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April 23, 2015 Comments (0) Backyard, Experiences, Oceania

Built like a Brick Mail House (Australia #20)

Irwin Street house

This photo of Irwin Street wasn’t taken during this Experience. I just like it.

I HEARD A THUD and a low rumble. The ground shook a little. I was confused. But I had a suspicion: Our house was collapsing.

After each stormy winter’s day since I began living at Irwin Street, I have returned home amazed that our house remained upright. The bathroom floor is about to collapse; the kitchen skylight pours rain; and my bedroom wall doesn’t meet the floor. I can see the lawn through the gap.

So I assumed with such an unfamiliar sound and rumbling underfoot, this fragile children’s fort we call a house was submitting to gravity.

I was wrong, kind of. Our friend had backed her ute (aka pickup) into our mailbox, knocking it over onto the sidewalk. If you wonder why that shook the ground 20m away, then you don’t know how they built Freo mailboxes in the 1960s. Here’s the recipe:

1. Take 150 bricks and pile them directly beside the driveway, into a shape resembling a tombstone.
2. Remove four bricks from the middle of the 400kg monolith, and cover with a flimsy door.
3. Paint the bricks.

That’s literally it.

With one optional step, of smiling as you imagine your maliciously placed bollard threatening a half-century of car bumpers.

When the last big Perth storm blew away our garage door, the property managers offered us a repair solution.

“Demolish the garage.”

Clearly an exceptional property management company – but we didn’t take their advice. Three walls are better than zero.

The sturdy garage.

The sturdy garage.

As I thought more about this mailbox incident, I realised the irony that the sturdiest part of our house is the mailbox.

And doubly ironic, that this sturdy stack of bricks was looking like the first part to be destroyed.

Mailbox knocked down

Three of us tried to lift it back up, but couldn’t manoeuvre it back into its excavation. We soon dropped it – there are far better team-building activities than collective hernias. Between an engineer, a botanist and an art-installer,  we theorised a variety of tactics to manoeuvre the mailbox with available materials. Then we noticed the ute had a crane.

the ute had a crane

The identity of the reckless driver has been concealed to protect her pride.

Twenty minutes and one sacrificed climbing rope later, we had managed some progress: The mailbox was one inch off the ground. The front wheel of the ute, three inches.

If our goal was to pop a wheelie, we were succeeding. But the mailbox wasn’t exactly leaping back into place.

ute wheelie

Poppin’ a wheelie. Hard to tell, but it’s 10cm off the ground.

gui eating ice cream

At our darkest hour, Gui disappeared. Five minutes later he returned, eating ice cream.

We reverted back to Plan A: sweat, muscle, and leverage.

Using a dolley, a shovel, and a log, we dug a bigger landing zone and heaved that mailbox back into place. It now sits (albeit with a slight lean, for artistic flair), ready to destroy another bumper.

mailbox upright

Through all that drama, our indestructible mailbox had only suffered a bit of lost paint, and a single brick. Imperfect, like the neighbouring structures at Irwin Street. But we think it looks better this way.

mailbox upright missing paint

mailbox and irwin street house


Today I leave Fremantle after 4+ amazing years in this community. My post is dedicated to this great corner of the world, and all the people who’ve enjoyed backyard campfires at Irwin Street. As I wander this wide world focusing on the ONE Project, this peaceful house and you lovely people will be present in my mind and my heart.

P.S. UPDATE! Months after this incident, another bumper has toppled our mailbox.

mailbox toppled again

Photo credit Chid who asks, “Why do people hate our mailbox so much?”

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