Gertrude’s Diary #16 – Neighbours From Hell

Gertrude's Diary

I have for a while experienced a conflicted desire to write about my neighbours. It”s a topic that”s a little too close to home” Anyway, apparently I”ve made some sort of breakthrough because I no longer have an anxiety attack every time I see them, so maybe now is the time to confront the subject, head-on. Or at the very least, surreptitiously from behind the vertical blinds.

I”d like to use some photos here, but I believe it”s frowned upon by the authorities. I do have an audio recording of me discussing with my neighbour the subject of societal mores and their influence on linguistic convention. I would like to use this forum to refute everything she says, but what she lacks in veracity she makes up for with “colour”.

From looking at Carol, it”s hard to tell whether she has been brutalised by a lifetime of alcohol, strong drugs, and parental disinterest, or whether she was just born that way. The first time I saw her I wasn”t sure whether she was a woman or a man; she had recently shaved her family”s heads and they were all sporting crew-cuts. That was when I first moved in, 5 years ago. After we”d been here a few days I introduced myself over the back fence and she invited me in. I don”t like to judge people by the piles of broken furniture in their back yard, or the fact that they talk a bit loud and swear a lot, and I had to live next to her, so I accepted.

Her first words to me after I sat down at her table were “yeah, I”ve had the kids home from school for a couple of days with nits”. Scarcely were the words out of her mouth when my scalp began to itch with imagined bugs. Of course the instant coffee she served was in an enormous mug ” you could almost have washed in it ” so I”m sorry to say that when her phone rang, I seized the moment to tip most of my beverage down the sink so that I could thank her for the drink and leave when she returned. I thought briefly about pinching my daughter to make her cry and create a reason to flee, but I”m saving that for something really horrible; like if John Howard visits.

Carol”s kitchen was decorated in an original style using pet cages; three of them stacked against the wall, with a cat in each. A little feline prison.

In writing about my neighbour I feel that I am taking advantage of her obvious misfortune in order to get a laugh, but I think that”s all part of the give and take of being a good neighbour. She gets to yell at her dogs and wake me up every morning for 5 years, I get to ridicule her. It”s a small victory, but it”s all I”ve got.

Sometimes, when it all gets too much, I try to think of the view from my living room as a gritty, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi drama about life after the invasion of the troglodytes.
If one thinks of it as theatre it becomes so much more enjoyable. One of the best matinee productions came when Carol”s teenage son climbed the roof and enjoyed an afternoon of throwing things off. The next day he came up with the splendid idea of attaching pieces of rope to broken furniture and appliances so that he wouldn”t have to waste time climbing up and down. Every hour or so Carol would come out and yell, “get off the fucking roof”. It was getting dark when she came up with idea of hosing them.

“Stop it! Stop it Mum! It”s slippery, Mum, it”s slippery!”

It”s a sad fact that rented accommodation often seems to be located next to difficult public housing tenants, and every so often I”m reminded of a conversation overheard one day when I lived in Narrabundah. Picture the scene: the elderly lady draws up in an ancient Holden and speaks to her under-10 passengers.

“Get out of the car.”

“Get out of the car.”

“Get out of the fucking car you little cunts. Okay. Say ta-ta Nana.”

I think I might start charging admission.

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