Category Archives: Renovating

Weekend Coffee Share…9th September, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share. This week, I’d like to offer you a slice of pavlova with fresh cream, strawberries and passion fruit or piece of Mars Bar Slice. Well, you’re welcome to have both if you like but you might regret it later.

Today, is our 18th wedding anniversary and perhaps it is a sign that we’re no longer newly weds, that I’m sitting here typing away on my laptop, which is teetering precariously on top of the dog (Zac) while my husband has gone to sleep. However, it’s also a week night and so there isn’t much of a chance to swing from the chandelier tonight. However, we did enjoy an absolutely delicious meal prepared by my gorgeous support worker and I made the pavlova for dessert. It’s also still a bit too cold to do anything really special. We’re planning to go on a Sydney Harbour Cruise when it warms up a bit both to celebrate our anniversary, but also my 50th birthday. I didn’t want us to just go out for dinner because it was expected. I wanted us to make the most of it. Do something really special when the timing is right and everything aligns.

These days when I look back on that bride and groom, I feel we were very naive, even though we were 35 and 32 at the time. Each of us had been through some pretty intense experiences. I’d survived two lots of brain surgery, had backpacked through Europe as well as seeing quite a lot of Australia. Geoff lost his Dad when he was 16, his Mum just after we met and his brother in between. However, when I mentioned this sense of naivety to him tonight, I more or less concluded that it was more a sense of ignorance about what it was like to become parents. I’m not sure if anything can prepare you for that both in terms of the most extreme joy you’ll ever experience and the most stress, worry, frustration and a whole lot else. Before kids, there were relationships, connections and responsibilities, but there was that sense that you could always leave. Walk away. Or, in the case of your parents, runaway from home which always seemed a lot brighter in the middle of an argument, than being homeless has in reality. As a parent, you’re it…especially when your children are small.

In hindsight, my childhood seems well removed from what I’ll refer to as the realities of life. My friends and I played in the bush, caught tadpoles, climbed trees and swung from metal bars, which would now be deemed unsafe. Well, that’s exactly what they were and I still remember a friend falling off and breaking her front tooth. We also played “brandings on the wall” where you had to move from one side of the wall to the other without being hit by a tennis ball traveling at speeds almost exceeding Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillie who was “pounding down like a machine” back in the day. Don’t think I played brandings more than once, making a hasty retreat back to playing hopscotch or cat and mouse in the school weather shed. This was at the co-ed country school I attended for a few years and I think I went back to playing hopscotch and stayed away from the boys most of the time.

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I’ve been thinking a fair bit about my childhood over the last week after driving out to Galston and walking through my old primary school and then driving out to see the old house, which was on five acres with a dam and a horse. They were good times roaming through the paddocks or the bush with my dog, a collie called Lassie (just to be original). There used to be a dairy down the road where my friend used to live and I remember clambering over the hay bales. It was a great place to grow up, although it was rather isolated, especially down our end of town. We moved closer to the city when I was 12 and we were walking distance to the train station and school. So, I became quite independent and was able to get around easily for better or worse.

By the way, I should point out that it’s rather funny pausing for thought with your laptop perched on top of your dog, while they’re breathing in an out. My laptop is rising and falling with his breath, assuming quite a life of its own.

I’ve been keeping up with my goal of blogging at least three times a week for the Weekend Coffee Share, Thursday Doors and Friday Fictioneers.

My post for Thursday Doors featured the first house my parents bought together back in 1971 when I was two years old. I wanted to share their story as a point of encouragement to young people looking at saving to buy their first home. It really can seem like mission impossible and for many in Sydney these days, it is. Indeed, we bought our first home just out of Sydney on the NSW Central Coast which is much more affordable. We also discovered the beautiful beaches and natural scenery away from gridlocked traffic and the rat race. It’s been a great place to bring up our kids. Here’s the link: The Great Australian Dream- Thursday Doors

I had a bit of fun with  my post for Friday Fictioneers and wrote about  The Odd Couple. 

Well, I think that about covers last week in brief and the dog has decided that he’d had enough of supporting my writing and he decided to hop down onto his comfy and sturdy bed.

What have you been up to lately? I hope you’ve been going well.

Well, it’s now Late Tuesday night and I’m only just getting around to posting this. I spent last night trying to find photos online of the dairy which used to be at the end of our street. However, it’s not like it never existed. It only appears as a brief mention in real estate advertisements. Makes me feel older than my years, because it wasn’t THAT long ago.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Australian Dream…Thursday Doors

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors just please don’t look at the calendar. It’s already Saturday afternoon and if I don’t hop to it, soon it will be Sunday.

There’s no point going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

This week, we’re jumping into our time machines and setting the clock back to 1971 when my parents bought their first home at 101 Coonanbarra Road, Wahroonga in suburban Sydney. I was two years old and they’d been renting a flat in Rose Bay in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. However, Mum was expecting my brother and I was getting to an age where I apparently needed a backyard.

However, while these were practical and heartfelt considerations, consciously or unconsciously, my parents were pursuing the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home parked on the suburban quarter acre block along with the Hills Hoist (washing line), Victa lawnmower, backyard BBQ and the lone family car parked in the driveway.

However, this Australian dream had a rather narrow vision. The prescribed family was  comprised of a married Mum and Dad, a pigeon pair of kids, and no divorce. Australia was still under the influence of the White Australia Policy. So, our Great Australian Dream also had a lot of inbuilt flaws and was racist, sexist and completely excluded our Indigenous Australians.

 

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John Brack, The Unmade Road

Moreover,, while many Australians aspired to this domestic ideal of home ownership, some artists and writers condemned suburbia as a conformist and narrow-minded wasteland, as depicted in John Brack’s The Unmade Road pictured above.

 

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The rear of the house before renovation. I loved seeing our old pram in the picture. Dad’s father is standing in the right corner looking rather removed. and wasn’t impressed with the place.

Getting back to Mum and Dad’s place, as you can see from the rear view of the house in its natural state, it was in a bad way. The sort of place real estate ads would describe as “renovate or detonate” or a”Renovator’s dream”. Indeed, it was so dilapidated,Dad’s father refused to go inside and you can even see him standing in the right hand side of the photo above looking unimpressed.

However, my parents weren’t completely insane, because it had location! Location! Location! Wahroonga is a prestigious suburb and the house was a short walk to Wahroonga Park and the station, where Dad caught the train into the city for work. The house was built around 1916 as a workman’s cottage and has since been demolished, although similar houses have been preserved in this street and now cost over $1 million.Every night Dad beavered away on the place after he arrived home from work. Indeed, the photo at the top shows the front of the house post-renovation. No doubt, he felt triumphant and rather vindicated when it was finished, and he’d proven his father wrong.

However, this triumph wasn’t without sacrifice. I think the MGB was sold to get the house deposit and Dad must’ve been exhausted going to work by day, fixing the house up at night and also having a toddler and a new baby and all that entailed. Living in the house itself was also quite unsafe and mum was horrified to see me bang my head after I fell over a broken floorboard. While we were staying in the house of horrors, my brother also developed whooping cough from his vaccination and was seriously ill. I can’t quite remember if there was a home visit from the doctor which caused my mother to almost die of embarrassment, or whether she had to take my brother out to see him. However, in an unrelated incident, I do remember my brother’s car basket going flying off the back seat of the Morris Minor as we drove over the railway bridge around this time. I was horrified. So, it seems that there were quite a few nightmare’s interwoven with my parents’  pursuit of the Great Australian Dream.

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Me in the front yard of the house. 

Fortunately, this house soon became a stepping stone and we only lived there for six months. After it was renovated, Mum and Dad rented it out and bought a bigger and better house in Warrawee. They never looked back and moved a couple of times before settling in there current home, where they’ve been living for almost 40 years. If you look at them now, you’d never imagine that they started out in such challenging conditions.

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The new house from the street with the Morris Minor parked in the driveway. 

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The rear of the house in Warrawee. The pram is still parked out the back.

I wanted to share this story as an encouragement to other young couples who are just starting out and struggling to save up for a deposit on their first home. You don’t need to start out where you’ll finish up and hard work,  determination, a bit of sacrifice and taking a chance can pay off. Indeed, quite a few of my grandparents generation bought a block and built a garage on it and lived in that while they built the house. Nothing arrived on a silver platter.

My parents’ experience fueled our own pursuit of the dream Australian home on the quarter acre block. We bought a renovator’s dream a short walk from the beach and figured we’d turn it over quickly and move on to something better. However, unfortunately my health and disability issues have slowed down our progress and we are still in the fixer-upper and it still hasn’t been fixed up. We’ve been here for 18 years now and what we did at the beginning needs to be re-done and we still haven’t replaced the floors. However, I’m glad in a way because our place is a home and has a sense of freedom and not having to tiptoe around and barely breathe in case the house gets dirty, the floors gets ruined and your idyllic Vogue Living home comes crashing down to earth in a pile of rubble.

Indeed, we have two kids and three dogs charging round the place and we can all stretch our wings and be ourselves. Give me a couple of years, and I hope to see a wrecking ball go straight through the place and we’ll start over.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip down memory lane and wondered if you’d like to share any stories about renovating, buying your own home or even about dreaming.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Making the Grass Greener.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

A few short weeks ago, we looked out over our backyard the same way Moses saw the Promised Land. However, all we saw was a dust bowl with three dogs standing somewhere in it and a few holes dug in for good measure. Indeed, if I hadn’t seen the three dogs, I might’ve wondered whether a wombat had taken up residence in our backyard. Some of these holes were huge.

Needless to say, the grass wasn’t happy.

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

Walt Whitman

Moreover, just to add to it’s struggles, we’re in the throws of a serious drought and just because we’re not farming out on the land, doesn’t mean we haven’t been affected by the lack of rain. It might not be affecting our livelihood but our backyard was a dust bowl.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

–   Henry Miller

So we have digging dogs, dry drought and then there’s the sandy soil. We live metres away from the beach and while this very same sandy beach might be a thing of beauty, our sandy soil is largely infertile could go a few rounds of IVF. Indeed, even the weeds had given up trying to grow in our backyard. There was just bare sand.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t hold out much hope of ever seeing green grass out the back, let alone anything approaching a lawn. I’d more or less assumed that my husband had also given up. After all, it had been awhile and there wasn’t exactly a lot of activity out there.

However, I don’t know what happened, but my husband sent up the backyard sprinkler system again. That was step one. Then, he built a very clever lawn growing contraption of the likes I’ve never seen before. Just like Australia has the rabbit proof fence, my husband built the dog proof lawn protector by simply nailing four planks of wood together and covering it with chicken wire. Just like the Parable of the Sower, my husband sowed out the lawn seed, covered it with the protector and then it was on with the sprinklers every night.

Then, miracle of miracles, we now have lawn. Indeed, the dog proof lawn protector has been moved onto its second location and much of the grass in the first plot is still alive.

Sometimes, I think we can settle where we are believing that things can’t get any better. That this is as good as it gets and we can forget to prepare the soil, sow the seed and water our dreams or just even our basic needs. It’s too easy then to fall into an engulfing sense of despair where there is not point lifting a finger or even trying to get up off the ground and pick up our mats.

I also want to say that I’m proud of my husband for coming up with our dog proof lawn protector. He commutes to Sydney puts in a long day’s work and is my carer 24/7 as well as being a father to our kids and the three crazy mutts. In so many ways, that’s life. We’re all busy. We each have our lot. Our hardships and our blessings. Last weekend, he started a sailing course. So, now he’s not only enjoying some green grass, he’s also experiencing some smooth sailing. Well, perhaps in time.

Is there something that’s changed recently in your life that’s made a difference? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Captain Clean – Friday Fictioneers.

“Mum and Dad built this place after the war,” Muriel said. “Lived in the garage, while they built the house.”

Captain Clean was very tempted to add that nothing had been thrown out since, but bit her tongue. Condescending self-righteousness never worked with hoarders. So, she stuck to the script.

“Keep or throw? Keep or throw?”                                                                                                                                                                     “There you are,” Muriel smiled.

Captain Clean screamed, bolted and drove away.

Muriel had finally found her spare set of teeth, playing hide & seek in her husband’s old shoes.

“I could’ve handled a dead body,” she told the psychologist. “But not false teeth.”

…….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

xx Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share 10th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight, I’d like to offer you what we Australians call a “rubber duckie”, an umbrella and a good waterproof torch. A rubber duckie? That’s an inflatable boat and if it rains too much more, you might be needing it to reach my place.

Yellow taxi

It’s been a very set week for Mum’s Taxi. 

It’s Saturday night here in Sydney, and I’m now trying to get the stuff I’ve been sorting through back in the cupboard so we can get to bed tonight. I’m making good progress, but it takes so long to sort through everything and even if I could throw more stuff out, we don’t have the available bin space. Indeed, despite taking stuff to the thrift shop. I’ve been doing a second bin run for the last month. While talking about garbage collection sounds as humdrum as it comes, our bin manoevres would make for good TV. You see, the garbage truck goes passed our house and then doubles back to pick up the bins on the other side. So, this allows us to refill our bin and wheel it across the road. This is no casual manoevre either. I have to keep an ear our for the truck and as soon as I hear its approaching rumble, my breathing accelerates and I start getting myself primed. I don’t know whether the truck driver has noticed me hotfooting across the road but I usually wait until the truck’s halfway down the street before I make my move. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Of course, there’s been the aftermath of the London Attacks this week. Two young Australian women were killed in the attack, and our sympathies goes out to their families, friends and communities. So many Australians have had a stint working in the UK just like these girls, yet we’ve returned home. I only spent a week in London when I was there in 1992, and was living and working in Germany. Yet, I still feel a strong sense of solidarity.

Above: Bush Rescue was set at the Echo Point Lookout at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, West of Sydney.

This week I’ve written two pieces of flash fiction. For Friday Fictioneers, I wrote: Back to Earth and Bush Rescue for Carrot Ranch. While Friday Fictioneers uses a photo prompt, Carrot Ranch has a text prompt. I’ve found it quite interesting doing both prompts in the same week. I’d probably say that I feel there’s more freedom and a wider scope with the text prompt, because I feel my flash has to link closely to photo to answer the brief. Many of these photos were taken in USA and that has been challenging a few times. I usually give my response an Australian element.

Have you written much flash fiction? How do you find it as a genre? Do you have a preference for text or photo prompts? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Anyway, so how has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great one. 

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ally at Nerd in the Brain

xx Rowena

 

Breaking-in the Clothes Horse.

Yesterday, I had an encounter of epic proportions, when I tried setting up what should have been a simple clothes horse. One of those darned instant clothes racks you put up when it’s raining and your clothes dryer’s on the blink. Worse than any contraption I’ve ever bought from Ikea, this thing arrived without instructions..or even that pesky Allen key.

Indeed, I would’ve been most thankful if an “Alan” had been included, who could help put the thing up. Disentangle the rack, which was meant to clip in on top, from the feet. This is when the wrestling process began and I was seriously concerned that either I was going to get tangled and trapped inside. Or, it was going to become air borne. With only a little imagination, I could see this thing flapping it’s wings and flying away. (Or, is that just me? If so, I’ll blame the Weetbix. That stuff looks pretty ordinary, but the villains are always understated.)

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The annoying thing about all of this, was that I bought the clothes horse because the weather report said it was going to rain for three days. Naturally, the kids’ uniforms needed to be “processed”, especially the socks.

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An empty clothesline on a perfect washing day.

However, today I woke up to perfect blue skies, and what so many poor, deranged souls call “perfect washing weather”, when they could be down at the beach.

Have you had any challenging home maintenance experiences lately? Memories?

Despite all these DIY shows, I have noticed that the local tradie hasn’t become extinct. That there are still many people out there like me, who still need to be rescued. Fortunately, my other half compliments my capacity for disaster, and is a very enterprising Mr Fix-it.

Be careful this weekend.You might just be better off picking up your phone than a spade.

xx Rowena

Daunted By the Year Ahead?

How do you feel about starting another year? Have you made numerous New Year’s resolutions or goals, even writing them up in a spreadsheet with KPIs, deadlines and possibly even a star chart? Or, has the start of another year washed right over the top of you barely leaving a ripple in its wake?

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Fireworks Sydney Harbour NYE 2016

Well, I was still struggling to get my head around the last year when the fireworks started booming off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was all happening. Indeed, 2017 was already here.

What the? Couldn’t I somehow press rewind, repeat and start the new year all over again when I’m ready? What about this new-fangled feature I have on the TV called catch up? Would that do the trick? As my daughter just reminded me, if I press the paw button on the remote, will I suddenly catch up on last year like magic? If only…!!

I guess that leaves time right where it is. Grr!

The terrible thing about starting another year is that our “exhausted post-Christmas end of year crashed out on the couch self” is suddenly confronted by our ideal, perfect self. The one who is going to exercise like an Olympian, diet like Jenny Craig, run on time like a clock and write more books than Enid Blyton. That’s while being the loving, attentive spouse/partner and even parent. Some how, we’re juggling like a clown and not dropping any of our balls at all.

This is what happens on the 1st January and it’s no wonder I’m feeling depressed, overwhelmed, inadequate and looking for someone else to drive the bus. I’ll disappear and hide in my hammock for the rest of the year, giving what you could describe as a totally underwhelming performance.

Okay! Okay! I’ll get out of my chair and get moving.

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One mixed up fridge door.

One look at the cluttered paperwork stuck on the fridge door gave me somewhere to begin.

Then, I thought I’d better clean the kitchen table first so I could sort out all the stuff on the fridge without it drowning in muck.

From there, I somehow ended up cleaning the inside of the fridge. It now looks like something out of a storage company catalogue with everything neatly stacked into boxes and tubs. Who owns this fridge? Has the fairy been? I must’ve woken up in someone else’s house.

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Eeyore Chilling Out in the Clean Fridge.

This reminds me of one good thing about ending one year and starting another. You can turf all last years notes and paraphernalia and create empty space. Indeed, if you’re lucky, you can now stretch out without causing an avalanche!

While I’m still formulating and getting my head around my goals for 2017, one word is entering my vocabulary….no! This is particularly pertinent to my daughter and all her activities. We can only do so much. That’s it. No more. There are limits. There are only 24 hours in a day and at least 8 are for sleeping. She can not live multiple lives at once. We have to make choices. Well, I’ll be making choices anyway. As I said, I’m learning how to say and apply the use of the word no, which will also apply to our son and the excessive use of electronics. No. Enough. Stop.

I can do this. Take a deep breath. Stretch into my full height and say no and mean it. Put my foot down and even push it through the floorboards, if that’s what it takes to be heard. That said, I sure hope it doesn’t come to that!

Meanwhile, I still have to muster up my inner strength. Lady, our recalcitrant Border Collie x Cavalier has been refusing to go out to bed at night. Last night, I ended up carrying her and trust me all that Christmas Cake she ate weighs a tonne. She’s going to find herself dealing with a sterner voice as well. I won’t be accepting “no” as an answer either.

Humph! Looks like these embryonic resolutions are starting out with training myself  and that’s a task I really don’t relish!

How are your New Year’s resolutions going so far? I’d love to hear from you!

Good luck!

xx Rowena