Sundays and friends.

Something I love about this stage of life is that Sunday afternoons are often when we go to our friends’ children’s birthday parties. They’re mostly 1 this year and all the parents and friends get a chance to catch up while watching the next generation play together. I’ve known most of these friends for twenty years, and many of them have known each other much longer, and it’s so nice to see all the kids forming those special friendships you have with people you’ve known all your life. I love that we’re all reaching this stage together and sharing it. I love that we had all our wild nights together when we were younger (and occasionally still now) but that now we all like a good glass of wine or a cuppa sitting with friends and watching the kids. We talk about how one day when the kids are teenagers we’ll be calling to tell each other that your kid kissed my kid, or I picked your kid up drunk from the party you told them not to go to that they went to with my kid and they’re in my spare room snoring so not to worry, or that we’ll all be the embarrassing uncles and aunties who ‘chaperone’ their teenage ‘gatherings’ while hitting the red wine and dancing like fools to 90s pop in the loungeroom. That’s real friendship. 

Singing Happy Birthday to dear friends’ children is a privilege of getting older. 

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Hunting.

 With Melbourne’s disgustingly long bout of wild and wet weather this winter my mind has turned to winter apparel and in particular the need for dry feet. I don’t spend much time tramping through mud (except in our front yard which is nothing more than a ditch at the moment) but I have developed a slavering hunger for a pair of Hunter wellies.

They had a bit of a trend revival a few years ago, via Sloane Streetand into urban warrior territory, but I am a sucker for traditional brands that embrace a bit of modern attention and ride hell for leather into fashionability (compare Burberry’s success, chavness aside, to the recent collapse of Aquascutum).

Surely my future maternity leave will include long walks o’er hill and dale, or at least taking the dogs to the park, which necessitates appropriate footwear?

Here are some in the running and some not in the running:

Original Tall – 79 pounds

The quintessential: the Original Tall style in a classic forest green.

Launched in 1956, the Original has become THE iconic wellington boot, and is recognised the world over.  Each pair is handmade from 28-parts to ensure the best fit possible and given a classic design of British sensibility.

Or in less classic colours … 

Original Great – 95 pounds

Original Gloss – 85 pounds.

Fancy a bit of patriotism?

Original Brit – 125 pounds

Hunters also come in other ranges of styles and purposes. A larger calfed style (a bit more squat to be honest) is the Huntress, which is shown here in the classic green …

Huntress – 79 pounds

… and here in the almost-as-classic metallic! These would be incredibly awesome wedding shoes for a farm wedding.

Huntress Metallic – 85 pounds

A slimmer fit, for those of us  (or more accurately, those of you) with twig-like calves, is the Regent.

 Based on a classic equestrian last, the Regent collection symbolises fashion, style and comfort.  Providing a flattering silhouette with a slim-fit and sleek upper, the Regent collection includes both functional and fashion styles. 

Regent Savoy – 125 pounds

Regent St James Tweed – 125 pounds.

Tweed for extra warmth, but perhaps less useful in the mud.

Regent Montpellier – 195 pounds

Or leopardskin for extra pizzazz!

There are also more practical ranges, including the Balmoral, Argyle and snowshoe collections, as well as seasonal collections more targeted to festival goers. None of them quite float my boat though …

Original Big Brand – 85 pounds

Aubrey – 68 pounds

But I am sorely tempted by these Chanel-esque ballet slippers! So can I justify the price? Would I actually wear them? Is it slightly ridiculous for an avowed urbanite to wear them to the shops? I think the answers are no, no and yes … but I make no promises!

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Oh my giddy aunt.

I have discovered the most joyous of all events.

It’s a hot shower in your own bathroom in your own home.

(Excuse the iPhone photos; it was all I was up to).

Before. WiIl you just look at the lovely colour scheme.

When we moved into our new home it was disgustingly evident that the previous tenants had never cracked out the bleach or Easy Off Bam. There was mould in the crevices of the shower screen and the grout that once sat between the back of the vanity and the tiles behind was now a black strip of putrid rot. Our shiny white-ish tiles showed every speck of dirt no matter how often they were swept and mopped. The bath presumably leaked, juding by the cracks in its cheap plastic bottom. The pipes squealed when the shower was called into action and each tap required delicate nudging throughout the shower to ensure a steady flow. There was no storage – our possessions sat sadly in shopping bags in the bath.

It was vile. I never went in there without shoes on and I never showered without thongs. It was first and foremost on my list of renovations.

Oh the trim. It made me gag.

We were lucky enough to happen upon some great builders on our first phone call. A father and son team, I dealt with the son who spent a lot of time walking me through their approach and providing advice before I even committed to the project, and whose speedy return phone calls and emails were fan-bloody-tastic. If anyone in Melbourne is after a reliable, responsive and good quality building team, I am more than happy to recommend them.

During. An improvement already!

The bathroom build started in mid-June and for two weeks we had tradies trooping in and out every day. Our cats were in a cattery and I’d take the dogs to my parents’ house each morning and pick them up after work, taking advantage of my parents’ shower while I was there. All things considered, it was inconvenient but not greatly, although brushing our teeth over the kitchen sink got old fast.

During. I thought once the shower was taken out it would reveal a gaping vortex to hell.

Despite a hiccup with The Narrowest Bath In The World, we ended up being delayed by only a couple of days. It was the next two weeks when we had a fully functional bathroom but no shower screen (and therefore no use of the shower) that was toughest, although we’d been warned that having the screen measured to fit would be time-consuming but worthwhile.

Before. We also had a charming toilet suite with original tiles … and asbestos.

Before. Lino tiles in the laundry – the owners even considerately left us some spares in case we liked them so much we wanted to extend their spread.

And it is. We’ve been shower-functional for about a week and a half now, and the ease and joy of being able to use a clean, shiny, relaxing and functional bathroom at will makes me happy beyond all measure.

After. I haven’t finished painting the window frames.

Bling Bling.

I’ve been musing a bit about jewellery lately. I usually wear the same favourite, meaningful pieces every day but seeing as I have more meaningful pieces that I have body parts to legitimately wear them on, I’ve been instituting a casual rotation. Taking out something new each day has reminded me about why I have that piece, when I got it, and what it means to me. It’s been a nice trip down memory lane, but has also made me think more about our personal adornment. 

The Krupp Diamond (now the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond). 33.19 carats, D VS1 (potentially IF). On December 16, 2011 the diamond was sold on auction by Christie’s for $8,818,500 (including buyer’s premium), setting a record price per carat ($265,697) for a colorless diamond (Wikipedia).

I am a jewellery person. From wide-eyed admiring the scale and sparkle of my parents’ friend’s (massive) engagement ring as a small child, to falling desperately in love with the work of Rene Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany as an adult, my attraction to the three dimensional, tangible art forms has always won out.

See how I equated jewellery with art there? Because I think it is. Most of it anyway – as with all artforms, there is the sublime, the controversial, the middle-of-the-road, and the simply crap.   

Rene Lalique’s Dragonfly Woman. My favourite of anything ever.

The first thing for me is the workmanship, the skill of the artisan – it’s the design, the execution, the manipulation of precious metals and gems to make something useable and wearable and ‘real’. I love the tangibility of it – that I can touch and feel and move it myself, and not have to admire it from a distance. Something hand-made is precious in and of itself for the work and thought it involves, and the knowledge that the tiniest of tiny millimetres can make the difference between a piece soaring or sinking. When things are mass-produced too, there can be beauty in both the form and the intent. I love the story behind Elsa Peretti for Tiffany’s ‘Diamonds by the Yard’ – it was created so that every working girl (a dated concept, but summing up the new emancipated and self-sufficient breed of young woman of the time) could wear diamonds every day. This is jewellery acting as both status symbol and democratic equaliser all at once, because jewellery is a powerful signifier of who we are. 

Diamonds By The Yard.

I think this is true both internally and externally. Internally because we select items that appeal to our personal aesthetics and that are often chosen by us to commemorate a significant event in our lives, and externally because we are choosing to show something of that to the world, and this is coupled with a number of other markers that jewellery carries around price, taste and status. Jewellery is also a more permanent display of these things, as when we choose ‘good’ jewellery we usually intend that it will be with us for a while and that we will wear it reasonably frequently. Unlike clothing (although also a powerful marker of status) which we discard at the end of the day and probably replace more readily as fashions change, jewellery is often chosen to last a significant period of time and is therefore a more considered and longer-term view of the self. Jewellery can be what we want to represent us now and in the future. The same cannot be said of a pair of bumster jeans.

That’s how to wear jewels.

Each piece I have is not encrusted with gems or dripping in platinum, but I have tried to buy the best quality I could at the time (in itself a potted history). I believe in buying quality things as much as possible, if they are to be used for a long time, or heavily. This isn’t to say I don’t love the odd piece of tatty plastic delight from Diva or Lovisa, and in fact some fun paste can often be just the ticket, on trend and budget friendly. But these things are reserved for fun and giggles, not for long-lasting memories and heirlooms. 

The Taylor Burton Diamond. 69.42 carats in a pear shaped cut, now cut by its owner to 68 carats. After divorcing Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor auctioned the diamond for $5 million, with the proceeds building a hospital in Botswana.

The second, and most important, thing for me about jewellery is in its emotional significance. Jewellery has historically been created for and used as a marker of events  – sad (see memento mori jewellery) to solemn and significant (see the Crown Jewels, or wedding rings) to joyous (I would put the modern-day ‘push present’ in this category, or perhaps more traditionally the use of jewellery as a gift for birthdays or anniversaries). We choose something permanent and beautiful to remind us of something or someone or some time, knowing that by wearing the memento close to us we are close to the memory behind it. As wedding rings symbolise connection and permanence between a couple, when passed down in families they tie us to those before us who we loved and remember. The same could be said for other items of personal used that are designed with form as well as function in min – watches, pens or cigarette cases, for example. The day before my wedding my mother-in-law gave me a powder compact that her father had bought for her. It was a way to connect me to her family, and it couldn’t have been a sweeter thing to do. Has anyone ever passed down a pair of underpants or a pair of toenail clippers? Thought not. Not the same. A nail file isn’t art, but a silver-backed hairbrush is. 

My own ‘collection’ (ha! Elizabeth Taylor’s collection is not threatened) ranges from my grandmother’s wedding ring that my dad gave to me on my twelfth birthday, to  my own wedding rings, to various things I have bought to mark an emotional phase in my life. I wear each and every one, and I remember each and every reason that I bought each and every piece – and if I also happened to buy things just because they were beautiful, then I remember that too.

I like that it’s a collection of similar things. If I had been given a laptop to celebrate finishing university and a nice set of sheets for a birthday and a lamp for Christmas, I would still appreciate it as a gift but I just don’t think that it would add to a roadmap of important things, people, places and experiences in my life. Much as the organisation principle ‘store like with like’ applies to my house, I think that by collecting in this way I am creating a bit of a capsule of things that I both love and that provide a deeper connection with something important. A gift of a foot spa wouldn’t have the same effect. 


Weekend round up.

This has been a strange weekend all around. On Friday night Buzz went to have some bloke time with a friend and stayed the night there, meaning that this was our first night apart since our wedding more than ten months ago and perhaps our 5th or so since we started living together in lovely sin more than 2 1/2 years ago. I find it difficult to sleep without him, and so do our puppies. Sam barked loudly in the middle of the night which woke me up with a start as he rarely does so, and making fear that there was someone breaking in. No, he’d done a wee in the litter box and wanted a treat. Back to bed. The dogs and I slept strangely all night, waking up at 7:30 after much tossing and turning.

On Saturday morning I trooped over to my parents’ for a shower (we are still waiting for our new shower screen to be installed) and then met a friend and her gorgeous baby for a local coffee. We met so we could discuss her experiences with HypnoBirthing, and my reluctance about some of the more ‘earth mothery’ aspects of it. I learnt so much from her about how it worked and left feeling so much more enthused and reassured. We also talked about how women often don’t share their birth stories in detail, and particularly not the positive parts, so I really appreciated her sharing her whole experience with me and her advice on things I hadn’t even considered yet. I ended up enrolling in a CalmBirth course, and hope that the mind-settling and relaxation techniques will be a useful tool for us when the time comes. Thanks V!

The rest of Saturday I did a little bit of household organising with my new baskets, and spent far too long in front of the idiot box watching gems like Toddlers and Tiaras and eating biscuits. I did slip in a bit of Elvis in Girls! Girls! Girls! before the demand for football from Buzz could be ignored no longer. I felt disturbed and unsettled but a Facebook conversation that rattled me more than it should have.

And here’s where the weekend really took a funny turn. I went to bed at about 1:30am, and at 2am woke up to a loud bang. I asked Buzz what it was, and he shouted on his way out the door that it was a car accident and to call the police. I heard some shouting and yelling, and rang 000 as I pulled on shoes and a dressing gown to go outside.

On the other side of the road to our house, a car had gone through a front fence. I couldn’t see what else had happened, but Buzz looked quite calm as he talked to a couple I didn’t recognise. Going closer while still talking to the dispatcher, I could see that there were actually two cars in the front garden, one in front of the other and only narrowly missing the block of flats, but only two people waiting. After I completed the 000 call (and what a difficult job the dispatchers must have, and how well they do it), the couple standing with Buzz said that they had been followed from a neighbouring suburb, run off the road by the first car in the garden, and after they all crashed three men had jumped out shouting “Give us the money!”. The man of the couple tried to defend them both – Buzz says that when he first saw the scene, the man was holding a brick from the destroyed fence and brandishing it at the three attackers shouting “Someone’s going to die!” – and as Buzz approached then he chased two of them down the road while the other ran the other way. By the time I got there the man had returned and was bleeding heavily from the back of his head where he had been hit with a brick, and had a knife wound to his arm. I went inside to get a towel for his bleeding and water for them, feeling all the while that brandy would be most needed but least appropriate. The police arrived and called in the dog squad and helicopters to chase the three attackers, and the fire brigade and ambulance also arrived. After giving our names we were asked to go home so as not to confuse the dogs, so we left for a slightly shocked debrief with each other. As we went to bed, the helicopters circled low for at least an hour, and the dogs barked in the distance. The lights from the ambulance shone through our windows for over an hour.

Fitful hours later, we got up and I realised that what had scared me most was that we were the only neighbours to come out of our homes, except for another couple who lived on the other side of the block and had walked around. I know that some people are fearful of intervening – and if this had happened the night before when I was home alone I certainly wouldn’t have left the house before I had the police on the line, and I would have armed myself and maybe stayed on the other side of the road – but not even the next door neighbours or the people who lived in the block of flats that the cars almost hit came out, not even once the police had arrived. The woman of the couple who were attacked was screaming for someone to help them and call the police. If I ran out the front of my house screaming for help, I would like to think that someone would help me. Isn’t it part of our social contract to help one another? Don’t bad people feel they can get away with bad things in public because no one will say anything? I once saw a young boy in school uniform punch another in the face on a train platform, with literally hundreds of adults on the other platform watching. Not a single person except me said anything, and I yelled at him and sent Buzz over to stand with the boy who had been hit. Hundreds of adults and two young boys in uniform, and not even a shout or a call to the stationmaster. Only a short burst of bossy cross yelling settled them down; they certainly weren’t hooded thugs with shanks. They were 14 year old boys in blazers. How scared are we to allow this to happen? Every time a Good Samaritan is hurt we become more fearful to be decent citizens, and more outraged every time something happens as though there is no connection. But each time we choose not to help another person in need, bad people fear less and grow bolder, and good people allow it to happen. Twice now I have seen Buzz rush to someone’s aid without thinking, the first being when there was a fight upstairs in our old house, and I love him the more fiercely for it.

We debriefed further over breakfast with Buzz’s parents at a cafe, and a ritual trip to Bunnings later we are now on the couch, heater on, enwrapped in blankets with coffees and more biscuits. I am going to see Lady GaGa tonight and must soon face getting up, getting changed, and venturing into the rain and chill. A ‘monstrously’ fitting end to a strange and bizarre weekend.