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.
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!