Uncategorized

Midnight Oil

It will probably be no shock that I am writing an entire blog post on the band, Midnight Oil.

This band has been a part of my life for several decades. I have no connections with this bunch of musos except sheer fandom.

For the uninitiated, Midnight Oil have been a force in Australian music since the mid-seventies. Coming from Sydney, they have a unique sound and a reputation for doing incredible live shows.

I first saw them in 1981 at a University gig. They weren’t played on the radio- unless it was Double J or Triple R. They had possibly 2 albums under their belt. Their show was wall to wall sweat and mayhem-but in the best possible way. We loved them Whenever possible that year we went to see them. And it wasn’t our usual “band” thing. We didn’t fancy any of them; it wasn’t about them. It was purely about the music and the energy and the fun and the spectacle. Garrett talked, the rest of them didn’t. They were (and still are) one of the most in sync bands I’ve ever seen.

Photo Dev Mistry

Of course, they alienated many people. Too political, too punk, too loud. My father called Peter Garrett “that bald headed bastard.” Dad and Pete’s politics did not align at all. Some people thought they were too self-righteous and holier than thou. But in a time when rock bands sang about Summer Love and Highways to Hell we needed a band like Midnight Oil (whether we realised it or not)

Photo Dianne Wilson

Their politics were my politics. I admired their passion and dedication for causes. I admired how they looked after and respected their fans. I loved the fact that they rarely did interviews and never ever appeared on Countdown.

I saw them at pivotal times in my life in the following years. Two weeks before my mother died, they did a gig in South Melbourne. I dithered about to go. Mum said, ‘Go, I voted for him.’ (meaning Peter Garrett when he stood for the NDP as a Senate candidate) I went but it was bitter sweet.

Photo Dianne Wilson

I was very pregnant with my first child when I saw them in a sweatbox down in St Kilda- they’d lost none of the intensity. I liked to say that my unborn child’s first gig was Midnight Oil.

They disbanded in 2002 and I never expected to see them live again. They all went off their separate ways, got together for a couple of benefit gigs and did other projects. And then it was 2017 and announcement of The Great Circle Tour. I was beside myself with exceitment. I was devastated when I couldn’t get tickets for any of the Melbourne shows but could for Wodonga. I joined The Powder workers Facebook page and found people who were just as interested (OK, obsessed) as me.

Photo Dev Mistry

It was with great trepidation that we drove up the freeway to Wodonga. What if wasn’t the same? Nevertheless, I lined up for 5 hours for a spot(standing) at the barrier. My husband and daughter found me later crushed at the front. Once the band were onstage I was mesmerised. Everyone around me was the same. It was just sheer bloody happiness. The band had lost nothing over the years; they were as tight and committed and entertaining as ever. Yet, at the same time, as I watched them I felt they were not that far removed from the guys who used to practise in Rob Hirst’s garage in Chatswood.

Photo Dev Mistry

Ten days later I saw them again at the Myer Music Bowl as I couldn’t bear to let Wodonga be the last time. A bigger crowd and I was further back, but it was the second last show of the tour and I was ecstatic and sad. It really was the last time.

Photo Dev Mistry

 A friend of mine wrote recently about the issue of harassment at gigs. Right from those early days I always felt safe at Oils gigs. It was just a normal rock gig. But maybe it’s something to do with the intensity, the fervour the passion (that word again) and the camaraderie of fans. And I was always down the front, crushing it with most of the manic. Perhaps I’m romanticising but I don’t think so. The Oils shows were so driven and focused there was no time for crap like that. Their songs are not sexual, they’ve never written a love song unless it’s to this country. My country. Our country.

And now there’s another tour planned, though the band are a bit cagey about dates. And I’m ready. Ready for the queues, the crush and the roar as the band come onstage. They’re a bit older, a bit greyer, but their musicianship, their shows and their chemistry are quite astounding. To use a cliché ( and I must) – a band of brothers.

I can’t wait. See you at the barrier.

writing

For the love of writing

 

I’ve got writer’s block and I need to do a blog post; not a good combination. I have a few half-written things that could do the job, but I don’t like any of them enough to and press Publish. Throw into the mix the 22-week-old puppy who is as demanding as a three-year-old child, a hot day and a keen desire to do anything but write and you see my problem. Continue reading “For the love of writing”

Uncategorized · Wedding

The Wedding

Winnie told me to do it. ‘On the day, go to the Lovers Rock up on Bowen Road and touch it. It will bring you good luck, lots of children.’ She had cackled and dug me in the ribs. Taoist mumbo-jumbo hocus pocus I had thought at the time.

But for this day, my day of days when I long for my mother’s voice and the touch of her hand, touching something resembling an Earth Goddess might have to do.

Looking down to my right I see the snaking traffic on Queens Road East and the neon signs fading out. Makes no difference that it is a Sunday – every day is a working day in Hong Kong. Even the day I get married.

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Photo by Puk Patrick on Unsplash

I reach Bowen Road as it runs along to Magazine Gap Road. Incense sticks seep smoke at the small shrines that line the roadway, and old men amble along, passing the time of day as they criss-cross each others’ paths. Some men kick their legs out as they walk- dressed in the uniform of old Hong Kong men; baggy grey shorts, white singlet, and Kung Fu slippers.

Under the banyan trees in the sitting out area a group of ladies practice tai chi. One of them has brought a portable cassette player and the crash and wail of Chinese opera drown out my thoughts. Mum used to do tai chi – until she got sick.

I hit my stride, breathing deeply and get all caught up with a group of Hash House Harriers, gweilos, training for next years Trailwalker. I use them as a front-runner clipping at their heels. I envy their rise and fall, their unity and their business.

I reached Lovers Rock. I usually run the other way so have never seen it before. But I recognise it. A giant penis-shaped piece of granite covered in daubs of red paint and prayer papers. In a crevice under the rock are Chinese god ornaments arranged in a small shrine. I bend to read the sign. I am at the Home of the God of Love apparently. Nearby two women pull oranges out of a striped bag and place the oranges next to the ornaments. An old man is setting up a card table and pulls out a sign in English and Chinese reading “Fortunes told.” I am not sure what to do. Winnie hadn’t gone into detail about that. I go up the steps and pat the side of the rock. Stuck on the side of the mossy surface are fragments of incense sticks and ash. There are yellowing photos of happy couples wedged in a crevice. I wonder why they left them there.

So that’s it I think as I turn to run back. Job done. Good luck won.

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Photo by Shuja- Zed  on Unsplash

Back at the apartment, my fiancee wanders around in a bath towel.  Our flatmate offers to make me tea. I ask for a gin and tonic – a double. She understands. She is Scottish and it is my day, and if I want to drink gin at 10am -that’s fine.

Later. Out on the street. Heart pounding as we hail a cab, me clutching the last minute bouquet with the tinfoil from the florists still wrapped around.

We arrive. Remember it’s the day of all my days. The wood panel walls of City Hall smell of polish and age and privilege.  Mix in the smells of designer bags and shoes, and the new suit scent of the nervous grooms. Funny, I am noticing all this. I should be looking at him only, him across the room pacing and looking at his watch. One of the nervous grooms. He laughs at something Nick says in his too loud English accent.

My girlfriends push and pull me. Photo here. Touch up there. Smudge the lipstick here. ‘Your hair is messed up,’ says Therese. ‘Let me fix it’.  I breathe deep. I look around. I see it. A door. A room just for me. Brides Room. The sign says so in English and Chinese. The glass on the door is frosted. I imagine what’s inside. Minions. Comfortable chaise lounge. Grapes. Pedicure. Glass of champagne for the blushing bride. MTV. It will be my room and my time.

I open the door. Inside there is nothing. Just a giant powder room with royal red carpet and mirrors down one wall for the prink and the fix. No minions and no chaise lounge and no champagne. A faint whiff of old carpet and I hear the whine of the air conditioner and the distant sound outside of Nick haw-hawing.

A knock on the door.

‘Are you OK in there?’ says my beloved.  ‘I think we are up next.’ I look in the mirror and my mother’s eyes look back at me. ‘Coming,’ I say.

Epilogue

Twenty-five years later we’re in Hong Kong on holidays. Some friends still live there, others have flown in from  Auckland and London. We’re reunited for a fiftieth birthday. And on our first morning, we walk past City Hall and there are the brides and the nervous grooms just like us a quarter of a century ago. We eat dim sum at Maxims with Nick(our best man) and Tania, our Scottish flatmate, and Dominque, the birthday girl- who were our witnesses. As the dim sum carts trundle past we toast our long friendship, our looming wedding anniversary and plan the next reunion for another fiftieth birthday in two years time.

Daughters · Uncategorized

Daughters

The other day was  “Daughter’s Day”( Hashtag)and the Internet, Instagram, in particular, was full of mother-daughter father/ daughter photos in soft focus. Never knew there was a Daughter’s Day but I’ll embrace it- though probably without any photos as my two daughters shy away from posed family portraits and yell, ” Do Not Tag Us.” I respect their privacy – though they’re active on Facebook and therefore gave up all rights to privacy years ago. I wonder how folk like India Hicks, Reese Witherspoon and others who have kids the same age as mine persuade their teenagers to feature their photos on their blogs/social media. India and Reese’s persuasive powers are better than mine no doubt. Continue reading “Daughters”

soundtracks · Uncategorized

Soundtracks of our lives

 My mother’s voice and the pierce of Dad’s whistle are what I remember. Singing old Australian bush songs with Dad out in the car, songs that I  will teach to my own children decades later. Hearing my kids singing Camptown Races, The Long Long Trail and The Road to Gundagai shows the importance of the continuity of the small things and the passing down of memories from one generation to the next. Continue reading “Soundtracks of our lives”