Posts Tagged ‘revesby’

The Funeral Insurance scam and camping.

November 29, 2015


Isn’t it amazing that the latest scam involves getting children to sign up for funeral insurance with the weekly payments automatically deducted from welfare entitlements?

Anyone who worries about what happens after you die, is lacking imagination. Gloria Jeans will not sell you anymore espressos nor will you have to worry about putting your socks on. It is baffling why anyone takes on funereal insurance. You can get buried for as little as $1000.-. I know that most advertise a funeral costing anything up from $ 3000.- to ‘the sky is the limit’, 😉  but let me give you that no one ever, was not buried. So, why people worry or even take out a  funeral/burial insurance is baffling. I bet people that persevered with the premiums have paid enough for a burial at Moscow’s Red Square with 110 canons.

Last Monday my brother had travelled with his VW tracker camping van to the South Coast at Bendalong. This is the place of some significance to the Oosterman clan. After our arrival in Australia, then growing up in Revesby, getting married (to the opposites sex.) We all subsequently ended up having children and then started to take our holidays at this Bendalong. No sooner could the babies breath and burb we would pack tents and head off to this idyllic unknown fishing village.  For years on end. We stopped when the area became a well known spot and the trickle of campers became a flood, especially at Christmas and Easter. Soon, the lawn mowers arrived and concreted lions appeared in front of the colour bond aluminium annexes. Open fires were banned. The camping had lost much of its charm but the kids also grew up and started to make their own lives, do their own camping. We haven’t camped since. It was a special era though! So many lovely memories.

Last Wednesday we met up with my brother who had his van parked inside the Bendalong camping ground. The grounds have many cottages and vans that can be rented from the shire. A manager runs the camp. There are still camping sites as well with water and power available. On arrival you have to get a special  permit number from the office that allows the boom-gate to be opened after entering the number into the electronic devise on a post, accessible through the car’s window. It did not work. Helvi went back to the office and was told to enter the hash tag. I had entered the hash-tag. It did not work! The manager came out and entered the number and hash-tags many times. It did not work. She then over-rode the device and the boom-gate finally opened. Such a relief and it was so hot.

We drove around and were pleased that the area is still green with many advanced eucalypts and she-oaks giving lovely shade. The Lantana has gone. There has been an upgrade in facilities, good flushing toilets and showers and no more need to  hand dig pits. My brother was waving from a distance  and we parked our car, took out our canvas folding chairs and in the shade just talked. One could still hear our children shouting but it was also quiet. So many years ago. A glass of wine in reflection.

After a few hours we said goodbye. The boom-gate would not let us out. Again the entering of the number followed by the hash-tag. Again the failure. The manager came out and she beeped the electronic device (again). The gate opened. We drove home through the Kangaroo Valley. It was lovely.

It is funny how quick life goes. Between burping babies and burial is life.


The return! (Auto-Biography)

August 16, 2015

While the three years in Holland are worthy of a book-tome on its own, I have to move on. Time is of the essence. Having arrived at seventy-five since the  seventh of August this year, and with at least another forty years to record, I must move on from the nineteen- seventies. A derailment is a possibility! Still, I must remain sanguine and take heart from the statistics that tell me there is an eighty percent chance of turning eighty- five for those that are in good health at seventy- five. However the odds of turning ninety-five at eighty-five years of age are less cheerful.

A few art shows followed the primary school triptych commission. Here and there paintings were sold and generally things were steaming along nicely. Our three children were growing fast but not so fast that driving around in the Kombi wasn’t at times a somewhat difficult  and testing task. Young children on long car trips is a job too far. Who would not be bored sitting confined in a metal box on rotating rubber wheels? Instead of long drives, we  set up tents in the paddocks together with sheep and Shetlands.  It was a blessing. The kids loved it and with two tents, they could swap around if there were disagreements on which teddy to sleep with or who had pinched an extra biscuit.

My brother Frank with his long suffering chronic schizophrenia was finally repatriated and taken back to Holland in 1975. Australia doesn’t serve the disadvantaged well.  It had been a hell. In bewildered desperation he had jumped off the Pyrmont bridge in Sydney. His left foot was to become forever damaged. He was fortunate to have survived the jump.

Years of tussles between the Australian bureaucracy and my parents did not resolve the lack of care for Frank. He would either be free to come and go as he liked, or, the alternative, have him ‘scheduled’ and he would never come home. The idea of ‘scheduling’ Frank into an Australian institute filled us all with horror. There did not seem to be anything in between. The very term ‘scheduled’ brings Charles Dickens and Bedlam into focus. Even today, I would not want to hear Mental Health and Australia mentioned in the same sentence. At least not during that period. When Frank jumped off the Pyrmont bridge he had for some years joined that army of the dishevelled, the uncombed and lost souls that roam streets, hovering between a vague sanity and death without much care by others except for the desperate parents or a rare kind person that would at times provide food, shelter and some encouraging words.


Two Dutch carers from Holland came to pick Frank up from Sydney and he was flown back to Holland together with my parents. It would not have been easy to have a mentally ill person on a plane, but the Dutch Government would have complied with the relevant regulations. One can imagine! My parents were informed of what to expect for Frank in the care of Dutch social welfare and mental health. He had a room on his own with TV, encouraged to play sport and swim. He would have his own income and free to do with it what he liked. ( mainly cigarettes) . My parents would be at all times kept informed about his health, medication. He would be given dental care, his feet, eyes, all would be looked at and maintained. His days would be spent with activities and at times would be taken in groups on outings, excursions, holidays; even at one stage to France! My parents were free to visit and Frank free to visit his parents but accompanied by nursing staff.

Helvi and I remember once visiting Frank at his new place in Holland and asked if we could speak to his doctor and staff. We were given a lunch, sat around the table talking to the psychiatrist, his doctor, staff and given all the information to do with Frank’s care. An unbelievable and wonderful experience. A weight was lifted from our family. Why was that so difficult to achieve in Australia?

My parents also left Australia for good and decided to be with Frank and own extended family of brothers and sisters. A considerable number had moved into an age in tandem with themselves. Their numerous children were now adults with own families. Many parents now retired and care-free to enjoy life, paint the town red, or if not red at least take a floating tour on the rivers of Europe, sipping champagne and soak up Habsburg’s castles perched on steep cliffs and rocky outposts.

My parents had put up their house for sale in Revesby, that would afford them a little nest egg. It was for them the right thing to do. They would be with Frank and their own family. The rest of us had settled, married and had children of our own.And a bolt of lightning, we decided, or rather I decided, to return to Australia… But of that…next time.

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.)


(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 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!

The Painters Chrismas Party Chunder on the Train to Revesby.

December 2, 2014
Our first home in Australia.

Our first home in Australia.

Of all the memories told in front of good decent people, this piece is the one to avoid. Please leave the room now…If you asked what I am by profession it would be better to list the things I am not. Certainly not a lawyer, doctor or dentist. Nor an articled clerk or keeper of tropical fish. That leaves still a lot of jobs. It is likely that I have worked at many of the other available options.

One of those was working on swinging stages. In those early days they were primitive wooden platforms suspended by steel cables or thick ropes from timber needles on top of the building’s roof on outside multi-story buildings. They were hoisted up and down the exterior by the use of winches or by a combination of pulleys and ropes. It was very well paid but not a job for the nervous or faint hearted. I started at nineteen and looked at my savings every week. I wanted to save up to go back to my school friends and life in Holland. The savings were kept in a metal box.

We all know that Australian Christmas parties at work involves a lot of arm movements lifting copious amounts of brown ale. They have calmed somewhat now. During my swinging stage operations in the early sixties, I was employed by a very large painting company with over one hundred fifty men and many apprentices. Their Christmas parties were legendary. They were held underneath the offices in Blues Point Rd, North Sydney. It was an area that also held the ropes, cables, ladders and winches and other equipment for those swinging stages. The joint was tidied up and stacked with boxes of the most glorious looking bright pink smiling prawns shimmering on ice. The lubrication necessary for ingesting the prawns was given and provided by large kegs of beer. Remember Christmas is very hot in Australia and working outside was thirsty and very hard dangerous work. The men were given the afternoon off to collect their pay and join the traditional Christmas Party. We all descended towards the office and the much looked forward Chrismas Party in droves. Thirsty and keyed up like hell. We were in for a cruising bruising but earned it.

All this has to be seen in the period when after-work drinking was the norm. A walk past any pub at 4.30 pm was a Bedlam re-invented. The din was overwhelming. Course oaths renting the cigarette smoke riddled stinking beer heat air. Large burly blue singled men standing at the bar. The trough below their feet ready for spills and butts. Pyjama clad kids with mums waiting outside for dad to come home, hoping they would not have totally pissed the earnings up against the walls of bitumen coated lavatories. It wasn’t a good time.

The verb and noun ‘chunder’ relates to much earlier times still. The English convicts on the way to Australia’s Botany Bay. During big seas and suffering bad food, huge waves and the first of the prisoners getting sick. Those on the top deck while vomiting overboard would shout to those on the lower deck ‘watch out under.’ In time this became shortened to watchunder and finally to ‘chunder’! It was a form of consideration for their ‘mates’. Mateship is still high on our national psyche.

It might also be possible to now join the above explanation and include the wise and profound Australian saying to ‘coming the raw prawn’. This means telling a lie or having someone on, as in; Don’t come the raw prawn to me, matey!. Are you getting what I am leading to?

I too was drawn to the Siren call of the Christmas party but combined it with picking up two suits from Reuben F Scarf in Sydney’s George Street first. At the time they promised two suits for the price of one. Tailor measured they were and dark charcoal in colour. After arrival at the party I did get stuck in many prawns and drank endless schooners of beer. Boy, I felt euphoric and happy, a rare event at that time. Two suits and my Christmas pay in pocket, the latter waiting to be placed in the metal box at home in Revesby.

But, for those that left the room to avoid unpleasantness; it won’t be long now, it is coming to a peak.

On the way home, and don’t ask me how, I got on the train, things started to come down a bit. Rather, things started to come up a bit. I had safeguarded my bag with the two suits and was lucid enough to feel the reassuring packet of my earnings in my pocket. I was kind-o-getting in preparation for an event I have never forgotten. Oddly enough, with all I had coped with, even now, I don’t really feel remorse or shame. It is or was really an event of reckoning or getting even, a kind of reward for things, a cathartic letting go…

Fortunately, at those earlier times the trains still had those ornate luggage racks above the seats and smokers could open windows, not to let the smoke out but to jettison the cigarette butts out. Anyway, I opened the window and ‘chundered’. It was wholeheartedly and with gusto. The prawns were not raw. Barry Humphreys would have regaled endlessly on about the stained-glass effect of the windows behind me as the train was in full flight. The passengers behind me, oh no, oh no, nervously racing to close their windows. Even so, no one complained, not that I would remember.

I came home to my parents in Revesby with my two suits intact and my money saved. What an achievement.

You can all come back inside now.

Boner’s Plight.

May 1, 2014

gerard 003
There used to be cinemas that featured news and documentaries only. At least in Holland they did. They were cheaper than movie theatres and ideally available for those with little money. School boys and girls who earned pocket money by collecting and selling rags and newspapers after school hours would be included in any audience. I did too but supplemented my meagre earnings by stripping (stealing) lead flashings from underneath windows. It would have been 1955. A year after, my parents took that five weeks voyage to Australia. Goodbye friends, goodbye school, goodbye everything including the Newsreel Bioscoop.

Back to 1955. I vividly remember getting to see my first erotic movie. I have never forgotten this since. In fact, I am only just now getting over it. Please, all of you, get a bit closer to your screen, Ă©coutez bien! It was my first adventure in a burgeoning world of sexual awakening. My imaginings running amok. Erections were unpredictable, diabolically spontaneous and unstoppable, especially in front of the class-room. I used to feverishly fantasize being run over by the tram, all to no avail. I somehow understood ‘it’ finally had to go somewhere, but where? No one had told me yet. All I was told by my mother was ‘whatever happens, keep your hands above the blankets,’ or ‘ eat an apple, read a good book.’

I was seated in the cinema and probably watching the news with an Eisenhower urging on troops in Korea or other foreign country when out the blue came a short B/W documentary of an African nature. It was some kind of parade of young beautiful African girls WITH BARE BREASTS. My first sighting of the real soft breasts of which I had dreamt. I already had looked at some of my mother’s women magazines but they, the desired breasts, were always encaged in sturdy white or cream panzer like brassieres underpinned by steel. It wasn’t enough. I wanted the real (reel) item. This short movie of the African beauty parade was a God’s send. I somehow learnt where all this was going to finally lead to. The erection was palpable right down to the end of my shoelaces. It was my first honeymoon.

I caught the tram home, erection still in full flight while I was hanging from the leather strap. As the tram stopped and started I was jolted backwards and forwards. It was a delicious trip back home. I have seen many breasts since but none as impressionable as those first ones on the white screen back in 1955. It had to do for a long time. Australia experienced in Revesby and Bankstown a rough awakening. I am sure this would have helped me in front of the classroom.

The Temporary Dwelling (1956-1958)

November 4, 2013

garage revesby 1

The stamina of those still on this blog having followed my meanderings, will now be rewarded with yet another serve of nostalgia. The above photo is from the Revesby garage in which we lived for 2 years. Of course the local shire only allowed migrants to live in garages if the name was changed to ‘temporary dwelling.’ After arrival we lived for a short period in a camp and then with A Dutch family in Sydney’s Guildford. They lived opposite us in Rotterdam during the last WW 2 of 40-45. They migrated to Australia about 1950.

If you read Frank’s Story on this blog, you will also know this Dutch family were the ones locking us up in the black coal-shed if we did number 2′ in our pants while at the Montessori pre-school. They unstintingly gave the same treatment to their own children. I don’t think this was typical Dutch child pedagogy of the times. In any case, my parents never did that. All in all, being locked up in dark coal sheds did not seem to have left severe ramifications. I did not turn into a killer or ever went out at night strangling sheep. On the other hand, I did not become a doctor or lawyer, neither a bookmaker or eminent scientist.

What is to become of you, Gerard, was my mother’s oft repeated question? I am still not precise on the subject but joining the army is now far too late.
Here is a picture of the inside of this garage.

My parents are together in a single bed. On the floor between the bunks is my sister Dora The top bunk would be Herman Opposite with the head sticking out is ‘Frank’ of my Frank’s Story story. Below him is Adrian. John on the left at the front. On the empty bed is Gerard (taking the picture for posterity)
God only knows what my parents did about sex or FOR sex. Dad had lots of apples instead or read timetables for transporting the lot off to different schools and.. . Mum… happy to not fall pregnant again!
It was a tight squeeze but we were told that we should just consider that turning around would best be achieved in tandem with all eight of us. Toilet was outside in a drum on top of which was a wooden toilet seat with no water.

These last pictures are of my parents in front of the house that we built after the two years in the garage. They are old now and it must have been taken when they had returned to Holland and came over for a holiday trip to see the rest of the children and grandchildren in Australia.


The last photo inside our kitchen of when we lived in Balmain, Sydney. It was the last time I saw my dad.

That’s how it was.

The Club

August 23, 2013

The Club

Most clubs are now gambling dens. Forget Raffles of Singapore or the Kurhaus of the Dutch Scheveningen, they played Baccarat and ÉcartĂ© then.
Mischa Elman en Wladimir Horowitz, Richard Tauber, Lucienne Boyer, Greta Keller, Marie Dubas, Maurice Chevalier, Herbertvon Karajan, La Argentina, Duke Ellington, Ray Ventura,
Bela Bartok,Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, George Brassens, Maria Callas, MarlĂšne Dietrich with last but not least the Rolling Stones, are some that performed in The Kurhaus till about 1965.

Clubs are all populated by spinning wheels and flashing lights now and we play the poker-machine. Participants sit grim faced behind those flashing electronic machines. They feed money in them as if there is no tomorrow. For many there is no tomorrow. The tomorrow has been fed into the machines. The plastic shopping bag with food is all that some of them will (hopefully) come home with.

Lately clubs are advertising that they, more than anyone else, are encouraging ‘problem gamblers’ to seek counseling. What the clubs are less enthusiastic about is minimizing the number of poker machines and/or limit players money withdrawals from their ATM’s
Poker machines are worth their weight in gold and pubs and clubs know it.

Anyway, it was on a stormy day. The temperature was 8c and the day loomed long and overcast. We decided to visit a local ‘workers’ club.

Click to access sub197.pdf

The origins of Australian Workers Clubs seem to have got lost in the bowels of history. I can’t find much in that area on the internet. It is interesting that in one of the largest, The Revesby Workers Club they have a large insignia at the front of it depicting a crossed plumber’s wrench and hammer. This seems to hint at a communist influence in earlier days. One can just imagine the board of directors compromising after a heated debate to allow a hammer and sickle design. They replaced the sickle with a very large plumber’s wrench, Ha, ha.

The general advertised aim of clubs is to provide good amenities for families to meet and spend enjoyable social times together. The clubs are non-profit where all income (from gambling) is ploughed back in many areas for the welfare of communities. Sports, leisure, care for the aged are just a few social items that most clubs are involved with.

We arrive and after entering were met by a very nice warm blast of air conditioning. At the desk we complied with a very odd and much questioned ritual of filling in a form requesting our full name, address and driver’s license. We are not a member of the club but even so are always very welcome as long as we comply with this ritual. Whenever we ask; why this strange procedure?

Answers vary depending on the level of club expertise, ranging from ‘getting a win on the pokies and not paying taxation’ or; most common, ‘well, that is the law!’ Some vaguely mention liquor laws and the distance of the venue and the non-members home. Others mention that the law allowing people to drink a beer on Sunday (after church) was only passed (1962) if clubs would comply with this compulsory form filling by non-members. This, as so many other typical Anglo oddities remains a mysterious puzzle for us pragmatic Europhiles.

The Workers clubs in Australia are very popular with well designed pleasant architecture combining nice affordable food with range of beverages of coffees, wines and everything in between. The services are excellent and the gambling part well away from the family or diners. There are open fires, comfortable seating with lounges and soft furnishings. I could easily spend my days there, reading up, sipping a short black and observe its clientele, including the non-members. When we were there many just enjoyed the warmth away from the hostile bitter cold blasts swirling the tree branches around outside.

I had a lovely rump steak (rare) with a vegetable mix of cream sautĂ©ed potatoes, beet root, baked pumpkin with fresh coriander. With this steak& chips came a real silver boat of pepper sauce, my favourite! My lovely H decided on a Beef burger which was so huge, she took half of it home and even then it needed several tissues to wrap it up. Milo looked hopefully up to H when the other half was eaten in the evening. No luck though. He had just been given his chicken neck. This is Milo’s favourite as well.

So, in summing up; clubs do provide enjoyable venues and do much good in the communities, but
 all on the back of those gaming machines which causes immense miseries for many.

Would a higher taxation on all income be a better option, still have clubs but without all those poker machines?
It is all so difficult.

Fibro Asbestos Homes; A ticking time bomb.

June 10, 2013


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’ĂȘtre 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.,_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?

Food,Sex, and smoked Eels.

December 17, 2012


Food, Sex, and smoked Eels.

It is curious how we are drawn to food especially on how it looks. Was it always like that? I can’t remember my mum having cook books or reading about food. She simply cooked nourishing food within her means. Within her means was very difficult during and even after the war. Food, costs generally speaking, money, except for those that grow their own. However, as their income grew, so did the intake of more expensive food and from hardly ever eating meat, it came to eating it perhaps twice a week and the boring brown beans turned into witlof, leeks and carrots..

Has anyone ever succeeded in growing their own not being a farmer? We tried on our farm to grow our own but were beaten back by the near impossibility of it. The exceptions were rocket and silver-beet and the first year lots of strawberries. We had rain then.

In Holland during school years most students would at some stage be given a small bit of communal ground on which, for just one season, we would grow edibles, either green or even pinky red coloured. I remember riding my bicycle home with a bag of potatoes strapped on the back. My mother was ecstatic. Apart from spuds, I grew lettuces, carrots and some kind of green stuff looking like grass. It was spicy and on sandwiches delicious, especially with some sugar sprinkled on it. One could keep snipping it and it would be harvestable again the next week. It was a kind of cress but was not grown in water. Perhaps it was rocket except it looked more like grass.

When arriving here, growing anything was challenging. I can still see Dad, all red faced and perspiring hacking away at the unforgiving hard soil in suburban Sydney’s Revesby with Dutch coarse oaths renting the still air. It was so hard and I’ll never forget his efforts in trying to grow something to supplement my mum’s cooking. I doubt the growing of food was ever a success. If it wasn’t for the hard soil, it would be drought, insects or birds eating all. He bought all sorts of poisons and sprays, even scaffolding for the fruit trees carefully inspecting all the apples for worms etc. At one stage he prepared scaffolding decked out with planks around one fruit tree which he would climb into and peer inside the thousands of flowers to look for fruit flies. He was that determined. He spent ours perched on top of that scaffolding. Poor dad, he did really try so hard.

We have achieved quite a good herb garden here in Bowral but have done this through containing all the herbaceous plants within the borders of two timber boxed.  We pre-filled the boxes with good friable top soil and copious cow manure. This is so much easier to control and water. Milo, our Jack Russell, of course keeps the birds away.

Now-a-days, food and cooking are very different and elevated to an art form. Brown beans have disappeared.  Whole libraries are devoted to cookery books. As some wit stated, anyone who eats three times a day understands perfectly well why cookery books sell three times more than sex books.

For some eating has replaced sex as their favorite pastime. You can’t pick a fight with your boeuf tartar nor is it likely that this dish would take your home and kids in a bitter and protracted divorce fight.

I can’t remember ever seeing people in the past eating while moving about. Now the fact of putting food in a mouth seems to encourage the body into a forward locomotion onto the streets and even crossing traffic lights, but as yet have not seen any doing it in reverse.  I have even seen driving and eating. One hand is stuffing the mouth which is masticating wildly from side to side, the other on the wheel with similar sideway movements. Women don’t generally eat while driving but do stroke their hair or eyelashes.

However, it wasn’t totally unknown for people to also eat while having sex. That apparently has been the norm for centuries. I have seen with my own eyes in Pompeii a fresco with a reclining gladiator on a sword holiday wearing a Roman toga fornicating languidly and casually while calmly eating bunches of grapes at the same time.

A good friend of mine told me his wife loved taking small bunches of smoked eels to bed which she would devour in between their entanglements. The husband preferred smoking a cigar. The only place where cooked food is more dangerous than sex is in Britain whose greatest contribution to its cuisine has been the chip.  I was told that if you believe mussels increase your libido with an enduring and endlessly lasting tumescence, to always make sure you don’t put them on too soon.

With women, always a bit tricky at the best of times, it is often romance that is more important than food. Nothing is more romantic than having a pair of new shoes as well as breakfast in bed. With men shopping is often a bit like sex, after five minutes of it they get tired and walk out of the shop.

In the meantime we all plod along the best we can. The choice is as always, make the best of this round world that spins around trying to shake you off. We cling and hold on, grasping at anything that we might find nourishing, gives us a bit of security. And that happens to includes food. Keep hanging on in there folks!

Read all about it.

Cheer up old Man

September 20, 2012

Cheer up Man

March 3, 2011

Cheer up ManPosted on March 3, 2011 by gerard oosterman

There is nothing like home. You can imagine the people’s plight on being stuck renting on a 6month lease basis. I can’t understand how anyone can cheerfully change their home being at the mercy of a 6 month lease.

Yet, before we came out here, renting was the norm and most people would spend their entire lives just in one property.  I ‘earth-googled’ our old address back in The Hague. Sure enough it is as if we left it yesterday. The street is unchanged, the doors and windows still the same, and not a brick has changed. No doubt, all those living there are renting the same as when we lived there. Perhaps, central heating and bathrooms have been added and kitchens with hot water. We lived on the top floor. At the bottom floor there were gardens and many of those lucky bottom dwellers kept chickens. A city still had chickens and veggie scraps were collected each week by horse and cart.

Yet, going back to Revesby whose architecture is far more recent, all has changed and our house hardly recognizable, the walls covered with colour bond weather board and a solid terra cotta tiled roof instead of the cement tiles that were put on when built originally
 Many of the houses have had stories added, some with columns holding up little Romanesque like triangle bits of roofing or other odd bits of architecture.

Coming across some old photos of my first year here in Revesby, I can hardly believe how time has passed, and yet, I don’t think I have hurried the years unnecessarily.  Have I stood still but the houses and surroundings changed? Would this, not having moved from Holland, have produced the reverse?

You’re getting old with retrospection a sure sign, many would argue, as if years ahead for them are still numbered in multiple of decades. Yet, reading the obituaries’, it is not uncommon for people to cark it quite happily at the age some of us are in now. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Cheer up, old man. The best is yet to come.