Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 9

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Friday February 1, 2008 (diary, bio, Martinshof, computer, food)

Martinshof - 4 continues from January 31
Early in the morning I send my weekly email lessons (Blues Basics this week) to various students around the world, then head off to 'Bob Jane T- Marts' for a wheel alignment and two new front tyres. As I wait for this I complete my previous day's blog and photo and upload them online, using the wireless modem of my new LG mobile phone. It works really well and uploads quickly. I am very happy about this, for it will allow me to upload files from virtually anywhere in Australia without a problem. The Telstra Next G network may not be that bad as I earlier thought after all. The Federal Government has requested Telstra to keep their CDMA network going until the end of April, for there are still poor reception issues in the bush.

Sashimi ingredients When I get home from my usual lunch at the Mooloolaba Surf Club a Christmas card from Mevrouw de Jonge has arrived. What a coincidence, I just put a photo of her and all the other Martinshof personnel online a few hours ago.
She and I worked together very hard at the end of 1981 to set up our Martinshof business accounting system onto a new Toshiba mini computer (PC as you call them now). It was one of the very first 7 PCs ever to be sold in Holland and I had managed to get hold of one of these.
The mini computer operated on two 5.25 inch floppy discs and had a complete small business accounting system on it, fully translated by Toshiba into Dutch, absolutely marvelous. After just 6 weeks we had all our customer details and outstanding invoices transferred onto it. This was all manual input from paper to digital. We both were most excited when our first full week of invoices effortlessly rolled from the printer.
After her retirement Mevrouw de Jonge and her husband moved to Monnikendam where they still live. You can find it on this map. It is near the top left corner, opposite the island 'Marken'.

Sashimi dinner In the evening Babette arrives from Brisbane with the main ingredients for our Sashimi evening meal. Sometimes on a Friday she pays a visit to the specialist Japanese fish monger and today she has bought tuna, salmon and the most delicious scallops, freshly caught this morning. These fish never ever taste as good as the Japanese eat them : raw ! Babette also brought some Wakame salad (seaweed with sesame oil), and Doug cooks the Koshihikari rice as usual to perfection : soft and sticky. We have a real feast.
After the meal we relax and make a joint decision to watch As Good as it Gets with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt on DVD. This is indeed as good as a movie ever can get. I must have watched it at least 3 or 4 times but never tire of it. We retreat to bed after it, as always with tears in our eyes.
Martinshof continues on February 2

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Saturday February 2, 2008 (diary, bio, Martinshof, diamonds, gold)

Martinshof - 5 continues from February 1
Henny Everts Henny Everts Although we handed our family business Martinshof over to JPC now 25 years ago, I still exchange Season greetings every year with some of the staff old timers. Today I receive an email from Riet Everts, Henny's wife. Henny unfortunately is suffering from Alzheimer, but is well cared for.
joined our Company as an engraver in January 1964, only a few weeks after I emigrated to Australia. Before my departure and after I had left the Army (late August '63), I helped out for a few months in the atelier engraving wedding rings. I also calibrated the machine we used with marks on one of its posts to set correct letter sizes for the various ring widths.   15 years later when I took charge of the business, Henny proudly showed me the machine. My marks were still on it, and he had used them successfully for all those years. It was a nice moment for both of us, and created a small bond.

Soon after Henny's arrival he was sent to Idar Oberstein in Germany where he was instructed and trained in the skill of diamond setting. This enabled my father to import his gold rings without the diamonds, buy stones directly from the Diamond Bourse in Brussels, and in the process reduce his cost price considerably. Henny upon his return to Martinshof became a slow but meticulous and outstanding diamond setter. Every jeweler in the country would immediately recognise the diamond rings he had set. They became much in demand by our top clients, as they were in a class of their own, way beyond anything else available.
In due course the young Harry Harberts was added to the atelier staff, initially as an engraver. But he too did the diamond setting course in Idar Oberstein and also became a very competent diamond setter, maintaining the high quality standard of the Martinshof products.

During my time with Martinshof (1981-83) and to relieve the work pressure on Henny and Harry, I used on a few very rare occasions a good freelance diamond setter. I can't recall his name at present, but do remember that he was commited to a wheel chair and that his work was a most important aspect of his life. He told me he was absolutely amazed and delighted by the outstanding quality of the gold we used. "It cuts and curls as smooth as butter" he said. Most of the other stuff is a bloody nightmare, it is brittle and breaks off so easily."
Mussels on the rear deck We imported all our quality rings from the Niessing Company, located in Vreden, only 45 kms East of us across the border in Germany. The metallurgical recipe for their gold is now over 150 years old and the most closely kept secret of the Company. Indeed, even for a layman's eyes like mine, you can see the difference and you can feel it. They are at the absolute top of their profession and complement the quality of their material with outstanding cutting edge designs I marvelled at every time something new came out.

You will hear more about my experiences of those days in due course, there is so much to tell. But for now I must join the others on the ThreePonds rear deck, otherwise I miss out on those delicious mussels Babette has prepared for us tonight.
Martinshof continues on April 6, 2009

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Sunday February 3, 2008 (bio, Army Assen, Iron Curtain, Germany)

Northern W.Germany My ARMY days 4 (Final) continues from January 30 (1964-65)
Besides my official functions in the Army I also have an important social one. Soon after arriving in Assen I am appointed Mess President in the Field, in charge of the Officers field mess whenever we are on exercises within our Country. During exercises on foreign soil (mainly Germany) a professional officer (instead of a reserve like me) is mandatory for that function.
This job is quite fun. I am in charge of a three ton truck, a driver and two mess servants. The truck contains a large mess tent, folding tables, chairs, table cloths, plates, cutlery, glasses and a suitable quantity of alcohol, soft drinks and nibble foods. The two mess servants and I jointly purchase the consumables from an Army base mess, then sell them with a small markup on to the officers. All consumptions go on individual slates, which I later present and collect from each once we are back in Assen. We always manage to break even and usually make a small profit which we share amongst the three of us.
During the day I fulfill my normal operational responsibilities while the two mess servants guard our "investments". I usually manage to get back early, often to go out again and purchase fresh supplies. At night I stay in the mess until the last customer leaves, which on occasion can be at 5am. Most nights I sleep on a table in the mess tent, right on top of our precious supplies, for the saying goes that "The Cavalry may be the Queen of the battle, but the Artillery is the King of the bottle !"

We regularly go on exercises in Germany, sometimes on our own, sometimes in combination with other NATO country Army units. The Artillery exercise area, called Münsterlage, is located in the Southern half of the Lüneburger Heide, North of Celle. Celle has a Duty Free US Army store which we are allowed to use, and always do to load up on cheap perfumes, alcohol, etc. to take with us back home.
The Artillery area itself has a shooting target pit in its center with plenty of ground surrounding it for shifting battery positions around and for base camp areas. On its Eastern side the area extends right up to the Iron Curtain, a 150 meters wide zone that cuts through the forest. All trees and bushes are cleared, like an super wide Australian fire break, and a high barbed wire fence on either side prevents anyone from entering the bare stripped zone which is densely mined.

On one of our last trips to this area we set up our base camp right alongside the Iron Curtain. One day we conduct a 36 hours non stop exercise through continued rain. We are all wet and miserably cold when we get back to camp. I change clothes and enter the Officers Mess tent. My friend Potter is there and we start drinking together, Pimms Nr.1 with something added to make it "a bit more potent". Potter, a Reserve Officer like me, is in charge of maintenance of the Afdeling's entire car fleet, a massive collection of over 100 trucks, jeeps, etc. He really has his work cut out and is doing a terrific job, as is recognised by all.

Tonight, as the Pimms cocktails start to take effect, Potter and I are not just friends, no we have become brothers, and we should have more brothers we both agree. There must be more potential brothers around, here but also those poor buggers on the other side of the fence! I am not sure what our motivation was, to fight or to befriend them, but at around 2am we leave the Mess tent and stumble arm in arm towards that high Iron Curtain fence and start to climb it.
We must be making plenty of noise, for it wakes up my Guardian Angel, the Opper Wachtmeester (= Artillery Sergeant Major) of the S3 staff. I always looked after him, and he after me. These are the vital protective connections one builds up in institutions like the Army. The "Opper" gets out of his tent and sees us hanging there, halfway up, entangled in the barbed wire. He plucks us off the bloody fence like a pair of over ripe cherries and puts us to bed. The next morning, bleary eyed, I thank him. He just smiles, says not a word.

De VeluweFinally I reach the end of my service. A few weeks before all Reserve Officers from our SROA class that have survived, meet up together for our Commissioning ceremony. We have a choice of either swearing or promising allegiance to our Dutch Queen. I make my promise.
Afterwards there is a reception in the Historic Artillery Officers Mess on our shooting grounds Oldenbroek (near Ermelo).
Amongst the many familiar young faces around me, an older Officer I recognise approaches me.
It is Major Waterman who interviewed me 21 months ago as a recruit in Ossendrecht. "Congratulations Lieutenant Furstner, you made it" he says while we shake hands. "You know, it is quite remarkable," he continues, since we last met almost 2 years ago, I have interviewed about 3000 recruits like you. I have forgotten all of them. But you, I will always remember!". We share a drink on that.   How vain we are. Because of his kind and so very flattering words, I will never forget him either.

After just under 3 years, when I was in Australia, I was automatically promoted to First Lieutenant in the Artillery. I found amongst my papers the Official Notification of that fact. Those Reserve Officers that resided in the Netherlands were in due course called up for a 6 week refresher course, after which they were promoted to Captain. Unfortunately I remained overseas and was therefore unable to attain that rank.

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Monday February 4, 2008 (diary, new camera)

For days we have had intermittent heavy rain showers and the washing is building up. It is impossible to dry it on the line at present. Otherwise the weather is quite pleasant. Everything looks green and fresh, and you can hear the ThreePonds waterfall bubbling away contently in the near distance.
It is an exiting day for me today. I go shopping for a new camera. Last year I purchased a Casio Exilim 7.2 Megapixels camera. I have been quite pleased with it throughout my boat trip and travel through Europe. All pictures on this Blog so far have been made with it. It takes quality pictures and with its small size I have carried it in my pocket most of the time.
However technology has progressed and you can now purchase a small size camera with 12 Megapixels for less than AUD $600 here. I shop around and end up at 'Camera House' in Maroochydore, where I buy a new Nikon Coolpix. It has 12.1 Megapixels and a terrific Macro mode capable of taking close ups from just 6 cm distance.

Coolpix Macro mode Have a look at this shot (and no, I am not a Buddhist). I have taken this pic from a mere 10 cm distance. The Buddha is barely 3 cm high, and just look at the detail !.
The beetle is an old friend who somehow has accompanied me throughout my life. I got it as an inconsequential gift when I was a child, and has traveled with me ever since until it finally landed here on a shelf in ThreePonds.
The Buddha was, secretly and purposely, left in a jar in my car a few years ago by a visiting friend (later referred to as "Bud", for Buddha Girl), where I was much surprised to find it a few days later. She probably felt that an atheist like me needed a powerful friend in a high place when the time comes.

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Tuesday February 5, 2008 (bio, war, mother, public opinion, personality)

It is 1945, autumn in Holland, the War is over. The constant fear has been replaced by the most luxurious experience of peace and freedom. But for me (and in due course my younger sister and brother) there is also a new issue to deal with.
Gorssel I am 8 years old and back at school, but the premises of my school (the J.A. de Vuller School) are occupied by Public servants, distributing food ration cards and carrying out other administrative functions. Us children are therefore temporarily accommodated in makeshift class rooms such as garages and the local church. I am at the Oldenhof, located in the center of the village (Gorssel), diagonally across from the local Municipal building. It is a large square building, normally functioning as an old peoples home, on very spacious grounds with a wide lawn in front, trees on either side and behind the building.

I sit in my bench in one of the class rooms, waiting with apprehension for the bell announcing the recess period. When it rings, all others race out of the room while I am slow and the last one to leave. A central, straight, narrow corridor runs through the entire length of the building. The front door is locked permanently, with the only way out to my left at the rear.
I step outside and see my mother, only 30 meters away. She stands behind a barbed wire fence which surrounds a few low buildings that serve as a temporary women concentration camp. She is German, therefore a traitor and is serving an 18 months prison sentence.
My mother, 20 years later She beckons me with her hand and I walk up to her, feeling a hundred pairs of eyes from school mates and teachers burning into my back. My mother strokes my head, holds my hand as we talk a little. Sometimes she gives me a piece of fruit or a biscuit, she got hold off when working in the kitchen. We part and I join my class mates.

Sometimes she is not there. Then I run left and left again around and to the front of the building. There is a huge beech tree alongside the front lawn, its trunk at least a meter wide. I stand behind it, out of view, watching the street in front, but usually to no avail. Most times one of my friends comes up to me, "Your mother is waiting for you, wants to see you." he passes on. I obey, run all the way back to the barbed fence and talk to her. I love her dearly, but it is such a hard thing to do.

Strange as it may seem, these young, vulnerable days have a hugely strengthening effect on me. I have to deal with two contradictory opinions. The general public which considers my parents to be bad and traitors, and I who knows them to be good, generous, and very brave.
By the time I am 9 years old I have gained an important wisdom many people and especially public opinion never seem to understand : There is not a single issue on earth that can be considered and judged in isolation.
This new awareness in me in due course becomes the basis for a life long skepticism of (and sometimes even contempt for) public opinions, and the foundation for an unshakeable belief in myself.
I also, at that young age, develop compassion for struggling individuals, for I have been there and know how it feels.

Over the years I have kept a nagging feeling that I let my mother down those early days. Only very recently I have come to realise I did not. For every single time she needed me, summoned me, I did come to her, held her hand and spoke to her. I feel that I did let someone down however : myself. But being a small vulnerable boy at the time, I can easily live with that.

The last time I looked, in 1989 (visiting Holland for my mother's funeral) the beech tree was still standing there.

July 2008 : I have checked up on the beech tree at De Oldenhof. It is gone, but a new young tree has been planted in its place.

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Copyright © 2008 Michael Furstner