By John Dickson

    Our new home landed on Sunday. Literally. 

    At 4.00am a giant crane squatted outside our block in the Old Suburb. Its boom, flaccid on the roof of what looked like a moon explorer, was redolent of one of the larger missiles that Bad Boy Putin has been tossing at the hapless Ukrainians. When erect, it reached 60 metres into the sky.

    At 5.00am, a block away, five giant road transporters pulled up and parked. Each carried a ‘module’ measuring 15 x 5 metres which contained various parts of our new home. A couple of bedrooms here, a bathroom and laundry there, a kitchen/dining room on that one and isn’t that the lounge?

    The plan was simple. Each truck would back its trailer 200 metres into the street and the crane would then hoist the module 20 metres into the sky, over the power lines and 40 metres into the block where foundations had been prepared earlier. As each module was placed, it would be joined to the previous one. In about five hours a house would appear where previously there had been none.

    People gathered from far and wide. Curiosity rained general niceness down upon us. That brought with it some relief as we had jammed up most of the street, another nearby and were forced to trim trees and lift overhead wires. Despite several bouts of notice, some had left cars parked in the firing line and were now prevented from driving off to long-anticipated bouts of Sunday golf. We were expecting a bit of insubordination. It never arrived. Such was the fascination in this circus of ours.

    The bigger stress point, however, lay elsewhere. Neighbours opposite were required to endure the day without power. While they had been warned on a number of occasions, supplied with breakfast and offers of dinner, sometimes that is not enough.

    Moira took it well. A high school physics teacher, she was keen to see how the interactions between the fundamental constituents of the observable universe played out in a micro sense, i.e., the yaw and pitch of a big stick with tonnes of building dangling from its end. These monstrosities were to be delivered through the air and placed accurately on the ground the distance of an Olympic swimming pool away. With a 500-watt grin, she mused on how that could be applied to Year 9’s next lesson. Each to their own.

    Renewable energy doyens, Barry and Keith seized the opportunity to ostentatiously demonstrate the practical benefits of solar energy by allowing the odour of bread baking in their sun-powered oven to drift out through their open doors and windows and into the olfactories of the assembled throng. They even had pamphlets to give away with tiny taste treats.

    But Dimitar, the Cossack émigré next door, was having none of it. 

    Dimitar could fit in a package measuring 1.4 metres cubed. Initially, we thought he should. He is as tall as he is wide as he is deep. A red high-vis shirt corrals his corpulence which is further restrained by a large black belt, a long beard providing further distraction. Below, red shorts housed chicken legs long-socked red with white stripes. On his feet, black furry slippers with black-nailed fake toes. Yep, toes. Like an orangutan.

    He speaks abbreviated English with an accent that is almost impenetrable.

    ‘You give power back,’ he warned Project Manager from behind small round sunglasses. ‘I need eat. I need work.’

    Project Manager apologised, reminded Dimitar that he had been alerted to this electricity-free day on several occasions, but would he like some takeaway food to sustain him? Dimitar was still fulminating over the power removal reminder when the news of free food reached his frontal lobes. He took a step back and in gathering his thoughts saw the opportunity to add some sugar to the offer. When I say ‘sugar’ I mean ‘alcohol’.

    In perfect English he rattled off a substantial list of alleged food from a well-known burger chain that might salve him provided it was accompanied by ‘the scotch bottle – not rubbish, top shelf’.

    A large brown paper sack duly arrived, which Dimitar took as a sign that his ambit ‘scotch bottle’ claim had also been successful and would arrive at any moment. It hadn’t and it wouldn’t. Project Manager had calculated that the several kilos of bad carbs loaded with salt, sugar, saturated fats and cholesterol would do its evil work and knock him out for the rest of the afternoon. By the time Dimitar surfaced, our house would be installed, the street empty and his power restored.

    Not so fast Kemosabe.

    We quickly learned that it takes more than six kilos of bad food to subdue a Cossack. Turns out, that’s not a bad thing. After scarfing half the menu, Dimitar seamlessly transformed into an energetic, voluble and generous friend. With much hooting laughter, back-slappery and season’s greetings, he shared his burger bounty with all about him.

    Briefly, he reminded me of someone. Can’t think who.


    It’s been a long year in the New Suburb. Bestie and I have made friends, acquaintances, and enemies. We have learned things. Not too many, but some. Soon we must leave and go home. We are long ready. 

    Special thanks to the Westsider team for allowing me the space to keep my mind off all the delays, sauce, sass and impertinence the world has visited upon us this year and the freedom to bore readers senseless with my meanderings and digressions. 

    It is my deepest wish that everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. We’ve all earned it. 


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