Me of the Never Never by Fiona O’Loughlin

First published 2011 by Hachette Australia.

me of the never never

Ah the celebrity memoir. I do not read a lot of these because all too often they are ghosted by someone whose name never sees light of day.

I’m not sure why I picked this one up, except for the Alice Springs connection, because I was living in Alice Springs in 1998-2004 when O’Loughlin’s career took off. Even though I didn’t go to her big show at Araluen, I remember it being advertised everywhere and in a way I feel like I was there. I like the clever title too, heh heh, Me of the Never Never.

One thing I like about reading the memoirs of well-known people is finding out how much they are ‘just like you’, but there are always ways in which you are poles apart – for example, I come from a protestant background and grew up in a two-child family in suburban Adelaide, where this very Catholic woman and her six siblings come from Warooka, a small South Australian town in the middle of nowhere. Although both places might be considered different versions of nowhere!

Both of us went on to have quite a few kids, by modern-day standards anyway. I wonder if she was also sucked into wanting to have it all and believing she could.

I really related to her wish to make something of herself. “Ever since I was a kid in windy Warooka I wanted the moon. Sometimes how much I wanted and not even knowing what I wanted was a physical ache. Why wasn’t everything ever enough? Why wasn’t I like everyone else?” I have often wondered such whys too. For example, why did I lose the will to live when the other mothers at playgroup discussed what they found on special at Kmart in Port Pirie?

Another bit where her thoughts echoed mine was when writing about Central Australia: “Everyone has a landscape that is theirs for the keeping, and Central Australia does not belong to me, nor I to it. I live here, but I am a visitor. My landscape is the Yorke Peninsula. Being the backdrop to my childhood, it will always be my true home.” I feel most at home when driving through the towns of the Southern Flinders, it’s just one of those things.

I enjoyed reading about her childhood, how she weaves back and forth covering different topics, home, school, holidays, relatives, etc. I am currently writing about my own childhood, and find that it is the best way to get things down. As long as you sort them out afterwards, as for a while she seemed to go from Warooka Primary School to Yorketown and back again, as well as heading off to boarding school more than once.

There were of course a lot of laughs, and the tragedies that did occur were written in such a way that what was said worked; she covered what befell her cousins the Honners with a touch that was neither too heavy nor too light, but right.

The weaving back and forth technique did not work so well for her adult life in Alice Springs, as she would be famous, then on the next page obscure again, and babies would be born and reborn.

Then of course there is her much publicised battle with the booze. She gave it up, but I was saddened to discover that since the book came out her marriage broke up and that she is not even of the Never Never anymore, having shifted to Melbourne. But I’m sure the lady will come out on top in the end. I can see it now, a sitcom about a separated NT woman who as shifted to Melbourne; Life at the Bottom!



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