With respect to the envelope created for Cecilia's International Mail
Exchange, the relevance of the design will not be lost on Australians,
and will probably elicit not a few grins......but for those not resident
on our shores, some explanation is required.
The dunegan, or as it is more commonly known, the dunny (due to the
Australian propensity to backshorten or lengthen existing words, and add
the uniquely Australian 'y/ie' suffix - to whit, 'mozzie, tinny, cozzie,
Aussie, sickie, barbie, trucky, wharfie, bricky', etc.) occupies a special
place in the psyche of Australians - particularly those of my generation.
People who have lived their lives with the indoor, flush toilet have
truly missed one of life's more interesting experiences, and I would like
to share some of the excitement of the dunny with you, as seen through
the eyes of a young child.
It is the dead of night, in the dead of winter, and the child awakes
suddenly, feeling the pressing need to urinate throb hot and hard against
an immature bladder. She lies still for a moment, idly kicking at her now
tepid hottie (hot water bottle), garnering courage for what is inevitable
- but despite this, she hopes against all hope that this physical need
will pass, allowing her to drift back into dream-spangled slumber. However,
in this harsh and cruel world of reality, such a thing is not to be, and
with a sigh almost approaching a whimpering moan, she reluctantly throws
back the bed covers, being careful to replace them so that her sanctuary
will still have some vestige of warmth when she returns - not from the
unknown, but from the all-too frighteningly known.
No lights are necessary, for she knows the curves and angles of her
own house at night well enough. She shivers, and goose-bumps rise on her
flesh....and not just from the frigid air. She is only five years old,
and cannot recall where she left her moccies (moccasins) - but she cannot
turn on lights to search for them, for she will wake the other members
of the household. It matters not - as she habitually goes barefooted so
she will do this time.
As she reaches the backdoor, she flicks on the outside light - a naked
bulb hanging from its wires......and no answering blaze of light floods
through the laundry window, for the light has gone to that place where
all dead lights go - wherever that may be. She shivers afresh, and opens
the back door. It is very gloomy, and sky being overcast, with no moon
and stars to guide her - and, to add insult to bare-footed injury, it has
been raining - and the path is now a muddy slosh.
She wishes young-girl fancies of candles and torches (flashlights)
- but she is too young to play with firesticks, and, of 'bold and roving
stock', supposedly too brave for the frivolity of battery operated tools.
So, with the mud squelching between her toes, she pads toward the lowering
gloom of the dunny, and as she reaches it's half-door, on sagging hinges,
she is faced with a dreadful decision. Shall she close the door and be
immersed in stygian gloom (for the luxury of electric lighting in the very
best of dunnies is unheard of), or shall she leave the door open, so that
the feeble light may comfort her a little? - ah, no. The boogeyman will
get her if she leaves the door open, so she closes it, enveloping herself
in the redolence of her surroundings - not to put too fine a point on it,
dunnies reek - and not of roses.
She gingerly places herself upon the hole in the benchseat, for she
has been weaned on the story of her Nana being bitten on the bum by a red-back
spider (close relative of the black widow) - for reasons best known to
these vicious little brutes, they love the dark nooks and crannies of the
dunny best, particularly around the seat. With relief, she eases the pressure
on her bladder, waiting all the time for the sting that will let her know
that the red-back has found her tender flesh - but that sting does not
come - this time.
Wiping herself hurriedly with one of the squares of newspaper hanging
on a hunk of string draped over a nail in the wall, she dashes back to
the safety and security of her home. With squeaking care she closes the
inner laundry door, and turns on the light. Taking the white towel neatly
hanging beside the sink, she wipes her muddy feet carefully, and rehangs
towel. She knows that come morning, this transgression will bring wrath
down on her head, but she is young, and she does not care - for she has
survived another night trip to that wonderful place of magic - the dunny.
Is this true? Yes, it is, but it is a combination of all the dunnies
I have graced with my presence over the course of my life. The dunny that
we had as a child was precisely as described - with a couple of notable
exceptions. My father kept it clear of red-backs (but it still didn't stop
those thoughts creeping in that one might have been in while father was
out!), it was extremely well made, and we had the wonderful luxury of real,
'modern' toilet paper.
So, to the envelope.
The thinking processes that caused me to come up with the idea of having
a dunny on the front of the envelope don't matter. Each stage of the design
had to be carefully thought out, from the point of view of the receiver,
so the envelope has some rather different closures.
The dunny proper, hand-drawn onto the cover of one of the little books
that forms my Season's Greetings wishes, has been attached to the front
of the envelope with two sturdy pieces of cotton thread, taken through
the skin of the envelope to the back, and tied into bows with generous
lengths of cotton - this enables the recipient to extract the 'book', for
the closure is a nifty little device with end-pieces - the top one of which
is up against the dunny roof - this particular one simulates timber, although
many dunnies have corrugated iron roofs, rusty and holey. Three triangular
pieces of mountboard, glued together, are encased inside the paper covering
The paper of the envelope is a plastic-wrapped creation made by my
daughter Dani - utilizing all the Ziller colors on the one sheet, and with
half a pot of Aztec Pearl-Ex powder accidently dumped on for good measure
- the paper was rubbed back numerous times to try and rid it of the surplus
powder - but still one's hands sparkle after handling the envelope. The
writing is black Ziller, with 'red-backs' through the centre. The butterfly
comes from wrapping paper, and was an afterthought - the irony of the mixture
of elements in this design gave me cause for some amusement, and a lot
of fun in the making. The stamp is an older Australian stamp, chosen because
of the red breast of the black backed bird - as was the butterfly chosen
for its red and black.
In order to allow access to the envelope, the sides can be opened....
double, glued hearts (because of how I feel about the recipient, not anything
to do with how I feel about the spiders....or the dunnies, come to think
of it!) form the closures, with carefully plaited metallic cotton threads
being wrapped around these hearts to keep the sides closed. The closing
mechanism on the flap is the same, with the string being wound around two
closely set hearts.
Under the flap is a drawing of a red-back spider, colored with red
and black Ziller ink, and mounted on a spring. Cecilia has no fear of spiders,
but I'm not ashamed to say that I don't like large ones - particularly
large venomous ones. Still and all, I warned her not to get a fright when
she opened the flap.
Inside the envelope are many things, and the contents don't matter.
Participants were asked to link the envelope front to the contents, and
this criteria I satisfied fully with my spider - the rest of the contents
were merely whimsy.
One small sequel to this description, if you will indulge me one moment
further. I hand-delivered this envelope, which I was assured was within
the 'rules'. I was the first to contribute to this splendid exchange, and
with some glee informed Cecilia that my envelope would be first on this
portion of the site - to which she responded, squib and wet-blanket like,
that her site was arranged by alphabetical order. Quick as a flash I told
her I would change my family name by deed poll. Quick as a flash she told
me it was alphabetical order by given name. Quick as a flash I told her
I was henceforth going to be known as Aardvark Ter Haar - and it would
not be the first time I have been called an Aardvark! Cecilia did me the
honor of returning my envelope to me so that I could insert what I had
neglected to insert, this not being strictly necessary for a hand-delivered
.....so, proudly written on the back is:
"Aardvark Ter Haar,
49 Packham, 3150."
And here endeth my tale of the dunegan, and the story of my contribution
to Cecilia's magnificent site......ah! One more little thought. Cecilia
placed the envelope in front of me in class on Thursday. I dipped my pointed
pen into the red ink, unwound the closure on the flap, and lifted it -
and cleared my bum from the seat by around a good six inches. Hoist on
my own petard, I frightened myself to death with the too-realistic red-back
lurking under the flap. Sigh.
Of 'bold and roving stock' indeed!
(note from Cecilia) "Karen was a little premature in re-naming
herself 'Aardvark' as I soon realised that the submissions for the International
Mail Art Gallery could not be arranged in my normal alphabetical order
as this would make it clumsy for anyone wishing to pop in and see if there
were any new artworks in this section - the order just HAS to be in the
order received, this each new submission appearing at the top of the list.
So Karen is actually first on the list but the list begins at the bottom!"