If cottage means a small house on a plot big enough for a decent sized veggie patch, then my family and I live in a cottage. Like many other Canberrans living in one of the city’s older suburbs, we live in what is popularly known as an ‘ex-govie’.
In 1911, Canberra was declared the national capital of Australia. At that time, it was home to the Ngunnawal people and a few European homesteaders, but not much else. So, the national capital had to be built from scratch. Accommodation was scarce so the government built whole suburbs of government houses to cater for its employees. By the end of the 1960s, the last of the ‘govies’ were built. Over time, these houses were sold off, and the term ‘ex-govie’ was coined.
One owner has described the ex-govie as the caravan of houses. it is very small, basic and uniformly rectangle. Ex-govies are renowned for being built like brick shit-houses. Construction quality is high and they are unfailingly strong. Our house was built in 1969, and hence represents the end of an era in Canberra’s development. Our house is about 100sq metres (or 11sq). This was the average build size of a 1950’s house in Australia. This compares to the average new build size of 233sq metres in Australia today. In urban areas, homes now often take up the whole house block.
Australia has some of the biggest houses in the world today. I’m not quite sure why people want bigger and bigger houses. Maybe it is a case of “keeping up with the Jones”. The problem is that larger homes come with larger embodied and operational energy costs even with improvements in building energy efficiency regulations. It also seems that houses aren’t built to last anymore, with an expected 30 years lifespan for the off-the-shelf project house.
Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I dearly would have loved a bit of extra space (see Keeping Up With The Jones) and we probably would have got a bigger house had we the means to fund it. Now we unanimously agree that we would prefer to retain our garden, rather than up-size our house. On these hot summer days, I think our house is naturally cooler as a result. Our energy use is only half of a one person household.
Here is a peek at our house. It is not flash, but it is home.
I can’t help feel a little pleased about our limited energy use. But, there is one other thing I’m thrilled about. It might be a bulk-standard ex-govie, but in one small aspect, it is unique. I have been reliably informed that we have the best letter box in Canberra, maybe even Australia, with several neighbours having serious letter-box envy (or so they’ve told me). Want a peek? Yep, I made this with the help of a friend (thanks shortfatchinaman).
I would like to show you inside my house, but it is a little messy and, you know, what happens in the house, stays in the house.
Oh alright, here’s one photo. Fynnie does love to lounge on the laundry pile.
It’s a small world after all, that is, unless you’re king of the castle.
Response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt — Cottage.