Posts Tagged ‘Barry Humphries’


March 1, 2015


Todays word that came to mind on wakening was ‘salami’.

With my conversion back to white bread from whole-meal, it brought back memories from way back. My mother making sandwiches for my three brothers and one sister going to school in Australia. It was part of the ‘New Country’ that schoolkids did not come home for lunch as schoolkids did and still do back in Holland. Instead they would stay at school and have a lunch made by mothers. Sometimes, but rarely by fathers. My dad never made a single sandwich but did excel in pancakes with golden syrup.

Of course in the heat of summers and in mid flight, the opening of hundreds of lunch boxes simultaneously, created a stench that over the years impregnated the class rooms, the walls and indeed, the whole building. I can walk-by any school today and get an instant re-call of banana sandwiches, spaghetti sandwiches and the essence of any lunch box; Devon with tomato sauce. It is now thought that the Devon sandwich with tomato sauce started school bullying. In England the Devon was called luncheon meat or Spam.

My mother was at her wit’s end trying to find interesting filling for my brothers’ and sister’s sandwiches. Australia was very sunny and very spacious but as far as sandwich fillings, back in the fifties and sixties, it was a dark unforgiving place. I mean, I can still taste the tinned spaghetti with Tom. sauce sandwich. Is it of any wonder that failure followed so many that went to school?

Till the late eighties and at social adult gatherings, it was the pickled gherkin surrounded by Devon or in some rare cases ham, pierced by a toothpick’ that would brake the ice and get things rocketing and moving. Men with beer around the barbeque and the girls in the kitchen. If a man dared to move to the kitchen he was suspected of being a bit of a poofter.

It was left to the genius of Barry Humphries of the Edna Average fame to make this famous quote of someone quietly farting on entering the lift on the ground floor filling up with lawyers of Madigan and Madigan Ltd (solicitors and family lawyers) suffering all the way up to the 26th floor;… “Who opened their lunch box?”

It was some years after that Italian salami, prosciutto and non plastic cheese came to the shelves at David Jones delicatessen, soon followed by olives, real coffee and anchovies. I remember the advertisements on TV ’43 beans of coffee in every Nescafe instant coffee. In the late seventies coffee lounges opened up in Kings Cross and garlic made its entrance. It was a true revolution.

Look at me now.

The Escape from Suburban ennui.

September 17, 2014

It makes you think when an seventeen year old boy escapes home and joins IS in Syria. He could be concentrating on his stamp collection or help dad prise out unwanted grasses from the front lawn, couldn’t he? Surely there must be ways to escape from our much praised ‘own home on own block’ in those endlessly anonymously sun-lit streets of suburbia, without going to that extreme.

photo 3Kalancoe enlarged

I remember well my introduction to an Australian suburb after my parents in 1956 decided to buy a fibro asbestos dwelling in Sydney’s western suburbs. It was a devastating experience which, now at the age of 74, am finally accepting that it did happen, it was not their fault. I have conquered and overcome! It all came back last night when watching the excellent ABC TV documentary on writers/comedians/artists who not only overcame but became national Icons of art and culture precisely (bar for Robert Hughes)because of the dreariness and desolation of the Australian suburb. They escaped but used the experiences in ways that enthralled millions around the world for decades. There is nothing like a mirror being held up in front of us.!

It must seem like typical responses from the incorrigible Jerimiah Jacobson to finally have escaped England and rejoice in the sun and warmth that greeted Howard Jacobson in 1965 after sailing into sunny Sydney harbour. The gleaming whiteness of the Opera house a cheerful greeting card. He visible recoiled when ruminating over the dreariness and greyness of England’s skies heavy with sombre souls of past leaden Lords and hollowed out Timothy Thatchers. The cricket score on a Sunday afternoon, as exciting it could ever get. Waiting for the dreaded mid-night knock on the door. What Howard took delight in, the four giants of Australia’s own suburban making, escaped and flocked to Earls Court and at roughly the same time.

It just proves that changing and escaping from something might be an essential part of coming into one’s own. Even so, I do think that our architectural domestic way of housing ourselves leaves much to be desired. The fenced off and utterly lonely environment, the strips of bitumen snaking mile after simmering mile. Not a soul to be seen. Just metal boxes on endless journeys, but whereto and why? A Sunday afternoon, a solitary figure perched on a ladder clearing his guttering from errant leaves. I am surprised that young people can survive all that.

After every domestic murder, the usual responses; “Oh, such a lovely family amongst a close-knit community. We sometimes saw then and even said hello”! In the meantime some young people go to Syria and fight to get killed.

Inner City living and Art Appreciation

July 12, 2012

Inner City living and Art appreciation. Painting by Lloyd Rees.

The time of the early seventies in the Inner West and especially Balmain was the entering of many people testing the waters of inner city living. They braved the pervading tradition of block of land and house in the suburbs, and in fact sometimes heaped scorn on those poor sods that travelled for miles to and from infrastructures such as shops schools and especially work. Many thought that it was just not a ‘dream’ to live out miles away, where the streets where empty and the houses looking deserted with inhabitants cowering inside except when washing the car or trimming the petunias. This was also of course, the period of Barry Humphries and the satire on Australian suburbia through Dame Edna Average and her ever- present bunches of gladioli. Property prices, as a result of those willing to test the waters, went up rapidly and many moved in and re-sold into bigger or better situated places such as Birchgrove or East Balmain. Soon there were areas with more prestige than others in the Inner West. An ominous sign.

With the decorating and painting business booming I did many paintings and also joined an art appreciation course at Circular Quay which was run by a very well known art teacher. His name was Desiderius Orban (1884-1986) who was already in his late eighties when I joined. His main quality was that he never taught any tricks or skills but tried to encourage students to paint or draw from within. His aim was to make students loose fear and to try and get back to a creative expression which, he always claimed, children are born with, but loose through bad parenting or education or whatever else that make children comply and conform. He was very likable and being Hungarian born was of course very charming and witty. The ladies loved him and picked him up from his home and delivered him back home, baked cakes and would often come with all sorts of delicious morsels. It was a time of much delight and we were invited to always bring in our work for critique by everyone, but especially the master. He was quite sincere and honest in his appraisals but at times a little harsh as well and some students would end up in tears. He seemed to like my work and often would compare my work with others and point out differences between those that did not let go of conventional drawing and mine. I was of course flattered but also thought that the mixing of money making, bringing up children and art was hard. There were many exhibitions that I entered and indeed, won a first prize handed out by no less than Lloyd Rees who was a well known and respected artist. To paint full time and also make a living to keep family in food, pay mortgage and run a car etc. seemed only possible for a very few that were well known. My previous art course at The Mary White School of Art at Double Bay during 1961 or 62 had known artist as teachers and they were well on the way to the top. John Olson, Robert Klippel and Colin Lanceley had made some name even then. In 1972 our third child was born, a boy. Just perfect. We had not planned a third baby and decided to try and prevent a fourth child from happening. I would go for a vasectomy. I was examined by a woman doctor and a date was set for the operation. It was performed by two lady doctors and the snip took 15 minutes. My brother did the same thing and for some reason or other we were invited on channel 9 TV to be asked about our experiences. I suppose the vasectomy was still in its infancy and had some curiosity value. The next day after the programme was shown, all sorts of people including the local butcher made the kind of remarks you would expect.

Did you get it cut off, seemed to be the main one?