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Portholes in Your Coffin

Page 3

From my balcony I watched. Boys played cricket on the street. Cars were sparse. In autumn a truck with a trayload of grapes would park at the corner. Italians would carry them off, trample them, ferment them and hand us wine in old soft drink bottles as a neighbourly present. Our Victorian sideboard was filled to the brim with these bottles which were never opened.

Sensa sentiments comme una cavra said Teresa with a chuckle. Di mi quando, quando, quando we sang sitting on her cold front step at her place. Volare oh oh. Cantare oh oh oh oh.

After the grapes came the pig, squealing in next door’s back yard as they did away with it. The street transformed it into fat salami sausages strung up in back porches. Stills dripped illegally in kitchens and forests of tomato plants grew hard by the miniscule lawns and clipped single rose bushes of genteel old-fashioned widows, for example, Mabel Cherry, ancient and ‘beautifully spoken’, as my mother observed. She taught me elocution and took me to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Comedy. I was entranced. I went to pantomimes at the Tiv with my mother and to the Nutcracker Suite each Christmas with a group of small, thin, perfect girls from my ballet school. Sometimes, incongruously, my father and mother and I went to the ballet at night, and my father made fun of the men in tights and their outlandish names.

At a late age Mrs Cherry, a former theatre person and a widow, married Charley, the spruiker from in front of the Tivoli Theatre. He’s too common for her, said my mother. Many men and women were blighted by commonness at that time. According to my mother.

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