Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Quest for Type

And I thought going to Rowany was a unique extension of my blogging experience...

Late last week I found myself facing a small window of opportunity to drive to Melbourne and back in three days to pick up some letterpress equipment. Museum Victoria had decided to deaccession a stack of its letterpress paraphenalia and I was one of the lucky few whose tenders were considered worthy (I wrote mine on behalf of the BookStud, not for myself). They wanted to offload the pieces soon, my dad was heading to Canberra in his ute for the football, and I only had one day of work to swap thanks to Anzac Day. When I'd first heard about the successful application, I'd offered a fast & furious road trip to Zoe -- share the drive, hit Melbourne, catch up with as many bloggers as possible, zoom home -- SMOK-ING! But unfortunately things moved a bit too fast and Zoe had a scheduled holiday at the same time. I found that I had to do it alone, which is cool because I do a lot of things alone. I have no problems being a lone duck.

I did drop Lucy Tartan a quick email suggesting maybe we catch a cuppa together... but she was heading to Sydney at the same time. Bummer. Then, in an astonishing act of trust and generosity (for this day and age, don't you think?), she offered me her house to stay in while she was gone! I guess I come across as pretty respectable on this blog, don't I? Heh. Actually, yes. I am as decent and trustworthy as they come. It was a good call.

Normally I would stay with a couple of friends, one very close to the city and one quite far away from the city, but I couldn't resist this chance to have a couple of nights to myself... anyone with a partner and/or kids will know why. So I worked out meetings with the lovelies and first thing Sunday headed down the Hume to Sills Bend.

Now, it's one thing to meet a fellow blogger, quite another to be in their house without them. Especially one like L, who writes so articulately about her environment. I arrived just on dark, found the house, found the key, opened the door, and there was Baz. He greeted me like a long-lost friend, then dashed between my legs, under the ute, and across the road. I picked up the welcoming note beside the door and read 'Don't let the cat out'. Crap. I walked carefully after him and watched him do a wee in the neighbour's tan bark. I bend to grab him and off he scarpered. Crap. My dad rang to see how the ute went. I explained my predicament and he hung up chortling. Pig. As I have explained before, I am quite relaxed about my cats' escapades, and always believe they will return for meals. So I applied the same philosophy here. Sure enough, 20 minutes later Baz returned meowing for a meal. He got one, but he didn't get outside again for the rest of my stay.

Inside everything was eerily familiar... I can't actively remember ever reading about the layout of the house, but L must have written something about it because my dream back in February had got the sunken loungeroom bit right! Love a sunken room. Of course, there was the couch, and the recently-framed poster, and the books shelved by colour! Everywhere I turned there was something that made me think of her blog. I felt like a stalking fan.

Books at Sills Bend
I'm very inspired by this bookshelf. I, too have a visual memory, and it's a refreshing break from the need to alphabetise.

I guess all you can do in these situations is embrace them. I roamed Banyule (another fun thing was that I've only ever been to one supermarket in Melbourne, and it happens to be L's local)
and got a hot box of yummy stirfry and an excellent slice of cake, then sat on the couch and watched... what else? Tommy. I really enjoyed it, but was a bit confused by the last 20 minutes. I don't understand why Tommy seemed suddenly to do things his parents' way rather than break away, as he'd almost done on the beach, tearing his mother's jewellery off.

Anyway, I used Baz as my antenna throughout the stay. Other people's houses always make odd noises, and you never really relax until you've experienced the entire range. I decided that if the cat looked alarmed, so would I. So every time I heard a noise, I would look at Baz. Nearly every time, he was supremely oblivious. And I could just relax. Mind you, Baz wasn't calm by any means. He wanted out.

Baz really wants out
Baz wants out.
Baz wants out
Baz wants out.
Baz wants to leap and gnaw rope to get out
Baz REALLY wants out, and will jump up to that window and gnaw the rope if you don't let Baz out. Then Baz will ambush you in the dark and attack your ankles if you don't let Baz out. Baz wants out.

I tried to close the bathroom door to stop the leaping and gnawing, but Baz can open doors too! He's a lovely cat with a mild case of cabin fever. Apparently leaping at my ankles means he likes me. I'm very glad. My cats do it too, and I know they like me.

My dad's ute is an old Nissan Navara that used to be a gleaming and proud beast when he first bought it years ago, but it has seen a lot of days and moved a lot of letterpress equipment, among other things. My family probably wish I had a lighter obsession. This time I loaded it up with about 500kg of galley trays, type trays and wood type, plus an old roller cabinet filled with rubber rollers.

Then Rod, the good guy at the Coburg warehouse, and I spent a long time covering it all up carefully with tarps and ropes (because it just had to be raining, didn't it?! Only lightly, thankfully, and not for very long). Neither of us are artful with ropes, so the whole setup was a bit dodgy, but it got the stuff home.

I did two things on my one day in Melbourne, other than pickup huge amounts of metal: I saw the marvellous book exhibition at the State Library of Victoria called Mirror of the World: Books and Ideas. It's a permanent exhibition, and REALLY worth going to if you have any love of books in any sense. It's magnificent, and I will go every time I'm in Melbourne. Apparently every so often they will turn pages of some of the older books. But the more modern books in the gallery are wonderful, lots to see for the letterpress/ bookarts lover.

The other thing was (and this may have been overly ambitious) to drive out to Monash University to visit the Ancora Press.

BM & the custom press
This is Brian, who runs the press in a basement room of the university, showing off one of his presses, a custom-made thing of which there are only 15 or so in the world. Brian is very old school, and thinks (respectfully) that using a cylinder proofing press such as mine is tantamount to cheating, but I think he thoroughly enjoying talking to someone who knows what he's talking about. We have a bond now in that he got half of Museum Victoria's wood type, and I got the other half.

It was a lot of driving there and back to Sill's Bend, but I managed it and also to have a scrummy Indian dinner catch-up with my Monash/Diamond Creek girlfriend, and then got back in time to collapse into bed with Baz and await the 5am possum dance.

The possums encouraged me to lie in (the ultra-comfy) bed and read Ghost World until I felt able to start the slow trek back up the Hume Highway at 80kms an hour on Anzac Day.

Here are some highlights of the trip (L has already done the landmarks in her post):

customised stereo
Dad's home-installed car stereo has had its face plate removed too many times, and occasionally you have to hold it on whilst driving. I rigged up this clarsy solution, improvised from some gaff tape and a couple of erasers (all I could find at the service station). It worked most of the way, and I got to listen to the audio book of Tomorrow when the War Began for a couple of cds (such a good story for driving on Anzac Day!) but then the whole thing died at Albury and I had to listen to the radio the rest of the way, which involved too much Radio National gumph about the meaning and appropriation of AD.

Found at Holbrook in the ladies public loo: 'S----W---- roots her father'. Charming use of texture and colour. Extra points for veRnacular.

Stop. Move away from the cookie jar...
"Stop. Move Away from the Cookie Jar." Anyone who loves The Office will find this at your local discount Warehouse. I regret not buying one now.

A view of the Hume Highway. Nothing else to look at. In fact, this is all the visibility I had -- no view in the rear vision window. I couldn't reverse, so it was forwards all the way!

What every ute needs -- a work dog.

I spent a lot of the time whilst driving worrying about how to get the stuff off the ute at the other end. What I'd forgotten was that I married someone who acts small and meek but is actually well over 6ft and covered with muscles. I got home, he got in the ute, and we went to the art school and offloaded everything and got it up to the BookStud with the help of a lithography stone trolley and a supermarket trolley. He's astounding.

I can't seem to stop driving. I haven't used my bicycle in a week or so. I'm hoping I can ride tomorrow, because I've had enough of steering wheels and rude bastards who cut in. Big thanks to everyone who made that trip happen. I'm still in awe of what I managed to do. And big thanks to Lucy T and Dorian, who are getting a big dinner when they come to Canberra next.

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