29. Crows and Cane Toads – Journal Entry 6th Dec 1978

The weather has changed, my skin feels cool, dry and slightly uncomfortable. A storm? The winds for the past few days have been strong. It was difficult using the gas stove because of the strong draughts through the house, especially the kitchen.

Last night was very pleasant.

First before dinner we packed a forequarter of beef into the freezer, a slightly tedious job, cutting up, sorting, weighing and packing. Meat prices are going up, so we must be more restrained in our eating habits.

Then dinner, which was good. Marcello and Monika are away. Gran talked of her National Fitness Christmas party. We talked about the trip to the dentist and so on. Immediately after dinner Johnny made two fruit cakes with Karen. I offered light relief and very little help. Then went to read The Lord of the Rings. After that I sat at my desk for a while, sulking a little and then told Johnny, rather dramatically, that I would have to rearrange my life. We sat in the file room and had a glass of whisky and coffee and talked – with me getting quite giggly and amorous after another half glass of whisky.

This pen is so fine I could go on writing and writing words, lots of words.

It was a reasonably good day today. I spent several hours getting the Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) papers in order and writing up the minutes of the last meeting and typing the Treasurer’s financial statement.

Monika rang wanting to know when Marcello wanted her to come back – this afternoon or evening. I gave her the Svendsen’s telephone number. By about 10am Marcello rings in to get a lift home and to ask for the drill and sanding disc. So I put together some strawberry jam, marmalade and empty egg cartons for the Svendsens as a small thank you for putting up Marcello for a couple of days. Mark and Marcello load a lot of gear into the Rover, give me some fish that they had caught and suggest I come later in the afternoon for Marcello.

I drive home and head for my desk, switch on the cassette tape recorder again and continue working for a while.

No, I’m wrong. What I actually did was fry some fish as soon as I got in and served lunch. It was a gorge of crisply fried fresh fish. I then went to my desk, switched on the cassette tape recorder again and continued working until midday.

After a small rest for about 60 minutes, I mix a bowl of pikelet batter and get the roast in the oven. While putting herbs on the roast and sticking garlic in the meat, I tell my mother that perhaps the chickens have chickenpox. I had observed a very small chick sitting with his head smack on his shoulders and beak pointing at the roof. He then woke up, made a few pecking motions and then settled his head back again into hunched shoulders with the same strange beak-up pose. A little while later, mum came in to say that not only was this chick missing, another like him in size and behaviour was also missing and would I creep into the pen and search for them, please.

“Do you mind if I went later?” I asked. “I’d like to get this finished. If I went now I’d come back with chicken pooh on my hands and knees from crawling through the low chicken coop door.” Mum agreed, so the pikelets were made first and the tea tray prepared for Gareth’s ‘Jaguar’ friends who should race to our kitchen this afternoon as soon as school is over.

In the chicken coop, I couldn’t find the missing chickens or their carcasses. Trying to count thirty fast-moving chicks and three ducklings was difficult, but fortunately those nursing chicks were much smaller than the others.

Then I went looking for cane toads. They have been known to eat very young ducklings. There was one toad, which I killed. Next, I checked for holes or gaps in the wire netting overhead that would allow the crows in. Recently, large numbers of crows moved into the neighbourhood and one large family was nesting in the tree in the poultry yard. I found a large gap and fixed it with a piece of wire I found lying in the coop. We removed the Rouen ducklings because they foul the chickens’ drinking water.

Back inside the house, I clear the sink and get ready to go pick up Barb at the Yeppoon bus stop. I write a little while waiting for her. While driving back up Phillips Street, I see an embarrassed S talking to J O’D who is holding a mangled white Leghorn hen. He has it by the feet and it’s bloody neck and head dangle while he talks. Good, he has evidence I think – he must have caught the Dean’s two dogs while they were attacking his chooks. They have killed over 17 of our birds within a few months. I should have stopped to add my complaint too, but I continued home.

After dinner Marcello and Gareth shot a crow. We have a large family to feed too, the crows can search for carrion (there’s plenty on the road), instead of stealing our eggs and chicks. The kookaburras are a bit of a pest.

The day was not yet over. I leave at 7:15pm to say hello to the Batik class and say how sorry I am that I can’t join them because I have a M.O.W meeting at 7:30pm. The M.O.W. meeting was short and lively. We’re having problems getting volunteers. One woman is terrified of a M.O.W. recipient dying while being served a meal, another is alleged to have said she was not willing to be a servant to anyone. Pearl is having to do 2 hours a week.

Back at the desk, I’m writing in this notebook and drinking black coffee. The red Japanese clock strikes ten. I’ve just challenged Johnny to a game of chess. Karen has made a row of greeting cards with pressed flowers and Monika is making hers. The two lads were hunting cane toads. Death to cane toads and crows. Sometime last fortnight there was a very bad smell just near the rose bush. After a bit of a search we found a small galvanised bucket full of dead, bloated cane toads.

I must remember to separate the Rouen duckling from the geese. Her companion gosling is missing and she is being picked on. How she quacks; if she didn’t make such a noise and if she were white instead of chocolate brown, she might lead a less stressful life among the geese. I hope she takes to the spare Rouen drake we have, but he may not make the right noises; she thinks she’s a goose.

There’s a moth on this page as I write, a greeny mother-of-pearl creature, slim and long with flowing antennae. Now he is still, but for quite a while he would flutter, rise and jump or fly backward to land on his feet with a slight noise; curious movement this hopping backwards and landing with a thump. There’s another like him now flying around the lamp. He won’t last long.

CicadaPoem
Poem by Gita 1978

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Marcello’s girlfriend Monika came to live with us in May 1978 and she has been added to the Emu Park Family Tree

28. Lack of Gumption – Journal Entry 5th Dec 1978

A crisis – a serious one; I don’t think I’ll be doing a preliminary course in Maths – too many instances of lack of gumption and stamina for Johnny to ignore. He doesn’t want known dropouts on the test course. Will have to make new plans for 1979.

On the way in to the hospital I did a random mental review of all the things I attempted and failed to finish or see through, the list is long and goes back a long long way.

So what conclusions to draw?

What direction to take?

Where should I start examining myself?

Let’s take a look at what is on at the moment:

  1. House: 6 to 9; 11 to 12; 4:30 to 7:30pm, +(9) about 30 to 60 minutes a day
  2. Family: includes 18, 17
  3. Cookbook: not yet started revision
  4. Journal: irregular
  5. Computing: taking off very slowly
  6. Candles ?
  7. Glass-cutting ?
  8. Sewing ?
  9. Gardening/chooks
  10. M.O.W and
  11. MATTARA 1 hr a week
  12. Reading: Zen, DH Lawrence, Van Gulik (spend 2-3 hrs)
  13. Market ?
  14. Craft (will drop)
  15. Tuckshop – 60 to 90 minutes a week
  16. Entertainment for Johnny’s friends – 1 ½ days once a fortnight on average
  17. Soon: evening trips for Karen (one to two evenings a week)
  18. Driving Barbie to bus stop
  19. XBX 12 minutes – this pen seems to seize up often.

The Base Hospital is a good place to sit and think or write. You’re sorted out pretty fast here. You also get lots of time to think. The mole’s growths are benign; they told me today. I was in and out of Surgical in a few minutes. That’s a great relief. Now I can sit in emergency to get the stitches seen to. A good long wait I guess.

It wasn’t a long wait. I was called and asked to sit with three other women. One had severe sunburn. The doctor came, stood in our midst and loudly called my name. She was young, petite and Chinese. “Me,” I said in a small voice from under her arm.
She spun around in surprise and said, “Oh, it’s you. How’s the arm?” So, on Friday I will go to get the sutures removed.

There’s plenty on hand, so why do Polymaths?

  • I would like a structured course with work to be produced in public
  • I like working in a group
  • I would like to be with people who are studying

But, because of my poor performance I’m not going to be given the chance. I myself cannot promise steady work – like an alcoholic who knows he’s an alcoholic. Besides the circumstances demand that I produce good results as Johnny is in charge.

Too bad.

Am I determined to make yet another attempt at studying maths? Yes.

What would I do if I say no? Get a job, any job, so as to shake myself out of my lethargy.

Lethargy is not exactly right. I’m not able to keep to a schedule or meet deadlines that I make myself. All this sounds pretty weak. My face feels stiff with resentment and hopelessness. Partly self-pity. Jobs are hard to get. Besides I don’t want to be away from the family for long stretches of time. So if one is choosy it’s even harder to find a job. I’ve been over this many times. If I work steadily on making stuff for the shops I should earn enough money to cover extra expenditure but that’s not the point is it?

Long-term viability is the aim and how best to achieve it.

What else? Write for money – hard but can be done.

Why do anything? I can’t understand it, I’m not happy if I’m studying something, so why can’t I be steady?

Why get so distracted, so easily? Not motivated enough.

11:15pm
Quite a nice day in Rocky despite shock to the system and ego.

Met Johnny on East Street and then went to look at cassette tape recorders, with a radio, for mum.

Phoned the farm to see if Marcello wanted a lift home. He wasn’t there and was out fishing. Nestor thought Marcello wouldn’t be keen to come home because he hadn’t shot a dingo as yet. They caught fish.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • List items 1, 2 and 19 are a bit cryptic, but I have included everything for completeness.

27. The Brahmin – Journal Entry 18th July 1978

He was so kind to me, the brahmin with a hare-lip. One could hardly make out what he said, yet he talked without apparent embarrassment. He taught me just one thing: I don’t think he needed to worry about my other faults, the one he pointed out was the worst and most important. My family background was pretty rough and occasionally for entertainment, we made fun of people with physical defects or queer mannerisms.

For some reason, I suppose because Mr Subramaniam carried his hare-lip so naturally and with such dignity, I hardly noticed it. He was so helpful to me, an awkward 15 year old, gaining experience as an unpaid typist. He found the office a busy and unfriendly place.

However, someone else amused me, another person who tried to help me, but who, to me, seemed suspect. He was a droll character, with his techno-coloured silk shirts, large moustache and rolling eyes. His eyes and hands seemed to move together in all directions, but definitely in harmony.

Mr Subramaniam must have seen the mocking amusement on my face, but he didn’t say anything until one day I commented on how funny Mr X looked. He didn’t laugh, just looked at me and asked quietly what right I had to make fun of Mr X; he then softened the rebuke by saying that many people made rude fun of others and that it would be a pity if I behaved like them. He then amused me by jotting down shorthand phrases and getting me to read them; they were practice phrases from the Pitman’s Shorthand Instructor.

Indian Dress

In any society there are three important and highly conventional forms. These three forms are very basic.

  1. The getting and eating of food
  2. The getting and exercise of sex
  3. The way people dress

Studying these three basic forms will give us some idea of a society’s structure and philosophy.

When looking at the dress of another culture, we must remember we are looking at the end result of a long process. For example, European dress allegedly began with some fig leaves then animal-skin loin cloths which rapidly progressed to bustle skirts for women and smoking jackets for men to some present day cheeky swimming gear for the beach.

Long Indian skirts for women and loose Indian lalchi or jibbah for the men are from ancient Indian sculpture and it would appear that the dress of the early Indians of both sexes was simply jewellery around the neck, waist, wrists and ankles. The next stage seems to have been sarong-like garments of fine material, presumably cotton.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • This appears to be a story followed by an article, however, my mother had worked in an office in India in the late 60s and knew Pitman’s shorthand.

26. Endless Waiting – Journal Entry 18th April 1978

I’m in Yeppoon, sitting at a table in front of a small cafe that’s shut. It’s rather dark here, a few metres away, maybe 10 or 15, a hot bread sign keeps flashing, giving the illusion of movement and the bulbs make a clicking sound as they go on and off. Around and around the hot bread, hot pies, cakes and pastries board they seem to move. Click, Click, Click, around and around. I’m using the light from the sign and also light from the glassed and refrigerated drink stands in the shop at the back of me. The headlights of passing cars occasionally flash in my direction, brightening the table for a few seconds. There are two young girls sitting at the next table. It’s very quiet in this corner. The Strand Hotel Motel across the road has a few drinkers. I wonder who bought the hotel at the auction a couple of weeks ago?

As usual, patients are hanging around waiting for the doctor to arrive; and, as usual, he is late. How long will his patients remain his patients? Especially when there are more punctual physicians in town.

Quality is an interesting concept. The Bororo people of Brazil, according to Levi-Strauss, have it. Quality in cooking, yes, but what about the kitchen? Should that be tidy and aesthetically pleasing before one starts or can one produce good food on the one hand and have a mess in the kitchen while producing quality food? No. Quality does not or should not occur in patches.

The garden is taking shape. What do I have to do tomorrow?

  1. Plant zucchini – the plot is ready
  2. Finish removing the grass from the path
  3. Tackle the strawberries
  4. Plan the plots near the duck pen
  5. Peas – plan their plot

There’s too much on the list for tomorrow.

We’re sewing too. List of sewing jobs:

  1. Cut out hats – D-hats
  2. Patchwork for blankets
  3. Make some green hats

15th Jun 1978

Thursday is People’s Day at the Rocky Agricultural Show. It is about 12:30 pm and I’m sitting near the Radio 4RO booth. Mum and Barbie are playing the lucky envelope stalls. Lots and lots and lots of people at the show today, such a collection of humanity, but mainly homogeneous because this is the heart of Central Queensland. A country town. A few foreigners are around and one Vietnamese family obviously enjoying themselves. First, they had a hot drink. Two rows of stalls later they were buying pluto pups for the kids. Money is changing hands very fast at some stalls. One-way traffic from people – mainly children – to the stall holders. Actually, most of the stalls seem to be doing well, except perhaps the ear-piercings and some of the religious stalls.

I would have loved to have spent more time at the poultry section. I always get carried away by some of the beautiful birds – this time by Doblo’s Indian game fowl and some bantams. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll have a few different breeds. I must find out the name of the largish bantams that looked like Doblo’s birds. People and paper are littered on the lawn about me. It’s lunch-time so more and more people are dropping on the grass, more chip bags are flying in the breeze.

The show seems to offer everyone something to their liking. Competitors get competition, young lovers get excitement and fun and children seem to enjoy themselves the most. The high cost of rides and darts don’t seem to worry them and neither do the plastic prizes. The wind has come up again, cold and biting. The man at the kite shop is flying an eagle kite made from black and white plastic. It looks pretty from here. All the children watch. Nice smell of steak somewhere nearby. A loudspeaker calls people to try lucky envelopes at the sub-normal children’s stall. Suddenly people are rising from the grass, they all dust off their bums before heading off.

17th Jul 1978

At last, a place in Yeppoon where a person can sit on a Monday night and enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee. I’m having chips with my cup of coffee. Can’t decide whether to put sugar in the coffee. It’s dog obedience night. Dusty went without a backward glance. She was either eager or resigned. No use struggling.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Added my mother’s sister Barbara to the family tree. As Barbara was dependent on my grandmother, both Barbara and Grandma joined the Emu Park Family.

25. Cyclone David – Journal Entry 12th Dec 1975

Dear Jean, here at last is my letter as it was written before and after your telephone call.

Thanks for your letter. We will not be coming to Melbourne for the Christmas holidays, Johnny cannot get away, though we may manage the odd week or weekend in the bush. Sayang*.

I was looking forward to visiting Melbourne for several reasons – the main one being because it contains your family. There is a paper mill I would like to visit and learn to hand-make paper. Actually one buys a kit (you may like to get one for the kids: The Mould & Deckle Papermill, 221 Canterbury Road, Heathmont VIC 3135). And, of course, I wanted to see the shops. Heard a lot about them.

After minding our own business for two years, Johnny and I are right in the middle of community participation. He is out tonight attending an A.A.P.** meeting, to get the best deal for Emu Park in particular and the Capricorn Coast. Last night he attended the Emu Park Progress Association meeting where he was told that we would at last be getting a community hall. Emu Park had been without a hall for many years. The old hall was burned down by a firebug. This firebug had a temper; whenever someone insulted him, he burned a building or two. He set fire to the school. They caught him one day with a stolen bicycle in hand and lots more under his house. They tell me he was Welsh and an incorrigible thief. He died in a road accident and his body and car were stripped before the police got to him.

We’ve started Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) In the beginning we thought it was all a big mistake; we only had two customers. However, when we served our first day’s meal, we had seven customers. In a month’s time we were up to ten and then sixteen, by which time we wanted to drop some. Now we are at a manageable amount.

We’ve also started a group called MATTARA to keep an eye on people, especially old and sick people living on their own. We get taps mended, supply transport when needed, look after gardens, etc. Yesterday we had our first social afternoon-tea and sing-song because of Christmas. Sounds dreadful, but we all enjoyed ourselves, and the homemade cakes and jams we offered as prizes were really appreciated. Some of our clients were housebound and had not seen their friends (also housebound) for a long time. By bringing them together, they were able to catch up on news and gossip. Our oldest person there was 82. She had been in a home for over 15 years. As she wanted to spend time here, the Community Health people boarded her with a woman in Emu Park. This was her first two week holiday.

Our most dramatic case to date has been cleaning an 82 year old German man’s house. His house was condemned long ago, but the Council won’t pull it down until he dies. A strange man Fritz. And Emu Park left him alone. He was a first class carpenter and boat builder. He drinks, is excessively independent and has an enormous golden Labrador which knocks him into hospital at least once a month. When in hospital he accuses the staff of keeping him away from his dog. To get back to the house cleaning: the M.O.W. volunteers complained about the overflowing urine bucket in the kitchen doorway and maggots on the floor, not to mention the egg-smeared dishes laid ready for the day’s meal. So on Sunday, four MATTARA women gird up their loins, put perfumed masks over their face and attacked Fritz’s house. Fritz helped by burning the rubbish. He only cooperated because he had been told to do so by the Community Health Nursing Sister. To give you an idea of Fritz’s present state – he doesn’t know what day of the week it is, forgets to switch off his kettle, lays lighted mosquito coils on boxes of matches and lights a pipe that is not there.

Back to the housecleaning for Fritz. Right in the middle of all this filthy, stinking, dusty and seemingly hopeless job, a neighbour (who bought Fritz’s house and land) came in to tell us what interfering do-gooders we were and why the hell hadn’t we asked her to help. She continued to tell us that everyone knew she helped Fritz, that Fritz wanted the house filthy anyway and why couldn’t we leave it so. We apologised for not knowing she helped Fritz. What else could we do? She went to meet with the President of M.O.W., who was mowing his son’s lawn at the time. The President had seen her going into Fritz’s house so he was ready and pointed out that Fritz was a health and fire hazard! To do the woman justice, she returned to us and apologized.

Much later, Fritz was asked how his rooms came to be so clean and with eyes twinkling behind small, round, steel-rimmed glasses, he replied, “It rained.”

CyclonePic

19th Jan 1976

Today we are expecting Cyclone David. The wind is blowing at about 60 knots. The trees are trying to touch their roots.

The M.O.W. President and I delivered the meals because we wanted to warn the clients that we might not be able to get to them tomorrow. We offered to do any shopping they might need. All of them were prepared except old Fritz. He was in bed when I went in. The Blue Nurse was there and also the woman who cleans the house. The women were worried about him as the wind was blowing the rain right across to his bed. Fritz wasn’t bothered, he was hungry and wanted to be fed right away. Couldn’t get out of bed, he said, because he had no pants on. That was true, I saw that a couple of pairs of dirty shorts were soaking in a bucket in the kitchen.

This afternoon, a MATTARA volunteer will check on Fritz and take him to her house if necessary.

22nd Jan 1976

Very few people on the Capricorn Coast slept on the night of the 19th. The winds at our place were horrific because of the pine trees; and we were well away from the eye of the storm. Very little damage at Emu Park, just a few old, unused houses had the roof ripped off, and some toots (lavatories) found their way to the middle of the street. Had the wind been just a little stronger…

Apart from a wet study and a few broken branches, we thrive at Phillip Street. The kids are getting ready for school – which starts again next week.

Christmas was very wet, but most pleasant, playing with the kids’ toys. New Year or thereabouts was hectic because of visitors. We haven’t been on camp as yet; much too wet where we want to go.

Lots of love and a great good 1976 to you all.

Footnotes:

*Sayang means ‘Too bad!’ in the Philippines.
**The Australian Assistance Plan (A.A.P.), provided regional funding for local projects and social welfare programs. Ref: Local government and the Commonwealth: an evolving relationship, Research Paper no. 10 2010-11, Dr Lyndon Megarrity, Politics and Public Administration Section, 31 January 2011, Ref. The A.A.P was set up by the Whitlam Government in 1972.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Footnotes have been added
  • Cyclone “David crossed to the north of St Lawrence. It passed over Gannet Cay. Winds unroofed 30 buildings in Yeppoon. The breakwater at Rosslyn Bay was destroyed along with yachts and trawlers. Wave recording stations at Yeppoon recorded a peak wave height (Hmax) of 7.6m.” Ref: Capricorn Coast Storm Tide Hazard Investigation For Livingstone Shire Council Final Report, 105201cw/ Revision 3, Connell Wagner Pty Ltd, 28 May 2003, Ref

 

 

24. Meals On Wheels – Journal Entry 5th Sep 1975

Went to see Steve McL at the library about visiting people in the community. She is interested in lending large-print books to old people and doing activities with young people.

Those interested should help with Meals On Wheels (M.O.W.) to have contact and a raison d’etre. One or two women will be organisers and contacts. Lectures and films could be shown to help educate and entertain helper groups. We decided to meet next week to sort out the committee and roster for M.O.W.

A few of our potential recipients:

Mrs A is psychotic and almost everybody avoids speaking to her. She grew up in Emu Park. Horse-whipped her kid once and he is now middle-aged, an alcoholic, collects antique furniture and will not do anything for this woman. He hates her. She is completely un-loveable, very much the grand lady.

Mr B lives in a caravan and seems to have no-one except the people who own the weekend home whose garden he maintains. Very lovely, going blind with possible kidney trouble.

Mr C has a senile wife. She interferes when he cooks and he doesn’t get much sleep. An old friend helped by taking his wife out for a drive while Mr C had a sleep or went for a walk. His wife is now in a home. It’s very sad but he is a different man after regular sleep.

We called a public meeting. Priests, representatives of various organisations, a social worker and a community health nurse were all present. The chairman was good, everyone was in favour of Meals On Wheels. A very successful meeting.

6th Sep 1975

The school fete is on and it’s a cold and windy day. No rain though. In the morning I went with the kids to help at school. Everyone was rummaging at the White Elephant stall. Much excitement among the kids. In the afternoon there was a very good crowd. During the speeches, various people traced the history of Emu Park School. I worked in the tea stall.

In the evening we had dinner with Margo and Norman. The discussion centred around how to find out what the Aboriginals did around Rockhampton. Norman to find out what is needed. Margo to help with homework at One People of Australia League.

15th Sep 1975

Meals On Wheels started. Many did not want to get meals; hope they change their minds later.

16th Sep 1975

“What do you think of the kedgeree, Gareth?” I query.

He says, “Oh, the flavours don’t go well together. Those flavours don’t go well with the tomatoes.”

There was a sad incident on Sunday. Got a call from the neighbour about Mr E.

Mr E was expecting a meal from M.O.W. – kept looking out for it and getting quite agitated. When I called by, he walked down to the vehicle and peered in. It was 1pm and all the meals had been delivered. So the neighbour, kind soul, made soup and put it on a tray with cold meat, bread and a sweet. She walked the food across to Mr E’s house.

Mr E’s house was a shell and barely liveable. A strong urine smell was everywhere, especially in a room which seemed to serve as a kitchen, dining room, bathroom and latrine. The latrine was a blue plastic bucket. Meat was rotting in the frying pan; near which was a lump of dripping and over 15 egg shells, egg cartons and egg smeared plates. It was absolute squalor. Empty jam jars and dirty towels lay strewn on the benches and floor.

The house was described by some as “the funniest in the street” and the occupant has always been a mystery. He has no friends, speaks very little English and people suspect he knows more than he lets on.

Strangely, Mr E has a lovely golden dog, called Laddie, who is in prime condition. He spends most of his time at the pub. Every afternoon the pub people tell him, “The Meals On Wheels people are going to your house now.” To which he downs his can of beer, scoots out, races along the street, gets home and sets himself at the table. Some days he eats a slice of bread while waiting.

Mr E has a round face, youthful complexion and a freshness about him. His eyes give nothing away. He is 82 years old, lights a pipe that is not there, puts burning mosquito coils on top boxes of matches and drinks a lot of beer.

Mr E loves his dog Laddie. He is regal and seems to do you a favour by just being and allowing you to do things for him.

3rd Oct 1975

The Welshman was a smoothie, very charming with the women and drank heavily. He would offer to help with some job around the house, look around and then steal. Usually timber, paint or some other building material.

One day he was drunk and announced, “If anyone annoyed me, I’d burn their house down, just like that, no messing around… wouldn’t be the first time either.”

He was suspected of having burned down the community hall, the school and even a second community hall. He was Master of Ceremonies (M.C.) at six-penny dances that were run to pay for the community hall. But one night he arrived drunk so the people refused to have him as M.C. That was the night the community hall burned down.

Letter to The President of the RSL

[Emu Park, October 1975]

We need your help! Not your money! A group of local people have organised MATTARA* to seek out anyone in the community needing care; not medical care, not charity, just contact with other members of their community.

Some elderly folk are fit and well, others have helpful relatives or neighbours. Some, however, lead very lonely lives, others need practical help in small but important matters. Some, for example, have weak eyesight and cannot even read a newspaper; some are too frail to catch the bus and need to be taken shopping for necessities. Others have electrical fittings which are faulty and deteriorating. The main need on their part is for a little human contact and on our part to be able to find out when help is needed.

Younger people, too, may run into temporary difficulties and may need similar kinds of help. We do not seek out any specific age group, just people in need of care.

We have no doubt that your organisation will wish to share our concern and we shall greatly appreciate your nominating one of your members to join our group – not necessarily for visiting – advice of those needing care will be of tremendous assistance.

[Eight members were listed, including my mother, with three as contact people]

A meeting will be held at the Library on Thursday, 30th October at 7:30 pm. May we welcome your representative then? If unable to attend please telephone to convey your willingness to help us.

%%%%%%%%

*MATTARA – an Aboriginal word meaning ‘hand of friendship’

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

23. Three Rivers Camping – Journal Entry 12th Aug 1975

Muchlater

The Three Rivers is a camping area located 18 km north-east of Byfield. It was only accessible by four-wheel drive. Byfield is 67 km north of Emu Park.

Tuesday, 12th Aug 1975

We set off for Camp 5 at 4:30 am. Got bogged at 3 Tracks. Chopped down a stump that was in the way and then got bogged at McNevin’s Crossing. Winched ourselves out; then the winch broke or maybe it disconnected. Made it to 3 Rivers by 9 am.

Carried our stuff over rocks to Camp 5. The packs were heavy and it took 45 minutes. After a quick rest, we returned to the Rover and had lunch while Johnny packed more gear – mainly food and utensils. I had thirty pounds of canned food in my pack, just part of the week’s supply for five.

The tide was high so we had to go over the hills. It would have been a pleasant walk but for our heavy packs:

Marcello had a surfboard.
Gareth had fishing rods.
Karen had kerosene and fishing bag.
Johnny had a very heavy pack of food.
Gita had a heavy pack of food.

Crawled to camp at 1 pm.

Johnny had to make two more trips. The rest of us set up tents and had the fire going for coffee and evening meal.

End of the first day at camp.

Oh yes, I was given a piece of driftwood for my birthday by Johnny.

Wednesday, 13th Aug 1975

Decided to spend the day at camp recovering. It was an ideal camp – low, well-vegetated hills and a medium-sized waterfall with lots of pools at the bottom; lots of firewood nearby for the campfire; many Pandanus trees and three coconut trees. The sand cliffs to the north of us were many coloured – white, orange, yellow and cream. There was a family-sized beach, about ¾ mile long, with rocks at each end.

Went exploring the rocks on the north end of the beach to see what the next bay looked like. Discovered it would have taken ¾ to 1 hour to walk over the rocks. Returned home over the hills because the rocks were too slow to cross.

Attempted a rather steep climb, almost came to a bad end. A gnarled casuarina tree saved me; crawled up the hill and headed for home camp. Crossed wooded areas, dark and mysterious and still; expected wild people to tear me apart. Returned in time for breakfast.

The family went fishing after lunch. Caught the evening’s meal, and a few oysters.

Thursday, 14th Aug 1975

Went to 3 Rivers to repair winch. Washed my hair and explored rivers while Johnny worked. Located ferns, eucalyptus and banksia to take home. Collected driftwood and soil. Ate oysters after lunch.

Returned to camp at high tide. The waves were white and rough against the dark jagged rocks. Many of the rock shelves looked like sets from a spooky film, they had holes, and streaks running out of the holes – as though something horrible had dripped out.

The walk back over the hills was most pleasant this time. Many shrubs were in flower; such strange shrubs with such strangely beautiful flowers. There were many cow tracks – most useful if you don’t know your way over the hills.

The day ended with a rowdy game of Brag and garlic fried peanuts.

Friday, 15th Aug 1975

The kids decided they’d like to spend the day at camp. We had planned a visit to the next beach – possibly an hours walk over the hills.

The sky was overcast, a wind was blowing and so the trip was postponed. I went oystering for two hours, determined to give the family a feast. What a lunch today – oysters fried in oil and vinegar, canned ham, cheese spread, jam and biscuits.

It rained from lunch onwards. So we stayed in the big tent, and read, played cards and had dinner there too. 10 pm and it is still raining, lightly now.

It is a pity it rained all day. Found some white clay and yellow clay. Would have liked to have looked for the sources. Finished book on Coasts & Life on the Seashore.

Saturday, 16th Aug 1975

Found large quantities of grey, white and yellow clay – mainly grey. Looked for four-wheel drive tracks on the hills behind camp. Found them, so Johnny and Marcello brought the Rover to Camp 5! Tremendous, we won’t have to carry our things back to 3 Rivers.

Wildflowers were in bloom on the hillsides’ hardy vegetation, they have to withstand wind and grow in relatively poor soil, so they are low-growing and they flower early.

Didn’t catch fish – caught oysters though; discovered a bed of large-sized ones. Gareth and Karen picked smooth pebbles and bits of glass.

Sunday, 17th Aug 1975

Set out, after an excellent breakfast, to explore the next beach that was ½ an hour over the top of the hills.

Passed a creek with palm ferns growing by the sides, a bush turkey’s nest and Queensland umbrella trees.

So many different trees and shrubs, cool glades of low-branched trees and springy grass. Good cattle tracks to follow. Had to climb one steep hill.

The beach was exciting because it was there, uninhabited and waiting to be explored. Marcello found a glass float straightaway. We picked a ferny coppice, with a creek running through, to have our lunch. In the meanwhile, there was plenty to see and possible treasures to be picked up.

Quite excited by the beauty of the beach and the blue-green glass float. So we decided to press on to the next beach which was another 30-minute walk over the hill. The rocks were impassable in parts.

This time, Karen found a small stoneware jar; shipwrecked with a small mouth. And Marcello found another glass float (a small clear glass one), a cow skull and a wooden packing case. Gareth found a tube that he used as a telescope and a small plastic fishing reel. We returned to the first beach for lunch. After lunch, Marcello caught two big bream. A third, enormous,  according to Marcello and Karen, got away with his line.

The return journey took a while because we went well out of our way. It was slow too because we had no cattle tracks to follow and so had to crash through bushes and over fallen dead trees.

Hot fish curry and oysters for dinner.

Learned many games of Patience over freshly fried peanuts.

Monday, 18th Aug 1975

Took some stuff to Rover. Collected ferns, pandanus, banksia, yellow sand and a few pieces of driftwood. Marcello found another glass float, his 3rd. Shifted more stuff to Rover in the afternoon. Kids played ball near Rover while I collected more plants.

Usual game of cards in the evening. High and dramatic tides, up to edge of beach, lovely moonlight. Cold.

Tuesday, 19th Aug 1975

Packed. Left at 8:30 am. Rough journey to 3 Rivers. Riding along paths at an angle.
Bogged in one of the 3 Rivers!
Water gurgling away, Rover at 45 degree angle while we winched it.
Winch broke, but Rover was out by then.
After several tries, we make it over the sand dunes.

Next excitement was a fire. Right at McNevin’s Crossing where one could get bogged very easily, and where we wanted to have lunch. Fortunately, someone had laid branches to make a neat road across the bog. So we crossed easily and drove fearfully away. The fire was too sinister to encourage loitering.

Oh yes, between Camp 6 and 3 Rivers we had a flat tire. Had to stop several times to tighten the wheel.

A mile away from home, we ran out of petrol. Filled up from the jerrycan and cruised home at 3 pm.

Lots of mail and eggs to greet us.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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22. Back Home to Australia – Journal Entry 17th Nov 1973

Muchlater

We returned to Emu Park from the Philippines and our family bought a beautiful Queensland home set on the top of a hill. We could see the ocean in the distance through a row of fully grown Norfolk pines.

Beloved,

I dreamed of you last night. You returned without your beard. I was very surprised. The dream is easily explained, I had shown your R.A.F. photograph to Gareth.

Thank you, my love, for your letter of the 11th received today. We bought three chooks, frozen, from Benn’s.

Quite a day. We went at 6am to the beach; the pup ran around and Gareth rode his bike. We won’t go tomorrow because the pup is sick. We may have overfed him and carried him around too much.

So then we came home from the beach and did some housework (or homework as Janine says). And then about 10am the Svendsen kids came and we all went to the beach again to eat cake and watermelon and to swim.

Left them at their house to get ready for Cinderella, a play by the Junior Little Theatre. We went home, had lunch and then went to the Daltons.

Sue left on Thursday. Benjamin was not well and she thought she’d keep him quiet at home. He gets rather excited here.

Oh darling, all the lettuces have gone to seed.

It’s fun having the Rover to drive.

About Blue, the pup. Do you like the name? Well about Blue; Marcello is in charge of him and it’s the funniest thing – Marcello cleaning Blue’s pooh! And his vomit. Mig is also very fussy and protective over Blue. He stayed in the car with Blue in case stray dogs attacked. Won’t give us much time with the pup. At the moment they’re asleep together. Poor Karen, she wants a pup now. Anyway she’s waiting for her kitten. Gareth and I are to look after Blue when Marcello is at school.

Johnny, I love you. Things are strange without you.

18th Nov 1973 – Night

The Rs called. I was asleep, the kids were at the beach. However, the Rs returned after visiting the Fullers and stayed till 7pm. It was very nice. R’s parents separated when he was 4. He lived with his father till 8 years of age and then returned to his mother. However, he was always away from home and only spent one year living with his mother. They told me lots more things. They send $100 every month to R’s mother.

I’ve unpacked our files. Found the Curry chapter. Finished The Thousand and One Nights. Wrote out cheques. Felt quite important doing so. I’m working at your desk.

The kids and I now sleep in the main bedroom. Not Marcello though, he has Blue in his room because Blue plays at night and bites our toes and tugs our hair! Pity, I enjoyed sleeping in the study.

Don’t know what happened to that crate of apples. Railway strike was on a couple of days so don’t know when the plums etc will arrive.

End of a whole week without you.
I love you my love.

Your
Gita

WastpaperBasketPoem
Poem by Gita Nov 1973

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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21. Philippines Snapshot – Journal Entry 2nd May 1971

Muchlater[Our family stayed in Sydney for another year and then spent two years in the Philippines. Unfortunately, there are no journals for this period so I have included the few letters my mother sent from the Philippines. Martial law was introduced to the Philippines by President Marcos in September 1972. This prompted us to return to Emu Park in 1973.]

2nd May 1971

Yes, we’d be delighted to have Mark. Leave him with us for as long as you like. A holiday in the Philippines and the countryside would do him a world of good. Manila is a pleasant city and the countryside in Luzon is magnificent. We haven’t had the chance to visit any of the other islands. The best thing is the people, diverse, very able and friendly in a person to person fashion.

We’ll send him back to you speaking Tagalog.

7th May 1971

So we are here in the Pilipinas. Magandang umaga po = Good morning Sir or Madam.

What have I to report? Nothing very much really. So terribly ordinary – like ordering furniture, looking for kapok and buying fish and coffee beans. We went out to a Welcome to the Philippines Dinner last night and it was all wrong, discreet and rich. I felt sad although the view was good. An 11th floor Sydney view without water and two nice bits of meat spoilt with too much food beforehand. I drank lemon and soda, longing for a cigarette.

We have a fish pond in the tiny garden and we have stocked it with fish. Lost all the guppies because they swam away forever through the outlet pipe. Bought more – very expensive. Anyway, a stupid price for a guppy. Especially guppies given to disappearing down the drain.

Was it hot when we arrived! Man was it hot. Port Moresby was an adventure. A slow roast at 325F. This machine [IBM electric typewriter] sticks at a certain place and all the keys are different for each golf ball and I have a chart which I don’t look at and so get things wrong. My reflexes are all wrong too, I press to get a semi-colon on golf ball courier 72 and I get an N with a curl on top of it. I ask you, how does one disguise an N with a curl on top of it to look like a semi-colon? Life is very difficult.

We have one maid and seem to have difficulty getting another. That’s because Johnny would like a mature woman who is able to cook Pilipino foods. These golf balls are the end and I feel so hungry, it is 1.30pm and I’m waiting for Johnny to return.

We have a betel leaf creeper in the garden and alas and alack, poetic justice and whatnot, I burnt my mouth trying out a betel-nut-lime chew. The lime being wot you whitewash catacombs with.

Can I think of nothing else but food? Yennyway, the place we are in is good. It’s going to rain presently and so things will cool off. Got to type a long paper for Johnny now – wish me luck. I will be at it all weekend if this letter is any guide. So bye for now. Maybe I shall have something worthwhile to say tomorrow.

15th May 1971

So wot to report. I’m sitting in the kanteen of the Philippine Women’s University drinking black instankoffee, facing a notice which says:

PLEASE REPORT
DISCOURTEOUS PERSONNEL
TO THE MANAGEMENT (Establishment?)
IMMEDIATELY

This reminds me of a super one I’d been saving for you. On a noticeboard somewhere I read:

UNAUTHORISED PERSONS
DON’T READ THIS

Alas, nothing below the arrow.

Which brings to mind (though I fail to see the connection) of hundreds of wooden carvings for sale of a fist with the middle finger (extra long) sticking straight up. Wot significance? Dare I ask? Whom?

People here are great. Mostly smiling and bursting into song now and then.

There’s this market filled with 2” by 2” shops (I exaggerate very little) selling ready-made dresses. Thousands and thousands of 2’ by 2’ shops and everyone (der women) wears dresses, she said sadly burning herself with the instakoffee.

Why yam I drinking koffee at the kanteen of the Phil. Women’s Univ.? Because I am waiting for a 9am to strike so that I can present myself for the dance course I am attending.

We’re being taught by der famous Bayanihan dancers. Them dat goes round the world many times. They are good. We’re a mixed class – mainly school teachers and young kids. Every Saturday the Bayanihan dancers put on a show and this Saturday, tomorrow, we will go to see them.

It is now Saturday and I’ve returned from the dance performances and am copying out what I wrote in my notebook to you. We have learnt three dances so far. Jota Canitena, Pandanggo and the well-known Tinikling. There are no fs and vs in Tagalog by the way and c comes out as k; pity me, am I not mixed up already?

There seems to be a natural grace about everybody and the students don’t look awkward learning the dances. I feel like a bluddy giraffe.

The first dance I can only just do, the second needs practice because we’re supposed to balance a glass, with burning candle inside, on our head and a glass (mit said candle) on the back of each hand and dance and smile and look graceful.

17th June 1971

Thank you very much for your letter. It came as a great relief to me because I was worried. I had visions of the three of you in a Nepalese jail gnawing on dry powroti.

You could keep up your reading at least can’t you? When Anna is asleep? I should be the last one to ask that question – I would like to do so many things but what happens? I get side-tracked and end up doing very little. Are we not frail?

It is good to be in Manila but it will be better when we get out of to the Provinces – when we can speak Pilipino. We are here initially for another year, but would like to stay on for another year.

Let me know when you know your short-term and long-term plans. Maybe.

Oh hell, are we not all insecure? That is, most of us don’t have very much money, don’t know where we’re going etc. etc. and all that. This is not much help is it? But above all, don’t worry, it is killing, I know.

The kids are fine, the moves upset them a little initially and then they make friends and enjoy themselves till the next move. Gareth is three now and talks and talks.

I’m using an IBM electric typewriter and when I change the golf ball type I don’t know where everything is and get the queerest things when I want a question mark or say a simple comma.

I had better stop and post this to you soon. Give Anna a big kiss for me, maybe I’ll see you someday. Give my regards to Minoru.

Use the Australian address, it is much quicker.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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20. Arrival Story – Journal Entry 1st Sep 1970

[My mother’s story version of arriving in Australia.]

Gita’s arrival at Brisbane airport was dramatic and foolish. She has flown straight from Kathmandu, the youngest child in a sling on her back, the two elder children clutching at her skirts, big bags in her hands. One child had a Nepalese drum – at the sight of which the Customs officials sighed and took a tight grip on themselves. Gita was dressed in a short thick black cotton sari. These were the sort worn by women in a particular Nepalese tribe to show off the tattoos on their calves. She knew the fumigation was coming and hoped to add to the dramatic effect in retaliation. But Gita didn’t have tattooed calves.

All this was quite stupid. There was a reporter who sensed something and wanted to take photographs. The reporter had noticed Gita exchanging a long intense, slightly smiling glance with Johnny who was waiting outside the customs barrier. Johnny, in his typical cool manner, continued leaning against the pillar, glanced at the reporter and quietly drawled that he had better not. The reporter was a middle-aged Australian, short and plump, a disappearing race of understanding country reporters. He must have sensed tragedy, fear, who knows what, so he didn’t argue but stood by Johnny and watched until Gita was through with Customs and had greeted Johnny with one word, “Hello.”

Gita was taken straight from the Third World into a two-storied wooden house on stilts in a very small coastal village of Australia.

Immediate differences in cultures came fairly quickly one after another. White labourers working on the roads – a strange sight to someone coming from a colonised country. Vendors calling in motorised vehicles. The postman driving to your post box was hard to get used to at first as Gita assumed all postmen walked with heavy bags on their shoulders. There was hot and cold piped water in the house, separate bedrooms for the children, supermarkets in the nearby city and many clubs for people – especially women.

Women called on Gita to invite her to join the CWA, the National Fitness Club and the Bowling Club. She went on to the school tuckshop roster.

The neighbours were a little slow in making contact, they didn’t know what to make of this bizarre family dumped in their midst – two dark-skinned children who talked Gurkhali to each other in a low voice, one small blue-eyed baby boy, one large blond blue-eyed man who smoked a pipe and one South-East Asian woman.

Johnny suggested that Gita make the initial calls on neighbours, first to the couple living on the right and then to the couple on the left. Later they came, a little ashamed of themselves and not quite looking Gita in the eye. They told her what day was garbage collection day, and about milk, bread and newspaper deliveries.

Life in Emu Park was still at the stage where neighbours called on newcomers to welcome them and make their entry into the community as easy and pleasant as possible.

The earliest encounter with the Queensland dialect was when a young lad called with a message from his mother.
“Do you have any spice in your fridge?” he asked politely.
“Oh, no,” replied Gita, “I don’t keep spice in the fridge, I keep them on the shelf.”
A puzzled look came into the lad’s eyes and he almost backed away.
“Mum asked if you have spice in your fridge,” he repeated.
Gita repeated her answer and so it would have gone if the lad hadn’t changed his wording.
“Mum says if your fridge is not big enough, she could keep things for you in her fridge.”
Pretty soon they sat down to tea and biscuits.

It took Gita several years to get over her horror at having people spell words for her over the telephone. The a’s and i’s were hard to differentiate and her English wasn’t all that good either. One man jovially told her it reminded him of Peter Sellers, which surely was a chicken and egg question. On the other hand, Australians were surprised at Gita speaking English at all, and made such remarks as, “How is it that you speak straighter English than we do?”
“I’ve never spoken to one of your kind before,” said a taxi driver in Sydney, “I really enjoyed that.”
And another man asked, “Are you a school teacher?”

On the whole, Gita was mostly absorbed in Johnny and their new life together. Johnny concentrated on Australianising his new family as fast as possible. Gita’s attitude to that was pretty easy until she took the children to a cafe in Sydney where they stuck their fingers into everything and generally behaved so oddly that they soon attracted the attention of the other eaters. It didn’t take very long for the kids to learn to handle knives and forks and say excuse me and please and thank you. Life became a little less conspicuous.

Ah, the freshness of those early years in Australia, despite Johnny and Gita’s fear and sorrow.

The year was the late nineteen sixties, Australia was riding high, beef was expensive because of the export prices cattlemen were getting for their beasts, minerals were being dug up and shipped out at good prices and employment was plentiful.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This closes the chapter on the early years in Emu Park. Our family then moved to Neutral Bay in Sydney, Australia.