Posts Tagged ‘Fire’

Fire, fire…

November 27, 2016



Just when I thought to take a break, we had a big fire in our small town. As we left to go shopping a huge black billowing sky-high tower of smoke was churning upwards. It was darkening the sun and moving rapidly towards us. Helvi thought we should not venture out. ‘It scares me’, she said.

Smoke and fire are to me what for others might be shopping or leafing through fashion magazines. I don’t want to cast aspersions onto the differences between the many sexes. The burning down of someone’s property and taking a delight into this plight can hardly be seen as an endearing quality or an enlightening embodiment of sensitivity. The taking pleasure in shopping or interest in fashion surely has a more noble aspect. No matter what indeterminate sex choses one such delight over the other. ( one has to be careful not to fall into the trap of just referring to male or female only)

If I suffer condemnation for seeking out and watching fires, so be it. It is all too late to change now. ‘I want to look at this fire,’ I announced to my wife. ‘Well, leave me home, I am scared,’ she said firmly. Firmly is what she is all about. In the meantime there were sirens and flashing police-cars adding to my now unstoppable curiosity about the fire. This black smoke, ‘It must be a large rubber depot or something,’ I surmised with an air of an incendiary expert. By now lots of kids were rushing by, mainly boys with some smaller children being accompanied by anxious looking mothers. You could tell the mother’s hearts were not really into the spirit of fire-watching.

By now the smoke was in such fury it formed and looked like a mini tornado. It was too late for me to drop Helvi back. With total selfishness and abandonment of common-sense I drove towards were I thought the fire was. I remembered a tyre outlet at the back of Aldi’s supermarket. We were on our way to Aldi anyway. I thought to combine both. Buy salmon cutlets and watch a good fire.

However, here is where it all came to nothing. The roads towards the fire had been blocked, and police were diverting traffic well away from this great fire. The only way would be to park the car and walk. But, so many cars had already done the same. Parking anywhere near the fire was already taken by those who wanted front-stall position. ‘Why don’t you have a look tomorrow, Helvi offered kindly?’ ‘I am sure the firemen don’t want the public hindering their work.’ ‘I am scared and want to go home, she said again. ‘Perhaps you can watch it on television,’ she added.

The fire turned out to be this tyre outlet. I drove by this morning. The firemen were still raking through the remnants of this building. Aldi survived and I managed to get the salmon cutlets just now.

Pity, I missed out on watching it.

Fire with Fondant and a surprised Rooster

December 8, 2012


One of those memories that seem to hover around in my obstinately persisting recollection of childhood events is the loveliness of a ‘White Christmas.’  Christmas is so soon after the celebration of St.Nicholaas, (the National typical Dutch event whereby kids behave, but only till they receive their presents, after that it is back to normal and they run riot again), that as with many childhood memories, they often get mixed up or somewhat embellished.

For me, the White Christmas was always tinted and coloured by an event, which would have to be one of the most bizarre that any child could ever have hoped for in experiencing. As our lives unroll and routine sets in, it could be said that a kind of yawning repetition at times takes over, hence the relying by me anyway, on seeking respite in childhood events. Here is just one of those. Enjoy.

It could never be claimed that my dad was a cook or that domestic duties came naturally to him. He worked, smoked his Douwe Egberts rollies, sat in his ‘easy chair’ and mum had the kids and cooked. However, there was one level of cooking which he excelled in, even though he practiced this just one day a year. It was the art of making a sweet that used to adorn our Christmas tree and from memory was called fondantjes.  They are a kind of icy sugary sweet which is infused with a strong rather delicate taste of, in our Dad’s culinary efforts, almond and lemon essence. My dad had perfected this sweet into an art form and he never deserted or diverted away from this. Almond and lemon essence ‘fondantjes’ it would be and it is now etched into my memory as clear as the smell and taste of ‘pepernoten’ at Sinterklaas. Almost as defining of whom I am as the rest of the debris of past experiences.

The making of the fondantjes was, as far as I can recollect,  my dad standing in our kitchen  mixing up  sugar, lots of it, with butter into a slurry into which ,like a magic sorcerer’ he would add the almond and lemon essence. The lot was re-stirred, heated and poured into many different metal shapes with holes in the middle. Those metal shapes were, like the rest of the Christmas paraphernalia kept in a box underneath my parents’ bed. I know this because as a kid I was insanely curious about the world I happened to be born into and used to spy around our family house hoping to find magic and secret discoveries of some forbidden kind giving, hopefully, some meaning to my life. Together with the metal fondant moulds under my parents’ conjugal bed were also collections of metal spring loaded clips which would be used to clamp real candles onto the spruce tree.

The Christmas tree in Europe is or was real spruce and not mere pine. Now-a-days they are most likely to be those universal type trees of which we screw in metal branches, stored in flat packs while not in use. Everything gets debased and becomes so much uglier as the years go by. I noticed a new updated version. It works like an umbrella. Just push a button and the tree pops up, decorations and all!

On Christmas Eve, dad ceremoniously and with some typical Dutch paternal authority would announce for us kids to assemble in the lounge room as he would now put up the tree with the hanging of decorations, the kids would be needed to hang the fondantjes. Remember they were poured into those metal containers with a hole in the middle? Of course, none were to be eaten. What parent would set children to task dealing with the most aromatic and sweetest of sweets delights and not eat them, I ask? Well, we were allowed to lick the slurry pan’s remnants. Some consolation! He was a good dad.

The idea of hanging the fondant was to hide them as much as possible amongst the dense branches of the spruce-tree; nothing must come too easy, a valuable lesson for the future. After the fondant came the decorations and the candle clips with the specially bought candles that would fit into the designated hole of the clip, the same as the strings for hanging the fondant were threaded through their holes.  All were suspended from this glorious laden Charismas tree.

The desired ‘white Christmas’ happened often. Of course we are talking pre-climate change. Then, Christmas morning were always announced by stillness. Snow was the perfect sound insulator; all was muffled, including the cuckeldee-doo from the Leghorn rooster down at ground zero below us, adding to a special reverential atmosphere. The authentic spirit of Christmas. It took some heroic acceptance years later to admit that, bogong moths, the bikini Bondi surf and the all pervasive smell of stale beer with simmering heat above the susburban asphalt were part of a different Christmas, just as valid (but not quite as lovely for me yet.).

The deliverance of the fondant sweets was carefully arranged to last as long as possible and at least as long as the Christmas tree would remain green. A strict rationing was in order. Why not? So many foodstuffs just after the war were still rationed and still needed coupons in exchange. As kids we were happy to have warm socks, bread and both parents to tuck us into a warm bed. The Christmas sweets were an undreamed of luxury.

Of course, as the fondants got eaten, carefully and at pre-determined times, the tree all lit up by burning candles still managed to hide remnants of those desirable sweets; they never would stale!  But…one day as the tree yellowed and the candles started to burn ever downwards towards their stumpy ends, one of those greedily licked around the bone dry turpentine loaded twig with needles and within seconds our glorious tree caught fire.  Total mayhem. My father looked on in total astonishment. This was totally unordered and not allowed in Holland as if this alone would temper the fire and all would come good on its own accord. It did not.

As my father spent precious seconds in total inaction, the tree still loaded with the fondant did not. It soon became more than a serious incendiary device, ready to engulf all and everything in its path. Time was of the essence now. Just when everything seemed doomed my dad regained the initiative and sprung into ‘action man’, became the predecessor of Batman.

His eyes, something I’ll never forget. My instant Rin Tin Tin hero- man. He opened both windows with one mighty movement in one arm and with the other, with split second precision, grabbed the burning tree, and, (Werner Von Braun would have been so proud)’ hurled the tree like a V2rocket spearheading down to ground zero, fondant and all. He saved our family. Sure there were some protesting cacklings and consternations from the chooks down below. It wasn’t every day that a burning tree would end up in their coup and the rooster did have some singed feathers, but so what.

Dad had saved our family. My hero!