The Marion Chronicles – Chapter 2
Six months have gone by since I last wrote about living in our tree house. Marion’s birthday went by a few weeks ago. She would have attained the ripe old age of 150 on Valentine’s day had she managed, in some magical combination of obstinacy and vegetarianism, to defy death. There are some noises being made out there about “celebrating” her life. So far nothing has even come close to revealing the Marion I have come to know. I had better get on with this.
In addition to the usual excuses — the pandemic, a broken wrist, too much chocolate — I blame my lack of progress on a mental block concerning the topic that is up next. I cannot go any further in telling you about Marion’s life until we talk about her mother, and mothers in general. Mothers. I am still not certain I understand the concept, even though I had one and I am one.
The Marion Chronicles, Chapter 1
Sometimes late at night if I can’t sleep, I walk out onto the deck and look up into the branches of the big gum tree in our yard and watch the tips of her long, fingerlike branches bend to catch the passing breaths of air. Her latin name, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, is much more dignified than the common one, river red gum. She’s leaning at a seemingly precarious angle, but it’s understandable when you look towards the street and see the massive dead trunk of another eucalypt that must have been lording it over this spot when she was just a baby. She had to grow sideways to catch the light. Once the big boy next door had died, she was free to stretch back upright, reclaiming the sky for herself.
It’s May, 2020, several weeks into the Coronavirus pandemic. I’m struggling in my efforts to write about Marion, even though I have a deep conviction that it’s something I must do. This is partly because I don’t know anything about architecture and partly because I don’t know much about her. Most of what I do know is derived from her memoir, the Magic of America, a 1400-page behemoth full of images, letters, poetry, and long diatribes about government and bureaucracy.
So far, I do know this: She was frustrated that people did not share her view of the world, a struggle echoed in structure of the memoir, which is divided into four separate “Battles”. She hated the Australian bureaucracy, thought the people were uneducated and short-sighted and didn’t appreciate beauty. She was pushy, opinionated and dogmatic, a lifelong teetotaler and vegetarian. She did not suffer fools. She commanded respect and made strong, lasting friendships (e.g. Miles Franklin, Vida Goldstein, Anna Ickes).
Picture this: You’re in a bookstore, and you see the cover: the Marion Chronicles. Marion? Sci-fi? You pick up the book, turn it over and read the blurb to decide whether or not it’s worth the effort. Except we’re not in a bookstore, and there’s no back cover. Therefore I don’t have to follow any of the rules about how long it has to be. This is the why you should read the book blurb.
As a bit of an epilogue to the saga of our restoration of the bit of Australian Architectural History, I promised to add some photos.
You can see the professional ones done by the good photographers at the Design Files. Those are amazing, much better than anything I could take.
I have a policy of only putting my own photos up on this blog — very long story involving a copyright troll operating from underneath a bridge in Las Vegas — but I’ll make a small exception here to include some publicly available real estate photos so you can see what changed. Keep in mind they used a wide angle lens, which I can’t reproduce.
At this point in the narrative, I’m a little worried you might think that the restoration of our Priceless Piece of Australian Architectural History was an unmitigated nightmare and that I was on the verge of catastrophic sleep failure.
So let me reassure you. There were many, many things that were going well. Sure, the completion date was moving away from us at a fairly steady pace and our starting budget was only a rosy memory. But with Jane and Christopher on the scene, we were spared the majority of the minutiae.
Today our Melbourne restoration project went up on a design blog! Here’s the back story of how we ended up getting the house in the first place. The renovations? A whole other story for another day.
Marc and I are not real estate neophytes. We have bought and sold houses in three countries. I know the sellers’ tricks and the buyers’ tactics. We were flush with cash from selling our Vancouver townhouse and ready to embark upon yet another real estate adventure on a new continent, in a new city. Our stuff was sitting in a storage facility, and we were living out of suitcases. We needed to settle down.