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Turns out my neighbours aren’t boring, after all

I have a bottle of 25-year whiskey, the stuff they put in a blue box.

It was a Christmas gift from one of our children.

I rarely touch it, thinking it’s something I could drink with the child who gave it to me.

Which we did. Once. One glass each, with cheers to our collective health.

Now it’s open, sitting in a decanter behind a sliding glass door of a cabinet housing our best glassware.

A few days ago, Wags was whining for a walk.

Feeling unusually lethargic, I reached for the bottle and poured a modest amount of the fine malt into a glass with ice.

I enjoy a neighbourhood mosey with my four-legged friend, but on this day I was feeling less motivated than usual to fulfil my responsibility.

Two shots from the top shelf might not have bolstered my enthusiasm, but it certainly helped lift me from the recliner I’d been buried in most of the day.

Normally, I’d care less for a chat with fellow dog owners than I would a beeline for Wags’ favourite tree.

Our walks are brisk and routinely mapped.

This particular one was late in the afternoon, and not intended to be any different.

“Come on, dog. Let’s go.” Like his owner, Wags is getting on. But he still races for the leash.

As always, there were an array of dinner-time smells in the air.

The first was a curry. People sat cross-legged on their front lawn, talking.

“Smells good,” I said. The whiskey was talking.

“It’s my grandmother’s recipe from northern India,” a man tells me. 

“You know, most Indian restaurants don’t create their curries from scratch. They use the same base and throw in different meats and vegetables.

“Good curries are made from special ingredients, and I’m going to tell you a secret. Most of the best ones don’t include meat at all.”

Wags barked. I smiled and moved on.

A few doors down, spices were sizzling from a kitchen window, where a woman was standing.

I hadn’t learned my lesson. “Smells good,” I said.

“Ha ha. You Aussies think you invented the barbecue,” she says. 

“We’ve brought some nice things with us from Tonga. Flavours from our homeland.”

Wags barked. Again, I moved on.

Similarly, barbecue-type smoke billowed from an open kitchen window.

A Filipino man tells me not only of the food he cooks, but how his family has migrated to Australia and proudly called Logan their home.

Another discussion is similar, although a little more harrowing. This family fled civil war in Somalia.

Now beyond my own dinner time, Wags was looking at me with a bewildered and furrowed brow, little doubt wondering why I’d chosen for the first time in years of walking to talk to strangers.

The whiskey had worn off, but my curiosity had kicked in.

It was unusual to have so many coincidental encounters in such a short period of time on a single afternoon.

But it dawned on me that there’s truth to something this newspaper has banged on about in the past.

In Logan, our diversity isn’t something that tears us apart. It’s something that brings us together.

As we search so ineptly for identity that could unite a city, we realise that it’s staring us in the face.

We’re all a little bit different, and we’ve all got our own story to tell.

“Ah, Wayne,” I hear you say. “You need to get out more, you silly old coot.”

That might be right, but what fascinated me about my own neighbourhood was the vast amount of diversity and intrigue that was bursting from the windows of such a small area.

I’m a cranky fool who’d smelt it but never explored it.

Thanks to a little Dutch courage, I met multiple people that night, each of them happy to share their culture.

No secrets, just an open book of absorbing tales.

Hey Wanda, you won’t believe it. The neighbours aren’t boring after all.

“What’s that, you say? You catch up with them every week for lunch? Oh.”

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