What’s that clinking?

Written by Bert Plomp

Uncle Klaas and Aunt Beppie were not enjoying themselves in the lowlands. In the fifties, they emigrated to distant Australia with their entire family. Due to health problems with Aunt Beppie, they returned after a few years Down Under.
As there was no immediate housing available in the Netherlands, the whole family moved in with my parents. The three-room flat that already housed six people now had to accommodate six more. This meant that my brother Theo and I had to find refuge elsewhere. Theo could stay with Jewish friends in the neighbourhood, and I with my friend Joop.
For Theo and me, that situation couldn’t last long enough. We received a lot of attention and were greatly spoiled at our temporary lodgings.

Uncle Klaas often boasted proudly about Australia, the land he had been forced to leave. How great it was there. We sometimes got tired of it. One day, a parcel arrived from faraway Australia. The outside of this package already made a big impression on me. Due to high postage costs, the package was adorned with a series of stamped exotic stamps.
Uncle Klaas wanted to share with visible pride the unveiling of the contents of the package. With a big smile on his face, he had been shaking the package vigorously for some time. While shaking, he wanted to draw our attention to the possibility that the package might contain a large quantity of jingling coins. Money collected for him and his family by his generous friends in Australia. At least, that was the expectation he expressed to the crowded audience in the crammed three-room flat. The whole group watched excitedly as Uncle Klaas eagerly opened the package. How much would the proceeds be?, everyone wondered.
There was both shock and joy when it turned out that it was nothing more than a framed photo of the friends left behind. The sound of clinking coins was caused by broken glass. The glass of the picture frame had succumbed during the long journey. When the family got their own rental home in Zeist after a few months, Theo and I reluctantly returned to the parental nest. The pampering was over.

Frankie, one of the children, turned out to be an enterprising boy. Shortly after joining the Zeist community, a motorized officer stood at his doorstep. Frankie had misbehaved, and the policeman came by to give his parents a talking-to. While the officer lectured inside, five-year-old Frankie disabled his motorcycle on the street. I don’t know what Frankie had done with the motor, but it took the officer quite some time to get it running again.

We liked to visit Uncle Klaas and Aunt Beppie. Aunt Beppie, a sister of my mother, was one of my favourite aunts. Actually, I only had nice uncles and aunts.
When I was once again visiting them in Zeist with my parents, Aunt Beppie proudly showed us her newest acquisition. It was a so-called sunlamp. This sunlamp was a black square box with a silver-coloured hood mounted on top. A tube-shaped lamp was placed in the hood. The lamp made a crackling sound as soon as you plugged it into the socket. The idea was that you placed your face in the bright beam of light emitted by the device. For safety, you could put on a thick black pair of glasses to protect your eyes. Despite the crackling sound and the sharp radiation, the sunlamp did inspire some awe in the user. You actually felt like you were being irradiated, treated against the feared disease.
Most people found it interesting in those days to have a tan in winter, giving the impression that you had been on a distant foreign vacation, for example, skiing in Lech with the Royal family. It seemed like a good idea to me too. For that reason, I took the first seat in the bright beam of light. Because I didn’t like to do things halfway, I stared into the ultraviolet radiation for far too long and without protective glasses. The result was evident. It looked as if I had wandered through the Sahara without headgear for half a year. In that regard, the goal was achieved. However, when I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t open my eyes. My eyes felt as if they had been whipped by a sandstorm in the aforementioned desert. For about three days, I had to move around the city like a blind person. After that, I never exposed myself to such a hellish device again.


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