Elly McDonald



With a song in my heart

Julie AndrewsThis is my 100th blog post since I set up my Elly McDonald Writer blog site 25 months ago. You might think I’ve posted weekly, or four times a month. In truth, I binge blog.

I ignored good advice to keep my blog posts brief, visual, funny, gossip-filled and fortnightly. But I do feel my 100th post should be celebratory and light. And what do I do when I want celebration and light? I sing.

I sing in the car. I sing on the beach. I sing in the kitchen. I have sung in choirs, small groups and school musicals. I have sung in churches, and from the audience at gigs by local bands and major international rock acts. Sometimes it’s hard to shut me up.

When I was a kid I wanted to be Julie Andrews: a “singing star”. Occasionally I still dream I’m a cabaret artist – but only when I’m sleeping. Planet Earth is safe.

I wouldn’t make it through auditions for The Voice. I just, as they say, love the sound of my own voice.

What do I sing?

Left to my own devices, I default to the pop music of my early teens, particularly the glam rock idols. I sing tracks that suit my voice, with lyrics that tickle me.

Here’s a sample:

I sing David Bowie. If I need cheering up, it’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. My sister and I duet on Moonage Daydream:

I’m an alligator, I’m a mama-papa coming for you
I’m the space invader, I’ll be a rock’n’rollin’ bitch for you
Keep your mouth shut
you’re squawking like a pink monkey bird
And I’m busting up my brains for the words

… and Suffragette City:


dd1001_david_bowieIf I’m pensive, it’s Lady Stardust:

People stared
at the makeup on his face
laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace
The boy in the bright blue jeans
jumped up on the stage
And Lady Stardust sang his songs
of darkness and disgrace

And he was alright, the band was all together
Yes he was alright, the song went on forever
And he was awful nice
really quite out of sight
([second time:] really quite paradise)
And he sang
all night long

Femme fatales emerged from shadows
to watch this creature fair
Boys stood upon their chairs
to make their point of view
I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey

Lady Stardust sang his songs
of darkness and dismay

Oh how I sighed
When they asked if I knew his name

or Rock’n’Roll Suicide:

Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on a finger, then another finger, then a cigarette
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget
Oh oh, you’re a rock’n’roll suicide

You’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it
and the clock waits so patiently on your song
You walk past a café but you don’t eat when you’ve lived too long
Oh no no no you’re a rock’n’roll suicide

David BowieIf I’m ambling or reflective, my go-to Bowie is Hunky Dory and The Man Who Sold The World. Specializing in The Bewlay Brothers:

And it was Stalking Time
for the Moon-Boys
The Bewlay Brothers
With our backs on the arch
and the Devil may be here
but he can’t sing about that
Oh, and we were gone
Real cool traders
We were so turned on
You thought we were fakers

I sing Marc Bolan and T-Rex. Jeepster as my happy song, Children of the Revolution as my F.U. song. And when I’m sad…. I slide

I could never understand
the wind at all
was like a ball of love
I could never never see
the cosmic sea
was like a bumblebee
And when I’m sad
I slide

Watch now I’m gonna slide


I sing Sweet. My sister and I cue up: “Ready, Steve?” “Uh-huh…” We do Ballroom Blitz:

I see a man at the back as a matter of fact
his eyes are as red as the sun
And the girl in the corner let no one ignore her
’cause she thinks she’s the passionate one

Oh yeah! It was like lightning
Everybody was fighting
And the music was soothing
And they all started grooving

Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah
And the man in the back said everyone attack
and it turned into a ballroom blitz
And the girl in the corner said boy I wanna warn ya
it’ll turn into a ballroom blitz
Ballroom blitz

In my Zoolander moods I do Foxy on the Run:


don’t wanna know your name

‘Cos you don’t look the same

Last week I heard Sweet’s Blockbuster on the radio and sang along happily.


I sing Slade: pretty much everything, with special mentions to Coz I Luv You and Pouk Hill. I can do Darlin’ Be Home Soon complete with Noddy’s burp.


I sing Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees:

Oh, who needs that sentimental bullshit, anyway
You know it takes more than just a memory to make me cry
And I’m happy just to sit here round a table with old friends
And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies

I sing Crimson and Clover.

Now I don’t hardly know her
But I think I could love her
Crimson and clover

I sing Frank Sinatra, almost everything from the Capitol Years, with special love for I Thought About You and You Make Me Feel So Young:

I took a trip on a train
and I thought about you
I passed a shadowy lane
and I thought about you

Two or three cars parked under the stars
winding stream
Moon shining down on some little town
and with each beam, the same old dream

And every stop that we made
Oh, I thought about you
and when I pulled down the shade
then I really felt blue

I peeped through the crack
looked at the track
Oh I’m going back to you
And what did I do?

I thought about you

Frank Sinatra

25-yr-old Frank Sinatra poised at mike, singing As Time Goes By at Riobamba nightclub. (Photo by Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

I sing Johnny Cash, the Statler Brothers, almost anything country. I can make anything country.

I sing Julie Andrews: My Fair Lady and Camelot.

Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?
Where are all those adoring daring boys?
Where’s the knight pining so for me
he leaps to death in woe for me?
Oh where are a maiden’s simple joys?

Shan’t I have the normal life a maiden should?
Shall I never be rescued in the wood?
Shall two knights never tilt for me
and let their blood be spilt for me?

Oh where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

Shall I not be on a pedestal,
Worshipped and competed for?
Not be carried off, or better still,
Cause a little war?

Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?
Are those sweet, gentle pleasures gone for good?
Shall a feud not begin for me?
Shall kith not kill their kin for me?

Oh where are the trivial joys?
Harmless, convivial joys?

Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

Singing: a simple joy.


Good in the world

Featured image: Screaming Freedom, and Freedom, both by Sina Pourhorayad

This week British MP Jo Cox was murdered by a man who in court justified his actions by yelling “Death to traitors! Freedom for Britain!”

Jo Cox was a champion for Yorkshire. She also championed, across her career, children’s health and safety, worldwide, and multicultural immigration to Britain. She campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU and she campaigned for just treatment of asylum seekers. She believed in humanity and a shared planet. She believed “We have far more in common than that which divides us.”

She died for her beliefs. More particularly, she died in consequence of acting on her beliefs.

The tragic death of Jo Cox, at age 41, elected to the Mother of Parliaments just one year ago, idealist and career activist, a wife and mother of two young children, has me thinking about good in the world.

It’s a truism to quote Edmund Burke in this context: “All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing. The only thing necessary for the Triumph of Evil is for good men to do nothing.”

A partner to which might be the verse I quoted to some friends last night, from Julian of Norwich, the famed C14th English anchoress:

And all shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of thing shall be exceedingly well.
He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be diseased’; but he said ‘Thou shalt not be overcome’.

Usually that line is left out. I think that last line is where truth lives.

In a church today I heard the challenge activism presents expressed another way. The question was asked, “If this church closed tomorrow, how would that affect this town’s community? Would this church be missed? How would it be remembered?”

Last night I observed community activism in support of asylum seekers in detention in Melbourne. Richmond Uniting Church made its gallery space, Gallery 314, available for Over The Fence, an exhibition of art by asylum seekers, curated by Uniting Church minister Lisa Stewart. The exhibition is open for two evenings only, as an event within Refugee Week.

At the opening last night, a former detainee, Mohammad, spoke movingly about the experience of being a young man in indefinite detention. He spoke of the corrosive effects of being confined, restricted in his interactions with the broader community, unable to participate and contribute in the ways he wished. He spoke of the extraordinary moment it was for him the first time an Australian citizen with Anglo heritage spoke that simple word to him: “Welcome!”

Welcome. Well come. How can it be I’ve never heard the “Well come!” in “Welcome”?

An advocate on behalf of asylum seekers, representing the Melbourne detention centre visitor program, spoke about her frustration at the questions sometimes put to her by Australians with Anglo heritage who are well-intended and educated and whom she would presume are well-informed.

She asked, “How can it be these people need to ask these questions? How can it be they don’t know the facts about asylum seekers? How can it be they don’t know we have a detention centre here in Melbourne?”

I cringed when she voiced this. I consider myself well-intended and in terms of academic qualifications, I had the best education Australia can offer.

Yet despite a strong sense that detaining people indefinitely is morally – and surely legally? – wrong, I have questions I hesitate to ask, for fear of sounding stupid, for fear of sounding callous. Out of fear I am both ignorant and not nearly as kind as I’d like to believe I can be.

My questions include, “But if asylum seekers who arrive without papers are not detained, what are the alternatives? How can we verify who these people are? If we can’t verify who they are, how can we determine whether individuals among these arrivals without documentation might pose a threat to our community?”

Without realizing it, I have to some extent bought into a perception of asylum seekers as to varying degrees sinister.

There were past and a few present asylum seekers at the art exhibition launch last night.

This morning when I was telling my brother-in-law about my experience of the exhibition launch, he interrupted me and said, “I get it. Good looking. They were good looking. You’ve used the word ‘good looking’ five times so far.”

Without realizing it, I have to a large extent bought into the equation ‘good looking=good’. How very shallow of me.

Yes, the asylum seekers present last night were conspicuously good looking. Also conspicuously ‘normal’, in the sense they looked as eager to please, as motivated, as intelligent, smart, as delightful and frankly delicious as young people generally do to my middle-aged eyes. They looked nervous, too.

I spoke briefly to one artist, whom I will call Ayesha.

I said, “I hope you’re proud of yourself. You should be.”

In response, a flicker of what I can only describe as panic crossed Ayesha’s lovely face. Then she smiled, nervously, tentatively, and lowered her face slightly.

What did she hear? Did she hear an older Anglo lady say, “I hope you’re proud of yourself. You freeloader. You fraud.”

God, I hope not.

‘Ayesha’ is not ‘just’ a lovely face, and not ‘just’ a refugee. She is not a freeloader and not a fraud. ‘Ayesha’ is a talented and intelligent young woman, a young wife and mother – as Jo Cox was.

‘Ayesha’ and her fellow artists exhibiting in Over The Fence want to live. They want to live free in a community that accepts them and allows them opportunity.

They want to be “well come”.

I am grateful for the opportunity to meet Ayesha and to see Mohammad and others who have been – or are still – in the detention centre in Melbourne. (What is its name? I heard the acronyms but I don’t know what they stand for. I would ask but I hate disclosing my ignorance.)

I am grateful to the volunteer detention centre visitors who attended the exhibition opening.

I am grateful to the activists who spoke and to those who organized this event.

I am grateful to the young woman employed by the detention centre security company who chose to spend her Saturday evening at this exhibition launch.

I am grateful for having my eyes opened, even if it took “good looking” young people and heart-rending artwork to clear away some cataracts.

Most of all, I am grateful to be reminded of goodness in the world. Jo Cox died and unjust detentions continue, but Good (with an uppercase) acts in this world, and I do believe good can prevail.