Uncategorized

Coming Home

The following are two pieces I wrote quite a few years ago but they fit in with my theme of the last few posts of “memory”.

The first opportunity I had to return to Holland came in 2003. The family had grown up and I had finally accrued enough points to take “Long Service Leave”. Up until this time I had a habit of quitting just short of the qualifying time. That says something about my stickability.

In February of 2003 the Lufthansa 737 banked over Schiphol and glued to the window I saw the flat water-crossed land for the first time in 49 years – and really – the first time in my life. As my nose was glued to the little oval window a wave of amazing emotion travelled through my whole body. I was coming home.

As my wife and I drove through Holland it seemed so familiar. It was a familiarity developed from family and parental stories. Most of this I had never seen and I certainly hadn’t remembered. But I had seen it through my parents’ stories. How real and vivid they were and how real they were now as I saw them.

Holland, more correctly, the Netherlands is like no other place. Not because it is spectacular or grand – it isn’t. Its very ordinariness; its everyday life, towns, cities, factories, offices, schools, homes, parks and gardens in which people live their everyday life is so different from my experience – and I imagine the experience of all people not Dutch.

The orange blinds on multi story housing blocks, the criss-crossing canals and sloots, the bikes, the flatness, the canal crossing the highway, the dijks holding back enormous rivers, while villages nestle in their shadow … and the bikes, the ubiquitous bikes with grannies and grandchildren all making their way resolutely, efficiently and without fuss.

Forty nine years is a long time and an enormous distance. I met members of my own family. We shared names and heritage but our experience of life separated us.

The one thing in which we had been well indoctrinated was not whether we supported Feyenoord or Ajax, but food. Dutch pancakes, appelstroop, speculaas, King Peppermints, Zoute drop, rookworst, stroopwafels, candy and chocolate hagel and …  The tastebuds have a heritage that outlasted time and place.

Christmas 2005

As we drove into a Dutch village late on Christmas Eve in 2005 we heard the church bell ring and we saw people walking from every direction to the church in the centre of town.

Coming in from the wintry weather the church was warm – in welcome and temperature. Even though the Christmas Eve service was traditional there was still a sense of anticipation and excitement. For our whole family the experience was new and different. My cousin Piet who had the Stok musical gene that I missed out on was the music and choir director. That family connection made the experience more personal and little did we know then that was one of the few Christmases Piet had left.

A week earlier the four younger girls had flown in from Australia. For a few days we were involved in a lightning trip around the UK: London, Bath, Coventry, The Lake District, Greta Green, Lords and, of course, the Lego shop in Milton Keynes. Now it was time to visit relatives and see Holland – the place of their father’s and grandparents’ birth.

Categories: Family, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Ocean Grove … continued

It struck me that as I was writing about my memories of Ocean Grove that these recollections are inextricably tied to “growing up”. My years in Ocean Grove covered those influential childhood and teenage years. By the time my family left for a farm in the Western District, I had moved to a university in Melbourne.

In the 1960s the Scout movement was still popular so I joined the 1st Ocean Grove Scout troop. It was called the “first” but in fact it was the only one. There I learned a lot of practical skills and some less so. Tying knots, starting fires, putting up tents and rope bridges were some of skills we learned. There were others: smoking, making your own cigarettes with toilet paper and paper bark, practical joking (which now would be called bullying) and other life altering skills. I never smoked again after the paper bark episode. The camps we had at Eumerella just outside Anglesea were a highlight – out in the bush with very few amenities. Eumerella Jack with his dog wandering about at night looking for unsuspecting little boys to devour – or so the legend goes. We had leaders – great and not so great. Some were like kindly uncles or big brothers and others were there to feather their own nest. A saving scheme was introduced where we would bring 2 shillings a week to build up a bank account. It was only many years later that I realised that we never saw our money, or the originator of the scheme, again. I advanced through the ranks and became a ‘Patrol Leader’ which my mother with her Dutch accent pronounced as ‘Petrol Leader’.

The school bus also deserves a mention. When I started high school in Queenscliff we were transported in an old rattly Ford bus. It was cold in winter, hot in summer and always draughty. I am sure it wouldn’t pass the scrutiny of the safety gurus today.

My first paying job, in contrast to being an unpaid slave for my father, was as a paper boy. I was in Grade 5 at the time. We were paid 15 shillings a week for a paper round that took a little over an hour. We had to memorise the addresses as well as which newspaper each customer got on which day, by heart. I remember that Wednesdays and Saturdays were horrendous as The Age with its classified sections was at least 2 or 3 inches thick and I had a number of highbrow customers who wouldn’t be seen dead with the Geelong Advertiser or the Sun. Then there were the customers who also received the poorly named “Truth” and the pink Sporting Globe. I didn’t always get the orders right which lead to an unhappy boss and annoyed customers.

Another job, which a friend arranged for me, was to work at Henk’s Bakery. Henk Petersen was a Dutchman who supplied bread and other pastries to the local community. During the summer he was extra busy with the influx of visitors. I would start at 4 in the morning and prepare all the orders for the bread carters. One had to know one’s Vienna loaves from the Milk loaves and High tops and whole meal.

It was the newspaper thing all over again – there was so much to remember and I didn’t always get it right, especially at the start. Wholemeals were mixed with Viennas. Who could blame me in the poor light. On other occasions I helped with making the dough for the next day’s bread and filled pies and pasties.

Beach Ocean Grove 5

The Ocean Grove beach in the 1950s

However, the following summer I started with the Ocean Grove Foreshore Committee. After an interview with Ernie Storer, while he was having a shower, I was appointed as beach cleaner. Seven days a week my mate and I would scour the beach and sand dunes for rubbish. We also collected bottles which became the source of our bonus at the end of the season. Another lurk we cottoned onto was that if Mother Nature was kind and there was a strong westerly wind after a busy beach day the day before, change which had fallen out of people’s pockets could be found protruding out of little piles of sand. So we made it our first priority to “clean up” any money. We could make up to an extra $4 or $5 a day this way but the wind had to be just right. This was a good bonus when the wage was about $40 per week – the basic wage at the time. (We had changed to decimal currency in 1966).

In subsequent years I was promoted. First came toilet cleaner – we had to clean quite a few toilet blocks between Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads. I estimated that we cleaned about 80 toilets and 80 shower cubicles per day. This job included being teased mercilessly by older women who could see my embarrassment at cleaning women’s toilets. Then came the peak promotion – garbage collecting.

I was consistent here as well because once again I made my share of mistakes. Probably the most infamous one was bringing down the Telephone lines between Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads. I was driving the front end loader with the bucket raised in an area where I shouldn’t have. There was a cacophony of pinging sounds and the writhing of wires as I sliced through the multiple overhead lines. I believe this episode led to the phone lines being placed underground in the camping area.

I worked for the Foreshore Committee well into my university years. The pay was good. One other job I had in my later high school years that went throughout the year was doing odd jobs on a hobby farm owned by a Melbourne stockbroker. This involved wood chopping, mowing, feeding cattle as well as hay bailing. During the drought in the late 1960s I hand watered a recently planted avenue of trees which I am pleased to note haven’t been cut down with Ocean Grove’s urban expansion.

Being profligate, all this work didn’t make me rich but it helped get me through university and played a role in shaping my character – or so I wish to believe.

Categories: Family, History, Ocean Grove, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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 …

 

Categories: Ocean Grove, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

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.

 

 

Categories: Children, christian, Christianity, Faith, Hetty's Devotions, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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/

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.