Friday, 28 September 2012

A trough full of electric cords, sanding machines and many spatulas

Evidently it does not occur to builders that houses contain items for everyday household use. Rather, they are there to enable builders to accommodate all the things they do not want to lug to and fro each day.

Thus, in addition to my not having much use of the kitchen, the kitchen bench, or being able to find things, let alone cook things, and having to traipse from room to room in order to get the milk or anything else from the refrigerator, it does not occur to Fernando that perhaps I might want to use my laundry trough. Kitchen knives and other cutlery are handy tools for this and that, my nicest mugs are seized to serve as containers, and my good face washer has been ruined because he used it to mop up the glue. Why he could not have used Dr P's old underpants I cannot tell. Or ask whether there are any old things he can use.

Apparently in the UK people say 'Mustn't grumble.' I cannot entirely adopt this sentiment as a modus vivandi. Or as an overall philosophy. Indeed, I feel very much impelled to grumble, especially as there seems little point in venturing to complain outright, for whereas he might stop doing one thing, he is very likely to do something similar. I am reminded of issuing reprimands to small children, only to provoke the protesting cry. "You never told us not to do that' they bleated, in injured tones. Well, it never occurred to me (or to other rational parents) that they might think up doing whatever it was. Such are our failures of imagination.

And so it seems to be with builders.

Well, I/we have come to the end of week seven and week eight is by no means certain to end it all.
Mustn't grumble, though. He took off all the window handles, door locks etc, and put them all back on before heading off for the long weekend. (Fittingly enough, Monday is a Public Holiday for Labour Day.) He is taking the family up the coast, and I will sit amidst the encircling gloom. Before he finished for the day Fernando put all the handles and locks back on all the doors and windows. This was a Good Thing.

Undercoats of paint have now been applied and the next decision to be made is whether to go along with Fernando's original suggestion of off-white ,or for his latest choice of white. I think it will be white.

The cities of Melbourne and Sydney are in the midst of a popular frenzy as all the footy finals are to be played tomorrow. Sydney has a team in the AFL final, which used to be a Melbourne team.

While I quite like AFL, and detest the NSW rugby games, I cannot get very excited about footy. Being neither an Eldest Child, not the First Boy, as a child I was low in the pecking order, and very seldom actually got taken to a football game. And so I lost interest. Dr P ruled the selection of TV viewing, and arguing about sport never seemed to be worth the effort. But perhaps I might watch the AFL tomorrow. It depends on whatever else might be available.

My evening was enlivened by the TV revelation that the British Prime Minister did not know who had written Rule Britannia. Neither did I, but it somehow never blighted my life. But I do know about Magna Carta.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

And on and on..

Fernando sanded down all the doors and windows, having done the walls yesterday. It was not too noisy, and I hope it was not too difficult for the practice next door. One's tolerance of noise seems to vary as the experience continues. I spent some time this morning cleaning the windows and dusting down the flyscreens.

I had not expected Fernando this week, as he'd talked of going away for a week, but by now I dare not allow any possible completion date to winkle its way into my mind. Avaunt, I tell such thoughts. We had to get the sanders/sealers back, as they had used white putty sort of stuff as fillers, and they were obvious. Apparently it was easy enough to fix, which made me wonder why they had not done so in the first place. Ah me!

Fernando has done a lot of sanding and filling, so as to paint it all, and this raised vast quantities of dust, so much that it set off the smoke alarm. He managed to turn it off, but not the flashing alarm light outside. My technological knowledge and ignorance, not to mention fear and loathing, is considerable. I came out of choir this evening to find a message from the neighbour across the road, as the light was flashing into their children's bedroom. I telephoned the security firm and they talked me through it, but I am consumed by guilt and shame at my technological deficiencies. Really, you should be able to grow out of being a total sook. It is time I grew up. All the same, those security systems are horrible things, and are all too likely to reduce me to a quivering pulp. And it has been the case that every time I manage to clean off some of the dust and grime, even more comes and covers absolutely everything.

All these (relatively trivial) experiences seem to drive out sustained thoughts about more serious matters. The weekend was rather quiet. Choir practice took up most of Saturday, and on Sunday I wandered up to the market and came home with another couple of books. One is by David Crystal, entitled By hook or by crook: a journey in search of English.  I am dipping in and out of it, and came across an account of writing something in which every word starts with the same letter. Slowly started, simply, soon sampling seriously sustained sentences, synopsis of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Simply staggering.

And very entertaining!

Margaret Atwood has written several children's books using this technique. I have two of them and they invariably make me chortle. They are Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes and Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda.

I used to read them to my grandchildren and gave them copies. The other book, which I have never been able to find, is Princess Prunella and the Purple Pea. The books came with a CD of Margaret Atwood reading them aloud.

Just so as to distract myself from thoughts of building noises, security systems and other technical matters, I quote the final paragraph of Rude Ramsay.

So while the raccoons, rabbits, robins wrens and raggedy ravens all roosting on the ramparts cheered, Ramsay, Rillah, and Ralph the red-nosed rat crawled back through the Roman-vaulted rat-hole...and romped riotously among the roses, beside the rippling river, under the radiant rainbow.

What I need now is some escapist literature/reading matter, and some soothing music. And a glass of wine.

Friday, 21 September 2012

The cracked record

That is what I feel like to myself. I could rant on and on about the dust and chaos in the house and the fact that it will be another couple of weeks before it is finished, because Fernando wants a week's holiday, etcetera, but I sound like one of those aggravating cracked records and there is only myself to lift up the needle and to get it playing again.

I know that there are people in the world who do not know about records, and how they got scratched and therefore hiccupped in the same spot until manually moved on. Now I don't suppose I want anyone to come and manually move me on, and thus I have to think electronically and select another track. Perhaps it is only going to play the same sort of music. So beware.

I am just back home from having a meal at a restaurant with a friend. We were all set to finish the meal with a raspberry gelato, but the main courses were too large for us to manage anything else, and thus such delights must wait for another day.

This morning I went to the knitting and crochet group, which was fun. From time to time people wander in and observe us.  Today a woman came in with her small daughter, as the daughter is interested in learning to knit. They seemed suitably impressed. Perhaps one day someone can teach me to knit. However the delights of crochet are being transmitted, and now the squares are being joined by crochet. I have, after all, achieved something in my life.

I had all sorts of intentions for the rest of the day, but it was swallowed up by this and that. I changed the sheets this morning and put them on the clothesline. Mine is a very tiny back garden and my bed is a king size one, and thus the king size sheets do not fit properly on the line. Off I went to the knitting group, and then down came the rain, which naturally interferes considerably with the drying process.

Being increasingly bad-tempered about the dirt and grime, I set about trying to clean up the kitchen. Oh dearie me! what a task, and much scrubbing was required. Of course I have no idea whether there will be yet another layer of dust once things get sanded down for the painting.

But hey, as they say, I was not even going to talk about that. It just slipped out and typed itself, even if the typing did require some editing and corrections.

Last night I went to a concert performance of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, performed by our wonderful Brandenburg Orchestra. The music is sublime and the singing quite beautiful, excellent and gorgeous. I share and understand all that grief and loss, even though I don't quite understand how Orfeo let poor Euridice wander through the grass and get bitten by the snake. He should have been there with her, beating the grass and driving out all the snakes and other nasty beasties, instead of blathering on, ever so musically, about how much he loved her.

But that's men for you! And the legend has given the world such wonderful words and music over the ages.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Stinging eyes

Back home from an agreeable time at the opera discussion group,  where luscious music from Gounod's Faust was played, followed by lunch with a friend, my eyes are now stinging and my nose protesting from the strong smell of the substance used to seal the new floors. Round One. Round Two is tomorrow.

I may have to migrate.

I can't get into the kitchen or dining room, so it will be hunting and gathering at the local takeaways tonight.  Last night I slept very badly, for fear of sleeping in, as the sanding and polishing firm was to turn up at 7.30 am . Once that is all done, then there is some repainting. Perhaps it will all be finished by the end of the week, but it is surely unwise to say this out loud.  At least the firm this morning stuck up drop sheets all over the place, and what a pity this did not not happen during the last five weeks.

Just as well I had the opera study group to go to.

I took my crochet along, as is my wont, and I must say that doing crochet is a wonderful icebreaker and conversation piece. The crochet clinic was yesterday, which is all good clean fun, and I rewarded myself with an ice cream afterwards. There is a great fellowship in handcrafts and making things. but what is the female word of fellowship?  Fellowship sounds very blokey. I want a nice female word.

I left the house early so as not to get into the way of the workers, and thus had a slow trip across the city in hideous traffic. I sat in the car, waiting for it to be time to go into the hall for the talk.  Then my sister rang me, and we talked for some time,  which made my phone battery almost flat.  As I drove home this afternoon, it occurred to me that I had left my mobile phone charger in the kitchen, and thus could not get to it.  I drove over to the nearest set of shops, bought new chargers, as well as two books for $5 each, and some sliced ham to nibble should midnight starvation afflict me tonight or tomorrow night. Perhaps the prospect of the fumes addled my reason, as one book is on fabric painting and decoration, and all I can say in my defence is that I must be a cock-eyed optimist, and/or be completely divorced from both reality and probability. The other is on the Sun King's Garden, and while it is of fairly modest interest, surely for a mere $5 you can't go wrong.

Now a blowfly has come in through the open door upstairs. And where is the fly spray?

Downstairs in the kitchen. As is my little sharp knife. How will I slice the cheese?

The floors look very convincingly wet, but promise to look good.

Friday, 14 September 2012

PS - amazing scenes

Here is an update.

I went into the lane this morning and took photos of the rubbish. A bit later, before setting off to take my car to get serviced, I checked the lane again. The kids were all there. I took a photo and called out to them that I was checking the amount of rubbish they left. I said 'Do you think you could pick it all up and put it in a bin somewhere?' They called back, 'Yes, we'll pick it all up." 'Thanks, that's great', I said.

After dropping off the car, I went back into the lane to see what, if anything, had happened. The rubbish was (mostly) gone.


Can this last?

Now I want to talk to them and find out more about their pre and after school feeding hebits. Dare I?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Week five: looking forward to sawdust-less life

The completion of the works is tantalisingly within sight, but, like a mirage, recedes on close scrutiny. Further necessary works present themselves. The prospect of these makes my heart thump alarmingly, even though the daily litany of what happens next ought, by now,  to have prepared me. Partly I suffer from an ignorance of building techniques. Suddenly I discover that when you get doors painted you need oil based paints. The rest can be water based paints. It is tempting to do what was done in the past, thus causing me so much angst and so much money, and just to opt for the cheapest option. But I say to myself, sternly, that fixing things properly does give me freedom of choice. And I need freedom of choice. Who knows what will happen next, what blows of fate may yet rise up to strike me?

Sanding and sealing are booked in for Monday, as we enter week six. I hope we will not need week seven. The second set of steps might be completed tomorrow. At the end of each day, the amount of sawdust is staggering. I feel the house will never be clean.

However, yesterday I cooked some Anzac biscuits and took them along to choir, it being the first sopranos' turn to do tea duty. They all got eaten. Not even a crumb remained. And tonight I cooked myself some dinner, having first wiped all the sawdust off the hotplates.

Despite my attempts to maintain cheerfulness and tranquillity, I am tempted to throw my weight about. The local school children sit in the lane, eating, drinking and smoking before they arrive at school. I am very tempted to go and take photos of them, and of all the mess, butts, drink and food containers that they leave in the lane. Then, I may perhaps send them to the school. Who do they think cleans up all this mess, and who collects all their rubbish? Do their (unfortunate) mothers follow them around so to do? I fear not.

Actually I would rather like to talk to them and to discover whether they eat breakfast before they set off for school, and how much money they spend each day on the way to and from school. Certainly the local shops do a brisk trade in Slushies, and other takeaway food etc after school. I am quite curious as to how much is spent by families each day and week on takeaway food and drinks. So many of the children are eating on their way to school. Why is this so?

Tomorrow my car gets serviced. There was some shuddering of the brakes on the trips to and from Canberra, and the service is overdue anyway.

The local climate fluctuated dramatically today. Just like real life.

Monday, 10 September 2012

The threads of life

I am back from a few days seeing my family, helping to mind grandchildren, and also attending the birthday celebration of a friend from way way back, when we were both newly-weds. It was such a pleasant occasion. This friend and I were married to men who were colleagues, and both our marriages broke up, on the initiatives of our husbands, who went off and had affairs with other women. Off they went, to find themselves, for more excitement, for true love and better sex, leaving behind some rather shattered pieces of humanity, in great need of emotional superglue, and tender loving care from our other nearests, and from our friends.

It always seemed to me that this friend had a very rough time. She was left with the care of their two daughters, and, from what I know, she had a rather hard time financially, having had to buy out her husband's share of the house progressively over a number of years. Naturally she wound up having to pay considerably more than if there had been an immediate settlement. We have lived in different cities for many years now, and at the time when I was moving to be with Dr P, she moved back to where I'd lived, to be near her sister. We have kept up our contact and our friendship, and now we have both celebrated each other's significant birthdays. And we share some common ethnic heritage, too.

I remember well the last time we met as couples. They came to our house for dinner, and I can't remember what I cooked. Her husband was lavish in his praise of my cooking and made unfavourable comparisons. I wanted to hit him. Surely you can compliment someone without simultaneously denigrating your own wife! At this birthday lunch, I said to another guest that I thought she had had a very rough deal, and she totally agreed.

It is not always possible to maintain friendships, even very dear ones. The passage of time, the physical distances, the responsibilities of families, and then the increasing time devoted to one's own progeny and then the grandchildren make it so much harder to keep in touch with friends, despite the very real affection we've had for each other. Paths diverge.

Maintaining friendship requires both effort and opportunity, and naturally one pays more attention to those who are closest physically as well as emotionally.  The long-term friendships are precious, as those friends made in this latest part of my life. They are people I love, and who truly care for me, now, in this life rather than in the life of yore. They are reciprocal.  Once the ties of marriage are severed, in this latest case by death, one must realise that truly you are alone and that the giving and receiving of friendship is vital and essential. As are the ties of family. But those ties are generational, and of a different ilk, and the relative needs and supports differ. In the meantime, minds and hearts continue to meet, and to reach out to each other.

Friday, 7 September 2012

A nice quiet life

A nice quiet life would be good, and I  expect my neighbours think the same. It is a month since work started, it seems another fortnight (at least) will be required, everything seems to be complicating expainentially, and the cost seems likely to exceed my worst and wildest imaginings.

Rip Van Winkle had the right idea. Hibernation must have certain advantages.

For now, it seems to be the case that building work increases forgetfulness and confusion in those for whom the work is done. Pessimism certainly increases, as does the cost of living.

Frankly I don't know how people whose renovations take months can stand it. They must have nerves of steel and an extremely healthy bank balance.

A life without sawdust seems a far distant memory. As does a a life where you knew where everything was. Somehow my back wire screen door became locked, and it took time, uncomfortable memory rattling, and considerable aggravation for me to find the key. And I go around sweeping up piles of sawdust and wiping dust off surfaces. When I can find the dustpan and brush, that is.

However the floors are in, and the steps between the three rooms are being constructed. More timber had to be bought, and now it seems that yet another piece must be bought. Silly me, I thought when the original order was placed, that would have been the total required, and the actual cost. I bet that the cost of sanding and sealing the floors will be three times what I expect. The door and window frame to the outside probably needs to be taken off and away to be fixed.

And the upper half of my kaffir lime tree looks exceedingly sick and I do not know how to save it. The lower half is trying to flower. Somehow this condition seems to mirror my own.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A time for every purpose

Today there was some slight progress with the floor, but it does look likely that it will be another couple of weeks before it is all finished. Lots more rubbish got taken to the tip, including things cleaned out from the cupboards.

During the weekend I cleaned out the cupboards in the middle level of the house. They contained the household linen, the grandchildren's toys, lots of extension power cords - how did I come to accumulate so many - and various relics of Dr P's, including a model of the neck vertebrae, and some little weights. Out they went. Also to be uncovered and assesses were many pieces of fabrics, bought over the years to be made up into sundry elegant garments, lots of yarns, and an extensive array of fabric dyes, dating from the time before I moved in with Dr P, when I did a lot of silk painting and also painted cotton T-shirts.. As the dyes have not been used for 12 years or so, I decided that in all probability they had passed their use-by dates, and so they too have gone to the tip.

This is all rather sad. I loved doing silk painting, developed a good sense of colour, and did some rather lovely things, and had quite a few buyers. Once I moved cities to live here, it was almost impossible to continue this work. I had no table on which to place the frames. The kitchen and laundry sinks were nasty white porous plastic things which would have soaked up the colours of the dyes. And I lost my market. And then, of course, I lost my skills, and any incipient entrepreneurial skills I was acquiring.

In my Canberra house I could paint without interruption, but once Dr P was on the scene he would sit in the room I used to work in,  and watch TV as I painted. Peace, quiet and concentration are essential  for such work, and the sudden sounds of gunshots on TV would invariably occur just as you were delicately painting, and of course the dyes would go splodge, and ruin the work in hand.

My timber frames were kept in the garage, but they became warped, and eventually had to be thrown out. I still have a couple, but silk painting now seems to be out of fashion, and when I investigated supplies recently, they have vanished from the shelves of the shops which used to stock them. It used to be possible to get the silk steamed so as to set the colours, but I never learned to do this and don't know who might do this now, and the stockists seem to have abandoned the craft. Arts and crafts are inevitably subject to trends in fashion. Interests and activities have their time and place, but nonetheless I am sad to have abandoned this work and creative development. Perhaps my increased interest in crocheting is some kind of substitute. My hands are rather arthritic now, and perhaps the fine motor control required may no longer be possible.

But who knows? Perhaps such interests may yet be revived. Even though I still have far too much stuff. One can always consider options. I hope for, perhaps, ten good years, and don't want to waste whatever time is left.