Monday, July 1, 2013


       Wangaratta Map - Hotels Accommodation Victoria
JOHN Harris’ parents drove him up to Benalla, a three journey from Melbourne, to get some sort of insight to the new life he would shortly be leading. He was a mummy’s boy- a sort of daddy’s boy as well- living a very uncomplicated first twenty three years or so. He’d never mowed a lawn, never planted a tomato, never painted a fence. John Harris led a charmed life in luxurious Reservoir, and knew absolutely nothing about the real world. The day his parents drove him to Benalla, he sat in the back seat, contemplating the next chapter in his uneventful life with a degree of naïve confidence. ‘How could it be so difficult?’ he thought to himself. There was the teaching caper that was just around the corner, and the living in a rented house with others caper, and the new town of which he knew next to nothing caper. It all sounded fairly easy. He was always natural and good humoured, and knew he would always be able to fit in. Benalla High was about to be the location for his first teaching position.

Weeks later, John Harris arrived, solo, to the main street of Wangaratta, just thirty kilometres north of Benalla. Someone told him it was better not to live in the same town as your students, so he prudently chose Wangaratta as the town of choice, for the multitude of virgin experiences that lay excitingly ahead. His car was loaded with bags and books and very little else. He travelled lightly and knew that he would have to buy things, but there was no hurry overall. There was an advertisement that he had answered from Melbourne, just to make sure that first day went smoothly. ‘WANTED: A SINGLE PERSON TO SHARE A COMFORTABLE THREE BEDROOM HOME WITH A COUPLE AND ANOTHER SINGLE PERSON. PROFESSIONAL PEOPLE NEED ONLY APPLY.’

The ‘professional’ part appealed to him. ‘You must make sure the people are sensible and professional’, more experienced adults advised him. The prospect of living at 51 Rowan Street was good. He saw right away what a lovely home it was. Potentially a bit noisy, being right underneath the overpass, but John Harris was given a comfortable, reasonable sized bedroom at the front of the house. The other occupants proved to be very difficult to get to know. Alan had just broken off an engagement- or, rather, it seemed that he was the one on the losing side. He was the other single person in the room next door. Overly serious, morose you might say, seemingly depressed and totally non- communicative. Oh, dear. John felt that Alan was impenetrable, and John wasn’t used to that. Later he would call Alan the ‘thin, grey spectre’, but never to his face, only to his amused friends in Melbourne.

The biggest bedroom was inhabited by an older, mature couple called Peter and Lyndsay. They owned a photocopying company in the town. They were a little more friendly, but wrapped up in their own lives and not particularly interested in poor John Harris. Where John was expecting friendship, John was receiving acquaintance. You pay your money, you get a room. That was the kind of alien thinking that unnerved John. Even after weeks, and months, went by, John still didn’t feel comfortable in this modern, breezy house. He would usually go to Melbourne on weekends. One Sunday night, after a particularly enjoyable time in Melbourne with dear family and friends, John reluctantly returned to Wangaratta, but was nevertheless in a good mood as he entered the household and wandered into the lounge area. Alan, Lyndsay and Peter were all watching ’60 Minutes.’ ‘Hi’ said John with a confident, optimistic tone, ‘how are things here?’ ‘OK’ was the reply. ‘How was Melbourne?’ There was a distinct lack of tenderness in the voice. In fact, none of the three occupants of the house even looked at John. Their gaze remained on the television. John spent a couple more minutes in the lounge, utterly deflated, and crawled back to his room, to his desk, and to his diary. His diary got a good workout this particular month.

Things improved a bit after this. There were still lonely times ahead, though.  John would wander the streets of Wangaratta with his ‘Walkman’ listening to Van Morrison songs for comfort, delaying his return to the house as long as possible: ‘Oh, won’t you stay? Stay a while with your own ones. This old world is so cold. Don’t care nothing for your soul, that you share, with your own ones.’

And then there was the awkwardness in the kitchen. Alan didn’t go out much, and as much as John tried to avoid a clash of cooking times with Alan, invariably they would become hungry at the same time. One memorable day, Alan was in the kitchen cooking eggs and baked beans for lunch. There were your usual four elements to choose from. John found one that was free. He planted his skillet pan on this and scooped the hamburgers inside. The air was thick with tension. John and Alan had not spoken for weeks. Perhaps a grunt here, and a grunt there. It had been like a monastery of two silent monks. With a tiny bit of space enveloping them, Alan and John managed to cook each other’s sad and sorry meals, almost elbow to elbow, and should to shoulder, without speaking a solitary word. It was almost impossible, yet they pulled it off.

School and teaching motored on reasonably comfortably. John took himself off sometimes to the local nightclub called ‘The Pinsent’ and met some local women. Things got easier rather than tougher. But he never felt happy in the tight confines of 81 Rowan Street. What a miserable household. Something comparable to a house in an Edgar Allan Poe short story.  John stayed six months. Eventually, and miraculously, he answered another advertisement.




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