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.

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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