Home Renovations 101, May 2015.

As you know, I’ve returned to blogging and my last post gave a brief overview concerning mental fragility, medication and teak-like flesh. In order to get back into the swing of writing on a regular basis, I’ve come up a half-baked idea, which I’ll let you in on in a minute.

Firstly though, the brand new, shiny blog template seems to be going okay. There is one thing I forgot to mention, which I must apologise for. The comments system. It’s a pity I’ve had to bin anonymous comments, but in the last post I mentioned why. At times, leaving a remark is not easy, as the Blogger system is clunky and known to magically make your comment disappear. Immediately after you’ve written it. I’m not sure what the solution is, as it’s part of the entire Blogger experience. You’d think being part of the Google empire would be seamless, but a lot of the time it feels like I’m being kicked in the nuts by an elephant wearing a very large shoe. All I can say is, if you can’t leave a comment, then just think it and I’ll tune into it later, when I put on my mind reading, alfoil helmet at night.

Now that’s out of the way, I’ve decided on a radical idea for this and the next couple of posts. They’ll have nothing to do with walking. I’ve even got working titles for the next few and they’re, ‘The Beaver Incident’ and ‘It Was Here a Minute Ago’. Originally, I was going to include them all into one brutally verbose entry, but it got way out of control. They’ll make more sense being separate entries anyway.

Oh, before you get too traumatised about the lack of walking, it’ll be coming. In December and January, I did a bazillion day walks, including both Glenn Tempest’s books,ย Melbourne’s Western Gorgesย andย Victoria’s Goldfield Walks. That’s not all, as I did ALL THE WALK VARIATIONS listed, so some were done multiple times, which I’ll blame on freestyle OCD. I might write about a few of these strolls, but there’s a slight problem. So many occurred in such a short space of time, I’ve no idea what happened. They’re all just a big blur of summer sweat.

Actually, regarding the outdoors, after I did those books, I turned off the wandering switch. During the stressful, ‘not working/am I bonkers’ routine, the process dragged on forever. Believe it or not, but do you know what was making it worse? Walking. I don’t know about you, but when strolling, I never enter some sort of zen-like state. Oh no, all I do is think and due to the metronome plodding of putting one foot in front of the other, my brain switches into overdrive. Somehow the walks were making it worse, so I stopped and decided to do activities where my mind was distracted by something other than my own thoughts. Movies were perfect and I went from OCD walking to OCD movie watching.

This was great for a while, but I couldn’t watch movies around the clock, as my eyes would have gone square. I needed something extra to occupy the brain, so I commenced reading grand books of literature and combined this with staring at the inside of my eyelids. Here I am seeking inspiration, whilst accompanied with another literary classic.


Then, it suddenly hit me. Why don’t I sell my house? You know, for something different to do? There’s one small problem. The house was built in 1960 and it appears nothing has changed since, other than some 1970’s ‘enhancements’. Generally, this means the additions are low on functionality, but high on visual horror.

So it began. How about some renovations to boost the sale? By the way, one thing about selling is I’ve always had to live near work, but now it’s out of the equation, I can go almost anywhere. Like a wanker, there I was perusing the real estate sites, ‘How about Kyneton? Halls Gap? Broadmeadows? Baghdad? I like the beach, so how about the coast? What are you doing numb-nuts? Why be confined to Victoria? How about South Australia? Tasmania? Darwin? Perth? The world?’ As you can see, it was starting to do my head in. All those choices!! Anyway, firstly, a building spruce up was needed. Making reasonable toast is my only home handyman skill, so Smuffin was dragged in, toting his manly power drills and stuff.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yeah, good in theory, but restraint was probably required, which unfortunately went out the window, roughly five months ago. Now it feels like I’m now doing the whole stinkin’ house, which was never in the plan. Carpets have gone flying, multiple skips, filled with crap, have come and gone. Regarding this, I’ve been quite ruthless and need to be careful when the next skip arrives, as I don’t want to accidently throw the whole house into it.

Oh, it also means I’m dealing with multiple tradesmen and their alternate names. There’s ‘Bags’ who I’ve met a number of times, but strangely, never seen his eyes. On each occasion he’s wearing service station, reflective, wraparound sunglasses, no matter what the time of day or weather. Maybe he doesn’t have any eyes? I can confirm one thing he’s missing. A number of teeth, which is pretty good going, as he only looks about 25 years old.

Anyway, on the name front I’m also using ‘Bash’ and I’m not joking, but he introduced his assistant by saying, “G’day. I’m Bash and this is Ash”. Huh? Is this possible? I’m loving these names and I’m keeping my fingers crossed the next tradesman who turns up will introduce himself by saying, ‘G’day. My name is Barry, but you can call me Ball Sack’.

It’s not all fun and games though. One bloke turned up and he looked a little deceptive. Not tall and quite slim, but when he put his hand out in greeting I was terrified. His paw was easily as large as a Volkswagen and his grip was frightening. This power handshake almost crushed my hand into dust and all I could think, ‘Is the Boston Strangler really dead? If not, I think I just let him into my house.”

Anyway, over the years, I’ve learned to observe the absurd and in the past few months I found two ways to get a tradesman on my side. Firstly, lemons. Yeah, okay, it sounds a bit weird, but it makes sense. In the driveway, I’ve got the most prolific lemon tree in the Southern Hemisphere. This thing produces enormous yellow orbs all year round and there are so many on each branch, you’d swear it was some sort of mutant grape tree. It’s always commented on and the conversation usually goes like this,

Man says, “That’s one hell of a lemon tree. Do you piss on it a lot?”
I say, “No, I may look like an uncultured rock ape, but I tend to use the comfort station”.

Man says, ” I’ve tried to grow lemons, but I never have much luck.”
I say, “Really? Do you want some?

These few words of generosity always create an amazing response. Their eyes light up and they become quite animated. Similar to the look one gets when you realise an extra flake has accidently been placed into your fish and chip order.

Mind you, I don’t have a problem with anyone taking a handful, but one bloke, upon ‘lemon-taking approval’, rushed down to his car and returned with a large shopping bag. Filling it to the brim. I thought he was taking the good will a bit too far, but I didn’t say anything and instead, retired to the couch. Time passed by until I heard some noise outside. Investigating, I was a little surprised to still see him there, topping up the bag. Is he moonlighting as a lemon selling salesman? I didn’t hire him again.

My second, ‘letting a tradesman feel at ease’, tip is pretty obvious. All you do is introduce yourself and say ‘fuck’ as soon as possible. Before you know it, you’re on their side and they’re saying fuck every second word. It’s not without flaws, as I think I’m making some of these blokes feel a little too relaxed. I mean, I kid you not, but a couple of electricians were working and chatting, whilst I was about two feet away. Whilst fiddling with some sort of tricky problem, I couldn’t avoid hearing the following conversation,

Bloke said, “I’ll show you a trick. It’s a lot easier if you do it this way.”
Other Bloke said, “Oh, great. I haven’t see that before. You’ve taught me something there.”

Bloke said, “No worries bro. We can teach each other. Maybe you can teach me about sex. I could always learn more about that. You could show me a few things.”
Other Bloke said, “Sure, whatever you need to know.”

Mm… Interesting. I was a little concerned their shirts would fly off and baby oil would come out, but luckily it stopped there. I can’t vouch though for any hand trolleys which may have occurred in their car when they left.

Anyway, returning to the renovations. Remember the chandelier, which I discussed in my Tipperary Track post? The hideous object, which hangs from the lounge and causes me to duck when I pass under it? Here, I’ll refresh your memory. Taken during one of my many moments of staring at it and contemplating how anything could be so hideous.


I’m sorry to say, to all you lovers of shit light-fittings. I’m getting rid of it. I had an electrician come around and must say, he may have the most freakish eyes I’ve ever seen. Sort of like Peter O’Toole (pre-alcoholism) and a youthful Paul Newman. After dealing with the comedy tradesman, he struck me as one of those blokes from an early porn movie. You know, the ‘tradesman’ turns up and before you know it, his pants are attached to the ceiling fan and he’s standing on his head with right leg behind his left ear? Ol’ blue eyes has been entrusted with bringing the Fiasco-residence up to safety standards and he also meets one of my other criteria. He’s cheaper than the other quotes.

How about floorboards? They’re interesting. My dad was a pre-Renaissance bloke who believed an uncovered floor was a sign of poverty and nice, plush carpets were a status symbol. You’d really made it in the world when you could afford some dust collecting, allergy inflaming, shag pile under your feet. This house has nice floorboards, but they were covered by 1970’s carpet, which suspiciously looked like someone had lost control of their bodily functions over an extended period of time.

The vomit looking carpets are in the process of being ripped up and thrown to the shithouse, with the boards revealed once again. The shag pile was easy, but the kitchen is the complete opposite. It was covered in vinyl tiles and I can imagine whoever laid them all those years ago saying,

“Okay. These are beautiful polished floorboards, but what I want to do is lay down these hideous white squares. Somehow, they combine the look of rampant dandruff and unrestrained masturbation. Perfect”.

Oh that’s not all, but the prick didn’t put any backing on the tiles. Instead he glued the bastards straight onto the floor and it took a heat gun combined with the subtle use of a spade to remove them. There was no casual, ‘lift a tile with index and thumb action’. It was all about grabbing each square with both hands and leaning back with all my strength , as if I was rowing a Viking longship into a North Sea gale, which was made worse because the rest of the crew had stopped to have an extended smoko. For about 10 hours straight.

The enduring horror created more profanity than anything I’ve ever uttered and left my hands twisted into some sort of craw-like shape (it’s not the craw, it’s the claw). Even now, weeks after I pulled them up, I feel pins and needles in my fingers when I clench them. Has the floor aged my joints overnight? I took one photo and it really sums up how I felt about the process.


Okay, that was a little painful, but the agony isn’t always indoors. I’ve been mixing it up with the garden and I must say it didn’t start off too well. There I was with my brand new mattock, shovel and a fistful of anti-depressants, ready to start clearing a garden bed. A few hefty swings of the mattock resulted in something come out of the ground and fly around me. ‘Mm…What’s that? No idea. Keep digging’, was the thought.

It’s all good in theory, but there was a problem. I suddenly felt sharp pain in multiple places and I guess it was how the punters felt, who happened to be downwind of the archers at Agincourt. Yep, those buzzy bugs were wasps and they weren’t happy.

What I want to know is this. They didn’t land and sting after a few seconds. Oh no, as they hit me I was stung. How do they do that? Do they fly with their arses facing forwards? If it wasn’t so painful I would have contemplated it a bit more, but my reaction was a little more animated. With numerous wasps attached to my t-shirt, I slipped into an uncontrolled panic. Hurling the fabric into orbit, I commenced running laps around the yard with my hands above my head screaming.

As you can see, it wasn’t going too well, so I retreated to my house bunker and picked up the phone. Calling the first pest removal number I could find, I was told, “No worries. I’ll be there in a minute”. What? ‘In a minute? Was he parked around the corner?

After hanging up, I stepped outside and a van pulled up out the front. Is this possible? From phone call to arrival, I reckon it was about two minutes. I hadn’t even had time to retrieve my t-shirt from low orbit.

Bug Man leapt out of his van and wandered up the driveway. I was struck by one thing. He may have been the thinnest person in the world. He took, ‘all prick and ribs’, to a whole new level, although his bicycle-spoke build was off-set with large objects. His pants packed an oversized buckle and a huge chain led from his belt into his pocket. I think it was keeping his wallet on a leash.

Anyway, Bug Man gave it his best and was done in about five minutes. It all seemed a bit too quick, as I’d been stung, a bloke had arrived and the job was done. All within 15 minutes. Due to this rapid time frame, I thought I’d be a good bloke, by saying, “Well, that was quick. Do you want a cuppa or something?

Bug Man said, “Oh yeah. I’d love a coffee!!”
I said, “Really?”

Don’t you hate it when someone takes you up on an empty gesture? I guess the rapid fire job completion meant he now had some downtime. Actually, I didn’t think he’d leave as he regaled me with his stories of the largest snakes he’d caught and other tales from life as a Bug Man. One can’t complain about the fastest service ever though.

Oh, except he told me to give it 48 hours before re-digging. No worries, as it allowed me to sit down again. ‘I’m not slacking off! I’ve got to wait for the wasp’s to die!’ A few days later I returned to the lethal garden bed, but guess what? Yes, I was attacked again. Believe it or not, but there was a separate nest, only ten feet from the previously eliminated one. This led to ‘sticks’ reattending, but even I’m too spent to describe the second visit.

Moving on. Do you remember my ‘House Cleaning 101’ post? By the way, that entry has had more hits than most of my walking posts. It makes me wonder why I bother writing about the outdoors? Anyway, the post about clutter was written in 2012 and guess what? There’s stuff still being located and thrown out. The garage revealed this interesting find…


It looks like the world’s worst suitcase. Doesn’t it? Sure, but it’s got a story to it. Did you know I lived in England in the mid 1970’s? Sailing to the Northern Hemisphere on an Italian ship, SS Marconi, and returning by sea to Australia a few years later. This is the suitcase from the return trip, complete with shipping labels still attached. Notably, the orange one, with Chandris Lines printed.

It’s definitely a blast from the past as Chandris Lines no longer exists. Their ship, SS Australis, is what I returned to Australia on and it was a million times better than the Marconi. The Marconi was divided into classes and we were confined to the stern like mangy dogs, with fences preventing any movement forward.

The Australis though, was single class, which meant I was able to wander anywhere. There’s nothing quite like walking to the front of the ship during a storm in the Indian Ocean, as I think it’s better to to see how you’re going to sink, rather than being confined to the stern, not knowing what’s going on like a bunch of chumps.

Anyway, I loved that ship and it’d be great to step aboard again, as it holds so many memories. The trouble is, it’s a little worse for wear. I assure you, it looked a lot better than this when I was on it. It had a stern and everything. Now, you’d certainly be in trouble they had a third class.

SS-American-Star-photo taken by de-User-Wollex on 2004-07-02-wikipedia

SS Australis. Courtesy Wikipedia: Author Wollex

So there you go. A bit of Fiasco trivia. Actually, the suitcase is only part of the story. Upon opening, it revealed treasures, which had been hidden for decades. Firstly there was a Polaroid Land Camera, complete with flash cubes…


…and a Yashica EE. Whatever that is. Does it mean it’s wide-fitting?


There was Smuffin and I, punching the air, confident we’d uncovered hundreds of dollars of antiquities in a shabby suitcase. Feverishly we perused the value of our discoveries. Mm… The Land Camera is worth about $17 and the Yashica around $30. This barely pays for a pub meal, so our enthusiasm deflated as quickly as it had risen.

You know what? I could go on and on, as these are now the eternal renovations. What started out, as a bit of lazy tinkering has left Smuffin and I working harder than a one armed ukulele player in an arse kicking contest. Derek, my ultralight housemate, has even helped out with some digging. You’ve got to be wary with him though, as bones are fond of being buried. Each night I’ve had to make sure he’s not six feet under.


Anyway, time to go. It’s Friday and I want to publish this today. Plus, the bloke will be here soon to bury the exposed gas pipe in the front yard, which shouldn’t be there. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that saga.

No doubt I’ll have more to come on this home tinkering topic, as approximately one million more things need to be done in this joint. Let me leave you where this post started…