I come from a ‘bogan’ family, and admit it was fascinating growing up that way. We wore black Fab jeans and flannelette shirts. My Dad swanned around with a pack of Winnie blues up his sleeve, and loved to drink rum. We lived in a mining town called Boulder-Kalgoorlie, surrounded by men that road large, loud motor bikes, and came home every day from working in the mines, grotty and smelling like beer and bike oil. The women did it rough looking after their families (they cooked a lot of stew – to my disgust I ate rabbit stew once. I think I was suspect of my mums stew for years after).
I spent a lot of time riding my bike on the big, wide roads or gravel tracks, ‘growing’ frogs in the steel drum at my friends place, staging dance concerts to Mum on the wood pylons lying on the back yard (notably to the Bangles ‘Manic Monday’), and freaking out at the site of a monster red/orange centipede. Freakily enough, my family nearly took a plunge into a mine pit once as Dad took a wrong turn one night travelling to my Uncle’s, and ended up somewhere on the outskirts…luckily for us he stopped just in time for the head lights to vanish off into the nothingness at the edge of the abyss. Lucky! The entire family was in the car. It was not our time.
As kids (there’s three of us), we hung out at the pub with my folks and their friends, listening to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and my favourite ‘The Bicycle Song’, trying to imitate the adults by playing pool and darts, or wishing we could get lucky on the used bingo cards lying around the place. We also sat around the open fire in the bush at night, listening to music, the reverberations from the sounds of the motorbikes going through your chest, pretending to sleep, but really waiting for the spuds to cook under the ashes – only to be slathered by butter and salt and devoured.
Sure, it wasn’t paradise, and it certainly wasn’t all good, but I’m actually grateful for growing up in that environment. It taught me the value of money – especially thinking back to Mum skipping meals so that she could feed her three kids baked beans on toast – and then worrying about what to feed the three dogs.
It taught me not to not judge people by appearances – ‘scruffy’ people, or people that rode bikes, wore black or looked rough, well they can turn out to be the most funniest, lovely or most philosophical people.
It also taught me to care for every living thing – so much so that I can’t even kill an ant. Mum and Dad brought home injured birds and lizards, we had horses. Mum tried to resuscitate a chicken once because it accidently drowned.
But, most of all it taught me to be grateful for what I’ve got, for the family I have, to not be embarrassed of my roots, and that simple really is best.