Neighbours

It’s the name of a long-running soap opera. Still, it is not the Australian thing to do, says a friend of mine, for neighbours to get to know each other. I must have quite very odd neighbours, then. I am glad of it.

My first effort at living alone in Perth was in a large block of flats in Victoria Park. The only permanent resident was an ageing Filipina who scrutinised each new tenant with some misgiving. Which flat were we in? Did we know the parking rules? Had we remembered to turn off the lights in the laundry? Well, it was conversation of a sort. The only other friendly face was that of a little Middle-Eastern boy who used to peep over the adjacent balcony to show me his cars. Boys and their toys – it starts young, apparently.

The second time round, I found myself in a housing complex of twelve town houses near South Perth. You know the type – fairly new, cramped, and within a secure compound. So secure, in fact, that I hardly knew the other inmates, except in passing. Wave – there goes number 9 in his ute. Wave – there goes number three in his coupé. Number ten hurries past with her pram. I had the royal wave down pat by the time I moved out.

Third-time lucky and with a small child – I find myself in a brick-front villa in a complex of six. My neighbours have gardens and garden gnomes. They stop and smile and say ‘hello.’ Perhaps having a baby is a talking point. Certainly, my baby is keen to talk (read babble) about his day to anyone who will listen. His first stop, the patient cat across the way, sitting by the window. Then, his equally patient owner. He toddles along to check Nonna’s garden next door, filled with lovingly grown flowers. He tries his best to chat with the older toddler in number one. He loves watching the man with the lawnmower in the garden across the street.

We are a multicultural neighbourhood – Italian, Scottish, Indian, Costa Rican – it’s a regular United Nations. It feels like home. People stop to chat. We share titbits about our lives. We help each other out. And more to the point, we are all Australian.

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