Posts Tagged ‘Rotterdam’

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?

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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

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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

IMG_5009-e1316738579117
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.

My first view of naked Woman.

May 6, 2013

vaginatree

Retrospection is the reward and pay off for getting old when past events outweigh future, at least in quantity if not quality as well. How did we fare is not an unreasonable question that might arise out of those people faced with the possibility of soon not even able to wonder anything anymore, let alone those questions pertaining to life’s achievements.

How do the scales weigh? Here is what happened during some earlier years; 1956 in fact. This could be seen as giving at least some background or grounding for the unfurling of some sort of life into the future.

After having been wined and dined on our boat (Johan Van OldenBarnevelt) for over 5 weeks or so, the bus trip from Sydney’s Circular Quay to our camp at Scheyville, interrupted by the driver’s ‘pub-stop’ at Home-bush’s Locomotive for a couple of schooners, having calmly left a busload of anxious and nervous European migrants in the sweltering February heat, our arrival at the camp’s Nissen Huts was somewhat of a difficult transition.

After all; the mellow sounds of the violin, piano, with twanging base and the brass instrument (was it a saxophone?) still reverberating from the luxury liner evening soirees ringing in our ears needed more time than just the 3 hour bus trip to our camp…The lingering and haunting tune of Dean Martin; ‘Was it on the Isle of Capri where I met you,’ clashed violently with the lurid car sales yards signage and yawning bonnets of Parramatta Rd, Sydney. Can you imagine?

My mum thought those Nissen huts were for the push-bikes. Yes, but why are there mattresses inside, my dad queried with his Dutch pragmatism coming strongly to the fore? Having to flick maggots of the mutton chops did it for my poor dad. He went on one of those mattresses for two weeks, utterly depressed. He finally got up and put on his polished fine shoes, laced them up and decided to at least move… We moved away from the camp and shared an old half demolished house in the middle of old Mr.Pyne’s timber yard on Woodville Rd, at Guildford, with another Dutch family.  The yard contained stacks of building timbers, baths, bricks and an old 1946 Chevy Ute on three wheels, a Sheppard dog on three legs and a generous abundance of very fast rats outrunning the dog.

They were old friends from the period of war torn bombed out Rotterdam and had migrated to Australia in 1951. No doubt they had experienced the Nissan Hut and maggot delights far more heroically than us, or actually my dad. My mum was made of sterner stuff.

I made the best of it. It was in the camp’s flimsily built shower partitions that I viewed for the very first time a woman’s pubic bush, having peeked through a slight gap between the partitions separating males from females. I was fifteen. I had already seen naked breast in a ‘native African’ news reel in The Hague, a year or so before migration and had lived of that ever since. Considering the daily inspection of food possibly laden with maggots, the very first view of something I was so curious about was a bonus. I leaped with joy. My teen years’ patience was rewarded and had come to full fruition. Well, not fully, that came later, all in good time though, I was still young.

That view of my first female pubic bush in Scheyville migrant camp made up a hell of a lot, considering all the misery that my parents experienced. The woman was a Polish mother of three children. I used to pass her briefly on the way to our huts to eat our meals, hopefully without any extras. I looked her in the eye deciding I would be honest with my little secret, at least by not avoiding her gaze. Was she suspecting something?

I am still gasping over my parents’ bravery. How did they do it with six children?

A normal Phone with gin and tonic Apps for the Aged

April 1, 2013

imagesgin and tonic

You can never be sure of how society will move forward but I am glad that I most likely won’t be around to find out how the grandchildren will fare in a world that now seems to connect mainly by pushing little buttons on a  plastic-metal box with a small coloured screen.

We are facing a friendless world with ‘face-book’ friends but with the chances of meeting in the real flesh diminishing as years go by. When did you last actually go outside to shop for a dress or box of veggies or was that done with the help of those little buttons as well?

I remember my parents were quick of the mark with being one of the first to have a telephone back in 1946 or so. It was a large black glimmering device bolted onto the floral wallpapered wall of our lounge room.  This telephone would give off a loud ring and when telephoning someone it was done by a rotating disc with the numbers being large and clearly written on them. It was a gadget that would reassure us in its reliable functionality and simplicity. It was clearly a telephone.

The telephone book of Rotterdam then was very thin. Most just used to walk across the road or around the block to visit friends and family. We lived close by to family and friends. If not we would send a letter.

Now, the phone as a telephone has just about disappeared. I am driven beyond sanity when trying to have just a phone. The land-line is prohibitively expensive and now includes all sorts of extras that I don’t want. We now pay line rentals and GST (vat) plus options for complicated ‘menus of retrievals and voice banking.’ I just want what my parents had; a normal phone that has a reassuring ring.  It was life affirming and did not give attacks of anxiety as phone calls seem to do now. They now seem to have a sense of dread and foreboding of possible grief and immense sadness.

I now just want a device that is called ‘mobile phone’ (or cell phone in the US). It is far from mobile as it seems to imprison more than liberate. Just look at the anxiety written all over those hapless souls on street corners or shopping malls, trains and busses. All tapping away or glued to this mobile phone. ‘I am going shopping to Aldi” I overheard one of those tappers saying.

I was so desperately pleading with one of those cell-phone franchises; “please can I just have a cell phone that is a phone”. Incredibility staring back at me with total incomprehension as an extra. “What do you mean?”  “I mean a phone as a phone.” “I don’t normally have an urge to take a photo when I want to just telephone someone, nor do I have a burning need to listen to a radio or save messages, bank voice mail or retrieve last week’s riveting event at the shopping mall.” I also don’t normally play games such as chess, monopoly or want a weather report on the phone.”

“I sometimes just want to make a simple telephone call to my friend who is in hospital with a knee replacement.” “I don’t want messages of missed calls or reminders about credit,” nor send e-mail or want face-bookings with Russian sex Goddesses.

“Can’t you just sell me a phone that I can carry around?”

She, the franchise lady, smiled. “You are an old man and grump around that fact”. She could have said, but she didn’t. “Your parents despaired when the ball-point was invented and people started slurping Coke”. Did it ruin you, she continued? No, but that was different. We still did our tables and could write and spell. Now it is all “C U in 2 mnts, r u ok?” and the supermarket girl can’t figure out the cost of butter of $2. -, and give the change from $20. – without checking the electronic screen.

“You are still a curmudgeon and at the end of your miserable life”, she could also have added. (but didn’t)

It is true; I had some sad and unfortunate life changing experiences that you will experience as well. That is if you don’t get hit by a truck while sending text messages to your ring-nosed boyfriend in the meantime, I added smugly.

By now, the franchise girl became agitated and called the manager. He comes up; looks me over while rocking on his heels. “You sound as if you want one of our new models for the hard of hearing and blind”.  “It also has a handy Velcro strap to put on your walking frame and a clip-on for the outside rim of a commode, (just in case of a bout of intestinal hurry).  It comes with Galaxy Apps for the aged, he added with a smile. Gt fkd, C U at the Crmtrium, ashes to ashes. (I so wished…)

I just want a phone.

German soldier Bread (Give it more stick Tomas).

January 28, 2013

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They were billeted below ground level in our street. I used to walk past them and it was routine to see their helmeted heads poking up above the edge of the pavement from the basement of the apartments. I wasn’t aware why they were there nor did I question it. It was their helmets which I was most interested in. Why were they wearing them and not us? They are soldiers I was told. What is a soldier? They fight. Why? Ask your father. I am hungry.

Those helmets are back in vogue, especially in the skate board riding world although I have also seen some Harley- Davidson riders with the same sort of helmets. They were a bulbous sort of steel headgear with a lip at the front allowing for good all-round sight. I have never forgotten how they looked like and could not believe they were back in fashion.  When the grandkids were over at our place, one had forgotten his special skate board scooter helmet. We thought it best to buy him one.

Parents now-a-days are obsessively angst driven when it comes to children suffering consequences of falls. Our kids would be having broken limbs and proudly getting signatures of footballers signed on the plaster casts. Modern pedagogy seems to want to deny kids the pleasure of all that. Falling is strictly only allowed if all exposed limbs and body parts are covered in shin-knee-ankle pads with steel gloves for hands and heads protected by full face helmets. The manufacturers are rubbing hands in glee.

Anyway, having taken Tomas to Big W he soon found the helmet he wanted. You’ve guessed it, it had to be one of those brand new German style helmets all painted a somber flat charcoal and in my war eyes, very sinister looking. Still, that’s the fashion now and we were not going to argue. Especially since we had also promised that the only take away food allowed would be from the popular Japanese take-away sushi outlets that now seems too have proliferated around the country’s food halls. Our grandkids accepted that as a reasonable compromise if we accepted Tomas’ choice in the Nazi-helmet department. That’s how it is with children now. Everything has to be negotiated. There is no more ‘do as you are fucking told’, followed with a good smack from your loving Gran. 🙂  Doctor Spock and those Seuss books have a lot to answer for. It will take decades to rectify.

But, going back to those billeted German soldiers below street level with their poking guns and wearing the helmets. We were starved and, as this story has been re-told by my mother so often, I kept walking our street in Rotterdam. I remember those German men being friendly even though I could hardly talk, let alone would have understood their German.

I am hungry again, mum. Yes, but that is because of the war. Why does war make me hungry? I don’t know, ask your father.

It was in the last year and hunger was at its highest in Rotterdam during the winter of 1945. Over30 000 died of starvation including over 2000 children, there was simply no more food. Yet, a solitary act of kindness in a world of destruction with nightmarish Dante like inferno; one of those soldiers billeted below street level stuck his arm out and gave a hungry child a loaf of dark German rye bread. I was that child and I have never forgotten.

Soon after leaving BigW, Tomas was seen at the Bowral skate park wearing his Goth-like helmet. Up and down he went, getting more confident. Go on Tomas, give it some more stick downhill, you can do it. That’s it! Well done.

He comes home and has his lunch, all red faced and chucks the helmet on the chair next to the door. Bread now comes so easy.

Rotterdam 1941

November 13, 2012

Some of us go through life insuring ourselves for any known or unknown eventuality. We do that so that nothing untoward will ever happen, forgetting that a life too secure might well end up with a life unlived. After all, one would not have ones life pre-digested and miss out on the wonders of the unknown. Perhaps when there is an overwhelming surplus of the past and just snippets of a future left, we go digging about into the past. It’s a bad habit and a sure sign of ageing, desperately having a last fling at tidying up s unsolvable riddles.

The picture above shows a one year old and a two year old, both August babies and both are getting a tubbing on the balcony of our Rotterdam apartment. That the apartment is standing is remarkable seeing the picture was taken a year after the bombing of Rotterdam. It is even more remarkable that the picture is such a serenely domestic photo, belying the reality of the situation. The boy at the front with hair sticking up is Gerard and the other Frank. Frank turned out to be plagued by severe and chronic schizophrenia. He is still alive and only last week was taken on a holiday ito the South of Holland. He has a life of sorts as perhaps all of us do.  He collects stamps and watches soccer on his TV.

The thing about the picture is that, barely visible, my mum is wearing a rather pretty dress with shoulder pads that stick up, rather than those shoulder pads that went more sideways, which were all the fashion some years ago, sometimes making large women stand out like Sumo wrestlers. My mother is intent on the job of tubbing us. Both of her boys are sitting quite happy. It is a photo of reality. We are sitting there getting a wash and my mum looks on. It is also a photo of unreality. The V1’s and V2’s started to come down unexpectedly even though they were meant for London. The riddle is the shoulder pads and the tubbing; giving an image that must have been so unlike the real situation. On the other hand, a photo of the carnage that Rotterdam suffered and was still undergoing could not have included getting a ‘normal’ tubbing’, or would have included my mother’s shoulder pads.

Going back to insurances, we have none. I do worry about not having car insurance, especially after receiving a bill from GIO some time ago about damage to a car from a tow bar fitted to our car. The bill was, from memory over $1300.-. We did not admit liability as the car had backed into ours during a parking struggle. Since then we haven’t heard from GIO.

We used to have insurances about all sorts of eventualities but lately I can’t for the life of me imagine what we could possibly gain from having them. If our house burns down, well, the body corporate fees include insurance for that. Our belongings are precious and the personal aspects of losing them can’t be insured against. We don’t have Harvey Norman featuring to any extent in our furniture which consists of bits and pieces from our previous farm-life in Holland and odds and ends scavenged from quasi antiques shops. I noticed a lot of TV ads for funeral insurances. What are they hinting at? Strangely enough, those ads feature a man feeling guilty of (again) not caring enough about dying before his partner has been well provided for. What about if she carks it before him? This is it. Enjoy your week-end.

Glass of Cordial (Ranja) biting after the War.

June 21, 2012

Glass of Cordial (Ranja) biting after the War

When during the last bitter winter of 1945 food had run out there was an angel in the shape of a helmeted German soldier, still billeted below the footpath in our street, who must have felt remorse or became overwhelmed with the futility of it all, and gave me half a loaf of black bread. I was almost five years old. I walked upstairs to our home at number 18a Roderijsche Straat, Rotterdam which wasn’t far from where the German soldier was dug in and gave my mother this piece of black bread. During that last hopeless winter known as the ‘Hunger Winter of 1945’, many in Holland died of starvation, and, as is so often the case, most were just children and the elderly. In search of food, people would walk tens of kilometers to trade valuables for food at farms. Tulip bulbs and sugar beets would be eaten. It is estimated close to 20.000 people died of starvation. When the war ended many young children were treated at special children colonies to restore them back to good health. I was one of them.

I don’t think anything ever exceeded the euphoria in our family as at that time we had that half loaf of glorious bread. It was a luxury for our hungry family.

The memory is inedible and on par with another one, much more gruesome, of which my grandchildren can never get enough of. They insist on me regaling this dreadful tale over and over again. Children seem to love dreadful macabre tales.

This is the tale: While Rotterdam was bombed at the beginning of the war, the early and still primitive rocket science of the Germans had not yet progressed to anything remotely accurate. The Werner Von Braun V2 rockets meant for England just used to come down willy-nilly anywhere including in our already bombed out city of Rotterdam. They would swoosh over very low with a high pitched manic scream and frighten sleeping children as nothing else ever since. One of them came down somewhere near us and exploded. People were hanging out of windows, shards of glass everywhere and I found myself walking with my mother. She was holding my hand. A man came hobbling down the ruin of a blasted house. There was red colour oozing out of him. He was holding one leg under his arm. He was bleeding from the stump where his leg used to be…………. End of tale! Good night children…go to sleep now. No mucking up! They slept like angels.

Some two years later after life had become more normal but with food and staples still on stamps, my dad decided to take me and two brothers on a day’s outing. We took a train to the south-west somewhere and while my memories are vague being so young, I remember looking out over an endless grey mud flat whereby the colour of wet clay and sky matched at the very end of where I looked. There was no horizon. Dad had promised, after viewing this grey landscape for enough time, a glass of orange drink at a cafe. It was called ‘ranja’ in Dutch.

Of course, no fizzy drinks were available then and all soft drinks were cordial mixtures. The promise of a ranja drink is what I looked forward to so much, the first cordial in my life. The thought of that drink filled my mind as soon as dad’s promise was uttered. I had tasted sugar cubes at the children’s colonies prior to that event, and that was already an enormous experience that I would relish for hours afterwards. Life was so much worth living for now.

After we were all seated at this little café that overlooked this grey flat clay landscape the ‘ranja’ duly arrived in their glasses. This was the moment whereby I would taste a heaven on earth. I put the glass and its edge into my mouth but became so overwhelmed by the occasion, determined never to let this moment of supreme joy ever pass, that my teeth lashed onto the glass with such vehemence that a large piece broke off and remained clamped into my mouth. Oh, the sadness of it. I remember the immediate sense of failure and together with my wrongly assumed payment by my father for the broken glass to the café holder, burst out in inconsolable grief. The day was ruined and I so wished my mother had been there, but she was home in Rotterdam and dad wasn’t as good in the art of consoling little boys.

Rotterdam in 1941

November 12, 2011

Some of us go through life insuring ourselves for any known or unknown eventuality. We do that so that nothing untoward will ever happen, forgetting that a life too secure might well end up with a life unlived. After all, one would not have once life pre-digested and miss out on the wonders of the unknown. Perhaps when there is an overwhelming surplus of the past and just snippets of a future left, we go digging about into the past. It’s a bad habit and a sure sign of ageing, desperately having a last fling at tidying up s unsolvable riddles.

The picture above shows a one year old and a two year old, both August babies and both are getting a tubbing on the balcony of our Rotterdam apartment. That the apartment is standing is remarkable seeing the picture was taken a year after the bombing of Rotterdam. It is even more remarkable that the picture is such a serenely domestic photo, belying the reality of the situation. The boy at the front with hair sticking up is Gerard and the other Frank. Frank turned out to be plagued by severe and chronic schizophrenia. He is still alive and only last week was taken on a holiday ito the South of Holland. He has a life of sorts as perhaps all of us do. He collects stamps and watches soccer on his TV.

The thing about the picture is that, barely visible, my mum is wearing a rather pretty dress with shoulder pads that stick up, rather than those shoulder pads that went more sideways, which were all the fashion some years ago, sometimes making large women stand out like Sumo wrestlers. My mother is intent on the job of tubbing us. Both of her boys are sitting quite happy. It is a photo of reality. We are sitting there getting a wash and my mum looks on. It is also a photo of unreality. The V1’s and V2’s started to come down unexpectedly even though they were meant for London. The riddle is the shoulder pads and the tubbing; giving an image that must have been so unlike the real situation. On the other hand, a photo of the carnage that Rotterdam suffered and was still undergoing could not have included getting a ‘normal’ tubbing’, or would have included my mother’s shoulder pads.

Going back to insurances, we have none. I do worry about not having car insurance, especially after receiving a bill from GIO some time ago about damage to a car from a tow bar fitted to our car. The bill was, from memory over $1300.-. We did not admit liability as the car had backed into ours during a parking struggle. Since then we haven’t heard from GIO.

We used to have insurances about all sorts of eventualities but lately I can’t for the life of me imagine what we could possibly gain from having them. If our house burns down, well, the body corporate fees include insurance for that. Our belongings are precious and the personal aspects of losing them can’t be insured against. We don’t have Harvey Norman featuring to any extent in our furniture which consists of bits and pieces from our previous farm-life in Holland and odds and ends scavenged from quasi antiques shops. I noticed a lot of TV ads for funeral insurances. What are they hinting at? Strangely enough, those ads feature a man feeling guilty of (again) not caring enough about dying before his partner has been well provided for. What about if she carks it before him?
This is it. Enjoy your week-end.

Moving from Rotterdam to The Hague

April 14, 2010

Moving House.

 The trip and move to The Hague was arranged by a removalist. My parents and baby Herman in lap sat at the front with the driver and the kids inside the covered truck but at the front of the interior which had a window overlooking the top of the cabin. Frank, John and I had already reached the stage of collecting cigar bands and marbles. The marbles were won by knocking opponents out and collecting those marbles that were in the ‘pot’.  Standing up in the truck and keen to spent time with mischief, I started rolling a couple of marbles over the cabin at the front and subsequently over the front driver’s window. The truck soon came to a sudden halt and a very angry removalist got out climbed in and without a word gave me a hard smack, took the bag of those dearly won marbles and climbed back inside his cabin.  I am not sure why my parents did not deal with the problem, perhaps used to  much mischief twenty four hours a day, with marbles rolling over driver’s windows being a mere bagatelle.

The arrival of the removalist and truck with goods and inhabitants has got lost in my memories accept that the driver was big enough to give back those marbles. During the evening most of the furniture must have found a place somewhere on the floor and would have included the children’s large bed. Our bed was a wooden affair with planks across the width of a double timber bed frame.

 The mattresses were in three parts and made of kapok which my mother used to air outside at least once a week. I suppose some of us were not totally nonstop toilet savvy and the war would not have had the most soothing effect on the nerves of children that grew up in that period. As the first evening grew more and more hysterical amongst the three of us, at least in my father’s eyes, and we were suffering from loud laughter and endless farting under the blankets, dad felt the need for discipline and letting off his steam as well. It had been a hard day and his tobacco might have run out at a most inopportune moment as well. He grabbed a little stick and started to flay us kids who were already experienced enough to dive with split second precision under the blankets. When we got out from under the fart laden blankets we noticed the little stick had broken. However, the break was not clean and resulted the end bit hanging onto the main part which was now flipping and flopping about whilst my poor dad was wildly trying to bring us under control. It had enough of an impression for memories to have etched so firmly in my conscience as if only yesterday