All the houses I’ve lived in.

Inspired by a recent exhibition at the State Library of Queensland I started thinking about all the houses I’ve lived in. The exhibition featured thousands of photos of houses around Brisbane, the life’s work of a couple who had a business, started in the 1950s, taking photos and selling them to the householders.

Who knew old houses could be so fascinating

I’ve always loved architecture and some of my favourite painters feature architectural details and interiors.

High Noon by Edward Hopper

I had the idea to go back and sketch, from memory (with a little help from Street View), all the houses I have lived in. Years ago I had, of all things, a linen tea-towel featuring the work of an Australian artist – line drawings of all the houses he’d lived in. He’d lived in some pretty unique places from a condo in Dubai to an old Mill in the UK. By contrast, I’ve lived in a series of typical Queenslander style cottages and a smattering of boring brick houses. Not exactly artistically inspiring.

I found the first house Michael and I bought in Brisbane in the database of the exhibition. It didn’t look like this when we bought it and the people who bought it from us divided the block and built a replica next door. Not cool.

After making a few quicks drawings from memory I realised all the houses basically looked the same so I shelved the idea of creating artwork and began writing about the memories conjured up by taking the virtual walk down memory lane using Google Maps.

This (The drawing above) is the house my parents took me home to when I was about six weeks old…oh, did I mention I was a rescue? Adopt don’t shop!! Haha

There was an aviary under the stairs. My dad loves birds. We had dogs, chickens, cows, bees and horse named after a dog food brand for reasons I don’t want to go into here.

We moved when I was maybe 5 1/2 but I could still draw the floor plan of that house. There was a window seat in the formal lounge. I really have no bad memories of living there except that we had to move into town. My earliest memory is of standing on the front landing reaching up as high as I could to hold the top rail, watching my dad my lawn. To this day, the sound of a mower on a summer afternoon and the scent of fresh cut grass reminds me of my dad.

In addition to having 6 kids of their own and adopting me, my parents fostered kids and I have a strong recurring memory of an art deco style house somewhere. I think it has something to do with Becky. She was a little girl we cared for because her mother was incapable most of the time.

The strong memory of my second home, in town, was that it was too small, but one brother had gone away to work on a cattle property and another had joined the army.

Once again I could draw the floor plan. The garden was big, but then I was small, so perhaps it wasn’t as big as I thought. There was a frangipani that I fell in love with. Is there anything as good as the scent of a frangipani flower?

The neighbourhood was quiet and the school was just a short walk away. The boy next door had a lot of problems. After we moved I overheard Mum telling someone that his mum found a knife under his mattress. Apparently he said he wanted to kill somebody to see what it felt like. Eep. 

There was a skylight in the bathroom because it was retrofitted in the centre of the old cottage. I’d never seen a skylight before! It obviously left quite an impression! My youngest brother and I slept on the sleepout, a kind of closed-in Veranda that a lot of Queenslander houses have. One night I was attacked by a cat while I was sleeping. It was terrifying! You’d think I’d be terrified of cats now…I remember my face was pretty messed up. I wonder if my parents have any photos of that – my dad took photos of everything! 

In this house I saw my dad cry for the first time. This isn’t a very good memory. Becky’s incapacitated mother had…let her down. Terrible awful memories. I was never told the circumstances of course, but I remember flowers sitting on the piano, people crying. Fleeting strange moments like snap-shots in my mind.

I remember watching The Sound of Music in the TV room and finally realising that it was actually a really sad movie, that it was about the Nazi occupation of Austria! My mum loved that movie and we’d watched it numerous times but before that fateful night I must’ve been sent to bed before the Von Traps had to escape. We younger kids were probably sent to bed at the same time as the younger Von Traps. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight…

The third house I lived in was an incredible old house on the outskirts of town. It was really run down when we moved in but Mum did her usual; bloomed where she was planted. The kitchen was huge and in the style of older homes, semi-detached from the rest of the house. This was done in case of fire. It had an almost-Inglenook-style hearth and a large butlers pantry. Unfortunately the pantry had been used as a makeshift home for the former tenants cats. It was horrific. I can still remember the smell. Once again, you’d think I wouldn’t be a fan of cats!

Mum hired some painters to paint the house and they washed their brushes in the pool. Once it was freshly painted and we’d settled in, it was a great place to live. This house had an amazing veranda that faced south west and we sat there and watched summer storms go across the city.

I broke my arm when we lived here and had my first existential crisis (I felt that time was running out…) I remember learning to ride a bike, building cubby houses and camping in the bush and being well hated by the crabby neighbour.

It’s amazing what we remember. I’m sure my brothers and sister would have very different memories of these houses.


  1. Gershon Ben-Avraham

    What an absolutely cool post! Thinking of Proust and place: “But for me it was enough if, in my own bed, my sleep was so heavy as completely to relax my consciousness; for then I lost all sense of the place in which I had gone to sleep, and when I awoke at midnight, not knowing where I was, I could not be sure at first who I was;…” Thanks, Christine.

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