Farmers Wives 

Julie told a story yesterday as we were enjoying a cuppa. 
Julie is the woman who owns the building my studio is in; Julie is the type of woman I aspire to be. Sparkling eyes, kind hearted and a great yarner. 

Over the years I have been honing my ability to sit still and listen to the stories of my elders. 
I guess I always have listened to a degree but now I see the sparkle in the treasure glisten with more intensity as I too walk towards becoming an elder. We were outside the studio and I was impatient to finish a project and felt that annoyance in my body as a woman came over to talk while Julie and I were having a break. 
She was interrupting our tea and would take up time as Julie talks to everybody. 
I took a breath, told myself to drop and get over it. 
At least she was wearing a mask I reasoned. 
I’m glad I didn’t rush off because the woman had recently lost a loved one and was struggling. 

Julie did as Julie does, she surrounded her with her endless love and regaled this woman, who has been visiting this area since she was a child, with tales of yore. 

This is the story Julie told. 



The farmers wives. 

When Julie was young, in her 20’s she moved to the village where we are now.
The village was surrounded by farms, as it still is now, and in these farms once lived the farmers wives.
A tight, tough, wizened, kindly bunch of older women who always seemed to know what to say and do. 
Young Julie was in awe of these women and was amazed at their ability to do everything, fix anything, heal most things and still heartily laugh at life.  

Their collective wisdom was the local encyclopedia and they were called upon often but just as often would turn up unannounced when needed. 
With soup, with clothing, with medicine, with tractors or with shotguns. 
Their knack for knowing was uncanny. 

One day on her way back from the big town, Julie discovered the back roads were flooded so she had to double back through town, over the big bridge and around to the main road to try and get through at the 5 ways, when she got there, that bridge was also flooded.
However, waiting resplendent near in their beat up farm trucks, on her side of the flooded road waiting to cross, were the farmers wives. 
Julie went to ask them when they thought flood waters might receded, after all they knew everything. 

‘Dunno love’ was the reply ‘The river does what it does’ was the sanguine reply from the oldest farmers wife.

Julie was surprised and to be honest a little disappointed at their response until one of the farmers wives said, ‘I reckon I know just what to do’ and she walked over to her truck.

Julie immediately brightened, this was what she was waiting for. 
She’d heard tales of these women's strange bush tricks, performing near miracles on near dead livestock and now she was about to witness this first hand. 
The woman went to her truck, Julie waited shimmering in excitement that she might bring out a rock, or a feather or some kind of ant-river rising amulet. 

The woman arrived back with scones. 

‘So who wants one?’ She asked in a tone that had the usual directness reserved for those from the country. 

Julie's disappointment again resurfaced but a scone was a scone and she had to laugh at her own dreamy foolishness thinking that these women had some old farmers wife remedy that could stead a flooded river. 

They all sat down to scones and chats about this and that, about other floods and who got stuck and where they got stuck and how they got unstuck til there were no scones left. 

Julie stood to clean up and in doing so turned towards the bridge only to find that the river had subsided and the road was now clear.

Old farmers wife magic comes in many guises reckons Julie. 

And that day it was scones.


Talking yourself down off the bridge 

This is kinda an embarrassing thing to admit but I thought that maybe I am not alone in this thought process.
I have lots of imaginings, like we all do but some are specific scenarios that I play over in my head and have done for years. 

My acceptance speech at the world’s most glamorous awards show, my concentration camp choir singing ‘Hallelujah’, my speech when I receive an honorary doctorate for being a very impressive human. 

So this is one of these imaginings…. 

Sometimes I picture that I am crossing a bridge and see a person who is about to take their own life by jumping off. 

I start talking and connecting with them. 
I don’t say all the clichéd things that *dumb therapists say, I say real things like, 
‘Yeah, the world is fucked and hard and it’s really difficult to get through’ 

I tell them that I struggle everyday to get through and sometimes it feels so hopeless and I also think about doing what they are doing. 

We talk for a while and they get angry with me saying it’s different for them and I say 
‘Sure, it’s different for us all and that’s why we need you, we need your voice, we need you to keep fighting so you can show us one of way out. We need you’ 

They slowly soften and take my hand. 

Without knowing all we say is caught on camera and TV stations air our words and all the people who we care about but don’t seem to know how to care for us, hear these words and understand our illness is real and that we are really brave for getting through most days. 

The people I love finally understand that even though I work, perform and am out and about, I struggle through it. 
They finally see me. 

Cut to a bar when one of my mates looks up at the breaking news with tears in their eyes and then clutches their heart and yells in drunken pride ‘That’s my friend, THAT’S MY GOD DAMN BEAUTIFUL FUCKING FRIEND’ 

Cut to a lounge room of a swanky hotel and my distant and cold sister looks up and then covers her mouth in emotional shock, then runs to the door grabbing her keys and coat. She phones her secretary while she’s getting a cab (it’s NY in case you didn’t guess) ‘Cancel all my appointments this week, my sister just… her voice chokes on her sobs. 

Cut to the bridge, we are coming down to relieved and loving first responders with blankets.
The person on the bridge and I hug and they say thanks for helping and I say, ‘No worries, we all struggle and it’s highly likely I’ll need someone to help remind me the same things.’ 

We exchange numbers and I say ‘If you ever need a friend, I’ll do all I can to be there, but if I can’t try another friend, you are loved’ 
I walk off into the arms of the dark city….. 

Now I am all-willing to fess up and see the hero myth being played out here and also my need to acceptance and community support and the ego stroking here is next level.
I can see my daggy foibles in full sun and it makes me laugh at how delightfully and silly and human I am. 

So today I was thinking about this specific scenario and it dawned on me (sometimes it takes a while for me to get the obvious) that I am the person on the bridge. 

I know right! 

This is better than Inception. 

I am the one talking to myself through these moments and I am my own rescuer. 

And you know what, I am super stoked that unconsciously I was creating a story that helped me rescue myself. 
That my infantile brain (and I don’t mean this as a put down, as there are parts of my thought process that are very infantile due to abuse as a child and escapism is a way of dealing with that abuse, just as there are part of my thought process that are very wise and aware) created this way of me loving myself back off a ledge. 

In my escapism I created a story where I saved myself. 
I only just worked out how fucking clever my subconscious brain can be. 
How cool is that! 
No wonder I am practicing my honorary doctorate speech.

*as opposed to smart and insightful therapists who I adore.

Lowing or crying 

I wake with a headache 

It’s early and the trains are passing and a cow is crying. 
It’s not Spring so I wonder why a cow would be upset this far into summer. 
Has someone taken her last calf?

I am in the bed my father used to sleep in as a child and years later as child, I did as well. 
There is dust everywhere and the smell of old.
My jaw and neck are tight. 

I used to hate coming here. 
Now it’s not so bad, it’s a duty that I feel strangely proud to perform and I have learned so much in the murky visits listening to my father. 

I am not staying with him. 
I never do, it’s not safe despite his meds. 

I stay with my Aunt next door, who was 93 last week. 
She is an ox. 
She still demands I eat despite saying I have put weight on. 
My headache intensifies as I lay in bed because no one wakes here til after 10. 

They are all old and I feel older just being here in the dust and clutter. 
I think that my body is holding the memories of trauma and my body knows best. 
I am staying one night more then off back home. 
To my own clutter and dust. 
There’s a time to move on and a time to stay. 

My aunt defends my dad again. 
‘He was never violent.’ 
I sigh. 
‘I was hit as a kid, it never hurt me.’ 
I say nothing for a while as I lean against the cool wood of the bathroom door that she has bailed me up against. 

I tell her that dad started to admit things to me. 
That his illness has hidden all these memories, as he could never come to terms with the monster he was. 
But now he is starting to and that this is good.

Last night he said that he was the kind of man that created the women's movement.
I wasn't sure if it was a boast.
He said he treated women terribly.
I asked if he could go back would he be different.
'There's no going back' he said too quickly.
'But if you could?' I nudged carefully.
'Of course' he almost snapped.

I have told my Aunt about these discoveries before but she has a hard time reconciling what he did to who he is now. 
He does too. 

Me coming here and asking brings these memories to light. 
It helps him remember. 
Well, It helps me at least but I think it also helps him lift the veil of disassociation. 

I know this. 
I disassociate too apparently. 
I leave myself because of trauma. 
Trauma that he is somewhat responsible for.
I perform myself and go into other bodies.
I pretend I am OK too often when I am not
I freeze and forget things. 

My body doesn’t. 
My body remembers.
My headache screams through my Aunts justification of my dads behavior.
I excuse myself. 
My body knows. 


One night in Austin 

I drive into Austin with knickers jumping after giving Fort Worth a quick peck as I packed up quick and left without looking back. The long, hard drive, musical expectations combined with my pulsing ovaries mean I slide into Austin town as toey as double pluggers. The Airbnb has 'The home of the brave' pillows strewn on the American flag bedspread, I throw them on the floor after taking note... ‘when in Rome’. 
I tart myself up as much as I can from a backpack filled with hiking gear. 
I have the one dress. 
It's a popular dress, people comment; it's bright and pops. 
I let myself, the dress and Austin down when I thow on old lady, pink Birkenstocks instead of the illusive cowboy boots I hoped to find at the thrift stores I had frequented, seeking a old Kalamazoo. 
I needed them boots because I might meet that fantasy Texan cowboy who loves sad, achy pre 80's country music, feminism, foreigners and dresses that pop! 
Guess he’ll have to be less deeply superficial than me. 
I pop lipstick on to pop more and to hopefully divert away from my pink lesbian sandles. 

Austin is a music town and I have been aching for music that makes you ache sweetly. Oh, that and aching for that liberal Texan cowboy. 
I dive into Red River St, scented, bright and eyes darting and sparkling like largemouth bass. 
I come ashore at Stubbs. 
There's no one there. 
It's Sunday. 
Seems the sinners are either recovering or at mass. 
"Where are you from" asks the napkin folder in cowboy boots you could catch a real Texan in. 
"S'traylia" I thicken my accent to match hers and the humidity. 
"I'm looking for live music, country preferably but not the sweet stuff" 
I try and hide my feet. 
"Well you picked the wrong night, nuthin' much happening on a Sunday" 
"Yeah, I can see that" 
"Try 'The Cronical'" 
She yells to the bar for a copy and one is delivered with my cheque. 
It's closing time. It's 8pm. 
I check the street press section; it sure is a quiet night. 
Ethan Hawk is in town promoting his movie about Blaze Foley, called ‘Blaze’. 
Blaze and Townes were co-conspirators in music drinking and untimely deaths. 
Hawke is speaking at Waterloo Records. 
Should I pop in on my one night in Austin? 

Nah, that would be too, too in my search for 'authenticity'. 
Mmmmm.... What even does that mean? 
After the hyper-reality of American freeways and television, I no longer feel that confident about that word…. especially without boots. 
I read that in Saxon's ‘The Resentments’ are playing. 
I think I recall that name but maybe just the notion. 
I head there. 
Steve greets me 
'Love your Tom Fords', he bellows with a wide generous smile. 
'They're fake' I smile back. 
No wonder I am having a hard time with authenticity. 
Steve is a friendly chap who spruiks the band well and so pay my $5 entry fee and go to get a drink. 
The bar is dark, gloomy and steeped in that history you imagine to be legendary. 
A man lops up and introduces himself. 
He is extra friendly. 
I take a deep breath. 
The combination of my dress, pulsing ovaries and what he has imbibed has him sniffin' like a hound. 
I pick my nose as he tells me about himself. 
He’s a seaman on dryland and shows me his boats like a proud father. 
He is a professional sailor on tall ships. 
Shame he’s drunk, he could have been an option if Mr Texas doesn’t show. 
I excuse myself to listen to the band. 

They’re all sitting down as they play; they’re older and weary. 
I like them. 
The singer has range, gravity and gravel. 
I start to relax, nice one Austin. 
Four songs then they end. 

The next band sets up 
Steve hollers from the door when he sees the Strat. 
Steve likes labels it seems, America likes labels. 
Authentic labels. Labels with history and passion. 
Labels with street cred and toughness. 
I place my dress over my sandals. 

So far three bands have played since 3pm. 
The next band Mission 2 Mars is motley and really good, but not as weary and I miss the weary. I get up after their first set, say goodbye to Steve who offers to show me around the green room. It’s lined with photos of the legends. 
I found something authentic. 
Thanking Steve, I disappear into the hot night, wishing I could leave my fucking slippers like Miss Cinders, but there are needles and I promised someone I would be careful. 

I head to Antones. 
A bigger cover charge of $20 
But worth it and more. 
There are 8 people here. 
The singer/Hammond player is in a wheelchair and is in his 90’s. 
I don’t get his name just his life force as he jabbed and swayed like Ali. 
He’s the boss and I watch Oscar Ornelas dance around him, both not weary at all, ‘til past midnight. 

I’m at the bar trying to finish my third drink for the night. 
I can’t. It’s too strong. 
Curse it, another reason I needed boots. 
The band ends, and I disappear my feet flapping vulgarly, like a drunk teenager. 
It’s nearly 1am. 
I head towards The Continental and arrive just as the band ends. 
It was a big night and the greats were there and I missed it. 
Meh, there’s always something to miss. 

I’m comfortable with that, that’s the great thing about being older. 
You just don’t care as much. 
Indicated by my choice of footwear it seems. 
The staff and I chat, they are fantastic people. 
I take a million photo’s as they close up. 
We exchange favourite bands. 
I tell them all the greats in Australia. 
‘Some are my mates’ I boast with childlike sparkle only a Birkenstock wearer would dare to gush. 
They get this. 
They get the passion I have for music. 
I leave with hugs and smiles. 
Awwww… Austin. 

So, I didn’t get a root but I got small musical kisses on warm, summer night breezes and a little ache of how good a long, hard sweaty night in Austin could be. 
I’ll be back Texas and you know what I’ll be wearing. 

Suicide spaceship  

Feeling suicidal isn’t as hellish as you’d imagine. 

The thought of finally being free from the shitpit of your life is more like a feeling of deep relief, like sinking your tired, sick to the bone body into to a warm scented oil infused bath. It feels like you might be able to finally rise above your pain and ascend to the suicide spaceship of freedom. 

At least that’s how the idea of topping myself feels for me. 

It’s a fucker of a thing to write about because I fear what people’s reactions might be. More of those scared, pitiful looks from people who have never felt this and the small erosion of my flailing career as those in the business of entertaining, shrink away.  
Mental illness is sexy only when you’re young.

I am meant to have my life together by now.  I don’t really. 

Oh and the comments on the social medias that will follow this, make talking about my suicidality seem like a serene stroll in the fecund rainforest. 

‘I’m here if you need’... ‘ You’re so strong and brave.’ .... 'You’re not alone’ 

…….. please don’t. 

The truth is I am alone when I am in my darkness. 
To quote the seminal Seuss in ‘Oh the places you’ll go.’ 

“Alone is something you’ll be quite a lot. Alone whether you like it or not.”
Yeah. Seussian science. 

I’m not saying all my friends are fucked because they are not there for me. 

This simply isn’t true. They are there for me but they can’t fight this battle. 
They can help me feel less alone and do so by loving me and checking in. 
They do this.  Bless ‘em. My dear friends love me despite my mess. 

No matter the efforts, I am alone. 

I know people want to be there but they can’t always be and besides, this isn’t about them, it’s about me and my sometimes broken shit brain.   

I’m alone in my head and that’s where my Aleppo is.  
The one of the things that we all secretly share is that ultimately we are all alone.

It’s a funny, sad paradox…. 

Anyone who thinks differently believes in a god or a benevolent universe and that’s at least one delusion I don’t have. Sometimes I wish I did, it must be nice. 

One of the closest times I have ever been to actually doing it was post a car accident, nearly 2 years ago 

It was a strange surreal feeling; watching the sea and thinking about my dead body floating in her perfect blue. It shocked me. That night, I nearly called an ambulance at 2am with the thoughts swirling around, my brain was being a fucking arsehole troll and goading me into a decision I felt to thick with bleak to stop. 

But I did stop it. 

Earlier that day I was at the beach when the sea called me in. That gorgeous giantess knew how sad I was and seemed to want to help. The dead star in my heart weighted my broken body down and the drag was fucking immense. I would not weigh that much in the sea. I would float. 

I wanted that fucking relief so much but I couldn’t do it as much as I ached for it. 

So I made a deal with the sea. It involved me writing the world’s greatest book before I could reward myself with ending my pain and floating into her largeness.  See what I did?…  yeah, I pulled a swifty with my own darkness. 

The next day I went to my therapist and told her that I was suicidal. I didn’t want to fucking tell her. But not being honest with your therapist is like faking orgasms…. It’s fucking pointless and shit doesn’t get better by pretending.
I thought she’d admit me to hospital. I didn’t want to go, I don’t want to be drugged. I didn’t want the shame of failing at another fucking thing. 

She didn’t send me off to the psyche ward. She asked a few important questions about my grand suicidal plan, I didn’t actually have anything solid. Then she said I was doing a great job of looking after myself and that I was pretty fucking smart for tricking the sea. 
She reminded that I just had a really big car accident only 2 weeks before I was in shock and that I had Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder plus I was also having a really hard time dealing with loneliness and homelessness.

She helped me remember my brilliant realisation from years before, that the urge to end my pain was different to wanting to die. 

I know this. I mean I usually know this, but sometimes I forget. Most of my death thoughts are because I am hurting so much and I just need relief. 

Not being in pain makes sense and I just needed to find a better way out of my pain but doing so involves hard work. I don’t want more work. 

I was fucking completely exhausted because I was already fighting with all I knew for my shitty messing fucked up life. 

I was homeless staying at my friends place while they relocated, my son had disappeared in a teenage haze of hubris and hadn’t called even after he knew about my car accident, and even my on again off again lover of 20 years hadn’t come over the night of my accident, despite him being 10 mins away. 
I’ve had no family for a long time, I mean I do have family but they really don’t like me. I embarrass them I think. Anyway I was alone and I had to keep fucking fighting despite my utter, complete and abject exhaustion and loneliness. 

Then my therapist gave me homework and told me to invite friends over for dinner because I was isolating myself. FFS. I rolled my eyes and left. 
What a stupid fucking idea. 

A week later, I did what she suggested, it was a weird dinner and me being me, who is always uncomfortably honest about my mental stuff told them that my therapist told me to do this dinner party. But my friends were lovely and forgave my burnt offerings and I actually had a beautiful night. 

I’m lucky I have friends like this. I know this.
They made me feel better just by loving me they way I was. 

It was a good idea that dinner; my therapist wasn’t stupid. I was. Typical. 

So the suicide spaceship didn’t pick me up and take me to Nirvana that time but it sparkles and hovers near me when I am down. Oh I get down a lot. 

And not like James Brown. 

I have episodic reactive depression. Basically that means when shit hits the fan I sometimes hit the floor and don’t get up for a while and most things feel pointless and nothing really feels good. It’s childhood abuse stuff mixed with a genetic predisposition. It’s mostly manageable with therapy and is always lovely when it ends.
Like having a bliss shit. 

I have to be really careful with my life choices, like I can’t drink like I used to, or take party drugs, I’m a shit and annoying drug user anyway so I can’t numb my pain with substances, which is ultimately a very good thing I reckon. 

But I do like getting drunk but that shit just brings the spaceship closer. 

So when the death star hovers and the dead star drags, I lay, sit and walk like a zombie in my own private hell day after fucking day. 

And I fight to keep living because I know it will pass. 

It always does. 

There’s only one thing that stops me from planning my own beautiful death in my fog of doom. 

It would hurt the people I love. I know this hurt. 

I’ve been really hurt by my friends killing themselves. 

Why would I add to it? 

I can’t do that. So I fight. 

And in my darkness at 3 am with my failed life mocking me with garish anxiety clowns popping in and out of my slumber as I sob into my pillow and suicide Scotty wants to beam me up, I shrug, roll over and think of my funeral with my fucking shitty family taking over like they do and ruining the day of mourning for my friends and I think of my friends feeling like arseholes for not being there even though they couldn’t because no one can be there 24/7 and I imagine their faces and I feel so sad I’ve let them down….. and then I see my son walk in.   
I see his face. FUCK! 

I realise then I can’t hitch into the galaxy just yet.  I made a decision when I was 20 to have a child. It’s my job to teach him and guide him. I need to do better, I need to find a better way. I need to do the fucking hard work. I need to show him how to fight for life. 

So weeping still, I roll over, turn my wet salty pillow to a fresher side at 4 am and try to sleep. 

Day in day out until… 


Today I am still a bit of a mess, I don’t have my life together, my family still don’t really like me,  6 months ago the job I loved liquidated a few weeks after I injured my wing and then I got rid of all my lovers. 

I’m ok but. 

I just had a lovely cup of tea, there’s soft rain falling, I’m in ugg boots in my temporary but beautiful home, my injury is getting better, I can play guitar again now, I can write, my son and his friend are coming over to learn how to sew, they might not turn up but I’ll be here though. 

And the sea and I still laugh at the joke I played on myself….

Cultural grief for white people who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuff…  

The other week I was lying awake in the middle of the night and thinking about the extreme right and their anger. Not the most soothing of night musings but this was after the Florida high school shootings in the US and I had earlier that evening watched the powerful speech by student Emma Gonzalez.
The backlash was quick, vicious and there for the whole world to see. 

If Trump has done one thing well, it’s to bring the hidden hate and prejudices to the top, shit floats style, and while this fast food style politics might influence a new click bait generation, it also seems to be activating some of this generation away from dumb obedience to a flag and into a place of political discourse and critical thought. 
Yet, as I read the comments after Ms Gonzales speech, (Yes, I read the comments because they can be very interesting but only if you’re in the right headspace) it got me thinking about the anger of poor white of middle America. 

In his tough love book ‘Deer hunting for Jesus - Dispatches From America's Class War’, Joe Bagent was one of the first liberal American’s to ask the democrats to look at their prejudices against the poor working class of America. He warned there would be a backlash. 

There was. 

Enter Trump. 
Oh maybe, that’s another thing Trump did well, (or those that got him into power) he saw this growing mistrust of the impoverished whites and milked it like snake venom. 

Bagent himself was born into working-class Appalachian stock and in his book, spoke of the cold class war that is fought with condescending snubs, distrust and mockery between the chardonnay swilling liberals and rural conservatives. Where you have the educated liberal left thinking the inbred hicks of the middle states have no idea of what they really need, and conversely, you have a group of white blue-collar workers fed up with being told what they need. 

Middle America was ripe for the taking.
And get taken, they did.
So what does this have to do with cultural grief? 

Well I reckon this anger has to do with grief.
Let me define what I believe to be cultural grief; cultural grief is an individual or group grief of either perceived, or tangible cultural loss.

Here are some examples of perceived cultural grief, 

In Australia the extreme right nationalist groups believe their cultural ways and heritage are being taken over by minorities who are not culturally similar to the white colonial Christian heritage of Australia. 

Enter, The National Front. Boo Hiss. 

Another example is in Myanmar (Burma) where the majority of the Buddhist populace (88-90%) are currently supporting the genocide of the Rohingya people. The Rohingya who are descendants of Arab traders Muslim and have been in Myanmar for over 500 years, are only 4% of the population yet are not recognised as citizens. At the time of writing, half a million Rohingya people have fled and 80% of those fleeing are women and children. The majority Buddhist nationals believe that the presence of the Rohingya people threatens their Buddhist faith, cultural and religious traditions, and that the Rohingya have no place in their country. 

In this climate, extremists flourish and we can find a wistful nostalgia and cultural defensiveness against that which is foreign and strange to us. Some people embrace the difference as cultural explorers or voyeurs, some ignore it and some rise against with the gusto of a fish ‘n chip connoisseur in Ipswich and then want to fuck shit up. Eventually, when all this Vesuvian drama cools down, different cultures can learn to co-exist fairly peacefully unless there are big land grabs and then well…. we know what happens then. 

Let's explore significant and tangible cultural grief, what is it?

Well it's real and it's impact is enormous.

The one that comes immediately to mind is right under my feet. It’s the loss that indigenous Australians have experienced after the English invasion.  

So why is this gubba talking about cultural grief ? 

Well I reckon, and I could be wrong, that many non indigenous people who currently live in Australia, and many other parts of the world that have also been colonialised, have lost some, if not all, of their original cultural connection due to colonisation.
Yes, even if they were the colonisers, leaving family ties and lands to start again is traumatic, yet I would still call this cultural grief, even if it's minor.

I’m not suggesting that being a coloniser is anywhere near as horrific as being colonialised and losing most of your language and family, yet as a 4th generation Australian, I still have a great need to ask, what is my cultural identity? 
Globalisation has left many peoples of many cultures scattered and while humans are great at adapting, we also crave the comfort of connection and kin.
Hence Chinatowns in all major cities worldwide, except China of course.
This need to group and belong is biological.

When we lose this group and cultural identity, we suffer.
When we lose connection to land, to songs and stories, we suffer.

My understanding of intergenerational violence and how trauma is stored in DNA has given me a deeper insight into cultural grief.
It's unfathomable to think of the loss that the stolen generations in Australia experienced and how difficult that road of healing and re-connection must be.
This empathy is not always shared, when I read statements by some non indigenous Australia's saying things like 'That was 200 years ago, get over it' (it wasn't, the stolen generations are still happening) or 'We all have been through hard times, move on' I can't help but think that the lack of awareness and sympathy might not just come from ignorance but also a uncovered cultural grief of their own displacement.
Hurt people, hurt people.

My own family history has it's own suffering and yet also one of some triumphs.  

As far as I know, I am predominantly Irish, Scottish and English. I have mostly lost my connection to my original land, music and culture and now speak only the dominant language of English. I have regained some of this cultural identity in music I have learned to play and in researching the history of Ireland, Scotland and England. I have found great connection in convict songs where the new world breaks from the old in rebellion and grief. You just have to look at what England did to Scotland and Ireland to see the grief.

I am lucky to have many records of my mixed cultural heritage; many people do not have these as the invaders have decimated many of them. 

Some of my ancestors were convicts and didn't get a say in where they were shipped, they could have been sent to the West Indies but they wern't. They were shackled and on overloaded ships were sent to Australia.
The healing of my historical past has been a process of understanding the trauma of my cultural loss, then finding the paths to cultural connections and ultimately feeling a sense of pride in my heritage and this process of healing. 
Please, don’t get me wrong, I can find plenty in my cultural heritage to not be proud of, but there are also elements of my heritage I am very chuffed my ancestors were a part of. 

This is a vastly different idea to the notion of white pride, as firstly, I don’t think my culture is superior to any other and secondly, I can also see my culture’s horrible history, I mean blind Freddy can see that. 

Look, as loathe as I am to admit, I get why the whole Make America/Australia Great Again might seem tempting, nostalgia is a nice place to get high.
Admitting there is a void is painful.
Admitting grief is painful and blaming another to avoid this pain is a very common defense mechanism.
It’s also very bloody unhealthy and what a shrink might call maladaptive. 

The ability to use critical thought and not viewing my cultures history through white bread glasses helps keep that vision clear. This way of seeing has helped me understand that I don’t need to take from other cultures in order to find meaning in my life. 

I don’t need an Ayahuasca ceremony to have profound psychotropic life changing visions, (there’s plenty of DMT in wattles apparently) I don’t need a ‘skin’ name in order to feel like I belong in Australia, I don’t need a Maori tattoo to have strength and power. I have my own cultural rituals. Irish, Scottish and English folk lore is filled with stories and myths of these.

I’m not saying that the sharing of cultures should be forbidden or any cultural ritual, art or totem should be only used by the culture that it pertains to. We just need to be mindful about why we want to use them, and here’s the big one, AND make sure we have permission to do so. We all have multiple cultures and making sure we respect these is a great way of showing pride and connection to our own, and to others.

I don’t need to use another cultures rituals to have a sense of my own cultural identity. Not because I’m more woke but because the stories and mythology I am discovering of my own ancestral cultures are rich, diverse and powerful enough. 

Years ago I was in Wales camping with my son who was 4 at the time, and I stood on the edge of a cliff in St Davids thinking of the Arthurian legends and looking at the hoary skies and dramatic, wuthering sea scape. Blustered by the winds, I felt a symphony of story surround me and I was swept up in the glory of this ancient landscape and my ancestral connection to it.
It was an unforgettable moment that I recalled years later after reading Bruce Chatwins- Songlines.  While songlines in Australian indigenous culture are mnemonic, connective and serve to educate, my songline felt like a deep whisper of a memory so long ago, almost hidden in mist yet with the faintest mothers breath and sense of belonging. It was a life photo moment and I’d love to write a symphony of the sounds I heard on that cliff or an ancient hymn of longing and loft but I don’t think anything could replicate it. 

The loss of my culture can’t be compared to another and I'm not claiming significant trauma but I will acknowledge that my cultural connection is now mostly long gone, four generations in a foreign land have churned my ancestral soil so now my family have begun to create a new cultural garden that I am attempting to plant and enrich with meaning and connection. It’s hard but I care enough to want these seeds planted for the next generation.

While I understand the grief that drives people with a colonial ancestry similar to mine want to nick or mimic other cultures art, rituals and practices, I urge them to think deeper and connect with what’s theirs.
Don't hate everything about your history, it's not healthy and serves no-one.

Be proud of the good parts of your history but don't get too high and mighty, or you'll fall.
That grief of cultural loss can take people to places of hate and that shit needs to stop.
Lateral violence isn't a way forward.
It's true that I've lost some of my culture and it's sad but I want to grieve in healthy ways and find a way back to my own cultural homes, because to take culture from anothers without context or permission is simply poor manners.

It’s also theft and it won’t fill my own void of cultural grief.
That void needs to be filled with my own story and added to my living cultures currency to strengthen and empower it.
And it is, my son singing the song my mother taught me is the living proof of that.


what scrabble taught me 

Looking back one of the first signs something was awry was ignoring scrabble, specifically words with friends. 
It wasn’t that I didn’t care, I really did. I love scrabble. 
I’m not that good but I love playing anyway.
Of course I like winning but I am also happy with the brain exercise. 

Then one day, I just couldn’t think properly anymore.
I remember the exact moment. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. 

My brain wasn’t working. I couldn’t put the letters in any order. My mind would wander and I couldn’t focus. So I stopped playing. That was a mistake. 


On the road you are isolated and just that little connection helps you feel less alone. A laugh and a game with a friend brings memories that help blur the beige walls of the hotel you are staying at and bring colour to the end of your difficult day. 

I was working 6 days a week and driving 3,000 ks out west NSW for my job. 
So that meant I was clocking up 24 hrs of driving in a single workweek. 

That’s just under 25% of my waking week on the road alone. 
I didn’t recognise the signs of burn out. I just kept going because no one else could do the job at that time. I was rostered on and I’d do it.  
I wouldn’t let my elders down. They needed me and I looked forward to hanging with them every week. 

I also wanted to keep my job. I loved my job.

I didn’t notice my exhaustion and because my work away from home meant I lost my connection with friends and I didn’t have anyone checking in on me. 

My teenage son was lost in the hubris of either forging independence and/or losing himself to another world and he no longer kept in regular contact with me. 

The grief of his distance confused the symptoms of my work exhaustion. 
I was falling asleep crying most nights and when I wasn’t working I’d have no energy for anything, 
My music suffered. I wrote no new songs. 

I usually wrote a song a week as that’s what made me the happiest. 

I had very little happiness for a long time.
The joy that I did find, I got this from hanging out with my friends kids where I could loose myself in their silliness.
The irony, that’s not wasted on me, was it was my actual job to bring joy to 150 elders with dementia every week. 

Send in the clowns!

Even though I was seeing friends when I could, I would put a mask of coping on as much as I could. I was deeply ashamed of my constant inability to function or be happier. I wasn’t a good friend because I had so little to give. 

My immune system was also shot to shit. I was sick a lot of the time but I kept going. Ta fucking da! 

Never cancelling work but cancelling social engagements or hanging out with friends because of sickness/exhaustion.
Desperately, I wanted to write. 
Anything, a poem, a blog, a song, my book..... anything.

But my brain was black and what I wrote was shit.
I had nothing.
This fueled my unhappiness and my feelings of failure but I still wanted to keep working so I could buy some land, so I’d finally have a home, a place to rest and be still. 

This thought of stability and security kept me going through those days when I’d wake up and say I just can’t keep driving. 

I drove myself through the insanity of my toxic work environment, through the days of sadness, through long nights lone and the growing pain in my shoulder that I thought would go away in time. 

It didn’t. 

Now I am pretty broken.
My arm doesn’t work from the RSI of all that touring and playing music.
It will take 6-18 months to get better.
I tear up at least once a day either from pain, frustration or just plain old sadness. 

I’m on workers comp but the guilt and the pressure to get better makes it feel like a burden.
That in itself makes me feel even guiltier that I don’t appreciate the support I have. 

My mind is being a nasty fucker and it takes all I can to be vigilant with my thoughts and refocus on healing.
I woke up last night with a big anxiety attack because I was so scared about what I was going to do for work. The dark haze of the night and my anxiety made me disorientated but I am an expert at this now, as I wake up at most nights with these.
I got up, had a bite of a banana and some water and focused on my breathing and repeated in my head.. 'this too shall pass.'

Then this morning I had a big epiphany that the trigger for this anxiety was exactly the same I used to get in the mornings before hitting the road. Yet back then I knew how to bury it. I just keep ignoring it til the night and then a few drinks would take the edge off. 

But this time I have no distraction with work. 

I have only my head and my constant pain and discomfort. 

The company that drove me into the ground went into voluntary liquidation just before Christmas, owing their employees tens of thousands of dollars.
Although we had our duty of care for our elders drummed into us, their duty of care towards their employees was negligible.
Now months later, I can’t play guitar, I still can’t focus on anything for long and I have 5 different medical professionals looking after me, so I can function again and get back to work. At first it felt I finally had people that supported me, I don’t have much of a family nor did the company I worked for care much, but now I feel overly handled and pressured into working when I am just so fucking confused and messy. 
I am not going out much, I can’t.
I’m simply trying to get better. 

It’s seems to be one of the most difficult things to do.
All I know now is that if I invest back into my health, like I should have before, I'll be alright. 
So it's baby steps for me.

Today I will do two big things. I will clean the place I’m renting and I will do my physio. I hope to go to dinner with a mate but will have to see how I go. 
I used to do so much and now it’s an achievement if I wash up.

This is what happens when you ignore the signs of stress. 

Please don’t ignore yours.
You have a duty of care towards yourself.

The charm of Smithy the law maker 

The berth I booked on the ship over had four bunks.
I was late getting to it as I deemed it necessary to down a few dark ales in celebration of arriving at the ship on time after a few adventurous days driving through Bushranger country. 

The women in the lower two bunks were deep in conversation and I wasn’t included. I’m sure my late arrival and disheveled traveling garb made the older woman dismiss me as not really that important to talk to and the other woman, younger and darker just seemed to want to be polite as foreign travelers are want to be. 

The forth woman hadn’t arrived and when she did it beautifully proved that I, myself, am very polite too, when I didn’t throw her into the churning straight after her turning on the cabin light at 1am and then playing fucking mobile phone games while eating chips out of a packet with an inbuilt microphone.
5 am, I woke to her alarm and waited fuming while she took a 45 min shower and applied her makeup, hair spray and strawberry teenage body spray deodorant to add atmosphere to the murderous atmosphere she’d created. 

The tourist and I exchanged glances between puffy red eyes and plumes of sickening scented wafts. I disembarked in Devonport after offering to take the tired tourist to Bernie as she was planing on catching a cab on a 45min journey. It wasn't where I was heading but a hobo on holidays with a car has a code to adhere to and that’s to help other travelers and find misadventures. 

My tourist friend was sports woman who was here to compete in the masters games in the cut throat sport of badminton - the sport of pirates. She was an Indian national competing for the US and was quite delightful even though she called me spiritual. I assured her I was anything but. She giggled and said that only a spiritual person would say that.

We get to Bernie, have breakfast at the only café open and I generously showed her how to spread vegemite on toast and no, that’s not a euphemism.
After tea and toast I drive her to her hosts home. That’s when I saw him standing in the shadow outside his shop having a durrie.
His shop boy sitting on an esky in the sun.

His low steely gaze bore through me from a block away and I knew I was going to have to stop and have a yarn, so I dropped off my charge and speed off down the hill to meet this man. 

This is Chris.

Chris is a fisherman and tackle shop owner who likes wearing slippers.
Chris is a fucking legend because…. well just look at him. 

I introduced myself feeling like a fraud and a shyster as I’m a shit fisherwoman and the only claim I have to the sea is I occasionally swear like a sailor and I had only just got off a ship. 
He accepts my eager handshake with a tree trunk palm and then proceeds to give the finger to another bloke stepping in the shop. 

‘That’s venison he’s got in that bag. ‘ he informs me. 

‘Oh I had no i-dear’ I replied. 

He looks at me and shakes his head at my shit joke. I laugh anyway.
Luckily, my job entails harassing old people so I got over my split second of shit joke awks and say 

‘I bet you’ve got better jokes and some stories too, Chris?’ 

‘Yeah, I suppose I do. There’s a lot of stories round here but most are BS because that’s what fisherman do, tell bullshit’ 

I think about saying I reckon I’ve met a few ex-fishermen on tinder always talking BS but I don’t want him to get the wrong idea and besides size doesn’t matter?… anyway, I am here to get the gold so I get to the point and tell him I collect stories as I’m a muso and he says he likes artists and starts telling me about Smithy the law maker….. I’m perplexed but smile and nod, then after a moment I realise he’s talking about ‘lures’ not laws. 

Smithy was a 'lure' maker and a master craftsman who made the dopest lures that he then hand painted with enamel and baked in his own oven.

I asked if he was still alive.
‘Nah, not after putting enamel in his over for years’
That’s not a euphemism either. 

He goes out back of his shop and returns with a box of Smithy’s lures.
They are pretty amazing lures I agree.

Each copper piece is shaped like different kinds of fish and painted to dance like pole dancer in the deep blue. 
As I look at each little creation, I feel so damn stoked I found a new art form and craft and I also found a new friend on the road. 

Chris and I shake hand and paw again and I drive back along the simply incredible coastline through the daft named town of Penguin and think about all the stories that are dancing the the deep blue for me to hook.

The notion of radical self love or how to love ones self apart from masturbating  

YES, I am sick again....(eye roll)
(I have a genetic immune disorder that's probably from my grandparents being first cousins, I know right!)

I have Mastoiditis and that means my skull has pus on it. Pus Skull. It’s my new pirate name. 

It’s dramatic enough for me to feel justified on eliciting small noises of sympathy from others and physically debilitating for me to feel like I’m going to fall over to one side as it’s affecting my balance. Very funny to watch but not very good to work with.
I spent 17 years as a single mother and I have an ingrained fear about not having food on the table. I also grew up with Sarah Connor and GI Jane and so I know I should just keep going no matter how hard and never, ever miss work! 

Missing work means that I am not providing and I am worthless and I am not contributing and I am single mother scum who is living off tax-payers and the good hard working people of Australia. 
Yup, my mind is amazing at making sure I slave. It’s so ingrained that after sleeping two days straight due to being so sick, I called up my work in tears because I was letting everyone down and promised that I’d leave the next day as soon as the antibiotics kicked in. 

The truth is my identity has slowly warped to be based more on my outcome than my actual self. 
I work therefor I am. 
I believe that I have inherited this notion from the breakdown of gender roles in our culture. As a single mother, I became the company man of the 60’s except I also did the cooking, emotional labour and frocked up like a fucking goddess! 

This leads to complete exhaustion and body failure so here I am still with my hyper vigilance and my need to achieve so we don’t get thrown into the streets. 
Um…. that already happened and I am no longer a single mother, I am just an empty nester with no nest. 
So now I am furiously planning busceapades in my midnight musings and have not yet been able to get out of my work work work work mode. 
Then I get sick. Then I call my work and cry. 
Then I get better and work work work. Ad nauseum…. 

However, this week a woman I admire super dooper greatly (Mandi Kai) wrote a post about saying ‘No, thanks.’ She got a dream job and turned it down because it didn’t feel right and it didn’t fit in with her need for flexible work hours. So they got back to her and sure enough.., 'We value you and want you on our team so happy to work around your needs'?!?!
I initially was a little annoyed; not by her but by how I don’t do this. 
I am so used to being in a subservient position for work that I don’t question nor fight back often, let alone ask for what I need. 

It reminded me of an article I read years ago saying that self love is an act of fierce revolution because women are so used to putting aside their needs for the needs of others and that actually learning to love yourself, and I’m not talking about buying a new dress or more makeup but true self love and care, is so revolutionary that it will shock and liberate. Men need this too and also to actually have a revolution so they can wear the skirt in this house! 

Mandi is having a velvet revolution simply by asking for what she needs. I must acknowledge that this is a position of privilege, many woman in our society just don't get the opportunity to do this. Especially minorities who have to work and often in poor working conditions. Worldwide, women do 70% of the worlds labour and they don't have the same leverage as western women do, however in saying this, if we demand more we become more equal and can help our sisters who are disadvantaged. Not in a patronising way.

Women can become martyrs and even congratulate ourselves, or more insidiously each other, for self sacrificing. We also can be guilty of policing other woman so they continue these roles. 

Fuck, I’ve done it. From fat shaming, to mother shaming to choosing to not have kids shaming to status shaming to relationship shaming to single shaming sooooo much fucking shame and blame. I’m sorry. 

I have a deep wound that I am still working through after a family member called me The Martyr after caring for my mum in her last years. Apparently it was my nickname with a few of the family. My anger at taking that role and then mocked actually inspired me to change my role and my position in my family. 

It wasn’t easy and I lost contact with people I loved as I learned to find what I was, I started changing, I was writing, playing music, playing different characters, going to therapy and I became happier. I decided I deserved more. 
I do. I deserved a voice and so I started using it, it was small at first and then it became louder and louder and sometimes too loud and sometimes too soft but I kept using it. 
I have not perfected in anyway learning to live for my needs. I am working through so much and even last year after my car accident I decided I was going to MC a big festival and play 3 days after my accident! 
One week later I was diagnosed with Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder. 
I know! Right?! 

But today, I called my work and spoke to a very lovely co-worker and said, I’m not driving 7 hrs to Narrarbri today as much as I want to and have anxiety about not doing so, I am staying to care for myself. 
She congratulated me and said I could make up the hours next tour. 
So simple and easy. 
I did that today. 
So small and yet so loving. 
My petite revolution.

Rule Breakers, Trouble Makers and the road to hell.... 

I have a rule. 

Well, I have a few rules and most of these can pretty much be covered by the simple principle of using your manners. 
There are exceptions such as, remembering that people are human and killing people is bad manners even if they are really annoying and/or steal your favourite pushbike and/or are a Bangalow real estate agent. 

My rules are pretty strict, as my son would attest, as he now is doing the opposite of all my stringent rules, flamboyantly and with exuberance. 

Some of my rules are because I am a bleeding heart liberal. 
For example…
Don’t call people names because it hurts. 
Don’t be mean to homeless people because.. well because I am one.. and it sucks.
and don’t put animals in cages because that is cruel.

Especially birds. 

Last month, Miss hypocrite here, broke her rule. 

You see, in my work there are lots and lots of lovely, lonely old people who ostensibly are in cages themselves because they have dementia and are in aged care homes.

I really feel sorry for my lovlies and I ponder deeply and often about how I can help them. 
So I come up with lots of weird and wonderful schemes to make their lives better. 

It’s my job so please don’t think I’m some kind of saint.. No, wait till this sorry tale has ended and then you will be able to judge me a little more honestly. 

There’s there’s this one bloke who lives in a country town in Buttfuckville that I see weekly when I am touring out in Buttfuckville, he is very isolated and doesn’t engage with the other lovelies and just sits in his room all day feeding the rat like birds through his screen door.

So what do I decide to do? 

I break my rule. I think what this man needs is a bird of his own, maybe two so they don't get lonely.
After all, I need to try and break my rule as humanely as I can.

So I find a cage and plonk two zebra finches in the prison of love and drive 2 days to give them to him. 
All the while keeping them alive and ignoring the dead feeling of putting these poor birds in cages.
I enter the room, he seems quite happy, if a little underwhelmed and in his usual sardonic and gruff style says, 

‘I was hoping for budgies.’

I explain Canberra has smuggled in most of the budgies, so there is a short supply. 
He rolls his eyes and says ‘I suppose they’ll do’ 

I leave feeling like Mother Theresa and I even get a certificate of appreciation from my work. 
This feeling has floated me over some jagged rocks since, I have even given my self a little pat on the back in quiet corners and said 
'Ilona, you are such a goood person'

A few days ago my colleague calls me for a work handover and I can't help but boast a little and tell him of my small achievement. 

‘Oh yeah, about that’ he says ‘Um, not sure if you know but the birds died 2 days after you gave them’ 


‘Yes, both dead’


I start laughing like a demented clown and all I have in my head is the Dead Parrot Monty Python skit and a dark comedic tragic reminder not to ever break my rules.
or maybe not to have as many..