Words of Wisdom

"What's the good of knowing if you don't tell anyone?"
P.L. Travers

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Checking Into The Blogosphere

Twenty groups attended our first open inspection on Sunday. Precisely zero of them were interested in buying the house.

Currently I am working backstage in an amateur production of 'Evita' here in Adelaide.  I have an enormous emotional attachment to the show, having shared a flat with an original cast member in 1980, so it is a bit of a thrill to be involved in any way possible. That 'way' is as a 'dresser'. This means I help people get in an out of costumes, often VERY fast!

Tonight, the dress rehearsal, we finally got everyone onstage in time. Except Evita who went on to the balcony with the back of her dress open. Oh well, no one noticed :-)

Meanwhile, my lovely Mum and Dad have arrived from the UK and I am embarrassed not to have my ubiquitous 'arrival' photo to display here. In my defence, this was because their place was delayed and I had to go to work rather than meet them at the airport. Still, they're here!

Roll on next Open Inspection....

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Graphic Design Does Not Equal Interior Design: Just Sayin

As I do not post here as frequently as I used to, it has come to my attention that some of you may have missed the whole house sale saga which began unfolding in October last year.

After I had decided that I was 'done' here, that Himself and I were never going to work through the mass of issues that grew, like a nasty bindweed through our relationship, Himself moved out (his choice) and we tried to sell the house.

We failed.

With a massive bill for (unsuccessful) marketing, not to mention the bills incurred for repair and refurbishment prior to the sale process, I was left to lick my wounds and batten down the hatches over winter.

Then our drains blocked up.

This is what the plumber extracted. It's tree roots, in case you were confused...

With lots of theatre and sewing to distract me, I avoided all thoughts of house sale for several months. And then I made some decisions.

One of the pieces of feedback we'd received about the house during the time it was on the market, was that the floor plan was awkward. Interestingly, I had thought this myself on our first inspection, but Himself and No 2 Son's enthusiasm had won me over and, living in the house, the quirkiness of the layout kind of grew on us. Mind you, it didn't stop Himself from complaining bitterly every time he had to climb the stairs from the garage with arm loads of computers etc. It didn't stop him complaining loudly about all the doors he had to open with full hands, because the vast size of the place meant vast power bills which meant that I spent my whole life running around turning off lights and shutting doors to 'keep the heat in'.

The most difficult time was when we had guests. There was nowhere to naturally 'congregate'. In Australia, people tend to move towards the kitchen on arrival in a home. Here they can chat whilst the host arranges drinks and nibbles etc, or in my case, attempts to finish the meal that should have been ready hours ago....our kitchen never lent itself to this. Designed as it was with a small hatch through to a similarly small eating area, people either got under your feet in the kitchen, or stood on the other side of the hatch, awkwardly, as people pushed past them, being in a corridor as they were.

Here it is from one side

And from the kitchen

And here's how crowded it seemed when we sat in the eating area (sad looking back on this photo).

I mean it was ok once we were at the table and eating, or in the lounge room chatting, but in that first 40 mins or so it was always decidedly awkward. The Bestie described the house as having 'no flow'.
And hey ho! There you go, everyone else thought so too.

They also mentioned the 'dated' nature of the place: kitchen, bathrooms etc. All the stuff you don't notice when you live with it.

So I was thinking to myself, what would dramatically change this house, with the least amount of financial pain (what would get me the most 'bang for my bucks' as Himself put it)? The horrible kitchen hatch! I decided to investigate removing the wall.

Well, thanks be! It wasn't as bad as I thought it might have been, and we were able to get new bench tops AND a proper range hood to actually suck air out of the kitchen and prevent the build up of grease etc that I have been struggling with for many years. I began financial negotiations with Dad.

So in August the process commenced.

 Oh. My. Goodness. What a difference!!!! Suddenly we have a place for people to congregate. The centre of our house is alive! It's lighter, cleaner, more inviting.....

But with the new range hood, we had the problem of tiling.

Being smaller and more stream lined, the new range hood exposed the edge of the tiles which had been previously hidden. And anyway, let's face it, those tiles with the 1980s still life......they had to go.

Here is where Himself stepped in. Mr Graphic Designer had a whole lot to say about the tiles. The thing is, he had successfully picked the new white-ish benches, so I had been softened up.
"Dark tiles," he announced. "We need dark tiles to make the benches pop and to draw the walls back, giving a sense of light and space."

Now dark tiles had been the last things I had been considering.  After all, the kitchen is pretty big anyway! Why would we need to give a sense of space...and how would dark tiles give a sense of light????? But, since I deferred to his greater expertise etc etc, we went and picked an appropriate dark tile called 'satin cocoa'.

Then I started to get nervous.

That space behind the cook top was awfully big, I feared the brown tile would be too overpowering. I started to look on the web and found a slightly lighter brown tile, with an etched 'score' line across it, meaning you could fill it with grout and get the sense of more, smaller tiles, broken up by light grout.
Himself was happy too so it seemed like a done deal.

On the morning the Bestie and I started to attempt the tiling of the kitchen,  we discovered that, at 10mm thick, we couldn't could not cut the tiles. Not even with an angle grinder! Massive panic, a re-think and it was back to the hardware store to buy the cheaper, but more importantly, thinner, satin cocoa tiles. Back to Plan A.

I was still worried about the over-all dark effect, so I bought some mosaic feature tiles while I was there.

I thought these would break up the dark tiles Himself favoured and I planned to put them in random vertical lines, behind the cooktop. Surely a fair compromise? Himself was cautiously in agreement and we settled on two asymmetric vertical lines behind the cooktop.

"Mosaics?! Behind a cooktop???? Imagine cleaning those!", squealed one of my more straight forward friends. " I would never buy a house with tiles like that behind the cooktop!"
How such minor statements can impact on our lives.
I spent a weekend planning a variety of ways to place the mosaics with Mondrian like randomness, anywhere BUT behind the cooktop. Most of these ideas got the thumbs down from Mr Graphic Designer.
"Keep it simple," he postulated and proceeded to outline two, slightly offset, tile width rectangles in very minimalist fashion. But more of that later.

In the meantime I had to contend with things like this:

 and this:

which I got sorted with the help of some of my new found theatre friends. Lighting blokes can be very useful!

I then had to back fill the exposed brick with plaster to make it into a flat surface for tile application...

...and then the Bestie and I were ready to go.

We started at around 9am on a Monday morning and it took us most of that morning to reach a finishing point.
 And I had lost significant amounts of hair.
And my wrinkles were 50% deeper.
The problem lay in that row of small tile cuts near the bench under the window there.

Rushing ahead like bulls in the proverbial china shop, and having wasted a day failing to cut the other tiles and making the decision to buy these ones, we forgot the number one rule of tiling. Put up a batten if your bottom tile is not a whole tile!!! (exhibit a) the correct method)

As it turns out, the correct method is NOT, putting up half a tile, then putting another whole tile above it, then watching them slide down the wall, then shoving bits of cut up lunchbox underneath them to prop them up and then putting the tile spacers in the wrong way so that some of the gaps were 1.5.mm and some were 0.8mm and then moving on to the next tile without really getting the line-up correct because the adhesive we'd mixed up was going to go 'off if we didn't get the bloody things up, and it cost a ****ing fortune to buy and we didn't want to have to back to the hardware store.......

Nope, that isn't it. But we forgot about that and, two hours later, covered with tile glue, red faced, panting and speaking quite curtly to each other, this is what we had achieved.

Sad, I know.
As a result, the Bestie suggested we hire a tiler. Hooray, hooray. My anxiety attacks abated (until I saw my bank account) and so, the brown tiles were applied, with 'marked' mosaic spaces (as determined by Himself)  filled, by mosaic tiles.

We hated the mosaic tiles.

But Lo!!!! We took them out.

So, meh, It is ok, I don't love it, I don't hate it. I hoped to be excited and I wasn't. Roll on open inspections!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Mrs A Is Going To Lose It

There was a restorative justice meeting at school this morning. Brother is finally coming back after 6 weeks of illness, police intervention, psychologist's appointments and home schooling. His suspension re-entry included this meeting, where the three people most affected by his actions in the school setting sat opposite him at a table and told him what it meant to  have been violated in this way.

Before he entered, the three of us, two teachers and one student, encouraged each other nervously. I was surprised by the level of emotion I brought to the meeting; it's been weeks, and yet the sense of betrayal lingers.

He came in looking suitably sheepish, withdrawn, closed even.The Head of School had confided that she was unsure of the authenticity of his remorse. There had been many 'platitudes' spouted, many 'I'm really sorry'-s, downcast eyes and cliches. It all sounded a bit practised. As he came in, he had difficulty meeting our eyes, although I could see him trying.

As the Head of School welcomed everyone to the meeting, outlined the purpose and prayed for us, I felt a tight wedge of emotion starting to unravel. My eyes prickled. I started to surreptitiously suck in air.

The first teacher, our art teacher,  began her explanation of how his actions had affected her. He apologised, dry eyed. The Student, a beautiful, gentle Asian lad, swallowing hard, managed to contain himself enough to say:
"I was so disappointed, that you stole my phone, you were in my Home Group, you sold it on Gumtree to a man who didn't know it was my phone and the Police had to tell me all about what had happened."

And then it was my turn.
The whole thing leaked out through my eyeballs.
"I'm sorry," I choked,"Mrs A is going to lose it."

And then I told him. I told him through tears and sobs as I outlined the hurt, the betrayal, the awful week with no phone...(which I now realise is more of a life support system than a phone!). I told him how I could NOT believe that it had been one of our students that would do this to me. I told him of the money it had cost me and the anguish that had ruined my last night of the musical, which should have been a joyful celebration of our efforts. And then I told him how frightened I was for him, and his future.

He started off in the same practised tone but I asked him a question or two and then he started to go red and tear up.
" I don't know why I did it. I used to take things when I was little and I wished I could tell them I'd done it but I never did.....I guess it must be a habit or something"
I couldn't help myself, I interjected.
"Brother, I am not only upset because of my shock and betrayal, I am frightened for you. I am frightened for your future if you choose this path."

And then he started to weep.

Our beautiful art teacher put the icing on the cake.
"I have always had a problem with trust. I will cut people off if they betray me. There is nothing else. I don't need them in my life. But when I started to join the dots Brother and realised that it was you who'd taken the art camera, I realised God was teaching me something. I had been there for every occasion where you'd affected someone in our school. I was there when Student's phone was stolen and I saw how he was affected; I had spent hours with you using the art camera and I felt personally affected by that loss and I was there when Mrs A's phone went missing, and she didn't know her husband's number because it was in her phone, so we had to put MY number into the 'find my iphone' app and then it was me that got the phone call to say someone had bought her phone off Gum Tree. And when I realised this Brother, I knew that God had a lesson for me, and I prayed for you right then and there, I prayed that you would be able to take responsibility for this and that it wouldn't break you."

There was much weeping.

Our Head of School reported that it was the most affected she'd seen him.

I really, really hope that this worthy young man has learned a once only life lesson, and that standing at a crossroads, he chooses the right path. He has everything going for him. He has a loving family, a forgiving school, he's smart, creative and funny. He's a nice looking lad with a quick, creative mind and there is much he could bring to the world. God has given him everything he needs to overcome his weakness. Let us hope that he accepts it all and moves forward in love.

And if he does, I think this restorative justice process will have had an enormous impact.

I first heard about it back in 2007, and whilst I know it is an uncomfortable thing for our Western Society to come to terms with, I think its benefits speak for themselves.

May there be more of it.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Phone Saga

The re-emergence of my phone last week, led to some fairly dramatic events in the school setting.

On Tuesday morning I told my Year 8 group about the pitfalls of purchasing over the internet, using the experiences of the 14 year old girl who bought my phone as evidence. I also told them what the police had said to me about 'gifting' the phone to the girl, as she was out of pocket.
"Don't do that," cautioned the Police Officer,"how do you know she's not the thief?"
The thought had not even occurred to me!
"Oh yes," she continued,"that's what they do. They steal your phone, wait a week or so for you to get another one, and then call you up with a sob story so you unlock the phone for them!"

I am continually amazed by the deviousness of people.

As it turned out, my 14 year old girl was genuine but we still had to follow procedure. She turned the phone in at the Police Station and made a statement, meanwhile, I was failing to listen to one of my pupils.

"Mrs A," the Class Clown piped up, "When exactly did the girl buy the phone and where did she buy it from?"
"Why do you want to know?" I sighed in slight exasperation. This lad is well known for his diversionary tactics when it comes to work....
"Well, I think I know who took your phone," he said.

I was suitably dismissive. "We're not going to start making accusation without proof now, are we CC? Let's just focus on our work." And so the matter was left.

Later I spoke to the mother of Miss Gullible, who should probably be called Mrs Gullible herself, given that she went to the shopping mall and collected the phone off the lad. For yes, it was a lad, school aged and shifty in a dark hoody.

Apparently, he was calling himself John. Now, given that we had one boy in the cast of the show (from whence the phone was taken) called John, I thought I had better just make sure that Shifty Boy did not match his description. Mrs Gullible described a medium sized, light haired boy in a hoodie. Completely generic, and definitely not our John (whew). But then she said, "I don't mean to be offensive or anything, but there was one thing I noticed about him. He did have big lips."
I stored this bit of information away, but at that moment it meant nothing to me.

Later in the day, the Art teacher approached me.
"Have you spoken to the Class Clown?" she asked. "He says he knows who stole your phone."
"Oh for goodness sakes," I sighed,"He was trying to tell me something about that earlier but, really, I mean, what can he know about it?"
"Well," she replied carefully," He says he thinks it's his brother."

There was a stunned moment's silence as I digested this piece of information. With an almost audible click, the Brother's face and the phrase 'big lips' slid into place in the puzzle.
"She said he had big lips," I told her, and we stared at each other as the implications of this news blossomed like a drop of oil in a puddle...

I went to speak to the Head of Senior School about our suspicions and she suggested we speak to the Principal the next day and do some follow up investigations. I went home quite traumatised because, as well as the horror of having had my phone taken by a known and trusted pupil, the Art teacher had reminded me that the expensive Art Faculty camera had gone missing. Initially we had thought someone had borrowed it, but when it didn't return, Art teacher had begun to fear the worst. And of course, what is the role of Brother in the school? Yep, he's the official photographer at school events....

My heart just broke for his parents; a solid Christian family with eight kids and a high profile in the community; I knew how badly this would rock them. I also knew how kindly they would take to the school making accusations against one of their brood. Not very kindly at all!

In the end, we were spared that anguish, as the parents confronted the Brother on the strength of Class Clown's suspicions that night. They had already been experiencing alarm bells and, when they started to ask questions, answers started pouring out of Brother like beans out of a punctured bean bag! His father, obviously a graduate of The Flaming Sword School of Parenting, took him straight down to the Police Station where he turned himself in. Apparently my phone was just the tip of a very large iceberg!

I received an email from Brother, confessing his crime and asking forgiveness, which of course I had already given.  His mother came to see me the next morning and had a little weep, telling me the whole story from their end, processing what it will mean and asking herself the age old question, "Where did we go wrong?" Class Clown was mortified and told his mother he could never face me again knowing what his brother had done, so I zoomed up to his classroom to catch and reassure him that there was no reason to feel guilty about the state of things.

So now I have two phones, Miss Gullible has none and the thief's mother is going to try and ensure that he compensates people for their losses.

I really hope a whole lot of us have learned things from this experience.........

Friday, 7 August 2015

Kitchen Progress

OH. MY. Goodness. How did we live with that hideous brick wall for SO LONG!!!!!???????
Mikado is in full swing.
The phone thief has been identified.
Himself is coming for coffee on Saturday to look at the kitchen 'works' and discuss a plan for re-lanching the house for sale in September.....
More later. Must sleep......

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

There's Nothing Like Gilbert and Sullivan in the 'Cheer You Up' Stakes (oh and by the way, we found my phone!)

Hooray for the 'Find My iphone' app! (by the way, am I the only one who wants to type 'Phind my iphone'?). Last night my friend called to say she had been contacted by a woman whose 14 year old daughter had been naive enough to buy my phone over the internet! Once she had it home and tried to activate it, the 'Find My iphone' app kicked in and told her the device was lost, giving her my friend's number to contact. Salient lesson for Miss 14 who had paid $250 of her hard earned pocket money to buy the phone.

It's all been handed over to the Police and I will get my phone back, but during the week, a wonderful friend gave me a spare iphone 5 she had lying around after an upgrade, so I am less desperate to reclaim my baby and more inclined to donate it to the silly 14 year old girl.
Will that reinforce the lesson about internet purchases that she needs to learn? Probably not........

Meanwhile, I am soothing my soul by creating very silly sets for our local Light Opera Society again. I must say, I've seen worse....

Day one of the set up for The Mikado:

Enter a myriad of players. Average age 58.

The orchestra has never been so 'well contained'...hahahahaha

"Tell us about it KoKo...."

And tomorrow the builders arrive. Here are the 'before' photos.....

This is looking into the kitchen from the strangely designed eating area, or seating area....or corridor. However you see it...

And this is looking back out from the kitchen into the weird area, which we are currently using as a computer 'nook'.
The idea is to remove the wall/arch, replace the benchtops and update the splashbacks.
Stay tuned for developments, starting tomorrow!