There is a healthy tradition of improvisation in Australia. Have a dig around an old farm house or barn. The unique objects you are bound to discover bear testament to the ingenuity of this practice born of necessity. Improvisation depends heavily on the imagination to see the possibility of recycling materials to meet other needs. It also requires the ability to accomplish the transformation.
My father was an inventor and whenever it was possible, he resourcefully recycled materials. A lot of the wood he used for his projects came from timber packing cases put out for the garbage collection in the narrow laneway called De Mestre Place. This laneway was opposite Wynyard in Sydney. It was there in Hardy’s Chambers that my father had his office and workrooms.
In the school holidays my brother and I used to love going into town and visiting him. His workplace was like a bowerbird’s nest, crammed with all sorts of interesting bits and pieces. My father did not like throwing things away. He seemed to hold secretly to the belief that he was bound sooner or later to find a use for these odds and ends. Thus, toothpaste lids were transformed into excellent draw handles with the turn of a screw. His workbench stool was an upended Oldsmobile axle, to which he had attached a foam rubber seat.
I kept this axle, continuing its use as a stool until it became too uncomfortable. But I could not throw it away. And thankfully I didn’t for it has recently been given a new lease of life in my garden. Standing erect on a cement paver, while balancing a pot base, it serves as a purposeful bird bath. I reckon my Dad would be very pleased with this outcome too.