Folk’n Feet Cancelled

I’m so disappointed that the Folk’n Feet Fest has been cancelled. I totally understand that it’s not worth the financial risk at this time; I was just hoping that March next year would be far enough in the future for the organisers to take a gamble.

The main thing I’m bummed about is missing out on seeing the acclaimed Mary Widdlestein Trio. They were billed to be coming out from Memphis especially for the occasion, and given that Mary is 93, I’m not sure how much more international touring she has left in her. Still, nothing surprises me where Mary Widdlestein is concerned. After all, we’re talking about the woman who single handedly positioned toe-picking as a legitimate banjo technique back in the 1960s. She’s a living legend.

She was also the first person ever to receive commercial sponsorship for playing banjo, albeit from a semi custom orthotics manufacturer, which I always thought was a bit of an odd fit. I mean, you can’t very well wear orthotics while toe-picking, in addition to which Mary is almost never seen wearing shoes. I just don’t see her as an orthotics user. But, you know, there’s the whole foot connection so I guess it’s fair.

As for me, I’m not much of a foot specialist. Around Cheltenham, toe-picking isn’t that well known. People tend to look at you funny if you so much as take your shoe off, although occasionally there’ll be one old hippie in the corner who’ll nod approvingly. Maybe that’s why Mary doesn’t wear shoes too often – being barefoot makes it easier to sneak in a bit of fancy toe work before people have a chance to figure out what you’re doing.

Anyway, I haven’t really developed my toe skills, which is partly why I was so looking forward to doing a masterclass with Mary and seeing her in action. I’ve heard her double bassist does some crazy things with elbow plucking, too, and I was very keen to see what that’s all about. Still, there’s nothing I can do about it, and I’ll just have to look forward to Folk’n Feet 2022.

Designing oxygen suite

As an architect I have experienced my fair share of people’s eccentric demands. I have dealt with swimming pools on roofs, upside down trees, walls that disappear and home cinema requirements that would knock your socks off. When I was reading through the plans my most recent client had put together for his Bayside Melbourne home, I was a little stunned. I had never seen someone wanting me to design them a space specifically to house a portable hyperbaric chamber. For confidentiality reasons I cannot tell you the name of my client, but I can tell you he is a professional athlete and he has lots of money to spend. As well a personally tailored oxygen therapy centre, he also plans to build a glass bottom swimming pool that sits above a gym suits so you can admire those swimming above you when working out. As if swimming, running and oxygen therapy isn’t enough, he also wants to have a tennis court on the roof and a half size basketball court around the back. Apparently portable hyperbaric chambers are becoming increasingly popular with athletes in order to increase fitness and activity levels.

My client told me he had been receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy in Melbourne for a couple of years and accounts a lot of his recent sporting success to his oxygen treatments. The portable hyperbaric chamber doesn’t take up too much room so will fit easily into his rather large mansion, he just wants to make sure there is a suitably peaceful space in which he can receive his oxygen therapy so I am designing a room with a large skylight to allow maximum penetration of natural light. I thought it might nicely somewhere around the swimming pool. At some point I will have to remind my client that we are designing him a home and not a fitness parlour, he has not included bedrooms or a kitchen in any of his initial designs. I suppose that is my job!

Door = Portal

There’s something so symbolic about doors. Like, they’re a divider between two different spaces, and yet they’re also an opening that connects the spaces and allows you to pass between them. How can something be both a divider and a connector at the same time? I guess those things aren’t exactly contradictory or mutually exclusive, so I suppose it’s not that remarkable, but still. It’s way symbolic.

What are they symbolic of, you ask? Well, I don’t know. Take your pick: life phases, stages in a journey, the passage of time. Back in the day, folks used to hang all kinds of talismans and charms on their doorways, because they were thought of as portals from the outside world to the inside (or something to that effect). Nowadays, by contrast, people couldn’t care less – they just want something that will prevent their house from getting robbed. 

Maybe there’s not that much difference between hanging a carefully crafted wreath of birch leaves for protection, and getting an aluminium door replacement. Melbourne, after all, doesn’t have that many birch trees to pilfer from, and aluminium doors are just that bit more effective at creating a barrier in practical terms. In other words, perhaps the symbolic nature of doors has not been lost to the mists of time. 

I mean, it’s not like you can really separate the structure of a door from its metaphoric meanings. The only way that could really happen is if we stopped having doors altogether, and god knows why we’d do that. Can you imagine? I wonder if there’d be a spike in sash window installation. Melbourne seems to love those sash windows, although they don’t seem like the most practical means of passing through a wall. But that’s the problem we’d be faced with if doors were abolished.

That’s probably not going to happen, though, is it? We’re going to keep using doors, just as we’ve done since ancient times, to cross the threshold between realms – or, at least, rooms.

Light In The Dark

You’re approaching home at the end of a long winter’s day, it’s been dark for like two hours already, and you feel like you’re about get whisked away by a blizzard… and then you see the glow of your house, lit from within by a loved one who’s making you a bowl of gnocchi as big as your head. Either that, or you’ve lovingly provided yourself with a sensor light system and are soon to be making yourself a bowl of gnocchi as big as your head. You know that feeling? Yeah, you do.

That’s what winter is all about: being in the thick of the dark, cold night, and yet feeling your heart warmed by a welcoming light in the distance. Oh, and gnocchi. It’s a lot to do with gnocchi. Sure, there’s the less appealing aspects of the season, like having to shell out for ducted heating repairs. Melbourne weather doesn’t let you off easily on that score, invariably choosing to switch on plummeting temperatures the moment you’re foolish enough to think the worst of the cold is over. It’s a constant process of keeping everything trucking along.

There’s something about that vibe, though, that’s sort of comforting. Your life starts circling around mollycoddling yourself, and low priority commitments fall to the side. Who needs to be worrying about worldly affairs when you can be adding minestrone recipes to your digital pinboard, or knitting yourself an ottoman cover?

Everything becomes geared, in one way or another, towards heating. Melbourne people might like to think of themselves as sophisticated sorts, but really they’re just as prone to this primal orientation as our none-too-distant ancestors were. We’re mammals, at the end of the day, and we look to our den to keep us alive over the cold season. Whether or not we the type for building fires, a warmly lit house is a close enough approximation, signally safety, food and shelter from afar.

Audio Addict Problems

I’ve been looking forward to this trip to Launceston all month, yet somehow I’m fine with this little roadblock. I put this down to my new headphones, which make listening to music an experience of unadulterated delight. Basically, I have something to occupy me while I wait for a towing company to take me to a mechanic.

To back up, I was barely out of Hobart when my van started making ungodly scraping noises before grinding to a halt. Luckily for me, it did so right beside a cute historic church fronted by a sunny patch of grass, which I’m now peacefully kicking back on while pumping a bit of early death metal.

I’m not concerned about getting it sorted – I’m sure I’ll be able to find somewhere good for car repairs. Brighton is not exactly out in the middle of nowhere; there are mechanics up here for sure. This whole thing is simply an invitation to kick back and enjoy some fresh country air.

If anything’s worrying me, it’s the fact that my car stereo seems to be on the blink, and I’m not sure I trust some random Brighton auto electrician to look after my baby. I know that probably sounds pretty stupid, but we’re talking the cream of in-car sound systems here. It needs the special touch of someone who deeply cares for properly balanced mids and life-transforming sub bass.

That said, I might just have to take the risk if I hope to carry on with my journey. Sadly, wearing headphones while driving is a no-go, so having functional car speakers in of the essence. I’m probably being a bit overly precious about it, anyway. It’s not like they’re going be deconstructing every little bit of it and smashing it with hammers… are they? I’m not really sure how these things work.

In the meantime, I’m going to take my mind off that mental image with some hardcore drum and bass.

It’s A Cycle

I’ve realised that most of the people I know are workaholics. Granted, they don’t necessarily see it that way, although I’m sure at least some of them would own up to it. It’s not even considered a dirty word, really. Lots of people are happy to wear it, and some even take it as a badge of honour.

To me, though, it doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of work you produce or the value of your service to the world. It just means you habitually distract yourself from your inner life through work. I’m usually inclined to think it’s none of my business – each to their own and all – but lately I’ve been feeling waves of annoyance when my close friends display this type of behaviour. Why? Because it means they’re letting their lives spiral out of their control, which can’t be healthy in the long term.

I also don’t want to deal with the fallout of their distracted lives, which is something that often ends up on me, despite my best efforts. I feel like my friends see me as their stand-in (and unpaid) life-fixer simply because I’m one of the few people they know who isn’t going around in a constant state of stress. It’s high time for them to start looking for actual stress management consultants. Melbourne is cosmopolitan enough; there are 100% people out there who offer this service professionally.

Of course, it would help if more employers offered corporate stress management training. Then people wound’t have to eat into their precious personal time in order to remain a valued corporate asset. Ultimately, though, people need to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing. Our culture encourages pushing personal resources to the max in the name of productivity and growth, but most biological organisms need periods of rest to balance out this strenuous activity. It’s a cycle, people.


Questionable Design

The big overhaul of the Sydney office was a success, according to Stacey and Tania, who just spent most of that conference call rhapsodising about it. From what I can tell, the main attraction is the wall-to-wall mural that’s essentially a trompe l’oeil filing system. Beats me how that’s a good thing by any measure – aesthetic, functional or otherwise.

The only thing I can think of is that it works on a nostalgic level, given that paper-based filing is all but dead these days. Still, why not use the wall space for something useful, or at least fun? I’m not sure that purely nostalgia-fuelled novelty has much place in forward-looking office interior designs. Sydney businesses know that office layouts are about more than mere novelty. What it should really be focusing on, when it comes workspaces, is creating an environment that assists people to get their work done. That’s my two cents, anyway.

I guess I need to see this thing in person to really have an opinion on it. It just seems like, if said mural is the most noteworthy aspect of the reboot, then the design might not have a whole lot going for it in terms of actually being a good space to work in. But it does come down to what you’re looking for in an office fit out. Sydney workplaces might have different priorities, like being on top of the trend for early ‘00s stuff that seems to be going around.

Maybe I’m taking too clinical a view of this. I mean, if the mural in question somehow helps bond the millennial-dominated team together through shared recollection of their formative years, as represented by carefully labelled binders and A4 plastic sleeves, then there could be something to be said for it. Even a minimalist of the first order (like me) can appreciate the functional value of that effect.

If there’s one thing that being a design snob has taught me, it’s that it’s always worth being open to new ideas.

Light, All Night

For most people over 30, it’s recommend that they see a doctor every year, just to make sure everything is fine. Just as a precaution, even if everything seems fine.

That’s all well and good, but I have a standing appointment with electrician companies in Cheltenham, because I need my power. Electricity is power, as they say, and I need more of it than the average person, due to my crippling fear of the dark. I have my home specially-fitted to make sure there’s not a single shadowy area, and in fact, the lights are so bright and well-positioned that there are barely any shadows either. They’re all on timers so that I don’t have to switch anything on, and they run all the way through the night. And yes, I have to be quite energy-conscious during the day in an attempt to keep the bills low. It’s not like I have that luxury at night time.

I see electricians regularly to make sure there are no gaps in the strategy. When I first bought all these lights and had them installed, I made the stupid mistake of just assuming that they’d all keep ticking over. Maybe one would go out, I’d replace it, but meh…could just do that the next day, and it’d be fine. But since then there have been a couple of serious power outage incidents, they’ve shaved years off my life, and I never want to go through that again. Got myself a set of very expensive generators that activate as soon as they detect a power surge, and obviously I needed residential electricians to set them up in my home. So now, it’s always bright in my home, even when the rest of the street or more goes out. And yes, I do have blackout curtains, to avoid angering the neighbours. It’s that, or I’m blazing my light out into the street like a permanent Christmas display.


Cooling Secrets Revealed!


When I was a child I thought air conditioning units were magical, which I think is fair. It was hot outside, there was a clean white box that gave us cold air from nowhere, so it had to be some kind of magic. It was either that, or there was a refrigerator hidden in the wall right behind the unit, and that’s where it was getting all the cold air. I went behind the house once to try to confirm this theory, and found no fridge of any kind, so that pretty much confirmed the magic thing for me.

I believed that the air conditioning servicing companies Brisbane is famous for were run by wizards, which would explain why they’re everywhere. But then I grew up, and got curious, which leads me to this current night class on basic technology.

It’s week four, class is tonight, and looking at the syllabus, I know it’s the one I’ve been hanging out for: air conditioning. Finally, the secrets will be unveiled. I liked looking at the inside of a computer hard drive, the car engine was alright, and I could’ve done without taking a coffee machine apart. Now all the magic of my morning latte has been ruined, ruined I tell you!

But this week, they’ve promised that we’re going to be looking at the magic of air conditioning, which is not actually magic, but I feel will become more so once I figure out how it all works. I’ve been so patient. I’ve waited for so long. I’ve rung up so many air conditioning professionals just to ask how cooling works, but put down the phone because I was too nervous. A couple of times I even considered looking up a tutorial on Me-Straw, but…come on. Come on. As if air conditioning people would let their secrets be exposed like that. No one would want air conditioning repairs near Brisbane any more – not with a ten foot pole. The whole trade would collapse!

No, best that the secrets are only discovered by a chosen few. As a seeker of truth, I feel that I belong among that number.


Renovations, Everywhere

I was talking to my friend, Chad, and he’s all like “I gotta get a bathroom designer in because my girl wants me to renovate the bathroom and I can’t design anything.”

To be honest, I don’t really have a girl at the moment, because Isa and I aren’t going steady anymore. Someday, some girl is going to ask me to remodel the bathroom or something and I’m not sure I’m ready. That’s commitment in a nutshell if I ever heard of it, because if you have a bathroom, you have a house. If you have a house, you have a life, and a mortgage, and if you have a life and a mortgage you have a wife, and if you have a wife you might even have kids, and now I need a paper bag to breathe into or whatever because that’s just terrifying. A mortgage…a bathroom to remodel, that I bought, with tons of money, and now I owe, like, the government tons of money. This is why Chad needs to stop coming to me with his problems, because we’re, like…at different stages of life, man. Like, he’s at his stage, where his girl is asking him to remodel the bathroom, and I’m playing video games until 4am every night, sitting on a beanbag because it’s the only piece of furniture I actually own. Well, that, and a kettle. I have to have my peppermint tea before I got to bed. It settles me.

Chad needs to go talk to one of his other friends. Like, maybe Chad, who just got married and he’s been posting on Visage-Tome about all their plans for the house, which probably include kitchen renovations. He’s probably in touch with all sorts of Melbourne kitchen designers, and conveyancers, and gardeners, and all the stuff that proper adults have. I rent on the fifth floor just so I don’t have to deal with any of that stuff.