Saturday, 1 January 2022

A year in review: Furniture and fittings, part one

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about my house! – and the post you’re reading is the eighth in the series. 

I moved into my new house in the suburbs on 5 January, a grey day when clouds seemed to descend to the level of the horizon at a point where, like the nacreous plumes of a dove’s soft wing, they could brush the cool earth.

I was filled with a type of poetry with expectation ripe as the sun came up in the east and a sense of elation enveloped me, as though, like skipping school, suddenly anything were possible. The view in the above photo what’s visible to the west of the Citadines Connect where I was staying and the following map shows where the hotel sits relative to the bare expanse of the airport. The house is just to the south-east.

If anything’s possible then bad things, also, can happen, such as a slightly accelerated heart rate on the first morning I woke up in my new bedroom. It was 6 January and I made a cup of coffee, feeling at a loose end. Normally, back in the old place – an apartment overlooking the towers of Sydney, the bustling metropolis the airport serves – while waiting for the machine to percolate my coffee I’d place myself at my desk in front of the computer screen so that I could use social media, this item of furniture sitting, at that time, only a few steps from the kitchen facing the plate glass windows over the void and the bay. I’d been in the habit of monitoring the operation of the coffee machine while I fired up my PC and perhaps caught something on TV behind me. With the PC now on a different floor of a different building I needed to recalibrate my settings and hopefully (with the passage of time) rule in a new program to govern activities and moods. 

Ingrained habits die hard if they die at all. Because I’d normally listen to the TV while using social media, I now felt strange as in silence in my second-floor bedroom I monitored TweetDeck and at the same time wrote this memorial. The day before I’d at least solved one problem. Because I was unsure about using the floor protector bought at Officeworks some years before – to help secure it against carpet it has tiny hard pimples cast into the plastic matrix – I threw a rug under the desk and rolled on this item of home d├ęcor instead. An old rug used previously in 2008, when I was living in Sydney’s southwest, it’d been taken out of storage behind the garage. A new desk chair – bought in 2015 after relocating to Sydney from Queensland – for the first time came out because my old brown leather one’d been damaged in shipment and waited to be either thrown away, sold, repaired, or recycled. 

All those years ago – from 2015 to 2021 seems an eternity – I’d bought a desk chair because my existing one’d started to fall apart (the arm on the left-hand side starting to come loose due to a plastic fitting snapping) and only now made it useful. It’d taken six years to get here, such is my reverence for things. I’d known about the broken arm but hadn’t the heart to stop using the chair because it occupied a place in my life. 

In the new house the kitchen and the living room were the two rooms that had been even partly completed, the two photos below showing the latter’s left-hand wall with the bookcase that my friend Ming had expertly and adroitly placed near the back window.

I’d been grateful that she took charge of design on the hectic day of the move, with half-a-dozen strong men bundling objects, boxes and items of furniture up the front steps and in through the front door. By the time I came to publishing this memorial I’d forgotten about the stresses of the moving day and only remembered how my friend helped by deciding where to put these heavy pieces of furniture. The Yannima Tommy Watson print (‘Umutju Waterhole’) would, the following month, shift to the opposite wall. Below is the same left-hand wall on 18 February after I made a trip out to the framers’ to pick up some things. 

Hard horizontals a counterpoint to the landscapes’ soft undulations – all the sinuous curves and colourful irregularities – through which I’d been transported back in time 40 years – more, even – to a more optimistic, but in actual fact less sympathetic, time. It was a time of harsh realities though one of dreams. Ian Keats’ ‘Stradbroke silence (Stradbroke Island from Russell Island)’ sits on top and his ‘Quiet anchorage, Stradbroke (from Lamb Island)’ sits on the bottom. The paintings are so similar in design, and even the names refer to the same thing – a lack of noise in this magical place inhabited by spirits – that it took me months to remember which one went where, and even in December I had to check myself and verify, noting that in the latter the line of sand making up the island shore is longer. 

Both pieces would, by June, move to other spots. They’re dated 2005 and the price was included in the price of the Maroochydore apartment bought for my use when I moved up to live in the same town mum’d resided in since 1999. That modern apartment I occupied for six years had been the artist's studio and residence. Next to his work – to their right – is Joash Tuinstra's 'Bondi' (2008), bought immediately before moving north and, in fact, I’d taken possession of it direct from the framers when I moved into the apartment on Fourth Avenue with the football field out front and a paperbark mutely standing, a sentinel, in the park. The wall now offering memories of the tropics.

When I got the paintings hung I could almost hear heavy rain. The two works glitter with glorious sunshine and shimmering water – Lamb Island and Russell Island are close to North Stradbroke Island and face it across a channel at the mouth of the Logan River and because I’d previously had them stored unloved in a cupboard in the bedroom I used as my library, their colourful faces pointed obscurely at a wall – housed also in what were simply ghastly cheap frames the painter supplied – it seemed like time to celebrate. 

On 1 March I switched some paintings around and put (see above) Ming’s reproduction of a Whitely under one of the Keatses. The reproduction would be taken to her apartment in September and hung there. 

In January the dining table bolts still, following the move, hadn’t been found (see below) so at that time with my friend I went to the Supa Centa at Kensington and paid for a new table.

The ‘Chateau’ – sold at a shop called named Shack – is made with a mechanism that allows you to convert it from being round into an oval shape. Ming’s boyfriend the next day however brought me some spare Ikea bolts that he owned so, after putting together the old dining table, we all drove to Kensington and cancelled the order. The saleswoman at first hesitated to do what I requested but after I promised to look around the shop, and lingered within her view for a while – clearly finding nothing I needed – she capitulated and I left the store happy. She called me a day or so later asking for my bank account details, as I’d promised, while in-store, to email them. 

The photo above shows the Ikea table assembled in the dining area and below is a photo of the living room taken on 14 February after I’d moved more pictures around.

The little yellow Kate Smith shown in this image would the next day go upstairs. The space! Growing up I lived in a house with lots of space but since then I’d not had access to much, and now felt odd thinking about all the things that could fit into rooms which I controlled as long as my heart allowed me to and rattling around – I told people when they asked how I was settling in – like a marble in an old, abandoned desk.

To cover this piece of floor, on 3 March I contacted the Chippendale retailer about the couch and rug the previous year I’d paid a deposit on and by email the next day I was told that the sofa’d not arrive until June but that my Nanimarquina rug had just arrived in the warehouse and that I should call to make a time to collect it. I managed to find out the balance owing by driving down to the outlet – I had anyway a need to go to the area as mail had arrived in my PO box – to talk with the salesman, Clinton. By email I’d received an invoice but as they’d added sales tax – erroneously, it turned out – I had to sort the matter out in person. Arrived home after lunch I got onto the warehouse by phone and organised to go down to Padstow on the Monday to pick up the rug (the warehouse needs 24 hours to prepare for customers) asking Joe if he’d be available to help carry the thing inside. 

It measures 3m by 2m and in the end I brought it into the house by myself. 

Like the dining table bolts, the removalists hadn’t set aside the bolts for the spare bed, so on that same January trip to Kensington Ming and I’d visited another shop with a name made of a single word (Snooze) to buy a queen-sized bed frame for the back room on the first floor. Due to production disruption stemming from Covid they said it wouldn’t be delivered for 12 weeks but when I phoned the store on 5 March they told me that delivery would be in early May.

I wanted to hang more pictures so contacted Beaumont Major – who, back in December, had done the rails for my pictures – and he quoted me $1200 for 150 hooks but as this seemed a lot I texted John Verhoeven (who’d also, in December, helped with my pictures) asking him as well. Before his reply arrived I went to Facebook Marketplace and found a woman in Nambucca Heads in the process of selling hanging system equipment (including an unspecified number of hooks) for $150, so I put in an offer. I also surfed to eBay and bought 44 monofilament hooks for $123 (which came to less than $3 each – a bargain compared to Beaumont’s price) using my credit card. I found the manufacturer’s website but their shopping interface didn’t give me the options I needed – I wanted hooks alone, not hooks and drops – so I left off searching and went to bed before anyone got back to me. 

The woman from Nambucca – who’d since relocated to Casino – did and the next day I spoke with her husband Richard using the number she posted. He said the two of them’d be down in Newcastle sometime late in January and that I could meet them there if able. I confirmed my offer and agreed to wait until he contacted me closer to the specified time. Richard did later get back to me but then begged off meeting due to car problems, so I ordered more hooks on eBay. I phoned Richard in the middle of February and he said he could meet me on 1 March. 

I’d had problems driving long distances so made alternate arrangements. The ailment became obvious one day while I was out at the small town of Richmond to see Amanda Edds of ASA Conservation Framers. I had panic attacks while driving home so now asked a friend named Mark, who has family in Newcastle, if he could assist. I spoke with Richard on the phone in the last week of February and gave Mark his contact details so they could organise the drop-off. In the end I organised for the items to be left on the verandah of Mark’s sister’s house. On 5 March I confirmed with Richard via SMS that he’d dropped the items off. On the same day Mark said his sister had them in her keeping and that he’d have to organise for them to be transported to Sydney.

On 10 January I also attacked another packing box and, on Facebook, posted:
Unpacked my desk's contents. Seemingly endless boxes of ink cartridges for a pen I haven't used in 10 years, dozens of Post-It pads, more writing pads than I'll ever need letters to fill, two boxes of envelopes, half a dozen notebooks, old conference lanyards, a bowl full of paperclips (which also doubles as the container for my thumb drives), and one full of bulldog clips, some rocks that were on the balcony in Pyrmont and which I discovered in 2019 after I emptied out the library, an Egyptian cat made of some sort of artificial stone that I bought while at an exhibition in Tokyo I went to with my daughter, my voice recorder and the USB cable to connect it to the PC, old foreign banknotes, etcetera etcetera -- I can't with any consideration list everything that I've put away in one of three drawers or else downstairs in the electrical goods cabinet.

I’d gotten the unpacked studio boxes down to about 25 by the time the empty boxes in the garage looked as they do in the photo above. On 11 January I posted on Facebook:
Unpacked the bathroom. So much space for my stuff – including two beard trimmers (I had one but then with the move had to get a new one), a nose-hair trimmer, assorted unused tubes of toothpaste, a large quantity of Emory boards (for perfectly-sculpted nails), various deodorants, some scent (incl. one by Armani – !!), boxes of tissues, old Band-Aids (essential for emergencies), an extra rubbish bin (I won't need two), and of course toilet paper.
By the evening of that day I’d 21 boxes left to go, most of which contained family records and photographs, though some had books in them. To do something in the way of tidying up my studio I got in touch with Time4Timber’s Josh Kemp, who’d made bookcases for me in 2019 when I was reorganising my apartment. 

To complement the two units already in the master bedroom, and to accommodate some of the books I hadn’t had space to shelve, I asked Josh to make me a new bookcase and drew a sketch (see above). 

He quoted me a price taking into account the fact that I’d supply some of the wood as I had 74cm-by-28.5cm boards left over from a big bookcase that, in 2008, I’d added shelves to and that wouldn’t fit in the lift when in 2015 I abandoned the town of Maroochydore. I now trekked downstairs to the kitchen to find my wallet so I could do a credit card transaction over the phone, and a bit later drove to Brookvale with the boards in the back of the car, the premises sitting on a main road in a kind of garage with, lying about the interior, planks of wood and electric tools. A man there with a heart-shaped face admitted he was Josh. 

The same day’s evening – 11 January – while relaxing in front of the TV I took a snap (see below) of the entertainment cabinet and paintings hung on drops.

In fact, the bulk of the January hang would change in February and March. For example, the items on the right-hand wall of the living-room (see below for the same wall on 15 February). 

It took me time to make arrangements; to get alignments and placement just right it can take a series false starts interspersed by hours – even days – of quiet, uncaring reflection. Not only do you have to get furniture and pictures to conform to your overarching design but you also have to align the pictures’ horizontals to create harmony despite their having different dimensions, each one taking up its required space and with adequate room so that they don’t crowd each other out. An arrangement must allow the viewer to form an ideal impression of the strengths of all of them individually as well as together. In concert, the circular shapes made by several items included in the space have reverberations as artworks talk to one another. So, in the photo above, the sun in Blak Douglas’ ‘Attestant Developp-ment’ speaks with the pool in Tommy Watson’s print, and both speak to the round body of the lamp and the ochre earthenware vase I bought one day, over a decade ago, at a pottery located, in the middle of the bush, somewhere along the Newell Highway between Melbourne and Brisbane.

On 1 March I moved paintings in the living room, eventually shifting Ian Keats’ ‘Quiet anchorage, Stradbroke (from Lamb Island)’ across from the left-hand wall to the right-hand wall (see below).

Objects around the lamp – an item once found in the spare room in Pyrmont but now sporting a low-cost, white Bunnings shade – were photographed on 11 January (see below). There are figurines of Aunt Madge’s (left; I’d sell these later on Facebook Marketplace), a small teddy bear (front; I’d keep this), and an angel mum bought in an op shop. The Chinese tin (later moved to the hallway on the first floor) is metal, as is ‘Yoga man’ – I worked at Sydney Uni at the same time as sculptor Cathy Weiszmann, from whom I bought the stainless-steel statue – at right. I bought the clock in 2002; its alarm doesn’t work but its mechanism is otherwise good, so since moving to Pyrmont in 2015 I’d had it in front of the TV. 

To sort out mess inherited upon mum’s entering a nursing home in 2014 – just before my relocation to Sydney – in 2019 I’d laboriously tidied up a congested Pyrmont bedroom and found, on the balcony, rocks (shown in the photo at front right) a tenant had put there for some reason – to get them out of the house without chucking them out?, to cleanse them in the moonlight?, to hide them from a friend or lover? – before I moved in. By October only the rocks’d still be in this spot but the TV would’ve shifted to the right.

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