Then, one day a monstrous blue house was built on a hill by the beach.
In a town drenched in the uniform and inoffensive flag-stone colours of sandstone, redbrick, terracotta and beige, the big blue house came like the arrival of a new season.
Debate conflagrated beer tables and backyard barbeques. It commandeered bus stop small-talk and supermarket queues. It hijacked boutique smut-talk, dominated coffee counter jibber-jabber, infected smoking pools outside office blocks and filled the subsequent uncomfortable elevator silences. Everyone had an opinion:
Old ladies with perms dipped in lavender.
Aging men collared in ties with beer guts and armpit stains on their stocktake business shirts.
Young mums juggling chai lattes with 4WD prams and toddlers on leashes.
Hulking men branded in Tapout tees with sleeves of ink and jewellery.
Girls of sullied mouths and smokers’ spit.
Boys with shocks of hair.
A clear majority of the township were abhorred by what they considered to be a garish eyesore – vandalising the pristine view of the beachfront that the town was so protective and proud of.
A quiet minority did admire a rare statement of creative flair.
Catching sight of the big blue house on the hill softly caressed the weak sinews of individuality they had long abandoned and forgotten about.
As a teendult I found all the talk peculiar and boring, given many families and couples from where I grew up escaped the coastal humdrum life for sedate European and Latin American holidays. Abroad, they invoked the charm of quaintness – strolling along on foreign seasides and country lanes awash in brightly coloured houses with colours decorating doorways and window frames.
They declared ridiculously shit like,
‘Oh Brian, I can just see us living a place like this. We should buy a house and retire here.’
‘You think anywhere around here does squid rings? I want squid rings for lunch.’
So what happened to the Big Blue House you ask?
Did it mysteriously catch on fire, and burn to the ground like a briar?
Well, no – nothing so dramatic.
(but it was this was common threat at the bottle-ends of night)
It got sold.
But as if the house itself possessed an unredeemable and untouchable spirit, new owners coated the house the colour of rhubarb chutney.
As you may have guessed, talk once again ensued and consumed the town.
Yet, the gossip soon turned cold like soup as residents took to the internet to plan their new winter getaways.
And while they were away…
The big blue house changed again, in ownership and colour to acropolis white.
The big blue house was sold four time more in quick succession.
And the colour changed with each buyer – from stunned spinach, to consumptive cabernet, through hot English mustard to Brahmin blue.
It finally happened to settle on the hue of burnt kumquat marmalade.
But the town no longer seemed to care, because a sundowner on water is permanent where I grew up.
It’s an institution like a pagan ritual of promise – and booze honours the sun bleeding through a bandage of smog to cast a golden bridge across the sea.
And so every day the setting sun branded the whole town the same tincture as the Big Blue House.
It was no longer considered, and nobody noticed it anymore up on the hill by the beach.