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Sport 24: Summer 2000

I love you now as much as I love a good sheet of rusty iron6

I love you now as much as I love a good sheet of rusty iron6

Jeff found the sheets of iron for the car at the rubbish dump. They came from the old Criterion Hotel in Napier, a building which had been gutted by fire. Jeff had a way of testing iron which he showed me. He would take the corner of a sheet of iron between his thumb and forefinger and bend it back and forward. If the corner snapped off, the iron was too brittle to use. It the corner didn't bend at all, it was too stiff. The corner of a good sheet of iron would fold back and forward without breaking. As each piece of iron passed the test he would lift it up onto the Holden, where it would lie snugly, its corrugations matching those of the roof of the car.

Jeff used to work in an old milk factory in Taradale in the Hawkes Bay and, if I was around, I would watch him. No matter how many times I saw it, I never tired of watching him cut a sheet of iron. He had a favourite pair of tin snips, yellow-handled with a footprint marked on the metal. He would rest the sheet of iron across his knee and simply cut it as if cutting a length of material with scissors. His hand and forearm seemed massive with strength and it was a beautiful thing to watch.

He wrote to me once about a visit he made to Don Driver's studio page 7 in New Plymouth: ‘… The galvanised objects I delivered from my local recycling depot in Napier were carefully untied (from my trailer) and placed on the footpath from where Don carried them upstairs to his city studio. I managed to carry the last two pieces up and found Don had been arranging them on an aptly coloured greyish paint splattered tarpaulin—I placed my two things, he slightly changed the positioning and that was it—Sculpture finished (5 minutes) Found it really refreshing to see someone working so intuitively and spontaneous. Made me think of the many, many and many hours and a few more I put into individual works …’7

At night we used to drive the Holden into the studio and roll down the door behind it. When we did that, it always seemed to me to be like the part in Batman when the Batmobile returns to the Batcave. Everything suddenly seemed shadowy and calm and I would watch as, under floodlights, the sparks from Jeff's oxyacetylene torch sprayed off into the dark.

Today I'm about to start the first work for Sydney. CI, drainpipes, guttering etc. (still life wall relief). Studio clean and spacious—letters being typed for BHP and oz road safety people in Canberra—fax to Ray Hughes, trip to collect materials at recycling and letters to you and organisations in Melbourne … the car and container will leave for Sydney on the 20th May arriving early June. I look forward to our holiday and venturing onto new ground 8

The day of the exhibition opening at the Ray Hughes gallery was the only time I saw the Holden in Australia. It was parked in the entranceway to the building and it looked out of place. Jeff had made a new aerial for the car—a length of Number 8 wire bent into the shape of Australia (with Tasmania)—and we had planned to leave for a three-week holiday straight after the exhibition opened.

I had been reading the poems of Philip Hodgins and Laurie Duggan and wanted to get out of Sydney, to see rural Australia and Gippsland, before my annual leave was used up. The Holden, though, wasn't roadworthy. It was rusty. It had sharp edges. The steering wheel and the dashboard were cracked. The vinyl covering the interior ceiling page 8 was ripped … and all around me, on the night of the opening, I could hear people say, ‘It's a lot easier to get a warrant in Queensland. The Sydney authorities are a pack of bastards …’

I never travelled in the Holden again. After the exhibition opening I hired a white Datsun Sunny with 3650km on the clock.