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“I could hardly believe my eyes
As a big limousine rolled up into Alice’s drive”
– New World 1972, Smokie 1976, Gompie 1995

We have something that looks like this outside our humble home:

That’s because it’s seller’s season in the Berra.

There’s nothing more hateful for a tenant than to let a bunch of strangers troop through your home twice a week, examining your most private spaces without even taking their goddamned shoes off. Looking at your home as a mere commodity. No-one likes waiting to see if the new owners will take away the roof over your head.

But there’s doubtless a lot of tenants like us around the Berra tonight, because property is hot and everyone’s selling up.

Housing affordability in the Berra is the lowest it’s been in more than 20 years, making the Berra the third most expensive city in Australia. And prices are predicted to rise by as much as 14 percent in the next two years. Consequently a lot of running-dog landowners are keen to cash in – including ours.

The little weatherboard cottage next door sold for a king’s ransom late last year, making an absolute bomb for our old neighbours.

The new neighbours haven’t been very forthcoming. We had good over-the-fence relations with the previous neighbours, who told us their house and all furnishings were bought by a film production company from Melbourne.

We thought about this for a while. Who makes films in the Berra? What films would require a fully-furnished house, and a new shed out the back? … and,

Why do we always have to think the worst of people?

We put our unsavoury, unworthy thoughts aside.

The real estate agent dealing with our house, aside from being a little too tanned and a little too blonde, has been pretty decent. On the phone last week, settling the details of the next open house, he was keen to talk about other things.

“Have you met the people next door yet? Do you know what they do?” he asked. He sold next door too, and clearly knows our neighbourhood quite well.

“We haven’t met them yet. They keep to themselves,” I said.

“But there’s a lot of loud door slamming at night, and there’s been a few large trucks moving furniture in and out lately.”

Real Estate could hardly contain himself.

“I’ve found out,” he squeaked. “They’re making porn!”

[sound of crickets]

The Bald Man and I had joked about it, of course. But it’s one thing to make a joke, another to find out that you really are living next door to Alice XXX.

“It’s tasteful porn, not the bad stuff,” Real Estate added quickly.

I googled their site as we talked. The front page is very wordy and sepia toned, with some very un-porn-like vintage pics.The large block of text includes comforting assertions like,

[We] ensure all contributors … have a positive experience, engage the mind in the sphere of erotic experience, [and] make erotica which is culturally valuable and equally appealing to both women and men.

[more crickets]

Flabbergasted, I went round to see my colleague and friend Caro in her office.

“We’re living next to porn stars!” I shrieked. Don’t suppose she hears that every day.

When the Bald Man got home we had a bit of a look in the website – just to see if we could spot next door in any pictures, you understand. All we did see was a lot more text, and (a very few) artistically cryptic photos. No familiar lounge suites.

I’m not sure what to make of the business, let alone the new neighbours.

But thankfully we’ll have time to find out. Real Estate just called – the house has sold to investors, and they want to talk about a new lease. Looks like we still have a home.

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When I think of home, it sparkles
And so brightly shines
– Paul Kelly, 1991

I can’t remember the last time it rained for 24 hours.

That was the Bald Man’s observation about the cold snap of last week. He also said, I can’t believe we’re using the heater in December, but that’s just whining.

A low pressure system brought 50mm of good, honest precipitation to the Berra. It rained steadily, softly, with only the occasional downpour or wind gust. At work there seemed to be an excited undercurrent as we all went about our business. At home, the green tomatoes and seeding rocket bowed under the weight of the water. Rain was falling when I woke up on Friday, and still falling when I went to sleep.

What was remarkable about last week was that rain used to be so ordinary. It used to rain like that all the time when we were children, but now it’s unusual enough to be worthy of comment.

Is that why I felt hollow at the numbers ‘5pc by 2020’ as they passed KRudd’s lips? And positively got indigestion as the big polluting manufacturers still squealed like stuck pigs?

*sigh*

At least the AFL might screw Richmond out of choosing Cousins. Damned Tiges need to be saved from themselves.

The Berra’s winding down for Christmas. I can feel it. Apparently the town empties out at this time of year, as the many immigrants head back to their families in other cities and towns, and locals migrate to their annual destination on the south coast. A colleague taught me how to discern someone who is doing neither: they sidle up to you and say, “What are you doing on Christmas Day?”. A bit of probing will usually reveal some sort of orphan status, as well as either an invitation to a Christmas dinner or the hope one might materialize.

Last Christmas I learned that Darwin also empties out like the Berra, and only partly due to the threat of cyclones. Conversely, people seem to go home to Sydney, or Melbourne, or a myriad country towns. But what is home? And how long can you be away from your childhood place, flying in and out just occasionally, before the homing instinct fades?

Soon I’ll catch up with a friend who grew up in my neighbourhood but who’s flown all the way to Japan and made her life there. She still comes back once a year, bringing her little girl with her – for now. I love to catch up; we had a lot in common and still have a lot to talk about. I’m glad that about once a year or so, our paths cross as I too head back home – for now.

Postscript:
Noooo! They bought Cousins! Hopeless.

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