You are indeed blessed to be living in an Upper class suburb, on a property with no neighbours, and enjoy holidays and vacations travelling overseas or staying at your own holiday house.
To me, of such a background, Caravan Parks were places I did not hear about, and when I saw the caravans parked at Beach resorts, I pitied the people living so close to their neighbours, and coping with noises, drunks, loud music and people living on top of each other.
I shrugged elegantly as I drove on to my Holiday house, amazed that people actually live in tents and caravans with their kids and dogs and neighbours.
I never gave Trailer parks another thought for the last 60 years of my life. They were places that ‘other people’ went to, and that was fine for them.
Yes, you could say there was some snobbery here. But more than snobbery, it was a total ignorance of how other people actually live.
Then last year circumstances were that I was homeless, and without money to pay a deposit on a house, or apartment. And also wanting something temporary while I searched my options, I was led to a caravan Park. It looked fine. It was by the beach, or walking distance from one, and the cost of a site was $89.00, affordable, and there was only me in my life, so I bought a campervan, and took a 6 week permanent lease, with an option to stay longer if I chose.
An obliging older gentleman helped me set up. He called some of the neighbours who were looking at who I was and what I was bringing to their life style, and three guys helped set up my annex with tent pegs and brought along a barbecue and their own individual serves of meat and bread and stayed for a real Australian ‘piss-up’. Many bottles of beer were drowned and the wives joined in with loud voices, and we managed to disrupt the quieter neighbours, who I had to apologise to, and assure them that this was not going to be a regular event, just a one off as they helped me set up.
I started my life as an itinerant living in the van, lying around all day reading or on the computer, walking the beach and when it was dark, closing the curtains best as I could and lying there wondering if this would suit me for the rest of my life. Having the annex as a fixture, meant I lost my wheels, and I was now confined to the Caravan Park, with only walking my outlet. In the night, when I tried to read, a very sleazy, beer -bellied .middle aged man would peer in through the windows as he ostentatiously went to the toilet many times a night I also realised other people could also share my life with me. It was like living in a goldfish bowl. The sun beat in relentlessly and I was now very hot in the afternoons. I bought a bamboo blind that I hung over the back door, leaving it open for the breeze, and the mosquitoes, and really it was not working too well.
Then the Caravan park owner offered me a unit. That was going to cost $160.00, but with the Centrelink subsidy, it came down to $110.00 a week, and after what I was going through, this seemed like heaven.
I moved into a very tiny one roomed unit with curtains, toilet, a stove, fridge, bed and a table. I thought it was wonderful after the small van. I happily dug a small garden and collected shells and rocks to decorate the area. Then the neighbours from hell returned from wherever they had been, and suddenly there was a huge red faced truck driver, with an even bigger beer gut than the window pervert, telling me the area between our buildings was his, and that I was encroaching on his section, and also using ‘his’ hose to water the garden. Actually whilst they were away, I had also watered their dying garden, and was expecting thanks not complaints. I was petrified of him, and he could see it, and it did make him feel good.
His next complaint was that I was driving over his front lawn. My area was the size of my vehicle, and how I was expected to drive into it without driving on some of their land was a problem. The Caravan park told me to just drive in, but every time I went anywhere and returned, they were there with their beer stubbies, and some of the neighbours, and every time, he would yell at me for driving too close to them. Once when I was trying to go out, I got into a panic, and put my foot down too hard, and the exhaust blew right into his face. I made sure I was out of hearing before I laughed and laughed.
When he went driving, the lady would sit alone and drink until she was paralytic. On numerous occasions, she would then fall down somewhere, and a neighbour would ring an ambulance for her. Her fat mate told me not to get involved when I asked if I should help her. The lady on the other side had a phone and that is where she would stumble to prove to her man that she just could not live without him. Every night, they would sit and drink and talk loudly like drunks do. I learnt to shut my ears to what was going on, but I was very unhappy.
Then a man on his own moved in and started talking to me on the beach when he was fishing. It was nice having someone just talk to me. Then this much older than him bottle dyed blonde moved in, and she was his ex-wife’s mother. She wore clothes with the midriff showing, and looked like something out of Kings Cross, and she did not like him talking to me. Next thing, the fat lady comes to tell me that my new friend had been discussing me in a not very nice way, and the story was that when asked if he fancied me, he replied, yes, with a bag over my head.
I was mortified, as now this was the latest Trailer trash talk, and I shrunk even further into myself and tried to stay hidden.
The gardener took pity on me, as really I was way out of depth here, and when a unit at the other end of the park became vacant, he said I should move there, and he would help me shift, and that is what happened.
I was told by the drunks that this is where the druggies were, and that I would regret it, but anything was better than what I was now handling.
To my delight, the unit was quite large. It is equivalent to 3 bedrooms on one side, and also had a kitchen and dining area. There was a bedroom with a double bed, a shower, bathroom and toilet and it was entirely lined with cupboards. I actually for the first time in my life had more cupboards than I could fill. Happily I made it my home. I bought a brand new washing machine, so I would not have to meet with the drunks in the Communal Laundry, and also purchased a lovely carpet with huge daisies on it, and ordered some silk drapes to shield me from the pervert, who started visiting the man next door until he found, there was nothing he could peer through anymore. I made the unit ‘perve proof’.
I started a garden, transplanted all my herbs and seeds from the other unit, and bought many pots, hanging baskets, creepers, flowers and orchids. I paved it, brought huge rocks from a property, and had a birdbath and many hanging baskets. I even covered it with 100 proof shade-cloth, for privacy as well as shade form the hot sun. I lived quietly here, the only issue was a neighbour who did not want me to drive over his grass, but I handled that by parking in the front and I stayed unobtrusively making sure I was polite to people, but not wanting to get too friendly or into their lives. I don’t gossip, I don’t play loud music, I don’t drink or smoke, and I lived here quite happily.
I may have been happy, but those who lived around me still gossiped about me. I did not know this. When I told them I was driving to Normanton for work, and then came back and left for China, the scene changed. I was now seen as not one of the group. That should have been obvious from the beginning, but it wasn’t. The Frog pond hierarchy that had the largest privately owned unit as top of the frog pile suddenly could not cope with a professor. How does one slot in someone like me? They managed with the artist bit, because that gave them eccentricity as a loophole, but suddenly I am way out of everyone’s class, and the noses were out of joint. I also did not drink or smoke. Had no wild men visiting me, and led a very quiet life mostly on the computer or reading.
I did not realise how different I was until I went to China. Then the masses stampeded my unit, and cleared out every plant, seed, pot and rock I had there. Not only did they take my entire garden, but Queen Bee also took it on herself to share what she didn’t want with others in the caravan park. I came back to a unit full of debris, dead leaves, fallen down branches, and also the neighbours trash neatly swept onto my place. I cleaned that all up. There were 5 huge green bins full of rubbish. The owner’s son helped me and it all was swept away. Then the rains came, and the neighbour from hell started digging ditches that drained the entire caravan Park’s water into my place, which now looks like a swamp. I complained, but he dug the ditches deeper. I gave up, and stopped going into the back garden, leaving him to it.
Now I am again a recluse hiding in the sanctity of my unit, the curtains drawn against the peepers, the smokers who like to peer while they smoke, and my life is the keyboard and the computer. When it is dark, I pack up the lighted areas, and retire to the bedroom to read. All my belongings are in storage, except for my beloved washing machine, which I got right out, the computer and the guitar.
There is only a few weeks left before I return to China. Then I will and never live in a Trailer Park ever again, unless I absolutely have to.
Marguerite Carstairs 2011