Posts Tagged ‘Jules Verne’

The Story of a crestfallen Philatelist.

June 1, 2013

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After the sad moving away of my first love ‘Marga’ to Utrecht, never to be seen again except in restless hand- fantasies, the days of touching and viewing of her roseate breasts were over. Little could I have known then it would be years before any girls would feature again, well after that fateful day in my V8 Ford to Woy Woy with devastation of Willy Willy storms, tempests and a very tough unyielding female friend.

I was terribly crestfallen, immensely sad and understood how Napoleon must have felt after being banned to Elba. When my parents were planning to migrate to Australia I almost wished for a change of heart. I was ready to embrace Siberia instead and totally related with the music of Schubert and his Lieder with his longings for a grave in the deepest and coldest of oceans. I just about ruined my father’s wind up record player with over and over again listening to music plumbing the depths of despair, tragedy and the morbidly supernatural.  My head was at a downward slope and acute angle to my chest, not unlike the swans featured in the songs of Schwanengesang D957. I relished it when I learned he had died at just 32.

My mother noticed my listless poking around at the mince and spuds. “What’s the matter Gerard?” “Oh, nothing mum, I am not hungry”. “Why don’t you read a good book?” This is of course one of the most damaging and maddening questions a mother can ask but she did love her kids. “I am sick of reading” I skulked, hoping she would not ask if my hands were kept above blankets at all times.

I did try, and had rigged up a small globe attached by some clever wiring to a square battery allowing me to read numerous Jules Verne books underneath the blankets. On some mornings the most magic of frozen patterns on the inside of the windows would greet me, totally symbiotic with my mood. Winters were never as cold as then. An icy wind would blast a wounded soul steeped in a ridiculous juvenile self-pity.

But, as often happens when young and down, another world opened up. It became the world of soaking postage stamps off envelopes and cards and sticking them in albums. It was the perfect hobby on cold winter evenings. It became a hobby that so enthralled me, I became manic, going around the neighbourhood asking for stamped envelopes.

I had started this some years before but with the advent of first sexual twinges and a twirling Marga I had thrown the album somewhere in a box together with my collection of leaden soldiers and horses. During imaginary games of war with friends, I rigged up my mother’s spring loaded wooden cloth pegs and with rubber bands had fashioned primitive cannons. Wet props of paper as cannon balls shot down opposing soldiers and their horses on our corridor’s wooden floor.

The time between adolescence and adulthood were turbulent and with migrating plans now well on their way, (We had seen numerous Australian Government promotional movies with postmen joyfully leaping over sun-drenched white picket fences with waving brilliantly white toothed gleaming happy neighbours intermittent with white crested surf and golden tanned girls on Bondi beaches) my parents decided I might as well leave high school and start work earn some money to help our start in Australia.

We would land with the clothes on our backs and traveling trunks filled with linen and pillows or with whatever could be shipped over (my dad’s only suit and neckties, with polished shoes). We would need beds and mattresses first, my mother declared somewhat teary. We can’t land in Australia on the 11th of Febr, 1956 and sleep on the floor somewhere. As it was we ended sleeping on kapok mattresses and proper beds but in Nissen huts. (I can hear readers sighing, not the bloody Nissan huts story again)

The boat trip was still some months away. I managed to get a job with a fruit and vegetable shop. They were high class and delivered to most embassies in The Hague. My job was to deliver whatever they ordered and did this on a heavy-duty push-bike. I pedaled as never before with a solid cane basket fastened above the front wheel and suspended from the handle bars.

I handed my wages over to parents (for 8 beds and mattresses.) but I kept tips which I decided I would save for a camera that I had spotted in the window of a nearby camera shop. It was an Agfa Clack.  Numerous times while cycling past, I would stop and stare at this camera.

I learned the cultural habits of those different countries that I delivered the fruit and veggies to by the size of their tips.  A limited perspective I know, but I had as yet not developed better criteria. The most outstandingly generous, and I am donning my cap here, was the US. I would get tips more than my entire weekly wages. My Agfa Clack was as good as in the bag within a couple of deliveries to the US embassy of Kipfler spuds and hot-house grown Muscatel grapes…

God bless America- Land that I love etc.

Not only tips, the staff in the kitchen gave me packets of Camel cigarettes (I was smoking) and fed me chicken soup, piping hot. “Sit down buddy”, “you’re shivering, here get this into you”. A most cheerful lot of people and I practiced my school English on them. I never forget their generosity and joviality.

The most miserly were the rich Dutch living in Wassenaar which still is a kind of snobbish enclave on the edge of The Hague with huge houses hidden between oak trees with pinched-up nosed inhabitants. After knocking on the door they would spy me through a little hole in the door first. “Just push the stuff through the opening” they would say in a peculiar ‘high-Dutch’ accent and the door would be opened just enough allowing the vegetables to be pushed through the gap. I must confess that a delivery to an address to Wassenaar involved me snitching grapes or an apple away from their delivery. Served them right, I can hear a chorus of approval from you, the readers.

Thank you for reading…

The Dilemma of an E-Reader

May 10, 2013

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We all know things get worse as the years creep by. We don’t become wiser nor do we get any closer to the truth that we were so keenly after. In fact, it all becomes hazier not unlike a glass of iced water with the Pernod anise added to it but without the benefit of its sweet unctuousness. Perhaps that’s why, as we get older, we tend to throw caution to the wind and indulge in the Absinthe more often than might be good for us. Who cares? Does it really matter afterwards? I mean, we can never discount the possibility, no matter how distant, we would regret not having indulged even a bit more. So, let me be wise at least in the ‘reckless’ department.

I used to wear glasses which miraculously became superfluous in my middle years. Was I being rewarded for having been good? Who was looking after me, when I was told over and over again, that if you persist in doing that, you will go blind and encourage hairs to sprout on the inside of your hands and everybody will know!  Always keep hands above the blankets, think of ice bergs and what happened to the Titanic. Failing that, think of an approaching train with your head tied to the rails.

You are at the beginning of a calamitous journey into blindness with your right eye showing a clear stage of ‘degenerative macular’ disease. Well, not exactly in those words. But the eye specialist comforted me, with ‘it is quite common in getting older’ that eye sights might diminish somewhat. The ‘somewhat’ is something the specialist had been trained to say, depending on the level of alarm those first words of a more sinister ‘macular’ and ‘degenerative’ might cause.

Fortunately my left eye is needle sharp and I could even read the smallest print on a Jaguar car catalogue he was showing me.  I bet he had just bought a Jaguar. No doubt earned from his lucrative specialists business. I noticed his waiting room was full of patients with thick glasses, all at different levels on their macular degenerative journey! Perhaps, he was flipping through the catalogue in between patients. Good for him.

With my left eye being still close to perfect, I briefly thought of it perhaps being related to being right handed and therefore having spared my left eye in conjunction with hardly ever using my left hand. Who knows? Science sometimes brings out surprising results. If something is still working, let us still cling to the wreckage of our bodies and continue our journey to the best of our dysfunction.

This brings me to my original premise of the plight of the E-reader. It would not be surprising if the popularity of this latest electronic devise will go sky high. The canny retiree would be well advised to invest in Sony or go long on Kindle options and keep an eye out on Amazon shares. Our country and its Government are already generous in supplying hearing aids to the degenerative auditory of hearing impaired. The Prime minister would be foolish not to support generously the subsidizing of E-readers. The magic of the E-readers lies in that it can store thousands of books which can be read at different font sizes. All this is available in the palm of your hand and at the flick of a finger. The E-reader truly is magic and together with Pernod almost makes old age a dream come true…

This of course gives years of reading to those that are decrepit with batty eyes. It is not easy for those not tech savvy to download all the different features but just get your grand-kids to do that. I obstinately tried myself and now have eleven copies of Tolstoy’s’ “War and Peace”, not realizing that each time I pressed a certain page or button I would download yet another copy. I have yet to see my Credit Card account but now have eleven copies of over a thousand pages each of War and Peace together with Jules Verne Eighty days around the world and Rudyard Kipling’s, the Jungle Book. There is enough reading for at least a couple of years.

It just never stops; does it?

(With grateful acknowledgment to Frangipani, whereby, without her untiring support and encouragement, my E-Reader wonderment would most likely not have come to pass)