94. Letter to Z – Journal Entry 24th June 1982

Dear Z,

We all thoroughly enjoyed your visit; it was great to see the whole family and our only regret is that we were not able to take more time off. However, as Johnny says, you are all most welcome anytime. Why not come up for Christmas? Be warned though, it is usually very quiet apart from the midnight tree-raiding and special feasts. Our only outing seems to be a slow walk on the beach mid-morning after a huge Christmas breakfast. This is usually followed by another family beach cavort on New Year’s morning. Christmas time is mango season and unfortunately, the beginning of wet weather.

Thank you for the photographs. Gran has now carefully arranged them into her album. Monika ordered extra copies of those she took and we picked them up from Yeppoon yesterday; I’m sending you a batch for distribution, as you see fit

For a few days after your departure, Nathaniel walked around saying rather forlornly, ‘Z dorn!’. He excitedly pointed you out in Monika’s photographs and even remembered the dressing gown you used while you were here.

I am relieved examinations are now over. I had two exams and Karen had six. Barbara is going for five days to the annual ATC camp at the bottom of Phillip Street. Gran and I will probably bake several large chocolate cakes for them, like we did last year. Karen is back for a few days before going on a week-long camp in the Bunya Mountains; it will be freezing there.

The temperature dropped dramatically last week. Even though we are on the Queensland coast, it was down to 7℃ inside the kitchen with the most dreadful wind from down your way. It’s a glorious morning but still quite cold, so I am sitting at my desk with the heater on. Next semester will be busy because I was rash enough to sign-up for four subjects.

I am particularly looking forward to a subject called Methodology, part of the Associate Diploma in Computing, that teaches students to think clearly; something I am very much in need of! The prescribed textbooks are: Thinking about Thinking by Anthony Flew and Learning to Philosophise by E. R. Emmet. The lectures will be given by CIAE’s resident philosopher and I am curious to see a philosopher in action.

I recall two evenings spent listening to Johnny and a philosopher discuss a range of topics. They had the extraordinary ability to explore and develop concepts, many of which represent the most important aspects of humanity, civilisation and education. 

I shall quote from Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He categorises people as Romantics or Classics.  Romantics, Pirsig says, are intuitive, aware of appearances, imaginative and creative… Classics, however, see underlying forms and because he is essentially in favour of Classics, he describes their style or approach to things thus:

The classic style is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Its purpose is to bring order out of chaos and make the unknown known. It is aesthetically restrained. Everything is under control. Its value is measured in terms of how well this control is maintained.

All of that to say, I am looking forward to the Methodology subject to see what effect it has on the students, myself included. I must ask Johnny about last year’s students; I imagine it would be difficult to measure clearer thinking.

Gran, Monika, Gareth, Nathaniel, Johnny and I are very keen on naan bread and I now make it once a week. A major breakthrough thanks to R, for helping develop the recipe. We now have a twenty-five-kilo bag of rye flour to make chapatis, which I find are infinitely better than bread. Chapatis can be made much quicker, they freezes well and a few at a time can be used for breakfast or lunch.

By the way, our house number is not “2” even though it is on our kitchen door; Gareth found the number under our house and decided to put it up. Our official address is 11/17 Clement Street. You can use 11/17 Cnr Phillip and Clement Street, however, Phillip Street will suffice. Emu Park is a small town and I am sure your mail will find us.

Gran seems to have settled down to her gardening and social activities. She managed to water her garden for years with only a trickle until Johnny installed a new tap for her near the barbecue. The radishes, shallots, lettuce and brinjals are thriving now that the sprinkler has a better flow of water. Gran is much happier with this simple fix.

I shall post the photos with this letter when we go to Rocky later this morning.

93. Exams Over – Journal Entry 22nd June 1982

I’m quite relieved that the programming exam was not too difficult. An open book exam is not easy either, one has to know the subject or time is wasted hunting for the relevant section. All I needed was one reasonable performance to boost my spirits after the disastrous accounting procedure exam. It was enjoyable answering questions for pleasure after the required number.

The invigilators are worthy people, but they must be quite bored going through the same routine several times a day for a month: let in a horde of students, check exam slips and identification, call out perusal time, call out starting time. Ever vigilant for cheating or disruption, they are quick to supply more paper to students signalling for more and disappear in turns for a quick coffee or toilet break. They seem like old friends. Whenever I attend an exam we nod sedately to one another and exchange slight smiles.

At this point, I am reminded of Margaret who took a flask of coffee with her when she sat a three-hour exam! She gets tired after an hour or so of intensive paperwork. Of the five of us who finished P-Maths, Rod, Margaret and I continued our studies.

Next semester could be grim unless I organise myself extremely well and not waste time spending more effort than necessary trying to absorb the material. There must be a better method than the one I’ve been using. I shall try the following for each subject: quick review; detailed study; summary and review; repeat for the next section; perform another review a few days later. I have four subjects, two of which are three hours a week, another six-hours per week and the fourth, the Methodology subject which I am most interested in, one hour per week. That would be forty-five hours plus time to be added for assignments; this is possibly overgenerous, but I suspect not. I had planned to do so much during the semester break.

Holiday plans for the family:
Gareth – 2 weeks from 28 June
Barbara – 2 weeks from 28 June (camping the first week)
Karen – 4 weeks from 21 June (Shannon has holidays for 2 weeks starting 4 July, not sure if she will spend them with us)
Gita – 4 weeks from 21 June
Johnny – Nil

In between enjoying the children’s company and taking them on outings, mostly to fish, I need to stick to my schedule: exercise, diary, calculus, reading, programming and (last but not least) Johnny. I must focus on writing programs and revising the first part of calculus, then forge ahead with next semester’s calculus material.

Gareth has a heavy cold but needs to be well enough for a debate today. To avoid the early morning coolness, I’ll be taking him to school an hour late. Will stop now and write a letter to the school office about his late arrival.

24th June 1982

Karen came home yesterday. We had a nice evening in the little room talking until midnight, just the three of us.

92. Exam Stress – Journal Entry 14th June 1982

What needs to be done today?  I still can’t decide what to make for tomorrow’s meal, but first, I must memorise the forms for accounting, do the inventory exercises and finish the last question in the practice exam paper. Johnny’s clothes also need ironing, my next task, and perhaps I can ask Barbara and Gareth to bring up the wood.

16th June 1982

I feel quite gloomy over my performance at yesterday’s exam, even though the subject matter was easy and the exam quite straightforward. I know exactly what happened… I tackled a problem, which I had planned to leave until the end, yet missed a relatively easy question because I assumed I would have to remember the form, when in fact, the form was given. Of course I didn’t realise this until I opened the booklet for answers but even then I didn’t switch the order of questions. Perhaps students ought to be told some forms will be given? And that there are a choice of questions? Now I’m not looking forward to the programming exam because it is trickier and I lack the speed of mind and hand, especially in examinations, where careful revision is required.

Pirsig divides people by classical and romantic modes of understanding. The classical mode is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Classical understanding is seeing the world primarily as the underlying form itself. Romantic understanding, on the other hand, is seeing the world primarily in terms of immediate appearance and the mode is inspirational, imaginative, creative, intuitive, with feeling rather than fact. The classical aesthetic is often missed by romantics. I must discuss this further with Johnny. I remember his comment that science ignores art at its peril; art is more important than science.

I had eight hours of sleep last night, which is unusual, and stayed in bed for half an hour reading Illich’s article, Vernacular Gender, a provocative piece. Johnny tried to coax me out of bed, to which I responded angrily,  telling him I did not need to leap out of bed this morning as he was leaving late. As it turned out, he only left a little later than usual. He had intended to work at home today but as Mick wanted some notes on the ecumenical course to be run by the priests next year, Johnny stayed up late last night and will take the report to the Institute this morning to be typed and photocopied. He should be home earlier than usual.

I had depressing and rash thoughts on the way back from the exam yesterday. What is the use of studying since I had not performed well in any of the exams so far? Next semester will be much harder. How was I doing to cope? Perhaps I ought to drop out and not embarrass Johnny any more. Am I embarrassing him all that much? Next semester, Karen and I will be sitting the same exam. I wonder how we will perform? I do want to continue methodology as I’m interested in the material and how it is conducted but then there is cost accounting, Programming 1B and Calculus 1B. I’ll stop now and make a detailed plan of Pascal revision.

18th June 1982

It is 9 am and too cold at my desk, so I am working on the side verandah. It is so hot I need to wear a large brimmed hat to keep direct sunlight off my head and avoid a headache. Mum is in the garden with her radio on full blast. I wish she could keep it close to her on low volume, I can’t hear Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” on FM. Rang Toby to arrange a scramble on the rocks at Voss’ Point next Wednesday.

I felt extremely sleepy today and decided to water the stressed-looking ferns near Marcello’s blue car to give myself a break. The hose had a leak and repairing it was a surprisingly pleasant task: first I smoothed black sealant over the leak, wrapped a bandage over it as snugly as possible and then covered the bandage with more sealant. This repair looks good, but the fix to the hose for the chicken pen is not as effective and I will have to remove the sealant and repair it once more.

Time to stop distracting myself with minor tasks and tackle an exam paper.