Posts Tagged ‘Bressanone’

The period post Italy but pre- Finland. (Auto-biography)

June 27, 2015


The walk from Bressanone rail-station uphill to Bernard’s chalet must have been steep and long. Did I ask for a map or directions? I cannot remember. Consider that in those years suitcases on wheels were yet to be discovered nor were back-packs as progressive as they are now! Today I see young women with such towering back-packs getting from airports to taxi almost to the point of other bystanders ready to give an ovation.  Mind you, even back-packs are now on wheels as well.

I must have had a rough idea and perhaps asked a local for the address. This area was pre-dominantly German-speaking and I was fluent in that language. Bressanone, even though now Italian, used to be part of Austria and still today pre-dominantly Austrian in culture and population. The area is South Tirol.

I do remember reaching the chalet and my friend coming out greeting me. It was definitely sunny. The view was breath-taking with Bressanone nestling down in the valley and at the back of the chalet the towering Dolomites climbing forever upwards, glistening with their limestone faces. The chalet was a small and solid white washed adobe house with ornately carved gables,  window and door architraves, of which that area is famous for, and really an extension of the same architecture of  the medieval town in East Tirol of Lienz were I had spent time skiing during the winter and were I had met the girl with the beautiful eyes from Finland. It was at Lienz where I also had a ski fall and broke my glasses, as well as meeting my future wife. ( while dabbing my bleeding proboscis).

It was all such a liberating event. Liberated from the suburban ennui back in Australia with my family and Frank.  A liberation from wanting to work while wearing a suit hoping for recognition, admiration or at least something of achievement. A kind of something that young people are supposed to work towards. A career that would cement a solid future and  distinguish one from failure. All those things are not always so clearly defined but yet one grows up with as an obligation to fulfil to parents. As those early years passed by I did have a skill to earn some money and that stood me in good stead. However, the making of money is pretty boring unless compensated or alleviated  by an all encompassing and absorbing activity for  soul, spirit or psyche.

There are often moments of great significance that are recognised as such at a much later time. The meeting up with Bernard Durrant was one of those chances that on hindsight proved to be of great influence.  At the time in Italy we met for the second time. I had known Bernard in Australia. It was through him I took to chess playing and reading books and visiting State library.  He gave the advice to run your hand over the back of books at a library and pick the dustiest books! ‘They are often the best’, he said, especially in Australia! Reading in the early fifties was somewhat frowned upon. It was much healthier to play rugby or cricket, spear-tackle opponents. Libraries  visits by young men were rare.

I give you here a very short and copied biography of Bernard from a website by one of his friends.

“Already serving in the Army, Bernard was recruited by British Intelligence on the eve of the Second World War and was smuggled into Germany, but was soon discovered by the Nazis due to an inadequate cover story. Offered the choice of switching sides or death, he was posted to Alexandria, Egypt, where his brief was to spy on Allied shipping in the Mediterranean.When he arrived in Egypt, he escaped his German paymasters, and eventually made it back to the British Consul in the country.By this time he was considered tainted goods and was shipped back to Britain.

Once back on English soil he was promptly imprisoned in the Isle of Man under the Defence Regulation Section 18b, which was used by the Government to lock up more than 1,000 suspected traitors during the course of the war”. ( end of quote)

Girl with the 'Beautiful eyes' at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Girl with the’Beautiful eyes’ at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Bernard become the lifebuoy that saved me from going the normal way of career, block of own land and a house in the suburbs. I came so close to it. He got me to accept and understand that life ought to be inclusive of beauty and art. He went further and told me that life is all about exploration and finding what would give the greatest of joy and satisfaction. It all gelled and came together and I finally felt that my search for the essential would have to come through expressing what I felt strongest about. It might also relieve me from having to worry about career and job. It was so helpful that there were people like Bernard who had also travelled that same path and had found that creativity and expressing it was as much a ‘normal’ part of someone’s life as becoming a cigar smoking bank manager. Apart from all that we would continue to play chess high up the Tirol mountains.  I started to paint while Bernard already was writing poetry, some of which he managed to get published here and there. He had contacts and spoke both German and Italian which for an Englishman was somewhat unique.

Goodbye Suit and Attaché case

June 10, 2015
Japanese Windflowers

Japanese Windflowers

In life we think we make choices that determine our future. Is that true? One could have turned left or to the right. So much is due to the unforseen. The past is never a sign towards the future but only something to mull over in old age and even then it hardly ever surrenders wisdom or insight. That seems to only come about by a presence of mind while doing the dishes or polishing ones shoes or writing a few words.

I do remember feeling euphoric walking to Centraal Station in Amsterdam. I must have taken my suitcase and just bought the train ticket, walked up the flight of stairs to the platform taking me to Italy. It was the absolute right thing to have done. My job at the bank with the daily routine of balancing the books to zero each day had run its course. There is only so much you can do with a zero. It wasn’t easy. I had to make sure there wasn’t a cent in between. This is the essence of good book-keeping. The cost of a postage stamp could throw my day into turmoil and cost me hours of having to work after hours. No one could go home till the books were zero.

Even the director on the swivel chair had to stay back. All the branches had to give the daily figures to head office which would then print the all important statements and post them to the bank’s customers. I often used to offer the bank my own money if there was a discrepancy of just a few cents in order to be able to go home. No, that is not what banking is about. The books had to balance. You can see, dear readers, can’t you, how my career at a bank had to end? To think that at the very best I too could end up a director and swivel around a special chair. Is that what I had to look forward to? Of course to become a director could only come about by appointment. The director at my branch wasn’t too impressed, especially not when I laughed after he fell backwards with a cigar in his hands. It was doomed.

All my sense of importance wearing a finely pressed suit in the tram of Amsterdam had come to not much more than working on the Czechoslovakian Capstan lathe back in Australia, (bar the strange rituals). When my friend Bernard had secured a lovely chalet in the North of Italy I decided to chuck in the job and join him. This decision was made within a split second. The spontaneity of it was breathtaking. I loved it and still tend to act rather rashly which Helvi finds sometimes a bit hard to deal with. Of course, one could question how the bank would feel not even been notified of my choice to leave. I simply vanished.

They must have enquired at my address of the dying uncle. In any case, the book-keeping must have been done by the director till a replacement was found. I never collected my wages or holiday money as I felt it a just penance for not having given notice. The train trip to Bressanone started in rain but ended in glorious sunshine, a good omen. But of that…more to come!

(We will be in Ubud- Bali till the 23 of June. I hope to be able to post but am dependent on doing it on a tablet. I am not sure how that works. We shall see) !

Dutch Bank job, suit wearing and Bressanone.

June 6, 2015


The vexatious uncle now wanted to put all his rancour on my conscience. His loss of two chess games to my friend  lumped together with his unfortunate marital experiences now seemed to have become part of my doing. At the time when I was living with him the vexation was still owned and shared by his ex-wife, even though they had been divorced for many, many years. At least I wasn’t involved and remained free of any blame. However, since my introduction of my English friend and the subsequent chess games, it ( the vexation)  was now shifted in my direction. I warded the blame off and felt that at least with my diligence in mixing and making the mincemeat-bread-eggs and chilli fricandelles, this should have been taken into account when his vexatious behaviour took the better of him. I never promised he would be cured from his cancer and often just agreed that the mixture would do no harm. I mean, the chilli would not harm him, especially not since he seemed to enjoy the spicy taste.

He was a man in his fifties and ought to have been wiser than me. He suffered from cancer but that was well before my arrival and/or the chilli laced patties. It is true, I introduced the chilli as I used it already back in Australia. I had Dutch friends that had been born in Indonesia where the chilli is almost an institute. There is some suggestion in medical circles that chilli is somewhat addictive but that can be only good seeing it contains lots of good vitamins. I mean compared with Coca Cola or sugary drinks I would rather have a chilli addiction! It was the loss of his chess games that tipped it all over with the vexation sheeted home to me for having introduced him to my uncle. Of course, that sort of reasoning is illogical if not unjust as well, but with people there is not always a straight course in justness or logic. One always has to be on the qui vive for unpredictability, especially in oneself. He might have, deep down in the recesses of his inner-self, realised that the chilli wasn’t helping him but chose to cling to this wrongly held belief in the magic curing quality of it anyway. Perhaps today I would have had more understanding of his plight. After all, he was in the last few weeks of his life!

As previously explored in some detail I wanted to have the prestige of working somewhere wearing a suit. It is an odd ambition to have but better to have achieved and overcome an oddness than to forever long for it. Nothing gained if not tried. One could question why the wearing of a suit was so important but I had not really explored the working in an office. My jobs since the age of 15 and a few months were mainly around machinery inside factories, where in the fifties the moods were rather grim and grimy, ( and that, apart from the very fashionable but dubious ‘dating’ habits between the leering men during the fifties and sixties, proving somehow they were hetero after all)’.  After the factories, there was a short stint in spectacle making, grinding glass lenses fastened on convex steel chucks by hot pitch with a rotating concave hood on top of the lens; again very dirty work. This time it wasn’t dating but the smearing of ultramarine- blue dye around the testes of hapless apprentices that was popular. God only knows what went on in England at the time. I am pretty sure this all was an import of initiation ceremonies/rites from the old mother country on the convict transport ships.

The very first office job I applied for I got. It was a small branch of The Rotterdam Bank in the east of Amsterdam. It had three people working including me. I was ‘afdeeling boekhouding’. or department book-keeping. A title that seemed loaded with prestige. I still had my suit from Sydney and had bought a small Hermes portable typewriter on which I furiously learned to type. It took me many seconds just to find an ‘a’ or a ‘f” but on arrival at the bank was shown this enormous bulldozer of an electric typewriter. Even so, I lasted the important first few days and soon understood that debit and credit were terms that one used and spoke about in banks. There weren’t any hints of dating or dyeing of testes.

The director/manager had his own special chair that swivelled while cashier and bookkeeper had chairs with fixed seats.  The manager smoked cigars and read a financial news- paper. We had cigarettes and no paper.  My job also included making the tea and leading customers to their downstairs safes where they would count diamonds or share certificates. The manager had the curious habit of smoking his cigar while tilting back his swivel chair and exhaling the smoke wishfully looking up towards the ceiling. It was one of those peculiar habits that most of us have. A kind of personal expression of something, like rubbing hands together, cupping our chin, doing a little quick step during a fleeting moment of a spontaneous and joyful thought.

One morning while manager was exhaling, the chair escaped underneath him and he fell back while still holding his cigar in one hand and the financial paper in the other. The cashier and department bookkeeping (me) couldn’t stop laughing but the manager could not. Now, that showed he wasn’t ripe for a managerial post. He was unsuitable and was given the sack soon after. I kept up catching the tram to work all dressed in my Reuben Scarf suit and holding my all important attaché case that included documents and all detailed architectural drawing  for an opera house I had designed for Italy’s Milan. Except it held my sandwiches and an apple instead. It also came about that I received a letter that I would be required to enlist for possible National Service and if found healthy enough do a stint of two years in the Dutch Army. It took me just two hours to pack my suitcase and bid farewell to my uncle. I did not pick up any due wages or holiday entitlements from the bank. I took the train to Bressanone- Italy and joined my chess playing friend Bernard in the chalet. The sun shone from then on.

I was cured from my suit wearing.

Canonisation for all.

May 29, 2014
Our young family in Holland 1975-76

Our young family in Holland 1975-76

Sorry to be harping on about the Pius X11 hiccupping event. It will soon come to pass. The writing is so much better as a catharsis than any medication. Talk about medication. Was the cod liver oil also in demand in Australia during or after the war? I actually quite like it and it is now not all that easy to get except in tablet form encased in some kind of solidified jelly. A bottle of cheap as chips pure cod liver without any nonsense is another item of the past that one can miss and wish for endlessly. H is forever telling me; what is your point of slipping and sliding around on what has passed? Get on with it! Go and vacuum something, anything.

It is just that I keenly remember an event that occurred in the Bolzano area of Italy. I have spent some time there but not during the Pius X11 hiccupping. That was yet to come some years later. Of course, while expert specialists and not so expert charlatans were trying the many cures on the pope, hundreds of canonisation claims were queuing up in the Papal corridors of The Vatican. It went on for many months and rumors were starting to emerge of a new pope waiting around in Lucifer’s garden. A chimney sweep was being engaged! An ominous sign, handpicked from the best available in Austria, fluent in Italian as well as possessing a deft all encompassing sweeping movement of his right arm.



However, a father from the village of Bolzano’s Bressanone had lost his wife during childbirth of his daughter. Some eight years later he tragically also lost his little girl from an essential illness.

A building of a dam necessitated the removal of the local cemetery to higher grounds just when the Wisteria and Seringa were at their highest and best. Their mauve fragrances greeting the graveyard visitors even from mountain villages miles away. All the relatives still alive disinterred the remains of their loving but dearly departed to take to the new cemetery higher up. The father found his wife’s remains all but dust but when prising open the lid from his daughter’s small casket he was greeted by the fresh fragrance of the roses she was buried with. Her child body still warm and with a roseate glow around her cheeks. The flowers still alive clutched between her arms resting serenely and beatific on her white dress.

The father decided then to make amends to his sins long hidden from his youth and only ever confessed to his wife during a flush of southern passion and who then died so tragically near nine months later. His daughter surely deserved sainthood. He took to taking the casket held is his lap by train to Rome. He had written by hand a sixty page letter attributing her perfect remains as proof of sainthood already there but not conferred.

Alas, he was joined by many from around the world in the Vatican’s corridors normally reserved for sauntering of mitre wearing cardinals and High Officials. Their weary faces all grimed from dust of week long journeys. There were many canonisation applicants from Bolivia, El Salvador, The Antilles and other numerous very catholic but evil dictator led countries. Many from Spain and Italy as well. In fact, the caskets, shrouds and many other reliquiae were littering the corridors to such an extend it was spilling over into a courtyard over which a tarpaulin was hung.

The Pius X11 hiccupping was still ongoing and cardinals hardly bothered even looking up, let alone had a look at this poor father’s small coffin. Canonisation was at a standstill.

I have till now not ever heard what happened. Indeed, even with memory still strong (thanks to the cod liver oil) I am not so sure if this event really took place or is it something stored and taken out of mind’s waste paper basket?

I have yet to hear of canonisation of a live person. Have you?

Basta Pasta

May 20, 2014


If all else fails and one is sunk in a deep gloom, eat a good pasta! Even a not so good pasta. It never fails to lift the spirit especially if accompanied by a bit of a 2014 vintage Shiraz so fresh off the vine and so rough it even cleans the cutlery as well as the palate. We had an Aldi special at $ 5.99. A cheeky but ambitious little number full of cigar-box ambience and middle utterly retrievable but lingering autumnal wind, reminiscent of a Vivaldi under a plane tree at Italy’s Bressanone or Brixon (during the forgotten war with Austria when we were there). Phew…

A few evenings ago there was a surplus of fresh pasta. It’s sauce retrieved from the deep freezer department of our fridge. It must have been created by Helvi who excels in pasta sauce like no one else that I know or even don’t know. After thawing I cooked and boiled the pasta. It was a 5 minute pasta or 4 minutes if you like el dente. I did a six minute job in consideration of the state of my recently obtained new dente.

The pasta was heavenly, almost a honeymoon of spoon and fork. But a full packet of pasta meant there was a lot to be saved for future gourmet pleasures. I am always happy for two o’clock pm to arrive. I can then start mulling over the coming meal. Not so much mulling as imagining the food to be sampled. H and I do try and make the evening meal a ‘special’. I don’t want to imply we eat lobster or imbibe a $ 1200.-Grange. No, it is more of a desire to make things from the ingredients of a sow’s ear, if you get my gist or even a drift. It is a form of art I have been polishing for some time. I love the stove and it loves me. It is a totally symbiotic relationship.

Last night I baked the previous surplus pasta. I dunked half a litre of milk in which I had stirred in two eggs, pepper some salt and (brazenly) a chopped up home grown and very hot chili, over the lot. I was copious with the cheese which I grated over the lot.I baked it for about twenty minutes on 200c.

Helvi had two helpings and I noticed rapid chewing. Nothing is as rewarding as spousal chewing on a dish cooked with love. The photo above shows the dish before eating. My boot and leg is there for a reason. The lid of the oven has developed a will of its own and tends to want to close. I have to have words with my stove. I think it must be spring-loaded and I wanted to take a photo to immortalise the event. The lid seems to have different ideas.

Giving a leg-up to pasta

Giving a leg-up to pasta

So, I’ll stop now and say the obvious…Enjoy!