Sunday, July 15, 2007

Responsibility for an old house

Our house is nearly a hundred years old. We are fortunate that it had never been "renovated" in the fifties, sixties, nor even the seventies. Maybe not even the eighties! When we moved in it had maybe two powerpoints, an outdoor loo, and ALL its original features. Those features include three fireplaces with their tiles and timber surrounds, pressed metal ceilings, timber fretwork, kauri floorboards, and more. Over the seventeen years we have been here we have done all the basics. New bathroom (indoor loo). A zillion powerpoints (never enough). New kitchen. Underpinning so the house doesn't fall over. A squillion dollars hurled up into the roof (slate), into the floorboards (what a saga THAT was!) and underneath the house (plumbing, and more.) It makes it comfortable for us, but it also preserves the house for its future, after we have shuffled off. The house will still be here, and we want to leave it structurally sound and in good condition.

One of the quaintest of its original features is the original stove. Metters was an Erskineville-based company, and it is appropriate that we have a Metters stove. Many will remember the gas version, the Early Kooka. This well predates that. When we moved it it was still its slow-combustion version. It has spare doors, all its bits like the hotplate hook to lift up the cast-iron hotplates. It has all kinds of little covers and bits and pieces.

I was familiar with slow-combustion stoves from my teenage years. These cool days remind me of how pleasant it was to lean against the Aga, and how my mother would have to shove aside kids and dogs to get the cooking done. When we moved in, I lit it. Whooosh! There was no way I could damp it down, there was too much air getting through no matter how I adjusted it. And really, a slow combustion stove in the middle of the city is a big hassle. Remove the stove? No way. A compromise was reached. A friend helped to organise the making of a gas burner to sit in the fire box. You can see the fittings on the right, coming up through the ashbox. It can now be lit with a simple match or lighter, and with the doors flung wide, it is a wonderful heater.

As we look at things to be done about the house, we have often thought about this stove. The nickel plating surrounding the two enamel doors (Metters, and Bega No. 2) was flaking off and looking decidedly tatty. Not knowing it was nickel, we assumed it was Chrome, and Michael became Chrome-Magnon Man. He hassled me into hunting around for re-platers. I called a couple, then we decided on a visit to Astor Metal Plating at Villawood. We bundled the two doors into the car and set out. Villawood is quite a long way away, so we planned another adventure while out that way.

We dropped off the doors, to the amusement/amazement of the proprietors. I don't think they'd seen anything like that for a while! The man in charge said that they had clearly been nickeled before 1925, and I shall ask him about that when we pick the doors up in a couple of weeks. We are excited to see them!

While out that way, we decided to go to Holland. Out in the industrial wastelands of Smithfield there is a Dutch Canal House, called Holland House. Also see here for pictures. It has a Dutch food section in the front where you can buy any kind of liquorice you like, herring, smoked speck, cocoa, Indonesian spices, Delft china, wooden clogs, Dutch tea towels, records (yes, vinyl) and CDs, and so much more. A room behind is a cafe, dark, persian carpets as tablecloths, copper hanging from dark beams, and croquettes on the menu. A third cave is a kind of furniture store with heavy oak furniture and more Delft china. It is one of Sydney's little jewels So unexpected to see a Canal House in the middle of this featureless, ugly, industrial area. We bought some food items, we ate lunch there, we explored the furniture.

A very successful outing.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in Villawood so it doesn't seem that far away for me. I knew about the Dutch place - is in Smithfield in the middle of an industrial estate? I've been wanting to go there too!!