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ON the RENO: Part 2

So, when does a house you’ve moved into become your own? There is, for weeks, months, or even years the otherness of the occupation of the last owners or tenants. Maybe a sense of strangeness—even foreignness—because the house is daunting in the way  that it seems to have  been neglected. It could be that it appears an absolute slattern in its presentation. You cast your mind back to the last house you lived in and you think, that house was never like this. . . That house I slid into as cosily as if I were putting on a new skin. I snuggled into its nooks, glorying in its cooling places in the harsh, unremitting days of Summer when the sky was as hot as ashes making sweat run down my body as if I were standing in a cauldron of soup. But think again. Suddenly you recall that you made those cooler places by putting up blinds to block the light, shuttering western-facing windows that stared into blistering  Summer; you stripped off rococco wallpaper that made your interiors feel claustrophobic,  painting the space instead  white or  pastel coloured;  you added windows to confrontational walls that didn’t allow you to breathe easily until you did so; you put fans in ceilings after insulating them and  planted trees that offered more shade. And by draping enviro-cloth over the struts of a carport so tall it lowered the temperature of the house another 5-10 degrees, you achieved your goal. All this and more I did. But these are the sorts  of things you forget, because you tend to make  these innovations over time—especially when you’re working for a living and trying to bring up kids simultaneously—and you forget the little details that are making your life more comfortable. That is why it is a good idea to take photographs of your house at its most unattractive, so you’ll remember. Or, if you don’t really want to remember it at its worst, at least get hold of a picture or two from the real estate agent’s catalogue that beguiled you in the first place. Not because it was exactly what you wanted, perhaps, but because you saw some remarkable potential for putting your own imprimatur upon it. For making a stranger’s house your own. Here is such an example: This is a picture of my kitchen as it was. You cannot actually see the cooking apparatus because it is hidden by the big brown bench.w800-h534-2012498993_13_pi_160104_012221

The photo shows quite a large space split into two by that bench and a partition. The actual working space of the chief cook and bottle washer was very small, because, once again, the space was dominated on one side by the bench and on the other by an enormous chimney that took up about a third of the rest of the room. It was a concrete construction over 150+-year-old bricks which had, I guess in the psychedelic sixties, been wallpapered over by that interesting orange and green pattern (now somewhat faded) you can see to the far right of the photograph. This wallpaper made another bold statement in another room and was treated with the same respect.

You can see the floor of the kitchen tends to be somewhat aslant. That is not an illusion. It actually dipped with alarming alacrity towards the back of the house. It was this propensity plus the couple of accidents I had slipping on worn ceramic kitchen tiles and off a decontextualised stair, that caused me to consider re-stumping the house. Though that was a ghastly experience, what we found under the house added to its allure for me, making me respect it for its great age and even love it a little more. So I won’t become boring and repeat myself about the mystery that unfolded in the re-stumping, instead I’ll direct you to an earlier blog called “For My Brisbane Friends and Anyone Else Who May Be Interested” which explains it. Read it and weep.


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  1. renovating your dream home has added vigor to your writing. A new angle on life and ever so enjoyably crisp.
    meeting the characters in the domain of usually men only departments. As I discovered they enjoy a new angle on salesmanship especially if you are holding something odd like a sparkplug.

  2. Cheryl

    Well that is the best compliment you could have ever given me. Thank you so much, darling girl. I am about to post the picture of the renovated kitchen. Just clearing all the junk off the bench tops so that it will not detract from what I think is an improvement.
    Love, CJ

  3. On The Reno ! and 2
    On the find: A TUNNEL. Wow that makes a challenge for CMJ the writer. You must have a Chinaman as was in gold-digging time. The Cinese grew vegies and sold shovels and wheel borrows. Then there are the Gone-before owners who struck it rich ten foot below and built the house over the dig. There could even be a second set of steps in that tunnel.
    So as new owner with a legitimate reason to demolish the original floor when the modern-day miner is under suspicion for being too rich too soon. Take it from there where you not only have stash space and have searches by the police with inches away from their quarry.

    I am enjoying your Blog immensely.

  4. Cheryl

    Thank you Marjorie,
    Interesting points you make. Did you know this part of the goldfields was called “10 Foot Hill”? This was because the miners only had to dig ten feet to find gold. Also Forest Creek which is nearby, had the country’s richest deposit of alluvial gold. The Chinese were certainly living up here too, pne of my neighbours had a Chinese shrine in his backyard. Glad you’re enjoying the blog. Tomorrow I hope to put up some “before” and “after” photographs of some of the renovations.

  5. Hollie

    Stunning! X

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