Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Typewriters on Travels

As mentioned in my last post, as fun as living in a tiny flat above a shop in Southampton has been, it has all but closed the door on my typewriter collecting. The tools are back in Australia, the typewriters that I haven't sold are in my parents' attic and the motivation for buying and repairing is now largely re-directed towards saving money so we can travel about the place at every opportunity. 

BUT, this is no barrier to cataloging what machines I can while on the road!! The first half of this year we went far and wide, going to a different country almost each month between February and June. The second half of the year on the other hand has been far more sedate.....

Tallinn: Feb 2016
Groovy old thing in a shop window with a Russian keyboard. Is this an Underwood 5?

Tallinn itself is a fantastic city. This was a holiday where we went where the flights were cheap. And I fully recommend it. Quaint little suburban ski-fields on a local hill, amazing Gothic architecture and a whole sea-side looking across out to what is eventually Finland to the north. Can fully recommend Estonia and would love to go back. In winter again.

 Leiden: March 2016

In late March we went to Amsterdam, making use of the fact that the local airline flies directly from Southampton to Amsterdam. Being able to take a 10 minute cab ride to the airport, fly for an hour and a bit and eat lunch in a different country is amazing. Amsterdam is a grand city, a testament to the fact that you can retrofit cycle paths everywhere and change a culture to one of sustainability and cycling. Granted the topography is flat as a tack. After Amsterdam we went to the smaller town of Leiden, 50km or so to the south and stayed a night. Here was a once-a-year flower display to die for and this dear old Torpedo sitting in a cafe where we stopped in for a coffee one morning.

Paris: May 2016
 Hello hello hello, do we have a Sholes and Gliddon right here? I must have stood there gawking at this thing for a good 5 or so minutes!

Hammond 2, in all it's bizarre glory. I really would have loved to smash the glass and steal this one right out of the museum

Yost #10. This beats the dual-keyboard Smith Premier that John and Scott helped me with a few years ago!

Each of those typewriters were sitting right next to one another in this awesome design museum hidden away in Paris. It also had this replica of one of the early (and most likely disastrous) attempts at powered flight.

Paris..... Even though every very dark corner or ally way smells like urine, it's still all it's cracked up to be.

 London- Sept 2016
This Oliver 10 was hidden away in a stall in a market off Brick Lane in London. Selling for £120. If I didn't have an afternoon ahead of me I'd have quite possibly had a quick haggle and bought it right then and there (struggling with all 1000kg of it back to Southampton on the train). Pretty good working order and it's the Oliver I've always wanted.

Ho hum. However I would have been keen if the carriage was a super duper long one like the one I featured from Paddington Antiques in Brisbane some years ago....

Old London town. We get up to London about once a month for some reason or another. It's busy and it's expensive, but it's also pretty cool.

Poole- September 2016
The missus was in Poole, an old beach side town around an hour south-west of Southampton for work. She saw this dear old thing at a charity store and I received this picture on my phone.

A phone call to me with confirmation it was working- the price was right- and it's now in the living room at home among other op-shop finds that need handing on the wall or (in the case of the other Olympia) taking back to the op-shop. Looking forward to writing grandma a letter as soon as the new ribbon arrives.

Shout out to all the space-constrained "collecting-with-my-camera" collectors out there!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Venetian Bind

I'm now living in England in a tiny little flat above a grocers on a local high street in Southampton. Which is why this blog has been largely put out to pasture. Rather than acquiring, fixing, writing on or playing with typewriters, the last few months of living in Australia was concerned with getting rid of them all. Not quite all, I've still got a couple of special ones up in my parents attic, but the cull was swift and brutal. On the way over to England we spent 2 months travelling through South East Asia and a little bit of Italy.

Let me introduce Venice. Venice is a beautiful place, where we spent 3 most enjoyable days and could have spent many more.

We stayed a long way out of the main town, this delightfully quiet, quaint little corner of Castello and walked and walked and walked and found some gorgeous parts of this iconic city. But Venice is not all gorgeous. In the main town- at least on sunny days in August- it's also godforsakenly crowded, chock full of trinket sellers, chock full of cheap, mass-produced miniature sized attempted-representations of what Venice is supposed to be. 

St Mark's square- the guts of the place is absolutely polluted with stalls selling crap: T-shirts to tea towels to snow-domes. This guy sort of sums it up. He hassles couples to buy roses, because St Mark's square in the heart of Venice it's supposed to be a romantic place where happy people go to holiday. But he's not happy. He's is the problem and perhaps he's not happy because he knows this. He and his hundreds of accomplices ensure St Mark's is not the least bit romantic, or even pleasant. At least in peak-season summer. 

But also in St Marks square, the reason for this particular trip into the heart of the city which we quickly learned to avoid is the Olivetti showroom. The Apple Shop of the 1960's. A beautifully designed building used to sell beautifully designed things. The building itself is a work of art, Carlos Scarpa doing what he did best. 

As a lover of all things Olivetti, the lines, the curves and that alluring green, this showroom was a must see for me. Almost hidden amongst the trinket sellers and the tourists that can be seen in the reflection of it's window, you would walk past this showroom if you didn't know it is there.

I had high hopes for this showroom, in the heart of Italy, only a stone's throw (well a fast train) away from Ivera, from Turino, this was Italy, home of the Olivetti. I was hanging out for Invicta's, limited edition Studio 42's, Praxis',  rare memento's of an amazing era for typewriting.... 

Alas, while the architecture is truly magnificent, the typewriters were not. Instead I found 4 identical Lexikon 80's lined up in a row. The typewriters and the occasional adding machine were there only as decoration it seemed. There was no chronology to the order in which they were placed, nor any description of anything, not even in Italian. Again, despite the fantastic architecture, the cool quiet concrete seclusion on a hot day, it was a very disappointing experience for me. The young woman at the counter couldn't offer anything at all about the typewriters in there and could point me only to a small booklet on the design of the showroom. The showroom in its current incarnation as a museum felt to me like the rest of St Mark's: "This place is supposed to be romantic, lets sell people roses", "This place used to have typewriters in it. Lets get a couple of typewriters in there". And admission to this reception area, 2 upstairs rooms and a corridor, like many things in Venice, was exorbitant. I couldn't help but lament what this place could have been and what it is. Somewhat tellingly, it was also completely empty. 

Please do go to Venice though, it is stunning. But just stay somewhere far away from the centre like the eastern reaches of Castello and explore the laneways and get your coffee from the same place each morning and listen to the nonna's having a laugh with the delicatessens. And do also go to the Olivetti Showroom, as a typewriter appreciator you'd be mad not to. Just don't set your expectations too high.

Merry Christmas to all you fine people out there doing fine things with fine machines. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

wHHoops I owned it again: The curious tale of the Royal HH

Many moons ago in my very first blog post, I gushed about being swept off my feet by the glory of the typewriter and how I had: "met for the first time all these great people pictured"... I lied... Not about my enthusiasm for the glory of the typewriter, but about the fact that I had in fact met one of that motley crew almost a year earlier.

There once was a 1954 Royal HH. Back in April 2012. I bought this almost a full year before that first Breaky Creek type-in and I knew almost nothing about typewriters. Taking it home, I found it to be relative seized up.

 April 2012

Not really knowing much about these things at all, and not yet being aware of the wealth of information about typewriters on blogs, forums and the internet more generally, I poked around and turned it upside down and decided that what it needed, was more WD40 than had ever been unleashed upon a typewriter ever. I doused the bastard. Sprayed it's innards so propper that it was dripping for hours. It smelt like a refinery.

To my happiness, this seemed to free up a lot of things and I got it typing. So I bought a new ribbon for it from Alderley Business Machines and typed out a bunch of song lyrics. After my interest had run its course and more interesting machines had arrived at my house, I put this smelly thing (made from equal parts metal and WD40 by this stage) up on eBay. At a $7 profit, I was delighted that it sold to someone local. I contacted the seller, informing them I lived in Graceville. Several messages later, we agreed that he would pick it up from my friend's place, where I would be later that morning practicing music.

June 2012

Thus on the 7th June 2012, outside my friend's old place on Equinox Street, Taringa, I met a man in a maroon Nissan X-Trail who paid me $27 for my Royal HH. I was rather hoping that he would not become suddenly overpowered by the stench of WD40 and drop dead on the spot. Luckily he remained upright throughout the transaction and was polite enough not even say anything about the veritable cloud of petroleum hydrocarbons in the air above the typewriter. This polite man of robust sinus health was Scott Kerneghan. It was later at the 2013 Brisbane Type-in when we met properly and to this day I have not dared mentioned the incident of the WD40'd Royal HH.

Fast forward to July last year, before relocating to Melbourne, Scott dropped a couple of standard sized typewriters to my new house in Ashgrove for me to give to John Lavery. Looking beneath the tarpaulin, what did I see? That very same HH. The tyranny of distance and one incident of unfortunate timing meant that I held on to these typewriters, moving house from Toowong to Ashgrove and then later to East Brisbane, carrying around these standard typewriters until two days ago when John came over for a cup of tea and to pick up the typewriters that were rightfully his.

19th January 2015

Thus it may be said that this HH has been kept in the family. It may also be said that I owe Scott a pint of beer, considering the HH that I sold him really wasn't worth any more than the $20 that I originally paid for it, versus the $27 I sold it to him. Especially so after my drowning it in the devil's own lubricant. One thing I know for sure though, this HH is that it's going to a good home.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Inadvertently writing a poem for someone you don't know

This poem is not mine. It comes from one of the many poets out there using typewriters, going about their business. Composing, in this case, some of the most striking poetry one is likely to come across in months. 

It comes from 2wenty six letters, a poetry blog well worth a read from time to time if this sort of thing takes your fancy: She inadvertently wrote a poem about me, but without knowing it and without knowing me.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Handing in the gloves

It’s been 3 months. This blog has been sorely neglected. To be honest there’s not been a lot of typewriters going on. What has been going on is a move of living arrangements from Toowong to a unit in Ashgrove, a change of job which now means full time hours or more and until very recently, a night job tacked on top of this. Free time has been a relatively scarce commodity of recent. The night job however has been some pretty good times and represents the focus of this drought-breaking post.
In essence I have been a chauffeur. The way the business works is that the chauffeurs ride ridiculously small fold-up two-stroke motor scooters over to the client’s car. We fold up the scooter, put it in its purpose-built vinyl carry case, load it into the boot of the client’s car, drive them home in their own car, take out the motorbike again and scoot off to our next job. The service is aimed at people who enjoy a tipple at the pub and is priced to be less expensive than a two-way taxi fare, so rather than having to pay for two taxi’s or having to come and pick up their car the next morning, the client calls my company and along we come. The sequence is documented in the photos smattered throughout the post. Just replace daylight with night.

The folding scooter came with its own idiosyncrasies. Such that it didn’t leak petrol when folded up and laid on its side, once I got to the client’s car (identified by the car model and the number plate received though text message) I had to turn off the fuel line and burn off the last of the petrol in the carburettor so it wouldn’t leak out. On a suburban street this was fine, simply cut a lap or two of the street and soon the bike would splutter and cut out. In a tight multi-story car park however, this meant buzzing around and around much to the mirth of passers-by, waiting for the fuel in the carbie to burn off so I could fold up the bike and alert the client.

Working 4-5 nights per week for over two months, suffice to say there were a lot of clients I picked up. They ranged from high-flying barristers in top-end Mercedes, always checking their phone and looking important, to driving mum, dad and the kids home in the family car from a children’s birthday party when both parents had decided to have a couple of drinks together for a change. I drove civil engineers home in their companies’ dusty Nissan Patrols, to young entrepreneurs in their zippy little turbocharged Audi S3’s or Range Rover Evoques. During these conversations I learned all sorts of things about all sorts of things; the likelihood of Australia’s pet insurance ownership level tripling in the next five years; how one client remembered when a recently convicted murderer I had read about in the newspaper was a child and how he had burned down the local police station; the difference in constitutional legislation between USA and Australia about how far down in the earth on one’s property that one owns the minerals contained within and how this affects the nature of the Coal Seam Gas mining industries in the two countries. I got stock market tips; lectured about the alleged myths surrounding the environmental sustainability of disposable and re-usable nappies; listened to a fat man snore out breath that smelled like all the water in his body had been replaced by pure whisky, drove a man home the night he had broken up with his wife, played I-spy with two five year olds, met a close friend of motorcycle legend Mick Doohan and drove a single mum home from what can only be described as a booty-call.

The joy of the job was sharing 15-30 minutes of various people’s lives. A small window into all these different ways of living, all these different personalities, different jobs, different value and belief systems. These were people who you knew nothing about when they hopped in the car and suddenly knew quite a lot about them when they hopped out of the car 15-30 minutes later. I learned a lot about the roads of Brisbane. Navigating on the motor scooter involved having a TomTom in the jacket pocket which communicated with the blue-tooth speaker in the helmet, telling you when to turn and other useful directions. The motor scooters were also delightfully idiosyncratic, with each one requiring a certain special touch to get it started when it was cold, knowing what to do if the suspension insert pops out, if the spark plug lead becomes disconnected or if the rear view mirrors flipped over due to wind resistance at high speed.

Perhaps the most interesting ride was when I was asked to pick up three people from a wake in a bayside suburb. The boss called me up saying that “For this next job mate you’d do well to employ a certain degree of tact and sensitivity”. The car was an expensive Range Rover Sport with a million electronics to do everything including manipulating the plush leather seats in an impossible number of ways. The clients when they emerged were interesting and inebriated. A flabby jowl-wobbling, wheezing combed-over man in his 60’s with a striking resembling to Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer; a tall thin man in his late 40’s; and a tall woman in her early 30’s who had not gone to great lengths to cover up her ample cleavage, sporting at least a year's supply of make-up plastered thick upon her face. All were dressed in black, impeccable and expensive business attire with the men sporting cufflinks and shiny watches. 

After some faffing about, we get driving (excuse the switch to present tense). I stay as quiet as possible, employing the tact I was asked to earlier by my boss. The two men start talking about share portfolios, companies to avoid, recent mergers affecting share prices and all sorts of stockmarket trader talk. The woman however is silent. I only heard one mention of the recently deceased gentleman (whose wake they had just attended) during the entire drive. So I initially assume the men are stockbrokers and the woman is the younger taller man’s wife. Through the course of the conversation however, it becomes apparent that the men are indeed both stockbrokers, but that the woman is in fact not the taller man’s wife, but a paid escort. An escort seemingly hired to be on the arm of one or both of the men and (as I learned) to chat up potential business partners / clients. This was confirmed by a very memorable quote by the Clive Palmer lookalike who, when the woman mentioned how a prospective business partner or funder of the stockbrokers had asked her during the wake about her own share portfolio: “Haw haw haw! It was more than just him checking out your portfolio love!” Both men had a good belly-laugh at this. We stopped at a chemist to buy lozenges for the escort's sore throat and I dropped them all at a riverside mansion in Bulimba and scooted off to my next pick up.

Now, sadly, this job is no more. It was impossible to work full time work as well as working 4-5 nights per week on call as a micro-scooter chauffeur. Thus with regret I gave my notice and handed in my gloves just last week. Some normality will soon be restored to my life, some friends will be caught up with and, you never know, some typewriters may even be bought in the near future. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014