Friday, 8 March 2013

Born And Bred Bogan

With all this brouhaha (no idea how to spell that) about the PM visiting Rooty Hill, amid talk about western Sydney I thought I should say a few words about my experiences of being a born and bred westie bogan. I'm sure it will come as a total shock when I reveal that 'Boganville' is, in fact, somewhere in the general whereabouts of somewhere resembling western Sydney. You never would have guessed, I'm sure.

I'm a born and bred bogan, having been born here and lived here all my life. The irony being for me, that I've actually somehow managed to live quite a sheltered life in good old Boganville, which I attribute to having fantastic parents.

My Mother's motto has always been: we all come out the same way and we all go the same way. She absolutely detests all mockery of western Sydney. It's a wonder she let me get away with this blog, to be honest.

It is curious. I'm sure I never gave it any thought when I was a small child. We had the kind of childhood where we all played in the street and felt safe. Mum and Dad always knew where we were, however. It wasn't until high school that I became aware of the term 'Westie' and the negative connotations that went with it.

In fact, the high school that I attended had a terrible reputation. I was quite terrified of attending the school and fretted anxiously as Year Six was heading inorexably to an end. Somehow it didn't occur to me that if it was really as bad as it was reputed to be, then my brother, who had already been attending for a year or two might have arrived home bearing knife wounds, totally traumatised from having his head flushed in the loos.

I skulked around terrified for the first few days of high school, I was painfully shy anyway, so I never looked anyone in the eye. After a week or two, it became obvious that nobody even noticed I was alive and  all the gruesome stories I had heard were never going to eventuate. The worst thing that ever happened to me was when some idiot, whose name I cannot even remember, used to approach me as I innocently sat in the play ground alone, reading a book and WHAM he smashed the book into my face.

It didn't last long as my brother sorted him out. I don't know what he said to him but whatever it was, it worked. I most likely escaped any intense bullying by virtue of being 'Jaffa's sister'. He was so very popular. Nick named Jaffa because of his red hair. It's a nick name that has stuck, even my boys call him Uncle Jaf. I was the extreme opposite. Excruciatingly shy, quiet, and, as it turned out an Aspie as well (although I had no idea at the time). Needless to say I kind of stood out among the typical bogan Shazza's and occasionally would receive threats that they were going to bash the shit out of me.
Me, during high school, in all
my mullet headed glory. Just like
a true 'westie bogan'.

"Stuck up, bitch!" was the frequent jibe.  Yes, indeed, I am such a snob. Luckily, nobody ever followed through with these threats and I was left alone.

This was all at least 25 years or more ago and my memory is decidedly dodgy at the best of times about facts that happened yesterday. let alone decades ago, so bear with me. Anyway, the reputation of the school and the wild, wild west continued unabated and there was  always a teacher shortage. At one point, as I recall, the students actually went on strike. As I mentioned, my memory is very patchy, so I remember there being a student 'strike' with some media attention, but beyond that I don't remember the outcome.

I made it to the end of year 12 with woeful HSC results, which I attribute to my complete disinterest in studying, not the school. One thing I remember clearly is, I failed English spectacularly. I know, so shocking, considering the literary genius that is this blog. Meanwhile, I managed to pass German with flying colours. Cannot remember a single word of German now, except Guten Tag, so that was handy.  This stunned my poor Mother, who had always viewed English as  my best subject. She insisted that there must have been a  mistake, and requested that it be reviewed. At which  point, I then received a letter confirming that, no, there was no mistake and I was in fact completely and utterly stupid. Yay me. Doing it proud for bogans. Interestingly, in my admittedly limited experience of working, no employer ever even remotely cares about your HSC results anyway.

I had no idea what on earth I was going to do. I ended up studying at TAFE for a Library Practice Diploma. I did the commute on the old red rattlers into Central station and attended Ultimo TAFE. While there,I experienced prejudice against "Westies". During one lesson ( I cannot for the life of me remember exactly what it was, something to with Legal Studies, I think, although I still do not know what that has to with learning the Dewey Decimal system, but whatever) the rather pompous teacher stated that "teachers hate teaching in the western suburbs"  I'm normally so shy and never spoke up in class but this time I thought I should disagree. I tentatively raised my hand.

"I went to school in the western suburbs," I announced "and I know that most of my teachers liked teaching there."

Without missing a beat Mr Pompous preened "Yes, it is true that some teachers enjoy teaching 'problem students'." This  was said in the same horrified and appalled tone you might use if you were saying "Some teachers like to light their own farts."

 Erm, what? I just finished saying I went to school there. Am I  a 'problem student'?

"But what you often find," he continued "is that it's very difficult for them to be good students when they're being molested by their fathers." Audible gasp in the room.  There was more to his diatribe, but I can't quite remember it all in detail, because frankly, it wasn't worth remembering. At this point almost the entire class had turned on him and were arguing vehemently. Mr Pompous found himself trapped in a room full of angry 'Westies'. Just like Julia at Rooty Hill the other day.

After completing my diploma, I was employed on a temporary basis at the State Library where I once again encountered curious reactions to the revelation of where I lived. People who were perfectly charming and polite at first, completely ignored me once they discovered I was a 'Westie'. That, or they didn't actually seem to know that the western suburbs even existed, and assumed I lived in the Blue Mountains, making comments like "It must be really cold up there." After a while I just went along with it and didn't bother correcting them. But it's worked out well, really. After all, being a Westie has led me to this boring as batshit bogan blog. A born and bred bogan. There are worse things. I just have to try and think about what they are. Shut up.

Linking up with Cathy from The Camera Chronicles for Flashback Friday.


 And linking up a year later for a flashback to March 2013 with Kirsty from My Home Truths for I Must Confess.

Where did you grow up? Have you been to the western suburbs of Sydney? Would you dare? Go on, I dare you....
Reactions:

26 comments:

  1. GREAT post! I'm a westie too...I grew up there and it probably had the same reputation back in the day as it has now. We just weren't as aware of it. It was once we ventured out of high school that we encountered snobbery. Thanks for linking up!

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  2. Thanks Cathy! Yes, I don't encounter snobbery as much now because I don't mix with different people in a work place or the like, but I do wonder what will happen when my boys venture out to the big wide world.

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  3. Ness, there's plenty to be proud of from our time at that high school. We turned out all right and probably more street wise than most. You know all this time I never knew Jaffa was your brother lol.

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    1. Ha ha, fair enough I guess, apart from us both having red hair and the same surname it would have been hard to spot, since we are total opposites.

      And yes, I think we've turned out okay too. I'm not ashamed, after all I created a whole blog stating what a proud bogan I am lol

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  4. I love the word brouhaha!! Nice to read more about you!!

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  5. Loved reading this... It's oddly comforting to know even though we live 9000 miles apart, things aren't so different. Heeehee, and I managed to fail English, too. Maybe it's required to fail English when you're a literary genius (as we both clearly are!)

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    1. I can't argue with that. Yep, total geniuses, it would just be unfair to everyone else, so we purposely failed to make them feel better, right? (Yeah, let's go with that.)

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  6. Love your blog, just btw. I would visit anywhere, no area holds any fears for me, but I probably wouldn't take my kids anywhere unless I had tried it out for myself first. They've been raised to be rather softer than I was :)

    People can be horrendously tribal, whatever their background. You get the inverted snobs where I come from. Anyone who tries to drag themselves up a bit, or simply alter themselves in any way that deviates from the accepted norm, is attacked and dragged back down into the crab pot, if at all possible, by certain types. I remember a plumber I knew nearly having an apoplectic fit when I dared suggest it was ok for a joiner we both knew to try to "better himself".

    Which brings to mind when I was living in America and went back for a holiday to Glasgow, and my mother forced me to do the tour of all the aunties - sitting in the tiny, smoke filled (GROSS fucking habit) dark room my Aunty Helen muttered, after having a go at all furreners* in general "Oh, I could neeveer leave Glasgow" - and luckily for her I was way too polite to say "Like you have a choice?! Nothing like making a virtue out of necessity!"

    The one thing certain types have in common is that generalising about any group says an awful lot more about the person doing the generalising than it does about the group they hate and fear.

    I worked in Learning Support as a TA for five and a half years and I learned, by the way, that some of the very brightest people are crap at exams and academia in general. I think we can safely say that applies here.
    xox
    * foreigners

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    1. Thanks Alison, you always manage to make me feel better about myself.

      You are so brave to leave your home country, and live over seas. I couldn't do that, which is why I've been a bogan all my life. I struggle with change. I'm sure there is a fair bit of that inverted snobbery you speak of in these parts too. Totally agree about smoking. Grosses me out.

      Yes, I think that was what was frustrating, especially for my Mum, knowing that I was bright but I couldn't always apply that in exams. But, as I mentioned, no one seems to care much about high school exam results once you get into the real world. It's more about being able to bullshit your way throught job interviews, something I also can't do. Ahh well, I have my wonderful family and the blog as an outlet so I won't let it get to me. Thanks hon. xo

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  7. I have no idea where I got this idea, but I thought you were from QLD...I do tend to invent things in my head...apparently. What's with that teacher???

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    1. He he I guess you associate bogans with Queensland? If Micky Blue Eyes had anything to do with it we probably would be living in the Sunshine State. The teacher was always whining about his North Shore mortgage as I recall so perhaps he was afraid he was going to go bankrupt and end up out west. Who knows?

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  8. haha Ness you are so funny. I grew up in a country town of 4000 people and some Perth people had no idea where it was whenever I was asked where I was from.
    There are "westies" everywhere but what doesn't kill you makes stronger or at least gives you a great design for a tattoo haha.

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    1. Thanks love. I'll keep thinking about that tatoo....

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  9. Grr! I just lost my comment when my connection dropped out! Nothing wrong with being a westie, what matters isn't where you were raised but rather how you were raised and it sounds like your parents did a pretty alright job of that! We were living in council housing when my oldest daughter was born and my sister still likes to call me a 'houso', but I just shrug my shoulders. There are worse things in the world one could be called!

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    1. Yeah, since I call myself a bogan I can't really get upset if anyone else does. My parents are AWESOME.

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  10. I've often assumed I was a 'Bogan' in the common use of describing someone's lifestyle but I'm starting to think I'm just a country bumpkin. And a North Queensland country bumpkin to boot...eh! We should wear our labels with pride!

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    1. Yes, we should. Nothing wrong with being a country bumpkin or a bogan, as long as you're a noice bogan.

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  11. I grew up in Maitland NSW and now live only 30 mins away in Newcastle so I call myself a Novocastrian now. I have relatives in western Sydney so it doesn't scare me to go that way but I have to say that I would never move to any part of Sydney - if anything it's the traffic and lack of space that scares me!

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    1. Yes the traffic sucks. Micky Blue Eyes calls it a rat race. He'd move in a heartbeat except he's married to a Mummy's girl. Ahem...

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  12. Seriously that is ridiculous the way people have spoken about westies!! Did you know that I used to travel to Penrith every day and work on the Penrith Star, no hang on before I got the gig there I worked for the St Marys/Mt Druitt Star!!! I've seen my fair share of bad people and shit, but no more than any other area I have been a journo in. I've also meet a lot of genuine, lovely, honest people. It's so easy for everyone to stereotype those in the west, we get it here in the Gold Coast, we are west of the main highway and I'm sure everyone on the other side has their views on us, but you know what, I am not wasting a single brain cell worrying about it! I'm sorry you had such a crapola time at high school, I wasn't Mrs Popular, certainly not called a snob, so go you! insert sarcastic voice :) x

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    1. That gives you serious journo cred having experience hanging in the 'riff and the 'druitt. You're ready for Afghanistan now. Jokes. Sort of...

      Yeah there are some dubious types around these parts and noice bogans like us. There are good and bad people everywhere. And snobs everwhere too. As you say, who cares what they think?

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  13. I live in a Bogan town..not just a suburb but a whole town. I say embrace it because you can take the girl out of Bogan but you can't take the Bogan out of the girl ;)

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    1. I may have taken the whole embracing it thing a tad too far with this blog. Oops.

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  14. I'm pretty sure we sported the same hair cut although I would have been about five or six at the time and the uniform looks very similar too but for the most part even though we moved a lot and I went to several different schools I grew up on the Central Coast. Don't hold that against me :)

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    1. Very classy hair cut. NOT. Nothing wrong with the Central Coast. I quite like it there.

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