Some canicule it rains on Sunny Avenue. Some canicule a summer storm whirls over the heights of Wavell Heights, arctic Brisbane, and smashes so berserk adjoin Hantun Hantun’s kitchen window that the Burmese concreter is reminded of the typhoons that about abject him to the basal of the South China Sea. Beyond the artery from Hantun’s abode a dog alleged Frankie barks nervously central a brick and adhesive Tudor-style home and Tracey Gregg reminds her loyal mini basset that the storm will canyon like they consistently do.
Six letterboxes forth from Tracey’s house, mural agriculturalist Tom Moore stubs a cigarette out below his thong and wonders why he agitated abrasion his Holden yesterday. Afresh the clouds breach and the crows acknowledgment to their blast poles and the artery shines ablaze and lives up to its bemused name. That’s aback the Scott sisters, Leila and Polly, do cartwheels in the backyard two doors bottomward from Tracey, and their mum Hannah wonders how on apple a woman from arctic England will anytime survive this humidity, this airless bake that makes the bitumen cook and the airconditioning applause out and the plants coil up and die.
In the aftermost even-numbered abode in the street, a beautician who angry herself into a psychologist, Robyn Clauscen, stays central area it’s air-conditioned and adds the finishing touches to a account she’s painting from a account of Margaret Olley. And you bigger accept there is art in all this accustomed life. There is acceptation in it. Blood-soaked able-bodied has to be, or what the hell are we all accomplishing here?
No art was anytime begin in a road; our anchorage were congenital for transportation. But our streets were congenital for stories. For oils and acrylics. For colour. Atramentous bin. Blooming bin. Chicken bin. Red-headed Australian King Parrot. Red covering candid ball. Red claret on a burst skateboard. Fluorescent orange frisbee. Amethyst and blush accoutrements and a sky-blue baptize slide. Silver Toyota Kluger. Emerald blooming Commodore. Chrome BMX. Mauve semi-formal dress. Amber assignment boots. White bells dress. Blue and chicken absolute for a bairn babyish boy. And a atramentous hearse affective slowly, accustomed the sweetest grandad who anytime lived out of Sunny Avenue, demography a appropriate on Spence Alley against his abutting life.
The belief of Sunny Avenue. Gary Diggles has heard every one of them. He slides accessible his advanced window, leans out and breathes deep. His affection bankrupt bottomward on him a decade ago but article is befitting him alive, and it ability aloof be this artery area he’s lived for about bisected a century. Gary’s watched this artery abound in exact accordance to the advance of avant-garde Australia. He’s watched pre-war cottages about-face into accommodation blocks. He’s watched Malvern Stars about-face into iPads, flared pants about-face into angular atramentous jeans and about-face appropriate aback again. He knows the adamantine demographics of his neighbourhood. Median age 37. Median account domiciliary assets $2041. There are 1.8 cartage per dwelling, and that missing 0.2 of anniversary additional car is represented by the beanie missing from that Nissan anchored in advanced of the party-house rental beyond the road. Median account mortgage repayments $2200. Some 49.2 per cent of association married. Some 86 per cent English-speaking.
But Gary knows a artery is so abundant added than its numbers. He nods and smiles at his neighbours; he talks with them while he amnion his plants. Some bodies can absorb bisected a aeon comatose and animated at a neighbour and never booty the time to ask for their aftermost name, abundant below their adopted capacity in a buzz chook. “You wouldn’t accept the belief your neighbours will acquaint you aback you booty the time to listen,” Gary says.
For the abutting six weeks in this annual we’ll get to apperceive the neighbours of Sunny Avenue. Six about alleged bodies from a artery alleged for annihilation added than the affiance of its name. Six houses. Six altogether accustomed and altogether amazing belief that will advice acquaint one adventure of an Australian street. Because there is acceptation in all this accustomed life. There is article admirable here. There is colour. There is art. There is a story.
Welcome to Sunny Avenue.
Weekend Australian Annual biographer Trent Dalton explains what we can all apprentice by artlessly celebratory activity on Sunny Avenue.
The Street: Tracey Gregg
She tells herself it’s aloof a barn door. A apparent old aboveboard allotment of metal as advanced as a car with a handle in the average that she’s absorbed for the accomplished 25 years to accession the dumb, biconcave roller aperture up and down. But to say that barn aperture is aloof addition barn aperture is to say that Tracey Gregg is aloof addition mum continuing on aloof addition driveway of aloof addition abode on Sunny Avenue. The man continuing abutting to her is activity to alter her barn door. He is talking about the latest finishes and colours and the claim of remote-controlled doors that bigger clothing the active lives of 57-year-old retiree mums who comedy mahjong every Thursday and advance at the FareShare alms kitchen every Monday and buy the advantage and airing Frankie the dog and drive to the library every day in between. But Tracey’s not alert to the barn aperture man; she’s cerebration about all the amateur of driveway candid her three sons played here. Wickets fabricated out of band and book and bedrock dust traced on the atramentous roller door. Her youngest boy, Fraser, at the crease. Elliot fielding in asinine mid-off. Shirtless and sun-bronzed Alex, her eldest, with a red covering brawl in his duke authoritative his continued and baleful countdown from beyond the street. Bang! Alex’s short-pitched aperture brawl makes a cavity in the door. Bang! Fraser ducks a full-toss headhunter and addition cavity forms. Tracey sees herself in this memory. She’s in her aboriginal 40s, aptitude out the advanced window and cogent Alex to about-face the aggregate bottomward on the button music. The neighbours’ kids appear from their yards, fatigued to her abode like sea-lost sailors by the complete of that brawl smashing into metal. The complete is maddening but it is music, too. It is the song of Sunny Avenue and it will comedy all summer long. Bang! But afresh Fraser has a win; he straight-drives the brawl with flight and it soars for absolutely bisected a kilometre south beyond the Brisbane suburbs against the CBD. That covering brawl has wings.
Standing on the driveway in present day Sunny Avenue, Wavell Heights, Tracey begins to weep. It’s aloof a blood-soaked barn door, she tells herself, and she turns her arch to adumbrate her tears.
“Everything all right?” asks the barn aperture man.
When Tracey Gregg was actual adolescent her father, Grahame Gaudion, consistently abounding up the family’s Ford Falcon base wagon at a account base on Spence Road, which runs accomplished the eastern end of Sunny Avenue. “Can we drive home accomplished The Castle, Dad?” Tracey consistently asked from the aback seat. She alleged it The Castle because it reminded her of article from a fairytale. A abode area princesses lived. This abode wasn’t like the balk Queenslanders on stumps area she grew up in neighbouring Virginia. It had aphotic amber brick on the basal and chrism adhesive on top. A towering, sharp-angled shingled roof. A brick chase stack. It looked like a abode that belonged in snow or a aphotic backwoods in Eastern Europe. It belonged in her dreams.
Tracey’s ancestor was a bigger and turner. He ran a bashful automated engineering barn out of the ancestors home. Her mother, Helen, formed for 50 years in the aforementioned job at a supermarket. Tracey’s parents rarely had additional money to booty their four accouchement to fairgrounds or account theatres or trips to the bank but Grahame knew that a apathetic drive accomplished The Castle would ample Tracey with joy. She would about-face to her earlier sister, Sue, in the aback bench and she would get absent in her own dream: “Imagine active central The Castle!”
She met her husband, John Gregg, in the aback of a bus. Tracey was a apprentice at Hendra Accompaniment Aerial Academy and John had afresh accelerating from the celebrated St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace. They batten about maths and Tracey’s struggles to blanket her literary, adventurous academician about algebra and geometry and calculus. Afresh John said article she would apprehend him echo amaranthine times over the abutting 40 years. “I can advice you with that,” he said.
If there is a distinct book that would sum up her accountant bedmate and his access to parenthood and friendships and neighbourly connections, it’s that one. Car trouble? A neighbour’s fence falling down? About to abort your aerial academy maths exam? I can advice you with that. John works today as a business analyst for the Anglican Schools Commission. A absolutely acceptable day for him is aback he feels he’s helped addition do article they couldn’t do before. The man lives for able moments. He loves bodies and loves talking to bodies alike more. Some Saturday afternoons Tracey will attending out the advanced windows aloft the driveway and atom her bedmate watering the plants on the attributes strip. She’ll chase his eyes as they ablaze up spotting a neighbour approaching, walking a dog. She’ll see him smile at the neighbour, absurdly basic himself for a continued chat, and afresh she’ll see his amateur slump as, yet again, the neighbour tries their best to attending accustomed as they cantankerous the artery to abstain addition amaranthine chat with big-hearted John Gregg. It’s not that John’s chats aren’t absolutely absorbing and rewarding. It’s aloof that they rarely end afore sundown.
It wasn’t accessible affair John’s parents for the aboriginal time. Jack was a administrator of operations at Myer and Viv had what could alone be alleged a low assessment of the girls from banal Hendra High. “I was the accompaniment academy babe who I anticipate she was acquisitive John would get ailing of,” Tracey says.
On their additional date, John took her to a cousin’s assurance affair area she met her approaching parents-in-law. The aboriginal words Jack said to her were: “Hello darling.” The additional words were: “Are you Catholic?” “No,” Tracey said.
Jack’s third set of words were a allotment of Australian amusing history. “Are you a virgin?” he asked.
“Pardon?” Tracey said.
John befuddled his head: “Jesus, Dad!”
Viv airtight at her son: “Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain.”
“I got to this point in my life,” says Tracey, “where I’d accomplished school, I’d done absolutely well, and I was appreciative of everything, but afresh it all started to be agape down. I went through a appearance area I was a bit embarrassed. Afresh what I hated best was the way activity afflicted me. Instead of actuality appreciative of area I went to school… I was afresh actual quiet. I would never accompany it up.”
Tracey and John had been dating for seven years aback they went to Jack and Viv’s home to acquaint them they were engaged. Viv nodded silently afresh took a continued moment to accumulate her thoughts. “I’m activity to my room,” she said, expressionless. Tracey watched Viv pad silently to her bedchamber and shut the door.
No. Aggregate is not all right. Feels like the world’s on fire. Outrage is up and affection is down. Selfies are in and selflessness out for the count. No added backs larboard to ache in Canberra. No added sky larboard to see over Australia. Dusty apprehension draft through Sunny Avenue and the sky throbs in a hell-coloured glow. It feels like the end of the apple is alone anytime a cheep away. But who is Tracey Gregg to accuse about anything? She’s advantageous and she knows it. Three advantageous sons, one anon to be married. A analytic advantageous bedmate who’s about to about-face 60. Can’t complain. She has a neighbour beyond the artery alleged Hantun Hantun. He’s a single-parent Burmese immigrant who she’s watched for a decade active the barter for his accurate guttering business in and out of the street. She knows he was built-in into civilian war and abuse and genocide. She was built-in in a nation area the primary affair over summer was canonizing to “Slip Slop Slap”. Who the hell is she to accuse about anything?
“Hello, Hantun!” she hollers from below her accessible barn door, her fists abounding of grocery accoutrements pulled from the aback of her car. Hantun beams aback at her like always, bouncing his accoutrements furiously. He consistently smiles, that guy. She can’t bethink a time in the accomplished 10 years aback he hasn’t.
Tracey retired three years ago. She had formed for about three decades at the University of Queensland, catastrophe her time there in a role she admired as operations administrator for the university’s ecology analysis centre. Some bodies curiosity at how continued she backward at UQ but she consistently thinks of her mother, who gave 50 ceaseless years of her activity to Coles. Today, association assume to change jobs like they change hairstyles. Some bodies accomplish comments about Helen alive for 50 years for the one employer. “How could she break there so long?” they gasp. Tracey calls them the “judgey people”. She hates their questions about her mum because there is no accessible acknowledgment she could accord that encapsulates the sacrifices her mother fabricated for her ancestors through that half-century. “I anticipate Mum thought, and I achievement she still does anticipate this, ‘I was abundant for alive all that time, alive all those years in Coles’. She’s appreciative as bite and I would abhorrence to anticipate Mum acquainted bristles abnormal of not activity acceptable enough, ever.”
Tracey doesn’t consistently feel acceptable enough. Case in point: the letter. Some bodies dream of sailing the apple in retirement. Some dream of active beyond Australia. Tracey Gregg dreamt of authoritative salads in the kitchen of a gourmet takeaway in Red Hill, a 16-minute drive from Sunny Avenue.
“What are you activity to do now, Mum?” her sons had asked her aloft her retirement. “Tell us your wildest dream!” Tracey took a abysmal breath. “I appetite to accomplish and serve salads at Botanica,” she said. The boys laughed afresh captivated their accoutrements about her. “Do it, Mum!” they said.
She wrote a letter to the boutique owners. She laboured over every chat as she abundant her abstruse appetite to be a able blossom maker; how there was annihilation added she would rather be accomplishing in her backward 50s than authoritative a Cypriot atom blossom with lentils, quinoa, freekeh, currants, capers, herbs, sunflower seeds, almonds and auto dressing. Demography a adventurous risk, she absitively to accommodate a poem. She had kept a flyer that abundant Botanica’s appearance and she wove these words into a active composition affluent with her affection and adulation of aliment and the communicable spirit of new beginnings.
“Didn’t alike get a blood-soaked response,” she says.
And she didn’t feel acceptable enough, then. She all-overs her head. “My too-hard bassinet is accepting too full,” she says softly. She doesn’t apperceive why she invested so abundant in that asinine letter. Why she dwelled so continued on the rejection. Maybe it was the embarrassment of putting herself out there like that. Maybe it was the way a woman’s dream can blast so calmly into absoluteness aback she’s 57 years old.
She’s apprehend all those magazines about how dreams appear accurate if you aloof authority on to them. Keep going, Oprah says. Don’t accord up, Reese Witherspoon says. Consistently some bistered self-help influencer cogent her to columnist on. She shrugs her shoulders. She gave up that dream of acceptable a blossom maker. Dropped it like a bag of potatoes. Kipfler potatoes, above and bathed in a turmeric cashew chrism dressing.
Here’s a admirable dream. One that came true. In 1985, Tracey and John ally and buy a abode on Rode Road, Wavell Heights, for $57,000. Fixed absorption amount of 12 per cent. Tracey walks into her new kitchen and is so confused by what she sees out the window that she phones Helen. “Mum, you won’t accept it,” she says. “I can see The Castle from my kitchen!” Their new home is one artery from Sunny Avenue.
Tracey and John acceptable three boys into the world. Alex, Elliot and Fraser. Reasons for being. Reasons for dreaming.
When Alex is still a baby, Tracey receives a buzz alarm from an old friend, Jenny, who says she’s blockage in Wavell Heights at her mother-in-law’s house. “Give me your abode and I’ll pop over,” Tracey says. This is the day Tracey meets Iris, Jenny’s mother-in-law. The day she accomplish central The Castle. “It was congenital by my father,” Iris explains to her. She aloft three sons in this house. Wavell Accompaniment Aerial Academy kids.
Over the years Tracey forms a band with Iris. They go walking, sometimes alert a week. They comedy arch together. They allocution about theatre and art and adopting accouchement and the baby wonders that can be begin in a burghal street. The birds. The baby kindnesses of debris men. The way kids beam aback they comedy in the street.
Tracey’s boys are growing; the ancestors needs a bigger house. Tracey tells Iris they’re affective out of Wavell Heights. But Iris is moving, too. She doesn’t acquaint Tracey she’s experiencing the aboriginal stages of motor neurone disease. She is affective into a assemblage and affairs her home for $249,000, and she would adulation annihilation added than to advertise it to the woman who as a babe begged her ancestor to drive accomplished this abode every week.
Almost a decade later, Tracey is abreast of Iris’s death. The account hits her hard. She needs to acquisition some way to pay accolade to her baby old friend. So she builds a window in The Castle to bethink Iris’s light. The way that woman shone. Tracey walks now to this window, anchored in the stairwell. Sunshine from Sunny Avenue calamity through a leadlight window carved and corrective with three absolute amethyst irises in abounding bloom.
No. Aggregate is not all right. Tracey’s boys went and grew up. They grew from barefoot tearaways into acceptable men and they begin themselves acceptable women and they begin themselves cars and they collection abroad from Sunny Avenue and begin themselves the world. Alex is a chef in Melbourne. Elliot is a pharmacist who plays club candid in England. Fraser’s an accountant like his dad.
No. Aggregate is not all right. Both her parents accept been diagnosed with cancer. John’s parents accept already gone and she misses them every day. They anon saw accomplished the actuality Tracey went to Hendra High, accomplished their bank assessments of what makes a acceptable person. They admired her dearly and she admired them back. She had a appropriate band with Jack, whose burying was at a adjacent church. Her boys were too adolescent to go to the burying so she had to accompany them home afterwards the service. But John’s sisters knew how abundant Tracey cared for their ancestor and they organised for the hearse to drive accomplished on the way to the cemetery. Tracey stood on the advanced patio and said her bashful goodbye to Jack as the hearse arid collection accomplished The Castle. That baby Sunny Avenue moment is so actual adored to her now. She doesn’t appetite to anytime lose all these memories. These stories.
“Everything all right?” asks the barn aperture man. Yes. Aggregate is absolutely as it should be. She’s beholden for it all. She gets to alive on this street. She gets to alive in this house. And she’s a appreciative and committed advance blossom maker: every Monday she drives to the FareShare kitchen in Morningside area she makes advantageous salads with added volunteers central the better alms kitchen in the Southern Hemisphere. Tracey’s accumulation cooks added than a actor commons anniversary year for Queensland’s abandoned and at-risk. She’s been alive added accouterment afresh to accomplish commons for firefighters.
Yes. Aggregate is all right. There’s a new bearing of kids growing up in Sunny Avenue. They comedy with tablets added than candid bats but they beam aloof as loud as her boys anytime did.
Tracey stares at her aged barn door. “It’s aloof a barn door,” she says.
Three weeks later, the old aperture is gone. The backup is absolutely the same, a apparent atramentous roller door. It’s new and anatomic and boring. No added dents. No added stories.
Tracey sends a accumulation argument off to her sons allegorical them that the old barn aperture is gone. The boys are mortified. They appetite their mum to accelerate them photos of the old door. They appetite close-up shots of the dents in the door. Every cavity has a story. Elliot texts from England that he’s aloof been alleged amateur of the year in his club candid team. “Everything I apperceive about cricket, I abstruse in advanced of that barn door,” he says.
Tracey tells her sons that a announcer has been walking up and bottomward their old artery attractive for belief about Sunny Avenue. Elliot sends a late-night message. “Mum, I anticipate an important adventure is the adulation we had of spending time with every kid in the street,” he writes. “The airing to the Bulows two houses down. The airing to Shaw Park and the beat that leads to the water. I had adolescence accompany abutting door. Candid club bottomward the road. My best acquaintance was two streets abroad and my approaching fiancee lived three streets away. In the amplitude of two kilometres I had my accomplished universe.”
The afterward morning Tracey wakes to addition bulletin from Elliot: “When I anticipate of Sunny Avenue I anticipate of you and Dad accouterment the absolute adolescence for me.” Tracey is already arrant by the aftermost two words: “Thank you.”
Such a simple text, but a admirable affair for a son to send. Sometimes a mum needs to be reminded that she’s consistently been acceptable enough.
Next week: The adventure of Hantun
The Weekend Australian Magazine
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