Old folk at lunch

Monday, January 16, 2017

Carpet and I


When I was growing up in the tropical North, nobody had carpet on the floor.  We had lino (linoleum; Congoleum) on the floor.  Lino was cool, somehow.  On really hot days, people would lie down on the lino to keep cool.

So my first encounter with carpet was down in Sydney, when I acquired an offcut of Westminster carpet. If you don't know Westminster carpet you have missed something.  It was indestructible. Nothing seemed to harm it.  And that was appreciated for a while.  It was widely laid in the '60s and '70s.  But it came in plain colours only.  No patterns. So after living with the stuff for 10 years and having it look as new as when it was laid, people got very bored with it.  They ripped it up and threw away perfectly good carpet. After a few years, I also ended up abandoning my offcut somewhere. It is still available but probably not from your local carpet shop. I believe you can get some patterns in it these days.

In Sydney I became quite an expert on carpet. Joy and I owned 22 flats (apartments) between us so we had a lot of tenants.  And tenants are hard on carpet.  So I was replacing a carpet somewhere pretty often.  So to cut costs I would go to carpet auctions and buy it by the roll.  A roll of carpet is HEAVY.  Special forklifts are needed to move it.  But somehow I managed.  And I would hire layers to cut and lay it.  Layers are a bit of a breed of their own but we got on one way or another.

My next bit of amusement was when I needed carpet for the anteroom of my present house.  Carpet is expensive stuff but I needed only a small piece so I went to a shop that sold secondhand carpet.  When carpet is ripped up, it mostly goes into a landfill but some shops save a few good bits.  The bit I got looks like an Axminster, a very expensive carpet. It is all browns and golds in floral patterns.  I like it.  But it is in fact not an Axminster at all.  It is a bit of rubberback (a cheap carpet) that has lost its rubber.  But it acts like an Axminster.  It has been down about 20 years now and still looks as good as ever.

My most recent adventure was when Anne decided to change the carpet in her living room.  She had a nice plain oatmeal colour down.  I believe that The Lodge in Canberra was once laid with carpet in an oatmeal colour.  But it stains rather readily and is hard to keep clean so Anne was tired of it. So she went around the shops and found something she liked.  I however insisted on seeing what she had chosen.  It was a mid-brown and looked like poop.  So I went around the shops with her to look at other options.  To my amazement ALL the options were shades of poop.  It must be a fashion.  The only thing floral I could find was Axminster.  So I bought that for her.  It cost $1,000 more than poopy carpet but was well worth in it in my opinion. There's a sample of it below



People all seem to like it but one of Anne's sons referred to it as "granny carpet", which I suppose it is.

And another carpet experience was only nominally with carpet.  It is really a rug.  But people do call handmade rugs carpets so I guess I can too.  The floors in my house are all polished boards so, perversely I suppose, I have lot of rugs down. There are three "Persian" (handmade) carpets and three Belgian cottons (machine-made).

And there is an interesting story about one of them.  A friend was throwing it out as it had been badly treated and was all stained and dirty.  I am however something of a salvor.  I don't like seeing useful stuff being thrown out. "Waste not, want not", as my old Presbyterian mother used to say. And this was a large and heavy carpet so must have been worth a lot once.  So I collected it and managed to talk to a dry-cleaning man and persuade him to do a run of his drycleaning machine with just my carpet in it.  So I ended up with a carpet that was both clean and stripped of any oil and grease.  Sadly, however, there were still stains on it so it didn't look clean.  So I just put it away.

Recently, however, I decided to put it on my verandah.  But it got very dirty again and the sun faded it a bit.  So I got a man with a truck-mounted cleaning machine over to clean it up.  I thought that with lots of detergent, lots of warm water and the big brushes of his scrubbing machine he might get my carpet cleaner than the dry-cleaning man did. He got the carpet smelling as fresh as a daisy but there were still stains there. So I now have it laid at the foot of my bed.

And if this were England, having an old and worn Oriental carpet down might not be bad at all.  An eccentricity of upper class people in England and to some extent in America is that they like having old things around.  And they regard fitted carpet as common.  You mainly have old oriental (Persian, Baluchi etc) rugs down on your floors.

I inadvertently verified that once when I was first in England and rather unaware of the myriad social rules there.  That unawareness actually got me a girlfriend from the aristocracy -- a lady who can trace her ancestry back 1,000 years.  No Englishmen of common origins would have dared approach her but I did.  And she was a very nice girl and we got on well.

But one day when I was in her apartment at Holland Park, I remarked that someone had given her a pretty tatty carpet. It was of course an old Oriental rug.  She just smiled and said nothing.  We had a nice time anyway.

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