Monday, 12 March 2012

When my parents moved into

this house the neighbours on either side of them were different from the neighbours we have now. In fact there is only one other house in the street where the occupants are the same as they were when my parents moved in.
On one side of us there was an elderly couple. They were in their eighties and we did not seem them for about five months of each year. They would hook their ancient caravan to an almost equally ancient car and head off to Queensland. They did that until they were "too old" to handle the caravan. They did several more trips to Queensland and stayed in one of the many "apartments" available for rent having taken several overnight stops in motels on the way.
On the other side was a couple about ten years younger than my parents. They had two teenage boys. One of them was "trouble" - or was he? There were constant battles between him and his parents. He seemed wild and uncontrollable, out with "mates" who looked equally likely to be "trouble".  He was asked to leave school - not expelled as such but the headmaster of the local high school told his parents there was no point in him staying there as he was doing no work and was not going to pass the final year exams. School did not interest him.  He looked untidy. His hair was long. The police turned up one day and had words with him about just where he had been riding his bike. It was nothing terribly serious but it convinced everyone he was "trouble".
His mother thought he could not be relied on to do anything. She would yell and scream at him. It made no difference. His father just gave up and they barely spoke a word to one another.
The old man on the other side of us would sometimes talk to him as the kid slouched past or rode his skateboard in and out of all the driveways along our street.  The kid would actually stop to talk to him briefly.
         "He'll be okay," the old man told me one day. My mother doubted it as much as his own mother did. My father had no opinion. They had scarcely exchanged a word. The old man relied on the kid to water the garden in their absence one year. Everyone said it was madness but the garden was watered and the lawn was kept cut.
I had to agree with the old man's assessment. I had my own experience. The chain on my tricycle came off one day. As I was struggling to get it on the kid skated past, came to a halt, turned back and said,
         "You want some help?"
He had a job by then. He was a roofing tiler's mate for a bit and then did a variety of other things. Eventually he got himself apprenticed to a bricklayer. It came about through word of mouth. He was, it seemed, a good worker. He was on time and he worked hard. He was willing to learn.
I saw his brother yesterday. He was the conservative one who caused no real worries. I asked him how his brother was getting on.
        "He's doing okay - well more than okay."
Somehow I knew that was going to be the answer.

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