I was an optimist. A crazy, delusional optimist. I thought I might be able to buy a house in Auckland’s overheated property market. What a fool! At least I have learnt a few things, like that real estate ads are 60 per cent bull shit and 40 per cent horse shit. Here I translate some common phrases…
Up and coming area.
The neighbours all wear ankle monitoring bracelets.
Good things come in small packages!
You can open the fridge while sitting on the toilet.
Cos there’s no way you could decrease it.
Bring your D.I.Y. skills!
Cos you’ll need them if you want running water.
Why pay rent when you can own your own home?
Why pay a landlord when you can pay a bank?
Renovate or rebuild!
Because there’s no way you can live here the way it is.
Handy to public transport.
There’s a view of the motorway and the place shakes when a train passes.
Great indoor, outdoor flow.
It has a door.
Hurry! This won’t last long!
Other buyers are as desperate and beaten down as you.
Eighteen long months I spent wooing that ginger beast. I wanted to heal his timid heart, show it humans could be kind, that they could be trusted. I hate to think what it had been through before being adopted by the neighbours but it was terrified of everything and everybody.
I worked slowly and cautiously as all feline fanatics do. I did daily crazy cat lady calls across the fence as it lazed in the sun. “Hello puss puss!” I did crazy cat lady crouching while I rubbed my thumb and middle finger together. I never ever approached him. I wanted him to make the move. I wanted him to feel in control. Of course I did. That’s crazy cat lady 101.
And then after a year and a half of slow, steady work, a breakthrough! As I ate lunch on the front porch, he appeared, his ginger fur catching the midday sun. He sniffed around me. He let me touch him! I stroked his warm coat. I whispered word of love and comfort. I revelled in my own victory. Of course I did – I had no idea what was to come. And God knows neither did he.
“Back in a tick,” I say to my friend.
On an unassuming Wednesday evening an email arrives and turns the world on its head. It is from my friend Sue and it makes no sense at all. It is about her mate’s website. It says: “Would you consider doing her a few drawings, like you have on your blog, on a commission basis?” This is a joke, I think. “This is not a joke,” says the email.
I am too stunned to laugh. My husband isn’t. He laughs for three full days and three full nights while I negotiate money – real, proper money – to do crap drawings.
I write a proposal detailing the crap drawings I will do. I think greedily about how this will be the easiest money I ever make. Then I try to draw them. They are total crap. I can’t draw arms. I can’t draw legs. I can’t fucking draw!
The problem with my sister is that she shares my genes. They are strange genes, darkly comic genes, genes laced with disaster. And so with quirky DNA poisoning her judgement, last week she made a momentous, life-endangering mistake.
She was invited to a party by an acquaintance. “It’s a biker party,” said the acquaintance. My sister went home and invited her husband. “It’s a biker party,” she said.
They got their costumes ready. She scrounged a brown leather jacket, applied heavy makeup and etched a fake tattoo on her neck: “HW” for “Harley Whore”. He purchased a thick, preposterous handlebar moustache and stuck it to his upper lip. They went to the party. It was not a dress-up party: It was an actual biker party.