Strange Goings On In Leafy Strathfield [1/7/09]

Strathfield is an odd place. It’s full of large houses on huge blocks of land, accompanied by small ponds and hedges and ornate fences and formal gardens or slices of modified jungle, with the odd tennis court thrown in.

At least, the bit that I know is like this. The bit that I know very well involves living in the Ugly Duckling house of a quiet little street – excepting the cars whizzing about only a few metres away, as motorists think they have cleverly found a secret way nobody else knows to get from one main road to another – where neighbours are a friendly Rabbitohs-supporting family which constantly parks its cars in front of our place and frequently offers to lend us their lawn mower and washing machine and other such conveniences. Maybe they think we are untidy and have slipshod standards. Certainly our dogs bark. When the weather is fine, they emerge from their new kennel, which they have eaten part of, and sit in the sunshine, panting, gruffly commenting on the comings and goings of the district which they can hear.

It’s a cracked and chipped place but it’s warm now that we have a gas heater.

Another neighbour chose to come over while Laetitia was using loud power garden tools outside (and I was fear counseling the dogs) to ask – tell, really – us to cut down shoots to a tree which has roots that spread and can end up in her place. The logic of this remains at the same remove now as it did at the time. We can’t do anything about what happens in her yard. And it isn’t a bad tree anyway. And the only reason why I knew she came to the front door was the crazed reaction of a certain black and white canine pair, jumping up and down, and wailing that there was a dangerous presence on their property.

There’s an Indian spices and grocery shop not far away where we have bought curry paste and chips you can’t find in supermarkets, and the young man who runs it approximates the cost when you buy something. He’s friendly and the impression he gives is that everyone gets a discount. Somehow he seems the type to charge friends and family extra – but I can’t say why I think that.

On an early Sunday morning wander, pizza boxes and spent beer containers were seen strewn about the thick grassy verges of the main residential street, grandly named The Boulevarde. This could be the only example – except, perhaps, in Paris – where calling a street a name like this is not an example of having your hand on it. It justifies its billing in scale and arboreal excellence. There are majestic rows of stout trees, trees everywhere, but there are cans and bottles and fast food paraphernalia as well, in several places. It is odd. The boys from Trinity Grammar Prep school are not likely culprits, as the oldest are 12 years old, and are too busy with clarinet practice and consulting specialists about depression, lactose intolerance and maths coaching to go off the rails yet. One wonders what the young adults of the district do on Saturday nights, for it seems, judging by the evidence, that they run small discos at all of the bus stops on the way down to Strathfield railway station.

This refuse somehow blends into the street’s pallete, enfolded in a green cape of quiet wealth and suburban reticence.

On my way to work, early, everything is subsumed into a smooth dark fog. It’s kind of like a brief bad dream where nothing bad happens. But it could. Here’s another way to put it – everything’s in shadow. And I’ve seen some things I’d prefer not to have seen. There was the man walking in zig-zag, holding what appeared to be a bottle but could have been a weapon of some sort. I ducked down a side street and became lost in a foreign network of little byways and almost missed my train (I didn’t know the area then).

The darkness is a different world. It has its own rules and expectations. More recently, there have been two incidents which gave me pause for thought. A car drove out of the grounds of Santa Sabina College, a girls’ school, at a steady, quite fast pace, and the driver leant across to indicate a kind of Sorry gesture with a hand, as they almost ran over my right foot. I assumed it was somebody delivering newspapers. Only one of the headlights appeared to be working. It scared the shit out of me. Even more recently, a car drove up onto the wide nature strip of The Boulevarde as I approached, and instead of continuing on into a driveway, it turned and drove straight at me. It was the same steady, not entirely slow speed. I had to jump out of the way. The car was a big V6 and it turned off the footpath and back onto the road, before continuing its journey.

Here’s my theory: there’s a sleep driver in Strathfield. One of the Stepford Wives in the area needs this unpredictable and highly risky activity as a sort of psychological release. Or it could be a Stepford husband. Or someone is trying to kill me. Or my life is a waking nightmare; but that doesn’t sound right. I now have a cat who loves me, to join the small group of humans and other creatures who have been thus deluded. Mr. Mu wouldn’t want anything bad to happen and I’m sure nothing will. His three afternoon teas will continue to be served as long as I can get to my train in one piece.

Published in: on January 2, 2010 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  

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