Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

A matter of contrast.

May 28, 2019

IMG_0128 the daisy as bright.JPG

An Irish family who have lived and worked in Australia for over ten years now faces deportation because their 4 year old son has a disability which the government deems to be too much of a ‘burden.’ Unbelievable, and how does Australia keep getting away with these deplorable cruel acts? https://www.sbs.com.au/news/this-irish-family-is-facing-deportation-because-of-their-son-s-cystic-fibrosis

If it wasn’t for our retreat into our garden with daily sun and nightly stars we would have left this barren and morally depleted country years ago. To be honest it’s not the country’s fault really, and perhaps the idealisation of perceived better places elsewhere on this earth might be totally wrong. I happen to read up on Iceland and was astonished to read they have a law that prohibits women earning less than men. They also do not have an army and at one stage had a government with women only. They also jailed corrupt banking moguls. Those sort of facts about a country gladden the heart, don’t they?

In fact, we did leave many years ago and lived with our three children back in Holland for just over three years. That first summer was glorious with everlasting evenings. The sun did not go down till 10pm and woke us up at 5am. We bought bicycles for all of us and rode around without a worry with weeping willows bowing to the wind and in our faces. We made the move back to Australia because my family were living there and I was missing my brothers and sister. We also had Whitlam,  Bob Hawke and Paul Keating as Prime ministers who moved Australia into the twentieth century.

But, let me just look at the positive. A few days ago I happen to take the above photo. As I walked out of the door I noticed this isolated daisy having risen from the garden during the night. I took out my iPhone and took this picture. Isn’t it lovely? A shy golden nugget daisy nestling against the coarse bark of the Manchurian pear tree. They seem symbiotic. The softness and colour of the flower gives sustenance and beauty to the coarse barked tree which in return gives shelter and support to the daisy.  The flower is raising its head in gratitude to the tree and the trunk seems to answer with ‘no worries’, mate.

If you look carefully at the picture you might see a cane basket at the back of the flower. It was used as a laundry basket for decades but was past it’s use and started to break. Helvi put it in the garden and filled it with leaves and some soil. No doubt the basket will be reclaimed by the garden in time and more daisies will come up. It is a give and take, isn’t?

 

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The Virginia Creeper will just have to sustain us now.

May 19, 2019

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Virginia creeper.

All our communal town-houses were originally planted with gardens which included the Virginia-Creeper shown in the above photo. This creeper grows very fast, mainly at night when everyone is sound asleep or if not sleeping, at least inside their dormitories. Originally, our townhouses had a united garden which included the Virginia Creeper. Sadly though, all Virginia creepers were taken out with the excuse that they are known to be destructive. A falsehood was spread that those fast growing climbers would by assaulting and climbing over everything, strangle brick walls and block our much revered and beloved guttering. We, against all advice and scorn of neighbours, held onto our Virginia for dear life, and even if it succeeds in strangling us and our town-house, so be it. It is amazing how gardening is so often seen as OK or mere tolerable as long as it doesn’t take over or threatens our own homes and ‘investment’ as one of our neighbours once uttered.

With last night’s defeat in Australia of the Labor Party to the Liberals against all odds, and the best of News Polls, and predictions, this contemplation of the Virginia-creeper might just have to sustain us for the near future. The near future is not to be taken in vain or too lightly. Perhaps a better phrase might be ‘our twilight years’ as both of us are nearing the eighties and for some things, time is becoming more of the essence. It would have been so nice to  have witnessed an Australia finally coming of an age where change for the better, would override the endless ennui of more of the same. How much longer can we look forward each morning to an Australia where Taxation cuts, Border Controls, sticking to contemplating the past, and Queen Victorian Gun boat diplomacy has to sustain us?

Just think how it now must feel to have for another three years a Scott Morrison as Prime Minister. A man who has on numerous occasions highlighted his belief in Christian faith but at the same time was almost manically keen on locking up for indefinite detention thousands of people who have done no wrong except for trying to escape from wars and bloodshed and look for a safe refuge in Australia. I wonder how those refugees on Manus and Nauru, now well into their sixth year of detention, are feeling today, hearing how their tormenter has been chosen as leader of Australia for another three years?

So much hope was invested in a change of leadership that would finally allow Australia to progress to a more just and fairer society. A society that would be leading in climate change and care for the environment. Today is a day where we celebrate the standing still of Australia. When will we ever learn, that change ought to be embraced even if change might at times fail? It is always better to have tried than not at all. Why is Australia often celebrating the fondness for looking back and clinging to the past? My parents who came here from Holland in 1956 would not be proud today of Australia. They wanted a better future for their children. My wife,  from a very progressive Finland and I with Dutch genes, are almost tempted to book a return to Holland.

We don’t have to look at Holland or Finland for examples of progressive countries. Just look a bit to the side and look to New Zealand. They have a leader that seems to thrive on progress, especially on a social level. Why don’t we look to our Eastern neighbours instead of our much beloved Western US, a nation that is being headed by a morally bereft President man heading his country knee-deep in a moral morass?

It has been New Zealand who offered  several times to take the refugees from Nauru and Manus. Our Australian Prime Minister with his Christian Faith held high on Pharisees  sullied sleeve, heartlessly refused each time. We will just go outside and look at our Virginia creeper. It will have to sustain us till the next time!

My poor country, Australia.

The earnestness of an anti electric-car Prime Minister.

April 22, 2019
The Dementia                               Village

 

With the compulsory voting by punishment in Australia, it forces people to vote who haven’t got a clue. Or, if they possess any clues, they are most likely to have been spouted by the commercial world, especially the Rupert Murdoch world of inanities and plastic bubbles rolling around the sun-baked deserts of our suburban wastelands. You know how it goes; insincere policies are being uttered with as much sincerity as the shifty politicians can muster, this is of course then followed by an earnestness that can only result in becoming so boring that even  good sleep can’t make better or give relief to, it stifles all. We all know where the earnestness of politicians can lead to.

With Easter almost behind us, I can’t wait for normalcy to return, and with that a well-earned rest from chocolate bunnies and the proliferation of  multi-coloured aluminium foil wrapped chocolate eggs, row upon rows, and the kids are getting fatter. I wonder if the art of hand painting of real eggs is still being practiced? When I grew up our parents encouraged the colour-dyeing of real  eggs and hand painting them afterwards. I believe that the people from Eastern European countries were masters of that art.

We are still rummaging through the political scene that no doubt will return tomorrow together with the opening of all sorts of Royal Commissions of Enquiries with scandal after scandal renting the autumnal sky. The latest is the scheme of ‘water buy-backs’ where someone in the government has made a quick buck out of denying drought stricken farmers their entitlement to water that in rapid driven rivers flow past their properties. Farmer’s tear stained wives regaling on TV, husbands’ decisions to sell up the farm. Oh, this Australia ‘the best country in the world.’ We all know that Royal Commissions are guarantees for  non-action.

And then we have a Prime Minister warning us of the disasters to befall us if anyone would be as foolish and progressive as to buy an electric car. He said; ‘It will be the end of our Aussie week-end.’ ‘We will not drive our ute anymore and the price of electricity will go sky-high, he said.’ And to think we left Holland where the Government will not allow new petrol and diesel driven cars to be sold after 2030. In Norway fifty % of cars are now electric and China is starting up world’s biggest electric car manufacturers.

As for Helvi and I with those verging on their final years, getting concerned about ‘Aged-Care’, let me leave you with how CARE for the elderly is being tackled in Holland.

The Dementia Village

If I ever end up with severe dementia I hope I am fortunate enough to live in a village like this.

 

The Tent.

February 8, 2019
Image result for Tents

In our efforts to become leaner and not willing to burden our family with the washed-up flotsam of our earthly but temporary stay, we undertook to try and ditch some possessions we no longer use. The clutter of our third bedroom, used as an office is where we started some time ago. All those papers stored, ‘just in case’ but never looked at again. Do we really want to look at old gas bills, or Water & Sewage rates and taxation notices? Out they went.

We had stacks of photo albums. Hundreds of camping trips when our children were small. Holidays on the South Coast dating back to the sixties and seventies. Many recorded by my Agfa Clack camera bought from my savings while delivering fruit and vegetables to embassies in The Hague just prior to my parents’ adventure migrating to Australia. That camera was indestructible. Colour films at that time were sent to Melbourne for developing and it wasn’t cheap. Later on a new camera was bought and recorded our overseas trips to France, Holland, South America and a still lovely Bali, with some of our best memories from Santiago de Chile post Pinochet, and Argentina. We kept the best of those photos now stored in a blue Dutch Verkade biscuit tin and chucked the  empty faded albums in the recycle bin.

We have as a matter of getting away from inside our house also made attempts at cleaning up our garden shed. It seems that order of things don’t last even without actually using tools from within the shed. Sooner or later things become disorderly again out of their own volution. We discovered a rather large and bulky bag that looked almost as if it held an assortment of cricket gear. Most unlikely. We are to cricket what a herring is to a seagull.

It was a tent!

The tent was used a lot on our previous life on the farm. We can still hear the echoes of laughter from our grandchildren who, with their mothers, slept in the tent on many occasions. They would take books and read with light from candles. Did we not all do that when young? We did. I had rigged up a battery with a small globe and read Jules Verne’s adventures under the blankets during winter’s nights with the windows all iced up with frost designed flowering shaped greetings in the morning. Dutch winters were still cold.

With our grandkids now almost young adults and us on life lengthening medications we are most unlikely to go camping again. How would we get up from the ground? I suppose by the help of a tent pole. Over the last few weeks we did leave useful items on the ‘nature strip’ at the front of our housing complex. The nature strip is a green grassy area reserved for Australian suburbs. It also sums up to me a kind of terrible dullness. The noise of the petrol lawnmower doesn’t liven it up either.  Anyway, it held our small enamelled barbeque and several still working electric fans. They were all soon taken. However, I did not want to abuse this nature strip too often, and decided on a different method for ditching the tent.

Last Wednesday morning I went to the Moss-Vale Returned Soldiers Club for my weekly indoor bowling event. I thought that leaving the tent in the parking area, no doubt someone will get the benefit of this still in very good condition tent. The tent is one of those spring loaded pole affairs and easily put up. It was also large, for six people and a shade sheet for over the top with a floor sown onto the sides. Years of designing this tent went into its production.

After arrival at 10am, I parked the car out of sight from other cars. I opened the door and gently lowered the tent on the bitumen next to our Peugeot. No one had seen me doing it. But…just before the start of bowling who would walk in with a large bag? It was Peter.

‘Guess what I found next to my car, Peter said’?  It was my tent. He had parked next to my car after arrival. Other bowling mates advised Peter to unzip the bag to see what it was. I acted just as surprised and even said; ‘perhaps it is a gun’! After unzipping, it was found to be a tent. I wasn’t surprised. He decided to hand it in to the office near the entrance where members are always asked to show their identification before being allowed in. When I left after the bowling was over, I noticed the bag with the tent at the back of the office counter.

It had found a good home.

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.”

 

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.

 

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

IMG_0126 Tulips.JPG

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.