Wednesday, 27 January 2010

That Ordinary House 17 Carving Knife (the saga continues)

Three of us are seated. Mum continues to fuss. Silent fussing. Even my brother and I are stilled. We’re teenagers with only limited understanding of family dynamics, but instinct kicks in and we know. Shut up and eat.

Arms reach across the table. Eyes avoid direct contact. Salt, pepper, butter, pickles are passed from one end of the table to the other without words.

I keep glancing at my mother to judge her mood. Her next move. She has a look of steel in her eyes. They stare a hardened cold steel stare.

My father coughs, drawing unnecessary attention to himself. My brother and I both turn our eyes in his direction while my mother’s standing figure holds her back resolutely to us, standing watch over the gas Kooka stove. She has dad’s prized carving knife in her hand. The one that I love to watch fly in a blur as it flashes across the 'sharpening' steel when dad gives it its regular touch up. I hope that one day I will be able to flick and slash the heavy blade up and down that steel, wrists relaxed, blade shaving the surface with a rapid rasping sish sish sish sish sish sish.

The tension is unbearable. My father decides to make his move. He finishes his mouthful of tomato and sweet corn, swallows, hesitates and begins. I can see the fear in his eyes. I watch the perspiration popping through the pores of his red face. I watch his adam’s apple travel up and down his long neck. “Darl….”

He only gets the one word into the thick air between him and my mother before she lets out a convulsive sob and then, in an explosive few seconds, she attacks the fridge, the beloved Kelvinator, with a no holds barred fury smashing the blade of the carving knife into the top of the fridge door. I am strangely aware that, while this is not normal, there is also the issue of the blade. She’ll ruin the cutting edge of the knife which has been finely honed over many years. Doesn’t she understand that? Dad will be furious.

Then the knife is clattering into the stainless steel sink and my mother is pushing past my father’s chair in this too small room and disappearing into the sun room.

The three of us are frozen mid mouthful. I sneak a look at my brother. We make eye contact and blink in unison, our blinking out of synch with the uneven sobbing from the front of the house.

This House VI - Unobstructed View!

'View from my back deck'

When we bought this house in 1994 we were advised by the local Councillor that, while there were 3 or 4 apartment blocks within the immediate area, these were planning abberations and this could never happen again. The new more enlightened planning guidelines would prevent a repetition of this.

I quite like this view. It's nicely framed and gives a sense of perspective to the view and the neighbourhood. (that's the neighbours roof in the foreground - look familiar?)

Unfortunately the local council has just released new 'Draft Planning Guidelines' which propose buildings of between 12 and 30 stories for this 'community on a peninsular'. True, my immediate neighbourhood is listed as protected so it's unlikely one of these monsters will appear next door.
Sadly, the lovely Kurilpa Peninsular community of about 3000 is facing an increase in population of 25,000 over the next 15 years. How Planners imagine that there is a snowflakes chance in hell that this community can retain its character and identity and charm in the face of an onslaught of that size beggars belief.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

This House V - Corrugated Collage

The tin is gone. All that remains are the memories.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

This House IV- The Old Roof is Dead

The Old Roof Est Mort.
No, the old roof's name is not Mort. I am assuming that you are all linguists or have very refined skills in making meaning from context.
The roofers are gone. All that's left is this neat pile of corrugated iron on my front footpath.
All my fears were not realised. In fact Geoff, the roofer, was in the tradition of old style craftsmen who eschewed nails in favour of dove-tail joints, who cleaned up after themselves and who had a fiercely understated pride in their work.
I asked Geoff whether he was going to seal the joins along the ridge-capping. He was agast. 'Beware of roofers who overuse sealant' said he. 'It's not gunna leak, mate. Guaranteed.' he said.
I liked him. I believed him. I gave him a carton of beer to show my appreciation.
Crikey you'd think I'd offered him a 50% share in a gold mine. He was totally taken aback. He thanked me three times and thanked Andrea, independent of me, another three. Perhaps customers don't say thank you as often as they could. Or this was the first time he'd ever done a job deserving of high praise - nah, that's far too cynical.
Thanks Geoff.
Now I await the next lashing crashing thunderstorm to test my judgement and faith in him.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

This House III - River Views

'River views'

My timber and tin house is in West End, known as Kurilpa by the original Aboriginal inhabitants. Kurilpa means 'Place of the water rat'. In fact Kurilpa is a peninsula located close by the city centre. Which means West End is surrounded by water on three sides. The rich folk have expensive houses with riverfront views. In 1974 they all went under water in the great flood. In the case of this house - it was a waterfront property for two weeks until the water subsided.

We moved here in 1994. We still have river views - every time I climb onto the roof to adjust the TV arial I consider the possibility of building a lookout tower with a deck to take in the view. I never do. Furthermore I may again have a waterfront property one day, if the global warming predictions come true.

C'est la vie.

Monday, 18 January 2010

This House II - TV Reception

TV Reception

The TV, particularly ABC, has been playing up this week. It wobbles; it does strange pixillating manouvres and makes Kerry O'Brien and the 7:30 Report unbearable to watch.
The roofers are easy to blame of course.
I (Mr Fixit) decided to go up there this afternoon and discovered that all is not what it seems. I now understand why SBS TV has been picking up some unusual programs this week.

When a photo doesn't work turn it on its head.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

This House I - New Roof

'New Roof'

I've been writing a story for almost a year now (since March 2009) about selling my father's family home and all the memories which that process triggered - 'That Ordinary House' 1 to
16 (so far) and more to come.
I've also become more interested in photography over the past year or two. My trusty Panasonic Lumix digital takes simple photos.
I'm interested in the simple.
I thought why buy an expensive digital SLR camera when I still don't know the capabilities of this simple little fella.
And what, I thought, if I decided to turn my camera on my backyard and my house/home rather than seek startlingly original images across the whole city as others do so effectively. What if my ordinary house had a story to tell?

That's going to be quite a challenge I thought as i started to snap randomly. It may even be boring I realised as I tried to find the interesting amidst the familiar. But, I thought I'll give it a try. What's to lose but some friends on the net!
Thus 'This House' is born.

'New Roof'.

I live in Brisbane in an inner city suburb full of small cottages, large houses, the occasional mansion and a series of ever expanding apartment developments.
My house is approximately 90 years old (i need to do some more research), constructed of timber with a tin roof and sits on high set stumps - originally hardwood now concrete.
This week it has been driving the neighbourhood nuts as the source of unstoppable noise and mayhem - banging, thumping, drilling, metal screeching against metal - as a new corrugated iron roof replaces the old.
I have been very nervously supervising this make-over as my judgement was knocked for six at Christmas just after I'd signed the contract with the roofing company. It was a good price. Too good to be true perhaps?
On Boxing Day I was in a conversation where roofing came up (as it does at that joyous time of year). My sister-in-law's nephew and his wife were relating their tale of woe about the roofing experience they'd recently had. A disaster! A bunch of incompetents!
Yes you guessed it - the same company. So now I wake each day in a sweat. I follow the roofer around like a puppy. I check each detail obsessively. I expect the worst. So far it seems to have gone well. Three days done and one last day to go.
And then wait for rain.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Men's Bathing Pond - London

I wrote a story in 2008 about my strange experiences at the Men's Only Bathing Pond on Hamstead Heath in London (Beware of Breeding Swans - 27 Oct 2008). That was July. The sun shone in an Australian way, hot and direct. Still the water was chilly by my mid-summer standards.

Today I received a photo of that same pond (taken on the 10 January) from my sister-in-law Fang who who lives nearby. She told me that the locals were still swimming there, using ice picks to gain entry. A friend, a visiting first timer as I was in 2008, ventured out with towl and trowl to partake of this strange ritual. It was so cold his feet stuck to the ice on the platform leading to the water. He could go no further.

He who hesitates is lost.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Curves- Homage to Mary - Caloundra VIII

My friend Mary was commissioned by the local Council to design and install a series of mosaic artworks along the foreshore at Caloundra's Kings Beach. They depict shell collections, passing passenger liners, marine life etc. Each is approx 1 metre in diameter. They are beautiful. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of them. In fact they are difficult to capture on film.

Her final offering to the foreshore redevelopment were these mosaic seats, each designed, very simply, around a different colour. I love them. They are a fitting close to my Caloundra sojourn.

On reflection it was quite a challenge to take a photo each day which I was happy to put on line.
It was a close call some days - me running around in fading light looking for inspiration. I discovered that anything can be the subject for a photo. It's all in the skill of the photographer to find what it is that captures the 'je ne sais quoi' of the moment. I need a lot more practice.

Flag - Caloundra VII

Missed my daily blog yesterday (Friday) due to computer malfunction.

As it turned out it was a bluebottle day. The north easterly blew in a fleet of tiny stingers which had the beach-goers forming a queue at the life-savers door for treatment.

Yellow in a warning flag I believe. Determined to savour a sunny day and cool clear water very few payed any attention and took the risk.

Me - I went for a swim in the 25 metre ocean filled saltwater pool (sans blueys) carved into the rocky headland.

Shipping Lane - Caloundra VI

Cargo ship and Bulcock Beach.

Caloundra may be daggy but it has the best headland and the best views of the shipping lanes which bring giant cargo and passenger vessels into your living room.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Daggy - Caloundra V

Corrugated iron - study in mauve. No, it's not an adult shop. It's for lease. Prime location. Recently painted.

Let's face it Caloundra is daggy. It's full of overweight working class people (or people like us attempting to reclaim their working class roots), generally ugly apartment developments and a main street from the fifties. We love it.

And Caloundra loves colour. Seems like the concept is that if you use enough bright and mediterranean colour schemes it will prove how vibrant and 'now' this beachfront family destination is. Noosa it is not. Thank heavens!

Its cuisine matches its daggy reputation. It has a restaurant owned by the former Australian Rugby League captain Alfie Langer. Alfie was an Ipswich boy. Enough said.

We ate at an Indian restaurant which proclaimed itself as 'voted the best Indian food in Queensland'. Voted by the proprieters I suspect. We couldn't taste the difference between the Prawn Vindaloo and the Mattar Paneer (homemade goats cheese and pea).

And in the main street the 'Love Figure Gourmet House' Chinese Restaurant.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Fly - Caloundra IV

Kite surfers fly on the south easterlies which have driven most of the rest of us from the beach.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Play - Caloundra III

It's grey today. Sullen grey ocean. Sad grey sky. The waves playing half heartedly, teasing surfers and boogie board riders with erratic rides. Holiday makers arriving at a sand blasted beach out of a sense of duty.

Such a contrast to yesterday's upbeat mood with canary clad fishos selling their wares in front of an ocean of molten glass.

But the kids don't care.

My Missing Life: Caloundra Queensland via France

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Fisho - Caloundra II

I'm sitting on aq tiny tiled balcony surrounded by cream and silver aluminium railings. A man in a yellow Alpha Romeo convertible pulls up at the bottom of the dead end street. He takes a hand held megaphone from the front passenger seat and stands in the middle of the street and announces his presence and his intentions. He's selling fresh seafood from his tiny convertible boot.

FRESH LOCAL KING PRAWNS his voice echoes up to my third floor apartment. He delivers his message in staccato. ONE. WORD.AT.A.TIME. FRESH. SAND. CRABS. FIVE. DOLLARS. EACH. He's done this before. He's been to advanced megaphone school - it's a final year subject for fishmongers.

Customers dribble out from unseen doorways below me to greet the upwardly mobile fisho. He's strangly conscious of his image. He wears bright yellow trousers which make me realise his Alpha is actually more orange than yellow.

He opens his boot to reveal twin eskies and I catch a glimpse of a yellow set of scales. The orange king prawns he weighs on the scales help me understand that his Alpha is actually more of a mustard colour.

The ocean behind him is greenish.

Queensland via France - Caloundra I

I had a strange experience on New Years Day. I checked my blog and found a comment from Vera - Vera is totally unknown to me. I liked her short gentle comment. She liked the shape of the words I'd used in my poem about a weekend with my friend Lynne.

I am aware that people from all over the globe visit my blog (in small numbers). I can see them as red spots on the map at the end of my page. I've often wondered who these people are and how they come to find little old me. So I clicked.

It turns our Vera (The Writing Pathway) is from the UK but lives in SW France. She is into Psychic stuff and also loves her productive French garden. There on her front page was a detailed story about self publishing (her book:"Psychic Virgin" looks very funny) and two blog links, mine and another. The other was called 'Sydney Eye'. Click again.

There I discovered that an international network of photographers exist who put on line a photo every day from the city in which they live (they are very disciplined, unlike moi). Scrolling further I found a Brisbane link. Click.

Cara (Brisbane Daily Photos) posts daily from good old Brisvegas. Looking at her list of 100s of photos the tag most often used was West End, my home suburb. Which is where Cara (unknown to me) lives. I'd come full circle. Not only that but the final irony was that she is British. Double full circle.

So in honour of the daily photographers I'm setting out to post a photo a day from Caloundra with or without a short story for a whole 7 days. Talk about ndiscipline.

Where to start? I felt overwhelmed then decided to take a phot of the view from the balcony of our holiday digs. Voila. Day one complete.