Showing posts from April, 2018


Wednesday, 25th April, was Anzac Day - the memorial day for the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who perished in the World Wars and other more recent conflicts. Lest we Forget - definitely.

But what of the many civilians who also lost their lives to war?  It is impossible to get exact figures but estimates for World War II alone stand at between 50 and 80 million lives. an(

A United Nations report stated that four million peopledied in Indonesia as a result of famine and forced labour during the Japanese occupation, including 30,000 European civilian internee deaths. ( My grandmother was one of them.

Meta was born in Tonningen, Schleswick-Hollstein, Germany on 3rd May 1891, daughter of Emil Reith and Marie Schuman. Her father was a senior customs officer - Uber Zoll Inspektor. Meta grew up in Germany and at one time the family must have lived in or holid…


The prompt for week 16 is storms. There is a stormy sea that several generations in my family have travelled through and often suffered seasickness. They had no choice - they could not avoid it, because they were travelling to or from the Dutch East Indies or Asia by sea.  
From the port of Amsterdam, the ship would travel via the Noordzee kanaal through the Locks of IJmuiden into the North Sea. From the Port of Rotterdam, the ship would exit via Hoek van Holland. She would then make her way through the English Channel and cross the Gulf of Biscay, which was notorious for its violent storms. The Bay of Biscay flanks the west coast of France and north coast of Spain and opens to the Atlantic Ocean. This wide area makes it so susceptible to the storms which prevail in winter.  In a calm sea this crossing would take just a day, but in rough heaving seas it could take several days. 
I made that journey as a child travelling with my family five times, first travelling from Calcutta to Ams…


Week 15 prompt is about taxes.

Apparently my grandfather Cornelis (Kees) Blomberg liked to remind his children that taxes, like death could not be avoided, they were a fact of life; what mattered was what you were left with. I reckon that is a good enough reason to write about him in this post.  In his later years he was also taxed by the ravages of Parkinsons disease.

I would have been about three years old when I first met him, but I don't remember of course. My grandmother told me that when we stayed with them in Amsterdam, and my parents were away catching up with family while back on leave from overseas, my little brother and I liked to climb up on the big windows overlooking the street from their apartment. My grandfather, Opa, would be sitting at his desk, listening to his radio tuned to his favourite program and would call out to us "turun", Malay for "come down". We didn't understand Malay, so we probably ignored him, and then Oma would rush in and…

The maiden aunt

The maiden aunt Week 14 prompt) sounds more lyrical and romantic than spinster aunt. So I wonder about the origin of these terms. A quick google search brings up the meaning of unmarried woman who has passed the usual age of marriage. The maiden aunt has the extra flavour of prim and proper and to me the spinster has a wrinkled and dried prune look.

Such strong images these words evoke. They don't do justice to the real lives of these woman. In a time that marriage was the only approved "lifestyle" for women, the maiden aunt in the family could well be the one with a remarkable spirit of independance or vocation or could be harboring a tragic love whose promise could not be fullfilled because of war or death.

I consider a few candidates for this post and conclude that really I have no maiden aunts to speak of. Maiden cousins? Yes, there are a couple. So I settle on one who I remember personally and who also left a great contribution in the social housing history of Amst…

The old Homestead

The prompt for week 13 is "the old homestead". 

What is a that really? The term is usually applied to a house, commonly a farm house, with land and outbuildings and occupied by the family as the principal residence. There are farmers in the familytree, but no homestead, passed down for generations. Unless...there is a homestead and it has a good story too and I'll come to that but first but first about the home that has a special place in the family heart.

There are two treasured water colour paintings in the family. The first showing a house with a broad veranda around it and the second shows the view from that house over the surrounding garden and mountains in the distance. This was the administrator's house of the coffee plantation my grandfather Rein Peelen managed in Central Java in the 30's and this is where my mother and her siblings grew up.  My grandmother Meta got a local artist to paint these pictures and sent them as a Christmas gift to her three teen…


As I think about the week 12 prompt I review the misfortunes in my family history I could explore  - child and infant mortality, war, illness, financial. That last one - financial! I remember my aunt's remark in her family history memoir.  She didn't know much about her mother's side of the family, she wrote, except that they suffered from a "horse race gambling" virus  and by the time my great grandfather Doede Lawerman married most of the family fortune had been lost, gambled away. Who in the family had caught this "virus" I wonder. He married Fokeline Dieverdina Bakker on 19 June, 1890 in Odoorn, Drenthe, the Netherlands. What is known about her life illustrates the misfortune of death. Fokeline came from a well to do farming family but by the time she was fifteen she had already experienced the loss of two baby siblings and then her mother Berentje Bakker-van der Borgh. Three years later, when she was 18, her father, Wiebertus Meinderts Bakker, als…