19 June 2011

Ghost signs Melbourne #23: Knit wear

Railway Place, Coburg

Australian Knitting Mills, Stewart Street, Richmond

You should be on the radio, they said. When they rang through their orders for scarves and gloves and Fair Isle knits. What with that voice. (And why not? Alfred thought. With his excellent teeth and hair always combed, and he could sit in a chair for a long, long time.) And then lovely Miss Rosen had commented that day as she placed Dodson’s order. You’ve got a voice like flannel, Alfred. Just as smooth and soft. Which was ironic. Although he never said (such a nice woman, long since passed)But the thought made him smile as he sat in his chair knitting their orders: he spent his entire day working in his pajamas.

In the morning, when Alfred took his exercise and walked down the hallway to the bathroom, he hung the shaving mirror onto a towel hook. It was just a game, really. Something he liked to do to break the day. To watch the way his throat moved as he talked at the bathroom wall. He liked to think each word had a shape with a weight he could actually see, right there, beneath his skin. Goodnight, and good luck. May your news be good news. To all our loyal listeners out there, this one is for you.

As all of their business was conducted over the telephone, what his customers couldn’t see were Alfred’s hands. He had the Matheson hands – they nearly all did, his father, five of his six brothers – astounding really, for someone his size. Small pale things they were, the skin soft from all those oils in the wool. The customers admired his voice, but Alfred Kinsey Matheson loved his hands. They were, quite simply, his dearest friends. There was no one else so loyal, he thought. And tireless: they simply never stopped doing their best, always for him. The constant click of the needles as they purled and ribbed, cast-on and bound-off, wool looped and plaited and braided. 

But something was wrong, and now Alfred was concerned. His fingers were becoming stiff; the joints swollen and increasingly sore. So perhaps a change was needed, he thought. He would take his hands on a holiday. Together they would leave the AKM building (it had been done: there was his brother Alson, although that was another story altogether). Of course he’d need a suit, which he could knit, no problem there. He'd start on it straight away. Then he’d slip his hands inside some soft merino gloves and off they would go. It was always possible. He just needed to think: where would they like to go?

7 June 2011

Ghost signs Melbourne #5 : A walk in the dark

Cnr of Fenwick and Lygon Streets, North Carlton

She had the kind of face that said my life would be a dream if only I could open my eyes. The kind of face you sometimes see floating around these streets you just get this urge to lean across and scratch. Ok, so maybe that sounds nasty – but truly it's not – because really all I want is to sink my hand into the sweetness of that cheek and take a scoop. And then I would just walk away – this big smile on my face – cos all I can taste is strawberries. Christ, for a face like that I’d give up breathing and tuck away my nose, if only I knew she’d wrap me up in her skirt and cart me home. Now I know that to look at me you wouldn’t think it, what with my legs and funny ears, but I fold-up really small, as compact as a pea that you could roll inside a pocket or your shoe. Why, she could prop me in a cupboard, just like a rabbit or a doll. Or maybe she would lay me down inside a drawer. Because my knees fold flat, my head this little spigot and if my arms will not fit, well, I won’t need them, let's simply store them away. For what a life this would be, so warm and snug amongst the sheets and the teatowels. With small shavings of wood collecting between my toes from when she opens the drawer each night to say hello; and to look at me – her special pet – lying in these fields of lavendar.

Ghost signs Melbourne #22 : Fiddling on the roof

Sydney Road, Coburg

They heard footsteps on the roof, they said. But how do you know these things, I'm thinking, how do you compare? Hearing footsteps on your roof is not like someone walking on your head; there is no weight, no pressing down of a foot until your neck starts to give. This is just an echo, an invisible pebble rattling above your head. Well, it was sort of a light tap, they said, not a heavy sound but a soft tread that was steady and sure and followed a path up the walls and across the roof. The walls? Now you hear walking on the walls? Because to me – and don't get me wrong – it be could be a bird or a cat when you think of that beak and those nasty claws, or any other sort of animal that likes to sneak around in the night and stain your walls with their shit. But we have proof, they said. And promptly walked out of the room. But while I stood there – listening to doors opening and closing, to the sounds of their returning footsteps on the carpet in the hallway – I thought of toes, lots of toes. Of course, with toenails neatly clipped and maybe socks or maybe not, but still toes, just toes inside shoes and squashed against each other as each foot in its shoe left its mark on the wall: a clean print against the brick. Proof. When they walked into the room, one of them was carrying a box, and from this they took a pin cushion, a pair of pinking shears and 5 steel pins which were placed – carefully, wordlessly – on the table before me. She just stared at me (which is really unnerving when you consider those eyebrows), while he kept nodding like some tall, lumpy poodle until he spoke. Now do you believe us? 

11 May 2011

Ghost signs Melbourne #11 : a wild gallop

Cnr Ballarat St and Scandinavian Crescent, Talbot

Ballarat North Street, Talbot

we waded ashore in Talbot, cold and soaking wet; it was a long, long ways from Clunes and the horses were sore and hungry. when we were lost at sea this shuttered door was our beacon; a friendly wink in the dark. once fed and rested, the horses could no longer be restrained: they were off at a gallop.

7 May 2011

Ghost signs Melbourne #5 : running with a bull

Union St, Brunswick

Large and bovine – with a reputation for the unpredictable – we approached this one with caution. Of course, the horns are long-gone; last seen, locals tell us, above the trolley pole of a W-class tram.

3 May 2011

Ghost signs Melbourne #4 : time for a cuppa

Park Street, Carlton North

The neighbours thought it was a house. There were the windows, the front door; the walls of solid red bricks. And for many years this was what it was: a house. But just as the trees in the backyard grew taller over the years, so did this house. Windows lengthened, the walls pushed upwards, and the tenants started to leave. For it was not just the noise and the cracking walls that made people despair, but the heat: the constant, boiling heat. The chimney drooped into a thin curving spout and several roof tiles formed themselves into hinges, so that on a night when the wind blew hard from the north, the roof would gently lift like a lid before it settled, on the house, once again. So now, there it stands, on the corner of Park Street, Carlton North: a teapot.

30 April 2011

Ghost signs Melbourne #3 : The Lonesome Road

Ballarat Road, Footscray

It was indeed a lonesome road in the wild wild west – of Melbourne – where this offer of folk and coffee hovered above a deserted shop front. A forlorn and lonely ghost indeed.
ghost signs melbourne