Friday, April 16, 2010

What happened?

60 tomorrow. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

What am I talking about? I'm completely sure. I feel bad. It's a terrible mistake. I've never felt the need for gender reassignment, however I want age reassignment.

I am a 16 year old trapped in a 60 year old body.


That's Nick, on the left, at 16. The real Nick.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Koffler's Hut

Helmut Koffler was an Austrian, a client of my grandfather's, who accompanied him on an early tour of Victorian mountains, where they looked for a suitable site for a ski resort. They settled on Mt Buller, where Mr Koffler built a chalet, at which my grandparents and their children were honoured guests. The road only went part of the way up the mountain, the remainder of the trip was by pack horse.

Mr Koffler and his second wife were killed in a freak accident when the cable of a timber jinker in which they were riding snapped. Dad always maintained that Mr Koffler could have saved himself by jumping, but his new bride was too scared and so they rode the jinker together in their last terrifying death ride.

My grandmother remained in touch with the first Mrs Koffler until her death.

Koffler's Hut is named after my grandfather's client, and is shown here in its beautiful Nineteen Fifties form, now hopelessly added to, although still a nice spot to sit on a sunny day.

The man in the foreground looks like Dad's friend Joe Palliser, the architect (although I don't think he had anything to do with the Hut).

Le Plus Sexy de Paris

Le Plus Sexy de Paris 1961
Ah yes, Le Plus Sexy.

It was a short reel of Super 8 film, our father's souvenir of Paris, purchased in 1961. It's in somewhat scratchy condition due to repeated viewing by his sons, and Dad's practice of cutting bits of it into otherwise perfectly respectable home movies to startle and amuse his audiences (and to check that they were awake).

I wondered, as I was lovingly restoring the fragments Dad had scattered among his reels (of sailing adventures, the great cathedrals of Europe, Scottish golf courses, colourful European peasantry and endless panning shots along craggy headlands under threatening skies) what has become of the shapely blonde?

I imagine Madame, now a respectable grandmère, the proprietor perhaps of a small café in a smart arrondissement in Paris, the source of her modest wealth carefully wrapped in plain brown paper, hidden from her family in a bottom drawer. But does she sometimes, after the grandchildren have departed, thread the scratchy old 8mm film into the Minette editing machine and study her performance with a critical eye?

Certainly that's how Simon and I studied it.

The title, Le Plus Sexy de Paris, comes from a poster advertising the Moulin Rouge, part of the famous wall of posters at Metung. Mum and Dad brought it back from Paris, along with the film. The soundtrack is, of course, Edith Piaf, but in my mind the real soundtrack is the steady cranking of the Minette, and heavy breathing.

I do not believe this purchase of my father's was authorised by Mum.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Asbestos removal

The tennis court at Metung was, for many years, shared with our next door neighbours, the Byrnes. When they sold their house a fence was erected by the new owners and that was that. What can you do with half a tennis court? For a time it was used as a site to which the old asbestos sleepouts were relocated. They were moved there by Uncle David without the assistance of the asbestos removers (a trade which had yet to be invented) or, by the look of things, Uncle Henry.

In addition to the sleepouts a small weatherboard structure was also stored on the half tennis court. It was the old outside lavatory, the long drop, which was moved there after the installation to a septic tank system in the house (undreamed of luxury). Personally I was relieved, as once I boldly shone a torch down the terrifying pit beneath the enclosed wooden box upon which several generations of my relatives sat every day to move their bowels. It was a mistake, not only because it revealed an impressive pile of glistening shit (something so disgusting it remains etched in my brain 50 years later) but also because lying on top of the heaped ordure was a large blue tongue lizard. It was dead, but that was not particularly reassuring, since clearly it must have fallen from a position immediately below the seat. And to my way of thinking, where one blue tongue has been, more will surely follow.

Uncle John

For a detailed history of the life of our uncle John Borthwick and his friend Jim Lawson I refer my readers to my brother Angus's blog, The Tumbrel Diaries, specifically to:

Uncle John was everything you could hope for in an uncle. So generous; he is the only person ever to have slipped me a pound note in a handshake. I've tried it myself. It's very difficult (impossible actually, with plastic Australian decimal currency, which won't stay folded, nor will it grip the palm satisfactorily). John and Jim knew how to have a good time, and they shared their love of life not only with nephews and neices, but also anyone else who happened to be around. No one could resist their charms, particularly waiters, maîtres d'hôtel and, as you can see, house orchestras.

We miss them both.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Basin Street Blues

Here's Uncle Henry working up to his annual Christmas rendition of Basin Street Blues.

Basin Street ... is the street
Where all the white and dark folk meet
New Orleans ... land of dreams
You'll never miss them rice and beans
Way down south in New Orleans

Except all Uncle Henry recalls of the lyric is a little Louis Armstrong vocal flourish: doot de doo.

It was an ancient 78 rpm recording of the song (part of the Metung wind-up gramophone collection, long since lost) that first caught Uncle Henry's fancy. And here it is! The very record. Complete with the hot B side version. Isn't YouTube amazing? And unlike Uncle Henry, Louis Armstrong knows the words.