Feb 21
A Neighbourly Visit
icon4 Feb 21st, 2010 | icon2 Neighbours | icon3Comments Off

A strange thing happened last night. It was about 9:15, Rach and I were sitting in our darkened living room watching ABC iView on the laptop when a noise at the front door caught our attention. (We usually leave the door open of an evening, to let in the cool breeze.) We both turned towards the door, and standing there, silhouetted by the lights from next door, was Frankenstein’s monster. He was breathing heavily, making laboured huffing and puffing noises, while his huge frame rocked to and fro, blocking the doorway. Nothing stood between him and us except for a few flimsy pieces of hanging fly-screen.

“Just wondering if I could have a word, eh?” said the monster.

Relief flooded through us. Our nocturnal visitor was not a monstrous apparition from early 19th century literature, but just our neighbour, Mr Takalua [not his real name]. The fact that we and Mr Takalua had never previously exchanged words in the two-and-a-half years we had been neighbours hadn’t deterred him from popping by at 9:15 PM for a chat.

I went out and greeted him with a friendly “What can I do for ya, mate?”

He first apologised for being out of breath, but he and his family had just returned from an evening stroll, and the last section up our steep street and driveway had just about done him in. Mr Takalua is a big bloke, you see. As he caught his breath I wondered exactly what the hell he wanted to talk to me about. It didn’t become much clearer as he began to speak.

“Was just doin’ the mowin’ this afternoon, eh?” he said, pausing to make sure I was following. I nodded for him to continue.

“And I was just mowin’ the bit down here” – he pointed to a section of grass where our properties meet – “and there was a lot of, uh, cat poo there, eh?” He chuckled at his use of the term “cat poo”, and perhaps also to put me at ease. This was a friendly visit after all. “So when I put the mower through, all this dust from the cat poo” – he chuckled again – “went everywhere, eh?” He waved his hands wildly around in the air, miming the movement of millions of tiny particles of dessicated cat shit.

I think I was getting the picture now. What Mr Takalua was hypothesising was that one – or both – of our cats had been shitting in his grass. Then when he mowed the grass he churned up the dried cat poo, which was a most unpleasant experience. Even though I was pretty sure that our cats were not entirely responsible – the Takaluas also own a cat – I quickly decided that the best thing to do would be to accept the blame gracefully.

“Gee, sorry ’bout that, mate,” I said. “Look, don’t worry about that bit of grass, I’ll look after that bit from now on.”

Mr Takalua nodded. ”Yeah, because as I was putting the mower through, all this dried cat poo came up, eh?” He chuckled and did his little mime again. “Big clouds of cat poo.”

“Right, well just leave that bit next time.”

“We’ve got a cat too, eh? But he poos over there most of the time.” He gestured toward the opposite side of his yard. “And when I put the mower through down there” – the cat poo zone – “all this dried cat poo went everywhere, eh?”

“Right. Well, next time I mow I’ll do that bit too.”

The conversation went around in circles like this for a few more minutes, Mr Takalua chuckling occasionally so I wouldn’t think he was having a go at me. (And really, I don’t mind. I’m happy to do the extra three square metres of mowing rather than start a feud with the Takalua family over some old cat poo.) Eventually, when Mr Takalua sensed I had fully grasped the finer points of his argument, and after I’d agreed another four times to assume custodianship of the affected area, he changed tack.

“So what do you do, eh?”

Ten minutes later and we were still there, standing on the driveway in the pitch dark. Maybe Mr Takalua needs a friend. He’s a nice bloke, really. Still, I’ll be the one picking up the fossilised cat shit from now on.

Dec 13
A Very Snubian Christmas
icon4 Dec 13th, 2009 | icon2 Neighbours | icon3Comments Off

Once again our neighbours have gone into uber-friendly Christmas mode.

First we get a notice in our letter box from down the street asking if we’d like to be part of the Christmas morning Santa syndicate. For a small fee it can be arranged for Santa to stop by and deliver to our bright-eyed kiddies a pre-purchased gift to the value of $20. This is an annual event in our street. Sadly I can’t find the piece of paper otherwise I’d go on heckling in more detail.

Next arrives from a few doors down – people we’ve barely seen let alone spoken with – an invitation to a “Christmas eve street party”. Apparently BBQ facilities are provided, so all we need to do is bring our own food and drinks and we can all get together and “have a few laughs”.

I’d rather eat tinsel.

You see, our neighbours are a strange lot. There’s the “Takaluas” (not their real name) next door who, though unfailingly friendly, are a mysterious bunch with odd nocturnal habits. The “Ethans” (not their real name) on the other side are a pair of screaming nutcases who are on the verge of bringing a third child into their high-tension household. Further afield our street holds a selection of suburbanites who collectively have taken lawn care (and hence annoying me) to new extremes. One of my favourites is “Crown Lager guy”, who can be seen in his front yard each afternoon around 4:30, cradling a Crownie, looking for his next conversational victim. Lately he has taken to standing, beer in hand, out front of the construction site across the road, staring intently through the wire mesh fence at the bare concrete slab, as if it somehow all makes sense.

You’re probably thinking I’m being a bit bah humbuggy about this, and you’d be right. I’ve searched deep within myself and found not even an inkling of desire to spend a single minute socialising with any of our neighbours. For 364 days of the year they annoy the shit out of me with their lawn mowers and line trimmers, so I don’t see why I should happily share a beer and a sausage with them just because it’s Christmas.

I plan to spend Christmas Eve with people I care about. Namely, Rach, our cats, and a large glass of eggnog.

Dec 12
Santa Is Coming Again
icon4 Dec 12th, 2008 | icon2 Neighbours | icon3Comments Off

“Santa is coming again…”

So begins the leaflet that I found in our letterbox this morning. I knew at once what it was, as we had received an almost identical note last year. 

Here is the opening sentence:

“Well it is that time of year again, if you are interested in your household participating in Christmas morning Santa please let me know so I can work out how much it will cost each household.”

What? I always thought Santa appeared on Christmas morning through his own goodwill and love of children.

Not in our little suburban nest of cul-de-sacs. Each year a number of residents band together in Christmas spirit by arranging for “Santa” (presumably a local subsidiary of Santa Claus International Pty. Ltd.) to make a personal appearance at participating households.

Let me register my distaste at the insinuation that unless we join in with this neighbourhood event – at significant expense, mind you – our household is somehow bereft of the spirit of Santa. I fully intend to participate in my own personal “Christmas morning Santa” and it won’t cost me a penny!

It continues:

“For those new to the area, we arrange for Santa to come on Christmas morning and give each child (it can be your own children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren), a gift (bought by parents approx $10.00 in value).”

Hang on. “We arrange for Santa to come…” So Santa is at your beck and call? I don’t think so.

And he only gives gifts that have been bought by parents in advance … so what does the author mean in the first sentence by “so I can work out how much it will cost each household”? On top of buying gifts for our kiddies – which Santa will then take credit for – we must also contribute to an appearance fee?

What sort of mercenary has Santa become? Does he now visit only those children whose parents have paid upfront in cold hard cash? Fuck you, Santa, and the sleigh you rode in on.

Dec 4
Christmas Time is Here Again
icon4 Dec 4th, 2008 | icon2 Neighbours | icon3Comments Off

Each December a strange phenomenon occurs. Australian Bureau of Statistics records show an annual spike in household energy consumption, and a concurrent rise in hospital admissions owing to falls from ladders. The reason for this is obvious. Christmas lights.

When I was a kid, Christmas lights went on the Christmas tree and that was that. Then some enterprising individual realised that those long chains of fairy lights could be tacked up pretty much anywhere. Soon they were appearing around front doors, then the window frames and roofline. The spools of lights got longer and longer. Fifty, a hundred, a thousand globes! Now anything is fair game: trees, shrubs, letterbox. The family pet is getting nervous.

The coloured Christmas lights I loved as a kid are now old hat. The limits of yard illumination are being pushed to the extreme. Trees glow an unearthly blue, pulsing silently like an alien spacecraft ready for takeoff. Perched on a rooftop, Santa’s sleigh is outlined in red and green neon, flickering at three frames per second in a crude depiction of reindeer-powered flight.

The number of man-hours spent erecting these modern art masterpieces must be staggering. But thankfully dad can enlist the kids to lend a hand. Nothing gladdens the heart more than seeing a six-year-old struggling up a ladder with a spool of Christmas lights and a staple gun.

Almost every house in our street has a Christmas display in its front yard. And it keeps ramping up each year, like a kind of Yuletide arms race. In the case of one neighbour, it is literally a competition; a large hand-painted sign in their front yard requests that passers-by vote for them in the local radio station’s “Best Christmas Lights” contest. Their incandescent abode can be seen from space and has the carbon footprint of a small Pacific island nation.

But there is something captivating, even for an adult, about the Christmas displays. A primordial excitement is stirred in the belly when the Christmas lights appear, a sign that presents and eggnog are just around the corner.

On Christmas Eve we go for a wander around our local streets and take in the spectacle. One street in particular is well established as the local hub of Christmas illumination. Here the footpaths are crowded with people. Cars slow down to walking pace to gaze at the lights and to avoid wayward toddlers. Dogs run from yard to yard in a photon–induced frenzy.

By the New Year it is almost over. A few houses hold out, refusing to admit that the fun must end, but by mid-January even they have flicked the switch. And by then I am thankful that Christmas comes but once a year.

 

This video has been floating around for a few years now, but it still makes me smile. Be sure to watch it all the way through.

Jul 2

You may recall earlier posts concerning our neighbours, the Takaluas. Their little boy, Fubar, provides an interesting case study in child behaviour.

Fubar is not yet going to school, so I assume he is about four years old.  For a little kid, he is alarmingly independent. Most days he can be found wandering around the cul-de-sac or in the yard between our houses. His level of parental supervision appears to be approximately nil.

Fubar enjoys break dancing, particularly the move known as the “arm wave”. He likes to stand in the driveway and do this. He also spends about 13 hours each day on his new swingset.

Fubar and I had a run-in a while back when I yelled at him to stop throwing pebbles at our house. So he usually gives me the evil eye whenever we cross paths. One of his favourite passtimes is to run up to our door, knock, and run away, but he hasn’t done this for a while.

Sometimes he sits in the dirt, digging holes, counting quietly (I have heard him get as high as 41, which is pretty good), or having little conversations with himself.

Our houses sit at the end of a cul-de-sac, at the top of a steep hill. Each afternoon at around three o’clock, Fubar takes up his position at the top of the small cliff in front of his house. From this vantage point he has a view over the surrounding streets and fields. This is where Fubar likes to sit and wait for his sister to come home from school. He really loves his sister, and she spends alot of her time playing with him and looking out for him.

The other afternoon he was standing in his usual spot waiting for his sister. He began making loud, random noises like “Kek! Kek! Kek!” This went on for about five minutes.

I really think Fubar needs to go to school.

Jun 10

Rach and I have just witnessed an interesting piece of social intercourse between two of our cherished neighbours.

We had just finished an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, when we realised that the shouting on screen was continuing outside in the street. We crept out onto the front balcony and, peering through the foliage, watched the drama unfold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 17

When Rach and I first came to look at the house we now live in, the previous tenants were in the process of moving out. We had arranged to meet the property manager, but arrived early, so we parked in the cul-de-sac and sat waiting in our car.

The house sits at the top of a short, steep driveway, probably about 20 metres from the road. The tenants were busily loading stuff into their car, which was parked in the carport, right next to the house. They did a few trips back and forth, lugging boxes and bags, as well as a huge armchair, which they stuffed into their little hatchback.

The husband then got into the car and reversed down the driveway. When he got to the street, however, he didn’t turn left and head off down the hill. Instead he made a 180 degree turn and pulled up alongside the kerb at the end of the cul-de-sac. He then got out and proceeded to unload the contents of the car on to the nature strip.

We sat watching, confused, until it dawned on us that this was the junk they were putting out for council collection. Rather than carry all the items down the driveway, they had packed the car, driven out onto the street, and then unpacked it.

We soon met the couple in question, and they were most friendly. They were also quite large, in their fifties, and on the fast track to morbid obesity. We understood then why they chose not to risk coronary failure by making unncessary journeys up and down the driveway.

Apr 2

What is it with people and their lawns? Having recently moved to suburbia I am amazed by the amount of time our neighbours spend preening their yards. As a result, our community is plagued by the incessant noise of garden machinery. In our suburb barely an hour of silence is allowed to pass uninterrupted, before someone starts up a whipper-snipper, lawn mower or leaf blower.

These machines are so loud! Some bloke a hundred metres away starts his lawn mower and I know about it. On weekends the racket begins at seven in the morning. Just as we are sitting down to a relaxing Sunday breakfast, there comes the infuriating din of the whipper-snipper down at number 11.

The leaf blower is a symbol for the futility of mankind’s battle with the forces of nature. It moves leaves from here to there. People, more leaves will fall to take their place, don’t you see? And why use such an energy intensive device to move a few tiny leaves? In my day we used a rake! A broomstick with prongs on the end, remember?

I have witnessed people clipping their edges in the pouring rain. I have heard lawn mowers being fired up when it is nearly dark. I have watched while a neighbour spent thirty minutes carefully manicuring a patch of grass smaller than a pool table. I thought about wandering over with a couple of cues and challenging him to a game.

Each week come garbage collection day, green waste bins are lined up along our street like soldiers on parade. They are invariably full to bursting with all manner of shrubbery. Frankly, I am surprised there are any trees left in our suburb given the sheer biomass that is hauled away every week.

We should co-ordinate our yard maintenance schedules. Let’s all do our mowing and leaf blowing at the same time, so that nobody is put out by the horrendous racket. Imagine the noise we could generate! We could get into the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s loudest suburb!

I suggest we push for lawn mowing to be accepted as an Olympic sport. It was in the opening ceremony for the Sydney Games, so why not take it a step further. Gold medals for Australia would be guaranteed!

If we’re going to spend so much time – and generate so much noise – in keeping our yards tidy, then let’s at least use them occasionally. I only ever see our neighbours on their lawns when they are mowing them. After this weekly chore is done they scuttle back inside to have a beer and watch sport. Sport which you may notice is played on a bloody great big lawn!

Mar 24

A few nights ago we were in bed when we heard the Takalua kids walking down the driveway which runs past our bedroom window. The girl was talking quietly to her brother Fubar, who was making a hell of a racket. It sounded like he was dragging a chain along the concrete. His little thongs were slapping on the ground as he ran up and down the driveway.

I wondered what they were doing out there at 10:30 pm. I thought about yelling at them to shut up, but I wanted to see if anything else happened. I soon fell asleep while little Fubar prowled around outside our window, dragging his chain under the full moon.

Mar 18
The Takaluas
icon4 Mar 18th, 2008 | icon2 Neighbours | icon31 Comment »

Next door to us live an islander family. We call them the Takaluas, after Jonah Takalua from Summer Heights High. I don’t believe we are racist, we just like to make ourselves laugh. There are four Takaluas: mum and dad, and a daughter and son. The son is about four years old – it’s difficult to tell – and can often be seen acting strangely. We call him Fubar, which is a name I suggested. Fubar comes from the US Army term FUBAR meaning “fucked up beyond all recognition”. Fubar Takalua.

The other members of the family appear relatively normal for the area in which we live. The mother seems nice and we have nodded to each other once or twice. The father works at night, or at least I suspect this is the case. We share a driveway so when he comes and goes we know about it. He leaves every night at about 9:30 PM. As he drives down our driveway Fubar can be heard yelling “bye! bye! bye!”. He continues to do this even when his father is well out of earshot. “Bye! bye!” Fubar likes to stay up very late for a four-year-old.

The daughter is about ten I think, and she plays with her little brother Fubar. Mostly they play tennis or basketball. There is also another woman I have seen but I don’t know who she is. Maybe an aunty. One time a whole lot of men came in a car and had a small party. They also had the bonnet of the car up and were looking inside. There is a little building, like a granny flat, that I think the Takaluas own, but I don’t know what is inside or who might live there.

Fubar sometimes gets up to mischief. When we were moving in he would run up to our door, yell “Fuck!” and then run away. I tried to be nice to him but it’s difficult to be nice to someone who runs up to the door of your home screaming obscenities. He was also getting under the feet of the removalists while they were trying to carry our fridge into the house. Eventually I got mad and told him to go away.

About a month ago I noticed Fubar walking down the driveway past the front of our house. (He is often seen wandering alone, he is very independent.) I heard him talking to himself, and then I heard noises like things hitting our roof. I suspected Fubar was throwing pebbles at our house which got me angry. When I opened the door to tell him to stop he ran away. I waited at the front window, and when he walked by I yelled out “Hey!” and he jumped about two feet in the air. I don’t like scaring little kids but I think he deserved it. I then told him to stay away from our house and don’t throw things. He muttered something, pointed down the driveway and continued on his merry way.

I worry that one day I will run over Fubar with my car.