During those turbulent years when it seemed there would never come a time whereby the jackhammers and air compressors would finally be silenced during the Inner West Renovation Revolution, roughly between1968-1996. Yet, and out of the blue, there was a period of eerie quietness coming from next door. We managed to get a couple of neighbours, highly respectable journalists, who were not only quiet and disinterested in extending bathrooms or bedrooms, they also never seemed to talk to each other, never uttered a sound. The only time we were annoyed was at 4am each morning when loud music would be put on. It was a commercial station with lots of washing powder jingles. Our house was solid but did have a section joined onto theirs. Our bedroom shared a common wall but of solid sandstone. The radio started to rattle me and subsequent to holding out for a few weeks, (for the sake of good neighbourly manners) I asked for the radio to be turned down or preferably switched off. The request remained unheeded. With rising anger, reaching the stage I would now wake up at 3.45 am, in anticipation, I rushed out with murder intentions having grown fatter. I banged on the door. She opened and I announced; if you don’t fucking well switch of the radio I will fucking well ram it down your throat. Not a single note, ever. Total silence, almost!
One morning, at a decent time, a shrill voice from next door; Oh my god, I’ve got jelly all over me, oh no, no! Male voice; it is normal; it is normal, take a shower. Woman’s voice; No it is not, I was sleeping, go to Hospital; go to see the doctor, you bastard. You sicken me.
My guilt went into automatic. Is this why the radio was always on so loud, hiding sounds of healthy domesticity? Would it have made a difference if a classical music station was being played?
It was after the ‘jelly all over’ couple had moved out that a couple with a child moved in next door. They were very nice but did decide to have an in-ground pool and extension to veranda being built. The in-ground was in-rock, and the jackhammers were feasting on it for months. Finally, they ceased and water filled the pool. With the pool and the very large veranda eating almost into our lounge room space, the couple decided to have a friend’s wedding at their place. I suppose, it was also a way of showing off, with pride, the glory of their renovated and extended house.
The wedding would be day time and scaffolding with planking was erected over the pool and bride and groom would be joined in matrimony above water. Next door, on the other side there was a very large and high timber house of many stories and balconies. It was a perennial construction in progress with entire floors or verandas being added at the owner’s whim. The architect owner had a loose arrangement of many people living there, including students, musicians and others with undefinable aims or jobs. It could almost be seen as a neo Haight-Ashbury commune of The Inner West. It was totally predictable that the wedding would be overlooked by the hordes of marriage sceptics next door and it was. The architect owner, the essence of Aussie larrikin, in torn shorts and underpants bulging out on one side, shouting friendly greetings and best wishes to the couple to be married right underneath. Others joined in but with disparaging remarks such as ‘the best of luck’ or ‘you’ll be sinking it to-night’. All in all, it subdued the dignity of the occasion, lowered the standards a bit. The best was yet to come!
The evening was going to be the giving away of the bride with the bridal dance and then the white limousine with chauffeur would take the wedded couple to their honey moon abode in Terrigal. We were told that Spanish maids would be doing the serving of drinks and food. My brother who lived next door to the architect’s place had twin sons into their teen years. Being close to Sydney’s harbour foreshore and so many already doing the composting of scraps, there was an overabundance of rats which were often seen scurrying from bin to bin. One such rat had died and been lying around for a couple of days. The brother’s twins had decided to exercise balance and ingenuity by tying the rat with a piece of string to the end of a large bamboo stick. The architect’s house had a small forest of very high bamboo growing wild. The sound of the bamboo brushing up against each other during windy weather made a lovely sound. Anyway, the rat on a string at the end of this long stick was attached to the entrance gate of where the wedding evening was getting in full stride. The stick with rat hanging was cantilevered in such a way that whenever the gate was opened, a string that was tied over the back of a tree would raise the stick with the dead rat at the end in full view of the arriving quests. The quests did not want to spoil the trouble that the host had gone through and no one mentioned this strange welcome when going through the gate. It was only after the bride and groom were taken to their limousine that the rat popped up for its last time. My brother’s sons were immediately suspected and confessed after some questioning the next day.
Our friendly next door neighbour mentioned the rat debacle to me and I answered with a very insipid,’ oh you mean that rat, the one that has been lying around for a couple of days’. As if?