Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Story of a Sofa

The Monster
Just the other day our sofa bed went out on the nature strip, in time for the council clean-up.  It was a relief to get rid of it – it was far too heavy for either of us to move, the sun had leached out all the colour, reducing the rose-coloured suede cloth to a dismal, dirty grey.  Apart from that it was in perfectly good condition, plumply upholstered, with a barely-used, single innerspring mattress tucked away inside it, and it seemed such a shame to consign it to the landfill.
It was rejected on sight by the men from the Salvoes, and later by the ones from Goodwill.  The reason was the fading.   As both explained, it couldn’t be sold in their shops like that.  There were other possibilities (slim but hopeful) but when the Goodwill blokes offered to carry it onto the nature strip we were too worn out to refuse.  Still, this was a week before the council clean-up and we were worried about the forecast rain.  The suede cloth, tough as it was and chosen with the grandchildren in mind, might not survive a decent downpour.
Imagine our delight then to discover that within the day the monster, as we’d come to refer to it, had vanished.  Someone had seen it, we rejoiced, recognised its value and saved it from a drenching.  But as it turned out, it wasn’t quite as simple as that.
Before I go on, here is the monster’s back story.  We bought it on the stern recommendation of my husband’s daughter, who insisted that she would only come to stay if we bought a Moran for her, since that was the only type of sofa that had a proper inner-spring mattress, instead of the run-of-the-mill rubber ones.  We had recently returned from Canada to take up residence in a tiny flat in Manly and just had room for a two-seater.  But the two-seater Moran only had a single-sized mattress and if the daughter stayed overnight she couldn’t bring her husband.  Moreover, the mattress was padded on one side only, and in order to be stored that had to be on the bottom, and the one time she did stay I hadn’t figured out yet that I needed to flip it over.
By the time any grandchildren stayed I knew how it worked and we supplemented it with a futon from Ikea at a tenth of the monster’s price.  That worked out fine, if one grandchild was a little concerned about having to sleep in the kitchen when her brother was three feet away in what passed for the living room, the smallest he’d ever seen.
Eventually we moved, but the monster was so heavy we had to pay $200 extra to the removalists to bring it down one set of stairs and then up another.  The sun shines brightly on this new flat, so much so that within 9 months of our occupancy the upholstery was irreparably faded.  This, needless to say, was not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.  I was told by the Moran representative that I was a fool to have exposed the sofa to so much sun, and no doubt I was.  The dye wasn’t up to it.   I hadn’t even noticed the fading until one day when cleaning I saw that the rose hue on the back of the couch had totally fled from the front of it.
Couch or sofa?  Back in the 1960s, when the U and non-U divide was the popular way of determining status, it was considered non-U to refer to a couch as a sofa.  This was because ‘couch’ - considered uncouth by the lower middle class - was in one of those quirks of inverted snobbery embraced by the upper class.  Sofa, thus, was very non-U.  I had been brought up to call them couches – a term that’s hardly heard today, if at all.  Perhaps that’s due to the advent of sofa beds as we know them – I think a postwar phenomenon.   It was snobbery of course that led my husband’s daughter to insist on a Moran – the brand still exists but the furniture is made in China, and was even then.   It’s the story of so much of our manufacture.  The names live on but the skill, like the dye, has gone.
But if our leaders remain in the grip of an all-pervasive ideology designed to make a few people ever richer and the rest of us mere mortals wrestling with insecure job prospects, broken infrastructure and a polluted, rapidly heating environment, I still maintain that, against serious evidence to the contrary, most human beings are basically good at heart.  This shaky belief was confirmed when I discovered what actually happened to our sofa.  The young couple living downstairs saw it there on the nature strip and immediately got online to a swap and trade site that we knew nothing about.  They took a picture of the monster, posted it, and within seconds someone put their hand up, came within the hour and hauled it away.  Faded or no, I do hope they enjoy it.


  1. I once slept on that sofa! Perhaps we should start a series of sofa jokes, along the lines of piano accordion jokes?

  2. Piano accordion jokes? I don't know them, indicative of my isolation perhaps. Perhaps, too, they're couched in unfamiliar language? (Okay, groan.)

  3. The theme of piano accordian jokes is the impossibility of giving them away.

  4. considered uncouth by the reduced middle-class - was in one of those eccentricities of upside down snobbery accepted by the higher category.the product still prevails but the furnishings is created in Chinese suppliers, and was even then. It’s the tale of so much of our produce.