Posts Tagged ‘Rhododendron’

Art and burgeoning Business acumen.

May 21, 2015
Me and mother 1995?

Me and mother 1995?

Frank came home and we all went straight back to fear and anticipation of more outbursts. My father did have contact with some doctors  at Callan Park. If we wanted Frank to stay there if he wasn’t well, there was a procedure whereby he could be admitted as an involuntary  patient of the asylum permanently. It also meant he would not and could not come home, even for visits. It seemed a very strange law but there was no way out if we wanted Frank to not come home when he wasn’t well. He would be there at the ‘pleasure’ of the Government. It seemed a very draconian way. Surely Frank’s freedom would be curtailed and from what we had seen of Callan Park, it was an asylum straight out of Bedlam. Many of the patients seemed like caged animals, walking up and down automatically. I remember my aunt taking me to a zoo as a child and seeing a tiger in a small cage just walking up and down, up and down. Many patients were deeply institutionalised.

We wanted Frank to come home when he was well and not when he wasn’t, in which case we could visit him. We thought that enough care at Callan Park would ensure he would not travel home when he wasn’t well enough. That seemed impossible to achieve. Officialdom and obstinate entrenched bureaucracy was the essence of Anglo culture with  the ‘don’t change if it ain’t broke’ reigning high at all levels, even today. This is in direct contrast to the Dutch ‘if it ain’t broke, break it and start anew, try and improve!’  My parents would never allow the permanent involuntary locking up of their son in an institute.

From then on Frank came when he felt like it, well or unwell. It was when Frank started to wander the streets and arrive by train to our home clad in his pyjamas that my parents knew that something had to be done. Home life became dreadful and all would scatter when Frank arrived in an unwell state. Dad and I developed an antenna that would transmit signals when Frank was about to become unwell and cranky/violent. Mum did not have such an antenna. She would fuss and exhort Frank to brush his hair, clean the room, tidy up or this or that. It clearly irritated him. We would tell her to just leave him be, but mum never picked up on that. She wanted Frank to accept her love and care. Schizophrenia does not adhere to giving normal responses.

It is such a baffling disease and experience. Frank would know he had misbehaved and would want to be taken back to Callan Park, yet again. At my sister’s or brother’s wedding (I have forgotten), we were all standing in front of the church’s steps.  The steps ran all along the churches entrance. There might have been forty or more people including Frank standing on the back step behind the groom and bride looking radiant . The photographer was almost ready to take the wedding photos. When we had all synchronised our positions and smiles, Frank all of a sudden pushed his brother Herman down the steps. It was always on the cards and had warned mother not to have Frank at the wedding.

Frank came to me and asked to be taken back to Callan Park. ‘Just put me on the train’, he said. He always felt remorse afterwards yet could not prevent his outbursts. I took him to the train back to Callan Park. Some years later I gave Frank a job working on a building side painting. He did well for a few days including singing his favourite song  ” I am just singing in the rain, singing in the rain”. The Greek painters thought he was very funny, you have a funny brother’ they would tell me. During one lunch and sitting on a ledge which had a steep drop to one side, Frank took a swipe at me. I told Frank that could not be done on the job. He said  “I know Gerard, take me back to Callan Park.” We walked back to his second home, Callan Park, and we said goodbye.

I have written before about Callan Park. There was a royal commission in 1961 and as Royal commissions go, a bit of an exoneration for all from the Private school boy’s clubs that generally manoeuvre themselves into lucrative Royal Commissions. Some many years later another one on Chelmsford and the estimated deaths of at least eighty patients under the care of Dr Harry Baily who committed suicide after the investigation on the deaths of so many patients. Dr Harry Baily was the superintendant at Callan Park when Frank was admitted. Some years later and married to lovely Helvi, I was phoned by my mother to go quickly to Callan Park, “your father is on his way to try and kill Dr Harry Bailey”, she said.  Helvi and I arrived to see my father hopping through the Rhododendrons at Callan Park in the nick of time.  Hot murder in his eyes. Poor dad, driven to the very edge of his sanity as well.



I now will try and get to happier words. While all this was happening I did a course in creative drawing together with a certificate in quantity surveying. I still don’t know or understand why I did the latter. A complete mystery, a blank draw each time I mull over that strange choice. I had worked at several jobs and knew how to save. One of those was painting and understood how to try and get my own contracting business going. Maybe the strange course was an idea to break into the world of contracting. In any case, I knew how to price jobs from bills of quantities submitted on my requests from architects and builders. I had letterheads printed with matching envelopes, always a good impression beating others who would scribble their quotes on bits of paper.  I soon had a good and lucrative contracting business. I made good money. I also did swinging stage work on the outside of buildings. I had no fear of heights either.

Another lucky break.

More Words or,… when Words fail me.

November 11, 2014
The cluster of cables united

The cluster of cables united

There is something about putting words down that relieves the spirit of falling into despair or should that be disrepair. Is it a bit like confessing ones sins? The sins of not having put to paper the words that keep piling up in the queue of ‘what the heart is full of, the kettle/pot boils over’. In any case, it is encouraging that the latest medical science seems to support the idea that keeping a mind occupied is good for the physically diminishing, failing and rapidly ageing, thus preventing the dismal slide into dementia and the inevitable nurse with the snapping glove on hand asking’ how is Mr Oosterman today’, had your toilet this morning alright, or would you like some boiled pears to encourage and beget a good motion on its glorious downwards journey? She, of course, would never use those words. That’s why I wrote them and not the nurse!

If there is anything that will keep one going it would be to avoid ‘the boiled pear’ question in aged Methodist ‘Even-Tide’ care facility. If the reader detects a somewhat sombre note amongst these words; you are right. The weather is grey and listless. Not a leaf is moving and even the lawnmower rattle, usually busy in verdant distant gardens filled now with Rhododendrons, is eerily silent. Luckily, for all the years having passed there is wealth of memories still welling up to be put on record just in case that facility slides into the gloved nurse and boiled pear facilitated morning motion as well.

The previous reference to the rhododendron is one such memory.

Many years ago and back into our life in inner city Balmain, I gave private art lessons in our home. I had previously taught art to adults in Holland and thus had some experience in doing that. One of my students of the Balmain period was a woman who at a younger age had worked as a professional ballet dancer. She was an exceptionally good artist but sought encouragement and companionship with the other students.

Then, one day she said goodbye. She had bought a place in the Blue Mountains. She had often complained about the inner city becoming popular with the professional lot. Lawyers, bankers and high earners were infiltrating and Balmain was losing its bohemian and artistic ambience and slipping into respectfulness with middle class ambitions and inevitable life-stylers keen on privacy and exclusion, seclusion.

Then about two years later we met again on a street in Balmain. She was beaming and when I asked what happened she told me she was back again in Balmain. Despite the gentrification of Balmain she felt the Blue Mountains was worse. When pushed she said; “I could not stand the incessant talk in the Blue Mountains about those bloody Rhododendrons and Azaleas.” “It drove me nuts.” The neighbours, first thing in the morning; “oh how good your garden looks, oh, look at Mrs Kensington’s Rhododendron with the rolling r’s and vowelled o’s”. “I love flowers morning mists and rich friable soils but…I missed the inner city.” I am ready now to accept the lawyers and middle class.

So, there you are. Nothing is ever perfect but we can keep on finding it. It is elusive, is the search…more than the outcome.
Thank you for reading a few more of my words.

I feel better now.