Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 39

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Friday August 29, 2008 (diary, travel)

I am slowly working my way through the many photos I took in Holland. Will start writing again shortly.

Latest photos : Page 40 - Page 41

I have made no Blog entries from July 1 '08 to Aust 29 '08.

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Monday September 1, 2008 (Shirley, duality)

To encourage myself starting to write again I have taken my laptop outside, and sit on my veranda overlooking the grass, palms and pool of the "mango farm". The last few days have gained in humidity and there is talk of an early "buildup", the humidity and clouds but still dry days preceding the wet season. I have been swimming in the pool too already and it is beautiful. Day temperatures are around 33-34°C, usually softened by a gentle breeze to make the day absolutely perfect. Nights are just below the 20.
Before I continue with some of my experiences in Holland I will get some emotional things out of the way first.

Mother Irene at Shirley's funeral Shirley
When Shirley asked me to come to her sickbed I managed to get a set of earlier flight connections back home (not easy with the Pope visiting Australia at the time), dropped off my large suitcase in Darwin and proceeded the following day to Adelaide. Shirley was in the Glenelg Community Hospital, a nice quiet hospital a stone throw away from the sea. I sat at her bed site for 6-7 hours each day for the last 12 days of her life.
From her very experienced doctor (Prof. Maddocks) and nursing staff down everyone commented on and assured me that my presence had given Shirley much tranquility and peace.
I perceived this, to my own surprise, as a parting gift from her to me, rather than the other way around. When, by merely sitting quietly next to someone's bed holding her hand, you can make such a difference, your own life has gained in value, and I thanked Shirley (during the first week when she was still lucid) for that.

There is a much broader aspect to this too I believe.
One of the fundamental aspects of our Universe is the principle of duality. Every particle in the Universe has its anti particle, now actually found and identified as "dark matter". (It overlies an even more significant Universal feature : symmetry).
Life on our planet too is sustained by the duality of male and female genders. Especially the last few years I have come more and more to the view that we emotionally and spiritually too must seek duality for achieving a wholesome self.
Being on your own (as I have) can be a liberating experience. Your life can be as free as an improvised melody line or like the intuitively sketched outlines on a painting. But only through obtaining a meaningful duality with a compatible partner (I believe) can one bring harmony to the melody or colour to the painting.
A mother or a child can bring love and comfort to a person sick, dying or in distress. But it appears to me that only a partner (or as in Shirley's case a former partner) can actually complete the (even if only temporary) emotional and spiritual duality that brings tranquility and peace.

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Tuesday September 2, 2008 (diary, mangos, She, Bud)

The two mango trees in front of my cabin tell a very strange story, a quirk of nature in fact. The one on my left is already full of large, but as yet green, fruit. The tree to my right however is still in early bloom with not a single piece of fruit on it. The story is the same all over our farm. Some trees carry large fruit, some tiny ones while others are still in a stage of bloom.
Mairead, my Monday night bridge partner, who's husband owns and operates a commercial mango farm explains the mystery to me. Mangos need a winter with steady cool nights to bloom properly. This year we only had a couple of irregular cold snaps. As a result the mango trees got very "confused". This means that the fruit will ripen over an extended period of time, probably from early October right up to sometime in December.
For private orchards this is of course not a problem, but for commercial growers it will be a disaster as they can not afford to employ fruit pickers for such an extended period of time. The mango harvest will therefore be very poor this year.

Bud's Buddha Several people have asked me "What is the story with "She", any further progress there ?
She and I have ended our communication about two months ago. A very similar thing happened 4 years ago and I believe we have both now firmly come to the conclusion that (at this point of our lives) there is no real meaningful compatibility between us to proceed any further.
I certainly will remember her with great fondness and that is where it should remain. If truth be told deep down I realised that I always was most exited about the romantic idea of the situation, rather than acknowledge that a possible future was really most unlikely.

But is it not strange that so often the future can not proceed until the past is firmly dealt with. Look at my blog entry of February 13.
The ripples from the stone thrown into my emotional pond now have subsided and disappeared, but the earlier gentle ones from the girl ("Bud") who gave me this tiny Buddha have persisted and in fact are growing stronger.   Very recently we have established email contact again and are now planning to meet again in the not too distant future.

I used to think that I had made a big mistake by not following through with our friendship after our first meeting (in Darwin in 2005, for 3 days). But looking back now, perhaps this was a good thing after all.
Since then Bud has spread her wings decisively and with great courage, leaving Melbourne and Australia after many years and working first in the Middle East and now in Djakarta. I too had to grow both emotionally and mentally and get a firmer idea and focus on how to proceed with the rest of my life.
Bud is a very intelligent, professional woman, like me light on her feet and carrying her "business" with her in her head. Above all she understands and speaks the same language as I when it comes to emotions and ideas and I believe we share a similar cultural background.
Where will this end ? No idea, but at the very least we will become very good friends, I am sure of that.

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Wednesday September 3, 2008 (diary, Holland, Weerribben)

A clear blue sky awaits me when I wake up. Lovely warm, with the odd cool wisp of a breeze. The odd kangaroo hops by in the distance as I write this on my front veranda. There is only one word for this : "PARADISE".
Last night I went again to my Photoshop Class at the Seniors College in Darwin. They have terrific courses on offer there which are always well attended. I did Spanish for two Semesters two years ago and am now into my second Photo Course with Chris Knight, a young enthusiastic professional photographer who runs the firm DigiFilm in Darwin. Good fun and I actually learn some useful things.

My Grade 5 Class About 3 years ago I received and email from my old Primary School friend Kees. He has struggled with asthma his whole life and is now clearly on his last legs and permanently on an oxygen bottle. Kees has finally mastered enough IT to send and receive emails he tells me. We exchange emails a couple of times, then the next email is from his partner Ank to tell me that Kees has died. I have the strong feeling that he really wanted to get in touch with me to say goodbye, and Ank, when I asked her this year confirmed this. I also feel that Kees wanted me to keep contact with his partner and three children (Judith, Frank and Peter) and I will certainly do that. After three years the family is still (by their own admission) in a state of mourning, and although it is good to remember the past, one must move on in life. Kees would be the first one to urge this. So during my stay with them in Gramsbergen I try to nudge them on a bit and I take Ank (who happens to be on holiday) on three of my day trips.

Ank on the Fluister Boot Our first trip is to the Weerribben. This is an old peat extraction area in the very North tip of the province Overijssel (about 50 km North of Zwolle) which is now converted into a beautiful National Park. In 2007 it won a National competition and declared "Het mooiste plekje in Nederland" (the prettiest spot in the Netherlands), and I must say it lives up to its name.
We are lucky to pick a warm sunny day for our trip and after an hour's drive arrive at the reception centre. Here we hire a by electric motor driven Ank on the Fluister Boot fluister boot ("whisper boat") for the day, which indeed is whisper quiet as we navigate our way through the rectangular grid of canals full of bird life and an abundance of reeds, water lilies etc. It is a truly unforgettable day we both enjoy immensely.
The mood of the day even entices me to get into my swimmers and dive in, which is not such a shock to the system as I had feared. Upon our return to the centre we settle on the terrace outside with a couple of beers and to my great delight a large portion of bitter ballen.   A truly perfect day.

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Thursday September 4, 2008 (Holland, Kröller Müller, Harderwijk)

Hoge Veluwe National Park My second trip from Gramsbergen was to the Kröller Müller Museum, located in the middle of the Hoge Veluwe National Park. This is one of the two places I try to visit every time I am back in Holland. But taking two highly active girls with me on this trip like Ank and Judith was for a lazy guy like me a big mistake!
We have a pleasant enough leisurely drive to the park located just to the South East of the village of Otterloo. But as soon as we arrive at the gate of the Park the trouble starts.
As usual when I come here I want to drive straight through by car to the museum which is about 5 km down the road. But no, the two girls will have none of that ! I must park my car outside the gate and proceed to the museum by bicycle !! Can you imagine . . . 5 km ?! When there is a perfectly good sealed road to drive on by car. And of course we can't follow that road either. No, we have to go via a special bicycle path which is God knows how much longer.
At the gate and a few other location throughout the park are large parking areas with hundreds of witte fietsen (white bicycles). They are there for any visitor in the park to use for free. So off we go on our white bikes, one girl in front of me and one behind so there is no escape route for me whatsoever. After what seems an eternity we finally arrive at the museum and I can thankfully give my sore bum a rest for a while.

Judith, Monsieur Jacques and 

Ank But once at the museum I am happy. I enjoy seeing all the familiar sculptures again surrounding the park, especially Monsieur Jacques at the museum entrance and my favourite La Grande Pénélope.
Inside the paintings too are like always a joy to see again. I love the Seurat, but of course nothing can come near the 85 oils of Vincent van Gogh which are on display here. The energy radiating from these works is so enormously strong, I believe no other painter in history has ever come anywhere near to that.

We have a good time but finally have to return to those torture machines, de witte fietsen. I had grudgingly resigned myself to returning the same way, but of course the girls have discovered a lovely bicycle track which goes right around the bloody park, so there we go again, another 15 km would you believe. When we finally arrive back at the entry gate they congratulate me on my effort and say that they really felt guilty putting me through all this. Feel guilty, my foot !! They are smiling all over.

But every cloud has its silver lining, for now I can say what I really want to do next, and that is driving on to Harderwijk the Smoked Eel Capital of the World! Hollandse Nieuwe Haring
When I was young we often cycled from Gorssel to Harderwijk (a 120 km round trip which did not bother us at all then). The IJsselmeer was then still an open lake in which we swam and paddled around in canoes.
But this is all reclaimed land now. My father, who after the war as a political prisoner was located for a while in the concentration camp near Wezep (just South West of Zwolle), helped to build roads on this newly claimed land (on East Flevoland) and one of these was unofficial named after him, the Furstiaan weg.

So after a short drive we arrive at Harderwijk harbour and I treat the girls to a good dish of smoked eel on toast. Quite delicious, smoked just this morning in the ancient smoke house which is part of the restaurant. Afterwards we buy some more smoked eel to take home and I can not resist a nieuwe haring. The end of another great day enjoyed by all three of us.

And just between you and me. Next time I go to Holland and visit the Hoge Veluwe Park again I will leave my car at the gate and take one of those white bicycles for a ride again. I have become kind of attached to them.
But don't you dare tell those two girls about that !!

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Friday September 5, 2008 (Holland, Amen, hunnebedden, Rolde, Assen)

Cosy Pub in Amen For my third day trip from Gramsbergen I take Ank on a nostalgia tour through the province of Drenthe, my old stamping ground during my National service days, when I was based with the 42ste Afdeling Veld Artillerie (42 AVA) in Assen.
To satisfy Ank's urgent (and not to be messed with) daily exercise need of either cycling or walking we first drive to a tiny village called Amen. There is a walking trail which partly follows a small creek, partly meanders through farm fields. Nothing spectacular but enough to do the job for Ank.

Upon our return from an hour's walk we enter an old farm house (located at the start of the trail) of which one room has been converted into a lovely cosy pub. But when I comment to the bar tender that surely every evening this place will be jumping full of activity he replies "No, we close each day at 6 pm. The locals have constant quarrels with one another so they don't meet socially."
This appears to be a not uncommon feature of many small village communities throughout Europe. Generations old feuds still linger on and what looks to the innocent outsider like a paradise is upon closer acquaintance not so pleasant at all. Home buyers beware !!
In Gramsbergen too, Ank tells me, the people are very strict Christians (Gereformeerd) and she dare not work in her garden on a Sunday to avoid the risk of being abused by her neighbours.

Hunnebed near Rolde After a drink we drive on to Rolde (about 6 km North of Amen). Here we have lunch, which we walk off with a stroll to the two hunnebedden located just out off town. During my Army days we would often at the end of a party drive up to one of these, drink wine, sing and generally roll all over these ancient graves. There is something very fundamental to these strange primitive structures which I just love to be close to.

Next stop is Assen itself. The city has grown enormously. My old Army barracks along the canal are still there but have now been converted into a museum would you believe.
Further down along the canal I have trouble spotting my old pub Cafe van Houten. After consulting with a local couple I find the place. The old foot bridge across the canal opposite the pub (I used to literally crawl over after a long night) has been removed and relocated several hundred meters to the West. The pub itself has been converted back into a private home with only the word Cafe still present on a side wall. Jan van Houten, they tell me has long since died, but his wife is still alive and living in one of the houses here.

We finally drive back home along the old Assen-Meppel canal, which I remember so well from the past. The canal is full of hundreds of pleasure boats, many of them moored alongside small villages on the way. This is obviously a hugely popular way to have holidays, providing much more peaceful travel too, compared to the always busy and cue prone roads here in Europe.

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