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.
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.
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?