Megan Washington

Carol Duncan - Australian broadcaster and journalist
Megan Washington


Megan Washington says that ‘Skyline’, one of the tracks on her new album ‘There, There’ is about ‘choosing hope’.

“I think that’s a choice we have to make daily. Choosing happiness and choosing positivity is something that you have to make a priority. For me, it’s a daily thing.”

“That song was inspired a few years when I became very ill and woke up in hospital, figuring out how I felt in that moment and what it meant. Those moments can be extremely formulative? Is that a word? The highest of highs and the lowest of lows is when you galvanise your resolve to overcome things and that was one of mine.”

Whilst not new to the music industry it would be surprising if her audience hadn’t increased substantially after her appearance on ABC TV’s Australian Story and her frank discussion of growing up with a stutter. It was wonderful to watch the flood of support from many thousands of people sent to her via social media after the program aired.

“To be honest with you, I cried a lot after that. I watched the show – because I couldn’t not watch it – with some friends and we made a dinner and watched it.”

“Afterwards, the overwhelming – you used the word ‘flood’ – and I think that’s a great description of it, all these people … it wasn’t so much the goodwill that struck me, it was the resonance, the ‘me toos’, that I heard and I found really moving. I found it incredible that people could see some of themselves in what I had said.”

“You’ve got to understand, I don’t know any other version of life than my life. It isn’t like I never had a stutter and then I suddenly got one. This is how existence is. To see that brought so many other people together with each other, not so much with me, there was a real sense of us being on the same side, the same team. It’s great.”

“I think it’s universal. When I meet anybody the first thing they want to do is tell you their story. People like to tell each other who they are. It’s not surprising to me when people do this and drop the act, stop acting out their role.”

The shortest song on Megan Washington’s new album was written in just a few minutes and she says she had the aim of trying to describe a sensation.

“There must be a word for that like ‘onomatopoeiac’ but that describes the sensation, the sound reflects the sensation. There must a word for it, a German word!”

“I wanted to write a song about falling in love that was less about falling in ‘lurve’ than literally FALLING in love, falling down the stairs or something. The dizziness or giddyness that comes with that. That was the plan. It is the shortest song I’ve ever written.”

Megan Washington’s new album ‘There, there’ is out now and is our 1233 ABC Newcastle Album of the Week.

You can hear Carol Duncan’s full interview with Megan Washington in the audio attached.

If you missed Megan’s exceptional TedX talk, the link is here.

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Eddi Reader on Scottish Independence

Scottish musician Eddi Reader has spent decades travelling the world after leaving Scotland for England at just 18 years of age. Having been back in Scotland now for the last 13 years, Eddi says she’s had to make the effort to learn about what the deal that created the United Kingdom actually means for Scottish people. And she says it’s a dud deal.

“It’s quite a massive control of your life. You pay your tax and it all goes 600 miles away and someone else decides what to do with it. I lived in England for 28 years and I lived in Scotland until I was 18 and then came home just 13 years ago, so I’ve really had to get to know this place again. What really struck me was the terms of the deal – I didn’t realise that we weren’t equal. I’ve been voting for Labour or left-wing parties all my life because that’s what my family voted for, I just continued to do that. But what I discovered is that it doesn’t affect what gets in or out of parliament in London.”

Scotland matters to a lot of Australians. The 2011 Census showed that 130,000 Australian residents were born in Scotland and there another 1.7million with Scottish ancestry.

“I think there’s a lot of affection for Scotland and it’s clear to me in my travels is a real affection for Scottish people. I noticed in Australia recently that people feel a real connection to Scotland, every time I opened my mouth people wanted to ask me about it because they perhaps have a grandparent from Scotland. I was very touched by that.”

“But I think a lot of people have been unaware of the terms of the union, the contract. I myself wasn’t aware, so I think this debate that really took off a couple of years ago has actually made a lot of Scottish people ask the question, ‘What is the terms of the contract and why don’t we know that?”

“Most Scots are incredibly generous and most Scots want a union. I believe in a union. I am committed to unity, generosity and sharing, but there’s no sharing going on in this deal. Scotland receives a grant. For every public service pound spent by the government voted into westminster England gets 85 pence, Scotland gets 10 pence and Wales gets 5 pence.”

“The parliamentary union, as our democracy has grown, as women got the vote, as people who were not rich became people who could vote – nobody ever reassessed what the deal was so we’ve been living in this blind association which has caused frustration, resentment, blame and actual division – if Scotland is allowed to have the government it chooses, and spend its money the way it chooses, then I think we can create alliances with England which are much more solid and real. A true relationship is people that compromise with each other, this union we have isn’t really a union.”

Eddi Reader has been very vocal about her support for a YES vote for the referendum, but has been strongly criticised for doing so.

“I couldn’t believe it! When we were asked to make a democratic choice, I thought it was just a case of analysing what the deal was – it’s either yes or no. It was my duty to look at the deal and make a decision. I realised that I was falling down on the side that says ‘yes’ because I want my children to be confident, I don’t want them to leave like I did when I was 18. When I left at 18 there was no record industry in Scotland, there was no big publishing company – but now we’ve got amazing art. There are young people out there who know more about Scottish culture than I was taught. So there’s a confident nation happening here.”

“As soon as I said I was taking the YES position there was a headline in The Scotsman saying that my family were associated with the IRA. I was also told that in the House Of Lords, in the Hansard minutes, a Lord said that ‘if we had an independent it would be full of people like Eddi Reader murdering Robert Burns songs. Now I don’t mind if people don’t like my music but to stand in a public forum and attack my livelihood – I was getting a kicking by people who are very powerful. This is a powerful force that are against people making a democratic choice – it’s not like having 200 people on Twitter saying, ‘your music is rubbish’.”

“We have 59 MPs (out of 650), then there’s the additional layer of the House of Lords. There are about 775 of them, NONE of them elected. ALL of them appointed. So that means we have 4% voting power in the Westminster parliament.”

Eddi hopes that the rest of the world is bearing witness to Scotland as the referendum nears, “We’re a grassroots people. I’m an ordinary citizen making a democratic choice. I’ve been called a Nazi. I’ve been called a nationalist and I don’t even care about tartan! I just want to live in country where my vote counts.”

“There are a lot of scare tactics at the moment. Apparently people over the age of 75 have been told to stockpile food because they won’t get their pensions! We’ve been told all the banks are going to move out of Scotland, the businesses are going to move out of Scotland.”

“There are some people who have been really scared. But I’m not scared because of pragmatism. Finland is the same size as us, doesn’t have oil, and is doing fine. I just don’t understand why they think everyone is going to stop working if we vote YES. I’m still going to pay tax. I’m still going to do tours. My neighbours are still going to work. Why do they think Scotland can’t run an economy?”

“Scots in their voting patterns have voted for far more left-wing policies than they’ve ever been allowed to have but people say, ‘How are you going to pay for it?’ Well, the same way anyone else does.”

“My only worry is that if it’s a very narrow majority for YES, every single one of us will need to make sure we don’t get ripped off.”

Does Eddi think the referendum will be successful?

“I don’t know, I only have my one vote, but it can be powerful. I think that for people who vote NO, a lot of it will be because they’ve been scared.”

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Fat is flavour

Jennifer McLagan says she grew up eating fat and never realised it was supposed to be bad for her, “We bought lard from the butcher’s store and I think it was through the 1970s in Australia that it started to change. In the US, people were trying to find out why heart disease was increasing and all of a sudden something we’d been eating from the beginning of time became ‘bad’ for us. If they’d been right we should now all be very healthy and fit and heart disease should have disappeared, but it’s not like that.”

Growing up in Australia, Jennifer is now based in Toronto, Canada, and says the manipulation of foods to make them ‘lite’ in itself creates a problem, “Once you take the fat out, you have to put something back in because fat carries flavour – fat is flavour. When fat is taken out it’s usually replaced with sugars, they replace the fats with carbohydrates. Replacing expensive animal fats with cheap vegetable oils only benefits industrial food manufacturers.”

Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma has said, ‘Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food’, and while Jennifer McLagan agrees with that statement, she says it’s not quite that simple.

“My grandmother didn’t eat starfruit, or ginger, and hardly any garlic so I think we have to be a little careful of that, but I agree with him that if we’re shopping at the supermarket we should be shopping around the outside where the fruit and vegetables are. The yam and the sweet potato doesn’t have a sign on it saying it’s fat-free or gluten-free. Science doesn’t have all the answers and when it comes to diet it’s very complex and complicated and each one of us is our own organism and what we eat will react differently with our bodies.”

Why does fat contain flavour? Jennifer says there are a lot of things that can only be carried by fat-volatile oils, “It’s also a way to deliver vitamins, a lot of our vitamins are only fat-soluble so when people buy skim milk or 0% milk – which isn’t milk at all – and it’s got added vitamins A and D, they’re fat-soluble vitamins. You need fat for your body to be able to take them in! What’s wrong with whole milk? I grew up with milk that had cream on the top of the bottle and it’s only 3.8% fat – it’s not like it’s a huge amount of fat and it’s very good for you. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Fat is wonderfully satisfying, so if you eat something with a good amount of fat in it you get pretty full and you don’t have a second or fourth piece of pork belly, but those fat-free cookies? You could eat a whole package!”

Jennifer McLagan has released several fascinating books about food – ‘Fat’ is just one, there is also ‘Odd Bits’ and ‘Bone’, so where does her fascination with the bits that are often considered waste in a Western diet come from?

“I grew up with split pea and ham bone soup, Irish stew, brains and bacon, we ate ox tail. These were the foods of my childhood and they were delicious. I worked in North America as a food stylist for a long time and everything was boneless, tasteless chicken breast and it was driving me crazy. Why aren’t we eating the bone? Why are we throwing the best part of the animal away and thinking the lean fillet is delicious when it isn’t. I went on a quest to bring that back, to try to convince people that these were the most delicious parts of the animal to eat. Organ meats are full of vitamins and minerals and people are scared of them but they’re absolutely delicious.”

“It isn’t that far back that we were eating all those things but with industrial farming meat became very cheap so we could all eat steak all the time and thought it was better, but it isn’t. It’s much more interesting to eat heart and lung and liver and ox tail and there’s lots of ways of cooking them and eating them.”

“It’s interesting how we now see them as second-rate cuts when we should see them as the prime cuts.”

Jennifer points out that fats are not equal. Pork, for example, is unsaturated fat.

“Everyone thinks animal fats are saturated fats. But there’s saturated and unsaturated – unsaturated you can break down into polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Every fat is a mixture of those things.”

“In something like pork fat there is more unsaturated fat than saturated. Any fat that sits at room temperature and gets soft or more liquid – the more unsaturated it is. I never cook anything in vegetable oil. I cook with olive oil, which comes from a fruit, and I like to cook with animal fat because I like to cook beef in beef fat, chicken in chickent fat, and I like to carry that flavour through. I like to work with a fat that I can smell and see if it’s rancid or not, with a vegetable oil I have no idea if it’s rancid. You don’t want to put rancid fat in your body.”

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