Sunday, May 07, 2006

Loving a weekend (long post alert)

The responses to my last post were so lovely! BB really doesn't read my blog, but I do sometimes read bits of it out to him, and I read him this one when he got home from work on Friday. He went a bit red, muttered that he really had to look nice for a meeting, and as usual deflected any compliments into a joke. He did give me a very nice kiss later on, so I know he liked the sentiment.

And then I kidnapped him for his birthday. He knew he was being taken away for the weekend, but had no idea where. I decided that all either of us needed was a place to get some serious sleep with a few nice distractions in between rests. Down the coast is usually my preferred option, but I thought I'd be nice to the Albatross and go somewhere where we could deliver my son to him along the way. (The fact that this plan didn't work because he came into Canberra for an unavoidable medical appointment is regrettable -- and typical -- but c'est la vie.)

We went to Berrima, my lovelies, and stayed in a comfy little place called Robyn's at Berrima. Very reasonably priced, very comfortable and very white. All the furnishings are white, the manchester is white, the crockery was white and the bathroom is white. Initially nervous about the utter cleanliness and whiteness (I really am very comfortable in dusty clutter, being a crap housekeeper), we settled in, plugged in the DVD player we'd brought with us, hopped into the extremely comfy (white) bed and proceeded to work our way through the first series of West Wing (the White House, heh), only stopping to eat and sleep and browse through shops occasionally. Bliss.

Distractions came in two parts:


a: Bookshops, specifically second-hand bookshops. There is an excellent brochure for the Southern Highlands called The Book Trail, which list all the locals, including the great Berkelouw Book Barn, only a few minutes from our lodgings. The best value came from a temporary book store in Bowral raising money for charity, with every book $1. The shop smelled a bit, but not as bad as the legit bookshop down the road (no names), which stank of cigar smoke and mould. I found a few beauties, including the last 3 volumes of Leonard Woolfe's autobiography (I'm finding him much more informative about the Hogarth Press than Virginia) and Richard Kennedy's memoir A Boy at the Hogarth Press. Also Twyman's Printing 1770-1970 and Pickering's Compositor's Work: Printing Theory and Practice.

b: Jam shops. Berrima has many jam shops. It must be Jam Central for NSW. BB
trawled them along the Berrima main street, asking questions and looking at special copper preserving pans. In fact, on the second day, he was recognised on his return visits as 'the Jam man' in two separate shops...

This is a copper preserving pan -- cast, not spun, which is the crucial attribute -- and it is apparently the best thing to make jam with. The heavy base keeps the jam from burning, the metal keeps the heat even, and the wide sides allow maximum evaporation without losing jam colour. See how much information you can absorb even when you're looking at something else? Now BB has to save his pennies, 'cause they ain't cheap!

c: Bookbinding equipment. I forgot that Berrima has a bookbinding supply shop. So I was in heaven.

d: Restaurants. Friday night we scored. A fab little Indian restaurant in Mittagong that made excellent curry. Saturday we couldn't find anything as interesting, so settled on a classic Aust-Chinese feast ending with fried icecream and caramel sauce.

e: Peppergreen. Ahh. This is the highlight of a Berrima trip. My Melbourne friend M took me to Peppergreen Antiques a number of years ago. She'd saved her pennies and wanted to buy some vintage linen sheets. The moment I walked into that shop I was in love, but I haven't managed to get back to it until now. If you've never been to Peppergreen, it's in The Market Place, just up from the White Horse Inn. It just looks like a normal antique shop, but it's very special. The rooms go on and on, and they're full of the most amazing stuff. I want to share some of it with you, but I warn you, I just can't do full justice to it:

Vintage linen. Of all kinds. A wall of it, folded and piled like this.

Vintage quilts, masses of them.

Vintage lace... trims... tassels... drawers and drawers of it.

Vintage fabric, all sorts...

...walking sticks, looking for all the world like hungry ducks...

...vintage tins, games, equipment, tools, kitchen stuff... (note the mass of old bread mixing bowls in the background)

... a stand of the most gorgeous baby shoes, all exquisite...

...tea cup sets...

...cotton reels, drawers of them, both empty...

... and full.

belt buckles and other ephemera, arranged beautifully in... in... hey, it's a letterpress type case! Yes, they sell them too, all polished up and ready to hang on your wall with all your knickknacks arranged like this. Quite good price for the cases too, about $145 each.

This doesn't even scratch the surface. Cutlery: silver, pearl-handled, bone-handled, and of all shapes, sizes and purposes cover a whole wall. Masses of tools, kitchen and garden. Throughout the shop there are fre-standing chests of drawers, and you can open each drawer to a new delight: spectacles, religious cards, scissors, pen nibs (sold by the box), dolly pegs, windscreen scrapers, cigarette boxes, scout badges. My favorite category is Miscellaneous Tools, a drawer full of mystery things.

Peppergreen's isn't a furniture store; it sells pretty much everything else for the retro vintage home. We fantasized about buying a house and fitting it out solely from this store, but it would have to be the right house, not the boring little badly-designed shoebox we live in now. Maybe one day, when we sell up at Canberra prices and move to somewhere like Bathurst, Ballarat or Launceston and I set up my press.

Anyway, I bought an antique pattern tracer and a well-worn wooden spoon (to use for hand-rubbing prints). BB bought a marmalade cutter (a special jam spoon!) and a Balti cookbook. So much fun.

This is one of the most amusing yet frightening regional museums I have ever been to.

You pay the entry fee, then are escorted to a small room with a screen and shown a very bad and obviously Bicentennial-funded audio-visual display of locals dressed in period costume and back-to-front slides of local history reenactments. Between giggles I wished there was a 'skip intro' button.

Then you follow the signs through a few rooms to the actual courtroom. Here's where it gets scary. The whole display pivots around a case called museum_words
The trial of Lucretia Dunkley and Martin Beech.

I guess if you're named Lucretia you're destined to be a murderer, or at least accused of being one. Apparently she and her lover Martin were found guilty of killing her husband, and the courtroom display is a 'snapshot' of the moment the guilty verdict was announced.


I don't know how much of the above images you can see, but this whole room is a sorry example of what happens when the wind changes, and I recommend, if you say that to your children to stop them making slack-jawed or idiotic faces, to take them here as a cautionary tale.

Tell them they could look like this:

Or this:

This court official is so shocked, he's spewing!

The village witch snuck into the back row...

...and someone left her cake out in the rain.

Actually, I find that last one the scariest, because she looks very real apart from the decaying chin. She's got that cat's bum mouth you see in supermarket lines when your small child is having a tantrum.

I noticed from the signs that they spruced up the room in the last year or so, painting the walls etc.:

But they did nothing about the mannekins! Poor things.

The other spooky thing was the wall of photocopies full of jokes about lawyers and judges, smack bang next to a very graphic outline of torture through the ages. I know Berrima Gaol was a rough one, and they used the whip a lot, but is that any reason to have a visual display of medieval people being spiked and sawn in half and pulled apart? I think it's a bit unnecessary, and someone involved in that display is a sick puppy.

Anyway, suffice to say that we were excessively diverted by the whole weekend, gentle reader, BB enjoyed himself (he got home and before even unpacking his bag, started cutting up lemons for marmalade) and I have come back rested and refreshed, if only for a few days!


Anonymous said...

I am passing through Berrima on my way to Canberra and found your pics and info on Peppergreen very helpful. I can't wait to get there! I was also in hysterics over your description of the courthouse dummies at the goal.
Thanks for the info and the amusement.

Sheila said...

Thanks for all this great info, AD.
Do you know where else one could purchase linen sheeting or old linen sheets? I'm on the Central Coast north of Sydney so anywhere around Sydney would be great!!!

Honore de Corbeau said...

I've just read this post - we went to Peppergreen this afternoon.

Drool, I did. Though at least this time I managed to walk out WITH something - last time my eyes were too big and wide to choose.

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