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

Thursday 12 June 2014

Sold! To the man in the bowler hat

I have been doing a little bit of spring (read: winter) cleaning up here in Brisbane. Not that Brisbane has a winter, it goes from summer, to feeling like spring for around 2.5 months before it returns to its perpetual summer. This has involved a bit of typewriter selling. Three of my typewriters are now in the hands of new owners and probably a few more will follow suit. This is due in part to the house I'm living in getting demolished. The real estate has given us 2 months notice and as of the end of July, we need to be vacated out, so they can knock down this gorgeous old spatious split level pre-war house and it's green garden and most likely put up two or three units or similar where there's no more than a meter or two's gap between any of the external walls and the property boundary.

I'm not the only one thinning out their collection either. Scott K's has given his collection a serious haircut as part of his re-location down south, Robert M has recently advertised a few more beauties up for graps, Teeritz is thinking that "some kind of cull is in order soon"- Teeritz Agenda. Even Rob Bowker has had a haircut. Though that was an actual haircut.

The typewriters I've sold are ones that I haven't been using a lot. My collection is relatively modest, but at 16 or so typewriters, there is no way that you will use all of them with the least bit of regularity. So a couple have flown the nest, namely:

(1) my Underwood Noiseless 77

This Underwood went to the director of a talent agency for media, TV and advertising. His business card sported a rather funky typewriter font, but he wanted a real typewriter to produce the real deal on certain documents and letters.

(2) My Royal Model O

And (3) yet another painted SJ. The Impatient SJ Paintshop has been slow of late, owing to few SJ's of sufficiently chipped or poor paintwork condition (thus warranting a paint) coming available within a reasonable drive of my house. But this one didn't slip through my fingers. Matte black is somewhat of a boring choice, but it was the colour which I had the most of from previous SJ's. 

One always feels a little sad when saying goodbye to typewriters, but as a wiser person than me once said, when de-cluttering, one only needs to pick up an object and ask it: "Do you bring me joy?" If so, the object stays. If not, the object goes. For these typewriters, the answer was "you have brought me joy in the past". See the joy for me is the tinkering, the polishing, the getting them going again. Following this, if they are not one of my regular typers, they do tend to sit under the bed. I was horrified to find a reasonable amount of mould growing on the case of the Underwood which had been tucked under the bed for 6 months. This came off very easily of course, but it was a reminder that despite the huge amounts of joy I had tinkering away with it last year and getting it going like it is now, that I haven't actually used it in probably over 6 months. So in this respect it's not a sad thing, but a positive thing, as the fun has been had, the satisfaction of getting a machine going has been enjoyed and now it is time to pass it onto someone who (hopefully) will use it more than me and provide them with joy.

Typewriters- the gift (or purchased item) that keeps on giving.

Thursday 22 May 2014

The Southern Odyssey Part 3 (Final)

No less than a month and a day after the event, here lies the third and final installment in the Southern Odyssey.


As per Part 1 and Part 2 of this odyssey, the stops along the way where we considered there to be a reasonable expectation of typewriters are numbered in the map below.

1. Bowning, NSW: Bowning Antiques Centre. Bowning

TYPEWRITER 8 (excluding the hundreds witnessed at the Australian Typewriter Museum): Boring late model Royal 203 in Bowning Antiques.

2. Gundagai, NSW: Tuckerbox Antiques.

Jack O'Hagen: Along the Road to Gundagai

 Post office


Antiques shop / theatre


TYPEWRITER 9- In Antique store (3)- Boring electric Brother

TYPEWRITERS 10, 11, 12 in antique store (2)- Remington Portable 4; Imperial Good Companion; Hanimax (?)

I didn't pay them a lot of attention to be honest, with the plainly ridiculous price tags. Also in antique store (2) was TYPEWRITER 13- Mystery Typewriter. This typewriter was a mystery to both of us. Scott has since done some research on this mystery typewriter and covers this dusty mystery in the same blog post that I have hyperlinked above.

From Yackandandah we needed to make some pretty good time in order to get to Melbourne by (late) dinner, so other than a brief refill of petrol we drove the final 300km without stopping. As the lights of Melbourne started to rise up before us, a sense of achievement started to grow, and so it was, in suburban driveway in Pascoe Vale on the 21st April 2014 that our Odyssey ended. On these trips one learns exactly how big Australia is. Not only due to the huge distances traveled while you're traveling, but the comparatively tiny stretch of the country you've actually explored with all those kilometers when you look at the whole thing on a map.

3 days
4 capital cities (Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne)
(approx) 1975km
1 game of darts
13 typewriters
2 purchased
1 damn good trip.


Wednesday 30 April 2014

The Southern Odyssey Part 2: Scone to Canberra

Day 2 (Easter Sunday) started off with cold morning, a noise in the alternator and a battery light. This was solved with a deft squirt of God's own nectar (WD40) into the alternator and voila, no more issues all the way to Melbourne. Soon down the road we drove into Hunter Valley coal country; coal in the ground, coal on the trains and coal fed into the coal-fired power stations choofing away outside of Muswellbrook. 

Mmmm, sustainable

As per my post on Part 1 of this odyssey, the map below indicates the stops made along the way where we considered there to be a reasonable possibility of typewriters. Considering much of the distance between Scone and Canberra is covered by dual-carriageway motorway and because we were keen to catch up with Robert M in good time, there was not a great deal of stops along the way, however stop [1] below was rather memorable. 

Before that stop however, we paid homage to Australia's biggest city and traversed a rather well known landmark. Although it is a bit quicker to skirt around Sydney via the western motorways, we decided that we may as well see the sights and fulfill our aim of 4 capital cities in three days. So we drove into the city and right over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was driving at the time and thus I have to rely on an artist's impression of our crossing in order to capture the moment.

You can just make out Scott's red Nissan X-Trail in this photo

Some distance south of Sydney, near Goulburn, we made the one stop before Canberra where we considered there was a reasonable expectation of spotting typewriters. After passing hand-painted signs along the motorway such as "Garage Sale" and "1,000 items", we thought we'd better investigate.

1. Somewhere not far from Goulburn, NSW: Dave's Garage and Lawn Sale. A short distance off the motorway was Dave's house. This was a somewhat delapidated dwelling, where more stuff than could possibly have once fitted inside his house or in the ajoining carport was strewn haphazardly around the front lawn. To one side was a number of cars for "wrecking" as well as a motorcycle which was for also for sale. Dave stood proudly near the carport, sun glasses and a bandana around his grey hair, chain smoking cigarettes. I asked him whether he had any typewriters. "Mate I don't think I do. And even if I did, if they're not on the lawn, I wouldn't know where the **** they were". 

In short, no typewriters.

It did not appear that Dave was married

Some distance on and we were passing Lake George and the "Welcome to the Australian Capital Territory" sign. I lived in Canberra for six months in 2006, however hadn't returned properly since, so driving down into the "bush capital" once more brought back a lot of fond memories of the place. This time however, Canberra brought lots and lots of typewriters and an enjoyable afternoon and evening with Mr Typewriters himself, the wonderful, the one and only Robert M.

2. Canberra, ACT: The Australian Typewriter Museum. TYPEWRITER 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14........400.......500.....*Passes out*

The afternoon took an enjoyably impromptu political twist when we set up shop and briefly typed-in on the benches of the House of Representatives in Old Parliament House. Not having any of my own typewriters on me I got to borrow Rob's Vendex. One of the joys of any public typewritering is the children who come and see what's going on and soon find themselves typing away themselves. This afternoon was no different and after one young boy tried his hand at Scott's typewriter, his mother pushed him aside and proved herself to be as fast and proficient as someone straight out of a big-business typing pool.

After we soaked up the last of the gorgeous afternoon outside we retired to a local restaurant and thence back to the Australian Typewriter Museum to talk about..... This is not a hard guess.

Two of the best minds in the business talking shop

"In joyful strains, then let us sing, Advance Australia Vendex"