Catching Crazes

It’s official. I like watching people catch Pokemon.

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Image from YouTube

I don’t know much about it myself, besides it is the biggest craze that I can remember in a long time, but I do like sidling up to folk and asking them what they have caught.

Since this craze began I have spoken to people I normally wouldn’t.

Could this be a trick to make people communicate?

I just went for a walk to catch a few photos of winter flowering plants. Along the way, I saw two boys walking their dogs and wandering in circles around the Neighbourhood House (nice symmetry there) to catch another one of their ‘little monsters’.

Two teens in ripped jeans with assorted facial piercings were delighted that I showed an interest in their poke catching. Or maybe they were just stoned.

At any rate, I like this craze.

I’ve even caught fellow middle-aged colleagues in the act in a work vehicle on a work group outing. One colleague was catching for her primary aged daughter. This is a chance to gain some serious kid cred.

Newspapers are running stories on how Sydney flatmate advertisements are spruiking nearby ‘poke-stops’ and ‘poke-gyms’ as a real reason to cohabitat. One online report showed a man who quit his job to concentrate on catching.

One of the things that amuses me is the killjoy component. Some people are getting stroppy about the poke activity (there’s always one). Some folk have been leaving nasty messages around for others to catch (poke envy?), suggesting people opt out of the craze and go to the local pub instead. Or maybe it was just the publican missing business.

At any rate, this is just one example of how contagious this catching caper is.

I can’t remember another craze that has been so cross-generational. Facebook and Twitter are probably the closest. But is that a craze or simply a way of life?

Fitbits are probably up there. But I try not to give them any attention, like picking at a sore. Just in case they get worse.

I mean, monitoring your heart? Measuring your steps? Why bother?! Just look at your jeans. Are they loose or are they tight? That gentle observation is a little less obtrusive than a whopping great device strapped to your wrist. Personally, I think they are a little too like home detention. Some form of fitness bondage. Clearly I am not a fan.

Yo yos on the other hand were and still are seriously cool. Squads. Teams. Competitions. Flatbed trucks heading to the local beach reserve.Heavy sponsorship by Coca-Cola and Fanta. Remember Fancy Nancy. Ah, bring back the glory days!

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Eyes down .. the yo yo craze

Any focused yo yo devotee soon mastered basic tricks like ‘walking the dog’ which I could never do, and ‘rock the cradle’ (clearly I wasn’t very maternal as a 10-year-old). I was lucky for the bloody yo yo to stay on my finger.

Now that was a craze. And there’s still some good stuff on YouTube. Coz like, I know.

But were yo yos cross generational? That’s my yard stick. Sorry, 1.375 step. 4 kilojoule burning activity.

In terms of games, gadgets and gizmos that will come and go, I like the poke caper.

Anything that gets kids out of the house and walking the dog (please note the segue) or chatting to random flower photographing middle aged women is pretty cool in my books. It has certainly caught my attention.

 

 

We Remember Them

AS ANZAC DAY memories go, mine are a bit strange.

There is only one person I know in our family who went to war. My cousin’s dad. And he never spoke about it. Besides that one connection, and the story goes that his first Army pay went to buy my mum a pram, there were no medals, no kids marching for their fathers or grandfathers that I knew about.

Growing up, war was something that appeared to happen to other people and in other countries.

For some reason, I never knew about the Vietnam War. We had Vietnamese refugees settle in our town, but no one ever told me why. I remember when I heard about the Vietnam War for the first time. I was in my late teens and working in my first job at a library. I read a book about a gay U.S. soldier and his experience in the Vietnam War. I remember being shocked. When had this  happened? How had I missed it? Why had I never seen it on television or the movies or in newspapers? Why had I never heard about it at school? The only thing I can think of is that my parents must have hidden it from me. Our world wasn’t that big in the seventies. You would never be able to get away with something like that now.

My only experience of war of any kind was through reading and TV. The Diary of Anne Frank, which we read at school. M*A*S*H  (my parents had the book with the strange sexy hand on the front) and then, right as school was finishing, Gallipoli the movie. I guess that was when it hit home.

The reason I’m talking about this is that Anzac Day brings up lots of memories. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people who have lived with war. People who lost children, friends, fathers, husbands. The women who sacrificed and contributed so much – when the men were away and they had to step up into engineering jobs, the land army, factories. And how they had to go back to suburban domesticity when it was all over, often caring for a shellshocked man. After a taste of independence, contributing, making a difference. I think about that a lot.

At today’s service in our small town, every name on the Honour Roll and on the Cenotaph was read out – by different members of the RSL. Then the scouts each put a little white cross with each soldier’s name at the foot of the memorial. And then after the wreaths were laid, anyone who wanted to put some rosemary at the base also could do so. The line stretched across the road and over to the park. I reckon half the town took part – mostly kids and people carrying babies. I have never seen that done before. I was touched by how personal the service was.

One little girl from the pony club read a poem about horses that died in the great war. The numbers were unfathomable. Three million donkeys and mules and apparently three times as many horses. I can’t even imagine that.

I haven’t lived in this town long, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of community. I think about the people that have lived here, I look at the names on the Cenotaph and I wonder about them. What was the town like when all these men and boys didn’t come home? I see street names that remember them.

Afterwards, I wandered down to the RSL with everybody else. It is a tiny timber building with a verandah. The tables had tablecloths and the CWA ladies had the cups and saucers all line up. There were sandwiches cut into triangles, homemade sausage rolls and scones. The bar was in a separate room. I didn’t recognise many people, but I took my cuppa and triangle sandwich and I ate it on the verandah with the other people standing out there.

Life is what we make it, belonging is how we feel, and not always about longevity or being a member of a certain club. And memories live on.

Lest We Forget.

The circle of collecting life

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Good get … a Pyrex casserole dish atop the red laminex table.

AS A SEASONED vintage collector, I no longer refer to familial connections re objets de seventies. These days, my reference point is my past collecting. Perfect scores and of course, the bargain hunter’s bottom line.

Good gets are great. But the real deal in successful collection is the holy grail for vintage collectors, the Good Get AND the Best Buy.

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Photo courtesy fellow gathering friend .. w mushroom and pea motif. Plus newly acquired bee figurines. ‘Bee Sensible’ and ‘Bee Silly’.

But it isn’t all Happy Gathering.

There is always the true retro addict’s remorse: the good get that was never got (apologies to my Year 8 grammar teacher). There is no self-admonishment for ever buying too much, overspending or gathering the wrong item. To pass up The Good Get and The Best Price, is almost unforgivable.

If you fail in this basic step, how can you boast with any confidence? Swagger. Show off.

When your collection is burgeoning and the interior space of your home isn’t, it can be easy to pass up a bargain. Rejection can be accompanied by the words: too modern; doesn’t suit; or heaven forbid, the judgey and slightly negative, ‘creepy’.

Which got me to thinking.. what if we gathered all our collectibles, must haves and can’t-let-gos and lined them up them onto a shelf or a bench or a funky seventies padded bar.. and put it all up for sale. And even though I cold shivers at the thought, I wonder, who would grab what and why?

My interest in retro has developed to such a point, that I am now viewing my collecting In The Third Person. I have caught myself looking at my collection in a particularly delightful rosy light of smugness and others’ wanna-haveness, imagining the admiring looks and jealous glares placed upon all my favourite things, paraded before retro gathering connoisseurs lasciviously licking their lips. (I may have an over-inflated opinion of my collection. But that’s OK, I’m setting the scene).

I do get a lot of comments on my red laminex table and vinyl chairs that started this collection frenzy. But there are a few bits and pieces that get oohs and ahs from even the most practised of collectors. My items that garner such interest include my art deco side table with Bakelite base feature and the Tessa purple woven feature armchairs, gathered with a little insider trading from a Westernport oppie.

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Smaller more curio items, include repros (reproductions as opposed to retro items) such as the Happy Camper melamine plate which is nestled very nicely amongst a repro digital radio, 1960s’ chicken salt n pepper shakers and a Troll Doll who has made a recent reappearance from a toy box after about 10 years. Disclaimer: I am not opposed to kitsch, especially where fond recollections are involved.

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Kitsch in the kitchen.

Some of my favourite items are the happy accidents or leftovers that came with the retro mountain house.

There’s the ultra modern Archer transistor intercom remote, complete with Very Obvious ‘CALL’ button. I like to press the ‘CALL’ button (both in the kitchen and the garage) and order a chardonnay or declare the Sentiment of the Day.

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Call me .. call me now.

There’s also the decal on my teenager’s door which provides hours of teen taunting and motherly embarrassment. It is not to go. Someone put that there 50 years ago. I wonder if they would have any idea how much it is still cherished?

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Let’s fly away.

There’s also the perfunctory everyday household items, like the old laundry sink, the taps, the lightswitches and tiny metal handtowel rail that I have refused to remove when I had the laundry renovated. I wonder if anyone will feel this way about modern day sinks and lightswitches in another fifty years.

As I think more about my retro interests and particular collecting peccadillos, I realise that it’s not all about the past. It’s also about the now. It’s about the enjoyment I get from my process of collecting and connecting via this interest and intrigue. It is also about the recollections that also will come from these current happy gathering days.

And that’s one of the reasons I write this blog. It’s my literary way of pressing that ‘CALL’ button and letting everybody know.

In love with mid century stainless steel spooning (and knives, forks & splades)

splades

Splades .. only 3?!

THE lastest thing in the Retro Mountain House is a strong desire to furnish the cutlery drawer with a mish mash selection of mid-century stainless steel cutlery.

After a lifetime of collecting things that remind me of things combined with the last 18 months of selling, giving away, throwing away some of said items, I have allowed myself the luxury of retro gathering a few more tasty bits and pieces.

Now the retro house is not a palatial mansion, as is the domestic On Trend activity these days. Let’s just say, it’s a quiet two bed affair with two out buildings: a shed; and a smaller shed; and one lean-to (such a Little House on the Praire word) bbq meeting point, which I like to call The BBQ Hut.

Anyway, the point of all this structure discussion is to highlight the fact that there is not a lot of bloody room. And to do my retro collecting ‘pieces’ justice, there needs to be a little space in between so each can be showcased to best advantage.

This then leaves me with not a lot of room to fill with my future retro collections.

That was when I spied the cutlery drawer.

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The collection so far.

I first started collecting old spoons; destination teaspoons and quirky cutlery about the same time I acquired The Start of It All: The Red Laminex Table.

The destination teaspoon thing was going great guns – and I was pleased to note that On Tend cafes started using quirky cups and destination teaspoons in their coffee service. Tick for me, The Early Adopter.

I would collate the destination teaspoons in some pretty bowl or seventies mug and get guests to randomly pluck one out to see where their next destination would be.

It was a little like my version of being a reader of tea leaves and other soothsaying.

What exotic location would it be? The Big Banana; Jupiter’s Casino; Gundagai? The options were endless.

And then, I had to cover a story for the local newspaper on an elderly couple who had the most freakazoid collection of things at their simple suburban house. He collected crystals and burned witty shed names into pieces of wood for his mates; she collected destination teaspoons. Thousands and thousands of the things. Cupboards were full; the hallway was lined with dusty wooden jigsawed shapes of Australia and all the teaspoons that were obviously involved. Readers’ Digest collections of teaspoons; more wooden rusty chain teaspoon holding arrangements. And that was it for me. She said it wasn’t at the obsessive stage just yet.

I promptly went home and bequeathed my destination teaspoon set to the local oppy. No more teaspoon soothsaying for me.

To be fair, I recently revisited the destination teaspoon collecting when we moved to the foothills. The local oppy had a huge basket chockers of teaspoons touting places I had been. I may not be able to hightail it overseas, much anymore, but by God I can stir my tea with a destination teaspoon of some exotic place I have been. Plus they were cheap. I was in.

So now, the only ones that have survived the dishwasher are an elegant Paris number, which sits in the retro sugar bowl; two possums in the shape of Australia; the Sydney Opera House; and a Bendigo tram.

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Destination teaspoon.

My op shop visits stopped for a while during spring, summer and autumn (painting season); but have picked up again a little now in the depths of a dark and deep bone chilling foothills/hills wet and wild winter.

One of my favourite oppies (and don’t be so silly! I’m not going to tell you where!) was so cold the other day, that when I pulled open their drawers of mid century stainless steel cutlery, they were almost frozen inside! But I braved the cold and my fingers and eyes were in perfect concert as I searched and hunted and rifled and searched and hunted some more that I was in danger of being ejected for OCD tendencies in the cutlery drawer area. That day I procured a few splades, or easy eaters. The seventies’ not-quite-finger-food implement of the day. I only took three. The lady was aghast!

Op shop lady: ‘Three! You only took three?!’

‘I didn’t really want to break up the set too much,’ I whispered.

Op shop lady: ‘You left 3?!’

Me: ‘I did. Thanks. And goodbye.’

Op shop lady: ‘I should have taken them myself!’ (There! The big op shop Reveal).

‘Thought I’d leave some for someone else,’ I said and quickly fled.

Now to perfectly honest, that wasn’t the main reason. There was method in my madness. The cutlery drawer in the retro kitchen of the Retro Mountain House is only so big. Already, I am going to have to weed out the bland on bland stainless steel jobbies currently held within and deposit them at the local oppy. I’m now on the hunt for more mid century designs. Bamboo motif and blade of wheat engraved pieces are the choice of the day.

On a recent post from Lost Retro Melbourne (excellent Facebook page and blog), there was a fabulous picture of the Gas & Fuel Building where Fed Square now stands. Now, I’m going to put it out there right now. I loved that building. I would walk past it as an 19 year old newspaper cadet on my way to the old Herald Sun Building and loved it. Loved the blocky style. The exposed smooth brown brick and steel. But more than anything, loved its wind blocking abilities from those southerlies after a particularly cold trip in on the canvas sided tram. If ever there were a landmark in Melbs that delineated North from South of The River, that was it.

And sure enough, the comments that followed were ‘irk’, ‘ugly’. That usual visual aesthetic blah blah boring, modern-is-best crap you sometimes get (the question needs to be asked, why were these modernophiles doing on a retro page anyway??) Anyway, before I could post that I lwas in love with the Gas & Fuel building, up popped a comment: ‘No doubt some mid-century enthusiast will say that the building was great and sad to see it go.’

Yep. Got it in one.

That mid-century enthusiast would be me. And I’m standing proud and strong – as I frequent op shops; delve my hands into freezing mountain op shop cutlery drawers, seeking out, yet again, another tasty little reminder of a time and place that I like to prefer not to forget.

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Desperately seeking bamboo and wheat stalk motif.

And in the meantime, all I can do is wish, hope and pray that somehow, somewhere in some funky tiki kitchen in a far flung suburb of Melbs, there will be a hostess, with a seventies relaxed beehive, wearing a turquoise kaftan and deciding, maybe, just maybe, that it is time to turf her set of bamboo motif cutlery and to rid herself of those wheat stalk designs. Afterall, she’s young and groovy. And needs to keep up with the times.

Signing off, The Mid-Century Enthusiast.

A past-modernistic approach

I LOVE my retro. I adore the psychedelic colours of my kitchen canisters. I flirt with the pussy cat curves of my laminex kitchen table chairs. I inhale memories every time I open old jewellery boxes and walk into oily garages with vices on the bench. I still dream of the smell of musk lifesavers, that my Pop kept illicitly stashed in the red leather between the seats compartment of his glistening Holden HR Premier. We weren’t allowed in that garage. We weren’t permitted to touch The Car. And we certainly weren’t allowed to eat Pop’s lollies. But we did.

HR

Just like Pop’s HR Premier .. I can still smell Californian Poppy and musk lifesavers.

And that is what retro is. The memory, the excitement, the start of your own life. Retro, the unassuming hero, affirms it all. No bloody wonder the stuff is popular.

In this fast paced, digital, screen based, non-communicative, three word motto world, it’s nice to remember the sights and sounds of a slower time. Our simple, stretching forever, childhood. Summer holidays the were as boring as and went on forever. Couldn’t we just go back to school? Early evenings outside the house, that seemed to never end, until we were Called Inside by the smell of grilled chops and the intro music to Happy Days. And test patterns and bands playing God Save The Queen that signified the end of the day.

As I gather side tables, ashtrays, records, buttons and jugs, I wonder when and where did these common and everyday things becomes retro and so collectable? Who held onto these items, and why? Did they love them more or less for not wearing them out? And what makes each piece so sought after now?

How many years lie between life and this retro love? How many life experiences distracted us from even noticing them? How many Ikea cabinets and venetian blinds were stacked up between us and our now obsession?

What else lay between us and the realisation that we really really loved that piece. Was the fervour feverish at first sight? Or was this new obsession, a slow burner, a late bloomer, a previously lived, secret life of us? Maybe this now new object intrigue is simply a case of I’m So Sorry I Took You For Granted, But Now I’m Glad You’re Back.

So let’s take stock.

Things I loved about the 60s-70s:

The music, flares, girls with long straight hair and knee-high white boots, aluminium platters and geometrical design plates, floral prints, woollen hot pants, macrame, push-down ashtrays and dome cigarette covers.

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White go go boots and 70s’ appliances … hot!

Things I hated about the 60s-70s:

Daggy crochet poodle vodka bottle covers; Holly Hobbie; men with slicked down side parts and mutton chop sideburns; Hobbytex; all that astronaut stuff; plastic covers on lounge suites.

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Crocheted poodle booze covers … not!

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Holly Hobbie … creepy and gross!

So where does all this leave us? Crunchy question time!

Would I really want to live in that world now? As much as I love the style and the simplicity, the sights and the sounds .. the answer would be no.

I was watching Love Child – the 70s’ TV drama recently and my 14-year-old son was stunned by the sexism, the racism, the misogyny, the powerlessness of certain people and the heartbreaking decisions that were made.

I was proud of my boy’s indignation. I am proud that the world has changed.

So as I sit on my Ikea lounge and admire my 70s’ kitchen chairs and wood veneer kitchen, I am glad that I also have a modern TV, a remote, a split system airconditioner, a computer, a smart phone. And my memories. I know that the world has moved on, and I have moved with it. And I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful for my retro stuff, as it keeps the senses and stages of my life alive and keeps me comparing and questioning this past-modern place and time.

Too hot to handle

I DON’T know where I got my keep-my-plates-hot-at-all-costs obsession from, but I am rather enjoying it and it’s something I aspire to perfect.

I think it started somewhere in the last few years of when my cooking went from OK to ‘Wow! (surprised voice) This is tasty’. Which spurred me on to strive for The Complete Experience. I couldn’t bear the thought of my tasty treats going cold on a plate while my guests – aka the children – attended to ‘urgent business’ (phone calls, hair straightening, DS games and the end of Neighbours).

As a youngster, growing up in the seventies, there were no hot plates in our house – hot pots maybe! – but not dinnerplates or dishes that were pre-warmed. We’d wait hours for a roast and then it would sit out in the open, uncovered, waiting to be cut. About half an hour later it would be cut. The sliced meat was then placed onto cold plates along with the now cold vegetables, for us to enjoy. Sometimes there was gravy. But it was kept separate, in a cold jug. As a young adult, I couldn’t understand the fuss my flatmates made about roasts – until I ate a hot one! I think it was at that precise moment that the seed of the hot plate suggestion was sown.

In my early house-sharing days, we were always so ravenous, the food went into bowls (I can’t recall us having many plates) and we’d scoff the lot so quick it didn’t have time to get cold.

Over the years I have witnessed a bit of plate warming. Some people would run the plates under the hot tap and then dry them off. This seemed liked excessive pre-dinnerplate washing to me. I wasn’t enamoured. Other people would put them on top of the stove, or in the stove or even in a special platewarming drawer under the stove, or on fancy tea light platforms on the dinner table. Now, it was getting exciting.

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Clearly, I wasn’t ready for that plate warming leap, and when the sproglets came along, my plate warming progression became arrested. Being the mother of young children, hot plates were considered a danger, I guess. So the Bunnykins-ware stayed tepid as was the mush inside.

Now that my kids are discerning food consumption connoisseurs (teenagers) – my daughter is a far better pie, pastry and dessert cook than me – my hot plate obsession has hotted up and is now a (fan) force to be reckoned with.

My hot to trot plate warming fetish has now gathered so much momentum, I now need certain kitchen accoutrements such as anti-ballistic oven mits and underplates – which have to be warmed as well, of course.

It’s been a long time since I have done any science convection type experiments, but my recent experience has shown that the bacon and egg bbq breakfast plates cool down about five times faster on a cold table than they do in summer. I know, as by the time the diners – the kids – arrive, the food is cold, and I am grumpy.

I have become a ‘Come and get it while it’s hot’ hollerin’ chef. And a disappointed ‘Oh. Now it’s gone cold’ (insert sad face) mother. Needless to say, the children have paid heed and on mother’s day, not only did I get multiple dishes of breakfast fare, but they were all on pre-warmed plates, with also warmed underplates. I couldn’t be prouder.

I am now on the search for on-the-table platewarmers that will not damage my 1970s’ red laminex table. I don’t particularly like shopping (except for opshopping and vintage), but this has stirred a sleeping consuming giant within me. I now find myself sneaking into kitchenware stores, after years of telling people I wasn’t interested in that kind of thing. And that everything I needed was from the seventies and already in my laminex veneer kitchen cupboards.

Freakier than what I think is my obsession, is the amazing fact that I am not alone!

A quick internet search to find some classic 1970s’ platewarmers revealed not only a few tea light inspired jobbies, but electric models in boxes (touted as Valentine’s gifts) and microwavable keep-six-plates-warm-at-once offerings.

But better than any of that, and enough to make you make hissing sounds like when your fingers hit the plate – is that there is a Plate Warmers’ Twitter group!

https://twitter.com/platewarmersinc

Slap me with a hot bit of Pyrex and tell me it’s not true! I have found some of my own kind. And strangely, there are a lot of dudes out there warming plates. Mmm. Interesting.

Posts seem to be headed up with the words ‘Gentlemen, start your platewarmers’. I was a bit suss at first, thinking that it may be another type of hot to trot group, but further investigation revealed legit pictures of the plates and plate warming cabinetry and they gave ratings and categories of whether or not said plate warmer would be appropriate for beginners. It all seemed very sensible and considered. There are also #safetyfirst warnings and other handy hints and tips: ‘I was asked today how to clean a #platewarmer – easy I replied – don’t get it #dirty in the first place #adviceforfree’.

Needless to say, I won’t be pursuing further investigation of the #dirty thread (just in case). Hangin’ wit the #platewarmer dudes is one thing; following the #dirty link is another.

Now, dinner is almost ready. Off to warm some plates.

Supanova stars for a day

Well. Let’s just say I blame Tolkien, the creators of Superman and Scooby Doo, ‘Doc’ from ‘Back to the Future’ and a whole gaggle of young folk intent on dressing up and having a good time – from taking the limelight away from an ageing extrovert! Selfish, selfish, selfish!

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The author .. rockin’ a Cosplay wig.

But hey, I don’t blame them .. I actually picked up a few tips and I had a ball as well!

To steal from the program, ‘Whoa!’ (Keanu Reeves) – what a ride! Supanova 2015, at the Melbourne Showgounds this weekend, is a juggernaut of popular culture, animation and a tribute to all things super, supernatural and super groovy!

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Goils! Doin their thing.

My introduction to this world was circa mid 1970s and Superman and Archie comics and Mad Magazine. TV introduced me to the delights of Batman, Scooby Doo (Velma, I love you!) and film.. well.. Star Wars.

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These days, there are Steampunk folk (youngsters dressing up in waistcoats and ties and fascinated by the inner workings of clocks – who isn’t?!), Anime, Cosplay and chaps and chapettes dressed all in black with military style regalia. Not to mention the cute as pie Japanese Kimono Girls, Avengers and Powder Puff Girls.

As an older person, basically, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Supanova. It was in the daytime, no alcohol was involved, so I was open to just about anything! Let’s just say, imagine your dreams, your comic books and your movies all coming to life! It was like a fancy dress party – but with merchandise! The  adolescents were thrilled. I even bought a Wonder Woman sticker – sorry, Super Hero Lensed Emblem, for the back of the four wheel drive. No can can accuse me of not being With It.

The must sees: people milling around in the open space – all open for photos; the huge array of artists and writers; and the theatre and seminars. We went to the Supa-Star Sketch Off featuring animation artists. Wow! What a buzz. It was mesmerizing to see them at work. Almost meditative.

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The fabulous Supa-Star Sketch Off featuring animation artists Tony Moore, David Yardin and Martin Abel.

One of the things that impressed me most about the expo was the politeness of the young folk. Some people call them Nerds or Geeks but I call them, bloody lovely people. And you don’t hear that too much these days. People posed for photos with each other, shook hands and high-fived. People apologised to others for bumping into them, people kept the disabled loos clear and there was an anti-bully/respect policy for all visitors. We were even thanked as we left and told that thanks to us, next year would be Bigger and Better. Seriously Impressed.

So for anyone young at heart, or old at heart with a damn good memory and open to new experiences who loved to see the joi de vivre of young people doing what they do – and doing it exceptionally well – then this is the show for you. Supaaaaaanovaaaaa!! Get the tea towel and nappy pins out! I feel a jump off the roof coming on! Up, up … and away!!!!

Turf Lurve

SOMETHING I learned early in my home-owning years, was that to make the neighbours like you, mow your lawn. Frequently. And often.

There is nothing like the look of someone attending to the general maintenance of their vegetative matter to make the neighbours reawaken their love for you. People you never knew existed appear before you, waving from cars, crossing the road to chat and providing lots of nodding of the head.

I try to dress for the occasion as I know I will be receiving guests. Knee-hi socks pulled up high, long daggy trackies and a ripped painting t-shirt. Oh. And the cap. I was disappointed to not locate my Bunnings or Masters cap for the occasion today – I like to show the neighbours that I Take My Mowing Seriously. Even if I am not too big on frequency or the continuity of my current clipping regime.

I got a lot of waves today, as usual, and one neighbour whom I didn’t even know, slowed down for the appreciative nod and another friendly gesture. I was hoping that the lawnmower’s missing wheel was on the high side of the verge, so he wouldn’t notice that I was not as lawnmowing switched-on as I may have seemed.

The only other time I have every done anything that has warranted such a warm neighbourly response, was to paint a front fence. Painting and mowing. Life in the hood doesn’t get much more convivial than that.

I like to balance my neighbourly mowing intercourse with a deep contemplation of my lawn’s nutritional needs. To be honest, I don’t think about the lawn that much. Nowhere near as much as I think the neighbours must. So, lawn/turf/green stuff contemplation time is limited to about 1-2 hours, once every couple of weeks.

That is, unless there is a weed infestation. But more of that later. I don’t want to peak too early.

Mowing gives me perfect lawn thinking time. Look hey, I’m the first to admit I am pretty Zen behind the Victa .. but it’s not all white space meditation. I use it as perfect lawn thinking time. No one can accuse me of not staying in the moment.

Today, besides a deep contemplation of the missing fourth wheel on my mower (Will it gouge out the dandelions? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?) I did consider my recent mowing frequency. I think it has been a month. Neighbours on both sides have mown at least 3-4 times during my lawnmowing sabbatical.

I feel judged by my lawn – or rather – by the length of the dandelions in my lawn. If it wasn’t for the dandelions and their very bloody cheery yellow faces waving in the breeze, I reckon I could get at least another month of non-mowing out of my lawn. But no. I have community responsibilities. The neighbours expect great things of me. Afterall, it’s Easter. Five full-on days of Christian and Cadbury celebration. The least I could bloody do would be to mow the bloody lawn. So I did.

And during that hale and hearty time – I managed to corral the youngsters for their cordial and yard cart duties, so I could proceed unencumbered. Fresh to flesh out a plodding path of steel capped track that looked like lines in the one hundred metres. Such is my precision.

The state of the lawn today could be described as a relaxed return to green, after the horrors of summer that meant an invasion of paspalum (I was shocked too!) and worrying patches of death and blackened rosettes. What had gone on? Where were the happy heady days of winter when I purchased the property, when the Bent grass (see, I know the name!) was thick and lush and soft underfoot. Naturally short – it is used in bowling greens – I thought I was onto a winner.

But no. The lazy hazy days of summer were not for me. I spent a fortune on paspalum killer and with every slush of the $15 per 500ml chemical, I felt the years of permaculture study abandon and admonish me. I knew my organic friendly friends would quickly become not so friendly and the dreaded sticky headed weed, would soon complete its near takeover of what was once lush and green.

So brown and crunchy the lawn became. The chooks couldn’t even get to scratch around in the clippings, such was its frightening level of toxicity.

And now. Autumn is here. My hallelujah time. The lawn is back to a preferable mix of Bent, clover, a few other weird dichotomous things and the paspalum that missed the zap the first time around, waiting for spring and Glory Days.

So, forgive me dear neighbours. I must repent my dandelion easy ways but please know that I am putting serious consideration into my property’s turf requirements and please rest assured that once I recuperate from The Summer Invasion, I shall once again return to my community friendly and timely responsible and respective lawnmowing attentions. And we can all wave, and be friends again.

Take a seat

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The Adirondack chairs … shamelessly on trend.

JUST before we moved house for the second time last year, I counted how many chairs we had. 17. Is that a lot? I am thinking it may be. An indicator of this came when we moved for the first time last year, friends who were helping me wanted to know, ‘How many bloody chairs do you need?’ They may not have said ‘bloody’.

Anyway, I have quite a few chairs; especially for a small house. Lucky I dot them around the property, otherwise it could look like a doctor’s waiting room or seating preparations for a large family gathering.

Decluttering has helped me reduce this number a little. I bequeathed my hardwaste 1950s’ yellow laminex high chair to the local oppy, and two oversized Frank Thring-esque rattan chairs went over the fence to the neighbours. I was given them by a friend’s neighbour, so there was a nice symmetry there. I bought a cute bedroom 1960s turquoise blue fluffy stool from an intriguing garage sale held by a man from Jerusalem. His shed was a veritable Aladdin’s cave and that haul got me three chunky sixties style kitchen bench stools (that I’d been looking for, for ages!), a rusty Moroccan style lantern and a retro gate for the chooks.

But the fluffy stool started crumbling from its base and leaving a mess on the floor, so it went off to the op shop as well. And in the yin and yang of retro gathering, I must admit, I may have moved four on, but I gained 5. At least some went out.

My most recent acquisitions also came from hardwaste. I think I stopped the car and looked at four chairs in total, but these two made the final cut – a cute little retro tub of a thing that spoke to me in a dream and made me go back for it the next day and an old straight backed vinyl cushion covered hardwood chair, rotting a little at the feet, but not quite ready for the tip just yet. It came with a vintage white table with ‘Helen’ written on its underside in childish painting.

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Hard (waste) to pass up.

I’m not too sure what it is about chairs that sucks me in more than any other piece of furniture. I guess it is just the shape and material and nailing of an era. My Tessa 1960s or 70s woven armchairs were a classic op shop find – I was the lucky recipient of a little insider trading. A workmate’s mum was on duty the day they came in and when my friend saw them she insisted they get put out the back for me. I just love those chairs. Some of the weaving has come undone a little, so I put the antimacassar napkin size cut out pieces underneath, and now you can’t even tell the small holes are there. Macassar was a hair oil used by men since the Victorian ages and particularly popular in the 1950 and 60s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimacassar Who could even imagine there would be things that go on the back of armchairs today to stop staining from hairsprays and gels?!

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Cintique … ‘Sitting is believing’.

Another favourite is my Cintique ‘Sitting Is Believing’ chair. This one truly is a classic. It is 1950s I am picking and has the most hilarious description on satin under the cushion which tells you that Sitting is Believing. And it’s not lying. It is the most comfortable chair I have ever sat in. It has springs and is so comfy. It is also excellent as a laptop using chair in this modern day and age. There’s also another story to this chair, and more so than the sitting is believing thing, are the dark stains on the edge of the cushion. I got this chair in Wollongong from the Salvos. Wollongong is a coalmining town and I was living near one of the last operating coalmines when it closed down. My cousin and I had a night on the town and we met a young guy who had just lost his job. We told him about the chair and he said the dark marks would be from the back of the legs of coalminers’ overalls. I just love that chair and its history. I doubt I’d ever get rid of it – and anyway, if I did, there’s a queue waiting just in case I do.

When I was a young thing, setting up house for the first time, I scoured Country Living magazines and other decorator mags for ideas. One of my favourite pictures was of a big old farmhouse table with French doors and views to a colourful garden and paddocks. Around that table were about 8 retro chairs of all materials, shades and colours. I blame that picture for starting this collection.

I also got my Adirondack verandah chairs from a Gippsland market many years ago – before they became trendy – or ‘On Trend’ (if you want to sound trendy too). I painted them this wack in the face shade of turquoise a few times, most recently in a not-to-be-repeated encounter with a spraypaint gun! They are so massively heavy and take up so much room that I have removed a vine from the front verandah to accommodate them and their footstools. I think they are the largest – and heaviest pieces – in my chair ensemble.

I daresay I have probably owned all those chairs that were in that farmhouse picture at one time or another, but I have never clustered my collection around a kitchen table. I don’t think I have ever had a table big enough or a room large enough for the effect. My kitchen table is red and white laminex and is my pride and joy and nestled quietly near the wood veneer panelling in the retro mountain house. It was my first retro gathering and responsible for kickstarting this whole retro thing for me about 12 years ago. And why am I not surprised that there also was a chair in there?

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The start of it all.

Memories saved for a rainy day

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Today I was in a memory mood. Totally distracted. Extremely unfocussed. Seriously off-task.
But it was kind of nice, in a way. Instead of working, I wished I could have channelled the late great Elizabeth Jolley and kept a little spiral notebook in my apron pocket (not that I have an apron) and jotted down all these memories. My uni lecturer maintains that these thoughts and dreams that do not go away are nagging stories that are crying out to be written.
I travelled to some interesting places in the course of my memory day. The Retro Mountain House has been enjoying some particularly freakish weather lately. Hot and stinking one minute, tracksuit inducing the next. And the view this morning was just breathtaking as the two combined.  Cold air and warm earth met to make a summer fog which wrapped itself around the tops of the trees. The rain was blowing in from the east and the sun was just too shy to shine. I don’t think that sight reminded me of anything in particular. Maybe it’s the start of a memory.
The next stop that appeared, as I was doing mechanical and mundane tasks at work, was to a coffee shop in Randwick that I visited when I was 18. I remember sitting in a keyhole red velvet booth while the whole shop front was opened up to the street. It was hot and raining outside and cars swished by. I think that was one of my first grown up moments. I remember the coffee cups, which I still have a penchant for today, red, squat and thick rimmed. My next experience of a transforming coffee shop was years later in Wollongong. The café had net curtained front windows and old fashioned door with a cowbell on it and was just out of the main street, up the hill toward the hospital. It was always filled with uni types, had evocative cooking smells emanating from the kitchen and the back and devil’s ivy hanging from macramé baskets and trailing along walls and on the front windows, where clusters of other pots also gathered. It was raining too, the first day I went there. I can still remember clearly, where I sat and that Beatnik feeling that I experience there that day.

Songs are often written about endless summer days and lazy days on the beach, but for me, rainy days evoke more memories and come with sound, touch and taste. Maybe that is just because I am a shade and rain lover.

I have great memories of rainy days as a kid – racing onto the wooden school verandah with great sudden sodden splotches on our cotton shirts. We’d shake our hair like dogs and pat ourselves dry. At primary school I can’t every remember any kids walking with umbrellas or getting picked up from school on wet days. We weren’t allowed inside. It was the verandahs or the playground. We often spent our time running between both. And at the end of the day when it was time to go home, we’d gather on the verandah and look up at the great grey sky with sheets of rain between us and home and we’d make a run for it! One of my best memories was making a mad dash to the shops after school on rainy days and racing from the car to the inside, getting a blast of department store warm or cold air as we crossed from one world to the other. On one particularly rainy afternoon, my mother and I went to the newsagents on the hill in the main street. My mother had on a green puffy sleeved floral summer frock and 6 inch synthetic cork-look platform wedge sandals. Well we walked out of the shop and started to head down the hill, but the path was wet from an overflow of water at the top. I was fine in my pointy toe white tennis shoes, but my mother didn’t fare so well as she set sail on those platforms and skied down the hill! To my shock and hers too I imagine, she didn’t come a cropper – instead, staying upright for that glorious ride!