Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 6

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Wednesday January 16, 2008 (bio, Holland, my mother)

My first shoe On a shelf somewhere in Babette's house I find a long lost friend, my very first shoe. My parents had it coated in bronze at the time, a common custom in those days. It still looks in excellent condition so my first shoe will probably outlast me for many years. A queer thought isn't it? But then, I have outlasted all my other shoes quite comfortably, so I don't really mind.

Looking back in time it feels as if I have had many lives, sofar I can count one dozen, three more than the proverbial cat. I have packed up and moved on so many times, each time leaving old acquaintances and friends behind, and arriving somewhere else making new ones. I am not in the custom of deliberately seeking out old friends from the past, but happy to see them again on occasions when our paths cross accidentally.
I hate growing roots somewhere. Living at one place for a few years is fine, but then I feel I must move on, find new challenges, continue to grow. It is the restless nature passed on from my distant ancestors, but I am probably an extreme case. If anything I have become worse over the years, even owning a house now feels like a constraint.

I was born in the Beukerstraat in Zutphen. Zutphen is one of the most ancient towns in the Netherlands. It was established around 400 AD on the river IJssel which branches off from the Rhine near Arnhem (a city well know for its battle at the end of World War 2). Zutphen was therefore an excellent trading post with river access to regions we now call West Germany, East France and Switzerland. Zutphen region, The Netherlands
The Beukerstraat also relates strongly to the past. Around Medieval times tradesmen of the same Guild tended to live and work together in the same area or street, and a beuker was a maker of wooden casks. When I was born there were no beukers left in the street, but there is a good liquor store with a wine cellar containing several casks, I remember. Otherwise there is a range of shops in the street and the Jewelry shop which my parents once owned is also still there.

When I visited Holland in 1987 to see my mother Else (my father had already died in1981) we took the bus to Zutphen one day and walked around the market place, then through the Beukerstraat and looked up at the window, two stories above the Jewelry shop, where she had brought me into the world. A simple but close, important moment. We went on to her favourite cake shop just around the corner where she had two helpings. My mother then proceeded to wish me formally goodbye and assure me I should not be sad, she was ready to join my father she said.
I planned to return to see her 2 years on, but a few months before my scheduled arrival she died. I flew in early and was there at her funeral together with my sister. Also present were the goldsmiths
Dumbar and Steenbergen with their wives. They came with us to the house afterwards. My mother, always a very artistic woman, was in her final years only able to nit woolen scarves. She had a cupboard full of them in a great variety of colours. I gave a scarf to each one present to keep in her memory. After almost 20 years I still have mine.

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Thursday January 17, 2008 (diary, food, drink, ThreePonds' name)

I make an appointment with the GP for my 12 monthly checkup, go to the bank to get some financial matters organised for my forthcoming trip to Germany and in the evening go with Doug to the Surf Club for a roast dinner. Besides the usual pork and chicken there is tonight also the most succulent leg of ham which we both enjoy immensely and wash down with some Hahn Premium Light. Doug insists the Hahn beer tastes much much better here than at the Chancellors Park Tavern. I am not a connoisseur of beer or wine, but can clearly taste the difference too . It must be something in the line to the keg. But just to make sure we have three schooners each.

Middle pond on ”ThreePonds” Today I also christen Babette and Doug's property "ThreePonds". I did not invent this name myself, no Sir! How could I? It came to me so quick as a flash I had no time to think about it. It must have been lying around for a long time, waiting to be picked up by the first passer by who cared enough to notice it. That happened to be me, that's all.
Obvious name anyway, isn't it. There are (as I mentioned before) three small dams on the property connected by a small stream. They are on three successive descending levels, forming with the stream a gentle arc, that runs from the far left higher ground to about 20 yards behind and 5 below the rear deck.

But ponds are not just ordinary features. Even when man made they quickly spring to life, interact and blend in with their surroundings and within no time at all have become the magic focal points in any natural environment. So are these three ponds. They are tranquil havens for contemplation, mysterious places with secrets hiding in their unfathomable depth. Their influence does not stop at their perimeter but engulf the whole house and everybody in it.

We three too are like ponds, engrossed much of the time in the depth of our own creative worlds. Babette writing her novels - I my articles, thoughts, like these very words - Doug forever searching online for the things he is interested in and that is just about everything!. Then, as if too connected by a murmuring stream, we join together in discussion, skipping, jumping, running from subject to subject, like children on Easter morning searching for the hidden eggs in the garden. (Like we used to when young.)

Other guests and casual visitors too, as soon as they sit down here are caught unaware by the three ponds' magic influence. They open their souls, unburden their problems, share their happiness and thoughts. There is no doubt about it, ThreePonds is a wonderful and magic place. A place where the mind awakens, is nourished and grows.

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Friday January 18, 2008 (bio, Holland, music, accordion, Grandmother, Antien)

I had my first music lessons on recorder in the late 1940s when I was 10 or 12 years old. I vividly remember my very first lesson. My teacher, Mr. Lindeman sat me down at the table in our dining room at Martinshof and dictated to me "Wanneer wij liedjes zingen ....." ("When we sing songs ...."). I always remember these first few words, but have absolutely no idea what came after them. It was not long before my teacher saw some promise in me and got me an 80 bass piano accordion. I absolutely loved the instrument right from the start.

The accordion was in those early days just after the war the undisputed favourite instrument in Holland, especial in the country provinces. Forget the guitar, that was only for girls and sissies. The accordion was the instrument at all parties, weddings and dances on the farms and in community halls. A whole raft of Dutch songs were written to accommodate the instrument. Like "Daar bij die Molen ...." and "Op de sluizen, van IJmuiden, heb ik haar vaarwel gekust", many such as these two in intoxicating swirling waltz tempos. I played them all !

Playing my accordion I played every day on my instruments, but hated written music. I painstakingly battled through every new piece I had to learn just twice, not more, then knew it by heart and played it ever after from memory.
Often when leaving my teacher's house after my lesson I would pass a young girl coming in for her lesson also on accordion. I was too shy to speak to her so she remained a mystery girl.
Mr Lindeman had a nasty setback. An infection on his foot went horribly wrong and he landed up in hospital where eventually most of his leg was amputated. This did not diminish his energy however. Once back in action with his artificial leg he started traveling around the country side, setting up accordion bands in several of the rural villages. I was by this time one of his star pupils and when it was time for his bands to put up a public performance he used me as reenforcement in the front row on stage.

A week or so before the scheduled performance he would take me to one of the band rehearsals. There were few cars in those days so we always traveled by bus. We made a rather odd couple stepping out from the foggy darkness into the dim yellow lamp light at the bus stop. A man in a belted trench coat, Stetson hiding his eyes, stick in hand, limping slightly, next to a skinny youth with an alpino cap (dark blue barrette) pulled way over his right ear (imitating the Canadian soldiers) lugging a huge accordion case. A grotesque duo right out of a mystery tale. ”Grotie” my Grandmother

My grandmother ("Grotie") came to my very first performance in the village of Hengelo (Gld). At the Hall entrance door she was asked to raise her hand. As she did so the attended took it, turned it over and stamped SPOED ("Express") on the back of it. He apologetically replied to my grandmother's raised eyebrows, that this was to identified those who had paid in case they lost their ticket. This often happened, he continued, when the farmers after too much beer had to go outside for a leak.
My grandmother recalled this story many many times later during her life, easily outshining the one of her grandson's musical effort at the event.
I was joined on the stage by two or three friends with compatible skills. We would belt out each song with everything we had, while at the back a row of big farmhands were condemned to silence. With fingers easily covering two keys at once on the keyboard they were considered too risky performers. Therefore before the start each would stick a nail in the vent hole of their instrument (located near top of the left side). This allowed them to happily pull and squeeze their bellows without making any sound at all. They all had big smiles on their faces, looking around with no care in the world, which greatly impressed the audience. Meanwhile us in the front row did all the hard work. To add variation to the program, at selected points one of us would get up at the front of the stage and play a solo. I usually did two every performance. Sculpture by Antien

I thoroughly enjoyed these performances. I was guest player in two bands, one in Vorden, the other in Hengelo and performed in various villages and small towns in the region. I also went to a regional accordion competition and won both first price with one of the bands and as a soloist. I played an arrangement of American Patrol which had a few great left hand bass riffs in it I recall. The mystery girl was also at the event and put in a very creditable 3rd place performance.
After a few years however, when I was around 16, I gave up the music lessons and performances. Can't remember why. But later when I was at Uni I did meet up with the mystery girl again. Her name was Antien. She became a friend and fellow student at the Arnhem Art Academy of my sister Wivica and soon visited our house. I finally got up enough courage to ask her out to a party and a few years later we married.

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Saturday January 19, 2008 (diary, dogs, cricket)

Kiku and Tin Tin It is dry this morning, so I quickly do my washing, get it on the line, and take it off before I go to the coast. I am lucky, only minutes later there is a brief heavy shower.
Doug is busy getting his itinerary and flights sorted out for his forthcoming marketing trip to India for PGIC in late February. Babette too will be away overseas, to Canada I believe and also a couple of countries in Asia. While they are away I will look after their house and dogs, Tin Tin and Kiku.
This will suit me, as with this wet weather it is no fun to camp anywhere, and the roads to Darwin will probably also be blocked by floods for a while. Not to mention the cyclones which are expected to be rather active up North this year. It therefore looks that I will get to Darwin sometime in March, staying on there for a few weeks before my departure to Germany.

India has won the 3d cricket test match against Australia today in Perth. There is some justice in that as they were on the receiving end of some poor umpire decisions in the previous test. But they too won fair and square this time. The tennis is also heating up in Melbourne, despite some rain. The important matches are still going ahead, played under closed roof in the magnificent Rod Laver Arena.
In the evening Doug departs to the Blues night at the Palmwoods Hotel. This leaves me alone in the house. I watch some TV, then have a great two hour session on my keyboard, belting the hell out of it, full blast. Rather good too.

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Sunday January 20, 2008 (diary, bio, drinks, artillery)

Water Hyacinth in bloom "The water hyacinth is in bloom Mike, come and have a look." Doug alerts me in the morning. He keeps a close eye on all that grows and moves on the property and thoroughly enjoys each event in nature however minor. There are several large glazed pots on the rear deck of "ThreePonds", collected back in Japan. About two feet in diameter and slightly less deep they are all filled with water and contain various water plants as well as some goldfish. The water hyacinth in one of them is indeed in bloom, an important enough occurrence for me to photograph and record for posterity.

Later this day I give in to one of my weaknesses. I have a fetish about glasses.
Each time this last month I walk into the bottle shop to get some more Cinzano Rosso I pass by a display stand which includes a Courvoisier gift pack containing a full bottle plus two lovely small cognac glasses. They remind me of, and are very similar to, the ones used at the historic and unique Artillery Officers Mess in Oldenbroek (Holland) to which I belonged as a young reserve army lieutenant back in 1965.
Today I can not restrain myself any longer and after lunch at the Surf Club drive straight to the shop and buy the very last gift pack left, what a relief ! I am a happy man. Back home Doug and I try out the new glasses. Glasses are perfect, Courvoisier not bad either. A good buy.

Have you ever watched the Those Grumpy Old Men series on TV ? Well, today is my turn !
I hate drinking from a bottle, especially from a beer bottle. It does not feel right, it does not taste right, it does not look right. Yet these days you go into any pub, bar or Club in Australia, ask for a bottled brand of beer and what do you get ? The bartender gets your requested item from the fridge, takes off the cap and plonks it in front of you. You wait, look at him, he looks at you. Nothing happens. "Can I have a glass please." you ask. He gets the glass and gives it to you with a searching look. You surely must come from a different planet, Mars most likely.
It seems so simple : a bottle is for pouring, a glass is for drinking. Everywhere I go overseas they understand this perfectly. You get your bottle and your glass, no need to ask. In Rome last year I even got the whole works and felt lifted into Heaven. But there I was sitting only a few miles away from the Vatican, and that may have strengthened the illusion.
My Courvoisier glasses So what is going on in Australia ? Only 30 or 40 years ago no one was drinking from the bottle as far as I can remember. Perhaps there lies the answer. In the past when talking in a group at a party you always had a cigaret in your hand. You did not really needed to smoke but it gave you a sense of security, something to do with your hand while standing there. These past 20 years or so most Australians, thanks to extensive advertising campaigns, have stopped this terribly unhealthy and dirty habit.
But what now to do with your hand ? Bingo! The beer bottle comes to the rescue. You are safe and secure again and you look like one of the boys, for who needs a glass ? Besides you need one hand free for other things. The young women too, up to their 20s or 30s, emulating the boys, drink from the bottle.
What about Europe ? There they still smoke, like you would not believe, especially in the Southern countries. You can sit in a bar or outside on a terrace and have your bottle and your glass, but you are in a haze of smoke, coming from your left, your right, from everywhere. So there it is, you can't have it both ways in this world. Not yet, anyway.

Thinking of beer bottles. There is one country I know of where beer bottles are very important : Papua New Guinea (PNG). I discovered that when we went there for the first time in 1972. We arrive at the Davara Hotel right on Ela Beach in Port Moresby. After settling in my wife and kids go down to the pool, while I walk on to the lobby and into the bar.
"Can I have a beer please, your local brand if you have one" I ask.
"We have our South Pacific Lager 'SP' for short," the bartender replies, "a browny or a greeny ?"
"Which one do you recommend ?"
I ask, as I have no idea what he is talking about.
"That is a delicate question Sir, I can not answer that for you" he states "You have to decide yourself.

And he is so right. The South Pacific breweries present their beer in brown and in green glass bottles. The beer that is put into them is exactly the same, but what comes out of them is entirely different. Everyone in PNG agrees and is absolutely certain about that. You can buy a 24 bottle carton of greenies or a carton of brownies, the colour is clearly printed on the outside. There are no cartons with mixed bottles.
So when you give a party in PNG make sure you have a carton of each in the house. If you don't, half of your guests will walk out and never, ever speak to you again ! Therefore, just in case you contemplate asking me home for a drink one day, make a note of this : I am strictly a greenies man. And don't you forget that!

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