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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bmag 21st August 2012 - Childhood mementos

I have just taken possession of an envelope full of my very own ginger baby curls from 1974. I’m not entirely sure what to do with them – reaction from friends ranged from “ewww” and “spooky” to “that’s disgusting and sweet at the same time” – but I am thankful to my Aunty Margaret for keeping them all these years. (Hey, I know someone who’s kept every toe nail he’s clipped and someone else who has both of his sons’ foreskins to present to them at their 21st birthday parties. Now that’s disgusting!)

Back to the suddenly-far-more-savoury envelope of 40-year-old Spencer hair. This, combined with moving back into our home post-renovations, has seen me contemplating the treasures we keep, and those we throw out or misplace, especially from childhood. I have shoe-boxes full of theme park and special event (think Commonwealth Games, Expo 88) souvenirs, medals, report cards, love letters, vinyl records, books, model trains and other toys dating back to the ’70s and ’80s. Even my high school blazer!

But you can’t hold on to everything forever. And eventually, if you don’t do it yourself, your own children will have to deal with these trinkets. That’s why Claudette Prince recently put her Sydney 2000 Olympic Games torch on the market. Claudette told me: “No-one in the family knows I’m doing it. They’d tell me not to. I’ve got a fairly large family and when I leave this mortal coil they’re going to be saying ‘what are we going to do with all this stuff of Mum’s? Do you want this?’ It doesn’t mean anything to anyone else.”

So what do you keep and what do you cull? You’ve heard the expression: “What you haven’t used for 18 months, you don’t need.” Well here’s a new one for you, one of the dads at Jack’s school offered me the following advice for not cluttering the house: “When we moved, we only brought half the things back into the house.” Wow! Half?! There’s a challenge! So I’ve taken this on as my new philosophy. But how do you know what to keep? I asked on Twitter – what do you treasure most from your childhood?

Stuffed toys featured prominently in the replies. I still have Pussy, a well-loved cat given to me by my Great Aunty Minnie the day I was born. I used to “smoke” Pussy, which involved breathing through her ears. Did I just reveal that publicly?! Yes I think I did… For @KimmerLions, it’s her plush purple poodle which she’s had for about 50 years; @Polikat2 still has Big Ted; @Monkylicious treasures “a teddy bear and blankie I’ve had since I was one”; and @TheJenHansen holds on to Puppy: “He was my stuffed dog I slept with. He’s a bit bald. When I was two, I pulled his fur off while sleeping.”

Meanwhile @BrizzieBlog still has the first story she wrote when she was just five, @Kin_ has her dance costumes – “my children get such joy from them” – and @Simonwf is holding onto a one-piece baby jumpsuit that he wore, his son wore, “and I’m saving for his child if it lasts that long!”

Of course, we don’t all have the luxury of deciding what to keep. For some, it’s already too late or the decision’s been made for us. For example, @Dellvink says she “was devastated my mum threw out a stuffed sock with eyes called Oogly. I still wish I had him.” And therein lies a lesson for anyone thinking of clearing out their children’s things – check with them first! But @Dellvink may yet be reunited with her Oogly; @Psephy regretted discarding a toy guitar but in a remarkable twist “recovered it some 30 years later at an antique sale!”

Have we learned anything from all this talk of long-loved toys and teddy bears? I think I have. Among all the replies to my Twitter question about what we still treasure from childhood was this one from the – how shall I describe him? – shiny-topped @Debritz: “Sadly not my hair!”

And as I read those four words, I know why this envelope-full of 1970s Howson locks has found its way back to me. One day soon, I may need them again on my head! I am definitely not throwing them away!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bmag August 7th 2012 - Holiday in our street

One of the little luxuries Nikki and I (and our 12-year-old son Jack) enjoy is treating ourselves to a weekend in the city, being a tourist in our own town. We do this about three times a year, always in a different hotel and always eating at different caf├ęs and restaurants. If pressed for my favourite location, I’d have to say I am partial to a view of the city from South Bank but, wherever we stay, I just love the extravagance and slight ludicrousness of being half-an-hour from home yet mentally a million miles away!

Well, now the Howsons have taken the ‘tourist in our own town’ concept to a new extreme! We’re currently spending two weeks staying in our own street in Indooroopilly – literally 200 metres from home – and paying $950 a week for the privilege! Let me explain. Every day for the past three years, I’ve driven past this gated community of serviced apartments with a sign on the gate spruiking “weekly relocation accommodation”. Being a curious chap, I’ve often wondered who would stay here in the ’burbs, rather than in town. I imagined folk who had just moved to Brisbane, but beyond that I was stuck.

And so, when we came to having some renovations done at home, and with the builder suggesting he could work faster without us being there, I knew exactly where I wanted to bring the family for a couple of weeks! It would be close to home in case the builder had questions for me, but mainly I would get to find out who has a holiday in Indooroopilly! Yes, the managers told me on day one, folk moving to Brisbane rent here until they’re familiar with the city. Often they book in for three months to give themselves time to have a good look around. So who else?

Well, the families of several overseas students have arrived while we’ve been staying. I guess that makes sense when you consider the university is just a stone’s throw away. But what’s completely surprised me is the number of other families here from Indooroopilly and neighbouring Chapel Hill, all doing exactly the same as us – yes, they too are reno refugees! Looks like the people who built this complex knew exactly what they were doing. There certainly is a market for accommodation in the ’burbs!

And you know what? Whilst we don’t have a view of the CBD and we’ve still had to go to school or work each day, it truly has felt like we’ve been on holiday. Luxurious long deep baths (knowing you’ve already paid for the water), no chores other than cooking and washing, beds and towels are changed every few days and unlimited, free use of the pool and gym – it almost makes me want to come back here sometime!

Only one thing has caused us distress, a moral dilemma on the first night. Our internet devices all picked up unsecured wi-fi, presumably from a nearby house. Knowing we were going to be here for a couple of weeks, it was tempting to leech away. But was it safe and was it right? I turned to my Twitter followers for advice and here are some of the responses...

@mjcj1971 said: “Just do it”. @Karawr agreed: “If there’s no password, go for it!” @Fionawb went further, egging me on: “Do it. Do it. Do it. (Consider me a little devil on your shoulder)”. @Australianne responded with: “Wrong. You could take someone over their data allowance and it’s very expensive after that. It’s stealing.” @Amy_Remeikis suggested it was probably unlocked deliberately: “If you haven’t locked your wi-fi in 2012, you are okay with people using it”. @Ricky_Elias has an open-door policy at his place: “I have an unlocked wi-fi with ‘guest’ in the name and don’t mind our neighbours using it”. What would you have done?

In the end, this comment from @EvanontheGC decided it: “It’s always fun to see what files I can find on other computers on an unsecured network”. Click [disconnect wi-fi]. With that moral burden lifted and with only a few days left in our suburban holiday home, I shall channel the Golgafrincham Ark-B Captain from The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and declare: “Just time for another bath!”