I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Watching People Working

Can home renovations really be fun? Sure, the mess and noise are pretty bad, and we certainly won't talk about the cost in the week that interest rates have gone up another .25%. But I have to admit, I love watching the way these people work.

Our alarm radio begins its gradual crescendo at 7.00 but by then Peter and Shannon have usually arrived. They'll spend a little time sorting things out on the front verandah, but even before one of us has staggered out of bed to make breakfast, Peter is striding down the corridor and running up the stairs to where most of the work is going on. And this is how his day goes. He literally runs up and down the stairs each time. When he's on the job, he is a model of concentration and focus. When he stops to consult with us or the architect he is clear and patient; and is cheerful and funny when he is taking a break, but it's hard to engage him in any small talk if we take friends and family up during the day to show them the progress. I sometimes wish I could focus on reading and writing with the same intensity.

A few weeks ago he proudly announced we had to all bow down to Shannon, who has just completed his four-year apprenticeship with Peter, and who will probably soon be moving on. "Can't afford him now," he said drily. Peter is stocky and compact; Shannon tall and lanky. And it was Shannon who showed us the picture of one of Peter's buildings used as an illustration on the outside of the paint tin. Anyone want a recommendation for a builder? Go here.

Some days there are up to ten people on site. It's just an upstairs bedroom and bathroom being built into the roof space, plus a little balcony, but it has involved a fair amount of structural work, too, on foundations, and walls, and roof. The painter is lovely, and brought us a bottle of sweet and syrupy home-made wine. The electrician drives Peter crazy because by contrast to his enthusiasm and passion he is quiet, reserved and pessimistic by nature. But in spite of all his dire warnings about things being difficult or too long or too short or the wrong kind, everything he's done so far seems to work.

And the funniest thing. We have a wall where we have been writing Joel's height as he grows. There are lots of other names, there, too, of Joel's friends, and family - and we make jokes about how long it will be before Paul and I start to shrink. No one laughed at us when we said we didn't want them to paint over this record. I'm not sure if the plasterer heard this but in any case, he's added his name "Plasterer. 26/7/07", just above Paul's height. What's really funny is that he's actually a fair bit shorter!

We sometimes don't leave the house till mid-morning, and often seem to be pushing the bikes out the door when there are up to half a dozen people already having morning tea on the front verandah. But no one makes any rude comments about our odd hours - and I never have to take up that defensive tone: "But I was working till 10.30 last night...".

I don't mean, at all, to sentimentalise manual or artisanal labour; just to express my respect for the sheer energy and concentration of the work going on around me.

And computer update: I've finally ordered my new laptop and hope to have it commissioned and registered and uploaded by next week. And the Arts IT folk are producing a series of CDs, all labelled with my name and all, without my having to sit with them and go through my files, so the back-up will be comprehensive and well organised. Life about to return to normal!

No comments: