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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Big manufactured objects are compelling

It took a while this morning before I remembered that I had thought about writing about this yesterday. I have been telling people I fear that I have early-onset Alzheimer's coming on but they never take me seriously. This blogpost seems to tell more about the truth of that particular situation. Whatever the case may be, however, I wanted to write this blogpost yesterday but I wrote about something else instead so this one will have to do for today.

Today I remembered the topic of this blogpost when I looked out the window and saw what I normally see in the mornings: the apartment buildings at the far north end of Sydney's CBD. To me they are magnificent objects even though, when you take into account their size and the relative sizes of other tall buildings in the world, they may not in actual fact amount to much in comparative terms. The reason why, I think, that they have this relevance to me is because of my upbringing because my father - who left school aged 14 to work as a carpenter's apprentice - was very apt with his hands around the house.

He had a property, for example, up the street in Vaucluse where we lived, on the corner of a small side street in the local shopping centre. The building housed my mother's gift shop. I remember getting up on the roof of the building one day with dad to attend to a leak that the residents of the apartment that sat on top of the shop had complained about. We applied lead flashing - big, flappy pieces of beaten or rolled lead - and then painted the flashing with red lead paint. All this hardware just to stop a bit of water getting into the apartment below. I must have been about 12 years old at the time, but I had frequently been around carpentry and masonry tools because dad kept a whole bunch of them in the house. There was the time, on another occasion, when I broke the drill bit off while it was in the screw end of a drill I was using to drill a hole in the wall. Dad made me promise never to do that again.

These brushes with tools and building maintenance enable me to understand how complex a skyscraper is, even though it might look very spare and unadorned when you see it from a distance. There are a lot of small, individual things that go together to make sure that the apartments in the building are secure and dry in all weathers. It is a difficult thing, to make a big building. There are lots of people involved, each of whom does something different. So when I see these big things from my living room in the mornings I wonder who lives there and what they think about when they look west and see the building where my apartment is.

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