Last night as I stood on the land of the Gadigal clan of the Eora nation cheering AB Original on stage as the opening act for Midnight Oil’s homecoming, I realised that we’ve come quite a way from the 1980s. I first saw Midnight Oil live when I was 16 years old and they changed the way I viewed the world.
They may be white boys from the white bread northern beaches of Sydney but in the early 80s for many of us white bread teens from the suburbs they were our introduction to what was actually happening to indigenous Australians. I learnt nothing of Aboriginal culture at school, I was only taught about the white invaders. So many of us had no idea of the atrocities and abuse committed by white governments and their White Australia policy; Midnight Oil opened our eyes to what was actually happening. The Oils were writing Australian songs and telling our stories and I’d never heard anything like it.
And those biceps. I will never forget standing near the stage at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and watching Rob Hirst drumming. Uh oh! My first musician crush, setting myself up for a lifetime of being attracted to players. Sigh.
Last night, as we waited for Midnight Oil in the shadow of the glowing Deutsche Bank sign, I thought of how the Oils have sung about many big companies that have raped our planet, and how we need protest music more than ever. When they played Blue Sky Mine I thought of the hideous she-devil Bishop defending James Hardie and making a dying Bernie Banton wait for compensation. This year she was briefly our Acting Prime Minister.
As the crowd roared from the opening bars of Armistice Day, I thought there is nowhere else I’d rather be right now. When Peter Garrett spoke of stopping the giant Carmichael mine and the carnage that Adani could bring to the Great Barrier Reef, one idiot in the crowd behind said,
“Shut up and play the music.” Only a moron comes to a Midnight Oil gig and demands that politics aren’t mentioned. Before I had a chance to tell him to go home and listen to Kylie Minogue, the band came back with more raw, punching rawk:
I see buildings, clothing the sky, in paradise
Sydney, nights are warm
Daytime telly, blue rinse dawn
Dad’s so bad he lives in the pub, it’s underarms and football clubs
Flat chat, Pine Gap, in every home a Big Mac
And no one goes outback, that’s that
You take what you get and get what you please
It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees
I love that Midnight Oil are a band with strong political opinions, and musically, they were simply brilliant. They’ve done so many shows this year the band is tighter than ever. And they were backed by the incredible Hunters and Collectors horn section. I don’t know what painkillers the injured Jim Moginie was taking but his guitar playing was inspired. I’d forgotten how good they are live. The waves of screaming energy and excitement kept coming as my hips reminded me how their music made me feel in my teens.
Today my body aches, but my heart is filled with the thought that perhaps I’m not the only one who cares about changing our world.
Not much time, but time to try
I am officially an old bag. Today I turn 50 and I’m trying hard not to whinge. For it is a privilege to be 50. My friends who died of breast cancer in their 40s would love to be where I am. And so would the kids who were robbed of their mothers.
The beautiful sick kids I’ve met at the hospitals I work in who left way too soon didn’t get to be adults at all. And the families and friends of my darlings Veljko, Mark and Anthony who died in their 20s would love to know them in their 50s. Those guys would have aged like fine wine if they’d had the chance.
I don’t feel that different, but I look in the mirror and I see age creeping up on me. I was born on a Monday, “Monday’s child is fair of face,” but my face looks like it needs more sleep. And my knees creak from all the stilt walking, gymnastics and dancing drunk in stupid high heels over the past 35 years. I can still have fun with my kids, my best friends, the families I meet through my work and I share great love with a beautiful heart. But there are things I’m worried that I haven’t done yet. Maybe I won’t get to live in New York or drive across Africa. Maybe I won’t be brave enough to sail across the world. Maybe crazy life goals are in the past. Maybe I won’t sing with Kermit or be the next teen superstar.
I share my birthday with fabulous people like Twiggy, Jeremy Irons, Frances Farmer, Mama Cass, Daniel Lanois, Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Fallon and Alison Sweeney from Days of Our Lives, darling. Today is also International Talk Like a Pirate day.
At 50 I’ve realised that the cocker spaniels I’ve had in my life may be the only dogs I own in this lifetime as I can’t afford to buy a house.
But 50 brings great rewards. I can sing, dance, laugh and love, I have fabulous kids, and I’ve given up people who drain me of precious energy. I have no time for those who don’t contribute to improving our world. So hit the high seas for some hijinks you swashbuckling scoundrels. I’ll be wearing my new earrings that cost a bucaneer. 50 is swell.
Dear Maya Angelou, the world is a poorer place without you. Thank you for the love, wisdom and joy your writing brought us. Your words gave me hope in the darkest days of my life. Your strength and dignity in the face of life’s challenges are an inspiration.
November 1 means that (inter) National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo has started. Yes, I’ve pledged to write 50,000 words of a novel in November, with kids and gigs and parties and extra work, what a sensible idea as an already over-committed single mother. Well it’s November 4 and I’m over 5,000 words along. That wasn’t so hard. Yikes. At this rate I’ll be in love with my new novel by chapter two. If my blog is a shambles in November it’s because every day I write the book.
This week I went to the movies to see Blue Jasmine with a fellow gay divorcee, and I think this Woody Allen film should come with a trigger warning. If you’ve ever been in a long term relationship which turned out to be a total lie, Jasmine may freak with your head. Every time Jasmine’s anxiety made her pop a Xanax, I kept looking at the audience before I could decide whether to laugh, cry or yell out, ‘Yes! This is what a relationship with a narcissist will do to you.’ Cate Blanchett is brilliant as Jasmine but I didn’t laugh much as it was so close to home. I was reminded of my own hospitalisations and escape four years ago. I left the theatre feeling very anxious and I’m glad my friend and I had a chance to ‘debrief’ afterwards. When she remarked, “That was just like our relationships, except on a grander scale,” I finally felt like I could laugh.