In spite of waddling locals with voices like swamp frogs and the tattooed pub denizens, Australia is not such a bad place. Life is almost too easy, and the facilities are wonderful. It is a pity that it is so damned expensive. I could almost, but not quite, break even on the money front. By living frugally, I could gently sink into Australian poverty for a little time, while dreaming of heading off, perhaps, to live like a king on my pension in some low-cost corner of the world.
Stranded at yet another celestial bus stop on life’s journey, I pondered on how to save cash. The solution was familiar: split the rent in a share house with some characters allotted by fate. This time it was three women and an apprentice upholsterer. When I moved in, the lady owner had messages to her god stuck all over the walls, so I had to decontaminate my room of holy spirits immediately. She was not a bad old stick, and one day suddenly fell head over heels in love with a plumber, who decided to take her around the world.
Downstairs under the house dwelled a kind of hulking, tattooed female ogre who growled, if you can growl in a falsetto, and claimed to have once been a Tai Kwan-do black belt. Now she was too busy eating herself to death to fit into any kind of belt. The apprentice sported straggling brown shoulder length locks, began every conversation with “howdy”, Lone Ranger style, and always said thank you with “cheers for that”, country squire style. He said “cheers for that” often, which was encouraging. His batmobile had started life as a car that cost $400, and had morphed into a pulsating steel sound box with an amplifier system that cost $1200. The rear window announced him to be a member of NFNR, helpfully glossed as “no fuck no ride”. He brought his girlfriend home once a week, strictly no exceptions, to screw her for an hour, The Chinese girl student up the hall moved in and out with her boyfriend, a few days at a time. I was glad when was she out because women from central China’s Wuhan city don’t talk, they shout. In another life I survived two years of Wuhan’s shouting culture. She shouted at her mother over Skype phone for hours. Her mother shouted back, from Wuhan via Skype. You could hear both of them anywhere in the house. It must have been painful for the spies tapping the line on two continents.
One morning about 8am there was a screeching sound outside my bedroom door. I opened it to find a dumpy figure in a squashed white pancake hat waving a mental machine gun. Her eyes lit on me like out of focus lasers. “You have been harassing my daughter!!”, she shrieked. “Who, madam, is your daughter?” mouthed my lips, unheard beneath the torrent of accusations that poured forth for a solid ten minutes. I picked through the mental catalogue of women I might have, in the last decade, been tempted to harass if sufficiently drunk. It was several decades since I had been drunk, and any imaginable candidates were somewhere in Asia. It was a tough call. At last the falsetto ogre appeared at the shoulder of the pancake hat’s owner. Aha. Now this was a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Of all the nightmares thinkable in this life or the next, any vision of the ogre would definitely wake me in a cold sweat. Then at last I had a glimmer of comprehension.
There was a mini exercise trampoline at the rear of the house where I did ten minutes of energetic bouncing each morning. At my back there was the laundry-cum-ogre’s bathroom with a small frosted pane window. A couple of weeks before the ogre had complained to the landlady that I was spying on her, presumably with X-ray vision from the back of my head through the frosted glass. It was bizarre, but to save argument the landlady and I moved the trampoline a few meters away. That should have been the end of it. Apparently the ogre’s imagination had continued to fester and mummy had come to slay evil. She had, however, forgotten to bring her light saber. So she wanted Darth Vader? Orright, bring it on. Being 168cm, it’s a bit hard to tower over anyone (easier to play Yoda actually) but I took a deep breath and practiced looking disdainful. With each slow step I took forward, the avengers took a step back, though the pancake hat’s shriek never paused to draw breath. Step by step, back through the house, down the stairs, to the side of the devil machine trampoline. At last, as the pancake hat choked on her bile for a moment, I spoke. “Mad people”, I declared coldly, turned my back and walked away. There was an eerie silence in the house. A splinter of ice had plunged into their hearts. The pancake hat disappeared, and forever after the ogre fled when she heard me coming. A while later she moved out. It wasn’t too long before I moved out too, but that is another story about a vengeful cat supervisor.