[Letter to a friend living in Kathmandu, Nepal. Footnotes added.]
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.
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.
*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