Boireannach: A Place of Her Own

Boireannach

boireannach: ( /ˈbo.rə.nəx/) noun woman, female (from Scottish Gaelic)

I live with boys. Lots of boys. I have a husband, three sons and a male cat. Then there’s me – the lone female in the house. (If you don’t count the resident spiders some of whom must be of the feminine persuasion. I don’t love spiders. I’m just not a fan of housework.)

It’s not a major problem. I suspect the universe gifted me such a plethora of testosterone because I can take it. Probably better than I’d take a plethora of oestrogen. I am not a girly girl. Never have been, never will be. I was quite happy to have boys. Not sure I’d know what to do with a girl. Admittedly, I was lucky they turned out to be geeky boys rather than sporty ones. Science fiction and fantasy I get. Football bores me to tears.

However, as much as a family of boys suits me, there have been times when the testosterone load gets a bit much. Especially as they have got older and messier and smellier.

One day, a bit over a year ago, during the long summer holidays, I went looking for somewhere to sit down for a while. As I wandered around the house, I found the Eldest Son sitting at the dining table eating his lunch, the Middle Son watching Japanese anime on the television in the lounge room and the Youngest Son playing video games on the computer in the family room. Oh, and the Husband sitting on my side of the bed in our bedroom listening to the cricket on the radio.

There was nowhere to go that didn’t contain testosterone. And that includes the kitchen. Even if there weren’t any boys in it at the time, all it reminds me of is endless requests for food.

It was a breaking point of sorts.

For a number of years I’d toyed with the idea of taking over the cubby house in the backyard as my own space. The boys didn’t use it anymore and it was a usable size. Unfortunately, it was full of junk and the very thought of clearing it out gave me an attack of the procrastinations. I did try. I pulled everything out one day, sorted it, threw out rubbish. Then had to put it back in when it started to rain. The next time I went to tackle it, there was more in there. Sigh.

Moaning about the situation to a friend one day, she suggested that I ditch the cubby house idea and just build something new.

This was an attractive idea.

It would entail some expense. Some studio/cabin options were in the vicinity of $20,000. They were commonly around the $8,000-10,000 price range. This was not so attractive.

Eventually, after extensive research, I settled on the idea of a basic timber shed that I could upgrade. It would mean more work but it was less than half the cost of other options.

Designashed

The people of Design A Shed deserve a plug for their helpfulness, friendliness and patience.

I ran the idea past the Husband, couching it in terms of being for my 50th birthday (he went to New York for his) and adding value to the house. He agreed to the proposal.

In fact, he more than agreed and this is my favourite part of the story. He not only agreed, he got it. As I listened to him explain what we were doing to his family and our neighbours, I knew that he’d heard me.

And so began Operation She-Shed. It was long, it was arduous, it was frustrating and it took well over a year from purchase to completion but I made it. And I made it.

Following is a pictorial history of the journey from pick up at the factory to the last brush stroke. Along the way, I’ve learned to do so many things. I’ve driven a truck, constructed a kit shed, installed insulation, cut down and fitted a door, lined a ceiling, laid a floor and a deck, cut and installed skirting boards and beading, built furniture, designed and constructed planter boxes and done an awful lot of painting. I’ve used a drill, a circular saw, an impact driver, an orbital sander, a drop saw and a nail gun. I got to know my local hardware store really well. The only job for which I called in the professionals was plastering the walls. I thought about doing it myself but I was getting impatient and having it done in an afternoon was easier than figuring that one out myself.

So, as I sit here in my new space writing this blog post, I still can’t really believe it exists and it is mine. Really mine because I made it myself.

A shed load of love and thanks to all the family and friends who helped me realise this dream through practical help, moral support, lending me things and making the appropriate wow comments whenever I shared my latest achievement on Facebook. You all rock.

Picking up the shed

I must thank my friend Kath for coming to my rescue and driving the truck to Melbourne to pick up the shed. The cost of delivery was phenomenal so there was nothing for it but to collect it myself but I didn’t think this was the trip on which to learn to drive a truck. She did make me drive it back to the rental depot after we unloaded for which I am grateful because now I can say, “I drove a truck”.

Preparing the site and putting in the elevation kit

We don’t live on an easy block to put things in the backyard. Everything has to be carried up steps. We also live on clay so digging holes is a mammoth task in itself. I’m incredibly grateful to my husband for taking on the task of putting in the elevation kit.

Building the shed

Oh boy. Or oh boys. Thank heavens for three boys. Carrying all those pieces of shed around the garage and up the steps and past the clothesline and up a path to the spot in the backyard was no picnic. They worked hard. And I’m still traumatised by the act of getting the roof on. (And yes, it’s a tad off-centre. Close enough.) I must also thank my friends Kris and Meg for lending me their impact driver and cordless drill. We would never have got it together without them.

The door

When it came to putting on the door, I held it up to the spot to check the fit and instantly lost a lot of light. Urgh. Hm, I thought. Wouldn’t a window be nice? So I went hunting through demolition yards and found a new door which I then had to cut down to fit. Still quite proud of that effort.

The verandah and deck

When it came to putting up the verandah, it was only when it weirdly sloped upwards that I realised I was supposed to cut down the railing posts to the right height. I’d already screwed them in so there was an interestingly unsafe exercise of cutting through them with a circular saw vertically while the boys held up the roof. Installing the deck was much more fun. I rather like banging in nails. Once more, thank you to the boys for carrying, lifting and holding.

Outside painting

One day I had a vision of my shed in dark purple and white. Cruising around the paint charts at the hardware store, I dismissed one colour as too dark and too blue but then read the name. “Dark Heather”. Well. Nothing for it but to ask for a sample pot. When she opened the tin, I knew it was exactly the colour I’d been looking for.

Insulation, ceilings and walls

The one thing about timber sheds with a corrugated iron roof is that they are hot. I knew I was going to have to insulate and I also came to realise that I was going to have to install some sort of ceiling with insulation even if it meant losing the skylight. My solution was to cut the leftover insulation in half to make it thinner, glue it to the back of some plywood and screw said plywood to the roof frame. It came up better than I could have hoped. Thank you to my friend Carolyn for solving the issue of “how do I get massive pieces of plywood home in a sedan?” by lending me her tray truck. When I got the quote for plastering the walls, I nearly had a heart attack and I wondered if I could repeat the same process on the walls as the ceiling but by the time I added up the materials, I was only a few hundred dollars short of the quote. I figured that $300 was worth the ease of getting someone else to do it. Thanks to Craig at Feathers Plastering for doing the job that many other plasterers turned down as not worth their while.

Beading and inside painting

Craig had asked what I was going to do about the join between the walls and the ceiling and I told him not to worry, I’d find and install something. Part way through installing the beading when I’d broken my drill bit drilling guide holes, banged my fingers, dropped the hammer from the ladder about five times and uttered numerous four-letter words, I was wishing I’d added it to Craig’s quote. But I got there in the end. And my solution to how to meet the pieces in the weirdly angled corners was to just keep the edges straight and then hide it all under putty and paint. Worked a treat. Painting the inside white added so much lightness that I didn’t miss the skylight at all. I also discovered I am not a fan of painting. I don’t have the patience. Although, using the roller was quite fun.

Floor and skirting boards

Soon after starting on the floor, I realised it really needed three people to be able to click in the whole length properly. Thanks to the Husband and Middle Son for helping out. I tried cutting the first end board with the circular saw but it was ragged so for all the rest I used a hacksaw. Yep, cut them all by hand. When it came to installing the skirting boards, I knew I was going to need a more accurate method of cutting 45 degree angles than the ‘protractor, pencil and hacksaw’ method I’d used for the beading with limited success. I put the call out for a drop saw and am grateful to my friends Julie and Cam for lending me not only the drop saw but also a nail gun. No more banged fingers. Using the drop saw was so amazing, I wished I’d thought to ask for one when I was doing the floor. I’d have had it done in half the time. I really want my own now. The nail gun was efficient but nerve-wracking. I blame that WorkSafe ad.

Steps, planters and painting the deck

For some reason, when we put the shed together on top of the elevation kit, it didn’t fit properly and we ended up with the front stumps exposed. This presented a problem for installing steps so I had to extend the deck. I think this was probably my favourite thing about this project – coming up with creative solutions to problems. From a decorative disc to hide an off-centre door handle hole to shoving a piece of timber up the inside of the door when the bottom hinge wouldn’t attach properly to building planter boxes to hide the posts sticking out the front, it’s been gratifying to find ways to hide the flaws.

Decking it out and connecting power

Ooh, the fun bit! I had a highly successful trip to Ikea for a shelving unit and a place to store tea and coffee supplies. And putting together Ikea furniture seemed a breeze after the various challenges with building the shed. It was a fun, if very wet, weekend. (You should have seen the mud I had to clean off the deck…) The desk is an old work desk that the boys used as a computer desk until we rearranged the family room and moved the pc to a smaller desk. I sanded it back, painted it and attached some new handles to the drawers so it wouldn’t look like the place that boys had sat at for years. And there were all sorts of bits and pieces sitting around waiting for a home, especially my series of coffee-themed pastels by artist and friend Jill Shalless. But my favourite item is the chaise-longue. I must thank my friend Naomi for spotting it on an op shop’s Facebook page and letting me know and then driving us to the town more than an hour away to pick it up in her station wagon.

Power at this stage is connected via an extension lead from the garage. Probably a more permanent solution is warranted but it’s working quite well at the moment. (I’d considered a solar system but couldn’t justify a system that cost more than the shed.)

What’s with the name?

I knew I wanted a name for my place. It’s personal to me. Boireannach is Scottish Gaelic for woman. It was perfect. It looks like the name of something, it represents my Scottish heritage and it signifies the importance of my ‘no boys allowed’ space. Thank you to my friend Margaret-Rose (aka M-R) for the nameplate.

Wondering how to pronounce it? Here’s a fun video that may help you.

The End and the Beginning

So there you have it. If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you. It has been important to me to document this journey officially. It’s been a long road but I got there. There’s still some landscaping to be done but at last I’m in situ. I’m looking forward to the many creative adventures ahead in a place of my own.

Freeing The Captive Creative Soul

We all have a need to create. Whether we are a writer, artist, photographer, musician, decorator, gardener, programmer, cook or athlete, we all feel the joy of seeing something that has come from us. It feeds our soul and lightens our days.

But what if you couldn’t create?

What happens to the writer who is jailed because of his words? What happens to the musician who is shunned by her community because of the style of music she chooses to play? What happens to the artist who is locked away and told “You must do nothing”?

The writer may continue to write in the hope of regime change. The musician may move to another community in the hope of bringing awareness to the restrictions placed on others. But what does the captive do?

A young man held in immigration detention for many years said the worst thing about being locked away was not the lack of freedom of movement or the indignity of security measures but being able to do nothing. With nothing to do, there is only time to think. “You are useless, Mohammad.” “You are worth nothing, Mohammad.”

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending an art exhibition of works by those currently or formerly held in immigration detention in Melbourne. A small band of volunteers had supplied the asylum seekers with art materials and encouraged them to express themselves. The works were amazing and often heartbreaking.

Screaming Freedom

‘Screaming Freedom’ and ‘Freedom’ by Sina Pourhorayed

Guards

‘Guards’ by Mostafa Deilami

Shamans Wand

‘Shaman’s Wand’ by Mostafa Deilami  Constructed from objects found around the detention centre grounds.

Nimsay Mask

‘Nimsay’ by Mostafa Deilami (L) and ‘Mask’ by Sahar (R)

Mudslide

‘Mudslide’ by Leila Hamidavi

 

“I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Over The Fence

My thanks to the artists from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre, the volunteer visitors and Lisa Stewart (originator and curator of the exhibition) for an enlightening and moving event. Thanks also to Elly McDonald for the photos.

 

 

 

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The Friends That Scare You

I have the unerring ability to attract a certain type of person. Like flies to a cowpat. Okay, that’s not very savoury. Like bees to honey. Well, that’s just ridiculous. Bees are attracted to pollen in order to make honey. Like moths to a flame. Well, that’s a bit derivative. Like goats to a cabbage. Better, but it’s a bit early for Chinese New Year. Like…

You know what? Forget the analogy. Just trust me that it happens.

There is, within my psyche, a need to draw to myself Button Pushers, Gauntlet Throwers, Challengers, Comfort Zone Destroyers…. you get the picture.

Press Here

These are the ones who say “You should run a half-marathon”, “Come along to this songwriting circle and write and perform your own songs”, “I want you to play a part in this play and you’ll need a Yorkshire accent”, “You’re a great writer, you should start a blog”.

In response, every shy and insecure cell in my body (which is, let’s face it, most of them) starts screaming, “NOOOOOOOO!”

But the reckless, unthinking, adrenaline junkie who lurks in my dark corners, always gets her way.

“OKAY!” she says while I try and work out how that happened.

One of the Button Pushers had her way with me a couple of weeks ago. We were due to catch up and in response to the question of what we should do, having been stuck at home with three teenage boys for a very long, long summer holidays, I said, “Something girly. And creative.” More fool me.

A plan was hatched and I was not to know what it was, only that I was to dress respectably but with comfortable walking shoes. That’s the other thing they do, you know. Spring it on you so you don’t have time to back out.

Setting off together, all was revealed. I was handed a small knapsack that contained a selection of art supplies – paints, pencils, pens, sketch paper. We were going on an urban art excursion.

“You’re gonna make me draw…. in public??!

Well, I did ask for something creative.

You know those teen horror flicks where the friend dares the other friend to walk in the creepy forest or sleep in the haunted house? This was like that, only more cultured.

The first stop was our State Library, a grand old building with a breathtaking domed reading room. I don’t know if it was the permeation of decades of higher learning but I found the experience intimidating and I was depressed by my efforts.

Art Excursion 1

This is not what left the library. At the Boundary Pusher’s insistence, I added the middle bit with the arches and gave it a bit of watercolour after the event. It made me feel a little bit better. Maybe.

The next stop was beside the river. Maybe it was the open air, or the gently flowing water, or maybe it was the boathouses across the river and the scullers going past that made me feel more in my element. I was happier but still not convinced.

Art Excursion 2

There was to have been a nature element to our excursion with a visit to the extensive Botanic Gardens but by then the temperature was into the 30s and tea and cake sounded more appealing. This was the girly part. Tea in china pots and teeny cakes served on white tablecloths at the swishy little café attached to the Art Gallery.

The table had white paper overlaid on the linen tablecloth. And this was an art excursion. (I like to carry a purple pen. I feel like Harold and his crayon.)

It has taken days to prepare this post and quite some measure of nerve to bring myself to make my art pieces public. I am yet to be convinced I possess any real artistic ability.

But that is what the Button Pushers are for, aren’t they? To believe in you more than you believe in yourself. To push you out beyond the view you hold of yourself.

And so, despite my fears, I am truly grateful for the friends that scare me because I would achieve nothing without them.

But I’m not sleeping in a haunted house.

 

 

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Colouring With Einstein

Why do you keep looking over at me? What am I doing that is so odd to you?

You keep staring. I’ll have you know that Einstein approves of this wholeheartedly.

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And Picasso.

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So there.

You’re just jealous. You’re wishing you’d remembered to bring your own, aren’t you?

It’s not weird, you know. Stop looking at me like I’m crazy.

What was I doing? Well, for a start, I was sitting innocently enough in a café with a large cup of coffee and a haloumi and salad foccacia for my lunch. Nothing odd about that, right? (Well, okay, haloumi is not to everyone’s taste but it’s not that weird.)

While I ate my lunch, I was using a present a friend had just given me for my recent birthday. That may have been it, I’m not sure. Is this odd to you?

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It’s okay to sit in a café and do colouring in with textas. At least, I’m pretty sure it is. I mean, they’re Connector Pens.

Actually, first I drew flowers.

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The two on the right were already there. The ones that look like scientific experiments are mine.

I didn’t think what I was doing was all that strange. Mind you, one of the waitresses came over to ask what I was doing. Then she went and got the other waitress to come and have a look.

Was it really that odd?

Are you not allowed to do colouring in whilst out in public when you’re a grown-up?

Oh.

Ah, well, see that’s where the get-out clause is then. I’m not a grown-up. Old, yes. Up, not so much.

I can’t wait to get stuck into some of the other pages.

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See you around. Next time, bring your own textas.

 

 

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