Friday, 29 March 2013

Street Talk: You, The Blog Reader.

Street Talk couldn't be done today. Sorry.

I was wondering about you. If I met you on the street, say .... on an information superhighway. What would you say if I asked you some questions? Can I ask you some questions? How are you? How's life?

1) Do you have a nemesis?
2) Is suicide a bad thing?
3) Favourite live performance of a musical act? Why?
4) Earliest memory?
5) How will the world end?

You can answer anonymously in the comments if you feel like it.


Friday Street Talk is an unfolding art project. I'm so grateful and blown away that people say yes to talking with me, trusting me with some snippets of who they are. 

Previous Street talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady
9. Jeff the Preacher Man
10. Andres the Cobbler
11. Honey the Prostitute
12. Mark the Masseur

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Failed Derby Girl.

Have you met Failed Derby Girl?

She joined a roller derby team at the age of forty but only lasted a few months before dropping out. Another failed thing. The call of children and homelife reeled her back.

She does her best writing for free. Her life is her art, just like everybody else's. Tappity-tap!

Failed Derby Girl has a lot of pining and aching for a life she will never lead. She's messy at everything. But just because she can't find Domesticity on a map, doesn't mean she can't bake a mean cupcake.

She's the only person in the entire house who knows how to get the bits of baked-on shit from under the rim of the toilets. (When everybody gets home at the end of the day, nobody ever thanks her but that's ok.)

Failed Derby Girl rails against the hellish crucifix of her youth but has a sensual penchant with the Buddha on her backdeck. She told God she doesn't believe in Him. God doesn't believe in Her, either.


She can interview the Prime Minister in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Her lack of motives and agenda confuses people. She likes to water weeds, for who's to say what will grow and what will not?

Failed Derby Girl has been with the same man for over thirteen years. The love is fierce and hardcore: he is the only one who has never tried to tame untameable her.

She bore two boys from her belly. She will never mother them "properly." Love conquered all. But then what?

Failed Derby Girl shares the secrets of the mothers of the superheroes, the givers of milk. (Dinosaurs disapprove the public latching on.)

There's more to everything, and worlds within worlds.

She sets herself on fire every morning and starts again.

Do you?


Photography by Mary Canning

Friday, 22 March 2013

Street Talk: Mark The Masseuse.

Mark is a sports and remedial massage therapist. Based in Katoomba, he specialises in tradies and sportspeople.

"Yeah I really like it. Have lived in the mountains for years now - no matter how much I think about moving somewhere else, I just always stay."

I told Mark I know exactly how he feels. I ask him if I can pat his guide dog and he says no. Kye is a beautiful labrador and has worked for Mark for five years. He has five more years left.

"Guide dogs work for ten years, then they retire. I was just buying some fish from the fish shop and there was a lady basically sprawled on the floor next to Kye, patting him."

It must be so annoying. In the five minutes I chatted with Mark, two different people came up and asked if they could pat the dog. I told them no.

"People mean well ... but Kye has a job to do and he can get distracted. Sometimes it feels like I'm walking down the street with a 4-year old child. Don't touch this, don't lick that."

I told Mark that again, I know exactly how he feels.

The guys in front of the pub at the top of Katoomba Street watched our whole exchange and ended up talking to us too. It was pretty cool.

I didn't ask Mark about his sight, because it didn't really come up in conversation. I wished I'd asked him about the fish he bought, though. I'm always on the lookout for a new fish recipe.

Mark Tromp - Sports/Remedial Massage


Friday Street Talk is an unfolding art project. I'm so grateful and blown away that people say yes to talking with me, trusting me with some snippets of who they are. 

Previous Street talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady
9. Jeff the Preacher Man
10. Andres the Cobbler
11. Honey the Prostitute

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

So This Blogger Walks Into Kirribilli House And Interviews The Prime Minister.

The first thing I need to explain about this video is that my hair looks CRAP. A red Elvis cowlick, because I was so worried about people commenting on how closely the PM and I resemble each other with our red hair and glasses, that I threw it up in a not-very-well-coiffed ponytail. (Because obviously as soon as a woman gets any traction at all in the public space, her looks are up for discussion.)

I wondered whether to even interview her at all, given the torrential negativity and leadership de-stabilisation that's happening even to this very day. It's like when a person is getting bullied at school and you have nothing against them but you don't want to be seen with them because you might get bullied too.

Whatever. Bring it - I'm tired of reading garbage. For the record, it was a complete honour and privilege to be given the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister of Australia anything I wanted. It was fascinating and symbolic, of a lot of things.

When Dave and I finally watched it last night at the dinner table I said,

"Hon, she's actually really talking."

Of course she actually really talks, but the usual Joe Blow on the street only gets soundbites when the news is told to us at 6pm.

We live in one of the best countries on earth ... the Lucky Country. I've been to countries that have no sanitation, no running water, no toilets and no democracy. Australia has free schooling, free healthcare ... so much! (I was this >< close to thanking the PM for the free rehabs in my twenties.)

All I hear these days is whinging and whining and bullshit, and a lot of people need to shut the hell up.

Last week I went to buy some chicken schnitzel from my butcher Norm because he crumbs them all himself using his secret recipe and I hate crumbing. Ain't nobody got time for that! Norm asked me what I'd been up to lately, his shop was full of people, and my mouth just goes:

"Well, I went out to dinner with Jullia Gillard at Rooty Hill."

People laughed because it was just so random. I thought Norm would launch into some kind of diatribe but he just said:

"Eden you tell Jules that I think she's doing a bloody good job running the country. It can't be easy."

I'm really careful about anything that I write about here and wasn't sure if it even belonged on a personal blog.

But if writing online the past six years has taught me anything, it's that a personal blog is very, very political.

What do you think of the current state of politics and media and gender and everything? Where's your favourite places to consume your news?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Boys, Inc.

One minute Max and Rocco are thick as thieves; the next they fight like crazy. Usually I umpire the arguments and tears, but I've hung up my whistle. I'm out. From now on when they come and dob, I'm just going to shrug like some other hardcore mums I see.

"Is there any blood? Then I don't want to hear it. Go."

Being at the same school has definitely changed the dynamic, but still they fight. You'd think six years difference would mean peace and understanding! No.

Last Friday seemed different. They tumbled in the house, whispering loudly, then shouted that they were "Just going outside to play on the trampoline mum."

We have one of those dangerous, old school trampolines that Dave found on the side of the road. The boys dragged it purposely out of my vision. Hilarity and hi-jinks ensued, for about twenty minutes. I KNEW they were doing something naughty. But they were just having so much fun.

I crept outside.

                             Max to Rocco: "When it starts to fall ..... RUN."

Barefoot, using wooden planks with nails sticking out of them, surrounded by bushland inhabited by killer snakes and spiders. They saw me and we all laughed so hard.


Later in the bath Rocco declared it: "The best fun we've ever, ever had."

This morning they jumped out of the car and Max ran off and Rocco whined at him to slow down because he has little legs and I shouted "Max, wait for your brother!"

My voice reverberated on the dashboard and they didn't hear me.

Hopefully they made it to school anyway.


Is anybody else really overwhelmed by this week and it's only Monday? I believe we're gonna need a bigger cake. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Street Talk: Honey The Prostitute.

Honey has worked as a prostitute in Kings Cross for fifteen years. She's thirty years old. The very first thing she told me was that she came from a respectable home.

"I landed in the Cross young. And quickly met a much older guy. We split up now ... it was hard to get away from him. He's abusive. By the time I was twenty-two, we had three sons together."

Her face lights up when she talks of her boys, who live with one of her sisters in suburban north-western Sydney. She bought her eldest an iPad but he told her it got confiscated. I said it must be hard for her to have no say in their discipline and upbringing. She agreed.

"But I see them every few weeks. It's really good that they're all together."

Honey doesn't have a pimp, just works for herself. She's been beaten up, spat on, robbed. She charges extra for "heavy" stuff. She's addicted to heroin and cocaine and shoots up multiple times a day. We sat in McDonalds and she talked so openly, with not a trace of shame or fear. I asked if she thought she could ever get clean. She doesn't think so.

"I was once, for about three and a half-years while I was having my boys."

Honey wishes the Cross was more like how it used to be. She misses the camaraderie and community feel it used to have.

"These days girls just turn on each other. You do a client, walk down an alley and get robbed by 'em. It's bullshit."

Some streets are darker than others. As we walked outside together I tell her that it was a pleasure to meet her, that she's got a beautiful heart. And I'll be thinking about her for a long time. She smiled, and swished her long brown hair in time to the rhythm of her knee-high leopard-print boots.

"Plenty of girls have gone hard from doing this. I haven't. I never will."

And she walked away.

EDITED: My friend Kit just asked me if I told Honey it was possible to get clean. I did ... I absolutely did, but didn't want to sit there sounding preachy. I believe that anybody addicted to drugs or alcohol can get clean. (It doesn't mean they will. And it doesn't mean it's easy.)

Friday Street Talk is an unfolding art project. I'm so grateful and blown away that people say yes to talking with me, trusting me with some snippets of who they are. 

Previous Street talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady
9. Jeff the Preacher Man
10. Andres the Cobbler

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

In Praise Of The Men.

This week a guy called Mick emailed me saying he saw my photo in the newspaper ... and was I the Eden Barrie he took to his Year 12 formal?

I was. Barrie was my maiden name and I couldn't wait to get rid of it, because I needed a fresh start but mostly because my real father was so pissed off I was a girl that when I was born he disappeared to the pub for two days and didn't even visit.

Mick and I emailed a little bit. I apologised profusely for ditching him at his formal. I was drunk and chasing some other boy. He told me not to worry about it, then he reminded me of all the times we used to sit in Camden oval on Thursdays before Antioch and eat hot chips together.

"Eden, as a dad now it breaks my heart to think of how badly you must have been struggling inside back then. It makes me almost cry to think about it, as all I can see is a little girl hurting and me as a dad wishing he could go back and do something. I am so sorry that you were left fending for yourself."

I read those words and had to sit down. Rocco came in from making a lemonade stand outside and asked me what was wrong, over and over.

I remember sitting there with Mick, all those years ago before I completely soiled myself in a decade-long bender, and we were reading the newspaper together. There was an article about how many people had committed suicide in 1988 (the previous year.) It took ages for me to work up the guts to say out loud:

"My stepdad was one of those people."

It was so hard for me to acknowledge. Nobody ever talked about shit back then. He was my stepdad for eleven years and when he died he seemed to drag all of us down .... it's not mums fault I was left fending for myself. So was she. She was left with four children from two dead men and had to go back to work for the first time in twenty years. It was awful, wicked, and unspoken.

Mick ended up having three children, who he clearly loves with a fierceness and protection that is so beautiful. I love seeing guys with their kids. Men are capable of wanting to be there, to nurture and love?

I'm raising a few men of my own. I want them to be the kinds of guys who would put a drunk girl in a cab and pay the driver to take her home. I want them to know how fierce and strong women are, as they themselves are. I want them to be capable of loving others, especially their own family if they choose to have one. I look at the culture and consciousness they are growing up in and I worry. My eleven-year old said the word "porn" the other day and it shocked me, the way it rolled off his tongue like any other word.

I asked him does he know what porn is. Of course he does.

"But I haven't seen any of it mum I SWEAR."

I told him that he's going to see porn, in his life. And that it was like the World Wide Wrestling Championships ... kind of all for show, a spectacle, and actually pretty fake.

"Real people have real sex, mate. It's pretty awesome, and it's meant to be awesome. I hope you learn to know that."

I'm trying so hard to raise all my kids right, to make them think, to ask us anything, and to know right from wrong. My first two dads failed my family in spectacular ways. It doesn't mean all men do. My husband Dave, and my old friend Mick ... random dads I see at the park pushing their daughters on the swings. All of them out there, actually doing the right thing.

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Prime Minister And The Mummybloggers.

Last Friday I interviewed Prime Minister Julia Gillard for twenty minutes at Kirribilli House. My husband Dave came with me, in his actual blue collar shirt.

 He gave the PM a wooden breadboard with a Riley Renovators plaque on it. I've heard him say in his phone quite a few times now,

"Actually, pretty good ... she spoke like a normal person!"

The interview will be played at the third annual Digital Parents Conference in north-western Sydney on the 20th March. DPCON is Australia's largest online community for blogging parents. My questions to the PM centred around the digital space, being worried about my children accessing hardcore porn with the click of a button, how the word "mummyblogger" is currently being used, and the rising chorus of women's voices in the online world.

The Australian blogging industry is booming. Fashion, food, tech, lifestyle, political, parenting, health, nutrition, fertility, craft, artist bloggers ... we're everywhere. There's as many different blogs as there are different people. It's hard to make a crust online, yet some of us do it and do it well. I suggested that next time she meets with bloggers, it can be a much bigger function with a whole host of people, including some smart and interesting men.

Last Monday night I had dinner with the PM with some other bloggers - Kim Berry, Fiona Purcell, Beth Macdonald, and Mrs Woog. It looked pretty bad that we were all in a private dining room. I really wish someone had suggested we go sit in the bistro for a bit, because the conversation was smart, intelligent, fascinating.

The topics my fellow-bloggers and I cover in our blogs on any given day: Disability, mental health, step-parenting, mothering, education, cancer, addiction, lifestyle, linen cupboards, boys wearing skirts, alcoholism, suicide, fashion, career choices, giving birth to a deaf baby, the media, and pork belly.

Not a crumb for the locals? Or the waiting media?

I asked her about asylum seekers, because seeing the same tragedy being playing out again and again is horrific and wrong. Children shouldn't be in detention. We all spoke loudly and on top of one another. About the NDIS, Centrelink payments, how to fold a fitted sheet, the unpaid contributions of females in society, being married, the politics of blogging.

I got to tell the PM exactly what it felt like to be in an African refugee camp. After the main and before dessert I read out a text from Joy Toose at World Vision Australia, petitioning her government to not cut foreign aid.

We spoke about women having it all ... I think nobody can really have it all. Motherhood has simultaneously given and taken away so much from me. I asked the PM where else was she going in western Sydney that week. I love western Sydney, I remember Penrith Plaza before it was Westfields, and used to work as a barmaid at the Red Cow. 

I'm big on social justice, equality, fairness, feminism. I talk from the heart where Julia Gillard talks with intellect and knowledge and education. I thought long and hard about accepting any offer from her office about anything - because how would that make me look? What would people think? Am I being used as a political puppet, or is it an honour to meet with the current Prime Minister of my country, regardless of what political party they represent? (And who knew so many people out there can't stand to see a woman in power?)

I ended the day last Friday talking on The Project about the proposal to introduce women-only train carriages at night.

I wholeheartedly disagreed. You can't fix appalling statistics of violence towards women with a tin of pink paint. Why should we sequester ourselves away? I vote zero-tolerance.

It's my birthday today. I'm 41. In the past year I've done more things than I ever felt I could be capable of doing. And I've blogged all of it. This strange business of blogging has given me so much, and I will always be indebted to it. (Even though I can't stand to read my old posts.)

So you can call me a political puppet, a bitch, a whore. A dog, a mummyblogger, a nothing. You can even call me a cunt, for all I care. (Just don't call me a dumb one.) If life has taught me anything, it's that once you know who you are and what you stand for, you can be bold and hold your truth. Because there's nothing to hide from.

Not even your shadow.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Street Talk: Andres The Cobbler.

Andres is a cobbler. A proper one. He was born in Chile and remembers being under Pinochet's dictatorship .. it was terrible. He says Australia lives in a bubble. He loves it here, is married with three children.

He wears a leather apron, and trains others in the trade. He says that traditionally trained cobblers are a dying breed.

"I don't miss Chile. My wife does ... she comes from a big family. I come from a small one. I'm ok. My eldest son is thirty - he's an architect, and designed the store. "

Perfectly lined shoes fill the space. Andres' daughter works in digital and designed his website. His business is called Cobbler Caballero, and with a prime position in Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross, he sees all kinds of characters.

Standing in the shop talking to Andres is like stepping back in time to an other-wordly world, back when all things were real.

There's been much talk of glasses this week ..... his are AWESOME.

I tell him that next time I'm in Sydney, I'll bring in my favourite pair of cowboy boots to get resoled.

"Good. I will do it properly."


Street Talk is an unfolding art project. I am so grateful and blown away that people say yes to talking with me, trusting me with some snippets of who they are.

Previous Street talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady
9. Jeff the Preacher Man

Monday, 4 March 2013

In Praise Of The Lines Etched Deeply Into Judi Dench's Face.

This is what a woman looks like when she ages. Remember?

The other day I was at the library with a lot of older people. One lady had long silver hair that was so extraordinarily gorgeous I nearly asked her if I could take a photo. I wish I did. Imagine if people with grey hair were actually superheroes? That it takes your whole life to reach a place where grey hair symbolises wisdom and respect and was highly praised and coveted?

Last week I complimented a lady who works in the supermarket on her bob, because she grew it out from being short. It's a gorgeous grey, and when I told her it looks really good she told me that nobody had complimented her hair for years.

Judi Dench played M in Skyfall recently, and very nearly upstaged James Bond himself. There's a scene where the villain, Javier Bardem ... displays distinct sexual overtones to her. Last time in film a seventy-five year old actress was portrayed as a sexual being? No idea. With her grey hair and lined face, it was the best thing I'd seen in some time. Recognition of something that is usually invisible.

In the past year, my hair has gone really grey. Dave looks at my regrowth with a touch of ... panic?

"Hon - whyn't you get your hair done? You'll feel better!"

I've laughed and said I don't care at the moment. I look in the mirror and finally understand how people say they've earned their grey hair.

I asked Dave if he's ever thought of dying his hair - of course not. He's getting hotter with his salt and pepper. The thought of dying his hair is ludicrous.

I made an appointment to get my roots done this week, because it feels like I'm "letting myself go." Annoying.

One day I'll go grey. Maybe grow it long, tie it in a plait and get teased by children on the bus. If I'm going to age, I'm going to age properly.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Street Talk: Jeff The Preacher Man.

Yesterday somebody joked to me that at least I wasn't a member of Hillsong. I said I WAS a member of Hillsong, years ago. I was even baptised - publicly, in a blow-up pool on the side of the road. The minister himself came up and whispered into my ear that God had big plans for me.

Unfortunately those plans didn't include speaking in tongues. Week after week I used to stand up the front of the hall, waiting in vain for the Spirit Of God to move in me so I could start speaking in tongues just like everybody else did. They all dropped like flies, writhing and flailing while I stood there with my eyes wide shut palms outstretched, waiting and waiting. It never happened.

One night after bible study the entire group - maybe about thirty people - all turned and faced me. Huh? Laying hands on me they started chanting to God to rid Eden of the demon alcoholism. I had no idea - it was like a surprise birthday-party exorcism intervention. I was pissed off.

Never went back. Resumed my drinking career with abandon.

I've looked for God everywhere. In cracks, bars, bordellos, churches, men, drugs.

Scientology, Unification Church, Catholicism, Buddhism, Christianity, Antioch, Spiritualism, Mormons.

Dave and I have had quite a few heated discussions over the years because I insist that the kids do scripture at school and learn the basics of the bible.

"But WHY, hon? Why can't they do Buddhism instead?"

I tell him that the public school system doesn't offer Buddhism .... and I just want them to know that wherever they are and whatever they do, salvation of spirit is possible.

This is Jeff. Standing nonchalantly on the street, smiling, only talking to people when they went up to him.

I went up to him, said hey! He's a member of the Brethren, believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and was calmly handing out information to whoever wanted to stop and talk.

Jeff doesn't go to church, rather he attends "meetings." He looked doubtful when I asked him what to do if I wanted to join.

"We have meetings every day. You're welcome to come along, if you really want to. Then we'd have to go through a process to see if you want to ..... go further."

"So, can anyone just join?"

"Ummm, ahhhh ..."

I wondered if Jeff would have talked to me differently if I was a man.

Bono says God says a church is what happens whenever two people gather together in His name. Maybe a blog can be a church.

I'm still, after all those years, no closer to unraveling the mystery. Jeff is sure - Jeff stands on the street and walks the talk. It's easy when you're sure.

There's no courage in my convictions, and I have as much of an idea of what it's all about as I ever did.


Street Talk is an unfolding art project. I am so grateful and blown away that people say yes to talking with me, trusting me with some snippets of who they are.

Previous Street talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady

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