Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 8

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Saturday January 26, 2008 (diary, bio, war, peace, cricket, tennis)

It is Australia Day today. As I drive to the coast I pass several cars with Australian flags stuck on roofs, bonnets, windows. On the streets in Mooloolaba too many wear something with green and or yellow : T shirt, hat, scarf, (Polynsian) lei. Some are wrapped in full size Australian flags, or have them tied as capes around their shoulders.

It very much reminds me of our Queens Birthday celebrations back in Holland just after World War 2. Us school children would march to the Village Council House in the morning, waving orange or red-white-blue flags, and wearing cockades, girls ribbons in their hair. Once there the two local primary schools united (Christian and Public) would sing the National Anthem and other Dutch songs to the Lord Mayor, who, standing on the first floor balcony with his wife, acted as the Queen's representative.

In the Surf Club too all bar staff and many of the visitors are wearing celebratory items and green and yellow balloons are hanging everywhere. The place is quite full, but I find a chair on the front deck facing the two main TV screens. Both the Woman's Australian Open Tennis Final in Melbourne, and the 4th cricket test against India in Adelaide are in progress. I watch Matthew Hayden make his 30th test century (103), and the Russian Maria Sharapova win convincingly her 3rd Grand Slam title. Ana Ivanovic from Serbia is a gallant opponent but today not able to stem the relentless fury of Sharapova.

Initially I am heartened by the exuberant display of Australian Nationalism, but driving home I become increasingly doubtful. Do these feelings really reflect the Australian psyche, or are they only a thin veneer, just another occasion, like St. Patrick and the Melbourne Cup, to have a good time and let your hair down ?

War is a terrible thing. But it is only when you have been through a war and occupation that you truly can understand what a wonderful and precious gift it is to live in peace in a united free and independent nation.
I have been through a war as a child. I was lucky being spared the grewsome sights of blood, mutilations and death.
But I experienced the fear, the menacing drone of a hundred bombers overhead, the whine of machine gun bullets ricocheting on the cobble stones through the street, and the frightening bomb explosions while crouched in an underground shelter, protecting my head with my hands, dust and debris raining all over me.
When that is over, never to return, you know how absolutely wonderful peace is, and you will never ever forget it.

The Australian soldiers, from Gallipoli to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, renown for their intelligence, skill and unrelenting bravery, they know it too. But what about those left behind at home, the rest of the Nation ?
I have my doubts, because I see tell tale signs all too frequently. We are a lucky Country. But how much are we taking it for granted and how much are we squandering our luck away ? It is human nature, and a weakness.
But there is hope too. Today 15,000 migrants have become new Australians. The vast majority of them do know how lucky they are to live here, because they have been through war, or hardship or poverty. They are becoming in ever greater numbers the backbone of our national identity, whether they are black, white or yellow. Will the rest of us too wake up to this deeper and much stronger awareness ? I do hope so.

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Sunday January 27, 2008 (diary, party, food, music)

ThreePonds front deck Babette and Doug have invited some friends around for today.
Preparations for this event started already a few days ago with a rare but necessary general cleanup. Dust is cleaned from shelves, wood and glass is polished, the gold fish bowl is filled with new water, fresh flowers are spreading their exotic smell right through the house. Most of all the mountain of tools, bits and pieces is cleared from the front deck so that now there can sit six people in comfort, instead of two cramped on a sofa before.
As everything now looks clean and beautiful, I become even more aware that ThreePonds is not an ordinary house. It is a colourful paradise, a place of magic and wonder, combining a variety of environments and settings, all radiating different shades of tranquility and peace.

It is a sunny afternoon with some slight noticeable humidity when gradually the guests arrive. They fit in wonderfully, as like the furniture, decorations, and numerous curiosa scattered around the place, they too have come, collectively, from all over the world. So there is great harmony, which immediately converts them from guests into members of the family who arrive home and belong here. Initially everybody spreads out in small groups at various locations, so that one not realises there is a party going on. But as the wonderful smell of curries starts to waft through the air, everybody gravitates to the dining table into one group.
Jamming with the boys After dinner I fire up my keyboard, and Ian who needs no prompting at all immediately grabs one of the harmonicas from his bag and joins me. Peter, sitting at the table restlessly shuffling his feet, murmurs to Babette that he has a horn in the boot of his car. "Then go and get it." nudges Babette and soon he too is in full jamming mode on his lovely French horn.
Adam, who never has held a sax in his hands before, gets hold of Doug's alto, won't let it go and eventually takes it home to practise. This is what music can do to a man. Young Jarman too has got hold of one of Doug's guitars and is happily strumming along with us.

Gradually the party dies down, instruments are packed away, everyone is transformed back into being a departing visiting guest. ThreePonds too dims its lights and eventually goes to sleep.

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Monday January 28, 2008 (bio, life in Assen, antiques)

Antiques hunt 2 continues from January 25   (Assen '64-'65)
After Jan van Houten's impressive performance with the spinning wheels I know that he is the man to help me in my own search . For years I have been dreaming of owning a traditional < a href="photos81/blog741p.htm" target="_blank">milk yoke. That unique Dutch item which the farm maids use to carry pails with milk (hanging from chains on either side of the yoke) from the cows' milking place back to the farm."I know where to find one for you." Jan tells me excitedly when I consult him It is within shooting range from where we sit right here ! Antique milk yoke and bucket

The next day I return to his Pub and he proudly leads me to his shed. There on his work bench, would you believe, lie not one but two genuine milk yokes. The one he had thought of the day before has a pair of the most beautiful hand beaten metal chains, but the wooden yoke itself is badly damaged and eaten away by wood worm. He therefore scouted further around until he found the second yoke, its chains not as good, but its wooden yoke in excellent condition. We take the chains from the damaged yoke and fix them onto the other one, and after an exchange of a mere 5 Guilders the yoke is mine. As is tradition with Jan we proceed to the bar and convert the handed over money into beers, a much more agreeable commodity.

Back home I work on the yoke all evening. I clean the rust and dirt off the chains with a steel brush until they are smooth, silvery and shiny. I sand paper the surface of the wooden yoke, fill a few wood worm holes with candle wax, then stain the yoke dark brown and polish it with furniture wax until its shine matches the chains. It is absolutely beautiful. A year or so later it arrives with our other belongings in Australia, and travels with us wherever we go. Right now it is on Kangaroo Island, where Antien is the custodian looking after it until eventually it will pass on to one of our children.

I have asked my son Jeroen who was with his mother this weekend to take photos of both the milk yoke and the sit bath. (The yoke is shown above. The sit bath needs some TLC and fresh paint before it will be shown here.)
Antiques hunt continues on January 29

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Tuesday January 29, 2008 (bio, life in Assen, antiques)

Antique oil lamp Antiques hunt 3 (Final) continues from January 28
This lovely brass oil lamp, now hanging in Babette's home, is the item that really triggered off my memories from those antique hunting days back in Holland. I just polished it again, as I have done so many times in the past, before photographing it for this Blog.
Antien and I, back in Assen (1964-65), had paid a few fruitful visits to the flea market in Groningen, 30 km to our North. But soon it was our antiques guru Jan van Houten who steered us onto a more adventurous course, when he suggested we check out some of the farms in the Province of Friesland, to the North and NE of its capital city Leeuwarden.

So one Saturday morning we set of in our beetle Volkswagen on the road to Groningen, then West towards Leeuwarden. Just after the border with Friesland we turn right into farm country. We travel all around the place, visiting several farm houses along the way. Groningen - Leeuwarden I can't remember whether it is near Hallum or Kollum that we eventually strike gold. We enter a small farm and in the kitchen right above the kitchen table hangs this gorgeous brass oil lamp. There are other items of interest but we can not keep our eyes from the lamp. To our great surprise and delight the farmer (can't remember his wife being there, which may have something to do with our success) is happy to part with the lamp as soon as he spots the 50 guilder bill I am holding in my hand. Both sides feel they are striking an absolute bargain, so we part amicably and return home in high spirits.

We gave the lamp as a Christmas present to my parents. It hang for many years in their lounge above a cows' drinking trough, hand carved from a solid sandstone rock, which van der Mei, our farmer neighbour across the road from Martinshof (Gorssel), had let me take from his meadow. I filled the rectangular 4 ft by 1 ft trough with water and gold fish and also installed a small fountain pump in it. It made a lovely arrangement in the room.
After my parents death the lamp eventually arrived in Australia where it now hangs in the ThreePonds guest quarters, were I stay at present. At least half the value of an antique or curiosa item one possesses I always find, is where and how you discovered it, and the history behind it.

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Wednesday January 30, 2008 (bio, Dutch Army, Intelligence S2 in Assen)

My ARMY days 3 continues from January 22
We stay in Assen for the remaining 14 months period of my National service until late August 1965. Life with the regular troops is far less hectic than my previous 8 months of concentrated training.
Most of the time is taken up with maintenance of equipment, short trips out in the field and training of the personnel. At intervals the routine is livened up by longer exercises, camping in the field for 3, 4 days or a week, either at the shooting grounds at Oldenbroek near the village of Ermelo (Veluwe, Gelderland) or at Münsterlage on the Lüneburger Heide (North of Celle, Germany) and close to the Iron Curtain.
Immediately on arrival from the SROA I am attached to the staff, rather than being a battery officer (for which I was trained). This suits me fine, as I am not really a marching and drilling new recruits type of person. De Veluwe, Gelderland
Initially I am attached to the S3, the Commander of Operations, and work in the Afdeling Command Post with the fire calculations team, providing targets for all three gun batteries in the Afdeling.
I am also involved in the retraining of professional officers from the recently abandoned Dutch Anti Aircraft Artillery units ("Lucht Artillery"), which have been transferred to us, the Field Artillery. It is quite fun, after being bossed around for 6 months by wachtmeesters (= Artillery sergeants) at the Artillery School, to now be on the other side of the equation, supervising Captains and Majors who are sweating it out over shooting procedures.

In due course I am transferred to the Intelligence section and after a brief period become the S2 in charge of Security and Intelligence for the Afdeling. In peace time this is a lot less exiting than it sounds. Apart from compiling data from various sources during field exercises for defining appropriate shooting targets for the batteries, it is a rather administrative job. Looking after politically "suspect" soldiers who have in the past read a Communist pamphlet or two, and are now barred from promotion, unless screened by me and approved by Headquarters in Den Haag. Generally this can be done and I am successful in several cases.

I am also in charge of all maps used by the Afdeling. These are thousands of NATO classified maps (held in several boxes under lock and key) in case of war, but also the regular stock used during exercises in the field. The Dutch Army has a firm policy : maps are never ever lost!. But as it are really great maps it is no surprise that they do get "lost" amongst various interested personnel.
The standard solution is simple. Whenever an Army map is reported "lost" I take another map of my stock, rip it in half, present both pieces to the map supply center in Ede and immediately receive two brand new maps in exchange. Works every time ! For it is of course unavoidable that maps become damaged or worn during use.
My ARMY days continues on February 3

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Thursday January 31, 2008 (diary, music, bio, Martinshof Director, my father)

While at the Sunshine Coast (SE Queensland) each year around January I do the usual health checks for both myself and the car. Had my teeth cleaned by the Hygienist yesterday, blood samples taken today for the GP to check out next week. My car (Mercedes Vito) has also been serviced, a few parts replaced and is booked in for two new tyres and wheel alignment tomorrow. Once that is completed I am OK for another 6 months I hope.

At the Surf Club this afternoon Del joins me at my table. She is a lovely old dear, well into her 90s, but still as lively and alert as a young girl. She is like me into music, still plays the piano and as we speak she continuously moves her fingers on the table as if playing. She shows me some music of oldies she plays at present, "Red Roses for a Blue Lady", but also the "Yellow Submarine". We have a pleasant chat. She can't go home at present, "Can't stand that noise of those lawn mowers". Her neighbour obviously.

I am happy the way this Blog is developing. I have the format just about right now I feel. I will mix it up, make Diary entries when something noteworthy is happening, write Travel logs when on the move, and include autobiographical material or ideas and thoughts that come to mind on other days. I have also started today a Topics Index to keep track of the various subjects I have written about.

One of the reasons I write this Blog is so that my children know who their father is, what he thinks, his experiences in the past, and where the hell he is as he travels around. I talk frequently with my children and we know each other well, but this Blog will complement and expand on that.
How different it was with past generations, and with my parents. We did talk, but not nearly enough I feel, and in many ways they are still strangers to me. Of course part of this is because we went to Australia and after that only occasionally met up for a few months on holiday, either in Holland or here in Australia or PNG.

(I must acknowledge that, to some extent, I am to blame here. My father regularly wrote long letters to us, always replied to by Antien, my wife at the time. Right from the very beginning she and my Dad got on extremely well with each other and kept a regular letter exchange going, I believe until the day he died.
But I did at regular intervals send boxes with slides accompagnied by tapes on which I described life in our new country. My parents enjoyed these very much, and even showed them on a few evenings to the Martinshof staff.)

Martinshof Personnel, 1982 Martinshof - 3 continues from Jan. 4
I discovered many new aspects of my father only after he had died, would you believe.
He died in 1981, unexpectedly in a single instant by a stroke, one month after his 74th birthday. My brother and I rushed over from Australia for the funeral, and I stayed on in Holland to take charge of the family business. Martinshof was then a wholesale business importing wedding and eternity rings from Germany and France. I had never been in business before, so had to learn fast. I ran the business for nearly 3 years until I sold it and bedded it down with the new Company Jansen, Post & Cox (JPC).
During this period I virtually walked in my father's footsteps. I found out what he had been doing and why, and became aware of his numerous business ideas and innovations. It was a wonderful experience, despite being tough, as we were going through a recession at the time and I had a hard time to keep the business solvent. I have felt closer to him since that time, than at any time before when he was still alive.
I also met all his business contacts and associates who had nothing but praise and the greatest respect for him. He was, I discovered, an absolute legend in the Jewelry world in the Netherlands. My father was a most compassionate and generous man. He also had great style and integrity, two characteristics he has passed on, I am happy to see, to his grandson and name sake, my son Jeroen.
Martinshof continues on February 1

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