Pamela Brown and her wallpaper house. Photo by Craig
Man alone. While the rest of the family and extended
family revel and wallow in the Ida Valley, I remain in Dunedin
trying to clear up after the damage wrought by Christmas
hordes. I made some calls, got some quotes. Six people spread
over two to three weeks, was the typical response, somewhere
around $7000. Plus personal liability insurance.
So I am doing it all myself. I do not have $7000. Housework
has never been this hard. The stains on the dining room
carpet are so prolific that the stains have become the
pattern, the few unstained patches of original carpet
occasionally shining through as stains themselves. How did
this happen? I watched carefully through the Christmas period
and gradually pieced together the conundrum that is modern
childhood. As children, we were metaphorically tied to the
chair; we left only when every scrap of food, even the bad
bits, and there were a lot of bad bits, had been eaten.
Not so the modern child.
The modern child starts eating an hour before a meal, potato
chips, lollies, biscuits ... and then when dinner is placed
before them, their appetite is already well assuaged. They
have a few disconsolate bites, knock a few globs on to the
floor, and then decide to go for a walk, making sure they
stamp the discarded globs on the carpet into the carpet
before continuing on their journey around the house.
So, I have been down on my knees trying out various
traditional Google solutions on how to remove stains. There
are probably commercial cleansers out there, but I know from
experience these will have asbestos in them or some such
deleterious thing, some such thing that eats away at the
carpet like hydrochloric acid, burning a hole right through
the floorboards to the basement. Very hard to explain to a
returning wife, her cheeks flushed with joy and excitement
from the perfection of the Ida Valley.
This morning, wearied by extensive housework until 4am, I
slept in, woken finally by a cacophony of work noises from
next door. It seems the abandoned house and front section
there are being cleared, maybe house improvements in the
pipeline as well. Two men, their backs bent, are working
almost as hard as I have been on the carpet stains. This is
It was exactly a year ago when the strangest of men appeared
on this property hailing the high heavens with outstretched
arms, chanting in tongues. It would be a cliche to say he
looked like Charles Manson, but alas, he did look like
Charles Manson. It was a gorgeous day and there was every
chance he was trying to bring about rain, him being Charles
Manson and all, so I popped over there to suggest he move on,
using, of course, sophisticated psychological spin.
''Mate,'' I said, ''you and I, we're both on the same side,
on the run from the cops.''
The word cops stopped the chanting in its tracks.
''And the cops will be here any minute if you stay here,'' I
''Someone will ring them. I suggest you make a run for it.
I'll cover for you.''
And he made a run for it. Never saw him again.
Now we have the prospect of new neighbours arriving to live
in whatever the workers turn this house into over the next
few weeks. I am naturally apprehensive. Neighbours are
desperately important. On the other side we have as fine a
neighbour as anyone would wish for, the wallpaper house,
gazed at by thousands in passing cars and buses, the work of
local artist Pamela Brown. Many years ago, this was the Dulux
Paint Shop, and then slowly decayed into rundownness beyond
what the eye could tolerate. But now one of the city's true
icons, on a par, I have to say it, with Olveston.
But the other side? I can only hope they won't be
• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.