Monday, 4 April 2011

The (think) tank

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, on a series of dark and stormy nights in a place far, far from here my mate Leaveski and I put on a show as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. That show was called The Rant. It was fabulous. It was held in the back bar of the Tramways Hotel in North Fitzroy (my local at the time). There was no cover charge, the audience members were instead encouraged to buy us beer. In return we'd entertain them. The audience members that is, not the beers. The basic concept (the only concept really, and yes, it was pretty basic...) was that the two of us would drink the beer and rant about whatever came to mind. Current affairs mostly. We were funny. But the funniest thing about The Rant was it was almost exactly the same as all of the converstaions he and I share but this time other people were buying the beer and laughing at (or, I like to hope, with) us...

I've always fancied that I'd love to be what is sometimes called a 'social commentator'. I could just sit on my hill and pontificate about whatever came to mind. When Fran Kelly needed to fill ten minutes on Radio National Breakfast (oh, Fran, call me...) she'd ring me and I'd give the nation a piece of my mind on whatever topic she chose... Or if the PM (John, Kev, Julia - happy to talk to whoever's wearing the hat at the time the music stops) wanted to know my opinion on the politcal zeitgeist (obviously if Tony ends up with the hat he won't use such a difficult word, Rhodes scholar or not...) he or she would give me a call. I toyed with the idea of starting a think tank. Then I realised that I already had a tank. And not just any tank, but a tank that had borne witness to quite a bit of thinking...

The tank was the first thing to be built on the hill. I wanted to get it built first because it's on the far side of the house and to get to the site after the construction started would be more difficult. The other advantage of getting it done first was that once the roof went on we'd be able to start collecting water immediately.

When Andy had cleared the house site he'd also prepared the tank foundation. Then Colin Watt from Watt-A-Tank (geddit?!) and his crew arrived with the form work, a series of metal plates that were craned into place and then bolted together. There was an external form and an internal: concrete was poured into the space between them to create the tank walls.

The crane held aloft a concrete funnel that fed into a gutter. The gutter was fixed on an axis at the centre of the tank at one end and had runners at the other that fitted onto the rim of the internal form. It was ingenious, making a difficult job look simple (as all the best tradies do I guess). Once the wall was poured and vibrated into place then the work began on the floor of the tank.

Once the concrete was finished it was left for a few days with the form work in place. One of the disappointing things about having to work full time while building the house was that I missed some things I'd liked to have seen. That was the case with the removal of the forms. I got to the hill after work to find that it was all done - including the placement of the lid which had been poured in sections in molds at Colin's shed.

The tank was done. It was the first structure on the hill. The first sign that this would be a place to live. 90,000 litres it holds. And the thing I'm most sheepish to admit? I didn't have any money so I paid for it with my Visa card. Yes, I was about to build a house with no money. Just faith that I could pull it off...

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