I haven't always lived this way. Almost two decades ago, I used to live in an inner city suburb of Melbourne. It was 4km (2.5 miles) from the city centre, so it was close enough to walk to work in the city, as I did every day. Cafes in that inner suburb were quiet on weekends and the editor and I would often sup on coffee and munch on a toasted focaccia, which were a popular food item back then. At the tables near to us were elderly gentleman wearing faded business shirts or otherwise tattered clothes reading the Financial Review. It was a strange but pleasantly quiet mix.
In those days, the suburb had not been gentrified by any stretch of the imagination, and someone once made the mysterious comment to me that there was "quiet money" in that area, not that I understood what was meant by that. I did however understand that the area we lived in had more than its fair share of characters.
For some unknown reason there were two retired school principals living a few doors apart. Both of them had kids living in the area, and the daughter of one of them was meaner than a cut snake. One day, I couldn't help but notice that the mothers house alarm was blaring away. In those days a house alarm was an unusual item. Anyway, as an act of neighbourly goodwill, I went around to the daughters house to let her know of the situation. Well, the reception I received was far from warm, and I could see by her reactions that she thought that I was somehow responsible for the wayward house alarm.
Then there was the guy that had lived there for ever and a day. He apparently didn't work so he was always up for a chat. He only ever became cagey when the subject of government disability pensions were mentioned, although I am unsure why. He was the locus for all of the juicier items of local gossip and was generally entertaining.
Another bloke a few doors down was a house husband and perpetually wore his heart on his sleeve about his status. I always rather suspected that he just wallowed in a good depression and so I avoided him. I offered him work once, but he gave me a 'go away' price for his labour, and so I went away. His story didn't end well. However, at least he didn't recount the same stories over and over again like another person did! Those stories were amusing on the first hearing, and no doubts, people will be making that observation about this blog before a decade of writing is up!
And into this seething mass of characters was a young bloke who drove a duck egg blue Toyota Camry (a true rebel vehicle). That car was an odd choice, but it had been tricked up, as you do when you own a duck egg blue Toyota Camry. The editor and I used to walk the dogs around that quiet money suburb at night and we were the only souls on the move other than: The Camry Man. Yup, for that is what the editor and I called him.
You could hear that beast of a vehicle from a mile away because the car stereo was very impressive and he never went anywhere slowly. The young bloke must have gone through a few tyres in his time, because he was forever "lighting them up" (a fancy description for pulling a burn out). He even pulled that trick right outside his own house. A couple of times the editor and I and the dogs had close shaves with the Camry Man and we had to rush to seek the safety of the footpath as he did his usual high speed canon ball run up one of the roads late at night.
Night time was perhaps the best time to observe the Camry Man in his natural environment. On one memorable evening, we could hear the doof, doof, doof, of the sub woofer coming from that most unexpected of vehicles. And as we drew closer to the noise, we could see that a laser light show had been recently installed. Even I was impressed as the green lasers were bouncing all over the insides of the vehicle (and indeed off the Camry Man himself) in time with the music. Of course, the vehicle was parked as even he didn't have the competency to drive with a personal rave party for a passenger. I certainly wouldn't!
Eventually, someone in the area took umbrage with the guy and smashed his headlights. It wasn't me if only because I didn't think of doing that! By sheer chance, the day after the vigilante struck, I happened to see the Camry Man's distressed face as he surveyed the damage to his pride and joy. He eventually repaired the damage and was never really much of a nuisance again. Of course, he may have taken his nuisance activities elsewhere!
I have heard other people speaking about the word 'community'. And to me those stories smell strangely as everyone thinks the same, acts the same, and has the same values. I reckon real community is a very messy beast! And for all of the bad that I painted in that above story, there was plenty of good going on too. People used to help me and loaned me tools and technical assistance with repairing the old house. One neighbour even had an extensive workshop and I was free to use it to fabricate steel gates and fences, which was a real boon during cold and wet winter days.
Community, as far as I can understand things, is both the good and the bad, and all the many points in between.
|A baleful sun sets in a smoky atmosphere on another hot summers day|
As a precautionary measure taken earlier in the week - one hot day I refilled all of the primary water tanks. The various water pumps were going for hours and hours on end as I pumped water up from the reserve water tanks and into the primary water tanks. With a bit of cooking using the electric oven, we managed to utilise more electricity from the solar panels than any previous day. It was an impressive achievement and we used 20.1kWh that day. We really had to try hard to use so much electricity! If only we had a plasma TV however, we could achieve that total much more regularly. Damn you power saving appliances!
|A record. 20.1kWh (559Ah x 36V) of solar electricity used in one day!|
Earlier in the week, we harvested and preserved the remaining apricots. The stone fruit this summer has been nothing short of excellent!
|Earlier in the week the remaining apricots were harvested and preserved|
|The primary firewood shed is now mostly full|
|The bright yellow trailer has now been repainted with quality metal paint|
|Scritchy the boss dog has come to terms with Ollie|
|Sir Scruffy protects the radio as the Triple J Hot 100 was aired - on a very hot day!|
|Lunch: Home made bread, home grown tomatoes, and pesto made with basil straight from the garden|
|Cucumber and a container of King Billy plums and the smaller Damsons|
|Tomatoes have begun ripening over the past few days|
|We may get our first full sized eggplant!|
|The corn is growing well and each stalk looks as though it has produced two cobs|
|Melons love the heat and the vines are creeping everywhere and they are now sporting fruit|
|The last of the blueberries were picked|
|Olives are plentiful and they are now swelling in size|
|A huge tree frog stalks a huntsman spider|
|The melons are producing plenty of flowers and the promise of tasty fruit!|
|Eggplants are enjoying the heat|
|The bush roses have bounced back with the recent monsoonal deluge|
|Globe artichokes produce superb flowers and are very tasty!|