There have been some changes around these parts. I am still trying to figure out where exactly these parts are. In late February, we were notified that our landlord was selling the house and the lease would not be renewed. This was not welcome news. We had a long-planned trip to Japan scheduled for early April, and I had a lengthy work promotion application due the day we were to leave. It also became apparent that I couldn’t buy us an additional couple of months with subtle hints or out-and-out flattery. Flower shops don’t sell “Please Don’t Evict Me” bouquets or potted pink quill bromeliads. Logistically, we would have to move out of one house and find and move into another before leaving for Japan. That and I wanted to learn some functional Japanese words and phrases for the trip. Friends assured me the most important would be sumimasen – sorry or excuse me. I’m still not sure if that was general advice, or advice specifically tailored to me.
It was not only all the tasks before us that overwhelmed me. I was bereft. I loved that house. Work getting the property ready for sale started around us. There is dissonance in caring so much for something that doesn’t belong to you. At the same time, as one friend pointed out, landlords may not always realise you’ve made their house into your home. This is the great landlord-tenant divide. It’s hard to have workmen coming into your home, praising the doorknobs that, over night, are no longer yours.
After about a week of silent (or not so silent) grief on the couch, I sprang into action. We looked at new places, slowly packed non-essential books and records, and ticked off an every-growing list of things to do. We found a place, and the application process was extremely efficient. Now it was time to pack in earnest and move on.
It’s funny how when it’s time to leave a place, you develop affection for things that were hitherto disliked. There is a gargantuan gum tree on the property. It’s the kind of tree that engenders admiration from most visitors. That’s unless your visitor is Italian. Whoever amended Julius Caesar’s much-referenced phrase to the Roman Senate from “I came; I saw; I conquered” to “We came; we saw; we concreted”, describing the perspective of European migrants in Australia (and perhaps elsewhere) was only half-joking. At its worst, a bin could be filled in five minutes with all the leaves and twigs the tree had dropped. Musician and poet Chad Sugg wrote, “Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year”. Maybe so, but I often pictured the tree being replaced by a replica of Laocoön and His Sons, a statue unearthed in Rome and considered by Dr. Nigel Spivey “one antique sculpture [that] furnishes us with the prototypical icon of human agony”. What seeing that depth of human emotion through the kitchen window every morning would do for a house’s feng shui, or my general disposition, I had no idea; but I made no secret I detested that tree. If you are interested, the tree is the backdrop to my picture on the About Adam page. Remember, I said I hated it; not that I can’t spot a good photo opportunity. But I did find myself making peace with the tree, even taking a series of photos when the sunlight shining through it was most splendid, and the honeyeaters and lorikeets on its branches plentiful. You tend to cling to the old and ill-remembered when faced with change.
Moving into a new place is all about new things: learning where the closest supermarkets and takeaway eateries are, memorising the litany of street names, and finding a new way to travel to work. Then there’s the actual house. Playing Tetris with furniture largely bought for one home was not the most difficult. It is actually adjusting to the little things, such as where and how bright the indoor lights are, the water pressure of the shower, and even where to fold out the clothes horses when the weather isn’t right to use the outdoor clothes line. Necessity is the mother of invention; but it all felt a little weird.
Once we had moved in, we still had the old house for a couple of weeks. A friend remarked to me one day how quickly a home becomes a house. The furniture was gone; pictures on the walls were taken down. On the last day, everything had been ticked off the lists and the final inspection complete. I took the last packing box in my hands and walked out the back door. I thanked the house. I think we used it well. The one thing I would have changed was using the house more with friends. It was a great entertaining house. Two days later, we jetted off to Japan.
It may seem odd to write largely about moving house when the most exciting thing to have happened recently would be the trip to Japan. This will, of course, come later. We only returned home last week. I’m still processing all I saw of those beautiful people and their country. This is more of an explanation of why there hasn’t been a post here in a while. While I didn’t post during the move, I was still deep in research for some interviews. One involved looking through old 1960s Australian newspapers, which had not yet been digitised, at the State Library. I hadn’t used a microfiche reader since high school. The readers are much updated, with the ability to save a newspaper page as a JPEG or PDF. It was a lot of fun, so much so that I found myself saving articles not only relevant to my subject. Pages I copied included one with photographs by Cecil Beaton of the Royal Family and infant Prince Andrew; another detailing an 18-year old dress maker’s apprentice spitting at Marlene Dietrich at the Park Lane hotel in Dusseldorf; and still another with reviews of three new books about Japan. Closer to home, there was an advertisement for Shelley Berman’s show at the Palais Theatre in St. Kilda, Melbourne. Another story covered a worrying trend, for some, of poodles being treated at beauty parlors. Mrs. A. Davies, poodle shop proprietor, felt that, “People are pampering poodles and making fashion fools out of them”. I didn’t realise treating poodles to “roses, pink toe nails, bows and jewelled collars” was a relatively new trend. One or more poodles had already “been shaved, tinted and shampooed” at a beauty parlor (The Age, September 5, 1963, p. 3).
It’s time to settle into the new house. More posts are on their way. It’s also time to catch up on TV we missed while in Japan. I was late to the party in starting Mad Men, a fact many friends found outrageous given my love of the ‘60s. We started watching shortly after moving into the old house. One night after watching three back-to-back episodes of Season 1, I went onto eBay and bought a vintage wooden lamp. Unfortunately, it didn’t come with a lampshade, and finding a lampshade with the spider fitter has proven a bit difficult. Consequently, the lamp sat on a sideboard for most of our time there. Mad Men finishes its run soon. Strangely, paying the old house’s last electricity bill a couple of days ago made that chapter final. Now that the show is coming to an end, maybe it’s time to get the lamp rewired and dressed.