THE DUNEGAN

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 the
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 them.

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 envelope.......

.....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!"

 Karen's Envelope
 Mail Art Gallery
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