I live in a quiet neighbourhood, half an hour's walk from the city centre of Melbourne. It is zoned under a historic overlay, which means almost all the houses are more than a century old, and people aren't allowed to change the facades when they renovate. At night from our bedroom window upstairs, we look out over all the tin and shingle rooftops and cobbled laneways and think about how that view has been essentially unchanged for more than 100 years. We talk about how children in 1880 would have held hands and skipped along the very same footpaths on their way to school that Madeleine and Harry will skip, on their way to the very same school.
The streets are quiet, and everyone has teeny, tiny little gardens at the front of their homes. Yet only a few minutes' walk away we can be in the midst of all the wonderful hustle and bustle and culture of some of Melbourne's best streets and villages: Brunswick Street, Nicholson Village, Rathdowne Village and Lygon Street, for example.
Our own street is divided by a wide, grassy area in the middle, dotted with palm trees that inspire hyperbole-loving real estate agents to dub it "The Plantation" when advertising homes. In summer, everything happens on this grass. People read books, sun-bake, hold yard sales. Last Christmas one family set up a marquee with tables and chairs enough to host a Christmas lunch for more than 20 people. The day we moved into this area was a stinker: 38 degrees. As I drove by, two men in their 20s had dragged a hose from their house across the road onto the grass and filled up a toddler's wading pool. They were sitting happily in the pool, drinking beers.
Last week on a warm but wet evening, four of my neighbours brought out a little round table and some chairs, poured glasses of wine, and sat under umbrellas enjoying a mini garden party in the rain.
The night we brought Harry home from hospital (the Tuesday just gone), someone rang the doorbell just as Mr B and I were about to sit down for dinner. It was the Salvation Army Band, to let us know they were caroling outside. We carried our dinner and a celebratory glass of champagne out onto the front stoop and sat in the fading sun side by side, listening to carols played gloriously badly, while our two babies slept. It was all kinds of just right.
(Top photo is the rainy garden party. The one above is the Salvation Army band. Sorry about the dodgy, blurry quality. These were quick iPhone snaps and for some reason they came out extra-low res when I emailed them to myself. Tech fail.)