We lived right next to Ernie….and Frieda.

We left Leeton in 1989, but I can’t leave without telling you about my neighbours. When we were young, the family on one side consisted of grandparents, mum and dad and teenage son. The grandmother had shoulder length, steel grey hair with big curls. She always seemed cranky to a little person, but never really worried me much. The grandfather I didn’t see much of, but just remember him as a nice man.

I have to skip to the son. He was much older than us and when he came of age, he acquired a Commodore. Yes….it was beautiful….and yes, it had a fantastic stereo. I can never here ‘We Built This City On Rock an’ Roll’, by Starship, without thinking of him….in a innocent, childlike way….I don’t know how many times he played it in the car, in the driveway near out back door….but it was A LOT! Little did I know that I would now be living in a town that has such a big connection to Rock and Roll!

I loved Ernie and Bert…and still do.

The father was Ernie. I have to share his name because he was the only Ernie I knew apart from Ernie and Bert on Sesame Street. How cool to have the name Ernie! My small brain struggled with the concept that he did not have a friend named Bert. Ernie was the sweetest and kindest man. For many years, I didn’t know his ‘real’ other half. She was a bit of an enigma to a small child…..until the grandparents had both passed away and we grew up and got to explore the neighbourhood more.

I am scrutinising my neighbours with the intention of bringing some insight into one of the reasons that I love birds. I have left the mother (or Ernie’s other half) until last, because she was the surprising gem that we discovered living right next door all those years and hadn’t really met her.

She was Frieda. She also had fabulous grey curls which she quite frequently had in curlers. She pretty much chain smoked from what I remember. We had never been around someone who smoked that much….and in the house! Freida could even talk with a cigarette in her mouth. She was skinny (perhaps I should say…dainty), always seemed to wear a dress that did not compliment her figure and she also had the most friendly, kind eyes and smile and loving nature….and she had a love of birds…quarrions (cockatiels) in particular. We would spend hours helping her feed baby quarrions with a syringe and listen to her eloquent stories delivered with a gravelly plum (the only way that I could describe it). Frieda also had nails….amazing nails. It always amazes me that we had this treasure living right next door and for all of those years, barely knew she was there. I guess it is all about timing. We needed her and she needed us at that time. I find that is the case over and over again that people come in and out of your life just when you need it the most. When they are gone, you have to just appreciate what was given to you at the time.

On the other end of the spectrum, we housed the dreaded enemy of every bird. The CAT! So we got to see both ends… and death! Fortunately, most of the death was involving sparrows….and I know that no matter how many bells and things you put on that collar, cats are stealth killing machines. I had been dying to include the word stealth…

Whilst Frieda was purely doing what she loved doing and enjoying chatting to a couple of girls who were pretty excited about being in the house that we always viewed from over the fence, she taught us another level of care, commitment and love for these little feathered creatures that we could not have received anywhere else.

So for any of you who have a passion for a particular thing, you will usually go above and beyond what would be normally expected to see the survival or lend a hand with a skill that you have acquired to ensure the sustainability of what you are passionate about. Frieda, of courses, had that passion for birds and when a poor, defenseless, featherless little chick was brought to her attention, without a moments thought, she put her skills to use and feed the little dear and cared for it to raise it to its full potential. As the sweet little thing strengthened and grew she realised that it was taking on characteristics unlike the quarrions and over a period of time, it became obvious that Frieda was indeed raising a starling. It had character, she had raised it from a tiny chick – what was she going to do?  (just as a side note, I have an equal passion….but it is passionate dislike of starlings)

The point of telling you this story is that sometimes we can find a companion where we least expect it and not in the traditional form, which is great. We can sometimes love things that it makes no sense to love and that’s ok.

Don’t you remember….we built this city, we built this city on rock an’ roll! We built this city… know you want to sing!

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