Lynda Hal­li­nan

Lynda Hal­li­nan cre­ates a new home of­fice filled with her favourite things, all safely out of the reach of her small chil­dren.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - Contents - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY SALLY TAGG STYLING LYNDA HAL­LI­NAN

cre­ates a child-free chill out zone

Julie An­drews can keep her soggy roses and kit­ten’s whiskers. You won’t catch me hol­ler­ing from the hill­tops about my prized pos­ses­sions, for war­bling about their won­drous­ness feels like tempt­ing fate.

My favourite things – from pot­tery jugs painted with pheas­ants to crys­tal com­ports and china teacups – are im­pru­dently frag­ile, and if moth­er­hood has taught me any­thing, it’s that it pays not to get too at­tached to any­thing break­able. Since hav­ing chil­dren, it’s not The Sound of Mu­sic but the sound of stuff smash­ing – fol­lowed im­me­di­ately by, “Oops, sorry Mum” – that ac­com­pa­nies my most cher­ished be­long­ings.

“Oops, sorry Mum,” said my five-year-old son Lucas as he tripped over a pile of books at my bed­room door, trig­ger­ing a domino cas­cade that cul­mi­nated in Hanya Yanag­i­hara’s novel A Lit­tle Life plung­ing down the stairs to shat­ter the hand-blown glass bell jar I’d bought at Lon­don’s Chelsea Flower Show a decade ear­lier.

“Oops, sorry Mum,” said my four-year-old son Lachie as he tripped through the front door hold­ing a par­cel from the postie, turn­ing a pair of mail-or­der French plat­ters into tec­tonic plates be­fore I’d even got my hands on the pack­age.

It’s prob­a­bly just as well that my an­ces­tors were too poor to af­ford posh porce­lain. My ma­ter­nal grand­mother Clarice was many things – a farmer’s wife, English grad­u­ate, pi­anist and Women’s In­sti­tute-cer­ti­fied sponge cake cham­pion – but an as­tute col­lec­tor of fine china she was not. Or per­haps my aunts and un­cles were as but­terfin­gered as my boys, for when Grandma died, her Queen Anne sweet pea tea trios were divvied up among her daugh­ters but no one else took much in­ter­est in the rest of her mis­matched crock­ery. Mum in­her­ited a few bits and bobs – a lid-less Royal Al­bert tureen, two hand-painted leaf-pat­terned My­ott plates and sev­eral crazed serv­ing bowls – but th­ese were only dragged out of the side­board when all our townie rel­a­tives came to the farm for Christ­mas and we ran out of plates.

Since then, most of Grandma Clarice’s kitchena­lia has mi­grated to my house. I bot­tle my fruit in her old Agee jars, purée toma­toes with her tar­nished mouli and scrape my roast­ing dish clean with her nick­elplated gravy spoon. And when I feel like an an­tipasto plat­ter, I serve olives, grilled ar­ti­chokes and stuffed jalapenos in her chintzy Royal Win­ton Grimwades rel­ish dish.

I have a fetish for vin­tage crock­ery, but this year, in a bid to de­clut­ter my tiny kitchen, I de­cided the time was right for a clear-out. As I boxed up some loot for the lo­cal Hospice shop, Mum staged a timely in­ter­ven­tion. “Don’t give that away,” she said, snatch­ing back a fluted cream plate with blue­birds on it. “That be­longed to your grand­mother.”

Un­til then, I thought my in­ven­tory sys­tem was fool­proof. I had writ­ten “Clarice” on the bot­tom of Grandma’s plates in black per­ma­nent marker pen but, af­ter they’d been through the dish­washer a few times, the ink had faded. (Read­ers who pride them­selves on their care­ful cus­to­di­an­ship of fam­ily heir­looms will no doubt be hav­ing con­nip­tions by now, but I’m of the opin­ion that old stuff was made to be used.)

Why is it that, as we age, the things that are worth the least be­come most trea­sured? At our Tairua bach, for ex­am­ple, we

My sta­tionery is neatly sorted, there are fresh flow­ers from my gar­den… and there’s a lock on the door to keep out the kids.”

ar­gue over card games around the same Formica ta­ble my grand­par­ents ar­gued at. Sit­ting around it evokes rich me­mories, yet I saw the same model of ta­ble at the Thames Sal­va­tion Army shop for the pau­per’s price of $25.

I couldn’t give a toss when my grand­fa­ther Al­bert fixed his fences or drenched his stock, but none­the­less I trea­sure his dull daily farm diaries, and ev­ery year I plant my pota­toes on the same spring day – Septem­ber 1 – as he did. And should any­one care what the weather was like at Piha be­tween 1944 and 1964, they can al­ways con­sult the yel­lowed vis­i­tors’ book from my hus­band’s grand­fa­ther’s bach. Grandpa Fred was a stick­ler for small de­tails, like the 36 pos­sums he counted on the drive out one day, or the fact that the weather was fine for Queen El­iz­a­beth’s coro­na­tion on June 2, 1953.

I work from home and, for the past five years, our fam­ily mem­o­ra­bilia has min­gled with the rest of my pa­per­work on an IKEA desk in one cor­ner of our bed­room. It’s not par­tic­u­larly prac­ti­cal, es­pe­cially when my hus­band’s try­ing to sleep, so this month I de­cided to turn the tack­room in our old sta­ble block into a workspace in­stead.

My home of­fice pro­ject be­gan with the pur­chase of an in­ex­pen­sive eth­er­net switch and a Wi-Fi ex­ten­der, to en­sure I could still check my emails from the sanc­tity of the sta­bles. To counter dead­line stress, I opted for a neu­tral colour scheme, with Re­sene Half Bi­son Hide paint, a fea­ture wall of Broad­wick St wall­pa­per from the Lit­tle Greene Lon­don Col­lec­tion and a sub­tle sage and cream facelift for my old mid-cen­tury couch. (As my Christ­mas gift last year, Mum cov­ered its cush­ions in Thibaut Tide­wa­ter Sweet Grass up­hol­stery fab­ric.)

My new of­fice dou­bles as a refuge for my most pre­cious things. Above the desk hangs Sally Tagg’s Cameo, a print of pressed na­tive clema­tis flow­ers (her wed­ding gift to us), while the first art­work I ever bought – a botan­i­cal etch­ing by Lon­don-based New Zealand artist Bryan Poole – adorns the wall above the couch. Grandma’s crock­ery is slot­ted safely into an up­cy­cled plate rack on the wall and my sta­tionery is neatly sorted in old bak­ing tins. There are fresh flow­ers from my gar­den, my books now sit on shelves in­stead of our stairs and, best of all, there’s a lock on the door to keep the kids out.

Ex­cept, as the plough­man poet Rob­bie Burns once said in his fa­mous Scot­tish burr, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men go oft awry.” The milk paint had barely dried on my plate rack when Lachie saw fit to break some­thing that made us all wince: his leg. And that is why I am typ­ing this, not in blessed soli­tude, but next to a small boy with a frac­tured fibula en­cased in plas­ter, watch­ing Peppa Peg videos on his iPad as he threat­ens to drip melted ice-cream on my lovely new up­hol­stery.

So much for the an­tic­i­pated adults’ only area.

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