Another Helen’s postcards

“There are holes in the floorboards and the basin doesn’t really work and the oven’s pretty crap,” said Helen. “It’s almost perfect.”

The second Helen I interviewed in 2003 was telling me about her flat above a shop on Melbourne’s Smith St, “off a dodgy-looking alleyway, rubbish everywhere”.

She’d been there about six months, and couldn’t quite pin down why it felt so perfect – something to do with size, she thought, and the feeling of secrecy that came from slipping though a back entrance behind a busy commercial street, climbing a staircase and finding a private space and a garden of geraniums, succulents and creepers, all in pots.

She lived there for 13 years in the end, and was just moving out when I got back in touch about this project. The timing, she said, was strange and perfect. For me, there was something even stranger: I’d barely remembered Helen talking about this much-loved flat, although she did – eagerly and effusively – throughout our interview.

I remembered something else entirely: a big, light-filled warehouse Helen once lived in, and the out-of-focus photos she took of it when she left. And so that’s what these postcards memorialise – a snippet of the story Helen told me back in 2003, and some photos she’d forgotten about (until these postcards turned up in the mail).

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