The Mattock.

January 28, 2021



Who would have thought I would go out and buy a mattock on a hot day? This is what happened to me a few days ago when the heat became so bad, lethargy started to creep in. You know how it is. You sit in a reclining chair and let the heat numb you almost into a comatose state. You look out but  your eyes see nothing.  There is nothing worse than letting the days slip through your fingers and yet that’s what heat seems to be very good at, stealing your time.

There are those that try and relieve this ennui by licking ice creams or go out to an air-conditioned McDonalds and buy a Big Mack with a Coke.  On hot days discarded hamburger big McDonalds’ cartons and bags litter the bitumen roads, sticking to it and expressing seeping despair. On those very hot days even the birds are sunk in gloom. The hot air is simmering, the town is empty but for a lost dog on the nature strip, scratching listlessly. Even the fleas deserted the dog.

For no reason at all, or at least not one that I can remember, I looked at a very tall bush at the back of the sunflowers, that apart from being tall and green, had refused to give enough satisfaction for me to gaze my eyes on for any length of time ( while seated in the recliner). It was one of the salvias that I had taken with me from my previous address. Yes, the home of the pathologically impaired garden slasher, as some of you might remember. This salvia had grown very fast but refused to flower and was now on the way to their wilting journey that salvias go into before resuming growth again after winter. 

I suddenly got up and decided to dig it out. I tried first with an ordinary shovel but it was too difficult, especially in the 35 +C. I needed a tool  specific to the task. So, I went to this enormous cavernous hardware shop ‘Bunning”. After perusing a stunning variety of gardening tools I decided on the one shown above in the photo. It was an honest Spear Jackson mattock with a nice wooden handle . It felt nice too. It did the job admirably and my day came good.

It wasn’t wasted

Required; Photocopy of the front and back of your concession card.

January 18, 2021

My morning rituals include a walk to the letterbox, just in case something gets delivered inside. I have a notice stuck on its lid ‘no junk” but at times I feel like taking it off.  It is so rare that personal posts get delivered, even a catalogue on detergents would make a bit of a surprise. I suppose email has won out over personal letters. This morning though I was pleasantly surprised to get two letters. 

One was from the bank and the other from my local Shire Council who now wants proof that I am still the recipient of an old age pension.  Faithful followers of my blog know I have a quirky attitude to concessions including social benefits, especially pensions, sickness benefits, free medical services, education or anything that makes life more pleasurable and equitable for all.  Countries should at least strive for those benefits and raise enough revenue to pay for these.

Readers might also remember my pension card was torn in front of me at the Government  Office by a diligent but hard hearted bureaucrat whose eyes were reflecting a glee when she did that. I felt miffed at the time but did not show it. Anyway. with the letter in my pocket I drove to the Shire Council to tell them I was no longer a pensioner entitled to a pension because my wife had died and I was now ‘deemed’ to have enough income not to need a pension.  All our assets that were previously in two names, now were in one name.

It is no big deal, and all it means is that my rates that include water, garbage collection, nature strip grass cutting, Shire library, swimming pool and so much more now incurs the full charge and no pensioner discount. Fair enough. That’s how it is here in Australia. It seems The Netherlands too have become more frugal (mean) and they too had some kind of Robo debt scandal and now the whole government had no option but to resign.

This is an interesting graph relating to the situation in the US and not related to my pensioner concession card at all.

A Jam sandwich

January 10, 2021

IMG_1477 sunflower

A jam sandwich

It was just after waking this morning when it dawned on me I had not enjoyed a jam sandwich for a very long time. Although I am not naturally drawn to sweet food, I was never philosophically opposed to a jam sandwich. I suppose it dates back to my childhood where in my youth, some seventy five years ago now, ( how the time flies) a jam sandwich was fairly normal and accepted all over The Netherlands. School children were always given jam sandwiches.

When my parents found out that in Australia it was normal to give schoolchildren  banana sandwiches , they stayed up late over many nights to mull over this new found national lunch habit. I remember my parents in their bedroom talking about the cultural differences including banana sandwiches. Oddly enough, my mother back in 1957, it was a sunny day, came home with a jar of vegemite. Yet, they never questioned that brown smear of sandwich spread. When I saw the opened jar of vegemite for the first time I immediately thought of  soiled baby nappies and cow pats in verdant meadows. 

IMG_1476 hydrangia

Jam sandwich

So, after a shower and getting dressed I sought out my fridge to free up some of the jars of jam. I remembered I was given a few for Christmas and I’ll just realized I have a good collection;  A Home Grown Strawberry jar, an Apricot jam (not home grown), A Grandes Signature Raspberry jam  from Aldi, and last of all,  a Chinese 5 Spice Plum Sauce dated ( 19-12-2020). The latest I use mixed in salads.

Talk about Jams. Yesterday I bought a Tuna steak from the local Harris Farm fancy food outlet. This is a shop for those with large wallets. It has the best of everything, but you need a bit of money. Anyway, I know they sell fresh fish so on a Friday I treat myself on sliced raw tuna and a nice salad in which I infuse lots of different herbs, oils and this Plum sauce. Below is a photo including the finely sliced raw tuna.

IMG_1469 sliced tuna

Tuna salad with salad including Chinese 5 spice Plum sauce.

Please! Normal days, and Ducks show us the way.

January 4, 2021

IMG_1446 ducks are normal

If there is one wish I could achieve and get fulfilled is to have a year of normal days. I am soaked with Covid 19 and numbers, relentless day after day. I have earplugs and wear dark glasses but last year it permeated so relentless. It would not stop. I escaped daily, took walks around the lake seeking counsel from ducks and waterhens, listening to weeping trees. They told me to go home, repose  and give love a chance, allow yourself to become revigorated.

Seek Lockdowns and do Self Isolate was Government’s endless refrain! But, now with the ‘new year’ and endless glimmering vials of vaccine as shown on TV on their forward journeys and world-wide dispatched, so hopefully relief might be in sight. Can we hear now about a world of friends, kinships and a suspicion-less normal handshake with China? 

Will the US allow itself to become a more modest place with a fresh Government under a normal leader?  Not seeking out places to bomb or kill black people! One lives with hope! Will normalcy also return to Australia? Can we finally release the hundreds of refugees still in detention on Manus island and Nauru? What have they done to be kept in indefinite detention year in year out? Can we go forward and stop committing crimes against humanity and stop pointing the finger at others?

The rain has stopped and I will now quickly go with Milo to the lake and seek the ducks. I know they will be waiting. 

IMG_1292 ducks

The most unfortunate frog in my kitchen sink.

December 29, 2020


Just when everything was going so well and feeling unusually happy, I came across a dead frog in my kitchen sink. After getting out of bed, I usually after a run to the toilet,  put on socks. It is the first thing I do, followed by going downstairs to make a cup of tea and start my washing up. I reverted to handwashing dishes despite several people including my daughter, pleading with me to try the dishwasher. I followed their advice only to go back to handwashing as soon as friends and family have shut the door homewards bound. I love handwashing. There is something sensual about the feel of soapy water running through the fingers.

As I was rinsing and somewhat absentmindedly playing around with small plates, forks and little spoons my mind went to some very caring text messages exchanged the previous night with a newly found friend , very female friend. The kitchen sink is the perfect place for the absentminded. The view outside to my garden is glorious and of course, even without a view, to be absent ought always be something to strive for. If only it was a subject of study at schools and universities instead of that mindless football with a malformed oblong ball…together with hollow finance and economics studies. What good has that done to the world?   

Of course, my raison d’etre for being above the sink had finally to be reckoned with and the washing up be finished. I was vaguely aware of something floating about in the water, especially after I drained the sink. To my horror and utter surprise, there was a frog in my sink. A listless frog, a dead frog. I could not believe it. How did it get there?

After questioning a few people including a well know marine biologist, the answer was that the frog most likely had hopped inside my house during the night and clambered up the kitchen cupboard and into the sink, where no doubt, it sheltered between some of the plates and cutlery within a nice and moist environment. It must have felt safe. I always leave the door open for my dog Milo to do his ablutions at night. We are both getting older and into more frequent bouts of needing a toilet. We sometimes run into each other, Milo downwards and me straight across the bedroom to my toilet. Milo has the temerity to push and go first before me.

I felt bad because I filled the sink with hot water and must have burnt and drowned the poor frog. What a horrible thought. The expert marine biologist told me frogs are good climbers and have suction pads on their feet enabling them to even clamber up porcelain toilet bowls, laminated surface.

As a consolation he said my garden must be attracting frogs and that with the copious rains pelting down the last few weeks, must have been provided a good place for this frog. He said; ‘you are providing a good ecology’.

As for my female friend, we met and it is so lovely now. I am so absentminded, floating almost.

Little treasures for the lockdowns

December 20, 2020

With now over thirty Covid 19  detected in the Beach side areas of Sydney it seems likely a Sydney wide lockdown will be imposed. A pity, because for many weeks there haven’t been any locally acquired cases of Covid in Australia.

If Sydney gets a lockdown my daughter and grandsons won’t be allowed to visit and neither will I be allowed to go there. No big deal really. I will hold my own visit, light some sparkles and sing ‘The little red nosed reindeer’. 

I thought I’ll give you, dear followers, some pictures to look at.

IMG_1291 a friendly lizzard

A friendly lizard that I spotted at the lake I walk around almost daily.

IMG_1292 ducks

The wisdom of ducks clearly visible.


A long necked turtle. Unfortunately the turtle spotted Milo and withdrew it’s neck. They are he longest neck owning species of turtles in the world. 


My garden is now getting to the jungle-like stage and attracts small birds scurrying for nectar and insects.


More of the garden

IMG_1263lake Alexandra

Lake Alexandra near my place. 

Enjoy the pictures.

Happy Christmas to you all.

See you next year!

The retiree, and at times, the precarious finances stretched out over an increasing longevity.

December 14, 2020



Sunk in deep thought, and pensive thinking, we might at times be speculating on how many years we still have ahead of us. Most of us would probably want as many years ahead as possible, and barring ill health in my case I have decided to at least reach ninety years. Australia like some other countries doesn’t have a national pension scheme whereby all adults get a pension regardless of assets or wealth. When with Helvi, and still a couple, our assets were deemed to be below the threshold and were therefore entitled to a small part pension. One has to pass a ‘deeming’ test. All savings and assets, apart from the family home are added up to determine the viability of a pension.  The pension also allows free car registration, electricity and water concessions and hearing aids at a reduced price. Also some interstate train trips.

For some reason which I have now forgotten I had to sort out something at the Government Office. Perhaps it had to do with a concession of one sort or the other. I duly showed my ID in the form of my pension card. The Covid was in full bloom then, and I had to talk to the Government Office woman at the right distance which was marked on the floor by tape. In order to show my ID I had to actually throw the pension card on the counter because my arms don’t have the length of 1.50 Meter. The other option would be to fall towards the counter and hand the pension card. At my age that adroitness has gone and the acute angle of my body would have incurred a possible fracture and need for ambulance.

Much to my surprise the Government Office woman looked at my pension card, turned it around, typed in the number while all the time keeping an eye out on me. And then, just out of the blue and of her own volition she ripped my card up. She looked triumphantly and said: ‘You are not entitled to your pension anymore’. It turned out that the pension was withdrawn because my wife had died. The reason was that the assets now were in one name instead of divided by two. I had transgressed the amount above the pension. That’s how it works. I thought of the Government Office woman act of ripping up my pension. It was so reminiscent of the seventies when my parents also went through the same asset testing at 65 years of dad. At one stage my mother was asked to empty her handbag on the desk. My parents were dumbfounded but decided to return to Holland where their son was living, and which has a generous pension scheme not dependent on assets or wealth. They do pay hefty taxes though!

But back to my own case. I am able to live well and do so by getting an income from rent and share dividends,  and with eating up savings I should be alright till I turn ninety.  The question is, in case the longevity stretches till ninety five, or save the plight, one hundred? What then? Will I still saunter off to the Government Office woman and beg for a reinstatement of my pension? There are so many questions.

A fundraising spectacle for Men’s sheds selling humble sausages.

December 8, 2020

We all know that due to Covid 19 most of the world either went in lockdowns or threw caution to the wind and went about going normal and accepted the consequences. Personally, it has put my daily news into lockdown as well. I don’t know how people can put up with the endless repeat of the same sentences purporting to be ‘News’. I used to be fond of News, but not anymore. It’s become a bit like going to a party and end up dancing with your mother all evening. Who want to hear the word Covid over and over again?

IMG_1268 Bunnings sausages 

This photo of the barbeque sausage marquee last Saturday at Bunnings with a hungry lady striding towards the sausages!

In Australia the Covid lockdown included the much revered Saturday fundraiser at Bunnings selling Barbequed sausages. We all know that in order to assuage the constituents to accept compulsory voting, that the government in a rare flash of insight cunningly invented the ‘Democracy sausage’. Each voter, once every four years gets treated to a free beef sausage on sliced white bread with a choice of sauces. There is American, French and English mustard as well as Tomato sauce, and to top it off, Barbeque sauce with secret ingredients. They get this after they have voted but not before. They keep a strict lookout on cheaters. No one wants be known around town as having cheated on the Democracy sausage.

Bunnings is a huge consortium of hardware, tools, timber, screwdrivers, Allen Keys, lawnmowers. A Mecca for the handy man and home renovator. Some people go to church on Sunday and some go to Bunnings. People sometimes ask each other in comradery manner; ‘Have you been to Bunnings lately’? Each suburb has a Bunnings almost the same as there are MacDonald’s. Bunnings operate in huge sheds covering acres and acres. They sometimes hold workshops for women wanted to handle tools ( ea. Difficult husbands) together on different evenings line dancing or craft workshops. During the pandemic, Bunnings did a terrific trade with all those couples simmering together in heated lockdowns. Many suffering marital whiplash with conjugal warring becoming a huge mental  health problem. Going to Bunnings for a break was an ideal solution for thousands. I saw people taking deckchairs and Devon sandwiches to the carnivorous Bunnings carparks and spend a nice time in togetherness. 

But, what was missing were the Saturday sausages. There was a built-up pining for the good old days when all that joy would culminate in the shared Saturday bangers with sauces and fried onions.  Of course, Bunnings was supporting this all because the profits always went to a good charitable organization. Last Saturday they reinstated the tradition of the Saturday sausage. A nation wide sigh of relief rented the still air. It was a fundraiser for ‘Men’s shed’,. For the uninitiated, Men’s shed is where men get together and are provided with tools and company to do things together. It is also a way to improve mental health between men who often seem to sink in gloom and isolation. I have my own men’s shed with Milo doing my knitting and writing about what goes on through my mind which isn’t a great deal really. 

Where are women sheds?

Walking and talking at Alexandra.

December 4, 2020

IMG_1263lake Alexandra

Lake Alexandra at Mittagong

Apart from sitting while sipping a creamy latte at the cricket café called ,’The stumps’ at Bowral the next best place to strike up a conversation is Lake Alexandra at Mittagong where I live. It is an artificial lake whose water was used to cool down equipment used by the first steel making industry in the State of NSW. The industry failed after a few years. Australia could not compete with imported steel from England. I am talking about the 1890’s. The foundation of this steel factory is now preserved and is exposed in the carpark of a supermarket that includes the ‘Reject shop’. The reject shop is where I met again the lady whose husband passed away and was sobbing her heart out. But enough of that now.

Lake Alexandra Reserve – Mittagong |

This lake and through the decades has lost all its artificiality and looks as if it has been there for thousands of years, huge trees surround it and a plethora of wild life. It is now used to cool down walkers. I try and make it each day. This is not hard because it is only a 2 minute drive or ten minute walk to get there. Oddly enough, after living in this area for over ten years it is only now that I am getting the pleasure out of this lovely lake and the walk around it.

IMG_0874Bowral Ducks

With the move and trying to establish in a new house it took time and effort, and even though the previous house was in this area, too much else was going on. It is only through the calmness finding new friends and my  knitting that freed me up to look around and explore. I take Milo for two walks around it, (he is an old boy now), after which I take him home only to return and take a further five walks around the lake making a total of seven walks.


This is the first garment I knitted. I started with just thirty stitches but it grew and grew and finally was large enough for a primitive dress, so I made it a bedding for Milo. 

There are many people who also walk around this lake. Many do it for the sheer pleasure of seeing the ducks and water hens cavorting about. Ducks, particularly  drakes, expend a lot of energy chasing females, almost manically and then almost drown the females pushing the hapless girl under the water in their selfish quest for conjugal pleasure. I sometimes feel like shouting; ‘stop it’.

Most times I end up chatting to someone and I find that most fulfilling. We are all of the same mind and I suppose, those that are totally different would not seek the serenity of a lake with ducks, turtles and large fishes. ( grammatically correct)

IMG_1264Milo checking for ducks at Lake Alexandra

Milo too, finds it interesting. There is so much to sniff and explore.

Finding a lost friend.

November 28, 2020

It was two weeks a go when a chance meeting happened from which I still haven’t quite recovered. Not that it was so traumatic or dangerous but more a kind of causing a nagging and pulling of heart strings that is not letting me go free. Of course, being free is my daily endeavor. Not all that easy when exposed to a world of past events while rummaging through endless history.  In any case, I will now try give you the details of a conundrum that has been making me restless to the point that my mind keeps returning to this chance meeting. 

I and a friend from longtime ago was staying with me. We decided to do some shopping. And, she like me, are in unity when it comes to shopping. We both go to the same supermarket that excels in  a kind of no nonsense shopping. No acres of hundreds of different washing powders or mile after mile of toilet paper. I buy from a list and never any extra unless it is free. ( Like the occasional sausage at Bunnings.) A week ago, when at the Opera House, there was a large van offering for free, a new yoghurt. The queue was modest so I lined up too and received my yoghurt which I sampled on the ferry together with Milo who got the occasional lick as well. He approved this new yoghurt.

But let us get back to my story.

It was while shopping with the friend and standing in front of a chain shop named ‘The reject Shop’ when this chance meeting started to unfold. Reject Shops are a favorite haunt of mine and I could spend hours checking the different items for sale. They are all brand new and nothing really is reject but it is the power of marketing that draws people in thinking they get second hand things at a much lower cost. I was after some knitting needles (nr 5mm). I found them and was delighted. Most knitting wool balls or ‘cakes’ as they are called come in different size thickness, and each thickness of the yarn has to synchronize with the right pair of needles! Of course, one can ignore the recommended needles and go free and knit with all kinds of thickness needles. It’s not a law!


As we were both standing outside the shop, looking in our shopping bags relishing the articles we had bought, a woman stopped in front of me wringing her hands with both her arms waving up and down in a desolate and wretched manner. I had seen her before but was taken aback by her show of utter sadness and grief. She kept looking in my eyes and then she said; ‘ my Graham has gone too now.’ Slowly my memory started to roll back and unfurl  to a degree where the woman and her grief started to finally make sense. She and I, with my late wife Helvi and her late husband Graham had met some three years earlier at the Bowral hospital.

Both Helvi and Graham were getting the chemo therapy for a number of months. Often both Helvi and Graham would sit in the same type of chairs while getting the infusion of different bags of liquid straight up the canister, either in their chests or  arms .There developed a common bond not least helped along by the fact that Helvi from Finland and Graham’s wife from Lithuania shared a background from the same almost forgotten European corner. Thinking back I still see that period as a very happy period. Odd as this might sound but those shared hours and days of harsh chemo were always filled with laughter and closeness. They seemed a happy couple and often she would read to her husband from a book while Helvi would be doing her beloved crossword puzzles.

When she finally stopped her sad sobbing while still in front of the Reject Shop, she told me that she knew Helvi had died well before her Graham did. ‘I went past your house many times in the hope of seeing you,’ she said. ‘I wanted to tell you how sorry I felt’ she said in her strong Lithuanian accent. By that time I was all churned up and feeling the terrible plight and the weight that cancer extracts from so many caring partners. All I could do was listen and show some comfort and lame words. I did not even have her name or ask her, and worse, did not have the presence of mind to offer her a coffee, indeed, invite her to come to my place. We just parted company and that’s what happened. It all happened so quickly and the emotions were so high and all engulfing.

And now I want to try and find her. I looked at the obituaries, checked on those with the name ‘Graham.’ She told me while sobbing he died 6 months ago, and also was told by my shopping friend she said she lived in Bundanoon which is about 20km from here. I suppose I could try hanging around the reject Shop hoping to see her again. I have forgotten her name as those meetings at the cancer hospital are now at least 3 years past. Bundanoon has a cemetery and perhaps I should visit it and check on names with Graham. Privacy concerns would prevent the Hospital giving any information.

It refuses to go away and I would dearly like to find her.