Petersham, Thursday April 20, 2006

Things are returning to a more manageable pace. I had coffee with Anna from the council, down at Sweet Belem. She hurt her back at the Cook’s River Festival last week, and is only just beginning to recover. The most exciting news Anna had for me was that a pair of Filipino artists is heading for the ‘sham! They arrive in early May, here to set up an installation for the Sydney Biennale. As part of their residency here – above the Petersham Town Hall – they are required to do some kind of public presentation. This is great news. I suggested we join forces and do a slideshow down at the bowling club, with drinks and Fiona’s catering and music and all. I reckon the Filipinos will have some amazing tales to tell. And for me it’s a good chance to answer that curly perennial question: “So, what kind of art do you do?”

[Speaking of the Bowling Club, this Sunday will be a good time to check out how the noble game actually works, how many folks are needed for teams etc, in preparation for our big North versus South ‘sham bowl-off. After this research, I will set a time and date and we can start training in earnest… Do get in touch if you’d like to join in the tournament. I reiterate, no prior experience required…]


Jay came to visit for lunch. In true Jay style, he was a whole hour early. He brought food – sausage roll for him, cheese and spinach pasty for me – and plenty of greenery, cheese, and of course, raw cloves of garlic. And his dog Leo. Leo and Drazic growled at each other, and Draz disappeared around the corner to take refuge at Luciana’s. Jay and I had business to attend to. I’ve been asked to write about his photographic archive for Photofile magazine. We sat at the kitchen bench and paged through his snapshots stuck with tape inside plastic sleeves. Jay takes photos of ordinary surfaces around the house. He then cuts bits out of them with a stanley knife, and swaps the bits into another, similar photo. The result is a kind of visual puzzle, and even he finds it difficult to piece ’em back together sometimes. They are visually elegant, intellectually satisfying, and quite humourous. He also has an ongoing diaristic series with an old chrome pram he’s converted into the equivalent of a “ute” – he carries his spirit level and tools to worksites when he does handyman and renovation work. I wish he’d left a folder with me so I could put a few pictures up online, but he packed ’em all back up when he left.


Around four, I gave Luciana a yell, and we went for a walk. It’s unbelievably warm for this time of year. We headed over to the video store, where she needed to return some tapes. (The store’s called Stanmore Video Ezy, but oddly (and luckily) enough, its actually in Petersham!)

[note: this information is INCORRECT. In the process of verifying the locality of the store, I have actually discovered that Video Ezy Stanmore really IS in Stanmore. This is a colossal error on my behalf, and I put it down to the fact that I have not yet done the eastern boundary walk yet. The boundary runs along College Lane, and Video Ezy is clearly east of this point. My sincerest apologies to all concerned…What a gaff! And what a bummer, no more taking out videos. Sigh. I leave it to you, dear readers, to work out if I am to be forgiven for this (honest) mistake…]

I took out Kitchen Stories (a Scandinavian movie – the blurb says the director was inspired by real “post WWII ‘home science’ studies that tired to chart housework efficiency through in-home observation”), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (recommended by Jasmin, since its all about blindness). Luciana and I strolled down Crystal Street. We called in to say hi to “Moz”. He’s a hairdresser at the corner of Trafalgar. Luciana used to get him to cut her hair but it’s been a while since she could afford it. Moz is a cheeky fellow. He asked if we were “out for a lovers’ walk,” and made all sorts of innuendo of this sort. His teasing was slightly irritating, but friendly enough so that if you were to express annoyance, it’d just show you’re just a bit stuck up. Clever fellow. Luciana said he knows a LOT about what’s going on in the ‘sham. In fact, that’s the first thing he asked me when I walked in, whether I live locally. I must go back for a cut, or at the very least, to lie back in those special sinks to get my hair washed. And even more importantly, to discuss “male pattern baldness” with someone in the know – I sense the beginnings of a thinning on top…

At the bottom of the hill, we stopped for a moment to peer in a window as a lady was clipping a poodle. The dog looked pretty happy up there on a shelf being pruned. We wondered who could afford such a service, but we couldn’t quite build up the courage to go ask her about it. Maybe I’ll take Wolfie down there next time…

Around the corner, we stumbled upon City Scrapbooking. What the hell is “scrapbooking”? Inside, we found an array of very fancy square papers, and pricey-looking stationery accoutrements. We asked Jenny, who runs the shop, about this phenomenon. Basically, what you’re looking at here is a kind of hyper-customised personal photo-album creation activity. Instead of just whacking your photos in a shop-bought album, and slipping them behind plastic pockets, you start with a special paper, arrange the shot how you like it, add collage and text around it…pretty much tell the story of the photo by contextualising it. It’s a framing technique I suppose. Oh, and its all acid free. The City Scrapbooking website says:

Scrapbooking has a way of bringing people together. What is more important than our family and friends and the memories that bind us? Nothing! That’s why it is so important to safely document and combine our precious photos and memorabilia with the appropriate tools and materials.

I asked Jenny if she knew about Flickr, and explained how you upload the shot, title it, add searchable key words, and descriptions etc. Oh, you mean “digital scrapbooking!” she said. So there you go. The world of fiercely personalised self-publishing is alive and well at the North East corner of Petersham (contrary to their website, which says it’s in Leichhardt. We all make mistakes I guess). They have free beginners workshops too…

We lingered in front of a few shopfronts on Parramatta Road. It looks like shops on the ‘sham side suffer a lot more than those on the Leichhardt side. Plenty of boarded up places, retail ideas that look like they had a short lifespan. Will we ever know the crucial factors that make a store thrive or perish? Evidently successful despite the odds are the “Casa del Disco” (Luciana chuckled over the posters of washed up Italian pop stars who still seem to have a following here in Sydney) and Eiger’s Swiss Restaurant (serving delicious roesti – those potato cake things…I really wanna eat there).

Left onto Palace, and we popped in to see if Lisa was home. She wasn’t, but her next door neighbour was out checking the mailbox. She greeted us with uncharacteristic warmth for a stranger. Luciana and I were a little taken aback. This lady’s “hello!” seemed to imply that further conversation was required, rather than just a polite “hi” and move on. We shuffled closer. She remarked on the incredibly warm weather. Yes, I said, those idiots have closed the swimming pool too early this year. I would be swimming right now if it was open. She introduced herself. Her name is Lucy, and she’s from Chile. I think she misses her children, who are both overseas. She invited us to come back for a cup of tea sometime. We arranged to visit around six on Thursday…

One thought on “Petersham, Thursday April 20, 2006

  1. Big-sister Bec

    Hiya Luco
    Have you ever read the children’s book ‘Walking the boundary’ by Jackie French? Your adventures walking your own Petersham boundaries put me in mind of it… there’s a website link with some info about it: I quite enjoyed it when I read it years ago – when I was babysitting J in Kununurra for a week while Mum was back in Perth on some conference. I got it out of the Kununurra library, joined for one week and the librarian was reaaaaally suspicious about it too…charged me a $50 deposit for my temporary membership :). got a library in Petersham?


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