Monday, January 14, 2008

It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw

originally uploaded by mfcorwin.

Seventeen years ago today, I started work at a public service department in Canberra. I'd moved from Townsville a week before, living at Gowrie Hostel and being, well, shit-scared. I was alone, thousands of kilometres from my family and my boyfriend, and here I was in a strange city meeting strange people and about to start work in a very strange government department.

And yet I was excited. Canberra was going to give me the freedom to live my life, meet new people, experience new things and think new thoughts which just weren't possible in a North Queensland town.

It certainly lived up to my expectations. Within a week, two other Gowrie tenants and I had moved into a little courtyard house in Kaleen. Other friends from Gowrie moved across the oval, some into the next suburb. When we went out as friends, all twenty of us went together. Dinner parties were only possible if everyone brought a plate and a chair. It was a great time.

1991 was the year I started on my Great Crochet Project. Surrounded as I was by friends and housemates, I think I was actually really lonely. So I decided to make a rug of granny squares. I went to Grace Bros in Belconnen, back when they sold yarn, and bought a lot of Cleackheaton Country in green, blue and burgundy. Then I crocheted a square. Then another.

My friend Naf was my resident nagger. Everytime we saw each other, usually daily, he'ds ask how the rug was going. He managed to guilt me into finishing it, which I think I did by that first Canberra spring in 1991.

By the time I was stitching the rug up, it was so heavy I could barely lift it. It was so heavy the yarn would pull itself out of the square and I'd have to remove a square and remake it. There was no blocking, no thought of how a heavy, holey granny square rug would keep me warm, but I made it and I was proud of that rug. I couldn't put it on my bed without it suffocating me, but it was done and I felt warm having made it.

Years later it was wallowing in the bottom of a cupboard, still unusable as time had not made it any lighter or warmer. By then mum had made me a lighter ripple rug and that was getting plenty of use. Mr QM convinced me that I should send the rug to the salvos where someone could make better use of it. So I donated it. I no longer loved it. The reasons for making it had been forgotten.

I still think of that rug, of making those squares sitting on the floor watching Twin Peaks and Friday Night Football with my housemates seventeen years ago. Of Naf asking me almost daily how the rug was going. Of sketching out the layout of those squares using highlighter pens during work time. Those are the memories I will keep with me forever. I don't need the rug to remind me of them.


  1. What a great Canberra story. They don't do hostels anymore here, do they? 17 years sounds like yesterday, but at the same time, a long time ago. Back when old Grace Bros sold yarn - wow, we must have shopped for crochet blanket yarn there around the same time. I remember walking in there in around 1995 to buy some more only to be told they'd closed down their haberdashery section. I remember thinking, 'but where else do you buy yarn?' Ah, the old days.

    Am glad you stayed. And anyway, Mr QM was just around the corner waiting for you!

  2. And Sean says Gowrie Hostel is now Fenner Hall. Is that right?

  3. great story. i moved to canberra the first time in 1987 to go to uni, i lived on campus at anu (bruce hall) and then out to hackett with friends. they were the best years! that whole communal living thing, really fond memories.i dont think i was doing much yarn shopping tho ;) and yes, i was wondering whether Mr QM was part of that scene too?!

  4. Oh, that's a nice story. And happy workiversary!

  5. Thanks Michelle - I really enjoyed this post. Very evocative.

  6. Oh I enjoyed this post Michelle! I too remember haberdashery at Grace Bros and being annoyed when they got rid of it.

  7. A very positive story when you've just moved to Canberra for the same reasons!

    I love the last sentence. It reminds me of a quote I got given a few years ago: "Happiness is nonetheless true happiness, nor do thought and love lose their value if they are not everlasting." It was Bertrand Russell who said it. I like the fact that just because things change didn't mean that they weren't great.

  8. Hi Mick!!
    Miss you guys! Managed to miss SnB dicko again last night... yet another child care bug, and house inspection to get ready for!! Will TRY to get along to one soon tho!!
    Loved looking back through your posts! You've been so prolific (in your crochet, and your blogging!). Gorgeous stuff you've made and lovely writing. I love your new banner for the blog too!
    Catch up soon hopefully!

  9. Bells - yep, Gowrie is now Fenner. Poor ANU students!

    kms - Mr QM came to Canberra two years later. Our eyes met across a crowded bar at work drinkies, and the rest is sweet history.

    Neet - I miss you! Come back to us!!

  10. Hey QM - gorgeous post!
    Pity about Borders - but getting a 'nice' discount is pretty good =) xo

  11. At first I thought, "No! Don't get rid of the rug". Then I thought "Which op-shop? When?" Then I thought - the memory endures and that's the important bit.

  12. I was at Gowrie during 1990. Moved to canberra from India to study interior designing at TAFE. I was all alone away from my family and into a totally different culture.
    I tried to find some link on the net.(I'll try Fenner hall)
    This post has helped me connect to old memories.


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