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Some More Memories of Ocean Grove

Ocean Grove started life as a Methodist holiday resort in the 1880s. When my family arrived in the 1950s remnants of its origins were still clearly visible. Two large guest houses, the Chalet (previously Coffee Palace as one would expect in the temperance climate) and the Cathkin, still stood. There was also the Methodist camp in the centre of town and other camping places such as the camping huts on the corner of Eggleston Street  and Asbury Street. It was a “dry” town. Barwon Heads was the closest place to buy a beer. It was good for one’s health to stay off the Barwon Heads – Ocean Grove road after 6pm when the good husbands of OG returned along the winding road to their loving and patient wives. Six o’clock closing (with its last minute swill) was still law in those days.

 

By the time we arrived it had become a popular beachside resort. Large camping grounds and numerous holiday homes meant the population of Ocean Grove swelled from the hundreds to the many thousands over December and January. As a teenager this phenomenon was the basis for numerous holiday jobs – the bakery, beach cleaning, toilet cleaning, garbage collecting and other character building occupations.

 

Beach Ocean Grove

My mother and I looking out of the window of one of the many houses

For migrants a home was easy to find from February to November as the holidays houses were empty but come December alternatives had to be found. As a consequence we lived in a number of places around the town. If my adding is correct we lived in 7 houses in 15 years. My parents bought the last one in which we lived for half of that time. Many of these houses were cold and draughty fibro structures as they were built for summer – not winter occupation. We were evicted from one because I rolled a tyre down the driveway straight through the fibro back wall of the garage. I wasn’t popular with the owner or my parents.

 

 

My recollections of OG Primary School are mixed. I lacked confidence and as a result was picked on. Nowadays it is called bullying. In those days it was part of growing up. Some teachers were bullies but others fired my imagination. One, Marge Fisher, has a special place in my memories. She was imaginative and inspirational. Mrs. Fisher opened our imaginations through artifacts she would pull out of her ‘dilly bag’, the books she read to us and places in the world she described to us. She was different to the majority of teachers we had and she sowed in me a seed for a future vocation.

 

The classes were large with numbers unimaginable to today’s teachers. There are 43

Pieter001

Ocean Grover Primary School circa 1957

students in the Grade two class photo. Because I had learned English very quickly I often became the class translator when another Dutch kids arrived. I was none too pleased as my aim was to fit in without being noticed. I had observed what happened to one student in my class when he wore lederhosen to school. I didn’t want that ridicule to happen to me.

 

In my teen years I joined the tennis club in the summer and the newly formed football club in the winter. I wasn’t particularly good at sports but it was a great way to be involved in the activities of the town. In the first year of the Ocean Grove U15s my mate Ron and I were the equal top goal scorers. We had amassed two each. That year we didn’t judge our success by wins but by how few goals we lost by.

 

Also around this time I went to dancing lessons at the local hall. I thought this might help in overcoming my social awkwardness and make me less inept at the end of season events that the tennis and football clubs had. Sadly, I don’t think it did.

 

Only a few roads were paved and most were dust tunnels in the hot winds of summer and mud channels when the rains arrived. We had street lights but they were turned off at midnight. The sewerage system hadn’t come to the town. If you were well off you had a septic tank and if not the ‘dunny man’ also known in more polite circles as the ‘night soil carter’ would visit your outhouse on a weekly basis. If family visits to the toilet had been too frequent you had to deal with excess yourself.

 

Beach Ocean Grove 5

The beach looking towards Point Lonsdale from the Lookout

I remember a great sense of freedom. Riding our bikes to Barwon Heads or Point Lonsdale was a regular occurrence. A special terrifying thrill was riding one’s bike across the Barwon Heads bridge as it required skill to avoid the large gaps between the red gum planking that made up the bridge surface. If the front wheel went into the gap and jammed, it made for a fascinating aerial experience. Fossicking in the bush behind Ocean Grove (called ‘Cuthbertsons’ at the time) collecting tadpoles, or catching yabbies, wandering around the beach and the dunes were all activities that raised no parental fears as the population kept an eye on each other kids. My father found out about some of my nefarious activities because his network of parental spies had informed him about my behavior.

 

There was a reasonable collection of shops in The Terrace but supermarkets had not yet made their impression on Australia. Skinner’s general Store catered for most of our needs from groceries to toys and clothes. It was also an era in which a lot of services still came to your door. The butcher, ice man, baker, milkman and fruit and vege man (my dad’s trade) regularly visited the citizens of Ocean Grove. There was even a travelling draper and of course there was the Rawleigh’s man with his suitcase of ‘medicines’ going door to door. Car owner ship was normal but often the husbands used these to go to work in Geelong. The result was that many wives were stuck at home.

To be continued …

 

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One Generation from Extinction

The following is another post written by my wife:

When I married I lost my surname and took my husband’s. My sisters also married and then the name we had since birth was lost from our family. With no brothers to be able to carry the name into the future, it was gone.

My parents-in-law also saw the future of their name disappear. They had two sons, who married and gave them eight granddaughters. Whether by marriage or when they die, the surname will be lost in one generation.

photo 4Our faith heritage can suffer a similar fate. In just one generation the faith of our fathers and mothers can be lost. Who holds this fast? In whose hands can we entrust this faith to ensure that our grandchildren and the generations to come will carry on trusting God?

The obvious, and truthful, answer is there in the question. We trust God to hold us and keep us trusting Him. But that doesn’t allow us to be passive while God does all the work.

Our family will never be big. Probably our two grandchildren (aged one and three years) will stride toward the future holding hands, just the two of them, carrying the family history and folklore and faith with them. From our perspective it is a scary country that they are entering, full of dangerous terrain, uncertain and dark valleys, and threatening inhabitants. As grandparents we come from the relative calm of a Christian era, when even those who were not Christian lived by a Christian moral standard. Today we paused and asked ourselves, how do we prepare these little children for that foreign country called The Future?

Fortunately it is not up to us alone, and I believe this is the key. Of course they have believing parents and we must support them in their role to nurture faith in their children. But they also have five Aunties and an Uncle who will model a life of faith to them. We can and must give every effort to ensuring our faith heritage is not lost. We have a holy task as grandfather, grandmother, auntie, uncle, sister, brother, and parent. And as we do this we are obliged to hold each other accountable before God.

There is a future world in need of the Good News of Jesus. And I pray it will hear this Good News from the lips of my grandchildren.

 

 

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Coming Home

My body clock is slowly re-establishing itself.  Eight in the morning no longer resembles midnight. However there is that strange feeling that one has when one is back at work – back in the hurly burly one left a few weeks ago, when you ask yourself, “Did the last 6 weeks really happen?” There are photos and souvenirs of other countries and other places – exotic and unfamiliar but one is back in a world that hasn’t changed.  It is an unusual and unsettling feeling but not a disagreeable one. For me it is a reminder that I have had an opportunity to get insights into other worlds and places.

This time it was probably a bit more bizarre as our two-part holiday involved Spain and Norway, and walking and ship cruising. The contrasts could not have been more distinct. The only common theme was “cold”. Europe has been very cold this April. Northern Spain was not that much different to Norway except in Norway there was more sun!

Now here I am in a creative writing class encouraging students to use their life experiences as spring boards for writing. My life is continuing as before – except there was that 6 week hiatus that changed everything – I think.

 

 

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Madrid and Mission part 2m

As I have mentioned previously, Hetty and I are contemplating “mission” as I come to the close of my paid working life. What should/could it look like? Where? How? Why? Questions come pouring out every time we consider it.

We started thinking about Spain many years ago when a man offered me a tract in Guell Park in Barcelona. I dismissively said that I couldn’t read Spanish. He replied, “I have one in Eengleesh sir.” I had to take it then. Later when I looked at it I found that it came from an evangelical group in Barcelona. I returned to the man, told him that I was a Christian, thanked him and said I would pray for Christianity in Spain. We have prayed for Spain ever since and when we visit I make it a practice to visit churches and pray for the leaders and congregatIon.

Spain has been in our hearts ever since. We return when we can, we pray for it often and we find there is a draw that is greater than the food, climate and culture. We like the people. There are problems however; the biggest being that we don’t speak Spanish beyond “tapas”, “queso” and “paella.”

So we are at the point now of badgering God about the meaning of all this. We have discovered that there are many vibrant Christians seeking a renewal/revival in Spain. Our question: is there a role for us in this?

Plaza Espana on a Sunday afternoon

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My Kind of Cruising

I have never been a fan of ocean cruising. So for the first time, excepting ferry crossings and my five week trip to Australia, we are taking a 12 day cruise. It is not , however, what one of my fellow passengers called “Heidi-land.” I didn’t ask for a definition but I got his drift. He was describing the modern cruise ship.

Our boat was built in 1965 but there is no flashy aluminium or gold. There are no pools, evening entertainment, bingo, pokies and the rest. There is plenty of wood and brass. It is a working vessel that loads and unloads by crane. None of this fancy “roll on roll off.” There are no stabilisers so it gets quite a roll on the open ocean. Although you aren’t allowed in the wheel house you can stand next to it and get a captain’s eye view.

The MS Lofoten is the last ship of an era and everybody on board knows it and is enjoying this nod to the past. The added benefit is the passing parade of spectacular Norwegian scenery and the regular stops at towns and cities.

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Is this something for me?

Written a few days ago.

You may be wondering to yourself, is walking the Camino and staying in Albergues something for me? Let me relate two in incidents.

Last night as I was lying in bed, awake, but with my eyes closed, Hetty witnessed the young woman in the bed next to me getting changed. Her back was facing me but I was oblivious. She then changed for bed, undressing to her g-string briefs. Hetty said the next morning that if my eyes had been open she would have leapt across me to protect my eyes.

The next day, as pilgrims were coming in from their day’s walk, a group of middle aged, portly Frenchmen came into our dorm. They insisted in walking around in their jocks with bellies spilling over. Or as one brother-in-law oft repeated, “there was a large veranda over the tool shed.” The two young women in the beds across from mine didn’t know where to look. Hetty was ready to throw up. One man didn’t get back into pants for ages. The young women fled well before that to save their eyesight.

The accomodation is cheap and there are great moments when you meet people and chat with them but there are also times when one’s sensitivities are pushed to the limit. For me, I would do it again even if my wife has to hurl herself over me to protect me.

Seminario Menor in Santiago but without the g-strings and bellies.

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Madrid and Mission part 1

We have spent the last two days in Madrid looking at the possibility of future “mission” work, either in a church or school or both. We have come to the conclusion that church attendance in Spain, as with most European countries, is very low. There is still a strong hold that Catholic traditions have on behaviour but this doesn’t translate into a gospel empowered lifestyle.

There are bright spots. There are Catholic priests who are trying to shake up the church. A version of the Alpha course in Spanish is being used. There are small groups of evangelicals trying to make a difference. But in a population of 47 million people these are only pin pricks of light.

One of those pinpricks is Life International School, currently housed in rooms previously used by doctors at the ground floor level of an apartment complex. The 14 students between 3 and 5 are taught in the English language from a Christian Worldview. Lives and families are being changed. There are plans to obtain land and build but even bigger dreams to equip teachers and inspire others to set up schools. There are hopes to engage local parents and other adults through English conversation classes with a clear Christian perspective.

The staff at this school come from the US, Canada and Russia. They are an amazing group of people who have responded to God’s call.

We have been inspired and humbled by what we have seen and heard. The commitment and sacrifice is genuinely amazing. Our challenge now is discern what God is saying to us

An interesting TGC article: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-gospel-in-spain/

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Travelling with Grandkids … not really … well, really.

This is the first time we have ever gone travelling as grandparents. In the past I have had to cool my heels outside postcard and souvenir shops. But a new dimension has entered our travels. Simply put it is, “Wouldn’t that be nice for T or B?”

Toys, clothes, games as well as postcards are now part of the roving eagle eye of my beloved. I will give you one example that will make you sob in your breakfast cereal. My wife sent T a postcard. This was duly posted in a Correos post box. “Now wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a toy Correos van for T?”

The local post offices didn’t have them. I thought if any place would have them it would be the main Correos in Madrid. So off we trekked this morning across the city to find the toy. Surprisingly it was there in a display cabinet. I don’t think they had ever sold one before because it took 4 people to work out where one was and how to sell it to us. But we have our toy van.

My feet are not thanking me for such adept thinking and insight. However, travelling with grandchildren adds a dimension to our travels that we have not had before.

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Another Day in Sevilla

I remarked in my last blog how uncomfortable I felt watching the Semana Santa processions in Sevilla. A few years ago I watched similar processions in Santiago de Compostela and it struck me at the time that, although not to my taste or sensibilities, there was a strong presence of the gospel. The death and resurrection of Christ were clearly presented and the message in the Santiago Cathedral square on Easter Sunday was gospel straight from Scripture.

On this occasion I met a couple from the south of Holland in the Cathedral square in Sevilla and I related the contrast between my two experiences. They expressed a similar sentiment, however their alternate experience had been Córdoba. This couple were Catholic and thought the Sevilla processions were more about other things than the Christian faith in contrast to Córdoba.

That was a helpful reflection for me.

The other thing I did today was go into the Sevilla Cathedral and also walk up the Giralda tower, one I am told in which two horses abreast can be ridden to the top. It is a continuous ramp but hopefully the horses lose a bit of weight near the top as the ramp narrows a little. While I was waiting for the ticket office to open I encountered a retired couple from Denmark. He was also a Teacher – a history teacher at that. We were at the head of the queue. History is too important to be pushed to the back of the line by the great unwashed! We also chatted about history and my favourite Danish films and TV programs.

The tower started off as a minaret but was as with other buildings in Spain it was repurposed by the Christians after the Moors were conquered. It is now the bell tower of the Cathedral. The Cathedral itself is large but not as ostentatious as some. It has some famous art works – especially Murillo.

This evening we tried tapas and paella. Hetty did remove any pieces that had suction cups attached.

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A Week of Processions

We are in Sevilla during Semana Santa or Holy Week. This entails incredible processions every day of the week. Some even starting at one in the morning. The locals are dressed to the nines and the tourists look like underdressed slobs – a description that is, in my case, accurate.

Holy Week processions are a sight to behold. Every church has a procession that includes a band, people dressed in robes reminiscent of the KKK and large statues carried by a number of men. Children carry crosses and we haven’t even got to the chains, bare feet and steel poles of the Friday procession. They process from their own church, go to the Cathedral and return to their home church. This is a logistical work of art that includes police, fence arrangers and chair ‘setter uppers’. It dominates the whole of the old city. Many of the well dressed people around town wear lapel pins that identify them with a particular church or society. There is an underlying sense of passionate competition between the groups.

What do I make of all this? It is a fabulous tourist attraction. National and international visitors flock to Sevilla. Bars make more now than at any other time of the year. However, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, are for me, at the heart of the Christian message. It is about Christ’s sacrifice for our total brokenness and his power over sin and death – again, for us. It is about reconciliation with God through His ‘agape’ self giving love.

I see glimpses of that in the theatre of the processions but I wonder if like so may religious traditions we make it more about us and what we want than God and what He has done. The festivities (I can’t think of a more appropriate word) has that secular and self obsessed air of Christmas.

I find myself in that uncomfortable position where I am intrigued and drawn in by the drama but deeply unsettled by its implied message.

The Giralda TowerThe Procession and milling crowds

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