WE knew it was going to be one of those years when the vote was tallied and a narcissistic megalomaniac came out on top.
“Well,buggerme,” said Frank from two doors up when I told him. “We didn’t see that coming.”
That’s what 2016 has been like where I live.
One minute the local residents’ action group was plodding along writing outraged letters to the editor about potholes and a lack of police, and then came the coup. Alan the retired accountant was ousted as president and Ralph the realestate agent/developer/formertelevangelist was in, all fired up with plans for a casino in the school of arts hall.
It’s been a big year globally and nationally –the European migration crisis, no end to the tragedy in Syria, Brexit, terrorist attacks, Donald Trump’s victory, Malcolm Turnbull’s near defeat, theearly deaths of so many celebrities, and growing alarm about climate change and the politics of climate change.
But in Upper Wombatville where I live–community motto,“Leafblowers and chainsaws rule”-it’sbeen a REALLY big year, starting with the Farraghers’New Year’s Eve party to end 2015.
Everyone was there. The Farraghers, of course, although we raised a glass for young Justin, doing time for his coming-of-agemalicious damage, graffiti, vandalism and letterbox-smashingspree.
Marge Farragher wastearful as she downed her fifth bubbly.
“He’s only got three months to go. It’s been so quiet, and of course I’m loving my new sewing room. Maybe we can do up a bedroom in the garage when he comes back,” she blubbered.
A few of us noticedthe Farraghers’youngest, Tiffany, lookinga bitpeaky, although Ethel from number 42 thought she’d beefed up since we’d last seen her.
Trust a retirednurse and NSWCWAvice president to get it in one.
When the countdown for 2016 started young Tiff stood on the tank stand, andbefore you could say“Watch out for the hippeastrums”, she blurted out her news.
“Mum, Dad, congrats, you’re going to be grandparents.Dwayne hasto move inbecause his olds have thrown him out,” she said as we cheered in the new year, Marge fainted, and Bazza launched himself at Dwayne, the best halfback Bazza hasever coachedand, apparently, the father of his future grandchild.
As wewanderedhome later we heard Bazza smashing through Gladys McMahon’shydrangeas. As some of the old hands knew, it wasDwayne’s favourite hiding spotas a little tacker when he didn’t want to go to training.
There was the fire at number 57 in April. While most of us were sleeping, Darrell and Beryl Brown decided it was a good time to burn off the garbage pile in their backyard that’s been accumulating since Don Lane won a Gold Logie.
Maybe it was the home brew they’d been drinking. Maybe it was the warm westerly that had been blowing for most of the day. Or maybe it was the mower fuel Darrell decided to throw on the pile to, as he put it, “give it a bit of a rev up”. But the backyard burn was out of hand quicker than Darrell can down a cold one.
It only took a few minutes for Gary and Graeme -the nice gay couple who moved into number 55 with high hopes of a quiet life, and then they met Darrell and Beryl –to wake up to choking smoke and flames licking their pagoda’s west wall, and the whole street was alive to the sounds of fire trucks and Beryl shrieking for the cat.
The police were nice. The ambos did a good job with the oxygen after Beryl made a dash for the dining room to rescue her best china and was beaten back by thick smoke from the plastic lounge covers. And we all learnt a valuable lesson:if you’re going to light an illegal backyard fire in the middle of the night, don’t wear a see-through short nightie and undies with dodgy elastic.
There were departures this year. Justin, as mentioned. The Taylors,who movedto Queenslandunder the mistaken impression Pauline Hanson had been voted Premier. The Barrett triplets, who left for Europe on a Monday and whose parents, Steph and Bill, sold the house the next day and moved to New Zealand without leaving a forwarding address. And Gladys McMahon, who’d had enoughof Bazza smashing her hydrangeas and left fora nursing home.
But the big news, of course, was Ralph’s coup. There was excitement when he moved into the big house on the corner and added a third floor, tennis court and 8-car garage. We’d all seen him on TV spruiking land releases and praising his personal saviour.
But no one thought he’d topple Alan.
There were the debates, where Alan championed kerb and guttering for the whole neighbourhood, keeping kids from cluttering up the local park, mandatory lawn mowing days and a residents’ veto on newcomers to the area.
But Ralph went one further. He was going to make Upper Wombatville great again by seceding from ,erecting a wall and producing a new currency to use at the casino he planned in the old school of arts hall.
“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich,” said Ralph when Alan supporters opposed the casino and heckled him over his years as a televangelist.
“I’m going to build a big wall because I’m very rich, and you’re going to be on the other side of it,” he told them.
Ralph’s term starts in January. We’re holding our breath.
And as the sun sets at Upper Wombatville on Saturday and we count down to 2017, one thing we know for certain –when the world seems crazy and getting crazier, there’s comfort in knowing the grass will just keep growing.