Posts Tagged ‘Reffo’

Reffos and Tulips.

October 2, 2018

IMG_0126 Tulips.JPG

A carpet of Tulips in Bowral.

The film ‘The Ladies in Black’, left enough of an impression for me to urge people to see it. The film deals in some parts about the influx of reffos into Australia during the fifties. That’s the period this Australian film is set in. The ‘reffo’ was a shortened term for refugees. Our family came to Australia in 1956. We were not reffos in the strictest term. Europe in Australia during the fifties was seen as a war-ravaged stain on a map. Geographical and political differences between Hungary or Holland were beyond interest or hardly known. The issues in this magnificent movie really hit home. The differences (and similarities) in cultures are what this film, in a kind and humorous way, points out. The poignancy for H and I was overwhelming. One is always pleased when things we experienced about the past, agrees and coincides with others. When pointed out in a major film, it is double pleasing.

The ambiguity of migrating to another part of the world will probably stay with me till the very end. Was the pain of leaving own country and friends worth it?  The mental dehydration suffered in foreign and strange suburbs! Those differences experienced between the locals and the Reffos during the fifties, the lack of herrings, garlic ,olives, and real coffee. The blight of the determined curmudgeon.

Australia in the fifties was a kinder and more tolerant place though. The governments of that period did not foment xenophobia nor detained refugees on hellish islands for years on end.

The present Prime Minister is a fervent Pentecostal believer. Yet on his desk he proudly shows a sign ‘We stopped the boats,’ referring callously to the detained refugees on those islands. Their punishment is used to warn and prevent refugees from trying to come to Australia. They are saying ‘if you try, and come here by boat we will lock you up on those islands for the rest of your life.’ In the fifties Australia did not try and demonise a single African group doing 1 % of crime and yet close their eyes to the other 99% of crime perpetrated by local born.

The tulips belong to a different class. Nothing scary here, dear readers. You can tell they are just there to give us pleaure.  This photo was taken this morning. There must be thousands of tulip photos being e-mailed around the world. The Tulip show in Bowral was magnificent.

It always brings me back to the time in Holland. I used to cycle to the tulip fields. Can you imagine seeing tulip fields as far as the eye can see? In different colours too. The tulips in Bowral are in cahoots with sun and clouds. I am sure they talk to each other.It dazzles and so many people taking selfies. In years to come grandchildren might find the tulip photos in drawers and wonder about the lives at earlier times.

Try and see ‘the Ladies in Black’, and the Tulips.



What is editing?

January 5, 2016


If a sentence is tortured or feels difficult, can the words be saved? I have started to read my proposed book from scratch. It will also be read by a good editor. A professional with words, which I am not. I write the words as they come without dominating them. They need the freedom and ought to be respected. The hope is that the one who uses the words will be equally respectful to the words. It really is a game of give and take. A kind of dance. Take your partner now and dance, but don’t step on those swirling but dainty feet.

Even in the first few hundred words of the proposed book, I had to delete a number of letters and words. I could not really change them and if there is a twisting or torture I rather delete than re-write. It might well mean there will be less words in the final book. No words written  by me ought to feel tortured or warped. There is no law about how to form a good sentence. I know there are rules of grammar, syntax and so much else, but even if all those rules are adhered to obediently, will you end up dancing with the words? Sometimes rules stifle and restrict. I mean, have you read the latest BHP annual report? Did you ever enjoy reading the small lettering of your bread-maker machine guarantee certificate? All were written by experts of language with great syntax. Subject, verb and object superbly in the right place.

The lack of language skills does offer the opportunity to not be held back by those rules. It means, that the game of give and take between the words and writer can really flourish, not having to be held to ransom and held back by those same rules and conventions that are so necessary to produce those well written and totally comprehensible BHP or Rio Tinto annual reports and vacuum machine guarantee certificates.

Not having the advantage of conventional education can have dire consequences too, but,  at the same time it leaves avenues open of a different way of doing things. It all depends on the individual to then make the best of the given. That’s how it is in most things. You just row with the oars that you were given. Rowing up shit creek without a paddle, is one of my favourite sayings. Who wrote that one? The freedom to row with the words is all that we have. Could the rules and regulations  stifle this freedom?  It is all so puzzling isn’t it?

I sometimes used to regret not having gone through a university type of education. You know, having a bachelor of arts degree or something similar. It would have given one the opportunity in becoming an engineer or crash-hot dentist. It could have been my lot, or an actuary, bank manager on a leather black swivel chair. Just imagine?

I could have written Annual reports or Budget papers.

I will spend time going through the whole proposed book again. Re-put words a bit here and there. It is naval gazing and somehow an embarrassing procedure, going over what has been written. Of course, the rules of grammar have to be obeyed to a certain degree. Anything still obviously askew will have to be picked up by the editor.

I am now at;

“The on-shore stevedoring workers were dressed in blue singlets and shorts. They could well have thought, while looking up and rolling their ready rub ciggie; ‘here comes another bloody boatload of bloody reffos.’ Definition of ‘Reffo’ ‘a refugee.’ Strictly speaking we were not refugees, but we were all painted with the same brush. European history was complicated and Australians at that time kept things fairly simple. At least we were white.”


Don’t shout ‘Ali Babi’ too loud or drink ‘Arabic’ coffee.

December 17, 2014



It was many years ago when friends used to sit around the fondue set, proudly announcing that some of their best friends were gay. They are just normal people ,you know, adding, just like all of us. A glowy feeling of inclusiveness would permeate the group and the chocolate dipped strawberry tasted even nicer. Afterwards, Zorba would be put on while the Coolabah cask was squeezed to its very end.

With the latest on terrorism and ramped up fear we no longer sit around fondue sets. Fondue sets are now facing customers scrounging bargains on St.Vinnie’s shelves together with the discarded type-writers or dented aluminium pots. If group discussion take place, heads are most likely lifted up from Moses’ Tablets or promised Lands of IPhones.

As a reffo from the fifties I remember the fear of passengers on buses when a whiff of Euro garlic announced itself. People would gather their belongings and stiffen up. A dago was near! My dad with his attaché briefcase was tolerated mainly because he was pale looking and free from garlic odour. We as children soon tried as quickly as possible to lose our guttural Dutch accent and accentuated Australian lingo to extremes. Even today, I notice ageing reffos still being and acting more Australian than the local born ones. It seems to have stayed with them. A supreme sacrifice and surrender of ethnicity in return for approval and acceptance. Some carry this even further. The recent disapproval of anything brown and middle Eastern, worse, Arabic, is often met with more vehement responses from those of the same background than locals.

This is why we need leaders that try and at least encourage acceptance of the foreign or different. I can hear people re-hashing the same things that occurred decades ago. At local dances I used to be so keen to be an Australian. I was fifteen and my accent stubbornly never surrendered. At least I was able to give a reasonable impersonation of Seventy Seven Sunset strip character in the hope of getting A Pride of Erin in. You wonder with what enthusiasm people get accepted with Arabic backgrounds. The dreadful media focus on extremism and the ramped up fear of refugees.

At least in the Chocolate shop it was a delusional individual who managed ramp up fear and xenophobia. Scott Morrison is not delusional. He is in full control of his senses and deliberately doing his evil work in setting up people against those from war torn countries. He is sane, worse he is so utterly and devastatingly sane, it is frightening. He does it all with a smile. Illegal Maritime Arrivals he calls them. Yet, with the stroke of a pen he could set all boatpeople free to be assessed on-shore and able to work, earn a living and restore dignity. It is not in him though. And we think that the Chocolate shop man was evil.

Don’t shout Ali Baba too loud now!