Posts Tagged ‘Lambretta’

The lead (run) up to marriage. (Auto-biography).

July 7, 2015

 

Boiling the 'billy' at Ankeriasjarvi at -20c

Boiling the ‘billy’ at Ankeriasjarvi at -20c

 

The words have been lean  lately. The school holidays are the bane of and blame for, lack of words flowing. I am too much of a me, and more of a me person,  to try to put down words under difficult circumstances. Multitasking falls to those who are unselfish and can spread goodness and sweetness around no matter what.. They even do it better. I forego flowing words in order to make pancakes or fry speck for the kids. It could just be an excuse to take a break. Regroup! I am not a multi-tasker. Ask my wife!

Do words not deserve a holiday? I mean you can tell words are suffering when you hear people say ‘awesome’ and even ‘absolutely’. Just now I heard on the news, something needing ‘a paradigm shift in attitude’. The popularity of ‘stuff like that’ is on the wane. Thanks to our PM, T. Abbott though, there has been a resurgence of ‘absolutely’ and making things ‘crystal clear’!  Saying ‘obviously’ twice in each new sentence is now being patented by Tony Abbott our Rhodes scholarly Prime Minister of funny sayings, absolutely!

The school holidays usually involves both good and bad. The good is self-evident. To have domestic life with sound of children. Pillows on the floor. Tripping over shoes that somehow find themselves in front of your step no matter what direction you take to the kitchen or bathroom. Despite of shoes, it was  fine to have them around again for a few days. They are a font of delightful expressions which any writer would use and exploit. They are both still verbally agile and imaginative like most children are. I pray they keep this and not allow it to be knocked out by maturing into stiff and compliant adults. You know the kind who feel that the ability to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is enough to get you through. May be! But a good ‘fuck you’ and ‘piss off’ to bullying adults might stand them in just as good a stead. What is in a word? A lot!

As the painting contracting got more and more colourful, with  teams working all over Sydney, the post Italy period was put to good use.  I bought an apartment in King’s Cross. I did not actually live in it. I let it out and used the rent to pay the mortgage. It proved to be the most prudent move of my life. I also continued on with painting pictures. I had taken a painting course locally in Parramatta. This was the suburb some years before where I used to meet fortnightly as secretary of the  ‘Parramatta scooter club.’  Readers that held on to my blog would know this club disintegrated when Vespas and Lambrettas did not see eye to eye. There was even someone with a Norton 500 cc single cylinder motor bike allowed to join up.

The painting course was run by Ronald Peters, a man who abhorred what was going on at the NSW art gallery. Modern paintings were being hung and crowds would peer at them incomprehensibly. They did not make any sense to him either. He warned us to avoid modern paintings like the plague. He taught me to start with sky; ‘a dark blue at the top of the canvas and lighten the colour as you go down’ he said. ‘It will create distance.’ Gum trees always featured. ‘Put some dappled highlights on the bark’. We were urged to follow  his own painting at the front of the class. Step by step! It was the period when D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s lover was still banned and Portnoys complaint whispered about on corners by men wearing rain-coats, some years later. Today, publishers are wringing their hands. Readers are secretly and under the blankets, reading words on kindle, freeloading, copying and swapping!

Book shops now are closing down. Readers are becoming sparse and Borders have shut shop. Celebrity and sport books are still being sold and some bookshops are offering three books for the price of two. I see the smiling open mouthed Jamie Oliver still staring out at Super Markets, but for how much longer? After all those years do people still need to know how to cook a T-bone? Milan Kundera, who heard of him? A cricketer was killed by a ball some weeks back and his wife was offered a state funeral!  No such offer for Patrick White though some years ago.

I gave the landscape class a miss even though I was surprised how nice my pictures looked. The dappled effect on eucalypt bark very much liked. Some of those little paintings I took with me in a suitcase on my way to  Helvi’s Finland. For a few months I did an art course with John Olson and Robert Klippel. Both were at the revolutionary edge of breaking away from the traditional art scene in Australia. Their work created heated scenes at art galleries with people trying to take them to court. Clashes of traditional art lovers with the young and anti Vietnam war protesters. A portrait by Dobell was taken to court on the grounds it was a caricature. The artist won.

 

the rented cottage at Ankeriasjarvi.

the rented cottage at Ankeriasjarvi.

Our letter writing to and from Finland increased and not just in numbers. Exchanges of photos and sweet whisperings became intensely loving. The tyranny of distance could only be overcome by a boat journey. Helvi still needed to do a few more exams but I proposed anyway, and…she accepted. How glorious! I remember it well. Exultation followed by booking a boat to Genoa in 1965.

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Striking out on one’s own and first Sex..

May 30, 2015

 

Etching 'is it love?'

Etching ‘is it love?’

The next few years after the momentous and epic Woy Woy first date journey, time seems to have gone quickly.  I kept up going to Vic’s Cabaret and even expanded my dancing skills by learning ‘the Stomp’ which was of short duration. It was taken over by doing the ‘twist’ . Looking at old footage of twisting and stomping it all seems to have been so silly. You did not even touch the girl. At least with jiving you threw the girl over your back,  or dragged her beween your legs, teach her a good lesson.  Of course, the hidden message of that dance was for the boy to be dragged between the girls’ legs which happened in some rare instances but always with the boy facing the floor, never upwards into her billowing skirt. I did not experience that till later. It was with a nice woman from Malta that I finally lost my virginity. “It was on the Isle of Malta where I met you…”, no, not really, it was in a boarding house in Sydney’s Paddington. The problem with the Maltese woman was not her generosity of spirit and her overabundance of yielding softness but that she had a husband, a butcher by trade, who kept a loaded shotgun in the wardrobe.

I would be lying to say that dating girls ever led to much more than a furtive kiss given in return for a movie with chocolate Maltesers or packet of crisps. The Parramatta scooter club that I belonged to folded when motor bikes joined and we could not agree on how to keep the Vespa club at bay. They seemed to outnumber the Lambrettas now and ran treasure hunts to Palm Beach to which a few of our own members had been seen going to. There was a seething discontent in scooter clubs of the fifties and sixties. Now of course this has seeped into the Comancheros and Hells Angels. They now have guns and rocks of crystal meth while we had malted milkshakes.

This boat of love seemed to flounder forever on the rocky shores of my Isle of Doom. The problem was my ‘mien’. It was the somewhat sombre impression at first sight. Girls had to overcome this. Not an easy task.  I could not change what was the essence of my own being.  It was at the same time also my best feature. I say this with some confidence because this mien always stood me in good faith later on.  The dilemma is that most young girls and boys like good cheer with easy going friendly smiling demeanours. Not many girls seemed to be drawn at my ice-breaking attempts introducing small talk about a demonically violin playing  Paganini, or a ponder about lives behind the venetian blinds, or indeed my clear own unique insight in the state of Australian cemeteries. I suppose suburbs don’t encourage seriousness when the essence of  life in burbs can be so bleak and lacking in a joie de vivre already. The last thing anyone wants on a night out is a dark Schubert journey of KlageLieder and hopeless love buried in the deepest of  oceans. This Jeremiah wasn’t a Don Juan.

A helping hand was soon  knocking at the front-door of my life. A fortuitous move on hindsight was the move away from home to rent a room with board in Paddington. The Landlady was from Malta and she certainly had a good mien. A bundle of laughs and generosity expressed by ample heaving  and shuddering breasts. On accepting the terms she immediately cooked me some lovely lamb cutlets with lots of garlic and salted anchovies with rosemary. I remember it so well. “I give you plenty food, Gerard,” she said. The full board was to include bed and all meals with her and family, including the husband, with shotgun as previously touched upon.

etching

etching

Within a week of settling in I was watching TV with her husband sitting opposite from his wife sitting directly next to me. A few days before she had invited me over to look at some photos of her and her husband’s wedding in Malta. We were both seated on her marital bed. I thought it a very friendly gesture and put it down to Maltese culture and openness. None of that Anglo Saxon reserve. I was happy but a bit nervous. Her bosom was  welling up but with such a large and generous endowment one would have to wear a knight’s armour and necktie to seek cover. “My husband sick now”, she added, of which its significance escaped me at that moment.

While watching TV and Bonanza with the three brothers and their father galloping around the same set of rocks several times, I felt a movement in my left pocket. It was the hand of the Maltese landlady searching me…. me. It took a while to sink in but was sure her hand wasn’t looking for my hanky. It was definitely an amorous attempt, sexual even. A tour de force. I was petrified and with her husband sitting in the other opposite corner!.  Did he not know? However, her hand and gentle but insistent fingers ambushed my resolve to end it by me running away.  Au contraire. It was so lovely.  I was so excited and even collegially leant a bit backwards to give more room to her expert married hand. I had the temerity to lightly stroke her back,  keeping a guilty eye out for her husband. What could I do for her. Wasn’t this supposed to go twin carburettor for both of us? The horses and Bonanza all but a black and white blur, running berserk for all I cared. A fata morgana that was now really happening to me. The oasis of a real woman.

Can you understand the dread, fear and yet the rewards coming finally to me so longed for and dreamed about? The misery of home life. The rejections of dates and dorky evenings at the cinema with Ben Hur, a Moses with tablets, or some Quo Vadis on a big screen. Here it was, her lovely hand, let the husband shoot me, who cares! Bonanza finished. She got up after her husband had left. “Gerard, get some ‘Frenchies’ tomorrow, quickly”. She smiled and kissed me good night. What a Bonanza.

Next day at 9.01 am I was at the chemist. You will know that condoms at that time could only be given consent and sold by the chemist himself. He or a she would always be standing, as today, on a podium. I asked for three packets of condoms. All caution to the wind now and I was on a high. He looked me over and grumpily sold me the condoms. Next morning, I was in bed which was on a linoleum floor, all shiny and clean. She walked in with husband gone to work (slicing the sausages). She smiled and lifted her dress standing next to my head. Both of us in a single bed and she was so big. But where there is a will… And that was it. A great initiation by a good woman. I left suddenly after a few days. I did not like the deceit on her husband and especially not with a loaded shotgun in the wardrobe. The situation was so dangerous.

Was he really sick and why this gun? I could not understand that she had the nerve to do this with her husband in the same room. She did like me and for a year or so she would phone and I knew it was her. She would say, “Gerard, Gerard”, but I did not answer her.

Perhaps she too had sadness. Don’t we all at times?

 

The Ford V8 period and other stuff.

May 22, 2015
On own block.

On own block.

(The above shot I found yesterday in a box full of photos. It is very interesting and shows perfectly our situation at that time. My father seems to be sitting on an asbestos sheet wearing a tie. Frank shirtless at the front. Dora cuddling our pet dog, mum in a deck chair. I seem to be just hanging on. The plight of our lives seems so clear. Was it the birth of the curmudgeon? The house behind Dad on the other side of the road does have windows but venetian blinds were at pitch fever popular and so was ‘privacy’. England had moats and drawbridges, Australia has blinds). The house next to the venetians had a Dutch family living in it).

As I motor-biked  past a car sales yard, I noticed a large car for sale amongst many others. This car was a powder blue colour and its chrome glimmered seductively. They say men fall in love with cars. Even the primates shown recently on TV, the male gets drawn to anything with wheels while the female ape cuddles dolls. What hope have we got? As a homo sapient  men might as well do away with free choice when a car sales yard beckons us more than a bevy of dolls. I mean what could be nicer than cuddling a doll? Yet, it is the hot embrace of high revving pistons and killer speeds that we seem to be drawn to. The smarmy salesman saw me coming looking out from his little window inside his pigeon hole office overlooking his domain of gaping cars. The perfect customer. A young man on a the hunt for his first car.

‘Care to take a closer look,’ the man said while consolidating his opinion of me. He had seen so many come and go that day but not many young ones. He could tell, having honed his car salesmanship at his previous sales yard along Parramatta Rd called “Pacific cars is Terrific”. He had broken the back of many a customer’s reluctance. He knew the ropes and his cars and was keenly sought after around the car-yard precincts of Sydney.  The year would have been around 1961/62. I had gone through a Lambretta scooter after which I bought an ex-police bike with side-car in which I used to go rabbit and fox hunting with with my brother John. John was very tall, over two metres. I don’t know how we fitted tent and two rifles in the outfit but we must have. When one is young matters of comfort are hardly ever considered. When getting to my present age, comfort is all and sleeping in a tent gets a bit hazardous with serpents and crocodiles around, huge poisonous cane toads that can kill by leaving a slimy substance. After seventy, the inner spring mattrass beckons like a nun waiting for her habit.

Our first house in Balmain.

Our first house in Balmain.

(Photo showing  my mother with (late) brother John and his wife jenny behind her.  Helvi looking at camera, then brother Herman, brother in law Dieter and sister Dora. Notice we are sitting on paint drums! The Broadway slow combustion wood-heater. A real Christmas tree and candles. They were very good and happy times.)

DSCN2836

(Outside our first house in Balmain taken from the street, facing the harbour on the other side.)

I walked around this blue car, both clock-wise and anti. The tension between us was palpable. I knew what it felt like to drive a bunch of condensed steel, wherever I steered it to, but also felt that to be inside a car- space was going to be a different experience. The salesman remained quiet so far, confident his prey was now slowly being seduced. They all get to it, sooner or later, he surmised philosophically.  ‘Would you like to go inside, get the feel of it?’ Of course I would. No sooner the door was opened, I slid inside. Leather seats, a cigarette lighter! The salesman nonchalantly stalked back to his office. The perfect ploy. He knew his trade so well. The master at work.

As soon as I sat inside the car, I was gone. The smooth feel of the steering wheel and smell of waxed leather and..it had a huge back seat as well, with inbuilt ash trays. I could drive my parents around, a real treat for the family. I got out and went to the office. The salesman put the phone down. ‘I want to buy the car,’ I said. ‘Oh, I just had an enquiry about the same car, a bloke had a look earlier on,’  the salesman said with cruel intend.  I signed the papers with two years of payments on ‘easy terms’ and drove off. The car, a Ford Single spinner V8 cost 220 Pounds.  Oh, what a feeling!

My Russian Camera.

April 5, 2015
1958 Gerard with his sister on the Lambretta Scooter

1958 Gerard with his sister on the Lambretta Scooter

I’ll try and find my box of photos that I took while I was in the USSR during the mid eighties. I don’t write in diaries so my dates have to be given much leeway by those readers diligent and tenacious enough to keep following my words. Most of what I seem to write is from many decades ago. With old age also comes a kind of carelessness. Why not enjoy at least that luxury?

What is true so far, is that back in the eighties, or so, I noticed an advertisement in the travel section of our biggest Newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, about an all inclusive trip of USSR. It included as one would expect Moscow and St Petersburg, and would end in London. All hotels and all meals included. Russia was also going through a profound change whereby its last leader was being challenged by a more modern and forward looking man named  Mikhail Gorbachev. He was the last of Soviet Union’s Presidents.

I have now found the box of photos taken by the Russian Camera. As I mentioned it had a very powerful shutter mechanism which reminded me somewhat of my BSA 22 single shot rifle I used for rabbit hunting during the late fifties. The shutter spring must have been so strong the film was exposed twice during the release of the shutter on the bounce back.

Moscow University.

Moscow University.

Lomonosov Moscow State University is so big students have been found at an advanced age simply because they lost their way to the exit, and finally gave up preferring instead to live in its library with 9,000,000 books, 2,000,000 in foreign languages. The university has 1 000 000 m2 floor area in 1 000 buildings and structures, with its 8 dormitories housing over 12 000 students of its 40.000 students and 300 km of utility lines. All free of course, even the foreign students.

A Babushka paying respect to a noble forefather, probably a Tolstoy.

A Babushka paying respect to a noble forefather, probably a Tolstoy.

  • The Russians are big on visiting graves and so they should. Some say, you can tell a culture by the way they look after their departed souls. The graves are often surrounded by Syringa vulgaris (lilac) both pink and white, are well kept and thankfully not a plastic flower in sight. As you dear readers might know, I too am fond of graves and grave yards. There is something so life confirming about them, especially when you know it befalls everybody. A life well lived deserves a nice farewell and a good grave.
  • A bit of a drink party in Moscow.

    A bit of a drink party in Moscow.

    This photo shows a group drinking. I did not investigate what it was they were drinking. It might have been some soft drink or Vodka. Who knows?

  • Bartering in the USSR (Moscow)

    Bartering in the USSR (Moscow)

    A group of women exchanging goods. This was very common and westerners cunningly used to bring lots of jeans and quality goods for exchanging but I never understood what was wanted in exchange. You could not really buy much and had to account for all money spent by showing receipts when you left the country.

  • Moscow shop showing some fashion articles.

    Moscow shop showing some fashion articles.

At last a photo of a shop with some fashion items clothes. We had some Australian girls in our group who thought they would like to shop. They hadn’t done their homework on the USSR. I found it to be a very fascinating insight and absolutely enjoyed my stay there. People were curious and knew a lot about literature and art. I was ashamed to admit some students knew more about Australian writers than I did. On the train Moscow -St Petersburg I met a German speaking Russian woman named Lily who kept giving me sugar cubes dipped in Absinthe and when I told her I was an artist she told the rest of our train compartment. I was just about carried on the shoulders of the Russian travellers. But of that more next time.

I might call next article. ‘Valley of the Lily’.

ps. The scooter photo also shows my mother in the door of our temporary dwelling.  It was on ‘own’ block of land at 51 McGirr Street Revesby, Australia. It was made of the lethal asbestos cement!

The dog was nice but hated the postman who came by motorbike. It was always a race between the bike flat tack uphill and the dog chasing him.