It's almost a year since we moved to the northern suburbs. It's still a working-class area - men in fluorescent garb driving home with empty lunch coolers each evening. The cars are older here than where I work in the East.
Last night I did a neighbourly thing - the kind of thing you do when you expect to be living in a place for a while. I don't know why that is a prerequisite, but it somehow is. I was walking the dog when I saw a familiar car parked with one headlight and one taillight on, but faded. I didn't know about the phenomena of parkers in German cars, so I knocked on the door of the quietly maintained red brick house and met a neighbour. 'Your car's lights are on.'
'Yeah, I know. They're parkers.' The man's name was Conrad. His two late-primary-school age daughters tumbled out of the front door, all freshly washed and in their pyjamas. They furiously patted my dog, while their Schnauzer came out as well. I was suddenly enveloped in the smell of a happy family on an easy-tired Friday night. We talked about German engineering, motoring and different models of cars we had owned.
Sometimes I really like the way men talk - they search for a common object or interest and then take it from there. No need to agree on emotions or whether or not someone's behaviour is fine or evidence of them being a bitch. Cars, football, renovations of the home, software, the best tools for the job. We stood in the half-light on his porch and shared insights about the neighbourhood - how it is on the way to being cleaned up and still sort of dilapidated. Perhaps this is the way Northcote was fifteen years ago.
I walked away, confirmed as a sticky-beak (how else would I know which car belongs to what house?) - smelling the blossoms and jonquils in the early dark.