Posts Tagged ‘Balmain’

Should ‘Milo’s droppings be picked up?

November 28, 2017
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Milo at peace with the world

Many no doubt remember the days when dogs roamed free around suburban circuits and their shopping strips. In our own suburb of Balmain it became very fashionable to have dogs as pets, and there even seemed to be a correlation between the size of the house and the size of the dog. Generally, the smaller the house, the bigger the dog.

There was no law on dog dropping and I remember hopping and skipping trying to avoid huge piles of dog shit on the footpath. People used to scrape their shoes on the concrete kerbs with the more fastidious and gymnastic pedestrians carefully picking the  groves in their shoes with a piece of stick specially taken for just such an occasion.

For a short while, councils introduced painted signs asking dogs to be kerbed. It showed a dog squatting with a nicely formed dropping suspended in mid-air between the dog’s arse and the kerb. Quite a creative bit of a sign really. After a few years a law was passed that all dogs had to be walked on a lead and the days of dogs shitting hither and dither with the resulting littering of footpaths disappeared. Most dog walkers take a plastic bag to take care of any impromptu dog defecating events. You sometimes see  a little plastic bag suspended from the dog’s lead proving the diligence of the dog walker in doing their civic duty and follow the law on dog droppings by picking it up. Some people even bought a special scoop to pick up dropping. It seemed too complicated and I think they have now disappeared. They turn the plastic bag inside out, pick the still warm dropping up  by hand, and turn the bag around to its original form, but now containing the dog’s product.

All this because a few days ago a man ambushed me from behind his garden fence to tell me to pick up Milo’s little turd. “You are not leaving your dog’s shit on the grass verge,” are you, he said? I immediately crouched down and picked up a small brown branch of a wild cherry tree. I answered and said, “I was only too happy to pick Milo’s little shit up but could not find it.” I showed him the little branch and took out my handkerchief. “If I can find it, I will put it in my hanky and in my pocked,” I said.

The man calmed by now. I showed him the branch and still on my knees poked around the grass trying to find Milo’s small and dry little turd. Apparently it was so small it just did not show up.  My eyesight is not he best. The man then relented and said; “no need to put it in your hanky and in your pocket.” “And what is in your hand is just a little cherry branch”. “I am sorry, he apologized.”

Perhaps he felt being a little too severe.

Milo looked up. He did sneak one in somewhere. Should I have looked better and more thoroughly?

What do the readers think of this etiquette of picking up dog shit? Milo’s toilet habits are perfect. He usually goes right underneath some bushes and never on the foot path. Never.

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The Auction

March 26, 2017

 

IMG_0767Christmas Dec 2015

Daughter with our grandsons

Well bid, Sir.

And with that a small 2bedroom home-unit changed hands to a lucky new owner. Last week has been hectic, too hectic for some seniors. Readers might remember that after that last heat-wave we decided to get air-conditioning installed. This all happened last Thursday.  Three trucks arrived at 7am. The evening before we were warned not to be in our pyjamas. This referred to when we asked for a quote and we were still night-clad at 11am a few weeks ago, when the man arrived to measure and quote for the air-con. We got sprung. It is rare for us to be out of night-gear before mid-day. It is a nice luxury and it is not as if we  have to catch the 6.30am bus (401 Balmain-Sydney)) to get to the train and then to work.

We had also made a move to go to a real estate Auction this last Saturday. Our daughter has for some time now been mulling over moving. It is funny, Sydney is not as homogenous in its people as one thinks. Perhaps with all the influx of migrants many areas have grown starkly different. Our daughter decided to move away from her area that seems to be mainly peopled by working couples. Dual income no kids or  known as DINK couples. The Dinks want to move upwards and want the mystery of ‘life-style’. And they want it now! That’s why they scurry out of the door to work, and in again after work. They are the 6.30 am bus catchers. Sydney  house prices though might mean they will have to catch the bus for many years yet!

‘Not many children or teenagers, not enough coffee lounges and bookshops,’ our daughter said. She also added. ‘There is just not enough loitering of people walking the streets,’ it is just not cosy.’  It is a boring suburb. She is referring to where she has lived for the last few years. I am familiar with the boring. Could she be a chip of the old block?  She likes the areas where the diversity is somewhat greater. I suppose she might also remember the halcyon years, when growing up in the inner city suburb of Balmain.

So, off we went and scoured the real estate pages, including http://www.domain.dot.com and all those sites that at the flick of a button opens up the world of apartments for sale nation-wide. The advertisements are all false. ‘They are false estates,’ Trump would say. Photos are taken with wide angle lenses that make a mere toilet look so big one would think buying an airport lounge. The interior measurements are juggled with but that’s alright and dealt with by the small lettering down the bottom warning buyers to not rely on anything the brochures and advertisement might be stating. Fake brochures. Fake figures.

Her choice finally singled out on a 2bedr, town-house at Dulwich-Hill. After  pre-contract perusing by solicitor and financial  acrobatics and skirmishes between daughter and us, we worked out some details. The value of her present property, a 3bedr double story unit would most likely be less than the pokey 2 bedroom place she was interested in. We would hang in there for the difference! A premium is now paid for closeness to latte sipping venues and bookshop browsing opportunities. Mothers with prams while nonchalantly sipping a latte from a carton cup while strolling about can add thousands to properties. A premium is also paid for 6am coffee shops opening while catering for lycra clad bikers/joggers and senior dog strollers with fold-out walking sticks.

The mood at the auction was electrifyingly tense. People were eyeing each other, trying to estimate the depth of their wallets. I had pre-booked our interest and my bidding number was nr. 9. The auction started at exactly 9am. It must be the law. No late comers allowed upsetting the procedures.  We had a pre-arranged limit over which we would not bid. Our daughter was tense. We pointed out the smallness of the unit. Will this be enough for you and two growing teen-age sons, we asked?  She just nodded a bit nervously. How much the worth of latte, I could have added but did not.

The crowd had gathered outside, and a movie camera was pointed towards all of us. There would have been a fair sprinkling of neighbours curious about how much their units had shot up over the last year or so. Sydney is now the most expensive city in the world and a dangerous bubble is ready to bust anytime.

The opening bid after a few seconds was $ 850.000.-. It soon was incremented by $5000.-lots, when it all started to stall at around $ 900.000,- Our limit was  firm at $920.000.- I kept calm but knew we would soon be out of the picture. The auctioneer started getting serious and wanted it to get over with. No doubt he had other auctions scheduled for later on. He started to raise his little wooden hammer, his tool of trade, and threatened to call it. The real action started. The serious buyers were now getting into their stride. The final bid was $ 970.000.-

The oddness at auctions is that when the property gets sold, people clapped as if they had seen a performance or an opera. Perhaps it was operatic. I enjoyed it. But, the buy was over the top. Our top anyway. I felt relieved and Helvi was ecstatic. She felt it was far too small and dark

The auctioneer congratulated the successful bidder by saying, ‘ well bid, Sir.’

Only the lonely

February 8, 2017

 

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But where are the people? This was very often a question asked during the time we had foreign students living with us. We lived in Balmain. It is a suburb which many Australians would classify as having medium to high density living. We always look back with fondness of the twenty years we lived there. It is the place where our children grew up. So, how come this question; but where are the people?

The foreign students came from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Germany with a couple from Holland. The question has to be looked at from the perspective of living in cities. Australia right from the start understood it had space.  Space was lacking in England, especially in the big smoked filled cities. Thus the suburban block here was soon to be seen as desirable for people to be housed on. At the beginning, people lived in terrace houses joined together forming complete streets. Balmain was one of those earlier suburbs of Sydney with streets of terrace houses. Parks were everywhere and it still felt very spacious.

However, the foreign students came from cities that were teeming with people. They would form throngs on the streets. I am sure that those that have been to Asia understand there is a huge difference between density of people there in cities compared to here in Australia. It were those people on the streets that the students were sorely missing, even in inner city Balmain.

My parents soon after arrival in 1956 went to live in western Sydney. Real Estate agents and blocks of land were the main topics of conversation amongst the migrants.  We too were swept up into saving a deposit for our ‘own’ block of land.  There was no real understanding of the social consequences in making a choice of where to live.  To be near a rail-station was desirable but as for other desirable needs, it just wasn’t about or questioned. Migrants had a need to have a roof and security of an income, all else was secondary. It was like a fever. One got caught up in the frenzy of making a new life. It was all a bit puzzling for my dad. He was different.

The street that my parents ended up living in was like millions of suburban streets anywhere in Australia. There were people living in houses but you would rarely see them. It felt achingly lonely. Sometimes a curtain would stir or a car would drive by. For me it was deadly, spiritual dehydration. Sure, the petunias and rockeries were plenty. Rosellas would be screeching and flying about and then there was cracker night. This was a yearly event with bon-fire on the street, somehow mysteriously related to Guy Fawkes or something. It was an occasion for neighbours to meet up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes

All this in response to having read a lecture by Hugh MacKay. He is a well know social commentator. “The State of the Nation starts in your Street.”

http://theconversation.com/hugh-mackay-the-state-of-the-nation-starts-in-your-street-72264

It seems to fit in what is happening with all that card swiping and waving at poles. We are forced to dealing with less and less people. Banking is done silently in front of an ATM. People buy food on-line and sit at home all sated and possibly overweight. The steel posts at rail stations. Most work will finally be done by  steel posts and robots. Soon we might go to bed enjoying the icy embrace of a steel post or with a rotating robot with a waving of cards giving consent to heaven knows what sexual delights

.

I don’t know what can be done to liven up lonely suburban streets. My mum did her best and was fearless in her search for social contact. It was difficult. All those Venetian blinds and that obsession with privacy. A sign of change is that most people now prefer an apartment close to the city. People do seem to want to live close to each other, able to walk to shops and work. People need people.

We shall see!

Receding years and fatal memories. ( For seniors)

August 2, 2016

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My Mother on the left, Aunt Agnes on right, her brother in the middle

Those with more receding years behind than advancing years in front, might still remember visiting Aunts and their endless talk about illnesses and ailments. As a child it made me almost sick having to accompany our parents to visit ancient Aunts. My hair would be duly roughly brushed up and my nails scraped clean. I had to wash my hands. For some reason, they were all called Aunts, even when not related. I think my parents underestimated my observation skill in detecting lies.

On top of everything else, we were forced to kiss them on arrival and again on departure. One Aunt had facial hairs sprouting, another a permanently dripping nose. I was bored shitless and had to sit still. I remember passing time staring at Aunts and listening to their litany of ailments with detailed frailties enthusiastically regaled in all its minutia. My mother told us a very old Aunt sat on a chair that held a toilet. We were strictly forbidden to stare at this. Of course we stared at nothing else. We never forgot anything to do with toilets.

We had one Aunt running a grocery shop in Eindhoven. A couple of lollies did relieve the visits somewhat, but only just. She had a very large and frightening nose. Another Aunt was better and used to send me cut-out copies of a very favourite Newspaper strip, ‘Erik de Noorsman’ or ‘Eric The Norseman.’ She was Aunt Agnes and very kind. No hairs that I remember!

It was when I turned twelve or so that those obligatory visits were finally done away with. I became stronger in my resistance but am sure it left permanent damage.
Of course, migrating to Australia when I turned fifteen, pushed all visits to Aunts permanently into the annals of our family, even though a couple of Aunts did visit us in Australia.

Seventy years later and the shoe now fits the other foot. However, even though I am still no Aunt, I have facial hair. No toilet built into my fauteuil as yet. I do consider my grandkids. I love seeing them, but leave them mainly to their own devices when here. I have taken to reading again those crime stories by Henning Mankell. I was a third down reading one, when the book just vanished. I turned the whole bedroom upside down. It got taken by someone, and I reckon the fifteen year old grandson snitched it. I am so proud if he did. Stealing books is to be encouraged. I don’t want to ask him. In fact, if the book is stolen, I will leave another Mankell (unobtrusively) again for next time.

This is what was lacking in those time long gone visits. Kids were expected to behave. Why did they not give books or toys to kids visiting aunts? Where were the uncles? I cannot remember a single uncle. Did the war claim them? Was it smoking related? Where did they go?. In jail perhaps? How odd.

It now reminds me of ‘The Book Thief.’ Life during those Aunt visit seems to have stood still. Yet, it is all so magically and reverently coming to the fore now. I read a book about the Death of a Moth and named our flower shop in Sydney’s Balmain, ‘Bloomsbury.’ Bloomsbury was a group of English writers, philosophers, intellectuals and eccentrics that included amongst many, Virginia Woolf.

The simple and inevitability of life. How wonderful.

Back to Memory Lane and Alexander van der Bellen.

May 24, 2016

 

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Gertrude Cottage

Yesterday we decided to combine a visit to our daughter and grandsons with a visit to a local market near where we used to live. It has been twenty years since we left the inner city suburb of Balmain. Faithful readers of my ‘Oosterman Treats’ of bits and pieces’ might remember we first strayed into this area back around the late 1960’s. Freshly married and with two daughters in tow, we bought ‘Gertrude’s cottage’ for $ 12500.-. It came with glorious views and shimmering sunshine reflected on the hardwood floor just below the Harbour’s bridge and its blue waters. It also came with a couple of woody-weed eating goats.

It was then possible to save and buy a place. It seemed to be within reach of a normal working young couple. Today, that’s not possible. That house would now be over three Million. I don’t understand why this is so. Some say, wealthy Chinese from mainland China are buying houses. Others claim that the shortage of houses are to blame. Some of the more radical (xenophobic) claim that the foreigners are buying up and just leave the houses empty and pick up on the capital gain.

It seems to me an accident waiting to happen. Correction seems inevitable. How can houses be left empty when the need for houses and housing is so great? Look at the refugee camps around the world. Some have housed people for generations. The young grow up into adulthood and have children of their own, all in refugee camps,not knowing anything else.

Anyway, a glimmer of hope can be gleaned from Austria. Alexander van der Bellen has become president. He nipped the anti-refugee right wing contender within a narrow margin. I like Mr van der Bellen already. At seventy three he still enjoys cigarettes ( why should I torture myself giving up smoking at my age) and loves comic books. He is also green and an outspoken champion for the underdog and refugees.

He comes from an aristocratic Russian-Dutch-Estonia background and both his parents were refugees from the Stalinist dictatorship. He is not just a tree hugger but also a professor and an economist. Not a bad mixture. Let’s hope he throws off the anti refugee mentality that now so often seems to grab headlines instead of the much more prevalent and common more humane views of the majority of people. He did win the election!

I do hope that in Australia too, we will see a resurgence of a more humane majority emerging from this steaming racist xenophobic morass of Australia that seems so often to grab the limelight. Mind you, with Murdoch still hanging around, it is not surprising.

http://www.amazon.com/Almost-There-Fragments-Restless-Life/dp/0994581033/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1464128774&sr=8-1&keywords=Almost+There+by+Gerard+Oosterman

Is a sugar-tax cricket?

March 20, 2016
Still in The Hague. My parents

Still in The Hague. My parents

 

The last few weeks have been trying. Getting a book to fruition during a heat-wave is nothing more than self-flagellation. Readers might remember that it was suggested to change back the Father and Mother words to Dad and Mum. This was done via my newly advised and learned Word- processing trick, by instantly replacing all the words in the whole book instead of trawling through the whole manuscript, word by word. It even lets you know how many Mums and Dads were changed. There were new issues about ‘keeping Mum about a secret, ‘changed instantly into ‘keeping Mother….’

Of course, during changing from Father& Mother back to Mum and Dad (for the second time,) when writing about an episode of a budding artistic career involving hand painting Friesian Grand-Father clocks with windmills and sea-gulls in endless flight, it changed into Grand-Dad clocks. It still meant going again through it all. How does one remember having used words in a totally different context or co-joined? Just as well the Catechism wasn’t written. ‘It the name of the Dad, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

My good friend, Paul in Balmain offered to format the whole caboodle.  When it was mentioned more changes were likely to come, he stopped. The formatting formula whereby pages get numbered, photos with descriptions or titles underneath introduced, sub-headings appearing, the different fonts  and so much more, would all become hay wired when any changes are made. It does mean it finally has to come together as good as possible. And, all this, with not excluding serif or sans serif, is making an enormous demand on keeping sane.

It has now come about when opening a book the emphasis is on any mentioning and checking the fonts, both the size and look of the letters, spaces between paragraphs, the inclusion of ISBN number, catalogued with National libraries, the back page blurbs. Dedications and grateful murmurs to all sorts of helpful people. The issue of laying claim to copy-right. Issues of privacy and possible libel. Do people who get their manuscript published continue writing and reading?

Most publishers want the first few chapters and a bibliography. Others want the whole manuscripts ‘print-ready.’ Some want one to study the books they have published and write a synopsis of this or that book.

My goodness. One could have been a good surgeon, or prominent lawyer.

Rest assured that all is well. Just now I have made some cuts in potatoes, added chopped garlic and pepper and wrapped them in alfoil. Did the same with some carrots and shallots. For a few weeks all our cooking has been done outside. We sit in the shade with Milo chasing lizards. We chase some Shiraz instead and wait an hour or so when the spuds and carrots will be almost cooked. We put on the salmon cutlets with some red capsicums that have been sliced.

Voila, a perfect solution to book publishing fatigue. And…not a single spoonful of sugar is used. Poor old England, the sugar- tax bogey man is coming. People are starting to hoard sugar in their cellars. Soon, like smokers, sugar ingestion will be done on street corners behind newspapers or in dark alleys. People will try and stir in the sugar when no one is looking.  Husbands will be suspicious of wives coming from the larder. What is the world coming to…a sugar-tax!

There weren’t as many as there were a while ago.

December 16, 2015
Friends and family of some years ago

Friends and family of some years ago

The yearly Balmain Christmas party has been. It was a good party. Probably one of the best ever. The party has been a tradition for well over two decades. Always in the same house and with the invitations sent to the same people who have known each other for many years. We all know each other’s triumphs as well as tribulations.

As the years go by, less men than women turn up. Men have either died or somehow got lost along the way in marital upheavals. You know how it is. Men get older but not wiser.  They are capable of imaginings that drive them to other pastures. Their flagging nether passions nagging them relentlessly till well into their eighties.  It is so in vain, isn’t it? Women, on the other hand, might not get any  younger either, but when difficult husbands have either died or gone somewhere else, many get a second life and thrive to even greater heights.  It has always astonished me how quickly some women overcome the passing of their husbands, either through a heart attack or another woman, (even another man in rare cases). It must be of a great consolation that they outlive erring or difficult husbands, even the good ones!  I am happy to be one of those still hanging around.

As the glass or two of fine wine established itself, and, within our intimate albeit a somewhat grey-haired group, worked its way, the excitement of seeing each other again  became audible if not visible as well. Heads nodded in benevolent agreement. The Christmas cheer was on its way. For some years now, no wild music is put on anymore. Many of us wear hearing aids and complicated dentistry equipment. No loud music and soft foods only. Heavy metal and chewy bones, pork crackling are out. The age of Aquarius has gone now. We are still going. Aging gently softly, but not as yet totally gummy or brick deaf. It might well come to that but meantime we whoop it up.

All too soon it came to an end. Some of us gave some presents. Someone remarked we seemed to be leaving earlier and questioned if getting older had something to do with it. Perhaps? The wine had started to wear off and some of us have afternoon rests. You know how it is. In any case, it is remarkable that we still have a party. I just read that 100 years ago, the average age of an adult was just 47. Look at us now.!

I counted 14 females and 4 males. One of the males looked a bit peeved. He told me (quietly) he had taken his top ‘partials’ out. ‘I was eating the lovely trifle and took them out and now I don’t know were I put them’, he said. I comforted him. I offered that he might find them on the plate holding the rest of the trifle. ‘Have a look I said, ‘before someone might take and eat more trifle and find them’.

They are just the sort of things that happen when you get older. I have as yet to experience losing my partials in trifle. Life can be unpredictable. It is what makes it worthwhile.

‘There might not be as many as there were a while ago’ but enough to keep on coming each year.

Where are the ‘Cities’? Finland’s income plan.

December 10, 2015

 

Old Turku, Finland

Old Turku, Finland

If you are looking for a city called Shoalhaven City, forget it. It does not exist. The same for a city called Canterbury City. We are visiting a place named Nelson Bay which does exists but yet Port Stephens does not. Nelson Bay is also Port Stephens together with some other townships. Palm Beach has no palms and tasty cheese is often not tasty.  Many a foreigner is left dangling to make sense of our fondness for the confusion caused by complications in naming things. I remember buying a house in Balmain but it was actually in Petersham because that was the Parish in which Balmain was situated but it was also in the county of Cumberland even though Balmain was also a Borough till at least 1906. (which was in the Cumberland County). To top it off, Balmain is part of Leichhardt Shire

I suppose, history leaves a stamp on land- titles and official documents and it takes a brave soul to modernise the running of a bureaucracy. Then there are places like Leichhardt near Balmain, but you would be wrong thinking it is the same as the electoral seat of Leichhardt which is 2500 kilometres away in the North of Australia.

It is no wonder someone asked; What’s in a name?

In the meantime Finland is addressing social inequality , by planning to pay every person a monthly income. Now there is a country that likes innovation and making things simple.

https://www.facebook.com/topic/Finland/112369262112381?source=whfrt&position=2&trqid=6226522533971078362

“To fight poverty and boost its own economy, Finland is planning to issue a check for $876 to every citizen, every month. The concept is called basic income, and the Finnish government is getting closer to finalizing its implementation this month.

The Finnish Social Insurance Institution (KELA) is drafting the plan to pay every one of its 5.4 million people $876 per month, tax-free, which would replace social support programs, such as welfare and unemployment benefits. Though a proposal from KELA isn’t expected until November 2016, a pilot stage is currently planned prior to full implementation of the program.

Basic income has been debated by economists for years, but Finland would be the first major nation to actually implement the model on a universal basis. The arrangement was initially popularized in the 1960s by Milton Friedman and would “provide payments from the state that would increase in inverse proportion to income.

This could be the Finnish government’s answer to rising poverty and unemployment rates during a three-year recession, and it is certainly popular among Finns. In a recent poll by KELA, 69 percent of Finns support a basic income. Voters elected the Centre party this April, which campaigned in support of basic income, but the idea is popular among voters of almost all parties.”

I will just leave you with the following;

Our Dutch pension that includes a holiday loading is now higher than our Australian pension. I worked in Holland for about three years. I worked in Australia for well over fifty years (paying tax!) Because the Australian pension is means tested, it gets deducted by the value of savings, the family car, furniture, silver tea spoons, cash on hand, brass taps etc AND a deduction of the value of our Dutch Pension.

Can one believe how complicated and unfair this all is.  We are not complaining and are living well. But what about those who pay rent or mortgage, have debts or living in struggle street?

The Caravan and Uncle Bill with dusty lungs. Memoires

October 8, 2015

When school holidays were coming, the list would be ticked off. Sleeping bags, tents, tarpaulins for over the tents, rubber sheets for under the tents, water containers, fishing rods, papoose, saucepans, cutlery, plates, cups, beakers, books, toys, barbeque tongs, matches, wine casks, food  including a bewildering arrangement of breakfast cereals, potatoes, tinned sardines, tuna, some biscuits, crackers, cheeses, Bismarck herrings, sausages, some lollies (for during the car trip),  Hanso-plast plasters, a solid supply of head-ache tablets, unguents for driver’s constipation, food poisoning and/ or for frequent and copious discharge of abnormal liquid faeces. Fly sprays, mosquito coils, sun tan oils,  pink sun tan burn medication, mosquito screens for  tent openings. Matches, swimming gear including boards and body surfing equipment. Spare fishing hooks, lines and weights. A fish scaling knife, fish filleting knife, a fish net, lemons for the oysters. Children and shorts, lots of clothing and spare shoes. Children’s friends, including James Crow and others. Finally, the esky to keep the milk in!

It was all put together with military order and discipline the day before.  Each item would be ticked off carefully. After a few years we got a trailer to put it all in. This required another tarpaulin to put over it, in case the polystyrene surf boards would fly out. This then required a strong rope like netting to put over the tarpaulin to stop it from flapping. The car had to be fitted with a tow-bar. I often had severely bruised shins having walked around the van checking things and walking straight into the tow-bar. I would limp for the entire holiday.

When the children reached teen years we went over to the caravan owners side. No more tents! We were so over all the rigmarole of packing and unpacking of stuff. Many times we would have had downpours and packed up everything sodden.  This then had to be spread out over the garden lawn back home in Balmain. The drying and storing took days and whatever rest and recreation we enjoyed during camping was soon soaked up in all this work. Our faces had become lined and crinkly. Camping became a chore after so many years. We needed rest from all that.  We bought  the caravan. It had a baffling name;  As is,  is!  It was on-site and at a terrific spot overlooking the ocean. “Dad, dad shall we buy it”?

Before this new period, we always looked a bit down on caravan owners. Somehow they were not ‘real’ campers and not really people worthy of sitting around with at camp-fires. They even used to have  antennas on the roofs of the vans and could be heard watching the Dick van Dyke show or worse, the hideous loud cackle of ‘I love Lucy’ infiltrating the Lantana and waking the Possums. I don’t really know how we made the transition from tent to caravan. Was it a mixture of hypocrisy and swallowing pride? Perhaps it was because we got to know a couple of ex coal miners suffering from ‘dusty lungs’. They lived permanently in caravans with large canvas annexes. A kind of happy mixture of both tents and caravans.

One of them we got to know as uncle Pudding. He was a rather shy man but very good with our kids. They loved him. He would go fishing with a mate who had a boat and give us part of his catch afterwards. Despite the condition of his lungs, he smoked ready rubs. I can still see him taking a pluck of tobacco out of its metal container, rub it in his hands while keeping the Tally-Ho tobacco paper sheet between his lips. He would roll his ciggy, lick the edge of his Tally-ho and light up. He kept his camp site scrupulously clean and the happy sound of his raking in the morning could be heard each day. For many years he was a figure known to us and many campers. But suddenly uncle Bill was gone. He had succumbed to ‘dusty lungs’.

 

So much more to Laws of order and compliance.(Auto-biography)

August 19, 2015

Of course the idea of shifting home and hearth to a different continent because of a disallowance to eat peanut and cheese sandwiches while sitting down in a State protected nature-reserve is perhaps a bit too flighty to take serious.  It is just too silly for words. Holland is a small country and just ‘imagine’ if we all went around eating sandwiches willy-nilly in nature reserves; not a blade of grass would survive the onslaught of peanut butter and cheese sandwiches being flung about in the bushes by rebellious kids for whom nothing short of a Big MacDonald’s with a Coke would suffice. Even if we did not sit down with the sandwiches, nature would not cope with the millions of feet trampling all over the place. The acidity of Coke vapours would kill the few remaining forests. Holland is wise to tell its citizens; you can look at the growing grasses but stay off it!

No, there were other reasons for this sudden decision to leave when all seemed to go so well. It might well have to do with something that makes a country appreciated when living away from it. The very things that I disliked about our previous abode in Australia were the very things I now missed. I missed them sorely!  It could well be the total contrast of the environment. Holland is neat, tidy and so well organised. Nothing out of place. Nothing allowed to be out of place.

Australia can be chaotic. It has the freedom to be so. Weeds are growing between the cracks on bitumen roads. Some footpaths lifted and sticking up from battle hardened  paper-bark tree roots, rampantly and disobediently growing upwards, without a diploma, permission or license. Sheets of rusted corrugation flapping merrily in the wind in a contemptuous dereliction. Car sales yards with yawning bonnets neck on neck and in between suburban houses. The rickety verandas  enclosed with crinkle- glassed louvre windows, some open like missing teeth, giving the inhabitant the opportunity to wind-dry unashamedly orange singlets with holes it or to look at the belching diesel fumes of a passing truck.

After three years in Holland our re-entry visas to Australia had run out. We had to go through the rigmarole of applying for migration. Our three children had Australian citizenship allowing a speedy permission to re-migrate to Australia. Again, the buff coloured letter-heads came in handy once again. Australia was still in dire needs of painting. The ‘good’ kind of painting for houses and industry. The jovial consular official of the Australia embassy cracked a couple of jokes. We were almost back in Australia within those The Hague embassy walls. His top three or four buttons of his shirt were undone. He made us a coffee.

One of the more fortuitous events that we were totally unaware off while in Holland, were the tumultuous political shenanigans that had occurred in Australia during our absence. There were scandals of unscrupulous money borrowings from shady Middle Eastern money merchants. There were love intrigues between married politicians. The world lapped it all up. Sensational exposure to scandal after scandal. Governments resigned and the Australian dollar collapsed. After flying back and landing in Sydney, my brother picked us up from the airport. We were to live in their house while he and his three children were going to travel to Europe. In exchange we gave them our trusted VW Kombi parked at my parents place in Holland.

As we again scoured around to find a place to live there was no question we would again find our feet back in old trusted Balmain.  Our kids were enrolled in the school that our eldest daughter had been going to before we went to Holland in search of the artist salary. The very house that we used to admire before our departure to Holland was for sale. Can you believe it? A five bedroom house made of sandstone with a large garden. We were told Germaine Greer had lived in it during her wild student days. We were totally but very pleasantly knocked off our socks when we converted our Dutch guilders into Australian dollars. The devaluation meant we came back with more than what we had left with. Much more. How could Australia be any friendlier? We bought the house with a small mortgage.

It all had turned out well.