The Dutch Years
late 1963 - early 1974
We arrived back in Holland in October and it had already started to get bitterly cold. None of us were used to this cold climate anymore, we had lived in shorts for the past four and a half years. Mum had to take us all out shopping for a new set of winter clothes.
When we arrived, there was of course no housing available and we were divided up. I was placed with a married cousin of mine who had a spare room and the rest of the family stayed with one of my Aunties. I started school and was placed back in the sixth grade. This was done mainly because the Dutch school year ran from July through to June unlike the Australian school year which ran from January through December. So, I had to endure another six months in sixth grade, this was also a benefit to work on my Dutch language skills. I could speak Dutch fluently but my reading and writing wasn't the best. Luckily school was just around the corner from where my cousin lived and I had my own room.
It took a few months before the family was reunited and we moved into the second storey home of one of Dads sisters. Some of her kids had left home and we could have the three upstairs rooms. I was given a small bedroom and my brothers shared another bedroom. Mum and Dad had a trundle bed in the loungeroom. There was also a small kitchen so Mum could start cooking again. It wasn't an ideal situation but we had no choice and had to adapt. Dad was certainly not very popular with us at this time.
It took a while longer before we were allocated a house in the Groenesteinstraat. Again, a second storey three-bedroom apartment on the corner of two streets. We had the tram lines running along one side of the house and this made it feel familiar for me. The house was quite large and had a decent size kitchen, for Dutch standards. I was happy to have my own room, which led out to a small balcony, shared with the kitchen exit door. It was not what we were used to in Australia and Dad was still not out of the woods as far as I was concerned.
By this time, I had finished primary school and had been placed in a type of business college, my math skills were excellent so it seemed like the best option. It was a three-year course and we had subjects like bookkeeping, typing and stenography. I must admit I enjoyed my time at school and made a few good friends, being a bit of an odd ball and also the eldest in the class helped.
In my last year of school, I met up with some English backpackers who invited me to stay with them in England. I made quite a few quick weekend trips to London during this period. I worked at the Amsterdam Rotterdam Bank during my school holidays as an intern and was set for a banking job as soon as I finished school.
Working for the bank was such a great experience for me and I thought it would help me with my re-locating back to Australia as soon as I was eighteen. My first trip to the Australian embassy was a huge disappointment. They were not taking on migrants without any skills to contribute. They were definitely not interested in any bank clerks; women did those jobs in Australia and there were no vacancies for me in that profession. This was a major setback me and it was at this time that I started to have some major problems with my parents at home. At some stage this became unreconcilable and I was asked to leave home.
At this stage in my life I thought nothing was worth living for if I couldn't go back to Australia. Life took on a bit of a destructive course. I resigned from my perfect job at the bank and started working in some dubious night clubs in The Hague. Sometimes as barman other times as disc jockey.
Luckily this was but for a short period and I soon got my legs firmly back on the ground. I was offered a job as a waiter with the French catering company Wagon Lits. They owned and ran the bar and restaurant cars on all European international trains. Soon I was travelling from Amsterdam to cities in Germany, Belgium and France. Such a glamorous job I thought; however, they were long and tiring days. Working on something that moved while you walked with trays of food and drinks wasn't as easy as it looked. Plus, spending nights at cheap hotels on layovers, waiting for the next train, soon started to take its toll.
I headed back to the Australian Embassy and checked what qualification I needed to be able to migrate to Australia and was told that nursing was a good one to start with.
An application for a nurses training course in Leiden was accepted and I was soon working there. After a few months I was given access to a nursing flat which consisted of a bed-sitter, loungeroom and bedroom in one, a small kitchen and a bathroom. The first time I had lived somewhere in Holland that actually had its own bathroom. I enjoyed my job and was training in both general and psychiatric nursing.
In early 1974 I went back to the Australian Embassy and was now welcomed with open arms. The application forms were filed and I was given permission to migrate back to Australia.
My belongings were packed in a small crate and I was off to the airport in April. My parents met me at the airport to see me off and both wished me well. My mother told me I probably wouldn't last more than a year. How wrong she was, 45 years later......
(Later, when working for Contiki and making regular trips to Europe, I recall Mum telling me that she saw more of me now than when I was living in Holland)
These ten years in my life certainly had their ups and downs and I was happy to leave Holland behind me. Things could only get better from here on in.
Unfortunately I lost most of my Dutch photos during my first major cyclone in Innisfail. I had louvred windows and the howling wind drove a sheet of rain into my spare room and wrecked some of my photo albums.
Two nurses saying farewell at Schiphol Airport
Some more photos I found recently. Click on a photo to see a larger version.