Thursday, September 27, 2012

neighbours – episode 1

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.
We’ll see.

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.


  1. A note on antelope (actually pronghorns) from MTWaggin: They are native and only found here...

    1. Thanks for the reference, MT. I did go searching but was not sure if they were pronghorns.
      From your photos, they are magnificent looking critters.

  2. I went for a walk last night along an unfamiliar street. It is an expensive area with large and well maintained period houses. I came across one, grass unmown with muddy wheel tracks, multiple cars parked haphazardly. The mail box was stuffed with uncleared junk mail. The lights were on inside and some cheap posters were stuck on walls. No one who cared about their home would live like that, so clearly it wasn't their home, but someone else's, a rental. Which politician said something about being able to pick out the rental houses in a street. Was it Hewson? Of course, this is quite unfair on decent tenants.

    1. Being in an expensive area just makes the messy house even harder to understand.
      [My desk is a mess. I hope that's not quite the same thing.]

  3. I'm always puzzled by those houses where the belongings of the tenants always tumble out onto the front porch and then into the yard. Okie houses. But then I've never understood the need to accumulate stuff.

    1. "Okie" houses. Accumulating stuff is one thing. Allowing stuff that is broken and useless to build up on the front porch and out into the yard is plain weird.

  4. How long did you have the kids?

    That's horrible about the refuge place.

    I wonder why they won't let people with jobs stay there. And I wonder if that's common to most/all shelters.

    The only thing I can think of is that they're scared the women will be followed from their place of employment.

    I know here they try to keep the location of the shelter a secret; so the abusive husbands don't end up finding it.

    1. All I have been doing is the waking up/ breakfast/ getting dressed routine which is about 1 and 1/4 hours four mornings a week.
      Now there are school holidays, and yesterday two of the kids were here for the day so the older brother [there is an age gap] could go swimming with some mates for the day.
      [but at least during holidays I can sleep in :)].


      In the 1970s refuges first emerged from community groups but after a while they quite reasonable asked for government funding. The government then quite reasonably asked the refuges to account for the money spent. This sort of situation always requires some way of measuring services provided, and the initial measure of 'efficiency' was the number of refuge BEDS provided per night.
      Most measuring systems invariably have a downside, in this case there was no longer any allowance for having empty beds in case they were needed at odd hours. I can only assume that governments are now trying to stretch budgets by means-testing the assistance.

      Ironically, sometimes women who were reasonably well off were the ones most lacking cash. Most women could still not get a loan in their own name etc in the 70s, and upper middle class wives often relied on accounts set up by husbands at various stores, or used bank accounts men could close just by making a phone call.

      For lower class women they might be cashless because they were living from one pay day to the next. In K's case, supporting herself and three kids would make her unlikely to have a chance to save much money.

      If memory and gossip are correct, secrecy proved quite difficult to maintain. A significant proportion of battered families return to their home once they believe things will be calmer/ better. Some can go through a loop backwards and forwards three or four times before finally making a permanent break.
      Talking about the location would probably be motivated by a belief [or a need to believe] that the abuser could now be trusted - otherwise how could they convince themselves it's okay to go home again?
      I guess it is simply impractical or pointless to keep moving the refuge.

      I guess in K's case, one of the main problems is that mental health is quite neglected in this country. If her husband has an acquired brain injury and is not getting the right support, things can become difficult.

    2. Oh! So the kids are still with you. I wasn't sure if the story was a current one; or something that happened in the past.

      But now I'm rereading...looking for clues. You do say "My body is in shock". Hopefully that wouldn't be the case years later.

      You have a good point about secrecy. People are going to tell people; and the wrong people are going to find out.

      It's probably better to concentrate on good security.

    3. Truth to tell, my body has been in shock since a midwife held me by the ankles and tipped me upside down... all shock is relative after that.

  5. Bless you Fruitcake.
    One Christmas while driving past a house on an almost-country road, I saw a Vicar-looking person carry a huge hamper thing into a house, where he had to pass high weeds round the horse float, the caravan, the old boat, 2 clearly wrecked cars and several regular vehicles.
    What does K need that I could put in a box and leave on your doorstep?
    I rented next door to young brothers who only took 3 months to systematically destroy a lovely house and when I went to the RE Agent I was told to mind my own business. I tracked down the owner and when he saw the house he actually wept.
    They had been kicked out of their previous for the same thing (owner found the tape Record Of Interview in the mess he was shovelling up) and when the RE Agent was asked about this being missed, they said to him "Well YOU approved them as tenants".

    btw TAC spend zillions on 24/7 care for ABI carcrash survivors.
    X X A Good Tenant.

    1. Bless you right back, Ann. Her church community helped her move but as you know, moving is stressful enough without the circumstances. The biggest problem was unpacking. I suspect she was overwhelmed. And young S had so many toys and stuff in her room no one could get into the room. TO asked would she mind if we went down on TOs day off and helped out a bit.

      First, brought 3 ginormous laundry hampers home. Within 2 seconds aunty had the washing machine going. She did the whole bloody lot while we were at the house. Cannot praise the woman enough.

      It took me 2 hours to flatten all the empty cardboard boxes in the carport, during which exercise I noticed packaging from a brand new washing machine. I think that might have been a church community donation.

      TO got some extra heavy duty garden garbage bags and made some executive decisions about toys. Lots of stuff ended up in waterproof tubs/bags in the garage. [TO later explained to S that after 3 months she won't miss the stuff, and she might like to share some of it with other kids who have nothing. K seemed relieved that someone else took on the "bad cop" role.]
      I suspect she is trying to compensate by being indulgent - not necessarily buying stuff but not being able to get rid of some of it. This is no crime. More people should love their kids.

      The laundry was probably out of control not just because of the move but because the weather has been dreadful. We went out and made a few small purchases including a retractable clothes line for the carport, which her father installed on the weekend. All of which is to say that apart from a dining table, the only thing she needs is a hit man. No. I only half mean that. And she can survive without a dining table. [Thanks anyway].

      Has hubby slipped through the TAC/ABI net? Have not heard the latest re the intervention order, I assume he had to be assessed by a shrink. If he had been sectioned I guess I would have heard about it. If I was the shrink he would be. Trouble is these things are all very "he said/ she said", aren't they?

      Don't get me started on RE Agents. Oy! I hope this is not karma I clocked up in a previous life.
      I left my mother's house empty for nearly 12 months. Every deadbeat in a radius of 40km had asked if they could rent it. Yeah. Right. It would be more profitable to set fire to the thing.

      One day two people turned up at my gate. It was a small town, so natch they had heard the house was empty. Took me two seconds to see they were clean in themselves, and had taken the trouble to dress well for a boxing day drive in the country. We've made bugger all out of the rent for 10 years, but boy have they looked after the place. e.g. hot water service element replaced by tenant himself, we just refunded part cost.

      But with the agent... well, earlier this year it was one snafu after another and several abusive phone calls from agent. If I ever have money to invest it would not go into a rental property! Or only a gombeen man to collect the rent.

  6. One cannot avoid these realities even by travelling. The 'which-caravan-parks-to-avoid' hotline is alive and well as more and more people cannot find suitable housing, move to more remote areas to take advantage of the mining boom (doesn't work if no skills) and live in the local caravan park. Same problems as rental properties. Caravan Parks who wish to avoid this become 'tourist only' or 'no permanents'. God knows what happens to people who have used up all the rental and caravan park goodwill. Limited funding = limited assistance from welfare agencies, so the never-ending descent keeps on spiralling downwards.

    What's the answer? I don't know, but this issue is somehow a bit more compelling than some of the government spending right now. Or is that just me?

    1. Government Priorities tend to be just those - government priorities. Decades ago [in Vic at least] permanent occupancy was okay, then outlawed, and I think the rule with cabins now is that they can change hands and stay indefinitely, but after x years if sold have to be moved.

      Fair enough, some [though not all] of the vans became matchbox slums.

      Bargara Beach in Qld, believe it or not, was once nothing more than a caravan park and a roller skating rink. Now that it is an exclusive and expensive "town", the question is where did all the low income permanents go? Same thing here, some parks are sitting on multi-million dollar blocks of land, and people are getting pushed out. Great news for those who like preying on vulnerable people in so-called rooming houses.

      As for tourist or temp parks - if you want material for a horror movie, try spending one night at one of the parks in Seymour Vic. [I won't tell you which one.]

  7. Our night of horror was in Timber Creek, NT. I won't tell YOU which CP either!!

    1. You just want me to look see how many there are in Timber Creek, don't you?

      Okay, now I know where it is. Oh, more than one. I wasn't keeping secrets from you... a) I can't remember which one it was [they are close together] and b) I don't want to get sued.

      Alright then, as well as photographer, travel writer, bakery expert and, more recently, tour guide, you should be providing accommodation recommendations.

      Outside of Sydney the most disgusting place I've ever stayed was in Tibooburra. If we'd had a copy of Red's Grey Nomad's Guide to Going and Staying we could have spared ourselves.