011. The Three Bears' Cottage

Those three sad lonely months passed slowly. Eventually the time came for me to vacate the small holiday flat to make way for the holiday season in the hills. I ran an ad in the local paper asking if anyone had a furnished room to rent. I had no replies. It was all I could afford and I had no furniture. This was the second time in three months I had been acutely aware of being homeless. And broke.
What was I going to do?
Just as I was preparing my evening meal three days before the first holiday booking, when I had to be gone, I opened the door to a woman who was beamin from ear to ear. It was Barbara my landlady.
"I've found you a place to live," she burst out.
"You're kidding!"
"No. I don't believe this but I just had a call from my brother in Melbourne. He owns what used to be our family home on the other side of town, where we all grew up. It's been our family home for over 50 years but a few years ago Barry bought the cottage from the family and renovated it as his holiday house.
"He and his family are going overseas for six months and are keen to rent it out to someone reliable they knew would take care of it, keep the house clean, cut the grass, that sort of thing. On your behalf I convinced him to reduce considerably the figure he had in mind asking for rent since you are the ideal person he is looking for and short of money. He's happy to trust you to pay the rent directly into his bank account when you get paid. There's no security bond and the phone and electricity can stay in his name. So you'll have no up-front costs to pay. You can move in tomorrow. Well, are you interested?"
"Of course I'm interested," I gasped, not believing what I was hearing.
"I'll take you across in the morning to look at the place if you like."
"Okay. Great. Nine o'clock?"
On the road to Jubilee Lake, just past Italian Hill and the remaining slag heaps left after the extensive gold mining activities there by the Swiss and the Norther Italians from the 1850s, the property occupied about two acres. At first I saw th white painted timber fence running along a very wide street frontage. Surely this can't be the place, I thought as we approached.
There was an orchard with apple and pear trees in neat rows. Beyond the orchard was a cluster of trees including some large old pines. Snuggled in among the trees was a cottage right out of childrens' fairy tales - white painted walls, a steep red roof and an attic, surrounded by massive rhododendrons, azaleas, and a rose garden. There was a vast green lawn - a ride-on mower was provided - with giant painted mushrooms, gnomes and a fish pond.
I learned later that the locals referred to the house as The Three Bears' Cottage.
But alas. I found no Goldilocks asleep upstairs in the attic.
(Photo: The Three Bears' Cottage)

Today Neil Smith is an author and blogger working from home in a quiet fishing village across the bay from Melbourne, Australia. He has authored 3 non-fiction books including 'The Mystery of Granny's Ghost'. Visit his book website at neilwjsmith.com and his 'Work From Home' blog at neilwjsmith.info.