Posts Tagged ‘English’

A peculiar story with an enigma.

May 22, 2020

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Manchurian pear.

Only two days ago I visited again my old place at Bowral. It will soon change hands to the new owner who, according to the Estate Agent, wants to let it, and thought it best for me to remove the old washing machine. That was the reason for this trip. I had taken a trolley which had a lot of use over the last few months. It is a good sturdy trolley and I don’t understand how anyone can get through life without a good trolley.  But, prior to that trip, and on a number of occasions I came across a female renting the place next to my old place and that person is really the reason for this article. A peculiar set of circumstances or perhaps just all coincidental.  An mixture of a conundrum and an enigma.

Many years ago it just happened we came across a diverse group of people living in the inner city suburb of Balmain. We ( my late wife  Helvi and I with three children) lived in Balmain between 1967-1973 and again 1976-1996. It was a hive of unruly students, their brick throwing professors, hairy artists and equally hairy girlfriend, anti Vietnam protestors, foreshore defenders , and many others of often undefinable and sometimes dubious backgrounds. Was it really Tom Uren and Patrick White hand in hand marching and protesting against the Vietnam war during those early days?

As it happened we became friendly with a few that were associated with books and publishers. It was the time someone thought up to start a children’s library in the disused Balmain Watch house, which through the lack of thieves and vagrants had stood empty for some many years. I helped out working on that library, mainly through covering the books, and manning the Watch-house when open to the children to take out books.  Libraries in those early days were of short supplies, unlike pubs of which Balmain in its heyday had almost more than citizens. We all know that the Labor Party was also born in Balmain. But I digress.

We made friends within an indefinable and often chaotic world of all sorts of people who seemed united in wanting change, and change did happen. One woman, who is the source of this article , started up very successful bookshops, including in Woollahra and Double Bay which bore her name till at least 2015. She was also part of a group of publishers and book seller friends that included a giant of publishing whose house we stayed in for a week or so in London. Till 2015 he was a former group CEO of the second largest British publisher, Hachette UK. Our female friend, with the successful bookshops, was riding a wave of selling books often promoted by good reviews with the help of the Hachette publisher and coterie of writers. She also had a knack of knowing what would sell with an acumen that is very necessary in the world of books and sales.

But, as the years went on, as they do invariably, and through moving about to different addresses, contacts were lost and as we know, lives can change and often youthful enthusiasm and exuberance can grow mould or a seriousness creeps in whereby a stocktaking has to take place. New horizons are to be explored and as kids grow older times become more serious. It did with us. We left Balmain.

But going back to my recent visits to our former home in Bowral and meeting the new tenant next door. I waved to her and she waved back. This happened a few times, we chatted and discussed the state of the gardens (that were still being cut back to almost ground level,) I noticed this way of her speaking. It was an educated English. She seemed, but I could be mistaken to know me. A small and slim female, nicely dressed and with a face that showed she had lived through much, a well leafed book, yet smiling and still sunny.

I could not get her out of my mind and went to bed that evening mulling and thinking how she had spoken to me, and how she also had patted Milo inside the car. She might get a dog again, she said and looked at me.  Her voice! I had heard it before. It was familiar. Next morning, an epiphany. She is, I am pretty sure the woman with the book shops. I was so happy to have solved it. But, how could I be sure? I decided to try and solve it and bought a small flowering plant on which a attached a small card; To ‘L.M’ which are her initials, from ‘Gerard’. I put it at her front door.

I went back today and the little plant had been taken inside. I now feel I might be mistaken and that she is a different woman altogether, so many decades have past; however she did introduce herself, and her Christian name tallies with our friend with the book shops. She also loved dogs, as did this woman.

I introduced myself and if she is the book woman she would also remember me. It might be she doesn’t want to renew former acquaintances. Who knows and I don’t want to force it? Should I buy her another plant and see what happens next? Her face is very much like the face on Google which still has her bookshops. She has aged as is the nature of getting older. I have to try and solve it. But, why did she not want to recognize me as well.?

The picture above is of the Manchurian pear tree that Helvi and I planted when we first moved into that place. isn’t it lovely now with its autumn colouring?

English Gramma(r) and sharing a banana.

January 3, 2019

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Is it true that todays bananas are getting bigger or am I shrinking, and the comparison is at fault? In any case, I now share the banana with Helvi. It is part of our morning ritual, as is our blood pressure measuring. This morning it was a nice 105 over 66 with a pulse of 82. I generally cut the banana with a large cleaver. Sometimes Helvi does it too but uses a smaller knife. After all that, we proceed with opening our pill boxes and take the first of a range of medications spaced out through the rest of the day. In between morning’s duties we sip coffee and tea between talk.

Part of my school education back in Holland was the learning of four languages. It was compulsory at that time for all students going through a high school. Learning English started at Primary school. After our family left Holland 1956, my school education stopped and since then my limited learning of world’s  language skills came through curiosity and reading. It was a case of self-educating and becoming an ‘autodidact’ as is sometimes called.

I was fascinated to read how the English language evolved. English is a typical product of illogicality. I remember as a schoolboy being annoyed that English words were not pronounced as they were written. It is baffling why the language lacks phonetics. Normal languages pronounce words as they are written, but of course, not in England.  The English language is just part of a culture steeped in Illogicality. Just listen to their parliament or Fawlty Towers. They are both the same. And then the circus of Brexit!

I was heartened to read in a book ‘The Lexicographer’s Dilemma, by Jack Lynch, that through the decades attempts were made to simplify English. George Bernard Shaw campaigned to make it more phonetic but with frustratingly little success. In 1906 the Simplified Spelling Board attempted to change the spelling of many words but it turned out even more complicated. Here below are just a few examples how this attempt made the English language even more strange and difficult.

autograf-autograph, biografy-biography, crum-crumb, dout-doubt, tung-tongue. etc

As one can see, the new way of spelling became even less rational. It added letters , mainly consonants, that are not used in speech. They remain unuttered and left unspoken. It is now totally out of the question to make English more phonetic with spelling reforms. We will just have to put up with an abundance of spelling mistakes that is common even amongst those having grown up with just English without the benefits knowing a second or third language.

English  despite it being a difficult and obstinate language, remains the world most spoken language. I like it for its complexities and nuances. It remains to be my favourite tongue. Yet, in my dreams I still speak Dutch.  That language hasn’t left but am unsure if expressing it would be now as fluent (or clumsy) as my English.

Who knows?

From Wiki; ” Phonetic, using a system of written symbols that represent speech sounds in a way that is very close to how they actually sound.”

 

Movies on Demand.

August 4, 2018

The above music will be instantly recognized by those who have watched the Swedish drama ‘The Bridge’.

We bought a TV that can show movies that are not broadcast in the normal way. You ‘download them’ via your WiFi. Downloading is now very much in. I never thought I would reach that level. I am almost on par with one of my grandsons. He downloads all day. It is a bit of a worry. There have been wagging fingers on TV warning parents of dire consequences of too much downloading. I remember in the fifties we were warned about the evils of writing with ball-points! It was the ruination of youth and education.

With IT downloading comes, according to the experts, a disregard for authority with one finger gestures and many young saying ‘fuck you’. Mind you in the US and elsewhere those rude undisciplined young people are now our only hope of getting rid of Trump, Duterte and other unbalanced narcissists on course to wreck the world. Our parents and their parents were taught to unquestionably and passively accept what they were told at all times by authority. Civil disobedience is making a comeback. It might be our only hope.

‘Eureka Street’s blog caught my eye, especially this article.  ‘Cry the murderous Country.’  The Jesuits do good things.

https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=56136

But back to ‘downloading movies’ It was far more complicated than I thought. Like anything with modern technology. It doesn’t allow for mistakes. Buttons on the remote-control of this special smart TV have to be pushed in the right sequence. Even following the right order almost to the nail-biting finish; one wrong button and one is back to square one. But apart from the technological aspects there is more. Some movies that are advertised as having 10 sessions, might just have 4. We found out by watching a really fantastic movie called ‘Trapped’. An Icelandic movie made in Iceland. Now Iceland is a country that always fascinated me. That bitter cold and those windswept glaciers and mountains. Yet, heating and hot water of the capital Reykjavik and some lakes is achieved by geothermal means. Most people speak very good English and many non-English speaking people from other parts of the world go and learn English in Iceland. Perhaps that is the answer for the young here?

After watching the first 4 episodes of ‘Trapped’ we could not find number 5. We were channelling up and down on our smart TV amongst the hundreds of available movies; no number 5 of ‘Trapped’. And  this Icelandic movie is the very essence or epitome of those Noir dramas that Scandinavia seem so good at creating. Who could forget Swedish TV series ‘The bridge’?

“The Bridge (Danish: Broen; Swedish: Bron) is a Scandinavian noir crime television series created and written by Hans Rosenfeldt. A joint creative and financed production between Sweden‘s Sveriges Television and Denmark‘s DR, it has been shown in more than 100 countries.“[1]

Afters  torturous channelling on the TV we finally got a keyboard displayed on the screen on which one can ask information of a particular movie. I typed in ‘Trapped’ and it showed 4 sessions. It did not tell us about the 6 missing sessions. Are they still coming? Who knows? Next time we will make sure to find out if the movie is shown with all its sessions.

Seeing the movies in Bowral.

June 11, 2018
Image result for literary potato peel society

 

We are not sure where this came from. Out of nowhere we decided to watch movies at our local cinema. It used the be one large cinema. The invention of TV resulted in many single cinemas in closing down. That was a great pity. I remember seeing a movie was almost as good as a long week-end. In those early times it was an outing. Often two movies would be shown. There were intervals whereby we could go outside and replenish our intake of popcorn or Smarties, even an ice-cream. Some cinemas had a Hammond Organ rising majestically from below the screen. A white-suited Liberace type man would play it.

At one particular film the audience were forced to be separated into the two sexes. Even weeks, men, and uneven weeks, women. Or was it uneven and even days? It was supposed to be an informative movie on love, sex and pro-creation. There were long queues.  Many men and maybe women, of course thought there would be a fair bit of eroticism if not a fair sprinkling of nudity. There might not have been much nudity in love but surely with sex there would have to be nudity, including female nudity, which was my speciality and object of desire. The decision to show this movie divided by the sexes came from the Government which gave it enough spice for me to see it with some urgency. I was very young but above 16 years old which was the cut-off point. I had till then not experienced much nudity except that shown by skinny models wearing stiff-solid brassieres,  boned-undergarments and nylon stockings in my mother’s Dutch women magazines, sent over to Australia by her sister…

This sex film was a shocker. It started with the obligatory Hammond organ thumping out the God Save The Queen on stage, after which a man warned the male audience to remain seated, calm, and in control. One could hear a pin drop. The movie started and soon progressed to the informative part of sexual congress. There were black and white ovum,  black and white swimming sperms and mothers pushing black prams, but no nudity or genitalia except in such a medical manner that it killed all eroticism. Within twenty minutes some of the male audience started to walk out. I gave it another twenty minutes in the hope of at least seeing a glimpse of something. I would have been happy with some female pubic hair. But no, not a breast, lonely nipple or any hair, just drawings of medical stuff and quivering sperm. All in a morbid black. It was a most boring movie and a sad trip home to my parents.

During the seventies and eighties the Bowral cinema was made into 4 smaller theatres and they are all thriving. The movies we saw were in the order of; Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society.

  1. https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/the-guernsey-literary-and-potato-peel-pie-society-review-1202753994/

A very well made film, excellent acting, if somewhat sentimental towards the end but still a very good, worthwhile movie. We liked it.

2. https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/the-bookshop-review-1202701795/

‘The Bookshop’. A masterpiece of filmmaking. A story about a culturally backwards conservative English village resisting the coming of a bookshop. We thought it the best of the three movies.

3. https://www.adelaidereview.com.au/arts/cinema/film-review-tea-with-the-dames/

Another brilliant movie, very funny if you can follow the dialogue which with my impaired hearing had difficulty with. None the less for us a very entertaining film. How could it not be with those gifted actors?

 

 

A solid foundation for bullying.

March 1, 2018

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With a steady stream of  News on TV and newspapers about many forms of bullying inflicted on school students including the latest insights on’hazing parties’at our Sandstone and other prestigious universities one wonders where this stems from? While this might go on in other countries, I am not aware of it, and can only write about what happens here ‘today’ in our own neck of the woods.

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/labor-tells-residential-colleges-to-clean-up-their-act/9494780

The Australian school systems, especially the more exclusive ‘Private school’s’ have a system whereby the school classes have captains, prefects or duxes appointed by the head master or mistress whose rules and penalties were the standards and to be obeyed without questioning or a recourse to a higher authority. The most likely reason for this is that many established rules of our societal norms have been inherited from the British. (Till this day our head of state is the English Queen). In schools cheating or letting down the other side is still considered more serious than failures of sensitivity. Stealing is still seen as the most serious failure.

In Australian schools, prowess at sport is extremely praiseworthy and excuses many breaches of rules and decorum. Bookishness and dislike for physical activities is disliked and even arouse suspicions of a certain moral darkness and even invites punishment or some form of disciplinary action for the slightest breach of the rules set by the school captains or prefects. A good rapping over the knuckles with a bamboo stick was the answer.

Hardiness is considered more important than sensitivity, let alone imagination. In boarding schools you get up at six, take a cold shower and run a mile before the classes assembled in uniformed solidarity. Woe those that had hidden a book under their pillow.

It isn’t’ just at schools that initiated the now well established nation-wide art of bullying. This was also the norm at many work places. After arrival in Australia I was amazed at the initiation practices imposed on young apprentices including myself, a cruel process of degrading the hapless victim, most times of a sexual nature, often overseen by the chortling foreman or factory manager. It was ‘the norm.’ A psychologist would rationalise and explain it by saying; ‘you give back what was given to you.’ This is at the very centre of what is now still so rampant in Australia. ‘We bully you to give back what we were given.’

It just doesn’t apply to schools or universities. Just look how our politicians behave, almost on a daily basis. And how does one explain the fact that refugees are now in their fifth year of deliberate and intentional detention on Nauru an Manus. While a small dribble of people have finally been allowed to settle in America, the majority are still stuck in endless limbo. A purer form of punishment and bullying would be hard to imagine.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-01/bullying-must-stop-pm-writes-to-schools-amid-university-hazing/9496150

Yet, our PM has now instructed his department to write to every headmaster to install programmes to alleviate bullying. But this is a hollow act, perhaps to make him look good and enhance his future election as a PM.  A better example would be to show kindness to the refugees still in detention. Admit that coming by boat to Australia escaping the mayhem of bombings in own countries is no crime.

Our PM would do better and do away with the overt British system of discipline and punishment above all else.

Show some kindness instead.

 

This jungle our garden. هذه الغابة لدينا حديقة.

October 20, 2017

IMG_20171017_161555garden

As a concession to our need to be more inclusive and in the spirit of multiculturalism I will put the next few articles  translated in some of the main languages spoken and written in this wonderful world. We will start of in Arabic using the Google translation method. To our Arabic speaking friends I hope the translation comes across as reasonable!

I am more than pleased that the attempt by our minister for Immigration and (the much feared) Border Protection, Mr Peter Dutton, to make it harder for migrants to become permanent residents by setting university level English language skills has resoundedly failed to get through Parliament.

” it is clear that applicants sitting the new English language test in order to obtain Australian citizenship would need to meet a standard equivalent to that expected of university entrants.”

My parents and I would not have passed that test and more importantly how many of Australian born permanent residents would pass the English test today?  Note that this English language test would not be required by people from the UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

Indeed, would Mr Dutton himself pass? It is clear that his notorious contempt for foreigners shines through,  when within cooee of migrants. However, Mr Dutton’s face lights up and really shines when refugees are included in the mix. His contempt knows no boundaries as shown by his treatment of the refugees banned to the hell-holes of Manus and Nauru, now in their forth year of detention. No charges have been laid.

Their hope lies in being accepted by the US, but with Mr D. Trump’s notoriety dealing with foreigners we will see if that will eventuate. In the meantime Dutton keeps on promising the refugees will never set foot on Australian soil even though the majority have gone through the process and been accepted as genuine refugees.

But, going back to the Dutton English language test, some compared it to the “White Australian Policy” from a few decades ago when coloured people were excluded from citizenship.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-19/citizenship-test-english-language-test-criticised-by-labor/9066530

After all this you might be happy to look at the violas again; or are they violets?

It is never too late!

الثقافية سوف أضع المقالات القليلة القادمة تترجم في بعض من اللغات الرئيسية المنطوقة والمكتوبة في هذا العالم الرائع. سنبدأ باللغة العربية باستخدام طريقة الترجمة من غوغل. لأصدقائنا الناطقين باللغة العربية آمل أن تأتي الترجمة عبر معقولة!

أنا أكثر من سعداء أن محاولة السيدنا للهجرة و (المخاوف كثيرا) حماية الحدود، السيد بيتر دوتون، لجعل صعوبة في أن يصبح المهاجرين المقيمين الدائمين من خلال وضع مهارات اللغة الإنجليزية على مستوى الجامعة فشلت بصدور من خلال الحصول على البرلمان .

“من الواضح أن المتقدمين الذين يجلسون اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية الجديد من أجل الحصول على الجنسية الأسترالية سوف تحتاج إلى تلبية معيار يعادل ما هو متوقع من الوافدين إلى الجامعة”.

والدي وأنا لم يكن قد اجتاز هذا الاختبار، والأهم من ذلك كيف العديد من المقيمين الأستراليين المولودين الدائمين اجتياز اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية اليوم؟ لاحظ أن اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية هذا لن يكون مطلوبا من قبل أشخاص من المملكة المتحدة وأيرلندا وكندا ونيوزيلندا والولايات المتحدة.

في الواقع، هل السيد دوتون نفسه يمر؟ ومن الواضح أن ازدراءه السيء السمعة للأجانب يضيء، عندما يكون داخل كوي المهاجرين. ومع ذلك، يضيء وجه السيد دوتون ويضيء حقا عندما يتم تضمين اللاجئين في هذا المزيج. إن ازدراءه لا يعرف حدودا كما هو مبين في معاملته للاجئين المحظورين في جحيم مانوس وناورو، وهي الآن في السنة الأولى من احتجازهم. ولم توجه اتهامات.

أملهم يكمن في قبولها من قبل الولايات المتحدة، ولكن مع السيد D. ترامب سمعة سيئة التعامل مع الأجانب سنرى ما إذا كان ذلك سوف يبرز. وفي الوقت نفسه، تواصل دوتون الوعد بأن اللاجئين لن يضعوا أقدامهم على الأرض الأسترالية على الرغم من أن الأغلبية قد مرت بهذه العملية وتم قبولها كالجئين حقيقيين.

ولكن، بعد العودة إلى اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية في “دتون”، قارن البعض منها ب “السياسة الأسترالية البيضاء” منذ بضعة عقود عندما تم استبعاد الأشخاص الملونين من الجنسية.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-19/citizenship-test-english-language-test-criticised-by-labor/9066530

بعد كل هذا قد تكون سعيدا للنظر في الكمان مرة أخرى. أو أنها البنفسج؟

أبدا لم يتأخر

The art of genuflecting is disappearing

September 15, 2016

41yjSAQeq1L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ oosterman treats

When political figures meet they often will shake hands. The recent climate change meeting or COP21 (Conference of Parties) showed endless footage of people facing the camera while shaking hands. I never understood that this has to be filmed. I mean; who thinks that shaking hands is so interesting that they actually want to see a film reportage of it? The Chinese leader was a bit bored by that conventional gesture. He looked as if a lemon had difficulty being accepted. Shaking each others hand and fingers interlocking seems a reasonable thing to do in accepting the other person as an equal. A kind of, let’s be friendly and acknowledge each other. The arms and hands are the logical tools to do that with. One could perhaps use legs and feet, but balancing on one foot would be difficult, especially for the elderly.

There are some cultures that have different methods of greeting. Here and there nose rubbing is normal and the ‘Dab’ amongst the young is also practised. See below.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dab_(dance)

But, the gesture of acknowledging each amongst royalty remains stuck in genuflecting or curtsying. I am not totally sure of this ritual between royals but certainly in strangers or other non-royals we are supposed to do a bit of a dip on one knee and then, if done appropriately, might be given the opportunity to touch the hand of the Royal. It is supposed to be a sign of one standing above the other. I am not sure if I could or even would do this. Apparently, if one is lucky enough to meet a royal, many are urged to practise the art of genuflecting well before. No doubt, one could even do a course in genuflecting, a bit like when I took dancing lessons from Phyllis Bates’ dancing academy back in the late fifties. This was held above a milk bar in Sydney named ‘Spyros.’ At that time a malted milkshake could be bought for one shilling and sixpence. I had to make sure that the book was held between the teacher’s and student’s breast or chest. It is still a much revered achievement that I successfully managed to do that. I remember the title; it was ‘Of Human Bondage.’ Of course, holding a book between a royal’s chest (or breasts) and a ‘common’ while genuflecting would never do.

As for the spat between us and the nasty one; let me just put this one up as a response to a dear follower on my previous piece.

The person we feel is responsible to the threat that we should go and sell up, also has a thing about the Royal Family. When the English Prince Phillip was given a Knighthood by Australia, she fully applauded the move by our previous government. It was such a silly move that the government subsequently lost the election.
We joined in the chorus of most, in condemning and rubbishing the giving of Knighthoods and Dame hoods. However, the nasty neighbour is English and when she holds Court would bore us to death about her regaling the English monarchy to its minute detail. She hinted she actually was the illegitimate fruit of one of the many Prince Phillip’s amorous conquests, supposedly consummated in a swanky address along the Seine in Paris.
We finally had enough and refused to genuflect and told her off. She is silly.

https://www.amazon.com/Oosterman-Treats-Philosophical-Musings-vasectomy/dp/099458105X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473900528&sr=1-1&keywords=oosterman+treats

The greatest form of flattery. A literary ‘must.’

January 31, 2016

IMG_20150713_0001

In Finland 1966

A huge book of almost 800 pages is named; letters to Vera by Vladimir Nabokov edited by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd. The amount of work that the editors/authors went through is mind boggling. It starts off with a list of Abbreviations and ends with a huge Index. It has a Bibliography and Acknowledgements.

My interest is more what is stated on the first page giving the summary; “without limiting the rights under copyright, and goes on about written permissions and copyright ownership.”

A lot of stuff is now stolen by copying and downloading on the internet without the original makers or creators being acknowledged or paid. However, in my case, please feel free. I would be so happy to get copied.  I claim no rights to any words or sentences. Nabokov died at seventy seven years of age after having written many masterpieces both in Russian and English.

I will be of the same age next year and hopefully will have self-published my first book of  ‘Almost There,-‘memoirs, with dubious and unreliable philosophical musings.’ I am again going through the thousands of words and am now googling formatting. What about a Foreword. Should it have an index of chapters or headings. What about spacing, size of pages or lettering? Should I dedicate it! Do I acknowledge anyone. Be aware of possible libellous statements? It just never ends.

I can perhaps lay claim and copyright to my Leeks and Potato bake. The inclusion of sour cream instead of just plain milk makes it uniquely my recipe. I know that it is mine and Helvi’s favourite, with pancakes and Golden syrup coming in at a close second.  Of course with pancakes comes the use of butter-milk which I know other cooks use as well.

Did you know that in Australia during the fifties and sixties, wives were sometimes introduced as ‘the cook,’ or worse ‘my cook.’ It happened to Helvi once on the farm when someone asked me; where is the cook, meaning Helvi. H did not like it and told the man so, who had referred to her as  ‘the cook.’ He stopped doing it to us, but I bet you he continued it with others. Anyway, feel free to copy the words or recipes.

What is it again that Imitation is the best form of flattery?

The commission for a mural and teaching adults.(Auto- biography).

August 11, 2015

With roughly more than seven decades between the beginning and now, one has to allow for some discrepancies on this heap of memories. The order and dates might not be exact but the events are true. One might also have to allow that the events are somewhat embellished to make them more readable  or perhaps even enjoyable. A French polished table doesn’t make it less or more of a table if presented in raw oak.  The specimen of my life is not any different from the multitudes of other lives. It is also not any more unique in its minutia than those other lives of this world.  I write what I feel was important. But the nature of writing an autobiography  implies a certain amount of egoism. I do it to continue with my life as I have in the past. Keep myself off the street. I enjoy the confessional  part of it, but also realize it is a race against time with the inevitability of those final last words that befalls all of us. The pole vaulting days are over but writing about it makes solid the past. A kind of coagulation of a mishmash of memories rusted onto the years gone by. The words as yet not said do remain ringing.

The school that our daughter went to was about a ten minutes bicycle ride along a sweet little country lane into the small town. She used to come home for lunch and go off again for afternoon lessons. At no stage did we even contemplate that there were dangers of traffic or bad people prowling about. Children getting to school on their own was the norm. At least in The Netherlands. It was idyllic. Even in the country, no distance seemed beyond a ride on a bicycle. No helmets were worn either. All was safe and there were bicycle path separating riders from cars. We had sheep, chickens and a pregnant Shetland pony. What could one ask for more?

One winter morning there was a furious tapping on our bedroom window. Our bedroom was at the front of the farm overlooking the meadow in which the sheep and pony grazed. It was our neighbour. He was a serious farmer unlike us. “You have a foal, Gerard.”   “Get up and hang the afterbirth” he said. Of course it wasn’t in those words. The dialect in the area we lived in was as unlike Dutch as Scottish is from English, or Welsh from Irish. Is there some unwritten law that men respond to tapping on bedroom windows and not the female? In any case, it had snowed outside and our bed was warm. Even so, I did admire and liked our neighbour’s care for our pony. He had already told us it looked she might un-pack at any moment. I got out of bed and went outside just wearing slippers and a morning coat. Indeed there was this lovely little foal barely able to stand up and take its first suckle.

Sorry for the B/W picture only. It was a triptych painted in acrylic..

I don’t know why an afterbirth had to be hung up from a tree away from ground hugging predators such a  canny fox or, indeed a wolf or bear. It was a tradition steeped in folklore and we apparently had chosen our farm in a village that were the harbingers and last owners of some very ancient habits which must not be disregarded.  We, after all were living here as strangers and really almost imposters more than traditional owners and had to tread carefully with respect to keeping their traditions. I stumbled about found the afterbirth and flung it over the large elm next to the farm house. Both mother and baby Shetland were doing fine. Our neighbours were happy too.

Those first two years of hard Yakka.

May 15, 2015
Fibro garage. Our first 'temporary' home.

Fibro garage. Our first ‘temporary’ home.

The above photo taken after moving in own first home. Brother John (deceased) at front, mum and dad with glasses together (single bed), sister Dora on floor.  Smiling Frank on top right and Herman and Adrian on left top and bottom right. The mattress at front was ‘temporary’ vacated by me taking the picture.

The garage was 8 by 4 metres.

The move from the old house to our own block of land with garage (Temporary Dwelling) was achieved after much searching by my mother scanning the  ‘Blocks of Land” for sale in Newspapers. Enough money had been saved and even though my Mum’s English was very poor, that was no hindrance. She would just speak Dutch with a few English sounding vowels thrown in. Through week-end meetings with other migrants, the fever of achieving this first goal had bedded down. Inquiries of deposits and how getting a loan was made ‘easy’ by building societies was now well understood by our mother. Estate agents were taken on who would drive her around to the different blocks for sale and her appraisal. She would be quick to measure distance to nearest railway station and distance from the city. The closest to city and station, the more desirable and also more costly.

Sydney already then was spread out over an area almost the size of Holland and with everyone feverishly seeking own house on own block it doesn’t take a genius to understand why suburbia reigns in Australian cities like nowhere else. Ownership of a car then becomes as essential as sleeping on a mattress. Selling blocks of land and cars was a main ingredient and driving force for a future prosperous Australia. It still is.

We were totally swept into having to buy/build our house after arriving in Australia. To be able for most to achieve this, housing was made from as cheap a material as possible, hence the thin sheeting to  clad the houses both inside and outside making them not much more than windbreaks. The asbestos cement sheeting was at the forefront of  those cheap building materials. It had and still has dire consequences. In Australia there are hundreds of thousands of ageing homes clad with that material.

https://oosterman.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/fibro-asbestos-homes-a-ticking-time-bomb/

The day of moving in our first dwelling is still etched into my mind like nothing else (apart from my first juvenile experiences of ‘ female bush and breasts). All our belongings were piled on a truck with driver. They must have been hired for the day. It was much more than we thought. The four steel trunks, all our bedding and washing machine, the ice box and six children’s clothes and bits and pieces that we had acquired during the six months or so we had stayed with our friends.  All were piled on the truck including Dad who had to try and prevent our belongings from getting blown off during the trip to our new place. He was spreadeagled on top of the truck with  arms and legs flailing trying to keep all on the truck. The truck drove off and I can still see my dad thrashing about on his back.

We moved in and mum and dad must have been busy to prepare all the bedding. Us kids were so proud and would walk backwards and forwards over the own block of land like eighteenth century barons inspecting a newly inherited farm in Bavaria. There were no more rats, no three legged dogs and we were on our own. Dad had even survived the trip on the back of the truck.