When I was a kid my father used to go to auctions and buy all sorts of crap, Mum would never know what he was going to come home with; boxes of old assorted kitchen gadgets, cutlery, old books it was usually all junk.
But he did have his moments. One time he came home with a box of old cups and saucers, and for once they were absolutely gorgeous, I fell in love with every single one; for they were delicate and tiny and so so fragile, I had my favourite cup and saucer, and I would use it on special occasions.
Another sterling purchase that my father made was an old old adding machine, it was amazing, there was something arcane about it, how it worked, because it wasn’t just like adding 2+2 together, you had to press a series of levers, there was a method, and I learnt how to do it, it was big and heavy and so full of wonder, I loved it.
The other purchase that I remember very vividly was a set and blow wave hair styler, now this wasn’t any normal hairdryer, it came in a pink suitcase with curlers, and a bright pink hair cap that you put over your head after you’d finished styling it. The cap had a hole where the nozzle from the tube fitted in, and the other end plugged into the case, you plugged it in and turned it on, and it was like having your own salon hair dryer at home. This one also had a nail polish dryer, a vent you could slide open and dry your nails over.
I loved this machine, I would help my mum style and set her hair, and then get the dryer out and carefully slip the cap over her head, and turn it on, and she would sit there for thirty to forty minutes, reading a book, smoking many cigarettes and drinking at least three cups of coffee. We would talk, and after she had finished I would be allowed to put the cap on and turn it on low, for some reason I just loved the feel of the warm air on my ears, and the noise it made.
A few other things come to mind, an old heavy duty mincing machine that screwed onto the table, an 1872 copy of Lambs Tales of Shakespeare, with the most amazing illustrations, which I still have, an original copy of Hoyles book of games, which my Sister and I played many many games out of.
Most of what he brought home was utter crap, and Mum used to dread the Saturdays when the auctions were on, like the time he came home with an old locked suitcase. He paid fifty cents for it, on the off chance that there was something valuable in it.
There was something in it alright, the mummified body of a long departed feline. Mum made dad burn the suitcase; he was all for keeping it and using it-the suitcase that is, not the cat, and Mum said over her dead body.
I think the final straw was when dad went one day and came home with a fairly decrepit Morris Minor that he was ‘going to do up’ and that it was ‘such a bargain at only $20’. Yes, there was a reason it was only $20, it didn’t go, was held together with rust and hope and sheer bloody mindedness.
It sat in the carport for months and months until dad managed to con a friend into buying it off him for parts.
And wardrobes, yes, yes of course, that’s where our wardrobes came from. My big old white one which was huge and perfect for hiding in, and had drawers and a mirror and a secret compartment where i hid my diary and important stuff. I remember when dad and Mr Waldie brought them home tied one on top of the other on the roof of the car.
Mum nearly had conniptions, they were so big they almost didn’t fit through the front door and dad was all for ripping the door off the hinges. Then there was the sliding doors, Mum did have conniptions then, dad came home with a set of double sliding doors and had this brilliant idea of knocking a hole in the wall between the lounge-room and the kitchen and installing them.
Mum said over her dead body, but then we went away on our annual trip up to stay with my Aunt and when we came back dad had already knocked the hole in the wall and put up the supporting beams.
I think if Mum could have killed him then she would have, he finished the beams and hung the sliding doors, and they lasted for no more than two or three months and then he ripped them down again, said they were a nuisance.
So then he ripped out the normal kitchen door and replaced that with one of the sliding doors, he did this while Mum was down at Nanny’s one Sunday, Mum was ropeable.
Then he decided, also one day when Mum was down at Nanny’s that we didn’t need the door from the lounge-room into the kitchen, so he took that down and built a very dodgy bookcase into the top half and blocked off the rest.
Mum didn’t dare go out for a months after that, just in case he decided to renovate the kitchen or something.