Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

Woe those that save and live frugally

March 6, 2017

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There is always that pull to and fro of our past. Some say, don’t look back. But with age comes an oversupply of what has been and much less of what is yet to come. I am talking of time, not substance. It’s most unlikely that at the age of seventy-seven one contemplates joining the army or seek a career in investment banking. Sure, some go climb mount Everest or take up the piano, but most contemplate things and end up rummaging around in memories. I do.

One of the good things that was ingrained still occupies my train of thoughts. It was one my parents main input. ‘Live within your means. Save for what you want and don’t waste.’  This was also reinforced by the political system back in Holland. The era of consumerism never took The Netherlands in the same way it was embraced by Australia. Buying things on credit was unheard of. Today, this very different and the credit card is also embraced. Even so, some national habits are well ingrained. I believe even eating raw herrings is as much a pastime now as it was when I lived there. Saving is still held in high esteem.

This might well be the reason that of all the countries in the world, The Netherlands now hold the enviable record of 103 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth.  While much of that growth is contributed to cutting welfare and taxes and giving corporations greater freedom, Holland still enjoys a generous welfare system. Excluding costs of education, Holland spends 24.3 % of GDP (Gross Domestic Products) and comes in fairly high on the list of welfare spending. Australia spends 18% and  this is towards the lower end of world’s foremost economies. The US is the fourth lowest on welfare spending at 14.8%.

The Dutch pension gets paid irrespective of being poor or rich. Everyone who turns 65 gets it. It is a state insurance scheme whereby every one who works or has worked in the Netherlands gets a pension when turning 65. It is roughly 2% for every year that one has worked in Holland

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Economy/Social-welfare-spending/%3E-%25-of-GDP/Excluding-education

This is all about our experience on how saving in Australia is being punished.  Since about two months ago the government changed tack on pensions. Those with savings above a certain limit would either get the old-age pension lowered or totally taken away. We lost our pension. It seems, that in Australia it is best to whoop it up and spend, spend. Burn your money, go gambling, load up your credit card, run up debts. You will ensure you get the pension.

https://www.svb.nl/int/en/aow/wat_is_de_aow/wie_krijgt_aow/

And by the way, the Dutch pension is about 70% 0f average wage instead of 40% in Australia. So, next time you hear Turnbull or Morrison going on how Australia is some kind of social paradise. It is NOT. We are pretty stingy when it comes to social welfare.

 

The Evil within

February 23, 2017

 

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Grand dad Oosterman design of church window

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-23/child-sex-abuse-royal-commission-one-of-the-lucky-ones/8296986

A must read, especially considering the stance some of us take on Islam and Muslims. I do hope Pauline Hanson and her cohorts of ‘One Nation’ reads this before she start ranting  again about the evils of Islam or Sharia law. Even Geert Wilders in Holland should try and get a grip on what’s happenings around our own neck of the woods.

Here some excerpts of above article;

“Having listened to the testimony from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse I realise that I wasn’t the sort of boy the paedophiles were ever likely to be interested in: I wasn’t vulnerable enough. My mother asked too many questions.

In my 20s and 30s, I used to joke about surviving the full Catholic “catastrophe” (apologies to Zorba): strapped by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart until the age of nine, in 1974 I was handed-over to the Marist Brothers to be socialised and institutionalised through violence.”

“Many of the brothers were outright sadists. One comes immediately to mind. I well remember being hauled out in front of the other boys in Year 4 and repeatedly caned for submitting a piece of artwork which he had deemed inadequate.

The artwork in question was meant to be a bulldog, made from a discarded cotton spool and two bits of coloured cardboard. I was eight and the brother had determined that I should be made an example of.

There were many of his ilk — Brother Francis, Brother Casmir — grown men who thought nothing of using a leather strap or length of cane on a boy until the child not only cried, but occasionally pleaded in front of his classmates for the punishment to stop.”

Only the lonely

February 8, 2017

 

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But where are the people? This was very often a question asked during the time we had foreign students living with us. We lived in Balmain. It is a suburb which many Australians would classify as having medium to high density living. We always look back with fondness of the twenty years we lived there. It is the place where our children grew up. So, how come this question; but where are the people?

The foreign students came from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Germany with a couple from Holland. The question has to be looked at from the perspective of living in cities. Australia right from the start understood it had space.  Space was lacking in England, especially in the big smoked filled cities. Thus the suburban block here was soon to be seen as desirable for people to be housed on. At the beginning, people lived in terrace houses joined together forming complete streets. Balmain was one of those earlier suburbs of Sydney with streets of terrace houses. Parks were everywhere and it still felt very spacious.

However, the foreign students came from cities that were teeming with people. They would form throngs on the streets. I am sure that those that have been to Asia understand there is a huge difference between density of people there in cities compared to here in Australia. It were those people on the streets that the students were sorely missing, even in inner city Balmain.

My parents soon after arrival in 1956 went to live in western Sydney. Real Estate agents and blocks of land were the main topics of conversation amongst the migrants.  We too were swept up into saving a deposit for our ‘own’ block of land.  There was no real understanding of the social consequences in making a choice of where to live.  To be near a rail-station was desirable but as for other desirable needs, it just wasn’t about or questioned. Migrants had a need to have a roof and security of an income, all else was secondary. It was like a fever. One got caught up in the frenzy of making a new life. It was all a bit puzzling for my dad. He was different.

The street that my parents ended up living in was like millions of suburban streets anywhere in Australia. There were people living in houses but you would rarely see them. It felt achingly lonely. Sometimes a curtain would stir or a car would drive by. For me it was deadly, spiritual dehydration. Sure, the petunias and rockeries were plenty. Rosellas would be screeching and flying about and then there was cracker night. This was a yearly event with bon-fire on the street, somehow mysteriously related to Guy Fawkes or something. It was an occasion for neighbours to meet up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes

All this in response to having read a lecture by Hugh MacKay. He is a well know social commentator. “The State of the Nation starts in your Street.”

http://theconversation.com/hugh-mackay-the-state-of-the-nation-starts-in-your-street-72264

It seems to fit in what is happening with all that card swiping and waving at poles. We are forced to dealing with less and less people. Banking is done silently in front of an ATM. People buy food on-line and sit at home all sated and possibly overweight. The steel posts at rail stations. Most work will finally be done by  steel posts and robots. Soon we might go to bed enjoying the icy embrace of a steel post or with a rotating robot with a waving of cards giving consent to heaven knows what sexual delights

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I don’t know what can be done to liven up lonely suburban streets. My mum did her best and was fearless in her search for social contact. It was difficult. All those Venetian blinds and that obsession with privacy. A sign of change is that most people now prefer an apartment close to the city. People do seem to want to live close to each other, able to walk to shops and work. People need people.

We shall see!

The reindeer in Finland are getting nervous. Christmas is nigh.

September 17, 2016

images Christmas shoppers

In the local Highlands Newspaper I noticed an advertisement seeking volunteers to act as Santa. Experience not required, but joviality and those with a deep ho, ho ho given preference. Females with rich chest resonance and dark vocal qualities accepted too. Glass ceilings are being broken here!.

Christmases are coming earlier and with greater urgency. We don’t want to miss out. Business is business and it can’t be harmful if we get the consumer alerted out of their winter slumber a bit earlier. Soon, the heat will be upon us. The cicadas are bursting out of their seventeen year wait already.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2001/02/17/2822486.htm

The Big W store near us has unpacked the Christmas cards and the novelty store nearby is selling beards, holy tinsels and mitres for aspiring Santas. It took us a couple of years to get used to this tropical Christmas. Instead of Holland’s snow and fondant we were supposed to take to beer, barbequed prawns and gherkins pierced enfolded in ham. The first Christmas in church the solemn suit was replaced by singlets, shorts and sweat. The local priest was not unknown to exude alcohol vapours when giving communion at the mid-night mass. Huge bogon moths would swirl around the lights as well as the heads of this herd of pious but slightly inebriated parishioners. One could almost hear the refrain; ‘Rudolf the red nosed reindeer.’

It did not help Dad’s resolve to accept this different type of Christmas. The jolliness of Australian Santa wasn’t really any different from the more solemn North European version, although at the time when we left in 1956, I don’t think that buying presents and spending money was as yet a big deal. It was more atmospheric and certainly a celebration and time of joy in each other and family, including the community. We would go around shaking hands. I suspect that my parents would have missed their own country most at times of Christmas.

We, the kids, would of course be found on the beach and surf, get coconut oil sprayed to hasten the browning up, and eat hot chips when hungry. I had an enormous balsa wood surfboard which I would paddle beyond the surf and miraculously did manage to ride some waves back in. Now, sharks and high rates of melanoma have put a dent in that part of culture. The beaches are notably quieter. Many a surfie is seen scanning the water for any sharks while shark spotting aeroplanes circle overhead. It must be tempting for sharks to see those legs dangling from surfboards. It is their territory.

Perhaps, bush walking and outback adventures will now become more popular. It is rather nice to sit in the shade of a large coolabah tree, sip a cool beer taken from the esky while having a small fire on which to cook some cutlets of lamb or even prawns. At least, your worst opponents might be a snake that got disturbed by you. We are reassured that snakes generally are shy and tend to crawl away. That must be so reassuring. I would rather go bush than surf in the sea.

In any case, Christmas is still three months away. I find the whole idea of yet another Christmas coming a bit disconcerting.

Can Australia help Holland out in closing down their prisons?

August 8, 2016

While here and in the UK, plans are under way to build more prisons, Holland is closing them. They even asked Norway to send a thousand criminals, to at least fill some of the empty cells and keep employing guards.
http://qz.com/644914/the-netherlands-keeps-having-to-close-its-prisons-due-to-lack-of-prisoners

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

The Dutch Aunt married in Kings Cross.( Seniors only)

August 4, 2016

41yjSAQeq1L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ oosterman treats

Faithful readers might remember a period when I was working for De Rotterdamse Bank, Bij-Kantoor Middenweg, Amsterdam South, as the book-keeper. It all happened during my first trip back to Holland around 1961/62 or so. A few years after my parents migrated to Australia. I wanted to work in an office wearing a suit and carrying an attaché briefcase to and fro work on the tram. It was also thought that my school friendships of the past could be resurrected. There was also the hope it might be possible to find a ‘good woman/girl.’ (I had already met ‘good woman’, but little did I know, but of that later.)

Prior to my first return to Holland and still in Australia, the search for first romantic liaisons had resulted in a piquant but dangerous episode with a large Maltese woman who was married to a nice butcher who kept a loaded shotgun in their marital wardrobe. While this episode solved some of my curiosities about the opposite sex, it wasn’t really all that edifying. The seduction came from her side, giving me a rather weak excuse. It happened while watching the epic ‘Bonanza’ with Ben Cartwright’s three sons chasing bad cowboys on galloping horses going around and around the same set of rocks. It was breathtaking in its audacity. The husband was sitting opposite! I was sure it wasn’t a reflection of Maltese cultural standards. I am so lucky to have survived. ( Dutch migrant shot dead while watching Bonanza!)

I was trying to make the best of my stay in Amsterdam, and lived with an uncle I never heard of. The poor man was permanently red in the face with anger about his former wife whom his was divorced from for many years. He also had cancer in his shoulder. He loved my chili meat patties which was nothing more than minced meat mixed with bread and lots of sambal. He felt it would burn his cancer away and cure him. It did not and he died a few months after I had left to live in Italy.

There were lonely times too, which my ‘good’ Aunt Agnes relieved somewhat by inviting me over to her place on Surinamer Plein, Amsterdam not far from the angry uncle. It was on one of those visits that she introduced me to one of her best friends who lived at the same address. It was a multi story building housing single women only. It is proof of the well developed social conscience of the Dutch that good housing is provided for all groups including single women. I never thought much of it and accepted that good social housing was the norm.

Aunt Agnes’s friend’s name was Rieta van de Meer. Also a retired teacher and never married. But, and here comes Rieta’s amazing story. On a holiday in Norway in the bus doing the rounds of Fjords and snow-capped mountains around Bergen, the Cupid angel of romance had shot it’s arrow inside this bus. She met a retired Australian farmer. He turned out to be the epitome of the jovial, easy going Australian. A barrel of laughter and lightness. Easy come easy go. The original larrikin of the ‘no worries’ man from the bush.

He was divorced too but not an ounce of rancour or bitter heart. He was also well retired, not short of a quid. Helvi and I met this jovial man a few years after Rieta and the ex-farmer married and living in Australia. She played the piano and both lived in an apartment in King’s Cross-Sydney, for many years. The hub of life and Continental excitement. It was obvious they both shone in each other’s company. He was a lot older and sadly going blind. She worked hard at making the best of it. I remember my parents visiting all of us and grandchildren in Australia meeting up with the happy couple. She was on the floor trying to hack open a can of something with a hammer and chisel. My Mum couldn’t understand the trouble she was going through. Rieta just laughed and said it amused her husband watching her trying to open the can. A kind of challenge.

It is never too late for joy and happiness.

The second book for Seniors has arrived.

July 22, 2016

41yjSAQeq1L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ oosterman treats

https://www.amazon.com/Oosterman-Treats-Philosophical-Musings-vasectomy/dp/099458105X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469075634&sr=1-1&keywords=oosterman+treats

The second book has arrived and is now ready, able and willing to be read. ( and bought) It has come with less trouble than the first one. Some of the pictures had to be reduced. I kept getting messages that the images had to have a minimum of dots or digits. A mysterious image of a shifter-spanner also kept appearing in the returned proofs from Createspace. Apparently something to do with Microsoft Word and unprintable Headings and Footnotes. How people know those things is something that will always delude me. The title ‘Oosterman Treats’ is the only title in the whole arsenal of Amazon. At least that is unique!

The next phase will be to market it. Again I’ll try and go around the local bookshops after enough courage has been gleaned and stored. I notice that some people go and do Toastmasters’ course in public speaking. I am practising my approach to the shop manager in front of a mirror. ‘Hello, howz ye going? I am a local author and wonder if you could put up my title(s)in your shop?’

This is followed up by trying to stay as straight and upright as possible. An image of confidence has to now take over as I wait for a reply, unwavering and with enough fortitude not to crumble or show some dejection. Things haven’t been easy when it comes to present my author’s mien.

A confessed love for roof cavity inspections, no worries. A perusing of dogs and ducks, easy peasy. A raconteur with the Aldi’s cashier girls, brilliant verbal skirmishes. A critic of everything political, even people. Australia, Holland, The UK, the US, and everybody all come under his fire. He is verbosely loose, and banned from blogs, but awesomely inspiring.

The idea of self promoting my book has gained though. I now have two on offer. If a refuse comes with showing the first, I can, with a sweeping and magnificent flourish, whip out my latest, ‘Oosterman Treats.’ from my book satchel strapped on my back. The blurb ‘post my vasectomy’ should get some attention.

We shall wait and see. ( get your copy now, available Amazon paperback and kindle).

Those going without ‘word-replacement’ features.

March 13, 2016

IMG_0829The Salvia

The angle of his head wasn’t the only sign of despair. The way his left hand was clenching and unclenching was classical of a well nourished depression. Even those slightly interested in body language would know that. However, this man seated on the park-bench was attended by his very alert beagle hound. The dog wanted to be let free to chase ducks.  I decided to pat this dog and try and engage this sad person in conversation.

Lately, by much encouragement from my wife I wanted to put words in action and engage more. I usually steer well clear of raucous or excessive boisterous people but make generous exceptions for those that appear serious or sunk in gloom. They are often more interesting. A psychologist would probably agree and might well say; “there is a lot there.”  You just don’t get serious without good reason!

My Father was always hovering very close to being a serious person. Readers might remember he went to bed for six solid weeks soon after our arrival in Australia in 1956/57. It was too much. “Far out,” might well have been an expression totally justified. I mean the three legged German shepherd dog chasing huge rats around the old house surrounded by cranes lifting stacks of timber. The old 1948 Chevy pick-up on three wheels. The mud and the early morning bucket pissing ritual behind the flimsy partition. And…the house, contrary of what they had told us, wasn’t even owned by our old Dutch friends. It was all too much.

To make it short. After the advice of my co-blogging friends I discovered- none  too late- that my computer too had a button that would instantly change words all over my manuscript. It is called ‘word replacement’ feature. I had laboriously been changing Mum and Dad into Mother and Father, word by word, hour after hour. It was pointed out this could have been done instantly by using the 2013  Micro-soft Word ‘word replacement.’

I changed first Mum which was replaced by Mother in this replacement feature numbering 64 times. But, wait for it…! After I did the same with Dad into Father it did replace it 87 times.  I am not saying that both my parents weren’t equally loving. And, I wasn’t aware that the attention in this memoire manuscript was weighed more towards my Father than to my Mother. On reflection, Father was from my point of view more deserving of getting mentioned out of sheer sympathy . He just wasn’t the pioneering migrant. Instead, a man of dreams, questions and ponderings. A lover of the stars, books and celestial things.

The brutality of the change from the safety and security of Holland to the untrammelled lust for materialism with own house. The world of the Sun-Beam appliances, the yawning car-sales yards and everything on deposits and ‘easy-terms’ wasn’t for him. The New Country just did not beckon the same for Father as it did for Mother.

Mother on the other hand was the achiever and doer. Never to stop and reflect too much. She would be about making the mountains of Tip-Top sandwiches for her six children. Shopping, knitting, crocheting, sewing and making things. She was the accountant. The looker after our beds, warmth, food and comfort. Equally loveable. She would make sure that all obstacles could and would be overcome. Not a person to mope about. On the other hand, my Father, who liked growing flowers and try out gardening was seen by mum more as a way of saving money, not having to buy flowers or vegetables. The practical over beauty. The romantic and the thinker over the pragmatic, the maker and doer.

The man and his dog turned out to be alright. He had struggled for years not knowing he could have used ‘word -replacements’ all along.

 

The drunken conductor and Bush. More hyphens.

January 7, 2016

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As mentioned earlier a Pole had become a self-proclaimed taxi-driver. In Holland this would never ever be allowed to happen. It was an example of how one could become and have the freedom to initiate an independency without interference from higher up the Australian Bureaucracy. It was a heaven of freedom. However, on the way to the train I could hardly look the Polish taxi-driver in the face. I had observed his wife in the shower and seen her ‘bush’. The showers were sex separated but in the same block. I had already heard through the camp grapevine, that if you took the last cubicle adjacent to the female section, one could get a peek. Soon after, I too became privilege to that peek and had obtained another level of attainment in sexual observations. At that time I was the envy of aspirations held by many boys in their early teens. It was such a specific goal in growing up…I could now hold my head high.

Of course, today those things are observed in all its plucked colonoscopy chicken wing minutia on the Internet well before 15 years of age. Different times now, but far more erotic then. It was afterwards and with some guilt (always on automatic) I recognised the woman walking along the mess-hall. I could not look her in the eye. One can imagine going to the Polish taxi-driver’s hut when she came out. It was his wife that I had been viewing through the opening of the flimsy shower partition. A deep shame must have coloured me red…But, I was fifteen.

The train trip. We had all settled in the train. Mum was holding a small suitcase in her lap in which she had packed numerous sandwiches made from the free white bread and previously mentioned free fruit laden IXL jam. Those sandwiches would see us through the day and perhaps even on the trip back. Frugality would reign in this family through thick and thin but mainly thin. But, the rhythmic rocking of the train together with the pleasure of viewing the new passing landscape was interrupted (never to be forgotten) by the conductor wanting to clip a hole in all the passengers’ tickets.

There was something a bit odd about him. He had a dense smell and unfocussed eyes. ‘Show us your thickets or fickets’, he kept mumbling, swaying along while holding onto mum’s seat. We could not understand what he was saying but knew he might want our tickets. Even so, dad wanted to know and asked; ‘pardon?’ Pronouncing it in French. ‘Show us yer frucking thickest mate’, he persevered, now lurching dangerously towards my mum. She kept her suitcase firmly in her lap. We were by this time getting very alarmed. Were we about to be robbed or worse, was our mum and her sandwiches at risk? All of a sudden, the conductor gave up all pretence of soberness and just fell on top of mum and her case with sandwiches. We were all dumb struck. What was this? Someone said ‘he’s been on the turps.’ We had never heard of this term, didn’t know even what ‘turps’ was. A man who understood our plight gave the hand to mouth gesture indicating drinking. We understood quickly. The passengers helped the man up who stumbled back to his locket. We were so scared. In Holland we had never ever observed a drunk. A drunken conductor on a train? What would be waiting for us in Sydney? Lucky, that was the only incident but it was a great shock to us. We made it back home and the kind Polish taxi driver was waiting at the station. This time I was more brazen and felt that after the shock of the drunken train conductor, a mere peek of his wife in a shower was now an honest well-earned bonus. We had survived some difficult times and I needed something to cheer me up.

Too many hyphens and inverted commas. An edit!

January 7, 2016

untitled Scheyville

 

1956.

The photo is not mine.

An unforgettable memory etched in my mind was the generosity of the Australian government run Camp in the availability of unlimited supplies of food. It was all free and copious in quantity. The first few days we ate in the very large food hall. You picked up the food by queuing at the kitchen counter with a large plate. You ate what was ladled out. It was mainly very large enormous mutton chops, still glistening in fat with peas and a mountain of mashed potatoes. Sometimes it was sausages and pumpkin. You then carried the full plate back to large tables that had knives and forks already spread out. You sat on benches. We would all tuck in with a vengeance.

You can imagine, most migrants were from post or still on-going war ravaged countries. Hungarians, Czechoslovakians and Bulgarians, many with university degrees. There were refugees who had escaped from German extermination camps that had already spent years roaming from camp to camp in Europe. They were true refugees. Many also from Holland and Germany, Italy and Greece, today classified as ‘economic’ refugees. All of whom were hungry and now in the Promised Land. This Scheyville food hall fed a hungry Europe as never seen before. Some straddled the benches with plates clutched between thighs instead of sitting at the table, so as to be closer to the plate or perhaps of fear the food would get stolen. One large Bulgarian man would chew on his mutton chops pulverising the chop- bone with bare teeth. I looked on in amazement. He did it to impress his country fellowmen much to their amusement and laughter. After the solid food was eaten, one could again tank up or take seconds in the form of a jelly. The jelly was aeroplane jelly. A favourite ad on the radio was ‘I love aeroplane jelly’.

I used to grab slices of bread for afters, scooped up large quantities of IXL jam available on every table in giant gallon jars. It had huge chunks of real fruit in it. It was lovely, fancy being able to take as much as you liked? Surely Australia so far was everything that it had promised and more!