Posts Tagged ‘Rotterdam’


August 25, 2018


Rain with joy.

The Canberra’s writer’s festival would not have been happy with the latest political turmoil. Right bang in the middle of Canberra too. A most astonishing election for a new Prime Minister. Life is never dull. We were drawn to the Telly like horse-flies. Crackers and Boursin cheese at the ready.

Our neighbour also happen to be the Artistic Director of the Canberra Writers Festival.

They kindly asked us to feed their three chickens and cat named ‘Brambles’ while they were in Canberra. The chickens have names but I can only remember just one, a white chicken ‘Blanche’. So each morning and afternoon I go and feed their animals. In return we get the eggs. I am astonished how prolific egg layers the chickens are. Blanche is the only white one. The other two are brown. There is something so beautiful about feeding chickens. A primeval call to what we perhaps ought to enjoy as part of normal living. Tending animals is of course an activity that most people were engaged in during past centuries.

Even in my birth city of Rotterdam and later on The Hague, it was fairly common to hear chickens cackling. Even highly urbanized cities in Europe still clung to people having chickens. Egg were shared.

In our everyday life we never chuck out food. We always eat leftovers. The Dutch hunger winter of 1945 taught us never waste food. However, the last few days we have given our scraps to the chooks. I don’t know, but Blanche must have laid two eggs in one day! I assume the brown eggs are laid by the two brown chickens and the white Blanche laying white eggs. Yesterday there were two white eggs! I felt like clapping.

The rain has come as well. It pelted down and gutters overflowed. One could hear the garden drinking. A standing ovation from jonquils, daffodils and burgeoning Japanese windflowers. Sighs of relief from the clivias. Everyone is hoping the farmers will get a bucketing and green returning to bleached baked paddocks and water flowing into barren dams.

As for our New Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. He is the architect of Nauru and Manus island torture centres. Let’ not go there.

Let’ not spoil the delights of the chickens.



Another Magnum Opus?

September 23, 2016


With the terror of our Strata compound life now bedded down with the doona pulled off the carcasses of the cowering recalcitrant owners versus renters, it is time to move forward. The weather, after a few shy days of an almost warm sun has turned cool again. Spring can’t make its mind up knocking off Southern Highlands windy weather.

Another notification by Amazon crediting my account with the previous month sale of both my books, pleased me no end. Not that the amount was anywhere in the league of a Mark Zuckerberg earnings, but… a sale is a sale. Somewhere in this world people are reading my books and that is very pleasing. It’s what I try to think about pushing aside other thoughts preventing me from a sound sleep. That’s part of many years lived and memories piling up.

The third book will be a compilation of when I started writing. It would have been around two thousand and eight. I knew many English words already then but had never anticipated that I would try and put them down on paper in a reasonable manner and order. WordPress tells me I have now written almost nine hundred pieces. Where has the time gone, my Mother would say while sighing.

So, the first sixty thousand words I wrote about my brother Frank’s life-long battle with chronic schizophrenia interwoven clumsily in our family’s story of migration to Australia in nineteen-hundred fifty-six. Here is a sample of some of those words.

“That something was not quire right about my brother Frank came at the time at the age of eight or so, the teacher noticed Frank’s beautiful handwriting. While the hand writing was in long up and down strokes, with swirly Ws and majestic Ms, the problem was not the beauty of it all, but more the time it would take him to perfect this skill. In fact, he would painstakingly take all day to do what should have taken him one hour. No matter how he was praised and how we all stood back in awe of his beautiful writing, the friendly urging to keep up with the rest of the class was ignored and he would take all the time in the world to perfect his writing. This wanting to be perfect in whatever he undertook is what would plague him for the rest of his life.

The eleventh of August 1939 would prove to be a most unfortunate date for Frank to be born. The rumblings of unrest in our part of the world were getting ominous and louder. Sometimes one could easily surmise that Frank’s problems started at his conception. Not only the wrong time for births in general, Rotterdam was also a bad place and the wrong place, especially around August the following year when I was born as well.”

The heralding of a Spring and second hand books at Berkelouw.

September 10, 2015


Today it will get to 18C and already now it is feeling warm. The sun is reflecting itself on the yellow daisies and the pansies. They are keenly showing their multi-coloured flowers  basking blatantly into the warmth of morning light. A spring is coming. It is one of those mornings where nothing can go wrong. A vegetable curry is on the stove, gently bubbling away despite an accidental overdose of turmeric that spilled out spontaneously when the little jar was uncapped.  It is not often that curry is cooking at 7.30 am in this household. I hope the town-house-compound doesn’t get upset with the pervading fragrance so early. It might cause over-excitement.

Yesterday we went to Berkelouw’s book barn at Berrima. It is a success story of Dutch book sellers’ history. And I quote direct from their web-site.

“Our History from 1812 The story of Berkelouw Books begins in Kipstraat, Rotterdam, Holland, in 1812. Solomon Berkelouw traded in vellum-bound theology books which were en vogue in the early nineteenth century. Publishers of the period were certain of selling publications as long as they dealt with theology. Solomon peddled his wares on Rotterdam Quay and his clients were mainly owners and skippers of the barques that brought grain and other agricultural products from the provinces of Zealand and Zuid Holland to Rotterdam.

The owners of barques were well to do citizens with a growing interest in education. Not much is known of Solomon Berkelouw except that his bookselling career came to a sudden and unfortunate end. On a late winter’s afternoon, with snow falling thickly all around, Solomon attempted to cross an icy plank that connected a customer’s ship to the wharf. Halfway up, he lost his footing and fell into the freezing water. Before anyone could fetch help he drowned, his jute-bag full of books sinking with him to the bottom of the icy harbour.

Solomon’s young son Carel was determined to carry on his father’s trade. He put the business on a more stable footing by opening a bookstore at the Niewe Market in Rotterdam. Under Carel’s direction Berkelouw Books prospered and he later moved to a larger premises at Beurs Station, also in Rotterdam. Carel’s son Hartog Berkelouw continued to expand the family business. After serving an apprenticeship with his father in the Beurs Station store, he opened a new shop at Schoolstraat, Rotterdam. It was Hartog who first began issuing the catalogues that gained Berkelouw an international reputation. In 1928, the firm was granted membership to the prestigious International Antiquarian Booksellers Association.


Berkelouw’s bookbarn

Business subsequently increased and Hartog’s children, Sientje, Leo, Carel and Isidoor, all became involved in the book trade. However, the Second World War intervened, introducing a dark chapter into the history of the Berkelouw family. During the siege of Rotterdam, Berkelouw Books’ premises were bombed and its entire stock destroyed. Amongst the lost books was a collection of antique bibles thought to be the most valuable in all of Europe. Further tragedy followed – Sientje and Carel became casualties of the war.

As Leo had left the firm many years earlier, the once thriving business was brought to a standstill – the work of four generations of Rotterdam booksellers virtually wiped out in just a few years. Immediately after the war, Isidoor Berkelouw began to re-establish the firm. He set up business in Amsterdam and began conducting successful book auctions. However, Isidoor was keen to move the business out of Europe. The Berkelouw collection had already been destroyed once and he did not want to see it happen again. In 1948 Isidoor liquidated his company and made the long journey to Australia.

Shortly after arriving in Sydney, Isidoor issued a catalogue, generating immediate interest amongst book collectors around the country. He set up shop at 38 King St, Sydney and conducted book auctions on a regular basis. As Berkelouw’s clientele and stock expanded, headquarters was relocated to 114 King St and Isidoor began to share the management of the business with his two sons, Henry and Leo. By 1972 the Berkelouw collection had grown to such a size that it was forced to change premises once again. The firm made a brief move to Rushcutters Bay, then in 1977 took a quantum leap relocating entirely to ‘Bendooley’, an historic property just outside the beautiful village of Berrima in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

In 1994, the sixth generation, Paul, Robert and David Berkelouw, returned to Sydney, opening its now landmark store in Paddington. Five years later another Sydney store was opened in the cosmopolitan suburb of Leichhardt. Since then, Berkelouw Books has opened further stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. All our stores offer an extensive, interesting and eclectic new book selection covering all interest areas with a special interest in Children’s Books, fine stationery, as well as a hand-picked display of rare books.

Our Paddington, Leichhardt and Eumundi stores have a vast selection of secondhand books. Adjoining many of our stores are the Berkelouw Cafes, a great place to relax and enjoy ambience. Today Berkelouw Books is Australia’s largest rare and antiquarian, secondhand, and new bookseller. We have an overall stock in excess of 2 million books, many of which are listed and available for purchase here via the Internet. Thus the romance of books is engendered. Thus too, the association of books and Berkelouw continues. An old and fruitful tree of Rotterdam, Holland, now firmly planted in the soil of Australia. – See more at:

Frank and Callan Park asylum.

May 19, 2015
Callan Park

Callan Park

The firing of the shotgun and the commotion in the street resulted with Frank being put in a police paddy wagon. My parents were interviewed . They must have told police of problems they were having with Frank’s violence.  The incident with the scissors was considered serious enough and culminated with Frank being taken away to Callan park for  assessment. Callan Park was a mental asylum situated close to the City in very large park like surroundings.  It consisted of many  double story Georgian old sandstone buildings. It had a very high wall around it and looked intimidating when approached from the front. It would be Frank’s main home  for the next fourteen years. He was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia.

wedding photo of my parents with mum's brother and sister.

wedding photo of my parents with mum’s brother and sister.

A sigh of relief was washing over our family. The children came home from school without the fear and expectation of another shemozzle or explosion of anger. We could sit around without skulking away in our rooms, out of troubles way. Dad and mum were happy that Frank would now get care and attention from experts in a place designed for people with a mental illness. A cure or some form of action would be initiated and Frank would get back in charge of a life and return home soon. That must have been my parents fervent wish.  And, surely not one that could be seen as extravagant?

My memories so far are from between fifteen and twenty years of age, so the atmosphere and family life then lived is from that period which since has clocked up another fifty years. And yet, it will not let go of me. What is this compulsion and why can’t this episode let go of me? Is there a link somewhere that explains those events of much further down life’s river?  Were Hansel and Gretel’s white pebbles of  this period strewn already then?  Will an answer be there when  the trail has been followed to the end ?

It has to be admitted that my view of Australia hasn’t always been so benign and lofty as they should or could have. I have spent far more years here than anywhere else and am a naturalised Australian, born in Holland. So why at times, the chagrin? The naturalisation ceremony and oath were taken with  swearing allegiance to the Queen of England, which I thought odd as I could have sworn we migrated to Australia. But, the cup-o-tea and the S.A.O. crackers with ‘tasty’ cheese ( Salvation Army Officer) afterwards were welcome. It was a mass naturalisation ceremony at the Sydney Town Hall. It was a period when cinema goers were slowly starting to refuse and stand up for the National Flag raising and Save the Queen anthem before the movie. Some cinemas had a Hammond organ rising up majestically from below the stage. A  Liberace like suited and war medalled bedecked man would belt out this Anthem. It did not help and soon no one stood up anymore and this little irrelevant ditty was dropped. Oddly enough, Australia today still prefers the monarchy to a republic. If ever there was proof of being a bit miffed about Australia. Just contemplate that little contradiction!

mother on left. her brother and sister.

mother on left. her brother and sister.

The initial stay of my brother Frank at Callan park was short lived. My memory of the first visit to Frank at Callan Park asylum was when the brother to brother recognition was first starting to melt and flee.  It was a pitiful sight. He was so dishevelled and had trousers that were not his. They were for someone twice his size and without a belt. He could only walk by holding his trousers with both hands. The warden unlocked him with a large bunch of keys hanging from his belt. No chairs for visitors, no visiting areas. Just a large court-yard with no trees.

The demented and the declared insanely inebriated patients standing there as if all hope was now held by the unyielding surrounding stone wall, spoken to in gravelled voices. Frank said he had been held in wet bed sheets for hours. Later on we found out that that method was common to restrain patients. He was so very much not there and must have been heavily pilled up. I asked were his clothes were. Mum had brought some oranges which she peeled for him. Frank smoked a cigarette from a packet that dad had brought along…Was Frank going to be lining that court yard and become part of the stone wall? Mother had tears and dad was numb with shock but had to drive home with much silence in the car.

Frank on the left. Gerard with hair sticking up. In Rotterdam.

Frank on the left. Gerard with hair sticking up. In Rotterdam.

We could not get over that visit and the sun wasn’t shining much better with Frank not at home. The nightmare of Callan Park courtyard and the bunches of keys hanging from the wardens belt wasn’t  acceptable, the wrapping up of Frank in wet bed-sheets. This was 1960 not 1860.  Frank soon came home again.

This life made of ‘Buttermilk’.

January 13, 2015

Gerard looking bewildered already.

Apart from the daily spoonful of cod-liver oil, the main reason of having pulled through this far has been my keen relationship with buttermilk. During the war, we had none of those luxuries and were grateful for potato peelings and scraps of cabbages boiled up in huge steaming troughs, ladled out to the hollow-cheeked hungry from grimy white tiled soup kitchens. War ravaged we were.

An incident I have spoken of before, I’ll retell now again, even if just to sooth a recurring need to ponder over what has passed over a life lived so far. It would have been towards the end of that war when hunger was keenest, especially in Rotterdam which was bombed right at the beginning of 1940, the year I was born. I went with my mother to the soup kitchen. She carried a green enamelled bucket that held a porcelain grip around the steel handle. Those kind of buckets are lost but used to be well regarded and held (in good times) the creamy milk delivered and scooped in by the milkman on horse and cart. Now buckets are plastic and crack and are seen neglected in car parks and half submerged on creek beds or on neglected grassy nature strips.

After mother and I arrived at the soup kitchen we waited for our turn. I was holding a hand. After a while when I looked up I realised it wasn’t my mother’s hand anymore but that of a stranger. I have never lost that feeling of utter fright and abandonment, even though at my first cry my mum regained possession of my hand. It is strange how that feeling still remains so vivid.

That enamelled bucket lasted for many years. Finally it developed a hole which was fixed by a man who specialised in doing the rounds fixing metal buckets and sauce pans. A round metal patch would be fastened over the hole and hammered in a way that would patch the hole tightly, leak proof again for years. That’s how we had an era of no waste and people had jobs. We also had a man sharpening scissors and knives.

After our arrival in Australia we got enveloped with plastic, including the cheese, also of plastic.

The era of ‘Tupperware’ had arrived.

PS I don’t hold it against anyone not keen on drinking buttermilk, but…have you tried it? Don’t give up. In pancakes it is what couscous is to Rhubarb crumble. Ask the grandkids.

He died while watching Bonanza.

November 17, 2014


Our neighbours living opposite us in Rotterdam migrated to Australia in 1949. They were my mother’s best friends and helped us out during the war, even though it was a habit of theirs to put us in the coal shed if we had done a number 2. The pedagogues today would have a field-day and the issue no doubt worthy of a Royal commission. Anyway, they did that to their own kids as well, so we oft shared the same coal shed.

My parents never did this and I am not aware if doing nr 2’s stopped after a while or if we got cunning and somehow ditched the load before getting home from the Montessori pre-school/kindergarten. My mum was forever in hospital with undefined ails or perhaps complications in birthing as that seemed to be, despite wars and lack of food, a yearly event. I was born one year and four days after my brother was born. After I saw the gloom of daylight first, my younger brother came out 1 year and four months later. So they were really rollicking rocking times.

After the neighbours’ migration to Australia, which then took 6 days by air, we were given jubilant reports about Australia which we found out later had been somewhat festooned and given balloons with cup-cakes instead of the reality of gruel and leached out mutton. They too had six children, five girls but only one boy while I had the reverse four brothers and one girl.

We arrived in Australia in 1956 and my mother immediately regained the previous friendship. I was to turn sixteen that year. For a while we shared the same house which they claimed they had bought. It turned out it was rented! They had an old Chevy ute on three wheels with the missing wheel propped up by bricks. Their three legged German Shepherd used to chase very large but frightened looking rats.

Of course memories of having shared the coal shed with their girls, many years before, were rapidly fading and I became reconciled that sharing nr 2s might well change into sharing better and more pertinent intimate details of a different softness and lushness. The roseate looking young girls that they had turned into were tantalisingly near. It was my first experience of true love. That is if you can call the first viewing of a pair of budding breasts ‘love’. I do still have fond memories of those first sexual discoveries and remember as if yesterday. The breasts were offered without any coercion or even asked for. She just bared them as if they were toffees.

The friendship between my parents and theirs continued. When my parents returned to spend their retirement back in Holland the friendship became more distant. I certainly moved on and away from pre-teen budding breasts into marriage and starting family of my own. It was during the late seventies that my mother’s war-time and migrated friend turned up in Holland. Her husband had died. He was a concrete form worker.

My parents in front of 'own' home in Revesby.

My parents in front of ‘own’ home in Revesby.

Australia could not get enough workers spreading concrete far and wide. Australia was expanding its suburbs as far as the eye could see. Hill after hill were bulldozed and concreted over. It was hard work but the husband got by with smoking and help from his supportive very Dutch wife. They had achieved a better life with own bathroom and cake eating on Sunday. The daughters had married well and the son became a potter. One girl married a fire-man, another a car salesman in Hunter’s Hill. I never found out what happened to the daughter who was so helpful in easing my curiosity about breasts.

“Yes, she told my mother, we were watching TV and I thought he was his usual grumpy self. Not a word out of him.”. When the show was over, I told him, why are you so quiet again? He refused to answer. I prodded him, he was dead.”

He died while watching ‘Bonanza’.

Waste not want not. Just eat your lumpy Porridge.

November 5, 2014
 Some time back

Some time back

I was abused from an early age by having to eat lumpy porridge. It has left its mark and no psychologist or therapist has given me any insight into how this continues to shape me into the present dysfunctional personae, still grappling with life so fraught with fits of uncertainty as to its real meaning or purpose.(Phew)

The weeks just prior and after the end of WW 2, Holland was on its knees. Oats, Biscuits and Spam was fought over by people running towards the US, Canadian and English Lancaster bombers overhead, dropping food parcels. I remember my dad running on a field towards one and bringing home a huge metal box with rock hard but very nutritious English biscuits. The sky was dark with food being parachuted , raining down on Rotterdam. How glorious a liberation it was! Dancing in the streets.

untitled food at last

Despite the biscuits saving us from starvation, I still remember being very churlish about having to eat porridge with lumps and preferred the biscuits soaked in water. It was years later, when ‘easy oats’ came into being that could be cooked with milk without resulting in uneatable lumps. The porridge cooked by my mum then became silky smooth and with the Golden Syrup was delicious, a real delectable food. Even so, I have hardly touched porridge ever since. The lumps left their mark. That’s what a war does to you.

Walking around, pondering and practising a pensive thought or two is now a well earned pastime in advancing years together with offering adages and words probably so wasted on the much better informed. Together with Helvi and Milo, I traipse through our town forever hoping to find solutions to life and purpose. How this can be found by walking with a dog, hand-scooping his toilet habits in plastic bags, and drinking a latte in between is questionable but probably as good as studying Plato or taking Prozac.

images Food drops

But going back to lumpy porridge and hunger, we are surprised how much food can now be found just on the streets and parks. A half eaten hamburger here, bags of chips there. I sometimes, much to the horror of Helvi, lift a lid on public rubbish bins to see what has been discarded, much the same as I am curious about peoples washings on the line. Don’t ask, why? There is no hope. There is so much that can be gleaned from washing lines. Is the husband an office worker or tradesman? Are there children? How lithe and slim (or large) are they? What are the favourite colours etc. (Even that little joy is getting less with so many now lazy and using a cloth-drier).

But for discarded food…Only last week an entire ‘meat lover’s’ pizza in its specially designed aerated box was thrown out in the bin. Half full drink bottles, chips, steaks, even calamari rings, all gets thrown out.

It is nice to know that if ever I became destitute and homeless, food will not be a problem. I could probably make a living as well from sitting near a supermarket with Milo at my side, a cap with a few coins next to him and holding up a sign. “Help, I have still not found the purpose of life.”

There is hope where there is life!

A life delete or not?

May 26, 2014

First flush of love

First flush of love

anxious already then

anxious already then

Australia is under attack from the conservatives. The obvious question; why conserve them in the first place? Isn’t a good conserve something locked in a jar with a screw top lid? I am surprised that a political party is proud to be named ‘conservative’. Do those that have died or in the process of doing so, belong to them? I mean, surely being alive is to progress along something or other. I am not usually given to philosophising, but after the remnants of the Vienna sourdough with fig and ginger conserve, am now in a mood that is mellow, gentle and reflective.

There are so many photos in my Window’s 8.1 explorer that I have taken to deleting those that I can’t remember ever having put there. I suspect that Windows is trawling through my posts and willy-nilly extrapolate something that one could then vaguely be pictorially be associated with. It is as hard to delete the pictures as it is to look at and sorting, checking any e-mails. One gets lost in the sheer monotony of pushing a delete button. A bit like watching a petrol bowser tick over when filling the tank on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I mean a button to ‘delete’? Is it perhaps a kind of subtracting of life segments.

After deleting some I came to photos of my parents. One picture just before the war in the flush of early love and without us kids. The other photo in our house around 1988 or so during a holiday back in Australia after they had returned to Holland many years before in 1976. An entire life in between. Perhaps you have seen the photos before. Old photo gazing does brings back things, doesn’t it?


One reason for their return was that their Dutch pension would be a lot better, more generous and not means tested. About 80% of average wages. But…the other and main reason was to be near their schizophrenic son Frank who had already been living in Holland as well.

The picture of those two in tub with my mother are Frank at the back and I at the front during WW2 in Rotterdam.

Pensioners whooping it up in Australia

Pensioners whooping it up in Australia

The Apology to Suburbia

November 7, 2013


The photo above is of the very old 1730’s Saxon farm house with sheep-shed in Eursinge where we lived in between 1974- 1976.

With a lot of water having passed under the bridge, we found ourselves on a farm in Holland. My fascination with living on a farm is somewhat of a puzzle. I grew up on the opposite of rural life. Firmly entrenched in cities since birth. Rotterdam for my first ten years or so.The Hague for almost six years after that. Between my sixteenth and twenty fourth I lived mainly in between, the twilight zone called the suburb. Suburbs are something that I was never aware of till after our arrival in Australia and then it was too late. The suburb is neither rural nor city. It is an attempt to combine both.

Houses are strung together by electricity wires suspended from large wooden poles high up with long strips of bitumen in between lower down. Kerbs of grass and concrete driveways. People live very spread out and when I was living there they rarely ventured outside except for going shopping or work. This was when a car would be driven over the driveway onto the bitumen and disappear at the end of the street, perhaps going around a corner. Sometimes a careful listener could, during the dead of night, hear screams of anxiety or was it mere bottled up domesticity seeking an outlet?

Most people loved suburbs and that’s why most live there. What sort of other choices were there in the late fifties besides suburban living? Often the enthusiastic defender of suburbs will say that kids can play in the backyard and dad can grow fruit and vegetables, have barbecues or clean the gutters from leaves avoiding damaging bush-fires. The wife has lovely sunshine in which to dry clothes and room to also grow flowers and shrubs. Yes, that is all true. I might well be mistaken. My trauma of suburbs was more due to my age when entering this zone of separated houses by high fencing and curved driveways.

At sixteen the jumping around in the backyard wasn’t at all something I would want to do nor kneel in grass pulling out weeds or study the habits of worms eating dad’s tomatoes. I wanted and needed signs of life. Perhaps the case of some seeing a glass half empty and others seeing in half full could be made. I have never really been gripped by things half full/empty.

I have been found guilty of slighting Australia, but so be it. What can be done for atonement?

Do I go out and in deep sun-drenched suburbia, embrace a sheet of zinc alum and ask for forgiveness. I am so sorry colour-bond, I know you mean well and you never rust either. How could I have been so cruel? You give generously to all within your sun-locked boundaries and no nasty neighbour can ever be detected. No blade of grass can ever abuse you.

Next is the pebble-creted driveway so sweetly curved upwards to the triple remote garage. So sorry; please allow me to prostrate myself humbly for having slighted you so badly. I will never ever do it again. Here, allow me to varnish you and let your pebbles shine for ever brightly. You have given so much welcoming and loving traction to the Michelin and Kuma tyres. I am so sorry.

Oh, the horror of the hurt I have knowingly inflicted on all those kind beds of nodding petunias, those havens of suburban peace and tranquillity, harbouring and giving respite to the tortured souls of the Westfield shopping malls with local pubs and clubs. How can I make up? Would you like some water, some kind Leghorn manure to boost your cheerful growth? I am sorry.

The leaf blower. I am so sorry. How can I make up for having accused you of noise and mayhem while all you did was blow away leaves onto your preying neighbours property or into the kerbs of endless avenues. Allow me to take you out for dinner and lubricate your twin carby cylinder. Anoint your inlet suction and empty the bag. Please, let me.

As for the crispy manicured lawn. The worst of all my misdemeanours. Let me sink on my knees and prise out all those lugubrious weeds with sinister intent on multiplying themselves during the dark of the night. Here let me mow you with my Victa and I’ll rake you lovingly in neat heaps, ready for the mulcher who I have never abused. I always held the mulcher in high esteem. I don’t know why.

Last but not least, the Venetian blind. Let me dust you. Please accept all my Christmas cards which I will stick through your slatted shiny apertures. If you like I can also give you a nice trade in for the vertical ones but how to attach the cards. I can also perhaps show contrition by getting boxes of twinkling lights to adorn the roof and garage door right up to the fence and along the lawns.
I won’t do it again.

Of smoked Kippers and going for Pudding

September 3, 2013

Of smoked Kippers and going for Pudding,

Years back I spend some time in the UK. It was the year when the Dutch won the World soccer Cup or was it the Euro Cup? I was staying in London’s Sheppard Bush not far from the station. I took the train to the City several times. My fellow travellers were not the most boisterous and generally an icy silence prevailed. Life seemed grim or perhaps my fellow travellers were worried about losing their ‘privacy status’, a much beloved characteristic of so many that are brought up fearing what we might think of each other if we give in to spontaneity and exuberance.

During that stay, I took the train North-East to Yorkshire and stayed in Whitby with a very hospitable and jovial friend whom we had met earlier in Australia. She was a retired magistrate whose professional life in the past dealt with many cases of juvenile offenders steeped in petty crime. Petty crime was rampant at the time and she feared the worst for the future of England. Perhaps that was the reason for the silence on trains. Before going to Whitby I was told it was the only place in the world where kippers were still being smoked naturally. The first thing after arriving at Whitby I visited the kipper smoking factory. It coincided with a group of excitable Japanese tourists doing the same thing. They were taking close-up shots of each other holding up smoked kippers against the backdrop of the ruin of Whitby Abbey.

Smoke was embedded into me at birth. It was the first thing that greeted my tiny nostrils after my mother pushed me out. August 1940; Rotterdam was still smouldering but through sheer luck our street was spared from the nasty bombing raids. Over seventy years later, I am still here waxing about smoked kippers at Whitby. Life can be so wonderful.

It was some years after that auspicious but smoky birth that my parents introduced us kids to the hearty and nourishing delights of huge portions of pea soup with smoked sausage (rookworst). If ever I remember childhood foods it would have to be that dish. It was a simple dish. Mum would soak the peas overnight and boil them up with a couple of potatoes the next day. The smoked sausage, still steaming from having been brought to the boil, would triumphantly be put on the table by father; almost Moses like as if bringing us the Ten Commandments from a thunderous Mount Sinai. He would then ceremoniously cut the sausage in many portions and dear mum would make sure we all got an equal number of Rookworst pieces on our soup plates with the thick slurry of pea-soup ladled over it, drowning out the sausage pieces.

I distinctly remember the fart fests that all the boys, three or four of them, would engage in afterwards. I suppose the bedroom was the birthplace and possibly one of the first smoking facilities, now being rekindled in Whitby by my obstinate memories so many decades later.

Back now at Whitby kippers factory we bought a couple of kippers and I offered to make a pasta dish from them. After arriving back at my friend’s place I cut a brown onion, fried it up and added the fleshy kippers together with a bit of oil, some chili powder and pinch of sugar. Boiled the pasta, added the kipper sauce and bingo, a beautiful dish. She offered afterwards to take me out for ‘pudding’. Taking and going somewhere for ‘pudding’ in Yorkshire really means a visit to a café for a nice cup-o-tea and a piece of cake. It was lovely.

I remember it well.