Discover more from A Hot Mess
Anonymous interviews with people I know 2.0
So did you see Hugh Grant naked?
I’m endlessly interested in how people get through this thing called life. This next interview is with someone I speak to on the phone most days and is probably at the top of my list of best living people on the planet, I might be lucky enough to share her genetics. I’m only writing or making shit if I enjoy it or love it these days, so I hope you like this series of interviews. This is particularly extraordinarily long, I won’t be mad if you can’t be bothered, but you might be happy if you read this instead of mindless scrolling for a few hours.
Love from the Baltics,
BTW I have a show in Berlin on May 24 at Loophole. Tickets at the door only. It’s gonna be hot.
Interview with ANONYMOUS 2.0
Describe your childhood?
happy, protected and loving.
What was the furniture like in the house?
Well, um… (I think she’s teary). I don’t remember much about the furniture from when I was little, but after we moved down to the city, there was a beautiful dining table and chairs, and then Bricky (her father) started doing his carving of antique furniture. There was a beautiful side board, little tables and an amazing couch. The main thing was two green recliner chairs that Noon and Brick (her parents) sat in. They’re the focal points for me.
Were they leather?
Oh, well they were faux leather.
The amazing couch -describe it.
It had a carved back and legs and it was upholstered in a beautiful cream, pale blue and green brocade.
It wasn’t very comfortable to sit on, it was like a, you know, display piece really, but dad had carved it and was very proud of it and he donated it to the nursing home where he and mum lived in the end, and it’s still there… and there was a matching chair. That’s right.
What is a memorable dish that your mother made?
Laughs. Spaghetti! Lunch on the weekends, on Saturday, spaghetti made in a pressure cooker with a can of tomato soup. I can still see it and taste it, it was bloody delicious! It was just like the tinned spaghetti you buy now.
Is there anything about her that annoyed you?
Um, Yes. After she’d had her 5 o clock sherry (cackles). She got a bit, um… (laughs), she got a bit sort of, um, picky. Peter (husband) and I used to fight over who went to pick up Joshua (son) up, because mum’d have a go at you! Laughs.
Whichever one of us, she’d always have something to say to you.
What, like a criticism or something?
Yes, yeah, like “Peter, it’s time you had a haircut!” or something like that. It was never anything… I guess she just… she loosened up after that 5 o clock sherry.
(Reassuringly) She only ever had two.
What was she like in general?
She was… (breathes out). She was generous, warm, loving.
Any specific habits or hobbies that she did?
She loved her garden, and she loved knitting and she just loved keeping house and looking after dad and loved her grandchildren.
Something memorable about your father?
Oh, well again he was just -he was very warm, he was very loving. He was very intelligent. You could talk to him about all sorts of things.
In a way I was a little bit scared of both of them, my whole life, right up until they died.
I think because I didn’t fit what their expectations of me should’ve been. My sister… Jim (brother) and I call Helen “Saint Helen”. She was like the perfect daughter. She did everything right. She, you know, made her debut, she got married in a big white wedding dress and… I did everything that was different.
You were the punk.
I was the black sheep and the punk of the family, and because dad was so generous and I was always having to borrow money from him because we never had any, I always felt this sense of obligation and that I should be a better daughter than I was.
It’s funny to hear you say that though, because the way you describe them is exactly how I would describe you. You have all of the qualities that they have -warm, loving, good at looking after your family, intelligent, can talk to you about all sorts of things. So in a way you’re just like them.
Yes I think I am. I think growing up with mum and dad they definitely instilled in me and in all of us, the kind of -the right way to live. I do thank them for the qualities that they’ve given me through growing up with them but I think I’m far more liberal minded, of course, than they ever were, but that’s also due to their generation. They were quite old by the time I was born, at the end of the war. So I was a late baby, so I was kind of like an only child for most of my life. I never remember living with my brother and sister very much because they were older and then they got married and were gone. So it all kind of fell on me and I know that I did fight with mum and dad because I was a rebel.
And this was in the 70s when you were a teen? Or 60s?
60s. Early 60s.
So in general, the whole world was kind of rebelling -your generation.
Yeah I guess so, yeah. So I can remember having terrible fights with mum and dad, ‘cause I’ve got a temper (which I inherited from mum). Noon (mum) definitely had what we call the Irish temper, and I definitely have it and it means that we blow up and go off the handle and it’s like a volcano erupting and then it’s all over and it’s like ‘do you want a cup of tea?’ -you know.
You just described my week.
Right. Yeah I don’t sulk, I don’t hold resentment. I get it all out in a big burst and then it’s over.
You said that your mother also had an Irish witch thing going on?
Can you tell me more about that?
I guess I didn’t really realise it until after. There were just a few incidences. You could never put anything across mum, she always knew. We used to call her the Irish witch. You couldn’t get away with anything.
And she could tell when it was going to rain?
Yeah, lots of sort of weird little things. I can’t think of them right now.
A strong intuition.
Yeah, in a way I think I have a bit of that. I’m definitely the oddball of the family. The one that wouldn’t conform to any of the traditions and the norms. I can just remember from the time I was at school, I didn’t want to be normal, I didn’t want to fit the mould. I always wanted to be on the other side of it.
What was the first act of rebellion?
Going out with Peter.
It wasn’t becoming a vegetarian?
No that was totally accepted. I was very little when that happened. I was 6 or 7.
In the late 1950s?
And you said “I don’t want to eat meat anymore”
Well I didn’t like it! I said I didn’t like it, and i think -give mum her credit -she never forced me to eat it. She used to put just a little bit on my plate and say just give that a little try.
That’s pretty progressive for the 50s.
Given that her father was butcher! I think she would’ve been quite happy not eating meat either, but in those days… I had a terrible time going to friend’s places for a meal because I didn’t eat meat. It was a very difficult situation. So mum would’ve just gone along with cooking the family meal every night with meat.
I had the same experience in the 90s. So I can’t imagine what that would have been like in the 50s!
It was very difficult in the 50s. I stopped going to people’s places because it was too embarrassing and difficult.
And confronting. I’m sure your friend’s parents would have been upset.
They used to sort of look at me and say “well what do you eat?” and I said I just want the vegetables. “I can’t just give you vegetables” and I’d go “yes you can, it’s fine, just I don’t eat meat”. It was really hard.
Can you tell me about your imaginary friend?
My Daughter. Somehow I invented Daughter (that was her name) as a companion because we lived in the Adelaide Hills, my brother and sister caught the bus to school early in the morning and I stayed at home with mum. I had no friends. It was a big property. The only friends I had lived up a hill, I had to climb up a big track to the top of the hill to see them, but they would have been at school too.
So I must’ve invented Daughter as a companion and it came to the point where I thought she was completely real and mum used to have to set a place at the table for her. When dad’s sister Gug used to come stay, when anyone came to stay, I used to make them take me down to the monument where the bus would stop to wait for Daughter to get off the bus. People must’ve indulged me.
Do you remember what she looked like in your mind?
I have no memory of her whatsoever. One day mum said to me “where’s daughter?”. And I said “Oh, daughter got run over by the quarry truck”. Down past the school was a big quarry. I wasn’t allowed down there. I must’ve got scared by a quarry truck. I must’ve been doing something I wasn’t meant to do. So Daughter got run over by a quarry truck and I never mentioned her again, and I never even remembered her until I was a teenager and mum reminded me.
So, now you’re a teenager, it’s the 60s and you think your first real act of rebellion is falling in love with Peter?
How old were you?
And how did you meet him?
I wasn’t exactly forced -but I ended up working as a dental nurse because that’s what my sister had done. I had wanted to go to art school but mum and dad wouldn’t let me, they said that wasn’t a suitable occupation. *We digress
So you were creative at home, you were making paintings and…?
Yeah, I used to go to art classes on Sundays with a Hungarian man called Charles Friderich. He taught me how to paint oils. I painted landscapes and portraits and that was my Sundays. Mum and dad very kindly turned the laundry into a little special room for me and we chose this great wallpaper, and I had a record player out there and I used to go out there and I used to play Joan Baez albums and Peter, Paul and Mary and do my art.
It was pretty good. So mum and dad really tried knowing I was the only child, I guess.
You just wanted to be an arty bohemian.
Yeah, I wanted to be a heroin addict.
Because at the same time as listening to Peter, Paul and Mary and everyone, I was reading poetry by -well I was reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and reading poetry by Ferlinghetti and Corso -I was a Beatnik! I was a complete Beatnik.
So did you genuinely think about how you could get Heroin?
So it was more a fantasy?
This is Adelaide in the early 60s. People just didn’t do heroin. Thank god, because I would’ve died after the first hit, because I’m allergic to it. Fortunately.
…So how did you meet Peter?
Right, so I ended up being a dental nurse, which I kind of hated, but I was in charged of the drugs cabinet.
Which you loved.
So that suited me. I used to… I can’t even remember what they were now. That’s right. They were called Largactil. I loved to take a Largactil. I used to sneak them. How I got away with it I don’t know. They used to let me do things, like help take teeth out and stuff like that. It was really different. We used to do full anaesthetics with people sitting in the dental chair and take all their teeth out.
So anyway, there were four or five dentists in this thing and Peter saw another dentist, he was the last one in for the night and we went down in the lift together. I don’t think we actually spoke or I might’ve thought ‘oh he was cute’ or something and a week later I had a party. Which again, is a very, very unusual thing for me to have done, but my best friend Trish was going overseas. So I was having a going away party for her, very early 60s kind of stuff that you did. She knew this guy called Jim Kane who was at art school. I don’t know how she knew him. Anyway. He turned up at the party with Peter and it was like ‘oh, didn’t I see you in the lift at the dentists?’. He’d been booked for a gig, and the gig had been cancelled and he’d run into Jim Kane, and Jim Kane said ‘I’m going to this party do you want to come?’. Peter went ‘yes’, probably thinking there was going to be lots of booze and stuff. It was a very tame party at my mother’s father’s house. Anyway we talked all night and he said “I think I’ll marry you!”.
I don’t remember how we connected after that but we did and that was it.
Wow. Can you describe what he looked like in the elevator?
Do you remember? What was he wearing? How was his hair?
He came to the party in a dinner suit because he’d been on his way to do a gig, and in those days you wore a dinner suit.
Was he playing classical piano?
Describe him though, his skin and so on..
He would’ve had dark wavy hair, almost black. He had a very angular face, you know that angular jaw he’s got and nose. Skinny. Not terribly tall. Maybe 5’9.
Yeah and he had a big gap in his teeth.
So it was just a whirlwind after the party where he said he was going to marry you.
I can’t remember how we stayed in contact. There were no mobile phones or anything and he was living in a share house in North Adelaide. I used to go there after work.
*sound of door opening and closing
Here he is, just walking in the door.
*she says smiling and I suspect a slight thrill. They’ve been married over 50 years.
It was a bit of a secretive thing, because I knew mum and dad wouldn’t approve of him.
Why? Because he was a jazz musician?
Yeah, because he went to art school and he was a jazz musician. He definitely wasn’t like the sort of person my sister would have married.
In a way, because your sister, was as you say, the perfect daughter, it kind of took you off the hook a bit, in the sense that you didn’t have to be that because they already had a daughter that was that?
Yeah, I never thought of it like that though.
So you were hanging out at Peter’s house after work. What happened between then and when you got married?
Mum and dad made me go to Melbourne.
To get away from him?
Yeah, they drove me.
What, they said “we can’t have you with this man, we’re going to drive you to Melbourne”?
Look, I really can’t even remember how that came about to the extent that they thought I needed to get away. I had a friend called Maureen who was going to Melbourne, and they thought it would be a good idea if I went. They drove me and I refused to speak to them the whole way.
And that’s a long drive.
So they drove you to Melbourne to keep you away from him, but of course that wasn’t going to work…
Well no, because then I used to sneak back to Adelaide and Peter used to come to Melbourne.
How long did this go on?
Maybe a few months. In that time in Melbourne I was meant to get a job and I never did. Maureen and I ended up in this room in a house in St. Kilda and one night my friend Barry Smith came round and he was knocking on the windows and things and we thought it was someone trying to break in. Anyway, we got kicked out. So that was the end of Melbourne.
How did you end up married?
Well I came back to Adelaide. I don’t know what I did, I can’t remember.
Do you remember him proposing?
No, ‘cause I just got pregnant.
Oh it was a shotgun wedding!
Yeah. Peter had to go and see dad at his office and tell him that I was pregnant and we were going to get married.
Oh My God. We're you terrified?
You knew you definitely wanted to keep this baby and there wasn’t abortions available then really?
No, we did try. Someone gave us some tablets, but they didn’t work. Laughs. Fortunately. Poor little Joshy. He could’ve turned out as anything.
That explains a lot.
So… Oh my god. So I guess Brick just had to say yes?
Yes he did.
And then you were planning a wedding and everyone was excited because a baby was on the way?
Um… I suppose. I think afterwards yeah, mum kind of would have been excited, because yeah -I remember her taking me shopping to buy the pram and things like that.
Was there contraception available?
No. We had no idea. No sex education at all. I think the pill might have been available but not to me.
Is it true that when you moved into your own place together that your mum would come over and cook dinner so you could pretend you had cooked it?
She just used to bring it over in an electric fry pan because I didn’t know how to cook!
And it was expected that you would cook for your husband?
Well yes. In those days that’s what you did but I’d never learnt to cook, cause mum was a great cook and she always cooked, so I had no idea how to cook.
How long did she do this for you?
I can’t remember, but I could cook basic things like sausages and potato and stuff, but I remember for some reason mum used to make this dish that was like little bits of frankfurt with tinned pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce.
Yuck. This is all so funny. So you are living in your domestic bliss, you’re pregnant, you have your first baby…
We were running an art gallery.
Did you ever keep making art? Did you ever make it to art school?
Did you keep creating at home?
Did you just go in to wife and mother mode?
In a way I did, yes. I certainly didn’t do any kind of creative thing after that.
So you’re running an art gallery, how do you choose the artists?
That was the first gallery Peter ran, it was art school people, but the second gallery we had was more professional artists. We just sold a print by a woman called Barbara Hanrahan who we had an exhibition of and she’s dead now but she was a fairly famous print maker in Adelaide at the time. Lots of local Adelaide artists.
Was that enough to pay the rent?
We used to wait for someone to buy a catalogue so we could buy a sandwich! We weren’t terribly successful business people.
How long did you run it for?
3 years all together.
When do you go to London?
Joshua was 15 months old when we went to London, it was 1967.
What made you choose to go there? How did you decide to go? How did you get the money to buy the flights even?
We went on a boat! Peter got a job playing in the band on the boat. It was a Greek ship called The Patreus and there was a four piece band, and Peter was the keyboard player. I guess all our friends were travelling overseas, doing the hippy route, going to India and all of that. England was where the music was happening, it was the 60s, the Stones, The Beatles, The Who, Rod Stewart & The Faces -all those people.
Can you describe your first day in London?
Oh my god. The first day in London was horrific. We finally got to London, we had 10 pounds left -that was all. We weren’t very good with money, we’d spent it all on the boat. So we had 10 pounds left and we had some friends we knew in London, and we couldn’t have walked all the way, but I, for some reason, remember walking, and asked if we could stay with them because we had no money and nowhere to stay. I don’t even remember how we would of got all our… we had suitcases, peter had a keyboard and an amp, a stand, a pram and baskets and suitcases… anyway we ended up staying with these people in Hackney until we got a little one bedroom.
Were you scared or were you more like, freewheeling?
Yeah just freewheeling, I don’t remember being scared.
What did you eat?
We ate a lot of a thing called Bread Pudding. It was like a baked cake with fruit in it but it was sort of gelatinous and was really filling. I think it was 10 pence. It was the cheapest thing we could find. We lived on fried rice, sausages and bread pudding.
What’s the strongest memory you have from London?
Living in that really cold 2 bedroom place, trying to go to bed at four o clock in the afternoon ‘cause the sun had already gone down. It had a little kerosene heater. Josh slept in a suitcase. Somehow we had a bed. The stove was on the landing and we had to go down two flights of stairs and through the downstairs people’s kitchen to go to the toilet.
You said you used the public baths in Hackney?
Yeah there was no bathroom at the house, we used to go to the public bath house once a week if we could afford it.
How much was it?
I think it was like a shilling for a bath, and one and thruppence if you didn’t have a towel and soap. I remember a big black lady used to turn the hot water on with a wrench and fill it up -so you couldn’t put the water in yourself. They were baths in cubicles. In the old days, all those terrace houses didn’t have bathrooms.
When I first moved to London you were terrified for me, because of your experience, and you said that you had stolen something and it was the only time in your life you had done so.
I stole a fur coat.
From Portobello Road markets, because Peter got a gig in Austria and coming from Australia we had no concept of what a cold English winter was, of course. We got there in September and not long after it got really cold and we went to Epping forest with Vytas and Big Lo and Joshua almost got hypothermia because he didn’t have enough clothing on. So we went and bought him a pair of seal skin boots. I had nice long boots, they very stylish. Anyway, Peter got a gig in Austria playing at the ski resort and we went to Portobello Road and Peter got a sheepskin -astrocan coat, and we couldn’t afford another one, so I remember trying this one on, knowing I had to have it otherwise I had no clothes and I was freezing. Because it was really busy I managed to walk away in it.
Were you scared you would be arrested or kind of thrilled?
I was terrified that I’d be caught. It wasn’t something that came naturally to me but I was desperate.
Who are Big Lo and Vytas?
Vytas was Peter’s best friend, he was an artist. He and Loene Furler were both at art school when Peter was and they were all part of our gang. They had gone to London. They had been there quite a while. All our friends were going to London. It was what you did. They lived in Portobello Rd in a basement flat. Only recently we found out that Loene drove a taxi. Black cab.
When did you all come back to Australia?
We lasted a year. We couldn’t keep going, it was too hard. Peter joined all sorts of bands but no one made any money. It was just really hard and it was freezing. It was pretty miserable. It wasn’t like we had a good time going out to see things. I remember one day we went to go to Madam Tussaud’s and by the time we’d paid the fare on the tube and the bus, when we got there we were like, 6 pence short of the admission fee, had to turn around and go home. I used to take Josh to library because it was warm, and we’d sit in there.
I used to go to the churches to stay warm.
How funny I ended up living in Hackney.
We lived in Clapton, it was very working class.
It’s very trendy now. When did you start your commune?
Mount Lofty Rangers?
Oh that was years later.
Tell me about when you first found out you were pregnant for the second time?
We couldn’t afford for me to buy the pill. We’ve never had money.
Describe childbirth for me.
Joshua’s was terrifying. I was 18. I had no idea about birth and in those days nobody explained it to you.
You just did it?
I was actually 3 weeks overdue and he’d started to shrink. So they said they had to induce me. I had no idea what that meant. It meant that they put your legs up in stirrups and try to break your waters. Then the contractions start. There was a horrible old bully woman nurse who used to tell me to be quiet, so you weren’t even allowed to cry out and you didn’t have anyone with you. You were just in a ward by yourself. I was in labour for 36 hours and then it became critical. The baby was in great stress and so was I. They said I had to have a caesarean.
Did you nearly die?
I did. By the time they got me in the operating theatre it was touch and go and I think I remember leaving my body and looking down on what they were doing and being in a vortex. Then something going “It’s not your time” and coming back.
It was a voice that said that? Do you think maybe it was your own voice?
Probably. Something inside me just… childbirth wasn’t a pleasant experience.
I think we should pause. There’s so much to cover.
I reckon, blimey!
What jobs did you have?
Dental Nurse, I worked in a craft shop in the hills, I worked as a theatre dresser (for the actors), I made theatre curtains, costume and art department on films.
Proudest career moment/highlight?
Muriel’s wedding dress being in the Australian Museum Collection.
How long did it take you to make?
Maybe a week, fittings and things.
Most memorable celebrity encounter.
Cause she was the girlfriend of (I can’t think of his name). I was working on something at Fox Studios. As I left the lunch room, they did too and for some reason she started talking to me and we had a great conversation. That just springs to mind. She had a great southern accent.
What are your top 5 films you worked on, the work you were most proud of? Groans. Im just looking at the list. Muriel’s Wedding. Peter Pan. Actually I loved working on Sirens -it’s so bad. What a dog of a movie this is. John Duigan’s wank. Just awful. Cringeworthy. I really loved the costumes though. Because it was an era I had never done before, the 20s -challenging, with my fav designer Terry Ryan. Lovely fabrics.
Hugh grant was another lovely actor I worked with. He was as goofy as he is in real life as he is in the movies. He’s just like that.
Did you see him naked?
No. I’ve seen Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman and Kylie Minogue naked! Laughs
Favourite meal that you cook?
Cauliflower cheese, baked veggies and greens.
How do you spend your evenings?
Watching tv or reading. We watch documentaries.
Run me through a typical evening.
Lately, Tv on at 4pm. Reruns of antiques roadshow. 5pm I watch the crap news on channel 10. Then I start preparing dinner. In and out of the kitchen. Whiskey and soda on ice. 6.30pm I watch SBS news. By 7 Ive served dinner, we eat it. I usually go to bed at quarter to 11.
What position do you sleep in?
The flamingo. I tuck one leg up underneath my chin, the other leg straight, on my side.
What kind of books do you read?
British detective novels
What do you see in your future?
I kind of just go day to day, possibly because of health issues I never expect it will go on much longer.
I stay alive for my grandchildren and children, and my husband. I’ve had a full life and because of the deterioration of my hands, I can’t really expect that I can suddenly start doing much anymore. So it’s more of a slow decline just because of my hands and wrists hurting.
Grim. Imagine you didn’t have health issues, what would you do?
If I had the money -travel.
Did you ever have a bucket list?
Are you sure you don’t want to get a tattoo?
Not anymore, but I did used to. I wanted to get a tattoo because I liked the idea of having a needle and thread winding down my leg. When I did Sniper (film), the make up artist did a temporary one.
What’s your favourite film?
Last great moment in your life?
Last night when Josh texted that he and his girlfriend have gone to Perth to meet her parents. He said it will be good to meet them, but “not as great as you guys, evidently, but hey who is!” and that just warmed my heart.
Describe your children.
My children are both amazing. They both have a generous spirit, they’re both very loving and giving and we have really never had any major disagreements in all their lives.
Describe your daughter’s personality.
She is incredibly hard working, she is quirky, loyal, intelligent, giving.
Describe your son’s personality.
He’s a big softie! He’s always there for you. Everyone loves him, he’s just got that kind of personality. Gregarious, outgoing.
What annoys you?
Lots of things, just ask my husband. His favourite comment is “Don’t be cranky”.
Loud noise. When I can’t do the things I want to do because of physical limitations -top of my list lately. People who are a bit over the top. What else annoys me?
“Everything. Intelligent conversation” her husband says in the background
I don’t like people arguing.
What is it that makes you angry on the road?
“Other drivers” her husband says.
People who drive too slow and don’t indicate.
What’s the most annoying thing that Peter does?
Sneezing and blows his nose in the morning.
What’s your favourite animal and why?
It used to be the giraffes. Remember when I took you to the zoo for the first time? The way their tongues came up and licked their noses. We used to laugh.
I think dogs, I love dogs.
Did you ever have a dog?
Yeah quite a few. Casey, Socks, then Harry. All Bitzers.
Greatest lesson someone has taught you?
I learnt it myself. The first time I realised that even though I’d spent a really long time making some costumes, they still didn’t make it on to the film. Therefore, the joy is in the making, not what happens afterwards. After I’ve made it I don’t care what happens to it, I don’t hold any attachment to it.