Archive for the Georgian houses Category

The heart is a lonely hunter.

Posted in Georgian houses, Uncategorized with tags , , on October 12, 2011 by pimpmybricks

I’ve already ‘fessed up to a certain…uhm …restlessness I am afflicted by.  A tendency to the flibbertigibbet. So then, a confession.  I have been having a dalliance with another house.  Except not so much another house exactly, as other houses.  But even that is too definite.  The idea of other houses.

It began when this bit of lovely came onto the market, just down the road from The Regency Wreck.  It’s part of a terrace that I’ve been stalking past, rapt, for some considerable time.  I didn’t believe these houses would be coming up for sale.  I had factored them out of the equation.

Truth is, this house lacks many of The RW’s charms.  It has no sandstone floors or walls.  No shutters.  No servants’ bells.  But it is spacious and it offers privacy, front and rear.  And, what’s more, it has a garden.  You know, for the frolicking of dogs and the growing of vegetables.  Even though my tomatoes, Mr Pimp sanguinely pointed out,  would be covered with dust from the bridge, fumes from the cars and who knows what from the dogs.

But that aside, there is also a certain view as you come out of the front door.  And though I’m not big on views, I do consider the Opera House to be one of the Seven Wonders of the world. I do. Have you seen those fishtail scales up close?  I mean, lawdy.

Not that I would  swap this particular house for the RW, I hasten to add.  But its sudden availability has set that wayward restlessness  awhispering in me.  What if a certain other house in the terrace  were also to come up?  Maybe next week! In a month!  Because I would sell my extended family to live in that certain other house. Maybe.

All this has all brought on not inconsiderable guilt.  And because I am tiresomely imbued with the ways of analytic introspection, I have, of course, run the whole affair under the jolly old microscope.  But since the modality of blogland doesn’t appear to be confessional (shame! I say, bring out yer dirties!),  I shan’t pin all my drawers on a public noticeboard.  Let’s just say say that the comings and goings around here recently – Mr Pimp to the salt mines, Ms Pimp from the cold climes – are proving to be very disruptive emotionally.  Not to mention the small additional bagatelle of a certain dog (Miss Elsie) who has become increasingly neurotic  in the absence of her person and has taken to barking the household awake at 5 every morning and chewing her tail, so that the walls around here resemble a scene from Miami Vice. So anyway,  that’s my official mitigation.  Another, more troubling possibility is that the recovering adrenaline junkie in me is craving house purchases like some might crave new Maud Frizons.  I hope not, or I shall soon be blogging from the commodious accommodations of the Debtors’ Gaol.

So in an attempt to tether my roving heart,  I visited the RW the other night.  It was Saturday.  There was live music in one of the pubs, people on the street, traffic. It was inner city noisy.  I feared the worst.  I feared the magic might have gone. But actually, it was like stepping into a calm and endlessly patient embrace.  Street light came in through the windows and fell gently over the floor in yellow pools.  The city sounds were muffled, as if by a velvet cloak. I went up to the bedroom and watched a boat, decked in lights, move slowly across the harbour.  Below me, the trees were wearing their new green fuzz of Spring and a couple, thinking the house empty, peered into the basement windows and then kissed. It was all very still and protected somehow.    And so my fervour was soothed.  For now.

A bevy of lovelies.

Posted in Derelict house, Georgian houses with tags , , on September 2, 2011 by pimpmybricks

I’ve been computerless (in Gaza) for the last week, wandering that no-man’s-land between Mr Microsoft and Mr Apple.  Defecting from the former to the latter for no particular reason other than whim. Acting on whim is rather like inviting adventure – you only remember the tiresome practicalities once you’ve impulsively set out and can no longer return.  So here I am, still with two not-quite-functioning computers, both of which are destined to stay that way for a while longer because I ain’t got the knowledge or the interest to find a resolution.

However, lacking the wherewithal to lose vast tracts of  time online (other than Mr P’s desktop dinosaur, which is to computer as Fred Flintstone’s car is to Maserati)  has freed me to do other things.  Like, for instance, taking a look at the two other properties that have come up for sale in the conservation area around the house.  It’s a slightly dangerous thing, visiting these newcomers onto the scene, and I always go with some trepidation lest I should fall  head over heelses in love with one of them and regret buying ours. Bit of a flighty baggage, me.  Let it be said. Truth in advertising and all.

And was I tempted?  Well, yes and no.  No in the sense that I still love ours the best.  Yes in the sense that I want to save all sad old houses.  When I was being psychoanalytical I would have said I have a strong reparative impulse.  Now I just say I love doing up old wrecks.

Here they are, anyway. This is the first.  While in there I got talking to one of the long standing Maritime residents and she told me a previous tenant of this house had stripped all the woodwork back to the cedar, and in doing so had become very ill with lead poisoning. 

And t’other.  I loved this house and in another life could happily have lived there.  It’s all been mucked about and stretched in various directions, and I wouldn’t give you tuppence halfpenny for most of the rooms, but I loved the courtyard.  And it had the most commodious landings on which the best conversations could be had ( because isn’t it always so that the best things happen in the interstices? Or is that only me?).


To the right, btw, is not a detention centre (topical though they may be) but the tennis courts serving the Observatory Hotel opposite.  A rather derivative and pompous place, to my mind.  Uninspired affectation of gentleman’s club and woody opulence. Syrupy wood stains and that dreadful dark green carpet that is supposed to connote…what?  Huntin’ and fishin’ and the forest floor? ( I don’t actually know whether it’s got green carpet).  Anyway, at this house we met two men who were interested in the first house but, as it ‘appened, more interested in ours and so they asked for a ten cent tour.  Which always turns out to be a two dollar tour because Mr Pimp likes his historicals.  So he does.  And whilst cantering around ours at a cracking pace (auction viewings beckoned) I learned that one of the men is a ceramicist and plans to install a kiln.  Which is VERY interesting.  Or would be, if I had not become so fed up with my lumpen babies that I’d thrown them all in a plastic bucket to languish unloved and unfired. But that is beside the point. 


See what I mean about some of the rooms?



So there you have it.

The Iceman Cometh…

Posted in Derelict house, Dress-ups, Georgian houses, Inspiration, Renovation with tags , , on August 17, 2011 by pimpmybricks

…or less pretentiously and more accurately, the Heritage Officer doth.  Tomorrow morning at nine o’ clock, actually. On the dot.  Be there or be square.  This has come about because we rang her,  or rather Mr Pimpernel rang her, the phone being an instrument of torture to me.  We wanted  to remind her of our small existence during Esteemed Architect’s month long absence.  You know, in the hope that our Section 60 might not grow mould or silverfish or strange species of flora in the interim.  And her response was that she’d like to come and see what we’re proposing, in situ.  Quite a reasonable request, really.

This is not, btw, the same Heritage Officer as the one who came to the last meeting.  In fact nothing is known of this new one, other than that she sounds about fifteen years old.  So I feel oddly optimistic and rather clean-slatish about it all,  but we shall see.   I still have my private promise to the house that I will eat my hat if things go well.  And I’d rather not.  I don’t think straw or feathers are legal on the eating protocol.

And this surprise visit does at least bring the house to the forefront of my mind again, having slipped a bit into obscurity, so boring and so deathly silent is the planning process.   And at the forefront of my mind it became festooned with yardages of books which in turn sent me scurrying to my picture files for images of libraries.

The room at the front of the house at street level has been designated the book room. 

In my mind for a while it has looked a little like this, but everything is subject to change.

Maybe a smidge darker, like this.

This next one I love and cannot have but as long as I can have all my books it won’t matter too much.  What will Ms Pimp’s generation do for libraries?  Line all their kindles up by colour?  I can’t imagine, being myself of that species who never, ever parts with a book.  Once, I spent six months calumphing around India and sent all my books, when I’d read them, back to the UK.  Still got them.  Natch.  (Salman Rushie makes much more sense, somehow, when you read him in India).   Of course there are a few books, such as anything by Margaret Drabble and a book I read recently, which are so enraging that they have to be thrown around the room (to teach them a lesson) and then dumped with great ceremony into the rubbish bin. But ANYWAY.  Goodness.  The room:

I rather like the look of the trend to order books by colour in much the same way that I like rows of paint samples.  But it would never do for someone who has to have all their books in roughly alphabetical order so that they can, on a whim, suddenly grab one and rummage through it because as a matter of life and death  it is necessary to know how something or other was expressed by someone or other:

 This (only messier) is more how they generally look in my house – like a great tide of paper, forever edging outwards:

Mr P has his bedside drawers stuffed to the gills with books.  I have mine in a leaning tower next to me.  Death by novel.  Forgive me.

A few more

At the moment I’m venturing into the new book by Sebastian Barry.  The translucent beauty of his words. Wasted a bit on me at the moment, if I’m honest, going as I am through some Granny Grunt phase and wanting only the literary equivalent of crumpets and log fires.  Do other people have such phases?

 So anyway, I’m in the rather strange position of wishing that tomorrow comes and finds me chewing my way solemnly through straw or felt.  She’d have to agree to the upstairs bathroom for that, however.  Maybe I should hobble a bit?

Once upon a maybe time.

Posted in Georgian houses, Inspiration with tags , , , on August 10, 2011 by pimpmybricks

As bloggers go, it transpires, I’m of the slack tart variety.  Lots of mitigations, of course – our house plans disappearing into the black maw of Heritage, the architect on holiday for a month, the editing of my friend’s Phd thesis, the acquisition of a new potter’s wheel on which to make my lumpen creations ( but which doesn’t work – woe!). And last but most – health.

But no-one likes excuses.


Another confession.

For someone who’s taken on a ‘heritage’ house, I’m not really much of a history fan.

Not in the sense of chronology, anyway.  My idea of a good history book is G K Chesterton’s, which very endearingly hasn’t got a single date.  I remember in a history exam a lifetime ago I had the WW1 starting in 1939.  I like to think that was nerves rather than egregious stupidity.  Please don’t pop my bubble.

Nor am I much for all that begetting business of history either. I can’t even seem to quite get my mind around the concept of second cousins and so for the complexities of ‘twice removed’ and ‘by marriage’, I lean heavily on Mr Pimp. ( He having voluntarily dived into the plungepool of genealogy and emerged victorious with a structure quite incomprehensible to me, other than that it resembles a rudimentary mobile .  Or a multi-tiered clothes hanging device. So naturally I didn’t do well in exam questions about kings and queens of England either.  You learn to live with disability. )

But I do like a story.  Especially one knitted from fancy, happenstance and conjecture. A story so full of gaps you can shape it to fit your own whimsy.  There is, of course, such a story about the house.

It goes like this… Once upon a nineteenth century time John Flavelle, an Irishman, and his wife Mary begat several children amongst whose number was another John Flavelle.  See my confusion? And in turn this younger John Flavelle travelled from Dublin to Australia and eventually, with his wife Catherine, begat about ten children of their own.  He also begat, in another way of begetting, the house in the centre of Sydney which we, the deranged Pimps, have recently acquired.

But before all that begetting business and even before that wonderful collapsing portico was a twinkle in his eye, he went to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) to work as assistant to George Baron Goodman, who brought his daguerreotype apparatus to Australia, (reputedly the first), made his subjects endure half a minute of sweltering heat, and charged them a guinea for the likeness.  Our man John, was a trained optician and therefore, I suppose, knowledgeable about lenses.

It was on one of Goodman’s two visits to Tasmania that he (maybe) took this photograph:

It shows the tabacco store of Ikey Solomon, who was Hobart’s ‘principal crook’. But before arriving in Hobart, Ikey Solomon had been London’s ‘King of Thieves’, training a gang of boys to pick pockets for him.  He is thought to have been the inspiration for Dickens’ Fagin in Oliver Twist.

So there you have it.  A picture taken of  a tobacconist’s shop in Hobart around the middle of the nineteenth century, maybe taken by GB Goodman who was maybe assisted by John Flavelle, builder of The House.  In the doorway of the shop stands a man who was maybe Ikey Solomon, who himself was maybe the inspiration for Fagin.  That’s the type of history I love – black and white, all plain and clear.

chickens, wordlessness, pictures and bridesmaids.

Posted in Derelict house, Dress-ups, Georgian houses, Herberts, Photo shoots, sandstone walls with tags , , on July 29, 2011 by pimpmybricks

A piece of chicken I ill-advisedly ate in Canberra has left me drained of words (and euphemisms). Instead, here are the pictures from July’s Issue of Country Style magazine, shot at the house.  Do you think the model looks a smidge grumpy?  They all seem to. Maybe it’s the dust and dirt and Hanging Ceilings of Babylon what does it.

The picture above was taken in what I HOPE will be the top floor bathroom.  I’m presently looking for baths anyway.  With my fingers crossed.

Taken (above) on the top floor landing.  That bunch of fake yellow orchids seems to have insinuated itself into most of the pictures.  Its friend was a birdless birdcage but that seems to have got lost. 

 On the stairs in front of the jungle lav.


Sometimes I feel destined for life as an eternal bridesmaid. You know, sidekick to the fab and the glam.

A while back I took my Linn Sondek into an audio shop for repair, and from the excited attention it received from the staff you’d have thought I’d taken in an ageing star of the silver screen.  It happens when I walk Remington, who also draws crowds like a (very unassuming) minor celebrity.  And recently we got a letter from a journalist on the Sydney Morning Herald, wondering whether we’d be willing to do a series of articles about our journey with the house. We would, I think.

Actually all the talk of bridesmaidism is disingenuous because I hate to the be the centre of attention.  To the point where, submitting to my mother’s desire for pictorial news when we moved here from London,  I used to don a vast feather hat for the videotapes.  I know, something I should have taken to my training analyst. So anyway, when we received a call from Grand Designs a while back, my heart skipped a fretful beat. Mr Pimp contacted them way back when, in the first flush of enthusiasm after the auction.  We didn’t hear and we didnt hear and we didn’t hear a bit more, and assumed they were not interested.  Then we forgot about them completely. Mr P is still keen, and Ms P is keen, which is fine, but they’re not HERE (or won’t be) and so it would be me left to rabbit on in front of the camera. Anathema!  Could I fish out my feather hat again, maybe?  A veil?

Remington is, as you can see, terribly excited by it all.

Permissions to come aboard.

Posted in Derelict house, Georgian houses, Renovation with tags on July 15, 2011 by pimpmybricks

Well then.  Having been hemming and hawing, fretting and fuming about about being stuck in the shallows, we are finally about to set sail into deeper waters.  

They can, apparently, be difficult waters to navigate, full of shifting rocks and Cyclopean perspectives  (though sadly, to date, there have been no reports of lotus eating or sirens).  So with our redoubtable architect at the helm we must steer a careful course between the Scylla of one planning authority and the Charybdis of the other.  

On Monday I asked the architect to explain the whole planning process because it was, to me,  well nigh incomphrehensible.  And this is what he quoth – first you have the Exemptions Schedule (for repairs, things which don’t bring about change).  This is one-tree document which goes to Housing NSW and then to Heritage.  It’s the easy, uncontroversial bit which has already been done, box ticked, rubber stamped and tucked under the belt.

Then comes the Section 60.  I have to say, rather red-herringishly (or maybe not?), that Section 60s where I come from are the means by which people can be detained against their will in establishments of a psychiatric persuasion.  It’s not a co-incidence I’m keen to think about too closely right now. 

The current S60, however, is a two-tree document that deals with all the temeritous changes we are proposing (upstairs bathrooms!),   comparing each against the Conservation Management Plan (an – oh – four? tree document) and declaring them either ‘compliant’ or ‘non-compliant’. Initially this goes to the lovely Housing Heritage Officer, who sends it to an external examiner.  There is a bit of parlaying back and forth and it is then returned to you.  It’s hard not to feel like an anxious schoolchild when your non-compliances leap out and beat you about the pate in their bold red type.   Actually this step, the easiest, has recently been done. It’s necessary because although we have paid them all our pocket monies, the house technically belongs to Housing NSW and as ‘owner’ they must therefore grant us permission to apply for building permission.  That having been given, the Section 60 is now due to go to Heritage.  Theoretically, they will take five weeks over it and then, after a tap from the architect’s wand to transform it into a DA,  we will be able to send it to the City of Sydney.  Likewise, they should also take five weeks with it.

So, you know, in a theoretical universe we could start work in ten weeks.  But, a person might ask, why so long?  Can’t these things happen in parallel, can’t Housing and Heritage and Council be considering the documents simultaneously?  No, not on your nelly!  Can’t they talk amongst themselves, discuss what might and might not be allowed?  Perish the thought, shiver my timbers, ice your cocoa and stone the crows! How could you think such a thing! Well then – you might say – ten weeks isn’t so bad.  And no, if it stays at ten weeks it won’t be.  But  we hear these can be treacherous, snark infested waters.  Prone to many a slip ‘twixt brine and ship.  It has been known, for example, that one item approved by one body might be denied by another.  A document or a drawing might be missing from the submission and it might take months to request, be received and pontificated over.  Or even – and I kid not – planning permission might be denied for failing to request permission to do something you’re not expected, or even allowed to do in the first place.  So, to my fretful eyes, ten weeks could easily liquify and slither into ten months. By which time on this damned boat we’ll all have scurvy, sea-madness or given up and gone to live with Circe.

But we shall see.  And don’t tell anyone but despite all the gnashing of teeth I do have some level of optimism that we might (just to kill off a laborious  and overworked metaphor) get in a bit of plain sailing. You know, the ship-half-full way of thinking.

Dish dashery and a small excitement.

Posted in Derelict house, Dress-ups, Georgian houses, Renovation with tags , , on June 29, 2011 by pimpmybricks

Well, dash my wig – the Exemptions Schedule has been passed! 

The Flower Garden, etched engraving by M Darly 1777

Actually it came through a few days ago but tardiness, thy name is Pimp.  What this effectively means is that we now have permission to do works that we are, in fact,  required to do.  Only repairs, mind; none of your naughty changes.  No bathrooms upstairs, nor holes in walls.  Oh no no!  All that sort of stuffage has been submitted separately and soberly as a ‘Section 60’ and, having been scrutinised by the lovely Heritage Officer for Housing, has been sent to the Heritage Department and from thence it will make its laborious way to the City of Sydney. Much scope  for waylaying and maundering in dusty corners. But let us hope not.  Let us have our optimistic hats on and bask a while in the glow of the Exemptions Schedule.  

In fact, a few changes of optimistic headpiece:

The Extravaganza, or, The Mountain Head Dress of 1776 by M Darly

Le Strategeme Amoureux, ou la Toilette a la Mode, Anon

Miss Prattle, mezzotint by Carrington Bowles 1771

Top and Tail 1777

The Donry or Top and Tail Turn'd About by Miss Heel 1777

The house as agent of change. Discuss.

Posted in Georgian houses, Uncategorized on June 8, 2011 by pimpmybricks

It seems, here in Pimpland, that we have entered a season of change. 

Me, I tend to be a bit of a change junkie, compelled to hurl myself at it as if into the path of an oncoming tornado. Mr and Miss Pimp, however, are by natural inclination somewhat change-averse.  They like to eat the same things over and over for breakfast. They like the feeling of a stable universe, of having a sense of what’s what.  So over time a sort of bi-seasonal weather pattern has evolved between us in which there are loooooooooooooong periods of calm, followed by periods of intense shake-up.  I don’t actually like change but I do seem to need it.  I’m that sort of person who loves it when weather disrupts train services and lunch breaks and Society As We Know It.  If I were fifteen and a half I’d call myself an anarchist no doubt, but I’m not and that’s all by way of a rather self-indulgent red herring…


The thing that I love and hate about change in equal measure is that it’s not a governable thing.  It’s an unruly beasty, is change. You can make space for it and invite it in, confident that it can be contained within your pre-designated co-ordinates.  But it never, ever works out that way.  It goes where it wants, snapping other spaces open around your ears, unfolding things quick-fire like some crazy origami trickster.  I often noticed this in my work – the therapy would help ignite the process of change  in a person and pretty soon there were reports of subsidiary changes happening all around them.

So the point of all this verbiage is that Mr Pimp is going to be taking a job for a year (or 18 months) in Singapore. (Funnily enough, he’s being brought in to implement change). Ms Pimp and I will be staying here.  She has university to start, when she’s done being a Snow Tragic (she teaches skiing), and I have to manage the house project.  It’s something we are all in eleventy minds about.  There are a lot of uncertainties about how it can be managed, worries about  just about everything,  but there is the one incontrovertible  banner blazing in the sky and what it says is ‘Spondoolicks’.  It will mean we can do the house without living in fear of the inevitable unforseens that will happen.  It will mean we can do it justice.  It might even mean (though I doubt it) that I can have my own version of the oxidised brass kitchen island that’s been floating in and out of every corner of the blogosphere.  (And that latter fact  ain’t going to stop me from flying it here).


The shoots.

Posted in Derelict house, Georgian houses, Photo shoots, Uncategorized on June 4, 2011 by pimpmybricks

The two shoots have been and gone.  On Wednesday we had this person

 He was mild, unassuming.  Seemed nice.  More or less your average bloke dusted with a fine layer of fame.  Very interesting phenomenon – this fame thing.  His seemed to sit lightly on his shoulders, slightly separate from him.  During the ten cent tour of the house  he said he thought it would be a great restaurant. They brushed him with make-up, changed his clothes and stuck him in front of a window where he played with a hat, looked insouciant and had his picture taken.  A journalist did an interview with him and then he was off, on his step-through scooter (with L plates) into the city traffic. Thursday was a clothing catalogue shoot.  I was predisposed not to like them.  At first they’d wanted the house for Wednesday and Thursday.  Then they thought they might like three days and then they wanted only one.  They couldn’t say which one. Then they wanted  to change it to Friday or Saturday but still they couldn’t say which.  They wanted another viewing to work out shots, but they couldn’t be flexible about time.  Then they went back to Thursday.

And then Thursday rolled on and it all happened.  An 8am start. Cast of thousands (well, ten).  They brought their own bins (and used them), had catered lunch (from our dusty step in the basement we thought it was chicken and basmati rice). Moved through the shots like a Roman army.  The luvvy quotient was down, the efficiency factor up.  And actually, in the end,  I really liked them.

I know – as a photographer I make a good psychoanalyst. But them’s the breaks.

Poor old Portico.

Posted in Derelict house, Georgian houses, Renovation with tags , , , on May 21, 2011 by pimpmybricks

Recently the portico has been leaning away from the house at an even more rakish slant  – like a dignified old gentleman somewhat in his cups, offended by his host.  I’m thinking silk scarf and evening wear. For some reason Quentin Crisp comes to mind, but he was far too urbane to be offended by anyone (oh how I loved Quentin Crisp).  Probably more Richard Harris.  Hair pushed distractedly back. Forgotten cigarette dangling from aesthetically nicotine-stained fingers.  I’m getting fanciful.

So anyway.  Like the cavalry come galloping over the hill at the last possible moment, the Government, gawd bless ’em, have finally come and given the old gent a helping hand.  Nothing to do with completion and possible lawsuits, of course.  Not that we would.

There’s a likely photoshoot happening in a couple of weeks.  They seem to like a few shots in the portico, these photographers.  I hope they don’t mind a tinge of Changing-the-Guard-at-Buckingham-Palace.

Photos courtesy of Ms Pimp and her new camera.