The Battle Zone!
Posted October 2 2007
One of the cops in our congregation introduced me to a colleague.
"Ah, Smith* Street!" said the colleague. "The battle zone!"
He was right. We had lots of police, and not all for coffee on hot boring nights....although we had enough for coffee for the neighbours to wonder what we were up to!
There were the family who played cricket on top of the flat roof of the manse at 2am. They had someone 'keeping nit' so each time our predecessors rang the police, no cricketers would be on site. Our colleague's wife solved the problem at 6.30am later that morning, by kicking awake the one drunk who had collapsed on the neighbour's veranda. She then stood in the open doorway yelling "Good morning!!!" until the rest of them crawled out in various states of awakeness and sobriety. She introduced herself and told them that each time they played cricket she'd wake them up early- and that solved the problem. She's ordained herself now; we like strong women ministers in the Uniting Church.
There was a known offender living next door. He was odd enough that the kids used to sit up in the backyard tree and watch his flat; they settled on bird smuggling, so I left them in innocence.
We had four police pile over the side fence at 3am and arrest someone under our tank stand. Then they woke us up to apologise for the noise! And then one, to the surprise of the others asked if he could put the interview back to 9.30... which was fine by me. They all looked at him, "Do you know this person?!"
"Yeah, he's my minister. We're having our wedding interview in the morning."
It's the only wedding interview I've ever done with a revolver on the table... unloaded, I'm happy to say!
These four had pushed the offender out into the back alley via the gate they found in our back fence. We'd just brought home the new dog, so I had a large foot high piece of chip board across the bottom of the gate to stop said dog getting out. They all fell over it in the dark- on top of the suspect, so he didn't get away! Kids used to climb over that fence to try and steal fruit, and the Corgi would barrel down the back barking like an Alsatian. They left in such a hurry one day they had no time to grab their push bikes, so I chained them to the fence. Later, as they were discussing their dilemma I sneaked up behind them, and we had a short conversation about ethics, and the dangers of climbing into a stranger's back yard. A few days later, two kids respectfully presented themselves at the front door, and asked if they could pick some grapes. Progress!
One morning we had called the police as someone tried to break down the neighbour's door, screaming that they would kill him; the Battle Zone was at full blast. Eventually the police came to us to check they did indeed have the correct address; they had been able to the racket several streets away, but now all was oddly quiet- and populated! At 2 in the morning, as I stood at the door talking to the officers, I saw there were three separate people walking their dogs up and down the street, one man just happened to be walking his push bike home, the neighbour in question had decided to go out for for a quiet stroll, and no one had heard anything. We didn't have that much foot traffic during the day!
Oddly, it was also called Church Alley, because the two streets joined in the middle by a supermarket and its car park also housed the Salvation Army, the Christian Revival Crusade, a Uniting Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses and an exclusive Pentecostal sect. And, of course, the Uniting Church manse where, one Saturday morning the two ministers, realised they had less than twenty minutes to be at the other end of the city. My wife piled into the shower, and I raced out to the back flat we had for guests, and showered there. Our eight year old answered the front door.
"Is your father at home," said the cheerful voice of yet another religious visitor. (Did I say the Mormons were only three streets away, too?)
"He's in the shower," said my son.
"Well, could we speak to your Mum," asked the other visitor.
'She's in the shower too," said Chris.
"What did they say then?" we asked him afterwards.
"Nothing really, they just sort of looked at each other and went away!"
We told the CRC pastor down the street we thought his people had come visiting.
He roared with laughter.
"Not mine," he said. "Something like that- they would have told me for sure!"
Religious visitors also felt they were in the battle zone. Two arrived another morning, and a child yelled at the top of their voice, "Mum, the Morons are here!"
* name changed to protect the innocent and the guilty
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