Posts Tagged ‘Suomi’

A sigh of relief!

January 3, 2017

new-cover-1704-front-big-book-cover-18april

There is a communal sighing of relief washing all over Australia . Work has started and routine is returning. People are happy again. It is odd how we yearn for variety and change of routine, yet always welcome a return to normality. There is nothing as life-confirming as everyday habits while performing household duties. I suppose, all the extra dishes have now been washed and the last of the bottles put out for re-cycling. We are all relishing a return to the familiar. We enjoy being bored but are just not honest enough to admit except to our most intimate friends under the cover of darkness or an umbrella during day time.

New Year’s day was totally absent of any public expression of joy. Not a celebration in sight. All shops were closed. Even the coffee bars were shut. Some tourists were aimlessly walking around looking for a celebration. Several with strong European accents asked us where they could get a coffee. “No, not here in Bowral, but the Fish and Chip shop is open, try there you might get an instant Nescafé.” Bowral on New Year’s day looked like a post-apocalyptic scene out of the novel ‘On the Beach’, by Neville Shute. I remember when each time we arrived back in Australia by boat it would be on a Sunday in Fremantle. Not a soul to be seen on the streets. The first time back in 1956, before the book was even written

At one stage we had foreign students living with us in inner city suburb of Balmain. They were mainly from Asian countries. Inevitably they would ask us; “where are the people?” They missed people around on the streets more than anything.

I think Australia might have to try a bit harder in the field of public celebrations and joy in attracting tourism. Sure, the fireworks in Sydney and other places were magnificent on New Year’s Eve. Overall, it seems that the Christmas season celebrations are mainly a private affair. A family get together rather than a public event. Our cities don’t seem to have the density required for people to come out in the open in throngs like they do in Amsterdam, Paris or Hong Kong. We live too spread out from each other and with our love for privacy don’t care much for a display of abandoning all our inhibitions, except when we get drunk. Even then we are more likely to bash than to embrace.

A report has come out stating that our economic model of consuming by soaking up our yearly GDP is becoming more and more unstuck. It seems we have reached a level of saturation. There is only so much we can shove in our cupboards and wardrobes or have enough power points to plug in electronic gadgetry.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-04/consumerism-buying-more-stuff-not-answer-to-happiness/8160346

Well, the pensioners will certainly give a helping hand in non-consuming, seeing the government has targeted billions to be saved from cutting pensions or by lowering them. The money saved will be used to give tax breaks to business and the wealthy. We also have this senator advising that pensioners should be ashamed of being a pensioner. Pensioners ought to feel they have failed seems to be his message.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-02/david-leyonhjelm-calls-to-restrict-pension-assets-test/8157924

We should all pull together and show shame. Be proud of your shame.

Alahärmän Pojat ja Tytöt; a burning ship, ( Auto-biography)

July 14, 2015

The six months or more that I lived in Finland could easily fill a book. I haven’t even reached the Kalevala.  Finland’s national epic of which so much Finish culture, music and design is derived from. Let me make amends and give you at least the basics of what the Kalevala is about and I copy from Wiki;

” is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology.[2]It is regarded as the national epic of Karelia and Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. The Kalevala played an instrumental role in the development of the Finnish national identity, the intensification of Finland’s language strife and the growing sense of nationality that ultimately led to Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917.[3

And yet, despite all that beauty and creativity, Finland remains a country with a rather reticent self image. It doesn’t easily boast or do unnecessary head-stands or engage in world-stage pole vaulting. The Ankeriasjarvi hut with outside sauna and water-well with its lovely lake had to come to an end. Love alone might never end but finally also needs more than walking along water’s edge or hacking holes in ice in the hope of catching sad eyed and lonely fish. Has anyone ever experienced the delights of throwing water on boiling hot stones inside a wooden hut lined with fragrant pine?

We had bought some  paints and I did do a few paintings while also waiting for news from the local Australian embassy to gain a residency permit for Helvi (my wife- vaimoni) to live in Australia. We were given an appointments for interview but when I showed the immigration man at the Embassy our buff coloured letter head with my parents address for ‘Head-Office’ within seconds assured us there was no problem. Australia was desperate for building and painting contractors. He almost gave me us free shovel and wheel- barrow.

We then booked a boat. It was again one of the Flotta Lauro boats, either the ‘Roma’ or its sister ship ‘Sydney’. The original idea was to live in Finland where I would paint pictures and Helvi teach. We had looked at a few timber houses in the country side but after a while decided to delay this plan, go to Australia for a few years instead, build up some capital. While first waiting for all paperwork to be finalised for a grand wedding and then just ditching it for a registry marriage, we now waited for all approvals for going to Australia. Helvi was never too fussed about conventions. I guess another reason we clicked together so well. Even so, the move to leave  home and hearth was hard and very brave. She had already moved away from her family home for some years when she had to live close to her gymnasium and after to the university. She shared a house with her brother who was also studying. At week-ends she travelled home to the farm to be with her very large and extensive family.

The village she lived in was peopled mainly by her father’s brothers and other close relatives with the farm houses clustered cosily together and the farm land nestled around this village. Some crops were grown, some had milking cows and most also produced timber.  I remember visiting her father’s sister just a short walk from the farm. She was married to a man who had lived for many years in Canada and spoke English with a strong Canadian accent. His name was Antti.  He told me an interesting and amazing story of why he went to Canada in the first place.  His wife was always a bit anxious when he spoke to me in English. Her name was aunty Maija.

 

H and I at the family farm with Helvi's brothers and two sisters.

H and I at the family farm with Helvi’s brothers and two sisters.

The main event when visiting family and friends was to have coffee. Coffee drinking in Finland is  a national past-time together with eating ‘pulla’, a kind of cardamon semi-sweet cake and is revered as the essence of much Finnish baking. If you are offered coffee and pulla you are in good hands. Sometimes cream is put on top and coffee is sugared with cubes of sugar. (Readers might remember many years later on the hot train between Moscow and St Petersburg a kind and buxom woman offered me those same cubes but dipped in Absinthe after she found out I painted pictures. The same woman also dabbed her generous bosom with Eau de Cologne with an embroidered hanky. Oh, how those memories linger! Was the number of that Cologne 711 or 911? It is so confusing now).

It was within a few weeks of our departure when a telegram came that told us a fire had broken out on our ship cancelling our trip. But, as compensation, were offered a first class voyage to Australia on their other Flotta Lauro ship a couple of weeks or so later. When the time came we said goodbye, walked out of Helvi’s farm. We, somewhat sadly, now carried suitcases to take ferries and train to Genoa to catch the boat to Sydney. Half of this boat held about 20-30 passengers in its first class, the rest of the boat hundreds of migrants, mainly Italian and later on Greek migrants. One of the many perceived advantages, apart from having so much space, was dining almost every night with the captain and his top crew. Lucky we had a nice crew and the captain was popular at both parts of the boat. We would at times go to the other half and have more fun with so many more people around.

We shared a small round dining table with a sophisticated elderly Italian couple on their way to visit their pianist son in Melbourne. We also drank a bottle of white Italian wine every night called ‘Suave’ with our dinner. One can still buy this wine today. The Italian couple were very nice. One high point, at least in the case of Helvi, was that the very charming, debonair and white uniformed captain asked Helvi for a dance.  I could tell Helvi loved it.  They were a nice couple and looked stunning. Helvi is a natural when it comes to swaying and dancing. While on the other hand I danced as if still following the painted Phyllis Bates Fox trot steps on the parquetry floor in Sydney. I danced with the generously endowed Italian wife of the husband that we shared the dining- table with.

It was a great sea voyage.

The period post Italy but pre- Finland. (Auto-biography)

June 27, 2015
Dolomites

Dolomites

The walk from Bressanone rail-station uphill to Bernard’s chalet must have been steep and long. Did I ask for a map or directions? I cannot remember. Consider that in those years suitcases on wheels were yet to be discovered nor were back-packs as progressive as they are now! Today I see young women with such towering back-packs getting from airports to taxi almost to the point of other bystanders ready to give an ovation.  Mind you, even back-packs are now on wheels as well.

I must have had a rough idea and perhaps asked a local for the address. This area was pre-dominantly German-speaking and I was fluent in that language. Bressanone, even though now Italian, used to be part of Austria and still today pre-dominantly Austrian in culture and population. The area is South Tirol.

I do remember reaching the chalet and my friend coming out greeting me. It was definitely sunny. The view was breath-taking with Bressanone nestling down in the valley and at the back of the chalet the towering Dolomites climbing forever upwards, glistening with their limestone faces. The chalet was a small and solid white washed adobe house with ornately carved gables,  window and door architraves, of which that area is famous for, and really an extension of the same architecture of  the medieval town in East Tirol of Lienz were I had spent time skiing during the winter and were I had met the girl with the beautiful eyes from Finland. It was at Lienz where I also had a ski fall and broke my glasses, as well as meeting my future wife. ( while dabbing my bleeding proboscis).

It was all such a liberating event. Liberated from the suburban ennui back in Australia with my family and Frank.  A liberation from wanting to work while wearing a suit hoping for recognition, admiration or at least something of achievement. A kind of something that young people are supposed to work towards. A career that would cement a solid future and  distinguish one from failure. All those things are not always so clearly defined but yet one grows up with as an obligation to fulfil to parents. As those early years passed by I did have a skill to earn some money and that stood me in good stead. However, the making of money is pretty boring unless compensated or alleviated  by an all encompassing and absorbing activity for  soul, spirit or psyche.

There are often moments of great significance that are recognised as such at a much later time. The meeting up with Bernard Durrant was one of those chances that on hindsight proved to be of great influence.  At the time in Italy we met for the second time. I had known Bernard in Australia. It was through him I took to chess playing and reading books and visiting State library.  He gave the advice to run your hand over the back of books at a library and pick the dustiest books! ‘They are often the best’, he said, especially in Australia! Reading in the early fifties was somewhat frowned upon. It was much healthier to play rugby or cricket, spear-tackle opponents. Libraries  visits by young men were rare.

I give you here a very short and copied biography of Bernard from a website by one of his friends.

“Already serving in the Army, Bernard was recruited by British Intelligence on the eve of the Second World War and was smuggled into Germany, but was soon discovered by the Nazis due to an inadequate cover story. Offered the choice of switching sides or death, he was posted to Alexandria, Egypt, where his brief was to spy on Allied shipping in the Mediterranean.When he arrived in Egypt, he escaped his German paymasters, and eventually made it back to the British Consul in the country.By this time he was considered tainted goods and was shipped back to Britain.

Once back on English soil he was promptly imprisoned in the Isle of Man under the Defence Regulation Section 18b, which was used by the Government to lock up more than 1,000 suspected traitors during the course of the war”. ( end of quote)

Girl with the 'Beautiful eyes' at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Girl with the’Beautiful eyes’ at Ankeriasjarvi, Suomi.

Bernard become the lifebuoy that saved me from going the normal way of career, block of own land and a house in the suburbs. I came so close to it. He got me to accept and understand that life ought to be inclusive of beauty and art. He went further and told me that life is all about exploration and finding what would give the greatest of joy and satisfaction. It all gelled and came together and I finally felt that my search for the essential would have to come through expressing what I felt strongest about. It might also relieve me from having to worry about career and job. It was so helpful that there were people like Bernard who had also travelled that same path and had found that creativity and expressing it was as much a ‘normal’ part of someone’s life as becoming a cigar smoking bank manager. Apart from all that we would continue to play chess high up the Tirol mountains.  I started to paint while Bernard already was writing poetry, some of which he managed to get published here and there. He had contacts and spoke both German and Italian which for an Englishman was somewhat unique.

Socks no more

July 11, 2012

Helvi Oosterman

When I was a kid, we used to get hand-knitted woollen socks for Christmas. Mum was very busy and sometimes she had only enough time to finish one sock, and we had to patiently wait for a whole year for its partner. By the time I was ten, I had received roughly four and half pairs of socks…

Mum was lucky that she did not have to go shopping for the wool; it grew on the backs of our black and white Finn sheep, which was very handy. All she had to do was to send it to the local wool co-op to be processed into a knitting yarn. Some busy people called it  LWCO for short, but we had enough time to get the words out, and we used the longer version.

Our Mum was a gentle person, not one of those tough black and white people. She liked nuances and shades better and therefore she also asked the wool to be blended into soft grey. Of course in those days we had never heard of the Aussie Rules that tell you that girls ought to wear pink and that blue is for boys. We were blissfully ignorant of such rulings and were happy just to have warm feet.

Life was good; we did not even know that paedophiles existed in our charmed world. Our parents let us walk to school, so obviously no one had told them either about these bad people. In return we did not tell them of our adventures of swimming in fast flowing rivers and the games we played on breaking up ice floes in springtime…we knew of people who had drowned, but not THAT many…

Now the mums have to buy big black cars and become taxi drivers for their offspring, and by the time the kids turn ten they have sleepless nights before Christmas because they can’t think of anything new they still have to have. They have their laptops, WII’s, IPods, IPads and scooters and trail bikes, and socks and shoes to die for with labels etched into them. Even the pencil cases have to be bought only at some special Smiggle shop; pens and rubbers from K-Mart just don’t cut it…

On Christmas Eve Dad and Big Brother used to go to our own forest and came back with a proper Christmas tree, a spruce with sturdy branches, branches so strong you could hang  edible red apples on them, and of course home-made gingerbread biscuits and real candles firmly sitting in their holders…no, we never managed to start a fire…We made sure all the edibles were eaten before the 6th of January, the Finnish Independence Day, and also the customary date for taking the Christmas tree down and out.

Little Max saw a black plastic Christmas tree the other day at some shopping mall and thankfully thought it was horrid, so would have my Mum, if we would have talked about it too loudly on her well-kept grave.

They don’t make Childhoods or Christmases like they used to. I only hope that it is still politically correct to wish you all a very good Christmas…!

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