Saturday, August 06, 2011


"There's only one rule in this house", said Bridget when we first moved in to their house in Broome a couple of months back. "And that is that you have to make yourself at home". Well it seems that either we somehow broke that rule or in actual fact there were a whole lot of other rules that we weren't told about. Because on Thursday morning we were effectively evicted. Now let me preface this potential rant with an acknowledgement that it is not easy to have people living in your space for two months. And also that I am appreciative for Bridget and Marty for putting us up for as long as they did. But the circumstances of our eviction and the way that everything unfolded leaves quite a bitter taste in my mouth. Especially when it was so close to us leaving of our own accord as had been planned from the beginning. And I guess there is the root of the problem. We always had a plan to be in Broome for three months but somehow we got swept up in their plans which seemed to evolve and change direction continually. I expected that we would have a place of our own until the very day that we arrived in Broome. I would have rented a house for three to six months but for the insistence that this wasn't necessary due to the generous offer they were making us. One which was not able to be fulfilled as it turned out. And I know that it was not without reason. The wet season was particularly long, so delays occurred in the building of the new house. Staffing issues in the shop meant that Marty had to spend more time there and so had less time to be building. And so they didn't make it to France. And the new house was far from habitable. The other significant factor in all this was the drama within their own household which seemed to have a life of its own and which created a whole new level of chaos. We essentially got sucked into the vortex of a particularly difficult time for them, which ultimately became a particularly difficult time for us. Enhanced of course by the fact that we had a new born baby to deal with creating sleep deprived nights and emotional turbulence for Tori and our family. Tori actually wanted to move several weeks ago having received mixed signals from Bridget, but at that stage in peak season, there was nowhere to go. On the one hand we were encouraged to stay as long as we wanted with a "the more the merrier", but at the same time Bridget seemed almost to be going out of her way to make us feel unwelcome. It seems that ultimately she was upset by my lack of domestic duties (I didn't offer to do the vacuuming), some inconsistency in our securing of the house and the fact that her kids had decided that they didn't really like our kids around. "They'll just have to learn to get along in a situation like this", were her initial words on the subject. "Finn annoys Oskar because in actual fact he is just like him", she stated. But I came to learn that what Bridget had to say and what she actually thought only sometimes intersected. Or more fairly, that what she said was perhaps what she thought at the time, but that didn't mean that she would think that same way the next day. I didn't like the fact that Finn seemed to be getting excluded and mildly bullied by her boys and so I intervened. She thought that I was overprotective and that I should keep my nose out and just let boys be boys. "Why does Greg always have to jump in and protect Finn", she told Tori that her boys had asked her. When we'd arrived she said "It will be good for my boys to have another man around, so if you feel a need to bring them into line at any stage, just go right ahead". So when her boys had left the back gate open and I found four chickens clucking around in the front yard on their way to freedom, I thought that I would mention it to the boys. Not in a "telling off" kind of way but more in a "you should probably watch that because you're mum might not be happy if the chickens run away" kind of approach. But that's not the way that it was taken. And so Bridget informed Tori that her boys were upset to have been told off by me and left her with the hilarious anecdote that her boys had quipped that "it was probably Finn that left the gate open anyway". Things had deteriorated to a pretty bad state but I guess it was partially masked by the hostilities happening elsewhere in the house. And between these unfortunate and conflicting episodes were warm spells involving deep conversation, laughter and heartfelt hugs. To me these were matters of minor conflict that could be absorbed as it was all only temporary. I knew there were factors at play for everybody that were heightening emotions and blowing things out of proportion and our scheduled departure date was just around the corner. But clearly not everybody shared this view.

When Tori and I first arrived in England in 1995 we stayed with our friend Darren in Wimbledon Park. He lived in a share house with, unlike most Aussies living in England, a household full of English people. The guys who ran the house were generous enough to let us sleep on a mattress in the lounge room until we could get ourselves on our feet in London. Unfortunately it all went awry after two weeks due to a couple of unfortunate incidences. When we left Australia on our journey, we had told all of our friends to come and visit us in London. We'll be able to put you up for sure, we said. And so with our feet having barely made contact with English soil our first Aussie visitor showed up. Dave basically arrived on our door step with his backpack in his hand and an expectation that this was where he would be staying for a night or two. Understandably our hosts were not particularly pleased that the visitors who were camped out in the lounge room were themselves having visitors come and stay. The final nail came when we stumbled home around 4am one morning after finding a late night drinking den in Fulham and I was unable to disarm the alarm. It rang out very loudly as alarms do for a good few minutes while I punched ineffectually at the keypad. George eventually came down and turned it off. We were unanimously evicted the next day.

The writing seemed on the wall last Sunday night when I was chatting with Marty and everybody else was in bed. "What's your exit strategy?" he asked me. Well the same as it's always been, I replied indicating that I  had just over a week left before I flew off to Melbourne and Sydney for work, and then when I got back a week later we'd all be heading off to Cape Leveque and move out after that. I could tell that he was hinting that we should pack up and leave now but it seemed harsh to me. And contrary to a commitment that Bridget had made to a pregnant Tori some time back. But I took it on board that they were feeling overcrowded and so from that Sunday night through until the Wednesday night, our families barely crossed paths. We didn't eat at the house. We barely went in. But in hindsight it was already done and we were damned whatever we did really. On the Wednesday night on getting back home I thought it polite to at least go in and say hello to our hosts as I could see them all around the table. After the boys had gone to bed I had caring conversations about Tori's state of being with a new child and limited sleep. Bridget offered, in fact insisted that we send Kimbo in to sleep with her for a night so that we could all get some sleep in the van. It was a very generous offer and seemed sincere and genuine. So I went to bed that night after a long hug with Bridget thinking that everything was back on track and with our petty incidents put behind us. But it was not to be. Somehow between that moment and 9:30am the next morning, she had decided that she couldn't take it any more. Marty told me that she had said as much, indicating that she was going to fly with the boys off to Bali for three weeks. "How do you feel about moving down to the block with me right now", she had asked Rav right in front of Jaz. If she wasn't happy with something or someone, she didn't really seem to care who knew about it. So confronted with his family moving out unless we did, Marty took the only real option and asked us to go. "I clean and cook and do everything around here and it's all totally unappreciated", Bridget had shared with Marty which he in turn handballed to me. Well yes, Bridget did most of the cooking to which I seem to recall lavishing with praise and appreciation as well as washing and drying a significant number of dishes, as well as dropping off and picking up her boys continually from school. Tori was forever doing dishes and even doing Bridget's laundry. Jaz and Finn did the dishes. But as usually happens in these situations, none of that stuff counted. And realistically, it's all pretty trivial anyway. Or not anything that couldn't have been addressed by a conversation.

Tori and Bridget went to art college together a long time ago and were very close friends. Marty and Bridget actually met at our wedding. In fact Bridget made Tori's and my wedding ring. I've always held her in very high regard and there is no doubt that she is a talented woman. But I saw a lot over the last couple of months that is not so positive. I am trying not to be bitter. But right now it is all raw and I know that bitterness is leaking out of me from every pore. I tend not to be a person who keeps grudges. They seem a waste of time. And I know that much of what has created the drama in this little episode has been driven by a myriad of extreme circumstances. Most people are not at their best when under duress. I hope that we meet up down the track when events are different and we have all moved on.

The Good Ship Utopia finally pulled out of Bridget and Marty's front garden yesterday morning, the day after I'd had my chat with Marty. It took a lot of doing as it had been jammed into the narrowest space between the trees and the garage. After much manoeuvering and the lopping of a significant tree branch we were clear and motored out to relocate the van to the Broome Caravan Park just out of town. With the van and awning set up, and all of us back in our own space, the relief on everybody's face was plain to see. I don't think any of us realised how much duress we had been under ourselves for the last few weeks. All of our moods were lifted. We are back on track.


undy said...

Aaah, that feeling of getting moving again, The Triffids (or WPA cover) of Wide Open Road omn the stereo... blessed release.

I did like the cover story about you having to come back south to be a respecable security guru. The unexpected late season form of the Saints had nothing to do with it ?

like a rissole

Meteor said...

Ah yes, I've been in that situation many times, but never in Kelly st!

It always leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I stayed with a bloke in Bonbeach after I got back to Australia, and Christ, was that bad news. I should have realised that living with pimply faced 20 year olds who thought that the best fun in the world was staying up all night playing World of Warcraft and squealing like girls was a bad move. Rich, pimply-faced kids at that - worse. I used to do the food shopping on Friday only to find it was all gone by Saturday afternoon!