Thursday, 25 April 2013

Home Sweet Home Pt 2

This is the second part of my "notes about all the places I've lived in over the years ".  The first part was back in February.  Click on the photos to make them larger.

no 11:  Finke, N.T.

   From Darwin, at the end of 1972, we went for a trip to Europe and then transferred to Finke on the railway line south of Alice Springs near the S.A. border.  Doortje and I flew in a 747 jumbo jet from Amsterdam to Darwin where we picked up Jacqui, flew from Darwin to Alice Springs in a Fokker Friendship, and then, because we missed the Ghan due to a daylight saving mixup*, we flew from Alice to Finke in a Cessna 206 to find that the red-dirt airstrip finished right next to our house!

   In this aerial shot (an NT Govt photo), our house is 51505 (the school is 00355 next door).  51625 and 51576 did not exist but this was the parking area for light planes that arrived on the airstrip to the south.  The post office with residence is bottom left, including lawn, and the pub, with four chimneys, opposite the post office.  Almost the whole town as it was is in this photo, except the police station, off the photo at bottom left, and the railway station, off at middle left.

   This is a poor shot taken from the west in 1973 of our house, surrounded by gum trees, oleander bushes and lawn. (The school gardener, Toby Ginger, also tended the teacher's yard- apparently!  I was too green to dream up alternative duties).  It was a 3-bedroom cement brick house, the 1960s standard design for government staff in remote communities, simple but comfortable.  A feature of the house was that, once it was known that Doortje was a nurse, and became employed by the Dept of Health on a casual (?) basis, our third bedroom became the Finke health clinic, where numerous wounds were treated and at least one baby was born.  Daniel was also born while we were there, but in Alice Springs, not in the spare bedroom!

* the Railways operated on South Australian time, not Alice Springs time!  We stayed overnight at the (then) Stuart Arms Hotel, and woke up to be told that the train had gone, but not to worry, we could charter a plane and catch up to the train at Finke!

no 12:   Papunya, N.T.

   In March of 1974 we moved from Finke to Papunya (a move worthy on its own of a 5000-word short story).  However, to concentrate on our accommodation, I have no photo of the house except this aerial view which I took while on a joyflight. 

   Our house is above the yellow cross.  The school is further north- the long building on stilts, and the large building under construction to the left is the hospital.  It is easy to see the central whitefella professional part of the town in which we lived, with trees and some lawn in the middle of the desert.
   When I zoom-in on this photo I can see the shed that I built in the north-west corner of our block and our Coaster bus in the back yard.  The house is a demountable, sitting on steel metre-length columns and clad with white colourbond steel.  The government was always mindful of standards; we had built-ins in every bedroom, storage cupboards, ducted cooling, heater, and so on.  Rent was nominal, a euphemism for negligible. 
   A feature was that the main bedroom at the west end of the house ran the full width from front to back, with ample room for a baby's cot as well as my study desk.  We lived in this house for three years; Andrew and Helmy were born while we were there, and I did three years of correspondence study.  Doortje had her hands full!

no 13:   22 Sirocco St Jamboree Heights, Qld 4074

   Six of us moved to Brisbane in February 1977 when Helmy was five-months old.  Because I was on paid study leave, with rent subsidised, we could afford to rent a large house in Jamboree Heights, a brand new suburb south-west of the city.

   We've got none of our own photos of the house.  This one shows us playing with clay which I'd purified, probably from a nearby building site, and the back of the house, with the door to the lower level which was laundry, recreational space and garage.  Up top, it was a fairly normal house.

   This photo from Google Streetview, shows the front of the house, with shrubs that weren't there then. I remember it was a devil of a job to mow the grass because of the slope.

no 14:  Ti Tree, N.T.

   After Brisbane, in 1978 we moved to Ti Tree, 200km north of Alice Springs.  (I was supposed to be assistant principal at Bradshaw Primary in Alice Springs but they talked me out of it!)  The house there was the 1970s update of the house we had at Finke.  Three-bedroom cement brick, plenty of cupboards, adequate kitchen, etc, but this time with evaporative air-cooling ducted to all main rooms, and fresh water tanks plumbed to the kitchen.  When we arrived in January 1978, the whole yard was underwater from a recent downpour.

   This shows the house's eastern or school side, showing the shade I constructed near the back door.  The tanks on the eastern wall were for oil heating.  The roof panels were for solar hot water.

   In this photo, taken in the 1990s, many of the trees that we planted have grown somewhat.  We made expeditions to the nearby Hanson River when the time was right and rescued river gum seedlings from the fast-drying sand.  It was great to see that most have prospered.  Another feature was the carport I made on the western end of the house.  It had a frame of galvanised pipe and Cyclone pipe fittings left behind by the builders of the school fence.  (When the school superintendant came and stole the whole fence for his pony club in Alice Springs I had to sweet talk him not to take our carport as well).  I covered the frame by stitching to it hessian from wool bales and I have no idea where they came from.  It was big enough to house the Coaster bus and keep it cool but didn't last long once we left.  [Have I got a thing about carports? - see Hesso]

no 15:  Lajamanu, N.T.

   Once again, the Ed Dept wanted its cake etc, and we moved in February 1979 to Lajamanu (once known as Hooker Creek), a long way south-west of Katherine in one of the remote parts of the NT.  The locals assured us that we should move into a house (a la Ti Tree) on the bare southern side of the community in the new whitefella area, rather than the old principal's house in the established part of town.  We chose the latter, with Aboriginal neighbours, a huge mango tree in the backyard, and isolated somewhat from work after hours.

   Once again, there are no good photos of the house, but this one, of our kids in the back yard in the wading pool with some neighbours, Doortje holding Prindi the pup, gives the flavour of the house.  It was solid brick with small hopper windows to beat the heat.  The mango tree is off to the right of the picture.  Again, I made a shade structure to supplement the tree and beat the late afternoon sun.  Like the other government houses we lived in, it was only about 12 squares or 110m2, nothing flash but adequate.  We lived there for a bit more than 18 months.

no 16:   17 Carruthers Cres, Alice Springs, NT

   In late 1980, we moved to Alice Springs when I joined the Commonwealth Dept of Aboriginal Affairs.  In 1975, we bought the house at 40 Memorial Ave and then, because it was too small, sold it to buy the Carruthers Crescent house in 1978.  This was rented out until we needed it.  It seems that during the 1970s we assumed we would live in Alice one day!

   This shows the house when we bought it, a very plain but solid place made of besser brick, built for the heat.  The photo shows the laneway to the next street on the right, as well as the huge evaporative cooler that ducts into the roof space.
We lived in the place until the end of 1981 and in that time we got rid of all the lawn (sound familiar?) and replaced it with trees, shrubs and mulch.  We added a full-length back verandah with the help of Mick and Pat, old friends from Ti Tree.  Doortje and I borrowed a concrete mixer, bought sand, gravel and bags of cement, and slowly but surely mixed and poured concrete to complete the floor of the verandah, a slab at a time.  It was about 70m2, done in the central desert heat!  I remember that all the backyard landscaping (removing lawn) was done in January or February in a time of 40 degree days.
Later we dug a hole in the backyard and into it sunk an above-ground pool (flexible sides with a plastic liner).  The removed dirt made a feature hill, great for BMX bikes (I wrecked my knee!).  Unfortunately, the pool was too close to the verandah, which had no gutter.  Whenever it rained (not too often), the runoff from the roof made the pool red with dirt!
  The house was close to schools and kindergarten, and I could ride a bike to work, but to do the job well I needed to spend a lot of time out bush away from the family, and so…

no 17:   Areyonga, N.T.

…Doortje and I agreed we'd all go back out bush.  There was not a lot to keep us in Alice Springs.  I was employed again by the Education Dept and we moved to Areyonga, 230km west.

   This picture and the following one show how beautiful the setting was at Areyonga.  This one was taken looking south from the hill behind our house, after rain had greened the valley.  There are two identical houses in the middle foreground- ours is on the right with the Coaster bus clearly in the back yard.  The water tank at the bottom of the picture, up the hill from our house, is clearly on the far right in the next picture.

   This photo is looking west and shows the whole village.  Our house is the western one of the pair at bottom right below the water tank.  It looks like the bus is in the front yard in this.  The collection of school buildings and trees is in the dead centre of the picture, so it wasn't far to walk to school.  Bliss!
A creek runs out of the hills right to left in the foreground and joins up with the river on the left flowing to the west- we saw them flood several times and cut us off from the outside.
   Our house was identical to the one in Ti Tree except a mirror image- living areas on the left instead of right.  Again we had rainwater tanks plumbed into the kitchen for drinking water.  (Some time between 1984 and 1998 the Ed Dept scrapped rainwater tanks- apparently having them idle/stagnant? during the Christmas break made them unhealthy!)
   We spent two happy years at Areyonga, with lots of adventures.

no 18:   73 Anderson St, Bairnsdale, Victoria.

   At the end of 1983, Jac was ready for high school and we moved to Bairnsdale, close to Doortje's parents, but not too close.  Our plan was to rent a caravan in a caravan park and be footloose, but economics kicked in and it was far cheaper to buy a house!

   This house was built in the 1880s for a doctor or chemist.  It was originally an acre, and was still a full 900m2.  The house had five main rooms with separate kitchen and laundry out the back.  We bought it with an internal room converted to kitchen/dining and a living room plus bath/toilet/laundry added to the back.  The leadlight, pressed ceilings and fireplaces still existed.  When I started digging out lawn in the back I unearthed the brick paving of the old kitchen and laundry.
   We lived in the house until January 1994.  In the front we dispensed with lawn and added trees and shrubs (high school art teachers used to bring students to sketch the façade- they complained when they could no longer see most of it!).  In the back I added a second shed which started as a recording studio and then became Daniel's sleepout; a roof joined the two sheds to be a bike shed.  We extended the front of the big shed as a carport for two cars or the boat when we had it.  I added an enclosed back verandah to the house to serve as an airlock to keep out the cold south wind.
   In the backyard we added fruit trees, vegetable gardens and a chook yard.  Eventually, we ran out of room to move and when the kids had all left home, so did we.

no 19:   Deep Creek Rd, Wiseleigh, Victoria.   

   In January 1994, with the kids all in Melbourne, we opted for a "tree-change".  Doortje was still working at the Aboriginal clinic in Bairnsdale, while I was the "house-husband".  We sold the Bairnsdale house and bought an almost-completed mudbrick cottage on four acres at Wiseleigh, 300km from Melbourne, and about twenty from Bairnsdale.  It had state forest on two sides with other bush properties lining the dirt road.

   Here is the north-facing back of the house, soon after we moved in.  There was mess everywhere but much potential.  The house was built of mudbricks made from dirt from the excavation to level the site, and locally harvested logs and sawn timber.  Some of the windows and doors were recycled.
   In the ensuing months,  I lined the stairwell and the two bedrooms upstairs (with tongue and grooved timber - there was no plasterboard in the house!); I built in wardrobes, and added a shower door and sink in the bathroom.  We had a cabinetmaker increase the benches and cupboards in the kitchen and we put the fridge in the bathroom (giving more room but still only two steps away from the kitchen sink!).  The big job was to concrete the verandah floor on the west side and build a retaining wall with sleepers, as well as lay bricks and blocks on the other verandahs to suppress the clay dust.

   We bought alpacas to keep the grass down on the property.  This is the old girl, Kungka, having a nosey into the house.  I divided the place into four small paddocks plus the house yard, built two new sheds, a chook tractor, wood lot of blue gums, tagasaste for feed, and a large vegetable garden under bird netting.  We also had a small dam and ducks.
   It was an idyllic spot where we stayed four years and might still be there except it was freezing in winter and a prolonged drought dried up the dam and burnt off all the grass.

no 20   Alcoota, Haast's Bluff, NT

In 1998, we went back to Aboriginal communities in Central Australia, first to Engawala (near Alcoota station, about 130km north of Alice Springs) for several weeks of relief teaching.  The house there was a prefabricated demountable, 3-bedroom and quite well-appointed with mod cons.

   It was T-shaped with bedrooms, bathroom and laundry across the back, and living, kitchen/dining in the foreground.  For the first time in a Territory we had phone and (satellite) TV.

   For the third term we moved west to Haast's Bluff, 230km west of Alice Springs and just south of Papunya, for some more relief teaching.  The house there was the same as Andrew and Sarah's in Alice, H-shaped and made of cement bricks with slab floors, but very dirty and run-down.

   We have no photos of the house but in this Google aerial shot the house is marked with an "x", and the school marked with an "S".
   We had the bare minimum of clothes and effects, and were there ten weeks, but didn't settle in.  In fact we spent a lot of our spare time in the school, cleaning!  Quite a few years of neglect and second-rate stewardship meant it was a mess.

no 21   Ipolera, NT

   At the beginning of fourth term in 1998,  I was appointed Head Teacher of Ipolera School, west of Hermannsburg and about 130km west of Alice Springs.

   The house is in a beautiful setting in the centre of this photo, with a generator shed and diesel tank on the right (the tank is directly under the phone mast).  The school is in the trees behind the house.  My job included making sure water and power were supplied to the house and school.  Phone was courtesy of the micro-wave link and we had satellite dishes at the house and school for television.
   This house was identical to the one at Engawala except that the "front" door opened into the dining room instead of into the lounge room on the opposite side (this was now the "back" door).  The long axis of the house was east-west, keeping out the sun in summer, and the back verandah was nice and sunny in the winter.
   We stayed at Ipolera until the end of 2000.  We went back to Engawala for the three years 2001-3, and then back to Ipolera for the next three, 2004-6.  (It's a long story!)

no 22   85 Gap Road, Alice Springs NT

   At the beginning of 1999, we bought a unit right opposite the Piggly Wiggly supermarket.  Although we didn't ever live in it full-time, we used it on weekends when we came into town from the bush, and Andrew was able to use it for some time when he came to Alice.

   There were four units in the block, ours was no 2 just inside the fence.  The Engawala school troopie and our trailer are in the carport.  The unit had two bedrooms but was very basic.  About the only improvements we made were to add vertical blinds and security mesh to the windows at front and rear.  We sold it in 2005 after Andrew and Sarah had set up house on the Eastside, and my job had become part-time and we began to spend more time down south.

no 23   Derna Crescent, Karingal Victoria.

   We bought this house early in 2002 as a place to spend time when we were not in the NT.  Daniel and Monika used it for eighteen months and then we moved in towards the end of 2003.

   This shows the house as we bought it.  The house is only about 1200m2 but has an airy feel because of the large windows and sloping ceilings.  There are many just like it in the estate, built by A V Jennings in the 1970s, although there are variations in cladding, and the carport door is an addition.  Since this photo, the front yard has had a complete "makeover".  There is no lawn but lots of shrubs and trees.
   Out the back, facing north, there is a new deck that I made, with patio blinds for the winter, as well as a chook shed and yard, about fifteen fruit trees and a vege garden.  Inside, I made benches and pantry in the kitchen, large book shelves in the lounge room, and built-in wardrobe in our bedroom, as well as additional shelving in the other bedrooms, one of which is used as a TV room.

   In 2004 I made a courtyard in the front of the house by extending paving out from the front verandah and enclosing it with a brush fence and gate.  It gives great privacy which means the house curtains can be completely open, and is a very satisfying space that I'm always happy to see when we come home.
   Derna Crescent has now been my home address* longer than anywhere else apart from Woodville North, which is where it all started!

* we actually spent more time in the Bairnsdale house than we have here so far but we've owned this place longer.

The End

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