I’m blown away by all the lovely people who came by last week – from all across the globe! If I haven’t caught up with you yet, I promise to be around in the next few days. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a bit of Aussie talk.
It might surprise you to know that most Aussie neighbourhoods don’t in any way resemble the cast of Neighbours. Strange, but true. If you don’t believe me, check out this hilarious South Australian post, Writing, Not Bludging.
My neighbours think I am the biggest bludger on earth.
This wouldn’t be a problem if I lived in an arts suburb, like Brunswick. But alas, I live a much less glamorous existence in a block of units housing several retirees.
On one side is Ethel. Her biggest preoccupation is cleaning up possum poo so that her cat, Leo, doesn’t roll in it.
One day she handed me the broom and suggested I might like to have a go. I, of course, politely declined. I could see it in her eyes, Young people these days…Whatever does she do in there all day, anyway?
So as not to make an awkward situation worse, I scampered away back inside, confirming her belief that I’m a shiftless layabout. Later I heard her grumbling to Leo, “Those possums make such an awful mess! I don’t know where they keep on coming from…”
On the other side is George. He has many preoccupations – watering the garden, pruning the buggery out of the trees and Friday morning bin collection, just to name a few. He also dislikes possums.
One morning, as Pepi and I ventured on our walk, I happened to compliment him on his lemon tree.
“You know, the possums?” he booms, “They come here, from the golf-course, I think – ” he gestures, “Anyway, they come here – they eat the buds, you know? The buds!”
“Yeah! The buds. The skin. Everything…”
“Oh! No, I didn’t know.”
He proceeded to tell me how, when he chased the possum away with a stick, it ran across the power line.
“They are very clever, you know, but – yeah…they eat…”
Now, just in case you’re wondering, possums in Australia don’t breed in epidemic pest proportions. They are unique little natives to Australia.
The smallest, forest dwelling types, like the Leadbeater and the Pygmy Possums, are on the brink of extinction. Others, like the Brushtail and Ringtail varieties, exist in urban areas quite happily, despite our best efforts to run them out of town.
What I didn’t bother to tell George or Ethel is that I know exactly where our possum neighbour lives. And it’s not over at the golf course.
Outside Ethel’s guest room window stands a tall conifer tree. Invariably, there is always a small sprig of green that stands out at an angle from the tree. The OCD in me had always wondered at its messiness.
But then, one moonlit night, as I pulled up in my car spot, there could be seen the faintest outline of two ears and a tail.
Up there, sitting on that sprig of green, was the smallest ringtail I have ever seen. He watched me, curiously, from his open door.
We stared at each other for a long while, and then I went inside.
Over my back fence is another neighbour I refer to as The Gorg. Unfortunately, her main preoccupation is screaming at the kids before they go to school. I’m not talking a couple of minutes of raised-voice frustration. I’m talking spine-chilling, half-an-hour, top-of-lungs tirade.
The Gorg is growing a lemon tree by the fence so she can’t see us from her kitchen when we come out our back door. We don’t talk much, for obvious reasons, but her cat, Lollipop, loves to spy on Pepi from the fence.
Another moonlit night, I took Pepi out the back to pee. I heard a rustle, and assuming it was Lollipop, braced myself for a Pepi-sized tirade.
But when I looked up, it was my little possum neighbour staring from the fence.
While we stared at each other, Pepi wandered back inside, oblivious. And then, after what seemed like an age, my possum friend jumped back into The Gorg’s tree for a feast.
One tiny possum, eking out an existence against all odds, and quite despite our petty people politics.
I don’t know about you, but his secret’s safe with me :)