Long Lost Aussie Cousins, Mental As Anything and “Live It Up”

Last time, I alluded to the fact that much has been happening around here of late, not least that Mr WIAA has now too given up his nice secure part-time job. That makes both of us then, but when I’m being rational, it makes no sense to carry on doing a job that has become beset by politics and managerial interference when you could be working for yourself. We now both have businesses that earn a crust, and although there will be lean months, there will hopefully also be months when it all falls into place and the contracts flood in. We have set ourselves a deadline of next June, after which, if it hasn’t worked out, we will both have to look for jobs or cash in the meagre pension funds early. Neither of these options is very appealing, so motivation levels are currently running high.

I also mentioned last time that one of the many things we have decided to tackle this summer is “The Loft Project”. Like most of us who live in houses with a fully floored loft, this space becomes the depository for a lifetime’s worth of possessions, and in my case many of our deceased grandparents’ and parents’ possessions. Tea sets, dinner sets, artwork, furniture, gadgets (three spare tellys at the last count), clothes, photographs, scrapbooks, camping equipment, books … , the list goes on. It has been fortunate for this blog that I have kept so much teenage memorabilia, as many posts have been written using images of old pop pinups and magazines, but of late the sheer volume of it all has become overwhelming so something needs to be done. (Pictures below of the kind of loft I have and the kind of loft I want to have!)

One of the biggest jobs to be tackled was going to be sifting through my vast collection of family photographs, as all of them seem to have come down the line to me. I know I should share them out amongst my cousins but I have had very little contact with many of these cousins for years, so not an easy thing to do. By some amazing act of serendipity, the other week I received a message from a long lost cousin who found me on Facebook. He had emigrated to Australia in 1976 and I hadn’t set eyes on him for nearly 50 years. His wife was putting together a family tree for their son’s 40th birthday and they had very little knowledge and no photographs at all from his dad’s side of the family (that would be because I have them all).

We have now been in constant touch over the last two weeks and they have provided me with all the information they have gleaned from census records, and I in turn have provided them with digital copies of the above, along with anecdotal accounts of the personalities behind the people in the pictures. As with most rural families in the early 20th century, there were however complications. My uncle (the handsome chap with the movie star looks) was a half brother to my dad as there seems to have been just so much death and sadness. My dad’s mum was one of a family of twelve, but four of her siblings died, and then both her mum and dad died. The chap I always thought of as my Great Uncle was actually her cousin, but he would have felt like a brother as they were both brought up by her septuagenarian grandmother. My granny’s first husband died, but then she met my grandad and they had a fine life together with their two boys. Sadly my granny died before I was born, and my uncle died young too, which I think precipitated my cousin’s move to Australia. As I say, all very complicated, and with second marriages it gets even more complicated but as someone from a very small family, it’s been lovely making contact with someone who shares the same branch of the family tree. Invitations to visit have been mutually made, so who knows, after 50 years we may actually meet up again in person sometime soon.

img146 (4)
My lovely dad in his National Service uniform – Thankfully he grew into those ears!

With all of this toing and froing of messages between Australia and Scotland, my mind has of course wandered into musical territory, and that great continent has certainly given us plenty of artists who have made their mark. From Frank Ifield, The Seekers and Kylie to Men At Work, Crowded House, INXS, ACDC and Nick Cave, over the years our charts have been littered with records made by our Antipodean cousins. As I’m feeling particularly upbeat about having rediscovered my long lost cousin, I am going to share an upbeat song that always makes me smile. Mental As Anything recorded the song Live It Up in 1985 and although it was a hit in Australia it didn’t get noticed elsewhere until it featured in the film Crocodile Dundee starring Paul Hogan. It ended up being the band’s most successful and most popular song, reaching No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart in 1987.

Live It Up by Mental As Anything:

Although he has apparently lived in every state in Australia, I don’t think my cousin ever worked as a crocodile hunter, but Paul Hogan certainly created something memorable when he took on the role of Mick Dundee, and just goes to show, good training for life in inner city New York where he seemed to fit right in. In light of our nation’s current epidemic of knife crime, I don’t feel I can include the clip of how Mick deals with a particularly tricky situation, but if you’ve seen the film I’m sure you’ll know the one I mean. Suffice to say Sue, played by his future wife Linda Koslowski, must have felt in safe hands when out and about with Mick, whether in the Australian jungle or NYC. I often say around here that we don’t really need alpha males any more to protect us from harm, but rather someone who can cook dinner and perhaps fix our laptops – Watching Crocodile Dundee and other action movies however, there is still something quite alluring about a man who has “a very particular set of skills”, but maybe that’s just me.

So, “What’s It All About?” – The loft project has now stalled for several reasons. We have come to realise that nothing sells nowadays; we have to painstakingly go through every box in case old family photos are accidentally destroyed, and, like it or not; some things will have to be kept, for sentimental reasons. At least we’ve made a start though.

Great to be back in touch with my cousin and I now know so much more of my family history, albeit much of it very sad. My great-grandfather was apparently a grocer’s carter yet he had 10 children and lived in a two roomed house. Poverty was very real, yet only two generations on things had changed so much, and my parents’ generation all did very well for themselves, retiring with good pensions at 60 or 65 dependent on gender (the man always tended to be around five years older than his wife so it made sense – not so much nowadays). I have a terrible feeling that in the last 30 years or so, things have started to regress in the western world and child poverty yet again seems to be rife. Some retire young with good pensions, yet others will probably never make it to pensionable age. At least my family tree is now all well-documented and I look forward to receiving my hard copy soon. Those who emigrated to Australia in the late 20th century do seem to have done well for themselves. I wonder if you have any family members who did the same thing – It’s highly likely that you do.

Until next time….

Live It Up Lyrics
(Song by Greedy Smith)

How can you see looking through those tears
Don’t you know you’re worth your weight in gold
I can’t believe that you’re alone in here
Let me warm your hands against the cold

A close encounter with a hard-hearted man
Who never gave half of what he got
Has made you wish you’d never been born
That’s a shame cause you got the lot

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

If you smiled the walls would fall down
On all the people in this pickup joint
But if you laughed you’d level this town
Hey lonely girl that’s just the point

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

Just answer me the question why
You stand alone by the phone in the corner and cry

How can you see looking through those tears
Don’t you know you’re worth your weight in gold
I can’t believe that you’re alone in here
Let me warm your hands against the cold

If you smiled the walls would fall down
On all the people in this pickup joint
But if you laughed you’d level this town
Hey lonely girl that’s just the point

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

Let’s live it up
Live it up
Mmm live it up
Hey yeah you
With the sad face
Come up to my place
Come up to my place baby

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

You with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

16 thoughts on “Long Lost Aussie Cousins, Mental As Anything and “Live It Up””

    1. We are mostly hoarders I know – As It turns out, I’ve been able to use quite a few things from my loft for this blog but just the odd magazine, picture or cassette tape so it doesn’t really justify keeping EVERYTHING! Working on it.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. No big mansion for him then. I like to live minimally on a day to day basis which is why everything ends up in the loft. Like Lemmy I should move to a small flat with no loft, but not fill it with stuff! Sounds like heaven but what to do with all these photos – argh…

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  1. Amazing timing!
    Just an hour ago my wife (who is Korean) and I were travelling in our car and LIVE IT UP came on the radio. My wife remarked on what a happy song she thought it was and how she’d like to get a copy of it. I told her I’ve had the band that wrote and played that songs’ Greatest Hits CD in our garage for many years but these days rarely play it. While I type these words we now have it playing.

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    1. It’s one of those songs that even if you had never heard it before you’d be able to sing along, and it romps along at a fair old pace. Glad your wife discovered it AND weren’t you pleased you had kept your copy of the CD!

      Thanks for dropping by.

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  2. I can empathize, Alyson. When my wife’s parents died, she found herself unable to bring herself to get rid of much. Now, many years later, our cars stay in the driveway as the garage overflows with boxes of unopened possessions that aren’t really ours. It is such a big sifting project, but we have finally begun to lighten the load this summer. Every time we get through a box it feels like such a moral victory. When the workload hits one of those light periods for you two, go for it. You’ll have that beautiful loft before you know it.

    “I often say around here that we don’t really need alpha males any more to protect us from harm, but rather someone who can cook dinner and perhaps fix our laptop.” Now that was a smile.

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    1. Oh Brian, it’s a real dilemma isn’t it. My parents still lived in the same village as their parents when they died so were the ones who had to do the house clearance and they kept much of it. When our own parents houses had to be cleared I ended up with the grandparents stuff as well as their own. As my mum is now in a care home I still have most of her clothes and possessions stored in my loft. We are starting to get somewhere however and as you say each box feels like a little victory, but forget about selling anything nowadays – Ebay and the like is awash with the contents of lofts, and zero bids for any of it!

      Glad you liked my line – Although Mick Dundee and Liam Neeson do have “a very particular set of skills”, most of us, god willing, will never need them so a nice dinner it is!

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  3. Ah, lofty ambitions! Our move to Orkney coincided with a downsizing and the potential ‘rickety ladder’ of the prospect of self employment. After several previous house moves, we decided that nothing, absolutely nothing, was going in the loft, which was a bit of a brave/foolhardy decision. The alternative, at least initially, was the garage, but when I needed a workshop for my new ‘career’, that option disappeared in a flurry of shelving and metalwork. I’ll admit that the answer wasn’t easy, as some pretty stringent ground rules were needed, sentimentality had to take a back seat and we did have a few wobbles. But through a combination of charity shops, re-use centres, recycling, local social media marketplaces, friends in need and, yes, the dump, we whittled down the accumulated stuff of our lives to manageable proportions. We’re not completely there yet, and revisit the few remaining boxes occasionally, but the only thing in the loft is a tv aerial. We donated lots of stuff to Orkney Zerowaste and the Scrapstore Playpod scheme (is Moray Waste Busters an option for you?) Sadly, our roofspace has limited headroom, I can barely stand up in it, so all thoughts of a grand design are moot. Good Luck with your new careers and the sifting of memories.

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    1. It’s all to easy to just put everything up there isn’t is until the day comes that something really needs to be done and we’ve reached that day. Impressed that you now just have a tv aerial – Don’t think we’ll achieve that but if we can thin it down by a half that would be something. The local charity shops have done well out of us but not convinced they’ll sell it all – hope so. Local social media marketplaces have not worked – again so much stuff and the effort to make £20 not worth it. Thanks for the heads-up about local recycling options.

      Yes, not so much new careers but no safety nets now, so motivated to increase business – MR WIAA is very good at what he does and has a fair few ideas going forward so cross fingers all will work out well. Thanks for the good wishes.

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  4. Love the old photos, that one of your dad is gorgeous!
    As for the loft – your dream loft would be mine too. We live in such a tiny house that I often have dreams where we suddenly discover there’s another room and that there has been all along and somehow we hadn’t realised it before, then in the dream I have this brilliant sense of relief. Which is lovely….until I wake up!
    But, with my recent experiences of emptying my aunt and uncle’s house full of decades’ worth of stuff, and then the distressing information, conversations and photos that came my way of how my dad and his wife live with their really serious hoarding issues, – it’s given me a bit of an aversion to keeping too much stuff. I still hold on to too much by Marie Kondo’s standards, but ultimatel only amounts to whatever we can fit under the bed – we are too scared to venture through the tiny hole into our ancient loft, who knows what skeletons we might find 😉

    Ooh – would be great if you can get out to Australia some time to meet your long lost cousin!

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    1. Ha ha – I think that photo of my dad is hilarious and I don’t remember him ever having such sticky out ears but as he filled out, and got himself a less severe haircut, they probably fitted his face better!

      My daughter is a convert to the Marie Kondo way of doing things and she did a great job of thinning down everything before she left, problem is much of it ended up in our loft – Argh… That is the dream though to be ruthless and just let it all go but part of me worries that the little jug with the chip from 100 years ago will be really valuable and we’ll have sent it to the charity shop (although they would benefit to be fair). Our house will never have my dream loft as we don’t have the A frame but a pesky W frame where the best you can do is store things in lines between the beams. I also used to have a dream when I was little that beneath my playshed(io), there was a lift down to a massive playshed with everything a child could possibly want – a pool, a cinema, games room etc. If you watch Grand Designs on telly they do some amazing builds but a pipedream for us I fear.

      Not sure if the trip to Oz will ever happen but who knows – That would be a blog post and a half!

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  5. Really nice song, will add to my discoveries post for August. I’ve seen C Dundee a few times and oddly don’t remember the song. But as you said with Stranger Things sometimes we are so caught up in the story that we can miss these things!
    Good luck with the loft and enjoy reconnecting with the long-lost relatives. We have distant family in the US that we are facebook friends with but I have never met, if I ever travel over there would be interesting to meet them. I have a clear-out to do myself so I better be off now 🙂

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    1. You are really enjoying these 80s throwback songs! I watched the clip of the film and MAA are the band who are performing at the very fabulous artsy party in NYC. It has been a big hit in Australia the year before but not a hit elsewhere until the film came out.

      We are about to have another stint in the loft so let’s hope we can be ruthless – So far not regretted getting rid of anything so long may it continue. Good luck with your clear out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You know that I’m a sucker for old photos and I just love the ones you’ve posted here – I hope that you’ll share some more one day. Every now and then I pull a box of old family photos out and have a rummage. Just a few weeks back I was scanning some negatives and found two shots of my parents, taken well before my arrival, that I’d never seen before. Remarkable really.

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    1. It was great that I had those as my cousin in Australian had none – His wife has prepared a massive lever arch file full of family history and records, so good that they can now put faces to the names. Our loft project is going well and we’ve thinned down a quarter of it already but the next quarter to tackle is the area with all the archive boxes of photographs – There are around 12 of them and although I don’t want to, it really is time to thin them down and maybe prepare packs for some of the cousins. A massive task however. Talking of cousins hope the weekend with your US cousin went well. I’m sure it will have been emotional but in a good way.

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