Posts Tagged ‘Sydeny’

Can the pumpkin save the world?

June 7, 2018

IMG_0075Salvia.JPG

Salvia

 

The world is holding its breath. Soon, Kim Jong Un and  Donald Trump will meet and hopefully come to an agreement on their weaponry. I wonder who is more of a dictator now? With Trump seemingly able to pardon himself for any wrongdoing, I reckon they are both neck on neck with claiming the winner of the race to an ultimate dictatorship.

Helvi and I often end up discussing politics. She is getting more and more despondent about the situation in Australia. ‘So little is decided and so little is being done’ , she said last night. ‘There is so much of nothingness in Australia now.’ We are still living of the success of SSM but for how long will that continue to nurture us? The same old stuff seems to get regurgitated over and over. I was a young and ambitious man when the second Sydney  airport was discussed. Has anyone heard anything about that lately? The same with education. All sorts of rapports and tests but nothing improves. The only time we read about it, it talks about a student getting a haircut or how the school bullying has resulted in misery and suicide. Anything about the fast trains or how the hydro electricity in the Snowy mountains is progressing?  Plastic shopping bags and non deposit glass was dealt with and banned in Holland in the seventies.

The only positive that has happened is that pumpkins are now for sale at 99c a kilo. We do not need to just live of the glory of SSM!  We rushed out and stocked up for the rest of the winter. Nothing can be more positive than a nice pumpkin and what can be made of it. A warning though!. There are hidden dangers. Pumpkins, sharp knives and over- enthusiastic cooks have often come to grief.

We snapped up four pumpkins for starters, with a large bag of potatoes, leeks, onions and garlic, lots of garlic. We noticed many doing the same. It seems that the message of good diets might be getting through. Some shoppers still try to sneak in a carton of Coke or lemonade but you can tell by their furtive eye movements that they are battling with their conscience. I used to give them stern looks but in my dotage have mellowed, and now manage a generous smile of understanding. I too used to sip a Coke!

Going back to my pumpkins. A good friend said that she never peels the pumpkin. It is even possible to bake an entire pumpkin without even cutting it in half. This is the wonder of having friends that share cooking and politics. I never knew one could bake an entire pumpkin. There I was sharpening my chopper and large knife including, a filleting knife (from Finland) trying to cut my pumpkin in sizeable portions to be baked in the oven. I never just boil pumpkin without first baking it together with the leeks, garlic and onions drizzled with a nice olive oil. There used to be a bar near central Sydney railway where you could actually sit on a stool and sample different oils and vinegars.

That’s what I miss here in Bowral. It is all so Anglo and nice! We have a lot of different salvias growing. The gardeners were here today, and I just said (in jest) in the presence of a neighbour peering at our salvias. ‘You know, this salvia is very good for rolling and smoking! In some US states it is forbidden to grow it because it can give you the smile of an angel and mildly hallucinates.’ The neighbour looked wry. Helvi kicked me in the shin.

Anyway, from now on I will not peel pumpkin. It will just be part of the soup. I add a little chilli with a good spoonful of turmeric. After baking it for 30 minutes I whisk the lot to a fine harmonious and mellow yellow soup. It is truly a magic dish.

My suggestion is to Singapore and the meeting between those giants of atomic might, to be given the best chance of peace resolution and give them this pumpkin soup lavishly, with dollops of sour cream and crusty sour-dough bread .

A food worthy of peace.

 

This matter of right choices. (Auto-biography)

August 22, 2015

In summing up the choice to return to Australia from Holland was made spontaneously. Helvi was happy to stay but also happy to return. She has much less trouble with the perceived pros and cons of this country or that country. To ‘just get on’ is much more in her domain than mine. I mull and procrastinate and still make rash decisions. It seems an oxymoron.

The reasons given can be seen as both wise and unwise. Both countries have good and not so good qualities depending on personal likes or dislikes. To shine further light on what happened back in 1976 seems an exercise that might be futile and runs the risk of boring  the reader who could already be somewhat stretched in accepting this chain of indecisive events.

I do remember missing the good times with my extended family of brothers and sister with their spouses and their children in Australia. Another item not to be ignored was the lure of the bush. It is rather comforting to know you can just walk into the Australian bush  for days, never need meet another soul.  This makes for great therapy, but also great murder scenarios. Skeletons are sometimes discovered of people gone missing years before. Australia is even big enough for that! Some call it “Lebensraum”.

The sea of life is what we make of it and mulling over past events is what this exercise is all about. I write down what happened in the past, hopefully without invoking even more guilt or judgement. This is a luxury that I give to the readers. There is no greater naval gazing than writing memoires. The dressing up of calling it an Autobiography seems a bit haughty if not pretentious. It is not as if this writer is an Obama or the latest Pope! Even so, it is the best I can come up with in doing something useful. Apart from all that, it keeps me off the streets.

If I remember right we arrived back in Australia in the beginning of June 1976 and moved into our house around the beginning of August, coinciding with arrival of all our belongings. Those belongings were packed in Holland in two large wooden crates measuring together a bit over 17 cubic metres. I received a letter from Customs that the goods had arrived and that,  after inspection by custom officers, I could arrange to get them picked up and delivered to our house in Balmain.  The Custom letter also gave the sage advice to take a jemmy-bar to prise open the lids of the wooden crates.

After arrival at the depot it took about half-a-day to find the crates amongst thousands of other crates. It had Oosterman written on it and that was of some comfort. However, to open the lids proved difficult. Even to get on top of the crates was going to be very difficult, (sorry ‘challenging’). It was years later when the word ‘difficult’ was banned and changed into ‘challenge.’  The psychologists have a lot to answer for by making us believe that changing words around, somehow can make life easier. Later on  the word ‘challenge’ was primed up even further and has morphed into ‘solutions’.  We all know that after paying to get ourselves psycho-analysed we end up accepting there is nothing to life’s problems that can’t be overcome by using and finding ‘solutions’.  I wrote before about our local butcher selling ‘meat solutions.’  Huge trucks and road trains thunder along our highways with ‘logistics’ written on their tarpaulins, bringing ‘solutions’ all around our country.

A friendly truck-driver gave me a leg-up onto the top of the crate. How to open the lids allowing for Custom Officer inspection when standing on top of it? The logistics were challenging. The Custom Officer arrived and with help of the friendly truck driver managed to open the lids. He poked around a bit and wasn’t all that enthusiastic in looking for wood-worm or other possible infestations of bugs that Australia was very weary off. Most people that have ever flown into Australia might remember the Customs carnival going through the plane cross armed, after arrival in Australia, holding two spray cans above their heads and spraying the perplexed passengers still sweetly restrained sitting in their seats! All in an effort to safeguard Australia from nasty Foreign Overseas born flies  and insects. Of course, no country in the world suffers more from flies than Australia!

Dancing lessons

November 27, 2013

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While the streets are being dug up with a variety of cables being introduced or taken out, I remember taken dancing lessons. I don’t know why. Perhaps all those entangled entwined cables are the reason. Who knows? The subconscious does more than we are willing to give credit for.

It was many years ago. I was still normal, in my teens, and wanted to get in touch with women, even touch women. It was also a period when, historically, the country was being flooded by single men. They also wanted to meet and touch women. The reason for this flood of so many single men was migration from Europe and giant public works in Australia that needed brute male strength.

Cane cutting up north in Queensland and giant mines everywhere seemed to attract mainly men from Italy and Greece. Perhaps it was the heat. The Snowy Mountains with the damming of the Snowy Mountain river called for men able to stand cold, so, men from Finland and the Baltic countries flocked there. In any case, there was a copious number of single men and a dearth of women.

Things were grim for men, but, and rightly so, there were many glorious opportunities for girls. Women had the pick of good shiny dark haired Dean Martin Southern European looking men, albeit often a bit dishevelled from cane cutting or the blond giant Thors from Northern sword flashing Viking countries.

In Sydney, a desperately lonely male had white washed on an overhead railway bridge at Glebe in 1962, “Australia is a country of men with no women”. How sad an indictment of an immigration policy. However, dancing academies were flourishing. Many knew how to make a quid from misery already then.

Of course I was subject to this female drought as well. Worse, I wasn’t anywhere in the league of swarthy, dark haired Dean Martin Italians or a Zorba, nor had the sword flashing mien of the blond Viking. I wore glasses and a big nose. But, what I did have… was a Ford V8 (with a single chrome spinner) and leather seats with inbuilt ash trays. It was a light blue in colour and the rust in the mudguards was well hidden with metal putty and hand painted over.

I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I bought a complete booklet of tickets to Phyllis Bate’s dancing academy in Pitt Street. It cost a months wages but if that helped me to ensure a touch with a lovely soft yielding female, the heck with frugality.

We know that in the English speaking world, sometimes words such as ‘academy’ or ‘accredited’ are a bit, well…freely used. Phyllis Bate’s academy was a bit stretched for claiming ‘academy’ when on arrival the hall above a milk-bar was full, not of girls but of European males. I had already bought a years supply of weekly dancing lessons. So, what to do. I was crestfallen. It was too late for a re-fund.

Fortunately the dancing steps for beginners were already painted in black on the wooden floor. “Try to get in the rhythm of the music and follow the black steps on the floor”, I was told. “You’ll learn the Foxtrot pretty quickly”. I was totally floored by that. Dance by myself? That’s what I had been doing since arrival.

Even so, I tried feebly to follow the steps but the teacher (a woman) thought I was showing less than enthusiasm. “Try put more feeling in the steps’, she offered. “Don’t look at those painted steps”, “imagine a partner”. “Next time we will try a Cha,Cha,cha”. I wanted more than an ‘imagine a partner.’ It was so lacking in substance especially soft-ness.

Next week, there were a few girls as well. The Dean Martins soon were swirling around with a lot more gusto than I was doing a solitary Cha Cha cha. The teacher came up to me and offered to be my partner, just when I had resigned to have another dancing session following black painted steps. She said that she would hold a book between her chest and mine. I had to be careful not to let it fall on the floor. It was going to be the fox trot.

When the music started, it was a quick snappy version of ‘tulips of Amsterdam.’ I was most diligent not to let the book fall and managed to stay fairly upright pressing against a real woman. The book had the title ‘Of Human Bondage’ which I had read.

It was all a long time ago. I also had a Ford V8.

Persistant Migrant Memories

August 29, 2012

Persistant Migrant Memories

 

Our arrival in Sydney was drunk-less and a great relief for all of us. We walked to Hyde Park and mum distributed all the ready- made IXL jam sandwiches, but not with as much jam as we would have liked. Old habits die hard, they say.

On the way back to Scheyville we met up with the Van Dijks at Granville rail station, this is a railway station of some significance and would feature into the next eight months of our lives. It was arranged we would live with the Van Dijks and our departure from the Camp was now imminent. My mother went with Beb Van Dijk shopping at some stage because after we all moved from Scheyville to the Van Dijks we all had brand new, gleaming, chrome plated steel framed double bunk beds. The arrival of all of us at the Van Dijks was not without big surprises. You can imagine my keenness to finally discover this magic car that would convert to truck and back to sedan. As it turned out, it was a 1939 Chevrolet utility with three wheels, the forth one was missing and the car was compensated for that loss by a pile of bricks. It was rusty and nothing like what I had imagined. What a blow, if not deceit. I never saw it being driven.

Disappointed, but I got over it, at least they did have a car, a tiny 1951 Renault that was more like a jacket than a car, something that one put on for a rain shower and it was small. None the less, the whole family would pile into it on the way to church and back. This is when the cake eating came into its own. The house itself was in Guildford, not far from that Granville Station, on a busy road and was very old and in disrepair. Apart from that it was situated in the middle of large stacks of timber and cast iron baths. The baths must have looked promising to our mother. The raison d’être for her coming to Australia was in sight! The car was not the only item on three legs. The pet dog, a large German Sheppard at least ran around on three legs. A friendly dog but why three legs? 20

Anyway, that first evening after our arrival we all had coffee and cakes and good times would surely be arriving. Perhaps a bit hesitantly, but step by step our determination and sense of Dutch pioneering would triumph?

 

So, it was after we moved in from the Migrant Camp of Scheyville with the Van Dijks and our discovery that it is ‘not all gold that glitters’ and that their reporting about their good fortunes in Australia looked a bit pale, that we had to put shoulders under the tasks ahead. Mother was the chief of staff that sat out this mammoth job. Dad, crumbled not only from the disappointment of now living in the middle of a timber yard with huge rats being chased by a three legged dog, nor the ‘magic’ car on three wheels, nor that the extension that we would live in but not built. The only thing that was true was the Van Dijks cake eating every Sunday, after hobbling down-hill in the Renault coat jacket.

Dad just collapsed and refused to come out of bed, deeply depressed and knee deep in gloom. The promised Government job was not available to non British subjects, and he, who was totally spoon fed on life-long permanent Government security, was crushed. The temporary ideology of a culture that thrived on temporary accommodation and temporary jobs, temporary living quarters, people moving to another address at the drop of a hat, was something totally alien to us, especially Dad. He stayed in bed for six weeks. It is difficult to describe those first few months after arrival without coming to some conclusion that the picture of a new country as portrayed by the Australian Immigration Office in The Netherlands and the letters from the Van Dijks had not met the reality of our situation and life then.

The Art of bending Babies and Play Groups in the late sixties.

July 8, 2012

Children’s Library, Play and baby- sitting groups.

These were happy times, and soon Helvi and I had another daughter, delivered at the same hospital and by the same doctor. Our children were growing up with many other young children in the same area. We befriended many other couples.  None of the child-care centres that are now so proliferate existed then and one enterprising mother thought up the idea of playgroups whereby both children and mothers could get together. These were supreme examples of communities getting together. The playgroups and babysitting club came to being through a community organisation that was set up to preserve an old police lock up and ‘watch house’. It was an historic double story sandstone structure and in need of restoration. The National Trust which was set up to preserve old and historic buildings of national significance also included the ‘Watch House’ and decided in its wisdom to fund some of the cost of restoration. Money was also raised through the community having ‘fund raising’ dinners or events and through membership fees. Those members belonging to the association were mainly young and professional couples with children and it was a logical extension to get together with the kids and parents, mainly mothers. This was happening in parks, playgrounds or people’s homes.

As many of the couples became friends and started to socialize it was inevitable that someone thought up the idea of setting up a baby-sitting club. This would then allow parents to sometimes go out and know that their baby or young child was well looked after and at no cost.  For every hour a baby was looked after, mainly during evenings, the parents of the baby would be charged a minus point and the baby sitter would get a plus point. To get rid of the minus points it was expected for parents to baby sit in return. There was a limit in racking up minus points and anyone exploiting the system would receive a notice that baby-sitting was expected, or else the baby- sitting for the offending couple would cease. The system worked perfectly, and by and large the point system remained fairly balanced. After all, who wanted to be known for being a perpetual ‘minus point couple’? There was one hiatus, males doing baby-sitting. The last bastion in the late sixties for males to break down was the right to baby-sit. Women were in the throng of burning bras and going girdle less, stockings with seams were passé and Germaine Greer had announced ‘Bras are a ludicrous invention’. So, while women burned bras because they were seen as accoutrements of torture, men burned their draft cards avoiding real torture and felt liberated until they tried to baby-sit in Inner West of Sydney.

As it was I turned up one evening and with the household all dressed to go and dine somewhere or see Zorba the Greek, I noticed a distinct cooling towards me. They made a discreet phone call and decided it would be safe for a man to be allowed to baby sit, just this time.  ? Of course, many of the parents that knew each other through social events knew each other as couples or, in the case of play groups, were mainly always women. For a man to be on its own, solo, and at baby-sitting in the evening was not that far advanced in acceptance yet. There was a meeting and the majority approved ‘male baby-sitting’. I don’t know what the objections or criteria were for being suspicious of males doing baby-sitting. Curiously enough, the mother that was surprised and taken aback somewhat when I presented myself to baby-sit, thought nothing of taking her clothes off for a life drawing session. Were males going to do evil things or was the reluctance because of lack of skills? It was not that much of a challenge though and much depended on what sort of facilities the parents had provided. Real coffee instead of the instant variety was preferred. Sometimes, there was a good book or a television program. Sometimes, especially if it was after midnight (double points) you would just go to sleep on a couch if available. Never in their marital bed of course!

Most times babies would either sleep or cry. If they cried you generally gave them the option of a milk bottle or a dummy. With some families there were directions on procedures, and I remember one cot having a type of fly screen lid fitted on top. It was hinged and had a locking device which was difficult to open; it had a trick to it. I ended phoning the secretary. Did they think their baby was going to get stolen? I only had one time that my baby soothing skills were inadequate. Mind you, the babies (twins) were known as ‘the horrible twins’. Apparently, they would scream and could not be bend in order to change their nappies. It was my turn to baby-sit for these twins and as soon as I walked near them they broke out in a howl and in tandem. The nappy stench made clear I had to change them, but even another step towards their cot resulted in a renewal of their blaring sirens. It would only abate when stepping back. I kept stepping back and phoned the secretary again, she came around and changed the nappies

. By 1972 most males had broken the barrier and were fully accepted for babysitting.

Persistant Migrant Memories

May 22, 2012

Our arrival in Sydney was drunk-less and a great relief for all of us. We walked to Hyde Park and mum distributed all the ready- made IXL jam sandwiches, but not with as much jam as we would have liked. Old habits die hard, they say.

On the way back to Scheyville we met up with the Van Dijks at Granville rail station, this is a railway station of some significance and would feature into the next eight months of our lives. It was arranged we would live with the Van Dijks and our departure from the Camp was now imminent. My mother went with Beb Van Dijk shopping at some stage because after we all moved from Scheyville to the Van Dijks we all had brand new, gleaming, chrome plated steel framed double bunk beds. The arrival of all of us at the Van Dijks was not without big surprises. You can imagine my keenness to finally discover this magic car that would convert to truck and back to sedan. As it turned out, it was a 1939 Chevrolet utility with three wheels, the forth one was missing and the car was compensated for that loss by a pile of bricks. It was rusty and nothing like what I had imagined. What a blow, if not deceit. I never saw it being driven.

Disappointed, but I got over it, at least they did have a car, a tiny 1951 Renault that was more like a jacket than a car, something that one put on for a rain shower and it was small. None the less, the whole family would pile into it on the way to church and back. This is when the cake eating came into its own. The house itself was in Guildford, not far from that Granville Station, on a busy road and was very old and in disrepair. Apart from that it was situated in the middle of large stacks of timber and cast iron baths. The baths must have looked promising to our mother. The raison d’être for her coming to Australia was in sight! The car was not the only item on three legs. The pet dog, a large German Sheppard at least ran around on three legs. A friendly dog but why three legs? 20

Anyway, that first evening after our arrival we all had coffee and cakes and good times would surely be arriving. Perhaps a bit hesitantly, but step by step our determination and sense of Dutch pioneering would triumph?

 

So, it was after we moved in from the Migrant Camp of Scheyville with the Van Dijks and our discovery that it is ‘not all gold that glitters’ and that their reporting about their good fortunes in Australia looked a bit pale, that we had to put shoulders under the tasks ahead. Mother was the chief of staff that sat out this mammoth job. Dad, crumbled not only from the disappointment of now living in the middle of a timber yard with huge rats being chased by a three legged dog, nor the ‘magic’ car on three wheels, nor that the extension that we would live in but not built. The only thing that was true was the Van Dijks cake eating every Sunday, after hobbling down-hill in the Renault coat jacket.

Dad just collapsed and refused to come out of bed, deeply depressed and knee deep in gloom. The promised Government job was not available to non British subjects, and he, who was totally spoon fed on life-long permanent Government security, was crushed. The temporary ideology of a culture that thrived on temporary accommodation and temporary jobs, temporary living quarters, people moving to another address at the drop of a hat, was something totally alien to us, especially Dad. He stayed in bed for six weeks. It is difficult to describe those first few months after arrival without coming to some conclusion that the picture of a new country as portrayed by the Australian Immigration Office in The Netherlands and the letters from the Van Dijks had not met the reality of our situation and life then.

Social Intercourse amongst the Dagos and Reffos

March 16, 2012

We know there was always some kind of town or village center where people used to meet up, mingle and gossip. The old water-well did not always contain the bodies of the missing loved ones, more likely to hold endless tales of folklore and the latest news, perhaps spiced with the regaling of the latest sexual maneuverings amongst the libidinous of the village… It has always been like that!

In the larger towns and cities it was the square in front of the cathedral or market place where the same was served to keep the locals in contact with each other. Look at Pieter Bruegel’s paintings. The dalliances of the locals together at town’s centers could never be told with any more precision. The kicking up of heels during the 1530’s has, as far as I know, never been surpassed since. Even Michael Jackson’s Moon-Walk pales into a rather limp expression of a dance. Talk about dancing, whatever happened to those mirrored balls suspended from ceilings spitting glitter around the dancers? Has it all gone into the pails of history?

In the 1960’s one of the best places to pick up a sheila, was Trocadero in George Street, Sydney. There was a strict protocol. The slightest whiff of alcohol and you were barred. There were special men,  trained connoisseurs of breaths, reputedly able to detect, with great precision, the difference between a sprinkle of Eau De Cologne and a lager. The odour disguishing help of peppermints was always a trick that only worked towards the end of the evening when the alcohol had worked itself out of the system, at that stage; everything gets a bit limp anyway. The only beverage available, once broken through the cordon of breath sniffers, and finally inside that Mecca for picking up sheilas, was a generous supply of, (another Australian icon on par with the Victa lawnmower) Fanta orange drink.

Alas, even Fanta is now foreign owned together with the Victa. In China they have built an entire high rise city of 150.000 people totally geared towards the manufacturing of Hills Hoists. This city is called “happy clothes dryers-“快樂布烘乾線 “After 2 years of hard work, employees receive a free Victa, after 20 years a much revered free Hills Hoist. I remember digging out a concrete lump that surrounded the base of the hoist, a job I would now not be able to do anymore. How the years creep up in all those little things that one used to do and so much enjoy.

Meanwhile back at the Trocadero in the fifties and sixties, the picking up of sheilas was a serious Saturday evening pursuit well worth foregoing the alcohol. The only snag during that period was the oversupply of men. There were all those sturdy muscled miners from Finland, dazzling blond hair all shiny and brilliantined up and expert tango dancers. I’ll never forget those cane cutters from Queensland, many from fascinating East European backgrounds called ‘reffos’.  The competition for a dance was fierce, feudalistic amongst the men, often on a knife’s edge. My rather lanky figure in Julius Marlow shod feet had to compete with those and the (less popular but infinitely better looking Dean Martin’s look-alikes) swarthy Italians and Creeks, called “dagos”. I was occasionally successful with the business of Sheila picking-up but always looked forward to the Fanta as well.

One made the best of what was available.