Monday, May 11, 2009

You shook me all afternoon long

Since moving here, we've gone from a largish house and garden in sprawling Adelaide to a compact-but-renovated house in Flemington.

The front yard, as you can see here, is miniscule, so apart from Milly deciding it makes the perfect place to drop her butt nuggets, we tend to wrinkle our noses in disgust, slip the key in the front door and forget what we just saw and smelled.

The back garden is the size of a party-pizza box and has a block of flats looming over it from the eastern side with at least one tenant favouring ACDC at level eleven during the early afternoons.
On Auction Day, straight after we'd been the final bidders and had sat in the kitchen negotiating the sale price (the owners were in the bedroom) and signed the documents thrust in front of us with gleeful-but-shaking hands, Love Chunks and I stood outside in the unseasonally freezing November hail for a few minutes, grinning at each other.

"We've just BOUGHT A HOUSE!" He hugged me and I kissed him heartily, only to open my eyes and see an unshaven bloke in trakkie pants in the distance over LC's left shoulder enjoying a smoke on his balcony and the impromptu affection-fest we were putting on for his apparent benefit.

"Er, hello there," I called out, hoping that he'd shift his gaze before me. He did.

It was then that I decided that even though we'd potentially have twelve separate households looking down on our pocket-sized garden, gym shed and BBQ-area, I wasn't going to restrict the way I lived my life.

It isn't as though I'm a habitual streaker who's fond of doing nude cartwheels, or operate a thriving meth-lab in the bike shed. Nor am I a volatile junkie, a Tourette's sufferer with a foghorn voice, a born-again bible reader or into homespun Satanic rituals, but if I want to serenade Milly ("There was a showgirl, her name was Milly, she had blue ribbons in her hair and a dress cut down to there...."), call out to the rabbit ("Hey Spunky Buns, want a bunch of parsley?") or try double-dutch skipping with Sapphire then I'm damn well going to.

Our neighbours on the west side are two quiet Scottish doctors who work nights, so they tend to stir late morning/lunchtimes and the occasional whiff of coffee and the mewing of their cat is a hint they're outside in their courtyard sunning themselves.

Apart from saying "Hi" as we wheel our bins out on on the kerb Wednesday nights or offer to collect each other's junk mail during holidays, they mostly hear our lives rather than see them. Their cat, Hendrix, likes to parade along the wooden fence dividing our back gardens, luxuriating in the thrill of sending Milly berserk and enjoying the fact that he's the only creature that can actually get her to bark.

Kerry says all she can hear is me saying, "Oh shoosh Milly, he's just teasing you. Go find something better to do, like lick your date or eat Skipper's vegan poo poos." Stuart joined us and said, "I tend to hear a lot of heavy breathing and sometimes a bit of really weird, toneless singing, but usually it's only every seventh word."

Ah yes, that'd be me on the treadmill. Headphones and iPods are marvellous motivators (trust me: Neil Diamond's 'Crunchy Granola Suite' is a top song to run to on a drizzly Monday morning) but can fool the listener/runner into believing that their/her occasional heartfelt but heaving sing-alongs are being effectively drowned out by the sounds being pumped into their eardrums.

Afterwards, I tend to flop on this rather lacy park bench (proudly chosen by Sapphire, pictured here with Milly), huffing and puffing, flicking drops of sweat on the ground and scratching Milly's ears, saying out loud, "That was a tough one, Milly-gram. I farted in time to the start of 'Echo Beach', thanks to Love Chunks' home made sweet potato soup last night."

It's only then I look up and see at least one of the twelve balconies has someone standing there, trying to look over the mechanic's shed onto Mt Alexander Road or towards the big yellow cheesestick and red toast-rack on the Tullamarine. If they make eye contact, I'll smile and wave and know that every single time they'll be the first to avert their gaze.

And that's fine by me. When Sapphire sits on the bench and occasionally sheds a tear about the friends she still misses or we're sipping our microwaved hot chocolates and cuddling, I don't want to feel self conscious or as though we should be editing our lives.

Besides, our clothesline is wedged up against the fence of the flats and our jocks, knickers, bras and socks always get hung closest to their side. Why should we have to look at underwear when we're playing in the garden?


franzy said...

Methinks the lady doth protest too much ...

Are you celebrating living in such close quarters, or are you really covering up your suburban-bred modesty? I detect a current defiance here. An attitude which says 'Yes, I live in a smaller, less-private house than I have become recently used to, but dammit, I will not alter my behaviour to suit my living quarters.'
The theme of holding, almost challenging the gaze of your neighbours runs through this post and reads like a statement of intent:
"I will acknowledge your existence, fellow being. I will not perform or alter or modify who am!"
Well, bravo for you, Kath. Community is a waning commodity and connection with our neighbours is disappearing. I hope you meet more of the flat-dwellers and that they don't start thinking of you as that crazy staring lady.

ps. Could you post LC's sweet potato soup recipe?

Kath Lockett said...

Actually, I'm really, truly enjoying living here. For a densely-populated area, it is surprisingly quiet. We're probably the household who makes the most noise (during the day) and at night, are likely to be inside, on the sofa or at the dinner table.

Crazy staring lady = no. Crazy dog lady = er, yes.

And I'll chat to Love Chunks tonight re his sweet potato soup recipe. He made it up from scratch, but I'm sure he can remember what he did.

lc said...

Sweet Potato Soup ala LC

Serves 4

2 medium sweet potatoes (peeled & diced);
1 lge potato peeled and diced;
1 onion diced;
1/2 teaspoon garlic;
500ml chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
fresh chopped parsley - lots
water to dilute to desired consist.
olive oil
1 nose peg for later

Fry onion and garlic in olive oil in largish saucepan/pot until soft. Add potatoes and continue to fry for 5 mins.

Add stock, water to cover and seasoning. Bring to boil and then simmer for 20 mins.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 mins.

Add parsley and cream and use hand-held blender to blend (or use regular blender).

Heat and serve with herb bread.

After 2 hours apply nose peg.

Kath Lockett said...

TWO HOURS later? OK, so I might have let a few surreptitious ones go during 'MasterChef' and a couple of old 'Frasier' episodes but I didn't realise you were paying attention!

Oh and just as I'm typing this, the ACDC has been turned up next door. Back in Black....

Benjamin Solah said...

I once lived in an apartment that overlooked a house...the one in Ascot Vale...

They weren't as interesting as you though.

River said...

Double Dutch skipping?? Wow, you're game. (I used to be quite good at that).
LC's soup sounds wonderful. I'm going to add it to my recipe collection. I make a similar one with sweet potato and pumpkin.
I could say a fair bit about the editing of *my* life, but I won't.

Hungry Hungry Hypocrite said...

My word verification is "tratisen". It sounds like the product Pfizer makes for people who live in Flemington with neighbours who listen to Acca Dacca.

deepkickgirl said...

I love the verbal pictures you paint Kath.

Helen said...

I always stop myself before singing along while running, but I can lip-sync like a pro! ne day when I get a treadmill at home I'll try it though!

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Benjamin. I think...?

River, I didn't say that I *mastered* double-dutch skipping and I think the two blokes having a smoke on balcony seven will agree.

Jon I need some high-strength Tratisen, but only if I can wash it down with some cab sav.

Thanks Deep Kick Girl. It's possibly easier and less stressful to read about my attempts at Double-Dutch skipping than to actually have to witness it!

Word verification - Reverack. Definition: If you have a nice chest, it should be revered.

Benjamin Solah said...

Yeah, that is totes a compliment. I like the more interesting types, with no shame and aren't boring people who don't do anything for fear of being judged.

I mean, how else would I be a socialist? I fully acknowledge that a group of mostly student types yelling out political things on the street and handing out leaflets is considered odd by most people. ;-)

Baino said...

Ah someone else who talks and sings to their dog! Go Kath! I dread the thought of living in the city although the proximity to 'stuff' would be great and I wouldn't need a car. I once had a neighbour below me in our first flat complain because he could hear me walking across the kitchen to which my husband replied "WTF is she supposed to do? Fly?"

River here's your chance . . do a recipe blog!

Kath Lockett said...

Benjamin - Odd, no. Passionate, yes.

Love Chunks and I first 'started out' together in a third floor flat in Flemington in 1994. We heard scraping chairs on the kitchen lino above, screaming arguments below, electric guitar practice on our right and the smell of delicious curries cooking on our left. I still walk past there with Milly occasionally and smile.

Cinema Minima said...

What about some strategically placed shadecloth? You could get some nice plants going under it, and perhaps establish "Nude Tuesday" or whatever you're into. And I remember that unseasonally freezing hailing November day too because it was my wedding day!

Kath Lockett said...

We've got four Manchurian pear trees that will soon cover up the flats' balconies but in the meantime, I'll sing, dance, skip, run and talk to whichever animal I want.

Music wasn't AkkerDakker this arvo but Green Day. Bloke clearly changes his CD once every four months.