Sunday, 15 May 2005

the secret life of them upstairs

I'm in the mood for reminiscing, so tonight's post (as suggested by Mallrat) is a snakepit of scurrilous (yet true) gossip dredged up from the merry old days of yore when D & myself lived in the same block of ratty old flats as this woman.

(I don't think she had that nice blouse then, however.)

The year was 1993 and after a year or so of sleeping alternately at each other's sordid and miserable shared houses we crossed the river and got ourselves a love nest in St Kilda. The rent was $160 a week; the flat upstairs from ours is currently available at $450, which is an indescribably fucked-up amount of money, in my opinion. We initially occupied flat no.1, the left-hand ground floor flat, and Miss R.G. lived two flats above us in no.5. After she moved out a year or two later (post Muriel's Wedding), we moved in upstairs (tired of being burgled on the ground floor).

The very first resident of "Monarra" (all the buildings round there have names) who I met after moving in was a very nice and very old lady called Dot. The encounter took place on the front lawn and went something like this:

Laura: Hello, my name's Laura. I've just moved into that flat there (pointing).

Dot: Ah yes! I know you. You were on the telly last night.

Laura: ....?

Dot: You were in the fillum. I couldn't hear all the words, but I thought it was very good.

Laura: Oh...ah, yes I see. Um, thankyou.

Dot: You're a good girl. (holding out money) Will you go to the shops and buy me some fags?

Laura: Ok.

I naturally deduced that the old dear was totally bonkers, but much, much later I worked out that the fillum on the previous evening must've been this crunchy little nugget of of Australian drama / televisual suspense. Dot had the right tv show, but the wrong neighbour.

More UNBELIEVABLE scandal:

- Things would occasionally go missing from outside our flat only to mysteriously reappear outside Miss R.G.'s flat. Once it was a curly red wire 1950s potplant holder complete with pot plants. Another time, more oddly, it was our bathmat, which had been drying on the communal Hills Hoist in the back yard. I later saw it hanging out the window of neighbor lady's bathroom. We also had clothing nicked off the washing line, but I really don't know who took it, or where it may have ended up.

- The postie often made mistakes delivering things, and some of the mail put into our mailbox but addressed to R.G. included: a series of "most valued customer" postcards from Shiseido, the past students newsletter from Star of the Sea", and my favourite, a Tonia Todman* Fact Sheet from off Burke's Backyard (remember this is pre-internet days, when you could ring up and they'd post the precious info out to you.) I don't know what the fact sheet was about since it is of course illegal as well as unneighbourly to open mail not addressed to oneself, but I have my theories.

- After we moved upstairs into no.5, the first thing we had to do was deal with the full catastrophe of Miss R.G's eccentric DIY home decorator notions. These included a frieze of kitschy transfer flowers high above the picture rail in the living room, a half-dozen green and yellow fish-shaped tiles glued to the plaster wall above the stove (one glued on upside-down), kitchen floorboards painted white with matt wall acrylic, and a toilet feature wall of seventies sailing ship wallpaper, which admittedly I rather liked. All these accessories yet the entire ceiling had peeling bubbles and blisters in the whole painted surface. We cleaned it all off and painted it plain white.

The moral of this story: be as nice as possible to old neighbour ladies who've lived in the same flat since 1945, but perhaps don't get in the habit of buying cigarettes for them, because it turned out that the landlord (a most unlovely man) was only waiting for Dot to die to throw out all the tenants, rip out the terrazo floors, original walnut-stained woodwork, deco cornices and tiles and ceiling roses, leadlight doors on the built-in bookcases, generally destroy the place and rent the flats out all over again to a pack of hideous yuppie wannabes with too much money and not enough chromosomes.

That's gentrification!

* it appears that the aforementioned Ms Todman has a blog (but you have to register to see it). Ain't life grand?


Ben.H said...

Pure gold. I wonder which of those innovative decorator ideas were Ms Griffiths', and which were Ms Todman's?

Brownie said...

is that everybody's St.Kilda flat experience? it was mine too. 8 St.Leonards Ave.
the owner put a row of SKIPS down the drive (for everybody's junk) and we all had to move out so he could put in black granite kitchen and treble the rents.

R H said...

Miss Brownie (pesano!) I lived at 79 Grey Street. I was a bon vivant at the St Leonards soup kitchen. Did you dine there too?

Only kidding, but very handy for you, all the same.

(If I may say so)

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,
Great post. Gentrification is one of the most evil words in the English language, in my opinion, and I love seeing a good rant about it.

Jellyfish said...

Oh god, do I love anything more than a good celebrity gossip session?



Maybe the West Wing. But mostly NO! I have several RG anecdotes which I could add to this, but I am too discreet and polite and proper. Another day.

Suffice to say, she named her kid Banjo.

Lucy Tartan said...

yup. It's like just begging your kid to grow up and join a cult.

Mallrat said...

Oh lord.
i heard bigshot fashion designers hate lending her their clothes for her to wear on oscars night, etc, because she trashes them.

elaine said...

if it was Tonia Todman - wouldn't that make them "healthy, wealthy and wise" fact sheets?

Lucy Tartan said...

ooh. Good question. I know it was definitely Tonia Todman, so you're right on the tv show bit probably Elaine.