The Aspidistra and a Bed.



If one could compare an aspidistra with some marriages, it would not be far off the mark. The same conclusion might be drawn from home-made timber beds.  I am always in awe of those death notices in the back pages of newspapers reading how Mr or Mrs  Robinson passed away at over eighty or more, leaving a sad and bewildered partner , countless children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. All to continue on and pick up the pieces, in that strange unpredictable fickle game which we call life.  I am of course talking about the aspidistra- like- endurance to keep going, making the best of all life’s problems. Actually, I should write ‘challenges’. There are no problems anymore, just challenges. We are all  ‘challenged’ throughout our lives, so we are told…but I remain suspicious. Be wary of the wisdom espoused from learned couches.

One reason might by that not long ago, life was supposed to be not really difficult or challenging. It was just a matter  of grabbing ‘solutions’. Remember the age of solutions? Huge trucks would thunder past with tarpaulins covering ‘banana solution to you from sunny Queensland.’  Our butcher,  when we were still living on the farm had ‘meat solutions’ written on his display window. “I’ll have two kilo of your best sausage solutions, please butcher!” And before that some of us might have a life somehow unnecessarily tangled up by not practising enough of ‘logistics’. We needed to get our logistics sorted out! There are some  of the brightest ad men in town thinking all this up. The psychiatrist couch is worn threadbare by endless queues lining up to sort out all that confusion. And it is no wonder. It used to be simple.

All this latest insight while sipping my first coffee at 5.30 am and staring at an aspidistra, sitting on the kitchen bench keeping an eye out for any eventuality. If aspidistra’s could talk! Helvi told me that it is the same one we had in Balmain in 1976 when we moved in after returning from three years in Holland. Helvi’s memory is phenomenal. She remembers having bought it at a market stall that is still being held every Saturday. The same market stall where I tried setting up a business selling chicken sates. It lasted just a couple of Saturdays. The smell of  raw chicken pieces on bamboo stick with peanut sauce was overwhelming. I don’t mind eating them. But amazingly, around 2002, and buying my sausage solutions I got talking to the butcher at Marulan (170 KMs from Balmain’s Sydney) who remembered my chicken sate all those years ago. He said; “they were the best chicken sates I ever had and the spicy peanut sauce was fantastic.” No small praise from a butcher! It is a small world indeed.

On par with the longevity of our aspidistra we also had a bed  that lived even longer. I made that bed soon after our arrival in Holland when we left Australia in 1976. We had taken our camping airbeds with us in the aeroplane together with clothes. All was packed tightly in four suitcases. We had no address to go to but had arranged to meet a mayor of a small town to whom I had written from Australia. He had published an article about art and community. We stayed one night in a hotel near the airport from where I arranged to hire a car. Next day we met the Mayor and he knew a farmer who had an old farm house for us to use while we found our feet. It was quite an undertaking with our three children, but we were young and adventurous, but perhaps on hindsight a bit foolish as well.

Family living in Holland

Family living in Holland

In any case, after we settled in the farm-house in North-West Holland on the second day after arrival, I bought a Skill electric saw and some dressed pine to try and make a bed. I had already made a bed in that rickety old Balmain cottage because the narrow curving stairs would never allow a double bed through.  I had refined the design to the simplest form. The matrass would rest on slats that were being held within a frame of four planks dowelled together with timber dowels. The whole bed would be flush with floor, so nothing could ever get lost underneath this bed, ever; not even a single sock. It was Queen size and totally demountable. It had no nails.

After three years in Holland we returned to Australia and straight back to Balmain. This time we had two large crates shipped over with all of our present furniture  including the home made bed that I had disassembled in a small bundle of slats and the four planks. This bed survived many, many years, with lots of sleeping and tossing and turning, sadness’s, crying and laughter,  actions. Even some unbelievable geriatric  gymnastics of latter years.

Life back in Australia

Life back in Australia

I don’t know wether we can draw any conclusions from all this, but I would suggest that making own timber bed goes a long way in the ‘logistics’ of long lasting relationships.  As for the Aspidistra, you can’t go wrong and is the least of life’s challenges.

They are sometimes called ‘cast iron’ plant. What does that tell you?

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18 Responses to “The Aspidistra and a Bed.”

  1. M-R Says:

    Bloody marketing. It’s ruined our lives. How I hate its horrid creep into all their aspects !
    You had the odd skill, my dear !
    But Stringer trumped you: he built a house.


  2. bkpyett Says:

    What a charming post with beautiful pictures full of reminiscence.
    The aspidistra has done so well lasting so long.


  3. rod Says:

    When we were young, Audrey decided we could do with a bed and ordered one up from a carpenter. It was quite impressive, really. So impressive he couldn’t get it out of the room he’d built it in.

    We still have it, but I had to adapt it somewhat. Before Audrey came back from hospital her new bionic hip I had to raise it 18″,
    but did so quite elegantly I thought. Well, it works.


  4. Master of Something Yet Says:

    “Quick! Get behind the aspidistra!”

    I’ve never been able to take the aspidistra seriously since performing in A Fruity Melodrama (Only a Mill Girl).


  5. Jackie Says:

    I can honestly say that my marriage was not like a aspidistra.


  6. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    I love your analysis of in Ad words, you are absolutely right. We still have our wood plank (but not homemade) marital bed – though it graces the spare room now.


  7. gerard oosterman Says:

    Our wooden home-made bed in Holland finally was left abandoned in a shed on the farm. The farm was bought by a Sydney lawyer. I doubt he uses it.


  8. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Your carpentry skills saved you and Helvi money and there is nothing better than using something that one has made themselves.

    The family photos are lovely. Your son is quite handsome and the ladies beautiful.


  9. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Obviously a good marriage islike an aspidistra. I wonder if the plant cold qualify as drought resistant? It’s all about that now in California.

    Clever lad—do you share your peanut sauce recipe?


  10. Silver in the Barn Says:

    I loved seeing your family photographs, Gerard. We would do well to take on a few of the aspidistra’s traits. Endurance, chief among them. A bit of cast iron will get us through life fairly well, I guess.


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