Tales from the coop: The Big Lay (part 2)

After twelve successful days of hiding the eggs, tensions were rising in the coop. They had managed to hide 15 eggs altogether, which was certainly a triumph, but it did of course raise the stakes substantially. Detection at this point would be a tragedy of epic proportions. All the ladies were growing increasingly testy with one another, and there did not appear to be any noticeable signs of life coming from within the eggs themselves. Accusations started flying.

“So, at what point should we start to be worried that we can’t feel anything..?” said Donna nervously.
“That depends, when did you last pick up?” barked Mrs Fiderer, outrageously.
“Excuuuuse me, but I consider that to be a private matter! I’m not the sort of vulgar female who boasts of her conquests!” clucked Donna.
“Well this is no time for any of us to be shy – for this elaborate plan to work, at least one of us has to have had some action recently,” said Mrs Landingham matter-of-factly.

There was an uncomfortable silence, accompanied by a fierce determination not to look anyone else in the eye.

“Of course, naturally we depend on you newcomers to have met with some roosters most recently out of all of us – this is after all your idea, and we were under the impression that you had reason to hope…” blustered Donna.
Both of the ‘newcomers’ bristled.
“Oh, I see,” said Mrs Fiderer in a noticeably higher pitched voice. “Not only do we have to come up with the plan and set it in motion, we also apparently have to prove our fertility! I think you’ll find that if you check yourself, you’ll realise what a b—”
“Ladies! You’re all being ridiculous! We still have a week before the little ones hatch. I for one think that we should focus on protecting the nest, and spend a little less time protecting our reputations,” said Margaret, once again shocking the group by speaking. These days, whenever Margaret spoke, the rest of the group complied, and things between them settled down, at least until the next day.

That was when tragedy struck. The Female Owner came into the coop for the inspection. After a frustrated search, she looked queerly at Mrs Fiderer, who was at that point sitting on the eggs.
“I wonder..” she mumbled. All the ladies collectively held their breath as the Female bent, and lifted Mrs Fiderer off the nest.
“Ah ha! I knew it!” declared the female, laughing. “What sneaky chickens!” she said to the ladies, and started to pick up the eggs. Unable to watch, Margaret ran into the other room, crying. Mrs Fiderer didn’t know if she was going to explode with the indignity of being picked up or burst into tears – and so instead ended up laughing maniacally. Donna and Mrs Landingham clucked and flapped like crazy in a feeble attempt to stop the Human from taking the eggs, but to no avail.

The plan had failed.

The haul

The haul


Peculiarites that I don’t miss about #cottagelife…

My husband and I recently embarked on a three-week-long holiday, travelling to a few different places across Australia, including Geraldton and the illustrious Campbelltown. Three weeks was long enough to get used to differing types of accommodation to our usual ‘fare’ and it was a almost a bit of a shock to come back to The Cottage and adjust to the quirks that we most definitely did not miss, such as…

1. Zero water pressure.
You might disagree with me, but this is a terrible problem – so much so that even Seinfeld, theshowerheadthe great social commentator, had dedicated a whole episode to this issue. I had forgotten how deeply satisfying consistent, pressurised showers are.

2. Floodlights blazing into our bedroom all night.
Sleeping in a completely dark room is absolute bliss. When I moved in to the Cottage two years ago, there was one tall fluro light and it was a little annoying. Shortly after I moved in, the council in their great wisdom added floodlights that shine DIRECTLY INTO OUR ROOM. And while we were away, the council added rows of orange lights along the pathways. It’s beginning to feel a little bit directed…

3. Music/yelling/swearing coming from the street, the park, the other street, etc. in the wee hours of the morning.
Sleeping in a completely quiet room is a marvellous treat that we haven’t really experienced consistently since living here. And the combination of dark and quiet rooms meant that we slept deeper, less interrupted, and longer on holidays. It was so good! The first night that we were back there was awful techno music blaring in from the park, and I grunted half asleep to my husband “We’re really home now.”

4. Cracks in the walls that allow the wind to whip into the house.
It was lovely being in homes and dwellings that were completely sealed against the forces of nature. The Cottage in winter is bitingly cold and requires the use of a gas heater blaring, several layers of clothes and blankets to protect against frostbite.

5. The scrabbling sounds of rats or possums (or both) in our ceilings.
We had a friend stay at our house while we were away who commented shyly that he thinks we might have a pest problem. Yes, that is true. I call the noises that I hear “Burt” and pretend that I’m okay with hearing constant scratching in our ceilings.

So there you have it, some less-than-pleasant aspects of living in a 165 year old cottage. Still love living here like crazy though.


Living in the cottage (in a graveyard) means that life is full of peculiarities and surprises, and one of the main mitigating factors is how gorgeously picturesque it is. It’s a bizarre and wondrous thing to live in such a place, so we can’t help but love it and appreciate it on a daily basis.

For Richard and I, there is one particular day that stands out as singularly special… and that’s the day that we moved in (which also happens to be the day that we got married) (which also happens to be two years ago today).

So, to celebrate two years of living in the cottage in the graveyard (and two years of being married) I thought I would share some our favourite moments from that day:

Walking down the aisle in our beautiful church, St Stephens

Walking down the aisle in our beautiful church, St Stephens

Vows, promises, and symbols

Vows, promises, and symbols

Our bridal party hanging in the graveyard

Our bridal party hanging in the graveyard

Sitting on the fig tree, with our lovely cottage in the background

Sitting on the fig tree, with our lovely cottage in the background

Our reception was finger food amongst the gravestones... was very fun!

Our reception was finger food amongst the gravestones… was very fun!

A quiet moment to ourselves amongst the gravestones

A quiet moment to ourselves amongst the gravestones

richard alison

Walking home after our day, as the sun sets, to our home

Walking home after our day, as the sun sets, to our home

The Cottage Guide to Newtown Coffee

Our little cottage and garden is part of Sydney’s inner west, and also just happens to be nestled in amongst some of Newtown (and Sydney’s) premier cafes… fourteen of them within a 600m radius, to be exact. Unsurprisingly, Richard and I have become rather particular coffee and cafe connoisseurs, but not snobs: in fact, we are fully prepared to forego “excellent” coffee for “good coffee” if it means amazing cheesecake, and even “good” coffee for “okay” coffee if it means a comprehensive selection of tasty eats… thereby choosing one cafe for coffee and another for pie and another for croissants and another for cake and another for the space and another for the bacon… so on and so forth, depending on which way the wind is blowing that day. That’s not snobbery, right?!

Here are our options:

We're surrounded!

We’re surrounded!

We go to…

Luxe Bakery Cafe for bread and pastry, okay coffee, and a good space to get work done

Campos Coffee for takeaway excellent coffee and amazing pastry

Brewtown Newtown for eat-in excellent coffee and out-of-this-world cronuts

Shenkin Espresso for takeaway good coffee and Israeli baked goods

Rising Sun Workshop for amazing ramen, okay coffee and a good space to get work done

Gather on the Green for taking good food and coffee & eating outside on picnic rugs (fun!)

Store Espresso’s for good coffee and organic produce

212 Blu for excellent coffee and the fun food menu

Black Star Pastry for good pastry, their unbelievable watermelon & strawberry cake, and good coffee

Barmuda for their extensively tasty menu and okay coffee

Cafe C for their extensive menus, generous opening hours, and amazing Snickers or Mars Bar thickshakes

The Pie Tin for the most amazing pies ever and okay coffee

Satellite Espresso for the fun space, okay coffee

Vargabar Espresso for their excellent menu (the bacon and egg roll is so good!) and good coffee


If you’ve been to any or all of these, I’d love to hear your reasons for picking those cafes!!

A Stranger Inside My House


The other day I was lying on the couch reading and look up to see a man I have never seen before standing inside my house. Words cannot accurately convey the feelings that I felt in that moment: my brain exploded with images of every crime show scene I had ever watched where a woman was attacked in her own home (which is a lot); whilst simultaneously trying to figure out how I was gonna get him out (would he get mad if I pushed him out the door? Probably.); whilst also simultaneously trying to be very polite and kind and not show my fear to this stranger (they can smell fear, right?); whilst feeling a strange sort of floaty detachment (this isn’t really happening, it’s too bizarre).

What actually transpired was the following:

Man: Hello? Hellooooo?
Me: Oh! (Jumping up) Hi? (walk towards him)
Man: (taking a step backwards) Oh – oh, do you live here?
Me: Yes.
Man: (taking several steps backward) So the lady that used to live here doesn’t live here anymore?
Me: No, actually she hasn’t lived here for several years.
Man: (quickly backing away toward the door) Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.

He then turns and leaves, and I jump up to close and promptly lock the door behind him, my heart pounding, and definitely resolving to always keep the back door locked from now on. The whole encounter would not have lasted more than 30 seconds.

After a few minutes reflection, however, I began to feel rather startled at my own reaction: why did I feel so threatened? He actually did nothing to indicate that he wanted to hurt me in any way. More than likely he was in some sort of need – the woman he was referring to was notorious for hospitality – and I had responded to him in fear and rejection. What a missed opportunity! It got me thinking about our individualistic, private culture and about how our houses have become like little islands where we have an expectation of isolation without disturbance or interruption. I’m not sure it’s such a great part of our culture, particularly in urban centres where all these people are squished in but never really participate in each other’s lives, but then again I don’t really know the answer. I think that for me, the hope is that I can have opportunities to be a good neighbour to someone in need – although I think that I’ll have to work up to being okay with strangers in the house. Maybe just start with knocking on the door, yes?!

Living in a work of art

Sometimes, when I open the door to go into the graveyard, I actually find myself opening the door to be unwittingly participating in someone’s artwork.

It’s an interesting experience, and the circumstance will usually change how I’m feeling about the day. It’s easy to take for granted just how beautiful and changeable and remarkable where I live really is, and am reminded when I see people using the fig tree, or the cottage, or the graveyard for their muse, of the gift that it is to daily do life in such a wondrous place. It fills me with gratitude and I can’t help but smile.

Of course the flip-side to that reaction is a feeling of vague disquiet: not many people who are opening their front door are expecting cameras or intense stares with brush strokes and I confess that it is unsettling to find myself constantly interrupting someone’s creativity by mundanely trudging to the letter box in trakky daks and ugg boots, hair unkempt and feeling painfully aware of the holes and stains on my ‘around-the-house’ shirt. Sorry, someone does in fact live here, I find myself wanting to say, and I’m probably not helping with your inspiration – unless, perhaps you’ve been waiting to catch a glimpse of the quotidian to contrast the exceptional? In that case, I’m your girl.

On balance, however, I do generally enjoy being able to witness the creation of many works of art and to live in a place that is inspiring to many such works – even if it does bring home the reality that I myself am more likely to interrupt rather than be an artist’s muse.


Tales from the Coop: The Big Lay

It had been five days since the Great Epiphany, and Ms. Fiderer and Mrs Landingham were cautiously optimistic that their plan seemed to be working. Every time a Human came into the coop, one of them would be sitting on the eggs. They would search, get a delicious look of dejection, and leave without detection. Thus far they were successfully warming three whole eggs.

On the sixth day of continued victory, Donna approached the newcomers with barely suppressed excitement.

“It’s working! I can hardly believe it, but its actually working! They have no idea where the eggs are – I overheard one of them say that they think we’re broody or something. LOL!” she said, giggling.

“It does seem to be going well, doesn’t it?” Mrs Landingham replied, rather smugly. She paused, looking sideways at Ms. Fiderer. They had discussed the possibility of asking the others if they would like to join in the plan, but they knew that with more eggs, came more risk. Ms. Fiderer nodded almost imperceptibly.

“We were wondering if you would like to join in? We could get some kind of roster going.” Donna grinned from ear to ear, then looked at Margaret, who looked both frightened and excited at the same time. It was decided, then, and plans were formulated and ironed out to the most excruciating details, akin to Ocean’s 11 level of planning.

Another six days passed without incident. The pile of eggs had now grown to a sizeable twelve, and the happiness and joy of the ladies was indescribable. One night over dinner, Margaret shocked the others (and herself) by suddenly asking:

“Would you like to hear a joke?”

Stunned silence followed – which was understandable given it was the first time in years Donna had heard her speak, and the first time that Ms. Fiderer and Mrs Landingham had heard her speak ever. Just when it was getting uncomfortable, they quickly affirmed that they would, in fact, love to hear a joke.

“You know why they only eat one egg for breakfast in France?” she said, unable to control her giggling.

“Okay, why?” they replied, smiling at each other.

“Cause in France, one egg is an ‘oeuf’.”


Getting locked in a graveyard: world’s most awkward date

From time to time, after the graveyard is locked (which is usually around sunset), and I’ve had dinner and settled into my pyjamas, enjoying an episode of some sort of crime-solving show (yes, I love them) and perhaps a glass of wine, there is a knock at our front door. This is almost never a good sign: and I do confess to feeling varying shades of irritation, depending on how much I have to alter my attire in order to answer the door appropriately dressed.

On this one particular occasion, I heard the ominous (well, tentative, really) knock on the door and sighed. Donning track pants and a jumper, I grumpily trudged downstairs and opened the door. Staring back at a me was a clearly uncomfortable teenage boy, around 15 or 16 years old.

“Uh, um, err, the graveyard is, urm, locked, and I, uh, was wondering if you could, err, let us out?” he stammered awkwardly. I looked behind him, and saw the outline of a teenage girl. Even in the darkness, her anger was evident. My own anger melted, and I tried to be as sympathetic as I could through explaining how to open the side gate from the inside. He nodded, thanked me profusely, and I closed the door, chuckling a little to myself. Poor guy, I thought as I walked back up the stairs to my scheduled programming. I once again got settled in my pyjamas, and sat down. Just as I did, the door knocked again. Oh Come On!,I thought, how could there be more than one incident in one night? Second confession: I genuinely considered not answering the door this time, but guilt got the better of me and I got up, donned appropriate clothing, and trudged even more grumpily down the stairs for a second time.

Throwing open the door, I was once again confronted by the young man from 15 minutes ago, now also bright red and maybe 10 times more uncomfortable than last time.

“I, urm, couldn’t figure out how to open the gate. I’m uh, really sorry. Could you please open it for me?” he said, this time not even able to look me in the face. I once again looked behind him, and was able to see his female friend (who was now standing in the light) leaning against the gate, and looking at her watch. I threw on my ugg boots, and trying a few times to make a joke or lighten the mood as we walked toward the gate. His discomfort and embarrassment was so palpable that I just gave up saying anything at all and walked more quickly. There was complete silence as I opened the gate, and the two would-be lovers walked through without saying a word, either to me or to each other. Once free, the young man tried (valiantly, I thought) to make a plan for another date.

“So, uh, I’ll call you? We were gonna go to that thing this weekend, what time do you…”

“Yeah I dunno, I’m not sure…” she said vaguely, cutting him off. “I think I’m just gonna head home now and we’ll see.” He tried to lean in, for a kiss or hug, I’m not sure which, but she turned her back on him and almost ran down the street. He looked after her forlornly for a few seconds; then turned, saw me still standing there. Turning bright red again, he threw himself on his bike, pedalling away as fast as his awkward legs could carry him. Poor guy, I thought once again. And when I was sure he was out of earshot, I laughed until I cried.

Maundy Thursday in the Graveyard

Last night was Maundy Thursday in the church calendar. Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ time in the upper room with his disciples, his washing of their feet, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and his betrayal in the garden. The name ‘Maundy’ derives from the Latin for ‘new commandment’ – mandatum novum – which Christ gave his disciples:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Maundy Thursday normally takes place in the evening (known as a Tenebrae, or shadows service), and may involve the washing of people’s feet, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the stripping of the Lord’s table, and a focus on Jesus betrayal in the garden just prior to his arrest.

For the last few years, St Stephens has put on a series of dramatic readings set throughout the graveyard on Maundy Thursday, open for anyone to attend. Members of the church memorise and perform sections of the gospel from the night that Jesus was betrayed until his death.

I went last night for the first time. Walking and listening in the dark made it surprisingly eery and realistic… and emotive: not in the ‘crying’ sense, but taking part in it with others brought out the drama; the tension, regret, fear, loneliness, heartache, anger, resignation, callousness…of those last hours in a way I’d never experienced. It was beautiful and terrible all at once – Jesus was not a concept, but a person betrayed, and suffering.

Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews

Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews

People watching in the darkness

People watching in the darkness

"Crucify him! Crucify him!"

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”





In a Disused Graveyard – by Robert Frost


The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never anymore the dead.
The verses in it say and say:
“The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.”
So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?
It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

Robert Frost