Category Archives: neighbours

Nigel is only a figment of a madwoman’s imagination …

When Rocco’s mother signed up to Facebook, it became apparent she would need friends. It is, after all, a social network. One needs to be social. And if, as in Rocco’s mother’s case, one isn’t particularly – it comes to pass that necessity must be the mother of invention.

Rocco’s mother’s friendless state wouldn’t have mattered a hoot if she hadn’t, in a fit of boredom and curiosity one random afternoon, started to play one of the online games. She was perfectly happy being insular and posting pithy status updates which nobody ever read or cared about. She could have continued this way ad infinitum – and indeed, should have done so with gay abandon.  After a while, however – or a few whiles, anyway – it also became apparent one needed friends and neighbours in order to progress in the games. And at that point, Rocco’s hapless mother lost the plot completely – which was the moment of madness resulting in Nigel’s birth.

There are probably rules and laws governing Facebook which state members have to be bona fide human beings, using their real names and identities and swearing blind they haven’t airbrushed their profile photograph in order to look like Alan Rickman or the female equivalent. Rocco’s mother normally would not break laws even as petty as these – in fact, she would sooner poke her eye out with a rolled up Food-o-rama junk mail catalogue – but because she was aware other people had signed up pets, favourite toys, deceased ancestors and aspidistras in order to appear popular and, most importantly, to progress in games, she decided an imaginary friend was equally as bona fide as anything or anyone else (except, perhaps, Alan Rickman). Which was the root of the problem, really.

For Nigel, who burst into the world as an alleged archaeology student with a wicked and flirtatious nature, quickly evolved as a life force unto himself. Before Rocco’s mother knew it, he was chatting up women old enough to be his grandmother,  making somewhat lewd and unecessary comments to Rocco’s sisters, and running virtually amok in cyberspace – untamed and untrammeled. Before very long, Rocco’s mother realised with desperation she had no idea how to trammel him –  even telling him he didn’t exist was met with loud har har hars and protestations from others, (who should have known better), that they much preferred Nige to Rocco’s mother anyway, and if anyone was to be banished and exterminated, it had better be she, rather than he. Rocco’s mother realised with horror she was actually carrying out online arguments with Nigel. If the first sign of madness is speaking to oneself, which sign of madness is speaking to someone else who is actually oneself? The line between insanity and idiocy was becoming alarmingly blurred. While Rocco’s mother dug herself deeper into a mire of unreality, Rocco flourished and grew, gaining momentum, friends and admirers by the minute. It seemed he could not put a foot wrong, while Rocco’s mother appeared more bitter and twisted by the day, harassing and taunting Nigel in order to make him disappear up his own fake curriculum vitae.

Maybe the cruelest cut of all was the fact Nigel was far better at the online Facebook games than Rocco’s mother. His cafe was flooded with happy customers even when his shambolic cooking efforts left his counters empty and his stoves dirty. His YoVille houses were quirky and disgustingly filthy and fun to drop in on. Strangers requested Nigel’s friendship and were happy to send him farm animals, scented candles for his spaceship and chicken pot pies for his cafe. Rocco’s mother has warned Nigel he is absolutely NOT permitted to engage in online dalliance of any type whatsoever with random strangers. He has been told he must be completely honest with anyone who asks – and must confess to being merely a figment of a middle-aged woman’s imagination. Rocco’s mother is frightened she might log in one morning and find Nige has spent the night behaving in a most laddish manner, leaving broken hearts and shattered reputations in his wake. It keeps her awake at night, wondering what he’s doing while she’s sleeping.

The moral of this story is that it’s far, far better to have no friends at all. And that evil having been done, cannot easily be undone. And Rocco’s mother is becoming disturbingly aware she might find Nigel is drawn in indelible ink – and that she herself might not exist at all …



People who live in glass houses should turn off Google before removing their trousers …

Thanks to Google Street View, we can now virtually stand outside other people’s homes and stare without them knowing we are doing it. Spooky. It’s the best thing ever you can do without a pair of binoculars and one of those cars with blacked out windows and fake numberplates. I’m loving it. And especially the fact that the view of my house does not show me in my nasty dressing gown, shuffling out to the mailbox with a mouth full of chocolate to collect my free sample of incontinence pads. Which I feared it would. Bonus.

So here I am in my office at home, looking at your agapanthus and your strange, elasticless knickers hanging on your Hills Hoist. It’s a rather nice garden. Well, it would be if you had someone tow those two old car bodies from beside the driveway. Surely it’s about time you laid down the law regarding Jaysen’s old bangers? It’s lowering the tone of the neighbourhood – and you wouldn’t want that. And the lopsided old caravan he’s living in looks a bit of a mess out front, too. Doesn’t he earn enough to move into a nice little flat somewhere?

You really should get someone to mow your lawn. Your lazy, good-for-not-very-much husband, for instance. But I’m guessing he can’t, because I just happened to notice his car parked in front of the flats down near the SkankyMart. You know those flats … where that fake-breasted, man-stealing, floozy from his work  just happens to live. Your Darren must be working overtime, then. Or weekends, seeing as the school carpark is empty, which means it’s not a weekday. Funny he’d be doing overtime though, seeing as you’ve always said he goes fishing with his mates on the weekends.  You think? Or maybe someone else has a car like Darren’s. A lime-green 1920s Crapmobile with personalised Dazza plates. Probably pretty common, you’re right.

And oh, look! If you have a bit of a hover with your mouse over the McFattyBuns carpark, isn’t that your BreeArne in the skimpy little belt skirt, talking to those bikers? She looks so happy, waving her cigarette and showing those men the tattoo on her left breast. (If you zoom in, you can see it’s a rather artful little scroll which says ‘Shag me and weep’.) You always said BreeArne was a poetic girl, and a friendly one, too.  She certainly looks friendly – those men can’t keep their hands off her. Maybe they’ll take her for a nice ride on their bikes. Maybe they’ll weep.

If you continue on to the park, you’ll be amazed to see your youngest, Dwayne. He’s with some other little mates, and they’re huddled around the picnic table which seems, on zooming, to have a contraption made of a plastic bottle and some garden hose set upon it. Dwayne and his friends look very relaxed and happy. It’s nice to see young people enjoying life and availing themselves of the fruits of nature. Trees and leaves are good. And grass is, too. I can’t help thinking that looks like my garden hose – some of which is missing.

BreeArne’s artistry obviously runs in the family, because down at the railway siding you might notice your older son, Jaysen. He has a spray aerosol in his hand … and look, he’s made a mural! My goodness, you’ve brought up some public spirited young people, haven’t you? Jaysen seems to have recreated some of Hitler’s insignia – obviously as a sort of protest thingie, maybe. It’s excellent he’s so interested in history – and art. And that he’s merged the two. And that it’s all recorded for posterity. Lovely!

I can’t see you in your garden, though. You must have hung the dodgy knickers and gone inside to make a nice cuppa. It must be lovely to be able to rest and relax, knowing your family members are all happily occupied and getting the most out of life. Maybe you are at your computer, checking up on your family – just like I am. Ah, the wonders of technology!

That’s funny … I’d never noticed before that you have a red light above your front door. Are you running an emergency medical centre? Surely not. Ooh, I wish we could have Google Night Street so I could see what you’re up to! Maybe you’re just partial to a pretty rose-coloured light flooding your agapanthus.

Or maybe half the men in the neighbourhood come around after dark and knock … and weep.


Puff pastry can make anybody feel like Nigella …

It’s no secret I hate cooking. The only good thing about sticky summer weather is that nobody really wants to eat anything. You can be sitting there at 9pm sponging perspiration from your face with your legs spreadeagled over the coffee table (a charming vista from almost any angle) and nobody’s likely to say, ‘How about some roast suckling pig and a dozen treacle dumplings (with custard).’ They’d sooner die. Not only do they lack the capacity to plough into such repast – they’re also well aware I’d have to kill them.

My friend Jules, whose claim to fame is cooking ‘from scratch’, is quite astounded when I’m game enough to mention convenient things like fish fingers. I do it sometimes purposely when I feel she’s being too smug and needs stirring up. I have no doubt Jules makes her own fish fingers, forming hand-minced flaked flathead into artistic oceanic shapes with her bare hands and crumbing them. With crumbs made from scratch with … yes, bread. Probably home-baked and grated with her own toenails. Opening a frostbound box from the freezer department of Food-o-rama is probably as foreign to Jules as a working knowledge of what to do with a Brussels sprout is to me. Furthermore, I just don’t care. Some of us were put on this earth to nurture our families – and the rest of us weren’t.

There is something mind-numbingly boring about going to the supermarket anyway. Filling your trolley with vegetables, taking them home, nuking them – then scraping them from your children’s plates into the bin. If you took them straight home and binned them immediately, you could cut out the middle man completely. It must be the ‘guilty mother’ syndrome which keeps you battling away – so when the doctor tells you your family has scurvy and every nutritional deficiency known to man, you can say with complete honesty, ‘I tried giving them vegetables, sir … but they wouldn’t eat them!’ It sounds lame, but you’ll get away with it because it’s no longer legal to jam things into kids’ mouths and tape them shut.

I once remember cooking something – but it didn’t work. It’s tempting to try again when winter sets in and the aroma of the neighbours’ pot roast comes wafting through the kitchen window. Tendrils of gastronomic extravagance curling through the barren wastes of my non-productive kitchen. Sadly, the Hunter Gatherer sometimes thinks the aroma’s ours. He looks hopeful and asks what I’m cooking. I tell him to stand near the open window and breathe in. It’s called ‘passive eating’ – it’s inexpensive and you won’t gain weight. Our neighbours have no idea how many of their meals we’ve enjoyed by osmosis. If they cook something really hideous, we just close the window and the HG is forced to endure yet another dalliance with fish fingers.

A very convenient tool in the art of feeding your family is the knowledge nobody will ever let themselves starve. When they start making whimpering sounds, you point to the loaf of bread. Your only contribution to the scheme of things is to make sure there is a loaf of bread. The survival instinct will then take care of the rest. If you’re really fortunate, one of your offspring will discover they have a flair for cooking and will shove rudely past you to get to the spice rack. You may be lucky enough to get quite a few years’ mileage out of this before they leave home.

But the best invention since sliced bread (or any bread, really) is the packet of ready-rolled puff pastry sheets. You can wrap them around just about anything and people will be incredibly impressed. Just open a tin, bung it on the pastry, do a bit of artistic crimping … and voila! Your family thinks you’re Nigella. Not only that, you can use up those tins of Pal you don’t need anymore since WoofWoof moved down the street to where the dogs are spoiled rotten with home-made beefy numnums.

Necessity being the mother of invention, feeding the family need only be limited by your imagination. You will find you can fool almost all of the people most of the time with the pastry trick. I was telling Jules about it the other day and she refused to believe there would be any call for such a product. Fortunately for some of us, there most definitely is. Due to consumer demand, the packs of ready-rolled pastry now come in an economy pack of 10 sheets. Bliss on a stick, and bring on the dog bowl!

Eat your heart out, Nigella …


Lies, excuses and are you taking the piss …

We start making excuses the minute we’re born. And why not? Being born is not our fault. It’s the consequence of someone else’s actions. Therefore, nothing we do after this point is directly our fault – and don’t we know it!

Kids discover pretty quickly you can blame the dog for the wet patch on the carpet or the mutilated copy of Chow Down which your Mum hasn’t read yet. It might be harder to explain the crayon marks on the walls, but if you have a dog with attitude you can fake it.

 It’s wise to remember – only ever admit to that which might bring praise upon you. This is why fathers say, ‘YOUR son’ when Rocco is expelled from school and ‘MY son’ when he’s opening the batting for Straya.

If you’re really intuitive you will be able to read between the lines of just about any excuse and be able to substitute the correct information automatically. To start you off on the road to sniffing out honesty and integrity amongst your family, friends and colleagues, here are some hints for use when dealing with various demographics.

Schoolkids – ‘The dog ate my homework.’ If you are a teacher there’s no way you can swallow this. The dog didn’t, either. The correct information is; ‘I didn’t do my homework because I was playing Rabid Hamsters from Zeron. I was on Level 10 and couldn’t give an arse about your poxy algorithms. There is every probability I won’t ever give an arse, so please don’t ask again.’

Workmate – ‘The alarm clock didn’t go off.’ Truth: ‘Last night I was SO out of it. Got home around 5am and couldn’t stop throwing up. I’ve got this itchy rash and feel crook as. I’ll have some coffee and a fag before I go to the clinic.  I haven’t the faintest idea who I woke up with either. He was still unconscious when I left and his head was in a brown paper bag.’

Housewives – ‘I’ve got a headache.’ This is a given. It doesn’t even matter what the truth is – men haven’t the remotest business arguing with it.

Politicians – ‘At the end of the day …’ Stop right there. Everybody knows at the end of the day the truth won’t even linger momentarily in the realms of probability – or even in the same stratosphere. The only decent out for these people is to keep their mouths shut, never say anything again and pray they can collect humungous superannuation early and move to a country where nobody has ever heard of them and they can start a new life. Preferably under witness protection.

Shop assistants – ‘We’ve only got what you can see on the shelves.’ This is SO crap. They’ve got other stuff too, in those big drawers down the bottom. Check them out yourself next time. There is even more stuff out the back, probably in 30 different colours and sizes – but there’s no way they’re going to go look for it. It says in the induction manual the correct response to most queries is, ‘We’ve only got what you can see on the shelves,’ and they’re sticking to it with murderous tenacity. Doing more would be showing initiative. Having initiative would mean they’d be employed as rocket scientists and you wouldn’t have had to wrangle with them in the underwear aisle of Fatfittings in the first place.

Used car salesmen – ‘It’s a tidy little unit.’ Which part? The rear passenger ashtray? A tidy little unit means the detailer did a brilliant job. The mud has been hosed out of the wheelguards and there is fresh gaffer tape over the rips in the upholstery. Don’t you dare go there.

Real estate agent – ‘It’s a nice, quiet neighbourhood.’ Yep. Lucky your inspection is during school hours. He’s hoping the hell you’ll hurry up and check the place out before the 2pm booze bus from the local pub drops off the old dears in nubbly orange cardigans who’ve been out playing the pokies and getting off their faces on gin and lemonade. And Lord help him if the paddy wagon turns up with the tossers from No.9 who’ve been away on weekend detention.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m doing lunch at the Savoy and the plane leaves for London at 3pm. Not.

But I do have to check in with my parole officer and work out who the hell is lying on my bedroom floor with his head in a brown paper bag.


How to bore people to death and not influence anybody …

There are people out there who can’t stand their own company. As the saying goes, they’re usually right. So what do they do with their spare time? Wreck yours. Phoning, visiting or hanging around malls waiting to head you off at the pass when you’re on your way to the car with a bag of fresh cream doughnuts and the latest copy of Chow Down (Bumper Holiday Edition). For some reason, they think they’re doing you a favour by inflicting themselves upon you without notice – and it’s just not fair.

            You can pick out The Prey in the crowded streets. People with haunted expressions and dust balls clinging to their hair. They sometimes wear dark glasses and towelling hats, and resemble people in a witness protection program. This is because they’ve spent the morning under the bed, hiding from someone jolly in a floral tent who kept punching the doorbell and calling ‘YOOHOO!’

            On the other hand, The Predators have little beady eyes, darting everywhere in order to spy a victim. They also have Tupperware catalogues, lamington drive order forms and photo albums full of crap you wouldn’t want to know about. They never phone first to give you time to make up an excuse. When you don’t answer the door, they tramp round the house trying all the locks and windows. While you’re lying under the bed trying not to breathe, you wonder what in hell you’re supposed to do if Maisie Fansbarns comes hurtling through your bedroom window. Do you come out from under the bed and pretend you were dusting, or let her go through the personal papers on your dresser? It’s a tangled web you have woven, and it probably serves you right.

            The Warrior Queen, who desires solitude and the company of other animals above all things, was once caught out badly by Mrs Fogsbottom, a ghastly neighbour who turned up each morning at 9am as soon as we kids were off to school. She’d be in situ still when we returned home. The WQ was quietly going batshit. She had never hurt anyone’s feelings before in her life, but found herself in the position of inventing dialogue/scenarios in her sleep with which to defray the dreaded Fogsbottom in a permanent and resolute fashion.

            She decided to say she wouldn’t be available for morning coffee for a couple of weeks because she was going to springclean. The idea was to break Mrs F’s habit so she’d move on to greener pastures. ‘Good idea!’ Mrs F agreed. ‘I might do the same!’ The next morning the WQ awoke with hope and optimism. She thought she might curl up with a book and do sod-all. She packed the school lunches, shoved us out of the door – and there, like a battleship in full sail, was Mrs F-Bottom sashaying across the street with a duster in one hand and a container of Vim in the other.

            The WQ went feral. There is no other way to describe it. From the top of our steps she screamed across the road – ‘Go AWAY! I can’t TAKE IT ANYMORE! Don’t you DARE come any further!’ The whole thing was accompanied by some rather menacing pointing gestures and much stamping of feet. Mrs F-Bot was rooted to the spot. There was no way to disband gracefully and return to barracks with her dignity intact. None of us can quite remember what happened next, but nobody in that neighbourhood ever spoke to the WQ again. Which was a very happy ending altogether, because that’s just the way she likes it.

            If you happen to be a Predator, spare a thought for those who love their own company and delight in talking to themselves and not sharing their cream doughnuts. Go to the library and choose the first book – something by Aarronson about Aardvarks – and start reading. Do not phone anyone or visit a neighbour until you have worked your way through to Zxybrand and read every single word of his million-page trilogy on life in a 16th century throttlers’ camp.

            By the time you’ve done this, you’ll be so wise and well informed, people might actually be interested in what you have to say.



Old Harry steps lightly on the stairway to heaven …

            There was this story on a current affairs program a while ago. It was supposed to be a nice, feelgood kind of piece, to make us feel all warm and fuzzy in the pits of our stomachs. It was about an ordinary street somewhere in the city – and Old Harry, the Neighbour from Heaven.

            Cue the violins please, maestro.

            Old Harry was in his 80s but was busy dedicating the rest of his years to the residents of his street. His uncomplaining wife cheerfully told the TV presenter – ‘I hardly ever see ‘im. He’s always off doin’ somethin’!’

            As indeed he was. It had probably started quite innocently, with Old Harry emptying the odd mailbox when someone went on holiday. And feeding the dog and budgie. Maybe a bit of weeding when No.4 wasn’t very well. But after a few years of these kindnesses, you can just imagine the little lightbulbs starting to flash over people’s heads. They started to recognise a good thing when they saw it. They bought their new lawnmowers with Harry in mind. They didn’t bother replacing their worn out gardening gloves though – Harry has his own, and a nice sharp pair of secateurs and a whipper snipper. They were, however, considerate enough to ask whether he preferred using a paintbrush or roller before their trips to Bunnings.

            They were, they explained happily to the pert girl from the TV station, ‘Making poor old Harry feel wanted. He just loves doing things for people.’

            A particularly gruesome piece of work, in floral tent and thongs with a mouthful of chocolate biscuit, said Harry had even painted her entire house. ‘It took ‘im a few months, but,’ she said grudgingly. ‘Still, ‘e got it done eventually.’

            There was more. It appeared Harry had a special pegboard on the wall of his garage, to accommodate copies of his neighbours’ house keys. That way, he could let himself in to water their indoor plants. And vacuum under their beds. And turn their ovens on so the chicken casserole would be ready and waiting when they got home from their jobs, where they undoubtedly earned good money for doing whatever they did. (Enough to employ housekeepers, even.)

            Well. Words just failed me. There was an insane urge to rip the arms off the obese harpy with the TimTams and punch out each of the smug bastards who shamelessly used someone and then sat back complacently and said, ‘It makes poor old Harry feel wanted.’

            How very magnanimous of them. Giving an old bloke a reason to live. Without them, Harry would undoubtedly have asked to be terminated years ago. After all, what else is left to a life if you can’t be an unpaid slave for a street full of disgusting, shameless users? That we should all be so lucky, to find such a street in our twilight years!

            I was furious at Harry, too, for not kicking them up their respective arses. He should have packed his wife into a Winnebago, flung his house keys at TimTam Ma’am and taken off around Australia.

            And were we treated to the spectacle of people knocking themselves out to do things for Old Harry? In your dreams. They were safely in front of their tellies, eating meals Harry had heated for them, enjoying the freshly painted walls and vases of cut flowers from Harry’s bountiful rose bushes. Writing lists of little jobs for Harry so he’d feel the rest of his week was worthwhile and could hold off taking that fatal dose of Ratsak for another few days.

            At the end of the story, Old Harry was sitting at his front gate in a fold-up chair, enjoying a cup of tea provided, no doubt, by the producers of the current affairs program. Another old bloke stood by and played the fiddle. It was his reward to Old Harry, for being such a wonderful neighbour.

            Call me cynical, but there was the unmistakable stench of ‘happy ending’.

            There’ll be a place in heaven for Old Harry, though. Hopefully with a banana lounge, enough good literature to keep him happy until the cows arrive – and a very stiff drink. When his ghastly neighbours turn up at the other place, Old Nick will hand them oven gloves and secateurs – and directions on how to prune Harry’s hedges into Eternity …