Category Archives: renovations

On being alive

My life, at the moment, is small. It’s taking place mostly inside the house and a little bit in the back yard. There are some walks with Bertie. Not much is happening. I feel a like a soldier who has returned from the war and is slightly baffled by the rituals of civilian life. Out in the back yard there’s a smooth rectangle of bare gravel. Steve’s building a new shed. Earlier this year Steve spent an evening doing the owner-builder course online and over the past couple of weeks various blokes in high-vis vests have come and gone. I spied on one of them, watching as he got his thermos out and the newspaper and had a nice morning tea in the sun. There has been a minor stress-out over whether the bobcat man’s truck was interfering with parents dropping off and picking up kids at the childcare centre over the back fence. Out in the bigger, wider world, there’s the ebola virus, the slaughter in Gaza, fleeing Yazidis, a second Malaysian Airlines plane going down with all souls. I’ve been taking a break from the bigger, wider world. It’s mainly just me and the house and yard. I’m alive, and noticing that it’s yellow flower season again (daffodils and wattle) and the vege garden is a wasteland of tall grass and weeds.

This morning I watched a Robin Williams clip about being alive. It was for Sesame Street back in the ’80s. How do you know you’re alive? You’re alive if you can answer yes to these three questions: Can you breathe? Can you eat? Can you grow? He tested the theory on his shoe and concluded that it was not alive.

To breathe, eat and grow. To be alive, unlike Robin Williams’ shoe. It’s small, it’s everywhere, and it’s amazing.

Here’s the clip:

On Saturday I’ll be getting out of the house and going to Kandos (a tiny town about an hour away) to do a short presentation as part of a craft forum. I’ll be taking my crocheted guts for a show-and-tell. And next Wednesday I’ll be going back into the doughnut for a post-treatment CT scan. I’ll report on these next week.

Rain and chemical substances

Raining, raining. Painting the inside of the windows with PENETROL – great name! Will paint the outside when it gets warmer. Squirting DERMOTIC into Bertie’s ears – another great name! Listening, while sanding and painting, to a whole day of BBC world service. Again and again, reporters stumbling over or at least hesitating over the name of the Georgian luger (lugeman? luge person?) wiped out on the Vancouver track. And a beautiful Punjabi Indian Scottish poet … pause for quick switch over to Google … by the name of Imtiaz Dharker who repeated the line how beautiful you are … can’t find it now… but I have found tiffin boxes. I love the word tiffin.

Twenty things

1. This morning Kirsty Lewin and Marcus and Enya the dog and I went off on a bike ride. Kirsty and I on bikes; Marcus on the back of Kirsty’s bike in his own baby seat and Enya either running along beside us or trotting at the end of her leash which was in turn looped over Kirsty’s handlebar. I felt sorry for Bertie, who was missing out on this experience on account of being completely hopeless.
2. Lorikeets in Perth: now pest declared. Last week (or was it the week before?) I was walking up the big main driveway at Curtin University, once the WA Institute of Technology, and noticed all the lorikeets. Things felt different. There was still that distinctive pine tree smell that will always make me think of my earliest days at WAIT in 1981. WAIT was built on the site of a pine plantation in the 1960s. There are still some tall plantation-era pines but not as many, the smell not as strong. Gardens were lush, plantings mature. That’s not how it was in 1981. And there were none of these lorikeets. You expect some things to stay the same, even if buildings and cars and fashions change. You expect to come back to the same smells, the same air, the same background of bird call. That’s what it’s like around Carnarvon, up on Brown’s Range, listening to the chiming wedgebills, aka Did y Get Drunks. Superficial things change but that particular birdcall, that red dirt, those seed pods on the acacia bushes, strip away the years or make them irrelevant. But Perth seemed to have shifted in some organic, fundamental way. The lorikeets were wrong. When I got back to Bathurst, I looked up the lorikeets and yes, they are strictly native to the eastern states. They are now taking over Perth, the result of an original flock kept near the University of Western Australia. Now they’re multiplying exponentially, eating grapes out of the vineyards, and they have been declared a Pest.
3. Back here in Bathurst, I find that the Mitchell Batteries man is studying to be a nurse.
4. The Mitchell Batteries man disagreed with the academic from some American university or other, interviewed on ABC Radio National’s Counterpoint program, who said the Internet was creating the dumbest generation ever. The Mitchell Batteries man, who sold me a $115 battery for the Subaru Outback, said the Internet enabled him to work by day and study at night. He was testing the battery by playing the radio; that’s how we both came to be listening to Counterpoint. He had a yellow trolley that he sat before the bonnet of the car. This trolley brought the new battery and received the old battery.
5. Still on the Subaru Outback: After I’d replaced the battery (this was yesterday), I took it to the Aquarius car wash on Durham Street. I heard something crunch but dismissed it. I enjoyed being soaped up and rinsed off and blow dried from within the comfort of my car. I drove home, came inside the house and looked back out the window to admire the clean car. I noticed the side panel was off the car. I made a mental connection with the crunching sound. I drove back to the carwash. Another car was just going into the bay, too late for me to do anything. I stood beside the plastic window and peered in, and there was the panel lying on the ground to the left of the bay. It was covered in suds. I had to wait until the car in there had finished. An automatic car wash bay is a no-go zone for an unarmoured human. A woman was waiting to drive her car in. I was standing there in front of the bay, peering in. I realised I was behaving oddly – standing carless beside an automatic car wash bay. I told the woman who was waiting what I was doing. I had to approach her car, and as I did so, she politely wound her window down.
6. I made Steve a DSB (drawstring bag) for his Nikon camera battery but it was about two centimetres too short for the job. So now I need to go back to the drawing board. I enjoyed making the DSB from a pattern I’d found on the Internet.
7. Bruce Fell, a colleague at Charles Sturt University, expressed sentiments similar to the academic from some American university or other at a seminar the other day. I such people a careful hearing but I secretly think they’re just old people who don’t want to update. They are resentful about the train slipping away from them; they don’t want to get on the train.
8. Bruce criticises the Internet from the Left; the American academic, I presume, was criticising from the Right. Bruce said he was concerned about not just the Internet but the whole use of social media by young people. They were online or staring at screens when they needed to be out in the real world, walking upon the earth. Bruce said there was an environmental disaster looming but young people who were entranced by technology were not going to bother acting to save the planet because they’d never physically engaged with it. They weren’t noticing the seasons; they were looking at little screens. In discussion time, I defended the new technological age. I agreed that we should be out walking the earth but said I also loved Google and Street View and Lolcats and Second Life and the ability to edit video in my own room and publish it on YouTube. Bruce said, why is it so good that everyone can publish on YouTube? Look at all the rubbish on it!
9. ABC Radio National has axed the Media Report, the Religion Report, Street Stories and Radio Eye. I read somewhere that this was all about relating to a newer Internet-focused generation and that shows like the Media Report and the Religion Report appealed to the over-50s and therefore not worth supporting. It’s terrifying when you read that appeal to the over-50s is in itself enough to render a thing obsolete. I’ll be there myself in five years’ time. Bruce might argue that the axing of the Media Report and the Religion Report are motivated by the same digital media forces taking over young people’s lives.
10. Just saw Burn After Reading. I can’t rave long or hard enough. The Coen brothers are the best. I love George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and even – now – Brad Pitt.
11. It’s almost 9pm. We went to the 6.40pm screening at the Metro Cinema after scoffing a pepper steak and veges so we’d be there on time. We got there just in time for the opening credits.
12. The stock market has gone to hell in a hand basket.

13. I write this to the sound of Taro snoring on the carpet behind me. She smells of wet dog. Steve and Rosemary took Bertie, Taro and Jasper to the river for a swim while I went on gardening and starting the cooking so we’d get to the movie on time.
14. I’ve been yanking out couch grass.
15. The two vege garden beds are empty and waiting. Empty except for some valiant sage that kept on keeping on regardless of drought and frost. I dug out the beginnings of sunflower seedlings. The sunflower from two summers back had produced seeds and they’d fallen to the ground and now they were going to grow into a new sunflower crop but I dug them out because I was taking a take-no-prisoners approach (except for the sage).
16. I notice that the potted strawberries have survived absolute neglect and the tulips have struggled to put out a warped flower but the geraniums are utterly dead.
17. The succulents in the front garden are flowering in orange and purple. These pigfaces (narrow gauge) have been green and healthy for well over a year; only now are they doing the flowering thing.
18. Kirsty and I rode along the bottom of Mt Panorama, along Boundary Road, through some open land where people camp, have sex, take drugs and light fires, then through a housing commission area and back on to Browning Street. I turned left at William Street and Kirsty, Marcus and Enya turned right.
19. At Boundary Road an enormous kangaroo was standing up on its hind legs looking at us. Enya spotted and and gave chase. Kirsty screamed at Enya.
20. For my twentieth thing, I’ll give an update on the renos. Everything has ground to a halt, but the work is not finished and we have not moved in. I’m amazed that Steve is not going nuts about this the way I am. I’m completely over it. It’s been a year now, and that’s enough for me. We need to have a retaining wall built and some pavers laid. After that, we can have the floors sanded and polished (or oiled) and only then can we officially move in with the furniture and everything, and only then can I move in to my new office and start work on this room, which will become the guest bedroom. And we’re buying and installing an awning, but the awning guys are going to want a flat paved area to work on so the real snag with everything is the laying of the paving/building of retaining wall. After this, I’ll have done renovating for this lifetime. I don’t ever need to do this again.

Just after Christmas 2007

Bing! Home again after a few days doing Christmas with rellies. Bought a Pictionary game at Borders in Tuggerah with Christmas vouchers. I love Pictionary! We played one game; I’m itching to do more but the box was too big for me to cart home by train and bus, so it’s still in Wyong. Finally got home from my Long Trek (with a stopover to see Atonement at Broadway Hoyts with Larissa) to find that Steve had already started on the renos. We’re officially renovating! What a relief! We’ve been moving towards this point for about three years. In the “wasted space”, Steve’s name for the nameless room that could be called a dining room, we now have a bit of actual rubble on the floor, and on the walls, some lurid green ’70s wallpaper under a layer of sweet green retro floral tiles. All this was revealed when Steve peeled back the ’70s wood paneling. Interesting – three layers of ’70s decor. It appears previous tenants tried painted hardboard first, then the wallpaper, and then the tiles, before covering the lot with the paneling. What fun, what fun! Steve’s at work today. I’d barely put everything down before I ran out to the shed to find a small axe. Then I went at the sweet green tiles. They dropped and smashed satisfyingly to the floor. I’m now moving back and forth between cleaning and reconstituting the outside dunny (I love it and I’m not sure I want to give it up) and dumping my tile rubble into the big green skip in the back yard. The dunny is your classic Australian piece, celebrated in many a chooks and chokos joke. I imagine it originally housed a pan toilet before moving up to the porcelain and bakelite beauty that is there now. Layers of flaking paint in various shades of green and blue, with evidence of bold red paintings on concrete and timber. The nails that would have held newspaper for wiping bottoms. The wonderful old latch. Stored memories of the trek into cold, cold nights to this little room lit only by wavering candlelight. Spiders in corners.