Many moons ago, comedian Judith Lucy showed up at our house. She had two cameramen, a sound guy and a director with her. She walked up to our front door (a half hour after she had made a quiet back door entrance, during which time she got dressed, put on her signature red lipstick and fixed her hair in my ensuite bathroom), rang the doorbell and greeted us warmly, while two cameras rolled in the background and the director signalled the six of us who live here about where to stand. We’d been contacted by the producer a few weeks earlier, and asked if we Shedders would be willing to be interviewed for a segment in the Judith Lucy is All Woman show, scheduled to air in the far-distant future. Judith wanted to explore alternatives to standard ageing accommodation, especially with women in mind. She’s a take-the-mickey-out-of-you interviewer, but usually in a respectful way and always in aid of something (a) with viewer-allure, and (b) of social importance. So with some trepidation, and after much internal discussion, we agreed to the interview. You can imagine the somewhat nervous group that met her, shaking hands and smiling broadly for the cameras. Having to get through a day of being interviewed and filmed was problematic enough, but what about down the track when the show gets aired and we have to handle the embarrassment of facing our community? These thoughts were in our minds as Judith radiantly made her way into our home. At any rate, Judith and her team were lively, fun-filled and passionate people, all of them interested in how we manage our co-householding arrangement. She filmed us having a semi-normal house meeting, captured us putting lunch together (out of the barbecued chicken and salad her crew had brought with them), and interviewed us separately and jointly. She, Eve, Judy and I had a girl-chat standing in front of the Yoga Shed, all of us worryingly miked. After Judith and the crew left that afternoon, the Shedders dropped into chairs for a glass of wine. We could have taken off our smiles at that point, but we didn’t really need to. It had been a fun day and the team had been engrossed in our lives and our approach to ageing. Almost a year has passed since then. We received word a few weeks ago that the show was going to air, and that we would have a segment in the final episode. That happens (get your calendars out) Wednesday, March 18, on ABC at 9:01. Four episodes have been aired so far. So I’m giving you advance notice, and you’ll be watching it at the same time we are, though perhaps not as nervously. I may change my mind about having alerted you after viewing the episode—but I think no matter how the Shedders come out in the wash, there’ll be interest value. Note: Viewer discretion advised. Judith is notoriously bawdy. Take heed via this blurb on the trailer for the show: “One of Australia’s favourite funny ladies is back with Judith Lucy Is All Woman. If you’ve ever been a woman, been in one, or come out of one, this six part series is for you.” Consider yourself warned.
Speaking of co-householding, I recently read an interesting snippet from a Vancouver paper about a housing phenomenon that’s sweeping the Vancouver area. Apparently, foreign investors—often Chinese—have been buying up pricey properties in Vancouver and its suburbs. So there are a lot of big houses—mansions, really—that have been put up for rent. The rent tends to be far more than the average family can afford, and any families with that kind of money are investing in their own homes. So who can these offshore owners and absentee landlords lease their houses to? You may have guessed it: cooperative householders. The ideal market turns out to be young urban professionals on nice salaries who can’t possibly afford a sprawling mansion of their own, but would rather share one than live alone (for more rent) in a tiny downtown apartment. By living this way, tenants get a beautiful home and gardens, heaps of space, nicely outfitted accommodation—and a community. Two or three friends get together, make the decision and take up the lease. Then they canvas their own communities for a few other people who’ll occupy the remaining bedrooms. The group sets up house rules, organises regular meetings, and somehow manages the myriad conflicts that come up and require communication. These households are also somewhat careful to stay below the radar. Most Vancouver suburbs have ancient legislation in place which specifies that only families may occupy a home, or a family with at most one or two satellite individuals. Councils have traditionally wanted to have some control over the tenancy of properties (likely to control prostitution), but are turning a blind eye to this new phenomenon. What can be wrong with people who live peaceably, pay the rent, don’t make more noise than anyone else on the street, and help keep the pressure on housing down? For the whole article, read here. The article resonated with me in part because we Shedders, as you may remember, put ourselves in a similar situation before we built on and moved to Mitchells Island. We decided to test out the prospect of buying (and living) together by renting for a year or two. For a visceral experience of that period, sample a chapter or two from my book, Shedders: for example Heaven on the Harbour or Yours, Mine and Ours. I have very fond memories of that time. After two years of communal living, we’d met our main objective of seeing if we could live comfortably together. We relished living in a big house right on Tambourine Bay, and appreciated the economies. It felt like we were leaving a smaller footprint on the planet, while still having a somewhat luxurious lifestyle. It felt sane and sensible. It was also fun, and I discovered that sharing in this way had great benefits. It led us to where we are today—which you’ll find out about on the Judith Lucy show. So—who knows what Judith Lucy will do with us on the upcoming segment? But I suspect the show will reflect what the six of us, and all these young professionals in Vancouver, have discovered: a small co-housing community is a fun, economical and healthy way to live.
“Great comedians have time for a sip of water after delivering a punchline. There were times when Lucy could have gone to the bar for a glass of red and we’d still be laughing when she got back.” – The Age