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Fragments of a Journey

A Fistful of Life

Chapter 7

New Zealand

haiku of contents

Son's birth, recklessness

second marriage, more children,

music, literature

Extract 1

Whenuapai, airforce and civilian airport of Auckland in the early fifties. The sound of English told me that this was the new language in which my mind would have to work, William Shakespeare would have to replace my namesake, Joost van den Vondel. I was not especially keen on either of them but knew instinctively that both are essential to language, both dreamers of the past. I was a dreamer also but my favourite in those days were Emile Zola, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Jean Giono, and above all, Henry Miller with his laughter, his fluent smile of words, his Rabelaisian joy and gargantuan taste. I loved his work but deep inside me ever hung the still and brooding melancholy of Knut Hansum.

Extract 2

I walked into the bookshop on the appointed day and bought five books on Renoir, Gaugin, Lautrec, van Gogh and Picasso. I went home, laid the books around the table and and walked around, waiting for one to speak to me and tell me to pick it up. I did not particularly like Picasso's work but I did know instinctively that in him, I would find the echo for the beat of my heart. Lautrec showed me the inner pain in each individual, van Gogh was my soul brother and Gaugin's colours screamed in me to find the solution for myself. In the evenings, I would take up pen and ink, pencils, brushes and bit by bit, ideas started to form themselves, ideas which my hands and eyes attempted to give life to.

Chapter 8


haiku of contents

Kings Cross, the Mountains,

death, death, art and renewal

Children, art and age



Halfway up William Street was a trattoria called Lorenzini's, a unique place at the time where one could sit on a glass or carafe of wine or a coffee for an inordinate length of time without being pressured to buy another. One could also order an Italian meal which, in comparison to other places, was reasonably cheap. It was owned by an old Italian who left the running and eventual ownership of it to his daughter and her Dutch husband who soon warmed to me, being a fellow countryman. It was here that I met my future, and last, wife on my first visit to the establishment some three weeks after my arrival. Scruff was the mode amongst the hip and the pseudo beats of Lorenzini's, loudly proclaiming their ideas or their poetry. The place, haunt of regular patrons with the odd newcomer, consisted mostly of students, musicians, artists, some genuine and others not, actors and staff from the ABC whose offices were next door, con men and cheap drunks, nearly all busy “on the make”. Still, there were some memorable characters who have stayed forever in my mind.

Blue Mountains


Walking the autumn-leaved streets of this town where I live, the leaves soft and wet, the street lined with bare trees, I feel at peace and am content. The mountains live with a past, its face carved by the winds which can be savage, but its strength endures, defying the aggression of time. It speaks to me, giving me its strength and its spirit. I did not see this, however, when we first arrived. The joy of owning our new home wore off fairly rapidly in the first few weeks, more so from my wife than me. The house was the oldest house on the street, built in 1910 and, judging from appearances, had nothing done to improve it ever since. Daylight showed through the outer walls, the bathroom was in the depths of the basement and contained a chip heater which was so broken it was impossible to use it for hot water and the kitchen contained a fuel stove with a huge crack all the way through it precluding any chance of cooking dinner on it. Our weekly days for the first year consisting of waking at five to catch the train at six to Sydney, a journey of two hours and twenty minutes each way. I still worked at the hospital, my wife who had graduated, was now doing, a teaching diploma at the university and our little girl was still keeping to the arrangements of the previous year. We would come home at seven thirty in the evening, just in time to catch the milk bar before it closed in order to grab some dinner, go home, stoke up the fuel copper for hot water which would be then, poured into the bath and used by all of us, one after another. After a little rest and conversation, it was ten and time to go to bed to repeat the whole process the following day. The cold in winter,which seemed to last six to eight months of the year and chilled one to the very marrow was something I had not experienced since I left Holland.



fragments of a Journey, A Fisful of Life

Jose de Koster

My Soul, by author, oil on canvas

Sitting in front of the house in the bush in Mangakino

The Deep Mystery, by author, oil on canvas



In the stones

down there near the edge of the ravine

clinging to life in dust and mud

one next to the other



speaking with the echo of the wind

of life and the everlastingness

of yearning

inside the gut.

That is where I find myself

often staring into nowhere...eternity!

Oh heart


with me

stay with me