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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Rocking Up

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If anyone pops in nowadays I almost have a stroke…

Rocking up

COVID-19 has killed ‘just rocking up’. It was already on the endangered list, but now the spontaneity of rocking up may be dead forever. Have we really turned into a society of morons who book lunch two weeks in advance, who book a seat at the pub for a 30 minute beer sesh? What has happened to us? We may never be spontaneous again!

‘Rocking up’ was what we did when there was a gig on but we didn’t know if we could be bothered going. We might get a better offer. So we’d rock up, then we’d hassle to be let in. It used to be that when you ran an event your ticket sales were only an indicator of how many people were going to rock up. You always had 50 or 60 people rock up ‘unexpectedly’ to a gig. It was so unexpected I came to expect it. As someone who has promoted events for 20 plus years, it’s bizarre to only have one or two – or even none – rock up.

Rocking up was what we did before mobile phones. Before websites. Before online bookings insisted we plan ahead. We’d be driving around bored, maybe a bit stoned on a Sunday and someone would say ‘What should we do?’ and then we’d go, ‘Let’s visit Andy and Phil’. And then we’d rock up.

Andy and Phil didn’t know we were coming. So they may not be home. That was the risk. But if they were home, you’d get out of the car and launch your surprise visit. If Andy and Phil were still in bed rooting, the rocking up could turn into cocking up, but eventually they’d put the kettle on and Andy and Phil’s plans were thrown asunder entertaining unexpected and sometimes completely unwanted guests.

Sometimes, after rocking up, you had the best day of the whole year. Sure, sometimes you had to push past that feeling that you were unwelcome, secretly knowing you may have just ruined someone’s Sunday. But you didn’t care. You were having a top Sunday. After all, you were just in the area, and they were home – so that equals a home invasion. Sorry, a visit. That was the potential contained in rocking up. I remember doing it when I felt like a cup of tea but hadn’t been shopping. You didn’t phone first, mainly because no one had a phone, you had to use those public boxes and you didn’t tend to carry your address book in your pocket. You remembered where people lived. If you did a drive by, and their car was there, that was enough. You ‘popped in’. You got a cup of tea, sometimes even a biscuit. People used to keep tins, filled with biscuits, as popping in treats for the losers who kept just rocking up.

If anyone pops in nowadays I almost have a stroke. I look at the car from the window going ‘Who the hell is that? What do they want? I hope they don’t expect to stay.’ I have been known to hide. Understandably there’s an immediate suspicion. I have been delivering my Full Mandy books by hand and I have been mistaken for someone ‘popping in’ (aka rocking up). As I approached the front door of a house in Kyogle I could see someone behind the curtain eyeing me suspiciously. As I turned to go back to my car, she sprang out ‘Mandy Nolan? I thought you were a Jehovah’s Witness!’

When I said earlier that no one rocks up anymore, I forgot about the JW’s. Rocking up is part of their religion. They call it witnessing, but when you’re uninvited and no one knows you’re coming, it’s basically rocking up. Jehovah and the solar dudes still rock up.

Rocking up is as Aussie as fuck. In fact, you might even say that the whole of white occupation of Australia was built on rocking up. Until I wrote this it had never occurred to me that rocking up was the foundation of colonialism… perhaps the death of rocking up isn’t such a bad thing after all. Perhaps we whitey’s should have made a booking?

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  1. When you ‘rocked up’, Mandy, you’d already written the book so there’s no need
    to ‘book’ your arrival. ‘Drop ins’ are okay especially if it’s an old friend calling.


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