance would have it), the question soon arose on how to go forward. While many would agree on ‘money doesn’t make happiness,  ‘happiness doesn’t make money either.’  Money still needs to be available when buying the corn-flakes or onions and paying bills.

The big question was that while a career, wearing a suit or doctor’s coat, wasn’t anymore on my horizon  how on earth would I survive? Bernard had been working as a tourist guide and with his knowledge of languages it was a fairly easy and well paid job. He suggested that I do the same. I wasn’t sure I was cut out or possessed the jovial countenance or enough savoir faire,  to fulfil the expectations of tourists that had been primed by travel agents to experience Italy in a 6hour discounted bus-trip through Tuscany and back to Pompeii!

In Australia I had experienced a long list of many jobs and also done a certificate course in quantity surveying. To this day I don’t know why I did it,  but perhaps it had something to do with my ‘suit wearing’ ambition period. I would imagine sitting in an office, conversing with Moroccan architects and quantity surveyors offering expert advice on how to get through the tricky bits of attracting quotes for all the different trades, while rocking on my  Finnish Alvar Aalto pressed ply-wood chair. I had already worked on building sites including working outside buildings from swinging stages. I had also, together with Bernard, worked for painting contractors and  prior to that, apprenticed for a while in that trade.

In the meantime I decided to return to my family in Australia. So did Bernard who suggested we set up a business with buff coloured letter-heads and matching envelopes. We both booked a boat from Naples through Thomas Cook travel agents. I remember a Mr Diacomo in Sydney who had arranged my travel to Europe before, but Thomas Cook in Naples was a different animal. Not once did we get an acknowledgement of our requests for a booking to Australia. While Bernard decided to go to Naples to sort out our fares, I decided to stay on in the chalet and wait for confirmation of the date that we would sail from Naples to Sydney.

When the travel confirmation finally arrived I decided to try and catch a lift to Naples. On the first hour of my effort to catch a lift the rubber band through the sole of my thongs and held between my toes snapped. Even despite that, or because of my limping on one thong, I managed to get a lift half way and caught the train for the remaining distance. Travelling by train in Europe is always fascinating. At most stations in Italy, someone would be walking alongside the train and for a few hundred lire one could get a hot chicken with crispy bread roll and small bottle of red wine. Absolutely fantastic and complete strangers would offer bits of their food as well. It was a cultural eye opener how in Italy food is shared no matter where or how. One Italian man got up when I arrived in Naples and even adjusted my tie. I could not imagine on the Bowral – Sydney train journey someone adjusting my tie even if I was wearing one. The police would probably make an arrest!

The arrival in Naples was as busy and hectic as Bressanone in Tirol was quiet and serene. An amazing rail station and amazing city. Bernard had a hotel room at Piazza Garibaldi right opposite the rail station. It was a very busy part of Naples with coffee sipping, loud talk and lively arguments on the footpaths day and night. The noise level of Naples alone makes it a wonderful and lively city. How a noisy city vibrates and excites!  We had just enough money left to see us through the five weeks on-board, a car on arrival in Sydney for our planned contracting business, and the printing of the buff coloured letterheads with ‘Head-Office’ at my parents place in Revesby.

The trip on board was of course taken up with chess while Bernard also met a French woman who took a fancy to him even though her husband was right besides her. She had a very large pony-tail and she played footsy with Bernard while playing bridge. It came to a disastrous head some months later when she decided to cut of this large pony tail and posted it to Bernard as a sign of her profound love and devotion. But as most ship romances flounder on the rocks of on-shore reality, so did this one. She and husband were living in Brisbane and Bernard in Sydney. We had sat up a good business and were getting reasonable contracts painting blocks of home-units. Sydney was in the middle of a home-unit boom and we caught its head-wind with acute shortages of workers needed to fulfil housing needs.

The French girl in Brisbane could not contain her love for Bernard and decided to visit him in Sydney (without her pony tail). My friend took the day off and at the end it was all over. It had run its course. She went back to husband and presumably grew a new ponytail.

Who knows?

The period post Italy but pre- Finland. (Auto-biography)

June 27, 2015
Dolomites

Dolomites

The walk from Bressanone rail-station uphill to Bernard’s chalet must have been steep and long. Did I ask for a map or directions? I cannot remember. Consider that in those years suitcases on wheels were yet to be discovered nor were back-packs as progressive as they are now! Today I see young women with such towering back-packs getting from airports to taxi almost to the point of other bystanders ready to give an ovation.  Mind you, even back-packs are now on wheels as well.

I must have had a rough idea and perhaps asked a local for the address. This area was pre-dominantly German-speaking and I was fluent in that language. Bressanone, even though now Italian, used to be part of Austria and still today pre-dominantly Austrian in culture and population. The area is South Tirol.

I do remember reaching the chalet and my friend coming out greeting me. It was definitely sunny. The view was breath-taking with Bressanone nestling down in the valley and at the back of the chalet the towering Dolomites climbing forever upwards, glistening with their limestone faces. The chalet was a small and solid white washed adobe house with ornately carved gables,  window and door architraves, of which that area is famous for, and really an extension of the same architecture of  the medieval town in East Tirol of Lienz were I had spent time skiing during the winter and were I had met the girl with the beautiful eyes from Finland. It was at Lienz where I also had a ski fall and broke my glasses, as well as meeting my future wife. ( while dabbing my bleeding proboscis).

It was all such a liberating event. Liberated from the suburban ennui back in Australia with my family and Frank.  A liberation from wanting to work while wearing a suit hoping for recognition, admiration or at least something of achievement. A kind of something that young people are supposed to work towards. A career that would cement a solid future and  distinguish one from failure. All those things are not always so clearly defined but yet one grows up with as an obligation to fulfil to parents. As those early years passed by I did have a skill to earn some money and that stood me in good stead. However, the making of money is pretty boring unless compensated or alleviated  by an all encompassing and absorbing activity for  soul, spirit or psyche.

There are often moments of great significance that are recognised as such at a much later time. The meeting up with Bernard Durrant was one of those chances that on hindsight proved to be of great influence.  At the time in Italy we met for the second time. I had known Bernard in Australia. It was through him I took to chess playing and reading books and visiting State library.  He gave the advice to run your hand over the back of books at a library and pick the dustiest books! ‘They are often the best’, he said, especially in Australia! Reading in the early fifties was somewhat frowned upon. It was much healthier to play rugby or cricket, spear-tackle opponents. Libraries  visits by young men were rare.

I give you here a very short and copied biography of Bernard from a website by one of his friends.

“Already serving in the Army, Bernard was recruited by British Intelligence on the eve of the Second World War and was smuggled into Germany, but was soon discovered by the Nazis due to an inadequate cover story. Offered the choice of switching sides or death, he was posted to Alexandria, Egypt, where his brief was to spy on Allied shipping in the Mediterranean.When he arrived in Egypt, he escaped his German paymasters, and eventually made it back to the British Consul in the country.By this time he was considered tainted goods and was shipped back to Britain.

Once back on English soil he was promptly imprisoned in the Isle of Man under the Defence Regulation Section 18b, which was used by the Government to lock up more than 1,000 suspected traitors during the course of the war”. ( end of quote)

Girl with the 'Beautiful eyes' at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Girl with the’Beautiful eyes’ at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Bernard become the lifebuoy that saved me from going the normal way of career, block of own land and a house in the suburbs. I came so close to it. He got me to accept and understand that life ought to be inclusive of beauty and art. He went further and told me that life is all about exploration and finding what would give the greatest of joy and satisfaction. It all gelled and came together and I finally felt that my search for the essential would have to come through expressing what I felt strongest about. It might also relieve me from having to worry about career and job. It was so helpful that there were people like Bernard who had also travelled that same path and had found that creativity and expressing it was as much a ‘normal’ part of someone’s life as becoming a cigar smoking bank manager. Apart from all that we would continue to play chess high up the Tirol mountains.  I started to paint while Bernard already was writing poetry, some of which he managed to get published here and there. He had contacts and spoke both German and Italian which for an Englishman was somewhat unique.

Bali again, but last for the time being.

June 25, 2015

A pot in Bali

  • The above pot photo was taken minutes before the taxi arrived to take us back to Bali’s airport. We were anxious if he would turn up at all as we had arranged it the day before by someone who had approached us on the street in front of our stay. He was a delightful character who spoke very good English but also appreciated someone talking a bit of his language as well. He imitated sour tourists who would rush by as if possessed by a need to pack in the absolute maximum into their holidays. They had paid for the air-fare from Europe and accommodation and by Jo, they were going to get as much out of it as possible. They talk about ‘ the holiday of a life-time’ as if on a first marriage or  facing an examination for a possible doctorate or appointment to The High Court in The Hague. This delightful  Bali man than expressed this mania by some of those running tourists in Bali by pursing his lips in a very good and with comical disdain, the deadly frowning serious foreign tourists. 
    Gloriously beautiful Bali

    Gloriously beautiful Bali

    It was all a bit quiet in the taxi to the airport. We looked at the passing hustle and bustle, lives lived at full speed yet in calm consideration and seemingly without the concentrations of Aus. frayed nerves on edge. Who would know? But an observer such as myself gets an opinion based on picking signals. It is the best one can do, isn’t it? If not and observed totally wrong, what’s the point of getting old (er)?  There has to be a benefit or pay-off. “Have you got your passport handy, H asked me?”  ” Yes, I answered a bit curtly.”  We were dropped off at the front of the departure lounge. We shook hands with driver; selamat tinggal, terima kasih.
  • Bali

    Bali

  • At almost seventy- five I just write down words and am glad they get read on WP. Actually more than glad, I am grateful for anyone to read them and respond by a ‘like’. That’s all I can hope for. I can’t take those words with me nor eat them. They will be finally found in a drawer when my descendants clear out my room. For anyone to actually have a book published is a feather in a cap of an almost unimaginable achievement. I stand in awe of those that have achieved the dizzying heights of ‘being published’. They can say with pride, ‘I am an author’. My writing started back some ten years ago and might have left it a bit late. I do print my bits and pieces and reached post Nr 712 a couple of days ago. Who would have thought? I love it.
    PS: I don’t know what those numbers are doing. They came here on their own accord!

First day after Bali.

June 24, 2015
Bali

Bali

It shows some courage to begin writing again so soon after Bali. One does not really know how one is affected by surroundings and mood of a country, till one leaves. It is even stronger on the return. While Bali’s airport seems just as busy as Sydney’s if not busier, the smiles were still free. I don’t know if smiles are free in Sydney too. We just did not see them. Perhaps they were in hiding, deep inside the multi pocketed ‘Border Control& Protection’ uniforms.  There were hundreds of them carrying serious frowns and some had guns!

At Sydney’s airport rail station we asked for 2 tickets to Bowral. The man did not look up from his computer; kids or adults, he asked crankely?’   ‘Have a look,’ Helvi smiled back. ‘That’s 42 dollars then’, the man said grimly. ‘We are pensioners, Helvi said!’ ‘That’s 28 dollars,’ the station man said, and ‘show me your pension card’. Fair enough, but does it have to be so unfriendly and with so much officialdom, such sticking to facts and rules? Many foreign people arrive in Australia as tourists. What do they make of that sort of treatment? He could have smiled. He could have advised us the nr of platform and the time of departure. Helvi always smiles. No, we had to ask for each item separately.

And now the train; It was unheated and for us it was a killer of a downer. I mean at 7am Sydney’s winter is serious and at 9c climbing steadily towards a balmy 12c at 10am, it wasn’t tropical. We were prepared but not to the arctic blasts coming through the doors every time they opened. Again, there were some people with huge suitcases. They might well have been tourists. You wonder what they will report back? We had to change trains at Campbelltown. Again, difficult to find out which platform. A loudspeaker kept saying, over and over, that the train at platform 4 was not to be boarded because it had terminated. That was fine, except there was no train to board (or not as the advice was bleating) at platform 4.

Bali (Ubud)

Bali (Ubud)

Another message warned people that all platforms were smoke free. All the platforms were in open air and outside. A strong wind was merrily blowing around. Surely, someone wanting a smoke could have been given that freedom. There were no shortages of Coca Cola machines and chocolate bars, crunchy violent bars and other snacks to tempt the terminal obese with. I would rather see a smoking person than hear a slurping Coke being downed.  Anyway,  both sugar and smoking is bad, so perhaps I am just cranky or being difficult again. The loudspeakers at Campbelltown rail station certainly work and the next dire warning came soon after the advice of not boarding a non-existent train.

Listen carefully to this one now! ‘Will all train passenger, please disperse along the entire platform, please (second time). None of the 4 platforms had more than 12 passengers. I can only surmise the messages were on an endless tape that would just drone on and on, giving the warnings over and over again. The last message now. Again, a beauty for making tourists welcome and safe; ‘All platforms will be regularly patrolled by our police to make sure no criminality will be committed on our platforms or trains.’ Indeed, we noticed police and dogs strolling around the platforms. It made us pass the time as there was 55 minutes waiting for the next train (another unheated one) on platform 4 to take us to our final destination. The loudspeaker was still warning us endlessly not to board the train at platform 4 as it had terminated!

Ah, we knew we were back. All this made us feel home!

Last day at Bali (for now) selamat tingal?

June 22, 2015
Our place in Ubud. (Monkey Forest Rd.)

Our place in Ubud. (Monkey Forest Rd.)

The melancholic task of packing and paying the bill would be known by many.  The return flight has not been checked as yet, and will be delayed. Still an opportunity to listen to the rooster next door and greet the wayan and ketuts standing immobile between the palms with the broadest of smiles. Don’t fool yourself, get ready for the derisive remarks, the banalities of home and pettiness of the shopping malls, the huge silent bodies shuffling and eating in desperate isolation.

There is still time to again go past all the bikes packed with kids both at front and back,all laughing or at least smiling endlessly. The chatting by friends squatting on the broken bits of pavement. Amongst all the chaos a couple of boys playing chess on a board of which the black and white squares have almost worn off.  Would you like to play a game, one of them asked?

Just stay a while, but we can’t. we will be back.

The honeymoon suite on Monkey Forest road.

June 20, 2015

This morning after we managed to get off our giant bed we hurriedly showered to get ready for our move to a new place. We had already seen it a couple of days ago. The attraction was such that all objections melted like chocolate in a fondue during a New Years Eve.n The beauty of it always wins. The cabin bags floated by as we were having breakfast at the new place. Do Balinese know by instinct were luggage is supposed to go? Are there messages exchanged by smiles alone? It seems so.

I was hoping to show photos but that seems to elude my tablet skills. Just imagine paradise without Adam and Eve or serpents. A sun over the greenest of rice fields with small pool near ones feet. All this seen from a maroon red double seater at the foot of an endless bed. Rumors have it Michelle Pfeiffer slept here. Even if not true, one gets the image. On the bed, as yet not disturbed by us, two towels folded in two swans intertwined lovingly by thehir swanlike necks. A kind of embrace! Behind the swans a floral display by frangipani and rose petals in the shape of a large heart. All this between the swan towels and pillows. There are four large pillows and two small ones.

I did notice a bit of cynacism creeping in. Several restaurants of which there seem to be as many as there are large kneed Australians display ‘ free WiFi so you don’t have to talk to each other’. One disturbing sign read  ‘beer as cold as your ex wife’! Surely ‘ as cold as your ex husband’ would be just as likely!

As we were eating last night Helvi remarked how I had not enquired how her Gado Gado tasted. The absorption hovering over my own plate took its toll. The Rendang Sapi was delicious to the exclusion of the world. So sorry, dear Helvi. Tonight we shall have a European dish. We might be having too much of a rice time.

Bali will become our place of preference. Where else do people stop you to talk and engage you, ask how you are, where you are going, where you are from. A culture that loves talking. Of course, for those that don’t there is always WiFi to escape in.

Bali in Ubud.

June 17, 2015

Most people that visit Bali are young and seek adventure. Almost all stick to the coast, especially Kuta where Bali is all but gone. Endless strips of shops and bars where they all compete for the tourist dollar. The girls get the hair pleated and the boys a new tattoo. Beach surfing with motorized yet skies also feature and at night clubs do a roaring trade with ‘happy hours’ especially  finding favor with those that a good holiday  includes a solid hangover. Bali is also still finding favour for those seeking something different. For that one needs to go inland and face the mountains. Balinese don’t revere sea and look at the mountains and forests. They are a unigue and spiritual people. Last night we were taken inland and were treated to Balinese traditional dancing and an old 1920′ movie of Bali.  Much of their joyous way of live seems to be centered on their strong belief in reincarnation and our stay is really of permanent nature but in a different form. Well that remains to be seen, but it is nice to ponder about it. It seems a better and more positive belief than those that live in fear of hell and damnation or a heaven as a reward. I mean, what would you do there? Anyway, I think that Bali shows us things that are difficult to discover elsewhere. It is rather nice that all things have a spirit here. There are whole villages that do stone carvings or wood carvings. A village that makes funeral pyres. A funeral here is something to experience. One almost wishes for one good one only to return as a frog or turtle, a crane or pigeon. Sorry for the typos and lack of spaces or grammar. I would not like to be reincarnated as a tablet.

Bali on Monkey Forest Road.

June 16, 2015

We decided to splash out a bit and got this place with  a bed so large it needed a GPS and I felt like asking Helvi ;  your place or mine? The bath was also so big and tempting. It is clearly meant for endless honey mooners. A video with directions showed what this bath was capable of fulfilling. The females head would be languidly leaning over the edge of the bath in expectation of.. Something delightful but in any case at leat a champagne. The man would be stroking her hair but at the right moment would step out while carrying her to sowhere else making sure the rose petals covering ( not an Abbott in sight) all the conjugal instrumentalia or orchesteral. Equipment. This tablet has a mind of its own, sorry. Of course the heart shaped frangipani on the giant bed would get a bit of a shake-up. Bali seems to be all about beauty though. Not a plastic flower or pot in sight. The contrast could not be bigger. A great place if one can see above the motor bikes and past the tourists of which we too are part off. (But not an Abbott in sight). Indonesia is teaching Australia a lesson in humanity. We feel like. Staying forever. Again, this tablet has a trouble with being obedient, but… Not an Abbott in sight!  Abbott is Australia’s prime minister who seems to delight in making this country look stupid.

Bali

June 14, 2015

bali is asamzing now as it was twenty years ago, when we first visited. We always felt happy. It seems that happiness is contagious . Being amongst happy cheerful people is uplifting. That sounds somewhat trite and but it it true. Yet, Indonesia is still poor. Australia is rich but laughter is absent. How do we explain!t this anomaly. I will now post this asBalihas a very shakyWiFi, one more reason for all the smiles and laughter. Hope this gets posted.


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