Posts Tagged ‘Migrants’

This jungle our garden. هذه الغابة لدينا حديقة.

October 20, 2017

IMG_20171017_161555garden

As a concession to our need to be more inclusive and in the spirit of multiculturalism I will put the next few articles  translated in some of the main languages spoken and written in this wonderful world. We will start of in Arabic using the Google translation method. To our Arabic speaking friends I hope the translation comes across as reasonable!

I am more than pleased that the attempt by our minister for Immigration and (the much feared) Border Protection, Mr Peter Dutton, to make it harder for migrants to become permanent residents by setting university level English language skills has resoundedly failed to get through Parliament.

” it is clear that applicants sitting the new English language test in order to obtain Australian citizenship would need to meet a standard equivalent to that expected of university entrants.”

My parents and I would not have passed that test and more importantly how many of Australian born permanent residents would pass the English test today?  Note that this English language test would not be required by people from the UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

Indeed, would Mr Dutton himself pass? It is clear that his notorious contempt for foreigners shines through,  when within cooee of migrants. However, Mr Dutton’s face lights up and really shines when refugees are included in the mix. His contempt knows no boundaries as shown by his treatment of the refugees banned to the hell-holes of Manus and Nauru, now in their forth year of detention. No charges have been laid.

Their hope lies in being accepted by the US, but with Mr D. Trump’s notoriety dealing with foreigners we will see if that will eventuate. In the meantime Dutton keeps on promising the refugees will never set foot on Australian soil even though the majority have gone through the process and been accepted as genuine refugees.

But, going back to the Dutton English language test, some compared it to the “White Australian Policy” from a few decades ago when coloured people were excluded from citizenship.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-19/citizenship-test-english-language-test-criticised-by-labor/9066530

After all this you might be happy to look at the violas again; or are they violets?

It is never too late!

الثقافية سوف أضع المقالات القليلة القادمة تترجم في بعض من اللغات الرئيسية المنطوقة والمكتوبة في هذا العالم الرائع. سنبدأ باللغة العربية باستخدام طريقة الترجمة من غوغل. لأصدقائنا الناطقين باللغة العربية آمل أن تأتي الترجمة عبر معقولة!

أنا أكثر من سعداء أن محاولة السيدنا للهجرة و (المخاوف كثيرا) حماية الحدود، السيد بيتر دوتون، لجعل صعوبة في أن يصبح المهاجرين المقيمين الدائمين من خلال وضع مهارات اللغة الإنجليزية على مستوى الجامعة فشلت بصدور من خلال الحصول على البرلمان .

“من الواضح أن المتقدمين الذين يجلسون اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية الجديد من أجل الحصول على الجنسية الأسترالية سوف تحتاج إلى تلبية معيار يعادل ما هو متوقع من الوافدين إلى الجامعة”.

والدي وأنا لم يكن قد اجتاز هذا الاختبار، والأهم من ذلك كيف العديد من المقيمين الأستراليين المولودين الدائمين اجتياز اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية اليوم؟ لاحظ أن اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية هذا لن يكون مطلوبا من قبل أشخاص من المملكة المتحدة وأيرلندا وكندا ونيوزيلندا والولايات المتحدة.

في الواقع، هل السيد دوتون نفسه يمر؟ ومن الواضح أن ازدراءه السيء السمعة للأجانب يضيء، عندما يكون داخل كوي المهاجرين. ومع ذلك، يضيء وجه السيد دوتون ويضيء حقا عندما يتم تضمين اللاجئين في هذا المزيج. إن ازدراءه لا يعرف حدودا كما هو مبين في معاملته للاجئين المحظورين في جحيم مانوس وناورو، وهي الآن في السنة الأولى من احتجازهم. ولم توجه اتهامات.

أملهم يكمن في قبولها من قبل الولايات المتحدة، ولكن مع السيد D. ترامب سمعة سيئة التعامل مع الأجانب سنرى ما إذا كان ذلك سوف يبرز. وفي الوقت نفسه، تواصل دوتون الوعد بأن اللاجئين لن يضعوا أقدامهم على الأرض الأسترالية على الرغم من أن الأغلبية قد مرت بهذه العملية وتم قبولها كالجئين حقيقيين.

ولكن، بعد العودة إلى اختبار اللغة الإنجليزية في “دتون”، قارن البعض منها ب “السياسة الأسترالية البيضاء” منذ بضعة عقود عندما تم استبعاد الأشخاص الملونين من الجنسية.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-19/citizenship-test-english-language-test-criticised-by-labor/9066530

بعد كل هذا قد تكون سعيدا للنظر في الكمان مرة أخرى. أو أنها البنفسج؟

أبدا لم يتأخر

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Too many hyphens and inverted commas. An edit!

January 7, 2016

untitled Scheyville

 

1956.

The photo is not mine.

An unforgettable memory etched in my mind was the generosity of the Australian government run Camp in the availability of unlimited supplies of food. It was all free and copious in quantity. The first few days we ate in the very large food hall. You picked up the food by queuing at the kitchen counter with a large plate. You ate what was ladled out. It was mainly very large enormous mutton chops, still glistening in fat with peas and a mountain of mashed potatoes. Sometimes it was sausages and pumpkin. You then carried the full plate back to large tables that had knives and forks already spread out. You sat on benches. We would all tuck in with a vengeance.

You can imagine, most migrants were from post or still on-going war ravaged countries. Hungarians, Czechoslovakians and Bulgarians, many with university degrees. There were refugees who had escaped from German extermination camps that had already spent years roaming from camp to camp in Europe. They were true refugees. Many also from Holland and Germany, Italy and Greece, today classified as ‘economic’ refugees. All of whom were hungry and now in the Promised Land. This Scheyville food hall fed a hungry Europe as never seen before. Some straddled the benches with plates clutched between thighs instead of sitting at the table, so as to be closer to the plate or perhaps of fear the food would get stolen. One large Bulgarian man would chew on his mutton chops pulverising the chop- bone with bare teeth. I looked on in amazement. He did it to impress his country fellowmen much to their amusement and laughter. After the solid food was eaten, one could again tank up or take seconds in the form of a jelly. The jelly was aeroplane jelly. A favourite ad on the radio was ‘I love aeroplane jelly’.

I used to grab slices of bread for afters, scooped up large quantities of IXL jam available on every table in giant gallon jars. It had huge chunks of real fruit in it. It was lovely, fancy being able to take as much as you liked? Surely Australia so far was everything that it had promised and more!

What’s in a title?

January 3, 2016

The year is now nicely steaming along. Even my dread of Sunday and their difficult afternoons have past. We watched the documentary on David Hockney. A great piece of film making. A work of art on its own. We went to bed at midnight after we heard rain pelting down joyfully on our metal roof. During the documentary a hauntingly beautiful piece of music was being played. I was overjoyed to recognise it instantly as, una furtiva lacrima, by Donizetti. Last week I could not remember Mahler’s slow movement in Death in Venice. All in all, not a bad ending to the Sunday, really. Also, the encouraging words by Hilary that the episodic memories are the ones to leave us last was so heartily taken in. Thank you Hilary. I am still here.

Over 70,000 words have now been cobbled together waiting for a title of which I thought of asking  your opinions. How important is the title? The book, (or rather my book,) will be published by hook but more by crook. I am now overloaded by words. I will let them rest and allow time  for some bedding down. In the meantime a search for a title with hopefully some input by you!

Helvi thought of ‘Migrant’s Vignettes.’ This what I have titled it for the time being.

The book  kicks off with a lengthy introduction. ‘Those first two years on Own block of Land’ before it jauntily starts in earnest with many shorts bits of all that entails a migrant’s life. One of those bits is called ‘Erectile dysfunctional benefits.’ I rather like that as a title.  It has an optimistic timbre and pitch about it, together with a hint of a societal medical quandary. It also seems to give hope. They say sex sells. I mean, men especially are obsessed with their potency, flagging or otherwise. Doctor’s surgeries are chockers with balding men seeking to renew their prescriptions on Viagra while pretending to read a well thumbed Women’s Weekly.

What about women though? Would that title be enticing enough? What age group of women would be drawn to such a title? Don’t forget that women outlive men. Eventide Home and Autumnal Haven for the aging are often sadly lacking in men. Have they have all succumbed to the worry of their dysfunctional erections? Would a book with such a title be stocked in retirement homes? Perhaps a quiet read in the evening for those women whose men had left them so prematurely? Would the book give them some solace?

In 2015 the WordPress annual report stated that during the year  A nostalgic look back at my Colonoscopy was the most read and responded to, with 121 views. That says a lot about what draws readers to my pieces, doesn’t it? There clearly is a hunkering after the good old days. How would that go down as a good title? I personally think it might be too medical. Then again, the word ‘nostalgic’ conjures up yearnings for what has been.  The previous title with the word ‘erectile’ included seems to have rigidity or an unyieldingness about it. What do you think?

What about artistic merit or integrity reflected somehow in the title? So much to ponder.

I would be so grateful if you could spare some time and advise.

 

Moving onto ‘Own’ block of Land with ‘Deposit’ and ‘Easy Terms’.

May 13, 2015
Own Block with garage. Little brother tending a cabbage.

Own Block with garage. Little brother tending a cabbage.

Leaving the lean times and memories of tie-clips and perky breasts (furtively enjoyed in the timber yard) behind, we will now go forward to an episode that too might have been significant in  causing my intermittent scepticism of migration in general and my own in special. That is not to say, that not having moved countries things would have turned out to have been  any different. To now have reached a level of freedom, hopefully some insight, and to have the luxury of enough time still left to come up with some answers that have eluded me so far.

The saving for the future was now on in earnest. My mum became the financial wizard and accountant . It had to be struck with a compromise between pocket money and fast saving to get our own place to live at. How we slept those first few months I have no memory off. We had nothing on arrival except the clothes we wore and the 4 steel trunks that travelled with us on the boat. The vacuum cleaner, and the pride of our street back in The Hague, the electric washing machine, we had shipped over separately. We could wash our clothes and vacuum, but on what did we sleep? I can’t remember anything about bedding. Did we sleep upright? It is possible but I don’t think so. Migrants are made of pioneering stuff, but upright sleeping was never an option? Right now, people would probably reflect and call migrating; seeking a life-style! We would surely at first been seeking for bedding?

The extra hours worked now above the normal forty hours became vital. Each day mother would wait for us to come home but it was always welcome if we came home later than expected; ‘overtime’ was being worked and, at time-and-a-half, would bring our aim of moving into own place closer and closer. Of course, work on Saturday or Sunday was as close to heaven as dad’s Milky way. Double time-money delirium! Even though it meant forgoing the cake eating event on the creaky veranda during the Sunday morning.

Dad would put his pay packet under mum’s dinner plate each pay day which I think was  on a Thursday. Dad did this as a kind of weekly joke as if tipping the waitress for a nice meal. It might read a bit strange but families have their own jokes, don’t they?  I would just give my earnings  to mum straight away  without any formalities or any joking, and so did my elder brother Frank. The coffer was swelling, slowly at first, but with increasing speed in tandem with the urgency. One of the items still to be told to complete a picture of our stay with the Dutch friends and their generosity of allowing us to get on our own feet, was the early morning urinating rituals.

The old house at the time we were living in it was crowded with two large families. The Dutch family with five children and ours with six making a total of fifteen including both sets of parents. The toilet was outside and at the back of the lean-to that I used as a dark room and for all of us a bathroom. It was quite a walk, often too far for us and the boys would share the nr 1’s with the rats and three legged dog against the stacks of timber outside. This was especially so at waking times. There was a flimsy partition between our portion of the house and that of our friends who had the larger part including a couple of bedrooms upstairs. The  four girls sleeping upstairs would run down each morning and urinate loudly in a bucket which was next to the flimsy partition and clearly audible. This would result in a loud Dutch howl of laughter and coarseness from me and my brothers on the other side of the partition. We almost woke up early not to miss the ritual. That’s how it was then!

Over the next six months we heard amongst other Dutch migrants that the way forward was to get own block of land with a garage on it. The available time left after working o.t (over-time) was taken up by endless discussions on own block of land. It sounded like out of ‘Mice and Men’ and it was far above my Dad’s understanding or his interests, but not my mum. She knew the way forward was to do what other people advised us about. It wasn’t just the talk of other migrants. The world of ‘real estate’ seemed to be everywhere and Australia was at the fore-front of owning own home on own block of land. It was the very essence of what success was about. In any case renting was a waste of money and everyone nodded in agreement. It wasn’t made clear why that was so. But questioning ownership wasn’t on the horizon of pioneering migrants. Renting is what they had left behind!

Peace

Peace

It was a contagion that still lives on today. Nothing eases awkward social occasions better than the mentioning of ‘real estate’ and ‘home ownership’ around the dining table or even standing around an art gallery sipping the chardonnay while discussing Edvard Munch ‘The Scream’. Mum understood the language of ‘own block near railway station’, of mortgages, easy terms, deposits and interest rates immediately  and  had worked out that with the present level of income from Dad and her two eldest sons including so much o.t, we already had a ‘deposit’ for own block. Deposit and own block had the Oosterman family firmly in its grip. They were holy. My dad remained puzzled why we could not just go to the local council and asked to be given and provided  a modest home to live in. It was now all so different.

After a while he was happy with the star-lit heavens and totally trusted his wife to steer us into the security of own block and garage. The garage was allowed then to be lived in as long as the garage door was painted the same as the garage walls. Better still, take the garage door off and replace with a window to then help the local council in simply designating the garage into ‘a temporary dwelling’. It sounded so much more domestic than garage and was legal to boot.

Fibro Asbestos Homes; A ticking time bomb.

June 10, 2013

imagesCAU96KL6

Fibro asbestos homes; a time bomb waiting to explode.

It was to be the fulfillment of Australia’s promise to migrants; ‘You will end up owning your own home’.  In Australia dreams and aspirations are made of working towards ‘own home’. It worked for my parents but they were also, unwittingly, working towards a strong possibility of owning their own coffin in the bargain. It sounds a bit grim, therefore let me explain.

Before coming to Australia, as far as we were concerned, we owned a home. True, there was a lull in the event during WW2 when living in own home was often precarious with reckless sorties of planes flying overhead dropping incendiary devices that were decidedly anti home. But, by and large, people lived in own homes.

Actually, and speaking strictly, we did not ‘own’ home in as much as it was possible to own a shirt or underpants but we did own a home in the sense of having a secure roof over our heads that was indisputably ours. No one ever even thought of a possible owning of a pile of bricks and timber like you did when you bought a shirt or underpants. Most people lived and died in a home whose bricks and walls were owned by the government of the country or the city that one lived in.  It was never thought of otherwise and it never occurred that we were at risk of not being able to live there as long as we wanted. Titles of ownership were mostly unheard of.

After my parents arrival in Australia ‘owing a home’ was almost right from the start the main conversation between many new arrivals. First you bought own block of land and this would then be followed with building own house. This is what drove almost every migrant and was soon seen as the raison d’être for having migrated in the first place. First my father was perplexed by this new type of living whereby one had to buy a roof over one’s head. Why was it so different from Holland whereby a roof was considered something that you rented for life and never worried about having to buy it?

It was all a bit of a puzzle but soon ‘toute la famille’ were taken in by the fervor and own home rush, busy with working getting at least a ‘deposit’ together. The term ‘deposit’ was also something totally unheard of, as were people called ‘Real Estate agents.’ Dutch migrants that we met in this frenzied atmosphere of ‘own homes’ got together with my parents at week-ends and talked almost exclusively about deposits and estate agents, rates of interest on loans and The Dutch Building society that would give loans.

The memory of Schubert’s Lieder and my soft Margo now seemed so far away, unobtainable forever and ever and separated by oceans of dried salted tears.

How’s your deposit going was so much more of the essence now.

In a very quick time, and all Oostermans capable of working with lots of overtime being paid double or at week-ends ‘triple,’ a deposit was salted away and exploratory  train trips were made to many different suburbs of outer laying Sydney to investigate ‘own block’ of land.  Those trips were also sometimes made with a ‘Real- Estate’ agent. My dad thought it such a strange term. “Are there ‘Un-real Estate agents as well”, he would flippantly ask the agent?

At the late fifties, Shire-Councils closed an eye to migrants living on blocks of land with a garage on it. It was euphemistically called ‘a temporary dwelling.’ My mum spotted an advertisement of such a temporary dwelling in Revesby. Revesby then was on the edge of Sydney’s civilization, still unsewered but did have a pub in the making and most importantly was on a rail-line with a real station, schools and a church, even a fish and chips shop! I have never forgotten the salty potato scallops wrapped in “the Sun’ newspaper.

My dad put down the oft migrant’s feverishly debated ‘deposit’, and after a while the land and its asbestos sheeted garage was ours. Now, this is where the possibility of ‘own home’ with the possibility of ‘own coffin’ creeps in this rather philosophical discourse. Even as early as the late forties and fifties cases of a mysterious and deadly serious disease started coming in, especially from workers who worked in the Wittenoom asbestos mines of Western Australia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wittenoom,_Western_Australia

However, the action on the link between asbestos and the 1948 diagnosed asbestosis was delayed and deliberately ignored. In fact, during the period that already had scores of victims of asbestosis Australia was building hundreds of thousands of houses sheeted externally and sometimes internally as well, with fibro cement asbestos sheeting. It was thought by bonding the dangerous asbestos with cement it would be a safe and cheap building product. We first lived in the 8 by 4 metres of unpainted and unlined asbestos sheeted ‘temporary dwelling and then for another 18 years in a small house made from the same asbestos fibro sheeted home. None of us succumbed to the dreadful asbestos induced cancer Mesothelioma. We were lucky. Not so were those having died so far or the untold who will continue to die in the future. Some price for ‘own home’!

In 1948, Dr Eric Saint, a Government Medical Officer, wrote to the head of the Health Department of Western Australia. He warned of the dust levels in the mine and mill, the lack of extractors and the dangers of asbestos and risk of asbestosis, and advised that the mine would produce the greatest crop of asbestosis the world has ever seen.

You can see, why I now feel that the dream of ‘own home’ could well have been a very nasty and expensive coffin for my parents and their children, which it has become and will continue for the tens of thousands still living in the asbestos containing cladded homes.

How come Australia doesn’t provide alternative accommodation to all who still live in asbestos containing fibro cement sheeted homes and give compensation to all the sufferers? After all, the Telstra fibro cement sheeted asbestos containing telephone pits are now the subject of huge turmoil and consternation. But, what about real people living in real danger?

How come it is so quiet on our western ‘own home’ front?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesothelioma

This Game this Life.( Maggots at Scheyville Camp)

October 14, 2012
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Maggots at Scheyville Camp.

By gerard oosterman

002

 

If any more proof was needed to show the abundance of Australia, of course shown already on the day after arrival at Scheyville camp with all those oranges on trees, it would have to be the provisions in that huge communal dining room during breakfast, lunch and dinner of huge gallon drums of very chunky IXL melon and pineapple jam, with no control on how much one ladled out.

Real fruit jam in Holland was expensive and mother just used to give our sandwiches not much more than a slight hint of jam in order to save for our future. Imagine our joy with being able, and totally unshackled from any restrictions, to scoop unlimited ladles of jam out of those huge drums of fruit laden conserve on top of mountains of pre-sliced white bread. It was totally out of dad’s control but he managed to accept it for what it was.

A few days later our perception in all that abundance of goodness and sweetness was somewhat dented and damaged. We often just used to ladle our food on plates and walk to our hut, eat in private, away from the swills and spills of the food hall where everyone just used to eat sitting on large benches and wooden tables.  Well, eating was a bit of a euphemism, more as if the whole of Europe were on a trough and had been waiting for a good feed. Some of those hungry souls used to straddle the wooden seats horselike and eat with the food plate tucked between their legs. Perhaps they felt is was a more secure way of remaining in possession of the food.

It was when we had just arrived back to our hut with plates full, got seated and ready to fork into the lamb chops, when a man on a pushbike was riding fast from hut to hut shouting,  ” there are maggots in the meat.”  Now, we had experienced war and famine, head lice, tobacco shortages and indeed food shortages but no way would it have been even remotely possible to have had the experience of ‘maggots in meat’. There simply never was any meat during the 1940-45 second world war.

Peering onto our plates and deep into the crevices of the chops in particular, it only took a second to see what the pushbike man had heralded a minute earlier. Maggots indeed. This of course took the edge of our sojourn into this new country somewhat, if not those chops as well, but what the heck; we were told Australia needed people with pioneering spirit.

The Farewells of no Return

May 25, 2012

I can’t remember the actual packing of furniture or any other belongings that got shipped over before our departure day. I was taken out of school and was set to work delivering fruit and vegies for a fruit shop. They were mainly deliveries to Embassies which were a rich vein of never ending tips. The tips were the start of an awareness of the value of having a bit of money. It never left me. Of course, the bulk of my earnings as a fifteen year old went to my parents who needed every cent for the uncertain future ahead. Even so, I managed to buy a camera and had some money saved up when we finally boarded the ship. The good bye to friends and family members was heart wrenching, but what could one do now? The departure from the Port of Rotterdam was on a rainy and miserable day. I consoled myself by mentally going over the immigration movie of Newspaper and Postal leaping over white picket fences with glorious sun and smiles from inhabitants of far away Sydney. The exploration of all the nooks and crannies of the large boat called ‘The Johan Van OldenBarnevelt gave relief to pangs of sadness and aches and pains about friends that were most likely never to be seen again.

There were quite a few English ‘ten pound’ single men migrants saying their permanent farewells with parents on the quay. I remember,” Goodbye Jack, don’t forget to write to your sister. Cheerio son. Let us know how you are going, won’t you?  Yes mum, see you then. Keep well boy,” and with these words of parting they too set sail for Australia.

After a couple of days, the sun came out and weather was getting Mediterranean with passengers settled. I was most impressed with the food and menus that we were asked to choose from. Can you imagine, getting to choose between boiled or fried eggs, beef or pork, mashed or boiled spuds, carrots or spinach, tea or coffee?

After a few days, arriving first in Genoa then Naples and finally Messina in Sicily, where I then witnessed the goodbyes of all goodbyes. Not only to mama, Papa, sorelli and brothers, uncles and aunties, the barber, grandparents, villages and brotherhoods, but also forever and ever with the unrelieved and spine tingling goodbyes that haunt those harbours still.  With great heaving, wailings, endless sobbing, and despair soaked up in acres of their best hankies. These were the goodbyes at their best and saddest and so final.

Those were the farewells of no return.

As the ship of Johan.V.Oldenbarnevelt finally pulled away from moorings and thick ropes, huge cries would rise again; reach across the widening gap of water. One old man, and papa to dear son Luigi departing, the best cobbler of the village, so unrelentingly steeped in grief and sobbing, lost his dentures in the water as well as son (going far away,) no doubt to be found that same week by a keen archaeologist of that ancient harbour.

The Dutch way of departing was a bit in between, more practical matters would be discussed. Have you got enough underwear for the six weeks? Don’t forget the cod liver oil. We heard the vegetables are not fresh. Yes, we are doing this for the children, and yes, we heard there are bathrooms in some of the houses in Sydney.  The weather is much warmer there and palm trees too. Stop sniffling and fidgeting Gerard!

Next day on board, those sad Sicilians were still hanging over the sides of the boat. Doe eyed and cast towards the shores that had disappeared and gone forever with’ famille en casa con la tavola’. While the young poms were strolling towards the bars that would open up in international waters away from coast and provide tax free alcohol relief. A little orchestra would soon strike up a cheery waltz, such as the much favourite; It’s on the isle of Capri where I met you………Was it Dean Martin? It would be another two weeks before an ’Oh sole mio’ would be tried. Tables would be set up for card games and Tombola. After a couple of days, the red rimmed eyes of the Southern Italians would revert to black again and friendships were being made quickly.

Delights of King’s Ex-Army Disposals

May 8, 2012

Delights of King’s ex-Army Disposals.

There was nothing more encouraging for going bush than taking the train to Sydney’s Central and walk along Broadway towards Town-Hall. On a corner at George Street there was for many years a shop named King’s Disposals. It was advertised as an ex-army store selling used ex soldiers equipment but I was never so sure of that. They never sold guns or disused cannons or tanks. If you wanted a gun you had to walk on a few hundred meters towards the Town-Hall.  The gun shop was next to Pellegrini religious goods and gifts which I thought a rather strange combination of shops right next to each other. Although, history does tell us that one doesn’t preclude or exclude the other. In fact, often God and guns have been the best of buddies.

I bought my first gun in that shop next to the religious shop. It was a B.S.A 22mm rifle with a nicely polished wooden handle. It was graced with a sliding bolt action and five bullet cartridge. I remember buying it all wrapped up and then peering into the Pellegrini shop next door. The window was full of virtuous and holy looking virgins with many variations of Christ keeping an eye out for order…it must have been a difficult task with a wreath of thorns embedded into your head. Compared with the gun shop it all looked very unrealistic and somewhat silly, especially considering its situation. If ever there was a conflict of interest it was surely manifested there in George Street.

From memory there were also a few barber shops and perhaps a milk-bar called Stavros or maybe Mavros. Sooner or later your walk would then have taken you to the Trocadero Dance Hall where many of those Southern European migrants would be given their first of many refusals for a simple fox-trot. Later in the evening, many of those dark eyed lonely men would look for solace with East Sydney’s Chapel Street whores and go for a two-quid ‘short-time.’ No refusals  and there would be a busy and brisk trade in a different kind of fox-trot,  especially when the bus loads of Queensland cane cutters arrived. Pellegrini was fighting an uphill battle keeping those young men virtuous and from straying. Those brothels in Chapel Street now cost millions with many including ‘long time’ mortgages.

Going back to Kings Disposals there was a Chinese restaurant called the Tai-ping just around the corner. It was upstairs and specialized in Mongolian Lamb. I would sometimes be able to afford going there for a lunch before ending up at the markets a bit further on. Many times my brother John and I would buy young six weeks chicks guaranteed to be laying eggs within a couple of months. They always all turned out roosters. We finally decided to buy adult chickens which we took back to Revesby on the train all with their heads poking through the hessian bag staring bewildered at the fellow passengers. They often turned out to be old boilers but still managed to squeeze out the occasional egg or two. You had to look at their combs, we were finally taught by the more experienced chook buyers. We were on a long learning curve.

King’s Disposals have all disappeared. Soon after came the Clark Rubber shops selling rubber pool liners and above ground pools, inflatable rubber mattresses and other bedding goods imported from Turkey.  Many of our friends in the Inner West bought foam- rubber seating arrangements which came in ugly modules but thought of as quite ‘hip’ at the time. Clark Rubber never had that adventurous look about them as did King’s Disposals with huge knives and those massive lace-up genuine army boots…

As for my BSA rifle, I have a photo somewhere holding up a dead snake and also still remember the garbos coarse oaths early one morning dealing with a bin full of rabbits redolent with decay and maggots.

The era of adventurous shops seems to have disappeared.

“Fat is Good,” so is Spam

March 6, 2012

“Fat is Good”, so was Spam.

I like spam. Back in the late nineteen fifties I was living in a sparsely furnished room at a Paddington Boarding House. The front door had a sign “Migrants Welcome”. The boarding house was run by a Maltese woman. Her husband was a butcher. They were a good and devout family and a loaded shotgun was kept in the wardrobe.

On the wall and above my bed was a picture of a Jesus cruelly nailed to a wooden cross. What was disconcertingly spooky, depending on what angle this picture was viewed at, that its eyes would open and shut alternatively when stepping past.

When the Jesus had its eyes open they were piously cast upwards. Perhaps the subliminal message and hope being, that the viewer would also become pious and work towards that upwards heavenly goal as well. It turned me off 3D pictures and holograms for life.

At night, and before hopping into my bed, I would turn the picture facing the wall. During the day and before going to work I would always politely turn Jesus back again allowing it to ponder and gaze over my bed. It would, at least during daytime, allow Him to cast his eyes, perhaps in a despairingly manner, heavenly upwards again for anyone passing my bed during the day. I did not want to upset a devout family with a shotgun in the wardrobe.

Sometimes, most often after work and tired, I used to sit on the edge of my single bed, open a tin of spam with that handy little tool that was attached to the top and ever so slowly (in order not to break it) turn and twist the lid off.

One was greeted by a little white coloured blubbery bit of fat coagelatined to the top hiding its deliciously pink coloured innards. The bouquet of the spam greeting the nostrils was always immensely pervasive. Scooping it up with a teaspoon while turning the pages of V.Woolf’s Orlando, was one of those little pleasures of bachelorhood that  gets forgotten once married, and sitting and eating on the edge of a bed becomes, very sensibly IMHO, banned forever. I remember it though as if yesterday.

Now the original and true meaning of ‘spam’ is lost  and for baby boomers that joy forever denied, even though, while sauntering past the acreages of Woolies isles I sometimes still spot a  tin of Spam, proudly and defiantly competing with more modern delicacies such as the cryonically preserved  Crunchy Chico Bar or boxes loaded with healthy  Fruity Loops.

So much now is lost and gone into the bowels of history forever, the same as so much else during that era. We have all but  forgotten the pungent smell of the spattering mutton legs on Friday afternoons together with mum’s baked pumpkin and spuds, and  happy kids hurtling  down-hill on Billy carts, all at Redfern’s or Rockdale’s back lanes.

And yet, looking at photos from the fifties and sixties, there is striking difference between then and now. We were all skinny. Well, skinny, not really, but compared with now, sure, skinny! Hardly a fat person is in sight. Now, here  surely  is something to ponder about? The latest information on obesity puts the blame on diets.

The question that never seems to get asked is; if we were all so slim and taut some fifty years ago, and Spam and Mutton was one of our most staple diets, how come we were all so much slimmer?

The answer might well be because of spam and mutton spatter with lashes of salty larded on white Tip-Top. Let’s go back, if that’s the way to beating obesity.

I have noticed that canny advertisers are quick in the uptake to grab the dollar and turn a perceived adversity into a handsome profit.  All of a sudden we have the most glorious and lusciously full ample bosomed and ravishingly beautiful size eighteen models lolling and rolling around on our TV screens and on beaches. They are shown on the advertisements seducing equally larger men that drive around Volvo’s or seen walking into banks for larger mortgages.

Larger men are also now used in advertising with huge bums sticking out of large cars strapping in the large toddlers with the large wife looking on with smiles of conjugal promises and/or generous approval. Yes, definitely, model agencies are looking for larger people now and those anemic looking bone skinny girls on catwalks will soon be given the flick. About time too ,we all need more room, move over. C’est la vie.

Obviously, those large Insurance companies have done their homework and also assiduously studied the latest statistics. They don’t seem at all alarmed or daunted by large people. They wouldn’t advertise them would they? Is ‘fat is good’ replacing ‘greed is good?

As for those boarding rooms in Paddington, they are all gone now. The Maltese family most likely retired in Santa Magdalena retirement villa on Rosella’s circuit at Dooley-Vale. The picture of Jesus and the roving eyes having survived all. It’s hanging above their double bed, the loaded shotgun never used. They were a devout family.

“Fat is good”.

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at Detainees

March 31, 2011

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21 March 2011

Police fired tear gas and synthetic bullets at a group of 250 asylum seekers who had burned down accommodation buildings

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at detainees

373 Comments

Gerard Oosterman

Gerard Oosterman

TV footage shows tear gas and ‘soft’ bullets tracing through the night sky, aimed at the rioting Christmas Island boatpeople, fired by armed police force from the back of trucks.

One wonders how long it will be before we will finally admit that the present way of handling and treating boat people is not working, and that our detention or care for those unfortunate people with families is cruel in the extreme?

Don’t we care, is that why we now shoot them? For how much longer will the UN commissioner point out our failures?

The overcrowding, the isolation and the length it takes to process the claims are given as the main cause for the riots.

Of course dealing with people landing on our shores has often been accompanied by riots. Back in 1952 it took 200 soldiers to restore order at Bonegilla Migrant camp. Three young men had committed suicide. The reasons for the riot then were the same as the present discontent today: overcrowding and inhumane living condition.

The Nissan hut migrant camps have long disappeared… only to be replaced with a more modern variety, but with still the same aim: to provide housing but also to isolate and to keep detainees separate, away from ‘normality and if possible from scrutiny.

What more proof do we need that the process is de-humanizing? Why do we persist in our punitive way of dealing with boat people and refugees? The detainees are desperately trying to tell us something. Why are we not listening and taking it in? They have done nothing wrong. Why are they being detained and separated from other people and normality? While violence and riots are not tolerable, neither are keeping people detained who have done nothing unlawful.

Rest assured though that TV footage of the shootings has raced around the world and that our treatment of detainees would have sunk a notch lower, if that was still possible. The tension amongst the asylum seekers is never far from the surface. Mix that in with isolation, the despair of endless waiting for progress about their claims, the utter boredom, heat and cold, the sheer deliberate forbiddingness of surroundings, jail-like architecture, fences, guards and you have created very tortuous conditions that no one could possibly accept as normality.

The response by our Immigration Minister Chris Bowen must be very encouraging to the detainees when he stated that the fire arms used were a bit like shooting ’mini bean bag pellets’ coming from ’gun-like weapons’. They might cause a bit of bruising, he added.

However, David Manne of the Refugee Legal Centre said police had used a modified shotgun ‘that can cause serious injury or death’.

With just a few thousand trickling in per year, we can hardly claim to be overwhelmed by boatpeople and as we have some experience in settling migrants for some decades it is indeed surprising the whole issue has became so unmanageable.

What is the problem and why can’t we settle them in normal circumstances in assessing their status? I mean, Australia is an Island and after harrowing and hazardous boat journeys, they are hardly likely to jump on a boat again and escape. Escape from what? What Governmental stupidity and obstinacy prevents them to not just do what most countries are doing and simply have them living amongst other people, letting them work, earn money, go shopping and process their applications. European countries are coping with thousands of refugees on a daily basis. We have trouble with a few thousand a year, spend hundreds of millions to keep them detained and separated from a functioning society. Why?

How often does the UNHCR have to put to Australia that we are in breach of basic Human Rights by keeping them in detention when no crime has been committed?

Of course, the real reason apart from the ingrained xenophobia by some of political parties’ leaders and the usual ramping up by hysterical coterie of radio and other media flotsam is the risk of losing votes. It’s all about that, isn’t it?  Let human suffering continue but not risk upsetting the voters who for years have been indoctrinated with ‘our shores’ are under siege from hordes of ‘illegal queue jumpers’. We mustn’t be seen to take sides of humanity and change course midway, must we?

Is it still preferable to continue to de-humanize a few thousand boat people than to losing voters and an election?

Come on Australia. Enough is enough. Our minister for immigration looked genuinely uncomfortable discussing the riots on Christmas Island. It shows he still has a heart. Perhaps over half the population still have hearts as well. We can’t shoot boat people just because they happen to have come to our shores and need a leg up from misery and wars.

They want a leg up from their misery, not to be shot at.