Saturday 30 August 2008


I was woken by the Machinist's footsteps this morning as he re-entered our room. "Would you like a cup of tea, Doll?" he asked. He always offers me tea in the morning, especially when he wants me to wake up and talk with him. With major work on the Grand's Cottage behind us we were free to begin renovations to the shop. The Machinist needed to discuss a plan of action with me. Urgently.

Granny still in hospital, my girls both working, my son at a friend's house for the weekend and grandpa unpacking and sorting what only he could unpack and sort, left the Machinist and I alone to do the heavy work. Real heavy work. Dirty and cobweb-y, too.

Hobson's choice dictated that the old, wood panelled cool room, encased in it's own room within the old service station (which we call "the shop") had to be removed first. Colourbond (garage) sheeting was pulled down by the Machinist (while I completed my morning ablutions at a snail pace), revealing the lumber relic, complete with an inscription that reads "Tommy was here. 1968"

Anybody know Tommy?

We hoisted the coolroom up, courtesy of a trolley jack and two heavy duty planks of wood which we used as 'sliders'. Once the coolroom had taken 'one foot outside' of it's forty year old, cavenous resting place, the Machinist forced me to climb up on the forklift and proceed to 'lift', 'reverse', 'lean it back', 'up', 'down', 'forward' it for the rest of the day, while he carted around a variety of wooden blocks, removed obstacles in my way and shouted out emphatic steering directions to me above the din of the motor.

It's wasn't only dirty, dusty, heavy, cobweb-y work, but operating the forklift after such a long time, was nerve-racking, too.

Hear that Machinist??

Monday 25 August 2008

An Evening at the Hospital

I went to see my mam in hospital this evening. Oh wait....that's right - I've been to see my mam in hospital each day ever since she was admitted last week. Tonight was different though. I saw not the tired looking, slurrrrry talking (panadeine forte) reluctant mam who initially didn't even want to be admitted. I saw a new woman -fiesty and lively and full of authority. Over the nurses, that is: "Is it time for my next load of antibiotics, nurse?" and the patients sharing her ward: "Let me call someone to help you, sweetie. Don't you move...".

My mam is back to her old self - pre cellulitis. (I was worried there for a while). She's not over the physical cellulitis infection as yet, (her leg is still a shade of angry red with lighter areas of mottled pink), but her emotional self, her soulful self has resumed.


Mam has acquired yet another new friend: Diane. Last night, she and Diane broke their ward's 'lights out, time to sleep' rule. Oh yes they did. Diane hauled out her new DVD player, inserted "The Land Before Time" DVD, lassood over a spare set of (extra long) earplugs to mam's bed and together, all wired for sound, they proceeded to watch with glee and a large dose of rebellion.

Oh, and they've placed their order for pop, popcorn and chocolate for tomorrow night's viewing, as Diane insists that she will still be around for the fun....

Sunday 24 August 2008

Our Next Project

Here is the old service station we bought in June of this year. It has been empty for over ten years and was badly vandalised. The property consists of a shop, restaurant, kitchen, with a residence attached. We have recently renovated the residence, which we call the "Grand's Cottage". Next item on the agenda is the remodelling of the shop and restaurant, which will become a retail gallery for "Metalsmithery" - respectable ironwares for the home and garden. Metalsmithery will also have it's own cafe - "Metalsmithery Cafe". Finally, the commercial kitchen will be re-fitted.

More on all of this as the weeks and months go by.

Here is the customer carpark. You can just see the one side of the Grand's Cottage before renovation. The hill rises at the back...

The front of the old service station. To the left, the old shop, to the right, ladies toilets.

Another frontal shot. The right hand door was the shop, the left hand door opened into the restaurant.

Standing on the west looking eastward. The awning, and the site of the bowsers. This service station was once known as The Golden Fleece.

As you can see - we have our work cut out for us. Life as we knew it has changed forever....

Grand's Cottage AFTER Pics

Here are some Grand's Cottage 'after' pics. Unfortunately, I was too late to capture some shots before we started moving the Grand's furniture inside. These were taken as we were unpacking, sorting and organising. Hence - the messiness. Things in odd places, etcetera etcetera... The wall paint is called "Macadamia Cream" by Pascol, mixed in a Dulux base (nothing I do is ever simple).

This is the front sliding door. The old, smashed in and vandalised exterior fibro walls were cladded with huge sheets of white styrene and then Don, a hard-working, travelling cement worker, finished the walls with his special mix of cement render. We will paint the exterior at the same time as we paint the shop (when we get to refurbishing and setting up the shop).

See the contraption on the right of the photo? We call it the "Bunny". It is a huge gas bottle and heater on an RHS metal frame with wheels. It was our best friend on those cold, cold nights. Can you see the trusty old red barrow in the reflection of the glass? This carted tons of all types of nasty stuff.

Remember all the hardwood framework and dangly-bit electric wires? Well, this is the wall they are now encased in and it divides the living room from the kitchen. (Can you see a corner of the Westinghouse fridge? I told you there would be odd things in odd places). The picture on the wall is one of my parent's favourite pictures. They bought it over twenty years ago, when we lived in South Africa.

This is a shot standing at the kitchen entrance, looking back towards the front door. A sofa is 'nursing' a tv, and my dad has only half filled his desk and bookcase. It looks like a nuclear bomb has gone off outside....

The cottage actually had three bedrooms, but we turned one into a utility room with a back door. Here is the left side of the utility room, with chairs to sit and ponder on a hot summer afternoon, or to curl up with a blankie on a cold winter's day, waiting for the washing to finish in the machine. Again, the nuclear bomb outside...

The right hand side of the utility room with a laundry area for Grandparent washing days...

The storage cupboard in the utility room, fitted with 'white glass' doors. All the bedrooms had this type of cupboard and doors fitted.

The shiny, bright, white bathroom with a twist of black.... This room was horrid. The windows were painted, the walls were cladded with rotten wooden boards, and the only means of bathing was a minute bird-bath-type-shower-thingy made from chipped enamel.

Part of bedroom 1, just to show you the finish. The carpet colour is "Cappucino". Quite apt, Hastings. Quite apt.

Another part of bedroom 1. See the window? We spent days on these old cedar frames.

Remember the buttercup alley corridor? Now it's Macadamia Cream walk. Much more serene. This is a view from bedroom 2 looking into bedroom 1. First door on the right is the bathroom, second door on the right is the utility room and back door. The only door on the left leads to the living areas.
This is bedroom 1 looking into bedroom 2. Can you see my galvanised mop bucket? At that stage, it kept on calling my name.

You may notice that I haven't posted pics of the kitchen. The reason for this is that the Machinist had some final adjustments to make on the kitchen cabinets which we picked up for a song on Ebay (viva la Ebay!). He has made a stainless steel benchtop for the bottom kitchen cupboards and I'll post a picture of the kitchen - complete - when it is er - well, when it is ABSOLUTELY complete.

More later....

Grand's Cottage Encounters

Here are some photos of what we have encountered working on the Grand's Cottage.

Firstly, I think this is an extremely complex photo, don't you? You really have to focus on it, have a bit of an understanding (??) what is going on to actually know what you are looking at. Let me explain. At the very bottom of the photo, you can see the tip of my workboots (Colorados) as I'm taking the picture. This should give you some perspective (what?). I'm standing on a 20cm thick chunk of hard, 30 year old concrete (the older, the harder). Why this chunk of concrete was laid at the back of the cottage, we will never know. The dirt part of the photo is the 'stormwater' drain. I say 'stormwater drain' very loosely, because it is so shallow and unlevel, that all it does is hold rainwater from 150 years ago and act as a cesspool for the bad-side-of-town-mosquito dropouts. The pale yellow, flakey panels are (were) the exterior fibro walls of the cottage. You can just see the bottom end of a board we used to cover up a window, as most of the window glass had been broken.

Here is a closer look at the stormwater drain. It contains bits of dried grass (from the jungle we mowed and hacked down in the garden), moss, leaves, sludge, paint flakes, and - surprise! - dirty chunks of foam. If you're baffled about the story behind the foam chunks, don't feel alone. The mind boggles.

My strong, hunky men, about to break up the sea of concrete. Note the holes in the exterior fibro walls. Note the stench pipe - going nowhere. Note the boards we used at night to block up the windows and remove the next day, so that we could run electrical cords.

The Machinist and Mr Jack Hammer.
" ....The first cut is the deepest, baby, you know - the first cut is the deepest...." tra la la.....

Like I said - the older the concrete and the longer it has 'matured' - the harder. Mr Jack Hammer didn't want to earn his living at first, but with insistence from the Machinist, we were soon carting wheelbarrow loads of broken down, submissive chunks to the utility, for cartage to our local tip.
This is one of the many encounters we've had, working on the Grand's Cottage. We expect to find more, and experience more "challenges" when we start on the old petrol station section, along with the shop. If you're not completely bored by now, I'll send in a sneak preview of what we have to work on next.
Starting next week!

Thursday 21 August 2008


Now I know what I have to do.

Whereas my mam wanted to do all the unpacking and arranging herself, she has given me permission, from her hospital bed, to go ahead and make her new home orderly and pretty and ready to move straight into. Her new home, that she hasn't even had the pleasure of seeing fully completed as yet.

My mam has cellulitis. Cel - u - lie - tus. It is an infection of the skin and sub-cutinous layers. We are told that microorgnisms have permeated her skin and have wrought havoc with her skin cells, causing them to become hot, red and - oh my - angry. The antibiotics she was receiving once a day via infusion were simply not strong enough to combat the formidable, occult microscopic invaders. An increase of administration and antibiotic strength was needed - hence her admission into hospital.

"Why?" and "How?" and "Where from?" are all questions on our lips, if not already spoken.

Although my mam is of good spirits, it is just terrible seeing her half sitting, half lying in a stiff hospital bed. Mam is usually the carer, not the cared for. It is as hard for her to be cared for as it is for us to see it. She is being a good patient and eating all her food and drink, and taking all her medications, and enduring some rough and some not so rough nursing staff taking blood from her usually well-behaved veins. Already, she knows the life stories of those in bed next to her, and those across the ward from her. Instead of reading or knitting or fathoming crosswords or finishing off woolly wombats as gifts for fortunate recipients, or doing other Granny related activities, my mam prefers to 'people watch' and offer sympathy and understanding to those around her who are at their most vulnerable.

We will be visiting her each day, and are prepared to be spellbound at her recovery and human life stories.

And while we are waiting for her return home, I will continue to unpack and organise and make her home inviting, comfortable and so very cosy.


Welcome to the world of the Steelbashers. I should be catching up on long overdue bookkeeping, but couldn't resist showing you three of the 7 men in my life.

This is my dad, aka "Gramps" or "Grandpa" (depending on who is addressing him). He is the older side of "The Grands". He has worked around the world as a coded welder, and his favourite saying is "Lincoln Bullet DC". He is referring to his favourite welder and method of welding. Can you see his welding gloves? The dirtier, holier, more used-looking the better. This fills him with a sense of achievement and convinces the unsuspecting that he has been working really hard.

This is the Machinist. I love to capture these action shots of him. He likes to play it cool, but I love to see the Machinist in the midst of sparks and flashes, looking so virile. He makes such an artful statement.

Another shot of the Machinist. Precision is his middle name.... "You, you light up my life...." tra la la ....

This is my favourite Number One son. (My only son). He was working on his hundredth frame. Can you see the enthusiasm written all over his face? Check out his kapuchi lips. Move over, Mick Jagger, the third generation Steel Basher's in town.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Grand's Cottage BEFORE Pics

As promised, here are the pics of the Grand's Cottage BEFORE we got to it...

The corridor ceiling. Buttercup yellow!

Bedroom 2 leading to Bedroom 1, via Buttercup Alley:

Bedroom 1. What a colour scheme. Check the newspaper on the floor. Despite our diligent efforts, we still spilled and splashed paint on the floor. Lots of it!
Part of Bedroom 2. This wall had to come down, as it was soggy soggy soggy. This fact didn't seem to matter to Miss Hairy Mary, though. She spun a grand palace in this particular section of the hardwood 'T' junction:

The bathroom window. Every set of upper windows in every room were blocked in and painted:

This is the lounge room, looking towards the front (sliding) door:

This is the lounge room, looking towards what was the kitchen AND laundry:

This was the floor in the kitchen:

Looking up at all the dangly bits in the kitchen. Walls still had to be built:

This is the bathroom, just after we put villaboard on the walls, which were covered with horrible wooden planks that were damp and mouldy:

Here is a pic of one of the windows with commercial paint stripper applied. I wrote about this in an earlier blog. Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble....

Anyone for sandwich spread?

Tuesday 19 August 2008

My Poorly Mam

(I can't believe) it's been so long since my last confession....


My last post.

The Grands cottage is finished. Sort of. We've practically lived there for the most part of 12 hour plus days, but it is delightful to see the fruits of our labours and how the cottage has transformed into something lovely.

The Grands are now residents of our small town! They are our neighbours. Well, they're not our neighbours just yet, as they are guests in our home. We've moved all their furniture into the cottage, but they are living with us for the time being, as my mam has a nasty streptococci infection in her leg and needs looking after. My dad does a good job of looking after her, but I believe that the womenfolk are better at handling illness in family members, so I am now part of the Granny Care team.

Mam suddenly started vomiting and shaking as if she was completely frozen. Then she had a day of sleeping and not eating. A couple of days later, she told me that her ankle was aching and I rubbed Tiger Balm into the area between the side ankle knuckle and the back of the ankle bone. This eased her pain a lot. However, the next day, her leg was redder and swollen and we insisted on taking her to the hospital. Thats when we learned about the infection. So, for the next week or so, we will be taking her into the hospital each day to get her antibiotic 'fix', via intravenous infusion.

I hope to post more about the completion of the Grands cottage and (gasp) even post some photos.

Stay fixed....


 Table talk amongst our children is and always has been, -  a rabbit warren . We start off in one hole and end up in another -  quick smart....