Elbow Grease


In the heart of the ‘lucky country’ some Australian families and individuals are living on the fringes, facing the daily hardships of unemployment, drug addiction and illness; struggling just to get by. New three-part, fly on the wall observational documentary series Struggle Street gives a voice to those doing it tough right on the doorstep of Australia’s most affluent cities. Filmed in the public housing estates of Sydney’s western suburbs, residents invited cameras in for exclusive, uncensored access to their lives over a six month period. The result is an eye-opening glimpse at real life in under-resourced Australian communities – raw, honest and unfiltered.

Struggle Street (Commissioned by SBS) (Documentary) MA(D,L) CC

RUDE Girl has just finished watching this three-part series and the quote above is very relevant about how elbow grease will not fix generations of dysfunction.  It was incredibly sad but in my working life I have seen worse.  My mother also grew up in the 30s and 40s in a struggle suburb in a dysfunctional family.  I may not live on Struggle Street but my experiences combined with some of the stories from my mother, I knew what to expect when I viewed this documentary.  On Struggle Street it takes more than elbow grease to fix chronic unemployment and disadvantage.

What stood out for me most of all, was the houses were unkept [not clean and tidy] and a bit run down looking.  With stuff strewn all over the place.  I wonder why and think this quote by Mellon may partly explain it.  When you are not involved in hard work you can degenerate.  And the consequences of that in my opinion, show not only in body and mind but in your surroundings as well. Maybe mustering up elbow grease is the last thing you think of to acquire some control.

The normal condition of man is hard work, self-denial, acquisition and accumulation and as soon as his descendants are freed from the necessity of such exertion, they begin to degenerate sooner or later in both body and mind.” — Thomas Mellon

When RUDE rescues from landfill, the bric a brac, the furniture and the textiles are not in pristine condition. The stuff can be very dirty and very smelly.   It takes elbow grease [hard work] to lug it home and then clean it up.  It may need to be repaired or mended.  If we just let the stuff pile up, and did not employ some elbow grease we soon would look like struggling hoarders.

RUDE knows that amid chaos and/or disadvantage we would be able to keep living in a clean and tidy manner.  We are unable to say too much about this experience, but we lived rough for a couple of weeks.  We wanted to know what it was like to squat in a derelict house with few amenities and a reduced electricity supply and no gas.  There was no nice furniture or fittings, and no hot showers.  The days were warm but the nights were cold.  Basically we were camping and it was rough.

However, in this situation we managed to live a happy, frugal and productive time.  We also managed to keep our surrounds liveable and clean.  It was an anxious time in some ways but we survived by keeping busy and keeping up our house proud standards.


Which brings this post to George Miller’s new movie Fury Road.  And taken from The Celluloid Warrior in Good Weekend Magazine April 25, 2015 pg 10 is this passage as follows:

With computer systems wiped out, the wasteland is filled with whatever can be cobbled together from a more robust technological era. “Everything is found objects,’ says Miller.  Everything on-screen, including the wardrobe, weapons, vehicles, dialogue and the way the actors behave, was created from these found objects.  Two other rules governed what takes place in the movie.  “Just because it’s after the apocalypse, it doesn’t mean people can’t make beautiful things.  We see that in early man.  The palaeolithics did all that wonderful rock art.  In refugee camps in the most impoverished parts of the world, they can make beautiful things.”

The first movie I ever remember about making do and upcycling was Swiss Family Robinson.  The Robinsons turn oyster shells into soup bowls.  They lasso a giant sea turtle to power their raft.  I also devoured the book and related to their need to survive as best they could under the circumstances.  Thanks to the Swiss Family Robinson, I know that if RUDE is stranded together on a deserted island we will be fine.

Photo below:  In the book The Art of Being a Woman by Patrica Volk 2013, pg 29 – Classics Illustrated is No. 42, Swiss Family Robinson is mentionedIn this book, Patricia writes how her grandmother would make do and showed her about how to do it.

gilberton-publications-classics-illustrated-42-swiss-family-robinson-issue-hrn-62Beat The Man with some good old elbow grease!  No matter what your situation it will give you some sense of control and pride.


3 thoughts on “Elbow Grease

  1. Yes agreed Rude Girl. My mum used to say if your a tidy person you will have a tidy home even if its a tent. If your a messy person even in a mansion you’d be surround by mess and clutter. A very thoughtful blig post. Interesting isnt it- the human condition. I’ve not heard of Thomas Mellon but he seemed to mail it imo.


  2. I have to agree that keeping your home clean, clothing and furnishings does make a difference. I know from time to time my home gets quite mess when we are all busy and not home. Its a great feeling when its all cleaned up and I can feel productive once again. There is great satisfaction in fixing up and cleaning up tossed away items to make them like new again.

    Liked by 1 person

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