Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

Family and Migrating.

November 22, 2018

IMG_3364Grandfather

My Paternal Grandfather.

I remember my grandfather more than my grandmother. He was a joker often playing pranks on me but without malice. I remember their house. It was large and had a garden in a very beautiful part of Holland not far from Amsterdam. My grandfather and grandmother with so many other relatives we never saw again. It was a goodbye forever. We did see my mother’s sister and one of my father’s sister on a few occasions when we visited them. My father never saw his parents again.  I wonder how it must have felt for my parents saying goodbye all those many years ago?(1956)

IMG_3363Grandmother

Paternal Grandmother.

The above painting of my grandmother is the only image I have of her. It would have been painted by her husband, my grandfather. He was a painter of church murals as well as designer in glass in lead works. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Jan_Oosterman

I remember less of her than granddad. I don’t know why. I recently discovered a letter my granddad wrote to my parents in Australia. A rather formal letter which made me think that in those earlier times relationships were perhaps more formal between parents and children than today. Looking at old photographs people often look more serious. Perhaps getting a photograph taken took time and one can only keep a smile for that long.

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Granddad painting while smoking a pipe.

The above photo portrays an idyllic afternoon. At the bottom it show my grandmother carrying a cup of something. Perhaps there were guests?

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Pensive grandparents wearing slippers.

This photo might well have been one of the last taken. Granddad died in an ‘old age’ home in Amsterdam at the respectable age of 87.

And that’s how it goes.

 

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On the treadmill.

November 15, 2018

photoCupboard after French Polishing

‘Why don’t you see the doctor and get yourself checked out?’ This came to me from Helvi, one morning sipping her first coffee and my first and last tea for the day. I don’t generally see doctors unless feeling crook which is rarely. My dad was the same. He was right to avoid them. Last time he saw a doctor he was dead the next day. He died at 78 which I am now. It was on the 7th of January that he died suddenly.  We all went and flew to Holland for his funeral. I remember cleaning out his ashtrays and getting rid of his tobacco, cigarette papers and other bits and pieces. I am somewhat nervous seeing the 7th of January. It won’t be long!

I went to see the doctor because I ran out of puff just sitting on the lounge. It did not seem right. During our walks I  noticed a quickening of breathing and taking rests. No harm done seeing the quack, I thought. Her advice was to get lung X-ray taken. It showed good lungs but my heart was a bit enlarged and indicative of having suffered a heart attack. You could have fooled me. I hadn’t noticed any heart attacks. Apparently that happens often. She wrote out a referral to the same cardiologist that Helvi is seeing. The secretary advised me to take a ‘stress test’ first. She explained this involved a treadmill exercise to measure how the heart performs when under stress due to the expelled energy on the treadmill. I was more than curious how this would work out.

At the appointed day, both Helvi and I fronted up at the cardiologist. We always see together all doctors at medical appointments of which there have been a fair number. Our fridge is plastered with appointments. It is becoming almost part of our social life. We know the doctors and staff and greet each other when crossing the street on our walks. In the evenings, after the news and quaffing a fine Pinot Gris, we ask each other if an appointment is getting close. Memories are getting sloppy and we keep each other on our toes as much as possible. The toes are getting a bit arched as well. Every now and then, on the television, footage is shown whereby some poor mum, dad, or old soul gets beaten up in an aged care facility. It really helps us to stay firm and lithe enough to avoid that kind of ‘tough love.’

I was asked to take my shirt off. A series of tapes and wires were attached to my chest both front and back.  This was connected to a machine just next to the treadmill. I mounted the treadmill which was then switched on. I have never experienced such a machine but soon got the hang of it. The speed and incline were increased and within minutes I was running flat tack. My boots were clattering on the rubber treadmill floor till I became totally exhausted. This happened fairly quickly. The machine stopped and I was led back to the chair. I was knackered. As a result I was giving lots of medications. The outcome was an irregular heartbeat and my heart wasn’t doing a good job. It is not pumping as it should.

A further appointment was made to get a ‘Myocardial Perfusion Scan’ done at the Nuclear Medicine facility not far from us on the main street. I had this done as well, but that’s for another article.

Be grateful for all you have, even if it is not enough.

 

The King Parrot is happy too.

October 18, 2018

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Jeffrey Sachs spelled it out on one of our Q&A TV programmes a couple of weeks ago. Good social conditions and support makes all the difference. Paying liveable incomes to the unemployed, pensioners or the disabled does not cause cultural collapse as is often touted by extreme capitalist leaders. The list of ‘happy countries’ proves that. Our PM and cohorts often cite that giving ‘free’ money makes people avoid work and lazy, encourages decadence as seen by SSM community now demanding wedding cakes. Unbelievable!

Countries that seem to be on top of the happiness scale each year, by and large, are also enjoying social democratic Governments. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Iceland  Finland. They prove that good social conditions improve employment, reduces crime and homelessness. It makes for ‘happiness.’

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“Based on a global ranking of happiness levels across 156 countries, Finland has claimed the No. 1 spot in this year’s World Happiness Report.

Now in its sixth year, the World Happiness Report is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The organization, along with three economists from Columbia University, the University of British Columbia and the London School of Economics’ Center for Economic Performance, created the report using data from the Gallup World Poll to reveal which countries are happy and why.

The report was released on March 14, less than a week before the United Nations celebrates World Happiness Day on March 20.

This year, the United States ranked No. 18 — falling four spots from last year and five from two years ago — “in part because of the ongoing epidemics of obesity, substance abuse and untreated depression,” according to World Happiness Report co-editor and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs.

Over the past two years, the world’s top 10 happiest countries have remained the same, but have slightly shuffled positions. Through a measurement of happiness and well-being called the “Cantril ladder,” Gallup asked nationally representative populations to value their lives on a scale from 0 to 10, with the worst possible life valued at 0 and the best valued at 10.

The top countries frequently have high values for all six of the key variables that contribute to overall well-being: income (GDP per capita), healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust (absence of corruption) and generosity.”

Reffos and Tulips.

October 2, 2018

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A carpet of Tulips in Bowral.

The film ‘The Ladies in Black’, left enough of an impression for me to urge people to see it. The film deals in some parts about the influx of reffos into Australia during the fifties. That’s the period this Australian film is set in. The ‘reffo’ was a shortened term for refugees. Our family came to Australia in 1956. We were not reffos in the strictest term. Europe in Australia during the fifties was seen as a war-ravaged stain on a map. Geographical and political differences between Hungary or Holland were beyond interest or hardly known. The issues in this magnificent movie really hit home. The differences (and similarities) in cultures are what this film, in a kind and humorous way, points out. The poignancy for H and I was overwhelming. One is always pleased when things we experienced about the past, agrees and coincides with others. When pointed out in a major film, it is double pleasing.

https://theaimn.com/nostalgia-and-sunshine-bruce-beresfords-ladies-in-black/

The ambiguity of migrating to another part of the world will probably stay with me till the very end. Was the pain of leaving own country and friends worth it?  The mental dehydration suffered in foreign and strange suburbs! Those differences experienced between the locals and the Reffos during the fifties, the lack of herrings, garlic ,olives, and real coffee. The blight of the determined curmudgeon.

Australia in the fifties was a kinder and more tolerant place though. The governments of that period did not foment xenophobia nor detained refugees on hellish islands for years on end.

The present Prime Minister is a fervent Pentecostal believer. Yet on his desk he proudly shows a sign ‘We stopped the boats,’ referring callously to the detained refugees on those islands. Their punishment is used to warn and prevent refugees from trying to come to Australia. They are saying ‘if you try, and come here by boat we will lock you up on those islands for the rest of your life.’ In the fifties Australia did not try and demonise a single African group doing 1 % of crime and yet close their eyes to the other 99% of crime perpetrated by local born.

The tulips belong to a different class. Nothing scary here, dear readers. You can tell they are just there to give us pleaure.  This photo was taken this morning. There must be thousands of tulip photos being e-mailed around the world. The Tulip show in Bowral was magnificent. https://www.southern-highlands.com.au/tulip-time

It always brings me back to the time in Holland. I used to cycle to the tulip fields. Can you imagine seeing tulip fields as far as the eye can see? In different colours too. The tulips in Bowral are in cahoots with sun and clouds. I am sure they talk to each other.It dazzles and so many people taking selfies. In years to come grandchildren might find the tulip photos in drawers and wonder about the lives at earlier times.

Try and see ‘the Ladies in Black’, and the Tulips.

 

 

Blue flower.

August 19, 2018

 

IMG_0095A Star

This pretty blue flower is from a bulb. We bought a packet of mixed bulbs a few years ago and planted them in a dish. Without fail, they reward us each spring. They pop up mid-winter. Nothing happens much except for grass-like greenery to spill over the edges. Come mid August and the first flower arrives and delights us no end. It came by stealth during the night in full moon’s light. It wasn’t there the day before!

Perhaps it is a snow-flower or star flower. My father used to delight in a small plant that he grew indoors when still living in The Hague, Holland. I can still see him peering at it. It was called, ‘Star of Bethlehem’. The apartment we lived in was on the third floor and had no garden. Dad made an indoor garden and the lounge room had many plants growing on all the window sills. It delighted dad no end. His greatest triumph was the Clivia flowering. We all had to admire the Clivia when it flowered. Mum made sure we did!

The delights of growing things doesn’t really need to be on a grand scale. The single blue flower above gives its beauty so generously. From now on we will look at this modest flower each day. I am sure more little blue flowers will arrive soon as well.

The sun is getting stronger but rain is needed.

 

The Frugals have gone.

April 18, 2018

Image result for Early wooden barrel Westinghouse washing machines

Our washing machine in Australia.

 

Do people still know anyone who is frugal? History tells us that in the past it was normal to be frugal. The Frugals wore clothes till they worn out and kept the best for church or funerals. They darned socks. Does anyone still darn today? A needle with woollen thread was used till the hole went. You don’t throw stuff away because it has a hole, or because it becomes unfashionable. The frugal gene in Australia really became embedded after WW 1 followed by the great depression of the late twenties/ thirties. Generations of frugals would switch off lights not because of saving the environment or global heating but because it saved money. The best way to survive was to become a frugal.

The period during and after WW1 meant the decimation of many Australian males which left an almost doubling of young females keen to find husbands. However, to add to the misery of male shortages it was also rare for females to work, and earn an income. Females just did not work on payable jobs but slogged away at home on the scrubbing board and darning socks.  I know this because that’s what was done in my family, although we, even while still in Holland, managed to have an electric washing machine; an early Westinghouse. That was in the early fifties, when economies started to grow and blossom, making people better off. This electric monster of a washing machine with its oak steel-hooped drum was shipped over to Australia after Mum and Dad decided to migrate there. It was admired in the whole street and worked ceaselessly for many years. It was another proof of sensibility and ardent frugality.

It was perhaps the Korean war and after the Vietnam war that the frugals were starting to loose their grip on domestic frugality. The expenditure on useless consumer gadgets started to raise its ugly head. This was followed by ‘easy terms’. Everything was obtainable through easy terms. It thoroughly corrupted my Mum who foolishly bought a Sunbeam electric frying pan on ‘easy terms.’ Dad followed with buying a B/W TV for an enormous amount of money to be paid over three years. Can you believe it?

Even so, frugality somehow survived. It was the hippy movement with Hair that desperately tried to hang on sensible frugal living with the urge to resist mindless consumerism, but that was overcome by Governments and the invention of huge public hoardings, urging us to buy Instant Coffee with 43 beans or Lovable Bras that could ‘lift and separate’,  nurturing spending, and corrupting us in the belief that the endless buying of things just for the sake of buying was good enough and gave lots of Happy to the chagrined.

All this of course is what happens today. During the previous epoch of frugality, houses, kitchen and bathrooms were not seen as items to be updated. Appliances would last forever. Now, the last of the Frugals, look on in amazement, and disbelief  how the baby boomers hurl themselves into four wheel drives and build monster MacMansions. Do they really come from the same gene pool. How did this happen?

The surplus of women after WW1 meant that those that missed out snaring a hubby, started the frugal movement with many sharing meagre incomes and bitter loneliness by living together, mostly in a non-sexual way.

However, as always the pendulum swung the other way with the arrival of tens of thousands of single men enticed by gloriously coloured Australian Governmental advertisements to work the mines in Australia in the forties till the sixties. Many of those from Europe still enjoyed rock solid and well entrenched frugal genes instilled too by same wars and economic depressions. My parents,  even though Dad did not have blond or blue features nor single, did have a knack for the butter to be spread thinly and for his children to always switch off the lights leaving the room.  We worked ‘over-time’. Over-time paid ‘time and a half’, Sundays paid double. I liked working on Sundays. Mum would be most generous in her Papal dispensational discourse for us not having to go to the obligatory Sunday church and earn double instead. We saved to white knuckled bones and pooled our moneys. It was enough to get into our own home within two years. Proof of frugality that paid off.

There you have it. Since WW1 and within, at best three generations, frugality now has swung to rampant consumerism throwing all caution to the wind. To the present generation, darning socks and the Singer sewing machine, they are relics many would not know about, nor the delights of unknitting an old jumper and re-knitting the wool into a pair of slippers. All gone.

The young and good consumers complain how difficult it is to get into the housing market. Yet, they feel it a normal right not to go without what they regard as essential; the café breakfast with avocados, the overseas holiday, the latest Apple iPhone. I have yet to see a young girl on the train with threadbare jeans sewing them up or knitting.  Where are the young knitters to save for a house?

The last of the Frugals are now shuffling into retirement homes. Some brave souls you see driving around, all bald, knock kneed or grey, having hitched a caravan to the SUV, travelling around Australia, whooping it up, perhaps for their very first time.

I remain amazed.

A Lily as fair as a Rose.

April 9, 2018

 

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At times beauty should be allowed to take precedence. Last week, at a time just before dusk, a ray of sunshine lid up a bunch of flowers on the table. I was sitting a few metres away from it and was struck by its moment of beauty, I took the photo.

The vase of lilies resting on our table tells a story. The lilies, the story is of its obvious beauty. The table’s story is of a life-long history,  possibly much more. I recently painted the top in white gloss. It needed it. Even though the table is of an antique age and valuable best left as it was, at the age we are in, anything of monetary value becomes somewhat inconsequent. Who cares? It gives us great pleasure eating at this table, all white and shiny.

This table and most of our furniture we got while living in Holland in the 1970’s on a very old Saxon farm with a thatched roof. The farm was for sale and with the bargaining between us and its owner, the inclusion of some very beautiful old furniture, the deal was struck. It included the old table whose top is now painted white, giving rest to the vase of lilies.

We had all this furniture shipped over after we returned to Australia. It included amongst many items of great beauty, 11 chairs with thatched seats that through the decades became badly worn. It took some time to find someone who still had the art of rethatching those chairs. He was an old man living in an inner-city suburb of Sydney who took one look at the chairs and knew the period the chairs were done originally in. He managed to re-do them perfectly and till now we sit on those chairs enjoying his artistry.

The chair is not just for sitting,

its beauty in the eye outlast,

mere convenience of rest

the story keeps unfolding

for those who read chair

 

In a blaze of Patriotic fervour.

June 14, 2017

 

 

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Our arrival in Australia 1956

 

You would have to feel sorry for our Prime Minister. Ever since he took over from the previous PM, Tony Abbott, because of an endless row of negative Polls, Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity is worse, obstinately stuck in the same drift sands of his predecessor. No matter what the policy, or how he twists and turns, it all turns to an uninspiring porridge of lukewarm indecisions. The light is slowly being turned off.

His latest attempt to pull his Government out of the never never of political defeat, he  turned once again to his voters assuaging the idea that we need all to become far more “patriotic’, far more ‘Real Australian.’ In this endeavour he is clearly appealing to the largest denominator, grabbing some good old fashioned Aussie values. The values that stood the test of time. Bradman Cricket, Phar Lap, the Mother tongue of English language, the spirit of Anzacs and standing up for flag and National Anthem. Oi, oi oi, Aussie, and all that stuff.

There is now feeling of desperation seeping in. With latest poll showing our Turnbull to be seven point behind the opposition, he wants to take the wind out of his adversary, Tony Abbott’s sails with a good old fashioned appeal to ” True Australian Values.” and sharpening this by making the rules of obtaining citizenship harder.  Migrants will need to wait for a number of years and have a good grasp of English together with doing a test on a suitable understanding and uncritical acceptance of all things “Australian,” before they can apply for citizenship.

It will also make a handy appeal to the One Nation Party of Pauline Hanson and possibly filch voters away. I feel this latest from Turnbull is racially tinged, and aimed at making migrants feel inadequate or less than equal by hinting that Australian values are somehow so much better and, that any feelings by migrants of their homeland’s cultural values ought better be left behind.  We need you to totally fall in line with us, or go home, is what our PM. Turnbull seems to be saying.

When we arrived none of us spoke much English, and it took a while to realise that English was even spoken in Australia. It took persistence to accept the foreign slang as actual English. It wasn’t all that rare even then, that in public, migrants were told to speak English only. My father was told in the bus once to stop talking in yabba, yabba, yabba (Dutch) and  speak bloody English. My parents never lost the love of their home-country. How could anyone even loose it? They always felt that Holland was their home-country but they also accepted Australia as their new home. It takes time. When my father retired they decided to go back home. Why not? Don’t many Australians make England their new home or Holland, the US? Over a million Australians live permanently overseas.

The appeal to becoming Patriotic is just silly and will make Australia look even less tolerant. One wonders what the loyalties of the only real original Australians , the aboriginals, ought to be pitched at, their killer overlords?

How we still cling to those Anglo ideas of the past, loyalty to a foreign Queen, despite most of us now having been born elsewhere. Why are we still a monarchy?  What is it about the ‘value of fear’ that we so love? What about encouraging change, move forward? Future Australians are now coming from everywhere, including The Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia. They too, in time will also become ‘real Australians’ and add to this wonderful mixture of all that we call home, Australia. I can’t wait for their national dishes to appear in our Cafes and restaurants. Do people still eat that soapy Kraft Cheddar embedded in silver foil, or Tasty cheese, Heinz tinned spaghetti?

How much better if our Prime Minister had used the opportunity for ‘tolerance, acceptance, and greater empathy towards others, instead of this silly national pitch for drum banging and ‘patriotism’.

 

Early Television.

May 30, 2017

 

It was surprising that, after our arrival in 1956, Australia had yet to welcome Television. The Dutch introduced black and white television in 1951 with Phillips being the first to manufacture the television set. It wasn’t till 1989 that the Dutch Government even allowed public broadcasting of commercials on the radio and television. Even today Holland seems fairly modest in public display of advertising hoardings. Thank goodness for that. On TV, it is however just as hellish with advertising in Holland as in Australia. One reason we never watch the commercial stations, except for SBS channel. We are now experiencing another form of movie watching in Netflix.  I bet it too will include advertisements urging us to add and buy enhancing lifestyle products.

My early impression of TV watching was in Holland standing in front of radio shops. The introduction of Television was of such national interest that people queued up in front of electrical shops selling the first of television sets. Even just the flickering of the screen was greeted by many Dutch burghers being mesmerized by it all, sometimes standing ten deep in front of those shops. When the weak transmission signal came good and actual images were produced the crowd broke into an applause sometimes even shouting ‘encore’ as if in a life theatre.

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When the event of the television came to Australia around the late fifties, it immediately was accompanied by advertisements. Favourite advertisements were for electric Sunbeam fry-pans, Omo soap powders, Camel cigarettes and of course the much desired  TV sets made from wood veneer and standing somewhat forlorn on splayed legs over which many a family member would stumble. Now of course there are whole jungles of electronics available. Most would now be regarded as lifestyle accoutrements. Sooner or later though, no matter what form of electronic device one buys, it will be loaded with advertisements.

One early advertisement still etched belatedly in my fading memory during those heady early TV broadcasts in Australia was the advertisement of Kellogg’s Cornflakes.  It was shown on TV with the help of a beautiful woman seated at a luridly coloured laminex table with similar splayed legs. She was seductively eating this wonderful crunchy Kellogg’s breakfast with the promise of making her ‘regular’. I foolishly confused her outrageous claim to regularity with being in time. I thought that this breakfast was making her come in time for her work, taking children to school or appointment with the hairdresser, and never thought it had anything to do with the delicate state of her bowels.

In fact, during those early years almost all food advertisements were pitched at making women achieve good levels of regularity. It was years later when I learned that women were keenly addicted to head-ache powders containing phenacetin. Apart from the resulting obstinate persistence of cemented bowels,  many suffered kidney failure in later life when those particular pain killers were banned. It must have caused many to suffer from bouts of unimaginable constipation. In factories, canny Medicine moguls installed coin operated headache powder dispensers. Women would flock to put in a penny and get and APC or Bex powder. I was perplexed that so many would queue up to buy those powders. I asked and one woman told me it would ‘pick her up.’  The expression ‘having a cup-o-tea, a Bex powder, and a good lie-down’ came from that period

I don’t know if Kellogg’s cornflakes helped those utterly confused female bowels. The TV did promise so many things. For some reason, men were not shown to suffer bouts of irregularity on TV. Perhaps it lacked masculinity. No doubt with their enormous beer consumption, the male bowel was in robust health all the time.

Our early years in Australia were used productively in a fast ‘learning curve.’

Our ‘own’ home.

May 26, 2017

When we say we own our own home it means just that. We own the title to our home. This means we can sell it, and profit/lose from it. We too bought our own home with our own earned money. Years ago, it used to mean that you had a roof over your head and ‘owning’ had a different meaning. Many people would probably add that owning own home is one of their best investments. I remember being swept up in Australia after our arrival, whereby ownership of home was seen as a main goal. A dream.  It is still looked upon as a major achievement in life. During the nineteen fifties till now,  urgings by many to strife for home ownership reached almost religious proportions. Half the newspapers used to consist of advertisements for buying and selling homes.

People gathered around the garlic- prawns getting grilled on wood- barbeques and spoke of magic real estate deals. Legendary tales were told by jolly men about unimaginable profits  made on selling properties that had sky-rocketed to much higher prices. Parties would rocket as well by  tales of real estate with empty two litre casks of Coolabah-chardonnay littering next morning  with redolent empty prawn shells. If you let it be known you were an ‘own homer’ your status gained enormous. Women would flock around, easy to date. They too were drawn to Homer.

My dad had much trouble understanding this. In Holland at that time ( 1956) owning own home was unheard of and totally unnecessary. Housing was supplied by Councils or Governments and generally leased for life. Even today home ownership in Holland is about 50% of the adult population. There was a period, compliments of WW2 and carpet-bombings, that an acute shortage existed of available housing. Thanks to the US generous Marshall Plan that Europe was given after the war the housing shortage was soon overcome.  Even so, tens of thousands were drawn to migrate to other shores, especially Canada and Australia. One of the attractions that were being dangled before future migrants’ eyes was the prospect of own home on own block with own bathroom in far away countries. Australia was magic. Colour footage was shown of ‘home owners standing on own lawn in front of own house.’ Those white picket fences, the gloriousness of it all.

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My parents with ‘own home.’

My mother was especially attracted to own bathroom. Back in Holland we had a galvanised tub with handles to bathe in. My mother would boil water on a gas stove. I was lucky  being the second eldest and by and large enjoyed a nice warm bath. However my brother Adrian who was nr 5 in the line of ascendency had tepid and scungy greasy well used water. That’s how it was.

Now the real estate has been so magically successful that hardly anyone can afford it. Many flock to the major cities. That’s why cities are formed. The majority like living in close proximity of each other. The prices are astronomical. A million dollars gets you a bare two bedroom un-renovated almost derelict cottage or a liveable home-unit. Most young couples have given up.

The dream is now a nightmare.

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