I have the somewhat dubious honour of living at Fawlty Towers. Admittedly it is the Australian version, Mid North Coast style. Basil Fawlty’s Aussie doppelganger is the owner of the property. In order to fund his dream of opening an art gallery he rents out the other dwellings on his property to unsuspecting tenants. I say unsuspecting because behind the mild mannered exterior of the place, there are many things just waiting to fall apart.
Living here is like the Divinyl’s sing: ”A fine line between pleasure and pain”. Let me enlighten you. Picture a beautiful old two storied house set on a large leafy block – festooned with the odd gargoyle or two; it is a quirky and unique place. Lots of trees, birds and little creatures which like to visit. Apart from the main house, there is a granny flat which contains one granny (me, in fact), the ‘Pool House’ and the ‘Club House’.
The ‘Pool House’ is a remnant from a 70s stag party porno flick set complete with a wagon wheel suspended mirror and a table with barstools set in concrete. These are great if you are a two metre human being with a bum which can suction you onto the stool. And then there is the wall of mirrors. All it needs are the handle bar moustaches and pneumatic bouncing mammaries to complete the picture. It is called the pool house because there is a pool next to it. And yes, when it is 33 degrees in the shade the inmates are grateful for the pool – when it is not a deep shade of lime green. To get into the pool itself, the childproof gate is a logistical nightmare to open. The fence has sunk, so the gate is out of alignment and persistence, dexterity and a good strong right arm is necessary to get in for a swim. On the positive side, it is a good deterrent for small children. The pool house has had a series of tenants in my time here. Many tend to have a close and meaningful relationship to the bottle, along with attendant human relationships which are loudly vocal often at 2am. These issues are not apparent to the landlord until the recycling bin clinks glassily when it is wheeled out on a Tuesday.
The ‘Club House’ might have once been a garage. Set directly on a concrete slab and with fibro walls, it swelters in summer and turns its inhabitants into icicles in winter. The shower leaks, snakes and spiders crawl in the gaps under the door and cockroaches hold the walls together.There is no kitchen bench to speak of, few cupboards and a lovely sloping floor. The screen doors don’t fit or shut, so visiting wildlife is abundant.
The tenants, including my good self choose to live here because it is quiet, leafy, cheap and close to everything. The benign owner of what I call the ‘Compound’ does all the repairs himself. This would be fine if he:
- Did them when asked
- Did them properly
The inmates of the compound must accept that unlike a situation when a rental property is acquired through an agent, the agent sends qualified repairmen to fix the things that break. Living at the compound is a parallel universe. The reverse is true. The owner will do all repairs himself, and he will do them when he has time. However he does not have much of that because of time constraints such as a full time job, various medical conditions and also a girlfriend.
This green and leafy paradise is rife with complexities. Who else, when going to mow the lawn, finds three mowers – only one of which goes? And, to make this contraption work, you must spray it with WD40, use a shifter to turn a screw and pull the cord. Hard when your arms are not long enough to do all at the same time. The lawn’s done, the mower does not turn off when you turn the ‘off switch’. Oh no, you must run to the shed and find a pair of pliers to pull out a wire before the beast shudders to a stop. The driveway is edged with a wall of pine trees, from which crazed black cockatoos pelt unsuspecting inmates with pine cone missiles. It looks and sounds like a war zone. There is not time here to mention the driveway hose which sprays the user with a fine mist and is not long enough to water the garden. Nor time to discuss the physical and mental gymnastics required to manoeuvre your car around other quirkily parked cars to get to the road. Should I mention the home made telephone wire system which so baffled the Telstra man he needed to get counselling and retraining? Now I jest, but I am sure you get the drift…
But back to the exploding toilet cistern. I begged, nagged, cajoled and reminded the landlord to fix my dripping toilet. I nagged so much it felt like I was still married. After a few weeks, he did. I always find that if I threaten to get a trade’s person in and take it out of the rent, then that will galvanise him into action. Finally he visited the cathedral which is close to heart of the men of Australia. He has a close, almost spiritual infinity with Bunnings Warehouse. I think of it as his place of worship as most weekends he brings home mysterious and bulky packages from there and displays an air of serene contentment. Ah, what a visit to the temple of testosterone does to a good Aussie man.
He fixed it. Ah the joy of not hearing that mind numbing drip drip drip. But alas I rejoiced too soon. Suddenly the hose ripped from the wall and a fountain of water cascaded through the kitchen and bathroom. Being a resourceful woman, I turned off the tap and mopped up with towels. Sopping wet and swearing quietly I rang him on his mobile phone. Of course he is five hundred kilometres away. He humbly and apologetically listened to my tirade, promising to fix it on his return tomorrow.
I am off to bed now. All is quiet on the compound. My huge, quiet veranda is a wonderful place to sit and think. Life on a compound has many advantages. There is always someone to borrow milk from, and there is always someone to feed the cat when I am away. There is room to ride a bike, kick a ball, ride a skateboard, grow vegies or just sit under a tree. We often all sit together and have a meal or a drink. There is usually someone around when you need someone to talk to, but you are left alone when you want solitude. I have been here a few years now, and much as I become frustrated with things not getting repaired, I love my little place and I am always happy to return here. I will just try to ignore that grinding sound from the ceiling fan and the dripping from the bathroom ceiling as the aftermath of the toilet explosion subsides into puddles on the floor.
Have you ever had an interesting landlord? What did they do? Share your funny stories below.