MY (NOT SO DARLING) DARLINGHURST

This entry was inspired by the wholly amazing blog called “My Darling Darlinghurst” which just this week I was alerted to. And so I have spent considerable time devouring what is written and pictured and felt up there in MDD — and so my mum and me have put what is below together. I know this might seem a bit oblique and excessive, but part of my purpose in this bloggy adventure is just to document my life before I forget it or am too bitter to embrace it. So here it is — my “entire” Darlinghurst.

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From the My Darling Darlinghurst blog. (A ~1950s map of the area)

When I was still in primary school me and my dad were living in Brisbane and my sister and mum were living in Sydney but then my father suddenly got this job down there and within two weeks we had migrated.

While my dad looked for a place for us to settle in, I stayed with my mum and my sister in mum’s rented flat on the corner of Forbes and Burton Streets, Darlinghurst. For the Post Office worker it was #102 Burton and we lived on the first floor, (left hand side as you looked at it from the street) above an art gallery and a laundromat.

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Current Google Maps pic. Our flat was just above the awning and the two windows on the left. Bizarrely it seems the Laundromat and the art gallery are still there!

This place was quite an education for a very tragic and “little” kid from Brisbane. We didn’t lock our doors up there — yet here in Sydney you needed one key to get into the apartment building, and then another two to negotiate the deadlock and normal lock for the door to our flat.

It was a cold and a dark and a silent place you entered when you stepped off that manic street outside. Inside our corridor’s floor (I now presume) was polished concrete but it felt and acted like ice. About 15 slippery steps later it led you to a staircase and to an even darker first-floor corridor. By now I was taking two steps at a time, always listening for anyone else around and generally rushing to get through this creepy process. On that second floor there was just one lamp and it hung at the centre above the stairs — as if that was the only thing important — and consequently had little impact at our end of the hall where our door stood. Initially you just had to guess where the key holes were, but later you became Aware through fear’s necessity. There is a scene in Seinfeld where he pretends to his date that they need to get inside the apartment as quickly as possible because some crazed lunatic is bounding toward them.

Much later — when I saw that scene — I was more “oh yeah, that feeling really sucked” than amused. Because, to me, that seemed to be a very prescient and worthy insight into everyday-living in a dodgy apartment building above an even dodgier street.

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This photo of Burton Street is from my 2002 trip to Sydney and that year’s “nostalgia visit”

And so now I describe the street outside and I think you need to remember I was just a very fragile kid from Brisbane (via Ipswich). And here I will notate some of my revelations.

1) CONCRETE GLASS: I was horrified to see that the nextdoor terrace had set an epic amount of ugly, broken glass in home-made concrete all along the top of the wall that divided our apartment building with their yard. Every time you climbed those dark stairs there was a window (framed so well with all the outside sun) and it had the most perfect view of that considerable effort at properterial protection.

2) BAREFEET ON SYRINGES: There were used syringes everywhere. And this was the very same year all those Grim Reaper ads were displayed on TV. Meanwhile I had only one pair of shoes which (despite their age) were still in an almost perfect condition because up in Queensland (despite the bindies) you had precisely TWO pairs of shoes: shitty hard leather shoes they made you wear at school — and a pair of sneakers for after-hours (with velcro straps if you were lucky) which you barely used because shoes officially sucked. You went everywhere with naked feet and got enormously fantastic leathery soles and calluses and you rode your bike that way and if you wore shoes outside school your friends wondered if you were insane.

So I was used to walking around everywhere in just my feet, and here in Darlinghurst that seemed suicidal. But just cause I am a recalcitrant and a QUEENSLANDER I walked the fuck out of that neighbourhood in barefeet. I must have looked homeless but I would regularly go up to Taylor’s Square, dodging all the spit and vomit and glass on the footpath (and treat it like a game of space invaders) just to buy the latest comics. I loved the weird looks I got — especially in this town where every second person was certifiable. On the way home from soccer training I would take off my soccer shoes and just walk home from the bus-stop at Taylor’s Square in my socks. I never got a communicable disease or even cut or any grief from child services. So I guess I won.

3) TALKING TO PROSTITUTES: The prostitutes who congregated directly outside (and across) from our building were another awakening. I eventually got used to them and they just blurred into the neighbourhood and usually came out well after I had gone to sleep. But then I remember this time my best friend came for a sleep-over on a Friday night. It was my mate Siung and although he lived in the badlands of the western suburbs (although it was the nice end of Norton Street in Leichhardt) but he was still quite impressed by this adventure. See my room was at the very front of the building and just above the awning. You could literally open the sliding window and step down 2 feet and be on top of the awning’s roof. Which is what Siung did. And although I begged him not to, there he was. And so I followed and he started having this massive conversation with the sex-worker across the road. And I said “hi” but it was just out of politeness. Siung was asking all sorts of awkward and obnoxious questions like “How much do you charge?” and “Where do you do it?” I was horrified. She was surprisingly enjoying the banter. She refused to answer all of our stupid questions and instead asked us some which thankfully levelled Siung a bit — I guess he realised she was human and real and mocking her was going to be a bit more difficult than his tiny teenage brain was up to.

Eventually I coaxed him inside, mostly worried we would bend or break the awning and in that process she disappeared into that night. Only Siung was disappointed.

4) THE SMOKE OF BURNING BODIES: So I went to school at Glenmore Road in Paddington. And my walking route, with my much younger sister in tow (cramping my style it should be said), led me past the technical college (a former jail with walls accordingly suited) and then past a park full of homeless people and soon past the St Vincents Hospital which looked appallingly like a 18th Century Factory and definitely not a place of medical science — with it’s dark brick work, it’s ugliness and the enormous smoke stacks (for burning dead bodies I was told by the kids at school). Which I found out later was not so far from the truth.

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Taken on that 2002 trip

And then just past ‘the hospital’ was an overpass (picture above and below) and the footpath turned into a prison. It was caged from the road on one side and similarly caged from the 10 metre drop to the streets and houses below on the other. And for that 150 metres you were trapped in this death-zone. And this thoroughfare was populated by many, many dodgy persons. Perhaps now I would be oblivious — but back then I was literally pissing my pants and doing my best to be brave in front of my sister.

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2011 shot of Barcom Ave from that overpass’ ‘prison’ walkway

5) GLENMORE ROAD PRIMARY. So I went to this tiny school across the border in Paddington (chosen cause my sister went there (and not Darlinghurst Primary which was closer). Glenmore had less than 150 students and was under imminent threat of closure. It occupied amazing Paddington real estate — elevated and harbour-side. In the playground we had epic views of the Harbour and more space (per capita) than my subjects back at EJSS (my school in QLD) had enjoyed — although all our play area was covered in bitumen — not grass — and tiered like a Cambodian rice-paddy — which made running amock a bit awkward and dangerous.

6) COVERED IN BEER: The yearly Mardi Gras Festival was something else that became a challenge for me. My mum and her boyfriend were excited and decided to see it. After all — it was just about 300m up Forbes Street to Taylors Square. I came along, a bit reluctantly, and the crowds were intense. I was jostled around and because I was only a kid, had only the view of someone’s back for company. I looked up just as we got to William Street and there was a dude on top of the traffic light and he was treating the light like he was a cowboy and it was his horse and then he lost his beer bottle and it landed smack on my shoulder and then smashed at my feet saturating me with sticky, ugly mess. I instantly turned around and headed home — alone — and once sufficiently showered I watched the chaos below from my open bedroom window quietly thinking what a fucking mess this was. And I got so annoyed at this decadence, the grossness of it all. The fact a crowd of people could just arrive and do so much carnage to my home.  And I started to miss the prostitutes and junkies and the dodgy people on the overpass and the homeless people in the park (all of whom had quietly retired or taken the evening off) and were no where near as appalling as these absolute deadshits.

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A 2002 shot of the Courthouse Hotel at Taylor’s Square.

OVER TO MY MUM:

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That’s her — the ginger — second from left.

My first connection with Darlinghurst was a share-house in Womerah Avenue where my friend Mandy Pearson lived in the mid 80s. It was drop-in central for a bunch of writers, musicians and artists. The picture is of a street sale the house had one weekend. I’ll never forget the weird things people were prepared to buy if the price was low enough. Like a used bandage that someone accidentally left on the table!

My first own place in Darlo was almost on the corner of Burton and Forbes, the two highest crime streets in the eastern suburbs at the time. Rental places were in short supply (1987) and I had to pay more than the advertised rent to grab the deal. The place was on the first floor, overlooking East Sydney Tech onone side and a bunch of fire-escape gardens on the other. Although the layout was odd, it had plenty of space. Kate used the smaller of the two bedrooms; I had the main one and David got the sleepout. The trouble was that you had to walk through the main bedroom to get to the sleepout, so I had to improvise screens (can’t remember how). We had a black-and-white TV and a turntable for entertainment, but we were within easy walking distance of Oxford Street and could practically watch the Gay Mardi Gras from the front windows.  

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Kate, mum and me in the living room at Burton Street

During the day the area was fairly innocuous. A smart gallery and a shabby laundromat flanked the entrance to our building: snapshot of a slum in the throes of gentrification. Two doors down was a takeaway place that was full of art students by day and handy for fish and chips in the evening when I couldn’t be bothered cooking. 

After dark, though, this sleepy corner turned into a film noir set. I often used to joke that you could get dozens of script ideas dangling a microphone out the window. 

In 1989, I finally got to buy a place. After a crazy boom, real estate prices began to fall but interest rates were still stratospheric at 17%. Thanks to my job at the University of NSW, I managed to buy a place without a deposit—the uni guaranteed a second mortgage to cover that.  

Having fallen in love with Darlo, I’d narrowed my choices down to two apartments in the Paddington fringe of the suburb. While I was tossing up between them, we went to lunch at an amazing place in Palm Beach hosted by a film stylist called Lisa. Bob Ellis lived next door and he and his precocious son dropped in for a while. (Sorry, can’t help dropping names a bit. Thanks to my man at the time, we were always brushing against celebrities.) Anyway, I explained my dilemma to Lisa and she said, “You’ve already made up your mind. I can tell by the way you talk about these places. Go with your heart. When you sell, someone else will feel the same way.” So I bought the place that was much prettier but also smaller. It was so small that we pretended we were living on a boat. 

27A Barcom Avenue had no view whatsoever. David had the smaller bedroom and Kate and I shared the main one. You walked straight from the front door into a small windowless living area with a leadlight skylight. All other rooms led off this space so it was a devil to furnish. There was a back door off the kitchen leading to a cute little courtyard, about the size of a bathroom.  

Cats in the building shared the roof as territory and ours (Moochy) fought ferociously for her patch. She’d also make use of the gap under the front door to swipe-fight with rivals. Junkies tossed empty syringes into the courtyard and walked right in and stole stuff under our noses if we ever left the front door open for a minute or two. One of the neighbours was a gay guy who had lots of parties. They always ended up with old Winifred Atwell recordings! 

But I loved living in this area. You could walk down to the water at Rushcutters Bay or up to the shops at Paddington. There were lots of cheap ethnic restaurants and interesting 50s shops around Darlo and surrounds: Potts Point, East Sydney, Woolloomooloo, Kings Cross, Surry Hills.  

A BRIEF TRIP TO COOGEE

I would return to Darlinghurst, but before that my dad bizarrely got a place miles away on the corner of Coogee Bay Road and Beach Road. It was a fucking shit hole and perhaps an even more surreally intense living experience for this kid from Ipswich. I had the street-side room and it was like living in an all-night 4Corners documentary. There were fights and domestic violence and car smashes and people talking much too loudly and it was just generally impossible to avoid.

THE CEILING CAVING DOWN ON ME

In that place the plaster ceiling fell down on me while I was taking a shower. I could not help but scream cause I thought the roof was collapsing and my dad barged in and saw me naked covered in dust and plaster while the shower continued to run and I started crying, not just for the shock, but because my dad had seen me naked and heard me screaming but just (seemingly) over plaster and dust.

My dad then quit his job — after less than a year — and returned to Brisbane and I stayed behind. I had this gig at Sydney Boys High and so I thought that was important to whatever that pathetic future I needed to nurture seeing as how I was such a deadshit. And plus I was quietly getting accustomed or perhaps surviving in this city and living here was not sure a big deal anymore. I returned to that flat in Burton Street Darlinghurst and it was with the help of all my amazing friends at Glenmore Road who led me to realise kids could actually thrive in this dirty, intense and grown-up city. And so with that understanding I now realised I could blend into the detritus of Sydney, step over the glass (and spit, drug paraphernalia, and vomit), befriend the regular homeless eccentrics, dutifully ignore any domestic violence and thus actually enjoy this place which I now gleefully assumed was the centre of the universe. And I was a big fan of the universe. I was also a big fan of the news — now my favourite show on TV. And Sydney News was so much more serious and genuine than what they showed in my former deadshit home of Brisbane. So in Sydney I would sly home from school kinda imagining that effort was an adventure — even if it wasn’t documented on TV cameras or broadcast.

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This is a view of the amazing apartments and their gantry we could see out the window from that place in Burton Street. It looked like Art. 

BARCOM AVE, DARLINGHURST

And soon we quit that place in Burton Street and mum bought her first piece of property. It was a flat in Barcom Avenue on the other side of Darlinghurst and it was half the size of the place we had come from. It was just a two bedroom flat and initially I got my own room and my sister had to sleep in a bed next to mum’s. I guess being a boy I had my own room but later, sigh, I had to share that with my sister.

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This is me posing in my bedroom with my obsession with Michael Hutchence and INXS so exposed (taken by mum)

But I guess I should talk about the streets here. They were very different to the Burton Street hustle and bustle. And I will do it again in point form, mostly cause I imagine maybe readers might respond to that better than paragraph after paragraph:

1) ASHAMED — Where we were at the bottom of Barcom Ave was almost in Rushcutter’s Bay so that’s where I said I lived. I was officially ashamed of saying I was from “Darlinghurst” — even though Darlinghurst pretty much nuzzled my school and it took me only 20 minutes to walk there and back. But school was about appearances and I was already so damaged by being “the poor kid” at primary school back in Brisbane.

2) DIFFERENT, BUT THE SAME: This place wasn’t so much the centre of the universe but I did see Hugo Weaving nursing a baby one early morning (just a few doors up) as I walked to school for some HSC exam. I was too worried about the HSC to really care. But this end of Darlinghurst was still loud and grungy and full of syringes and the odd person that you considered crossing to street to avoid. Woomerah Lane (not to be confused with Woomerah Street) just up (and parallel to our road) had a few regular sex-workers and indeed I heard about efforts by the locals to install specific street lighting to deter them.

3) At the bottom of Barcom Avenue was a major, major road which basically ostracised us from the posh bayside house. But you could access it via a footbridge. Across that footbridge Mum’s boyfriend (Andrew) had a place in Roslyn Gardens. I wasn’t a big fan of Andrew but I conceded I was impressed that he had met John Lennon and Yoko and Jimi Hendrix. And the vibe over here was vastly different. It was so much closer to King’s Cross and in those days the Cross was scary — and even though I could go where-ever I wanted and I now had a great deal of Sydney street-smarts – I had no real desire to go there again. (I’d had a brief visit back when I first came to Sydney). Security at Andrew’s place was just gobsmacking. His one-bedroom unit had an inch-thick iron door. Like it was metal from top to bottom and weighed at least 20kgs and resembled a safe’s door, more than a door to someone’s home. It had this round lever in the centre that you turned which pushed a flat metal bar about 2 inches wide up into recesses at the top and base of the door. There was no breaking this door down. I am surprised drug dealers don’t employ this technology.

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This is the footbridge — taken by me on my 2011 nostalgia trip

THE END

I don’t really miss Darlinghurst, but I could happily live there again. I went walking around there last year for the first time in a decade or so and it was pretty cool. And reading Violet’s blog has really stirred something in me so that’s good.

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 Another shot of 27A Barcom — this time my sister in awe of our skylight and amazing lamp!

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Me on my 2011 nostalgia tour — the steps up to 27A. That was our door on the right 

GUEST BLOG “My Secret Phobia”

Today’s guest blog is by Els, one on my oldest friends from my Sydney days. I had no idea about this aspect of her! And you might want to put this song on while you read — although it is not quite appropriate — and Els informs me she actually loves the song, and declared it only says the word once. Anyway, here it is:

Ever wondered why Steve Jobs wore skivvies? Koumpounophobia. Button phobia. Chances are if you are not one of the 1 in 75 000 people with this affliction, you haven’t heard of this freaky, so-called phobia. I say ‘so-called’ because I am not actually afraid of buttons in any way. I just find them utterly revolting. Filthy, disgusting, gag-inducing things. Why? People, we have Velcro, we have zippers, we have black skivvies, PLEASE! No, no, sorry… . in my rational, objective mind I can admit the evidence.. that it makes no sense, that 74 999 people in my vicinity don’t think twice about wearing these commonplace everyday items, and thus I am willing to stand in my little corner and wave my little freak flag and laugh along. Ha ha. Yes, it is funny.

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In fact, when the day came, in this glorious internet age, that I first tapped ‘button phobia’ into Google, I laughed long and hard. It was the hilarity of relief and recognition, as well as the inherent absurdity of it. I learnt that day that this phobia sits on a spectrum, and I am fortunate to only be mildly afflicted. I also learnt that it follows similar patterns in all sufferers. It’s a revulsion – ranging from avoidance, through gagging, and into actual nausea and vomiting. Some people don’t even want to breathe next to them. It specifically relates to plastic buttons. Metal buttons, such as those you find on jeans are usually totally acceptable. It is worse if the button is a little loose, and it is particularly GROSS (and I am honestly having trouble writing this) if someone sucks or nibbles on them. Buttons and mouths NO NO NO. People who collect buttons trouble me (sorry if that’s you). Items of clothing which have prominent buttons used purely for decorative purposes do my head in, and I will remember them for years afterwards, long after the interaction I had with the wearer has been forgotten. And, as one forum user said ‘buttons on duvets… the devil’s work!’ I need to take a little break and think happy thoughts now…

Ok. I’m good. Like I said, I am only mildly afflicted. I can physically handle the buttons on my children’s clothing, if I do it quickly. I just have to take a deep breath, let my mind go blank, and (weirdly) swallow all the saliva in my mouth. Also I can totally be around people wearing them on normal shirts. I just have a blind spot . I don’t pay them any attention, and they don’t bother me. As long as I don’t have to wear them, it’s all good. Live and let live.  Some people’s lives are actually severely restricted by their phobia, vomiting at the sight of them – you can imagine the trouble this would cause. And others have to wash their hair and skin after contact like an OCD.

After I discovered this world of fellow koumpounophobes online (some of whom can’t even type the word – they write b*@#*s, or ‘those filthy things’) I started coming out about it, working it into conversations. It makes an amusing anecdote, and it can help people with relatively normal phobias, like fear of heights, to feel a little better about themselves. I thought it was so funny that it actually had a name that I began to own it. My freaky phobia. My (then) husband was not helpful. He thought it was great fun to put them in places where I would find them, or chase me around the house with them. Not funny. Actually not so funny. One day I was sitting opposite him at the kitchen table when he began to snicker at something he was reading in the Drum Media. ‘What is it?’ I innocently asked. He shoved the paper under my nose and announced gleefully ‘Look! There’s a band called THE FUCKBUTTONS!!’  Without missing a beat I screamed, grabbed the newspaper and threw is straight out the open back door. Ugh.  All true.

No-one has yet managed to come up with a psychological explanation that made sense to me. I did not choke on a button as a young ‘un, and am otherwise relatively sane. No really. REALLY! Ah

Whatevs. Anyway maybe it’s a good thing for humanity. Maybe we have koumpounophobia to thank for touchscreens. Think about it.

And here is a shot of the Glenmore Road reuninion (Els is second left) that happened two weeks ago that I missed 😦

BONUS PICS:

I just remembered I took these two photos in Manchester on my first trip to the UK for Jeb (who is a big fan of buttons) and the third one in London.

My adventures with Custard — Part 2

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This is my most favourite shot of David — taken by a woman called Penny Bradfield who went on to be a famous Fairfax photojournalist and is too famous to respond to my email for comment for this blog! 🙂 It’s cool. Rock on Pen!

So this is PART 1 in case you missed it.

After all that education at the garage sale I wish I had grown up a little — but I was only slightly less of an absolute deadshit.

But as far as Custard was concerned I found myself perpetually tuned in their direction. I saw some shows and I beavered away in my bedroom working out all their songs on guitar— which would lead to something pretty full-on later (see part 3). I watched them on TV and studied what popped up in street press and the internet.

FAMILY TREE & RIC’S (again) & LIFE’S TURNING POINTS

And then there was a Rolling Stone story about them which outlined — in diagrammatic form* — their intimate and “incestuous” relationships with other bands in Brisbane all based upon Ian and Judy McCormack’s (David’s parents) practice room at 52 Bradley Street, Spring Hill.

(*And this little band-tree would inspire me later.)

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I studied this map and decided to explore every other band on that well-meaning, but simplistic, 2D band-tree. I was already familiar with C.O.W. and Computor and the Melniks — but there were other bands like Biro and Small Fantasy and Cunningham and Warm Nights (Robert Forster’s band with David and Glenn and Bob Moore) who I needed to know. And when I sourced them out they were all profoundly awesome.

But lastly there was an amazing band called Miami centred around the wonderous voice of Maureen Hansen who you may remember from Part 1. And as well as David’s GF she also had cred cause she had sung on a bunch of songs on Custard’s first album. But Miami was even more awesome cause it was David on guitar, Paul on bass and Nick Naughton on drums. And before Custard could try to change my life, that Miami band did a fantastic job of doing it first.

A promo shot of Maureen

GUITAR TAB

When 1997 rolled around I was on a brief sojourn in Melbourne visiting my mum but then I was suddenly back in Brisbane, staring down that inevitable return to studing in February. And with nothing better to do in that last gasp of my Uni holidays — I started making an “unauthorised” Custard webpage. And it was with the incredible help of my very first “internet friend” – CC Hua. And we are still mates today! We had initially bonded over our mutual love of making guitar tabs to indie rock songs by Australian bands and of course our decent taste in music — like Snout and Even and Automatic and You Am I and The Welcome Mat and Header and Sidewinder and Drop City et al.

Just quietly I still hold the record of having successfully tabbed YOU AM I’s “Cathy’s Clown” despite that precocious kid — who joined that band later and then decided to FIX stuff. Good on you, but yeah – whatever.

Although CC was quite a bit younger than me she basically lectured me in HTML and general awesomeness. She was very patient and despite my incredible deadshitness she persisted until I had mastered it enough to go at the webpage alone. CC went on to be in bands and be quite an upstanding rock n roll citizen and consistently puts me to shame. Kudos.

LIESL

I had completely forgotten how we met — but through the magic of the internet (actually just emailing her) — I am reliably informed it was because Liesl had set up a Custard fanpage and I sent her an email saying I was thinking of setting one up too.

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In those days the web was full of official pages loaded with their very “safe” and lawyered content — but there was very little user-generated bits on the web. And so you were forced to make your own— and somehow host it. Nowadays 95% of the web is punter-generated without much effort on the punter’s behalf – but back then it was almost the other way around. We went to great lengths to have our ideas and opinions published and it our efforts were kinda appreciated.

After a few exchanges of emails we then mutually decided, seeing as we were both going to a semi-secret Custard show at Ric’s, we might as well coordinate. She was chaperoned by her older brother’s best friend. It was a fantastic show — basically a test of all the new songs for the album that would be known as We Have The Technology. I am still convinced they butchered the song Sinatra Theory on the album compared to how it sounded that night.

Anyway, then there was our ‘second date’ – a Miami show at Ric’s. It was their debut CD launch and it was MASSIVE and we could barely see what was going on because in those days Ric’s had no stage and we just had to pretend we understood.

And after that show, Liesl and I then somehow became a thing in that very awkward way only I know how to do and managed to remain so for three years.

A BAND

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So Liesl had somehow randomly ended up sitting next to the sister of Paul Medew (Custard’s bassplayer) at TAFE before even realising the connection. And I seem to remember Liesl telling me there was a girl in her class with the surname “Medew” and we both wondered. But then the next thing I knew they were besties, mostly because Liesl and Karin shared a natural love of giggling incessantly at the back of class. Karin became a great friend and my most favourite piece of Custard memorabilia — a living, breathing one! She knew all the goss, she looked a bit like Paul, she had all of Paul’s CDs and she made sure her brother put us on the door at any Custard shows within driving distance of Brisbane. Karin and I even ended up living together for half a year while Liesl travelled OS.

But meanwhile I became utterly obsessed with forming a band of my own and as I’ve said before — the easiest way to conjure your own band from virtually nothing is to convince your girlfriend to play bass and bang! Insta-rock. But we were too poor to afford our own bass so Paul offered his old Fender Squire Precision. It looked HUGE on Lees but it did the trick and in the meantime I wrote really, really shitty songs. Here is one of them inspired by Liesl’s new job working at a library.

LIBRARY GIRL

And that’s John Swingle from Biro and the Melniks and Small Fantasy on drums — and the backstory is here. Having John in the band made everything just so much more dumbfoundingly real. Having an absolute hero of ours, a songwriting genius and a fucking cool dude, agree to drum in your shitty, shitty band just doesn’t happen to deadshits like me (or “us” if Liesl will allow that).

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The thoroughly amazing John Swingle (photo by Liesl).

A JOB

After Uni finished I was now OFFICIALLY a deadshit — as far as the government was concerned. So yes — I was on the dole and I was lining up in that office to hand in my form once a fortnight (just like John’s DSS song) and I fucking, fucking hated it. And you know what? My dad made me sign up at Centrelink. It wasn’t “tough love” — he just wanted me to move out. And even with that cash in my pocket — more money than I had ever known — I wanted out. The whole system of unemployment benefits is designed to make you feel dirty and pathetic and they succeeded spectacularly.

A few weeks later my mum was visiting from Melbourne and she decided to call on some Uni mates of hers — Rob and Anne — and I tagged along. And at that dinner-party we all got talking and I suddenly started raving about Custard (as I was wont to do) and I played Rob some Custard songs (which he loved) and then I showed them my webpage which resulted in a very random late-night (perhaps drunken) job offer. I quickly accepted and turned up well ahead of time at their design studio on a Monday morning in North Quay. My job was doing very basic web stuff and though it was very, very “part-time” I instantly quit unemployment benefits (even though the very low income I was earning meant I could still claim some stuff from The Man).

And then I must have done OK because I was still there three years later and in a full-time role — but still getting paid minimum wage!

Initially I was there to do very basic internet programming but then my job got “expanded” so that I was now the receptionist — not exactly the career I had dreamed of after wasting (and paying for) 3 years at University. So I answered the phones and made coffee and greeted people who rang the doorbell. It was a bit belittling especially cause everyone there had such an ego but I was gratified by the fact in my spare time in between all that receptionist bullshit I gradually got familiar with the design software. I even did a few actual “jobs” for the company.

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CUS-ZINE

And then this dude Scott (who at the time worked for Mambo) on the Custard email forum (which was just a chain-letter that meant you always had new emails in your in-box) suggested we make a ‘zine. And so we conspired and put one together. I laid it out using all the gimmicks I had learnt from just kicking around the office and my very basic knowledge of Quark Xpress. I even managed the mindfuck of imposing it for laser-printing. On top of that I wrote a bunch of stories and went out and recorded some interviews that I transcribed for publication. Scott did all the cool design stuff like the cover and other graphics.

But perhaps the biggest help in that process was a character called “Sage Trip”. He was a comic genius and came on board for the second issue and together we wrote all the gags but it was often Sage telling me what to say and me just imitating him if I was writing my own stuff. More on that later.

To generate this 32 page tome I spent a few Sundays in a row secretly printing that shit at work. After I advertised it for sale at $2 a copy (of which 50c went on postage) I sold (or gave away) about 100 copies. I was amazed. That money came as a $2 coin stuck inside an envelope with sticky tape delivered to my home. About 20% of envelopes had the coin missing with a very precise cut in the envelope — no doubt the work of thieving postal workerz! For future zines I did a “double issue” so I could ethically charge a $5 note which was more easily concealed in an envelope.

In a big box, to this day, I have kept every single one of those letters that arrived in my post box. I felt appreciated and more so because the effort it takes for an individual to mail something is pretty much a dead art nowadays — and was in its death throes back then. Each and every letter I received was magical. Thank you to all of you who subscribed — in that very old-school fashion.

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TV AND RADIO

And although people were telling me to make Cus-Zine digital — in other words: a PDF — I resisted. Even Ian McCormack suggested it (god bless him!). But I love bound paper and there was still a big bit of me that wanted to be old-school and resist all this evil change. I had no research to prove this — but I thought people treat a physical book in a different way — and thus get a bigger cultural and personal experience. At the same time I was all about conservation and “paperless offices”, but this zine was just so tiny and necessary and I insisted.

The next thing I knew one of the Directors I worked for (who had “industry connections”) suggested me for a segment for a kid’s show about technology. I accepted mostly because I was curious, but also because I thought it was perhaps an order.

And then a massive film-crew turned up at my house. There were at least a dozen of them and they were climbing over furniture and pulling out light-bulbs and shifting stuff like they were ordained. And the presenter was a very young girl called Shae Brewster who went on to bigger and greater things. But this was her very first gig and she was maybe 15 or 16 and acted every bit of her age. Just quietly she was rubbish and had a bit of a melt-down at one point when the director said something like, “Let’s just come over here and talk about this bit for a second”. She went nuts and said, “OMG! is this ‘THE TALK’. Oh god, ‘THE TALK’ ALREADY?” Etc.

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A recent promo photo of her

And all these deadshits were in my house. I was horrified. I was also mic’d up and that made me all WTF? so I just played it ultra-SOBER in the interview — just being safe. I was half convinced they would make me out to be a freak and spend all their editing powers making me look like a nut-case. And so all my jokes were very deadpan, very subtle and thus rendered completely oblivious to that kid journalist attempting to connect with me. It was a disaster. A fucking, fucking atrocity.

They never aired that footage and although I felt bad cause I had a bit to do with its sabotage — I was very, very pleased with that.

And very soon after I realised I had not learnt my lesson and agreed to make a shockingly DEADSHIT live appearance on the national radio station — JJJ. It was an interview with Richard Kingsmill — for the J-FILE on Custard and for that horribly embarrassing story and much, much more — see part 3.

BONUS PICS

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From Rolling Stone issue 527 October 1996

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Things the World Divides Over: Eating Edition

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STACKING

Because I was raised a vegetarian until the age of 12, I worked out quite late in life that I really had no idea about (or really understood) the culinary philosophy of “meat and three vegetables” — which it seemed most of my peers were raised on. Apparently it is still the most popular dish served in Australian homes.

And once introduced to that “meat + 3” cultural phenomenon I gradually realised there was a science to suffering this nightly humdrum. Some of those raised on this doctrine played with the idea and decided to “stack”. They neatly cut up the stuff on their plate and carefully combined 2 or more items in a “stack” on their fork. When this was revealed to me I was dumbstruck. My instinct was to ingloriously shovel one of those four portions as quickly as possible into my mouth without any thought. See, I am a simple man. And historically food for me has just been “sustenance”. And the act of eating is treated similarly — almost in a primal way. I eat like the cat eats — which isn’t pretty. I eat quickly lest someone steal my food, I eat everything on my plate just in case the next meal is forever away (not a habit the cat practices it should be said), and I could happily eat the same things over and over for the rest of my life (but in saying that — I am developing a taste for variety in my old age).

And this brings me to the next subject.

SAVING THE BEST THING FOR LAST

In that tiny fraction of a second where you ponder the plate in front of you, certain people will assess what tastes best like they had the Terminator’s analytic computer snuck into their brain and decide to save that for last and attack the “healthy, boring” shit first. But naturally others would devour all the best stuff first and leave the worst for last and wonder why the end of the meal was such a struggle and a massive fight with the parentals. IDIOTS!

DESSERT

And following on from all this… maybe this is just me — but I have never, ever ordered a dessert at a restaurant. When the dessert menu comes out I am overflowing and full of sheer REGRET at how much I have just consumed. Perhaps that’s because I have that “eat everything on your plate just in case” vibe. I also cannot help but order something ridiculously decadent for my main. So I am seriously perplexed by anyone who indulges in this dessert activity. Where do they find the room? The world divides.

BLACK JELLY BEANS

It goes without saying that a LOT of people hate that aniseed flavour. Indeed I think there are officially packets of jelly beans that quite racistly exclude “the black ones”. But for me, the black jelly beans were so orgasmically intense and so much better than the other dipshits in the packet — they were like treasure. And having a predilection for them just meant if a kid had a packet of jelly beans to share, there were more for me. Genius.


(Not my photo btw)

HOW TO COOK 2-MINUTE NOODLES

So 2 minute noodles are something I could write a whole blog about. And it is because they were my introduction to cooking — unless you count making toast as cooking — and 2 minute noodles were where I cut my teeth (if that’s not confusing my metaphors). I suspect cooking is just like songwriting. It’s all about timing, experimentation, and knowing the rules just so you can break them.

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See how I juxtaposed the KitchenAid with the Mi Goreng?

Anyway — I spent 3 long years in uni and I made a lot of noodles — and this was in the primitive days before Mi Goreng. So the point here is that everyone makes their noodles their own way. For instance there are those that like the wet version and others who like to drain. Some people add butter or cheese — and then there’s my friend Jess Jardine who adds peanut butter. Weird!

UTENSILS

Dee loves utensils. She is borderline obsessive about having a knife for every single meal — even if the meal is easily consumed without one. Indeed I suspect when soup is on the menu she secretly wishes for at least a “spork”. Meanwhile, I will only use a knife when it is absolutely necessary.

OTHER STUFF

I am interested to know if there are other divisions in the eating community — you know, make a comment if you want. Dee tells me she can’t stand mixing fruit and meat (unless it’s pineapple, and usually ham) and that two distinct meats in a meal is a big no-no.

MY ADVENTURES WITH THE BAND “CUSTARD”

ImageMe at Mt Kaputar in 2003 in my favourite Custard shirt

Custard were a turning point in my life. I can’t help thinking what a completely different direction everything would have taken had I never got into them. For instance (and I will go into more detail about this later) my whole career as a graphic designer was determined by the fact I happened to have built a website devoted to Custard. On top of that I met the woman I had my first real long-term relationship with, through Custard, and I formed my first band with their help. Plus a billion other little pillars of my existence came about through a complex chain that all led back to them including the fact many years later I came to be in a band called the Little Lovers which led to me meeting Dee, my current partner of the past 6 or so years. It’s almost scary now I think about it.

But let’s go back to the beginning where I tried my very hardest to resist their charms.

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PART ONE “The pathetic years”.

A CRUSH

It may surprise you to know that someone could be an even bigger deadshit than I am now — but I can assure you in my youth I broke all records.

And this whole adventure started with a girl. And though I try to refer to any female over 18 as the woman they are — we were so, so young and this was a long time before I got some sensibilities about gender politics.

Anyway I had somehow met and befriended her at Uni— despite many personal fumblings that would make Frank Spencer wince.

Apart from all the everyday things that I found cool about her, what made her even more special was the fact she had a “favourite band” — cause I like people who are decisive. And she excitedly informed me this band was from “Ipswich” — which made my ears prick up because I was “from Ipswich” too.

And when she told me their name – the disappointingly weak and un-rock “Custard” — I smiled and looked knowledgeable as I pretended to have heard of them.

SERIOUSNESS

And then she played me the CD and to my delight that lie actually turned out to be kinda-true because I vaguely recognised the songs from randomly listening to JJJ in the car. But then I’d dismissed that shit as “kiddie’s music”. See back then I was all about “guitars” and “rock” and “distortion pedals” and any band that had a hint-of-twee was just tuned out. Up until then I was still in mourning for Kurt and that wasn’t hard because everyone else in indie-rock seemed to be doing the same — trying so, so very hard to be serious. But like all-caps “SERIOUS”.

And this is an important point because there wasn’t much fun in rock n roll. Smiling in band photos was frowned upon — pun intended. No one talked about their influences. No one joked around in press interviews. Rock stars tried very hard to be an enigma. But Custard songs were 90% personal pronouns — and although I was curious, I was still a bit reticent.

I remember her favourite song was “Melody” and as I listened to that nonsense* I secretly thought, “Yeah, rock n roll IS dead”. (*My shitty opinion back then of course.)

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A CONFESSION ABOUT “APARTMENT”

The next thing I knew I bought the “Apartment” single just to impress her. I listened to it and kinda worked it out on my guitar and I thought it was a brave attempt at “rock’, but I was still a bit aloof. It just wasn’t “heavy” enough. And crucially — there was too much “fun”. WTF?

These sentences are actually really hard for me to write because “Apartment” is now very securely in my top ten favourite songs of all time — and right now I think if you crank that shit it’s as heavy as any other bullshit you wanna throw at it. It’s fucking HEAVY. It rips shit up. Yet I was so conflicted back then when it became time to like it or not. Basically I think it was this song that challenged me grow up and learn some skills in broadening my musical horizons.

And so I actually gave away that “Apartment” single — as a gift to her — mostly in the hope that would make her more interested in me. And of course it failed so I assumed I needed to make a bigger demonstration. After parting with a considerable chunk of what little funds I had at the time, I handed over $30 precious bucks to purchase both Custard albums that were released at the time — Wahooti Fandango and Wisenheimer (together in some promotional fire-sale double pack).

It made absolutely no difference to winning her affections but those two CDs would very soon change my life.

THE WEB and GETTING DUMPED

Fast forward a few months. In that time I had miraculously managed to convince a different woman to be my girlfriend and I was working as a pizza-driver where I read Kurt Cobain bios in between deliveries on the plastic chairs out the front and managed to avoid anything to do with Custard (except for randomly seeing them at the UQ toga party at the RNA showgrounds).

And at about this time my computer-saavy father hooked us up to that crazy thing called the Interwebbz. But I was cynical. I wasn’t just “cynical” — I was fucking cynical. You may remember I was in my “serious” phase and I thought this trashy-computer-craze was so base, just about porn and a vehicle for nerds to find girlfriends or talk about Star Trek in Klingon. I even wrote a big fat university essay for some culture subject outlining my distaste. I got a very, very low mark and deservedly so.

To add to my woes that new woman I’d hooked up with decided to dump me and see someone else straight away. And locked away in my room feeling so pathetic and alone and with all the ink in my pens bled out from writing so much shitty poetry — somehow I remembered there was a song on one of those increasingly dusty Custard CDs called “Alone“. And that’s when everything changed.

Upon listening to that song I realised Nirvana was actually making me feel worse and very soon I started listening to the rest of Wahooti Fandango and realised it had so many break-up songs but they were all so different and charming and inspiring. I would put it on in the dark and let it hypnotise me into sleep. TRUE STORY.

So pretty soon I was randomly seeing if the web was worth the effort of having the phone off the hook and getting annoyed with all that wait while it screamed at you like a banshee (perhaps in protest?) while it connected and spending 2 minutes over and over waiting for a page to load at 2k a second. Despite all that I soon discovered Custard had a very humble and accessible webpage — lovingly made and maintained by David’s dad.

THE GARAGE SALE

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52 Bradley Street Spring Hill — Custard’s practice room, just next to the McCormack family home — and scene of the garage sale/gig

So after visiting the Custard web page a bit too often one day I saw that the band were having a garage sale and a backyard concert at an address in Spring Hill. At first I thought it was a joke. Bands don’t have backyard shows and garage sales. They are rock stars. Why would they need to do this when they are swimming in money — right? I mean Custard had their own divider with their name on it in HMV and Toombul Music — they were BIG TIME.

But I turned up half-expecting (my idea of) common sense to prevail. I wasn’t even wearing shoes, but I parked a bit up the road in Bradley Street and saw (and recognised from photos) Custard’s singer, David McCormack, almost as soon as I sprang out of my shitty 1971 Kingswood. He looked up and recognised me as a punter as I stumbled down the road and delivered a hearty, smiling hello and I reacted by quivering with excitement.

MAN-CRUSH

And of course I had a man-crush on David. He was everything I wanted to be and this was amplified by my extreme deadshittedness. And I have crushes all the time. Still do. NBD. Wilco have this song called, “I’m always in love” and that’s just how I roll.

AN IDIOT WITH A GUITAR WANTING IT SIGNED

Naturally I had turned up super-early (I have a genetic disposition to hyper-punctuality). Nothing was set up but a few people were around looking very sober and just as afraid of the sunlight as me (with all my gingerness) so I brazenly introduced myself. So there was Maureen (David’s girlfriend), Nick Naughton (drummer in Small Fantasy/Biro), and David’s parents.

Paul Medew, David McCormack and Nick Naughton at Ric’s — from a zine by Kristie and Georgina Brown

This is pretty damn embarrassing but I will put this down, even though my brain is telling me, “No one needs to know what a dipshit you are Davey. Just pretend this didn’t happen. Yeah.”

So then I got a bit excited about all this because it was in fact — real — and somehow the idea popped into my head that I needed to get my guitar signed — just like I had with Mark Knophler. (But you’d have thought I would have learnt my lesson — but apparently not). So I said to everyone, “I’m just going to go home and get my guitar so everyone can sign it.” Those that heard this just looked at me with bewilderment but didn’t protest. So I dived back in the car, sped home, grabbed a guitar and made it back just in time to look a bit cooler with my entrance. And so armed with my axe I got everyone in the band (and even Maudie and Nick) to sign it and I got David to teach me some Custard riffs and then I sat back on their lawn to watch the bands.

BANDS IN THE BACKYARD

It was so fucking bizarre to see a rock n roll band play in a suburban backyard in the harsh light of day — and more crazy considering this was my new favourite band. I had no idea this was possible. I saw for the first time that rock n roll was not just a stadium thing, it could also be just as ROCK and epic playing on top of the dirt in the shady corner of someone’s backyard to just a few friends and at least one deadshit (me).

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On the garage sale side of things I bought everything I could afford — which wasn’t much — but then I came back the next day (it was a two day affair) and after begging my dad for $50 I said to David, “I have $50, give me everything I can afford with this.” And on top of a few shirts and bric-a-brac he gave me a COW cd (which was amazing) and the COMPUTOR tape which again, was fucking cool and further bolstered my belief in this band and anything associated with it.

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This is where they played. I had to take a photo of it.

ANOTHER DAVEY BRAIN-FART MOMENT

Another thing that makes me cringe about that day which I need to tell you all about, just to cleanse my soul, is when I said to David, “You know, I hope you guys don’t get big.” And I meant it to be all endearing and a token of how I liked this accessibility but of course I had it all wrong. It was like saying to someone on the dole, “I hope you don’t get a job because you will be all different.” And so he said, “Jesus, I hope we do.” Until that day I just didn’t realise what a struggle making money out of rock n roll was. I had no idea how little money they made and that really blew my mind. Maureen had a big chat with me and set me straight. She even told me how David had bought a shirt at Target recently for $20 just for the ARIA awards (which they didn’t win) and it was the most expensive piece of clothing he had ever bought.

And so they were doing this for the love of it and yet with a hell of a lot of integrity too.

PARTS 2 and 3 COMING SOON! (Jobs, girlfriends, more fucking embarrassing moments, talking to Richard Kingsmill live on JJJ, zines, playing live on stage with Custard, having Paul Medew play in my band, getting threatened with violence, plus more drama and controversy.)

BONUS BLOG: PETE

I am gonna hand over to one of my besties from that period — Pete (at left in the photo below) — with his own story of how he got into Custard.

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I love Custard. And when I say that, I mean it in a my-friends-wish-I-would-just-shut-the-fuck-about-Custard-it’s-been-more-than-a-decade-since-they-broke-up way. Still, I’ve got no qualms about it. They rock.

I had an inkling about Custard in my last years of high school but the mania started when I saw them play an all-ages gig on the Gold Coast on the last day of Schoolies in 1997. The gig was actually on Main Beach, on the sand. After the gig Dave came down to say hello, I’ve even got a photo. After the gig I went out and bought We Have The Technology, which they’d just released, and shortly afterwards bought Wahooti Fandango, which remains one of my favourite albums to this day. Possibly my outright favourite. The true fandom started though when I joined the nascent Custard email list, which often dumped dozens of emails from other Custard fanatics into my inbox every day. That’s how I met df (editor’s note: that was my pseudonym of the time, given to me by David McCormack). In the late 90s Custard gigged frenetically, I had many opportunities to see them and I took every one, I didn’t miss a gig in South East Queensland until the day they broke up. On top of that I went to many unbilled gigs at Ric’s, I even remember driving down from the Sunshine Coast, where I lived at the time, sometime in the late 90s to go to someone’s house to see a McCormack jam session until quite late, then driving all the way back to the Coast, tired as hell.

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I saw so many Custard gigs so long ago they have all started blurring into one big fantastic gig in my mind. One gig that sticks in my mind was during their matching tracksuits era at a Gold Coast Homebake, I was squashed up against the front barrier like a true fanboy. Perhaps because it’s so recent, a real favourite memory was their last Brisbane gig at the Powerhouse for the Brisbane Festival. Apart from it being a cracking show as always, they encored with Pluto Pt 2, my favourite song of the Loverama era. They hadn’t played it at the other two Brisbane reunion gigs, so that was a real treat. Quite apart from the great gigs though, the greatest thing about my Custard fandom has been the kinship with the other fans, the email list and the people I met through it, the IRC chats, the excitement around df’s cuszine era and being a small part of that, and seeing all the familiar faces whenever Dave or somebody Custard-related plays at Rics. Even though I can’t play a musical instrument for shit it’s been cool to be a small part of a band’s history just by being a fan.

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What made Custard special? I guess first and foremost you’d have to say simply their tunesmithery and talent, and their ear for a brilliant pop song. If the music wasn’t fucking fantastic I never would have liked them in the first place, and it is fucking fantastic, just right up my alley. From memory Dave has mentioned in more than one interview in the past that they’re average musicians, but really they were anything but, I never heard them drop a note live. Or at least never noticed. They’re also a uniquely unassuming band, there’s nothing arrogant or macho about them, Uncle Dave was never going to joke about taking your girlfriend home like Tim Rogers did. And of course, they’re just fucking funny, a hilarious band, and a happy one too, they were always smiling on stage. I vividly remember literally rolling around on the floor with my sides splitting the first time I listened to ‘If Yr Happy…’ with my friends (“The only time I cry now is when I’m sad, which is most of the time…”) 

Anyway yeah, I love Custard. Long may their music occasionally appear on the airwaves.

New Songs

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NATURAL CHILD — “DTV”.

Such a great “fuck you” song. I love FU songs. Maybe I’ll write a whole blog about my favourite ones one day. Anyway — you gotta love the ultra-slow intro which gets a brutal smack-down reprise at the end. The basslines are really cool too and I’m guessing it’s him that asks that question just before the first chorus.

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GEORGE BARNETT — “Apocolade”

This is pretty lush and majestic stuff from George. Perhaps a bit “highbrow”. It feels like Patrick Wolf but less “camp” and more “religious naff stuff” (ew). But apart from that — pretty impressive. You can listen to the entire album here (Apocolade is first up).

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FLOWERS — “Can’t help myself”

Been listening to a bit of Flowers lately — the previous incarnation of one of Australia’s biggest 80s/90s bands — Icehouse. Iva Davies was quite the coolsie once-upon-a-time. See I was at Jeffro’s 40th recently and “We can get together” came on and that just got the ball rolling. But I’ve also become enamoured with “Can’t Help Myself” which has a more danceable groove, mostly due to the thumping bassline. (That bassplayer was full of beans!) It reminds me a lot of “To Look At You” by INXS — a fucking amazing song.

Apparently the keyboard player is missing and Iva Davies is trying to track him down.

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ALPINE — “Gasoline”

A month or so ago I was poking around the house in some hungover-daze while Saturday Morning Rage played on the TV and this beautifully atmospheric video came on just as I accidentally passed the TV. And I saw the snowy Australian Alps I so love and I just stopped what I was doing and quietly sat down and absorbed it. But then I was left thinking the ending was really stupid — but whatever. Later the song came on the 4ZZZ and I was like, “Hmmm – who’s this?” And then I put two-and-two together. Cool story huh? I’ll probably hate the song in a few weeks — but it is a likeable distraction atm.

The Video.

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BOOMGATES “Whispering and Singing”

I really like this band’s new song. Initially I didn’t really like the guy’s nasally, almost “aussie” singing, but I got over it. They have some other good songs like “Layman’s Terms” with a similar vibe and soon the record this songs is a part of is coming out. Looking forward!

TAME IMPALA “I Don’t Really Mind”

Because I’ve got into Pond, I decided to give Tame Impala a chance. I had avoided them because someone had described them as “psychedelic” and that music-descriptor makes me queasy. But I gave them a chance and to my delight they are only just a tad like that — certainly not “dumb-fuck-so”. So here is my favourite song of theirs live with The Silents (who the Little Lovers toured with incidentally) and here is the studio version.

THE COATHANGERS “Smother”

Rocking babes, ripping shit up. I think the drummer (on left in pic above) sings this one. But don’t quote me on that. They seem like a really fun band too. Fantastic song. LISTEN!

MINIMUM CHIPS “Goodbye”

This is a song by one of my all-time favourite bands. They come from Brisbane but moved to Melbourne at one point. They centre around Nicole (pictured above) and Greg Wadley and Julian Patterson. I like this band so much I would buy everything they ever do without ever having to taste it first. Admittedly I bought a Nicole/Julian side-project called “Letraset” way back and hated it — but that is the exception that proves the rule. This isn’t my favourite of theirs, but it is pretty close. It’s called “Goodbye” and it is ART.

SPECIAL GINGER GUEST BLOG!

So this is by one of my super-cool ginga homegrrls. (I can’t believe she likes water so much!)

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Wrecked March 2012

My name is Lara and I’m addicted to swimming.  I’m also bookish, of slight build and… a ginger.  I like cups o’ tea and romance novels. Probably not your average go-to image of an ocean swimmer.

And yet I love ocean swimming and was down right excited about taking part in a 2.4km ocean swim this past March in the crystal clear, calm, azure waters of Moreton Bay.

If you’ve never visited Moreton Island and stayed at Tangalooma – do yourself a favour and get on that!  It’s a subtropical island paradise 35km from down town Brissy.  It’s like being on the set of Fantasy Island, complete with staff in Hawaiian shirts who deliver you to your lodgings in a golf buggy! It’s excellently bizarre and a dream like setting for a nice big ocean swim.

As luck or Murphy’s Law would have it though, on the morning of the swim our beautiful Moreton Bay was less than calm and azure.  It was dark, choppy, the current we would be swimming against was strong and the course was full of “Moon” jellyfish.  Moon jellyfish aren’t deadly (unless of course you have an allergy) but they are unpleasant and the tentacles do sting a bit so I figured I’d just do my best to dodge them and wack them outta my way as required.

My “race strategy” was to hang back a bit and take it pretty slow as I had a dicky shoulder.  I was glad I did.  As I fell behind the white water of the “splash-a-ton” (my swimming buddy and I made that word up) and my visibility cleared I realised I was swimming into a “bloom” of jellyfish.

This scene from Finding Nemo gives an excellent idea of what it was like

http://vimeo.com/8402214

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I had to think quick – should I try to swim straight through it as fast as I could or go around the bloom, which would add time and distance but I’d suffer less pain?  I looked again at the wall of jellyfish – I had no idea how wide it was.  I had an inkling that if I tried to swim through that dense cloud of stinging jelly I’d end up like Nemo’s BFF Dory. I looked up and ahead and sure enough a group of people who had swum into the worst of the jellyfish were screaming and being rescued by the Coast Guard.

The psychological terror and physical agony was pretty evident.  Not a good look.  For some reason I thought about the $50 registration I’d paid to take part in the event and that was that – decision made.  I was going to swim around the worst of it, get outta this choppy swell and get back to having a fully awesome time thank you – no jellyfish was going to rain on my parade! So off I went, swimming out wide past the Coast Guard and doing my darndest to avoid the faceless blue blobs.

Somewhere in the final kilometre the sun came out and all of a sudden I was once again in the warm, calm, azure (but still a bit stingy) waters of Moreton Bay having a really good time!

When I crossed the finish line I was ecstatic.  I’d been in the water just over an hour and I actually ran up the sand to the finish line.  This is a less than glamorous picture of me legging it up the beach – I think my face says it all.

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At the end of the race I stood around with the other entrants clasping plastic bags of ice to our jellyfish welts, munching on slices of watermelon and looking across the beautiful bay to the Glasshouse Mountains.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Jess and James get married

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So this is all about the wedding of Jessica Kearney and James Jackson.

Jess is Dee’s bestie — they met in pre-school — and James got introduced to Jess through another bestie — Jess Jardine (who I will refer to as “JJ” from now on for obvious reasons — even though Jess is also now a “JJ”. Shit)

Anyway, the event was held in Kenilworth which is about 2 hours drive north of Brisbane at the original Kenilworth Farm House which dates back over 100 years.

Dee and JJ (and the rest of the Wedding Dream Team) had moved up there on Thursday to help with the massive amount of prep. There was a truckload of antique furniture, an arbor, a few kilometres of fairy-lights, booze, a fuck-tonne of flowers and other miscellany.

Of course back at home in Brisbane I assumed they were just up there partying and talking about boys and looking up youtube clips to dance to.

SATURDAY

I woke up Saturday morning with the intention of knocking out a ride up Nebo with Scott, but I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep so that idea was poo-poo’d. But when I eventually rose I couldn’t find my “good shoes” (even after a thorough search of the shed downstairs) and spent an epoch fumbling around trying to iron my shirt. Both the shoes issue and the shirt issue were eventually resolved and the car was loaded up and after a quick trip to the neighbours to ask them to feed the cat — I set off. And then I was forced to stop awkwardly to check my bags to make sure I had brought my belt. (I had).

Then I stopped again at Aspley to fill the car up with petrol and I checked again that I had in fact included my belt. (I had.) But also to clean the windscreen and fill the tyres up with air. I put some sweet tunes on and hit the highway. But then, within seconds, BANG! The traffic was suddenly frozen. About 30 minutes of travelling forward the car’s speedometre couldn’t even detect (and much fretting that I might get in all sorts of trouble for being late) I made it past the obstruction (some very bland-looking car accident) and I was on my way.

At Kenilworth I obliviously went straight past the venue and ended up in town and I had no phone reception. That morning I had raked the invitation off the fridge (so I knew where to go) but then I had forgotten to actually pack it. So after driving around a bit looking for something that looked like a “wedding” I gave up and parked in the main street and went to the tourist information booth and said to the collection of old-timers there, “Um…Hi! I’m here for a wedding. You guys wouldn’t happen to know where that was?”

And they said, “At the Homestead?”

And I lied, “Yes, at, um, ‘the homestead.'” (My logic was at least I would be at A wedding, but perhaps not THE wedding — right?)

Luckily it was at the Homestead and I was safely there with plenty of time to get ready.

ASIDE “THE PACKAGE”

Backtracking a bit — on Thursday I was at YARN and got quite a bit loose. And I wasn’t feeling all the best on Friday morning when Dee rang me and said I needed to pick up a package from Jess’ work that was crucial for the wedding. Ok. I said. But then Dee was like, it’s on the 28th floor. And anyone that knows me, knows I get a bit sick in elevators — like motion sick. And so the prospect of travelling 28 floors up and down an elevator wasn’t very appealing in my hideous state. But I got through it — like the trooper I am. Yeah, I know – “cool story, not”. OK. Back to the wedding:

This very, very cute girl was practicing her ballet in front of the ceremony area and I was so excited about it I grabbed the official photographers and said, “Dude — this would be an amazing shot!” Yeah, in retrospect — I am “that guy” telling photographers their job. Ugh. Soz.

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Jess looked stunning, and I thought the dress was fucking AMAZING! I liked the sleeves (I’m a big fan of sleeves) and the hair-down thing was inspired. Gingers have the best hair so just exploit that shit.

THE BIRD and the BLUBBERING

In the shot below you may notice a magpie at top right. It sat there just above the ceremony for ages which I thought was pretty poetic — until another magpie came along and attacked it and the two flew off.

Just before that Dee gave her speech and just bawled her eyes out 2 sentences in and I instinctively got a bit teary and it was lucky I was wearing sunglasses — just saying.

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Jess Jardine — “JJ”. Dee and JJ are going to do a blog about “Not Being Bridesmaids” very soon! Can’t wait.

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This is Zac. He has conjunctivitis so that is why he is looking so party’d out so early.

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Awesome light approaching and also fading fast.

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This is Paul (celebrant and Kill The Music dude) and KC’s daughter — LuccaImage

Trying to look “country”

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When you are trying to be arty, ensure to keep a camera on a tripod in shot. That’s just how I roll.

THE BOUQUET

For some reason I became in charge of THE bouquet. Naturally I decided to abuse my newfound responsibilities by photographing all the kids with it.

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But then DISASTER! Lucca was not impressed.

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“DO NOT WANT!”

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THE NIGHT

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So then the party retreated indoors for food and speeches etc. Dee and Jess Jardine delivered an AMAZING performance. I was so proud. Full of amazing gags and genuine performance.

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The awesome Steve and his daughter! I wish I got a shot of Judy (mother of the bride) who is also such good value, and went above and beyond the call for the wedding. HAI GUYS!

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After the speeches I introduced the kids to the antique tricycle. Which I got in trouble for later. But at least the kids had a fantastic time. My mum took a very similar photo of me carrying my sister on my trike back when I was 4.

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Shoe Shazzam!

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Oh yeah — we actually need to sign stuff to that “getting married” shiz.

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Hey Lloyd — I’m ready to be heartbroken. (And Jen on right). And here’s Jen an hour or two later:

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FIRE!

After I got a bit too excited epic-dancing to “California” by Phantom Planet I decided to have a nap. Then JJ woke me up and I was ready to resume my duties which involved the FIRE! It’s no secret I love fire and I put my shorts on over my pyjamas (just for some semblance of dignity) and headed off. But then I managed to be a big, fat loser.

In the photo below you will see the pizza box there in the corner. And I was like, “Throw it on the fire.” But of course it was full of pizza warming up on top of the coals. So pizza went everywhere and everyone secretly went, “Ugh — who invited this guy to the party?” and the box didn’t even make that much impact on the fire.

FAIL CITY!

I officially went to bed after that.

Or so I thought. Our room had 4 beds and I was on the top bunk and soon enough we had these massive chats sorting out everyone’s deepest darkest stuff and it was just like school camp all over again. (Except we weren’t allowed to have girls in our rooms back in those days).

Good, good times. I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend and was almost responsible with my boozing! Maybe. Just saying, unlike Dee, I was in a state of being perfectly capable of helping with the cleanup and packing!

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BONUS PICS:

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Behind the scenes shot!

YARN 2

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So I went to the second edition of Yarn last night. Naturally I got a bit excited, talked an excessive amount of ridiculous and unfathomably stupid shit and made very inappropriate jokes. And of course I had my camera with me to document what a complete douchecanoe I am. (See below).

WEIRD

I was a bit weirded out by coming — just cause I had over-shared so, so much last time. And almost immediately people were coming up to me and saying how much they liked my story from weeks before. And that was really sweet, but just a bit horrible cause, well, just CAUSE.

GOODNESS

And last night was really, really good. I think all the stories were fantastic and much, much better than last time. And yes — in saying that I will be putting down something a bit controversial. But I am a straight-shooter. I think “story-telling” is an art that is a whole lot different to writing. And writers who attempt it need to realise that.

Public story-telling is a “performance” rather than a “production”. And just quietly, you can be an awesome writer, but a horribly awful performer.

Essentially what you are doing up there is a powerpoint demonstration without any pie graphs or sweet transitions. Science tells us that you can hold someone’s interest for about 20 minutes before they switch off. Perhaps less.

There were lots of things I noticed, but the biggest was the fact the story-tellers launched into their story straight away giving very important, crucial details right at the outset before everyone in the audience had realised they had started and had finished their conversation.

And also there were sometimes too many characters in the story. In such a short space of time an audience can only get to know 2 or 3 characters. Just saying.

But yes — it was great and it is fantastic to see people share like we were all around a camp-fire. It’s a very primal thing story-telling. As humans, this was our first performance, before music and dance had any structure or meaningful context. And so story-tellers were our very first rock-stars. And it is an art that needs cultivating, respecting and practicing — cause it is pretty, pretty damn cool.

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I thought this photo was so perfect I needed to do it twice. But in reality Sarah was like — “there’s no light! Take it again over here!” LOL

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And then I stumbled home and had my camera and just took this imagining I was the only one left in the entire world. I’m a dreamer.

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Pictures from today and last night

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Just thought I’d get the token pic of Sasha out of the way.Image

Haig Road has been dug up for re-surfacing and it has been like this for almost 2 weeks. And it is simply evil for a bike having to turn across this gravel bullshit! Some of the rocks are as big as tennis balls. UGH! Thankfully today it got finally fully sealed and I can forget about all those close calls I had.

 

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This is “Bear-cat”. He lives on Haig Road and is always up for a decent scratch. He looks really old.

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It was an Ekka holiday today so last night we met some friends at the Paddo for a beer and some food.

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ImageKerrie took this photo of me!

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And Kerrie took this one too. Love it!

Today I slept in — through necessity rather than design — and then did a few riverloops and ended up at Musgrave park for polo and to celebrate Scott’s bday. This is Marty:

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ImageAnd despite the fact we were drinking in public and being a bit loud and juvenile — it was the indigenous community that got a big fat visit from the Po Po.

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ImageThis is Eleanor and a big hi to Kath’s mum!

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ImageAli!

ImageHB Scotty

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