On notice.

I remember in primary school, our teacher would test our observation skills. Every morning, we would sit down and she would sweetly and diligently ask us things like “Is our school on ‘Smith Rd’ or ‘Smith’s Rd’? Each morning, our stomachs churned with delight or utter disbelief, dependent on what we had noticed and what we had missed. A blink at just the wrong moment, a miniscule turn of the head at just the right one. Though casual and fun, it was an exercise I took very seriously. If you were observant you were somehow a better person. Such is my personality that I strove to be the best at, of all things, observation. I loved the challenge. And, well, frankly, thank God she took the time to run this ‘test’, because I attribute that early reminder of what we might be missing, to my love for detail and noticing things which would otherwise go unnoticed. I think it’s important in my line of work to notice things. To understand how our minds process visual information and how it affects our communication, our relationships and our ability to get through the day. Imagine if we couldn’t read? Imagine if we didn’t understand the seemingly simple relationships between facial expressions and emotions.

So what the doof* am I getting at?

Well, I just wanted to show you these pretty gates. I want you to notice them and give them some attention. Stop a while and think about the gates. I walk around the neighbourhood, grinding plastic pram wheels on bitumen and concrete, and I notice these poor old gates who at one point were decided upon, chosen, proudly attached to fences. Now they’re mostly rusted — paint peeling and hinges creaking. Do their owners still love them? Are they observed? Or, will they be discarded, like rusty junk to make way for a shiny new rust-free indication of where we all stand in the world? Sigh. I wish I could prop them up in a field somewhere and call it art**. Because not noticing those beautiful gates leaves a little hole in the universe where beautiful mundane things go to fade away and disintegrate.

*Yep. I said ‘doof’. Say it aloud. Go on, say it. ‘Doof’.
**The gates were much more difficult to draw than I expected, which makes me realise how precisely they would have been designed and forged. Were they forged? Kind of like a font? #mindblown

Advertisements

Only, a footstep, awaaaaaay.

Our neighbours had a party last night. We were forewarned, casually over the back fence, which was nice. We then found a very considered, neatly typed note, in the letterbox — another thoughtful addition. Having moved here six months ago, we have had some interesting times settling in. After a few introduced themselves immediately after our successful bid at auction, we found out that the neighbours on one side hate the neighbours on the other side, who hated the previous owners, who were really close with the ones over the road. WOAH. WELCOME.

I have since heard all sides and, while it’s not surprising, it is outrageous how far these things can go. One bloke quite openly sneered keep walkin’ mate to a young boy who was walking home from the train; another teenaged girl witnessed her neighbour screeching at the front door, unintelligible, uninhibited complaints to the girl’s mother.

At our last house, there were many aggravations — hand-crafted notes cut out of magazines, (tongues firmly wedged in concentration), threatening death to all barking dogs; cars frowned upon for not parking where they ‘should’; and council intervention after council intervention due to fences, trees, noise, etcetera, etcetera… Needless to say, it was all the product of a tiny few nutters. The rest of us, though not always happy, were content to put up with the occasional loud party, car parked poorly, and of course the perennial barking dogs. We kept our complaints to ourselves. I would even say that most of us actually liked each other.

The thing that strikes me about all of this is I’ve met all of those mentioned and they have all been friendly, warm, welcoming and keen to know us. They’re also very keen for us to hear their side of the story, to ensure that they are not cast as the villain, the crazy. BUT, they WERE crazy. And at times,  they have not been afraid to exhibit just how crazy. I, on the other hand, much prefer my crazy to be shuttered, covert and preferably non-existent. (Why would I want people to know that much about me?) I’d much rather just keep it friendly and superficial.

In theory.

Because, really, to be honest, the huzz and I are absolute neighbour tarts. We can’t help ourselves. We befriend neighbours wherever we go. Some we have happily moved on from, some we now call close friends. Some have entrusted to us the safe ‘underground’ passage of their criminal dogs into emergency foster care (a true highlight!); and some have just been there for a good walk ’round the block when the new babies were pushing their mamas to new limits.

I like my neighbours, past and present. Some I love, like the extended family they are possibly replacing. I just hope, moving forward, we can dodge a bit of the insanity that preceded us and make some more new friends.

 

***Update***

Two years on and we remain friends with either side (many over-the-fence conversations which we LOVE).  We have made new friends as the progression of newcomers in our street have replaced the ones who’ve moved on. Ahhhh, the serenity!

I don’t want to forget.

Waking up to soft, chubby, dribbly  hands, exploring my face with earnest little cooing noises gargling through the slobber. A moment of serendipity, running into the huzz at the local shops and feeling that flutter of excitement — so much that I run towards him in slow motion, with the music swelling until we embrace, grateful (or relieved?) that we still have that feeling. That moment with a new friend when you know you’re completely understood and appreciated and feel like you’ll remain friends for a very long time. Is it like when you hope hope hoped that dumb arse would phone and when would he and do you think he found that comment funny or just silly and oh oh oh … then he phones and you realise that yep, he’s going to phone and you’ll phone him and eventually you realise you’ll be there and he’ll be there. Forever. Even when you wish you could just get in the car and drive away? Well, it’s not really the same is it? But it kind of is. Listening to the cat purr as he curls up next to the computer as I tap tap tap… The kid saying, over and over, ‘what was THAT noise’… and me thinking he picked it up from daycare… but finding out that HE is the one who introduced it to allll the kids at school and that they are alllll saying it alllll day and driving their teachers a bit nuts. That’s my kid. How I am getting to know this new house. One of my favourite things is looking out the front window in the middle of who knows what time, when I’m up with the little ‘un. There is always something going on — cars sliding past, the odd jogger at 4.30am; that time there were police cars out the front; cats lounging audaciously in our driveway, lookin for trouble in the form of our Monty; the sounds of the last and first trains of the day (though sometimes that’s just depressing). And, best of all, the stars twinkling in amongst the hazy reflection of the city lights. It feels like they and I are in it together. Just doing our thing, silently and bravely. The end, ok?

Guess what I did?

I went grocery shopping — skipped out of the house, down the stairs, across the luscious lawn, bipped my way into the car, engine kicks over and I’m FREE! Slowly slowly, navigate my way, ’round the corner, past all the parked cars blocking my view, onto the busy road, manage my way through three sets of traffic lights and snap! I scored my favourite car park — actually, it’s my old favourite car park — from when I used to live on my own and drove my snappy little sporty silver delicious bullet. Anyway, things are going so well, I flick my pony tail (not really), bounce up the stairs and actually start grinning on my way up the escalator (true). Passing the funky optometrist, check my reflection and notice my posture is TERRIBLE; sneer at the cafe I love to hate, past the newsagent, past the hideous boutique that nonethless always looks better than it is (waaaay better); give the finger to the real estate agent (not really), then into the grocery store, pick up a few things, here, there, ooooh, I might get some icreeeeeeeaaaam aaaaaannnnnndddd STOP.

Did I remember my wallet?

Did I?

Well, what do you think?

Oh for fuck’s sake! Swear. Sorry.

Sigh.

Stop. Slow down. breathe…

…ditch my trolley, just leave it right there, don’t look back, walk out the door, text the huzz: “Where is my wallet?”; try very hard not to drop to the ground and throw a screaming tantrum; back past the shops, escalator, car, street, front steps, in the door, there it is, “bye honey”; back in the car, rinse, repeat… and back into the shop to find my lovely little trolley just sitting there where I left it. Carry on. Don’t forget the ice cream (I didn’t).

 

The proof