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It's for my feet. Honest

It's for my feet. Honest

A fair few years back, a much younger Bruce was showing four girls around the student house in Newcastle-upon-Tyne he was due to vacate.

As they paraded through his bedroom, he noticed all eight eyes linger on the bed side table. Other than a nondescript alarm clock, it held nothing other than a large tube of Canesten.

It was for a fungal infection on his feet picked up from the university gym, but – while he was confident they wouldn’t imagine that he was suffering from vaginal thrush – there was the possibility that from that moment on they would associate him and the house with the marvellously named “jock itch“.

“This house is infected with genital fungus,” they’ll have thought.

They never applied for the property.

Perhaps because of that (or an inherent nosiness), Bruce is not much use to Fran now that they’re back on the hunt for a new rental home in Melbourne’s hellish market; instead of checking out laundry facilities, room size, signs of damp and potential future neighbours, he’s lost in the minutiae.

Not that it’s hard to be distracted. It seems Melburnians are a bunch of show offs when it comes to opening their homes for inspection. OK, most are vacant, but when they’re not the departing inhabitants just love to give you a clue as to just how smart and cool they are.

Last night, it was a copy of Catch-22 left casually on the sideboard by the entrance. At a student house a fortnight ago all three residents had been at it: Bertrand Russell books and the Doors of Perception left open in one bedroom, some self-penned artwork tossed across the bed in another, Technics 1210s loaded with obscure white label dub in the lounge. Poseurs.

Sometimes you do feel you’re intruding, however.

Bruce and Fran were welcomed into one early Saturday afternoon opening by a bleary eyed soul who’d clearly been on the pop – heavily – the night before. As his dog scampered around our feet excitedly, he skulked around like the living embodiment of depression.

It soon became clear why: everything was packed away in boxes – except the wedding day photos. Yet there was no sign of a woman’s touch in the house anymore. Poor chap. Even though the house wasn’t right for us, we thought about taking it just to brighten him up. Fran wanted to send him a card offering our condolences.

Best have been the rockers, though. In the past fortnight, two more houses have been opened where everything has been packed ready for the move – except the framed posters for the owners’ bands, in both cases lining the hallway to ensure they can’t be missed.

Then again, if I’d been in a band called the Cosmic Psychos, I’d want every bastard to know too.

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Jetlag and house-hunting takes its toll

It’s gone 10pm, the sunlight has long since gone and the streetlights are few and far between. Yet Bruce and Fran stand in a tree-lined avenue in Elwood straining their eyes at the tiny lettering in their newly-purchased map of the city. Their sandals are worn thin, their calves exploding with lactic acid, their minds dulled with the long day’s trekking.

Yet there are still two more apartments to peer at in the gloom from the street.

“I think we should call it a day,” says Fran. “This is getting ridiculous.”

She’s right. They head back towards the nearest tram and back to their serviced apartment shattered and ready to collaps.

“More of the same tomorrow, then,” says Bruce. He’s right too.

Surprise doubts

But, despite entertaining a thought he never expected as he and Fran skirted Melbourne’s city centre en route from the airport to their serviced apartment the previous day, namely: “It’s just another city, but one that’s thousands of miles from our loved ones” the day’s house-hunting hajj had reaffirmed their decision to travel 10,500 miles against their families’ wishes.

By the seaside

The latter part of the pilgrimage took them from the west end of St Kilda – along The Esplanade and Marine Parade with its “ST KILDA TRIANGLE – TOO BLOODY BIG” signs and onwards – as the sun set over the horizon. As it did, they passed houses and apartment blocks that were testament to architects’ minds set free (a little too free if the posted protests on the street featuring a house-cum-Komodo dragon were anything to go by). They lined wide, quiet streets and boulevards where the calm was only broken by families cycling past or flocks of bright green and orange parakeets screeching overhead, their dazzling underbellies reflecting the setting sun as they wheeled from east to west and back into their nests.

With its edges shimmering, the blood orange sun dissolved slowly into the sea, melting in a haze as if the horizon was on fire. Fran watched on, a silent and still observer on a wooden bridge, silhouetted against a glorious technicolor backdrop. Two cyclists slipped past her, recalling ET passing the moon.

Just another city? My arse.

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