ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
In a heartwarming story of perseverance and ingenuity, a man living his Meriton dogbox has revealed how he has found joy in using his electric barbecue to cook fish on his balcony.
Speaking to reporters from his crudely-built apartment in the French Quarter, 36-year-old Mark Smithers explained how he had always dreamt of having his own outdoor cooking area, but with limited space and a strict no-fire policy in his building, he had to get creative.
“I’ve always loved the taste of freshly grilled fish, but I never thought I’d be able to cook it myself,” said Smithers, as he proudly showed off his trusty electric barbecue.
“But then I found out about these electric barbecues, and I knew I had to have one. I call mine the Lekky BBQ! [laughs]”
Despite living in a tiny apartment with barely enough room to butcher a goat in the bathroom, Smithers has turned his balcony into a veritable outdoor kitchen, complete with a small table, some chairs, and a few potted plants.
“I’ve even got a view of the city skyline from here,” he said, gesturing towards the smog-filled horizon.
“I feel like I’m living the new Australian dream. This pigeonhole of an apartment might’ve cost me three quarters of a rock but at least it’s mine.”
Smithers, who works as a data entry supervisor, said he was initially worried about getting into trouble with his strata management company for using the barbecue on his balcony, but he soon realised that no one was paying attention.
“I’ve been doing this for months now, and no one’s said anything,” he said, grinning.
“I think they’re all too busy with their own problems to worry about me. Like my upstairs neighbour, Santosh. He uses his balcony as a place to cry. It’s hard to enjoy some grilled Thai basa fillets when there is a man sobbing 12ft away.”
Despite his cramped living conditions, Smithers said he was grateful for what he had and felt lucky to be able to cook his own meals on his balcony.
“I know some people might think it’s a bit sad, but for me, it’s a way to escape from the stresses of everyday life,” he said.
“And hey, at least I’m not living in a tent or something. It is tent-like but certainly not a tent.”
Smithers said he hoped his story would inspire others to make the most of what they have and find joy in the small things.
“I might not have a fancy outdoor kitchen or a backyard, but I’ve got my electric barbecue, and that’s all I need,” he said, as he flipped a perfectly cooked piece of fish.
“Life is good.”