Monday, June 2, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies and BARGAINS!!

‘It’s frost-free!’
‘These machines keep going and going!’
‘Those oil-leaks are all fixed!’

I promised lies and these are three of the whoppers I have been living with since we arrived on Bribie Island. But first:

‘The previous tenants were a bit feral.’

This is one that I wish was a lie, instead of simply a calculated understatement. The previous tenants either had a passion for art and wall hangings or a poorly-supervised four-year-old with a set of poster paints and a nail gun. The once-white carpet, apart from the staining and browning and wearing one would expect from a rental property wall-to-wall, is speckled with red, pink, orange and brown dots and stripes. The walls are pocked with literally dozens of holes, often grouped, sometimes out there in the middle, all alone. One imagines an indecisive home decorator working with a cock-eyed spouse.
‘Hold it up higher! That’s it. Okay, now I’ll hold it and you tell me if it’s in the middle.’
‘Yep, she’s dead centre, love.’
‘Great, pass me the nail gun.’
‘Oh no! It’s over to one side!’
‘Sorry, love. It looked good to me.’
‘Yes, well, hmph. Actually, now that I look at it … no, no, it doesn’t work. It needs to be balanced out with this mask. Are these equally spaced when I hold them here?’
‘Dead cert’.’
Bam! Bam!
‘Whoopsy! I slipped!
‘Right on! Time for some finger-painting! Does this drop-sheet cover everything?’
‘Right to the edges, sweetheart.’

You get the picture. And that was just the stuff that wasn’t on the inspection report. Whoever was in charge of cleaning the house last obviously had a thing about not using harsh chemicals. Like ‘water’, for example. The crap still pushed into every corner and left on most every surface was perplexingly easy to remove. Not for us, mind you. It was easy for the professional cleaner who was hired after we dropped into the real estate agents and pointed out a few things. Like the fact that their inspection report had been performed by a seeing-eye dog whose owner was in a hurry and didn’t mind skipping the small stuff like a hole kicked in the laundry door. Like an oven with the last meal it cooked still waiting to be scraped off the sides and kitchen cabinets with the grit and dust and lip-balm-based migraine medications that the previous tenant had neglected to take with them.

‘It’s frost-free!’
The garage sale was no ordinary garage sale. No simple thinning the years of junk that can easily accumulate in the generous humidity of Bribie. This was a house clearance for an old lady who was selling up and getting rid of decades worth of precious possessions so that she could shift one chair closer to the door in God’s Waiting Room. Her family was moving her into a retirement village on the island and the garage sale was about condensing a sprawling three-bedroom house full of treasure into a compact two-bedroom unit that would probably need to leave room for a wheelchair.
A tiny little blackboard caught my eye. It was leaning against a tired pot plant and on it was written: ‘Upside Down Fridge’. I don’t mind saying that my heart leapt as much as a heart can leap after so many days of drinking UHT milk. The kitchen sink full of party ice lost its bachelor boy appeal (and its ice) after the first night and a fridge was numero uno on the shopping list.
Eighty bucks.
Massive freezer. Seals intact. All in working order.
Eighty bucks.
‘Is it frost free?’
‘Yep.’ The old lady’s daughter had actually come up from Adelaide herself to help Old Ma Sunhat move out. ‘It’s frost-free, isn’t it, Mum?’
‘Is it frost-free?’
‘Oh yes! Very frosty!’
‘No – frost-free, is it frost-free?’
‘I think so – yes.’ Smiles all round.
‘You stinkin’ liars! How dare you drool your sticky, rancid lies all over my head while I come here in good conscience to buy your fridge!’ is what I should have yelled in their faces. In retrospect. I actually nodded, threw my nice-young-man smile at them both and asked about the beds they had mentioned earlier (Nb. This is a bargaining trick. Never appear interested in the thing you are interested in. Ask about other items. Compare prices. Talk openly about how little money you were planning on spending and how you’d probably better pay that bill first. Then make your offer). The beds turned out to be fairly suitable. A double and a single, both felt reasonably sleepable to my pressing hands. The double had a home-made frame built by just the brand of old feller who has lots of his own tools and an eye for quality wood (read: solid, heavy wood). Most bed frames have either slats, a tightly woven net of springs or just a strong, flat slab of timber to hold the mattress between head and foot.
This one had all three.
The thick wooden slats were overlaid with springy mesh to which was wired a large wooden sign advertising land for sale outside of Lismore. The thing weighed a metric tonne. Slaves and rolling logs were the only way to move it anywhere.
I made them an offer for the lot and they accepted.
The single turned out to smell a lot more like a back-of-the-shed special than I had suspected when we turned up with our teams of oxen and Egyptians to take it home. We were able to knock a further fifty bucks off through a combination of Mele playing the allergy-sufferers card and the fact that since we had said we would take the beds but not yet paid, we were able to hand over what we wanted because what were they going to do with a single bed that smelled like the late-fifties anyway? We gave the son a lift to home, but only after he had helped me move the fridge into our house. No wonder he kept cheerfully insisting that it was frost-free.

‘These machines keep going and going!’
Phil down at Sunshine Fridges, Freezers and Washers has a problem. It’s his recently-purchased 2nd hand whitegoods business. Small store. Expensive rent. A tight cluster of heavy household machinery, some of which works, lots of which doesn’t. The showroom looks like a bad used car salesman’s mouth: all stained and crowded with hope and desperation. The workshop out the back looks like the floor of the dentist where all the chain-smoking used car salesmen go after they’ve had a lean time of it flogging Camrys with oil leaks. Lots of dented white cubes everywhere, rusting in the rain.
Phil’s business partner, Barry, is a talker and talked us right into a fairly cheap but fairly fool-proof Simpson. We had both smelled a whiff of something as we chatted with Baz about washing machines we have seen fail in our time (it’s good to see Fisher and Paykel are still frying their motherboards across Australia). I thought it was over-enthusiasm from the new owner of a business and Mele thought it was fear from the lip-biting, jumpy young woman who took our credit card and wrote out our warranty with a tightly-gripped pen.
Turned out the nerves were just women’s intuition about selling a washing machine that didn’t wash. It filled, drained and spun just fine, but the only thing it agitated was me, after I stood there for half an hour, listening to a nothing-happening buzz and peering under the lid like a kid trying to see if the fridge light stays on when you shut the door.
Good old Phil. He replaced the machine with no questions asked. He engaged me in polite-yet-worried conversation while we waited for the replacement machine to run through the complete cycle I had insisted I see before removing it to my place of residence. It seems buying a 2nd hand whitegoods business isn’t the great little earner one might imagine. Especially if one is honest, provides warranties and knows next to nothing about whitegoods and whitegood repair.

‘Those oil-leaks are all fixed!’
Well, my dears, after spending eighty-eight bucks at the local mechanic finding out that this was much less than the iron-clad truth one comes to expect from used car salesmen, I come to the less-heartening part of getting a “good deal” on a car whose company I’ve come to enjoy.
Country miles is still country miles and warranties is still warranties, but how much of each playing into the other is another matter and another lie for another day.


The wonderful thing about couches is that they don’t leak oil, frost over, fail to agitate or require ongoing subscription, maintenance and/or lubrication. They are, however, difficult to find when two people are looking for the same couch.
‘I like this one.’
‘I don’t.’
End of conversation. Find new furniture shop. Repeat.
Couches are extremely important to setting up a new house. One might even say that they come directly beneath the fridge on the afore-mentioned shopping list. Because, after one has removed the cold beer from the fridge, where does one then sit to drink it? We had spent a good day or so in search of a couch and had come away with only a dish-rack, a faulty washing machine and the complete hard-cover works of Neville Shute. See? Difficult.
A little house re-stocking tip for you: ignore Ikea. Psuedo-Swedish product names and competitively-priced Euro-mod flat pack is søøø nŭt koöl! The supermarket noticeboard is king forever. That’s where Fabulous Auntie Brenda found the not-really frost-free garage sale and that’s where Mele spotted The Couch.
3-seater plus two stripy armchairs.
We still had the trailer I mean the ox carts and Egyptians from moving the fridge and double bed and so we called Fay and dropped in on the fancier part of Bribie: Banksia Beach. The Couch was, and still is, a jaw dropper. Cream-coloured to match the house, deep enough to swing your feet off and the three seats in question are reserved for people who can no longer wear pants comfortably. We ummed. We ahhed. We asked if she would separate the armchairs and take fifty bucks off of her original price. We looked at each other in a worried manner and wondered aloud if perhaps this wasn’t out of our price range.
She knocked fifty off and insisted the armchairs went too. We returned the trailer with seconds to spare and now we have somewhere to watch TV, drink beer and sleep on.


  1. Groovy. I'll be sure to bring the red wine when I come up and visit.

  2. Wow, that's some couch you've got there. And armchairs thrown in. Beats all hell out of the ratty offerings I've seen here in Adelaide's garage sales.
    Tell truthfully now, did you SERIOUSLY expect iron-clad truths from a used car salesman??
    The fridge definitely was frost-free when you bought it....not being plugged in and turned on and all.
    GTH:-Some sort of delivery invoice? At first I thought furniture removalist, but then I read that you had to buy furniture.
    Make 327th male drink his red wine outside, don't let him stain that lovely couch.

  3. "the only thing it agitated was me"
    This post is hilarious, Franzy and yes, I laughed, cried and learned whilst reading of your household object foraging adventures.

    I still miss Love Chunks' Kelvinator 'Foodarama', which only died two years ago. I think the same gang of Egyptian slaves and Oxen were used to move it to Melbourne, back to Adelaide, then Melbourne, up to Darwin, down to Melbourne and finally back to Adelaide.

    Not bad lounge, but.

  4. On second thoughts - with those pocked walls and seventies arch, you need to find yourself a set of those ginormous wooden fork and spoons that everyone brought back from Bali circa 1976 - it'd jazz those walls up a treat. Either that or a nice round macrame hanging....

  5. ‘The previous tenants were a bit feral.’

    I've moved around quite a lot, so I'd say I've got a fair bit of experience in the 'previous tenant' department.

    There was the time when we discovered that someone had horded their used sanitary products and stored them on top of the boiler, and then there was the one that decorated... wallpapered an entire house, apparently without the aid of scissors.

    I've just taken to leaving little messages everywhere. So far my best is scrawled in a cupboard below the sink. It reads, 'You really shouldn't open this'.

  6. Welcome back, to somewhere completely different.

    Glad your trip and travails have provided you - and us - with some blogworthy moments.
    It would be truly terrible if everything just went well in life. For once.

    Loved the cockeyed and indecisive decorating duo - though it does sound a lot like Knickers and I.

    Anyway, I've tagged you for a meme.



An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32