Friday, February 22, 2013

Vote for King Edward!

This sad image of the few spud varieties allowed in WA was swiped from the website of Western Potatoes.
I'm still loving having the time to plug away at various home improvement projects and am in no danger of getting bored yet.  However if I ever do get bored I have found a rather absurd and particularly Western Australian way to amuse myself.  I'm going to load up my tiny car with over 50 kg of potatoes and drive around in the hope that an inspector will stop and search my vehicle. 

I was warned before we moved here that Western Australia had many bizarre or perplexing regulations.  The warners were not kidding.  I've lost count of the number of times I've wondered why some ordinary everyday thing either doesn't exist here or only exists in an old-fashioned way that I am familiar with from my small-town New Zealand childhood.  Often this situation is just interesting, but sometimes it is also jolly annoying.

One of WA's most antiquated laws is the Monty Pythonesque Marketing of Potatoes Act 1946.  Enshrined in that law is the ability for potato inspectors to stop and search vehicles carrying too many potatoes.  This would simply be comical except for the fact that that law also restricts WA potato growers to only ever growing 13 of the 66 varieties of potatoes grown commercially in Australia.  I'm not making this up and these restrictions aren't in place to prevent the spread of diseases, which I would understand.  Via this odd law Western Potatoes and the Potato Marketing Corporation of Western Australia also restrict how many potatoes growers can grow and at what price they can sell them.  My local supermarkets only ever stock two or three varieties at a time and one of them is always that trusty but dreary wallflower: Nadine.  I've never thought of myself as a foodie but I find life in WA decidedly deprived in the spud department.

So forget finding any of the planet's 4000 or so other crazy potato varieties at farmers' markets here.  My attempts to source interesting varieties to grow have also failed; my days of walking out the back door to harvest small, nutty, black-skinned Maori potatoes or huge, yellow sweet potatoes or any other waxy or starchy beauties are just a distant memory.

So it was with some interest that I noticed that potatoes have become a campaign issue in the upcoming state elections.  The Western Australian Labor Party is pledging to free up the sale of potatoes in Western Australia. We aren't Australian citizens (and never can be - too old) so we don't get to vote but if I could and I saw a candidate called Cliff Kidney, Jersey Bennes, Russett Burbank, Purple Congo or King Edward I'd be sorely tempted to vote for them.  Fingers crossed that however Western Australians vote, we'll all win a bit more choice over what we are allowed to eat sometime soon.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Old habits

Today the children went back to school.  Two children at secondary school - how did that happen?  My project job finished a couple of days before we went to New Zealand so I am in a situation I happily call "self-unemployed".  If a superjuicy or irresistible job comes up then maybe I'll be tempted back out of my shell, but otherwise I have plenty to keep me busy.  Old habits die hard; I have made myself a BIG LONG LIST. (And yet here I am at the computer with a whole pot of coffee to myself.  Old habits indeed.)

My first project presented itself minutes after we got home.  Someone used the toilet and the cistern just kept on running and running, again.  Yeeesssssss!  When I got that fixed once before the plumber said that if it happened again I should replace the whole toilet and with one that uses far less water.  I usually don't like replacing things that aren't broken because it just seems wasteful (the obvious exception being things that are so ugly or poorly designed that they depress me) so this was the perfect opportunity to finally replace our ugly, beige, stained, too-tricky-to-clean, water-wasting toilet.  While I'm at it the bathroom and laundry will get a spruce-up too.  Here is our new throne. 

Image courtesy of Caroma
And in case you are wondering, that isn't a urinal on top as someone suggested.  It is a handbasin.  Hopefully no visitors will get confused.

The next major project on my list is something I'm very excited about because it is a (very modest) version of something I've long dreamt about doing. 

One of my very old habits is to look at mental real estate and plan makeovers for it.  For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with sad, abandoned, non-residential buildings and dreamt about acquiring one, throwing some love at it and transforming it into a superb home, workroom and business.  So when I was back in New Zealand, having a great time and dreaming about moving back there, I indulged in a bit of what my partner refers to as "real estate p*rn" (rhymes with corn). 

Here is my all-time favourite mental real estate conversion opportunity: The Riverton Bowling Club

Here is another doozie: the building formerly known as The Tirau Event Centre.  I am soooo over events after the year I had at work last year, so I would turn this building into a lovely peaceful "Non-Event Centre".

Maybe my very own hall in Karitane.

And another bowling club, this time in Carterton, listed here and here.  Cheap as chips!

How about a whole school.

Or a country hall. (I went to a rather memorable party there as a teenager.)

Can I interest anyone in possibly the saddest building in the universe?

Honestly Trademe is just heaving with very tempting disused Scout Halls, Masonic Lodges, Bowling Clubs, banks, post offices, railway stations, churches (which for some reason don't appeal to me) and other ripe-for-refurbishment opportunities.  Obviously there are a few impracticalities to my obsession, the main one being that I am in Australia and all these gems are in New Zealand.  

But realistically the main thing my family really needs is simply one more biggish multi-purpose room; I need a workroom, my children would love their own space to hang out with their friends and we need better guest accommodation.  My daughter's dream way of solving this issue is for us to airlift a Futuro onto the back garden and I'd gladly oblige only I could find one to buy in Australia.  The Futuro at the top of this post is currently also for sale on Trademe ... and it is in Raglan.  Soooo tempted...

Anyway we discussed our "one more biggish multi-purpose room" requirements recently with a building designer who visited to give our house a "Home Sustainability Assessment" and guide us through the next stage of our renovations.  Happily she suggested we get on and do something that we'd toyed with but thought might be a daft idea: insulate and line the great galumphing hangar-sized double garage on the back lawn to convert it to a useable space.  I finally have my very own conversion project!

I've been pulling together some ideas for the project and so far it looks like this (and yes, I own quite a bit of fabric again).

My daughter has her own ideas.  Hers involve air-hockey tables, pinball machines, vintage arcade games, Dr Who posters and somewhere to play Minecraft, Portal2 and listen to TripleJ

I'm sure we'll be able to create a space we are all happy with.  It should be a doddle compared to fixing up a whole bowling club.