Friday, May 30, 2008

Little Cutie

I'm sharing this teeny little row cottage (terraced to the Poms) that's for sale in the centre of Adelaide. I thought it was a tiny piece of genius; absolutely minuscule but beautifully realised. There are no windows on either side walls, and the long, narrow design means that the space would be rather dark and claustrophobic.

Although I would never recommend positioning rectangular pieces of furniture in rectangular spaces at an angle, I think this restrained room is elegant and simple.

The use of white as the predominant colour gives the illusion of more space, clean lines and lets the warm wood of fireplaces, floors and doors sing.

The kitchen is adorable. Classy, simple and very in keeping with the mood of the cottage and the whole interior.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sewing up the pirates

One of my little pleasures is sewing. At this point you might have visions of me whizzing up cocktail dresses and creating italian strung curtains.
Think again.
There are chaps who can't change car tyres or mow a lawn, and there are women who can't sew. I'm one of them.
I love to sew, and I love my 1930's Singer sewing machine (treddle). It lives at the shack, a place of calm and quiet. Despite hours of practice, however, I still sew wonky seams and struggle to create a perfect end product.
Last weekend, after purchasing some lovely (read SLIPPERY) red lining fabric and gold cord, I put together the treasure bags for Imogen's pirate party.
That sounds easy, doesn't it?
It took me two hours and I paid some fines to the Rude Words Jar.
Imogen and Hal are happy, however, and have filled them with the treasures for the Treasure Hunt next weekend.
Next task: designing the treasure hunt...

Friday, May 16, 2008


Usually, The Absolute Gent and I have a very different idea of funny. This week, however, we both liked the Weekend Australian Magazine's Victoria Roberts cartoon. What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Imogen's Birthday Party

Imogen is turning 9 in June.

She made this fantastic invitation for her two special friends, and in two weeks' time they will be arriving for a sleepover (pirate theme).

The agenda includes: tea and games (includes pirate ship cake), a girls' movie and then sleep. Well, it's meant to include sleep. I hope The Absolute Gent and I get some at some point.

There is much excitement building here!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

1930's Household Tips

The past is another country. They do things differently there. (L P Hartley: The Go Between)

The domestic history of the late Victorian, Edwardian and War years fascinates me. When my teenage friends were discovering New Order and blue mascara, I was visiting the kitchens of Cragside or riding the steam train at Beamish. (I grew up in the North of England).

I love old domestic manuals. This one, Selfridge's Household Encylclopaedia, was published in 1929 in London.

The fly sheet reads: Phyllis E King, London, 1930. I can see Phyllis reading this book, hair shingled, feeling the Autumn cold despite a cardigan (because the family wouldn't put the drawing room fire on until 5 pm at the earliest). She is engaged to be married (Samuel. A nice young man, if a little dull. Quite high up in a stevedore office on the Thames). She is reading the encyclopedia and trying to remember that to make fly papers she should take pieces of strong, thick paper, smear with treacle and scatter Persian powder over it. Except she won't be doing it. The housemaid she will engage after the wedding will see to details like that.

I bought the book here in Adelaide about ten years ago. Perhaps Phyllis and Samuel migrated here before the IIWW? Perhaps he, in an act of unparalleled adventure, suggested they sail out and stay with his Uncle Jim, who had arrived in the Twenties and was doing rather well for himself in Port Adelaide?
And the irony would have been that poor old Sam probably went back to Blighty to serve in a Naval frigate in 1941. I think he survived, though. Came home and saw Rosie, the chubby little girl born in his absence, and sister to the three older children: Ralph, Roy and Meg.
Phyllis, meanwhile, had little use for the etiquette surrounding garden parties (not quite the same in Adelaide, she found) that she'd read about in the encyclopedia in 1930. But the cure for flatulence (1 tsp bicarb in a tumbler of hot water) had relieved many an uncomfortable night. And there was never a housemaid. There was a Mrs P who came in to do the laundry once a week and an old man who did a bit of weeding in the Spring. But the rest was down to Phyllis.

Whilst I'm unfailingly philosophical about my own life's history being firmly behind me (as memory and events allow) I am constantly intrigued by the tiny details that ruled our predecessors lives.
Growing up in the 1970's, the shadow of the IIWW was still present in England. Almost obscured, yes, but still there, hazy, hanging on. Now, despite ANZAC day celebrations here in Australia, that day when we worship military history, it feels as though the Twentieth Century is fading quickly. I sense doors closing, secret gardens decaying and dust collecting on the top of glass cloches.
Those survivors of the early Twentieth Century are the ones who are fading. Their stories are being scattered, brittle in the clutches of time.
I hope Phyllis had a kitchen as lovely as this one. It's a make-over of an American 1930s kitchen, glossily new in bright white paint.
We can't bring all of the past with us. But we can collect a few of the crumbs.

ps: Despite my romantic teenage longing for things past, I still had time to love New Order.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Homage Table

Let me tell you: our current home is uuuuug-leeeeeeee. It's a rectangular brick box with zero character and rather nasty net curtains. It is a rental; one of the perks of The Absolute Gents' career.

Gosh, I thought when we found out that it was the only house available to us in the whole of Adelaide, talk about a sow's ear.

After 18 months there still isn't a great deal of silk to be found. We are not allowed to change the paint or curtains, or anything really.

But it's home. It really is. Red aluminium windows, flowery nets and the most revolting nylon carpet you could imagine (let's not talk about the 'I'm a slate floor on ice' lino floor covering 40% of the floor.) This is where we live and love, where we squabble and learn, where we share meals and rest our heads.

And it's where we gather small vestigages of our lives . Doesn't everyone? Don't we all have homage tables, or little corners where we set up a kind of alter to our thoughts and journey? A place to display our trinkets and our treasures, most importantly, a place for our memories to sit along side us?
My special spot has Chinese elm chairs from Penang, an Amercan oak pedestal table, lamps also from Penang and an oil painting of the Adelaide Hills that shows one of our previous houses.
Most importantly, there is a paper chain to count-down to Imogen's birthday, a mass of family photographs, dolls from India, lacquer bowl from Vietnam, papier mache painted eggs from the Middle East and a similar box from India. Some of them are precious gifts from dear friends or family.
They are the little detials that tie us to our past. Our journey. Our whims. The beautiful or odd things that matter.