68. A Strong Urge To Write – Journal Entry 24th May 1981

A feeling of restlessness overcomes me with a strong urge to write.

I would like to especially write about the children – to exorcise certain passages of my life and to explain to them why things happened as they did.

Of course, we’re guilty.

We’ll always be guilty.

Also, I would like to write a recipe book for the children of the favourite dishes we have made and enjoyed over the years, so they can cook them for their own families.

There are so many little stories I want to write about – the story of Barbara being one of them – and never mind if they don’t get into print, it would be a challenge.

So many women these days are writing about the relationship between men and women and their “search for identity”. Johnny says this phase should last a long time because men and women are interested in each other and will continue to be so. I wonder if equality is a middle-class preoccupation vigorously pursued by female graduates?

Right now, the path I have chosen is to finish Computer Science this year and revise basic maths next year.

Today is Sunday, an extremely lovely sunny day, warm outside but almost cold inside. The earth is damp from three days of rain and the strong winds have tattered a few of the pigeon-pear bushes.

Barbara and I worked in the garden for a while. The shallots and garlic are nearly ready to harvest and the peas and beans are sprouting. I hope we have a good crop of vegetables this winter, the plants shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain.

Marcello and Monika are getting married while on holidays in the Atherton Tablelands and Karen wants to go. We weren’t invited as they will take their vows while on holiday up north; they seem pretty keen on the idea.

25th May 1981

A constant pain in my head has spirited away any gardening pleasure.

Mum and I sat in the Women’s Rest Centre, an excellent circular building on the riverbank with large windows and a verandah. The tea was lovely and the woman who is in charge of the service is always friendly. Mum used the lavatory and didn’t see the sign saying there was a charge of five cents a time. When I pointed it out, she tried to shove five cents into the money box for the Blue Nursing Service! Managed to stop her just in time.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at “Vinnies Boutique”, fossicking about in the second-hand goods. Nathaniel loved the swing and slide in the church garden. The place was packed with people looking through rack after rack of clothes. As always, I checked the books and found several histories of chemistry, advertising, communication and rockets. They were slightly damaged, presumably from rain, and a little smelly, but apart from that the print was fine and the pictures, especially the old diagrams, were exquisite.

On the way back we stopped at Boyen Valley Saw Mill and picked up some free firewood. Cedric has quoted $50 for a truckload.

The afternoon was spent at home with homework, dinner and more homework.

Dinner was very pleasant with the family in a good mood over their lamb chops.

26th May 1981

Today I must sort out the Progress Association minutes and see Sam for the meeting later in Rockhampton at 7:30 pm.

After unloading firewood from the Land Rover, I made scones and cakes for afternoon tea and curry and dhal for dinner. Barbara will be pleased.

Had lunch with Johnny and caught up with the homework group.

There is always something to be done, today was no exception, but it seems a bit of a messy day with no long, quiet stretches.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

Additions to Gallery – 21st Oct 2018

The following photos have been added to the Gallery for My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series.

Prior to 1968

Johnny-Pre1969
Johnny Pre-1968

1969 / 1970 Sydney

1970-LeavingEmuPark
Presentation to Gita by CWA 1970 for teaching yoga and other activities.
1970Sydney
Sydney: (Front) Marcello, Johnny, a friend, Karen (Back) Gareth, Gita
Version 4
Gita 1970
Version 2
Johnny 1970

1981

1981-MumGarethNat
Gita, Gareth, Nathaniel 1981

67. Maintenance Guarantee – Journal Entry 13th May 1981

Dear Nora,

What a day it has been!

Mum is making an application for a widow’s pension and we were asked to send dad’s death certificate (which we couldn’t find) and his birth certificate (which we suspect is in the same file in some Government office in Manila) hence our telegram to you. I hope it wasn’t too cryptic. 

Telephone calls cost a small fortune.

We spent three to four hours turning the house upside down in our search. Our grandson, who is fifteen months old, joined into the chase making an even bigger mess. Mum was getting quite upset at finding nothing but I managed to calm her down by saying all we could do was wait for news from you. I hope you can get a copy and if we haven’t received anything in a month, I’ll send another telegram.

I haven’t really explained anything, have I?

Originally Johnny signed a maintenance guarantee for mum and Barbara when they migrated to Australia. To be eligible for a widow’s pension you must have been in the country for five years and ten for an aged pension. We tried applying earlier but Johnny’s income was considered too high, even though five adults are managing on one salary in a house with six bedrooms.

It was worse before Marcello started working. He gives us board for his family and it certainly helps. All of this does not cut any ice with the Social Security Department because we signed a maintenance guarantee and that’s that; which is fair enough really.

We have been on a tight budget for as long as I can remember, ever since dad died in 1965. I cannot hold a full-time job while looking after the children, mum and Barbara. I’ve been studying first-year mathematics and computer science so maybe I can get contract work in computing next year. Despite this, life is very good and we eat extremely well. The vegetable garden is flourishing, we buying bulk meat and eat our own chooks, ducks and eggs. I’m often busy at my desk and mum isn’t as strong so we don’t get much gardening done. 

Oh yes, things will get tighter with Karen going to University. She won’t get a student allowance, again because of the means test, and she will need a minimum of $50 a week to live on, maybe even $70. We want her to concentrate on her studies and enjoy her time at University. She is working very hard at her matriculation this year.

I know you would like some photos but the ones I took were terrible; the camera was too old so I shall have to wait until someone takes better photos.

Gareth has started high school this year and is enjoying it. They learn Japanese as a second language.

Mum seems to lead a very busy life. On Tuesday afternoons she goes to indoor bowling. Once a month on Wednesdays the pensioners have an afternoon tea social. A regular physical fitness session is held every Thursday morning and on Saturdays, she goes to afternoon bowling followed by church in the evenings.

Her bowling club has a special day for visiting clubs and each member has to “bring a plate” so mum cooks something or gets us to bake a cake, a tart or whatever.

Then once every two months, either the pensioners club or bowling club organises a long bus journey for the day.

Of course, we encourage mum to go to everything but I tell you, we can hardly keep track of her engagements.

She takes a few medications now for blood pressure, cramps and arthritis in her neck; she is in pain most of the time.

Mum follows “a balanced diet” with gusto. It includes lots of fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, meat, fish when we can get it, honey, malt, molasses and bran. What a great sight she is at the breakfast table with her yoghurt, honey, molasses, malt, bran and corn flakes mixed in a bowl, followed by brown bread and a couple of eggs from her Australorp hens. Her enormous breakfast ends with a steaming mug of tea or coffee.

Barbara is also being more adventurous and gradually getting used to the fact that she can’t have rice and curry at every meal. She takes almost an hour to eat breakfast after making her own toast and steamed egg. Finally, she prepares a flask of coffee to take to the workshop. Barbie washes up when it’s her turn and is in charge of setting the table.

At the Activities Therapy Centre where she goes every day by bus, they go bowling and horse riding once a week, cook their lunches on Thursdays, go shopping and see school plays for entertainment. They went to the circus and go on picnics once a month. All of this in the last two months! Her new manager is doing a wonderful job.

Mum reads Barbie fairy tales at night, so yes, a vast improvement. However, she tends to withdraw about once a month and on those occasions, we have to give her tranquillisers; very low doses, thank goodness. 

Mum, of course, thinks of all of you but seems unable to put pen to paper to express herself.

I have a Calculus examination in four weeks time and then immediately after I have to buckle down to some serious and concentrated study of computer science which is a quick learning of PASCAL with a long, careful look at the structure of computer languages. Last year I studied Basic, Fortran and Cobol.

Well, my dear, I’d better stop and tackle a few sums. The house gets awfully dusty because we have so little time to spare, apart from cooking and eating large meals!

Your loving sister,
Gita

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

66. This Daily Life – Journal Entry 6th May 1981

Still have this wretched cold. Poor Johnny now has it and didn’t sleep well last night; his second disturbed night.

Dropped Barbie off at the bus stop after an early breakfast, saw Johnny off to work, put out the guinea chicks, tidied the chicken coops on the lawn and the garbage heap outside the kitchen, talked to the dentist about Gareth’s lip and made appointments for Karen and Gareth for July. 

Did a little study, listened to Tom O’Shanter, hung out the clothes and made a cuppa. Managed to squeeze in more study then removed the tall grass in the goat paddock, made the Bolognese ragu with the mince Marcello had brought from work (a little fatty to taste but fine for the price), sorted out the tomato puree and did the laundry.

Ate lunch with mum after a little bit of reading and bringing in the laundry. More cooking after that: a current slice or ‘fly pastry’ as we like to call it, and tomato juice. Finally, I  gathered more grass for the chooks.

Karen, Johnny and Gareth were leaving for Rocky for Karen’s public speaking competition so we had an early dinner. Gran was already in Rocky bowling and would be picked up later. I read Barbie a story until Nathaniel woke up. He had a long crying spell but settled down after a while and played in the sitting room until 8:30 pm. Studied and ironed while waiting for Johnny to come home.

7th May 1981

After a couple of hours of study, I did the ironing, made the bread dough, cleaned the dining room, cooked some vegetable patties and started Max Blacks’ The Labyrinth of Language.

Read a novel called The Street Sparrows, a historical romance that didn’t quite come off. It was naive and over-ambitious. An unsatisfactory evening because I chose to have an early night then read the novel, which was quite poor, and insisted on finishing it into the early hours of the morning.

9th May 1981

Karen and Monika worked in the garden for an hour while Gareth mowed the lawn. The tree pruning can wait until tomorrow. The rest of the week was spent on meetings, meetings and more meetings: first the Computer Users Society meeting then the P&C meeting and after that the Progress Association meeting. Johnny was away for a few days and Karen had her social.

13th May 1981

What an odd day!

The whole morning was spent searching for dad’s death certificate. Mum is applying for a widow’s pension, now she has been in the country for five years, and the certificate has to be sighted before the application is accepted.

Rob from Social Security was most helpful. Mum couldn’t find the death certificate and was getting into an awful state so I rang Rob and told him about our difficulties. He has now arranged for a representative in Brisbane to check the Immigration Department’s records for some mention of mum’s widowhood and has asked us for a copy of the guarantee Johnny signed to see what could be done.

In the meantime, I sent a telegram to Nora asking for another copy of the certificate. All this took half a day and the rooms are now strewn with boxes and papers. Nathaniel joined into the search and scattered the treasures he found. He also pulled a few boxes off the shelves in his excitement and mum was madly cleaning up after him while searching. We think the certificate may have been kept in the Philippines.

After giving up on the search, I clipped the wings of two young turkeys before putting them with the old turkey tom in the goat pen, made pikelets for the children and then rested while I made a few phone calls.

The electricity has gone off twice and has been off for over four hours. We had a quick and unexpected shower of rain so we now sit around the dining table in the strange light of a large gas lamp whirring near us. It is 8:45 pm and I read a few stories to Barbara – I must write a letter to Nora explaining our telegram.

This daily life… of study and jobs.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

65. Easter Weekend – Journal Entry 20th April 1981

It was a wonderful Easter weekend, eating excellent meals and spending time with the family.

On Good Friday we enjoyed baked mackerel, freshly caught by a local fisherman, with a delightful fruit salad to follow.

Easter Saturday lunch was an absolute gorge of prawns, aioli and fresh white bread. Mmmmm… I skipped everything except the prawns and aioli. Our usual array of pizzas followed for dinner with stewed mulberries and whipped cream for dessert.

The Easter bunny visited on Easter Sunday so there were loads of Easter eggs. Johnny and I ate bread and chocolate eggs, quite an acceptable way of eating Easter eggs for breakfast without feeling too sick. Everyone piled into the Rover for a picnic lunch of pizza at Stoney Creek, a very nice outing with the family.

Easter Sunday dinner was the event of the weekend if one can call it that with so many wonderful meals eaten already. We had rump steak, Johnny’s cordon bleu standard béarnaise sauce and boiled potatoes, corn and zucchini. After dinner we all went for a quick trip to the Singing Ship – the full moon brought many others to the top of the hill too. We played the dictionary game several times that night, then Gareth, Karen, and her friend Shannon listened to Goon records until late into the evening. 

After eating a large granny smith at 2 am in the morning, I went to bed and was plunged into a long nightmare of monsters surrounding me while I desperately tried various ways of escaping. I can only remember one segment: I was in a room full of people and creatures, circled by tall black lizard-like men with long snarling whips in their hands. I had to wake up to escape, my heart still beating fast.

Had an idea for a story. Through a door into a room leading to a bakery, male voices can be heard and a woman is standing, breaking open eggs. One after the other, they turn out bad with large black spots on the yolks and watery whites. A man comes out of the bakery, stands and looks at the woman. She shows him the bad eggs and says they are bad, breaking a few more. There is no movement from the man who continues to watch her intently; she moves to leave looking appealingly at him. He softens and makes a small movement toward her, she rushes into his arms pressing herself against him. She puts her arms tightly around his neck, her body pressed against him. They stand for a while, then he releases himself to pull curtains closed but does not shut the adjoining door to the bakery, male voices can still be heard in the next room. They lie down on the floor, eyes locked together, the woman gazes down at his face brushing the hair from his forehead.

Did a lot of digging in the garden and planted a few seedlings of brinjal, the genuine eggplant that looks just like eggs, made a list of seeds to be planted and also what goes where. Made a batch of bread and must now iron Johnny’s clothes.

Very much in love.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.