Smugged Up

In general, it’s pretty hard to contemplate the state of your heating system in mid-January, but these are no ordinary times. I’m actually wearing a jumper and sheepskin boots as I write this, and I’ve got half a mind to turn on the heater. I’m not going to, because that’s ridiculous and I’m not going to be that person. But the fact is that it’s pretty darned close to being cool enough to justify it.

Unseasonal temps aside, I’ve always thought summer was the best time to get someone in to look at the heating. People say it’s too early, but while I might be a stickler for ducted gas heating checks, Melbourne residents seem to be following suit. Each year, the heating companies seem to be more and more booked out as winter approaches, so I’ve been scheduling my annual service earlier and earlier.

Now that it’s ended up in my calendar for January, I can’t help but feel a bit smug, because it pretty much feels like late autumn outside. Still, I don’t feel great about it. All signs point to the fact that people like me, running their heaters with abandon, are actively contributing to these weird seasonal temperatures.

When it comes to heating services for Melbourne at large, questions invariably arise. Is it resource efficient for everyone to have central heating? If it’s not sustainable for everyone to have it, then should anybody have it? What are the alternatives? These thoughts (and then some) occur to me every time I turn my system on. I’m not sure what the solution is, although I can refrain from running the heating during mid-summer.

That doesn’t mean I can’t get it serviced, though. The truth is that I’m bound to be using it come winter, so I might as well make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible. I’ll just try not to be overly smug about it.

Look Ute, Feel Ute

I should have thought twice before agreeing to go shopping with Trisha and Stephen. If I had, I might have realised that their idea of that activity differed somewhat from mine. See, I thought we would be hitting the mall, demolishing a few sales, grabbing a smoothie, doing some more window shopping, maybe catching a movie afterwards. So I was taken by surprise when I realised we were trekking out to a place that fabricates aluminium accessories for utes.

Not that I’ve got anything against utes – they’re all well and good with me; I just don’t know much about them, and more to the point I don’t own one. I don’t think I’ve ever expressed even the vaguest interest in buying a ute. So, in short, it was a bit of perplexing exercise. I can only put it down to the fact that Trisha and Stephen want to get me in on their 4WD adventures, and do so by simply exposing me to the wide array of add-ons on offer. 

I won’t deny that their enthusiasm proved just a tiny bit infectious. I mean, I’d never imagined there was such a thing as a custom-built ute toolbox for sale. Melbourne tradies might roll their eyes at this, which seems fair – of course this is a thing. Again, though – I don’t own a ute and I never have, so why would I have given a passing thought to ute toolboxes? Evidently, I’ve been too busy stacking shoeboxes. 

Moreover, there’s a whole world of aluminium ute canopy designs out there. Before today, I probably would have heard that and figured it was some kind of hot new canapé, with aluminium being the last word in trendy, unconventional ingredients since charcoal. Hey, that’s just how my mind works. 

So, am I going to join the ute brigade? Maybe. Stranger things have happened, like that time I found those new-in-box Manilo Blochnik shoes at a car boot sale for a fiver.

Secret Hyperbaric Society

Well, I have to admit it, this was a pretty good idea after all. When Daniel first mentioned getting a portable hyperbaric chamber for the lodge, I thought he’d lost his mind. The funds in the treasury were low enough already and I honestly couldn’t see the use. But ever since we got one, it’s been incredibly popular. All of the British noblemen of Melbourne are enjoying it, so much so that we’ve had to establish a half-hour limit to hyperbaric sessions.

I asked Daniel how he got the idea, and he said that he’d recently been getting mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Melbourne residing British noblemen don’t usually need such things, since we’re all pretty healthy and rich, but Daniel explained that it’s not just for physical health purposes. Hyperbaric therapy can apparently reduce anxiety and stress. He seemed to know what he was talking about, so I voted in favour when the Lodge Master brought the topic up. Now it’s so popular in the lodge that you have to book two weeks in advance if you want the hyperbaric chamber. We might need to invest in a second one.

I’m not really sure where Reginald managed to find the money for our first hyperbaric chamber, though. A week ago it was looking like we’d have to close the lodge after a few of our members lost access to their family trust funds and couldn’t pay their one million dollar tithe. I still think Reginald is up to something, but I swore that I wouldn’t look into it any further, and that I’d try to leave the fact that I wasn’t made treasurer behind us. For the good of the British Noblemen of Melbourne Society, I won’t investigate anymore. I’ll just check the spycam set up in the treasury before I go to bed tonight, and then I will be done. Who cares if suddenly Reginald can get hyperbaric chambers for all of us? I’m sure there’s nothing suspicious about it at all.

Beach House Build

My boyfriend and I are at the peak of our professional careers so far. We are in our mid-thirties, and collectively we are earning the most money we’ve ever earned. As a result, we’ve decided to buy a property of land in a Victorian beach-side town, and we will build a home together that we can use as our beach house for years to come.

As neither my boyfriend or I are tradespeople, we will be leaving the build and design to the experts. I have made a number of requests of features that I would like in the home, with the first being an awning window installation. I have always been a massive fan of awning windows. They have a real character about them that, in my opinion, makes any home feel instantly more homely. I feel like having awning windows in our beach house makes a lot of sense, as we will be able to open them and let in the sea breeze, but don’t have to commit to completely open windows. 

My second request for the design of our new home is to change the designers choice of our front door. I don’t mean to be picky but the door doesn’t allude to the vibe I want my house to give off, which is why we’ll need a door replacement. Melbourne builders and designers are incredibly talented and eager to incorporate the ideas of their clients, which is why I feel I am able to make suggestions such as these to our designers.

I’m really glad that we’ve employed people to help work on our home, as it is really important to me that our money is being spent wisely and that the house will last my boyfriend and I for many years to come. I am so certain that he’ll be the person I spend the rest of my life with, which is why building this home together is so exciting. We’re entering the next stage of our relationship, and I am filled with joy because of it.

Family Betrayal!

I’m not happy. Not. Happy. Stan. And I’m especially not happy with you, Gran.

I thought this family was united, all metaphorically linking arms and skipping into the sea to start a new life in a dome home. The boat’s all ready to go, I got Melbourne’s best stainless steel marine fabrication on the case to make it the perfect carrier vehicle. Then there’s an emergency meeting of the McCann Clan, and it turns out that Jan, Stan and Gran are all going to stay on land.

Can you imagine? Such betrayal! And then Dan stands up, saying that their passion has sawyed him; he and his wife Fran are out as well, as well as their triplets: Bran, Lan and Tyran.

That just leaves me, Yan, Han and Xian. We’ve booked ourselves quite a large dome home, and I’m just not sure the four of us are going to be able to pay the rent all by ourselves, or perform the daily tasks that come with owning that sort of property. Someone needs to feed the fish, check that the rod holders are still functional, and scrub the barnacles off the surface of the entrance tube. Oh, and don’t even get me started on how Stan was supposed to be the one who did all the emergency marine welding when we were out on the ocean and couldn’t get them to the actual, professional marine stainless steel fabrication people. He did an apprenticeship with Old Man Gilligan that one time for two weeks. Old Man Gilligan unfortunately perished at sea when he mistook the fishing rod holder cable for his bootstraps, laced them up good, let down the cable in the middle of a storm (to catch the legendary Melbourne Storm Fish) and…um, well, you know. He will be missed. He will be avenged! In fact, a large part of why we’re moving under the sea is so that we can better plot our dark revenge against the ocean itself.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’m going to have to go find some great bait board experts, and use their…expertise. Ask them if a dome home can be maintained on a skeleton crew, you know? And of course, now we’re adding over half the family to the revenge list, so that’s even more of a time sink.

-Ann Azerbaijan McCann

Free Driving Country

I’m really starting to get used to this version of Australia. For one thing, it’s free, as is travel. I’ve only ever seen cities other than Melbourne from afar, since, you know…we’re all locked in a bitter war with each other. In this world, you literally just flash a driver’s license to prove you’re the person who bought the ticket and you can fly anywhere.

Like, while classes are on break, I’m visiting Adelaide. There’s all this greenery, and people smile instead of shooting you on sight. You can just rent a car, and getting the services of an auto mechanic is something you just…do. No going out into the badlands scavenging for parts, no waiting eight weeks for government authorisation that will probably be denied because parts are needed for either the war effort or for the gravity engines that keep the city aloft. You just go to a car mechanic, say that maybe you need a wheel alignment service, and they do it. Truly, freedom to get wheel alignment services with nothing more than an appointment booking is the symbol of a prosperous society.

Although one complaint: I shouldn’t have to get that sort of car service with a hire car. I had to go for the ultra cheap option, renting a car from Seedy Dan’s Rental Bombs, and the contract states that all repairs are the renter’s concern. Back in my reality, that sort of negligence would be punishable by mind wipe, after which the business owner would either be repurposed as a worker drone or an actual drone (as in, they’d be fired at the enemy as a way to damage morale). 

But this is nice, mostly. Car services on demand (sort of – at least, from my perspective), and freedom to get in a car and travel wherever you like. I haven’t checked, but I think you could, if you wanted, travel from Melbourne to Adelaide without there being any borders – crazy. And even if you were from another city, you could freely use car services open in Adelaide, as if you lived there. Double crazy! I really could get used to this kind of luxury.


Expand Your Mind

Why do people’s houses always end up looking exactly the same after renovations? I’m exaggerating, obviously, but seriously – try this simple exercise. Next time you visit a friend who’s renovated, notice the details like cabinet handles and light fittings, as well as general layout. Keep this in mind, and repeat. You’ll soon start to notice that they’ve all got pretty much the same thing going on, even if it looks different at first glance.

I guess that’s just the nature of fashion, and you could very well say the same about how people dress. It’s just what’s available on the market at a given time. Still, there are always alternative ways of doing things, which most people fail to think of. So, here’s a tip for free: if you’re thinking of renovating part of your home, consider opening your mind beyond what you’ve seen other people doing, and what’s in catalogues and magazines. 

I’m sure that most kitchen and bathroom designers would be only too happy to oblige you in creating something genuinely original. They care enough about design to have a degree in it, after all, and they must be tired of getting asked to do the same thing day after day. Ever imagined having a graceful, shell pink archway over your shower? A water tight sound system unit positioned under the bath? A secret drawer, perhaps, especially designed to house your collection of hot sauces from around the world? You can have all that and then some if you just ask.

I mean, it probably does depend on who you get for the job. You’re going to get a different result from a generic, off-the-shelf kitchen installer compared to a boutique kitchen renovations specialist. Melbourne has the full spectrum of options, so if you shoot even a little bit upward from the bottom rung then you’ve got a good chance of your designer having some interest in realising your vision. 

Bay Tree Offering

“Crikey mate, watch out for that snake!” That’s what I said to my cameraman as we headed deep into the bush in search of the elusive drop bear. With a knife in one hand and a branch of the bay tree in the other, I crept around the slithery beast. I’ve fought crocodiles and emus, but I’m yet to tangle with the devil’s kin. Likewise, I was yet to fight a drop bear.

A bottle cork hat would keep me protected from the deadly beasts of the air, and a singlet, shorts and thongs are all you need to fight off the oppressive Aussie heat. Some people believe you should use this thing called sunscreen, but that’s just a myth.

“What’s the code word again?” I asked my team, not taking my eyes off the narrow path ahead.

Anemone,” one of them answered.

“Right, anaemia,” I said.

“No, it’s anemone.”

“That’s what I said. Allegedly.”

Up ahead, I spotted it. The great drop bear. Legend has it that there’s only three in Australia. As quick as demons and as heavy as a bus, they can take a man out with little more than a stare. I gripped the bay tree branch harder, ready to give it to the drop bear as a peace offering.

As I approached, the devilish creature looked up at me. I held back a shriek. Deep within its eyes, I could see its horrible desires. Unspeakable desires. I got within ten metres and placed the branch down.

Then something horrible happened. It began to move toward me. But I was ready for this! I reached into my backpack and pulled out a jar of black vegetable paste. The only known repellant. Unscrewed the lid. Dipped my fingers in.


A scream. It came from my own throat. “Gemini! Legacy! Independency!” I tried words at random, but my team did not move. What was it again? “Helpfully? Embassy? Oh, anemone! Anemone!”

With that one, beautiful word, my team sprung to action, pulling me out of that deadly situation. We fled, leaving the branch of a bay tree behind in the dust. The drop bear began to feast.

– Keith the Outback Expert

Minimalist Space

Oh no, this is a disaster. Our office is completely ruined! I knew I shouldn’t have let Toby take control of the designs. I told him it was supposed to be space-themed, as in minimalist, but he thought I meant outer space-themed. I can’t believe this. Now the carpet is boring grey and all our chairs are moon rocks. There are stars hanging from the ceiling and a massive model of Jupiter blocking the doorway to the conference room. What was he thinking?

We’ll have to just deal with this for a few days while I talk to a business that offers commercial office fitouts in Melbourne. It’s important that we get a real minimalist design and fitout here, because my staff are easily distracted. Right now, James and Caroline are on a “tour of the solar system” instead of doing their jobs. It’s very frustrating, but I like everyone here too much to fire any of them. So I’ll just take away all their distractions.

Just the other day, when we had our initial meeting to discuss the changes, I asked everyone how we could become the most productive office in Melbourne. Office design, I said. I was about to elaborate, but then a solar eclipse happened outside and I lost all of their attention. That’s when I told Toby to sort out a minimalist space for us, so maybe he got confused because of the solar event. 

It’s really quite the epidemic, the lack of attention. Not good for a business that sells “attentiveness coffee” to university students. It’s possible the product is just a placebo, because about six months ago it stopped working on everyone here. Now if they so much as hear an ice cream truck or a fire engine on the street, they’re out of their chairs and into the car park. My solution is nothing interesting here, internet blockers and soundproofing for every room in the building. I hope it works.

Obsessed With Glass

For some reason, my girlfriend has this thing for glass. I went to her house the other day, and there was just glass everywhere. Glass doors, glass windows, glass television, glass microwave. It’s crazy. I don’t know why she is so obsessed with it, but honestly, it’s starting to weird me out a little. Every time I go out with her, she insists that I wear glasses, even though I have no need for them. She wears glasses too, even though she’s got 20/20 vision. All she’s been talking about lately is how she’s looking for residential glazing, which I have to give my opinion on.

I didn’t even realise they had glass versions of all these objects. Whose idea was it to make glass cutlery? I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea, but I’m not sure what the purpose is. Next, she’s going to come out and tell me there’s such a thing as glass clothing. That would be a bit weird if she demanded I go to a restaurant in glass pants.

It makes it pretty easy to buy gifts for her, though. I can just go on a crafts website and choose literally anything made out of glass. If our relationship gets really serious, a glass ring will cost less than a diamond one, too. And I’ve always liked the look of the glass balustrades across Melbourne, so that would be nice to have at our future house. Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining.

After all, she hasn’t judged me for my house made of straw. Yes, I know the story of the three little pigs, but I’m not really worried about a wolf coming and blowing it down. That’s why I stay away from wolves in the first place. I don’t want to annoy any of them into destroying my home. But if they did come for my house, the straw man outside should be able to deal with them while I escape.