Death by Hash-tag######

As a planet we are making incredible advances in technology and communication. We can make synthetic sperm and put  a man on the moon (or in a studio decked out very well to look like the moon.) But I worry that as a species we are becoming a whole lot hypocritical.

Our vulnerability to ‘offense’ is becoming dangerous and is threatening the entire dynamic of the society we live in. It is good to be self-regulating and to address problems when we see them arise. But some of the problems we are attempting to eradicate are making way for new ones.

Corporal and capital punishment used to be widespread, even a form of entertainment . Now we have the social media guillotine of Twitter and Facebook and anyone and everyone can get unlimited free burning sticks to brand anyone who causes them offense.  The problem is that those most offended are the first to raise a virtual stick and offend the crap out of whoever offended them.

Indeed, the social media has become a cacophonous rabble of naysayers and self-righteous prigs, some just reveling in the anonymous platform, others hell-bent on disemboweling strangers who dare to disagree with them. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so damaging. The huffing, puffing commentators are quick to point out a perceived ‘offence’ but fail to responsibly filter their own responses which can include death threats and profane litanies of personal abuse.

Our human race is becoming so self-righteous and hypocritical that the heat it is generating might just be contributing to global warming.  Freedom of speech is being threatened like never before, despite the web megaphones handed out to anyone who can hold and operate a mobile phone.  People have been given a voice but are increasingly using it to abuse others for the crime of having used their own voice. If one thing really offends me – it is hypocrisy.  I’ll call it when I see it but I’ll try to do it nicely.

Here’s the rub. You can’t please all the people all the time. What offends one person will make someone else laugh. One person’s poison is another’s cognac. And you know what, not having developed our powers of mind-reading, we can’t always predict how people will react when we share our views.

Twitter users can often be very black or white .  ‘Champion my world view or I will cut you into tiny pieces with my hash-tag.’

The Twitter troll is  a new and disturbing  creature to climb out of the primordial internet soup. Trolls are dangerous because you rarely see them coming.  They hide under the Twitter bridge ready to leap up and strike at the first sounds of heavy footsteps. Trolls also set up Facebook pages to specifically embarrass, shame and destroy people they have a beef with. Sometimes strangers target a celebrity, disregarding any psychological damage they may in turn create. Trolls derive pleasure from inflicting senseless vitriol into the ether.  

We live in a world where the flies on the wall have Twitter accounts and cameras and little respect.

The new commandments of political correctness might soon look like this.

1.     Thou shalt not make a joke, about anything as it is sure to offend someone.

2.     Thou shalt not point out the bleeding obvious to people who are content to wallow in irrationality and delusion.

3.     Thou shalt not use any labels to describe any person ever.  

4.     Thou shall free up the law courts by taking personal revenge on the presumed guilty via social media, killing them (virtually speaking) with a sledge-hammer of abuse.

5.     Thou shall enjoy freedom of religion so long as your heathen practices do not offend the Judea-Christian sensibility.

6.     Thou shalt not sack any employee for any reason.

7.     Thou shall protect the rights of children unless they infringe on the right to bear arms (pointedly directed at the US).

8.     Thou shalt not play practical jokes on anyone.

9.     Thou shalt not give homeless people shoes as they will just be ungrateful and sell them for beer.

1      Thou  shalt not laugh at Sacha Baron Cohen as he is the devil (but not because he’s Jewish or male). 
It seems the only way to ensure that you are never found culpable for someone else’s profound sense of ‘offense’ is to remain silent.

Not this little blabber-mouth.

The George Costanza Challenge

Have you seen the episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza decides that every decision he has ever made has been wrong, because it has gotten him to where he doesn’t want to be?  His current life. So he decides to override his own system and begin to make decisions that would be the opposite of what he would normally do. He breaks with his instinct and nature and lo and behold everything starts falling into place in his life – jobs, girls etc. This was not only an extremely funny episode but also very poignant.

We really are the sum of our decisions and while our habits seem almost bordering on the edge of ‘beyond our control’, they are the product of repeated decisions to engage in the same behaviour. When at lunch, George ordered the opposite of what he normally ordered. He drank tea instead of coffee. He approached women with confidence and was honest to his boss. Things old George just didn’t normally do!

So if you would normally snap at your partner for leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night so that you nearly fall in – don’t. Do something nice for him instead of snapping. If you normally sleep on the right side of the bed – sleep on the left. If a partner has a problem with it – sleep on the sofa or outside in a tent. When you see that annoying woman from down the street, tell her she looks really lovely today, instead of pretending you didn’t see her. Buy a different newspaper. Wear your hair a completely different way. Go even further – if you usually look like a conservative librarian – dress like a hippy. Walk instead of drive. If you are tight with money– splurge on something. If you’re a mad shopaholic like me, be completely radical and go and put some money in a savings account for a rainy day. Just challenge yourself to get out of the thousands of behavioural ruts you have set yourself in. You’ll unnerve everyone. It will be fun!

I’m advocating this behaviour as a way of kick-starting the process that we all need to work through and that is – realising that we are not our bad habits – and that we have the right, responsibility and need – to change them into whatever great habits we might wish to have as a part of our character. Prepare for the New Year. The definition of an idiot, according to Einstein (who was not an idiot), is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. New Year. New You!

We were not born with any bad habits

We collected them along the way. Some were taught to us. Some we were predisposed to develop. But at some point we chose them as our own special bad habits. The one thing that separates us from the flock of sheep – is our ability to apply our free will.

The late Steven Covey, very clearly enunciates this in his book, “The 8th Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness.” He states that between the stimulus and the response lies the freedom of choice. In other words when something happens to you or you perceive that something has happened to you, there is a gap of time before you react. If you have been described as having a very short fuse – then your reaction time is probably ‘instant’. If you react to stressful situations like that repeatedly it becomes a bad habit – called a temper or a chronic over-reaction! I call it ‘knee-jerk’ disorder. The challenge to grow and evolve into a person liberated from negative bad habits lies in this space. Widening that space gives you options. That gives you time to evaluate the correct or most appropriate response. The counting to ten method is a good way to start if you find yourself reacting prematurely. Just count to ten and breathe deeply whenever you are confronted with a situation that would usually see you ‘blow your top’.

Every day,  pick a bad habit and do all you can to transform it into something wonderful. If it is your habit not to tip when going to restaurants and hotels – start doing it and see if it kills you. It won’t and you might find you start getting better service and feeling better about yourself.

You are the product of the choices you make – if you don’t like where you are  - do a turn around and use some new dance moves. Spin some 180 degree changes in your life.

Make some radically opposite choices for this New Year . I dare you. George Costanza dares you! 

Happy 2013.

X-Mas - Bah humbug

I have not been infected with the X-Mas spirit this year.

Perhaps after so many years I have built up an immunity to it. Every year of my entire life I have had a X-Mas tree, decorated with tinsel and baubles and crappy homemade ornaments made of felt and paddle-pop sticks. But this year....I don't even have the enthusiasm to figure out where I would put a tree if I had one. The space where it was last year - has a new sofa there and I am not, absolutely not,  moving my new is even allowed to sit on it yet because it is still so new and clean and unspoiled.

But I had a pang of guilt when my daughter asked me yesterday why there was no tree up and it's already the tenth of December. She was not satisfied with my answer that if there is no Santa Claus, there doesn't need to be a tree. After five children who grew up believing in Santa for a bit until I caved in and told them that it was all crap, I have finally reached the point where none of my kids subscribe to that implausible legend anymore. The ruse is over.....until grandchildren.....but that's a long way off (I hope).

Perhaps that is why I feel no need for pomp and ceremony. The bubble has burst. It really is just commercial hype. It has nothing to do with Jesus or family togetherness. It really is all about the presents and the food and the alcohol. And all that will still appear with or without the tree.

The truth is I threw the last one in the bin on Boxing Day last year. It was just such a sense of relief that I'd made it through another Yuletide that I wanted no trace of the event and boxed it up for the tip.

So....if I am to pander to my nine year old daughter's sense of tradition, I must go to the STORE and buy another one along with bags of delicate decorations like those impossible coloured balls that can never be attached because the string falls off.  The tacky star that droops sadly to one side from the top of the tree or an angel with a surprised O of a mouth. Is she singing psalms or just freaked out that she's been rudely impaled on the top of a pine tree? Ouch!

I'm not a Christian.

Santas in department stores creep me out. (After seeing Bad Santa, they will never be the same).

And yet.....I feel I must. Although my heart is not in it and  I would do away with the whole nonsense if I had my way, I feel compelled by my social/maternal conscience.

I haven't bought a single present and have a wedding to attend this weekend which leaves little time to buy the hundreds of gifts I will be expected to rock up to the obligatory family function with. I have been avoiding it all, hoping that if I ignored Christmas, it would simply go away.

The kids have made their lists and they are longer than any potential X-Mas tree. Greedy little shits. Really. All they want for X-Mas is ....everything! What do they ever get me? A clay ash-tray with finger prints pressed into it. Honestly? I don't smoke and I have so many paper clip holders I could open a shop.

But I must think of the children. Mustn't I? Because that is what a good mother is supposed to do. I am supposed to read The Nightmare before Christmas/I mean the Night before Christmas on X-Mas Eve and pretend that the plane flying over head is really a sleigh, the red lights, Rudolph's nose. Well, not this year. I can with a clear conscience say 'that there is a plane - just a plane and Rudolph was just a symbol for all the kids who got bullied for being flawed or different or just incredibly painful and annoying..'

And then, I'll have to tiptoe around and place wrapped gifts under the tree, which will be somewhere in the garage this year I think. Or just stumble around with champagne banging into things and when I wake the kids, yell...'Yes, yes you know it's me! Ho-ho-ho! Where are my frickin milk and cookies??!!'

I must arrive at a BBQ on the big day, with a red and white Santa hat and a big smile and give out the $30 a head gifts to people I only see once a year and try not to drink too much eggnog. Can't back that up. I don't even know what eggnog is.

It's the silly season...the most commercial season of the year. might be fun. I might get some cool gifts.

I know I'm being a bit of a scrooge....and I do feel a little bit guilty as I see that puppy dog look in my daughter's eyes as she pleads for a Christmas tree....just a little cheap one....anything,.

Goddamn it! Alright. I give in. I'll buy a plastic thing from Target - all wire and shredded fake lawn clippings. I'll buy turtledoves and candy canes and fake little presents the size of matchboxes. I might get some dangerous strands of mega-electricity-burning lights. Hell...why don't I compete with those guys up the road and turn my house into a nuclear power plant with coloured lights and a real sleigh on the roof.? I'll hire a live reindeer and charge the local kids to have rides around the block or give them away for free. I'll be the neighborhood winner of Christmas Cheer.

So, I'll do it! The tree that is...not the rest of it. I was just being sarcastic. Just a tree and some decorations from the Reject shop.

But this is the last year. I mean it. I'm with scrooge. Bah Humbug!

Political Star Wars

Australia is a wayward school and the student leadership council is in chronic disarray. The place has become like one of the lamer Star Wars movies. The school captain is a capable girl, a Princess Leia,  with a good head on her shoulders and a sensible attitude but she is fighting an uphill battle against a space-ship full  of fools and she's doing it with such patience and grace that it's hard not to take your hat off to her.

Leia's got her chief rival making life hard for her. The obnoxious big-mouth, Jar Jar Binks. He's the kid who likes to poke other people in the eye and laugh when no-one else thinks it's funny. She's up the front talking about policy and direction and he's flinging paper clips at her while singing in a Jamaican accent that she runs the joint 'like a girl'. The teachers love him which confounds the student body and they are getting sick of asking why he'd be a good leader when his answers amount to - 'Because Leia's got bread rolls on her ears...' or 'Because Leia's got a paperclip between her eyes.'

There's Han Solo, the cool, suave dude who all the kids like but the teachers complain about because he's not a team player. Malcolm Turnbull is a bit of a solo player but he's popular with the girls. I think the teachers are all just a little bit jealous of him because he makes them look...well....look a bit daggy.

Jar Jar Binks has his off-sider, more famous for the bad hair than anything else....ohhh...and the noises that come out of her mouth that are trying to sound like intelligent words....but are just a pitiful, vacuous moan. The Empire's own Wookie Bishop.

In a previous episode, Leia deposed the popular class clown, a fair fellow with a dashing smile and unnerving giggle. And didn't the kids love him! Not least for his propensity to hand out sweeties to them all, particularly the ones with not much in their lunch-boxes....but the teachers got rid of him because he had an attitude and behind closed doors lost his temper with the teachers and swore at them. God help us! He had a broad grin and time for everyone and he was not too proud to say 'sorry' when no-one else would. Kind of like the loveable Skywalker. He peaked early and then just drifted off into the background. He's still working for the Alliance but in the outposts. Being Leia's secret brother....there's a bit of sibling rivalry going on and he figures...he's the boy...the crown should be rightfully his!

But down in one of the lower grades there is something much more sinister going on - in one of the classes, there is a class captain who is running amok. This is the premier of QLD, Darth Vadar....only in this case it's more like a scene from Space Balls....when you take off the scary black mask and suit, you find it's really little Rick Moranis with his high-pitched voice. This would  be funny if he wasn't wielding a Lightsaber because that's the sort of thing that can be dangerous in the wrong hands. For ages eight and up. He's firing that thing about zapping the Literary Awards, public service jobs, Breast screening, Indigenous literacy programs, Drive safe programs and blaming foster parents for the bad behaviour  of the troubled children put into their care, while despotically  outlawing his opposition. He's surrounded himself with a team of Storm-troopers but even they are being unnerved by the pocket-sized Mussolini and they are scrambling to jump ship.

And as for  Obi-Wan Kenobi .....maybe Paul Keating with his air of superiority and biting words of advice and commentary being shared from time to time?

Yoda...perhaps Laurie Oakes??

Either would all be somewhat entertaining if it wasn't so serious. It's a country, not a Hollywood film set. Throw down the light-sabers and don't be so reckless!!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to be a rock star!

For a little while now (since my book was published), I have become 'that groupie chick' and everyone wants to hear a sordid tale of my dalliances with rock stars. But, truth be told, I think I was chasing them around because deep down I wanted to BE one of them.

Probably my first real femme crush was on Joan Jett, but I loved her because I wanted to BE her. Hell, I still want to be her. Fancy being a global anthem! Pat Benetar was okay for a while but she was a bit rabbity and angst ridden.. And then there was Blondie. She was just so sexy it made my eyes bleed....she was the archetypal bombshell! I couldn't aspire to that because I was not a bombshell, I was a pimply, dorky teenager.

Then out of nowhere, along came Madonna.....uber star....Queen of Pop. She had the goods. Overt sexuality, irreverent Catholicism,  trouble, big mouth and she, like me, was narcissistically ambitious. When Madonna Ciccone  burst onto our eighties radars, I was in a state of rock and roll tonic-clonic seizure for almost a year, planning ways to become her. I teased up my hair, wore crucifixes, tried to sing and dance in front of my mirror at home where I was dazzling and even did a few stints on the school stage with my band....Our first song was 'Save the Broccoli' because we wanted to be edgy and make a statement with our music too. Such  vegan political activists!

Then, being lucky enough to grow up in Australia, we were sent a school-girl rock icon from hell in the form of Chrissie Amphlet, fronting The Divinyls. Madonna was soon forgotten because I was a dark and tortured little rocker and I looked like shite in a midriff top.

For years Chrissie was my hero, even after a bingle in the ladies loos in Kings Cross some forgettable evening in the late eighties..... I am still proud of my on-the-table Chrissie Amphlett impersonation, screaming 'All the Boys in Town!' until the kids tell me to shut-up.

I really did miss my calling. I should have been a rock star and sometimes I still entertain the dream that I might have a second wind and give it a shot. Madonna's still cooking.  Joan Jett can still swing a guitar. Forty is the new thirty. There might be a market for mature aged rock chicks....and soon. So I'm getting out the purple fringed boots and the comb and the fluoro lip gloss. If I am telling my daughter that she can be anything she desires with a little belief and hard work....then I should put my money where my mouth is.

I want to be a rock-star......I sure know enough blokes who could be my backing band!!! I'll be way funkier than Susan Boyle and reach out to an audience of women who, like me, go completely mental every-time  'I love Rock n Roll' comes on the radio while we break out the air guitar. ROCK ON SISTERS! It's never to late to rock and roll........(I'll just have to up my dose of calcium supplements for the dodgy knees!)

To my daughter......

I have four sons....and one daughter. For many years I had been content to be the mother of rambunctious boys. I liked the energy and being a bit of a tomboy myself helped as I kicked around a soccer ball and frollicked in the surf with them. When I was pregnant a third time, strangers would stop me in the street and look pensively at my two boys and say ' Gee I'll pray for you that you get a girl this time.' It was a far cry from the archaic view that boy babies were better. But I was always offended. I liked having boys. I really did and I didn't feel that I needed a daughter to complete the motherhood thing.

My third child was another son. And I was relieved because I had no experience of little girls and the idea of buying a Barbie Doll completely freaked me out.

And then, many years later with a new man in my life, I fell pregnant again and straight away I knew I had a girl on board. I could 'feel it in me waters'. The whole pregnancy was different and somehow more calm. After a thirty-six hour labor I had my daughter in my arms...all nine pounds of her and I looked at her and she looked at me and immediately peed all over me. I'd been christened.

As she grew up, I found myself wanting to buy the frilliest, prettiest dresses and embraced my inner princess. But she was having none of it. She is nine now and still won't wear a dress. Sometimes having another little woman in the house is overwhelming. We are so alike it can be cyclonic when we disagree. She is clever and willful and beautiful. She dreams big and has such a wonderful sense of humour. I do get frightened for her sometimes because this world can still be a scary place for girls. There are monsters out there and whileit's probably a better time to be a woman than any other in history, we've got a long way to go before women can feel safe, without the constant battle to 'prove' ourselves.

She now has a little brother as well and is surrounded by great men who are, along with me, the strong and loving bows from which she will fly as a bright arrow.

I love her so much and because she is so like me, it feels sometimes narcissistic. But she really does 'complete me'. The bewitching mitochondria lives feminine bloodline.

I wrote this article today about the advice I will give as she is ready to receive it.

Fish and Bicycles......

Now I don't want to sound sexist but I've been pondering this question. Do we really need men? Live with them, live without them, or do away with them altogether? I admit that does sound a bit sexist but stay with me on this. Scientists have announced that they can make sperm in a laboratory. This monumental breakthrough has not even made the can't get past the male editorial barrier and let's face it - it's the sort of news that might create a general panic. Synthetic sperm can be made from embryonic stem cells! When I try to discuss this with friends they invariably scoff that it's probably just scientific hype or make jokes like 'I bet it would taste better, too. It could come in all sorts of flavours!'

But jokes aside what would it mean to the human race if women could pick up some sperm from the local supermarket (free turkey baster thrown in)? It would certainly make the blokes a bit nervous. I think it would settle the battle of the sexes once and for all and throw our society very quickly into a state of matriarchy and would that be such a bad thing? Men could do all there warmongering on Playstation and let us settle international disputes the way they should be - with words. Because all the development psychologists tell us that women have better linguistic skills. The drama in Israel would not be happening if women were in charge. That's a fact.

If we were running the joint the way the Bonobo monkeys do, we'd make love not war.

It's an interesting situation....of course this synthetic sperm has not yet been used to create a human child....but if and when they do make a synthetic's something to think about. It could make men redundant but a world without Brad Pitts and George Clooneys would be a little bit bland. While we all know that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle - it's still nice to have them around. We don't need men....we simply like chocolate.

My Quest for Eternal Youth

A year ago I was rolling in the thick swamp of a mid-life crisis. When I was little I wanted to grow up to be….well….me. But not the me I saw then. The me I wanted to be was beautiful, rich and famous with a loving husband and a handful of perfectly cherubic children. I was on the wrong side of forty and hadn’t quite become that queenly figure I figured I would become! I was turning grey, my eyesight was going and my knees had all but packed it in. I was at the age where women begin grasping for quick fix renovation jobs – sucking out tenacious fat, lifting things that began to slide irrevocably, tightening the seams and pumping Spakfiller into all the deepening facial crevasses. But I was pathologically afraid of knives, syringes and all things pointed (including knitting needles and sharp words). I didn’t want to look like a plastic alien. I wanted to look healthy, vibrant and feel that way too.

After a lifetime of sloth and champagne, I was starting to panic!

This led to a mind-boggling chase for the natural fountain of youth. The sure-fire anti-ageing diet and the most dazzling array of supplements. Here is a run-down of what I tried and what I learned.

There is an old adage that as you age you must choose between the body or the face, the reasoning being that the plumper you are, the more youthful the face. There might be something to that when you compare Nigella Lawson to some vegan marathon junkie. But my research has shown that this is not necessarily so.

Some studies say that a reduced calorie diet and an extremely lean bod are more healthy than carrying some extra weight. Others say the opposite. A diet high in protein or a diet high in carbohydrates? All meat. No meat. Raw. Caveman. They all have their advocates and success stories. 
I tested all the diets over the last year, looking for a perfect fit and here are my findings.

Atkins/Dukan – good for fast weightloss, bad breath, constipation and you end up with a guilt complex every time you see an animal.

Raw Food Diet – this one strangely messed up my insides. My stomach was not cow-like enough to process so much fibre. Gas. Bloating. Pain. And the juicer exploded from hard labour.

Vegan – Pleasant enough until I discovered an allergy to legumes and soy. Stomach blew up like a hot air balloon. Good for the soul, though.

The Grapefruit/egg diet – induces heavy despondency when you hate eggs and grapefruit. Torture.

It was actually hard to maintain any fad diet and none had any lasting effect.

Instead I designed my own with the best of all of the above and came up with the Sensible Diet….lots of raw fruits and vegetables, some organic lean chicken and fish. Only occasional low gluten grains like quinoa, millet and brown rice. The occasional sneaky good red wine and a few squares of darkest of dark chocolate.
It was a good idea but my willpower was/is crap. I was fine with the chocolate and wine….not so much with the others, particularly when the family was chowing down on pizza.

I looked into the super supplements that are supposed to reverse the process of ageing. I had handfuls of dehydrated pellets known as Goji berries and tipped Maca powder into my almond milk shakes. I swallowed lots of Co-Enzyme 10, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, African Mango powder, Noni juice (which sounds kind of rude) and many other whacko concoctions. I bought instant eye-fix buzzing wands. Lip plumper. B.B Creams. And I just looked the same every day. No change.

And then I went on a holiday. Weeks and weeks of traipsing about idyllic beaches. Eating whatever I wanted. Walking along the seaside. Lying in the shallows like a seal. My children were suddenly those cherubic creatures I’d dreamed of and my husband and I fell deeper in love like we were on a second honeymoon. I didn’t give a single toss about diet, exercise or supplements. I wore no makeup and never went near a hairdresser or beautician.

After nearly two months of that, I had lost all my excess weight, had more energy, slept better and when I looked in the mirror I realised I had lost about ten years along the way.
That changed my attitude and I realised that there is no magic potion. The key is in me. I just need to love myself as I am, enjoy my life and my family and forget all the bullshit that the diet and beauty industry feed you. You can’t live on a holiday but you can fake it. It’s all in the attitude.

Moderation. Some good exercise, fresh air, some good food, some bad, some wine, some chocolate. Make love. Play with the kids. Take a deep breath. Meditate. Not necessarily ‘om’ deep and meaningful meditation. Just a walking along a bush-track or a water-way does it for me. 

When you keep stressing about the food you should be eating, the triathlons you should be sweating in, you give yourself wrinkles and indigestion. Cortisol, the stress hormone, equals stored fat.
It’s not always easy and I’m out of whack a fair bit but I have discovered the secret and when I remind myself of that….the flab melts and the lines smooth….

There is nothing more beautiful than laughter and an inner serenity.

Now, when people ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I say –  I wanted to grow up to be me. And I did it! I'm her. Me.....and loving it.

Rich vs Poor

I've been rich and I've been poor and rich is better!

There are people in the world who really don't care about money but I am not one of them. While I wouldn't put money ahead of runs a very close second. This desire to be filthy rich stems from having been dirt poor for a lot of my adult life. Being a single mother for twelve years meant that I had to work two, three, four jobs. I cleaned houses. I took in ironing. I worked as a receptionist, a drama teacher. When I scored a job as a housekeeper at Kerry Packer's compound, I got a taste for the finer things in life. Wandering around the estate of the richest man in the country will do that to a girl. At night I went home to my cockroach infested unit in Bondi and dreamed of living in a waterfront mansion with some-one to clean up and cook for me. Now I have a lovely husband to do that for me! But still no waterfront mansion.

Tomorrow night I will be putting my lotto ticket in (100 million...yum). But I've got a sneaking feeling that I won't win. The odds are stacked against me. I actually would rather earn the money because then I'd feel I truly deserved it. I've been poor enough to steal toilet paper from the library loos. I've been rich enough to splash out on a facial and that's about it so far.

I wouldn't be a greedy bitch if I was filthy rich. I'd share. I'd support charities. I'd help out family and friends. But I would also buy an Aston Martin and a condo in my beloved New York. I'd probably botox that line out of my forehead. I'd definitely spend up at Tiffany and Co. A yacht would be nice.

It's nice to dream but in the meantime, I will need to look down the back of the sofa to find enough coins to put in that lotto ticket.  


Today I am thinking about friendship. Yesterday I caught up with a girlfriend I hadn't seen for more than twenty years. She hadn't changed a bit. If anything she was more beautiful, more fun and it was truly as if no time had passed. That's a real friend. When you can take up a thread of conversation after twenty years without missing a beat, you realise how much 'time' really is an abstract concept.

Friends are those who share the deepest belly laughs and feel your pain as their own. They are people you can drop your guard for. In life, you'll meet a lot of people but when you find a real friend, it's like stumbling across buried treasure.

To the wonderful friends in my life I say thank-you. You are the lifeboats that keep me afloat when I feel like sinking and buoy me up with your insane cackling.

Friends. The family I get to choose. Much love. xxxxxxxx

Furry friends...

I’m addicted to Facebook as much as the next bored housewife/freelance writer. It punctuates my day with little red squares alerting me to ‘notifications’ (interesting); ‘messages’ (intriguing) and ‘friend requests’ (incredible). It’s like going to the mail box twenty times a day and knowing that each time, like a magician’s box, there might be something there for me. When particularly bored or needing an escape from my work on the computer, I’ll play a stupid game that bounces between the Blog Stats, work and Face-book and see if I can get new red squares each time. It’s kind of like playing ‘Scissors, Paper, Rock’ with myself. I go Blog Stats, work, nothing. Blog Stats, work, MESSAGE. Blog Stats, work, NOTIFICATION. Yeah, yeah. It’s sad but I swear I’m not alone. Some guys have internet porn. I have my little ‘find the red box game’. The thrill is not quite the same but on the rare occasion that I have more than one message at once, it is pretty damn exciting.
I secretly love the antique postcards with witty slogans about how much housewives like a drink,  Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge in case of a special occasion. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge and how they don’t give a crap about anything. Once upon a time, fuck you, the end.

I have one friend who is the king of posting outrageously funny photographs from around the world. It’s nice to be generically invited to every book launch at my favourite book-stores  and super hilarious when someone posts a photo of me from 1980 at school, but it drives me completely and utterly bonkers to scroll past hundreds and hundreds of photos of furry, baby animals in cute or amusing poses with or without other appropriate or inappropriate animal friends.

I don’t mind animals. They are fun to visit in zoos once in a decade. The petting farm at the local fair was brilliant and I’m truly against all forms of animal cruelty but the fuzzy, furry little Hallmark posts that appear like tsunami waves every morning, tell me that drunk people like to stay up late and googoo gaagaa over fluffy neonates. Why???? It’s not funny. It’s not informative. It’s not clever. It’s just….well, it’s just stupid.

Right now, as we speak, I will tell you what I mean….(damn, no red squares). It’s the middle of the night and we have – a kind-hearted soldier who rescued a baby squirrel (that’s nice but I just don’t care); two Weimaraner puppies posed on pumpkins (WTF sort of garnish is that?); Jeff Duff in hot pants (that’s a little bit cute) and a goose and a baby duckling floating in water (SO WHAT!!!).  I do not understand why they do it. Is it to make me feel relaxed or comforted or teary? It does none of these things. It makes me think, ‘that thing belongs on a sympathy card for the lady from the shop, whose geriatric husband just died’, and not on my laptop.

The other annoying thing about Facebook posts is the relentless stream of requests to join some cause or other. You can have causes for anything. Just set up a cause with a click of a button and try to guilt everyone you know into joining it. The worst cause I have encountered so far is the ‘Join this cause because you’ve joined every other cause, cause’. It’s just out of control. And a year ago I would click the ‘like’ button for a particular band or a film or book but now you can hit ‘like’ for idiotic, random things like ‘beer’ and ‘money’ (I still click on them, what the hell).

Posting things after becoming inebriated is almost as bad and dangerous as drink driving and has made me want to shut the whole shemozzle down the next morning as I bang the ‘delete this post’ button repeatedly. I don’t quit though, because apart from the fun of feeling popular occasionally and the ability to use the platform to promote yourself, you can stalk your kids, exes, and random people that you’ve never met but have heard about. You can get some brilliant recipes and be on the cutting edge of scientific breakthroughs. I learned today that cannabis oil can cure cancer and that aliens are planning to land in Wollongong. (I think they were posted by the same person).

It’s inane and frustrating and addictive but it’s there and sometimes that’s all something has to be, to be interesting.

Whoo! I just got one notification box but it was a crowd notification. Damn!

And some sweetie-pie just posted a picture of a kitten with one paw over one eye and the slogan ‘Aw damn, tomorrow’s Monday.’ Like I needed a dumb-ass baby cat to tell me that!!    

My Quirks.

When people first get to know me they think I’m funny with all my whacky quirks. ‘Oh that’s just Nikki. She’s crazy,’ they say. But those that know me really well (like sharing a house with me) are beginning to feel uneasy and wonder if my quirks aren’t a tad more serious…or whether I’m just a jerk. My list of pet hates is growing so fast and furiously that I am starting to question that myself. When did they go from being silly-little-things-that-bother me to out and out melt-down-phobias that leave me hyperventilating?

I suspect I am harbouring ‘obsessive-compulsive’ tendencies that are trying to leak out wherever they can. I’ve kept a lid on them for years, being able to pass them off as quirks, but I don’t think I’m fooling anyone anymore.

I have always moved seats in the cinema if anyone was eating chips or popcorn near me. I mean, I really hate listening to someone eating crunchy shit when I’m trying to concentrate. Now though, I can’t stand the sound of anyone crunching anything, ever, anywhere. Not toast. Carrots. Not chips. Not crackers. I remember being ten and paying my little sister my pocket money not to eat apples in the car on long trips. She made a small fortune. This crunching thing has been around for a long time. Not just an acquired pet hate perhaps, but a full-blown genetic hard-wired aversion to the sound. I am beginning to fantasize about always eating alone in my room like a deranged Miss Havisham.

Mess in the house is beginning to enrage me, rather than merely annoy. The noise of a teenager watching late night television while I try to sleep, is like a cricket that has wedged itself into my ear and begun a high-pitched-humming rap. Shop assistants who are devoid of personality piss me off. Sand between my toes is great on the beach but I’ve taken to tipping a bottle of water over them as soon as I’m on the grass before putting my shoes back on. I can’t sleep in socks without feeling claustrophobic. Towels hanging over doorways infuriate me and people who leave the empty toilet roll on the holder should be shot.

Am I becoming a cranky old bitch or are my standards of comfort simply demanding to be met after years of being ignored. I’ve cleaned up after children for twenty-five years. Is it too much to ask that my clean palette remains clean for more than five minutes? Is that unreasonable? All I want in my old age is a nice tidy house that I can look around at smugly and say….’Nice…done…nothing left to do.’ And then I could curl up and read a book. Nobody crunching mouthfuls of biscuits anywhere near me. Peace.
Yes, I am quirky. I’d sooner do myself an internal injury than use a public toilet. I feel like slapping people who chew gum and I’ve become a born-again non-smoker who now frowns and tut-tuts at youngsters lighting up. ‘You’ll die from that sonny-Jim,’ I want to say in my finest Mrs McGillicuddy voice.

Age, I think, should bring some creature comforts. I’m beginning to understand why old folk come across as crotchety old pains. Because I'm becoming one.   

I refuse to grow old gracefully.........

My Grandfather-in-law is 104 years of age. Once that would have meant we’d stick him in a circus but nowadays this is not all that unusual. This era of longevity offers us more time to fill ourselves with experiences and adventures, love and lust, more time for vices to develop and lessons to be learnt.

Once upon a time people dreamed of immortality. Now it seems we’re a bunch of ingrates who have been granted a few extra years on Earth, a reward for having been born in this day and age, just to piss them away complaining and reminiscing about the good ole days. Sometimes it looks like the only thing that has been extended is a creaky balcony-extension  of complaints and regrets and the propensity to develop more self-inflicted lifestyle diseases so that we’re left hanging on with our wrinkled fingers, fat guts and a pill box as colourful as an acid trip at Woodstock without the thrill of the high.

That’s what I thought until I read about a study of British and US subjects that found most people are generally happier in the second half of their lives than the first. Researchers from the Warwick University described a U-shaped curve of happiness and contentment that hits the rock-bottom of disillusionment at about the age of forty-five at which point there is something of a surrender and then you climb more blissfully, with fewer expectations and demands, toward the grave. I find myself at the nadir of this equation so it’s little wonder life sometimes feels like a bucket of pus. 

But what of those who refuse to go gentle into that good night and hold their torchlight high and dig their heels in, screaming, ‘Don’t make me climb up that happy side of the U…I want to go back the other way for a bit longer.’ ?

I don’t want blissful surrender. I’m still enjoying the thrill of the chase even when it feels like I’m being punched in the face. I don’t want to be happy if it means surrendering to the grey decline and flushing my impossible dreams of winning an Oscar and reaching the New York Times Bestseller List into the sewer of regrets. New self-help gurus are advocating that we cut our high expectations loose and aim lower to minimise disappointments. Be happy to be the big fish in the small pond, they say. Not this little guppy.   
Young people grow up anxiously, older folk ferment contentedly. But there’s a thin line between fermenting and rotting. I’d rather be anxious, I think.

There is ample evidence that retirement is about as stimulating to the life-force as an intravenous sedative.  A couple of years of Grey Nomadic travel and then it’s settle down and get the garden ready for the coffin.
Ageing gracefully is polite but ignoring the process is more entertaining. Only a small fraction find the courage to do that with aplomb. Vivien Westwood. Helen Gurley Brown. Madonna. Iris Apfel (the Dowager Queen of Pizzazz). 

Bloom late or sail that second wind, get to the U-Turn and run up backwards like a kid giggling up a descending escalator. Reject the idea that a boat reaching midstream has missed its chance to mend the leaks.

A school teacher once told my class that if you hadn’t found your stride and achieved something of note by the age of thirty-five, you never would. I was homeless at thirty-five. If I’d believed her, I would have rolled over and given up. I had fallen over, stumbled and looked for all the world like a massive failure. Since then I’ve slam-dunked a law degree, published a memoir, fallen in love and had two more children. I’m just finding my feet at forty-five. I sit here in the bottom of the U-slump and look up at my options. I can see the other side but I’ve decided to jog backwards on the treadmill  of life. It’s hard though, because I live in a society that glorifies youth and protégée. I’m swimming against the tide like a deranged middle-aged salmon.          
There are plenty of examples of renegade geriatrics staying on the playing field and kicking the ball around with the whipper-snappers, beating them at their own game. Dreams don’t have to be abandoned just because you reach a certain age.  

Annie Proulx had her first book of fiction published in her 50’s; David Sedaris was still cleaning houses until 37,  Jacki Weaver received her first Oscar nomination at 65 while Susan Boyle got pulled out of obscurity at the age of 47.

If twenty is the new thirty then fifty is the new thirty. If crumpled is the new smooth then dentures are the new crowns. If you haven’t decided what you want to be when you grow up at the half-way mark, don’t stress.
Forty-five feels claustrophobic in the bottom of the U but you won’t get me playing lawn bowls or bingo. I’m going back the way I came, thank-you very much. Head first!

Groupie Grows Up

Here's an interview......

'Once upon a time there was a teenage girl on the Gold Coast who dreamed of falling in love with a rock star. Rod Stewart was on the top of her list. It was 1981. While this was not an unusual adolescent fantasy, Nikki went a few steps further and began taking herself to the backstage doors of rock n roll gigs to schmoose with the boys from the band. She lost her virginity to a musician from Australian Crawl just shy of her sixteenth birthday. By day, she was a straight A student, by night a rock groupie. As soon as the rest of her conservative Catholic family were asleep, she would crawl out of her bedroom window and walk to Bombay Rock in the heart of Surfers Paradise.

Nikki has now written a book about her adventures and is finding herself reliving those decadent, hedonistic days. It is called ‘One Way or Another: the story of a girl who loved rock-stars.’

‘It’s a million miles away from the life I live now!’ she says from her Brisbane Queenslander, surrounded by her family, husband, Zeus and five children, aged from twenty-five down to seven.

‘The only rock gigs I would consider going to are my son’s but he won’t let me!’ she laughs. Her eldest son, Benjamin plays bass guitar in a death metal outfit in Sydney.

While her early days were filled with cocaine-fuelled partying with the likes of Michael Hutchence and the boys from Duran Duran, these days you are more likely to find Nikki on the sidelines of a kids soccer match or volunteering for school reading groups.

‘When Duran Duran toured recently,’ she muses, ‘I did think about pulling the thigh-high boots out of the wardrobe….’
‘But I didn’t think it was such a great idea.’ Zeus interrupts with a smile.
Considering the scene in her memoir where Nikki gets hot and heavy with a member of Duran Duran in the back of a limousine, Zeus is probably right. Which brings us to the question of how he is dealing with all these raunchy revelations about his wife. She is now Australia’s most notorious groupie.

‘It was actually my idea that she write the book. It’s such a great adventure. Funny but kind of sad at the same time.’

In the book, Nikki very candidly talks about her early termination of a pregnancy and the terror she felt after trying heroin for the first time.

‘I did go to some dark places in my youth. Depression. A suicide attempt. Drugs. Heartbreak.’
But ‘One Way or Another’ is ultimately a tale of courage and humour and the story of a girl who becomes a woman with many lessons learned along the way. Steve Kilbey from The Church calls it ‘a great Australian rock and roll read,’ and Michael Hutchence’s best mate, director of ‘Dogs in Space,’ Richard Lowenstein, describes it as a ‘Puberty Blues’ for the eighties generation.

But Nikki has lived a very colourful life even since hanging up her groupie boots. She has worked as a film and television actress, appearing in Police Rescue and the Clean Machine, been a housekeeper for Kerry Packer, a family law counsellor, a drama teacher, a bank teller and a medical receptionist.

‘Life has been a bit of a roller-coaster for me,’ she smiles. ‘I’ve had some amazing highs and some deep lows. Five years ago I was actually homeless. Literally homeless.’

After giving away most of their belongings to charity, Nikki and Zeus took the family on a three month camping trip through North Queensland.

‘It was truly idyllic. Living on some of the world’s most amazing beaches, learning about the local Indigenous culture and spotting crocodiles on the Daintree River.’

But after returning to Lismore to resume University studies, the family tent was destroyed in a freak hail storm as was their car and the family found themselves, penniless and without anywhere to live.

‘That was a raw and terrifying time,’ Nikki remembers. ‘But we were a tight unit and started again from scratch. It certainly put things into perspective for us.’

Zeus went on to complete his studies in Primary Education and now teaches at a Brisbane school while Nikki finished a legal degree and then decided that she would rather follow her dream of being a published author than chase a career in law.

‘Zeus suggested I write the groupie tale and it went on to be shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in the category of Emerging Writer. That opened up the door to me and I was soon signed with Cameron’s Literary Agency and had a contract with Black Inc Books.’

One of the boys in Duran Duran hunted Nikki down to congratulate her on the book and she has had more than a few musicians of old dropping her emails to say ‘hi’.

‘It’s funny, I suppose, that they are popping up now. My, how the tables have turned. But I have so many lovely memories and absolutely no regrets so I am enjoying reliving my youth through my book. It’s like time travelling back to the eighties. What a blast!’

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