Observation Note 89: Trying to Read. I spent a few hours today reading on my verandah. Or at least trying to read on my verandah. The activity on the street was more interesting than my books on the go. The neighbour across the road was telling my neighbour from a few houses away how the lockdown suits her. I squinted, trying to look through the christmas bush that obscures my view, and I noticed that she was no longer using her cane. That’s nice. It’s good that she isn’t struggling to walk anymore.
I hear a car gently beep and I knew before I even looked to the West that my courteous neighbour with the kickass four-wheel drive must be leaving his driveway. He always beeps as he leaves. I used to think it was sweet that he was signalling to his wife and kids that he was going but then my husband pointed out to me that he does that even when they are in the car with him. He beeps to warn pedestrians that a car is pulling out of the driveway. I think that is even sweeter.
Two kids on a bicycle whiz past incredibly fast and a few slow moments later, four more young cyclists follow them with an adult who looked to be a mum coming from behind. My road is quite busy with traffic lights just six houses away that lead onto a busy(ish) thoroughfare. No big trucks traverse that road but there is constant traffic. I realise that I was a fearful parent, not allowing my oldest son to travel on that road and insisting he take the back roads to the bike track that would take him to school, and that it was not for me to judge the joyful and free parent giving her kids the opportunity for confident riding. Nope. I will not judge. In my defence, my oldest son one day ran into a telegraph pole and injured himself enough that I had to go and get him from school and deal with all the blood running down his neck. My youngest son has not ridden a bike since he was twelve when he was riding around his aunt’s farm, lost control on a downhill trajectory and catapulted over a six metre cliff, his fall being broken by a sole tree which, fortuitously, only just missed impaling him with a sharp scary looking branch which left a massive welt across his chest. I guess I have reasons to be a fearful parent.
The pony man comes past with his pony, of course. He rides his bike on thee footpath alongside his pony which has a brilliant rainbow coloured bridle. My dog Bo who has been rather bored with today’s passing traffic became rather animated. He started barking and barking. He does this every time the pony man comes past. It’s as though he can’t believe that any dog could be as big as this weirdass (pony)dog.
There were maskless joggers huffing and puffing which made me feel creeped out. Can’t they get themselves to a park and then huff huff huff? I had the misfortune yesterday to step onto the footpath as a huffing jogger exhaled on me. I want to shout at him “The Covid Bondi case was a 5 second exhalation and the chance person passing them got sick case! Can you just take care”. Once again, I feel like I am catastrophising.
A helicopter is hovering over my suburb. My husband checks the local FB page and everyone is speculating – are they searching for the mega-weddings which have been given exemptions or are they searching for queues outside the shops. They won’t find queues in this very proper suburb. Even the local supermarket is fully stocked with toilet paper where all across Sydney people are panic buying again. The people I live amongst show such restraint.
I hear a beep. My courteous neighbour has returned and this time he is reversing into his driveway yet people walking past are ignoring him and walking directly into the path of his massive car. Really???
Observation Note 90: Verandah. The thing about being in a lockdown (again) is that despite having a huge TBR, people watching on my verandah is infinitely more interesting than reading a book. When we were looking to buy a house back in 1999 one of our absolute must-have feature our home had to have was a verandah in the front of the house from where we could watch the street. This has continued to be one of the best ideas we had as we watch so many interesting people come and go.
We used to have a neighbour a few blocks away who had a fridge, a television and her sewing machine on her front verandah and she would work and watch, her sons often watching football, he husband tossing his worry beads. I envied her. I wanted her verandah too. I don’t have a powerpoint on my verandah but that certainly can be rectified. I do have my table and chairs.
My aunts in Greece have front verandahs. In Greece, the backyard is for your vegetable garden. The front yard is for family and friends. My aunt in my mum’s village had benches and chairs for all who would come and visit. Cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, godchildren, pappous and yiayias. I recall eating the most scrumptious avgolemono soup on her verandah. Years later, after she had passed away, her daughter-in-law and I were sitting on that same verandah when she called out to my uncle who was three houses away. She wanted coffee and he had the coffee machine. He brought it over with good cheer and we drank our morning coffee until another uncle called out that lunch was ready. Of course, we all gathered on his front verandah to eat.
When we first bought our house it was where we had our BBQ with our neighbours often joining us with beers and drinks. They were uni kids, with a revolving door of friends, parties and pet rats. They were polite and fun and helpful neighbours, fastidiously clean due to their severe dust allergies. They’d bring Thomas the Tank Engine videos over for the boys, and when they had parties they were annoyingly polite as when it would get late they would turn down the music only to then turn it up again when we complained that we couldn’t hear it well enough.
For a long time, my verandah was a dumping ground for sports gear – muddied shoes, stand-up boards, kayaks, oars, footballs and all the recycling collections. The entrance to my house was embarrassing. A rubbish tip in the making. “Close your eyes as you enter” was my wished for instruction for friends coming over.
However, last year’s lockdown gave us the time to clear the sports gear, get rid of the piles of unused shoes, and we went back to that gorgeous dream of a social front verandah. Just like my neighbour. Just like my aunt in Greece. On my verandah I have had friends for lunches and coffees and cakes and beers and cocktails. The perfect distanced place once restrictions were relaxed. Four chairs separated by the table. Supping and distancing. Early this year, I bought a whole lot of potplants to make the verandah prettier. We had a neighbour come in and do some long-overdue repairs including pulling out a hardy flower that had found seed in the gutter that needed replacing. It is now in a pot lushishly flowering.
We’ve watched people come and go, cars rush by, emergency vehicles rush past and any number of dogs, cyclists and of course our local pony. It is the Inner West after all. With all that going on, how on earth can I be expected to read.