Monday, January 31, 2011

A street called Hope

It's been an emotional time here at World of Hurt HQ. Peter and I have been trying to find a home to buy. We've been scouring the internet real estate pages for months, and many evenings after work, or saturdays have been spent looking at places to live. We have found a few places that we really liked, but have been out bid by people with more money to spend. And last weekend we visited a place that made our hearts race.

It's hard out there, as unless you have loads of cash to spend, you're very limited. After falling for this place, the estate agent told us that the owner had been made an offer just before christmas and it was turned down. We were horrified, as that offer was more than we could afford. He told us to make an offer anyway. He tried to get us to come in and sign a contract 'subject to finance', but we needed to check with our Credit Union. On monday I made an appointment to talk numbers, loans and repayments. And I was heartbroken, after we added stamp duty in, we realised that we would need to drop our price range even lower. The place we loved slipped through our hands.

It sent me in a spin. How would we ever afford anywhere? Would we be stuck renting a nice but small flat forever? I spoke to many people at work and I heard something funny. A colleague said she was listening to the radio that morning and heard Red Symonds say "what's the definition of a Collingwood supporter? Someone who can't afford to live in Collingwood". Funny, true and just a bit sad. It makes me wonder how these inner city suburbs which were slums in the past, where public housing buildings were commonplace as were houses for migrants, student sharehouses and drug addicts, have become sought after and out of the reach of the average person. In talking to another colleague, he wonders how is teenage sons will ever be able to afford their own homes in the future. It made me wondering if the 'great Australian dream of owning your own home' had now become a myth. Peter and I read an article in the paper about a pub in Coburg being renovated, and that with house prices soaring, the old suburbs were now becoming full of 'economic migrants'. We had found our label.

Were we just kidding ourselves? Peter and I don't want to borrow more money than we can afford to pay back - even though the credit union would happily lend us crazy amounts of money. The reality is, of course, that things like bills also need to be paid, and heaven forbid you should want a bit of a life too. So we now know exactly what our budget is. But it also meant a week of tears from me. I was just so depressed as all I could see was our options becoming more limited. I guess trying to juggle finding a home, with full time work and part time study and the limited few hours I get with Peter each weekend, made me wish we could find somewhere so we could have our lives back. Many people have joked that it becomes almost a full time job, trying to find a home.

Towards the end of last week, I was contacted by an agent I have become friendly with. She knows our budget and what we're looking for. She said she had somewhere for us to come and look at. And it made me realise something. I don't function very well when I don't have hope. I need to feel that things will get better, that things can be achieved, that there are possibilities. And last week all that left me and was replaced by exhaustion and sadness. But the tears have dried and things are slowly taking steps forward again. The search continues and maybe there will be a home for us. Peter and I have rented this flat for almost 18 months. It is in Hope Street. When I found it, we thought how prophetic it was. We laughed even more when we saw the sign out the front for the body corporate - managed by E.J. Love. Hope and Love in one location seemed like a good place for us to start.

But the time has come for us to find somewhere of our own. Somewhere larger, with more possibilities. A future. Wherever we find a home, I can assure you we will take hope and love with us. Wherever and when ever we manage to find ourselves a home.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stormy Weather

Although I'm back at work now, I'm choosing to write about something else we did on our holidays. Another exhibition Peter and I checked out was Stormy Weather: Contemporary Landscape Photography and the NGV Ian Potter. It was a small exhibition, but with some quite beautiful pieces. I had expected diverse images, as Australia is a diverse place. But I came away pondering man's relationship with his landscape.

From stunning coloured aerial abstractions of Richard Woldendorp, showing the red of the outback. Although I've never lived anywhere remotely near dirt this colour, it seems ingrained and instantly familiar. Murray Fredericks Salt 154 draws me into it's blue haze towards the horizon. It reminds me of what I love about the Great Ocean Road. Looking out to the horizon and the expanse of water, until the blue of the ocean meets the blue of the sky. The point where they meet, just out of focus. Enormous. Overwhelming. Reminding me that I am merely a small being in comparison, and that nature is in charge. I love the perspective this feeling gives me. Any problems I have seem small when compared to what I see around me. Nature is large and beautiful and amazing.

John O'Neil's photos called Iron Bark Basin were taken in 1983 just after the Ash Wednesday bushfires in Angelsea. A heartbreaking series pasted together to form a long panoramic sweep of charred trees, grey earth and abstract burnt remains. It's almost like a moonscape shot in black and white. Perhaps it seems so horrific as I remember the fires as a child, and with the recent Black Saturday fires an all too recent reminder of the power of fire on our landscape. There are stories of course, of wild flowers that only bloom after fires, and some trees needing it to germinate. Nature will heal itself in time. Tragedy only strikes when man gets in the way.

However, what if man was the cause of the tragedy? Anne Ferran had four large works printed on aluminium. They were shots of undulating grass, which had an amazing metalic sheen from the aluminium. I thought how wonderful to celebrate the great Australian icon that is 'the lawn'. However, upon reading about the work, they were photos taken of the site of a demolished women's prison in Tasmania in the mid 1800s. The plaque told me that many female prisoners would be pregnant whilst in prison, and six months after giving birth were separated from their children. Most were never reunited with their child, and many children died from disease in the harsh environment. Suddenly this icon of suburbia had taken on a sinister and sad bleakness.

Peter spoke of visiting Port Arthur in Tasmania. Not only the site of one of Australia's most isolated prisons, but the site of a mass shooting in 1996. He said just walking around that area felt eerie. It reminded me of stories I'd heard that no birds are heard at the Auschwitz death camp site. Almost as though nature absorbed all the sorrow of humanity, the pain of so many people, that it is impossible to recover from.

And in the last week, nature has again told us who is boss. Massive floods in Queensland, destroying everything in its wake, including unfortunately men, women, children and animals. It has been heartbreaking to watch people lose everything they have, but I cried watching the news tonight seeing the first funeral held, for a mother and son who were swept away together from other family members and drowned.

As much as we try to control nature, it has a habit of putting us in our place from time to time. As man has ravaged the planet, it in turn ravages us. Our relationship with our landscape is complex. A power struggle at times, and an awe-inspiring experience at others. The exhibition and recent events reminds me that nature should be respected, and we should appreciate our place within it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When love isn't enough...

Peter and I have been enjoying holidays and actually spending time together. Something that seems a rare commodity until Peter finds a job in Melbourne. We have enjoyed seeing exhibitions, getting outdoors and catching up on watching some films. We had a 'date night' on friday, saw a movie and had dinner out. But it wasn't exactly a 'date' movie. In fact, it would almost seem like the opposite. Blue Valentine is a movie about a marriage disintegrating.

For me it was hard to watch. So many things seemed like deja vu, from my old relationship. There was quite a bit of squirming in my seat, as moments from the past came flooding back. I guess that's the idea of movies such as this. To see ourselves, or people we know in the characters. So why see something distressing? I had read a great interview with the Director, and this quote in particular made me drawn to the film: "Everyone's to blame and everyone's innocent; there are no simple definitions. Life isn't full of heroes and villains; life is full of complicated, contradictory people. And I thought I would make a film that was more like life. That would provoke people and then you tell me what happened."

It's hard to explain how this sentiment resonated with me. I guess it's because I felt like the villain for ending the relationship, but life is so much more complicated than that. The movie offers no suggestions as to how the couple (Cindy and Dean) go from falling in love to being on the verge of breaking up. Both characters change; she more assured and driven, he more childish and petulant. There is a telling conversation about 'potential' and in essence I think this is one of the key factors to the breakdown. What happens when one partner is happy where they are, and the other wants challenges, experiences and more from life?

On a similar theme Peter and I also watched the Joy Division documentary by Grant Gee. Looking at the factors contributing to Ian Curtis committing suicide, you have to think that being torn between your wife and child, and your girlfriend played its part. The movie Control shows beautifully how you can want a small town life, but find that perhaps it's not enough.

I guess problems occur when people enter a relationship because they love each other, but ultimately find that love alone is not enough to sustain them. I have always believed (along with the Beatles) that All you need is love, but I guess maybe there needs to be healthy doses of patience, understanding, honesty, communication, growth, aspirations, challenges, support AND love. I've said before that love is simple. Love is easy. Relationships are the hard bit. Sometimes love alone isn't enough, and I think sometimes people fall in love and then stop trying in a relationship. They just expect it to run along happily and stay on course. Cindy's Grandmother has one of the most crushing lines in the film. When discussing her marriage with her grand-daughter she reveals that she never really loved her husband: "he didn't really have any regard for me as a person". In years gone by (hell, in my own parents relationship), you just stayed in the marriage, regardless of how unhappy you are.

Relationships go off the rails for any number of reasons, and we can all speculate how the characters in Blue Valentine end up so far from where they began. I have my thoughts, because it seemed so achingly real to my own experience. It still makes my stomach flip to think of some scenes, as I'm transported back to the dark old days. But there are two things I have to remember: 1, no one is the villain; and 2, that love isn't always enough. To go the distance, Peter and I will need to grow together, to face challenges head on as a team, be supportive, always talk about things and each other.