The Adventures of Kat and the Roll Top Desk

One of my long-term dreams has been to own a roll top desk. Ideally it would be made of mahogany, with a leather topped desk area and lots of little drawers to store my writing (and drawing) paraphernalia. But honestly, I was not really that fussy - almost any roll top desk would do.

On Saturday I opened my messages to see a roll top desk being offered on Freecycle. I collect it, I get to keep it - for free!   I sent back a hopeful message. Sunday morning I got a call. It was mine!

Fortunately we own a metal canopy trailer. Perfect. The weather has been quite wet of late. We were going to need a cover so the desk would not be drowned on the way home. We (as in my hubby) hitched up the trailer and we set off on a one hour tour to collect the coveted item.

Little did we know what a saga would be involved.

Twenty-five minutes later we arrived at the it's soon-to-be-ex home.  The desk was a heavy brute. We finally got it to the trailer... It would not fit through the back gate of the trailer. Nor the side doors. The openings were four centimetres too small!

Fine - just unscrew the bolts and remove the canopy. Easy. Not.  The bolts were stuck fast. What to do? I took advantage of mobile phone technology, calling taxi truck companies. No go. They were either closed for Sunday or would cost $100 per hour, with a minimum of 4 hours hire. For a free, second-hand roll top desk? Not likely.

So it was that we lugged the desk back to the house, ensuring it was under cover; the grey clouds were gathering and the temperature had already dropped a few degrees.  We drove back home, unhooked the trailer and made our way to Bunnings (hardware store). Best news of the day? We got free trailer hire if we bought something. Well, we did need a new tarp - especially as we no longer had the canopy to protect the precious cargo from the oncoming storm. We had two hours until the trailer was due back.

Once again we started our one hour tour to collect my 'free' roll top desk. Fate was laughing at us - again. Do you know how much fun it is not  to get lost on a detour of the back streets, with malfunctioning GPS, following a total inbound road closure (three lanes) - complete with five police cars, at least one fire engine (and I think I also saw an ambulance)?

desk 1407 trailerEventually we arrived at our destination, loaded up the desk, tied down the tarp and began the final trek homeward. Yet another detour - as traffic on the main road was now backed up for kilometres on the outbound lanes as well - and we were navigating the back streets once more.

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Home again. Only seven minutes to go until the trailer is due to be returned. Our fingers flew as we wrangled my Dear Heart's excellent knot tying skills and finally released my prize.  The trailer was just returned on time.

On Monday night my desk found its new home - in the front room Thank you Freecycle Gifter.

A one hour pickup grew into a four hour adventure. At least the hail has held off until today.

Now what to write???

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More Than Just Cogs

First I was a fanatical follower of science fiction - Doctor Who, Star Wars, Blake's 7. By the 1980s, I was attending 2-3 fancons a year. Then I was a roleplayer. In 1978 my friend Christine introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons.  Then I discovered historical re-enactment (Society for Creative Anachronism). For almost 20 years my life has revolved around the renaissance - either in researching and recreating the clothing of mid-16th century Florence or 'living it' at various events. I have visited Florence twice (once for the Janet Arnold Costume Symposium). I still have a fascination for the Medicis. I don't think that will ever fade. (I even have some ideas for a book...)

Then, in the 2000 I saw the movie Wild, Wild West, then The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) Both had an interesting look. But it wasn't really until the mid 2000's (I can't remember if it was 2004 or 2005) that I really worked out what 'this Steampunk thing' was. I was excited - yet another outlet for my historical curiosity and my passion for costuming. One advantage was that I could get away with 'anachronisms' - of a sort.

What is an anachronism? A: A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned. (Google) In my case it is a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously modern.  

embdress5In medieval and renaissance re-enactment, there is a preference to keep everything within period. This is a fantastic challenge.  I have been documenting my research and attempts at recreating Florentine clothing on my Costume website - Purple Files/Florence Files, for many years.  Though I still delight in it,  I was ready for a new venture.

Perfect timing - 2005: I started hearing about a band called Abney Park, seeing steampunk costume pictures, on the internet. I revisited War of the Worlds and the Time Machine. My curiosity was aroused. Here was a combination of  cool Victoriana costuming and my first love - science fiction!

2008 SP contingent ballFinally, by 2008 (after stuffing around for a few years), I had taken my first steps into making steampunk costumes.  With just a little tweaking, all those years of renaissance corset making had come in handy - voila my first Victorian corset was created. That year we wore our first steampunk outfits to the Australian Costumers' Ball (left). To our surprise, there was a small contingent of steampunkers. We spent a lot of the evening explaining what it was all about.

Since then the South Australian Steampunk contingent has grown. We have had a couple of large (open to public) events - The Voyage of the Olympia, picnics, movie outings (in costume), photo shoots and saw the film of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. (Yes, we sang along with it). Even a trip to the zoo. (Pith helmets come in handy when trying not to get eaten by the giraffe).


What I love about steampunk is that there is such a variety of ways to define it. There is no limit to the interpretations that can be created.

I love the definition in the tv series Castle's episode: Punked: “…a subculture that embraces the simplicity and romance of the past but at the same time couples it with the hope and promise and sheer super coolness of futuristic design.”

More recently (since steampunk has become more mainstream - or is that just my imagination) there are more and more blog posts, memes and articles on 'What is real steampunk' or What is NOT steampunk. Some of the arguments are most likely valid but what saddens me is a small number of rabid followers that seem to spend most of their time telling people what NOT to do. Part of the allure of steampunk is that I do not feel part of a 'cog in the machine' of fashion. I can find my own version, my own style. And enjoy it.

Okay, sticking cogs on a hat or a necklace may be steampunk inspired but does not necessarily add up to full-on steampunk. I will give you that. However the beauty of the movement/genre is its flexibility, its ability to enflame the imagination in so many different ways. This is why I celebrate it.

IMG_6853IMG_0427It provides me with the challenge to research Victorian fashion, sewing, lifestyle and history - if I wish. I can throw in some science fiction or Victorian science. Or not. I can be an explorer, a scientist or even a Scout Mistress (yep, done that  - and got the Kraken training badge). 


I can paddle in the steampunk pond, or experience total immersion of lifestyle. The choice is mine. (I must admit our lounge room has acquired another octagonal side table and glass specimen domes, which are great for keeping the dust down!) We are slowly refurbishing our bedroom with a Victorian/steampunk flavour. Steampunk even sneaks into my everyday clothing, on occasion.

I feel there is more freedom of expression for me, as a costumer, artist and writer.  It has provided me with a spark of enthusiasm, a story to write and the (maybe childish?) hope that humans can find basic courtesy and manners to make life just a little more pleasant.


I do have something to wear!

Most of us have said it: I have nothing to wear. (I even have an old tshirt that proclaims it). I have said it many times. I open my wardrobe, look at the row of full hangers and think it. A lot. What I really mean to say is: I have nothing that I want to wear. (The cynic in me screams out: First world problems! Many people do not get an option.)

With the new year, I often get the downsizing/ culling bug. A new year. A new start. After a particularly stressful day, I decided to sort through my clothes. I pulled everything out and dumped it unceremoniously on our bed. The first thing to go were anything that were damaged - seams wearing or linings ripped.

Next was anything that  no longer fit. The hardest was anything that I had not worn for over a year. Some of these things are quite lovely but - honestly - I probably have not worn them as they do not 'go with' anything else. A wasted purchase. If I had not worn them in over 12 months, I most likely would not wear it over the next 12 months. (I have to admit that I did keep a few of these things...) Some things went up for sale, others went to the Salvos or Goodwill. I try to recycle as much as I can.

After a strong cup of tea, I assessed the damage. I had a lot more room in the cupboard now. I could actually move things around and - shock, horror - see them! I found some skirts I had forgotten about. Some still had the opshop tag on them (I love opshopping!).

The best part of this is that I can now work harder on another 'resolution' of mine. With all the stress last year, I had got in the habit of just slipping on a pair of jeans and chucking on a tshirt (except on my 'day job' work days). I felt frumpy. This year, I am determined to at least try to rethink my options. This is just in the first week (non-'day job' work days - the weather varied from 20- 33 deg C!): Yep... I like purple.

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