When I was a kid, it was a long time ago, we lived in a little house next to a dirt street. It had a neat little fence out the front and a gate that opened to a concrete path. The path went by a lavender hedge with a dry spot under it where Dusty, the border collie with a bad temper, slept. After the lavender hedge, the path led to three brick steps that went up to a little porch that you stood on while you waited for someone to open the door
The door was a different colour every few years. Choosing the colour was a big family decision. It involved looking at lots of colour cards from the hardware store near the station and lots of discussion. One year my idea got chosen. It was for dark turquoise with two white stripes, one on each side. That was very radical because all the other doors in our street were uni-colour. But I was the oldest kid and that carried my idea with a bit more weight, I suppose.
Next, after the door colour was chosen, we had to decide what colour to do the window frames and the guttering beneath the eaves. There were always several points of view about if they should match the door or be different. The year my door colour was chosen it was agreed they should be different: battle ship grey. I guess my door was already a bit radical and they felt grey guttering would leaden the effect a bit. I don't remember if I was happy about that or not. Probably I didn't care because the exciting thing was to imagine how our little house would look in its new colours. I imagined for hours.
Another thing about those times that I remember was that locking up meant closing the door with a key. There were 15 different keys and you could buy them at the hardware store just by quoting the number. Ours was E5. Mr and Mrs Neat and Tidy, (that's what my Aunty Peg always called them) who lived next door, had E10 and Mrs Murphy, who lived a few doors up had E9. I don't know why anyone bothered except, like changing the colour every few years, having a key was a kind of protocol that meant you were nice people.
In those days too, any time my mum found she was short of something she would send me next door with a message: "Please Mrs Neat and Tidy, my mum said can you please lend her half a cup of sugar?" and as I put out my hand with the cup, Mrs Neat and Tidy would take it and I would follow her into her tidy kitchen and look at her round refrigerator while she put some sugar in the cup. Her fridge was a round cylinder and when you opened the curved door you could spin the shelves around on a central axle. It was really neat because ours was just like a big cupboard, white and nothing fancy. Next day when I knocked on Mrs Neat and Tidy's door (it was a white one with a round port hole type window with frosted glass) I would hold out my hand with the cup half full of sugar and say: "My mum says to say Thank you". Mrs Neat and Tidy would take the cup and I would follow her into her kitchen and she would pour the sugar from the cup into her big sugar jar. Then, while I looked at her fridge some more, she would wash the cup and dry it and then give it back to me and I would follow her back to the door and she would say something nice like "Please tell your mother, I hope she is well."
In those days too, there were no flushing toilets. My dad used to talk about that sometimes in ways that seemed confused. Sometimes he would say, "When the sewer comes" the value of our house would be a lot more. Sometimes he would say "When the sewer comes" the taxes would be a lot more. It just depended if he was feeling optimistic or not. Anyway, every Tuesday morning, about 6:00, I could hear the side gate open and I knew that the "dunny man" was there. He was the man who used to come to pick up the can in the little garden shed and give us a new one. The new ones always smelt of fennel and they were shiny and black and it was good to be the first one to use it. Sometimes there would be a heavy week and I used to wonder if the can would overflow before the dunny man arrived. It never did. I don't know why. I figured there must be something in nature that slowed people down when the can was getting full. But it did get pretty full sometimes and I used to wonder how the dunny man could get that big can up on his shoulder without spilling it on him. Once I lost my Corgi Holden Taxi in the dunny can. It just fell in out of my pocket as I was pulling up my pants. The dunny was nearly full so I couldn't even see it in there and I sort of hoped the dunny man would just spill it out that Tuesday when he picked up the can. I thought I'd just leave it where it lay until the ants and the rain had made it clean again. Anyway, he didn't so I wished at the wishing well in the Botanical Gardens for a new one and it came. That's how I discovered fairies are real. I gave some talks on it at "Show and Tell" in class. Some of the kids giggled when I told them that story - but not the girls, they would just sit there, their legs crossed and their jaws dropped. But when I pulled my new Holden taxi out my pocket and showed them, that shut the boys up too. They would sit there too and their jaws dropped even lower than the girls. I got to be a bit of an expert on fairies after that.
Actually, there's a twist in that story that I didn't tell yet, but maybe I should because its kind of honest. When I went to the Botanical Gardens with my mum, to wish at the wishing well, I designed a kind of trick to flush out the truth about fairies. Although it was a Holden taxi that had dropped into the dunny, I wished for a Humber Super Snipe utility. I did this because I knew there wasn't one. Corgi didn't make one. Nor did Dinky - who also made the toy cars that I collected. I figured, if fairies are Real they will get it right and turn my wish into a Holden taxi because they would KNOW what I really needed. If they weren't real then nothing would happen because the wish would just get stuck and it wouldn't go anywhere. First, of course, I laid my plan out with mum to see if it was a good idea because I trusted her not to tell the fairies. (you have to trust someone and mum had always been reliable). Anyway the plan worked and that's how I got to feel so expert.
After that, I started a little business and for 6pence I'd take the other kids on a tour of the places in our garden where fairies hung out. They all said the tour was great value. There were always lots of customers, but after a while it got to be a kind of problem because the business started to get in the way of the games I liked to play just on my own in my private imagined world, so I had to close it down
© Bog O'Mullet 2006