Monday, March 31, 2008

Funny Hal

Picture the scene: sitting around the table, doing homework. Hal is sounding out ‘Jolly Phonics’ and writing down three letter words. Imogen is going through her spelling list to ensure she knows the meaning of each word.

Imogen: ‘Butterfly, vermin, minister, permament…what does permanent mean?’

Ess: ‘That it will last for a very long time; like a permanent marker or a permanent resident.’


Imogen: ‘But even permanent markers don’t last for ever’

Ess: ‘Well, yes, permanent isn’t a guarantee that it will last until the end of all time, until Jesus comes back…’ warming to the theme, ‘it means it will last a very long time, unlike something delicate, like bubbles, for example.’


Hal: ‘Yep. It takes a very long time to come back from the dead.’

A sense of place

We have lived in many places, The Absolute Gent and I. Poky brick boxes in darkest Adelaide suburbia, a ridiculously large apartment in Malaysia, Penang, a solid yet sweet Lutheran 1860s farmhouse in the Adelaide Hills...and each time we have known that it would not be for long. Soon, TAG's work would need us to relocate and we would be sorting our life into boxes again.

Brin, the writer of my favourite blog My Messy Thrilling Life posted a poignant reflection on what her home means to her recently. The passion and devotion for her home is so overwhelming it's almost painful - even to her. It has become a central theme in her every-day. It is a character in her charming and eventful life.

Last year I found the house pictured above for auction. Idly looking, not even trying, I plucked the picture from the hundreds in the real estate section and thought this I have to see.

I fell in love. Like never before. Have you ever walked into a house and felt that laying your cheek against its wall would bring you comfort? Did you know that seeing woodwork of the curving staircase creeping out of the too-small kitchen would be a constant pleasure, despite late nights or grumpy children? Have you ever looked out of the upstairs windows (paned and sashed) and wondered what secrets are whispering in the garden shadows?

It seemed a far cry from this tiny, sensible, suburban cottage we have held on to in Canberra, deliciously close to Lake Burley Griffin and the marvellous Weston Park. I wanted to break with 1950s Frederick House and take up with my new, romantic, 1850s love: strong, stout and remote.

We came within a whisker. Our bank was ready, we were ready, but someone else wanted it more than The Absolute Gent, and so we rode on by.

I ached for that house, I'm almost ashamed to concede. How ridiculous! A house can not bring definition, joy, hope, stability, friendship, loyalty, security, safety, romance, a sense of place, a sense of belonging...I tell myself these things, and yet I am not quite comforted.

I will not be limited by my domestic need to nest, I think. For too long women have allowed domesticity to tame them. And yet. And yet.

I have never understood men's need for war. For territory, for ownership, for country. But perhaps men find their sense of place in the big picture. Perhaps country means identity, like home means self. A man protects his borders like women guard their nest.

I am sure that there is something to be gained by our peripatetic life. Indeed, there is much to be gained. These tastes of other lives, our several lives, must be enriching. A sense of place is heightened by its transience. For nothing stays the same. Even houses.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Soane is a rather delicious design and furniture company. The Casino chair, above, is one of their pieces, available to order. This gem is made from oak and brass; the leather evokes sunlit seawater refracting off mermaid tails. They sell the most incredible antiques and art, too. Gigantic oils of tigers and eighteenth century sofas, damask splitting and spilling out their secrets.

Soanes is comprised of Lulu Lytle and Christopher Hodsoll. Based in London, they design and make architecturally inspired bespoke furniture and lighting. They have over 250 items on their inventory and they are all as divine as this Cushion Sofa (walnut with brass casters).

I believe that this sitting room belongs to Lulu herself. It is decadent but cosy; the fire that miraculously fails to spill on to the hardwood floor, the glamorous mirror warmed by the lighting, the chairs luxuriously close to the heat and within reach of all those books.

This Tiger Table (nutty oak with ebony feet) reminds me of politically incorrect childhood fairy tales from India or Africa.

These bedrooms are adorable; eccentric yet comfortable, chic yet personal. The yellowy/green of the bedroom above is complimented by the sharp white wood work and the bed hanging, whilst being anchored by the warm comfort of the red and cream rug. Note the variation on the Casino chair, here with a different brass stud pattern.

Any nursery with a moose head, a penguin, and a pink fluffy hand bag in it has a lot to say. Curtsies, please. The world needs more beauty and comfort like that to be found in the hands of Soane.
I presume the company is named after Sir John himself. He is a fascinating man, and the museum is a good place to start on this rich but vast subject.

Monday, March 17, 2008


We escape from Adelaide as often as possible and come to this place on the Yorke Peninsula, to relish the simplicity. Here, there are only shacks; holiday homes that are a skeleton of their original selves. Mostly higgledy piggledy, they are Frankenstein's cottages, scabbed together from remnants of other lives. Old post-war fibro walls, random doors and mismatching windows, they crouch too close to the sand and sea, punch drunk from the wind, peppered by salt.

The colours are delicious; chartreuse ground cover creeping towards duck egg succulents. Dirty whites scrub up next to faded maritime blues. Invincible but rusty-grey rain water tanks hug every single shack, sometimes bigger than the homes themselves. They are not full these days. Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
There are some new houses now, some of them two storey with roller garage doors to match. They gentrify the Shore Roads, but none of them are as quaint or as full of character as their stooped and aged predecessors.

The sunsets are magnificent. All the houses face west, making the summer evenings a paradoxical mixture of exquisite beauty and relentless fire.
It's this kind of wonder that plucks us from our fears and leaves them, insignificant, like shells on the shore. They are still there, those worries, but they don't seem so great next to the gilded sky or the unceasing undercurrents of the Bay.