Posts Tagged ‘Central Railway’

Vic’s Cabaret and first Date.

May 26, 2015
Milo in deep thought.

Milo in deep thought.

With the Phyllis Bates ‘academy’ dance lessons firmly tucked under my arms I  was ready and willing to go and practise for the first time my  dancing without the pre-painted dance-steps on a floor.   An Austrian Waltz was the last one I was taught. At one stage I came close to losing the book held between us.  I had to place my leg (just one) between both the lovely teacher’s  legs and do a majestic sweep of one hundred eighty degree turn while holding my chin proudly  upwards and sideways. I had at the same time hold both my right arm  and her left arm stretching out towards Central Railway. I did not want to  press, or move anything inappropriately while in that delicate but intimate position. I feared that some excitement might finally show but with my Reuben Scarf suit and generously billowing trousers I was somewhat reassured that nothing would betray even this possibility. In any case my concentration was focussed on the firm pushing Of Human Bondage book held between us.

I was informed about a dance club on Parramatta Rd near Sydney’s Strathfield. Readers might remember the salesman that sold me the Ford V8 also came from that area. He might well turn up at the same place. The place was called Vic’s Cabaret but like the word ‘academy’ it was another case of the  misuse of words  imbued with more than what was actually there. I remember being fascinated by ‘Palm Beach’ when still back in Holland before the migration episode. The map of Sydney had ‘Palm Beach’ on it.  I used to lay in bed conjuring up waving palm trees and could not wait to see those. It was  a B/W news-reel back in the winter cold of The Hague with natives on tropical islands sipping cool drinks from coconuts underneath beckoning palm trees. After migration I went to Palm Beach on my scooter. Not a single palm tree in sight! Now, I always thought that cabaret was a bit more than a place to dance in even if it included a small band.

Still, Vic’s Cabaret in Strathfield even without it being a true cabaret in a more European sense, was still a good place to start finding a date. Lots of nice girls would be there and it just needed a positive attitude and some extra brylcreme. Having straight hair did not have at that time the same allure as having a bit of a wave. The TV series Seventy Seven Sunset Strip was responsible for millions of young men imitating the forever hair combing hair-wave owning wisecracking rock and roll Kookie character. I tried to get this  wave and with enough Brilliantine hope I would also share in the glory of this popular character. Not unlike today with so many young men wanting to be a Bieber clone (or Russell Crowe for the more mature).

The Vic’s cabaret was a short drive from home and after a good wash and polish of the V8 I was ready and took off. I managed to park within a reasonable distance and took good note of where I parked. Most streets looked alike but it helped if one took notice of an unusual feature of where one parked. I took a mental note that the garden next to my car had old white painted rubber tyres around some azaleas. The old tyres were a feature of those times and also kept the weeds out. It was considered a very handy place to put old tyres and often this hint was given in the Garden magazine.  It was one of dad’s pet hatreds together with the habits of many elderly ladies painting the hair blue or a bright pink. “I saw a lady in the bus today who had pink hair.  ” A famous sentence of my dad still doing the rounds at Christmas time amongst the Oostermans. Dad had great difficulty with adjusting to some  odd or strange habits differing from some equally strange habits in his own country. I mean, riding bicycles while wearing a suit, or dipping a raw herring in onions and eating it in full view of pedestrians? All the windows open in full sight of a family eating their dinner?

How strange is that?

A Mario Requiem in a Porcelain Ceramic Urn

April 3, 2013


Train journeys used to be rather benign affairs. The clicking of knitting needles, the opening of The Herald or the racking cough of a cozily smoking sheet metal worker in Hard Yakka Overalls gave comfort and familiarity to most fellow travelers. This has all changed now with advent of the Smart Phone and MP players with G. force capability.

Some weeks ago and on the way to Central Railway I sat next to two women who looked alike but with different ages.  I assumed a mother and daughter. Both were shackled to ear phones with cords trailing down to small objects held in their laps. The younger one was gently rocking her head sideways and I could hear something crackling coming from the direction of her ear phones. The older lady previously assumed to be her mother and sitting directly next to me had similar sounds coming from her head. Out of the blue and suddenly, tears were rolling down and she was heaving. She was clearly sad and distressed.

The rocking sideways daughter was now noticing this as well and pulled mum’s earphones out of her ears. “I told you to stop listening to bloody funeral music”, she told her. I pricked up my ears and upped the sound intake on both my hearing aids. Something was clearly brewing next to me.  Be it far from me to dismiss tears from music but I thought that in train journeys one usually would be given over to boredom or yawning ennui at best. Since the advent of most train-travelers ears being taken up by bits of machinery and cables, it doesn’t exactly encourage social intercourse let alone share tears of grief. (Or tears of joy for the optimists here)But sadness overwhelms.

What was the cause of those tears streaming down my neighbor’s face? These sudden expressions of sadness, how were they coming through those cabled conduits between the ears, the lap and directly into this poor woman’s soul?

“I am sorry”, she said to me, noticing my concern.” I am on my way to pick up my late husband’s urn”.   “Oh, I see”, I answered. My brain was now in a flurry, quickly transforming and combining an urn into a funeral with a husband’s final journey. “I do understand your loss”, I said.  She said; “Oh, that’s alright, he suffered during those last few weeks”.” My daughter is a great help and so are my three sons”. I like listening to the music that was played during the service, it was my husband’s favorite”, she added with a renewal of her tears and sniffle.

I was curious what her husband’s favorite piece of music was that brought on her tears so copiously. I imagine it would perhaps be something of a popular genre, something a bit ethnic as well. She had a dark complexion and some traces of a southern European accent. It might well be; Oh, Sole mio.

“Where are you picking up the urn,” I asked, glad that at least I might guide and transform concern into something more practical. I mean, I was just a stranger sitting next to her and not her son. “It’s at La Perouse crematorium, we are taking a bus from Central Station”, she added, drying her tears. It took a couple of weeks because they had run out of the urn that I chose for Mario. “Mario is my husband” .” I mean he was”, she added so sadly. “We have picked a nice spot around his veggie garden and tomatoes at the backyard in Marrickville”.  “We were going to sprinkle some of Mario’s ashes this afternoon if we get back in time”.

She seemed happy to have found a listener. She took out a brochure and showed me a catalogue of items of a somewhat funereal nature. There were lots of glossy photos of caskets with shiny handles, flower pieces with prices for fresh and artificial. There were also different cortèges including a choice of horse drawn hearses or long-bodied cars. I thought it combined funerals and weddings as it all seemed rather glorious and somewhat ceremonial. The next page had a long arrangement of urns for the departed and cremated, which she was keen to show me.

My Mario was one of the best ceramic tile cutters, she said proudly. He could tell if a tile could be cut by a normal cutter or by water driven diamond blade cutter, she said. How, I enquired? (I knew at least two weeks had passed since the funeral and felt she might venture away from her urgent and immediate grief).

The daughter seemed relieved that her mother’s tears had subsided, we were on safer grounds. “Oh, he knew alright, dad was a master tiler,” the daughter added.  “My Mario knew by just tapping the tile and holding it to his ear”, the mother said. “He could hear the difference between the softer glazed ceramic and the much harder porcelain ceramic.”  “He was one of the best, she reiterated.” “He could just tap and listen to them all day!”

“But, just have a look at the urn I am getting for Mario. He would be happy in this, she added.”  “We have chosen the porcelain version of ‘Ocean Sunset’. It includes a little brooch in brushed gold in which I can keep a bit of my Mario close by.

It was a toss-up for ‘The Golf’ or the ‘Tear-drop’ urn, which we finally all thought was a bit sentimental. The ‘Double Rainbow’ was nice too though, except my Mario hated anything with rain.” Suddenly, it was all over.

The train had arrived at Central Station.  The mother and daughter got off.