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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