Story and Photographs By Sandshoe
Painting by Lehan Winifred Ramsay
the living room of my now home from the hallway door
the living room looking towards the hallway door
12 months ago, the end of the lease on my then rental, my landlord was not renewing the lease. The one thing I knew about my future was I had won right of appeal of a Tenancy Tribunal decision that rejected application I made for an award of compensation to me for tenancy law breaches.
The advice of the Tribunal was to very carefully consider proceeding and to seek legal representation if I did proceed. I felt I had no choice. The quality of the adjudication as I experienced it was poor, the process flawed. I needed to re-establish a belief in social justice and housing law. I needed to face fear either win on appeal or lose.
Other than a PC and a reserve of Mac collectibles, I covered a floor with kitchenware and computing equipment, basically declared to the township, ‘Come and Get it’.
The previous lease to the one I was vacating, in some respects furnished poorly, was furnished. Leaving the next…a Queen size bed, couch, recliner chair? $300 in the previous 12 months. Hello, the oversize tank of a never mind really great television I paid 50 for? Set top box and tv unit? Another 85. Sideboard shelving with glass doors and a second with open shelves? 150. Mostly you give your belongings away. I carried bags of Cds to the radio station.
The sewing machine table a friend gave me that she had been given I returned. Sold for a few dollars the new sewing machine to a young woman who wanted to learn to sew, added miscellany and the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. Gave away the part completed tablecloth made with cotton curtain swatches. Swopped a new carpet (never unrolled) bought on lay-by for the previous address (as well a rental disaster) for a mens bicycle and onsold the bicycle.
The second hand washing machine and refrigerator? The town had been plunged into a mini recession as redundancies from the meat-works wrought their impact. Remember you paid the appliances off on a loan from a friend you repaid at a slap up dinner three months before, now selling day?
She announced after I committed to pay for the slap up I should see inside her wallet and laughing so hard I started laughing. When I did see I gasped what a lot of money. She, overwhelmed with laughter: “I won Lotto. Not enough to be inconvenient I had to go anywhere to collect it. Now you absolutely sure you want to pay for the meal?”
Of course. That was part of the fun filling the wallet to overflow, wildly unexpected, joyous.
The sentimental loss of the white goods lingers. The washing machine and refrigerator went for next to nothing relative to their worth and a fraction of the price paid. A worker husband reconnoitred and brought a woman with a young child to see the washer and purchased it. I sold the piano removalist on the refrigerator. Who would not want to see him top up his return (the piano he moved for me I gifted and its delivery to the recipient).
For all the stress, I started to have fun. I had made my plans and written an application to the Tribunal. I was gaining sociability. A mum with a young family needed curtains. Another family needed kitchen goods. Filipino neighbours and their friends included me wholeheartedly in the fun they made when they arrived with a trailer to help a mate. They helped me out in a later situation when I asked. The message broadcast was Christina needs us, guys.
I stayed for only a few days in one of the town’s pubs. My gratitude is immense a neighbourhood friend had suggested she drive me the four-hour round trip to the regional office in Mount Gambier of Housing SA, formerly the Housing Trust to state my disadvantage. I accepted. I was awarded a house on passing an emergency priority interview and one was available.
Emmjay, once I advised by email I had moved again and into public housing suggested I might like to write to the housing issues when I was settled.
A couple of weeks ago, I was offered and have accepted a ten-year lease on the property.
By the by for now the detail of the changing status of the Tribunal, no longer entitled as a separate entity but a division of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that is SACAT, pronounced say-cat. By the by for now I certainly identified the rigours of the jurisdiction for landlords and tenants after having taken two cases, of three I consider I ought to have, in my time living in Bordertown.
In regard to the first case, I had been awarded a small amount of compensation I applied for; in regard to the second at appeal I was awarded 500 dollars compensation recognising two of various claims I submitted. The 500 only represents to me upholding process and that there is housing law. It is not financial reward and not compensatory for the liability a property can be that is determined to be sub-standard on close inspection and experience. It will not heal the insults I experienced. I might never to boot understand tenancy law shortfalls that mean a landlord pays costs if they are awarded and compensation no matter how poor the response of an agency is to property management.
Unfortunate however, my experience of the property included my being a victim of crime in it on Christmas Eve evening 2014.
The perpetrator was found guilty in 2015 of two counts of assault, indecent and aggravated. He was sentenced to serve 15 months imprisonment with a significant non-parole period. I remain indebted to the South Australian Police Force officers who attended and the Prosecutor. Post traumatic stress impeded my preparation of the Tribunal application I was preparing. An adverse incident complicated my circumstance when a real estate agent levelled an accusation at me of bringing the assault on myself (not surprised…did I invite the perpetrator into the house?…see?). A handyman attending to the security of a lock on the front door was present and witnessed my grief. I found myself crouched and cowering around the front corner of the house. I was peering around it like a child trying to identify a new world of danger I discovered myself in.
I had already as it was lived in the property for a period of time with five windows I had not initially realised were not locked and could not be and a sliding back door with neither a lock or least opportunity to secure anything against its wide opening.
Although it is two years ago now in December I experience random frequent flash-backs of stressful life experience when I am falling asleep. In the street or supermarket a glimpse of a man of similar build to the perpetrator triggers episodes of fear and confusion. Health professionals were ill equipped to understand how to address the trauma of violence. An associate of the agent who triggered me to run and cower as a frightened child might maintains behaviour seeming to try to snub me. The reason is known only to them. As a matter of contrast the agent addressed me with a smile recently when I addressed them.
In community development there is no room for partisan opinions expressed by anyone in the form of silence towards a courteous greeting. You equally refine dignity and compassion for others when you hear versions of your experience reported back to you in innocent conversation and realise you are ‘that’ person in some part …unrecognisably even dismembered and at least dishevelled.
Instead of bringing you grief, I hoped when I began to write to reveal something of me and what I have been doing that shows the constant of creative thinking in our lives and its contribution, how does it work. Lehan’s painting has been a constant. I have lived in three properties with it and for this almost 12 months now it has been my companion where I can view it on the table of the first item of furniture I was gifted for my new address. The shelf unit and a double bed labelled ‘Please Take’ were glaringly obvious sat in the front yard of a friend’s neighbour moving out of their property.
There was I who thought I would have no bed, instead sleep between two canvas chairs or on the floor as I did when I moved from Christies Beach in Adelaide to live in Bordertown 6 years ago. I was soon in hospital then suffering fatigue and back pain that became intolerable.
Coincidental with recently signing a ten-year lease, I found the items I have searched for to near complete my re-furnishings … a sofa bed for a second guest room and a living room rug. I sold a wardrobe for a few dollars to make room for a three door cupboard I took a shine to. Neighbours and I pushed the treasures down the road on a trolley. I was offered and accepted the loan of a vaccuum cleaner to clean the rug. My vaccuum cleaner I bought 6 months ago for $15 is still missing a tube pipe for the hose. That had not mattered betimes. The floors are wood throughout.
Friday a fortnight ago I ordered a 24-month fixed-line internet connection for a terabyte of data.
While waiting and hoping for the NBN, I have been paying between 120 and 200 dollars for 10 GB of data distributed between a mobile phone and mobile wireless broadband. Some stress is relieved after 12 months of incessant outages.
When I moved in…aside my PC and assorted computer items… I started again with a small box of writing, one of graphics and art, photographs, one of loved books, a few items of clothing in a backpack, an extending table, two red lounge chairs, and Lehan’s painting she posted to me from Japan. In my mind’s eye I have frequently seen Lehan wrapping the painting to post it.
I found The Pigs Arms and Lehan Winifred Ramsay (of the corresponding three names to my own) together. I was at a bar where friends virtually met and mingled. Everywhere in the meantime before discovery and my own project as Sandshoe in a room in an online pub, sure I had fallen on hard times and good and held onto boxes of my art. The very earliest box with its Chinese ink stylisations on delicate A4 sheets and pencilled shapes of hands and faces was lost in transition – although stored – when I returned to live in Australia from New Zealand after almost 10 years.
We manage grief as well as we can. In our creativity that belongs only to us whatever it is applied to we will see the work we lost. If we make display…banners, signage or editing newspaper copy, poetry and so on…we see the work. No question about it at the moment, I am grieving Lehan. Any wonder. The photographer cannot do this painting its real justice. The colours include fire. The brilliance is spoiled by the camera collecting light off ridges of paint that are dusty. The gold is dulled. The face appears black whereas patched with a lightness that contrasts with its surround. The effect is pretty and whimsical.
Lehan asked me which painting did I want. I offered to her she choose. She had another in first mind and later decided on this one, with only a commitment she thought it was ‘the one’, thought I would agree. The setting is a lotus pond. The dashing streaks are fireflies. Where the facial configuration looks out in a mesmeric condition of being…in portrait… for a reason I cannot recall I believe Lehan painted it as landscape and the face on the left hand side of the work. I long ago stopped wondering how I should properly view the painting. I came to terms with my viewpoint.
I remain its custodial guardian. Lehan referenced she would like me to frame it and suggested a gold frame. A local artist has provided me the name of a trusted framer. The painting needs conservation work and I will seek out that and for the frame to be supplied.
19 August, 2016.