Posts Tagged ‘apartment’

I always knew I would inherit my dad’s piano. A dark wood Knight K10 upright, it had been part of my family for as long as I could remember. Only my dad and I had ever shown interest in playing it; only my dad ever showed any talent.

I did inherit the piano, prematurely. My parents had moved to a small, modern semi-detached house, where the thin walls made my dad scared of playing loudly, even although the neighbours never complained. He bought an electric one and a set of headphones, and soon was entertaining only himself with Greig’s Piano Concerto and other great works perfected over 40 years of practice. The ‘real’ piano became an attractive, if redundant, piece of lounge furniture.

So when I moved to a large house in Bristol with a wall seemingly created for my inheritance – out of direct sunlight, and not attached to the neighbouring homes – a van was arranged and the piano duly delivered.

But then the move to Australia came up. ‘What will you do with the piano?’ was one of the first questions my parents asked. I assumed it would come with us, and it did. Packed into a wooden box, it travelled to the other side of the world, where it found a new wall seemingly created for it in our rental home. During a coffee break, one of the removal guys made it sound better than I could ever imagine. The piano was home.

But then we found the apartment. Once again, ‘What will you do with the piano?’ was asked. It’ll be fine, I said. I’ll stick cushions down the back and play quietly. Look, there’s a space for it by the door. I’ll order these ridiculously expensive castor cups from Germany which people who have Steinway grands in their New York (or indeed, Seattle) apartments use to stop the noise travelling to the flat below.

But in reality, the piano wasn’t a great fit for the space in the hall. While convenient for laying car keys on, it stuck out just a little too much. The stool had to be kept to the side, and ‘playing it quietly’ turned out to be harder than I thought. The castor cups never arrived and I felt uncomfortable inflicting my Grade 1 battering on my neighbours. I bought an electric one, just like my dad’s, with headphones, and every time I walked past the real one I thought guiltily of my husband’s face when I had insisted on bringing my ‘inheritance’ halfway round the world.

So the decision was taken – it had to move. The only logical place was a spare wall in the study, round two corners and down a corridor from its original position. It’s only a few metres, but it took hours. The castors have never been brilliant (so my dad told me afterwards) and we ended up having to shunt it along, sliding it along off-cuts of carpet to protect the floor.

With no burly pals we could call on to help us, it fell to my other half to do the heavy work and manoeuvre it round the urban living equivalent of a hairpin bend. At one point it just wasn’t budging; stuck in the corridor between our living and sleeping areas it simply refused to move, no matter which way we pushed or pulled. But finally we – or more accurately my husband – did it. We got it round the corners and into the study.

And that is where it’s staying. If I ever decide to sell it, the buyer will be responsible for getting it out, but I like to think one day we may end up living in a house again, one with a perfect piano wall.

For now, I’m concentrating on learning to play (on my electric one), in the hope that improving my playing ability will make up for the expense and the trauma this beautiful instrument has caused since I’ve owned it. I’ll never be a virtuoso, or even average, but it’s not just about talent. It’s about the appreciation of classical music I was so lucky to have been given as a child. It’s about the challenge of trying to learn something that is actually bloody difficult – even if that something is only a simplified version of a Scott Joplin tune. And yes, it’s about the regret I feel at not having had the patience as a teenager to stick at the lessons, but also about the pleasure of knowing that even when I’m too old to cycle and kayak and dance, I’ll still have the piano.

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The Perth skylineIf swearing doesn’t raise too many eyebrows in polite Perth society, there is one thing that will – the admission that you choose to live in a city centre apartment block.

Anyone who has watched Neighbours or Home and Away will have an image of what the average Australian house looks like. In most British TV series, the homes are far grander than the average person can afford. But in Perth, the average home really is that big.

Perth folk have always had plenty of space to play with. The city has taken advantage of its relatively small population, and the fact there are no other cities nudging it on the shoulder.

Single-storey homes on big blocks have for many years been the norm. Those that can afford them have pools, while those that can’t usually still manage a double garage with room for the ute and the beer fridge. If you aren’t cashed-up from the latest mining boom, you might have to live in a slightly rougher area, a bit further out from where you work, but in a city where the car is king (despite its above-average public transport system), what’s the big deal?

But that’s not sustainable. Partly due to immigrants like me, Perth’s population is growing fast. All these people will need somewhere to live, and while coastal towns like Mandurah boom, and new towns are created, they are at the limits of a reasonable commute to the businesses in the CBD.

In the city, single homes on single blocks are becoming rarer, as the developers move in and transform the space formerly occupied by a single-storey home into three or four two-storey houses. A house on a single block next to the house we rented in Victoria Park recently sold for around $1 million. It looked like it would benefit from demolition – and I expect that is what will eventually happen. In Perth it’s often the land you’re paying for, not the property on it.

So homes are becoming smaller and taller, but the detached dream holds strong. I have viewed beautiful houses that are so close to the one next door that the planners insisted on obscured glass in the master bedroom, such is the risk of your neighbours catching you in your underwear (or worse). Then there are the mini-mansions that have four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a home cinema room but a postage stamp of a back yard, hemmed in by the neighbours’ walls.

Regeneration projects and the development of smart apartment blocks are drawing more people to the city centre. I’m one of them. Driven by a (somewhat pompous) desire to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, I’ve abandoned the Australian dream of a big detached house and purchased an apartment in East Perth, close to public transport and other facilities and designed to minimise the cost of heating and cooling. The block has a great mix of residents – but it is perhaps notable that very few of them are Australian.

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