Old time blues

My kids think I'm joking when I tell them they should consider a career working with geriatrics.  But seriously, the way the job market is shaping up in this town at the moment, it is the one safe bet for a solid future of employment, if you ask me.   Admittedly I have no personal experience of wiping sagging bottoms and clipping old thick toenails, but how bad can it be?   A small price to pay for a life of employment which will never buy you a house but but at least get  you out of bed each morning.

I'm also possibly motivated by the fact that I really love hearing retrospective stories of peoples' lives.  When you ask someone in their 80s to tell you their life story there is so much to hear.  Not that they have necessarily done anything incredible or newsworthy, but when you get the whole picture from beginning to end, it can speak volumes about life choices and opportunities seized (or not).  The retrospective prism of time delivers all you need to know about the impact of decisions and circumstance, for better or worse.   The more years you've got up your sleeve as the listener, the more valuable this experience can be.  Which is probably quite a selfish motivation, but there it is.

Recently I completed an oral history project based on a group of RSL members (Returned Servicemens' League, which is now mainly made up of WWII and Korean War veterans) in a nearby suburb.  There's not many of them left, and in fact one lovely chap (pictured left) shuffled on not long after I interviewed him.  Another, who was 99, started each sentence with "and then the next day" which given how many days he'd clocked up, made me seriously worry if I was ever going to get home.    None of them were war heroes, but they all spoke with the benefit of experience, lots of experience, and had lived quiet but fulfilling lives, in one way or another.

I might be not far off senior classification myself these days, but until I get there, I plan to milk the oldies around me for all they are worth.   My son is here marching on Anzac Day.  He might have given a fleeting thought to old people that day, but I'll bet that didn't include their bottoms.



Swanning about

I thought I was coming out of my vintage tat phase, but alas possibly not.  Concrete garden ornaments were genuinely fashionable in Australia for about five minutes in the 1950s and then by the 70s, certainly, they were more likely to bring joy to lovers of kitsch, people from Mediterranean countries and old people who hadn't moved on, in more ways than one.  Thank goodness.  They are always a delight to find tucked away in a garden.   Usually still there because they weigh as much as a small car and Granny's just worked around it since the 60s. 

This episode of ABC's blueprint for living (available to those in Australia) deconstructs the fetish for concrete garden ornaments beautifully.  I couldn't have said it better.   Tyre swans.  I'd forgotten they ever existed until I heard this and then had a sudden urge to consider making one.  Maybe not.

However, yesterday I was poking about in a second had shop (I know! I know I said I never would again!) and came across this. 

I'm struggling to think of much else, and how wonderful it would look in my front patch with a bit of old-lady-plant of some description cooking away inside.  Hmm...


Uptown Fairbridge

We've just been to a music festival.  Getting teenagers to do anything that their parents think will be 'fun and cool' is generally a lost cause but somehow we managed to pull this one off. 

Fairbridge Festival is held just out of Perth every year.  It's a kind of folk / world / indi type of event which they sum up by calling a festival of 'inspired music'.   It cleverly attracts people of all ages, except maybe if you are between 20-30 with quite mainstream tastes and would rather stick hot pins in your eyes than listen to anything involving a fiddle.   That's not us.  Kids endured most of it and enjoyed odd moments which is on balance a pretty good outcome.  

I won't prattle endlessly about all the incredible acts.  There were many,  but there's nothing more boring than someone talking about something you have not seen or heard.  Teen faves were Bullhorn, a seven piece brass outfit from Brisbane with rapper MC;  hard not to like them.  Chris Matthews who grew up in Kununurra (WA's godforsaken back of beyond) who has never had music lesson in his life played guitar like, well, I can't even begin to describe how good he was.  Canadian group Opposite of Everything who looked utterly missable on the programme were mesmorising and super clever musos. 

But most amazing was a guy wandering around the festival, a one man band, if you like.  Uptown Brown pipes music straight out of the 20's from a contraption on his back involving a synthesizer, and assorted instruments.   The sound coming from him was like a gramophone. He was extraordinary and sweet and appealed to absolutely everyone.  

Unlike the morris dancers who had me cringing along with the kids, at least we could agree on something.  Old people desperately trying to be to be wacky and out there, please don't let me ever be one of those.   I love morris dancing but this was way too messed around with.  Some things are best left old school!


Killing it softly

These pictures are from a place in Perth perched high on a hill, overlooking river and sea.  Monument Hill in Mosman Park   It should be lovely but it's not; it's shabby as.  There's two wonderful relics there; the obelisk (built in colonial times as a navigation point and moved in the 1980s to make way for a bigger water reservoir), and also an observation post from WWII (I think that's what it is but it's hard to know really, no signage).

Once upon a time this area was home to lots of thriving industry providing stacks of local jobs for the workers living in their weatherboard cottages, and a motorcycle scramble track (environmentally sensitive no, fun and useful, yes), but the land is now worth a squillion so all that's gone and it's now covered in big ugly gaffs.  Except around the foot of Monument Hill which was sold off in the 90's or thereabouts which has plenty of cheaper but equally as miserable housing jammed up against each other.  Think: that gorgeous and popular development, the 'group of 8 townhouses' lined up like teeth in a denture someone left lying around.   There's often no footpaths, but that's OK because you never see any people on foot.  Clearly there's an arbor aversion from the new settlers too cause there's not a lot of foliage action up high in residential Mossie.  What's left of the natural bush is really just scrub with plenty of litter spread about, for colour.   If you want to see how a site like this could be, look at Bold Park in Floreat.  All timber walkways and decorative steel handrails and plaques about the regenerated flora.  

These slightly arty snaps make it look pretty good though, if I say so myself.  

Don't get me wrong, we definitely need more affordable housing in Perth's inner and more desirable suburbs, but jaysus it sure is hard to to get right, glad it's not my job.  It's all wrong in Mosman Park.  And we haven't even started talking about the blocks of flats built in the 1960s when a certain developer (with, I've heard some help from his friends in office) managed to acquire large chunks of housing stock to build ten story blocks of flats and create a pop-up slum on the apt named Battle Street.  Thankfully the vibe and name has improved in recent years, and apart from the odd junkie swaggering down the middle of the road it's a place where many young people might dream of being able to get a toe hold in the property market (grappling irons recommended).   There's also lots of good stuff going on around the place: the most amazing kids' natural adventure playground down by the river, a luxury mens' shed and restored WWII tunnels.    

But for all its woeful failures, I really like Mosman Park.  It has a bit of everything and all ends of the social spectrum, keepin' it real.   Like an ageing divorcee it's made plenty of mistakes along the way but has some excellent stories to tell.    This place would be one, the rope and twine factory which gave up the good fight in 1990.   The rope walk that stretches out behind it (towards the hill) was used for making the long heavy lengths of massive rope. How amazing that must have been to watch.  (Pic: thanks SLWA, taken 1930s).  

In WWII there was a ban placed on all Americans from crossing the highway into Mosman Park after a pub brawl got out of hand and someone got stabbed by a yankee serviceman. But that, is another story.


Youth groove

As much as my children would vehemently claim otherwise, I reckon I'm pretty hip, withit and happening for a nearly fifty year old, words in themselves that probably just mark me as totally passed it.  Whatevs.

So what with the rebirth of vinyl buzzing around for the last few years, I finally found the time and space to drag down the boxes of records in the loft, dust them off and find the inclination to spin some discs.  I'd inherited my parents' record collection which had been muddled with my own.  Thus there were kooky mixups such as the Jam's Sound Effects nestled in with Nana Maskouri and Rachmaninov.  Aztec Camera next to the Paint Your Wagon soundtrack. Sifting out the crap (cover albums of Bert Bacherach and ABBA, Sesame Street-The Hits) and getting rid of them on Freecycle, I was left with a bunch of records whose covers took me straight back to being nine years old: pampus grass in vases, casapupa rugs, smoked muscles on jatz crackers, lemon cordial, boredom.  God bless my dear Dad who had numbered and catalogued every single album in a ring binder, listing all tracks.

There was just one problem, no record player.  Not wanting to shell out on some expensive bit of kit, a quick search found me a Chinese made device (quality item, not) which arrived a week later and does the job just fine. 

Oh the joy, the memories, the having to drop what I'm doing every five seconds to turn the record over (that sucks).   They just don't cut tracks like Swinging Safari any more!   Then again Save a Prayer by Duran Duran sounded pretty good too (that might have been later in the eve when a few vinos has been consumed).

It's said smell is the strongest memory jogger, but for me it has to be records, even more so record covers, that take me back.  Gold.