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The house (part 1).


It was too cheap.

Cheap by the standards of the 1982 Sydney rental market and real cheap by the standards of the suburb. Ridiculously cheap when you considered the beauty and utility of the dilapidated Victorian house sprawling across its overgrown quarter acre block.

Sandstone foundations beneath double-brick walls and a high slate roof. Stained glass lead-light across the front and right side. Working gaslight fittings in the hall and bedrooms, open fireplace, deep claw-toed bath, bakelite power points, pull cord light switches, heavy brass plumbing fittings and an institution-sized mains pressure gas water heater in the storeroom. A rotting carport held together with creepers, an old palm looming over an unmowed yard hedged in flower and fruit shrubs.

The street was tree lined and surprisingly quiet, with a row of half a dozen similar old houses running to the shops and offices of nearby Military Road. A semi-derelict wrecker’s yard backed most of the houses, abutting the grounds of a semi-elite private school. It was just a few hundred metres walk to all of the North Shore suburban amenities. From The Oaks Hotel through nearly a dozen restaurants to supermarkets and tiny specialist delicatessens. All less than three kilometers from my workplace.

A developer owned all the houses, several shops and the wrecker’s and had an application in to knock it all down and replace it with a modern, multistory complex. It had been held up in council for well over a year by then.

I wouldn’t be living there anyway. The share accommodation had been advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald where its price alone had made it stand out. There would be dozens of others competing for the room and it’s not like I was the best prospect on the block.

I was twenty one and a bit of a mess. Broken hearted on ending simultaneous romances with my first true loves. One had been a dark-haired, pale eyed Slovenian beauty of far greater experience and sophistication than I. The other had been smack.

It was a hot summer’s afternoon when the door opened on Jackie and Jude, the two young nurses aides who’d placed the ad. A carpenter named Tony lived there as well but he was back in New Zealand on family business and the girls would be choosing the new tenant.

I’d come on the Katana so I was wearing a leather jacket but it would have been incongruous to keep it on in the warm house. So I stripped it off, revealing a lean young physique in a Birthday Party t-shirt. It also revealed the scarring on my arms from the injections and other forms of self harm I’d practiced over recent years.

Like I said, I wasn’t the best prospect on the block.

After checking out the house and grounds, including the ‘large unfurnished room’ I’d read about in the paper, the ladies and I carried glasses of ice water from the kitchen down the long hallway to the sun-room where the customary interrogation would take place. Jackie, the feisty, freckled one who looked strangely familiar to me, did the talking.

“So what do you do for a living, Michael?”
“I do computer analyst/programmer contracts”
“What the fuck’s that?” (It was 1982 remember).
“I work for companies that have computers. They tell me what they want the computer to do and I tell the computer how to do it.”
“Wow, you must be pretty smart.” An ironic glance at my arms.
Laughs. “No, not so smart.”
“You got some bad habits then?”
“Not so much any more. Just some pot now and again.”
“Oh, you smoke dope?”
“Yeah. A bit.”
“So you wouldn’t mind if we smoked a bit too.”
“Nah. Sounds good to me.”
“What about if we smoked a lot?”
“That’s fine too. There’s some in my jacket. You haven’t got a bong have you?”
“I’ll get it.”

After that conversation quickly progressed to the stories of our lives. It didn’t take long for them to intersect.

“From Ettalong ya say? I’m from Umina!”
“What did you say your surname was again?”
“I didn’t. It’s D-“.
“Have you got a big brother named Mick?”
“Yeah. Thought I recognised ya. You’re one of Mick’s surfin’ mates.”
“Been a while now since the fucker dropped in on me. What’s Mick doing these days?”.

Hawkwind album
And so it went.

For the rest of the afternoon I relaxed on pillows in the rainbow sunlight, smoking bongs and yakking with Jackie, Jude and a steadily increasing group of fellow room applicants.

I moved in that week and didn’t leave for two years.

From → autobiography

  1. What a small world! I love the Astounding cover!


    • That house was one of the two places I’ve lived where Hawkwind sounded really good.

      Maybe you need to be on a ley line or something when you play it. Probably something.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lol I loved your description of computer programming thing 😛 It was a nice read Cabrogal it feels good to know that you had a good time.


  3. franco permalink

    When did I move in? Utopia. Then marriage. Now….


    • C’mon Frank. We always knew marriage was the end of life. You only did it to be a martyr, right? Or were you just looking for an excuse to avoid another decade traveling around Asia with me? It’s hard to get good fettuccine in McLeod Ganj after all.


  4. ‘I was twenty one and a bit of a mess. Broken hearted on ending simultaneous romances with my first true loves. One had been a dark-haired, pale eyed Slovenian beauty of far greater experience and sophistication than I. The other had been smack.’

    Love this.


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