I love writing about life in my neighbourhood. Writing it makes it real and I feel more part of it. My fingers whizzing over on the keys and recording the life anchors me to it. Here’s a mid-winter serving…
As I leave home to head for the station and then to lunch, the wind whips around my street and bits of paper and empty chip bags whirl by. It was rubbish collection this morning and the bin men have been careless.
The old Greek man who regularly sits on his porch smoking calls out.
I think this is what he says but I don’t understand his English. His wife had a better grasp of it but she died a few years ago and he is by himself now and probably lonely. He always says something and I nod and smile, and call back,
I want to say something about the rubbish collection and the paper left behind but it is too hard so I move on, giving him a wave.
Near the end of my street I can hear the wind roaring in the huge gum tree at the back of the house on corner. It is a beautiful gum with an unblemished pale grey trunk and dark green leaves. It is cut into a round shape by the arborist who comes on a regular basis. It is a great relief to those of us who live nearby that its health is monitored. It is home to a flock of Rosellas and a few Rooks but none are around on this windy morning.
The next street I turn into is somewhat sheltered from the wind but the train platform isn’t and as I wait for the train I wish I’d worn more clothes. I am travelling just one station but it is too miserable to walk.
Liz and I are having our mid winter lunch. We tell ourselves that we are celebrating the winter solstice and therefore raising a glass to our voyage towards spring and summer.
We like to eat outside and I wonder how this will work out. The train is late and I become colder.
As it turns out late is an advantage. I arrive to find Liz organising the restaurant staff to move the gas heaters to make a warm place to sit. She is always reluctant to be inside and I have become the same way. Fresh air and the street activity is what we like. To keep us warm they have set up two heaters and Liz has already ordered the wine. A wall shelters us from the wind and it is fifty times warmer than the train station. It is lovely to have this comfort organised and I feel cosseted and pampered as I sit down to my first glass of wine.
The place is opposite the construction of a new supermarket so visually it’s not ideal for a celebratory lunch but it is amazing how easy it is to become caught up in the crane delivering stuff to a partially constructed roof and watching the flurry of people guiding it into place. At a glance some of the activity seems pointless- rather like five men on a two man job. But if I fix my eye on one man and follow him – they are all men even the person with the stop/go sign – I can see there is a purpose in his action even if it is a slow purpose. Dust swirls around them and I wonder if they envy us lounging around drinking wine and eating. There is a lot of shouting on the site and I’m sure they prefer that mateship to our quiet idle chatter.
The train home is on time and crowded with school kids who are noisy and happy. I feel happy too I have celebrated Christmas in July. I walk to my house listening to the radio and I hear I have celebrated on one of the coldest and windiest days of the year. In the street from the station there is a guy on a roof with a bright blue tarpaulin that he is trying to unwrap from around himself and anchor to the roof. He appears to me to be one man on two man job. The tarp has a mind of its own. He needs help from one of the blokes hanging around the supermarket construction site. I watch him as I watched the others. Then it feels unkind looking at him struggle and it is too windy to offer suggestions. I hurry on. The Greek man has gone from his front porch. I collect the pieces of paper that have attached themselves to my fence and haul in my bins.
The next day when I drive past the tarp it is in place and anchored with bricks. Rumour has it that this house and a couple others behind are to be knocked down and replaced by an apartment block. If that is so, repairing his roof maybe a waste of time and the tarp will stay there. There are apartments on the other side of the street, and any more in this sheltered road could cause a wind tunnel.
I find change everywhere and by next Christmas in July the blue-tarp-place could be another construction site.
The other day I came across the podcast called Fitzroy Diaries by Lorin Clarke and found other people like to bring their neighbourhoods alive, too.
I wrote this piece in the middle of last winter. Now the mood in my ‘hood’ has changed and the bottle brush trees are delighting us with an amazing crop of flowers.