Friday, June 10, 2005

More Y-Fronts

We have workmen in the house. This is an old house, built in the 1930’s. It is one of the few properties owned by the Australian government now, and is probably worth a fortune as it is one of the older houses on the island. Old houses can be beautiful but come with all sorts of built-in problems. Nothing is ever simple here. Painters in every repaint since the 30’s have happily painted over hinges and door fittings and window latches. A recent attempt to open a just-painted cupboard door (we had to re-plaster a wall so great lumps of plaster would stop falling onto the bed the minister would sleep in, but that is another story) was curiously difficult as the doors resisted. Then there was an odd popping sound, and the floor was suddenly covered in hinge-shaped curves of paint, like long thin acrylic finger nails.

Some of our windows wouldn’t open. Many wouldn’t close. Shutters had been put in but painted so many times that they ended up half an inch wider than they had started. Any attempt to close them forced the shutters off their hinges – and my staff kept attempting to close them. So they hung somewhat drunkenly on loose hinges.

Any hint of wind had all the glass in our windows rattling like a manic cocktail party. This was not conducive to an easy night’s sleep.

Worst of all, the house just fills with large amounts of dust. Last time an Aussie property inspection team came through they pointed out that the curved windows didn’t fit at the top – to the extent that many had gaps between frame and glass that you could put a hand through. These panes were each held in with four nails, wedged at angles from the outside, but not visible inside.

We have the authority to fix windows and shutters. The contract has been allocated, and the foreman and chief engineer (sounds funny, but everyone here seems to be an engineer) sat down with me to plan the calendar.

He wanted to take all the windows out on a floor at a time, take them away to work on them, and then come back six weeks later to put them back. I wanted one room done at a time, windows removed, completed, and put back. Many ‘windows’ are actually French windows so they double as doors, and they were not talking about just removing glass, but every frame and every support for the frame. He assured me that they would not take the shutters off at the same time – we would always have one or the other for security. I pointed out that security was all very well, but I didn’t want the whole top floor open to mosquitoes and dust, and unable to be cooled as the temperature climbs.

We eventually agreed to the roof rooms (my studio) first, then half the bedroom floor followed by the other half. Then, after this month when we stop having lunches and dinners for official guests they will start on the ground floor, but will always leave one room which can be closed and cooled.

They arrived yesterday and attacked the studio and my reading room. I had quilters visiting, so had to traipse them around downstairs, with a brief flit to the roof to see my shrouded studio.

At about three in the afternoon I headed upstairs to check that they had used plastic to seal the holes where the windows had been. Bob was out for the night so I had planned to sew.

I walked into the reading room and backed out fast. A man was in the process of changing, with his back hastily turned to me and his white underpants below his shirt, bare legs below.

I shot back downstairs, waited till all cars had gone, then skulked back, very embarrassed.

By morning I had decided to brazen it out with a cheery greeting, and just ignore the whole thing. I heard them arrive and troop up the back stairs, then went up. I walked into my studio this time – to find two men with their pants down.

There may have been more – but I was off.

I was really upset. It is funny – but I love those rooms, they are mine and I spend most of my time in them, and this felt like a total misuse of my space.

We have arranged (not me, I have been scared to go up and face them) for a room for them to change in, but I am still feeling stressed and angry.

I had a really interesting morning two days ago with a meeting for the Asian Diplomatic Wives Association – and believe it or not, I am a member. The diplomatic corps here is divided into regions as there are a huge number of embassies. They discussed the Spring Song Festival which we have just had, the Bazaar which looms terrifyingly on the horizon (I don’t do bazaars, but am not brave enough to say so) and then had a huge lunch – at eleven thirty! Then the belly dancer arrived to teach us to belly dance. Now the only thing that horrifies me more than solo singing in public is dancing in public. The demonstration was terrific – as you will see in the photos. Somehow this dance combines sinuous fluidity with a snappy bump and grind which would have any male hyperventilating. How does anyone keep the upper body still while the hips flick left and right and the arms undulate around each other? Have a look at the photos.


Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,
I do hope that you have by now managed to make it into your studio and reading room without any further incident!! Funny, your home sounds a little like mine only mine is much,much less valulable and only about 30 years old. I'm with you, no public singing or belly dancing for me. Canberra and surrounding regions have been promised rain over the weekend. I'll believe it when I see it.
Regards Helen

8:34 am  
Anonymous Bar Price said...

Hi Jenny - I have just caught up with your blog after 2 months in UK visiting my son and his family. I have been engrossed. What adventures you have and what superb photos. Many thanks - Bar

4:06 pm  
Blogger Liz from Queanbeyan said...

Hi Jenny,
I am sorry, but I had to laugh at your encounters...we often don't think that others would drop their trousers wherever convenient and not think of our discomforture.
I only sing in private or after at least threee glasses of red.
Good news on the weather is raining here (Saturday morning).
Totally captivated by the architecture images - thanks for sharing.
Regards Liz R

11:30 am  

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