73. Family Life – Journal Entry 3rd Sep 1981

Today is another gloriously bright warm day with birds twittering, dogs barking and roosters crowing. Spring has definitely sprung.

What has the family been doing lately?

Gareth had a haircut last night and his hair lay well on his head without curling annoyingly (for him).

Karen complained about the Grade 12 girls going in for boyfriends, all but two have male friends. The male students, however, seem to be keeping themselves free.

Monika did very well over the birthday gift for Gareth’s classmate but will not easily forget the sick and dejected baby she had seen in the supermarket.

Johnny is not happy; so much routine and dull work to handle when there was more constructive, fruitful work to be getting on with.

We talked about the article on suicide in Co-Evolution Quarterly. Most suicides fail but the person is usually maimed by his attempt. The human body is hard to kill, and most beliefs of suicide are wrong – they don’t work – and worse they are permanently damaging.

4th Sep 1981

A pleasant day so far but one mainly of food gathering and routine work. Our birds lay lots of eggs today and we had our first picking of mulberries. I gathered a whole basketful of broccoli which I shall cook for dinner tonight.

After waking at 5 am and a brief struggle, I made a flask of coffee for Johnny, did my exercises and went out early to the bakery for a high-top brown crusty loaf. Johnny has an important meeting today so I tried to leave him to think and get dressed. We enjoyed breakfast together with the not-so-crusty bread, Johnny’s chunky marmalade and some homemade peanut paste.

Mum had finished mixing and baking the orange and sultana cakes so I made a few cakes straight after breakfast as I realised I would not have time later in the morning. Mum is out with Les for lunch, I wonder how it is going?

While waiting for Barbara’s bus to come, which took a while, I chatted to Mrs K who grumbled that our glorious Fire Brigade had not responded to her call for a burn-off behind the convent. We decided that if Cowdrey persisted in staying away and that she had permission from the policeman, we (the neighbours) would help with the burn-off. Out west, according to eighty-one-year-old Mrs K, property owners called their neighbours to help burn fire hazardous paddocks.

Barbara is still somewhat withdrawn and probably still upset from hearing that Patrick went on a trip to Brisbane; any news or mention of Patrick triggers another episode. There is to be a camp in Emu Park for the Activities Centre trainees during the first week of the school holidays; how strange it will be having Barbara camping down the road.

The Ratepayers Association meeting last night was lively. Laurie Daly is a very good chairman, I must tell him so and thank him for one of the nicest meetings we’ve had. The Association would like to repair the jetty perhaps with the help from the Council, however, it seems an excellent community project with all the organisations helping to raise money. I suggested we familiarise ourselves with the existing area plan so we can be constructive and critical about the new town and coast plan when it comes out in a year. Merle suggested spreading ideas around Emu Park with pamphlets and wanted notices sent regularly to remind people of the date and time of Association meetings. Everyone discussed the future needs and shape of Emu Park.

What an odd situation to be in. Mum returned from her lunch at Les’ place and announced she had fun and what would Johnny say? I said it was none of his business.

What would the neighbours say, I laughingly ask myself, two seventy-year-olds carrying on an affair in the middle of the day, after curried sausages.

72. Strange Jokes – Journal Entry 25th Aug 1981

I’ve been noticing strange jokes lately, about couples that have been married for many years, where the wife refers to the husband as “that codger”, “the old bugger”, “that bastard” or “the old man”; the husband refers to the wife as “the old bag”, “me old girl”, “old woman”. There seems to be so much bitterness behind the laughter and one does not hear many mother-in-law jokes bandied around lately. Perhaps couples don’t have much to do with their mothers-in-law?

It’s baking day and I will make two carrot cakes and several fruit breads after preparing dinner; tonight I’m making Bavarian meatballs followed by a sponge cake with cream and chocolate filling. Must also check with the family on birthday presents for Barbie, do the income tax preliminary notes and revise Calculus notes.

Today I remembered when Marcello was four years old, he thought cars had to be pushed to start them and seemed surprised when the car he was getting ready to push, started with no help from him. Another time Karen and Marcello were fighting over a frog, pulling and pushing, finally settling the matter with half a frog each. Life in India was so different.

28th Aug 1981

Time slips away so quickly.

Yesterday we went to Rocky to the library, bought presents for Barbara and of course had fish and chips for lunch in the park. Nathaniel sat with everyone and ate his fish and chips and drank his coke, dipping his chips into the tomato sauce.

Today the weather is glorious, not hot, not cold and the sun, bright and warm on my back as I picked broccoli for dinner. The days are golden and tranquil with a round of fresh eggs collected from the Australorp hens, snow peas, beans, lettuce and silverbeet from our abundant vegetable patches. Everyone seems to be peaceful in this dreamlike time – a rural paradise; can paradise be anything other than rural?

Parrots and topknot pigeons descend in a great flapping cloud, engrossed in the task of gathering their food. Magpies seem to have taken over the garden patrolling for pests. Mum is not happy with the echidnas that dig holes in her flower patches. Early this morning I heard Dusty barking angrily, nervously returning to warn me of strange happenings; I investigated and there were four big fat echidnas, heads and feet hidden, pretending not to be there. Queer monotremes. Later, warning cries from the chickens alerted us to one ambling past their pen, the poor chickens still jittery from a recent dog attack. Two marauding cats have been after their chicks. The ducks are not immune from attack either with hungry ravens swooping down to steal their eggs.

2nd Sep 1981

I know I would like to write stories, my diary, articles, poetry and letters, but the trouble is, how long can I go on without working for money to help relieve Johnny and hence free him for more of his own work? Johnny says maybe there will be no need to work. Last night was another agonising session with Johnny who says I do not care much for him and that he is at the bottom of my list of priorities. Fortunately, we didn’t argue too long, I said that I was slack about most things at the moment, that I was getting better and the evening ended wonderfully; thank goodness.

What is holding me back from doing all the things I want to do and seem capable of doing? I failed a subject with my suicidal attitude to work; almost paralysed with agony on how one feels and doesn’t feel. It’s silly to think of going away for a week to think, silly to want to talk to someone about being inadequate, I should just talk to myself, I know the answers. I thought I had improved somewhat but seem unable to work hard and consistently at my studies. If I can just work out what I want to do next year, that would tell me what I should be doing the rest of this year. I would actually like to work for money, with flexitime. I had a tentative offer from TAFE for tutoring, but realistically, do I know enough for that?

I went outside to feed the chooks and picked shallot flowers with their stalks. Mum cooked them with balachan and they were delicious.

Mum seemed to want to talk so I stayed in the kitchen, chatted and made a curry with the leftover liver and eggs. Lunch was relaxing. I tried to talk to mum about what I was thinking this morning and we agreed I should go ahead and learn what I can, not to be put off by the thought that I’m too old to be employed and to learn more anyway, especially about computing.

We picked strawberries at Les’ house and mum stayed on to talk to him. He wants to cook a meal for her and also came straight to the point: they could stay the night at his daughter’s house just outside Rocky or they could watch television at Les’ and mum could stay the night.

She said she would think about it!

Here are two seventy-year-old pensioners, mum and Les (who is missing part of his leg) having an “affair” or “liaison” shall we say. 

Monika’s comment on Les’ proposition: ‘Cheeky bugger!!’

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.

71. Keeping A Diary – Journal Entry 23rd Aug 1981

For my belated birthday celebration yesterday, Johnny made a fantastic paella with tiger prawns, mussels, chicken, scallops, peas and purple beans. I was surprised the whole family liked it and went for second helpings, they hadn’t liked previous paella Johnny had made.

Life seems untenable. I’ve been in agony this past fortnight over my studies and it looks like I will have to drop yet another subject because of tardiness. I’m interested in Maths and yet do nothing about it. What am I going to do with myself? I have pondered this question many times but haven’t found any answers as yet…

Keeping a diary means you can write about events or topics you wish to talk about but refrain from because you feel no-one would be really interested. Besides, many people want to tell you their thoughts and stories and often don’t give you a chance anyway. Thoughts and feelings can be examined and processed through a diary and besides, it is good writing practice.

IMG_0900 (1)
Gita and Johnny 1981

IMG_0901 (1)
Gita and Johnny 1981

24th Aug 1981

At breakfast, Nathaniel sat with Johnny and I and ate mulberries and cream with a small spoon. He asked for a second helping but then didn’t eat the fruit. He was distracted by the unsalted butter, playing with the lid and losing interest in his food. When I took away his bowl, he had a slightly bad-tempered outburst and tried to kick me. I scooped him up, said goodbye to Johnny and took him to the chicken pen to feed the birds.

Nathaniel noticed a guinea fowl was trying to get back into the pen and a second guinea fowl joined it. He was amused by the two idiot birds bobbing about in a fruitless effort to get back inside the chicken pen. The turkey hen, who will soon join them, is remarkably agile; she can climb up the wire fence out to the goat pen but can’t get back into the chicken pen where the food and water are plentiful.

The fridge is being cleaned today and Barbara is home with a heavy cold. I rang Mrs K to wish her a happy 80th birthday, she hadn’t remembered telling me last year and was pleasantly surprised. Her son held a special celebration at his farm and today the Benedictine nuns have invited her to a special birthday morning tea in her honour. It’s a surprise and they sent word through the son to tell her it was for another neighbour. 

We have had some excellent meals, usually cooked by Johnny at weekends. Last night’s Sunday dinner was a roast beef, Bordelaise sauce, snow peas, sautéed cauliflower and zucchini with an enormous dessert selection of orange cake, chocolate and almond cake and stewed mulberries with cream and ice cream.

Karen, who was working at the Sailing Club, missed Friday night’s dinner of smoked cod which was poached and served in a light cheese sauce with rice, broccoli and snow peas.

The snow peas have been an excellent addition to our vegetables this season, growing tall and bushy with many pickings. They are by no means finished, in fact, I think mum has some young creepers beginning to flower and the broccoli has been very satisfying despite the warmer weather.

Food, the preparation and enjoyment of it, plays a major role in our family; it is the one time the family gathers together and everyone shares their stories of the day. Sometimes we play games around the dinner table and Johnny will quiz us, on capital cities or general knowledge questions – it can get quite raucous.

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.

70. Longing To Be Alone – Journal Entry 26th Jun 1981

After the work for the day is done, the dishes washed after dinner and the family have gone to their rooms, sometimes a feeling washes over me; I would like to be alone to do whatever I wish.

Usually, this desire is not very strong or isn’t there at all. I love Johnny and his company, however, occasionally I long for a corner where I can go to be by myself. The feeling doesn’t last long but I wonder about it. Does Johnny feel the same way too? What triggers this particular antisocial feeling? On the occasional night that Johnny is away, there seems a quiet time, a freedom, where one can do whatever one wishes.

Today, I wanted to lie in the dark, by myself. This could have been brought on by Johnny filling out the Census, asking me how old I was and at what age I had left school. Then mum chimed in saying she left school after grade three, what a sad life she had not being able to join into the writing games at the National Fitness Club and how Barbara would not crochet to keep herself occupied.

I retired to the little room and lay on my stomach in the dark. I knew Johnny was occupied with the Census forms so I had a few minutes to myself. I also knew that when he came to the study, he would ask me what I was doing in the dark.
Sure enough:
“What are you doing?” he asks several times.
“Why are you lying there?” several times more.
“Why don’t you apply your standards to yourself? If Barbara did that, you would go berserk.” Or words to that effect, I’m not sure of the exact phrase.

The comparison to Barbara is an uncomfortable one and something that has occurred to me often. Is this the manifestation of “going round the bend”, this withdrawal that is so noticeable and painful in Barbara and for which she is put on Melleril? And for which she is kept busy? Or is it a response to our almost continuous “keep Barbara busy” campaign?

Writing about the way I feel helps to sort out my thoughts, otherwise, my thinking is muddled, over emotional and explosive. I’m not sure though, whether I’m clearer in my thinking this evening.
What did I expect Johnny to ask? “Darling, are you alright?”
And on receiving my muffled, “Yes, thank you,” for him to leave discreetly? Why? To him it was yet another instance of Gita flopping around, not doing anything.
Or is it simply a product of feeling full after an excellent dinner cooked by Johnny and having my periods?

Time for a shower.

Recently I have been most unsure of myself, feeling inadequate, ignorant, unreliable and unstable. I had made an enquiry unthinkingly, with all sorts of wrong assumptions, and hurt the feelings of an old lady; on another occasion I said something that angered Johnny and I felt annoyed with myself that he was annoyed at me; and finally, I didn’t do well in Calculus, an easy subject, not using the time set aside for study.

Also, I nag or criticise the family and on some days, I pick on everyone. Why do they have to put up with me?

Bah, this is boring.

Perhaps, as Johnny says, I have a curious paralysis when actual work has to be done. Oh, I can talk and plan and get excited but the parsnips don’t get buttered.

27th Jun 1981

What right do I have to be upset? I suppose in my menstrual condition, any little incident can set me off-track.

Early this morning, frustrated at my inability to sort out computer programs, I went outside.

The mist was heavy. The clothes on the line, grass and lettuces were covered with dew, and the morning was mysterious; familiar sights looked strange. Two Rouen ducks were standing on the lawn near the Guinea chicks’ cage. A dog had been marauding again and several birds had been taken in the night because we had failed to repair the fence.

There was a distinctly eerie feel about the day.

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.

69. Pension Granted – Journal Entry 5th Jun 1981

Dear Nora,

Your letter and card with the family photograph arrived yesterday.

Mum says your children have grown so much since she last saw them that she hardly recognises them. We think D looks a lot like Marcello did at that age, and Monika, in particular, was struck by the likeness. We searched for a photo of Marcello to compare but couldn’t find a single one. I have yet to take a good photograph of Karen and stopped taking photographs for about five years now. Silly really. The children change so much and it’s nice having pictures of them.

Mum is looking forward to seeing you next year. Delaying your visit was no bad thing as money is extremely tight here at present. We would have been upset at not giving you a good time.

Barbara returned last night after the bus tour up to Townsville. She talked until she fell asleep and then started talking again when she woke up.

Barbara goes to the Activities Therapy Centre, the adult section of a school for the mentally retarded. The “trainees” at the centre make handicrafts such as beadwork, clothes-peg furniture and beer bottle holders.

Barbara used to receive $5 per week but that was stopped years ago. Now everyone only gets $1 per fortnight and families have to pay $6 per week for activities and outings. As you probably know, we live thirty-five miles from where the centre is located in Rockhampton, and for years had trouble getting Barbie there and back. Now a free bus takes Emu Park children to both the special school and the sub-normal school. Barbara is allowed to catch the bus with them and it has made a huge difference, she is so much more independent.

Thanks for being so quick to get dad’s death certificate to us. We have lodged it with the pensions office and now wait to see if mum will be given a widow’s pension. Mum was so excited when the certificate arrived, she had been worrying about delays in the post.

16th July 1981

Yes, the days slip by so quickly.

Where has this time gone since I started this letter to you? With a bit of luck, it should reach you before your birthday.

Happy birthday! We hope you have a wonderful time. How does it feel to be forty? Almost the age of reason, no?

The good news is that mum now gets the pension and it has made a tremendous difference to her morale – she seems perkier than she has ever been. The great thing, apart from money, is that pensioners receive concessions for travel, theatre tickets and many other activities – often at half rates. Mum would like to go on a bus tour to see parts of Australia and is now saving; it will take quite some time so nothing is planned as yet.

Barbie emptied her money-box and I took her to the shops to buy printed sheets. She even had enough for a matching pillowcase. Karen had bought sheets with money she had earned at a cafe so Barbara wanted a pair too. Barbie’s next project, she tells me, is to buy a skirt; she is very careful with her pocket money and only buys two soft drinks a week.

About the land at Perungudi, do the two children want it? I really have no idea of the set-up there so perhaps you can let me know what is going on, how they are and their attitude to the place. Perhaps it could be sold so they can use the money?

In one of your letters, you mentioned giving money to Max. What is happening? Is he earning enough and does he have many people to support? We would like to know if we can help, I can’t of course, but mum would be able to.

The typewriter I’m using keeps sticking. Electric typewriters are expensive to repair so it hardly seems worth fixing.

I haven’t heard from M for a while, no doubt she is busy settling into her new home in Melbourne. I shall post this letter while I’m out taking mum for her monthly checkup at the clinic.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • My brother Jeffrey and sister Sandra (referred to as ‘the two children’ above) have been added to the family tree in Gallery.
  • 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.