On the Verge

Let me offer you some advice, my slim young friend. At the moment, you feel all precious and loved. At the moment, you’re attracting the birds. But don’t expect all that ‘I’m wonderful and indigenous and water wise’ business to work for long. The truth is they’ve forgotten you already.

It’ll start slowly at first – maybe with a baguette wrapper or a coffee cup or two. Then, before you know it, you’ll be buried under piles of real estate brochures, Thai restaurant menus and health club leaflets. You’ll start to loose your youthful good looks. You’ll get fat around the middle. Fungus and mildew sneak into your cracks. Pests arrive and burrow. Unwelcome growths sprout in awkward places. Eventually, your limbs twist and you start to loose your grip. Children strip you. Lovers tattoo you. Supermarket trolleys become your regular companions. And finally, the birds leave you for better looking specimens.

And then before you know it, you’ve been replaced by a younger version of yourself.

That’s if you’re lucky.

See that corpse across the street? Used to be a youthful, healthy native, just like you. Some blame the drought. I blame the constant flow of urine from passing drunks and dogs.  And that tortured mess down the road? Poisoned. All because of a blocked view.

Yep.  It’s a tough life out here on the verge.

But don’t gaze in envy at the private residents at number 42. See them draped across the development proposal sign on the gate? See them breaking through the paving stones? They won’t last. Not with that attitude. Before long, they’ll be replaced by a row of agaves that look as though they’re made of plastic. Or a bunch of dense box hedges all overseen by some pretentious, perfectly coifed up-itself ficus.

One other thing. As you get on in years, you’ll be tempted to reach for the electrical wires. Don’t. Once you touch them and feel that intoxicating tingle, you won’t be able to stop. They’ll suddenly remember you then. They’ll arrive with their machines and operate. Those humiliating crown-splitting cuts get to all of us eventually. But don’t make the mistakes I did. Shed lightly. Don’t crack the pavement. Don’t dent any cars. And above all, don’t let them start a file on you.

Yep. I have a file. A fat one. Do you know what it says? ‘Little positive contribution to community network. In a state of decline.’ (A little bird told me all this – a mynah, by the way). And the word that sealed my fate? ‘Litigation.’ What can I say? I’m not as subtle as I used to be. I find it hard to contain myself. Bits fall off at my age.

I didn’t mean to hit the ranger quite so hard the other day.

So, my tender little friend, before I get the chop, I want to leave you with some final words of warning. If you mess with the local council, you’re dead.


Author’s note.


Anyone unfamiliar with the quirks of Sydney living may be bamboozled by some of the references in this tiny piece.

So, FYI: Trees and power lines have a tenuous relationship in some of our leafy suburbs and periodically the local councils trim some of the vaster canopies into ‘V’ shapes to accommodate power lines (bring on underground cabling!)

Rangers are our local parking police who magically appear when you have committed a parking crime.

Development proposals are those documents we must all submit to our local council when we wish to significantly alter our dwellings.

Mynah birds are the scourge of cats and other birds in Sydney. Those aggressive little sods may look beautiful but they contribute little else to urban life.

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