Monday, 28 April 2014

Surprises? I like surprises....

So... I'm back in Brisbane. 

I've been back a few days, and while this isn't a bad thing I'm feeling a little sad about it. Quite sad. 

But not too sad. There seems to have been a steady flow of little surprises of late. 

The Typewriters. 

Let's get down to business. Firstly, I managed to score a beautiful little Remington portable 2 that needs a little bit of mechanical attention, but will be a gorgeous little machine once I've got it going again. The colour was a surprise. Not only was it different to the photo on ebay, but I've never seen a Remington machine... ever... of this colour. However, it does have all the original Remington decals, and is suitably worn so I'm supremely confident that this is the original colour. 

I'm really excited about the potential of this machine. With a clean and a bit of hard work, I think it will be brilliant. 

Following hot on the heels of the Remington, is a machine that I've been excitedly waiting for, for some time. It has travelled a LONG way, and is a cracker of a machine - even if it is more modern then the machines I usually like. I have never seen one of those in Australia, or for that matter in the USA. It is the direct decedent of the Triumph Perfekt, and is a far more interesting machine in person than it is in the photos. 

May I present.... The Gabrielle - E 

better photos an a full review to come soon. 

Oh, and thanks a heap, Spider

To top it all off, a third machine came into my possession in the last couple of days. This one is a little more mundane, but there's something a bit special that came with it. 

It is an Olympia SM9, which there's got to be about a billion of these guys out there. Sure, it is far from rare. But it has only had one owner (now, I'm it's second) since the day it was bought. As you can see, the original receipt is there along with everything else. The lady that owned it kept everything meticulously organised. 

So we have the manual, a touch-typing guide that was produced by the Australian government's bank - the then 'Commonwealth banking corporation'. A test sheet that shows the typewriter's typeface is all in order, and there's the SM9 quick setup guide. 

But the receipt told a little story of it's own. This machine was bought somewhere very interesting. 

See which shop it was sold at, for $115, in 1971? 

That's Madang, Papua New Guinea. 

PNG was in a state of flux in 1971. It was a country that was coming back from being a major theatre of war during the second world war, and was forming its own government. Australia's own government assisted in the building of the nation, and we sent hundreds of bureaucrats to assist. Not only that, but hundreds of missionaries poured into the country to lay claim to the souls of thousands of tribal people that were still to have contact with the outside world. 

And here we have a then brand-new Olympia SM9 being sold to someone out of a shop in a fairly remote town in PNG. 

Parer's war. 

Speaking of PNG. Rob Messenger mentioned on his blog a couple of weeks ago a film that was going to be aired on Australian television called 'Parer's war'. I was rather eager to watch it, so I settled down with a cold drink and sat back and watched - with a bit of an eye out for typewriters that may pop up. Why not do a bit of typewriter spotting, you may say! 

But some of the interior shots of Parer's home seemed oddly familiar. And towards the end of the film I got an unexpected shock. 

The outside of 'Parer's' block of flats (apartments). 

Such a beautiful art deco building it is, right? 

The courtyard in the front of the building. 

That's also quite a beautiful court-yard. I wish I lived somewhere like that. 

Oh wait.... I did. Actually, when I started writing this blog in 2012 I was still living there. Remember my blog entry on the cinema nights I used to run in that courtyard? 

'Cinema Elron' 

Yeah... That Elron Court. 

The interior shots weren't filmed in Jane and I's old flat, but rather the flat that was opposite us across the garden at Unit 1. 

A good friend of mine used to live in that apartment, and I'd have to have spent hundreds of hours there drinking lovely wine and talking politics, religion and sex. All the stuff you don't talk about in polite company. 

Heck, when she was away I would go over and feed her birds, which were kept in the room that in this scene is being done up for a baby's nursery. Even the phone jack on the wall where her computer used to be connected is visible in this scene. 


I did a fair amount of research into the history of the building when I lived there for 5 years (Jane lived there 11). It was built in 1939, and opened for tenants in 1940. 

But I have no idea if Parer himself actually lived there at any stage. There are a lot of interesting stories to be told about that place, and it was nice to have added history of my own to it's tale. 

Ahhhhh.... I'm getting all nostalgic again. I better get back to packing house, as I'm moving again very soon. 

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sydney Typosphere, Where the bloody hell are ya? (and your typewriters)

Steve and I woke up early again as we were eager to get into Sydney and through the traffic before it became difficult to drive on it's consistently grid-locked roads. It was a cold morning in Scone, and my car was frosted from cold condensation that had dropped overnight as it hit the nearly 30 degree mark. 

I looked out across the road as a coal train snaked its way past the town about 500 meters from the hotel. I felt this seemed particularly odd as it was an Easter Sunday. But I guess the mining industry stops for no one, not even the religious. I'd see several more such trains travelling beside the road before the day was out. 

Coal shipping in Scone. 

We jumped back into Ruby the Exxy, and immediately there was something wrong. The 'battery' light - which is actually the alternator warning light, was on and was staying on. I found a servo to get some petrol, and started to try and assess what was wrong once the engine was warm. 

With a couple of blasts of WD40 and a little bit of testing I determined that the alternator was able to produce a healthy charge,  so Steve and I thought we'd just try our luck and see how far we went. I had roadside assistance coverage, so if we did get stuck we'd be able to call for help. As long as we had phone range. 

After about 20 minutes there was a loud squeal and a thump, and the alternator light turned off. From that point onwards Ruby drove just as well as she always had. WD40 may have saved the day. 


We grabbed breakfast on the road and just kept on driving. It wasn't long before we hit a brand new dual carriageway that turned the highway to Sydney into a Freeway, and we were soon barreling across the landscape at an uninhibited 110km/h. This was a bit of a shame really, as this new road bypassed many of the most beautiful towns to be found in the Hunter Valley. Instead we ended up having an effortless drive into Australia's largest metropolis - the crazy emerald city of OZ. Sydney. 

Now, I'll liberally steal from a somewhat failed Australian Tourism commercial when I ask this question: Sydney Typosphere, where the bloody-hell are ya? 

Sydney according to Apple Maps. 

Sydney's population is 4.6 million. Melbourne's population is 4.2 million. Brisbane's is 2.2 million (all as of 2011 census). My blog gets several readers from Melbourne, and my blog on Tom's Typewriter shop constantly gets hits by Victorians checking out information on his shop. So while there's really only one consistent blogger (see Teeritz Agenda) There's plenty of users down in Melbourne. 

Brisbane also is quite the same. I get a fair few general readers from Brisbane, and as we've seen there's quite a few lively bloggers there too.

Even Darwin and Perth have bloggers. People from Adelaide frequently email me, and they make up a fair amount of the buying and selling activity on ebay. And of course there's Canberra - which despite it's diminutive size, appears to be the typewriter writer capital of Australia. I have several consistent readers from Canberra, and not talking about just Rob and Jasper either.

But Sydney? I know of a guy that services machines there, and I know of at least one collector. But Sydney is incredibly quiet. Vanessa Berry, who is listed up in the Typosphere as a blogger is very Zine focused, and I've personally never seen her interact with other typewriter lovers. In short, typewriters and the typosphere in Sydney seem to be practically invisible. 

My blog also features nil interaction with people from Sydney. No readers, no commenters, nothing. Discussions in forums about hunting typewriters in Sydney often lead to nothing - as though the place is a veritable black hole. I often see machines being put up for sale there on ebay or gumtree, but there's more in outer New South Wales than there seems to be in that state's capital.

It puzzles me. With the level of creative activity going on in Sydney, and the size of its population you'd kinda expect to see more writers using their machines and collecting them there. But instead it is a dark patch of sky with only a few stars dimly twinkling. 

As it was Easter Sunday when we arrived in Sydney few shops were open. Steve and I didn't take the opportunity to hunt for typewriters, and instead headed for the Sydney harbor bridge - often known as 'the coat-hanger'. I popped open Ruby's roof and stuck the camera out as we crossed the bridge in the hope of getting some shots. They worked out okay, and both Steve and I had fun as we drove across this rather famous Australian landmark. 

As we drove into the CBD we found ourselves somewhat lost. After doing a few circles we came across a road that was completely shut off from traffic. On that road a large group of people stood waiting and watching the hotel across from them. They were being held back by a temporary steel barrier and a host of Australian Federal Police officers who were controlling the affair. 

These people were here to catch a glimpse of the visiting royals. A sign that Sydney does still hold onto some archaic and anachronistic traditions. 

Steve and I ducked around the miasma and headed out towards the western suburbs. Ruby showed no sign of failing, so we looked at the map and headed to Canberra and the Australian Typewriter Museum at Rob Messenger's place. 

Not a typewriter or typewriter lover was to be found in Sydney. If you're reading this and you live there, give me yell as I'd love to see that there's signs of life.

Steve Snow's blog, The Impatient Typewriter Mechanic' can be fond  HERE

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pushing the New England

My alarm went off at 3:30 am, and I immediately sprang to my feet (I'm a morning person, clearly). By 4:20 I was on the road to Steve Snow's place, and by 5am I had his company with me while I drove Ruby the Exxy. It was a cold easter Saturday morning, and we would see another car on the road roughly every 20 minutes until we finally rolled onto the New England highway. 

The New England is another of 3 alternative routes between Brisbane and Melbourne. And one of two that passes through Sydney. It is also called New England for a very good reason. The route passes a long series of pastures and towns that have retained their very british pastoralist roots. Many european trees dot the route, and the landscape often feels like the rolling hills off what many of the earlier Australians called 'Home'.

Past the town of Ipswich we began to drive through some quite thick sections of fog. With a quick flick of a switch, Ruby's fog lights powered on, and we then happily continued to drive along the highway as the sun started to rise over our left shoulders. 

The fog shifted aside, and we soon found ourselves driving up the Great Dividing Range as the sun hit the mountains with a beautiful Orange glow. The view was incredible as we looked along the tinted mountain range, but sadly couldn't find a spot to stop and take a photograph. 

We grabbed some breakfast in Steve's home town of Warwick, and we were quickly back on our away again. 

We rolled into a couple of towns and found that we were either too early for their second hand and antique stores to be open, or in some cases too late - as Google seemed to insist that some stores that had been closed for years were still open. 

Sadly, many of the towns along the New England feel like ghostly shells of their former glory. Hints of how life was in days that have passed, and relics of the means and methods of trade and business that once drove the economy in these rural areas still survive but are sadly crumbling as people drive past them. There's both a vibrance and sadness about the fading history along these highways that many travelers miss in our contemporary era.   

The safari begins in ernest...

In my car I already had 7 typewriters. These were machines that I either couldn't pack into boxes due to the oversized nature of their cases, or the fact that they were standards that were also way oversized and had carriages that couldn't be removed. 

These were machines that I wouldn't trust with removalists, so I decided that while I'm taking the car down to Melbourne, these may as well come with me along with the car-load of stuff that I had packed for Miss Jane

It wasn't until we hit Armidale that we saw our first machine. It was a lowly Adler 'Tippa' - for want of a better name. This machine in comparison to my earlier model Tippa typewriters was awful to type on. It was in great condition however, and I was somewhat surprised to find that it's shell was metal. It was even at a great price of $15. However both Steve and I decided to throw this fish back in, and let it go to another owner. It wasn't even worth my effort to buy and re-sell on ebay, as it wouldn't get more than $30 or so dollars. 

We hopped back into Ruby and quickly headed out of town. It wasn't long until we came across a smaller town that had a disproportionate amount of second-hand or antique shops. The very first shop we came across bore hunting success before we even got out of the car. As Steve pulled Ruby into a parking spot in front of the shop, we came face to face with a familiar sight - a Remington 17 perched immediately in front of our car. 

I asked the woman in the store how much she wanted for it, and she gave me a surprised look before shrugging her shoulders and saying 'aww...... fifty bucks'. The tone was rhetorical, which told me she was clearly open to negotiation. I thought I could press the point and get the machine for $30, but I simply felt that I had too many machines in the car as it was, and the condition of the machine wasn't that amazing that I felt compelled to buy it and rearrange the car to fit it in. 

So we left this beast to the next buyer, and shuffled into the workshop next door to check out what else was happening. Here we found an array of car parts and old tools for sale, as well as a fully-functioning hot-rod restoration workshop. 

Futher down the road we found two more shops. However, these places sadly yeilded no fruit.

The city of Tamworth was a bust, but we did get an excellent lunch there. Steve however discovered that a fully-loaded X-Trail is oddly hard to parallel park, and as such parked my car about a meter from the curb. The Exxy is by no means a 'big car', and as such it still didn't exactly stick out over the road. 

Tamworth is the self-appointed capital of country music in Australia, and you can see this in almost every nook and cranny of the place. Country music is worshipped so much in this place that they've constructed a giant golden guitar on the road into the town that confronts everyone coming up from Sydney. It is so bad that whenever I book a hotel there, I can't book it by my last name as it invariably leads to lengthy questioning about my somewhat famous country music relatives. Usually Tamworth had been an end-point on a drive for me, and this was only the second time I had driven through it either two or from Brisbane. 

I'll just stress that I'm in no way a fan of country music. So dear readers, don't start getting an image of me walking around in cowboy boots and an Akubra hat, while listening to some melancholic twang. 

So we drove on and enjoyed a lovely piece of the Australian countryside. It had rained a fair bit recently, and everything looked kind of fresh and clean. 

A bit north of the town of Scone we turned off the highway at a second-hand shop that I'd visited in the past. It had previously gotten some great deals on some stuff here, and it is a must-stop part of the journey. 

Steve and I got down to the business of looking for typewriters, and Steve within minutes spotted an Olivetti Linea that was in awful condition. Flanking this machine was a dusty electrical of some kind. They were on a high shelf and out of reach, and by the time I got down to that end of the shop Steve was busy trying to find something that would get him up there to have a look at these machines.

I looked further along the same shelf near these machines, and noticed some familiar looking boxes and vinyl covers. I pointed them out to Steve and said 'Those are going to be of much more interest to us'. Steve agreed and then excitedly ran off to find the shop-keeper to get a ladder. 

I spotted a small black case that I thought would be specifically of interest, and there was a brown case that I immediately thought to myself 'That looks familiar, I wonder what it is'. 

But despite my enthusiasm for the first case, it turned out to be a rather dull looking Lamir that came with a $27 price tag. I photographed it for the record, and looked at Steve who also declined it. 

With a $17 price tag however, the brown box turned out to be a very familiar Remington Quiet-riter. 

Another familiar case grabbed my attention, and I needed no prompting to know what machine was inside. It was unmistakably an Imperial Good Companion 4. It has a price tag of $37, and was extremely dusty. Inside the machine looked dull, chipped and stained. But I ran a thumb lightly across the surface, and what I thought were chips in the paint turned out to be just debris that had blown into the case. As I rubbed a near perfect IGC started to shine out at me from beneath the deceiving detritus. This machine was actually in incredible condition. 

Steve declined on both the IGC and the Quiet-riter, and left it to me. I made an offer of $30 for the IGC, and the seller accepted. I then made an offer of $15 for the Quiet-riter. He thought a little, then also accepted that. With a promise of a dusting, they were mine.

On a side note. In the last 2 weeks I'd just sold an IGC4 and Quiet-riter. There's a real irony to the machines that I moved to get rid off from collection seem to in some way or another find their way back. Both of these machines are in better condition than the ones I sold, even though the Quiet-riter's case probably needs a re-covering. 

There were some other interesting machines to be found there too. They had a Smith-Corona electric machine of a more modern era, which we didn't even bother bringing down from the shelf. A remington SJ with and interesting Bakelite facia that I've only come across a few times in the past - complete with Remington Super-riter Vinyl cover. 

But I think I got the most interesting machines that were available from that batch. 

When I went to pay for the two machines, the guy at the counter had not only dusted the cases off, but had wrapped them in garbage bags so that no further muck spread about my car. I found that incredibly thoughtful and considerate. I gleefully handed over my dosh, and took my typewriters and found a spot for them in the back of Ruby. 

No sooner had I closed the back of the car and reversed out onto the highway Steve and I found ourselves rolling into our destination for the evening - the town of Scone. 

The lady on the front counter at the Isis hotel greeted me with one of the warmest smiles I've ever been given at a hotel, and she soon had us organized with a room. I quite liked the Isis hotel, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

 As I got settled into the room I started to smell a wood fire getting started. The hotel cooks pizza in this wood fire, but Steve and I headed into town on foot where we grabbed a pizza there, which we ate in somewhat deserted, but historic pub that was being run by a very lovely and enthusiastic woman by the name of Sarah. 

We had a few beers and talked travel with our host before we bid her farewell and left her with her boyfriend to close up the old pub. With full bellies and a satisfied feeling we walked back to the room and hit the hay ready for our next day's driving through Sydney to Canberra.