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Cooking Diary

﹛﹛Some days I feel like a creep. My spot up here on the porch, partially obscured behind the lemon tree, kept vertical by a stake, and the row of spindly roses. Twice this morning my presence went undetected. A metre or so above the path, I sit on a worn-out couch with a worn-out laptop, my eyes flicking from screen to street and down to screen again. Who else will pass by today? Mara, my housemate*s dog, takes her usual position to my right, propped up on my thigh. We watch and we wait.

﹛﹛Tradies are allowed to work and construction continues, 30th March.

﹛﹛Clockwise from top: Tradies are allowed to work and construction continues on 30 March. We can leave the house for exercise 每 4 April. Our local postie does extra shifts to cope with demand on 7 April.

﹛﹛Our local postie does extra shifts to cope with demand, 7th April.

﹛﹛We can leave the house for exercise.Porch Diaries.

﹛﹛I started on my birthday, I tell people, but my time porch-sitting started long before that. I*ve lived in this house for six years and only my childhood home has known me longer. It*s part of me and I like to think I*m part of it, like the ever-expanding cracks in the hallway plaster and the blocked shower drain after days of rain.

﹛﹛Many housemates ago it was decided that we would spend more time on the porch.

﹛﹛We*d felt moved by a lecture exploring different philosophies about the home and, while happy with our communal situation, we had very little to do with our local neighbourhood outside of our own four walls.

﹛﹛Emily and Lars have just moved in around the corner. Porch Diaries. Alana Holmberg began shooting portraits during lockdown. She started up again this week. PorchDiaries 034 (20 of 28)

﹛﹛Unknown couple walking by with masks.

﹛﹛Left: Emily and Lars the dog have just moved in around the corner. Right: Lockdown love, unknown couple, 7 April 2020.

﹛﹛As a trio, we sat cheerfully on the porch, often in the afternoons. We debated the pros and cons of removing fences and boundaries between neighbours so we could share things like lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners. We called out greetings to passersby and observed the different responses elicited. I thought of my father who, when visiting me in the city, directs a very firm hello to people he passes, determined to get eye contact as he does at home. What*s wrong with people here? he asks, his efforts not often reciprocated.

﹛﹛Council workers keep trees from the wires.

﹛﹛Above: Council workers keep trees from the wires. Below: Michelle with Mother*s Day flowers, she hasn*t seen her daughter for months 每 8 May.

﹛﹛Michelle with Mother*s Day flowers, she hasn*t seen her daughter for months.

﹛﹛Over time, a porch habit formed, helped in no small part by the sun that warmed our four-by-two-metre concrete slab before it dipped west behind the rooftops. Like lizards, we*d crawl blinking into the light from our dark terrace home and arrange ourselves in ever-shifting configurations. The tradition continued with each housemate thereafter. A couch was added, then a coffee table. An ashtray for those in need. Mosquito coils for the summer. Our neighbours may not have known our names but they knew that on a sun-drenched afternoon the inhabitants of this house, the one with the yellow door, would most likely be found on the porch.

﹛﹛Musicians and neighbours Josphine and Jason, before their street concert

﹛﹛Musicians and neighbours Josphine and Jason, before their street concert 每 18 May.

﹛﹛Fifteen days ago, I hugged my sister. I didn*t mean to, in fact, I*d already told her we couldn*t, but when she walked through those silver doors my arms stretched out in front of me and my fingers connected with a body as familiar as my own. A body that had travelled another hemisphere and now returned home. We shrugged at our misdemeanour, so fleeting and impulsive it was and so normal, but the next day she started to feel unwell. The day before my 37th birthday, we decided to quarantine.

﹛﹛Tee, Tung, Elodie and Miles enjoy an afternoon family bike trip.

﹛﹛Tee, Tung, Elodie and Miles, afternoon family bike trip 每 10 May.

﹛﹛Mara and I, we watch and we wait. I started photographing on my birthday because a birthday in isolation seemed like one that should be remembered. It felt novel and perhaps a little absurd to be in quarantine, so I documented those who came to say hello over the fence 每 my partner, my other sister and her family, the man who delivers parcels on this street. Stuck at home awaiting test results, I continued in the days following, calling out to neighbours, strangers, workers and others who passed by.

﹛﹛The test results came back negative last week but it doesn*t change much. The entire city is now in lockdown for the next four weeks at least. I*ll keep going as long as we*re in this.

﹛﹛1 September 2020

﹛﹛Lockdown returned in the dead of winter. I fled to the country. Guilty for leaving but desperate for a warm house, bushwalks and my grandmother. I*ll just go for two weeks, I said, but I stayed many more. Swayed by the winter wattle and my aunt*s cooking.

﹛﹛18 March 2021

﹛﹛I never want to go back there again, I hear people say. But I*m not so sure. I miss it sometimes. Not so much lockdown and all the challenges that came with it, but the feeling of togetherness. The peace that came from having nowhere else to be. The security in knowing others were home and watching out for each other, watching out for me. I miss the pace of it, the time people had to cross the street and say hello. Meandering conversations, lingering because there was no real reason to wrap up. I miss the time we had for each other, the kindness and the care.

﹛﹛Neels owns a hairdressing salon for curly hair in Fitzroy and often cycles past.

﹛﹛Clockwise from top: Neels owns a hairdressing salon in Fitzroy and often cycles past. My housemate Niki moves out and it feels quiet without her. Neighbours Emily and Lars the now large dog, months later.

﹛﹛Neighbours Emily and Lars, months later.

﹛﹛Niki and Mara move out and my house feels quiet without them.

﹛﹛Blue sky afternoons aside (and there have been fewer than usual this summer), I*ve retreated from the porch back into my home and into my own life, like everyone else. Have you been away? my neighbours ask, so accustomed to me perched out here on the porch and now noticing my absence. Life has resumed and I feel sucked back into its vortex, floundering at the pace and velocity of its return.

﹛﹛I started photographing a year ago today. At first, I photographed to make a record of a time, but the accumulation of small interactions over the fence provided me with an unexpected discovery; an antidote to loneliness. Not searching, I found something I was yearning for, I hope to find it again.

﹛﹛Dan, an artist and new neighbour.

﹛﹛Dan, an artist and new neighbour 每 4 June 2021.

﹛﹛4 June 2021

﹛﹛Are you back on the porch? On the sunny afternoons, I reply. The porch is frosty until just after lunch when the sun sneaks around the corner to illuminate the couch for a few glorious hours. How quickly we forgot the routine of lockdown. How quickly we*ve slipped back into it, willingly or otherwise. It feels a little heavier this time. The silver linings are harder to find and the conversations are not as buoyant as I remember. Frustrations simmer not far from the surface. Still, the fleeting moments of connection are welcome as I now live alone.

﹛﹛Another week, they say. I can do another week. Familiar faces pass by and I photograph them again, enjoying the reconnection. The photographs make visible the community around me, living side by side but rarely seen together. When I*m out here on the porch I feel part of it.

﹛﹛The Porch Diaries book will be published next month and will be exhibited at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick from 16 June to 11 July 2021. A selection of prints from the series is currently on display at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba, part of the group show This Changes Everything, which closes on 20 June.

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