The Hare and the Tortoise

We all know the old Aesop fable about the tortoise and the hare. I can’t help but draw a parallel with the big race looming in Australian politics.

On the one hand we have a cocky, sure-fire, plucky Mr Abbott. Fast on his feet and quick with the jabs. Behind him, taking careful steps is our off-again, on-again Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. Few would argue that it is a level playing field. The Ruddster was plopped bang into the race with a heavy handicap weighing him down – the Labor Party. And as he drags that baggage behind him toward the finishing line, Mr Abbott grins like the rabbit that got the carrot, I’ve got this one in the bag plastered across his smug mug.

But is there still time for the hare to slip up? Take his eyes off the racing track, take a nap? When it comes to sharing some concrete policy, he’s definitely stalled. Meanwhile the tortoise trudges on, taking his message to the Australian people, trying to polish the party-poo into something more palatable. He’s emphasising the new and improved, less corrupt, more disciplined Labor Party. If nothing else, Mr Rudd has a tough shell and it’s weathered some savage attacks. Can he surprise us? Can he pull a rabbit out of his hat?

The polls remind me of a tipsy slapper who changes like the wind, first all over one and then the other. She’s not all that reliable and fickle as hell. I don’t have much faith in her. Frankly I’d sooner listen to a soothsaying octopus.

But, to be honest, the Australian people by and large are fickle as well. One more major crazy sexist gaffe or a sneaky, leaked scandal and the hare might just get overtaken. The media on one side of the fence (in Murdoch’s paddock) are clearly rooting for the hare. They are ruthless in their campaign against all things tortoise. Others tentatively suggest that the race isn’t over until the seventh of September, trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else.

Most talk on the street is that Australia will let the smug hare scamper over the finishing line. It’s not like they’re terribly happy about it though. It’s just that they’ve had a gutful of turtle soup. What’s the difference between a tortoise and a turtle? Buggered if I know. Between a hare or a rabbit? One is tender and the other a bit tough and gamey? They all look the same to me.

Old Paul Keating pulled his tortoise shell over the line while John Hewson lost the seemingly unlosable race in 1993. It’s the popular storyline that is played over and over again in Hollywood films. The underdog, the Karate Kid, Rocky Balboa, the tortoise, persevering against all the odds to become the victor over the bully. It’s a theme that runs through our collective consciousness which is why we hack to death the tall poppies and root for the underdog.

Slow and steady wins the race, they say. But I do think, short of the vainglorious hare having a kip under a tree, the tortoise is going to have to move those legs a bit faster, take a short cut or just ….I don’t know….cheat. Because if the hare wins the race, I feel Australia will end up with rabbit stew on its face. Not pretty. 

Word Surfing..

I haven't written anything for a while. I tell my kids that when 'Mum's a tappin', don't come yappin'....But there has been little tapping of late.

For me, writing is like surfing. It picks me up on a wave and whooshes me toward the shore. Powerful stuff that I have little control over. But sometimes that creative sea is flat. Still. The last month or so, that has been the ocean I've been bobbing on.

But today I woke up and felt so grateful to the universe for giving me the space to wait and float until the next wave comes in. Three years ago, I was in a terrible slump and felt completely uninspired. I'd just completed a law degree and found it to be so depressing. The law. Justice. Contract Law. Land Law. Family Law which was probably the most dismal. I realised that I'd spent years of my life writing awful assignments, attending local courts, reading the most tiresome texts and it had all been for nothing because the idea of working for a law firm triggered suicidal depression. Not good. All I had ever really wanted was to write. Ever since I was a little girl and saw My Brilliant Career, I wanted to be that character , Sybylla Melvyn. She was my first heroine. I loved her spirit. Her inability to be tamed. Her dread of falling in love. She was my literary Queen Elizabeth the First. Willful. Wild. And wordy.

So early in 2010, I decided to put the law degree in the bottom drawer and put on my writer's cap. I would be a writer. It wasn't a vague possibility, it was a determined surety. I screwed my courage to that sticking place and I refused to fail.

For many years I had toyed with the idea of being a full-time writer. I'd dabbled. It was a lifetime hobby. Scribbling stories, scripts, plays, poems and sweeping romances. Crime thrillers. Historical novels. I had many in my linen cupboard. They weren't that good, really. But each one came closer to me finding my own voice.

In 2010, I found my voice. I wrote my story. The story of my wanton youth as a rock n roll groupie, fooling around with the likes of INXS and Duran Duran. I wrote of  my lofty ambition to win an Academy Award (could still happen!). It was my first tentative step and I sent it off to the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards, in the Emerging Writer category. I so desperately wanted to emerge. From domestic drudgery to the new world of the literati. (I had no idea, at that stage, how very unglittery the literary world is!) I got shortlisted. It was one of those snapshot days of my life, a moment suspended in time forever, the day I got that phone call. I didn't win but it didn't matter. It really was that honour just to be nominated!

That got my toe in the door and I soon had a literary agent. I walked around for days agent this, my agent that, it just sounded so goddamn professional and impressive. The darling girl managed to sell my book within two months which literally made me cry, big fat tears of joy. The process of editing and choosing a cover and getting endorsements and writing the acknowledgement page all felt surreal until I received my box of fresh, clean, delicious paper-smelling books in the post. More tears. It was a bucket-list moment.

It spurred me on to write and write and write. More and more. I started having my work appear in places like The Hoopla and Mamamia and ivillage, online publications that I loved reading. I was having other pieces picked up here and there and felt a childish thrill each time something got picked up. It was like fishing and it felt great. I wrote a piece for The Emerging Writer 2013 book which must be the best annual guide for writers.

And then my agent sold another of my manuscripts, only a few weeks ago, although as the ink is not yet dry on that deal, I will speak of it no more. And next week I have my first short story being published in my favourite anthology.

I've moved house and I now have a room with a view. Of the water. The perfect setting for a writer.

The muse is whispering to me and telling me that she can sense a wave on the horizon. A big one. And it's heading my way. I'm ready. Breathless. What will the next story be I wonder??

Another one bites the dust

I feel sorry for Julia Gillard today. I really do. I thought she was great and I never got why she was so unpopular. The woman put up with so much appalling behaviour from male politicians, the media and the public. She is one tough cookie, strong and unshakeable.

Her last day as Prime Minister was possibly one of her finest. She got on with the job all day and then called the ballot with such courage. In defeat she was impressive.

I also feel a little guilty for liking Kevin Rudd. Sure he's a bit of a narcissist but so am I and because I am a narcissist, I am drawn to others like me...because...well...because they are like me. I'm ruthlessly ambitious, just like Kev. And I am incredibly vengeful. I don't forget a slight and I like to balance the score card whenever I can. So I understand his resolute need to get back on top. I relate to his aching need to be wanted and needed. Yes, he has a Messiah Complex but is that such a bad thing? I want an Academy Award and to be the Australian of the Year sometime. I'm not content to be a big fish in a small pool. I want to be the biggest fish in the most ginormous ocean. If I ever did get into politics (I did study a unit at Uni called Modern Political Ideologies...I just like saying those words)....I wouldn't want to be a Minister of Whatever...I would want to be head honcho...not even Prime Minister but a self-contained Dictator.

But narcissism aside, the Labor Party was going down in flames. I think the fire was being fanned by idiots in the media and Abbott's naysaying shadow men. The rest of the world was laughing at us....we had a good strong economy, a kick-arse leader who made the boofhead blokes sit up and listen and be accountable for fanny jokes. We have great healthcare and are living the dream in Australia....and we were grumbling and whingeing about it. But, for whatever reason, the polls indicated that the election would be a complete slaughter and so...the people demanded Kevin. And here he is, back with that smile and a renewed vigour and supposed new-found humility.

I don't want to see Abbott in power ....just those two words in the same sentence fill me with dread. So I stand behind Kevin and wish him the best. He has that certain something and he has fire in his belly.

So, Julia. Good luck in the future. You are a legend. And Kevin......put on the war-paint and go Braveheart on Abbott's arse. You can do it!

Stream of Consciousness

Cold. Eight year old foot wedged between my sleeping knees. Streak of sunlight piercing the curtain. Bright but icy. Grumble of garbage trucks and a sprinkle of shattering glass into the tray. A siren squealing down Old Cleveland Road.

Up and a slide into ugggghhhh boots, shiver into a soft red robe. Shuffle to kettle for a brew of green tea and superior anti-oxidants. Wash up last night's midnight snack plates. Throw some towels into the laundry. Slam dunk. Good shot.

Check the emails. Check Facebook. Porridge with almond milk, cinnamon and cranberries.

Stirrings from slumbering sugarplums. The sound of a Nintendo DS cranking into action and a call for the Weetbix, toast and hot chocolate. The short order cook goes to work.

Today, I embrace school holidays and a week off work to scrub my house into a sparkling wonderland for soon-to-be final inspection. I am cleaning with bleach, hot soapy water and a toothbrush. No mouldy smudge will go undone. Windows. Dusty fly-screens. THE OVEN!

Too cold to garden. Wait til the sun rises high and thaws us whining Brisbanites out.

We need to locate a new copy of BATMAN Arkham City for the X-Box 360 as it broke on the first day of school holidays. Go figure.

Co-ordinate a dinner date between my adult sons in Sydney and my visiting sister and mother. Party planner from afar.

Wait for my literary agent to ring me with good news. Any news. Just news. Something shiny and new.

Begin to think about Tax. Change my mind and shove that aside to make beds.

Shopping. My mind turns to shopping and I think new woolly, toasty, cosy jumpers all round are in order. As we move closer to Antarctica it will undoubtedly grow colder. As we inch south so shall the mercury.

Seventeen sleeps and we can't wait.

Now we begin to move the junk to the garage for the impending week-end garage sale.

It's nice to have some time off to play with the kids, spring clean and unwind. No pressure to find words, weave stories or sift through facts and figures to write a stirring report. I love to write but sometimes my brain likes to take a break. Only a little one.

That's Tuesday morning so far.  

Moving House

Moving house is listed as one of the greatest stresses we can endure on all those funky stress lists that pop up from time to time. It's there alongside losing a loved one and divorce and going bankrupt. I wouldn't put it in the same ball park as losing a loved one....believe's nowhere near as bad as that...but it's bad. It's stressful. It's terrifying and a little bit exciting as well but in a really big roller coaster way.

Am I doing the right thing? I've become settled if not overly comfortable in my renovated Queenslander. It's been home for a few years now and some great things have happened to me while I have lived here. I started a new chapter, a new life here and even though the place doesn't have a bathtub (I kid you not...three toilets and showers and no bath), I'm going to miss it. The rabid possums having rave parties in the roof, the sounds of sirens along Old Cleveland Road, the neighbours in the unit block next, I can't back that, you neighbours, I shall miss you the least.

But life is change and growth and my ever shrinking family has outgrown this little place. We seek new digs and a bathtub  (and there is the little matter of having to relocate for work).

The first thing I did was give official notice here on my rental house. That was setting the destination. A date. Next I chose an actual destination. That much must remain a secret because I like to keep my whereabouts to myself. I can say I am seeking water and proximity to good schools and wonderful friends. Closer to my work ...and closer to those I will be writing about.

I booked a removalist and that brought out the paranoid neurotic in me. I was sure every place was out to get me...a scam, a Nigerian scheme set up in Brisbane solely to steal my hefty deposit. Needless to say, I think I have ended up with someone reputable. Do you know that removalists charge about ten dollars a book....or so it seems...? My library rivals the Brisbane State library and I have had to be ruthless and discard stupid books that do no more than fill shelves...did I say Dan Brown? No I didn't but he's not going to take up space in a box, nevertheless. I have sent bags and bags to Lifeline and will be throwing a wing-ding garage sale and Woody and Buzz will be up for grabs. Sorry guys.

My greatest obstacle to date is finding a nice Property Manager who will help me find exactly what I'm looking for. Luckily they do exist and yet so many are ...well...I don't really know because they don't answer emails, queries or their phone calls. They are elusive and very hard to pin down. However...two of many have been bending over backwards to help me out. They understand the difficulty I face in moving while working and juggling career and motherhood and packing and organising etc....I am so busy I had to pay a stranger (friend of friend of friend) to inspect a property for me because it would have been easier for me to get to Timbuktoo than to the designated inspection time. God Bless him for doing it. I work. To pay rent. So it's hard to take time off to inspect a place and still convey the idea that I have a good work ethic! I tell you.. this process is harder than juggling cats.

I haven't found what I'm looking for yet....I pray that the right place is waiting for me and will pop up just as I need it. But I tell you, the whole ordeal of moving,  is STRESSFUL!

My plan is to buy a cottage by the sea in a few years and then this rental rigmarole will be a thing of the past.

I tried to do some meditation to an Indian CD I have this morning and the man singing annoyed me so much I frisbeed the thing across the room.

You know what I need? A deep soothing bubble bath! But I can't because this blasted place doesn't have a bath. Thank God I'm moving! No bath! Honestly!

The Emerging Writer 2013

Well it's that time of year again...when the fabulous Emerging Writers Festival publishes an anthology of articles and essays by writers for emerging writers. This year's book is filled with great ideas for all kinds of writers. Learn about the bread and butter stuff like negotiating contracts and how to get paid writing gigs, to the more whimsical stuff like how to catch that wave of inspiration and how to deal with writer's block. And this year, there I am writing alongside the great and powerful likes of John Birmingham, Alice Pung,  Shaun Tan and Charlotte Wood....

I was really chuffed to be included in this year's collection and wrote a piece entitled The Memoir: Inside and Out. The editor, a fine fellow who goes by the name of Andre Dao, was kind enough to let me share this extract from my contribution....I drew on the experiences and recollections of fellow memoirists Benjamin Law and Kate Holden to bolster my argument that it is a pitfall of writing memoir that you can unwittingly become more readily identified with the character of your book (your younger more foolish self) rather than the writer, the mind behind the pen.

The book is a must have for anyone wanting to take the leap and become that elusive and often misunderstood creature - the author.

Click here for the opening snippet of my piece as a teaser.....

Here's a link to the book. Buy it. Go on.

Customer Service - TELSTRA spreading the love........

You know, it's all about customer service. If you are in business and you don't understand that, you're doomed. I have been arsed about by phone services, utility companies, government departments, video-stores, take-away joints and I've almost never been impressed with the limp, stale rehearsed rubbish conversations the people on the end of the line have with me. In person, it's even worse. The snail-lazy waitress, the gossipy sales assistant, the interminably bright-looking but vacuous staff at mobile phone outlets...

I have so often wanted to bang their heads together, screaming 'the customer is always right. I am always right. You are a moron...and I know because I'm the customer and I'm always right! Got it?' 

I don't expect much. Just prompt attention, a smile and maybe some glimmer of understanding that I am an individual with individual needs. If you can't answer my question, try harder or find someone in your godforsaken business that can! Look me in the eye. Don't chew gum. Don't ever look at your watch while talking to me and if you answer your i-phone during our interaction I will seriously consider beating you to death with it.

And then, tonight, I was bowled over by the most over-the-top attention from a Telstra customer service operator. I'll say that again. A TELSTRA CUSTOMER SERVICE OPERATOR!

First up he greeted me with that tell-tale honky Californian accent with just a spicy flavour of something more exotic. He sounded like a cross between Brad Pitt, George Clooney and that kid in Slumdog Millionaire. It was a tantalising mix. He asked me how my day had been and then started complaining that his computer was far slower than the human brain. He was funny and had me in stitches. A Telstra consultant with a sense of humour, who would have thought!

I was momentarily tongue-tied. And then after continuing on to have a hilarious conversation about the human brain and how it is no match for technology....we got around to my query. He then talked me through the whole process of what he was doing, talking to himself but including me - 'I scroll down, press enter, screen....option....scroll down and press...yes...very good'. It was weird and entertaining and made me feel like I was right there in New Delhi, sitting on his lap! And here's the rub....he kept calling me 'Love' with a lilting, lingering rumble that made my belly turn.

He was so attentive, I felt that he had taken the job with Telstra just so he could talk to me tonight. He made me feel that important.

To top it all off...when we ended our business, I thanked him for being so very helpful and he said.

'Thank-you Miss, love you!' LOVE YOU!

And that was that. We will probably never meet again. It was like a Hollywood movie.

I went on to do the telephone survey that Telstra offers after a customer service call and I gave the call a big fat ten out of ten and when given a space to say something...I raved about the operator....maybe a little bit too much.

But Telstra has in the past been one of the most annoying services to deal with on the phone. This one little bright spark....lit up the entire company's reputation in my eyes.

It made me smile, giggle and share the story on social media.

Customer service, done well, can be amazing!!!

Me masquerading as Gwyneth Paltrow recently in the media Gwyneth Paltrow has been named both the most annoying celebrity and the most gorgeous. While that sounds isn't really. We find her annoying because she is so gorgeous and ....well....perfect.

She is tall and lean, not a skerrick of body fat, she's married to a cute and successful rock star, she has one shiny boy and one shiny girl, with cute names like, Moses and Apple. Gwyneth, of the whimsical name, eats organic, exotic super-foods like quinoa and agave syrup and ground cashew spread. She has a brilliant career as a movie star and still finds time to give her children foot massages before bed. She cooks and has her own successful line of cook-books, she has a snappy blog (GOOP) and she works out for two hours a day. She's the epitome of the woman who 'has it all'.

So last week I decided to quit gazing at Gwen from afar with my jaw hanging open. No more reading about the superwoman and staring at her impossible figure/skin/cheekbones/glossy hair etc. I decided to BE Gwyneth Paltrow. After all, if you are going to emulate a celebrity, why not go for one who might just be the most perfect mother, actress, chef, gym work-outerer...bla, bla, bla...

First up, I dyed my hair blonde. Going straight from dark brown, that might not have been the best idea. I am currently sporting some kind of fruit-bat orange mop...but it's a work in progress.

I estimate that I need to lose ten kilos to be at my absolute prime weight. The GP diet is actually scrumptious. I start my days with a green smoothie....carrot, celery, apple, cucumber, ginger and a good sized helping of spirulina and wheat grass mixed in. Lunch is grilled salmon and a salad of lettuce mix, grated beetroot and carrot, cherry tomatoes, avocado, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, dulse seaweed and crushed walnuts, drizzled with organic olive oil and a clove of raw garlic. Dinner is a quinoa extravaganza with an array of unpronouncable exotic vegetables. I drink coconut water and green tea and take supplements of Ginseng, chromium and Bitter Melon.

I bought a Tracy Anderson work-out DVD (GP's personal trainer) and I swear this woman is a sadistic maniac. The work-out is torturous but I get through it every day and feel better for it. I go for a forty minute walk every morning.

I've been  meditating and devoting more time to my own little kids...homework. doing some art and craft and all that Mumsy stuff.

I have spring-cleaned the house and organised myself a little better. I have been working on a new novel.

I am living the dream.

One week down...I'm feeling cleaner and more out Gwyneth ...I'm on your tail...

Tomorrow...I ramp up the blonde to the next level and add an extra kilo to my hand weights...I've shaved off two kilos already and for all those knockers of the big GP...I say...use her as an inspiration to improve your role models could do a lot worse.

The Good Die Young

I grew up in a haze of rock and roll. The eighties were my time to kick butt and if I am honest, part of me is still trapped in that decade. My gaudy fashion sense and big hair still linger much to the consternation of my adult sons. I never really got 'grunge' or the boy band thing that pumped and pounced through the nineties and since then I don't know what's going on. Bieber and One Direction? I fear we've done a back-flip and landed in the late seventies of Leif Garrett and Sean Cassidy! God help us!

Ageing happens to us all and we all hear from the elderly that they really begin to feel their age when their peers start dropping like flies. Well, having spent my most formative adult years in the Australian pub rock scene, I am beginning to feel that tap on the shoulder that says.....closer, nearer....sooner.

Yesterday we said good-bye to Chrissy Amphlett, a rock goddess who sprang up in the eighties and shone right till the end. She was only fifty-three and was felled by breast cancer and ravaged by MS. To be honest, like the words of her band's iconic song - 'The Good Die Young,' it's a rock and roll curse to leave this world prematurely. Just like professional boxers tend to become punch drunk and check out early, musicians and those living the rock life-style tend to live faster than others and run out of time sooner. Same amount of life but packed into a smaller span of years.

If I'd been sensible and become a school teacher, I doubt I would have buried so many of my peers by the age of forty-seven. Over the years I've seen some roadie friends killed on the road, casualties of touring, fareweled Guy McDonough and Brad Robinson from Australian Crawl. Twenty-nine and thirty-eight years respectively; Steve Gilpin from Mi-Sex, aged forty-two; Marc Hunter, Dragon, forty-four; Shirley Straughn, Skyhooks, forty-nine; Michael Hutchence, INXS, thirty-seven; Harvey James, Sherbert,  fifty-eight, Paul Hester, Crowded House, forty-six; James Freud, The Models, fifty-one; Steve Prestwich, Cold Chisel, fifty-six. Chris Bailey, The Angels, sixty-two.

Then there were those whose paths I never crossed - Elvis Presley, forty-two, Bon Scott, AC/DC, thirty-four; Jeff Buckley, thirty and all those in the 27 Club, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and many more.

A rock and roll life is a life of power and passion, pleasure and pain. It's glows incandescently but burns so bright all too briefly.

See you later, Chrissy Amphlett. You were a hell of a girl and I was honoured to have stomped beside you, ever so briefly.

Kill the Fat-Cats

On April 15th, new contributor to the Menzies House beat, Toby Ralph, penned a satirical piece entitled ‘Kill the Poor.’ It was an ironic response to the Labour government’s push to tax the superannuation of the ‘fabulously rich.’

 As someone who has been not-so-fabulously poor, I’d like to level the playing field with a little bit of good-humoured sparring and poke Toby in the eye with a little satirical slap-stick myself.

Mind you, I wasn’t offended by his hilarious idea that we ‘cull’ the most marginalised of our society. You see, doing time in the trenches might not pay the bills but it imbues one with a very thick skin.

Mr Ralph’s inspiration came from an essay written in 1729 by Jonathon Swift who suggested (with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek) that the poor Irish should improve their condition by selling their children to the rich for food.

So as the ‘fabulously rich’ are singing ‘Let them eat cake,’ while plotting ways to do away with us, we, the riff-raff, the plods, who drain the system and put nothing back (except hard labour and our chimney-sweep swathes of children)  are chanting ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity,’ while we sharpen the blades on our guillotines.

Toby Ralph described those who would be taxed in the superannuation sting as being ‘mugged.’ Hello? When was the last time a fat-cat got mugged? They swan about in chauffeur driven cars and don’t make a habit of walking down dim alley-ways (unless they’re on their way to a brothel with the company credit card).

When Ralph talks of the meagre contribution by the working and under classes, he trivializes the unpaid labour and ground roots work that goes in to running this country. We may not fill the coffers with huge political party bribes, I mean donations, but we hand over our hard-earned cash to charity whenever our communities are hit by floods and fires and we donate of ‘ourselves’. Priceless.

Toby, you speak of the dispensable ‘indolent students, hapless single mothers, lower order drug dealers, social workers, performance artists, Greenpeace supporters and those employed in the heavily subsidised manufacturing industries.’ But in the real world outside of fat-cat Disneyland, things would get mightily messed up if you nuked this lot.

Fat-cats listen up! Your nannies and housekeepers would be gone and you’d have to figure out how to change a diaper and plug the vacuum in. The kindergartens would all be shut because the workers who wipe your kid’s butts and teach them how to play nicely would all be gone.

The environment would go to hell because you’d have no Greenies to regulate and monitor your frenzied bingeing on natural resources.

Your social workers would be gone? Really? And all those nasty drug dealers? Where would all the Dapper Dan’s get their weekend fix of cocaine? You’re just as likely to find a hopeless drunk or drug addict on a board of directors as you are in the Rooty Hill RSL. Only the quality differs.

Indolent students? If you wipe out the lazy students or those borrowing against the government financial loan scheme, you’ll have to shut the universities.

The hapless single mothers? One of ‘them’ raised Barrack Obama. Maybe you’ve also heard of J.K Rowling?

 And without performance artists, you big dill, Canberra would be empty!

The benefits of wiping out the plebs as you suggest, include - traffic moving faster due to lack of windscreen cleaners and grand opportunities to turn homeless shelters into inner city wine bars. Sounds like a plan! But who’d serve you?

Hospital waiting lists would plunge, you say. Unlikely because all those underpaid shift-working nurses would be gone and frankly, they do most of the work in the hospital system. You’d be cleaning your own bed-pans and dressing your own wounds while getting your jowls cosmetically tightened.

With such arrogant wit you suggest the ‘remains’ of your dead poor-folk could be recycled into premium dog food or blood and bone to fertilize the new National Parks which will flourish over abandoned housing estates.

As someone who has wiped the tears from my son’s eyes after he was bullied by a barrister’s son at the local skate-park for being a ‘houso’, I’m not offended. No, not at all. That barrister has been struck off the register now and his son’s in jail for murder and frankly, I wouldn’t eat a biscuit made out of either of them if I was starving on the street.

Our kids, at least, are free-range, while yours are brought up in the unnatural light of privilege and short-sighted elitism.

Here’s the rub. Don’t worry about your big fat nest egg. You don’t live any longer than the rest of us and you’ll rot in the ground beside us.

You’ll just be leaving it to your kids who probably see you as little more than an easy inheritance (which they’ll indubitably squander). Bear in mind that while you’re fantasizing about eliminating poor people, you’re kids are probably dreaming of eliminating you.

So, as an alternative, I suggest we kill you facetious fat-cats. The dreaded superannuation tax might mean you’ve got to sell the second beach house or cut back to only one overseas trips a year. The horror. So let us put you out of your misery. We’ll use our hammers and sickles to take you down.

Your limousines will then be employed to deliver groceries to the house-bound elderly. We’ll transform your mansions into rehabilitation centres and comfortable shelters for the homeless. Your trust accounts and super can provide extra support for single parents and their children and set up more facilities for those challenged by mental illness and disabilities.

And without all you pompous elite, we’ll be able to welcome more battlers to our shores. Instead of setting them up in barbed wire prisons we can treat them to your holiday resorts in the Whitsundays and put your juicy shrimps on the barbie for them, with crates of VB to wash them down.  

So take heed. Apparently it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

 I’d really enjoy seeing a fat-cat try to squeeze through a needle.

Oh, but that’s clearly just daft.

Nikki McWatters has at various times been an indolent student, a hapless single mother, a Greenpeace supporter, a social worker, a performance artist, a lower order drug dealer and she has worked in ground-floor manufacturing. She has not to date, killed anyone, rich or poor.

Full of piss and bad manners.....

I am sick to the stomach this morning and the causative agent is not a meal of spoiled seafood or badly cooked chicken, but the unfolding daily horror that I am reading in the newspapers about the Coronial Inquest into the brutal murders of Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans that occurred nearly forty years ago. The two young  nurses went missing after setting off, hitch-hiking, from Camp Hill in Brisbane en route to Goondiwindi. Their remains were found, two years later, and showed that they had been violently battered and bound, in a lonely paddock in Murphy’s Creek at the bottom of the Dividing Range below Toowoomba.

In 1974 I was eight years old and making regular trips with my parents past that spot to the Darling Downs to visit my grandparents.  I now live in Camp Hill, the last place the girls were seen, officially alive. The scenery, if not the tale,  is all too familiar to me.

The unfolding horror-story tells of a violent misogynist culture operating as a dirty undercurrent in the region of Toowoomba in the seventies. The appalling lack of intelligence-gathering and follow-up of significant evidence during the initial investigation by the police appears to have been so shoddy that it was little more than useless.

There was a well-known group of men around Toowoomba at the time who were infamous for their weekly hunts when they would cruise about Ruthven Street looking for girls to tumble into the car or boot and then they’d drive to a paddock to give them a good ‘hiding’.  Many locals knew of this. One younger brother of the gang recalled in the Coroner’s Court, that he had sat on a log witnessing about ten blokes ‘making love’ to two women until his brother knocked him senseless during a brawl for asking what he was doing.  The younger brother was ten at the time and his own parents were present.


The 1970’s were a bad time to be a woman in rural Australia. Unless you are a woman, you cannot begin to understand how horrifying it feels to know that  you might be considered fair game or ‘prey’. I recently watched a documentary on the endemic rape and abduction of Indigenous women by the Tasmanian sealers during the nineteenth century and was appalled at the primal, animalistic attitude those men had toward the native women and their families and culture. I am further sickened to read that men were still doing this for sport in the seventies in my own back-yard, four years after the world welcomed Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch.

Witnesses collectively saw two women ‘gang-banged’, beaten, strangled, dragged screaming into cars, begging for help and actually having their wrists bound. Some came forward with their information a day or so later, some not until the missing girls made the headlines, some not for many, many years. A few reported being too scared and others ‘didn’t want to get involved’. One witness explained that she and her husband had dismissed it as ‘a domestic’ (as if that somehow lessened the crime). There were so many witnesses it makes me hyperventilate with disbelief.

Those terrified girls were seen alive by so many in the hours before they had their skulls hammered to pieces. At someone’s back door, on a roadside, in a paddock. With raw and visceral fear, they begged for assistance. Not one person came to their aid. It seems the menace of the men and the stench of their blood-lust was too much of a threat to their own safety for the witnesses to come to the rescue or summon immediate police reinforcement.  That was forty years ago and justice delayed is justice denied.
Marauding men hunting women for sport sounds so foreign and archaic to me, an educated woman who has been brought up to believe in gender equality and mutual respect for my brothers and sisters in society, that it makes me wonder how far we have really evolved since the flesh-tearing sports of the Colosseum and the town-square entertainment of witch-burning. The idea of monsters in the dark is not just a Gothic fairytale.

The hunters are still out there, some on those same dark country roads, others at home with their families. Some dead. Some still alive.

The most telling and tragic thing that struck me from this latest, belated and long overdue inquest into the murder of the eighteen and twenty year old girls, was that the ‘persons of interest’,  were known to drive their Holdens up and down the streets of Toowoomba and the surrounds picking off girls to give a ‘hiding to.’  Everyone knew -  that’s just what those men did. Regularly. Routinely. One has already admitted this behaviour during the inquest, while strenuously denying any guilt in the double murder. Where were the police in this lawless Wild West nightmare? Really! Where were they?

When Wayne Hilton (now deceased)  allegedly confessed his part in the murders to his boss decades ago, his only excuse had been that they’d just been lads ‘too full of piss and bad manners.’ He boasted so often of his involvement while downing beer at the pub that it had become local folklore. Just piss and bad manners.

Not saying please and thank-you is bad manners. Slobbering down the phone to an old friend is being too full of piss. Hunting women, bashing women, tying women to trees and raping women, strangling women, abducting women, torturing women, slaughtering women. These are the actions of vile animals not blokes with too much beer in their bellies who ain’t been taught proper manners like….

If you’d stumbled across those horrific scenes on the side a dark road in 1974 or now– what would you have done? Is fear for our own safety or the discomfort of involvement actually a form of complacency which makes us morally complicit?

The inquest continues.

Vote ME for Prime Minister

Today’s essay task, boys and girls, is to tell us why you would make a good Prime Minister of Australia. As you may have noticed, the grown-ups are making a mess of it.

I’ve always toyed with the idea of going into politics. It’s not because I want to be the change I want to see in the world; it’s not because I’m overly concerned with human rights or environmental issues, it’s mainly because I’m an egocentric attention seeker and I like the idea of wielding a little power. It’s a feminist version of wanting to be a princess.

This would work well because I would be comfortable in the spotlight and Prime Ministers are always on the front page for one thing or another.

I have a law degree in my bottom drawer but have never practiced law, so I have the knowledge but also the intact integrity to understand the gobbledegook that goes on in parliament without trying to corrupt it.  

I’ve got a sense of humour and can laugh at myself. Ruddy and Hawke are the only ones that spring to mind here and the people loved that. A good Prime Minister should be a little bit of a stand-up comedian too. Tony Abbott is of course very funny, but he doesn’t mean to be which makes our laughter feel just a little bit cruel.

I don’t wear high heels. All flats. No danger of face planting in front of the media…(unless I’ve had a long lunch with Hawkey.)

I know what it’s like to be poor. I have lived in the housing commission house, I have eaten dry rice bubbles for days. I’ve had my electricity, gas and phone disconnected. I’m in touch with the battlers. I was also a housekeeper at Kerry Packer’s mansion so I can relate to people across the spectrum.

I’m a control freak who likes to talk.

I have already aired all my dirty laundry in a kiss-and-tell memoir so there’s no point looking for skeletons in my closet because I wear them unashamedly.

My husband is a school teacher so I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the public education system.

I have been a drug addict and can confidently say that prohibition and criminalization of addiction is counterproductive and just plain wrong.

 I’ve been a struggling single mum and know how deeply the recent welfare cuts are affecting the backbone of our society so I’d not only reinstate the single parent pension as it was, I’ll throw in a few more bonuses.

I’m not homophobic and support gay marriage. Some of my best friends….you know how it goes.

I do believe that every time someone says they don’t believe in global warming, a gorgeous little hippy dies. I lived in Nimbin for a while. I like hippies and global warming gives me nightmares.

I would put up a family of boat people in the guest wing of The Lodge. I’d treat them like human beings. Give them a hug, a blanket and a cup of tea. I would close the Auschwitz refugee camps, dismantle them and build memorial gardens instead to commemorate all the beautiful souls that got stomped on there.

I’d clean up the violent, bullying, raping, murdering police force. (And that cop who severed Domadgee’s liver by accidentally falling on him….I’d see you get something for that…you know who you are.)

I’d tell the fat cat miners to play nice and put something back into this country instead of just bleeding her dry.

I’d make Clive Palmer’s Titanic my preferred method of visiting coastal towns and cities and have a camel caravan for interior tours. Kind of like Gaddafi without all the murdering.

I’d appoint Kylie Minogue as my foreign minister, James Packer as my Treasurer….NOT! perhaps Gina…she knows how to turn a buck, could be my Minister for Broadband and all things internet, Minister for Families etc could be Steve Biddulph because he seems to know all about that sort of thing. Minister for Education – my husband….and the rest are open to the highest bidder.

I’d stop giving money to Private schools and pour it into the public system. I’d make free breakfasts a compulsory part of every school in Australia.

I’d sack the Royal Family. I’ll be the Queen of this country (symbolically speaking of course).

I’d make politics a bit more exciting. More party in the party. Spice it up. Take a leaf out of the old Roman Emperor’s books. Toga parties, feasts and banquets, some gladiatorial good fun. First spectacular spectacular could be ‘Abbott and the Lions’.

I’m already having so much fun…pick me, pick me!  

The shallow end of the political pool......

It’s on everyone’s lips. Kevin or Julia? Malcolm or Tony? Politics, and in particular, the election, is the talk of the town. Opinion pieces on the matter are flying about with everyone waving a different viewpoint or recommendation. Replace Julia. Leave her there. Oh, God the horror of having the mad monk as our leader. There’s chitter chatter about the failure of the mining tax, the death of the Labor-Greens alliance and the other stuff about boat people and taxes and what-not and something about the House of Representatives. But to tell you the truth what matters far more is what Julia wears, who can crack the funnier jokes and who can come up with the most sugar-coated bribes for the punters.

You see, the greatest mass of voters don’t give a toss about fat-cat miners except to watch the bitching in the Rinehart Dynasty that plays out like a soap opera. The Greens issue means little to many. I asked a friend, a relatively intelligent professional, what they thought of the disintegration of  the Greens-Labor alliance and the response was ‘I guess Julia isn’t saving enough trees’?!!

Political policy, of course, affects every Australian, from their education to their personal freedom to their wallets. But the ultimate choice about who wears the Grand Pooh-bah Hat actually revolves more around who was wittier on The Project last night or who was seen in mufti chowing down on snags at the Baby Bloggers barbie.

What Julia wears does matter. Because at the grass roots level, over lattes or beers, that’s what your average Joes and Joannes are talking about. Is Julia’s handbag gay? Is she gay? Who hooks up with a male hairdresser….except other male hairdressers? Let’s talk about what Tony’s hiding in his budgie smugglers. Oh, maybe it was cold. That Malcolm Turnbull is kind of cute and filthy rich. Did you see that picture of Kevin with his grand-daughter? OMG, so cute. His daughter writes kids books. Really? And his wife is filthy, and I mean, filthy rich. Hasn’t Kev got an endearing giggle? He’s a bit arrogant though. A bit? Is Julia wearing that bloody jacket again? It’s not her arse she needs to worry about but her shoes. Did you see her face-plant? OMG.

This is how it goes and these people put their ballot paper where their mouth is.

People, everywhere, love drama, love scandal, love gossip and adore celebrity. This has never been more true than right now. We live in a glossy magazine where Princess Kate’s tits are big news and something, something, something about boat people.

We are sheep and if the polls say Labor is trailing badly, we believe it is and fear going renegade and swimming against the flow. And if Sharon and Bill and what’s-his-face are voting for Tony, then perhaps we should because Bill’s got a University degree….so he’d know.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, political policy and reforms mean jack diddly squat unless it’s right in our face. The scrapping of the single parent pension after the youngest kid turns seven or eight or whatever it is….that is a wake-up call to people who might otherwise have been oblivious to the change. Less money in the pocket every week hurts but when people find the Clean Energy bonus in their bank accounts, they’re smiling again. Votes lost. Votes won.

I still call the end-of-financial-year Family Tax A bonus…the Johnny Howard money. When Kev handed out all that play money to people to avert the GFC melt-down, I did something I’d never done before. I bought him a thank-you card and sent it to Canberra. It is this and Kev’s appearances on Rove that make me love him still (and he lives around the corner and poses for photos with my son who calls him the Milky Bar kid).
I like Malcolm because he’s so dashing and speaks well and he is rich. I like Julia because she’s a fiery red-head and she’s clever and funny. And she looks good in a pair of specs. Tony’s funny too, but he doesn’t mean to be, which makes him even funnier. I’m reading ‘Tony Speaks’ at the moment. It’s truly hilarious.

Mining tax, schmining tax. At the end of the day it is a popularity test and whoever hands out the most lollies and jokes wins. Obama giving his first lady a smoochy kiss does more for his ratings than anything done in Congress and let’s face it your average citizen only remembers Bob Hawke for the beer, Paul Keating for the dapper suits and Gough for getting sacked for….something.

It’s riveting theatre. So who will take out the Political Oscar, I wonder, and what will they be wearing on the electoral red carpet? Yeah, yeah, I’m shallow but I’m swimming in an awfully large pool.

Tributes and Covers

I have a book out on book shelves called 'One Way or Another - the story of a girl who loved rock-stars' and now those bubbly, gorgeous little 'One Direction' boys have recorded a song with the same title. Never have I felt so worshiped and adored.

Oh, that's's not my title but the title of a Blondie song from the seventies.

I borrowed it (there is no copyright on titles) because the lyrics summed up my voracious obsession, (a focus in one direction only, you might say)  to collect rock-star lovers ......while the world's current most scream-worthy boy band are actually 'covering' Blondie's old hit. Yep, breaking news. They really are!!

That brings me to tributes and covers. Most bands cut their teeth playing popular covers in dingy pubs while barflies and yobbos warble drunkenly along.

Covers have their place. Done well, they are a great tribute to the original song-writer and/or artist. Done badly....they can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

A girls' night out is always a top idea for a tribute band because after a gallon of Chardonnay they'll think you ARE the original band...

When I picked up my first guitar, I jumped straight in and began composing my own songs. My family promptly bought me a handful of sheet music to popular tunes and suggested I start by playing something familiar. So I strummed out the chords to 'Streets of London' and a host of Neil Diamond numbers. My pocket money went on 'Choir Girl' by Cold Chisel which I learned to play on the piano....

The boys at school tried to assemble bands which were tributes to KISS, Rolling Stones, Van Halen and The Doors. Some were awful but some made us feel that we were experiencing a pseudo live concert by the bands we worshiped.

Cover songs!

Some artists can pull it off with aplomb - Tom Jones with Prince's 'Kiss.' The Foo Fighters with Prince's 'Darling Nikki' (bias there!). Prince is clearly one artist whose work manages to contort into many shapes and styles.

But Madonna did not pull off 'American Pie' and Michael Bolton's 'Dock of the Bay' was electric-chair bad.  'Feel like Making Love,' by Kid Rock??? Making love...that's f#@@ing. ridiculous....there was no buying that one. Kid Rock makes ever said!

But what of covers by famous artists? It's one thing for garage bands and play-for-drinks pub bands to regurgitate the rock and roll classics, but when you become a successful artist in your own right, is it just a bit lazy to churn out another artist's hit (guaranteed $$$$)? If it worked once, it'll work again. In theory that's how it works.

Unfortunately my sneaky pilfering of a title did not see my book enjoy quite the same success as Blondie's original tune but hey.... with One Direction on board - we're talking about a whole new generation of kids to be exposed to this incredibly cool song. You cannot help but dance up and down on the spot while screaming the lyrics at the top of your voice....even in a supermarket aisle as the radio spills overhead from covert speakers (as I have done....recently).

I was once asked in an interview who was the 'best' rock star lover I ever had and I (jokingly) said Harry from 'One Direction'. I mean, of course I was joking....I'm a middle aged woman...old enough to be his mother (or really big sister) .....I'm not even sure I'd know him if I fell over him in the street!

....but I am seriously going to tell my nine year old daughter that her favourite band 'One Direction' have just put out a song describing how they desperately want to meet the author of the BOOK - 'One Way or Another'.....ME! Call it poetic license. It'll make her day.

'One way, or another, I 'm gonna getcha, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha....'

I can't wait to hear this new version to see how the boy-wonders pull it off!!!!

Back to school

Is it just me or are the summer school holidays wayyyyyyyyyyy toooooooooo loooooooong?

I love my kids. They are funny and cuddly and curious and smart. But after just over six weeks or so they really do begin to get under your skin. The bickering. The boredom. The relentless barrage of questions. Unless you have a bottomless wallet or live near the beach it is hard to keep the little darlings entertained in the manner that they demand. There are only so many trite Hollywood cartoon flicks that I can sit through without gagging. I don't do theme parks. EVER! The museum was okay for fifteen gallery was good until 'someone' reached out to touch the Picasso and then security all but popped us on the spot!

We read so many books. For the record, I hate Zac Power and his little spy gadgets. Richard Newsome's 'Billionaire's Curse' and follow up books were a much more entertaining choice and I'm not just saying that because he's an old mate....oh was a little nepotistic product placement. We've watched so many DVD's. How excellent are those new oovie Hoyts kiosk DVD machines? I have one 100 metres from my front door. It has become a sacred place.

We had a couple of days grace with holidays at Nan's Surfers Paradise home. We survived the great Christmas debacle without too much grief. One birthday. New Year's Eve. Spanish family guests. A heat-wave and floods. When the seven year old suggested he might enjoy 'home-schooling', I threatened to wash his mouth out with soap!!

But watching the little critters in their freshly pressed green uniforms, filing out the door with a boot load full of crisp new books and marker pens and pencil cases and glue sticks....made my heart sing.

Ten weeks before the next holidays. I am spoiling myself with a day in bed today, being waited on by my personal Barista Extraordianire....the barista is a multi-tasker who has just done the washing up, made the beds and tackled two loads of laundry...Perhaps my slave expects to get lucky....well the kids are out of the house and we have the place to ourselves.....

I really am glad the school holidays are over. Like, really, really, really glad.

Australia Day

I'm a little uncomfortable about leaping head-first into Australia Day celebrations because ....let's face it' not only marks the day the whities landed on solid ground but also the day that the black fellas had their sacred ground invaded. Life only got better and better for those early colonists, while our Aboriginal hosts have seen a serious deterioration of quality of life. It might be more culturally sensitive to move Australia Day to the second Monday in March which commemorates Commonwealth Day and then at some time in the not too distant future we might be able to have our own Independence Day after becoming a republic.

Most of us in this country came from somewhere else. We all started out as boat people. Australia is a nation of tourists who put down their bags and decided to stay. And why wouldn't you want to? It's a pretty fantastic place. Best beaches in the world. The Barrier Reef. Great waterways and sweeping, majestic deserts. Sunsets of fire. A climate that feels like your favourite, most comfortable jacket.

We are a laid back, relaxed and peaceful mob. Perhaps a little too apathetic sometimes but that's better than being a nation of hot-headed, aggro, gun-toting maniacs. We drink too much beer and eat too many pies. None of us gives much of a damn about politics. Our leader is a feisty red-head. We came up with "Neighbours' and gave the world Kylie Minogue, INXS  and Mel Gibson. We have more deadly creatures than Africa and some really weird critters such as the platypus. We're either flooding or on fire.

But it has to be one of the best countries to be born in these days and I'm grateful for that. My children have a good life in the land of OZ. Good public schools, Medicare which provides free health services,. Did I mention the beaches?? Bondi. Bronte and Byron Bay. Sydney is a sexy city. Tasmania has some incredible forests. Kakadu National Park is like visiting another planet.

Improvements to my mind would be - a new flag, a farewell to the royal family (although I do have a thing for  Prince Harry),   more compassion toward the refugees arriving in boats, more tolerance and support for the most disadvantaged members of society (although our welfare system does beat the pants off most other Western nations). We should embrace gay marriage and stamp out the racism and sexism that is still way too prevalent.

Today...I shall crack open a beer and eat a Skippy the bush kangaroo burger. Nobody really puts shrimps on a barbie...we don't even know what shrimps we call them prawns.

I'll put some Cold Chisel on the music box and enjoy the sound of heavy rain in the background.

I'll raise a toast to some super Aussies who have moved on - Steve Irwin, Bob Barrett, Victor Chang, Slim Dusty, Michael Hutchence, Barnum Barnum, Peter Allen, Bryce Courtney and 2/3 of The BeeGees.

Safe Australia Day but remember it was also Invasion Day....

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