Not neighbourly

Husband and I have been speculating about whether the Sprog next door is a changeling. It NEVER grows up – it’s a permanent baby. It’s all squishy and puggle-like and it’s been doing that in-the-middle-of-the-night crying thing FOREVER. Very spooky. Well, it was until I saw the mother this afternoon, carrying a baby while a toddler waddled around her feet. Ohhhhh riiight, I get it – there’s a NEW baby. I excitedly phoned Husband to tell him the news: “I’ve solved the mystery of the freaky baby next door!” My next emotion, however, was neighbour-guilt. How do you live next to someone for three years and not notice that they’re pregnant/have given birth/now have a baby and a toddler? It’s like one of those dessicated old lady stories in the Telegraph, where the neighbours shake their heads about the tragedy of no-one realising Elsie wasn’t clearing the mailbox anymore after her mummified corpse is discovered beside her bed. It’s not like we haven’t tried to reach out to the Changeling’s family. We put an invitation in their letterbox for an Australia Day street party. Somehow they resisted the opportunity to cluster on the nature strip in rickety folding chairs, waving to bemused passing cars and nibbling lamingtons. It’s a stark contrast to our neighbours on the other side, who made sure to introduce themselves within days of our arrival and expressed the heartfelt hope we’d stay longer than the previous owners. While initially taken aback by their neighbourly affection (having previously been the cold-fish neighbour type), we’ve come to appreciate the benefits of having someone to “keep an eye on the place” and collect our mail when we’re away. It’s like a free security system: they came thisclose to setting the police on a school mum I’d asked to feed the chooks when we were in Fiji. So I’ve decided it’s safer to get their kid to do it next time (for a modest fee – no teen is going to shovel chook poo gratis). I gave her the tour of duty yesterday afternoon. She bluntly informed me that the chooks are waking her up very early every morning. And if they’re waking her up, they must be waking her parents up – they’re certainly bloody waking me up – because all our bedrooms are clustered near the coop. I thought chickens would be meek, quiet little things. But they go mental from the moment dawn breaks (which wasn’t so much of a problem when dawn was post 6.30am, but now it’s creeping towards 6am …) pwarking insistently to be let out of their cage. If one happens to lay a double-yolker, you’d swear a fox was ripping them limb from limb over a cruel, protracted 10-minute period. So last night I slid the door to their nesting area shut. There have been some muffled pwarks and feathered body-slams as they launch themselves at the door, but generally I’d say it’s been a big success. Quite neighbourly of me, don’t you think?  
TONIGHT’S MENU: Not my responsibility – yaaay! Friends in Maroubra are cooking.

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