Monday, June 12, 2017

An Historical Fix or, EPNS 1, PYHS 0.

This week I am feeling historical. So I have been delving into the Yamba past. It's not very far to go to the beginning, the town dates only from 1864.

But I then discovered that others had delved before, notably the father of my Yambanic friend, Robert Lee, who wrote two books on the subject. Available from the much-publicised local Museum. At the 'Flat' end of my street. (My end is 'The Hill'). Open Tues-Thurs 10-4. They should have the original town plans, and some old photos too …

So,  this soggy-blue, windruffled morning (Tuesday) at 11am, having squelched through the puddles via the bit of our street, between the Hill and the Flat, to where someone has transplanted the last climb of the Alpe d'Huez, I arrived at the museum to find…

CLOSED while we prepare exhibition. Knock. So I knocked. And Knocked. And KNOCKED. Nothing. So I couldn’t buy my books, I couldn’t join the society, I couldn’t look at the plans and the photos…

It just remained for me to climb the Alpe d'Huez homewards without my fix of history. BUT...! As I crossed the greensward, under the old Pilot Hill flagpole, and bent to pick up a big shard of bottle-glass (as I do), I noticed something else in the grass ... my antiquarian senses quivered ... Look!

My history for today! An ancient silver (or is it EPNS) aboriginal spoon! And it’s even got traces of ancient aboriginal caster sugar on it! What do you mean, don't taste it?

Well, back to the proofs of the new book I suppose ... MENGIS, MESSENT, MIRAN ....

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ART MAKETH THE HOME ... or Home is Where the art is

What a day. WHAT A DAY. How to turn a house into a home …

But let’s start from the beginning.

When I met, and soon went to live with, my wonderful Ian, somewhere back in the 1970s, I entered one world (amongst others) of which I knew little or nothing. The world of pictorial art.

I mean, we’d had nice pictures on our family walls as children. Mostly scenic ones, from Austria. I still have one or two. The Matterhorn. Salzburg. Halstattersee. 

But this was something else. Ian’s walls were full of, you know, Art. Sutherland, Derain, van Dongen, Marie Laurençin, Cecil Beaton (!), Larionov, Sidney Nolan (I put them in the loo), and other Australians of all ranks from Drysdale to Fred Jessup to Sainthill to Hockey, and even way back to Conrad Martens..

 So, I … a young man who had never bought or owned a Real Painting …  had my eyes opened.

Fast Forward. 2006. Since Ian’s death, I have left our house and especially the pictures, absolutely as he arranged them. We even, in latter days, included the couple of New Zealand pictures (Heffer 1901, and Strong 1991-ish) in his arrangement…

Result: I live, when I am in New Zealand, surrounded by art. The horsey photos are relegated to the kitchen, my gold medals and certificates to the second bathroom … and the walls of my dressing room are a gallery of heteroclite paintings which didn’t make it to the drawing room. There are some lithos … but no prints. It’s all Art.

Chapter Two. Yamba. I bought my little Yamba home two years ago. It’s one of those apartments that you let out when you are not there, so it was decorated (art-wise) with that peculiar brand of print which fills hotel and motel walls inoffensively … for a few nights …

I live here from Easter to September holidays. I love this place. Just as I love Gerolstein. But I can’t feel At Home with motel-wall prints.

So ten days ago I went in search of a local artist who might make me a lovely me-type painting to display over my couch. None of my local pals came up with a suggestion, so I went on a www search. So many artists these day putting out stuff in the violent, scissor-edged colours of commercial and computer ‘art’. Couldn’t live with that sort of thing. And then … found!

Today, a young man named Michael Augustine drove down from Caloundra, Qld bearing a load of paintings, from which I might choose the one I liked best. He’s just left … well, his load is lighter on the way home. I’ve bought seven. No, I’ve just re-counted .. eight!

Yes, I know. I sha’n’t eat for a month. But, well, when you find a shirt or a pair of shoes you love, the rule of thumb is ‘buy five’. So I bought eight. And, do you know what? Those pictures have changed the whole feeling of my flats. Now I feel I’m among ‘my stuff’, ‘at home’. Apart from which, they are darling. Beautiful, warm, throughly ‘local’ paintings. Bush, sea, rocks, water .. cool, warm colours … Just the thing for a beachside home that is washed in sunshine 300 plus days a year.

Mike Augustine (yes, he’s Mike now, after a Guinness on the terrasse and a hugely thank-you hug), thank you so much and get your painting arm into gear, because when my friends and visitors see these … well, Kurt the casting director and discoverer of goodies just might have done it again!

So here they are: three for my living room, two for my bedroom, and the remaining three for my big 'investment' flat opposite. Number 3.
Number 3 actually got the prize-winning painting. It just suited that (larger) wall better ... so down with the print (it will be relocated in the loo or somewhere) ...

 and up with "Quiet"

Up with "Round the corner", on the other side of the room ... out of the direct sun ..

and, oh migosh, there's the most vile pretend picture in the hallway. Glued to the wall! Prised off with a stanley knife and hurled into the skip the workmen are using ... we'll have a nice little gum instead

There, that's the guests taken care of. Now me. Flat 7. Bedroom first. Gleefully take down the psychedelic fishes from above my bed ... I know what's going there! I've known since I saw it on the Internet


But when you are in bed, and 'lying awake with a dismal headache and repose is tabooed by anxiety ...', you can't see the lovely picture above your head. So another is needed at the foot of the bed. There!

And now, the grand finale. My living room. Cum office. The room in which I spend 80 percent of my waking hours. It's a delicious room. My desk looks out across my big patio through a whole wall of glass, I have nature for my art in the daytime. But my office opens at 5.30am. And closes well after dark ... and something needed to be done in the non-office part...  and that's what set this whole exercise in motion. The gapingly bare wall. So, art came calling to me ...

And, having answered my call .. the paintings which had called the first and the loudest ended up where I had hoped they would

Ah. That's better ...  Thanks to the artist and his art I now have a home that feels like a home. A week or two living with my new pictures, an inch up, an inch down, left or right  ... and it'll be set for my lifetime.

PS can anybody use some second-hand psychedelic fish?

Friday, May 19, 2017

MY MYSTERIOUS ONKEL MAX, an unexpected discovery


As you’ll have seen in my previous family posts on this blog, there are a couple of nasty lacunae in my otherwise pretty well covered family-tree.

The biggest and most disappointing one is the failure to find out anything concerning great-grandfather Adolf Gánsl before he turned up in Vienna in the 1870s with his new wife, Julianna. He is said on his death registration to have been born 1844 in Mór, Hungary. And that’s all I know of his early life.

The other mystery is ‘whatever happened to Max’. Max was the middle one of the three sons of Adolf. Pepi, my grandfather, Max, Fritz. So he really was my great-uncle. But it was a long time before we even knew of his existence. Because, what had happened in Vienna stayed in Vienna as far as father was concerned. He had wiped Austria and Hungary from, if not his mind, certainly from his children’s. As he had wiped our Jewish heritage. When my mother related to 12 year-old me how a local social climber had hissed at her ‘Nancy how does it feel being married to a Jew’, I thought how silly, how would she know?

Anyway, Pepi died in 1936, and father left Austria for England and ultimately New Zealand soon after. He was an only child, with one cousin, Tom Stern (not Jewish?) who, with his parents, ended up in Australia. I don’t know when he died, but John and I were told that we were the only live twigs on the family tree. Humph! The only offspring of those three Gánsl sons.
Onkel Fritz. He married a ‘less than charming’ lady called Bertha and they lived their lives in London childless. But Max? I asked. Oh he moved to Hungary and worked in the wine business… Never anything more. I began to suspect I might have had a gay uncle.

Well, I found out today that I didn’t. Another Gánsl, Petra, from Toronto, got in touch, through the Jewish Genealogy Portal, thinking she might have found the missing Adolf. Alas, the name was right, the area was right, but he was twenty years too young. Shame.

 But Petra pursued her Hungarian Adolfing and came up with … a wedding certificate for a Miksa Gánsl. It was Max. 1911 Budapest. Terezia Fuchs.

 And then a second. 1919. Budapest. Gizella Waldmann.

And Lord love me, a third. 1937 Budapest. Erzsébet Brody.

 He was 54 by that stage. And do you know what? I reckon he survived the war and into old age. Because one day, when I was in my twenties, I distinctly heard my grandmother say, à propos of goodness knows what, ‘Oh I must tell Max’. Max, if he were alive, would have been by this stage in his eighties. There was a hush round the room … had nana gone gaga, I thought? I think not. Just a little more garrulous with age (‘of course you have Jewish blood, my husband was a Jew’).

So do John and I have more, close family we weren’t allowed to know about? Anyone have a father or grandfather in Budapest named Miksa Gánsl with a wife called Terezia, Gizella or Ersébet?

Anyway, Petra and I are convinced we are related and she even speaks Hungarian so … go for it, girl!

And then Adolf. Watch this space!

Postscriptum; Well, its not Adolf. Its Miksa again. Ive just found a grave for Giza Miksane Waldmann Gansl 1884-1937 at the Kozma Street Jewish Cemetery, Budapest. I wonder if her husband (who remarried pretty smartly!) is buried there too!

Thursday, May 11, 2017



This little dish of soup must be the most famous facebook food of the week. It has been developed by a team of expert chefs from three hemispheres, compiled by means of worldwide web communications and actually cooked by a wholly inexperienced and untalented cook at the Australian seaside.

Yes, me. And it all happened via … tah-dah! facebook.

Prologue. Scene one: a brisk Wednesday morning. 6am. Wednesday is farmer’s market day, so up and down the hill and home with two baskets of lovely local produce.
Prologue: Scene two: morning chat with Wendy back home at Gerolstein. Much colder there. ‘It’s a soup day’ she said. Yesssssss!

Act I: I got some splendid potatoes at the market. Potato soup. Love it. Milchsuppe. Assemble ingredients. Potato, kumara, onion, garlic, salt-free stock cubes, bacon, parsley and spring onion from my wee garden… and let the chopping begin! Hiccup one. THAT’s not a kumara! Completely different texture!

 Now what? Cry for help! And help he came. England and Germany were asleep, but America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia were awake… and buzzing … my facebook positively sizzled with advice and instructions. And my fake kumara was identified as a Hawaiian Sweet Potato. Oh well, too late!

Act II: Begin. My corned-beef pot seems the right size. In with three big rashers of chopped bacon …

 Add onion and garlic and brown (I refuse to say caramelise, who invented that euphemism?).  Add four rather ancient looking veggie stock cubes melted in 2 litres of water. And then my two lots of potato ..

Check with the facebook panel at each move. Taste. Oh. There’s a great deal of taste. I didn’t expect that. Is it SALT!? I suppose there’s salt in the bacon. Anyway, it’s a deal too tart and almost, well, vinegary … Oh well, push ahead. Bubble, bubble …
Dip into the cooking sherry. Add a handful of parsley and I THINK its spring onion. Add a good dollop of milk. And, of course, a nice pinch of cumin …

There! Taste. Ah. The milk has calmed the salt-n-vinegar tang.

There’s only one thing wrong. In the hours it has taken to compile this ‘dish’, I have consumed the entire bottle of cooking sherry and picked away, and the sun has come out, and it’s no longer a soup day and I’m no longer hungry… ah well, it’ll keep. Wendy says soup is always better on day two…

Act III:  As facebookers, all round the world, wait with hearts awash with soup, to hear the results, I unwrap Renée’s stick blender. My panel ignored my repeated queries: zap or no zap? So I zapped half.

Thursday 11.30am chimes. At last the famous facebook soup is ready! The tasting is nigh. And …

It’s jolly good. It’s not what I expected when I set out to make potato soup, and its nothing like Milchsuppe, though the added milk was a grand touch. The vinegary thing I didn’t like has gone. The Hawaiian potato is indistinguishable from the Australian. But where did all that flavour come from? Ah, well, ask not!

Act IV: Bit of excitement in the family today. ‘Nephew’ Darby got his US visa and is off to America to study and play gridiron. Celebration dinner is in order. Which restaurant? But hey. I’ve been to the market. I’ve got Dorpfer Lamb Patties. And I’ve got Facebook Soup. We’ll eat ‘in’!

Noise at the door. Oh, it isn’t Darboy, it’s the man staying next door. Do I like king prawns? Do I what! For me? Bless him!

So we had a feast fit for a footballer. And the soup? I think he must have liked it. There’s just enough left out of the 2 litres for me to have a wee bowl for breakfast…

I think Facebook Soup has to be accounted a success. I might have to make another gallon. It’s looking a little grey outside ..

Monday, May 1, 2017

When you come to the 'end' of a working day

Started at 6.15am. Etelka Gerster. German, Italian, French, American ... head's ringing.

Come 3pm. Eyes screen tired. Sun shining. Out the front door

Across the road

Down the path




Little wave

Bigger wave

Wet trousers.
via sand

to dusktime office

Ready for evening session

Hang on. Something's missing

That's better. OK Mrs Gerster. Here we go again. Refreshed and refuelled ...