Home from Victoria

Bill and I have returned safe and sound from our most recent road trip, this time within Victoria. I love getting on the road and exploring the diversity of this amazing country / island-continent, but as I grow older I suspect I love returning home even more. It is just so comforting to open the door and find everything as you left it, and your familiar, comfortable bed awaiting you.

What I don’t love is unpacking, but that is a necessary evil. As is the washing. The ironing, on the other hand, is just plain evil and has no redeeming features that I can turn into a positive. The overflowing basket is glaring at me even as I procrastinate by writing a blog post.

Speaking of blog posts, the ambition to write of our trip in real time once again got away from me. Partially due to slow internet, partially difficulty processing photographs, partially – well, just plain tiredness. So watch this space over coming days as I catch up the tale of the last two weeks on the road.

Neither Bill nor I are great shoppers, and we rarely buy souvenirs of our travels, but we did make a few purchases on this trip. One is a hand made glass bowl in which I intend to display Bill’s collection of matchbooks. I have long been on the lookout for such a thing. I envisage visitors diving a hand in and pulling out a handful of matchbooks, maybe using them as a conversation starter about shared experiences, or similar places they have been in the past, or perhaps simply curiosity value. Anything has to be better than leaving the collection in a plastic bag at the back of a cupboard. I don’t like to hoard items that have no regular use, function or enjoyment.

Another purchase was a tall plain-glass vase with an interesting bulb shape at its base and a narrowish opening at the top. Every week we love to buy fresh Tiger Lillies and Irises from our local market, but they usually flop around in a too wide vase. I am the world’s worst floral arranger. So hopefully I will do better with this vase. In the meantime, I have turned it in to a make-do Christmas arrangement. Please don’t laugh. My lousy arty-creative skills run a close second to my lousy floral skills, but at least I try. My sisters got all those visually innovative genes, one is florist and the other an interior designer. But! I write – and they don’t. Unless you count their greeting cards. The best I can muster is “best wishes, happy – (insert appropriate celebratory event)”, while they, on the other hand, find the right words to fill all the blank spaces. And all in that amazing handwriting that you find on swing price tags in an upmarket gift-wares store.

By this stage of my ramble you are desperate to know what else we bought – right? Well this one I have to put all down to Bill. Given as he is much taller than me, we shop at different eye heights. And when you can see “up”, you see the artwork dotted around the walls. And that is how he came to point out to me a piece that would complement something we already had.

So it was that we bought “Portofino Waterfront“, which turns out to be a companion piece for “Portofino Colours” not only because of the shared subject – but because they are  by the same artist – Michael O’Toole! How hilarious!

home-decor-18-dec-2016-765x1024-4At least you can say our tastes have remained consistent, even if a little pedestrian or ordinary over the years. We have owned Colours for at least fifteen years, maybe longer. I guess I can put it down to a celebration of my Italian heritage. Even though the bulk of our apartment decor is Asian, the front entry has turned into my little European homage.


It includes my wooden bowls from Poland purchased in 1978 when it was compulsory to spend hard currency if you wished to visit what was then a Communist country . . .


and several ceramics from my father’s hometown of Caltagirone, Sicily. I have a number of these, both painted and raw, which I alternate on the sideboard. In fact, I am using two of the heavier pieces as bookends at the moment.


I hate clutter, and yet I love to be surrounded by beautiful things. Beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder, so “mi casa” may not be “su casa” when it comes to decor. But if you ignore the lamp – which has made its way to the sideboard from another room and is in need of a suitable lampshade if it is to stay in this spot – then I am content that for the moment I have struck a warm balance between minimal and decorated, at least for what gives me that “I’m home” feeling after a trip away.

And by the way, here is another one of our rare souvenir purchases. This is a hand-embroidered doily acquired during our visit to Hungary a few years back. I particularly admired it as I learnt the Balkan style of cross-stitch when I lived in Yugoslavia decades ago. (The red and white cloth under the new vase is one of my pieces). Instead of using it to protect a coffee table, I decided to hang it. Spare a thought for the framer who had to stretch out all the thread fringes. He or she did a great job at a reasonable price. Please try to overlook the reflections in the glass (lucky I didn’t catch Bill snoozing on the lounge). I really must remind myself to ask for non-reflective glass whenever I order framing!


Sunday 18th December, 2016

17 thoughts on “Home from Victoria

  1. Pingback: Day 14 of our Victorian Road Trip: Bright | The Reluctant Retiree

  2. Hi Gwen. I always enjoy reading about your travels and your unique Journeys through life. I have been behind in everything blog related but hope to keep in touch throughout the coming year. Happy New Year to you and your husband.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Always lovely to see strong colour applied to interior walls. I frequently think that gold-framed art is enhanced by being displayed against a bold colour choice whereas black-framed photos usually look better on a white or pale wall. It’s only taken me a couple of decades to notice this! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t have got there by myself, I have an interior decorating dear friend. She got us across the line with three feature walls: the red you see in the entrance way, a metallic gold in the guest bedroom – which has been applied with a broom so it almost looks like textured wallpaper, and a warm neutral in our main bedroom, which makes for a very relaxing space The black frames were also her idea, to tie together the various photos and artwork dotted around the apartment. I have a fabulous print of Miao women from China, it’s applied by a woodblock process; a Chinese silk embroidered piece of cranes; and a cross-stitch of Chinese symbols that a friend made when she saw the other items. Above the vase on the traymobile are two pieces featuring Chinese musicians painted onto to leaves; and nearby a collection of plates from the Bradford Exchange inspired by the Thai legend of The Ramakien. . . . . I thought this post might catch your eye. The original photo of the Italian ceramics was stunning, but I reduced the file size as I am trying to conserve space on WordPress. The detail on their faces was luminescent in the original photo.


      • It certainly all works well and looks like a stylish home. I have to admit in my little corner there are only two types of picture frames and that’s black or beaten up/distressed gold. I expect professional interior decorators always check the ‘use of picture frames’ note on their guidelines.
        I can still remember my Art History professor asking our seminar group to list why people buy art and waiting and waiting until finally she gave up and added the final reason (not a single one of us aspiring art historians ventured this one) -‘because it works with their interior’. I suppose some people do, but I still like to think that more emotive reasons such as memories of people and places are important as well, and, naturally simply you liked it! (Of course, I can’t bring myself to comment on ‘as an investment’).

        Liked by 1 person

        • My Miao women was love at first sight. Bill was so surprised as I NEVER react that way. I bought it in China and carried it around with me in a tube for a month. The gallery gave me a book on artist – Li Yili born near Chongqing 1954 – but I have never been able to find out more about him. I don’t exactly understand the technique, something to do with wood engraving and gouache. I inserted a photo of it in an earlier post.https://garrulousgwendoline.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/the-colour-in-my-life/
          The women attending the bride are wearing the silver jewellery featured in this post I found on the internet: http://viola.bz/miao-women-traditional-silver-jewelry/
          . . . The only reason I would buy art is emotional – I’d go broke if my expertise was used in buying for investment. But there are some here who do so. They buy and sell so that they are constantly upgrading their home displays. Which is different I suppose from buying purely with an eye to current and future value and hoarding until that day comes.


          • I just don’t get buying for investment in any way at all. All I can say is it’s just as well somebody hasn’t found a way of buying and selling a sunset otherwise everything would be commodified.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Your art is wonderful! Wish I could be content staying home but find an almost overwhelming desire to take off again after a month or so enjoying the comforts of home. The time in between long trips keeps getting shorter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • In thinking about this, maybe you love to keep moving because the the places you are visiting are so out of the ordinary, and require such physical effort and fitness, and have nothing in common with your “normal” life because you are living in foreign parts that are not your home base??? Or perhaps I am just getting a little old and settled, while you are still young and vibrant. Or maybe, our home place is so luxurious and comfortable that for me it is a strong pleasure to return to??? I think for me, travelling in the car is too much of a temptation to pack extra things, so I get a little hampered with them along the way. If I learnt to travel light again, i.e. one set of clothes on the body, one in the backpack, and one in the wash, then I would truly recapture the joy of being on the travel road month after month. – Then again, maybe I just need to lose 20 pound, get as fit as you, and travel solo – then you wouldn’t see my tail for dust! Glad you like the artwork – I do feel every piece tells a story.


      • I figured it out Gwen! It’s simple. When I return home to the familiar and comfortable it takes only a short time to appreciate that and being with friends until I realize what compartmentalized traditions, routines, and habits everyone lives within – Nutcracker every Christmas, swimming every morning, same groups and clubs. I’m not judging that but it’s not for me. I need new places and people and ideas… Turning 70 this year is a bit scary but I had a physical a few weeks ago and no problems at all… Will take off again in 20117 and hope to visit friends in Denmark and then travel in Europe before returning to South Africa. Not ready to get a dog and sit by the fireplace yet! Thanks for allowing the ramble 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ramble anytime. I always enjoy catching up with your posts and comments, even though it may take me a little while. If I could manage to be as fit and healthy as you at 70 I am going to have to be much more disciplined – so I am so glad for you that you are. Imagine being so open to new experiences and not having the body keeping up. yekkk! Do enjoy your next travels! Denmark is such a lovely country and its citizens, at least the ones I have met, are very community minded. I used to go to a dairy farm in Ferristlev on the island of Fyn. Unfortunately, my original friends have passed on, and I have not kept regular contact with their children and grandchildren, although one of those was active in politics and is with an agricultural agency now. Where will you go?


  5. Hi Gwen, I didn’t know Bill had a collection of matchbooks. Maybe that’s because they were hidden at the back of a wardrobe in a plastic bag? It’s funny because my Dad’s window-cleaner collected them too, and Dad asked us to pick them up wherever we travelled. The window-cleaner was obviously not too fussed about having visited the places himself. He had over 15000 I believe.

    Love your artistic arrangement of baubles in the vase.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sue. Maybe the window cleaner was happy to travel vicariously, perhaps resigned to the knowledge he could not travel all the roads he wanted for himself? Next time you are over here, we must get Bill to do a show and tell? xxx


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