Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 41

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Thursday & Friday September 11 & 12, 2008 (levels of awareness, cultures)

My cabin on the Mango Farm As I sit here in front of my cabin, watching the mangos fattening and now starting to blush, the lawn, bushes and trees in front and the blue sky with woolly sheep clouds overhead (revealing that the core dry season has ended, but the "buildup" has not quite made up its mind yet), I feel at peace with the world. Or at least, for a restless soul like me, "sort of".
I feel I am on hold, waiting, hoping for things to develop which are at present beyond my reach or control.

Awareness 19 continues from May 15
When I arrived back here 5 weeks ago though I felt quite different, emotionally torn apart by opposing feelings and forces. And I know very well why. I have discussed this in the past (in Awareness 11, on April 2), stating that I place myself within the context of four awareness levels :

  1. within my personal life span
  2. in relation to my ancestors, going back as far as the 400 year old records allow
  3. within Western Civilisation, especially as preserved in Europe
  4. geological life span of the earth and further back to the birth of our Universe

Through my recent trip to Europe all these four awareness levels have become in a sharper focus than I have ever experienced before. And the opposing emotional forces within me are caused by the contrast between level 1 and level 4 above.
At the personal level I have once again experienced the strong affinity I have with (especially North) Europeans. The recent contacts with my friends, the joy of being able to speak in both my father's and my mother's tongues (Dutch and German), and the instant perceived emotional connection this produced even with complete strangers, has highlighted my emotional sameness and belonging. This, I realise, will never change.

Ripening mangos On the other hand in Australia however, especially here on the Mango Farm near Darwin (wild wide open space all around, infinitely high sparkling blue sky above) it feels as if I virtually sit on the door step of the Universe. I know this may seem very strange, but unless you have actually been here, you simply can not imagine what this feels like. It is not that I think consciously of this fact, rather I instinctively feel close to the world at large and everything surrounding it. I know this sounds ridiculous sitting in what most would call the middle of nowhere, but there it is.

In stark contrast Europe feels to me (now as much as ever) like a closed box, and one can clearly see its effect on the faces and body language of the people. Being constantly surrounded by architecture of several thousand years of Western culture is of course nice in a many ways. But inevitably it is at the same time a continuous visual indoctrination ("brainwashing") locking everyone within this restrictive box of human history's short time span. The low skys, mediocre often depressing weather and ever growing congestions on the roads add to this enclosed feeling. Local Europeans themselves are perhaps not consciously aware of this, but for perceptive visitors from Australia this is a strong almost immediate impression.

So here I am, torn apart by two contrasting affinities, one an emotional culture, the other the (to me) ultimate country of freedom.   I am sure many migrants living in this country experience something like this throughout their life, and we learn to adapt to it and enjoy it.
But immediately after returning from an extended stay in the "home country" I find that I need some time to readjust again. Planning a next trip back is one way of addressing this. And of course there is another solution too (more about that later).

Awareness continues on October 1

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Saturday September 13, 2008 (diary, trivia)

Interdental pocket brush Quite a few more clouds in the sky today and the humidity is up too a little. The buildup may start early this year, as has been predicted. However I promised my two Bridge partners I would stay here until the end of October, regardless, and I will. We do enjoy playing bridge together.

Amazing how sometimes the smallest thing can make a man happy, if only for a day or so. Don't laugh : I finally found a small inter dental brush (shown on the left) at the chemist which I can carry around in my pocket and pick my teeth with after meals. Here is the story.
I have rather large teeth. My dentist and periodontist have done a great job on making them look reasonably presentable and keeping them healthy. I also get them cleaned by a hygienist twice a year and provided I keep this up my teeth should last me the rest of my life. I am (from necessity) also a regular tooth pick user after most meals.
In Australia this is not a problem, almost all restaurants and eateries have free wooden toothpicks on the table. This is not surprising as Australians are big time meat eaters.
I discovered this at our very first dinner in Australia on New Years Day 1966 at the Great Northern Hotel in Newcastle (NSW). They had the then much in vogue Carpetbag steak on the menu : a steak sliced open in the middle with half a dozen oysters or so filled inside. I ordered it and believe me when it arrived we were quite shocked : it was the biggest steak I had ever seen in my entire life before. I did my very best but managed only to eat half of it. Anyway, an army of toothpicks are obviously needed after such meals.

Europe is different however, this year I could not find a single toothpick on the tables in any of the restaurants I visited. At best they would have a lone cannister standing out of sight at the bar or on the cashier counter.
My (Dutch) grandfather used to have his own silver toothpick which could slide in and out an elegant small cylindrical container he could carry around in his pocket. Carrying wooden toothpicks around in your pocket is awkward however. I managed to find a plastic one, but it was not ideal.

This week the dentist installed a soft ("DIC" whatever that means) filling in one of my teeth and warned me not to use wooden toothpicks on that tooth anymore as it could damage the filling. So I found this wonderful interdental pocket brush at the chemist, which I can take around with me in my pocket wherever I go.   Hurray, problem solved.

I know my ex wife Antien will be pleased. As a good dentist's daughter she always carries a toothbrush and a fresh apple around with her, wherever she goes. So get yourself an interdental pocket brush Antien. You are sure going to need it in Europe next year !

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Sunday September 14, 2008 (diary, books)

With Steve at Bar Zushi Saturday afternoon I take Steve (my present neighbour in the caravan next to my cabin on the Mango farm) for lunch at Bar Zushi. Steve has never tried Japanese food before but is game to give it a try. He quite likes it in fact and we have a good time together.
Steve is a master bricklayer (originally from the UK) who lives in Mendura, just South of Perth. Like me he escapes the cold winters there and spends the dry season every year in Darwin.

Steve at work on the Mango farm houseWhile here he does work on various projects as well. Last year he single handed laid each and every brick for Andrew and Kim's magnificent Mango farm home. He also helped Andrew with the installation of the roof of the house. This year Steve is working on Darwin harbour front developments around the just completed brand new Convention Center.   Steve will be back here next year again, but is also planning a short holiday in Cairns visiting his daughter there.

I rarely watch TV during the daytime and definitely not in the mornings except on Sundays. The ABC have a terrific Sunday morning program from 9 am to 11.30 consisting of four segments :

  1. Insiders - a review of the week in politics by four journalists.
  2. Inside Business - a review of the week's stock market action plus interviews with business leaders.
  3. Offsiders - a review of the week's sport events in Australia.
  4. Asia Pacific Focus - reports on developments in the Asia Pacific region.

The journalists involved are a clear cut above the usual "infotainment" presentators of the commercial channels. It keeps me reliably informed of current developments, which is especially useful in Darwin where The Australian Newspaper is not available each day until 3 or 4 in the afternoon and I therefore never bother to buy and read here.

After watching the above I spend the rest of the day reading.
There is a pile of six books on my bedside table and I am making inroads into all of them. Here they are :

  1. Mrs Dalloway - by Virginia Woolf
    Never read a book of hers before. You need to concentrate as she swaps seamless from the thoughts from one person to those of another (sometimes casual passer by), which is quite interesting once you get into the swing of this unusual approach.

  2. Der Fall Kurilow - by Irène Némirovsky (German translation)
    This is the third book I now read from her and I have enjoyed every one of them immensely. It also gets me back into German reading again. I can't find any German language novels here in Darwin, but believe that the Second hand bookshop in Mooloolaba does stock some foreign language titles.

  3. Killing Hitler - by Roger Moorhouse
    A very well researched historic but at the same time entertaining account of 20 (of an estimated 40 or so) assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler most people (including myself) have never heard of. We all know of course about the famous failed attempt by Claus Staufenberg in 1943.
    However a very similar attempt was made by means of a huge bomb explosion in the infamous Münich Bürgerbräukeller on 8 November 1939 by Georg Elser. Eight people were killed and 62 wounded in this attempt, but unfortunately Hitler had just left the building.
    Before and just after the blast
  4. A History of Modern Britain - by Andrew Marr
    Only 30 odd pages to go now to the end of this very revealing and most readable 600 page account. But I am surprised to see that Andrew has used American rather than English spelling throughout ("color" instead of "colour", etc.).
    Amongst other things this book puts the current crisis of the English Pound (which has become a rather irrelevant International currency by now one would think) in the perspective of the repeatedly recurring financial crises in the UK which started right after WW2.

  5. High Fidelity - by Nick Hornby
    It is rare for me to find a relatively recent novel which really interests me. But this one (from 1995) I have read from cover to cover in two days. It is the story "of one man's journey of self-discovery" via various girlfriend relationships. Very funny too.

  6. Crime and Punishment - by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    Just started on this 650 page epic. I find the English translation by David McDuff very flowing and readable, which is most important because of the frequently rather long sentences.

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Monday September 15, 2008 (diary)

It is completely overcast this morning as I wake up and the weather stays like this all day. It looks as if we might get some rain, but no, maybe in a week or so Andrew thinks.   Let me first briefly explain who live here on the Mango farm at present.

  1. Firstly there are the owners, Kim and Andrew with their 3 children, who all live in the main house.

  2. The Mango farm Then there are Margaret and Brian who live in one of the two large sheds (located on either side of the lawn behind the main house) Andrew and Kim lived in last year while the house was being built. Margaret and Brian previously stayed in a permanent caravan at the Boomerang Caravan Park, but moved to the farm last year. They still travel part of the year around in their caravan visiting friends and family down South.

  3. Opposite the main house, across the swimming pool and large lawn, and in line with the first row of mango trees, are the cabin in which I live plus three caravan sites (one of which is empty at present).

  4. Next to me is Margaret and Brian's caravan which is occupied by Steve.

  5. Next to him is the beautiful caravan of Iris and Gordon, Kim's parents from Ballarat, who come here every dry season for a number of months. Gordon is a retired master builder and was most useful during the building of the main house last year. He is also a very keen gardener and has built a large vegetable garden on the farm, growing lots of tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, radishes etc.

Gordon, Brian and Steve were all heavily involved in the construction of the main house last year, while I assigned myself the easy job of taking photos of the progressive stages of the work, a compilation of 420 photos in total.

Babette and Michiel van der Vijver, 1965 All day today I am busy working on photos, including this one of 20 months old Babette and her very first admirer, Michiel van der Vijver. I re photographed this from an old and tiny print in one of Maria van der Vijver's photo albums when I visited them in Holland.
Later in the afternoon I join Andrew, Steve and Brian in the pool for a chat. Gordon is away for a few days on a fishing trip with one of his mates and the ladies are nowhere in sight.

In the evening I play bridge at the Arafura Bridge Club in Darwin with my Monday nights bridge partner Mairead. We play rather badly tonight (happens sometimes when your mind is not quite focused on the game) but we have a lot of laughs and fun, especially after we have opened our customary bottle of red (a Jacobs Creek - Merlot). They do have bar facilities at the Club, but their cask wine is rather poor, so Mairead and I alternate in bringing our own bottle each week.

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