Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Battery Factory Blessing

"Right", the husband said, "your radio needs a new battery. I think it's time we went to the Battery Factory again."

I could tell what he was hoping to do, but it was a risky strategy. He was hoping to cheer me up, and he was right - this outing might do the trick, but only if things at the Battery Factory had remained unchanged.  As it had been some years since we'd visited, that seemed unlikely.

But it was worth a try - and better than sitting at home moping. So I climbed into the car beside the husband and off we went to Fyshwick, the original and the best when it comes to Canberra's light industrial zones.

On the way, we passed the river flats where they cultivate lawn that can be laid ready-grown in bare new gardens. The person in charge thinks he has a sense of humour and regularly puts up signs that are punny rather than funny. His latest, I noticed, read thus: "Putin some seed today and very soon it will be coming up Trumps." This is the first topical one I've seen from him; although never what you'd call a fan, I think I liked it better before he decided to add in a side order of international politics.

The car turned off the river road and onto the Battery Factory street. I felt nervous. The husband parked. I suggested I might just stay in the car.

"Don't be ridiculous", the husband said. I got out and trudged up the bitumen slope to the glass-fronted showroom, the husband leading the way, radio under his arms.

Disappointment. We were greeted by two unfamiliar men. They told us the battery the radio needed was no longer available. But then, through the door that led into the showroom, I glimpsed the figure we had been hoping to see. It was Robert, the man who I think runs the Battery Factory, a man of such good temper and genuine helpfulness that it is worthwhile finding any possible reason to visit the Battery Factory just for the pleasure of doing business with him.

Unfortunately, Robert was busy. He was helping another customer. That customer would not want to let him go, I was certain - you never do want to end a conversation with Robert.  And we were supposed to be getting back to my mother; we hadn't got hours and hours to spend.

"Robert?" said one of the two who were convinced that there was nothing to be done for us or our radio, "Yeah, he might think of something, I guess. When he's finished, we could ask him."

We all stood around, watching the conversation in the showroom take its course. Then Robert farewelled his customer and came over to join us.

He looked very slightly older than last time I'd seen him, there was a little more grey in his hair, but he hadn't changed, not really - his face was as kind as ever, his expression as reassuring. "Now how can I help you?" he asked, and we felt that he genuinely wanted to know.

All four of us clustered round him with the radio, like kindergarten children clamouring for the attention of their favourite teacher. We interrupted each other, eager to explain about how the radio was an old one and we didn't think the battery that was designed for it was available any more.

Robert listened to us calmly and then took the radio and looked it over. He explained that his men were right, the battery we'd used for it was no longer available, but we didn't need to worry because, with a little bit of soldering, we could solve the problem and still have a radio that worked like new.

I was on the point of telling Robert that it didn't really matter whether the radio ever worked again - the point of our outing had merely been to benefit from his presence. Luckily, my telephone rang and I went outside before I went too far.

I didn't see Robert again after that, but that didn't matter. He was there and I'd seen him and he'd restored my belief that people can be good and kind and nice, (something that had faltered considerably after the death of my brother, due to various encounters surrounding funeral arrangements et cetera that I will not go into here).

As I wound up my telephone conversation, the husband appeared with my radio. Apparently, Robert had got out a soldering iron, found a bit of suitable wire and a new battery connection and converted the radio to a new type of battery, without any thought of being paid.

All of which is by way of saying that, if you live in Canberra and you feel in need of your spirits being raised, pop out to the Battery Factory in Fyshwick and talk to Robert. It is always a trip worth taking. And if you are part of Robert's family, you are very lucky indeed.


  1. The Battery Factory sounds amazing. If I ever visit Canberra I will go there first. I will even refrain from replacing batteries until such time as I visit.

    I thought your eulogy for your brother was very good too.

  2. Hello Zoe,
    Firstly, please accept my condolences for the loss of your brother, Mark, whose loss I think is a loss for all of us.
    I worked at the Australian Embassy in Budapest from 1999 to 2002, so have met you, your husband and Anna at a function where we talked about Geelong Grammar and life in Budapest.
    Last week I finished up 8 months in Canberra and smiled when I read about Fyshwick. I hope you have been to Canty's Bookshop there :)
    Anyway, hope you don't mind my contacting you.

    Anna Kiss-Gyorgy

    1. Dear Anna, thank you. I'm sorry you won't be in Canberra when we are there again but perhaps its underrated charms will lure you back one day

  3. I like the idea of Robert becoming a new destination for visitors to Canberra. Thank you for you kind comments about the eulogy I wrote for my brother. I wish I hadn't had to.