Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Canonisation for all.

May 29, 2014
Our young family in Holland 1975-76

Our young family in Holland 1975-76

Sorry to be harping on about the Pius X11 hiccupping event. It will soon come to pass. The writing is so much better as a catharsis than any medication. Talk about medication. Was the cod liver oil also in demand in Australia during or after the war? I actually quite like it and it is now not all that easy to get except in tablet form encased in some kind of solidified jelly. A bottle of cheap as chips pure cod liver without any nonsense is another item of the past that one can miss and wish for endlessly. H is forever telling me; what is your point of slipping and sliding around on what has passed? Get on with it! Go and vacuum something, anything.

It is just that I keenly remember an event that occurred in the Bolzano area of Italy. I have spent some time there but not during the Pius X11 hiccupping. That was yet to come some years later. Of course, while expert specialists and not so expert charlatans were trying the many cures on the pope, hundreds of canonisation claims were queuing up in the Papal corridors of The Vatican. It went on for many months and rumors were starting to emerge of a new pope waiting around in Lucifer’s garden. A chimney sweep was being engaged! An ominous sign, handpicked from the best available in Austria, fluent in Italian as well as possessing a deft all encompassing sweeping movement of his right arm.



However, a father from the village of Bolzano’s Bressanone had lost his wife during childbirth of his daughter. Some eight years later he tragically also lost his little girl from an essential illness.

A building of a dam necessitated the removal of the local cemetery to higher grounds just when the Wisteria and Seringa were at their highest and best. Their mauve fragrances greeting the graveyard visitors even from mountain villages miles away. All the relatives still alive disinterred the remains of their loving but dearly departed to take to the new cemetery higher up. The father found his wife’s remains all but dust but when prising open the lid from his daughter’s small casket he was greeted by the fresh fragrance of the roses she was buried with. Her child body still warm and with a roseate glow around her cheeks. The flowers still alive clutched between her arms resting serenely and beatific on her white dress.

The father decided then to make amends to his sins long hidden from his youth and only ever confessed to his wife during a flush of southern passion and who then died so tragically near nine months later. His daughter surely deserved sainthood. He took to taking the casket held is his lap by train to Rome. He had written by hand a sixty page letter attributing her perfect remains as proof of sainthood already there but not conferred.

Alas, he was joined by many from around the world in the Vatican’s corridors normally reserved for sauntering of mitre wearing cardinals and High Officials. Their weary faces all grimed from dust of week long journeys. There were many canonisation applicants from Bolivia, El Salvador, The Antilles and other numerous very catholic but evil dictator led countries. Many from Spain and Italy as well. In fact, the caskets, shrouds and many other reliquiae were littering the corridors to such an extend it was spilling over into a courtyard over which a tarpaulin was hung.

The Pius X11 hiccupping was still ongoing and cardinals hardly bothered even looking up, let alone had a look at this poor father’s small coffin. Canonisation was at a standstill.

I have till now not ever heard what happened. Indeed, even with memory still strong (thanks to the cod liver oil) I am not so sure if this event really took place or is it something stored and taken out of mind’s waste paper basket?

I have yet to hear of canonisation of a live person. Have you?

Basta Pasta

May 20, 2014


If all else fails and one is sunk in a deep gloom, eat a good pasta! Even a not so good pasta. It never fails to lift the spirit especially if accompanied by a bit of a 2014 vintage Shiraz so fresh off the vine and so rough it even cleans the cutlery as well as the palate. We had an Aldi special at $ 5.99. A cheeky but ambitious little number full of cigar-box ambience and middle utterly retrievable but lingering autumnal wind, reminiscent of a Vivaldi under a plane tree at Italy’s Bressanone or Brixon (during the forgotten war with Austria when we were there). Phew…

A few evenings ago there was a surplus of fresh pasta. It’s sauce retrieved from the deep freezer department of our fridge. It must have been created by Helvi who excels in pasta sauce like no one else that I know or even don’t know. After thawing I cooked and boiled the pasta. It was a 5 minute pasta or 4 minutes if you like el dente. I did a six minute job in consideration of the state of my recently obtained new dente.

The pasta was heavenly, almost a honeymoon of spoon and fork. But a full packet of pasta meant there was a lot to be saved for future gourmet pleasures. I am always happy for two o’clock pm to arrive. I can then start mulling over the coming meal. Not so much mulling as imagining the food to be sampled. H and I do try and make the evening meal a ‘special’. I don’t want to imply we eat lobster or imbibe a $ 1200.-Grange. No, it is more of a desire to make things from the ingredients of a sow’s ear, if you get my gist or even a drift. It is a form of art I have been polishing for some time. I love the stove and it loves me. It is a totally symbiotic relationship.

Last night I baked the previous surplus pasta. I dunked half a litre of milk in which I had stirred in two eggs, pepper some salt and (brazenly) a chopped up home grown and very hot chili, over the lot. I was copious with the cheese which I grated over the lot.I baked it for about twenty minutes on 200c.

Helvi had two helpings and I noticed rapid chewing. Nothing is as rewarding as spousal chewing on a dish cooked with love. The photo above shows the dish before eating. My boot and leg is there for a reason. The lid of the oven has developed a will of its own and tends to want to close. I have to have words with my stove. I think it must be spring-loaded and I wanted to take a photo to immortalise the event. The lid seems to have different ideas.

Giving a leg-up to pasta

Giving a leg-up to pasta

So, I’ll stop now and say the obvious…Enjoy!

Byron Bay 2.

May 10, 2014

The readers

The readers


The timing of trip was perfect. An opportunity to get away from the politics of Abbott and cohorts with his threat to pensioners and the disabled having to lift the country above its fiscal disaster and imminent collapse. The nightmare of us being forced to work in salt-mines or hacking at rocks for road-base was upsetting H and I even though we are still fairly fit and hale.

Have we reached a phase were our passivity is now permanent? A country so beset by materialism that the formal structures of social and political life offer no hope? If there is anything positive to be found, one must turn elsewhere? The thought often passes of pitching a tent somewhere. ( perhaps behind the big banana). A recluse or hermit have often been given respite to torments not of their choosing. Some individuals, have managed to survive the horrors of past governments without succumbing to the sterility of the present, but how?

Our trip to Byron Bay has given us a shot in the arm. Time to renew the fight. I have again re-joined the Labor Party which I left a few years after the demise of the Whitlam Government. The ‘remain the rage curry’ had finally collapsed and gone sour at Michael Hourihan’s abode. He left to live in Italy after learning 400 Italian words which he reckoned would get him through. We don’t know what happened to the tormented soul of Michael. Pray he found his pane di casa in Umbria. I am going to the first meeting this coming Monday at the YWA hall here in Moss Vale.

At Byron Bay we sat many hours at the front of the Beach Hotel sipping beer and eating insanely delicious salt and pepper calamari on copious beds of fragrant rice. The time gave us ample musings, to read, ponder and talk. It seems that with age, orifices get plugged more and more. I am not only wear hearing aids but am also now getting used to wearing …’euphemistically… called’, ‘partials’. Partial of what?

It never stops…what next?

When will Australia declare a national day of Mourning?

October 3, 2013


Posted on October 4, 2013 by gerard oosterman

It’s not as if Australia has been spared the dozens if not hundreds of refugees trying to reach our shores, that have lost lives. If memories serve me right we even tried to prevent refugees from attending burial services.

Italy has declared a national day of mourning after a boat packed with African migrants caught fire and sank off the island of Lampedusa, killing at least 130 people.–mourning-migrant-boat-sinking-lampedusa/4997856

The boat had set sail from Libya, a route thousands of migrants take each year to try and reach the European Union.

Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano says the disaster occurred when the boat’s motor stopped working and the vessel began to take on water.

He says people on board burned a sheet to attract the attention of rescuers, starting a fire on board.

“Once the fire started, there was a concern about the boat sinking and everyone moved to one side, causing the boat to go down,” he told a news conference.

The 20-metre vessel, believed to be carrying around 500 people, sank no more than one kilometre from shore.

Scores of people have been rescued and brought to shore, but so too have many bodies.

Authorities have confirmed the death of at least 93 people, and coast guard divers have counted 40 bodies inside the sunken vessel.

Two pregnant women are reported to be among the victims, as well as three children, while hundreds more remain missing.

Holiday Planning

August 30, 2013

Holiday planning.

Lately we have got an urge to visit foreign shores again. It has been years since we last packed our bags, checked the passport and counted the travel cheques. Things have changed though. We have had more birthdays and things aren’t the same as they used to. For a start, I have reached the age where I need to be geographically acquainted to the nearest available toilet at all times. Is there a mobile App for that and does it work in Turkey?

I still remember that they have some strange public facilities/toilets elsewhere and even though the saying urges tourists; “do in Rome like the Romans,” I still have trepidations of unknown public bowel& bladder facilities and habits in foreign places. I believe there are places in some tropical paradises where one is advised to avoid the right hand of strangers. Perhaps it was the left hand? I have forgotten! I remember squatting really low down in gay Paris, keen as mustard for paper, any paper, and in howling desperation used unsigned travel cheques.

There is something very reassuring to the idea of combining both, to visit foreign shores and to always be within a couple of meters or shouting distance of a toilet. The answer, ‘the world cruise’. Can you just imagine the joy of peering over the QE 2 railing watching the African coast glide by, dream of Dr David Livingstone and at the first intestinal rumble be seated on gleaming lavender scented porcelain within seconds? Can you imagine?

Helvi is more circumspect about world cruising and even though she danced with the ship’s captain on a previous trip from Italy to Australia in 1966, ( our honeymoon) she suggested that one could be locked into spending weeks sailing around the world with some dreadfully boring people. Food for thought, she added. Can you imagine sitting around some couple at the dining table who keep going on talking about their superannuation or Camellias? 😉

People might think the same of us, I suggested. Speak for yourself was her quick and needle sharp retort. Have I been boring you, I asked her with my guilt on post-war automatic? Well, sometimes you can be, (never to let an opportunity like that one to get past), she answers with brutish honesty, but with a smile I know so well and love. Anyway, most of those cruises are by old fogeys and probably have intestinal problems like yours, she added.

What makes you think you are the sole owner of QE2 toilets? There is most likely a flurry of elderly people toing and froing to the toilets 24 hours each day and night, probably even queues, she added.

Remember that cruise boat laying idle mid-ocean a few weeks ago? All the generators had died, no power to flush the toilets with passengers laid out on the decks in heat of 40C with nappies and all sorts of other medical emergencies. After a few days they were towed into a harbour and met by ambulances. A nightmare.

Yes, but of the hundreds of thousands on cruises, that was just an exception. Come darling, let me decide on this holiday. There are gyms, libraries, swimming pools and lots of shops on board. We will probably meet new friends, like-minded and fascinating people who like Woody Allan, Kant and Chomsky. We could escape next winter, visit Finland and Venice, Dubrovnik and Messina, New York. That sound nice Gerard, why don’t you get some brochures?

Oh, I have downloaded them already darling. Here are just some.

Cyprus needs a break

March 21, 2013

Cyprus needs a break


For Pete’s sake can’t someone bail out Cyprus? A lousy 10 billion Euro’s is now holding the world at gun-point. Banks in Cyprus have now been closed for 10 days and cash machines have dwindling supplies. Banks shares all over the world are being hit and their managers are nervous

You would have thought that there must even be local Cypriots that have that sort of money in spare cash splashing around their golf buggy. There are over a 109 billionaires that have more than 10 billion. According the Forbes richest, there are also over 250 people that have over 5 billion in their piggy banks. Just think that without our generosity they would not exist.  The world now supports 1426 billionaires. Isn’t it about time we support a few more?

It does seem strange that the Joe Blow people that have given so much wealth to many billionaires are now expected to give away their scant savings in Cyprus. Surely a 10% levy on the world’s rich would be fairer?  In fact, a levy on the world’s billionaires would probably save Spain, Greece, Italy and Cyprus together from bankruptcies.

I am not sure if I am a world’s first with this idea but I reckon if enough of you make similar suggestions we would prevent millions if not billions sinking in dismal poverty with even the chance to queue at a soup-kitchen fairly small.

The 1426 billionaires’ total wealth is estimated to be 5.4 trillion or Now a 10 % levy on that would not make one iota of significant difference to the well-being of those billionaires. They would still be able to support a decent meal, good wine and plenty of golf. Ten % of 5.4 trillion is a modest 540000.000.000. – Or expressed in letters “fifty-four thousand billion. This is a bit more than half a trillion. Now would it not make a lot of sense to urge The World Bank considering that option rather than impose poverty on hundreds of millions of real people. I mean we are only talking of peanuts amongst those billionaires.

I’ll consider putting up a petition to try and make a dent into a world problem that is really small compared with the wealth that is swirling around. Please sign and support my petition and send in onto your twitter and face-book contacts as well.

Thank you,

Gerard Oosterman.

Pancakes ( Our diabolical regression in the Art of cooking)

January 30, 2013

Of course, our eating habits have changed. Who would have thought mums now buy a plastic bottle with the advice ‘just shake it’? The ‘just shake it’ seems to be a prepared kind of pancake mix. I would imagine the intending cook fills up the empty space in the plastic bottle with milk and then ‘just shake’ it, with mixture ready for pancake making. It probably makes about five or six pancakes and at $ 1.85 works out at the outrageous price of 30cents a pancake, not including the golden syrup or jam on top. Perhaps the ‘just shake it’ has been embedded from a latent subliminal message from eager husbands pestering tired wives late at night. A clever use of product enhancement.

It must be back-breaking work to put flour in a bowl, and then add some milk, a couple of eggs and whisk the lot together and get the old fashioned pan-cake mixture for a quarter of the cost. Walking slowly past the supermarket’s shelves there were other similar products. A cheese in a tube, some powder that turns into instant mashed potato, but the most irksome of them all, and H is so sick of me commenting on them, are…simmering sauces. My eyes forever keeping guard on our dietary habits, I even spotted a kind of meat-spread in a tube. It was called, I think, devilish spread which came in mild and spicy.

Yet, again, I switched on the telly and it’s almost obligatory now to find and watch a cooking show. No matter what time, there is someone with eyes turned heavenly upwards, saying ‘oh, how yum’ or ‘wow’. Fresh ingredients are tossed together; fish, meat, snails, frogs are being infused, thrown about and cooked almost to the point of a kind of Le Mans’ car race.

It’s all very confusing. There are options in watching French, Italian; Spanish cooks either cooking away in their own country or in top restaurants in Britain. They seem so enthusiastic, you wonder if they have mattresses tucked behind those huge gleaming stainless steel stoves and just take quick naps in between the stacking of delicious looking char-grilled hearts of goats and noodles with infused ginger and deep fried shreds and strips of celeriac with chanterelle-shiitake mushrooms on giant plates.

Then there are culinary delights shown in Vietnam, Indonesia, Burma, even Thailand. Fresh fish swimming, frogs are croaking and eels or snakes still slithering about. Within minutes it is all cooked and on the table with huge smiling families feasting away.

If pancake making is the only thing my grandkids will remember me by; so be it. It would be nice to have an epitaph on my pebble crete slab; “here lies the greatest pancake- maker” (but keep off the grass).

Cooking needs to be an act of love. You can never cook something in total indifference. When the kids are over, pancake making has almost religious overtones. Their own parents’ pancakes seem to lack ‘crispy edges’, I was told by Max who is the youngest of the three grandsons, adding, ‘they are alright though’, not wanting to dob in his parents.

It is not as if I swoon over every pancake but I do hand mix the dough adding water and pinch of salt. I use real butter and cook on two cast iron solid pans on high heat. When I gently lower the mixture into the pan, the edges frizzle and sizzle out into the much desired golden crispy and crunchy edging. While hot, I rush them over to the kids seated at the round table, fork and knife in hand and at the ready. I squeeze some lime juice and sprinkle a light dusting of sugar.

I leave the rest to them.

Social Intercourse amongst the Dagos and Reffos

March 16, 2012

We know there was always some kind of town or village center where people used to meet up, mingle and gossip. The old water-well did not always contain the bodies of the missing loved ones, more likely to hold endless tales of folklore and the latest news, perhaps spiced with the regaling of the latest sexual maneuverings amongst the libidinous of the village… It has always been like that!

In the larger towns and cities it was the square in front of the cathedral or market place where the same was served to keep the locals in contact with each other. Look at Pieter Bruegel’s paintings. The dalliances of the locals together at town’s centers could never be told with any more precision. The kicking up of heels during the 1530’s has, as far as I know, never been surpassed since. Even Michael Jackson’s Moon-Walk pales into a rather limp expression of a dance. Talk about dancing, whatever happened to those mirrored balls suspended from ceilings spitting glitter around the dancers? Has it all gone into the pails of history?

In the 1960’s one of the best places to pick up a sheila, was Trocadero in George Street, Sydney. There was a strict protocol. The slightest whiff of alcohol and you were barred. There were special men,  trained connoisseurs of breaths, reputedly able to detect, with great precision, the difference between a sprinkle of Eau De Cologne and a lager. The odour disguishing help of peppermints was always a trick that only worked towards the end of the evening when the alcohol had worked itself out of the system, at that stage; everything gets a bit limp anyway. The only beverage available, once broken through the cordon of breath sniffers, and finally inside that Mecca for picking up sheilas, was a generous supply of, (another Australian icon on par with the Victa lawnmower) Fanta orange drink.

Alas, even Fanta is now foreign owned together with the Victa. In China they have built an entire high rise city of 150.000 people totally geared towards the manufacturing of Hills Hoists. This city is called “happy clothes dryers-“快樂布烘乾線 “After 2 years of hard work, employees receive a free Victa, after 20 years a much revered free Hills Hoist. I remember digging out a concrete lump that surrounded the base of the hoist, a job I would now not be able to do anymore. How the years creep up in all those little things that one used to do and so much enjoy.

Meanwhile back at the Trocadero in the fifties and sixties, the picking up of sheilas was a serious Saturday evening pursuit well worth foregoing the alcohol. The only snag during that period was the oversupply of men. There were all those sturdy muscled miners from Finland, dazzling blond hair all shiny and brilliantined up and expert tango dancers. I’ll never forget those cane cutters from Queensland, many from fascinating East European backgrounds called ‘reffos’.  The competition for a dance was fierce, feudalistic amongst the men, often on a knife’s edge. My rather lanky figure in Julius Marlow shod feet had to compete with those and the (less popular but infinitely better looking Dean Martin’s look-alikes) swarthy Italians and Creeks, called “dagos”. I was occasionally successful with the business of Sheila picking-up but always looked forward to the Fanta as well.

One made the best of what was available.

Home Alone.

January 22, 2012

a Golden Oldie.

Home alone
Gerard Oosterman

Mention the word ‘table’ (tavola) to an Italian and the implications are clear: family, food, laughter and above all, the excitement of conversation. The word ‘tavola’ could easily bring tears to any red blooded Italian, having been away too long from home.

But, mentioning the word ‘table’ to an Australian and someone might ask: Ikea, or have you inherited a “Parker Table”?

(This of course is not the only difference between Aussies and the European or other nationals. But, as they say in Russia, Viva La Difference!)

A curious form of isolating oneself, at times, from the outside world persists here more than anywhere else that I know of.

Perhaps the words ‘Own Home’ demonstrate this difference. Am I right in thinking that those two little words would conjure up for Australians what the word ‘tavola’ does for the Italian?

The words ‘Own Home’ for us Australians is the need for the world of absolute ‘privacy’. Perhaps, to our Anglo forbearers, their ‘Own Home’ was their castle – up with the drawbridge and just in case of anything or anyone unwanted, they had the back up of a moat to keep out intruders, including any unannounced visitors.

While the drawbridge and moat have gone, we have substituted them with the paling fence, and now the impenetrable colour bond aluminium partition fence, blocking even the remotest chance of seeing a neighbour, or worse, a neighbour seeing us.

Some ‘own homes’ now have total block-out metal electric window shutters. Perhaps in the future they will do away with the need to have any windows at all.

The need for ‘privacy’ seems to overwhelm everything, even when it means blocking the glorious country views and light. Perhaps they are impatiently waiting to jump into bed for a bit of an old fashioned quickie, but so would the red blooded Europeans, would they not?

With the culture of one’s ‘Own Home’ comes another curious phenomenon. You rarely actually see anyone outside in their gardens and I am buggered if I know how Aussies maintain their gardens so spotlessly. The petunia borders are all weed free. The lawn is in absolute submission and not a leaf is allowed a minute’s rest in the guttering.

Back about fifty years ago, we lived in a new Sydney suburb called Revesby, near Bankstown in NSW. A neighbour would, at weekends only, climb on his roof and sweep the shiny ‘Wunderlich’ glazed tiles clean of bird shit, deposited generously by my brother’s pigeons. It was the only time we actually saw him outside, ever.

These days, if you want to see people enjoying their outside garden areas, one has to go to the suburbs of mainly Italian or Greek inhabitants. In Sydney, the Middle Eastern areas are probably the best place to see outdoor activity – people hanging over the fence, kids playing on the streets, the burning of rubber by over-excited youths, and a general feeling of excitement or ‘things happening’.

Now we come to the tricky ‘Unleashed contributors’ bit. Is it also this ‘privacy’ thing that sees so many people writing under nick names, often even changing their names as they go along? Is it safer to write something a bit controversial under the guise of a nick name?

I hope I am not under some kind of danger here. Am I doing something wrong or should I start writing under another name as well? Surely, the comforting umbrella of the ABC’s Unleashed forums will keep us always safe.

What is the answer to all this nonsense?

Don’t let Facts stand in the Way of Truths (The getting of Wisdom)

October 9, 2011

We were so comfortable in the knowledge that the universe was imploding. We always knew things would end up to nothing much, just a shrivelled up bit of a rotten core, a tangled mess of imploded food processors and phone chargers. Now, this fact has been un-facted by the latest discovery. Professor Schmidt, our proud Nobel Prize winner reckons we are expanding with increasing speed and the Universe will finally end up a dark, empty and cold place. We are all forever expanding, getting bigger. Blind Freddy could tell you that. Just walk around shopping malls and look at the food-court. Our Nobel Prize winning cosmologist has proven scientifically that instead of magnetic fields or gravity pulling things inwards and slowing things down, the reverse is happening and it is all getting further and further apart.

We were also happy with Einstein’s fact of his speed of light. It was the ultimate of speed, an ultimate fact. Nothing could go faster. If something were travelling faster than ‘c’ (speed of light) relative to a standing reference, we would go back in time, meaning an effect would be observed before a cause. That would be silly. It would mean I would end up with the horror of the 1956 Nissan Hut in Scheyville all over again. It would be paradoxical like an antitelephone. Still, the speed of light was fact. Irrefutable and only flat-earthers would deny the truth of this.

But….No wrong, in Italy, the country that gave the world Galileo, they made something go faster than light, deep inside some mountain range. Another fact dismantled. I think being disappointed in facts is so much worse than in truths.

So, is the truth a worthier cause to follow than facts? The truth is how things are now, not tomorrow or yesterday but now. For instance; it is raining outside and the road is getting wet. This is a truth for now. However, and this is important, if the rain stops and the sun start to appear, chances are the road will dry up. Another truth, but the outcome is the total opposite of the previous one. Isn’t? Still, both hold true and that has to be nice and reassuringly optimistic for the future.

Facts seem to be unreliable and somewhat sticky, changing all the time, just like truths but unlike truths, facts were always supposed to be unmoving, cemented in situ. I wouldn’t trust them anymore. A truth, on the other hand is always there, even though for just that moment. It is so much more comforting, a bit like bed socks. They warm your feet but only if you wear them. If you keep them in the sock drawer, they are still bed socks but their truth of ‘warming feet’ has gone. One expects and (most of us would) accept those changes as normal. No one would object to the truth of bed socks not warming feet if they are not on the feet.

There are truths so true, they are universal truths. The truth of the lentil for instance and its application towards frugality and living simple humble lives is such a universal truth that it warms the heart. Its truthfulness stands on its own and it would be a brave man who would say that a lentil is not true because it is really an apple or a bicycle.

The same for a good drop of Semillon Blanc. The truth of the capsicum lingering on or the lemon tang hanging near the middle palate together with its ambition or its sheer cheekiness, are truths that are unassailable. But again, again this awful but …If letting stand too long in the hot sun or in its glass without drinking, the wine then become less truthful, even dishonestly intemperate. Then the truth (of a beautiful wine) has become spoiled and awful and warped. I would say that this truth then changes in another truth, the truth of spoiled wine. A bitter truth to swallow, but a truth just the same. In truths you can hardly ever go wrong. It just changes all the time and travels with you as you go along.

Truths are deeply personal and always your best friends.