There is a lovely house in Frankston at the quiet end of a quiet court. It’s now home to The Golden Girls – myself, TO and Aunty [as well as D’Arcy and Maude Schnazuer].
Life in this court is a soap opera – just not of the kind that would keep English TV fans enthralled the way the fictional version does.
Well, fiction is supposed to be entertaining. Advertisers depend on it.
If you were to drive around this part of Frankston you would have little trouble spotting which houses are rentals and which ones are owner occupied. And this is a good part.
Sometimes the rentals have yards with overgrown grass, and driveways clogged with piles of discarded “stuff” that tenants wouldn’t dream of putting out for the hard rubbish collection.
Some houses are occupied by fairly neat people, but the awnings are torn, there are holes in fences, or waving meadows of tall grass growing in the spouting. That sort of thing.
When I first moved to Frankston a few years back I was shocked, because I’d never understood before why rental tenants have always had a bad rep.
Back in the 1950s and 60s when I was a tin lid, we moved around a lot. Landlords were reluctant to rent houses to a single mum with three kids, and sooner or later whatever dump we were able to rent would be condemned, and we would have to move on.
But wherever we lived we tried to keep things nice. No matter how tired a place might be, there’s no need for people to live like they have no respect for themselves, let alone for someone else’s property.
At the beginning of our court there is a two storey house with a lovely bay view from the second floor. It was occupied by renters until a few years ago. The kids were totally feral.
TO caught the kids chucking rotten lemons at our front window one day, but instead of yelling at them she asked them nicely to please not do that.
She’s got a way with kids. Soon, they were being given a tour of the front garden, a chance to sniff flowers and meet dogs and cats. Maybe they weren’t used to someone paying any positive attention to them.
After that, they left our nice house alone, and only tried to trash the other houses in the court.
One night there was a big fire, and the ferals’ house was gutted.
The lady that drives the garbage truck assured me this was the third time these tenants had set fire to a house. It’s what people do, apparently, when they are so far behind in their rent that they are about to be evicted.
According to the garbo grapevine the mother is now languishing in jail somewhere, and the kids have been farmed out to foster homes. It’s a hard call, really, trying to work out whether they are actually better off or not. Fingers crossed, I hope they are.
The shell of the house was on the market for 3 years before someone with some money and vision came along to rebuild it. It now looks a million bucks.
Another 3 houses in the court occupied by renters are neat and tidy, and the tenants mostly keep to themselves.
In a fourth rental house is a workmate of TO’s. She has 3 of the nicest, smartest kids you could ever hope to meet. K moved into our court 2 months ago, from the next suburb.
She’d had a restraining order out against her husband before she moved. It seems he had been a tad aggressive for a while, but after a road accident acquired a brain injury which tipped him over the edge.
The restraining order was not valid for K’s new address in our court. She was told to apply for a new one, but could not do that until he once again did something the police could charge him with.
Not a nice way to live, but after last Friday and three hours at the cop shop she not only has a restraining order, but he has lost access visits to the kids and has been ordered to stay away from them as well.
After the last cop shop visit, K was contacted by a support group for women who are victims of domestic violence. She told them to not bother calling back. She had packed up her kids one night last year and knocked on the door of their refuge.
“Do you work?” she was asked.
“Yes,” she said honestly.
“We can’t take you if you have a job, you’ll have to go and stay in a motel.”
I think TO might have set me up, but after the family moved in I found myself heading down to get the kids up for school in the morning. 7 AM, so Mum could start work on the early shift.
My body is still in shock.
Six year old S had wet the bed one night, and morning showers were not part of her routine. In fact, it was just about time for the teen to jump out of bed and do his own last minute shower thing, so I brought S down to our place for a shower.
What I know about kids could be inscribed on the head of a pin in letters ten feet tall, but at least I knew not to make a big deal out of night time accidents.
Once I had the water running and S standing under it wearing a shower cap, she looked terrified. What to do? Easy!
I rushed [silently screaming] from the bathroom and said to Aunty “Quick!! We need someone who knows about kids, and isn’t living in a gay relationship!”
Later I heard all about how to encourage kids to wash <i>themselves</i>.
Later still I found out why she was terrified of showers.
In the next episode… things improve when we meet some of the other neighbours.