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Why my New Year resolution is to stop becoming a 'Mrs Riley'

One of our columnists has resolved to stop sweating the small stuff - including being a nosy neighbour.
One of our columnists has resolved to stop sweating the small stuff - including being a nosy neighbour.

AND JUST how many New Year resolutions did you make on the weekend?

Hospital emergency services gear up to treat the mid-life crisis sufferers who vow to exercise more on January 1, go out for a 20km jog on January 2, and suffer a myocardial infarction on January 3.

Apparently the average resolution lasts 25 days. I wonder if that's because, here at least, those who have sworn off the demon booze hit Australia Day toward the end of January and are sucked in to a slab of microbrewery beer, only to emerge tearily and drunkenly patriotic, wrapped in an Aussie flag kindly provided by said brewery for that very purpose.

My son and I made matching resolutions this year. He and his wife are a few years into the dual pleasure/horror of home ownership. They thank the Universe daily they bought when they did or they'd have been waiting until all four parents carked it before they even had a deposit. Buying an apartment means, of course, opening that Pandora's box generally referred to by its more common name, the Body Corporate (BC).

I also have owned properties at various times that involved the dreaded BC and attending (shudder) AGMs.

A fact emerged early on in my own property-owning career: In every BC there will be one garbage Nazi, a person who snoops around looking into bins to see who hasn't been separating the rubbish. They then develop into petty tyrants who listen at doors, creep around stairwells to see who placed a clothes airer with nappies on it to dry in an endlessly wet summer, or hide behind a bush to see who is leaving the security door to the car park open.

The first petty tyrant I encountered did all of the above. Her name was Mrs Riley - that was how she introduced herself, which instantly made me suspicious. My dad taught me that one never gives oneself an honorific - that is for others to bestow. She was a fair cow of a woman who aired a list of grievances as long as her nose at every meeting, mostly directed at me as I was the only owner renting to tenants.

Since then I've learned to shrug off the nastiness but while chatting with my son over the Christmas break we both came to the realisation that, surrounded by idiots as we nearly always were in our various bodies corporate, we both - slowly and inexorably - became Mrs Riley. He was checking the recycling bins for pizza boxes and leaving stern signs on the noticeboard about parking infringements, while I ... well, let's just say it wasn't pretty.

Horror of horrors - hence the resolution was made to not sweat the small stuff.

Wish us luck.


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