Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Venetian Bind

I'm now living in England in a tiny little flat above a grocers on a local high street in Southampton. Which is why this blog has been largely put out to pasture. Rather than acquiring, fixing, writing on or playing with typewriters, the last few months of living in Australia was concerned with getting rid of them all. Not quite all, I've still got a couple of special ones up in my parents attic, but the cull was swift and brutal. On the way over to England we spent 2 months travelling through South East Asia and a little bit of Italy.

Let me introduce Venice. Venice is a beautiful place, where we spent 3 most enjoyable days and could have spent many more.

We stayed a long way out of the main town, this delightfully quiet, quaint little corner of Castello and walked and walked and walked and found some gorgeous parts of this iconic city. But Venice is not all gorgeous. In the main town- at least on sunny days in August- it's also godforsakenly crowded, chock full of trinket sellers, chock full of cheap, mass-produced miniature sized attempted-representations of what Venice is supposed to be. 

St Mark's square- the guts of the place is absolutely polluted with stalls selling crap: T-shirts to tea towels to snow-domes. This guy sort of sums it up. He hassles couples to buy roses, because St Mark's square in the heart of Venice it's supposed to be a romantic place where happy people go to holiday. But he's not happy. He's is the problem and perhaps he's not happy because he knows this. He and his hundreds of accomplices ensure St Mark's is not the least bit romantic, or even pleasant. At least in peak-season summer. 

But also in St Marks square, the reason for this particular trip into the heart of the city which we quickly learned to avoid is the Olivetti showroom. The Apple Shop of the 1960's. A beautifully designed building used to sell beautifully designed things. The building itself is a work of art, Carlos Scarpa doing what he did best. 

As a lover of all things Olivetti, the lines, the curves and that alluring green, this showroom was a must see for me. Almost hidden amongst the trinket sellers and the tourists that can be seen in the reflection of it's window, you would walk past this showroom if you didn't know it is there.

I had high hopes for this showroom, in the heart of Italy, only a stone's throw (well a fast train) away from Ivera, from Turino, this was Italy, home of the Olivetti. I was hanging out for Invicta's, limited edition Studio 42's, Praxis',  rare memento's of an amazing era for typewriting.... 

Alas, while the architecture is truly magnificent, the typewriters were not. Instead I found 4 identical Lexikon 80's lined up in a row. The typewriters and the occasional adding machine were there only as decoration it seemed. There was no chronology to the order in which they were placed, nor any description of anything, not even in Italian. Again, despite the fantastic architecture, the cool quiet concrete seclusion on a hot day, it was a very disappointing experience for me. The young woman at the counter couldn't offer anything at all about the typewriters in there and could point me only to a small booklet on the design of the showroom. The showroom in its current incarnation as a museum felt to me like the rest of St Mark's: "This place is supposed to be romantic, lets sell people roses", "This place used to have typewriters in it. Lets get a couple of typewriters in there". And admission to this reception area, 2 upstairs rooms and a corridor, like many things in Venice, was exorbitant. I couldn't help but lament what this place could have been and what it is. Somewhat tellingly, it was also completely empty. 

Please do go to Venice though, it is stunning. But just stay somewhere far away from the centre like the eastern reaches of Castello and explore the laneways and get your coffee from the same place each morning and listen to the nonna's having a laugh with the delicatessens. And do also go to the Olivetti Showroom, as a typewriter appreciator you'd be mad not to. Just don't set your expectations too high.

Merry Christmas to all you fine people out there doing fine things with fine machines. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

wHHoops I owned it again: The curious tale of the Royal HH

Many moons ago in my very first blog post, I gushed about being swept off my feet by the glory of the typewriter and how I had: "met for the first time all these great people pictured"... I lied... Not about my enthusiasm for the glory of the typewriter, but about the fact that I had in fact met one of that motley crew almost a year earlier.

There once was a 1954 Royal HH. Back in April 2012. I bought this almost a full year before that first Breaky Creek type-in and I knew almost nothing about typewriters. Taking it home, I found it to be relative seized up.

 April 2012

Not really knowing much about these things at all, and not yet being aware of the wealth of information about typewriters on blogs, forums and the internet more generally, I poked around and turned it upside down and decided that what it needed, was more WD40 than had ever been unleashed upon a typewriter ever. I doused the bastard. Sprayed it's innards so propper that it was dripping for hours. It smelt like a refinery.

To my happiness, this seemed to free up a lot of things and I got it typing. So I bought a new ribbon for it from Alderley Business Machines and typed out a bunch of song lyrics. After my interest had run its course and more interesting machines had arrived at my house, I put this smelly thing (made from equal parts metal and WD40 by this stage) up on eBay. At a $7 profit, I was delighted that it sold to someone local. I contacted the seller, informing them I lived in Graceville. Several messages later, we agreed that he would pick it up from my friend's place, where I would be later that morning practicing music.

June 2012

Thus on the 7th June 2012, outside my friend's old place on Equinox Street, Taringa, I met a man in a maroon Nissan X-Trail who paid me $27 for my Royal HH. I was rather hoping that he would not become suddenly overpowered by the stench of WD40 and drop dead on the spot. Luckily he remained upright throughout the transaction and was polite enough not even say anything about the veritable cloud of petroleum hydrocarbons in the air above the typewriter. This polite man of robust sinus health was Scott Kerneghan. It was later at the 2013 Brisbane Type-in when we met properly and to this day I have not dared mentioned the incident of the WD40'd Royal HH.

Fast forward to July last year, before relocating to Melbourne, Scott dropped a couple of standard sized typewriters to my new house in Ashgrove for me to give to John Lavery. Looking beneath the tarpaulin, what did I see? That very same HH. The tyranny of distance and one incident of unfortunate timing meant that I held on to these typewriters, moving house from Toowong to Ashgrove and then later to East Brisbane, carrying around these standard typewriters until two days ago when John came over for a cup of tea and to pick up the typewriters that were rightfully his.

19th January 2015

Thus it may be said that this HH has been kept in the family. It may also be said that I owe Scott a pint of beer, considering the HH that I sold him really wasn't worth any more than the $20 that I originally paid for it, versus the $27 I sold it to him. Especially so after my drowning it in the devil's own lubricant. One thing I know for sure though, this HH is that it's going to a good home.