Posts Tagged ‘Sydney’

Byron Bay with sharks.

September 12, 2017

 

untitledGustav Aschenabch

Gustav Ascenbach

The week to Byron Bay was too short, but all good things come to an end which is never truer (incorrect spelling, it is either true or not true) when it involves a break from routine. It’s a good sign when time passes quickly. Mind you, the devouring of almost two thousand kilometres there and back in the confined space of a metal object on wheels  can be tedious.

A funny anecdote towards the end of our trip was rewarding. Out of the blue, a hissing sound emerged within the car while driving to my brother’s place at Toronto, not far from Newcastle on the way back to Sydney-Bowral. We looked at each other and I asked Helvi if she could tell me the possible direction of this hissing sound. The car has so many electronic readings on a screen it is frightening. However, the screen kept on with supplying us navigational directions back home. I stopped the car convinced I had a leaking tyre. But all were rock-hard. I remembered vaguely reading in the car’s manual that a leaking tyre would be indicated on the screen but nothing appeared on the screen.

It turned out that I had accidentally turned on the radio which was off-tune. I never listen to car radio, and thankfully Helvi doesn’t like any musical sounds inside a confined space either. We are in total harmony and well attuned to avoiding noises; musical or otherwise. The accidental turning on of the radio was because a tiny miniscule button on the steering-wheel had accidentally been activated. How do people know all those things? Do they really have the stamina to read the 200 page car-manual? Anyway, my brother and us thought it very funny and laughter was a welcome relief.

The four night stay in Byron Bay was wonderfully informative as well as entertaining. As expected, the numerous spates of shark-attacks had left its mark. There were a lot less people in the water but this was more than compensated for by many more going around on hired push-bikes.  The people that were in the water were just near the edge of the sand and kept looking out for sharks. In the town I noticed a few people walking around with missing limbs. Of course, I did not go around and ask if it was a shark that caused the shortage of their foot or arm.

The hiring-out of surf boards was at a stand-still but the canny entrepreneur soon swapped over to hiring-out bicycles. One shop even supplied electric bicycles. Byron-Bay is now an international tourist destination and it is not difficult to understand why that is so. It does have a good vibe. One reason might well be that the Haight-Ashbury like hipness and aging hippies nearby Mullumbimby caused many to move to Byron-Bay. In the sixties, Mullumbimby drew many young people with a penchant for ditching bras and smoking pot. Even today it has the largest population of people refusing vaccinations together with fluoridated water.

http://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/mullumbimby-nsw

Some complain that this busy hive of Byron-Bay  used to be a simple fishing place, and now swamped with tourists. There are still many simple fishing villages along the way, and they will remain very sleepy and simple. Tourism doesn’t really go much for sleepiness.

The Byron-Bay Beach Hotel is still the pivotal attraction where most tourists sooner or later end up. For us it was the magic of musical bands each evening playing their stuff. The hotel itself is magical. More like a huge shed on the edge of the beach opening up to the sea. Lots of seating and with a choice of good food.

http://www.beachhotel.com.au/

PS. On the way home we stayed a night at a motel and the news on the TV had yet another shark attack near Byron Bay. Lucky for the surfer this shark attacked the surfboard which it broke in half. He had a piece of his wetsuit bitten out and  received a gash in his side. Of course, anyone in the water rushed out, and no doubt fewer people will venture into the water. It is a dilemma? The sea is the sharks territory. It doesn’t help killing sharks. The sharks don’t care and don’t differentiate between another fish or a surfer!

Perhaps, cycling is a safer option!

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A dangerous haircut.

July 18, 2017
IMG_0874Bowral Ducks

Bowral Ducks

It was suggested more than once to go and get my hair cut. ‘You are starting to look as if sleeping rough.’ This reference isn’t exactly an encouragement to go to the barber. I have often thought of sleeping ‘rough’. Over the last fortnight we watched two TV episodes of rich people experimenting with what seems to increasingly happen in Australia, homelessness.  A few TV people were assigned to imitate the lot of those unfortunate souls that are forced to sleep outside. What was lacking in the TV show of course was that those who did sleep outside for a few nights did this out of choice, and not out of necessity. The TV cameras followed them at all times and this made it all look a bit frivolous and silly. A kind of ‘Master-chef’ and it even copied the lining up of the participants in between the ‘sleeping rough’ episodes.

My idea of sleeping rough was awakened during our walk to the State library last year in the middle of summer. Martin Place in Sydney was full of the homeless sleeping rough but it had become a well organized ‘rough sleeping’. A kitchen had been set up and as far as I could see, the homeless made the best of a desperate situation.  There was hot food, tea and coffee, and most seemed to have reasonable shelter, either by small tents or overhanging awnings, sheltering them from rain.  It also had a book exchange for those vagrants with literary aspirations.  A most innovative idea. There existed an atmosphere of brothers/and sisters united in poverty and in spirit. Tenaciously they hung in there.

Martin Place of course is one of the most prestigious open squares in Sydney and millions of visitors walk through this lovely Town Square each year. It is surrounded by expensive shops and during lunch one can see smiling stock- brokers and Van Heusen shirt wearing criminal lawyers churning and belching their rich lunches down. It is indeed a spectacle of opposites in this Martin Place that the observant walker or tourist might well witness.

But…getting back to the impending hair-cut. I always go to the same barber. It is a franchise. You push a button and out comes a ticket telling your number in the queue and how much time will lapse before one gets the hair-cut. I was lucky and had to wait just twelve minutes giving me a chance to walk around my little local town-square, alas without homeless sleeping rough.

A solid girl was assigned to my head. I told her to try and envisage the state of my hair about eight weeks earlier and take it from there. I also told her to use comb nr 7 which gives the hair cutter some idea of preferred length of hair. Once I had taken out my hearing aids and taken off my glasses, peace and quiet reigned. I noticed she sniffled a little but otherwise she seemed a healthy woman and I felt confident my head to be in good hands.

As the girl with her cutting implements did the rounds she did suppress a few coughs and at one stage took herself off to a small backroom. I could hear her racking coughing loudly. On her return I put her at ease and told her that the winter is certainly giving people colds. A bit of a silly statement but without hearing aids I could not really risk engaging a conversation  that was destined to be difficult, especially when the poor girl was obviously having a bout of flu. I felt confident in my being risk-free with having taken the precaution of the yearly ‘flu-shot.’ At one stage and after another suppressed cough, I noticed her wiping a string of nasal expelled phlegm onto her black apron. I had quickly averted my eyes away from the mirror opposite me not wanting to further embarrass the situation.  She looked at me if I had noticed anything. I did not let on I witnessed this generous nasal expulsion.

I have now, and still am having, the worst flu episode ever. Totally Crook as Rookwood and am so full of lemon and honey, bees are buzzing around. What a bore and proof that flu shots are no guarantee against not getting a cold.

http://grammarist.com/usage/as-crook-as-rookwood/

 

The ‘Bespoke’ permanent Australian residency test

April 26, 2017
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Bottle

With our daughter being on the ‘cusp’ of buying a three bedroom unit closer to Sydney town, I was intrigued by a new word that seems to have caught the world by storm. It is the word ‘BESPOKE.’ Readers might well remember we were all on the edge of our seats some years ago, when our Government was urging their ministers to find  ‘new paradigms’. This soon spilled over to the voters. As is the wont of most Governments, the task and responsibility of finding the new paradigms was shifted to us. It wasn’t finding just any old paradigm, no it had to be the latest version. It made us all a bit nervous at first, but soon put shoulders under the task looking for our special new paradigm.

During or perhaps shortly after those revelational urgings many also took to forever being on the ‘cusp’ of something. It did not really matter what it was. As long as we were on the ‘cusp’ of something we were on solid ground. Helvi and I used to sit around sipping our coffee while looking for new paradigms, and hovering around being on the ‘cusp’ of something or other. I remember distinctly being on the cusp of buying our new lithium battery powered cordless vacuum cleaner an hour or so before we actually took off to buy one. We deliberately waited in order to prove our ‘cusping.’ Of course, naming our newly acquired vacuum machine a new paradigm might be pushing credibility a bit too far.

Getting back to the business of ‘bespoke’. It all came about when reading the Real Estate Agents’ lofty appraisal of trying to sell this home-unit to our daughter. They provided a lengthy list of the usual mouth watering morsels to attract the potential and often gullible buyer. It had three bedrooms, all with blinds and insect screens, a ‘media’ room and ‘European’ appliances. The word European is like honey to those on the hunt for living space.  It seems at odds with our Prime Minister’s urging us to stand firm on our national identity and hail all that is uniquely Australian. Are we all at risk of losing our permanent residency status if we buy a European stove?

But, what really floored me was that the European 5 burner cooktop had a ‘bespoke’ wok. A bespoke wok? Of course some decades ago Dad was most circumspect of real estate agents. Why are they called ‘real’ he mused, while blowing out his Douwe Egbert’s tobacco infused ringlets of smoke. ‘Infused’ is now on the wane, folks. We are getting some respite. You can all take a rest. None too late. It is hard work keeping up.

Nice dad, he was. I remember him well. He would never look for paradigms or bespoke woks.

 

 

The Auction

March 26, 2017

 

IMG_0767Christmas Dec 2015

Daughter with our grandsons

Well bid, Sir.

And with that a small 2bedroom home-unit changed hands to a lucky new owner. Last week has been hectic, too hectic for some seniors. Readers might remember that after that last heat-wave we decided to get air-conditioning installed. This all happened last Thursday.  Three trucks arrived at 7am. The evening before we were warned not to be in our pyjamas. This referred to when we asked for a quote and we were still night-clad at 11am a few weeks ago, when the man arrived to measure and quote for the air-con. We got sprung. It is rare for us to be out of night-gear before mid-day. It is a nice luxury and it is not as if we  have to catch the 6.30am bus (401 Balmain-Sydney)) to get to the train and then to work.

We had also made a move to go to a real estate Auction this last Saturday. Our daughter has for some time now been mulling over moving. It is funny, Sydney is not as homogenous in its people as one thinks. Perhaps with all the influx of migrants many areas have grown starkly different. Our daughter decided to move away from her area that seems to be mainly peopled by working couples. Dual income no kids or  known as DINK couples. The Dinks want to move upwards and want the mystery of ‘life-style’. And they want it now! That’s why they scurry out of the door to work, and in again after work. They are the 6.30 am bus catchers. Sydney  house prices though might mean they will have to catch the bus for many years yet!

‘Not many children or teenagers, not enough coffee lounges and bookshops,’ our daughter said. She also added. ‘There is just not enough loitering of people walking the streets,’ it is just not cosy.’  It is a boring suburb. She is referring to where she has lived for the last few years. I am familiar with the boring. Could she be a chip of the old block?  She likes the areas where the diversity is somewhat greater. I suppose she might also remember the halcyon years, when growing up in the inner city suburb of Balmain.

So, off we went and scoured the real estate pages, including http://www.domain.dot.com and all those sites that at the flick of a button opens up the world of apartments for sale nation-wide. The advertisements are all false. ‘They are false estates,’ Trump would say. Photos are taken with wide angle lenses that make a mere toilet look so big one would think buying an airport lounge. The interior measurements are juggled with but that’s alright and dealt with by the small lettering down the bottom warning buyers to not rely on anything the brochures and advertisement might be stating. Fake brochures. Fake figures.

Her choice finally singled out on a 2bedr, town-house at Dulwich-Hill. After  pre-contract perusing by solicitor and financial  acrobatics and skirmishes between daughter and us, we worked out some details. The value of her present property, a 3bedr double story unit would most likely be less than the pokey 2 bedroom place she was interested in. We would hang in there for the difference! A premium is now paid for closeness to latte sipping venues and bookshop browsing opportunities. Mothers with prams while nonchalantly sipping a latte from a carton cup while strolling about can add thousands to properties. A premium is also paid for 6am coffee shops opening while catering for lycra clad bikers/joggers and senior dog strollers with fold-out walking sticks.

The mood at the auction was electrifyingly tense. People were eyeing each other, trying to estimate the depth of their wallets. I had pre-booked our interest and my bidding number was nr. 9. The auction started at exactly 9am. It must be the law. No late comers allowed upsetting the procedures.  We had a pre-arranged limit over which we would not bid. Our daughter was tense. We pointed out the smallness of the unit. Will this be enough for you and two growing teen-age sons, we asked?  She just nodded a bit nervously. How much the worth of latte, I could have added but did not.

The crowd had gathered outside, and a movie camera was pointed towards all of us. There would have been a fair sprinkling of neighbours curious about how much their units had shot up over the last year or so. Sydney is now the most expensive city in the world and a dangerous bubble is ready to bust anytime.

The opening bid after a few seconds was $ 850.000.-. It soon was incremented by $5000.-lots, when it all started to stall at around $ 900.000,- Our limit was  firm at $920.000.- I kept calm but knew we would soon be out of the picture. The auctioneer started getting serious and wanted it to get over with. No doubt he had other auctions scheduled for later on. He started to raise his little wooden hammer, his tool of trade, and threatened to call it. The real action started. The serious buyers were now getting into their stride. The final bid was $ 970.000.-

The oddness at auctions is that when the property gets sold, people clapped as if they had seen a performance or an opera. Perhaps it was operatic. I enjoyed it. But, the buy was over the top. Our top anyway. I felt relieved and Helvi was ecstatic. She felt it was far too small and dark

The auctioneer congratulated the successful bidder by saying, ‘ well bid, Sir.’

Adele, the Phenomenon

March 12, 2017
IMG_0765

Lobelia

Hello, but am I missing something?

I asked my neighbour how he was. It’s the usual way to start a conversation. Sometimes, we talk but only if mutuality allows it. No obligation to talk. It should be free choice. It really is a matter of observing the other person and likewise the other way.

He said, ‘I’m fine and we are going to see a concert in Sydney tonight.’ ‘A concert, I replied. Where are you seeing the concert?’ I expected, the Opera House or some other venue, may be a Private school or Art gallery. You have to remember that to me a concert is something that includes Beethoven with an orchestra, possibly a grand piano, violins and a conductor with baton. It was nothing like that.

He said, ‘it is held at the Olympic Park and fully sold out. We are taking all the kids as well.’ Our neighbour’s kids are grown girls. The Olympic Park is at Home-Bush and was specially built for the Sydney Olympic games in 2000. ‘It’s Adele, he added.’ The ‘missing’ part is that I know very little about fame and its people. Never heard of Adele. I have heard of The Gypsy Kings and The Beatles, but Adele is well below my radar. That is not surprising because I don’t watch much TV or read newspapers. With both forms of media I generally don’t read or watch sport or brush up on any fame. The only recent pop star that I remember is Bieber. ‘Can you make me look a bit like Bieber?’ is what I habitually  ask my barber.  And that is starting to fade as well.

I lack the honesty to admit to my neighbour I had never heard of Adele. There is no lie really. Can omission to not know of a well-known thing be a lie?  I went inside somewhat ashamed for not having continued the neighbourly conversation. He was also in the process of washing his car. The noise of the  garden hose hitting his ducoed car wasn’t helping much of me hearing what was being said. I decided to go inside and seek the help of Helvi in clarification of ‘Adele.’ She is much more on the ball than I.

‘Of course, I have heard of Adele,’ she said. ‘She is a singer and writes music as well.’  I however, had never heard of her. It is well-known that snobbish people often state that their superiority has reached such stellar heights and is so far above everyone else’s, they proclaim, to everyone still patient enough to listen , they know nothing about sport or pop stars.

With me it is not so. I am just quickly dulled by sport or famous pop-stars. My dad was the same. I have his gene. I also don’t know about much else as well, it’s not only sport or pop! In any case. I went back to my neighbour and told him the last concert I went to was a concert of The Gypsy Kings, a long time ago. He was nice about it and told me he still has all their music. So, that was nice. I did not come through the total ignoramus.

Just now I put on a song by Adele and it’s called ‘Hello.’ The neighbour said that at the concert thousands were in tears, sobbing. That’s the power of that  song by Adele. I put it on for Helvi’s benefit. After 20 seconds she asked me to put that screaming woman off.

So, there you go. Different strokes for different folks.

 

 

 

 

 

What price Freedom?

February 27, 2017
DSCN2823

Mum in Holland with a Hoover electric vacuum cleaner. (not cordless)

We are all not so sure anymore if it is safe to visit the US. A pity. We have never been there. Perhaps it might be possible take a cruise and visit New York without getting off board and risk going through Border Control and be detained. When Ali Jr hardly got through how about anyone with a non-Anglo name? I visited Egypt back in 1961. This might well come to punish me. No doubt the FBI or secret service have kept a tab on that visit.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/25/customs-alis-son-wasnt-detained-because-hes-muslim/98419924/

While ‘Oosterman’ doesn’t sound Arabic, it does smack of something sinister. Oost is easily an East, and we all know what that means, don’t we? And what about that ‘man’ at the end?  A man from East? Say no more; detain him.

All kidding aside, and with all respect to my US based friends rest assured that the same is going on here in Australia. We don’t detain for a few hours, our prime minster Turnbull detains people for years if not life on Manus and Nauru. Woe those daring to enter Australia and not having drowned. You will be punished.

When I visited Egypt so long ago it was still allowed and possible to get right inside the Pyramid of Cheops. There was a tunnel that led one right up into the Queen’s chamber. It was quite a hike up and then down with a never ending stream of tourists doing the same. Afterwards there was the obligatory camel ride. I took a bit of stone from the pyramid and kept it for years together with a fez that I had bought in Port Said on our migration trip to Australia in 1956. So, our involvement with the middle East started early. The fez and pyramid piece of stone have long gone, possibly pinched by our children when young, showing off to their friends how well travelled their parents were!

http://www.guardians.net/egypt/gp4.htm

Rumblings of Turnbull’s demise and Trumps impeachment are growing fatter and gets richly fertilized as time goes by. We shall see. In the meantime I am still kept busy with another type of freedom; the Hoover cordless ‘Freedom.’ I have just done ( vacuumed) our whole house with one charge. What do you think of that? Of course, the battery is a lithium. It is now the new catch word in electronic jargon. People ask ; How are your lithiums going?

We were in Sydney yesterday having a lunch with daughter and one grandson. The other one is fighting with his mother over not being home ‘on time’ as promised. We know that problem well. However, it is their turn now. We are old and beyond feeling guilty about grandchildren behaviour, especially teen-grandchildren. There are lots of books about teen problems now. Just don’t read them.

Ever since we started brushing Milo, the hair load on our floor has eased. We brush him twice daily. He likes it and actually leans against the steel rubber tipped hairbrush. I then have the job of unpicking Milo’s hair from the brush. It is quite a job. (twice a day) I was surprised therefore that even with all that brushing I had to empty the ‘Freedom’ cordless twice as the canister was chock-a-block with Milo’s dust and hair. Milo just studies my vacuuming and then yawns.

That’s freedom for you.

 

A nail biting walk back to Central Station

January 24, 2017

 

Almost ThereWith the submissions of my literary Magnum Opus  😉  to the State Library having been satisfied, the saga continues. The books might not equal the Finnish Kalevala, but it might well be looked  upon so by future Oosterman generations. The Kalevala is to Finland what the Sydney Opera House and cricket is to Australia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalevala

After a short but important break at Myers with feet suitably shod in Velcro strapped sandals, our epic journey continued. My refrain “I am very hungry now,” was responded by, “yes, I have heard it three times now, we will go to Queen Victoria building.” Myers is connected below groundlevel to Queen Victoria building as well as to the Town Hall subway rail station and numerous other shopping Meccas. The changes happening in Sydney are fast and furious. The speed by which people now walk is astounding, or, is it my own speed that is slowing? The Sydney below ground level is at least as large and fast as the above ground Sydney.

After arrival we climbed up out of the bowels of the underground and into the basement of The Queen Victoria building.  We climbed to the top floor and soon found a restaurant that seemed to serve food with enough customers still eating at 3.30pm  installing enough confidence we would be sold a good and hearty lunch. This top floor has such inclusive and luxurious shops, rumours have it that Lucy Turnbull ( The wife of our Prime Minister) buys her handbags and other accoutrements there. Normal shoppers avoid the top floor except perhaps those dreamers that are on the cusp of yet discovering that money doesn’t bring happiness. ( neither does happiness bring money) We just averted our eyes and only opened them to study the menu.

https://www.qvb.com.au/

We watched a recent documentary about Queen Victoria. She was quite a tyrant and a cruel women. She had nine children and hated anything to do with productivity. There is a very stern bronze statue outside The Queen Victoria Building. She looks fierce and I became a bit scared looking at it even after all those years. She had the penis chopped off from a copy of Michelangelo’s David statue.

After that late lunch with a cool beer, we made our way back to the Central Railway station. The walk of that day would have totalled perhaps 8/10 kilometres. We did not even feel tired. I suppose proof the success of that day. It was exciting. Which made me think, as I have a want to, in reflecting a move back to Sydney. But, we like living here in Bowral. We don’t get the humidity or the heat. Above all, in Sydney’s real estate world one would not get much change out of  $1.5 million for a modest town-house.

We decided to do the trip more often. The train journey takes almost two hours with the fast train a bit slower than the slow train. But the fast but slower train does have better seats and the buffet. On the way home I ordered a delicious sausage roll. It was hot and flaky. We arrived back  just after 8pm with fading light.

A good and memorable day.

Receding years and fatal memories. ( For seniors)

August 2, 2016

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My Mother on the left, Aunt Agnes on right, her brother in the middle

Those with more receding years behind than advancing years in front, might still remember visiting Aunts and their endless talk about illnesses and ailments. As a child it made me almost sick having to accompany our parents to visit ancient Aunts. My hair would be duly roughly brushed up and my nails scraped clean. I had to wash my hands. For some reason, they were all called Aunts, even when not related. I think my parents underestimated my observation skill in detecting lies.

On top of everything else, we were forced to kiss them on arrival and again on departure. One Aunt had facial hairs sprouting, another a permanently dripping nose. I was bored shitless and had to sit still. I remember passing time staring at Aunts and listening to their litany of ailments with detailed frailties enthusiastically regaled in all its minutia. My mother told us a very old Aunt sat on a chair that held a toilet. We were strictly forbidden to stare at this. Of course we stared at nothing else. We never forgot anything to do with toilets.

We had one Aunt running a grocery shop in Eindhoven. A couple of lollies did relieve the visits somewhat, but only just. She had a very large and frightening nose. Another Aunt was better and used to send me cut-out copies of a very favourite Newspaper strip, ‘Erik de Noorsman’ or ‘Eric The Norseman.’ She was Aunt Agnes and very kind. No hairs that I remember!

It was when I turned twelve or so that those obligatory visits were finally done away with. I became stronger in my resistance but am sure it left permanent damage.
Of course, migrating to Australia when I turned fifteen, pushed all visits to Aunts permanently into the annals of our family, even though a couple of Aunts did visit us in Australia.

Seventy years later and the shoe now fits the other foot. However, even though I am still no Aunt, I have facial hair. No toilet built into my fauteuil as yet. I do consider my grandkids. I love seeing them, but leave them mainly to their own devices when here. I have taken to reading again those crime stories by Henning Mankell. I was a third down reading one, when the book just vanished. I turned the whole bedroom upside down. It got taken by someone, and I reckon the fifteen year old grandson snitched it. I am so proud if he did. Stealing books is to be encouraged. I don’t want to ask him. In fact, if the book is stolen, I will leave another Mankell (unobtrusively) again for next time.

This is what was lacking in those time long gone visits. Kids were expected to behave. Why did they not give books or toys to kids visiting aunts? Where were the uncles? I cannot remember a single uncle. Did the war claim them? Was it smoking related? Where did they go?. In jail perhaps? How odd.

It now reminds me of ‘The Book Thief.’ Life during those Aunt visit seems to have stood still. Yet, it is all so magically and reverently coming to the fore now. I read a book about the Death of a Moth and named our flower shop in Sydney’s Balmain, ‘Bloomsbury.’ Bloomsbury was a group of English writers, philosophers, intellectuals and eccentrics that included amongst many, Virginia Woolf.

The simple and inevitability of life. How wonderful.

Back to Memory Lane and Alexander van der Bellen.

May 24, 2016

 

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Gertrude Cottage

Yesterday we decided to combine a visit to our daughter and grandsons with a visit to a local market near where we used to live. It has been twenty years since we left the inner city suburb of Balmain. Faithful readers of my ‘Oosterman Treats’ of bits and pieces’ might remember we first strayed into this area back around the late 1960’s. Freshly married and with two daughters in tow, we bought ‘Gertrude’s cottage’ for $ 12500.-. It came with glorious views and shimmering sunshine reflected on the hardwood floor just below the Harbour’s bridge and its blue waters. It also came with a couple of woody-weed eating goats.

It was then possible to save and buy a place. It seemed to be within reach of a normal working young couple. Today, that’s not possible. That house would now be over three Million. I don’t understand why this is so. Some say, wealthy Chinese from mainland China are buying houses. Others claim that the shortage of houses are to blame. Some of the more radical (xenophobic) claim that the foreigners are buying up and just leave the houses empty and pick up on the capital gain.

It seems to me an accident waiting to happen. Correction seems inevitable. How can houses be left empty when the need for houses and housing is so great? Look at the refugee camps around the world. Some have housed people for generations. The young grow up into adulthood and have children of their own, all in refugee camps,not knowing anything else.

Anyway, a glimmer of hope can be gleaned from Austria. Alexander van der Bellen has become president. He nipped the anti-refugee right wing contender within a narrow margin. I like Mr van der Bellen already. At seventy three he still enjoys cigarettes ( why should I torture myself giving up smoking at my age) and loves comic books. He is also green and an outspoken champion for the underdog and refugees.

He comes from an aristocratic Russian-Dutch-Estonia background and both his parents were refugees from the Stalinist dictatorship. He is not just a tree hugger but also a professor and an economist. Not a bad mixture. Let’s hope he throws off the anti refugee mentality that now so often seems to grab headlines instead of the much more prevalent and common more humane views of the majority of people. He did win the election!

I do hope that in Australia too, we will see a resurgence of a more humane majority emerging from this steaming racist xenophobic morass of Australia that seems so often to grab the limelight. Mind you, with Murdoch still hanging around, it is not surprising.

http://www.amazon.com/Almost-There-Fragments-Restless-Life/dp/0994581033/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1464128774&sr=8-1&keywords=Almost+There+by+Gerard+Oosterman

The drunken conductor and Bush. More hyphens.

January 7, 2016

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As mentioned earlier a Pole had become a self-proclaimed taxi-driver. In Holland this would never ever be allowed to happen. It was an example of how one could become and have the freedom to initiate an independency without interference from higher up the Australian Bureaucracy. It was a heaven of freedom. However, on the way to the train I could hardly look the Polish taxi-driver in the face. I had observed his wife in the shower and seen her ‘bush’. The showers were sex separated but in the same block. I had already heard through the camp grapevine, that if you took the last cubicle adjacent to the female section, one could get a peek. Soon after, I too became privilege to that peek and had obtained another level of attainment in sexual observations. At that time I was the envy of aspirations held by many boys in their early teens. It was such a specific goal in growing up…I could now hold my head high.

Of course, today those things are observed in all its plucked colonoscopy chicken wing minutia on the Internet well before 15 years of age. Different times now, but far more erotic then. It was afterwards and with some guilt (always on automatic) I recognised the woman walking along the mess-hall. I could not look her in the eye. One can imagine going to the Polish taxi-driver’s hut when she came out. It was his wife that I had been viewing through the opening of the flimsy shower partition. A deep shame must have coloured me red…But, I was fifteen.

The train trip. We had all settled in the train. Mum was holding a small suitcase in her lap in which she had packed numerous sandwiches made from the free white bread and previously mentioned free fruit laden IXL jam. Those sandwiches would see us through the day and perhaps even on the trip back. Frugality would reign in this family through thick and thin but mainly thin. But, the rhythmic rocking of the train together with the pleasure of viewing the new passing landscape was interrupted (never to be forgotten) by the conductor wanting to clip a hole in all the passengers’ tickets.

There was something a bit odd about him. He had a dense smell and unfocussed eyes. ‘Show us your thickets or fickets’, he kept mumbling, swaying along while holding onto mum’s seat. We could not understand what he was saying but knew he might want our tickets. Even so, dad wanted to know and asked; ‘pardon?’ Pronouncing it in French. ‘Show us yer frucking thickest mate’, he persevered, now lurching dangerously towards my mum. She kept her suitcase firmly in her lap. We were by this time getting very alarmed. Were we about to be robbed or worse, was our mum and her sandwiches at risk? All of a sudden, the conductor gave up all pretence of soberness and just fell on top of mum and her case with sandwiches. We were all dumb struck. What was this? Someone said ‘he’s been on the turps.’ We had never heard of this term, didn’t know even what ‘turps’ was. A man who understood our plight gave the hand to mouth gesture indicating drinking. We understood quickly. The passengers helped the man up who stumbled back to his locket. We were so scared. In Holland we had never ever observed a drunk. A drunken conductor on a train? What would be waiting for us in Sydney? Lucky, that was the only incident but it was a great shock to us. We made it back home and the kind Polish taxi driver was waiting at the station. This time I was more brazen and felt that after the shock of the drunken train conductor, a mere peek of his wife in a shower was now an honest well-earned bonus. We had survived some difficult times and I needed something to cheer me up.