Our mailbox… a local tale.

It’s not difficult to miss, as you are really just concentrating hard on dodging the potholes, the corrugations on the blind corner, or steadying the fishtail in the midst of winter as you plough through the slush of what is our FABULOUS DRIVEWAY (sigh… coming soon a clear run… promise!)!

But, tucked in between a flourishing she-oak and a very sad looking, dead shadow of it’s former self, golden wattle… is a funny looking, segmented steel structure, that is washed in the mud of the years of salvage yard development stage, and looking a little sad and neglected!

This double fronted, triple segmented actually performs the task of being our mailbox… and was once, the hand built sheet steel canoe crafted by the hand of Romulus Gaita… aka ‘Romulus My Father’. Raimond Gaita, author and philosopher talks of paddling in his father’s hand built canoe, on the lake Cairn Curren, as a child. At the pack up of the film set… Raimond was happy for Mat to keep the canoe. It sat in the rafters of our old pumphouse for many years, and upon moving into our yard… we deemed that it needed a pride of place… a sentinel for the resourcefulness within our gates… and an ode to ‘really well built things of value’!

We hope that soon it will also be embellished slightly to welcome people into the fold of our yard!

During our years working as Pumphouse Design and Building Works… we were fortunate enough to be the set builders’ employed to recreate the Gaita home at Frogmore out in Baringup for the film by the same name. This was a mere stone’s throw from the original home in which the Gaita family lived, and the evocative setting for the award winning novel portraying their life, by Raimond Gaita. Mat and I had both read this intense book, and were pretty chuffed to be involved in re creating the Gaita family home… with the added possibility of meeting Raimond (oh, and also Eric Bana was a bit of a drawcard!). Actually, the fact that Mat had also read this book (as it is actually not the trading post or a surf magazine… ssh!) was rather miraculous… hence making the honour of being absorbed by the Frogmore build even more thrilling for him! I think more transcendent for him again, than the intensity of Romulus’ life… was the descriptions of Hora… Raimond’s carer, mentor and lifelong friend.

Hora and Romulus were those men that Mat has always viewed with reverence. The ability to be able to ‘make do’ in a new world far from the one they had fled… and continue to hold their heads up.

Funnily enough… I was painting some trusses the other day, listening to a talking book (‘Everywhere I look’) written and read by Helen Garner, and something in her tale made me down brushes and run through the yard, breathlessly desperate to share her story with Mat!

Helen was being driven out to Baringup by Raimond Gaita, and as they drove through that stark landscape, he was describing a story that had always struck him.

Whilst the filming of Romulus was winding up, Raimond brought Hora out to view the set, which was to be soon dismantled… Hora was very old, and rather ill, and Raimond was rather chuffed at the re creation of his old home.

“As we approached, the builder (whom had read my book) got down off his ladder, took his hat off his head and came towards us, smiling broadly at Hora and dipping his head in an almost reverent manner”…

I couldn’t believe it… this was so Mat… and here I was, painting my trusses, almost 20 years after having read this book… hearing this vicarious connection… through headphones… in a rather discombobulated scene! Life is fabulous like that!

Thankyou Raimond Gaita for sharing your incredible life story and for gifting us this memory of your fathers’ genius! Thankyou Helen Garner, for never failing to inspire me, and often in the strangest of circumstances.