For three years I had a house in Fremantle. When I say ‘had’, I mean I rented it of course.
It was smallish and oldish and each of the rooms was painted a different bright colour – yellow, red, blue, purple, green. The wooden floorboards creaked in places and the ceiling fans ticked a little as they spun.
I first came to 49 Forrest Street on a summer afternoon in response to a housemate wanted advertisement. I propped my pushbike against the tree out the front and knocked on the door to meet Alena, whose friend had left at short notice. After a few days she let me know I could move in, I was the least strange of her applicants. Must have been some real weirdos turn up.
My favourite thing about the house was the verandah. It was wide and shady and had a decrepit lounge on it. The fabric of this lounge was torn and faded and the frame wobbled and groaned when anybody sat down.You got to know the comfortable spots to sit, away from the poky bits or saggy spots.That lounge and I spent some time together over the years. In the hot dusty afternoons, in the late evening light, in windy squalls, in winter rains I sat on the verandah and read and watched and thought.
I liked the feeling of being outside, yet sort of inside. I had shelter from the biting West Australian sun, but felt the cool benefits of the daily Freo Doctor (the sea breeze that calls every summer afternoon to make people feel better). As a storm arrived from the coast I would get splashed by the rebound of fat raindrops from the railings. The trees alongside the footy field bent sideways in the howling southwesterlies.
I could hear the music from my stereo inside, yet I was part of the world outside. I could smile or say hello to people walking past; the lady with purple hair walking her sausage dog, the families with young kids on scooters, the teenagers delivering advertising brochures who had to pass by our stickered mailbox. Or I could choose not to engage with anyone at all and just read.
I don’t know how many books I must have read sitting out there. Stories from around the world, stories from across the centuries, characters come to life in my mind in colour and adventure and anguish and happiness and confusion, living their lives as best they knew how, bringing a zest and new perspective into my little old Freo life.
When Alena moved out for a new beginning in Albany she took all her furniture but left the lounge on the verandah. It was decaying further, exposed as it was sometimes to rain and sun, and it wasn't a specifically outdoor lounge. I didn’t mind though, I still ate dinner there often enough, had some serious kinds of conversation there, I liked to sit there and await guests for a warm greeting, and I was there early that Thursday morning when I got the phone call about Foz’s passing.
When I decided to leave Freo earlier this year, I gradually emptied the house of its contents. Most of the things I’d scavenged from kerbside pickups, so was happy to return to the kerb and let the circle of life continue. Some I sold for cheap on gumtree. Off went the barbecue, the stereo, the bed and mattress. But nobody came for the lounge. Nobody knew its value like I did so it sat there until the day before moving when there was nothing else for it - we wrangled into the back of a ute and tied it down as though it might have known the hole in the ground where it was headed and tried to escape.