Posts Tagged ‘Rotterdam shag’

Moving About.

June 11, 2017

IMG_1100Moving

Our daughter ‘moving.’

I still remember the day we left Holland to sail to Australia. We went on-board with a bewildering number of suitcases and four trunks in which my parents stashed the most essentials. Some items were posted separately, destined to arrive  after arrival in Sydney. These included my father’s ‘comfy chair,’ mother’s ‘Singer’ foot pedal sewing machine, our electric  Westinghouse wooden barrelled (oak) washing machine with other odds and ends. I remember mother being quite snobby about having an electric washing machine. It might well have been the first electric washing machine in the whole of  The Hague if not in the street. It weighed a tonne with an enormous motor which made the lights dim when switched on. The wringer too was electric with rubber rollers grabbing anything in-sight. My mother came close to being strangled on several occasions when a loose fitting garment or her dangling necklace were mercilessly grabbed by these revengeful rollers. One had to quickly push a roller-release lever after which the rollers reluctantly released the hapless victim.

My father’s easy chair facilitated smoking more than repose or rest, or at least that is what I had surmised in my toddler’s years. “Gerard, leave your father at rest, don’t disturb him”, was my mother’s oft repeated refrain. For some reason Dad needed a lot of rest. At that early age I associated resting with blowing curls of smoke. My mother could never have been that tired, at least I never noticed smoke escaping from her mouth. Yet, when dad was at work, she would often sleep in his chair, especially after recovering from doing mountainous loads of washing with an occasional escape from attempted wringer strangulation.

My father’s smoking was a ritual which involved a packet of Douwe-Egberts  tobacco, some cigarette papers, and a lighter that contained a wick infused with petrol. To light the wick one had to push down a little lever that would grind a small wheel against a flint stone which in return would then ignite a spark thus flaming the protruding wick.  This device had me intrigued for years. Later on in his life his choice of tobacco inexplicably changed over to Rotterdam Shag tobacco.

During the war, especially towards the end, no tobacco was available. The only people still smoking were those that risked life in clandestine smuggling or by those that had swapped and changed national loyalty with the German soldiers. My father’s forced rehab from smoking made life unbearable for my mother. At times, I would be urged to go out and scan the footpath for any cigarette butts which my dad would gratefully receive and somehow unpick and re-roll to relieve his nicotine addiction by a few puffs. Oh, Gertie ( that was my dreadful given name during the war) can you go out and find some butts for your father. The problem was that other boys were sent on similar errands. I remember a bigger boy from the same street ‘Anton van Uden’ who stole three butts that I had spent 2 hours in finding around the bombed out streets. Oddly enough, later on we became the best of friends. After migrating to Australia I visited this friend back in Holland and found him to be in a very sad state. He was unhappily married with two young children. In great confidence he told me “never get married, Gerard.”  We went out that night to a dance-nightclub whereby another man was threatening me with a surly drunkenness out on revenge, urging me to fight him. My unhappily married friend got up and sorted him out in seconds. The friend was a military policeman.

My daughter is now moving closer to the city, ‘where all the action is.’ It reminded me of our move back in 1956 to Australia ‘where all the action was also much in vogue’. My parents left with suitcases and four trunks, six children. My daughter with two teen-age boys has enough stuff to fill an entire boat. It is not as simple as it used to be. It will take days. We are helping her move and she will hire a ‘Truck with two men.’ Good luck.

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