Where we live, in a small area on the outer edge of the ever expanding Australian suburban universe, we are a fail-to-fit on most of the local demographics. This doesn’t worry us. We’ve never been fit-in people.
But it does interest us. Most of the time, when the tradies who make up most of the male quota of the locality (2021 census: 49.2%, median age 30) are off in one of their multiple choices of big utes making more money than brain surgeons, it’s fairly quiet. That is, unless the dogs which are left alone at the house behind us through the day decide to have barking fits. This is a regular occurrence. On a daily basis. Often it seems to be on the hour. We live with that. It’s not the dogs’ fault.
Christmas, though, seems to bring out epidemic thoughtlessness. Next door to us we now have pulsing multi-coloured lights. Unless they remember to put down the block-out blinds they installed last year, blocking out much of our view to the vegetation beyond and a measurable portion of our afternoon sunlight, this gifts their kitschy lumens to our al fresco area. Mood lighting’s fine, if it’s your own mood lighting. If it’s someone else’s, well, mostly you’re not in the mood.
At the house behind us, which like every other one in this regulated building environment is behind 1.8m fences at the sides and back, Christmas has brought us one of those ginormous TV screens, installed on the wall of the newly developed patio and, because of its placement, in our full view unless we crawl around on all fours so we can’t see what’s beyond and just above the shared fence. The improvements on the other side include a ceiling fan over the patio, which for us creates the risk of episodic epilepsy as it interacts with the colour and movement of the big screen. We don’t watch a lot of television, but when we do it’s on one of two medium-size flat screens, in the living room or media room inside. Perhaps if the ginormous one behind was ever going to show something worth watching, it wouldn’t be so bad. But we know enough about life, and the neighbours, to be certain that this will never happen. It’s the sort of establishment where Siri gets called in to do the homework.
Our streetscape has changed radically for Big Swig, the secular celebration that Australia has made its own, having reduced Santa to cardboard cut-out or blow-up doll dimensions. Houses seem to have at least doubled their vehicular occupants (though there’s a tradie place a couple of streets away where apparently life cannot be lived as it should without the presence of the four utes and two small trucks that reside on site year-round). A large caravan has taken up residence on our fence line (literally). A tarted-up utility is ignoring social distancing niceties to the detriment of the plants that live on the nature strip outside our front fence. No one else has a front fence in our street. You can’t use your lawn as a parking lot for your fleet of oil sheik-pleasing gas guzzlers, unless you can drive over the kerb directly on to it.
Some houses have gone the full monty with external Christmas lighting, though one that’s very close to us has managed to look as if it’s channelling electric Islam. We’re sure it isn’t.
Our morning walk on Christmas Eve brought us to a scene of vandal destruction that might have earned at least an appreciative wink from Gaiseric, sacker of Rome. Some mindless idiot had stolen a big pallet-lifter and driven it over a long fence line on the sporting oval, and then over a number of timber bollards, before coming to a halt after uprooting a small tree. Later in the day, while we dealt with high volume surround sound in our back yard by playing Billy Joel and Warren Zevon (the Distaff wouldn’t let me play my favourite Lily Allen song, the one that references a famously unknown ancient Chinese philosopher) on the portable speaker set a notch or two up from normal, a series of police siren-calls disturbed what passed for the peace of the precinct. We hoped, devoutly, that these were in pursuit of the Vandal King of Vasse, and that they caught him.
But, hey, it’s Christmas, and a chap should be charitable and also keep an eye open for the funny side of life. So I can report that near us, also on our morning walk route, there is one of those blow-up Santas. He was still there this morning, near the front door of the house of the person who we may presume placed him there. But, as he had been for several days, he was flat-out on the lawn, face down, thoroughly deflated. He may perhaps have died of ennui, rather than just lack of air, so we steered clear, not wanting to catch that pestilence.
Delightfully, however, he had come to rest right in front of one of those silly little Santa Stop Here signs that you see ubiquitously at this time of the year.
Merry Christmas. And all the best for the New Year.