Posts Tagged ‘books’

What price Freedom?

February 27, 2017
DSCN2823

Mum in Holland with a Hoover electric vacuum cleaner. (not cordless)

We are all not so sure anymore if it is safe to visit the US. A pity. We have never been there. Perhaps it might be possible take a cruise and visit New York without getting off board and risk going through Border Control and be detained. When Ali Jr hardly got through how about anyone with a non-Anglo name? I visited Egypt back in 1961. This might well come to punish me. No doubt the FBI or secret service have kept a tab on that visit.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/25/customs-alis-son-wasnt-detained-because-hes-muslim/98419924/

While ‘Oosterman’ doesn’t sound Arabic, it does smack of something sinister. Oost is easily an East, and we all know what that means, don’t we? And what about that ‘man’ at the end?  A man from East? Say no more; detain him.

All kidding aside, and with all respect to my US based friends rest assured that the same is going on here in Australia. We don’t detain for a few hours, our prime minster Turnbull detains people for years if not life on Manus and Nauru. Woe those daring to enter Australia and not having drowned. You will be punished.

When I visited Egypt so long ago it was still allowed and possible to get right inside the Pyramid of Cheops. There was a tunnel that led one right up into the Queen’s chamber. It was quite a hike up and then down with a never ending stream of tourists doing the same. Afterwards there was the obligatory camel ride. I took a bit of stone from the pyramid and kept it for years together with a fez that I had bought in Port Said on our migration trip to Australia in 1956. So, our involvement with the middle East started early. The fez and pyramid piece of stone have long gone, possibly pinched by our children when young, showing off to their friends how well travelled their parents were!

http://www.guardians.net/egypt/gp4.htm

Rumblings of Turnbull’s demise and Trumps impeachment are growing fatter and gets richly fertilized as time goes by. We shall see. In the meantime I am still kept busy with another type of freedom; the Hoover cordless ‘Freedom.’ I have just done ( vacuumed) our whole house with one charge. What do you think of that? Of course, the battery is a lithium. It is now the new catch word in electronic jargon. People ask ; How are your lithiums going?

We were in Sydney yesterday having a lunch with daughter and one grandson. The other one is fighting with his mother over not being home ‘on time’ as promised. We know that problem well. However, it is their turn now. We are old and beyond feeling guilty about grandchildren behaviour, especially teen-grandchildren. There are lots of books about teen problems now. Just don’t read them.

Ever since we started brushing Milo, the hair load on our floor has eased. We brush him twice daily. He likes it and actually leans against the steel rubber tipped hairbrush. I then have the job of unpicking Milo’s hair from the brush. It is quite a job. (twice a day) I was surprised therefore that even with all that brushing I had to empty the ‘Freedom’ cordless twice as the canister was chock-a-block with Milo’s dust and hair. Milo just studies my vacuuming and then yawns.

That’s freedom for you.

 

A proliferation of ‘Happy New Year.’ But Easter eggs are coming soon.

January 2, 2017
Thomas without tablet (de)vice

Thomas without tablet (de)vice

There has been an unusual number of repeat ‘Happy New Year’ wishes this time. Did anyone else notice it? Perhaps with the hectic use and proliferation of a multitude of IT connectivity such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. there are more opportunities than ever before to give Happy New Year wishes. That’s apart from the Jacquie Lawson E-Cards. It becomes confusing and one should really keep a little book in which to record those friends that were wished ‘a Happy New Year’.

I too have re-wished Happy New Year to the same people several times over. We don’t want to be seen as stingy when it comes to wish well to others in the coming year. Of course, wishing and achieving ‘wellness’ is a different kettle of fish. We all do our best.

There are now more books than ever on achieving ‘happy’. Although I suspect that cookery books still beat ‘happy’ books. Last week, just before Christmas, a cranky woman stormed out of our local bookshop. She looked at me with hurricane eyes. I and our dog Milo were waiting patiently outside. I immediately dove down for cover. There is nothing more dangerous than facing a cranky woman exiting a book-store. I mean, what if she had stormed out of a butcher shop and I was waiting for Helvi to order some lamb-chops? All those knives about? To become furious inside a book-shop is unusual. What could have been the reason for her steaming-hot ire? Were it all those diabolic Cricket books or the Pork Belly recipe Books featured in the window? The picture of crackling so real, some hungry vagabond had started to chew on its cover.

I did not have much time to consider possible reasons for her fury, and by squatting down I drew attention to our Jack Russell, Milo. I petted him and said somewhat inanely; “good boy, good boy.” It was absolutely the right thing to have done. It took the murderous intent away from the woman. She melted in front of us and her eyes relented, becalming the raging mind storm. I thought it safe to venture carefully about the reason for her fury; “It’s all so hopeless, isn’t it,” I said, encouraged by her becalmed facial expressions. “Oh, yes, she repeated, all is hopeless. Where are all the children books? They should be at the front and not all those stupid cooking books. I have to buy thirteen presents and I want good children books.”

I immediately agreed heartily and egged her on by; “I bet those cookery books are bought by people who never cook, they are always seen to come home, night after night with pizza boxes under their arms or plastic bags with take-away Chinese muck.” She was now as calm as a lamb and after patting Milo crossed the street to be on her way looking for thirteen present to buy. I suppose, for her grand-children.
Don’t you like it though that she got so upset about the children books not being at the front of the shop, especially at Christmas time?

What is it about all those cooking books? Even on the TV. Show after show. It makes me furious too.

We will meet you in the book-shop

September 27, 2016
Mother, daughter and sons on the way to Thai café.

Mother, daughter and sons on the way to Thai café.

I could hardly believe that it is has now come to this. People that bother reading my blog should know I do tend to exaggerate and with a fair bit of word-knitting, twisting and turning, manage to make events and experiences as truthful as possible. With school holidays our grandsons often use the time to visit us for getting and renewing their pancake hits. Their mother is often fed up and glad to be rid of them. We, on the other hand make them wash cars and give them money for the lollies-shop.

A major achievement has been a break-through in travel arrangements. They now come by train. It saves a lot of ‘I spy-I spy with my eye’ while in the car driving home all the way from Sydney. The older one lords it over the younger one, and driving while controlling a fight in the back seat brought this Grandma and Grandpa often close to strangulation or teenticide. (with a quick burial of both of them under a large gum tree.)

They have now gone home again. The eldest likes basket-ball and is now over six feet. The younger boy loves fiddling with his IPhone, almost doubled over it in concentration. He stays up and watches soccer being played late at night. I discovered a jar still full of black Kalamata olive liquid except, there were no olives. It’s useless asking, ‘who ate all the olives? They have reached the age of no return, and I have given up about making them feel rotten, let alone guilty. However, they did heed our constant nagging for getting to read words in books. Oh, we were relentless, and told them that words are the only way to make sense of the world and their future.

It’s not easy to get older and facing adulthood. There could well be a nagging suspicion there must be more to life than one day after the other, to be conquered and gotten through. Their belief in two headed monsters at the sea bottom and fairies in the forests are been given a severe dent, looked at with suspicion and some doubt. However, the repeat of experiences does also coincide with curiosity about sex and what might be possible with those stirrings down below.

I know when I discovered sex more than sixty years ago, I felt a huge load being lifted. This is what it is all about! Why did someone not tell me? How terrific! What a discovery in my early teens. I must tell my friends about this.

Of course, now I think is THIS what has driven me? How pathetic. All that heaving. What madness. Are you for real? Look at yourself. Look at peoples faces instead of their crotches. You should be ashamed of yourself, Gerard. My mother was right. Stop it! Go to confession.

On the second day, the boys wanted to explore a very large second-hand bookshop that opened up here in Bowral. It is called, not unreasonably ‘Reading’. So, we told them we would follow after a couple of hours and asked them where we will meet and have lunch. You know what they said?

“We will meet you at the bookshop.”

Now, wasn’t that something to lift the spirit. I reckon their Mum , Grandpa & Grandma must have done something right.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. (Publishers)

February 6, 2016
Frank on the left. Gerard with hair sticking up. In Rotterdam.

Frank on the left. Gerard with hair sticking up. In Rotterdam.

Nothing tried nothing gained!

As someone has pointed out before, WordPress is a form of self- publishing already. Why go through another version and paying for it? True, but my default position has always been the joy of writing down words. It probably dates back to my days of queuing up for confession before finding out that the old priest enjoyed Ma paw and her five nimble daughters just as  much as I did. Fancy signing up for a vow of life-long celibacy at fifteen before becoming a man of the cloth? Is it any wonder they used to whack school children mercilessly and revengefully with the strap or bamboo stick.  They were the benevolent ‘Brothers’ teaching at de La Salle colleges all over the joint. The guilt, and ‘that’ guilt that lingers for a life-time. They now queue up at Royal Commissions with the victims wanting justice and re-dress. But I am straying.

Even though the joy of writing is the reason, I am not that much without vanity to not actually linger fondly over the idea of my words getting published on pages of a book. It must be supremely satisfying to notice a complete stranger picking up ones book and leafing through it. Can you imagine?

This is why through the last week or so, I have been honing the synopsis of the book, ‘Almost There.’. It has to be as good as possible. Even the first few words might well determine a further read or a delete. Editors do that and get paid for it. Manuscripts sail rough seas and in many cases end up on rocky shores shared by depressed sea-gulls. They might well be tempted by snippets of some of those lost words.

So, over and over the synopsis I go. I have decided to send the final version to forty publishers in forty days. It could well be within the law of averages that I get a bite. In the (likely?) scenario that nothing comes of it, my second default position will then kick in.  I’ll pay for a nicely bound with large lettering book to be published by G.O.

In the meantime I find it all very exciting.  So, for starters I submitted to HarperCollins already and this Monday it will be Hachette’s turn with an improved version of the synopsis and fifty pages of the edited version of the book. We shall see!

I have finally, after almost coming to blows with my dear Helvi, managed to get the Amazon Kindle on my computer transferred to a portable device. It took weeks and no matter how often I pressed Sync., it refused to walk over to my laptop Kindle. I searched for an answer but found none. My laptop still doesn’t sync with my computer. It comes up with mysterious messages of an ‘unregistered Certificate.’ I tried everything but finally joined Amazon.com.aus  again separately on the laptop and transferred the bought copies of books by Roderick Hart and Hilary Custance Green. I can now read them at my leisure and don’t have to sit in front of the upstairs computer. I look forward to some solid reading of both writers. I like both already.

Seeking a Publisher.

February 2, 2016
Grapes, strawberries and figs.

Grapes, strawberries and figs.

In the early nineties I had a friend who was married to the chief Editor for the Australian division of HarperCollins Australian publishers. At that time, all I wrote were Christmas Cards or fill in Taxation claims.  I never thought I would or even could write. I am now going to submit a few thousand words of my book to them tomorrow.

I looked up if they were  open for submissions and surprisingly,  they still are.  But only on Wednesdays. They don’t accept; “plays, poetry, short stories, essays, mind body spirit, religious titles, health and fitness, children’s books and educational texts.” But will take for consideration; ” Adult fiction, particularly commercial women’s fiction, erotica, romance and young adult fiction. Non Fiction including memoirs, biographies, narrative histories and illustrated non-fiction.”

Most publishers seem to also take submissions more serious through an agent. It will get complicated. Fortunately, most of the information on publishing is available on the Internet, but ‘be aware’. Like sharks circling the carcases of those that have failed through  being overly gullible to the lure of fame,  remember, money is much easier to part with than to earn. Even in publishing, money raises its ugly head. I mean I am hoping that ‘Almost There,’ with musings of a philosophical nature included, gets a soft  and gentle landing not a rip-off.

It is the same with medicine or seeking advice on ailments. No sooner does one type ” erectile dysfunction” or “tooth ache”  in Google, and one gets beseeched by eager moneyed eyed Russian Ladies swooningly seeking love or Indian offers for Dental Implants.( on same day.)

I am taking on the advice that under no circumstance do you start a letter in sending a synopsis of your work by Dear Sir or Dear Madam. The Sir is most likely not knighted nor is  the Madam running a brothel. Do not fawn, rattle on, or feign a special fondness for books, reading and literature. Most people in the publishing industry chuck letters of submission in the bin within the first few vowels and consonants.  You have to achieve a rapport with the first paragraph or so. My back-up is to self-publish but I thought to try and submit first to publishers. It seems very tough to try and woe publishers. Don’t people get despondent? And then what? Eat a good bake or a spoonful of Syrup?

This what I got by sniffing around in the area of publishing and the first step to take. Check it out.!

“Your Address

Phone Number

E-mail

Website

 

Name of Literary Agent / Publisher

Address of Literary Agent / Publisher

Dear…the actual name of the literary agent or publisher.

First Paragraph

The eyes of a literary agent or a publisher are trained to scan. They have little interest in small talk introductions. They will always scan straight to the story being pitched. So never ever start with why you are approaching them, or why you love to write. They are so inundated with query letters that those opening sentences are monotonous irrelevancies to their eyes. Cut straight to the chase: the book in question.

They want five key details about your book in this opening paragraph:

  1. Title
  2. Word count (not page length)
  3. Logline*
  4. Genre
  5. The blurb**

*A one sentence pitch of your book

**Write a blurb for your book, similar to the ones you see on the back of every book. What the story is about, the main protagonists, and entice them with the ending.

 

Second Paragraph

This is your CV / Resume in a single paragraph. Pick out the more impressive aspects of your writing history and include them. Do not list them. Use prose to make them readable. If you do not have any writing credentials worth mentioning, then use this paragraph to explain why you alone are best suited to tell the story of your book. Show that you are an authority on the subject in question. This could either be that you did a similar job to the protagonist, or the lengths you went to in your research. This is also the section for you to mention why you are approaching them in particular. When you do so, do not under any circumstance mention another book you are writing, or planning to. Put all the focus on the one book you are pitching in the letter.

 

Third / Final Paragraph

End the letter with three points.

  1. Thank the literary agent / publisher for their time and consideration
  2. If it is a printed query mention that you have included an SAE / SASE for reply
  3. Emphasise that your manuscript is complete*

*Never send a query letter about a novel that you have not finished. Only Non-Fiction books are allowed to be pitched before completion.”

 

‘Winter in America,’ Children’s Library and Vegie co-op (Auto-biography)

July 26, 2015
Balmain Watch-house.

Balmain Watch-house.

The way things are going in this auto- biography it will run into a literary cinemascope  version of  Days of our Lives with the Hammond organ belting out a circular and never ending tune.  The cheek of thinking that my life is any better or more important or interesting than that of any living being or Jo Blow!  I shall just continue because I enjoy this very much.  And if there is a blow out of too many words, well…just skip a few pages… or start at the end and work towards the middle. Even if it relieves insomnia for just a single night for just a single person, I’ll be a happy man.

Apart from the baby-sitting club, another community enterprise was the vegie co-op which also started to sprout up in the various communities of inner Sydney suburbs. I am not sure anymore if this came about during our stay at Gertrude’s cottage between 1969-1973 or after our stay in Holland and subsequent return in 1976. In any case a group of people decided to fork out $10.- each week towards a kitty to buy fruit and vegetables at the Flemington wholesale fruit and vegie markets at Homebush.  It was a huge market covering a very large area where all the fruit and vegie shops would get their produce at wholesale prices. It also had several cafeteria where the buyers could get sustenance and a coffee. Many fruit and vegie shops were run by Italians and Greeks, so food and coffees were as necessary as the apples, kale and celery which they filled their trucks up with, especially when the buying started at 5am.  You can imagine how early the growers had to get up and prepare their stalls? Farming is tough! It was a hectic few hours and the men, and many women too, would be ravenous by seven am. The market as all markets do, also had great atmosphere and laughter was everywhere.

Of some interest was my market shopping partner Jimmy Stewart. He was  Irish. He loved a good yarn and food. He looked somewhat like a juvenile Oscar Wilde. He had dark hair hanging over his face and a large stomach. After our shopping of many boxes of fruit and vegies, we would visit the cafeteria, enjoy bacon and eggs, coffee and a cigarette. He loved women and they generously reciprocated, yet he was never good marriage material. His income sporadic and swallowed up by international phone calls to entrepreneurial music and record companies. He generally managed to get me to buy cigarettes and pay for the bacon and eggs. But, he was terrific company, always whistling and singing. A cheerful soul. A great friend.

He was a writer of music, popular music and would let nothing stand in the way of doing that. Sadly, it did not bring in a regular income, yet women were attracted to him often in order to find out that a future including a cosy and secure family-life would be hazardous at best and reckless at worst.  That’s how so often and so sadly, love gets lost. The combination of income with a mutual everlasting and reasonable attraction is so desired and yet so rarely achieved. Money so often the banana skin on the doorstep of many relationships. Indeed, even with plenty of money things can get perilous.

While we drove to the markets and back he used to hum a song that really hit the world at that time. It was ‘Winter in America’.  It had a line that included the ‘Frangipani’. “The harbour’s misty in the morning, love, oh how I miss December / The frangipani opens up to kiss the salty air” – Ashdown’s lament to “leave love enough alone” has become one of the great Australian standards.

It was Jimmy Stewart’s creation and he would often sing it while driving to Flemington markets..

Here it is;

At the same time of the weekly boxes of fruit and vegies, another group also brought to fruition a Children’s library. Another community effort. The retired chief Commonwealth librarian named Larry Lake was the main person behind this idea. The National Trust had given the use of the Balmain Lock-up to a group that called themselves “The Balmain Association’. The ‘Lock-up’ or Watch house’ was busy during the heydays of Balmain still working as a Stevedoring and Waterfront suburb. There were lots of maritime associated industries and that is what attracted many to the area when that ceded to exist. During earlier times and at night the local constable would have been busy locking up inebriated sailors or others that liked to frequent so many pubs it was difficult to find normal houses in between. I believe Balmain had over 60 pubs at one stage. The air used to be thick with coarse oaths and rank vomit renting along the blue-stone cobbled noisy streets. It frightened the horses at times.

A group including myself spent many evenings getting this library working. There were fundraisings and book covering, cataloguing and getting shelving to fit into one of the Lock-up cells. It had a heavy steel door and sliding locking mechanism. Those poor drunks! The children that used to visit the cell library afterwards, just loved it.

Those were the days. It did include occasional bra removals, but also baby-sitting, vegie co-ops, music and books for children.

Of Cheap Wine &Jigsaw of Apartment living

June 17, 2010

By gerard oosterman

 We were there at the tail end of summer and the wine vintage was in full swing. The region of the Languedoc is one of the largest red wine growing areas in the world. Apart from those working in shops or businesses, everyone else, during vintage, all and sundry are into grape harvesting and wine making. No matter where we went or where we stopped, the streets and kerbs were red with the flow of must and wine. We were stepping in it.

 The local farmers were immediately selling the freshly made wine and for less than the cost of a bottle of milk. The larger the quantity, the cheaper the price was. We ended buying the red wine in a five litre plastic container for which one had to pay a deposit. The drinking of those five litres had to be done fairly quickly because as air entered the container, the wine would oxidize and spoil rapidly. We would soon adhere to the routine of buying fresh trout with stick bread from the local boulangerie, fry up garlic in some very excellent olive oil, barbeque the trout and with the dipping of the bread into the oil and garlic mixture eat the trout washed down with copious quantities of the cheap wine.

 The Languedoc area is the largest wine producing area in the world and this region alone produces more wine than the entire United States. During its frenzied vintage height, while we were there, our shoes and car tyres were red from the flooded roadside kerbs and guttering with the spoils of the wine making. I don’t know how, but during the couple of weeks of trout and red wine consumption I found enough sobriety reading a book found on the shelves in the dining room. It was George Perec’s; ‘Life, A User’s manual’. A  great story that involves a large jigsaw puzzle with people and their lives living in apartments forming the pieces of the jigsaw coming together bit by bit, a marvellous story