It's true, it happened to a friend of a friend of mine...

Caringbah Revisited...

, posted: 2-Jun-2008 16:53

Sounds a bit like Brideshead, eh? I actually loved the middle bit of Brideshead Revisited, FWIW.

Which isn't much right now, as I am going to wax lyrical about my childhood home.

Caringbah is actually a suburb in Sydney, and in the Sutherland Shire to be precise. Sutherland, as you may know, was someone on Cook's Voyage of Discovery, although I cannot recall who, exactly. Can't remember what Caringbah means, although Cronulla, the local beach, means 'place of pink shells' in aboriginal. Just don't ask me which aboriginal language, and please pardon my ignorance on that one. Oh, just looked it up, Caringbah used to be called Highfields, but it means severl things, apparently, one being place of trees and water, as the water is actually all around it; being the Port Hacking River. Or, pademelon wallaby, or south

So, from our back window, through the trees, the flame at Kurnell Oil Refinery can be spotted. and from the squash courts on the T-intersection one could look through the trees and onto Botany Bay, and of course, now-adays, Centrepoint Tower is visable. On a clear day. Also Mascot (read Kingsford-Smith Airport).

So, now you have a pretty good idea of where I once lived. With my beloved grandpappy, Big Al, my Uncle, and two Aunts, then in their teens/early adulthood. Before they 'escaped'. Actually, my uncle didn't have to escape, Big Al left before him...

No, that isn't exactly correct, as he was twenty when she left. Must have been too convenient for him.

So, welcome to my (old) place. If you were a stranger, you would have come to the front door. If you were a friend, it would be the back door. You guys are all friends, so we'll go to the back door, as it was before the house was remodelled.

First, it's dark, and we are afraid of the dark. Gina, my next door neighbour, has just escorted us to the start of the driveway. Here we say goodbye, and as she runs back home, we run down the dark driveway. Around the corner and up the steps. Then through the screen door, where we can take our boots off, and then through (or past) the open back door proper. There was a burglar around the neighbourhood once. We put a tin can full of my marbles behind the door to catch him. He never got to our place, fortunately...

The marbles, incidently, came from work sites my Grandfather had been at. Usually built over old dumps, these were the stoppers from the old fashioned bottles. A bit of history for you. Hope I don't get busted by the archeaology police!

So, here we are in our Fibro house! The back room is used as a dining room at present. The old table is a good hiding spot from thunder and lightning, aeroplanes and general violent disturbances to our lives. That's me and the dog, Greta. I will try to put in a photo of her, she was vastly overweight, but there's a reason. The aunty we lost swept her off the back porch and she broke her leg and it never healed... Or is it just that she was overfed by a doting grandpappy?

Back to the dining room... See the hole in the wall? I have put yucky food down there sometimes to get rid of it so I could have pudding. It's a marvel we didn't have more than cockies here, isn't it.

Moving up a step and past the laundry, we have a room that seems to have no purpose, and to the left is the little kitchen. The old kitchen stool made a very good fire engine when I was little enough to sit between the legs of it. Oh, and the Important Drawer is there.

Have you ever had an important drawer? That's where every random bit of paper etc that was too good to throw out went. It was always fun to look in. Once I got out all the old Tetley Tea coupons and we added them all up together with the books of coupons in the drawer of the old double bed, and we had heaps! Enough to get some exiting stuff, but we never got around to it. I'll blame big al, who no longer deserves capitals...

Want to see what else is in here? Here's a photo of my uncle when he was a boy, in a nice polka dot bikini. Apparently his big sisters did not dress him up for the fun of it, like my kids did, it was a fancy dress party... Looks like someone has been cleaning up in here, doesn't seem to be too much else here, Pardon my memory, except for a couple of old bone-handled dinner knives. Lets have a bit of fun, these old things spin really well on the old lino.

Enough of that. Grandpappy put a bar in the empty room. Apparently it used to be a dining room but it's too dark, like the old kitchen with the overgrown gum trees from next door. To get a bit more light in, grandpappy took out the walls between the loungeroom, hall and 'bar room'.

To stop the roof falling in, he put in a few poles, and to make it look nicer he biult boxes around the poles. Sometimes he would have small potted rubber trees in there. But they went out every so often for sunshine. They were only 'poles', so when they got too big they were divided again. In later days, the boxes were full of junk.

In the very corner of the lounge with the boxes is my favourite, a revolving footstool. There were two of these, bought with the first black vinyl lounge that big al stole when she left us. The single chairs revolved, too. After the second lounge went to uncle's bachelor pad, we got them. That's when I moved to mum's. I still remember a boyfriend turning around whistling and muttering 'ignore me, ignore me, I want to be ignored...' when my best friend was over and I was, naturally, ignoring him... Not hubby, well before his time. If you ever see a grey haired man of Italian descent in his early fifies going 'ignore me...' you know who it is!

Back to the loungeroom. Grandpappy's chair was always beside the phone chair. No one ever sat there, it was just convenient as a coffee/beer table etc. Grandpappy would sit in that chair and I would take his shoes off after his sweaty day at work. Gack! The things we do for love. I could get behind the chair and give him a shoulder massage, and also scratch his back. He had been shot in the war, and had a huge hole where the bullet had come out and it was always itchy. I would shut my eyes while I scratched it. Funny, as a forty-something year old, I remember the last time I ever scratched his back. The scar didn't seem to be as big as it used to be...

There's another single chair near grandpappy's, and the lounge is always against the solid wall. Did you notice the lower ceiling here? I think they covered in this part of the front verandah... And grandpappy took out the middle light, so there's only this switch here behind the lounge. Care to figure out which switch does which set of lights? And don't you love the old oil heater, and the old fake sandstone fireplace surround. It's a bit overkill, and don't rub a bare bit of skin against it, it's really rough. The old chimney outside is great for practising tennis on...

The front room is grandpappy's, the middle one is mine. I can watch TV from my bed! And I can look into the kitchen at four in the morning while grandpappy gets ready for work... When I was little, he used to bring a bottle of warm milo in to me. He would come up the 'hall' saying 'fiddly dee and fiddly di, and quicker than you can say...' 'Jack Robinson!' I would reply. Yum. Warm, sweet, milky milo. Always put me back to sleep. And that's how I got the nickname of 'Fid'.

As an aside here, isn't it terrible to grow up and realise you can't go back? Not that I want a bottle again, those water bottles today do the job...

My bedroom had a cupboard sort of built in, with 'denim' curtains to hide all the junk. When I was about nine or ten I got a new wardrobe! The middle part came out as a desk for me to do homework, and I kept my games and dolls up the top. The worst part of my bedroom was that it was also the interior door to the back room. At various times it was used by the teenagers, as there was a back door and sunny porch out there, too. The back room had once been the main entrance, and also the diningroom?

Anyway, the back room was really interesting. It had cupboards which mirrored grandpappy's, and one could climb up the drawers to get into the top part. A very good hiding place. I remember uncle leaving behind his tech pens and good paints, Windsor and Newton. I pinched the lot! I used to buy nibs for my 'rapidograph' pens with my first work money as there was a graphic artist nearby. (Anyone know where to get these pens anymore? Mine died on a slow boat from aussie, literally...)

Anyway, out we go, through the back door which is usually open all summer, as it's a hell-hole of a hot room... (No wonder I am so insecure, Mr Freud...) The back porchy thing makes a great cubby, lovely and warm in the winter sun. And a great place to eat your barbecue and keep an eye on the parties we used to host here. Several steps and you were down at the barbecue kitchen, where my mum's mother's green tea set were relegated by big al. Don't worry, they now have pride of place at mum's.

Let's leave it at that for now, next time we visit I will show you the outer bits, and talk about neighbourhood barbies etc, and the metamorphosis of the barbecue area... But for now I will try to find a photo or two...

Me, Cuzz and the Fat Dog aka Greta

There's the old verandah.  One could get a nice tan in Winter!
(What a cute little girl...)

Other related posts:
Where can a mother go to resign?
And you thought my life was weird...
What they don't tell you in the ads...

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Linda George
New Zealand

Five Children*, Three Cats*,
One Husband, One of Me.
(Oddly enough...)
A few Aussie Accents,
One dedicated Kiwi,
Several ANZACS.
Go Figure.

*One Kitty Kat...

What I write from my life might just help you in yours...