Daughter: I saw something very funny in Cleveland Street today. An elderly man with a walking frame was crossing the road, but not at the traffic lights. He was crossing half way up the street. He didn't bother looking to see what traffic was coming. He just proceeded across the street in front of the traffic, making it stop for him. I watched, fascinated, wondering if he would be hit by a car. Not only did he get across the street without mishap, he immediately turned around and crossed back the same way. But that wasn't enough for him. For as long as I could be bothered watching him I saw him continue back and forth across the busy road, slowly, using his walking frame.
Mother: I've seen a young woman getting excitement on Cleveland Street too, hurtling down a hill on her bike, just ahead of the traffic. She was having so much fun that she was squealing with delight, freewheeling at speed, her legs sticking out sideways, no helmet on and her hair flying free.
Alpha: I've seen her too. She often rides her bike like that down the Cleveland Street hill. She enjoys it so much that she rides around the block, then hurtles down the hill again and again, with the traffic coming close behind her.
I've had fun on my own bike too, without really trying. Yesterday I was riding along a footpath when I saw a young man snatch a woman's handbag. The woman stood there, bewildered, and the thief hurried away. I just kept on riding along towards him, and he thought I was chasing him, so he began to run. But he soon fell over, and the handbag flew out of his hand and almost onto the road. Luckily I was just in time to pick it up, and return it to the astonished woman.
Mother: I can imagine you wearing a hero's cape at the time.
Alpha: The young man who I'm most likely to see snatching women's handbags waits close to certain corners, particularly on Abercrombie Street, close to Cleveland Street, where he can get away up a side street. One young woman I saw was so involved in a conversation on her mobile phone that she was an easy target for him.
Mother: It seems that nothing really exciting happens around here, apart from the Redfern Riots, which I'm sure were out of character,... and just the occasional murder.
But there's one thing I'm afraid might happen, that would be very exciting for us. The man next door's house might collapse, bringing part of our house down too.The way our house shakes so much as he attacks his house, I wonder if what he's doing is safe.
Have you noticed how his ute gets so overloaded with all the bricks and rubble he takes out of his house that you'd think it would be impossible for it to move. There is a trailer that he loads up too. He must be removing so many walls that you wonder what is left to support the top floor.
I hope he knows what he's doing.
Daughter: Do you think some authority should inspect what he's doing, to make sure it's safe.
Should we ask the Council, or the owner of our house to investigate?
Mother: I wouldn't like to be involved in that. It could get the man next door into trouble.
Daughter: Maybe we should just ask the man next door if we can have a look inside his house.
Mother: I wouldn't go in there if I were you.
A FEW DAYS LATER.
Daughter: Last night the man next door must have invited young people from the pub back to his place for a party.
Suddenly I heard an alarming crash, as if something significant was being destroyed.
Someone called out "You idiot!", and said it again and again as the smashing and crashing continued. There was also laughter. I wonder what was happening.
A bit later, the man next door sounded as though he was crying. And then he was shouting. It sounded as though he was going off his head, as he complained that his life is a mess.
Mother: We think we are observing the man next door's life, but there must be many aspects of his life that we know little about. And who knows the extent of the disappointments and demons he has to deal with.
Daughter: I've heard him having emotional telephone conversations with a woman, maybe his ex partner, telling her how much he loves her, and imploring her to come back.
Alpha has spoken to him and found out that he has a young daughter who lives overseas with her mother. He must miss his daughter too.
Sometimes he has phone conversations in a foreign language that I can't identify, and I've also heard him talking to a relative who was criticising him for his drinking.
Mother: I wonder how old he is.
Daughter: How old do you think he is?
Mother: He must be in his 40's. How old he looks depends on what state he's in.
Daughter: I'd say he is about 45.
Mother: Yes, I'd agree with that.
Daughter: Something funny happened last night. There was a party going on next door and I was annoyed because all the noise was keeping me awake. When I heard the man next door pissing outside his kitchen door, almost under my window, I decided to catch him while he was vulnerable, and I threw up my window and looked down at him, calling out ..."It's really loud."...."We can't sleep."
I said no more because the situation was mutually embarrassing, and that was probably why he didn't respond.
A FEW DAYS LATER.
Mother notices that in the last few days the front door of the house next door is sometimes open.
Going past she looks in to try to make out what can be seen. It is such a grey, dismal, cluttered shambles that it is hard to identify anything.
So she decides to pause for a moment on her way back from the shop to have a better look in through the open front door. When she looks in the first thing she can make out is the face of the man next door, as he emerges from his house.
The Man Next Door: I apologise for all the noise I've been making.
Mother: What we do worry about is whether your house is going to fall down.
The Man Next Door: Well, if it does collapse it will just fall on me. But don't worry, it's well propped up.
Would you like to come inside to see what I've built to hold things up until I can put in a steel beam?
Mother (thinks): Here is the opportunity we have been looking for.
Then, she can hardly believe what is happening, that in spite of the times she has said that she would never go in next door, here she is, about to step inside the man next door's house.