Posts Tagged ‘The Netherlands’

A memoir in progress( Farm house)

February 13, 2020

IMG_0440 In Fance

Helvi on a  French terrace.

After numerous inspections and having driven both the French and the English Estate agents around the bend with our ceaseless requests to see even more farms, we ran out of steam and decided to return to Australia. We drove the ;leased Citroen back to Marseille airport and, after the obligatory custom check-outs with many s’il vous plaits to see our passports, we ‘hopped’ on the plane, totally Frenched out. Why do we not walk onto the plane, why is it hopping? We have never hopped at all, let alone onto a plane. Perhaps it is a deliberate ploy by the large multinational airline companies to make light of the sheer torture of long flights. You can just see the advertising moguls at board meetings trying to get a handle on making flying  joyful again. Someone uttered; ‘ the hopping kangaroo.’ worked well, didn’t it? And so it was that the ‘hopping on board’ was coined. A eureka moment for the flight industry. The whole world now uses the term and one can imagine the hopping of tens of thousands of cheerful air travellers hopping about at international airports all over the world, and at any given time.

IMG_0443 Helvi in France

Searching for a French farm.

Of course, coming back and land at Mascot, Sydney, and then the dreary ride to the city along the notoriously ugly Botany Road with its peppering of large advertising hoardings, doesn’t make for much of a hopping back home. I clearly remember an enormous sign, all in a gaudy yellow, advertising a medication to cure sexual dysfunction. How anyone can get enthusiastic about their levels of tumescence after twenty one hours on a plane escaped us entirely. We badly needed our own very soft and kind mattress giving us a twenty-four hour uninterrupted deep sleep. But, before any thoughts of a good sleep we had the melancholic task of emptying our luggage, chuck our underwear and socks in the washing machine.

At a previous trip to Holland and France we decided to follow the advice of a seasoned traveller who had written books about travel. He had travelled the world just carrying overhead luggage, stored on board above the seat. He suggested it could easily be done by simply buying a shirt or singlet if such a need came about. I had no trouble with that. My wife was a bit reluctant at first but nevertheless followed suit.

IMG_0446carcasonne

Carcassonne.

( to be continued.)

 

French Farmhouse checking.

February 6, 2020

The ladder to the loft.

IMG_0421 French farm house checking

The ladder to the loft.

 

I can still see the ladders leading to the lofts of old farm-houses in the South of France. Anyone who has ever been to France might know and acknowledge the lure of old farmhouses. They were being advertised over the world and in the eighties and nineties, it wasn’t unusual to meet people that in conversation around the fondue set, would casually drop, ‘we have bought an old French farmhouse, and we are going there each year now for our holiday’. ‘We are getting a bit tired of holidays at Coffs’s Harbour and its Big Banana!

Old farmhouses with lofts are littered over the whole of the French country like confetti at nuptials. Mouth-watering ancient villages usually have a crop of those old places on cobble stoned lane ways where horses and cladded hooves have carved through the centuries little gutters which during gentle rains directs its water to a bubbling stream. The picture perfect would be the local church.

Of course, those old farmhouses were often riddled with woodworm hence the first task was to inspect the lofts and attics. In modern Australia most houses have internal man-holes to clamber through into the roof space. French farm- houses had access through a little door outside at the very top just below the pitch of the roof.

After several visits to France and numerous clambering on top of ladders inspecting lofts we were so badly infected with French farm-houses we could only think of buying one. Talk about getting a bean in the bonnet!

You know when life has reached a stage when a total change might just give a much needed and restorative impetus to keep plodding and have a go at a fresh start, try something a bit different. There is a term for it that lingers forever once you have absorbed the meaning. Is it called ‘mid-life crisis? The year of the sixty fifth birthday would soon be nigh and with that ‘The Senior Card’ with getting old, so often the banana skin on the doorsteps of the retired.

Of course, change involves risks but so does not doing anything. The risk of middle age ennui and bitter regrets of things we wanted to do but never did, nor tried. What can be more exciting than trying to live in another country? We could not think of a more glorious way of warding off retirement than making this change and move to France and learn the Franco lingo as an extra bonus.

We had already tasted the magic of rural France, the poetry of the potted geraniums on ancient window sills, the endless lanes of plane trees winding around the grape vines of the coming vintage, and the village squares all alive with men playing boule with women around the water-wells gossiping about the newly born or the recently departed.

France is contagious like that, and as mentioned previously, we knew a few couples already who had taken this brave step, and had escaped the dreariness of routine with those predictable daily habits. Marital whiplash with boring squabbles are often relieved by making changes well before the onset of mindless routine with silent evenings before the TV with morbid partner and Dr Phil.

 

(A work in progress.)

 

After we decided to go to France, my wife suggested to stay calm and not rush hastily into something we might regret. She reminded me that I often questioned the wisdom of my parents migrating to Australia from The Netherlands back in 1956. “Do you really want to give up on all your friends and acquaintances made through the years? We are living in quite a lively inner city suburb, within walking distance of so many amenities, shops, libraries, a stately Court-House and with a handy police station for extra measure”. We were living in cosmopolitan Balmain at the time of the birth of footpath dining and cafes.

All that was true. I tended to go on a bit about our first few years after arrival In Australia during the mid-fifties. We, after a short stint in the Nissan-hut Migrant camp, which was a horror on its own after the joy of a five week cruise on the boat between Holland and Sydney ended up living in an outer suburb of Sydney.,

We had moved to Balmain when the apartment in Pott’s Point became too small with the birth of our two daughters, Susanna in 1968 and Natasha in 1970.

We already tried moving back to Europe during a stint as an artist between 1973-1976, but after a while the lure of my large family of brothers and sister with their spouses and children, the Australian bush, and above all, to have the freedom of having rusted corrugated iron roofs and weedy footpaths, the chaotic or total lack of town planning attracted me back a again. Those Fatal Shores by Robert Hughes, spring to mind.

To be followed!

 

 

Herrings

January 7, 2020

IMG_0377 Herrings from Scandinavia

Please consider during these difficult times of  smoke and fire, brimstones and calamitous weather conditions, the eating of a simple herring. I know that lots of people’s lives have been upset and thrown about because of those raging fires and acrid smoke. Things are now quiet again and in some parts of Australia even a few drops of water have been recorded; time to repose and regain our momentum for the ongoing battle we might call ‘life’.

This is where the herring comes onto its own giving us the sustenance and tools to struggle on. Of course, coming from Holland I was practically brought up on a bicycle and fed daily herrings. My father told me when I was still very young (and during a stormy night) that I was born a week or two before my mother was due to eject me. It was, he told conspiratorially, that a fish bone stuck in my mother’s throat that brought on a coughing fit, et voila, there I was born of my mother’s gluttonous herring eating and I already screaming  for one myself. The doctor smacked my mother instead of me.

There are some interesting facts about herrings. Herrings generally spawn in shallows and coastal waters where they lay in levels on top of each other, millions of them. The female herring lays up to 70 000 eggs. So, herring experts inform us, which if it wasn’t for humans to catch and eat the herring and left to breed uninterrupted, they would within a short time and according to Buffon’s  calculations, produce a volume of fish twenty times the size of the earth. It would be easy to understand that that sort of volume would also mean the end of the herring mating and cavorting in the shallows. They would suffer their own demise by those tumultuous watery sexual congress without humans eating them.( post coitus)

Image result for The Dutch herring boats

Even so, in the past there have been such large shoals of herrings and so easily caught that entire fisheries were threatened by closure because of the sheer catastrophic glut of herrings. This is also why we should not forego eating herrings, especially now during stress and deep-seated gloom. A herring lightens the mood and give us the spring back in out steps. Try it, please.

The expert fishing trawlers and their skippers knew, born of legend and evening tavern talk, when the shoals of herrings were running.  They knew by the glow of their shimmering bodies and the fact they swim in strict wedge shaped formations with a pulsating glow skywards reflecting the sun falling at a certain angle. The fishermen, all peaked capped and storm coat wearing threw out their nets and lowered their sails.

Of course we don’t truly know what a herring feels. They communicate not like we do but no doubt been told that we eat them. Not a nice thing to contemplate when as young herring in puberty and growing, looking forward to an honest mating in the shallows of the Dogger Bank…only to be eaten afterwards!  When life has fled, the herring begins to glow and that’s also a reason why people buy them. They hold a fascination that other fish, like the mackerel or flat-head species don’t have.

Image result for The Dutch herring boats

Queuing for herrings in The Netherlands.

A pity that one cannot buy a fresh herring here in the southern hemisphere. The bottled or vacuum packet ones are  not the same but I intend to go to Holland (The Netherlands now, sorry)soon to catch up.

You just wait and see!

Some of this information came from ‘The rings of Saturn’ by W.G. Sebald.

 

Australia needs to pay more tax.

February 14, 2018

 

img_0955

garden

Listening to our politicians one ends up feeling we are paying too much tax. The figures from those whose job it is to come up with clear facts tell a different story. Our Prime Minister is forever ramping up the idea that if we only lower tax, Australia will boom like never before. The slightest hint that already now, with the present level of taxation, we are struggling to keep our hospitals and schools going is met with howls of derision.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/07/countries-where-people-pay-most-tax/

We seem to be doing the Fox Trot in tandum with the US where the people are also told the furphy that if only  tax would be lowered, fortunes are there for the taking. Boom times lay ahead for those that will accept taxation lowering, especially for the large Corporations. Now, like a bolt from the sky, canny journalists have discovered that most large Corporations in fact don’t pay any tax. Giving them tax cuts makes little sense.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-14/company-tax-rate-cut-arguments-missing-evidence/9443874

No, if we would only look at countries that have much better and stronger economies including generous welfare,   pensions, unemployment money, sickness benefits  etc., we would be following the Scandinavian countries, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France and many more. All the above countries have much higher overall taxation regimes, including a social tax that pays for welfare.

The opposite can also be shown that lowering tax rates go hand in hand with increasing poverty, decrease quality health services, underfunded education , infrastructure decay, public transport creaking, and much more.

Of course, the lure of lowering tax rates is music to the ears of Corporations and the rich but inevitably will show up with an increase in rough sleeping, social crumbling, and more misery. If you look at low taxation paying countries you will also see increase in incarceration, crime, shootings and  poverty.

Don’t fall for it.

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More eggnog from soup bowls with Euthanasia clinics

October 3, 2016

Almost ThereThe Netherland’s Right To Die Movement for the over seventies has been so successful they must have a serious membership turnover. The latest push is to have Euthanasia clinics available at those retirement homes for ‘clients’ who feel they have an uncooperative doctor to sign the necessary papers.

The Right to Live movement also have a spirited body of opposing members. They are much more likely to keep their membership card. They feel the best way forward to senility is to make old-age homes more jolly. The main problem is that for many, ending up in a retirement home is not all that it is cracked up to be. Sure, some get by with the obligatory visit by children. They put off visiting the old fogey with a brave grin, to once every six weeks or so, despite the offering of a little eggnog with a demitasse spoon. At times it is just not enough to keep the old going. Some of those might wish for a way out, either six feet under ground or up through a chimney of the retort.

The Dutch retirement homes do their very best with lots of bingo, goldfish aquariums, community outings to the manicured garden of a Keukenhof, or Swan Lake concert, the twice weekly fitness events, musical soirees and fashion shows. For the oldies to stick around for a little longer is much to the joy of the Right To Live Movement. Even so, a couple of years ago The Right to Die Movement for the over seventies in The Netherlands collected over forty thousand signatures in no time. There seems to be a challenge in giving people a choice. The cost of retirements is going through the roof so one can see that the Governments world-wide would not be all that opposed to a bill giving people a choice in the matter of leaving the party a bit earlier and get a decent rest in the outback of the ‘never never.’

Just reflecting on how retirement homes in Australia are just riddled with incompetent staff. Worse, they now seem to draw on murderers filling vacancies. The oldies are left to rot in their beds.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-25/secret-camera-captures-nursing-home-attempted-suffocation/7624770
I would not like to end up like this poor old man either.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-27/man-dies-after-nursing-home-staff-fail-to-properly-treat-wounds/7877820

And then last week a man was charged with the killing of three old people with overdosing them on insulin. He would text his mates alerting them on a future date when the next one would get the fatal needle.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-31/summitcare-alleged-killer-sent-text-predicting-deaths-court-told/7793484

So, really it seems a neck on neck race with either being given a choice to exit peacefully at own will, or look carefully at the needle or medication that nurse might be give you next when in need. I would not fit in with bingo, or fitness classes either and will probably end up asking for the eggnog in a soup bowl and given a large spoon.

That is enough gloom. I’ll write something more cheerful next time. Gerard.

Can Australia help Holland out in closing down their prisons?

August 8, 2016

While here and in the UK, plans are under way to build more prisons, Holland is closing them. They even asked Norway to send a thousand criminals, to at least fill some of the empty cells and keep employing guards.
http://qz.com/644914/the-netherlands-keeps-having-to-close-its-prisons-due-to-lack-of-prisoners

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Business and National Service in Holland.

June 3, 2015
Amsterdam

Amsterdam

With the first sex and my curiosity about it somewhat satisfied and the Maltese woman and gun in wardrobe fading into Oosterman history, I concentrated with renewed vigour into saving and planning to go back to Holland. Readers (if there are any) might remember I had a little metal box into which I saved as much as I could. Of course while living at home I gave all earnings to mother with the getting of own block of land and own house. This too had been achieved within a few years. The garage was now being used to rent out to other migrants which was handy to top up mum’s income running a very busy household. Who would have thought the take up in the new country had made such rapid progress in such a short time. There was mum now collecting rent, the Merchant of Prosperity and now a Rent Lord.

With Frank now coming and going, from the nightmare of what was Callan Park, at his whim, the atmosphere was often tense. The first sight of Frank we would all just scatter to friends. The impasse between what we thought Frank would and ought to finally get in care, and the rough reality, went on without resolutions. We either had to sign up for his permanent incarceration at a lunatic asylum or put up with Frank basically doing what he liked at the hospital, coming and going whenever and in whatever condition he might find himself in. It was absolutely dreadful and  remained an unimaginable horror, not only to Frank but to the rest of the family. Friends urged my parents to send him back to Holland. Things were supposed to be so much better and more advanced in The Netherlands.

This wasn’t easy done with a mentally ill person. He would have to have nursing staff to accompany him as well as my parents and how would Frank feel being left in Holland without anyone? A conundrum if ever there was. This would finally resolve itself when both Frank and my parents went back for good to Holland in 1974. They had enough. On hindsight that was always the best thing to have done. Pensions and healthcare had improved well above the level in Australia. The pension here was ‘means and asset’ tested. This was achieved in an office of the Social Securities. On top of everything my parents were asked to empty all in pockets and handbags on the table in front of the person dealing with my parents pension. My mother never felt so humiliated in her entire life. In Holland everybody works towards a pension, rich or poor get the basic pension. Not means test. Even today, a pension in Australia is regarded as ‘welfare’ or ‘hand-out’ as is unemployment relief, and single mother’s income etc.  and not as  entitlements that  civil societies work towards.

It might all have contributed to the fomenting and nurturing of my rich curmudgeon psyche but I really wanted to go back and try regain what I had left. This was a mistake. But really, making mistakes is a  good way of spending years in preparation for adulthood. I always felt that. Never regret a mistake is my motto. I don’t know how but I had saved up for a trip to Holland within a few years. It was still the old monetary English system of complicated pounds and shillings, pennies. The single boat fare to Genoa and then the train to Amsterdam was 110 pounds in 1962/63. The boat trip over was fantastic. Can you imagine; the orchestra playing jaunty music, games of tombola, the daily sweepstake and lots of young people on their first trip overseas?  I do remember the orchestra’s players being so bored playing the same music, day in day out, week after week, month after month. It was a job so much like everybody had to make a job. Is the chopping of steaks or the soling of shoes any better ( year in year out)?

I also wanted to work in an office and wear a suit and attache case. In Australia, especially during the first few years doing piece work on machinery and clocking up lots of overtime, I was wondering how it would be to go to work with something like having some importance. I don’t know why I thought this would be better suited in Holland. The arrival by train in Holland was without fanfare. There was no one greeting me at Central Station. I could not have expected it. Even so, I almost thought; can’t people see I am a returned migrant from Australia? An absurdity of thought. I moved into a distant uncle place who had a bed that folded into a wall but who was also dying with cancer and an ex chess master. He was forever berating his ex wife and expected me to cheer him on. I used to mix great lumps of mince meat mixed with hot spices. He loved it and even felt the spices to cure his cancer. He wasn’t used to chilli but red in the face he would eat lots of the spiced minced steak to the exclusion of everything else. It might well have hastened his final demise.

My old school friends I revisited and within ten minutes they were watching TV. It had all moved on and they weren’t interested in re-visiting that which had gone by. One of my friends had married and with two children gave me the sage advice and unhappily said ; ‘never get married.’ As is known today, I did and it was the best thing I ever! So, there is so much uncertainty about life. It is all such a risk and bobbing about on tides that can sweep you out as well as sweep you ashore. We do our best.

I haven’t yet even come to ‘business and Dutch National service. That will come next time.

Home and hearth.

January 31, 2015
home

home

It is only fair I put the opposite of life in Australia compared with that of Amsterdam, even if only to calm frayed nerves, my wavering loyalty to a new nationality. Even after the one given at birth was so recklessly signed away almost forty years later. The picture shows our present home. By home of course not just roof and plaster but the heart and soul of things that keep on talking the longer you have them. The chairs ,all re-woven and from the Dutch farm back in 1975. Our children sat on those till grown up. The round table, also from the same period. How many meals did rest upon this ageing table, those place-mats? The clatter of knives and forks, domestic music, chatter, years of it. Grandchildren followed. Now also growing up, becoming into their own. The bits and pieces, also from decades ago. From one continent to another. They travelled and survived well.

And now, there are just the two of us. (164 words)

Those Frugal Dutch Robotics have their use.

October 29, 2014

Look at this video of a machine in Holland that reads the value of containers and then gives you a credit to use inside the supermarket. They have been in use for at least twenty years.

If you wanted to learn about becoming even more frugal, don’t go past The Netherlands which is very easy to do. It is such a small country. A blink and you have passed it. Mind you, small in size, large elsewhere. I know that fitting twenty people in a VW car involves chucking a sixpence in front of Scottish caber throwers. I believe the same would be achieved in Holland. Perhaps 24 Dutchmen would pile in seeing they are much slimmer.

The frugality has flown into all areas of Dutch life, including the disposal of goods at the end of their used lives.

This from Wikipedia:
Facts and figures[edit]

Landfills are used for less than 10% of all waste. Dutch household waste recycling averages to 60% (2006).[citation needed]
Compost (2003):
The separately gathered organic fraction is 50% of household waste, or 1500 kilotonnes. This is processed to 600 kilotonnes of compost, and the end-product partially exported while over annual national consumption.
Paper (2005):
In the Netherlands itself, the recycled amount in 2005 was up to 2.5 million tonnes, which is 75% of annual consumption. By contrast, in the EU, over 50% of paper is recycled.
The Dutch have a lot of experience in recycling, stimulated by lack of free grounds and significant government funding. This expertise is sensibly exported. A 2006 article reports Dutch involvement in reform of recycling in the UK.[1]

Have a read of this.
http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/print/volume-11/issue-1/features/dutch-successes.html

Elements of the Netherlands National Waste Policy

The Netherlands’ current waste management policy largely focuses on tackling problems at their onset by preventing the production of waste. When waste production cannot be avoided, waste materials are recycled, and non-recyclable waste is disposed via environmentally acceptable means. The main elements of the policy are:

The Netherlands has the highest percentage of household waste recycling in Europe and the lowest level of land filling.
◦Waste Disposal Hierarchy, (aka Landlink’s Ladder)
◦Waste Treatment Standards
◦National Waste Disposal Planning
◦Producer Responsibility
◦Prevention and Recycling Regulations

Waste Disposal Hierarchy

The main ideas in the Netherlands’ waste policies are represented in a hierarchy model, commonly referred to by the Dutch as Landlink’s Ladder. Named after a member of Dutch parliament who designed it, Landlink’s Ladder applies levels of importance to five core waste management components:
◦Prevention
◦Product Reuse
◦Waste Recovery
◦Incineration
◦Landfill

pennwell_web_300_200

The model serves as a guide for waste management techniques and places prevention at the top of the hierarchy, as most the desirable means. The idea behind prevention is simple: Avoid waste production as much as possible. The second and third components on the hierarchy are product reuse and recovery. These components include packaging and material reuse and the use of waste as fuel.

Fourth on the hierarchy is incineration. All Dutch waste incineration plants produce energy for electricity generation, heating or industrial steam generation. Last, and most avoided on the hierarchy, is the landfill. Waste in the Netherlands is only sent to the landfill after all other options on Landlink’s Ladder have been exhausted.
Because of prevention-of-waste programs, the volume of waste has been growing more slowly than the Netherlands’ Gross Domestic Product since 1995. The main sources of sustainable energy for domestic consumption – which account for 75% of the total amount – are the co-combustion of biomass in power stations, wind energy and energy from waste incineration plants. The Netherlands’ main sources of sustainable energy for domestic consumption – which account for 75 percent of the total amount – are the co-combustion of biomass in power stations, wind energy and energy from waste incineration plants.

Stringent Waste Treatment Standards

The Netherlands practices stringent standards for waste disposal, and landfills are regulated by checking soil and groundwater for pollution. Incinerators are regulated for air emissions, plant construction and the incineration process itself.

330px-Amsterdam_recycling

Bans on 35 waste-streams from landfills help keep contamination levels low. Any waste-streams that can be recovered or incinerated, such as household waste, organic waste, plastic waste and demolition waste, are not allowed in landfills.

Certain environmental standards are also set to guarantee quality of secondary raw materials made from waste used for building materials, fuel and fertilizer.

Remembrance!

July 19, 2014

5609750-3x2-700x467 The remembrance

“Malaysia Airlines MH17: Shrine of remembrance grows outside Netherlands embassy in Canberra

By Clarissa Thorpe

Posted 7 minutes ago

The teddy bears left outside the embassy gates are to remember the 80 children killed on board MH17.
Photo: The teddy bears left outside the embassy gates are to remember the 80 children killed on board MH17. (ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe)

5609768-3x2-700x467 Dutch Embassy

Dutch embassy

Map: Yarralumla 2600

Flowers and gifts have been left outside the front of the embassy of the Netherlands in Canberra in honour of the 298 victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Australia, Annemieke Ruigrok, said she was overwhelmed by the kindness shown since the plane was shot down over Ukraine.

The Boeing 777-200 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, with an estimated 190 passengers on board the tragic flight being Dutch citizens or permanent residents.

Initially, there was only a handful of flowers at the embassy front gates but in less than 24 hours the shrine included teddy bears to remember the 80 children killed.

Ms Ruigrok said many people were still coming to terms with the devastating loss of life.

“It was an absolutely unspeakable tragedy and we are extremely touched by all these expressions of support,” she said.

“Also people writing emails, letters and support on our Facebook page.

“We are united in grief.”

Flags at the embassy had been flying at half mast to remember those lost in the worst air disaster in the Netherlands’ history.

“We know that Australia has a big loss, and we have had a big loss,” Ms Ruigrok said.

“All nationalities, we mourn all of them wherever they are from.”

The embassy at Yarralumla is considering opening a book of condolence later this week for people to express their sadness.

Flags at all Dutch government buildings including the embassy in Australia have been flying at half mast.
Photo: Flags at all Dutch government buildings including the embassy in Australia have been flying at half mast to remember those lost on MH17.” (ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe)