Peter Damen

Comments (0) Interviews

We meet the authour of newly published book Where Two Rivers Meet and chat about his childhood in the Netherlands and rural Victoria.




How long have you lived in the Manning Great Lakes, and what do you love about it?

My wife and I settled in Forster in February 2002. We had been planning to move to Coffs Harbour, close friends took us to see Forster, and within two years we were residents of that town. We both felt it was meant to be! We still feel at home here and have never regretted the move.

You were born in a caravan during WW11 in the Netherlands. What is one of your stand out memories from that time?

The caravan came with my father’s job. By the time I was old enough to remember things, we were stationed close to the ‘Philips’ factory in Eindhoven. There was a bomb shelter, which consisted of a hole dug into the ground surrounded with heaped sandbags.

One night when we were in there, we could see a multitude of lights moving in the darkened sky. My elder brother informed me when I was older they were English planes bombarding the factory to prevent the Germans from making use of the ‘heavy water’ project, which scientists were experimenting with at Philips. Now remember, I was only about 4 at the time, and I was more interested in seeing the lights move in the sky, which probably were tracers and searchlights.

Your family of 11 came out to Australia when you were 12; what was your first memory of this new land?

On the 18th of October 1954, we departed from the ship ‘Johan van Oldenbarnevelt ’at Station Pier, in Melbourne. It was a hot day, and moving our luggage to Spencer St station was quite an effort. We caught a train, which deposited us at Ballarat station in the middle of the night and then hired a few taxies, as there were other people who were going to the same hostel in Creswick. Everything was pitch black and by the time we stopped at the hostel, we all wondered what we had got into.

Daylight arrived, and we couldn’t depart fast enough from our dusty straw mattresses; we’d sneezed most of the night. But the view we experienced when we went outside was beyond belief. We, who came from a flat green country, now were surrounded by hills, which were covered by dry yellow grass and trees we had never seen before. Buildings were different, and bicycles had upside down racing handlebars on them. There was a smell in the air we had never come across before. It was explained that it was the smell which came from the sheep. As kids, we were soon out and about exploring the countryside; but my father, being of a practical nature, went with my older brother and sister on the bus to Ballarat. Jobs had to found. Sightseeing could come later!

You have just had your book Where Two Rivers Meet published. What is it about?

I always find it a difficult question to answer, as I don’t want to give too much of the story away. It begins when a young boy on the edge of becoming a juvenile delinquent meets up with a young man who, while establishing his own future, gives him the opportunity to make something of his life. The story is set in the ‘High Country’, about a day’s ride from Albury. It moves to South Australia, Melbourne and other places while the characters mature and gives the story a touch of reality. Genuine people who existed during the 1890 – 1910 era and made our history are mentioned. One editor stated it was a nicely written story, and surely an editor could not be wrong?

Do you have any words of advice to aspiring authors out there?

You must keep writing! If you feel you like what you are writing, then you must continue, as eventually your work will be read by someone in the right place who can make your dream come true. I believe the odds of having a book published are still a lot better than winning the first prize in any lottery!

Thanks Peter.


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