Night noises are part of the orientation to any neighbourhood.
And being temporarily encamped in the driveway of the parental home proves no exception.
Who knew just how many freight trains rumbled through slumbering suburbs?
Train whistle blowing makes a sleepy noise, underneath their blankets go all the girls and …. zzzzzzzz.
Yipes, what on earth is that?
To the sleep-addled brain it sounds very like the garage in the adjoining drive is about to lift off on some intergalactic odyssey.
Fumbling across the Wookie beside me for the mobile, I check the time.
It’s 5.25 am.
Where on earth could Lorraine-next-door be going at this ungodly hour?
Thoughts tumble through my mind as the engine of her ancient car alternately revs and idles in a confined corrugated iron space for a good 10 minutes.
Surely she’s not contemplating death by 1989 Nissan Pulsar Vector I think, demonstrating a latent capacity to join the dots into the worst possible scenario that would do my old mum proud.
Then slowly, slowly, this most unlovely vehicle begins to rattle, fart and gasp down the drive until, thank heavens, it’s gone.
But, barely 15 minutes later – when I’m on the brink of nodding off – the car returns and the scenario’s repeated in reverse.
More sleep is now impossible and in its place are questions.
Honestly, what do any of us really know about our neighbours?
Take the lovely Peter and Kirsten next door on the other side. We know he works from home and she from outside, but what do they actually do?
Did their magnificently mournful rescue greyhound Marlon ever win a race?
Later, in an attempt at small talk, I blather all this aloud to Father Ken Parker who is paying a pastoral visit to my dad.
“I think you should follow her,” he says with a most wicked glint in his eye. “The Curious Case of the Car Next Door could make for a fascinating column.”
Lying awake that night, I begin to wonder if this isn’t the rector’s revenge for a hastily convened spread of cheap camembert, stale crackers and lukewarm sparkling burgundy.
But, I know, there are mysteries and marvels to be gleaned from the most mundane circumstances.
Just a few weeks ago my husband returned from having his hair cut with a riveting eyewitness account of how the barber’s scissors became inexplicably stuck to the side of a fellow patron’s head.
“Sorry mate,” the man in question drawled to the barber, “forgot to tell you about the ear. It’s held on by magnets. Lost me real ear in a fishing accident.”
This prompted the barber to regale the gilded not-so-youthfuls along the wall with a tale about how he once asked a customer to remove his glasses so he could better wield the clippers.
“Sure mate,” the customer said whipping off his spectacles complete with interim prosthetic nose following a basal cell carcinoma rhinectomy.
So enthralled were the lads by this faintly shocking image no one thought to ask the obvious question:
Exactly how did the dude still in the chair lose an ear fishing? Did some one mistake it for bait?
So, in the spirit of genuine inquiry, I affect nonchalant arrangement across the fence early next morning as gastro car rolls down the drive.
Hi Lorraine, where ya going?
“Out to get some ciggies”, says she.
And in a puff, another small suburban mystery is solved.