Tuesday, 4 January 2022

A year in review: Furniture and fittings, part four

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 eleventh in the series. 

On the morning of 20 April the deliverymen with my new bed called me at 10.15am telling me they’d arrive in 20 minutes, and at 10.35am I opened the front door expecting them to be there; they’d just parked across the road. The two of them brought parts indoors and I showed the rounder one where the bed was to be positioned under the window in the bedroom at the back of the first floor.

There’s a desk and chair in the corner with a power point on the wall underneath. This would be useful for people wanting a private moment on a computer. 

Later in the morning I drove to Mascot – the deliverymen only wanted 30 minutes to assemble the bed – to go to the bank and withdraw an amount of money in small denomination notes and, after buying mattress protectors using the Myer website (three days later they’d arrive at my PO box), and before traffic became too heavy, I drove to Dover Heights to pick up my new sheets. As instructed I found a package made from a Woolies shopping bag inside the switch box next to the front door of the house near the cliff face. I drove home down Blair Street without any major delays.

No more delays on the bookcase the next day when, in the afternoon, Josh Kemp called to say it would be delivered on Thursday. I paid the delivery fee using my credit card and the following day a bit after midday a man called from the street outside saying they’d arrived. I guided the two of them upstairs and they unpacked the bookcase and put it in the space under Craig Waddell’s ‘The Painter – After Titian’, which, to fit the new furniture in place, I had to raise away from the floor. The bookcase is set between a tall bookcase and my desk. Once everything was ready I put away a few boxes full of books and photo albums that had been sitting in boxes on the floor since the move. Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia went in the new bookcase (dark red volumes, bottom shelf) and in the other bookcase I placed photo albums needing extra space.

You’re possibly wondering why Josh and his craftsmen didn’t use the spare planks I gave them that summer morning after the trip to Brookvale … I phoned to find the answer, left a message, and at about 2.45pm Josh returned my call. They’d gone with different wood, he said, to make the unit stronger. It had cost them “a bit more”, he went on, but they preferred making something durable. Given their generosity with regard to sourcing wood I didn’t ask what they’d done with those spare planks!

Closer to home other questions remained unresolved. For one thing, on Saturday I still had, in the studio, 13 unpacked boxes, happily down from January’s 21. Most contained photographs though there were also family documents. I thought about what to do with them and was going to let the matter rest until inspiration caught up with circumstances, but on Anzac Day with nothing to do I tidied up and put away photos and albums so that by the end of the day I only had eight boxes still unpacked, most of which contain family records from dad and most being in plastic boxes suitable for storage rather than ordinary packing boxes. 

In December the plastic boxes’d go into the back bedroom on the first floor and the packing boxes full of photos’d go into the garage.


The day before, Saturday 24 April, when I took the above photo, I drove to a part of Sydney I’d never visited before – a beachside suburb called Sandringham – to pick up a bookcase for my first-floor hallway. It’d been offered on Facebook Marketplace due to downsizing: a man and his wife selling their house since their kids’d moved out. 

My situation precisely contrary! To complement the picture hang I placed Leah Fraser’s ceramic statue ‘Full moon rising’ on top of the bookcase. With it went a wooden Japanese stamp and the Chinese box I’d had downstairs on the entertainment cabinet. There are also the rocks from Pyrmont and a flat, basalt roundel that I selected for inclusion because in its absence the rocks’d only number four (five being auspicious). The bookcase was a lucky find and is made from sturdy chipboard in an old-fashioned, low-cost, 70s style. Since acquiring it needed no cash I’d no reason to quibble over such details as the stain in the top – which I covered with an orange placemat that had been embroidered with a dove at some point in the far distant past. I’ve got a set of these remnants from mum’s apartment in the kitchen cupboard ready to use – in Pyrmont they’d been squirrelled away in the hall cupboard.
Positioning the Fraser sculpture was timely for a practical reason. Because of expenses related to the move I was loath to purchase more of the artist’s work but I’d just received an invitation from Arthouse Gallery in Rushcutters Bay for a May show – titled ‘Let her go into the darkness’ – with acrylic paintings by the same artist for sale. 

Acquiring the sculpture was not entirely intentional. I took a shine to Fraser’s work as it was portrayed in a February 2014 email sent out to the gallery’s buyer’s list, upon receiving which I bought the sculpture and had it shipped to Queensland. I was living there at the time near my mother’s house and kept my eyes peeled for value. Getting the bookcase gratis was mostly serendipitous. While in Facebook Marketplace searches made on Friday and Saturday I’d expressed a desire for a small bookcase I had a frustrating conversation with a Rouse Hill woman about one listed for $35. Reaching her suburb, on the city’s north-western fringe, would’ve required at least an hour of my time as well as tolls punishing the balance in my Transurban account so I told her – envisaging the possibility of fitting in, at the same time, a trip to my framers’ (they were still working on things of mine, and I wanted to get D-rings put into some new purchases) – I might be able to make it the following week. She then marked the item as “Sold” and when I asked if she’d offered it to someone else she affirmed it was true, adding that they’d given her a “definite” in contrast to my “Mb”. I keenly sensed her frustration but ended up getting one – not quite as fancy and not quite as wide (or as tall) – for less than a fraction of the cost and it was only a 15-minute drive to Sandringham instead of an hour to Rouse Hill. The shelves in my new bookcase furthermore adjustable so it can accommodate more large items. It’s good for either hardback or paperback books. I own a large collection accrued over many decades. It’s so extensive it permeates almost every room of the house with the exception of the laundry and the bathrooms. There’re even books in the garage. 

The image below shows walls on the first floor where hangs, to the left, dad’s old ensign with, next to it, a Pixie O’Harris painting made by swiping a palette knife over a board used as a painter’s palette, giving an image of what look like trees. This was, she said when I knew her, the only concession she ever made to abstraction. To the right, at top, is an oil painting of sand dunes by Danish painter Wolhardt Stampe Due, a work that came to me via Douglas Dean, my cousin, who’d acquired it when his father died. It has a realist impulse as well as others borrowed from French Impressionism, and signals a truce between opposed forces of abstraction and figuration; brushstrokes are visible, rather than disguised, but you can still clearly see what’s intended to be portrayed. Below this painting is an oil (on board) by Australian artist Melissa Selby Brown. Titled ‘Gazanias’ – a type of African wildflower – I bought it in Waterloo, in fact from a business located just down the street from where the Reece showroom now sits. The subject matter can help date it – a carbon price was much discussed in 2008 – as can the squiggly black mobile phone flex. 

At top is a photo of my grandmother Bea and her sister Reba in bathing costumes and below this is a crayon drawing by Ming (who’d in 2021 started studying at art school) with a view of the Maroochy River from the front balcony of the last apartment mum and dad occupied in Queensland. In the distance, to the right in this drawing, is Mujimba Island, which sits off the mouth of the estuary on the other side of which their place rose from the street.

Apart from the wildflowers and trees, pieces in this hang share a nautical theme with yellow and blue predominating in an arrangement made with diverse elements.

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