Saturday, February 26, 2011

Through the window: A bit of our back yard.

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Firstly, you can see the green shed, which looks much nicer from the outside than the inside. When we first moved to this house, a friend put shelves into it for me. I helped by holding things. For a couple of years, the shed was very tidy. There were even clips for holding the handles of tools upright against the walls. Then, gradually, some of the clips broke, and the tools now seem to be in a big heap. Ants dig up a great deal of dirt through a large crack in the floor. Spiders and other creatures have moved in. It’s hard to reach the shelves because the wheelbarrow, the lawnmower and a large pile of discarded pots always seem to be in the way. Oh yes, a big cleanup of the shed is going to happen soon.

On top of the shed is a large bougainvillea vine. The people who set up this garden must have decided to use every prickly plant they could think of. There are dwarf date palms, cycads, prickly-leaved pony tail palms and an ornamental grass with sharp leaves and sharp flowers. The date palms (which don’t produce dates) have powerful thorns which are several inches long (more in centimetres). Once, I was weeding near one of these trees, when great drops of blood appeared on the paving in front of me. One of these thorns had pierced the middle of my forehead (where I must be lacking in nerve endings). I now treat these trees with great respect and am disinclined to weed near them.

Bougainvillea twigs often fall on the ground. They have thorns like roses which can pierce the soles of your shoes. However, when the vine is in full flower, it can look quite spectacular through this window, and you can see the glow of it from the front door. It’s only half-heartedly flowering at the moment.

The big pot with the pattern on it arrived at our place after one of our children’s many moves. After watching Gardening Australia, I was inspired to plant a lime tree and several herbs in it. For several weeks, it looked just like the TV show. Then the lime tree developed citrus leaf miner. I applied the appropriate cure but the tree has been in sulk mode ever since. You can see that it is cringing against the shed wall and didn’t even want to be photographed. The sage and the parsley were doing quite well until the weather grew hotter and we were using the air conditioning more. The outside unit (near the left hand edge of the window) blows hot air directly onto this pot, so I turned the pot around so that the basil, now flowering copiously and taking over the whole pot, would protect them both.

The chives, in the smaller pot, have run to seed, but are still producing lots of fresh chives for our salads. The brick beside the chives is used to hold the shed door open when we’re going in and out with the ladder or the lawn mower.

Then there is the rain water tank. Once, the citizens of Brisbane were not permitted to have rainwater tanks, but during our latest drought, we were encouraged to, and a whole new industry was born. As we have a pool, it was mandatory for us. Pat’s resourceful cousin Rob installed ours for us. To bring it in, Rob removed the fence from two sides of the pool, and then rolled the tank over a plank across the pool. Luckily, it didn’t fall in. When the tank was installed, we couldn’t wait for it to fill, but it didn’t rain for ages. We finally had a few meagre showers, so we blocked off the other downpipes by taping old CDs over them. Beside the tap of the tank, you can see a green cup, which we use if we want a drink of cool rainwater.....

You can see a bit of the lawn. I would like to dig up some of the lawn and plant vegetables, but my chances of doing that are not high. When we moved in here, we had a “Languishing on the Lawn” party where we all sat about languishing with a few drinks and some live music – it was rather fun.

Well, off I go to clean out the shed ..... well, maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My working camping holiday in Sydney, February 2011.

Anna and Pedram have just bought a house in Sydney, so I went down for four days to see the house and help them get it ready to move in. The house has been empty for seven years, and needed a bit of work.  (Pat thought the dust and paint fumes wouldn’t do his asthma any good, so he’ll come on the next trip.)

When I arrived, they had taken out the carpets and had the floor polished, which had come out beautifully.  They had new carpets in two of the bedrooms, and were waiting for the third, which had been cut to the wrong size.  They had pulled out the kitchen, a wall and some of the bathroom, and begun painting.  Most of their furniture and other worldly goods were stacked in the garage and the carport.  The new toilet had been installed, but could not be used for another day, so creative alternative measures were required.  They were still staying with Pedram’s parents, so I was the first person to sleep there, on a mattress on the floor, being warned that the painter would arrive very early in the morning.

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Here is the house. with the builder on a ladder fixing the guttering.


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Here is the house, plus the house next door.


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Here are the next two houses, at the end of the cul de sac. which are a bit fancier.


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Here is the house over the road. where Pat and Graham live.


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The painter was very generous with his advice and his praise, and soon had us all painting like pros (but not as fast as he was.)


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Anna masking the new carpet, in preparation for painting.


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This is where the old kitchen came out.  Anna was standing on this chair. painting the window, when one of the chair legs slipped down the sink drain hole in the floor, hidden by the drop sheet.  It was a very spectacular crash, but fortunately she survived, and was even able to hold a paintbrush again.  You can see how nicely the floor has come up.  The crossway strip is where the wall was removed, and this was later covered by an island bench when the new kitchen was installed.

At this point, the uninstalled dishwasher in the middle of the kitchen was one of the few horizontal surfaces in the house which wasn’t the floor, so lots of things were always being put on it. 


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The Valentine’s Day flowers.                                                                                                               Pedram managed to find a vase for the tulips, but the roses had to go into a tennis ball container.  And they both had to go onto the floor.


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This fridge in the garage was where we kept our food while I was there.  Anna had put the bananas on the bench, but one night a possum came in and ate them, so after that we kept everything in the fridge.


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Back door.


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Back yard.


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Along the back fence is a tall camellia hedge, which is just coming into bud.  We will have to come down when the camellias are flowering.  There is also the potential for a flourishing vege garden along the side fence.


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Laundry door and ramp, on the other side of the house.  There is some potential for Pat’s gardening skills here.  You can also see the new hot water system, which stopped working the day after I arrived, so Anna was beginning her work days very briskly.


IMG_7808  The suburb is very leafy and beautiful, abounding with kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets.  There was often a kookaburra sitting on the power line or clothesline, and you could hear them laughing all day long.


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This is the first toilet suite in Australia to receive a 5 star water rating.  When you flush, water automatically comes out of the tap in the attached hand basin, letting you wash your hands very thoroughly before the same water fills the cistern.  The toilet was a great attraction for all the tradesman and anyone else who came to the house.  For more info about this toilet (developed in collaboration with Brisbane City Council!) please see


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My special project.                                                                                                                                 This built-in wardrobe was originally a dark stained wood, and my job was to paint it white.  Pedram bought some special European stain-killing undercoat, but although I sanded it thoroughly (very thoroughly – the clouds of varnish floating through the air could be seen up and down the street) as the undercoat dried, in places it  would shrink, leaving a crazy dark brown pattern showing through.  You can see this in the small top left door here.  It did look better after I applied the top coat, but I left before that had dried, so I hope the top coat hasn’t shrunk as well!


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Drying the cupboard drawers in the carport.


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Kitchen day!                                                                                                                                   Everything has been taken out of the old kitchen in readiness, and everything has even been taken off the dishwasher (and put on the floor some where.)  The Coke bottles belong to the workmen.  It must have given them energy, as they were still working when we went out at 7pm.


IMG_7810 [Desktop Resolution] The specially designed corner unit coming in the front door.  It just fitted.


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Kyle working on the kitchen, in the front yard.


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The kitchen going in.


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Between them, the painter and the kitchen boys had a lot of stuff.


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The new kitchen is in!                                                                                                                                   Of course nothing is connected, tiled, painted or works yet, but this is really exciting progress!


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Korean barbecue.

Anna and Pedram fed me magnificently while I was in Sydney.  This was a Korean barbecue; we also went to a sushi restaurant, the local bistro, and had an Iranian dinner at Pedram’s sister’s house.


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Pat’s old flat, St Leonard’s.

One day, I went to Milson’s point where I met up with my Flickr friend Margaret, and we had a seriously splendid lunch at a very smart fish restaurant there.  (The liqueur dessert was magnificent and nearly ruined my afternoon painting session.)  To get to Milson’s Point, I took a bus to St Leonard’s, then a train.  Opposite St Leonard’s station is the flat where Pat lived in 1968 (I think), when he was working for the PMG at North Sydney.  It’s the one in the middle of the white building, with the two square windows.  That’s over 40 years ago!


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Harbour Bridge from Milson’s Point train station.


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Goodbye Sydney!  Can’t wait to see the changes to the house when we come back again.