Full of nostalgic tales inspired by Aussie architecture and suburban pastimes, ‘The Rumpus Room and Other Stories from the Suburbs‘ is a uniquely entertaining new read.
Today, author, comedian and mid-century enthusiast Tim Ross shares the title chapter of his excellent new book.
Houses are the vessels for our lives and therefore our stories. I see this book as a series of stories that capture a sense of how we live. Some of them are personal and some are not, but I think all of them speak of some of the experiences we share as Australians. It’s not a book about architecture, but it’s a book inspired by architecture.
I had burning desire to write another book, and in my travels around the country I started to get inspired by certain places, conversations and assorted random things. I began writing a line here or then and quite often wrote a story based on a house I saw. If ‘Streets Of Your Town‘ told the broader social history of our suburbs and it’s architecture, this is very much the story of what happens within those houses and suburbs. It seeks to tell very real stories.
The images are not glossy architectural shots, they were chosen to be more real and grittier. These photos are mostly mine or sourced from friends. Melbourne architect Andy Wong who works for John Wardle supplied some of the best; I really love his eye. A few are my wife Michelle’s, Brisbane artist Sam Cranstoun supplied a couple, and the great photo of the Horizon apartment was taken by architect Stephen Collier.
Because the book is designed to look like it was published in the 1970s, the images lend themselves to a rawer look. I had a bunch of people with great photos of mid century houses offer their photos but it didn’t sit with the feeling I wanted. Some of the nostalgic pull comes from the shots feeling like your parents may have taken them!
I’m hoping that anyone who picked up a Harry Potter book will buy it! I think it’s a good one for people with an insta addiction because it’s punchy and easy to read!
CHAPTER 2: The Rumpus Room
It was during the summer of 1979 when one of Mum’s colleagues invited us over for a family barbecue and we felt like we had walked straight on to the set of the American TV show Hart to Hart*. They had a sprawling Hamptons-style white timber home surrounded by a row of sculpted hedges, manicured lawns and perfectly formed oak trees. As we pulled into the driveway, parking the family Kingswood behind the shiny red Mercedes convertible, we all sat wide-eyed while Dad muttered something about it looking like the sort of place they filmed pornos.
Inside we met a family with clean, fluffy seventies hair, sparkling teeth and golden tans. The McRichfucks had three kids, all around our ages but twice as good looking. The oldest, at 14, was parading around in a bikini and sun visor and carrying a Yonex tennis racket. She had two younger brothers who had the same confidence, but weren’t wearing bikinis. They called their parents by their first names and happily led us into their Rumpus Room while the adults went out to the pool to eat cashews and drink Moselle.
The Rumpus Room can be described in two ways: the one you had and the one you wished you had. I don’t know whether they are around as much today, but in the golden years of absent parenting they ruled supreme. In simple terms they were a room designed for kids to hang out in while their parents wore clothes made of synthetic fibres and experimented with drink driving.
The McRichfucks’ Rumpus Room had chocolate shag pile carpet and green velvet curtains that had been thrown open so we could cop a view of the large sparkling pool and Dad standing around in a pair of powder blue Simpson tennis shorts. It had a ping-pong table, a colour TV and a shelf containing what looked like every board game ever invented, including the one we all coveted, Test Match.
We had inherited the original (and crappier) version of this game from our grandfather. You opened the lid of the box to reveal a couple of cardboard wheels that were rotated by a small brass tack-like handle. After pushing them back and forth, it would show you the outcome of every ‘ball’ being ‘bowled’. Given that it was invented in a time when people were aroused by the concept of eating bread and dripping, there is no surprise that it was a pretty ordinary game.
The second incarnation was far more high-tech. It involved laying a piece of green felt on the floor for the oval and placing your small cricket figurines all around the ‘ground’. A ball bearing was placed in a lever on the bowler’s arm and released towards the batsman figurine that had its own lever attached to the bat. Pulling it back would smack the ball bearing towards the boundary, hopefully avoiding the fieldsmen who had a U-shaped plastic receptacle molded between their legs. If the ball did go there, you were ‘caught’ and therefore out. As dinky as this sounds, if you had one of these in the late seventies or early eighties you were more popular with your friends than Joel Garner at an over twenty-eight’s nightclub. Apparently they still make them today, and I presume the only people who buy them are those who desperately wanted one in their youth but never got one.
‘The Rumpus Room and Other Stories from the Suburbs’ is available for purchase online. Tim Ross is off to London with his ‘Man about the House’ show soon for the festival of architecture, and will then be touring around Australia and NZ throughout the second half of this year.