You may recall that when we built the shed about three years ago, I suspected the concrete slabs it was constructed from would be a prime target for graffiti. Having investigated a few options like outdoor wallpaper and vinyl wraps, I decided an original artwork was the go.
Relying on my best friend, Google, I tracked down a company here in Melbourne and commissioned the amazing Awes, who collaborated with his mate Mayonnaize to produce the art below.
(It's not actually curved - I nicked this pic off Mayonnaize's Instagram and not sure how he took it, but it does manage to get the whole wall in. It also wraps around the left-hand side to cover the wall facing that laneway as well. It's hard to get a shot, as it's big and in a confined space - I think this is from our neighbour's garage roof!)
The process was a bit of a leap of faith, as there were no designs, pre-drawing or agreement of what it was going to be, just an exchange of emails containing images to determine what we did and didn't like and then they just turned up as appointed and did it over a few days.
As it turned out, I LOVE it.
Here's what it looked like beforehand. A vast improvement, I'm sure you'll agree!
And for the past three years, people have occasionally headed over from the 'hip' side of town to check it out or take a pic.
That was until about four weeks ago...
We were having dinner with family friends, and at precisely 12.14am, two IDIOTS came out of the laneway gloom and signed their tags on our art!!
How do I know this?
Not just because of the orange tags we discovered in permanent marker, but because we have security cameras that aren't hiding!! Look - here's one of them in action. Seriously, how stupid could you be? She even looks directly into the camera at one point as if to say, 'oh... there's a security camera....'
I can't even recall when I was last so incensed. How dare they draw on artwork - how disrespectful.
Contacting the company that organised the original commission, it took them just a day or two to reach out to their community and have the tags identified. They apparently had words with the culprits, before assuring me that they won't be back. They're also arranging for the repair (at my expense, but it's not their fault, and more importantly, I don't want others to think that desecrating artwork is okay, and add more tags - so am keen to have it fixed.)
And no, tempting as it was, I haven't asked for names. I have no idea of the protocol among street art peeps - but they didn't offer, so I didn't ask. However, I did say that if they are speaking to them again, they might want to let them know the police are also looking for them and similarly, are using the tags to work out who they are - along with very clear security footage.
I mean really, what kind of idiot commits an act of vandalism under lights, with security cameras - and leaves an identifiable name?
They both start with 'J', have 'u' as the second letter and have four letters in total, but they are different. I swear I know that.
I don't recall ever confusing them over the last 50-or-so years, but I've excelled myself this year.
It started on a Sunday night a couple of weeks ago when I received a call at about 9pm from a motel in Port Lincoln, South Australia to check what time we'd be arriving.
'Um,' I said, confused, 'we're in Melbourne, so we're not checking in. Isn't that next month?'
Allegedly because I'd booked through a third party website, it was 'so sad too bad' so I was forced to forgo that payment and re-booked for the correct month.
I had a small panic as this was just one part of the trip.
I called Whyalla to check that booking and surprising both me and the girl on the phone, someone had checked us in and apparently, we were still there!! No idea how that happened. Much more obliging, they moved my booking to the correct month.
Next was the diving and flights I'd booked - the most expensive part of the trip and lord knows how, but that was correct. Phew.
On the Wednesday after that, I sent a text to some friends who were coming for dinner later that week to check if they eat oysters, adding I was looking forward to seeing them on Friday. One shot a text back: 'This Friday? I thought you said July 7?'
I scrolled back through my messages and indeed, I had told her July 7, not June 7. By some sheer miracle, they could still make it.
I put it down to not losing my marbles but simply an anomaly - or two.
Until yesterday... when I rang and spoke to a colleague I'd emailed about attending a meeting in Canberra in June. 'Ah, June...' he said. 'I can do June, but your email said July - can't do July, can do June.' Oh dear..... maybe I am losing my marbles!!
Without boring you further with the renovation, it has actually progressed pretty well.
Like all such projects, you suddenly realise the furniture you had is no longer right - and the expense rolls on.
I'd already chosen some lovely, dark green velvet dining chairs. In fact, Elle found them and they're very comfortable, so I got them. Gotta love a dining chair that invites those at the table to settle in and linger.
What I then struggled with, was a table. I wanted something that was:
Small enough to fit the space under the window for every day
Extendable for dinners of eight or more
Oval, in case I need to squeeze a few more around
Able to accommodate the height of the already purchased velvet chairs (tricky with the mechanics of extension tables I discovered)
Of a finish and design that will fit in with my eclectic taste, including almost-black floors
That last point was especially tricky as it will on occasion be positioned in the middle of the room in front of what I like to grandly refer to as 'the library,' and what the kids prefer to refer to as 'the bookshelf'. Cruel.
I nearly wore Google out trying to find one. I'm now of the opinion that unless I love it and it's perfect, I'll keep looking. But nothing fitted the bill.
I saw this table in a magazine and whilst not perfect, (not crazy for the base) thought it warranted a call to get a price. Perhaps I could grow to love it.
When I rang and asked 'how much?', the friendly guy with the heavy Italian accent starting telling me how amazing and famous the European designer is, how exquisite his work, how fine the materials of porcelain and steel and the expertise of the craftsmanship. I was compelled to point out that the more he talked, the more expensive it was sounding - and I wasn't wrong - it was a hair under $14k. Yeah...no.
So on the search went - this time including eBay.
And there it was - my perfect table - up for auction, in Melbourne, no bids, a couple of 'watchers' and a starting price of $35. I was so nervous I couldn't wait until the last minute, so placed a 'proxy bid' of $152 (in case someone bid $150). As it happened, no-one else placed a bid so it was mine - for $35!!
In a stroke of karma, about 2 hours after the successful purchase of the table, someone purchased the hideous Indian silk painting I'd had on eBay for months.... for exactly $35!
A few days later, we hired a trailer from Bunnings. That expedited the moving of the wine fridge from storage into the laundry, some cupboards from the shed back to the storage unit and after that, the collection of the table. The guy was lovely - I almost felt guilty taking the beautiful table for $35 - but I did it anyway!!
When we turned it upside down to glue carpet on the feet, I noticed an old black ink stamp, 'Preston Furniture' and an address. Googling it, the manufacturer had gone but it is still an industrial area so it appears that our table was made locally, I'm guessing in the 1960s. This was just getting better and better.
And look! Isn't it perfect?!! Next mission; leather couches.
Ever heard of it? Neither had I until I saw an article in the RACV magazine and was inspired to take our annual Easter camping trip there.
It's about four hours north of Melbourne and, apparently, a favourite destination for Chinese tourists, of which we saw quite a few.
And it is spectacular! I'm no photographer, but check out these shots.
As it was Easter, there was a full moon, but other times when it's darker the view of the stars is remarkable - check out this image from the web
The lake was a mostly dry crust of salt when we were there. The water is artesian and in winter, creates a mirror-like effect.
It didn't disappoint. It was amazing.
However, I'd booked 4 nights at the Sea Lake caravan park. I'm not sure why Sea Lake is called Sea Lake - I assume because the lake is salty like the sea? Anyway, when I rang, I was told bookings weren't required, even at Easter - and we found out why. Turned out, it was more your stop-over kind of camping spot rather than a 'settle in for 4 nights' - as you'll see from the photo below.
There was a bathroom, a camp kitchen with hot water and a microwave, but yeah, the kids were pretty underwhelmed. There's not even a pub (although encouragingly, the one there is under renovation) and no wineries with live music, no activities, no wi-fi - in fact, there's pretty much... nothing.
The girls were using the term 'trapped' which was captured in this pic when we visited Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement (which is actually pretty good!).
I eventually caved and we came home after three nights.
Anyway, don't be put off!! Lake Tyrell is absolutely spectacular and well worth a visit - just no need to settle in!
Surprisingly, given a federal election is just days away, I'm not talking politics.
Nor am I referring to the circus that was the 'gallery' at my local council meeting last Monday night, debating the development of a new sports complex. That was a doozy, with the protesters putting on quite the performance, with heckling, name-calling, booing, swearing, waving laminated A4 placards, turning their backs in protest - the only thing missing was popcorn.
I'm all for the sporting complex, which is very much needed and very much not wanted by the bowling club and several other groups in the area. I get that people don't like change, especially as they get older, but with a rapidly growing population and a shortage of sporting facilities (especially for girls), it is inevitable.
The protestors had the decision delayed, but lost at this meeting. Their parting response was 'See you in court!'. It may go on, but as I said, progress, demand and change are against the protestors and it will surely, eventually happen.
But back to the great debate; where to put the toilet paper holder in our new bathroom.
Yep, nothin' but the big issues here, people.
So here's the situation; I want it positioned along-side the toilet, Geoff wants it in front of the toilet - almost (by my reckoning) near the door!
His argument is that when he's on the toot, he'll bang his elbow or leg if it's too close, he'll feel cramped and have to twist unnecessarily.
My argument is that'll it'll look like it's about to leave the room and would be much neater tucked in next to the loo - and as I'm much shorter, it won't be an issue for me at all.
Approximate markers of where the toilet roll holder should go
He had stuck a small piece of blue tape in his ideal spot and marked it with a pencil. A day or two after the discussion, he had the audacity to accuse me of moving the tape and smudging the pencil!! (Actually, I did.)
For this year-long reno, we've managed to agree or compromise on hundreds of decisions, but on this, we've reached a stalemate. And what I have discovered is, he who wields the hammer drill, holds the power. Which is not to say he's won, but that he's just refusing to put it on the wall at all - for now.
So, there it sits, with the box, two screws and packaging, waiting for a compromise...
No hurry. We still have about 30 other jobs that need to be done!
As part of what feels like the world's longest renovation, our floors are being sanded back and stained, which means we've moved out to the shed.
We've been semi-living in the shed since July last year when the kitchen was ripped out. There's a bar fridge, a microwave and a two-ring gas cooker. Between that and the barbeque, we've managed to avoid the temptation (and expense!) of Uber Eats.
However, we have managed, until now, to be sleeping and showering in the house. Now we've all been evicted - including Gary.
Night one was a disaster.
Sass and I took a couch each. These were the cheapest couches going on the internet. They look deceptively okay but my god, they're uncomfortable beyond description. I know why they sell them online - if you had the opportunity to sit on them in a store, you wouldn't buy them.
The backs fold back to make beds and Elle says inviting guests to sleep on them is just plain rude! I'd lie on one and say they were fine and no guest has complained. Let me state, here and now, they are NOT FINE!! Despite my $50 mattress toppers, those beds are brutal. There's a hard ridge right down the centre that even the topper and a woollen underlay can't take the edge off.
Geoff had the blow-up mattress, which has had years of reliable use - until that first night - when it slowly deflated leaving Geoff lying on the cold tiles. Fortunately, I'd set up an inflatable single bed for Elle who's coming home on Friday, so at about 3am, he crawled on to that. Unfortunately, his head hung off one end and his feet off the other.
I looked for the puncture in the morning, gave up and headed to Anaconda. They had a deluxe QS inflatable bed, with built-in pump for $69. Done.
I got it home, pumped it up, made it and had a lie-down, admiring its comfort. (That's it below left. It's even as high as a proper bed!)
Last night, I abandoned my couch and joined Geoff. It was no better. It was so bouncy with two people that I was almost sea-sick. It'll be back to the world's most uncomfortable couch tonight.
If I'm a little crotchety when you see me, you'll know why - lack of sleep. But what I'm not getting, Gary is making up for - he seems to be loving the arrangement!!
Gary is a little pissed off - and I don't blame him.
It's been nearly two years since he was last catnapped and he didn't enjoy that experience either.
Now it's happened again; on Thursday, about 5.30pm.
I received a call from someone at the council from Pet Control regarding Gary. (Actually, I don't think it's really called Pet Control, but it was something like that.) I confess, my first thought was that he'd been squashed on a road somewhere, but no, just a call to ask me to retrieve him, uninjured, from the emergency animal hospital on Dandenong Road.
The council person explained they'd tracked me down via his microchip and that the vet at the hospital was concerned that Gary was so skinny. Seriously, I've never had Child Protection knock at my door, but I did have a bit of insight at that moment of what it might feel like.
Before I had time to get too defensive, she did say she'd check his file (Gary has a file!!) and noted that he is 15, so maybe that's why he's scrawny.
I still felt compelled to let her know that we are caring and responsible cat owners, we lock him in at night, give him medication twice a day for his dodgy thyroid and that he's basically living the life of Riley.
Anyway... yet again, some do-gooder had scrapped Gary up, most likely from right outside our house, and zipped him off to the animal hospital. Gee - that would have been a fun ride without a cat-carrier and knowing that most times Gary's put in a car, his immediate response is to do a really big, sloppy, smelly poo.
Like the previous post, he was wearing a collar from our vet with his name on it. It wasn't like he could be mistaken for a stray. I mentioned this to the lady from Pet Control, but she said the hospital hadn't mentioned a collar.
Sass and her friend arrived home - did they want to come and pick up Gary? No - so not.
I was forced to schlep alone through peak-hour traffic to the hospital - around 30 minutes. Such bad timing. If at any point, you're thinking of taking Gary to a vet, just because, could you at least make it outside of peak hour, please?
On arrival, I tried to ascertain what idiot had scrapped Gazza up from his own street, whilst minding his own business, and rushed him to the hospital - but they were giving me nothing. The woman there claimed to only know that he'd been dropped off. (BTW, I didn't use the word 'idiot' while I was there - it was more of your polite, vague enquiry.)
We're were going against the traffic on the way home so it was a quicker trip than the way there. Nor did Gary, secure in his cat-carrier, empty his bowels - he must have done that earlier with the good samaritans. I guess as the saying goes, righteousness is its own punishment!
A colleague and I had lunch on Friday at a Melbourne restaurant in South Yarra that's a bit of a bloke's club. We knew that when we agreed on the location, as it served our purpose and was convenient for us both, but boy, (and I use that expression deliberately) did we get lunch and a show.
The tables are tight in this establishment, the place was jam-packed (mostly with businessmen) and pressed into the front window was my colleague and me on one small table and a man heading for sixty on his own next to us. I'd overheard him tell the waiter that his dining companion had been caught up with work so would be very late.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch (rabbit and fish) and a glass of Chablis each, but more importantly, we enjoyed proper conversation. I'd been to a symposium on Death and Dying the day before (another post to come on that!) and having both suffered family losses, we picked through some of our own experiences as well as society's attitude to discussing death and responding to grief. We were fully engaged.
Having finished eating, I ordered a mint tea and my colleague, sparkling water - and that's when things quickly went downhill.
I'd happened to notice, without judgement, that our fellow diner had had a couple of beers before his steak and was now onto his second or third red wine. As our tea and water were brought to our table, he said 'Gee, you two are good,' raising his glass to us.
And so began his interjection.
He asked us if we were old friends, and we laughed and said no, new ones. At that, he appeared to be caught off guard, even slightly embarrassed - like we were on a date - but then tried hastily to compose himself and be 'cool with that'. He then asked about our line of work and quickly, the conversation turned to sexual harassment and the inequality of women in the workplace.
Women, he told us, are often the best in their field, like gynaecologists. (Yes, he actually said that.) To give more evidence to his point, he started counting off on his sausage-like-fingers the professionals in his life who were women - his doctor, his accountant... then realised that was it. Awkward.
When we drifted on to sexual harassment, he lent over and banged our table aggressively to make his point that it was not on, almost spilling my tea. It was very disconcerting, but he was completely unaware.
I relayed a story of my younger years in advertising of a male colleague who asked why I recoiled every time he came near me - apparently it wasn't good for his reputation. We ended up making a pact that he wouldn't touch me and I wouldn't cringe. And then, bugger me if old-mate didn't start tapping my shoulder and pawing at my arm!!
Let me hastily add that this was no indication of him favouring me over my very attractive colleague - it was simply that I was within reach.
He even told us that back in the day, his place of employment issued a code of conduct for a Christmas party and he'd decided it was all ridiculous and too hard, so he didn't go.
His position on equality was becoming increasingly confusing. And there was only one way out... gosh, is that the time? We got up and headed to the bar to pay the bill and get the heck outta there.
The kids think it's gross, but I hate putting food scraps into the landfill where it doesn't even break down. I classify myself as 'pale green' when it comes to the environment but aspire to 'mid-green'.
So for many years now, I've composted. Thrown all the food, coals from the fire, cat litter, some garden waste, newspaper, boxes of worms and the occasional bag of lime when it gets smelly into the big black bin that creates a haven not just for worms, but fat slugs, earwigs, beetles and spiders, including the occasional Red Back. Might be why the kids freak out when I insist they need to take the kitchen scraps out. Elle says It's the one thing I don't do - not true, there are plenty of household tasks she doesn't do, just BTW.
But all that composting means every couple of years, I have to do something with it!
It's been opportune, as due to the renovation that I've already bored you senseless with (and is dragging on ad nauseam), I was forced to put a pause on the composting process.
(Know though, that my new kitchen has a four-bin system that I chose to accommodate my waste sorting; recycling, landfill, compost and soft plastics. The latter gets returned to supermarkets I don't shop at - I just swing past on my way to Aldi to give them my plastic for recycling. They must love customers like me!)
Anyway, the compost was well due for attention. It's a nasty job, as it requires 'sifting' through in small batches to remove the things that haven't or don't decompose. This includes chicken and chop bones, peach and nectarine stones, a squillion fruit stickers (geez I wish they'd stop using those things!!), fancy gauze teabags and their strings that I thought were biodegradable but turn out to be polyester, heaps of nails from the reclaimed timber used in the fire and an assortment of plastics, like bread bag clips, bottle tops and packaging that lazy members of this family have chucked in there because they couldn't be bothered putting it in the bin. (I should make them sift through the compost - that'd fix them!!)
The output of this hideously tedious, unpleasant process was several very satisfying tubs of deliciously rich soil to spread about the garden, repotted and even redo a terrarium - and an empty compost bin so I can start the process again.
Empty Compost bin - yay!!
However, there is one small downside; sprouts. I have tomatoes, pumpkins and god-knows-what popping up everywhere!! Mind you, they're easy to pluck out so guess it's a small price to pay for fabulous, free and environmentally friendly soil.