I don’t know what it’s like around the rest of the country (and as an Aucklander I obviously don’t care) but in-fill housing is a blight on society.
Landowners around here have gleefully carved up their quarter-acre sections and slapped three townhouses on each. You now live cheek by jowl with your new neighbours and heaven help you if your favoured recreation was a spot of nude sunbathing on your back lawn.
And worse – heaven help you if you own more than one car.
Our suburban streets are now lined with residents’ cars, as they no longer have the space to park their family fleet on their own properties.
One positive aspect has been the adoption of a new level of courtesy from drivers. With room for only one car moving on a two-way street, you’re obliged to observe some automotive etiquette or risk your wing mirrors.
But a major downside is security.
The other day I watched as some random bloke walked down the street furtively peering around the parked cars. I grabbed a golf club and marched out to defend our territory.
“Wadda you up to, mate?”
“I’m just looking for a tennis ball,” he said defensively.
“There’s no tennis courts around here,” I pointed out.
“There’s no driving ranges either,” he countered, eyeing my 5-iron. “Besides, it’s my pet’s ball – she’s an alpaca.”
I considered this extremely improbable but let him continue his search, practicing my golf swing on the verge just to let him know he was still under observation.
A couple of days later I spotted what I thought was an Afghan hound trotting down the street. Followed a couple of minutes later by the same dodgy-looking dude. I intercepted him just as he started squinting through vehicle windows.
“Still sticking with the alpaca story?” I enquired.
“Her name’s Ripley – it’s written on the collar around her neck.”
I assumed this was to differentiate her from all the other alpacas roaming freely around the suburb.
“It seemed a good name for her – she looks a bit like Sigourney Weaver after a hard night battling aliens.”
That didn’t explain why his llama would be loitering around the row of automobiles.
“She’s a bugger at getting into vehicles if she thinks she’s going for a ride.”
I thought he was living in a fantasy world but offered to help him search for the wayward beast. I did note a Mazda Demio parked with its keys in the ignition but already knew the backstory to that. The poor lass who owns it has had it stolen twice already; she now leaves it unlocked as she was sick of paying for replacement quarterlights and ignition barrels.
In fact, I do the same with the ‘NZ Autocar’ Bongo. It has no frontal impact strength so is an unlikely target for ram-raiders. But there’s no point securing it when the only thing of value is a few back copies of the magazine (personally signed by me, $50 an issue).
We kept looking around the street but the only potential evidence of any Camelidae activity was that all the feijoa bushes had been stripped to head-height. Plus we found a badly-chewed tennis ball that appeared to have been munched on by something with a massive set of chompers.
“Ripley,” he explained.
“With an overbite like that you should’ve called her Sarah Jessica Parker,” I replied, still unconvinced.
A couple of nights later there was a huge commotion outside. It sounded like a blacksmith was hammering away on some thin sheet metal. It kicked off a few car alarms but I knew instinctively the only thing that tinny was the thin metal walls of the Bongo.
Sure enough, the doors of the van were hanging awry and the contents were a mess. The magazines had been torn to shreds, and there were hoofprints tracked through piles of dung. It was like a malevolent creature had burst forth from its unwitting host.
And lying in the gloom, at the back of the van, was a collar. Ripley’s – believe it or not.