Monday, August 01, 2005


Teddy de Burca Jnr. ponders a rather challenging work in progress – the street he lives on

Every time I return from a trip abroad, I wonder if the construction work on my street has finished. It doesn’t matter how often I go, or even how long I stay away. It never does. The road is long. So, so long.

Each house on my street has been built around me, one by one, over the course of two years. Each one, in the spirit of neighbourly one-upmanship, a little bit higher than the last.

Though it seems longer, I reckon the projects take on average half a year. Which means, half a year of secretive midnight truck deliveries, spinning cement mixers and the clanking of bricks. Half a year of labourers grinding, sawing, hacking, hammering, drilling, whistling and hollering “ell-looo!” every time they see me. And, worst of all, half a year with no Sunday-sleep in.

What can you do but thank the stars that even the universe is finite. A piece of string, though you don’t know exactly how long, has a length. Everything must end. The only question is when.

For the time being, I must grin and bear it as the latest work-in-progress, directly opposite my abode, continues.

Construction began, or rather continued, after the octogenarian lady who lived there finally succumbed to the lure of the dollar, sold up and, I presume, moved back to her mother’s in the provinces to count the cash.

The building, replacing her so-wee-you-couldn’t-even-see-it-bungalow, is nothing short than a workingman’s idea of a palace. It seems to have stopped at seven, or is it eight, stories, making it the tallest on the street, if not the district.

You could knock down the neighbouring buildings so it stood alone, put clocks on top, and call it the town hall. Or convert the roof into a helicopter-landing pad. Or, at the very least, enjoy abseiling down to pay electricity bills.

The two-dozen young labourers, which initially seemed an excessive number, now have their own room. Lost within the bowels of this architectural monster, they can only be heard, crooning away, tickled pink by the reverb they get on their voices in the bare rooms.

I suspect the father of the family that is destined to live there, asked the architect for a house so large he could hide from his nagging family and live forever in blissful solitude.

Then again, that’s all assuming there is an architect involved. Judging by the style –the mock-pillared balcony (I say mock, as the gaps are filled with cement, so as, I presume, only to hint at pillars, “thus, I give you pillaresque!”), the monastery round tower windows (perfect for archers defending the site from attacking hoards), the car wash size basement for a fleet of SUVs and BMWs and the papaya-peach paint job – you’d say not.

Of course, I know the construction won’t last forever, one day the world will run out of bricks, or just end. But, the really distressing fact is three doors down lies another house where the oldest woman in Vietnam dwells, alone. I’m afraid, like the last of the Mohicans, her days are numbered.

Someday, I will have my much-cherished Sunday morning sleep-in again. The only question is when.

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