Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bizarro (Nine)

A couple of days after my birthday we were walking in the new forest on the top of the hill and found a deflated party balloon stuck in a tree. When we laid it out it was a...9! Truly. Here it is.

Spooky voodoo...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Handmade (Nine)

Today is my birthday. The 9th. I like nines. I was born on the 9th, so was my brother. The 9th of the 9th. When I was 9. I have twin uncles who were also born on the 9th of the 9th. My first niece was born on the 9th too.

I have many nines in my house. Here are a few. 

One cold night with my brother at Windy Hill watching Essendon train we noticed that the old scoreboard was about to be demolished. So we impulsively decided to give this nine  a future that didn't involve landfill...

These two were made by Lisa and her sons, Josh and Nick.

Kerry Spokes from Gecko made this for me when I was at the cafe.

My dear friend Jo found these old bingo numbers and assembled the nine multiples of nine in a three-by-three arrangement so that they form an eternal nine...

Zak made these cups for me.

I made this from old wooden typeface.

Sara made this. On the 9th of the 9th 1999...

And Fiona brought this back from Florence for me...

Thank you all.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Garden (part II)

Grass grew. It wasn't grass we wanted and it wasn't where we wanted it, but it grew anyway. This had been a paddock, after all.

It was at this point that I had to decide on structural issues. How close was the garden going to be to the house? Orchard in the yard or not? How much of the view would be sacrificed to protect the house from wind? How much lawn? Eucalypts in the yard? Natives or exotics or a combination of both? And while I would walk the yard and imagine and envisage the future garden, the old tufts of paddock grass continued to grow...

Garden (part I)

The topsoil that Andy had heaped behind the house was too dry to move until late autumn 2008. So the house just sat in the middle of the paddock for a few months. There was enough to do between learning how to be a dad and running the cafe, so the garden wasn't really a priority.

But then Andy came and pushed and shoved and scraped and graded and made a space for a garden.

In much the same way as it had been amazing to visualise the potential house and then to create it, it was exciting to imagine what the garden could become. The difference between building and gardening though, is that building is reasonably exact and controllable. Gardening isn't. Some things would grow, others wouldn't. But having the opportunity to start from scratch was simultaneously intimidating and liberating.

Handmade (Licorice Allsorts)

My great gandmother - my mother's mother's mother - was a Pascall. Her family were the lolly Pascalls. Lollies: we used to call them chonks when I was a kid, but that word seems to have disappeared.

I love licorice allsorts. I LOVED Pascall licorice allsorts. Notice the D? Past tense. A few years ago Pascalls destroyed their licorice allsorts. They added coconut flavouring and they reversed the order of the layers. Whereas Pascall licorice allsorts were almost unique in the fact that their allsorts had licorice on the outsides, now they have gone the cheapo route and put the coloured bits on the outside. Just. Like. Everyone. Else.

I have a stash of old-school Pascall licorice allsorts. I stockpiled when they changed. The Best Before date on them is 06/08/07, so I guess they're at least five years old. But still so good... I started with a couple of dozen packets but temptation has reduced that to three. After this morning that will be two. Maybe the last two surviving packets on the face of the earth. The last reminder of how good chonks were... I harangued the Pascall customer support line - 1800 250 260 if you want to call - and wrote half a dozen letters. Eventually I even invoked the "I'm family..." plea but to no avail.

To fill the dark yearning chasm within me that aches for good licorice allsorts I bought handmade chonks. These glass allsorts came from Latrobe Regional Gallery, but I have no idea who made them. The bowls are Kirsty Sutherland's though.

And in the little nook that holds my beloved coffee machine, toaster, kettle and grinder is this lovely linocut by Aileen Brown.

I guess it's more adult to collect art and objet - and certainly better for my teeth! - but I still miss the original Pascall licorice allsorts...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Handmade (11 Fingers)

I have been reflecting on how much of my house and the things that fill it are handmade. I love knowing who did what to contribute to the building of the house. I love knowing that my brother screwed the toilet roll holder into place. I love knowing that Lauren and Mel stuffed insulation into the gaps around all the doors and windows. I love knowing that Tim laid the bricks, that Alan did so very much. I love knowing that when I look closely at the floor that the helicopter marks I can see were left there by Bruce. 

Most nights I eat my dinner off crockery made by one of various potters I know. I often drink my coffee out of one of Chris Plumridge's beakers or - if I'm having espresso - one of Zak's little porcelain cups. This morning I'm wearing a woollen vest (the same one I'm wearing in the photo in Indefatigable). The wool - from a beautiful brown sheep we owned when I was a kid - was spun and knitted by my mum about 25 years ago. I'm snacking on atheist buns I whipped up yesterday using wort from my brother's Grand Ridge beers. 

I love knowing where things came from, their stories. I am going to start a series of Handmade (...) posts to tell a few of those stories. Today's entry is about a newly acquired Handmade...

I bought a few of Sarah Dingwall's little houses about twelve months ago. I love them. The little helper and I selected seven from the dozens that were on display at Gecko Studio Gallery at Fish Creek. 

Photo: Sarah Dingwall

Each little house is different, not only in shape and aperture size, but most obviously in what it houses. We selected three feathers, some lichen, a couple of seed heads and a butterfly wing. They hang above the bathroom door, backlit by the large pane of glass that lets light into the hallway. 

I also bought one of Sarah's collages for home and a mushroom as a gift for Lara's birthday.

Photo: Sarah Dingwall

When the little helper was born he had eleven fingers. The midwives tied off his tiny eleventh finger and after a week or two it dropped off. Since then it has been in the fridge in a shot glass. Admittedly that's a little odd, but it seemed too important to throw out and I doubt Big W sell detached-finger containers... So I asked Sarah if she'd make something to keep the finger in. And she did!

Thank you Sarah. The finger finally has a home. In fifteen years if the little helper is ever tempted to use the line "you want to come back to my place and see my eleventh finger?" at least he'll have this lovely handmade vessel to show off the withered digit...

Friday, 3 June 2011

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

I don't know if it was because we had some spare time on a nice morning, or if it was because I turn 40 this week, but on the way home from town today I took the little helper on a nostalgic magical mystery tour... It wasn't an entirely new excursion for him, but it's been long enough since the last visit for him to have been excited.

I grew up in a hamlet called Berrys Creek. It had four houses, a hall and a school. The year before we moved to Berrys Creek its school closed. This was a blessing and a curse. The curse: I'd probably have been perfectly suited to a small, insular, protective school environment. The blessing: we had relatively unrestricted access to the old school, its grounds and buildings. For a couple of months each year the school was used as a camp by a Frankston school. They'd bring urban kids down for a week at a time to experience bucolia. Other than that it was ours.

For me the old school was a place of freedom and joy. The place where I carved the initials of those I coveted in the bark of myriad trees. The place where we'd go to play pool or ping pong (which we called table tennis, but I like the alliterative bounce of all those P's). A place to climb trees and collect tadpoles. A place to (ok, Dad, I admit it, they were mine...) stash some old Playboy magazines I'd stumbled across in my neighbour's shed. A place to run away to when I decided that I was leaving home. A place to substitute my unwitting little brother for a bus as the object I'd leap over on my BMX while pretending I was Evil Knievel. Damn Madonna for getting stuck in my head:

This used to be my playground 
This used to be my childhood dream
This used to be the place I ran to...

So this morning's minor detour was quite a nostalgia trip. And... And it's awful to see the place unused, unloved, rundown. Awful. What a waste. If I had the energy and the finances I'd find out how to lease it. I'd fix it up and turn it into a beautiful little cafe. But I have neither... Maybe someone will do something with it one day.

In the meantime I had no qualms pilfering a few bits and pieces: some kids' chairs, a few old bag hooks and a water bubbler. They felt more like memento mori than mementoes...

After more than three years in the house I still hadn't organised anywhere to hang towels in the bathroom. Not a hook nor a rail. So they ended up on the door knob. Not ideal. I had envisaged (don't steal this idea - I may still do it!) using old bakelite fishing reels. I wanted to mount them on a piece of karri, using their handles as towel hooks. But! I wanted to mount them in such a way that they'd still function so I could rig up little trapezes (is that a word? can you picture what I mean...?) to hang wet towels from. The 'trapezes' would be lowered or raised using the reels. The warmth of the ceiling space would be perfect to dry the towels between uses. Anyway... The bag hooks are a nice addition to the bathroom in the meantime!

This afternoon I removed one of the garden taps - the one closest to the sandpit - and replaced it with the bubbler. It's a lovely thing. I used to drink from this fairly anonymous piece of plumbing, and now the best little helper will too. Sometimes I love the circularity of life. Maybe that's just nostalgia...

As I drove to the end of the bitumen and the road turned to corrugated and potholed gravel Madonna was usurped by Michelle Shocked. Almost Pavlovian, every time I drive this stretch of road I find myself singing Memories Of East Texas...

Memories of East Texas and those pine-green rolling hills
Covered in the springtime with golden daffodils
Rowing on Sandy lake come April, harvesting hay in June
Sitting by the road watching wellfires burn by an old October moon

I learnt to drive on those East Texas red clay backroads
And I mean to tell you my friend they weren't no easy roads
You had to watch out for all the curves down by Kelsey Creek
And detour through the Lindsay's pasture when the waters ran too deep

Memories of East Texas and of Gilmer, county seat of Upshur
Looking back and asking myself ''What the hell did you let them break your spirit for?''
Their lives ran in circles so small, they thought they'd seen it all
And they couldn't make a place for a girl who'd seen the ocean

I learnt to drive on those East Texas red clay backroads

And I mean to tell you my friend they weren't no easy roads
You had to watch out for all the curves down by Kelsey Creek
And detour through the Lindsay's pasture when the waters ran too deep

But those memories of East Texas and those pine-green rolling hills
Covered in the springtime with wild daffodils
Sitting in those Piney woods, playing my guitar
Thinking back on the roads I'd come, thinking I had not come that far

I learnt to drive on those East Texas red clay backroads

And I mean to tell you my friend they weren't no easy roads
You had to watch out for all the curves down by Kelsey Creek
And detour through the Lindsay's pasture when the waters ran too deep