Trailer trash

I don’t watch TV these days, as I can’t keep pace with the intellectual scripts and subtle plots of shows like Big Brother, I’m a celebrity, get me out of here, and that fallen angel The Shire. However when I was a wee lad that flashing screen caught and held my attention – perhaps far too much. On Saturday mornings I would sit in my PJs, bowl of cereal to hand, and get ready for the weekend with a couple of hours of Hey, Hey It’s Saturday. That Daryl Somers. That crazy ostrich. And who could forget John Blackman’s high brow quips. Of all the various gags and long running thematic segments one that has mysteriously always stuck with me was a newspaper article submitted to the segment Media Watch. The article described how some small town’s elected officials were busy cutting the ribbon at the opening of some new local attraction, probably a Big Prawn, or a new swimming pool. The local paper’s sub editor, who was clearly having a slow day and was probably also hoping he could slip in a bit of spice without the editor noticing had titled the article with the headline “Councillors celebrate huge erection”. I nearly blew out a huge mouthful of half chewed Corn Flakes all over the TV screen at that one I can tell you. Odd isn’t it, my recollections from that time of my life don’t seem at all to include much advanced algebra, but somewhere in my cortex some strange mix of brain chemicals and cellular structures retains that small piece of humour. There’s a lesson there I think for you three unit maths teachers struggling with the perennial question of how to get your year ten students to retain formulas – use double entendres when explaining the method of calculating the area under a complex hyperbolic waveform.

And so, as we prepare to bid a fond farewell to the year 2012 I too am celebrating with a huge erection of my own – a new totem pole. When we bought ridgesong many years ago the seller thoughtfully left behind some potentially useful objects; one of which was a rusted out old box trailer. Someone more enterprising than me might have dived in and got it back on the road; I mean all it needed was two new wheels, a new draw bar, a new floor, gate and sides, new lights and wiring loom and it with a smick of paint it’d be just like a new bought one. Well I must have been a bit lazy though and so it just sat there forlornly exchanging atomic bonds between the steel and the atmosphere and slowly flaking itself into the surrounding soil. The problem was that it is rather difficult to take a box trailer to the metal recyclers, as it doesn’t easily fit into a box trailer.

The solution my friends, as it is often the case, was a POWER TOOL. One of my favourites is the angle grinder, so called because you can slice off parts of your body with the fast spinning cutting edge at almost any angle. There’s really nothing a good angle grinder can’t cut is there? Steel, tiles, skin, muscle, bone. Even better, it makes sparks. What more could a bloke ask for? Thus armed and loaded with plenty of cutting disks I eventually got around to slicing, dicing and julienning that old box trailer until all I had left where a selection of potentially useful bits of metal and a smaller pile of stuff for the landfill. Amongst the useful bits were a set of leaf springs, and a 1.8m long section of solid steel with a 40mm x 10mm cross section. Just waiting for the day they would become….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…this. Whatever it is. Beauty and meaning are in the eye of the beholder. So far it has been interpreted as being a representation of happy people spinning around with their arms held in the air; as a broom; a flower; and what someone’s bed hair looks like. In the background you can see Birdman casting his beady gaze over at this new, upstart neighbour and trying to decide whether the ‘hood is going downhill.

The more observant of you might say “OK, I can see the leaf springs but what about the long length of solid steel? Where does that fit in?”. Well done you! It’s not there. But is in the shed leaning up with its new friends the shovel, the pick and the adze. By cutting a sharp edge at one end (angle grinder….so useful!) it has promoted itself from behind the garage amongst the useful metal pile to the tool pile, having become a heavy tamping bar. Which in this case was needed to help dig a hole deep enough for the six metre or so pole that forms the backbone of the spinning dancer, or the flower, or the broom. I can’t decide. Here; interpret away…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Thus life’s circle turns and what was ageing and passed it’s first purpose became something new. Out with the old year and into the next. Happy New Year.


When I was about nine or ten my family moved from Melbourne to Sydney, My father drove the family up, having entrusted our goods and chattles to the movers whilst we took along with us a few suitcases, the family cat, and towing behind us his small fibreglass yacht. The cat was none too pleased at the idea of spending two days or so cooped up in the car, and to the amusement of myself and my parents expressed his disdain by pissing on my brother late on the first day. Due to the fear of the cat taking a suicidal leap to freedom through an open window we were forced to drive with them all open no more than a couple of centimetres If I recall correctly my father’s car did not have AC fitted, and so we were unable to air the smell as much as we would have liked and so our amusement soon turned into disgust as the smell of the cat’s urine slowly became rather thick in the car. I also remember that this trip was one of the first times I witnessed my parents deliberately lie, in telling the motel manager during checkin that “No, we don’t have any pets with us” all the while shooting us “Not a word” looks. The cat made it all the way to the new house, and after one or two stoushes with the existing feline residents over territorial disputes eventually settled in to his new digs. Prince was a fine pet, and proved to be a most adaptable feline in as far as he moved two more times with me, from that home in Engadine, to my rented house in Bundeena and then to a terrace house I’d bought in Enmore. At the ripe old age of seventeen he shuffled off his mortal coil and was buried under the jacaranda in the back yard of that Enmore terrace, where he eventually contributed to the following year’s purple flower bloom and the seed pods of the jacaranda tree. Thus life’s circle turns and what was ageing and passed it’s first purpose became something new.

My father’s yacht was of a simple, open design. A single sailed craft of a type called a Tasman Tiger, about 5 metres in length, and almost identical in design to the more commonly known Laser model which are still sailed today all around the world.

A small rudder clipped on to the back, operated with a wooden handle. The keel was a simple fibreglass centreboard that was pushed through a slot in the hull – the entire boat being a sealed, air-pocketed design the buoyancy of which allowed for such a ‘hole in the floor’ design. When I was about 21 or so, and living in that rented house in Bundeena my parents moved themselves to live in Thailand and so the boat was dumped with me to sell or to use, not having been disposed of by them prior to their move. It only ever got one use under my stewardship, and around the time I eventually moved to Enmore it was stolen from in front of the Bundeena property, leaving me with only the rudder and the centreboard in my possession as they had been stored separately.

For some reason or another those two items have remained in my possession to this day, with the vague idea that they were “somehow useful objects’. I confess to a mild degree of hoarding syndrome, squirrelling away lengths of metal and odd objects that I think might someday be usefully re-purposed. In my defence, I keep my collecting under reasonable control and the objects I’ve stored have indeed proven their usefulness on many occasions. For a long time however the possible use of those sole remaining items from that long gone yellow yacht proved elusive. Propped up out of the way near the winter woodpile they would catch my eye every time I retrieved the wheel barrow or a fireplace worth of logs to stimulate my mind anew with the pondering of how I might use them. I eventually settled on the idea that they somehow reminded me of wings, initially those of a man-made craft. I contemplated using them in a sculpture of a Reaper drone for the local annual art show, as part of a statement on the drone assassination program initiated by the 43rd US president, and continued and expanded by the 44th. Somehow though, that particular idea never got off the ground, and the “wings” remained just lengths of old fibreglass gathering dust at the back of the shed.

Ideas though never tend to entirely dissipate, even if the execution of them has hit an impasse. The idea of wings turned out to be a seed of creativity just looking for the right tree, which came in the form of a long, solid pole in my small collection of “long solid poles that might someday be useful for something” (see, it’s not just bits of random fibreglass that I have in my little collection of things). As tends to be the way of these things one day it all just came together in my mind. After near on twenty three years of carting around two lumps of old yacht, in two days of noise, woodchips and shavings involving chainsaw, planer, drill, hammer, angle grinder and spanner, and helped along with a slice off an old motorised hoe casing (beak), three glass telegraph line insulators from the Australian outback (crest), and an old farm fence post (eyes) those two wings found flight.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Thus life’s circle turns and what was ageing and passed it’s first purpose became something new.