I confess to being clueless, I didn’t know that Mandy Nolan was a comedian until after I bought the book, Home Truths – Myth Dusting By The Lady Of The House. Note to self – the endorsements by fellow mirth-makers, Glenn Robbins and Julia Morris, should have given me the heads-up!
As usual, I chose the book because I liked its cover – the image of the woman with a “take charge” and “can do” attitude really appealed, and the book didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed it so much I booked in to hear Mandy speak at her Brisbane book launch event at Avid Reader on Tuesday 27 April at 6.00pm.
And, by happy coincidence, I sat next to her childhood friend, Scottie, who was able to provide me with even more insights as the evening progressed.
Photo courtesy http://www.tallowoodridge.com.au
Who doesn’t, at some stage, yearn for that elusive place called “home” – the one place that we feel comfortable, and can truly be ourselves? Mandy Nolan explores this theme, sometimes with great hilarity and other times with great poignancy.
Mandy’s (and Scottie’s) hometown is Wondai, a small town in western Queensland about 20 minutes drive from Kingaroy. Those of us who grew up around about the same time will remember that this region was famous for peanuts, the pumpkin scone, and being Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s electorate,.
Wondai in the 70s and 80s offered the best and worst of country life. A close knit community that helped each other out, and came together to organise cake stalls and chook raffles to help a young, tall, and promising basketball player, named Mandy Nolan, travel to compete in a series of national championships. Or as Mandy humourously quipped, she was sent to Perth on the back of a lamington.
The less appealing side was that the town also had citizens who were small-minded, racist and homophobic. And expectations were not particularly high – Mandy explains that she was Dux of her school in Year 10 – because the only other student who finished the year was illiterate.
But Mandy (and Scottie) were both going places, which meant leaving small-town life and Wondai behind to find a new place to call home. After Mandy finished her senior years of high school in Kingaroy, she headed to the “big smoke” – Brisbane, to attend university.
Home for Mandy as a uni student was a share household in Drake Street, West End, which she describes as a hybrid of The Young Ones and Sex In The City, only without the designer clothes. This was Mandy’s, and her housemates’ (all young women) first foray into freedom from rules.
Photo courtesy http://www.fanpop.com
For about a year these young women did basically as they pleased, no-one cared about whether the dishes were done or not, the bin was full or empty, ‘goon’ bags and cigarette butts were strewn around the floor, or even if the kitty litter was emptied! Mandy said, “it was feral”, and Scottie whispered in my ear – “it really was”.
Needless to say that by the end of the year, the ‘party house’ didn’t hold quite the same allure and all the residents, including Mandy, moved on – and never once slipped back into their former ways. Mandy realised that having some ‘rules’ does help.
The reader goes on a journey with Mandy to find “home”, in a geographical sense – next stop the beautiful New Age paradise that is Bryon Bay, the great metropolis of Sydney, and back to the Northern Rivers region to the town of Mullumbimby, which is sits on the Brunswick River, and is surrounded by subtropical hills. And in a “bricks and mortar” sense, from being a renter to a proud home owner of a house that she and her husband, John, built.
Turns out you can take the girl out of the country town but you can’t take the country out of the girl, and Mandy discovered from her stint in living in Sydney that she preferred the camaraderie of country life to the sometimes alienating life in a big city. But “Mullum” as the locals call it, is vastly different to Wondai – it is a farming community, but is probably better known as a centre for alternative types who have decided mainstream culture is not for them.
But don’t go thinking Mandy is a quinoa eating hippy type, whose house is designed in accordance with feng shui principles, who goes with the flow, and uses a compost toilet. With her Drake Street days in her distant past, Mandy now finds solace in housework, which she believes anchors one to the ground, and loves nothing more than a good de-clutter (except, perhaps, a toilet that flushes).
Photo courtesy Hen Night 41 via Photopin and Creative Commons
Mandy explains that, when you build your own home, you can no longer blame the “idiots” whose poor design skills mean you have to live with inconveniences such as limited storage space or unattractive taps, because you are that “idiot”. I was also amazed and impressed how Elvis (the family’s Maltese Shih Tzu cross) went from being an indoor dog before the new house was built to an exclusively outdoor dog once the family moved into the new home (and is probably happier this way).
Photo courtesy Dog’s tongue via Photopin and Creative Commons
Mandy works from home, which sounds (and is) ideal for many people, but is not without its obstacles. Mandy’s obsessive compulsive nature has come in handy with “rules” to ensure you don’t turn into a tracksuit wearing Dr Phil addict.
Recently though, she has had to adapt, because John now too works from home and, after an initial adjustment, has settled into his roomy and comfortable downstairs office. So much so that Mandy is thinking of extending her work/home activities to include a studio for her painting.
Yes, if it’s not enough to be funny and a talented writer, Mandy also paints. Scottie told me he was once in an expensive restaurant in Sydney when, after admiring a painting on the wall, he was was told that the artist was “Mandy Nolan”.
But what makes Mandy so relateable and likeable (to me anyway) is that she acknowledges her weaknesses – she is particularly fond of a throw cushion or two (or more), likes her designer linen, and the “perfect white jean life”.
… this amazing life, sitting on my amazing couch, in my amazing lounge room, I would be wearing white jeans and have super white teeth, because I would be amazing too. I wouldn’t be fat in this house.
Photo courtesy http://www.pinterest.com
Want to know more about Mandy Nolan?
Books – these come highly recommended by Scottie
- Boyfiriends We’ve All Had (And Shouldn’t Have)
- What I Would Do If I Were You
- Sit Down Comedy Club, Brisbane, Queensland, 28 May – 30 May 2015