Archive for the ‘Gerard Oosterman’ Category

The magic Car. A matter of opinion.

May 4, 2015
The old Chevy  ute.

The old Chevy ute.

Photo Google images.

All good things came to an end. We packed up from the Scheyville camp to move in with our Dutch friends who had written to us in Holland about their success in buying their own place within a few years after arrival in Australia. This sounded a dream come true. My mother was especially keen on getting a place with a bathroom. We used to get a coin to visit a public bathhouse in The Hague. The value of the coin would allow a certain time for taking a shower. Of course we could only afford the shortest of showers with the smallest coin, which meant that one had to undress and shower at the speed of lightning. A large angry man would bang on the door when your time had lapsed.

To have a house with a bathroom was a dream too far in Holland and with the glorious letters arriving in Holland from Australia it did not take long for mum to be convinced that our future laid there where a bathroom could be attained within a few years. Dad was more circumspect. However, the colour movie of postmen leaping fences with white toothed smiling owners on such sunny verdant lawns did impress. His wife could be pretty persuasive. While mum was the practical partner, dad was more of the celestial kind. He loved the heavens and stars. Rumors had it he met my mum one evening when he walked into a moving tram while staring at the sky. He had a bleeding fore-head which she wiped tenderly. They were married within a year. Of course indulging in star gazing together with his other passion- short-wave radios, it was a difficult task. Six children would run around the table while shouting, imitating Indians or cowboys, during those far too many rainy days in our upstairs apartment.

Mum became even more practical in later life when she saw the interview on TV of her son having had the knife put to his vas deferens when Helvi was pregnant with number three. “Oh Helvi, if I had my time over again today, I would have done the same.”   “For sure,” she added with gusto.” That was a rather big step for mum, seeing her religion urged all onto,  ‘let the little ones come.’  Still, it is reassuring that being number two in a line of six, at least I am here to tell the tale!  She told me later on she saw the advice of the doctor if he could not have done something with or to my father to prevent further pregnancies, she felt she had more than enough.  Poor dad, surely they  must have enjoyed  conjugal blessings  more than six times?

The move in our friends house I have no memories of. We would have taken the train to Granville followed by the bus to Woodville Road Guildford. I do remember dad asking for the train tickets to Granville but pronouncing it in French. The station master,   “wha’s that maid, sayj je it agin”? It took a while but we finally got the tickets. What I do remember when walking onto our Friends’ property seeing an old car that had a cabin behind the motor part and a tray behind that. They were the remnants of a utility or presently known as the ‘pick up’.  Was this the car that I had fantasized so much about? The car; half sedan that would morph into a truck by the push of a button?  It was that indeed. It still had three wheels and a stack of bricks where the fourth one would have been in better times. I never saw it being driven.

It might have been  ‘all that glitters isn’t gold’,  but this old Chevy ute was sure past magic.

The house that they had bought, or, what they said they had bought, was rambling old but did have a bathroom with a gas geyser at the back in a lean to. It was a bit like the Chevy, had seen better days. It had a rickety but charming veranda with some loose boards and nails sticking out, but facing the sun.  On one side it had a few rows of bricks in the shape of a room. It Holland they had written to us they were planning to put an extra room on so that we would be able to spread out a bit. It must have come to an abrupt end because weeds were growing over the bricks already!

Still in The Hague. My parents

Still in The Hague. My parents

We were overjoyed to be away from the camp and the routine of queuing for chops and peas. It was a great opportunity to get our life in order. Dad was to get a job and mum back to the household routine. She had her  washing machine shipped over from Holland and its arrival in Sydney in perfect timing with moving into the old friend’s house. We were grateful and happy for a number of days. It wasn’t till my father found out he would not be able to get a job within the Government that things turned a bit bleak again. Non British subjects (together with non-whites) were barred from Governmental jobs. He went to bed not to get up for another six weeks. Fortunately, I did get a job with special ticket of dispensation from the Government, allowing me to work even though I was still under age. I loved earning money from the first time I received my pay packet. It was real cash in a beige coloured envelope with my name and number of hours worked. It even contained paper money.

I kept counting it out over and over again.

Life in Scheyville Camp and my first Bush in 1956

May 3, 2015
Our Dutch friends and us in their home 1956.

Dutch friends and us in their home 1956.

The above photo after we had moved in with our Dutch friends/ From left: my mum, husband of Dutch friends, my dad in shorts, ( late) brother John, Lies, daughter of Dutch friend, the coal shed for Nr 2 Aunty and last, brother Adrian.

We soon must move away from Scheyville.  I can sense a Deja vu coming on. Just a few more Scheyville memories that have obsessively stuck through the decades… After the first few days eating in the communal food hall, we started taking our plates and chops to our own hut. Of course it was mid-summer and if anything, the food would get even hotter walking outside under the fiery sun.

The summing up of Scheyville Camp period.

1. It is a credit to the ingenuity of migrants that already some of them had obtained old groaning vehicles making them independent from the monopoly of the Polish taxi driver, buses or public trains. Some Dutch migrants had as proof of their lingering culture obtained bicycles to get around on. They would be seen cycling around the camp running messages or getting food. One day as were keenly tucking into the mutton in our huts, one of the Dutch cyclers was racing around the huts shouting in Dutch, ‘ maggots, maggots in the meat, maggots.’ He was like the town crier all red in the face too. What was lacking was the bell. It took us a few seconds to reflect upon his message but soon started to look downwards. Yes, there they were, not too obvious, but when prising open the juicy crevices of the chops, they were there, all wriggling away happily, waiting for their wings.

2.  As mentioned earlier a Pole had become a self proclaimed taxi-driver. In Holland this would never ever be allowed to happen. It was an example of how one could  become and have the freedom to initiate an independency without interference from higher up the Australian Bureaucracy. It was a heaven of freedom.However, on the way to the train I could hardly look the Polish taxi-driver in the face. I had observed his wife in the shower and seen her ‘bush’. The showers were sex separated but in the same block. I had already heard through the camp grapevine,. that if you took the last cubicle adjacent to the female section, one could get a peek. Soon after, I too became privilege to that peek and had obtained another level of attainment in sexual observations. At that time I was the envy and aspirations held by many boys in their early teens. It was such a specific goal in growing up…I could now hold my head high.

photo taken within a few months of landing 1956. Sister Dora and brothers Herman and Adrian in the middle of merry go round.

photo taken within a few months of landing 1956. Sister Dora and brothers Herman and Adrian in the middle of merry go round.

Of course, today those things are observed in all it’s plucked chicken wing minutia on the Internet well before 15 years of age. Different times now, but far more erotic then. It was afterwards and with some guilt (always on automatic)I recognised the woman walking along the mess-hall. I could not look her in the eye. One can imagine going to the Polish taxi-driver’s hut when she came out. It was his wife that I had been viewing through the opening of the flimsy shower partition. A deep shame must have coloured me red…But, I was fifteen.

3.  The train trip. We had all settled in he train. Mum was holding a small suitcase in her lap in which she had packed numerous sandwiches made from the free white bread and previously mentioned free fruit laden IXL jam. Those sandwiches would see us through the day and perhaps even on the trip back. Frugality would reign in this family through thick and thin but mainly thin. But, the rhythmic rocking of the train together with the pleasure of viewing the new passing landscape was interrupted (never to be forgotten) by the conductor wanting to clip a hole in all the passengers tickets.

There was something a bit odd about him. He had a dense smell and unfocussed eyes. ‘Show us your thickets or fickets’, he kept mumbling,  swaying along while holding onto mum’s seat. We could not understand what he was saying but knew he might want our tickets. Even so, dad wanted to know and  asked; ‘pardon?’ Pronouncing it in French. ‘Show us yer frucking thickest maid’, he persevered, now lurching dangerously towards my mum, suitcase held firmly in her lap. We were by this time getting very alarmed. Were we about to be robbed or worse, was our mum and sandwiches at risk? All of a sudden, the  conductor gave up all pretence of soberness and just fell on top of mum and her case with sandwiches. We were all dumb struck. What was this?  Someone said ‘ he’s been on the turps.’  We had never heard of this term, didn’t know even what ‘turps’ was. A man who understood our plight gave the hand to mouth gesture indicating drinking. We understood quickly. The passengers helped the man up who stumbled back to his locket. We were so scared. In Holland we had never ever observed a drunk. A drunken conductor on a train? What would be waiting for us in Sydney? Lucky, that was the only incident but it was a great shock to us.We made it back home and the kind Polish taxi driver was waiting at the station. This time I was more brazen and felt that after the shock of the drunken train conductor, a mere peek of his wife in a shower was now an honest well earned  bonus. We had survived some difficult times and I needed something to cheer me up.

4. So what to make of all this? The few weeks at Scheyville Migrant Camp were totally unexpected. The Nissen huts an extraordinary form of housing that we were totally unprepared for. Not a hint of that during the interview at the Australia Embassy in The Hague. If only there would have been more information right from the beginning. We might still have migrated but better prepared. I really thought that our Dutch friends living in Australia would also have given us better information. They had written the most glorious accounts, it was all paved with gold!  The isolation of the camp did not really allow us a glimpse of the ‘real’ Australia. Afterwards we understood why our friends thought it would be better for us to experience camp life first in order to more appreciate living with them. Was my scepticism of migration ‘we did it for the children’ born already then? Or, was it a mere dormant incurable curmudgeon gene coming out?

More of that in the next episode.

Europe on mutton chops at Scheyville camp.

May 1, 2015

Typical Nissen hut in most migrant camps.

The first night in the Nissen hut would have been spent in a deep slumber. It was all so much to take in. We must have been exhausted. The long hot bus drive along miles of car yards, huge  hoardings of Vincent’s APC’s headache powders, the beer stop-over, the unloading and dispersion of all into the low-slung huts of Scheyville Camp had all been bravely taken into our stride. An overload of emotions. My parents would perhaps have had some thoughts of Holland, life back then was so orderly. Life on-board a Dutch passenger liner was still a bit like being in Holland, but Scheyville was not. Today we might well have said, ‘far out.’

The following weeks I could not have taken any photos. Perhaps feelings of ambiguity about Australia were rising already then, or was I merely reflecting or responding to my dad’s visible distress? I am not sure. It was so long ago. I know that no photos were taken till we went to live with our Dutch war-time friends and ‘aunt’ of the nr 2’s coal shed notoriety.   Frank, John and I were too busy scanning the grounds and immediate surroundings. It was hot and very humid with regular torrential downpours on most afternoons.

The country-side was rain- flooded with  hills sticking up like islands, bleating cattle atop looking around for help. We noticed also in the distance, trees with oranges suspended from their branches. They looked inviting. Can one imagine, oranges hanging there just like in the garden of Eden?  With the camp isolated and marooned we were somewhat stuck and mud was everywhere, including on our shoes. Poor dad could not cope with this new experience of mud on shoes and flew into a fit of anger. Even though Holland was the country that had invented rain, mud on shoes was unheard of.  We were city kids.There was simply no mud in The Hague. (only Embassies giving generous tips) Dad was coping the best he could but mud on shoes was one step too far, especially then!

An unforgettable memory etched in my mind was the generosity of the Australian government run Camp in the availability of unlimited supplies of food. It was all free and copious in quantity. The first few days we ate in the very large food hall. You picked up the food by queuing at the kitchen counter with a large plate. You ate what was ladled out. It was mainly very large enormous mutton chops, still glistening in fat with peas and a mountain of mashed potatoes.  Sometimes it was sausages and pumpkin. You then carried the full plate back to large tables that had knifes and forks already spread out. You sat on benches. We would all tuck in with a vengeance.

You can imagine, most migrants were from post or still on-going, war ravaged countries. Hungarians, Czechoslovakians and Bulgarians, many with university degrees, not to mention refugees who had escaped from German extermination camps that had already spent years roaming from camp to camp in Europe. They were true refugees.  Many also from Holland and Germany, Italy and Greece, today classified as ‘economic’ refugees.. All of whom were hungry and now in the promised land.. This  Scheyville food hall fed a hungry Europe as never seen before. Some straddled the benches with plates clutched between thighs instead of sitting at the table, so as to be closer to the plate or perhaps of fear the food would get stolen. One large Bulgarian man would chew on his mutton chops pulverising the chop- bone with bare teeth. I looked on in amazement. He did it to impress his country fellowmen much to their amusement and laughter. After the solid food was eaten one could again tank up or take seconds in the form of a jelly. The jelly was aeroplane jelly. A favourite ad on the radio was ‘I love aeroplane jelly’. Here it is for musical readers.

I used to grab slices of bread for afters, scooped up large quantities of IXL jam available on every table in giant gallon jars.. It had huge chunks of real fruit in it.  It was lovely, fancy being able to take as much as you liked? Surely Australia so far was everything that it had promised and more!

Migrant camps were also the breeding grounds for the budding entrepreneur. Future giants and captains of industry in Australia were often fermented (or fomented depending on  views of capitalism versus socialism) in migrant camps. One Polish man had sat up a smart taxi service. He had managed to get one of those large ancient Ford V8 cars and had become a self proclaimed taxi driver. He knew the way out of the camp having found a route to circumvent the flooded roads. He was doing a good trade and was helpful in giving information about availability and time tables of the train to Sydney. It would take a few hours and if leaving early enough one could get back in one day. He would wait for us at the station on the way back from Sydney.

The taxi-driver's car.

The taxi-driver’s car.

We had him drive us to the rail- station which might have been ten or more miles away and caught the train to Sydney. What followed during our first trip on the train still lives on, the memories growing ever riper and maturing with the times. It gets retold at every Christmas.

But, that will have to wait till next time. Milo is forcing my hand from the keyboard.

Scheyville camp.

April 30, 2015
Disembarking from the boat.

Disembarking from the boat.

The above photo of my parents standing on one the quay’s of Sydney harbour. I have some doubt of when this photo was taken. Was it on the day of arrival? Why is that man at the front clapping his hands? My father (Bald head) seems to be a bit bewildered. The lady with handbag is my mum. In any case, all seem happy!

Soon we were all packed in a convoy of buses and heading towards our migrant camp, Scheyville. My milkshake and sandwiches bedded down, the adventure and first glimpses of Australia would now roll past. Those first images were vital and I hope the remembering is as truthful as possible. Did those fleeting images already  set in motion future opinions and possible prejudices of Australia? Was I seeing my first glimpses of future resentments?  I really can’t answer that. As a fifteen year old I would have been bursting with excitement in seeing a foreign country. There can’t be any doubt about that!

We had already seen Fremantle and Melbourne. Fremantle was on a Sunday during a period when Sundays were expected to be spent on reflections of mother England and caring for lawns. Melbourne did have people about and we took a train trip to the inner city. The train carriages were made of wood and so were many of the cars. I could not believe the age of cars, they seemed out of a world of my meccano set, given by my parents a couple of years before migration. Some of the cars in Melbourne had to be wound up by a large handle at the front.

My parents in Holland, earlier times.

My parents in Holland, earlier times.

Above photo of my parents still in Holland. A great picture of happy life, contentment. I don’t know what that board was in her lap. It could have been a crocheting work in progress. My mother was always doing something, rarely did nothing. Glad to see the grass was unkempt. Dad seems dreamily serious.

As our bus took off, it soon founds its way on a very busy road. I noticed large signs and many car sales yards with car bonnets open as if yawning or waiting to be fed. Later on I found out  the road was called Parramatta Rd. About an hour along the journey or so the bus stopped and the driver walked across the road and disappeared into a pub. He left us baking inside the bus, but so what, it just allowed the passengers to see more carefully of so much that was new and different and the driver to get a couple of schooners of beer. Within a few month I noticed that beer drinking was very popular, as long as it was done before 6PM. Pubs closed at 6, allowing husbands to get home and if possible hand over the pay-packet before it all got pissed up against the porcelain. It is a hot and harsh country and beer does alleviate it.

Mealtime at Scheyville.

Mealtime at Scheyville.

The photo above is compliments of Google and is not mine. Notice the prevalence of men. Some time later the shortage became acute and I remember a rail bridge in Sydney with a large hand-painted sign, “Australia a country of men but no women”.

When we arrived at Scheyville we were more or less abandoned. There was someone who gave us a number for our accommodation. We had no clue as what to expect. No film footage at The Hague Embassy ever showed us converted  metal corrugated Nissen Huts  to be for many migrants and refugees the first form of accommodation. We just saw coloured films of postmen jumping fences giving glad tidings to very happy home owners standing tall on the well manicured lawns, beaming with happy and wearing gleaming white teeth in total sympathy with white picket  fences. The same with newspapers being chucked onto same front lawns. It all seemed so very unregimented and free, so jolly and sunny.

Scheyville camp with Nissan huts.

Scheyville camp with Nissen huts.

Compliments Google.

As we found our accommodation corresponding with our given number it was a surprise to be shown ex-army huts. Nissen huts to be precise. This looked very regimented and was totally without smiles. Mum said: “Oh this must be for our bikes”, grabbing her first impression, hoping against all odds this wasn’t for sleeping in, surely not! Her Dutch-ness escaped into a desperate hope this hut was for our bikes, soon to be provided. Holland of course a bicycle is part of all life. Why not here as well? But why would bicycles have mattresses and chairs? Within a few minutes reality set in but my mum immediately accepted and got busy settling in. She was the hero of all migration and should have been given a Dame hood, surely? We had suitcases with  the basics and soon we had our bedding arrangement sorted out. The bedside drawers had some crusts of bread in them. Later on we met a Dutch couple who had been in exactly the same Hut just before us and  had abandoned the bread in the drawers. We laughed heartily about that for many years to come. ( It wasn’t all sad.)

The Arrival in Sydney; Dreams, Chevy Utility and Nightmares.

April 29, 2015
Me, Adrian and John after landing in Sydney 1956

Me, Adrian and John after landing in Sydney 1956

The photo above might be one of the first taken after arrival in Sydney. It looks as if we were still on the boat. Notice our Sunday best attire including ties and coats! It would have been hot in February, even so, a good impression on arrival was to be persevered with.  Mum told us to wet our hair and run a comb through it. I always did try to get a slight wave at the front of my too straight hair with the help of a generous blob of brilliantine. I had my own jar.

The on-shore stevedoring workers were dressed in blue singlets and shorts. They could well have thought, while looking up and rolling their ready rub ciggie; ‘here comes another bloody boatload of bloody reffos.’ Definition of ‘Reffo’  ‘a refugee.’  Strictly speaking we were not refugees, but we were all painted with the same brush. European history was complicated and Australians at that time kept things fairly simple. At least we were white.

After the ship’s berth in Sydney we were greeted by our Dutch friends. They had already gone through all those emotions and experiences that we were now bravely facing head-on. My father looked tense while greeting our friends.  Our war-time friends and previous neighbours from Rotterdam were seasoned and well adjusted migrants, who, according to the letters they sent us, were totally happy and content with having made that choice so may years earlier. There were also many others greeting the new arrivals holding up signs with ‘carpenters, painters, bricklayers’ wanted. It was as if one could already start earning money within minutes of landing. Was this a sign of  ‘In Australia, streets are paved with gold?’

Dad must have arranged for our trunks of belongings to be forwarded to Scheyville migrant camp that we were supposed to travel to. The original plan to stay and live with our friends were put on hold. The reason I heard was so that we could first knuckle down to camp life in order to appreciate the better living with our Dutch friends afterwards. I think that might have well been the reason for my dad’s previous mentioned furrowed tense look. Did he smell a rat?

Holland was now almost six weeks in the past, yet had not forgotten the item of a special car. The car was a major drawcard for at least having some interest in coming to Australia. Remember, I was fifteen! Fifteen year old boys are interested, apart from roseate breast, also in cars.  Our friends had written they bought a car that was both a sedan AND a truck. How could that be? I knew that America was a country were all was possible. Australia might well be a miniature version of that magical US. I could not let go of this vision of such a magic car that could be both. A kind of wonderful conjuring trick so unbelievable, so magical. It was all I could think off. Was a button pushed that would change the sedan morph into a truck? In my feverously overexcited mind, everything was possible. After all, did not American trucks drive into every school in Holland giving each child a bottle of Coca Cola? That was magic as well as part of the Marshall Plan to help Europe back on its feet…

Mum On left. Dutch friend on right. Girl Dutch friend's daughter, the rest brothers Frank, Adrian and Herman.

Mum On left. Dutch friend on right. Girl Dutch friend’s daughter, the rest brothers Frank, Adrian and Herman. On right also (late) brother John with Lies daughter of friend.

I remember taking this photo ( and developing). It would have been after our stay at the migrant camp. The woman with the perm was called aunty but wasn’t a real aunt at all, more like a dragon. She used to lock Frank and John up in the coal shed when they had done a number 2 in their pants during their Montesori kindergarten days. I had to walk both home to this ‘aunty’. Mum was in hospital giving birth or something. Doing number 2’s during war time wasn’t unusual. In fact, it was one of those things that at least gave some relief during times of  trauma and bombs.

Our friends had come to greet us not by traveling to the port by this special car but by train. A bit of a blow but it was just the first day. We walked around Sydney with them and that’s when I enjoyed my first milkshake. In Holland I drank milk and had never imagined one could better the taste of cow’s milk by shaking it and mixing it with an unguent such as strawberry or vanilla. But, there you have it. A country of milk and honey, the milkshake was just the beginning. The milk-bar had a strange name, probably ‘Stavros or even Mavros- Milkbar. It was in George Street but not anymore now.

At midday we had to say goodbye to our friends as the buses were now ready to take us well outside Sydney to Migrant Camp, Scheyville.

All aboard to sunny Australia.

April 27, 2015

‘Let’s now move forward to, or back to, depending on what you might have read so far, to our period of migrating to Australia. The first murmurs I heard involved Argentina followed by South Africa. Australia came about because some war-time friends had already taken the step in the very early fifties or perhaps even the late forties. It took them 9 days to fly to Australia, so I am inclined to think it was the late forties. Their choice had been Australia. Many letters were exchanged and they were of the most euphoric kind. The streets of Australia were paved in gold and all was possible, own cars, own homes, cake eating on Sunday with mountains of cream, you name it, Australia had it all. My mother was really taken in by it,  ‘own home’ was beckoning more than anything, and especially with a bathroom.

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

Here a quick look again at those earlier war time periods. I seem to be joking or having fun still… Thirteen years later and I would find myself in Australia. It took a while for ‘fun’ to surface again.

But getting back to migrating and those last few weeks. The planning stage evolved rapidly with a visit to the Australian embassy and inspection by Australian Doctor. X rays were taken and the basics of our health determined by standing around in underpants while chests were listened to and asked to turn this way and that way. We had to touch toes and stick our tongues out to the Doctor. All our vaccinations were always strictly adhered to. Soon we all were deemed to be fit for Australia. We were the perfect white family for migrating and as there were six of us, Australia must have been drooling licking its still very British oriented but recent Australian Federation lips. Not a hint of a brown colour or smidgeon of Dutch colonial imprint of any kind. Blond and fair, just what the Doctor ordered

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo onboard.

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo on-board.

Above photo shows the gate-way to five weeks on-board a luxury boat full of Dutch migrants. There was a little band that would play over and over, ‘t was on the isle of Capri that I found her, with ‘O’ sole mio’ after we left Genoa. All hell broke lose when the boat pulled away from Sicily’s Messina. Many of those sons of Italian families would never be seen back again in those ancient villages.  Their mothers would be milling together, shedding tears around the water-wells for many months yet. The journey away from shores and love, so sadly final and permanent. A return impossibly expensive and at the time would not have been contemplated. Luigi, the best cobbler in Palermo now gone so was Antonio the dressmaker’s son. When the boat pulled away from Amsterdam and harbour, my mum and dad must have felt that too, but with six of us needing to find our cabins, they soon kept busy.

 

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Photo above; Bye, Bye Holland. I took this photo with my newly bought camera earned from delivering fruit and vegetables to Embassies in the many weeks before. (mainly from American Embassy tips, which were extraordinarily generous,and with hot soup as well)

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

Of this photo I remember the on-board film shop developer praising me. I think it might also have been a moon shot. I don’t see any sun, but…it was a long time ago now. The time on board was amazing, a holiday as never before. Can you imagine getting a new menu to chose from each time?  The decisions to make; pork or beef, chicken, and in morning, eggs boiled or fried? There was table tennis, a sweep stake which we always won some money with. And that little orchestra; It was on the Isle of Capri that I found you, forget about the walnuts! The Italians were still doe eyed, sad!

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

The two weeks after leaving Aden to Freemantle was mainly spent by my parents getting their luggage trunks from down the bowels of the ship on deck to make an inventory and make sure we would all be ready for Sydney. My parents wanted us to make a good impression in Australia and only Sunday best would do. The arrival in Freemantle was on a Sunday.  I have to go back a few months  now. A good friend told me; tell your parents to think twice before going to Australia. ‘It is a very boring country and on Sunday everything is closed’.

The arrival in Freemantle on a Sunday proved his warning and I remembered. The only people walking around were the passengers from the boat. It was something like out of the Neville Shute book and film ‘On the Beach’ that was yet to be made. All of us looking at each other, all of us dressed Sunday-best with proper coats and ties, cleanly scrubbed necks and underpants. But, what for?

Freemantle was empty or at least it looked empty. I did hear a cricket score filtering through the blinds, not that I knew a cricket score then, but do know now.

FREMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

FREEMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

 

Arrival in Sydney.

Sydney's arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the 'quality'.

Sydney’s arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the ‘quality’.

 

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Earlier times

April 26, 2015

Scanning through a box of photos which seemed to have escaped from being organised in an album, I thought of showing them for your enjoyment. I assume somewhat in a dictatorial manner that you would have the slightest interest let alone enjoyment in someone you have only met here on the internet. Still, I do feel I have met many of you troubling yourself in reading my words, even if not in the flesh.

Me 1942 wearing wooden klompen and pull-ups.

Me 1942 wearing wooden klompen and pull-ups.

The photo above is with my cousin Eva and taken on her parents property that had fruit trees. I don’t know much more than the fruit trees but it must have taken hold because apart from that, I can’t remember anything else. I was just two years old. Holland had capitulated two years before and Germany was now running Holland. The worst was yet to come. When I told my mother many years later how I remembered her cooking some porridge on one of those pump primus’  little heater/stove one very early and frosty morning, she was amazed because I was just 2 years old. She was cooking some porridge before taking me somewhere to a distant relative who still had more food than us. He was a tailor, married but no children.

On the way there my mother pulled me along on a snow sledge. The uncle lived some kilometres away from our place. While she pulled me along she spotted some German soldiers coming our way. She quickly pulled sledge and me and jumped into a ditch hoping they hadn’t noticed us. We kept hidden till they walked past. They had either not noticed us or they were just not bothered. The primus was a solid baked  enamelled green cooking device as was our green bucket that we kept the milk in. Saucepans too were enamelled and lasted for years, lifetimes even. Even when they developed a hole, a special man used to go a round and patch them up. Everything was patched up, restored and fixed. Now we chuck it out and rivers are full of debris choking up reeds, dams and trees during flooding rain. I spotted a perfectly good travel case stuck high up a tree during last weeks rain. I assumed it was in good order because that’s how it is. We buy new not because the old has worn or broken but because that’s how consumerism works. It has got us in its magic (rotten) spell.

1955/56 Just before migration to Australia with friends.

1955/56 Just before migration to Australia with friends.

This photo of me pondering in the middle was  during one of the best times of my life. The peak of teen years having just discovered the roseate softness of budding  breasts and smouldering hot eyes in a lovely  and eager girl. I was full of wonder what else there was still to discover about her? Her name was Margo. All this rudely interrupted with my parents decision to go so insanely far away. I had to live of those fleeting memories with Margo for a very long time after! The Australian suburban nightmare never  quite managed to wipe the good memories away. Of course, ‘the best times of my life’ should not be taken too literally. Times of unlimited possibilities and boundless optimism and belief in everything and nothing, is experienced by most but perhaps all too briefly during those teenage years. Later on it changes and seriousness so easily takes over for many. A routine becomes the enemy but I can say that I have been somewhat successful in fighting this routine and dulling repeats. I never did become an insurance actuary  or dedicated estate agent. Lacking a burning ambition in following a single profession was my forte. But how is one to know?

I did have a period whereby I suffered from not going to work while wearing a suit. I seemed to do jobs always wearing overalls or just work-wear with steel capped boots. I had fantasies of gaining some importance and recognition or worth, by going to work in a proper suit, and if possible with an attaché case carrying important papers. I returned to Holland and achieved this by working for a bank and  wore a suit for a few months.  It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. In the tram (line 22 to East Amsterdam)no one took notice and it was a lonely time in the office. No recognition al all. I did learn some book-keeping and typing.

After a few trips backwards and forwards, an escape from Dutch National Service, the bank job with suit, I ended up coming good after all. I married Helvi in Finland, who I had met a year or more before while skiing in Austria. She was still studying and I was painting pictures.

It was a long time ago. (with apologies to Actuary and Estate Agents)

The Lunch and WordPress.

April 25, 2015
The flooded creek

The flooded creek

The inability to print my writings from WordPress directly, did not get resolved. It had me flabbergasted which is easily done. Even a spontaneous ‘good morning’  from a stranger on my walk with Helvi and Milo gets me into a spin. It invites me to ponder, what have I done now again? To question another’s walker intention to a simple greeting  shows how easy it is to wallow too far in  introspection. Surely by now, one can accept things for what they are? A motley collection of not getting anywhere near understanding and truths? A hopeless individual flailing about in life’s drying rivers, his arms trying desperately to grab the overhanging weeping willow. Is this what one is doomed to?

I spare you the details of my print ‘direct from WP’ efforts and subsequent derailment from sanity. It was all futile. The language of Micro-soft is as foreign to me as Swahili. Not for me Tags and Collapsing menus, Browsers and Internet Explorers, Tools and Http’s, IClouds and Dreamweaving.

I just remembered in time a good friend that loves computers and who has helped us before, solving stressful problems, including mind- boggling technical manoeuvres for us. Yet a few presses here and there by our friend and the nightmare problem gone.  The deftness of our grandkids when we are faced with an insurmountable glitch on an IPhone we struggled with for hours are resolved without even looking up from what they are busy with. What hope for us? Our grandkids look at us now with barely hidden mirth and knowing glances to each other. Poor Opa, he is starting to slip. He had a hard life! I don’t tell them that I have been slipping ever since I shunned anything more complicated than yes or no, on or off, warm or cold. At their dawning we encourage them too and explore and find out thing by themselves. They too will travel and experience both the sun, shade and storms of life.

As predicted, when our friend arrived it was over in no time. Instead of Internet Explorer I have to go now to do a Google Chrome. Google Chrome is a web-browser. How does anyone know this? What secret  exchanges of Internet knowledge goes on without our knowledge? Do experts meet in the dark wearing gabardine worsted rain coats under dripping awnings,  giving funny handshakes and knowing glances?

When all the Google Chrome changeover was finished we had lunch at The Emporium pub. Our computer friend and Helvi chose barramundi fish with chips and salad. I chose the two sausages with mash and avocado mixed with Dijon mustard. A nourishing highly aromatic sample of this dish was already waiting for a customer under a hot-keeping light. Smoke was seen curling up from the brown sausages as from an old comfortable weatherboard’s  chimney, waiting under an ageing tree with leaf litter and some kindling.  It smelt delicious and the mash was equal sauced in brown gravy.  At times, the lure of a well proven dish becomes very attractive to a man who is slipping. I have senior times now where I lose courage and the fortitude  required for a pork belly or strips of exotic marinated puffer-fish with brandy jelly.

We waited at our table  for the buzzer to start vibrating. In the meantime, a waiter whose kitchens and menus are his domain, spoke to us. His face was deeply lined and I knew why. He worked very hard setting up his latest venture, a real Italian pizza café. He wanted to know what we thought of his new wood-fired pizzas. He imports  special milled flour and tomatoes from Italy and uses the finest of ingredients. Imported Portuguese anchovies, the best of lean strips of wood smoked black forest ham with prosciutto and speck with enough of a rind to be a challenge for kids who go for ‘the meat-lover’ variety. The pizzas get served up on a  polished wooden plate and are the finest in town. There are at least four pizza places now.

There might be other reasons for his lined face. People go through life dealing with hard issues never mentioned in everyday banter. ‘Oh, I am fine when asked, really good lately’. ‘How are you?’ Oh, yah, really good. Tops really, could not be better!’

We can never be sure, but bravely keep going like most of us. Laughter helps.

On the Farm

April 23, 2015

I remember it well, our life on the farm. It has been five years since we sold and moved where we are now. Our present house is just perfect with all the conveniences that we require. It includes a level entrance, both at the front and to the back garden with the Salvias, the Cyclamen numerous bay trees and hidden barbeque. But…it isn’t the farm! That fatal looking back came flooding in when I found the string of photos that the Estate agent took when he was engaged to try and sell our farm.

Here are some glimpses.

Rivendell on 117 acres

Rivendell on 117 acres

When remembering past we might tend to dwell on those that gave us the most joy, the best of experiences of laughter and joy,  splashing in the pool with grandkids and friends. Picking wild flowers and the smell of lemon scented eucalypt with swimming in the dams and river. We also remember growing grasses with autumnal colourings of the poplars. We planted over two hundred of them. I remember ordering the poplars and arrived with a trailer thinking It might even take a couple of trips. I was surprised to be given two bundles of sticks of a hundred each. They were two metres tall and all did have some roots and subsequently all took after we planted them along the four hundred meter driveway to the gate.

The Farm

The Farm

Bedroom with home made bed from Holland and my paintings.

Bedroom with home made bed from Holland and my paintings.

We might have forgotten the years of droughts, looking at the sky, watch the rain fall a mere seventy kilometres away, might well have been a thousand. We could not understand how that small distance could make or break a farm.  And yet, when rain broke the drought we would be dancing in the rain, it was all over and magic  made spell, spun its voodoo.

Lounge room with my biggest painting yet.

Lounge room with my biggest painting yet.

Dining room

Dining room

The plant on the left of the picture is now growing on our stairs having survived a frost during a stay outside bringing it back to a stump at soil level. It is now reaching for the top of the ceiling again. The pine table and chairs came with us from Holland 1976. Wall hanging from Sumba (Indonesia)

Convict built cottage as a holiday B&B

Convict built cottage as a holiday b&B

Kitchen of 'give and take'.

Kitchen of ‘give and take’.

The house never looked as tidy as shown. It was done for the Real estate photo shoot. With two stoves, cooking and heating was a delight. It has seen mountains of pancakes.

View from our bedroom

View from our bedroom

The cattle crush

The cattle crush

Spare bedroom

Spare bedroom

My lovely pizza oven

My lovely pizza oven

The Strasbourg knob.

April 22, 2015
My paternal grandparents wedding

My paternal grandparents wedding

It has been a long time in coming but are now getting warm to taking another trip overseas. The closest I have been lately to anything away from these fair shores, is the eating of the occasional Danish biscuit or a generous thick slice of Strasbourg sausage sometimes called a ‘knob of Strasbourg.’. The latter I get at special events. I never get much encouragement when eating anything with bits of white fat embedded in a sausage with H wrinkling up her nose and chucking it back dismissively between its bulging brothers waiting in the frigidly cold part of miles of other waiting and competing sausages with white goods.

The history of the sausage is interesting and dates back to Roman times when the left bank of the Rhine( Alsace)already then supplied sausages to the Romans. In fact, even the word knackwurst dates back a few thousand  years. The work ‘knack’ relating to the sound a good tight sausage makes when biting into it. It is even suggested that long pauses in German composers incidental pieces of music is thought to be caused by the composer taking a break to get stuck into another bite of a good sausage. If a lunga pausa ( long pause) together with a fermata (pause) is indicated on a piece of music it is not always that the composer took a breather, no he simply took a bite of knackwurst. It is well known amongst students of German and Italian music that Bach was known to fancy a bite or two. Glenn Gould, rest his genius soul, indicated that by a humming at every pause while playing the piano. Of course in the performance of an opera one could hardly expect a long pause by Pavarotti or Dame Sutherland taking a bite of a sausage instead of catching their breath.

It was a kind, bearded and ruddy looking man in the supermarket who saw me looking pensively at a Strasbourg knob who said; ‘ I buy one of these every week, they are fantastic value’. I appreciated his honesty and effort to include me in his culinary secrets and answered somewhat meekly; ‘I never had one of these.’. ‘Oh, you should, I love them,I would not go without the Strasbourg, I really love them, one a week for me, I tell the wife each time’.

I tried one after that inclusive and intimate conversation. I did like it but not at the rate of one a week. I have one a year or even less. The one in the fridge I bought yesterday in the lull of a terrible storm, is the third in my life. I just felt a need for it. They are 99% energy, according to the inscription on its taut skin.

Who can resist that during this cold weather?


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