17. Public Speaking and History – Journal Entry 28th Jul 1970

Muchlater

Many months later, the following year.

Goodness knows what
the date, round about
28th July, 1970

My dear Cynthia,

Thanks for your letter – it makes good reading. Your life is not exactly dull. Goodness knows what news I can give you to come near the cake and pot story.

The weather, yes the weather is always a good starter. Had rain today after a long dry spell. Things were really dry and crisp, but not as bad as out west. Out west is a drought and has been for the past so many years. You hear stories of people selling out their tiny farms and looking for steady jobs. The wool industry is packing up. American meat standards are shooting up – you probably know that most of Australia’s beef and mutton go to America.

What else – general house cleaning and cooking etc. is held on Thursday; this is something new I’ve hit on and a friend who is deaf, or very nearly, comes and helps me. She is so quick in everything and usually pitches up with bunches of freshly plucked herbs and aubergines. Then at 11am more women pitch up and we have a yoga session together, then lunch. Quite pleasant and then I have a fairly clean house.

I’ve been for a Forum meeting – public speaking for housewives it seems. It was good. Very nice to see most of the women take the rostrum and deliver short speeches. Even I got up and said a few words. I was told that I should have prepared my speech by the critic. Told her I didn’t mean to speak but couldn’t resist after hearing a couple of remarks made by previous speakers. “Wot to do,” I said. “If I feel strongly about something,” I said. “Stay quiet?” I said.
“Oh no,” she said. “You don’t have to,” she said.
“Then you’ve probably frightened other women from speaking off the cuff,” I said.
“Oh I hope not,” she said. She (the critic) was a very attractive spinster who worked on a farm during the day.

Then there is this discussion group I seem to have attached myself to. They are a gang of rather rich housewives who think up a subject, get some expert to talk on it and ask questions to get a bit of general knowledge. The meeting tomorrow is on Child Psychology.

I’m also trying to get a picture of Emu Park’s history. Started 80 to 90 years ago. This is the place we live in. It is fascinating. Will probably send you a copy of what notes I put together if and when I do so. In the meantime, I interview the old folk who have lived all their lives here. Remarkable memories some of them. Not much history I grant you, but the men who were here seemed to have had character. There were seven oystermen in 1912 and bags of oysters in their shell were sent out by rail practically everyday. Now only private oyster picking takes place and that too very little.

About 60 years ago a prisoner escaped from New Zealand on a sailboat and landed in Yeppoon (12 miles from here). He either sold or used the boat to go to the coral islands to get fish and oysters. However, this is mere conjecture. He sold the boat to a guy who owned one of the islands and who then managed to ground the boat in Emu Park. A Mr Morris (an oysterman) bought it, repaired it and called it The Crete. He made money by taking people to the islands and back. Many people even got married after such a trip. As many as 40 packed into the boat. Overnight visitors to the islands would catch lurking turtles, turn them onto their backs and when ready for a ride would turn the turtles right way up, hop on to them and be taken out to sea. Imagine a beach full of turrrrrned turrrtles.

In between all this speaking to people I’m trying to learn to make tarts, play the guitar (yes, still), swot up my arithmetic and keep house. Wot a life. Johnny goes to Sydney next week and to Canberra the week after for interviews. Let’s keep fingers crossed.

I got on to a farm which sold me avocado pears. My word Cynthia, I ate them till they came out of my ears. The season is just about over now – sadly enough.

People have been very kind to me. They always give me things like strawberries, and cabbages, and lettuces and clothes for the kids. Living it up?

Much love from all of us to all of
you.

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16. Raising Pigs – Journal Entry 15th Dec 1969

[My mother’s account of raising pigs in India]

Found a book on pig farming. Just the thing I think, all you’ve got to do is get some pigs and you’re in business – what with the Government encouraging pig-farming and all that.

I wrote off to a farm asking permission to purchase a pair of piglets and was asked to call at Katpadi the next day.

We set off on motorbike and scooter, my brother and his friend on the motorbike and my husband and I on the scooter. When we got there we discovered there were only two sizes available, the first size too large to be carried by the pillion rider on his lap and the other still sucklings, with one month to go before weaning.

We settled for the babies. Oh, we’ll bottle feed them, we told ourselves, and off we went.

They squealed almost all the way back – about thirty miles of squeals. Only when we were nearing our farm did they settle down and enjoy the ride.

As soon as we got back there was no time to rest, beds and bottles had to be prepared. Feroke (the male) and Sara (the female) were hungry all the time. They could never get enough. In fact Feroke would quickly finish his bottle (an old beer bottle) and would rush over to where Sara was daintily sucking on hers, scuff her aside, grab the nipple and go guzzle, guzzle. He’d drink till the milk dripped out of his snout. The milk bill was enormous and still they were hungry all the time – so what to do? We decided to feed them on porridge and milk. That solved the problem.

They were kept in a Deal Wood packing case in the common room during the night. The first night they were exhausted and slept right through. The next night I heard a slight noise and cautiously opened my eyes – Feroke and Sara stood cheek to cheek peering at me. I jumped up from my mat, took them to their packing case, tucked them in and went back to sleep. A little later they were back so what to do? I give them their bottles.

All too soon they were grown up. We had to keep them in separate pens till Sara was eight months old, which was a reasonable time to get her mated. The number of times poor Munuswamy had to repair the pens. If dinner and lunch was a little late, we would hear smash and they’d be out to see what was happening. At night the kitchen, which was just a small hut, was attacked because there’d be no-one to chase them away.

The children would go piggy-back on Feroke and Sara, a hilarious sight. Then Faroke took to chasing passing villagers. One man climbed a tree to get out of his way and howled at us to call Feroke back to his pen. Irate housewives would come storming in holding broken pots and warble out a list of misdeeds committed by Feroke and Sara interlaced with juicy words of abuse.

So for their sins, the pigs had to be put in very strong pens.

Then Sara upped and gave us six beautiful bouncing piglets. I attended at the births – but that didn’t give me licence to touch the babies. No. If I did they’d squeal as if I was pinching or poking  them and Sara would charge. Believe me, when a huge sow, however sweet looking, chases you – you run.

The piglets grew round, pink and beautiful and we loved them, except for their nasty habit of squealing about us to their mother. Soon they were weaned and kept in a huge pen by themselves.

We had so much difficulty keeping them in. The smallest piglet would stand near the fence and one by one the others would climb on his back. Then they would be up and over the wooden fence jumping down to freedom. There was only one snag – the little chap who had turned himself into a chair for his brothers and sisters was left in the pen squealing blue murder because there was no-one for him to climb on.

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15. Fair Dinkum Aussies – Journal Entry 13th Dec 1969

My dear Cynthia,

So you are back in Nepal. Thank you for a very nice letter. Things seem not so bad your way. I’ll try and write as much as possible but honestly Cynthia, you can be so busy doing absolutely nothing. Not really, but you know what I mean… school picnics, farewell parties, breakup parties and goodness knows what else. I quite enjoy it all but I hate being rushed. The housework rarely gets done.

Last night we laid tiles on the bathroom floor. We’ve decided to rent this place for another year and the landlord gave us the material and we supplied the labour – the bathroom was in a mess before and water always leaked onto the stairs.

I haven’t given you the good news – we are allowed to stay in Australia for two years, that is two years from February next. And my mother received the letter you posted. Thank you very, very much. I was so relieved (sounds like an ad for constipation pills or something). You know what Cynthia, my mother has been without money from us for nearly 4 months. I don’t know what the bank had been up to. I was absolutely shattered. Poor mum was so worried. Anyway now everything is fine again. My brother is back at work (I think I told you this) and he lost his second son aged  1½ years. They didn’t tell me how.

We are fair dinkum Aussies. Got a new lawn mower and a fridge. We’re paying for them out of the housekeeping money. Grass grows so quickly here and the risk of grass fires is very high. Don’t forget, the houses are made of wood which makes people highly nervous of fires. It is illegal to have a bonfire even. You have to have permission. I told you about the fire we started up the hill at the back of the house and how it got out of hand. My word was I scared. Could have been fined $40 (400 or more rupees) but the cop let us off because we were green and ignorant.

It is summer now and pleasantly hot and mosquitoey. It is miserable in Rockhampton. Don’t forget we are on the coast 35 miles away. Fancy having Christmas in bikinis. I made myself a pair the other day and will be making some more. Much cheaper. The bikinis.

Gareth can now say mum, mum, mum, and sing This Old Man (hum it of course) and two of the children’s school songs. He understands quite a lot and shuts doors when he is told to, and shuts drawers. Gareth can’t see an open drawer without going up to it and pushing it in – I wonder what sort of complex he is going to have? He helps clear the dining table and also likes hosing the ducks, driving the car and mopping the floor. He has long conversations with anyone who is willing to have long conversations with him.

The older kids have just finished school and have been promoted with honours to the next grade. Marcello actually was given an E for mathematics so I’ll be working with them over the holidays trying to get them up to standard for the new term.

Now a couple of requests at your convenience: Could you collect stamps that come your way and shove them into an envelope to send to me? That is you keep them in a drawer until they number four or six or something and then send them. No hurry. There is a very nice kid who has asked me to write to my friends for them. The other request is for a copy of the Peace Corps Nepali cookbook I had. It disappeared in the post and I would very much like to have another copy to help me with the recipe book I’ll be working on. I don’t know how easy it is to get it but could you please try? Anything I can do for you at this end you only have to ask.

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14. Cakes and Neighbours Poem – Journal Entry 12th Nov 1969

My goodness Cynthia, I started this letter on the 4th and look what date it is.

Before I forget and I hope this letter gets to you before you leave, could you please post the enclosed letter to my mother? I’m sending it direct to her address (instead of through a friend) because she hasn’t written for several months and I’m rather worried.

Another thing I haven’t sent you your wedding present and will wait until you know a little more clearly what you will be doing and also what you have got so I can look around for something Australian. Still a koala bear or something eh?

I can drive now and back a little; still lots to learn but Johnny doesn’t seem to have much time to spare as there is always something else to do. However, for the past two mornings I drove the car to school and back. Great activity at the school – a fete on Saturday. I’m supposed to bake cakes for the cake stall, get wine bottles filled with cordial for the bottles stall and get some groceries for the groceries gambling stall. Big deal.

It is very nice living in a small community and being part of it. Everybody knows everybody else. You go for Bessemerware* parties, or to a tuckshop** meeting (yes the school has a tuckshop and I’m one of the helpers, once a month) or the P.T. Club^ which I run and all these sorts of things. I try to keep to myself as much as possible otherwise many useless hours are spent at some useless meeting or other.

It is warm again and we’re heading towards really hot weather fast.

I now bake cakes and enjoy doing so. The children have lots of friends calling after school and on weekends and of course mum is there to dish out cakes or biscuits and cordial. It is great to have all these little kids rushing into the kitchen eager for their afternoon tea. TEA is the evening meal, so you say afternoon tea when you mean tea in the English sense. My English is deteriorating fast. Do I make sense?

Emu Park family and friends in the moke, 1969

Gareth is very well – except that his canine and molar teeth are sprouting and he is in slight difficulties over them. We have long conversations together where he says something – very like a flowerpot man – I reply and he points and says something more… He is all over the place and I have to check very often to see where he is. I usually yell and he appears, rather pained at being disturbed from whatever he had been doing. He can also do a few jobs for me, very few of course. It’s a pity I don’t own a camera, however, I shall borrow one so I can send a photograph of him. Anna will be quite proud of him.

Footnotes:

*Bessemerware – An Australian company (Bessemer) started in the early 1960s, currently selling non-stick cookware and other products

**tuckshop – a small canteen selling food and drinks

^P.T. Club – Parent Teacher Club for fundraising

Poem-Neighbours
Poem by Gita 12th Nov 1969

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13. Mrs J’s Joke – Journal Entry 16th Oct 1969

[Disclaimer: If you are easily offended, please do not read the last paragraph of this post.]

“Wait, wait for the days whose shining garland still hangs before me to go out one by one. Finally the last one goes out and it is total blackness.” Camus

The day is so beautiful. Not brilliant because it looks as if it doesn’t know whether to cry or laugh. It has an undecided look which is quite becoming. Don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m like the farmers waiting for the drought to break. But will it? I have been so dry for so long. Insipid. At least the farmers have had a bit of rain.

The local policeman is making arrangements to take his chooks with him. He can’t bear to be parted from them. He is the young, earnest, broody guy who cleaned up Emu Park. The youths from all around would use the one main road as a racing track and terrify the pensioners.

The previous policeman took to writing a book. A detective yarn. People who went to make a complaint or just to pay their state insurance and would be asked to sit down, the complaint waved aside, and be made to listen to several chapters of his book. All the while the youths would be racing outside. The people were glad when he was transferred. The book doesn’t seem to have been published so far though his ‘victims’ look out for it.

Mrs K has been driving since she was 11 years old. They lived on a farm and not many were able to afford cars. Her mother sent a message through the children to the father asking if he would put up $500 if she did the same. He agreed and they were able to buy a more expensive car. Mrs K had her ears boxed when learning to drive. She drove most of her life and had lots of pets on the farm including koala bears. But she had always wanted a monkey so a monkey was brought from overseas – maybe from Africa? Anyway, it was not allowed to dock because of an epidemic in the home of the monkey and was sent back. Mrs K has always regretted it.

20th October 1969

Mrs K bought pullets and laying hens and said she could let them have a run on the lawns at the nun’s rest home. The nuns usually gave her their left-over groceries, at the end of their holiday, for the chooks. Mrs K said the dog had better not get at her chooks or she’d whack it.

Today we went to a poultry farm in Farnborough which used the battery system. What a cruel sight and sound. A real din. Rows and rows of fat white hens in wire cages, front and back, row upon row, some pecking at their food, some making before-laying noises, some almost bald with backsides hanging. The eggs rolled out to the long wire gutter-like contraption, ready for picking and grading.

Is it better to let the chooks scratch around on warm damp earth and then kill them or leave them in cages, their claws clinging onto the large wire mesh and kill them anyway after they’ve laid enough eggs? Why do we eat meat? And yet it’s so delicious. Horrible thought.

Mrs K and I went to visit Mrs J who breeds cats. Had the most beautiful Persian kittens at $22 each. She also had Siamese cats and the tom had it’s eye scratched out. The cockatoo says hello when people appear.

The Siamese tom is chained to prevent him mating with the low-caste neighbourhood cats. A Siamese cat was also chained near him because she is in kitten and Mrs J doesn’t want her too wild and savage. The cats are wild from birth and maybe the tom will be able to tame her.

Mrs J has a beautiful herd of goats, all expensive breeds.

She tells us, “I’m off my top they say because I keep goats. But I tell you something – you can talk to goats and they won’t repeat what you’ve said. That fellow there, I paid $100 for him.”

She also has a stud billy goat, a peacock and three peahens and lots of turkeys, ducks and chickens.

While Mrs K and I were looking at all of this, Mrs J says, “I heard a good joke yesterday – how many animals can you fit into a panty hose?” We didn’t know so she gave us the answer: “Two calves, one pussy and a thousand hairs.” Then she says, “You’d think they’d make up jokes about men for a change.” Mrs K, all Catholic, clean and embarrassed didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t manage a laugh.

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12. My Duck Maisy – Journal Entry 19th Jul 1969

[My mother’s childhood memory of keeping ducks.]

My mummy said I wasn’t old enough to own a dog so she bought me some ducks from a farm nearby.

She said that at least the ducks can be eaten.

I went with my dad and mum to pick them up. We bought six ducks. I had to feed the ducks every day and give them clean water. They were always dirtying the bowls of water I’d put out for them. They had baths in their drinking water. We didn’t have a pond for the ducks to swim in nor did we have an old bathtub which we could use as a tiny pond.

So one day my mummy asked my friend’s dad if we could search the village dump for an old tub for my ducks. My friend’s dad is in charge of the dump. He said yes. So we went there and found an old petrol tank which my friend’s dad cut open. Then he hammered the sharp edges and made it into a super swimming pool for my ducks.

At first they didn’t go near the tub when I had filled it with lots and lots of water. They were afraid. The next day they took water in their beaks and threw it over themselves like they did with the bowls of drinking water.

After a few days, one clever black and white duck jumped into the tub. She liked it so much that after she’d had a bath, jumped out and dried herself she jumped back into the tub to have another bath.

Before we found this tub I had to hold a water hose over them so that they could have a shower. Some ducks didn’t like it and tried to run away but I could easily spray them with my hosepipe so the poor things just had to sit quietly and get washed.

Afterwards they loved flapping their wings and fluffing out their feathers to dry themselves. They looked very happy drying themselves in the sun.

One day when I returned from school I found two ducks missing and I saw a few feathers near the back verandah.

I knew my mum had taken them for our dinner.

So I went to her and told her not to kill my favourite little white duck Maisy. Well, at least not till all the other ducks had gone first. And as my mummy said, “The ducks were bought for the table, after all.” She also said she’d buy more ducks and a drake, and that the white moscovy ducks with the black spots on their heads would be kept for me.

Moscovy ducks can fly. They were always flying over their fence and into the garden. They ate the cabbage and for that their wings were clipped. Now they climb up the wire netting fence and jump down into the garden. But they know they mustn’t go near the vegetables and I quickly chase them back to their pen whenever I see them out.

In the afternoons, when I remember, I take them for a walk up the hill at the back of our house. They love eating weeds and catching insects. I have to be very careful though because they head straight for the cabbage patch when they think I’m not looking.

My ducks started laying eggs. The magpies sometimes stole the eggs.

Maisy, my little white duck made a nest right under the duck house. She was so far in that my mummy pulled up a board in the duck house so I could look at Maisy sitting on her eggs.

The other ducks are very rude to her, I don’t know why. They hiss at her with their necks on the ground, their heads up and beak open. They look very nasty and mean. The drake is good to Maisy and talks to her when she comes out to feed.

The other ducks started laying their eggs in Maisy’s nest. She is getting more eggs to sit on now.

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11. Tree Poem and Locals – Journal Entry 17th Jul 1969

Strange sort of evening. First dinner with the speakers of tomorrow’s symposium on technology in Queensland and the way in which the institute* can help. There were about eight or nine spread over this huge dinner table, everyone madly trying to make conversation.

Sketch didn’t come for the dinner, apparently he was very tired and had plonked himself in front of the TV, not looking at it. He did walk in during the dinner to have a word with his wife and then pushed off again.

We then went onto a concert by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. A rather big social event in Rocky but the concert wasn’t good except for a young girl who played the violin rather well. She looked lovely too.

18th July 1969

A beautiful day; cloudy and sunny in turns. I went to visit a friend and read his poetry. I rode there on the bike with Gareth on my back. On the way home, young Buster Brown (Gareth) dropped a shoe. Seeing the darn pair cost four dollars, I went to search for it, found it and we had fish and chips for lunch on the beach.

Couldn’t sleep or think because Gareth thought I lay on the sand to allow him to jump on my back, the sand flying most of the time. He enjoyed himself though. And he does love chips.

A super day all in all.

The things that made it super were:

  1. Being given a seal-top mug for Buster Brown
  2. Being given a duck
  3. Buying tiny tumblers for visiting children at $2 each
  4. Buying cigars
  5. Chatting with Anita P’s mother who I’m going to play cards with one day
  6. The electrician turning up; a huge guy wearing a shirt like mine and humming merrily

We chatted about almost everything. The children and two of their friends came in while we were having tea. They looked confused so I served milk and cakes to them, talking madly to Callow all the time. A very, very, nice man. And he sawed a bit off the legs of a bar stool Johnny bought me. I sat on it at the kitchen table excitedly chopping onions. He had turned up when I was out and Mrs O’D told him I might be at Bunny’s. Well I’d left Bunny’s place for quite a bit, came home and was told Callow was searching for me. So I tried to phone the motel to see if he was working there. A search was made, but no Callow. In fact, he pitched up here while this kind woman who answered the phone was scouring the motel for him.

Marvellous place Emu Park.

Was there ever such a place as Emu Park? Or is it like most small towns, friendly, informal and all-knowing? It has everything has Emu Park, except emus of course. Emus roamed her unborn streets long ago but what was she named before the emus came?

I’ll stop rambling.

SkinnyTreesPoem
Poem by Gita July 1969

Now for the people. I always say it’s the people who make a place. Don’t you think so too? I mean Emu Park has beaches, fish and chips, sunshine and islands the same as everybody else and yet she has more appeal than any she-town.

Why, there is Mrs D who talks in a croak, makes tea, holds raffles and cleans floors for her club. She donated $4 to her club only last week and got her name in the papers for that. Mrs M, who writes a bit of our social chat is sixty, excitable, inquisitive, short-sighted and gets her facts deliberately wrong. She has more dust in her shop than goods, likes cats, has a lover and dines out someplace every Sunday night. Her husband works for her but he is there and not there. Mrs L, who helps her son to run his shop, swears she gets beaten whenever she forgets the price of something. A fisherman, very old, who has a fish run on one of the beaches, loves to fish all day. The shop owners don’t like hawkers because it spoils their sales. The owner of the local dinky supermarket is dying and is such a good man.

Mrs J keeps goats and they think she is off her top.

Footnote:

*The institute refers to the Queensland Institute of Technology (Capricornia) in Rockhampton  where Johnny worked as an academic. In 1972 it became the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education and then in 1990 it became known as the University College of Central Queensland. Re-branded as CQUniversity Australia in 2008.

 

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10. National Fitness Club – Journal Entry 8th Jul 1969

I’m sitting in the Yeppoon hospital waiting to see the doctor. Nothing much wrong. I’ve got infected fingernails and neglected my thumbnail when it started and now almost all the other nails are infected. Does it sound familiar?

Thank you very much for your letter. Johnny was just as anxious as I to see if the baby had arrived. No doubt we will get a letter soon telling us all.

Will try to get back when it is safe for you to travel. Kathmandu might seem tame but it’s so colourful and vibrant, no? And I bet Minoru will fill the house with food for the baby and you. I must get round to sending drawings and a letter to Minoru. The first lot I’ll send to you because I don’t know if I know his post box number.

I’m involved in running a National Fitness Club in our tiny town. I’m supposed to be the leader – one who stands with a whistle in hand and shouts out instructions. Monday will be the first time I will go it alone.

Some Rockhampton women have been helping us. Actually there are three women who are supposed to be leaders. One of them is the wife of the headmaster and is away at present so it leaves Bunny and me. And Bunny has a brittle spine so that only leaves me to do the demonstration.

It’s all good fun and a big joke for Johnny.

It’s a two-hour programme and many old women come along. Some of them are 65 years old and a few are 69. They love folk dances and playing games.

Can you imagine me trying to work out dance steps to the time of Waltzing Matilda and Susanna? And I’m going to teach them yoga, so I’m madly reading up on the subject.

It’s all good fun as I said. What else?

We’ve been entertaining people a bit and so far we’ve met only three people we enjoy talking to. I mean they are intelligent and alive people. Otherwise, while the evenings are pleasant, they are not exactly exhilarating.

Of course after people have gone, Johnny and I start a lively discussion, usually in agreement with each other, and then we’re happy again.

All this might sound conceited but it’s not meant to be.

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9. Mystery Illness – Journal Entry 3rd Jul 1969

Hospital-Image

The fares to Brisbane and back were paid for by the Bush Children’s Association. They didn’t do anything in Brisbane, didn’t even want to admit me. Actually what they did was show me to the students so they could study my case.

Was mum mad!

She had a fight with the head doctor and burst into tears. He said to come back later in the year when they would have their new machine.

My doctor was hopping mad and said I was to go to Sydney instead, to see if they could help.

Mum said she couldn’t afford the fare and the Bush Children’s Association refused to pay because it was outside Queensland, so my doctor mentioned it to the publican who took up a collection to pay for my medical attention in Sydney. Ansett-ANA gave us the flights to and fro and our church arranged for mum’s boarding and lodging. The CWA would have arranged it for mum but it would have been too far across town, well away from the hospital.

So when mum came to visit me, she told me all about it. “I stayed with this old lady. She wouldn’t take a penny from me. ‘No, I don’t want a penny from you,’ she said. So whenever I could, I would bring home a nice steak or piece of fish or something and cook it for our dinner.”

The hospital was marvellous. Lovely floors and the nurses so friendly with a TV room for those well enough to get out of bed.

I enjoyed myself.

They did all sorts of tests and then told mum they couldn’t do anything for me.

 

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8. Rocky Show – Journal Entry 22nd Jun 1969

It’s Saturday today.

I’m sitting on the beach in the sun with the baby. It’s a good place for sitting and gazing at the sea which is so calm and flat.

Gareth, Emu Park beach 1969

We lost a plastic ball a little while ago and nearly lost a friend with it. There was this girl, about eleven or twelve, swimming around when she noticed our green plastic ball and matching surfboard starting to drift out to sea. She tried to get both, got out of her depth and panicked.

I screamed too because I can’t swim.

There was an elderly couple, smiling as they passed by, with their squat, overweight dog. I practically fell on their chests.

“Now it’s alright,” the old man said, “she’s coming out now.”

But the kid was crying and I didn’t know what to do. So, like you see in films, I directed the old woman to stay with Gareth, who was scared stiff of their dog, threw off my jibbah* and tamely walked into the sea in my bikini. Fortunately for me, the girl waded out still sobbing. She’s fine now and busy making Gareth walk up and down the beach. Even though he is a year old, he can’t walk by himself.

What a beautiful beach this is. Islands not very far away, or so it seems, the land jutting well into the sea with cars, trees, beach huts and a white dinghy anchored and ghostly. It’s a bit cold for swimming – it’s cold enough on the beach with the wind blowing.

8 o’clock later that night.

I’m sitting in a friend’s house with the TV on full blast. I thought I would have a quiet time reading and writing. Let me explain. Johnny is acting; the last night of Antigone** and there’s a cast party. I decided to skip the play and get some reading done but this blasted TV is on, with it’s adverts and corny programmes. It’s terrible. Can’t even think and find myself watching the damn screen. I decided to sit in the kitchen and it’s so much better.

Let me tell you about these friends. They are a very good couple. She is dead efficient, finishes her housework in next to no time (they have six kids plus one Aboriginal boy who lives in during school term) and does things like amateur dramatics, social welfare work, reading and I don’t know what else. She is only a tiny creature too. He is marvellous, has lots of racing pigeons, knows about fossicking and is now back in college trying to get a Diploma in Engineering. They are wonderful parents and watching them makes me feel rather inadequate. Johnny has a high regard for them.

I bake our own bread now. The kids and Johnny seem to prefer it to the shop bread, which of course pleases me. We have ducks in the yard and Marcello is supposed to look after them, they are his and meant for the table. Killed one the other day and Johnny cooked it for lunch with lots of green peas and potatoes. We also had a salad of lettuce from the garden. Just think, homegrown duck and lettuce.

Yesterday we went to the Rockhampton Show. My goodness it was expensive at 2.5 rupees^  for a try at any darn game stall. And with two kids wanting to have a go at most things, a bit of money was spent. However, they managed to win some toy each and even I won a couple of packets of toffees.

The birds, fruit and animals on show were so good and it was interesting to see what won prizes. I would have loved to wander around looking at them all day, but that sort of thing doesn’t interest small children. In fact looking at the animals, birds and farm produce made me want to become a ‘cocky’. A cocky being a farmer or man of the soil.

Oh goodness, listen to this. A neighbour of ours was having a birthday, so as a special treat, we sent across a bottle of burgundy. Back comes a report some days later that nobody could drink it; it tasted like vinegar, they said. Honestly, what do you do with people as backward as that? Of course it’s only recently that Australians have started drinking wine. PLONK they called it, in a derogatory tone of voice. Beer was the thing.

Footnotes:

*jibbah is a South Indian name for a ‘kurta’ which is a collarless, long-sleeved shirt to knee-length. However, jibbah also refers to a hand-rolled cigarette containing marijuana…

**Antigone is the name of a tragedy by the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, written around 442 BCE. More information here.

^Equivalent to 30 cents Australian in 1969

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  • A draft letter to a friend living in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have added the footnotes.