96. Plato’s Four Virtues – Journal Entry 14th July 1982

We had a very comforting dinner last night of veal tail stew with turnips, carrots, beans and potatoes for main course followed by fruit and custard. Yesterday was essentially a non-study day. Monika cleaned the kitchen mess after breakfast while gran kindly cleared the concrete area outside and made up a colourful vase of flowers. I cleaned the dining room which was in a filthy state. My clothes were also in a woeful state, dirty and waiting to be washed. I had to borrow one of Johnny’s shirts to greet our first guest of the day. While chatting, I put together some lunch. 

The Livingstone Shire Council’s Strategic Plan meeting went well and a draft list of recommendations were drawn up before the meeting was finalised. After the meeting, Mr T called me aside and asked me about the four virtues I had listed on the board*. In a hushed tone, he asked why they were written up and who had done it. I told him about our family dinner time quizzes and he explained that he belonged to a society that had the four virtues as their tenets. I responded that one could hardly go wrong following them and that nowadays they seem to be lost virtues. Mr T ended the conversation by telling me he tries to live by them every day. And indeed he does, many others sadly do not possess such integrity.
*Ed.—Plato’s four cardinal virtues are wisdom, courage,  moderation and justice. To learn more click here.

The members dispersed fairly quickly as gran’s new bottom dentures were hurting her. I whisked her off to the dentist without further delay; poor thing, she had been eating pap for the past two days and couldn’t stand it any longer. Monika and the boys came with us to Yeppoon. We drove home worrying that Barbara was going to arrive at an empty house because Gareth had afternoon footy practice, however, we arrived to discover all was well, Gareth was home and showered and Barbara her usual chatty self. I took Gareth down to the newsagent for school supplies and then trimmed the hair out of his eyes. Gran prepared a divine vindaloo with rice and dahl for dinner.

I had taken a quick shower and was about to settle down to some study when Yvonne, who had missed the morning meeting, came to discuss the recommendations and work on the strategy for the health centre, as well as several other matters. It was very pleasant without a single interruption throughout our very fruitful discussion.

Before she left, we talked about bread making as she bakes regularly for her family. Yvonne also divulged something interesting about her past: she had not approved of a large sum given to a group whose mandate was to redeem marriages. She felt that if two people were not able to live together, what was the point of wasting time and money trying to keep them together? I had thought so too until David had told Johnny that ‘official’ people just believed everything was over between him and his wife and did not even consider their reconciliation; it was assumed they only needed help to face life apart. 

Yvonne explained that she had left her husband, with whom she had two sons, but didn’t tell me the reason for leaving the marriage. Her ex-husband took another wife—and her  three grown-up sons; one of whom was in the habit of bringing home pregnant women who left their children behind; incredibly, this happened three times to the same stepson. Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, his new wife was caught shoplifting, took an overdose of something and ended up in a psychiatric ward. Finally, on the advice of his sons, Yvonne’s ex-husband sold his house and contents and rented a flat with his second wife. This turned out to be an excellent solution as the rest of the mob had to find a place of their own. Yvonne seems to have lived in Rocky for a long time, one of her sons is studying at the Institute and the other is a policeman, and her elderly mother is still quite active. By the time we finished talking, it was already 9:30 pm, much too late to start intensive studying. After moving some papers around on my desk and drinking a cup of coffee, I went to bed.

Last night I read Čapek’s essay on proletarian art which examines the combinations that appeal to the urban dweller, the worker. He says “folk art is a luxurious primitive production” and I quote:

Proletarian art is that which is consumed by the workers because of their vital necessity. If they care more for a mouth organ than for quarter-time music, let’s talk about mouth organs and not about the music of the future…the actual mission of art is to abolish boredom, anxiety and the greyness of life…the world  needs proletarian art…living joy is passionately sought after…art contains certain natural and constant values like love, courage, intelligence, beauty, optimism, powerful and exciting action, great achievements, adventure, justice and such like motives which have not changed much since the creation of the world. Amazement and sympathy: inexhaustible and deep springs of popular enjoyment, primitive and invincibly human. Certain ancient traditions: news from the court, heroic epics, reportage novels and other grudgingly appreciated resources, should be reexamined and art created out of them.

If he knew how, Karel Čapek would write a novel of love, heroism and other great virtues and it would be so beautiful, so sentimental and so uplifting that worker hands will pass it to other work-worn hands.

95. My Darling Guru – Journal Entry 5th July 1982

Johnny needs me to be affectionate, comforting and well organised. He is overworked and dealing with a tricky staffing problem. Nonetheless, he worries more about me than his other problems because I don’t seem to be getting on with my work. I’m also liable to go off on tracks which are often time-consuming or destructive. We discussed the topic of employment for redundant housewives; it was depressing and I foolishly scared myself again. Not a very pleasant evening.

11th July 1982

Staying in bed in the morning with a full and uncomfortable bladder, Johnny says, is “the height of sloth” but of course, I view it as harmless even though it is not. This attitude of has manifest itself in many ways—yesterday, for instance, I read a crappy book and wasted three hours of precious time. More seriously, I did poorly in the accounting examination through lack of application. I am inclined to blame my father who at the age of forty-five or fifty became fat, and because he sat or slept most of the time became even fatter. 

Nevertheless, let us stick to the existential maxim that one gets through life through one’s efforts. Also to be remembered, by chanting it constantly to oneself, is Solzhenitsyn’s advice to do tasks to their last half or quarter inch. My Johnny is a remarkable man and an excellent example of how a serious person lives. We have been together for seventeen years, so why can’t I improve myself? Can I do something about the “stuckness” I am wallowing in? I must look back as honestly as I can and jot down the good and bad things about myself:

  • As a kid I was wilful and demanding. I wandered alone quite a lot, pursued my desires and ideas and hence was in trouble much more than my siblings.
  • Recently Marcello accused me of neglecting him as a child: not feeding him properly, letting him run around filthy and unshod, not protecting him enough against getting hepatitis and ruining his liver. I answered that some illnesses are through neglect and some through straightforward neglect. This exchange happened because I asked him to keep Nathaniel warmly dressed since he had a second cold almost immediately after the last one. Marcello touched a very vulnerable side of most parents—their hope of having done the right things by their children and their anxiety about messing them up. 
  • My mediocre examination results are from a lack of preparation and study, not from a lack of ability.
  • I expect high standards from others but ignore my own slackness.

Despite this, the first half of the year has been reasonably good, better than the previous year, until I started to worry about money—a recurring theme of mine—and distracted myself from my studies by spending a lot of time with Toby. Then the relatives came; a marvellous visit, but again I really should have been well ahead. I could have done better in the programming exam and had to rely on my assignments to pull me through. I am still worried about the second half of ‘82 which promises to be very busy and Johnny tells me I may have to drop a subject because of my poor track record. If I work consistently and score reasonable marks, next semester I can take a full swag of subjects rather than spending an equivalent amount of study time on only one or two subjects. 

Habituation, that’s what I need to practice every day, says my darling guru. The past few days have been good with Johnny; he is laughing quite a bit even though his work is quite grim. So much administrative work when he ought to be doing real work for himself. How long will this go on?

I read a rather clever romance about a forty-year-old intellectual who falls in love with a first-year nurse. The man, a legend in pathology at the hospital in which he works, was very rich. Worried that women would want him for his wealth and position, he lived a fairly secluded life. The girl, a country girl from a large turkey farm, is attractive, friendly, mature and very sensible. They meet early in the story during a thunderstorm on a hill and take shelter in a shed where the man had been bird watching. She talks at great length under his skilful questioning but doesn’t tell him her name. A few weeks later she receives a letter addressed to her which contain photographs of the birds they had seen together. They exchange more letters and she uses him as an oracle, which amuses him; she is impressed by the quality of his answers to her questions, and also sends him problems from her friends who have nicknamed him her “professor”. The usual misunderstanding arises: he thinks she is interested in a young medical student and she thinks the professor only views her as a young, pleasant friend although she is interested in him. After their first meeting, he visits her parents in the country and asks their permission to court their daughter but not to give his real identity until they hear from her. Naturally, everything works out well in the end, though considering he is very intelligent, it takes a long time.

12th July 1982

Johnny and I had a wonderful evening last night. I told Johnny the story of the professor. Gareth joined us and Johnny read T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” and some of Hilaire Belloc’s poems.

We discussed the story further this morning and Johnny asked the same question—why did the professor take such a long time if he is allegedly so intelligent? He had even gone to meet the parents after their first encounter. The tale could have been improved by making it less implausible and removing remarkable coincidences or chance meetings. Maybe a twist added: he does not win her before the callow youth does and they are both miserable for the rest of their lives, if only he had spoken to her before…or he approaches her and is turned down on account of his great age…

It was a lovely drive to the hospital today with Gran for her new bottom dentures, Karen and Shannon return from Cooee Bay today, Marcello took a sickie to work on his car, Monika is helping him remove rust spots, Gareth is back at school and Barbie is back at the ATC.

Johnny is on leave today but has gone into Rocky to do the grocery shopping. He will be away in Brisbane for two nights so will get the shopping done today and then bring the girls back home. 

Great rapport between Johnny and me at the moment; when I reflect on it, there always has been, except when I feel nagged or guilty about something. I decided to discuss my latest fears with him. This was the right approach and led to fruitful discussion and resolution. However, I don’t agree that that’s what a mate is for; mates should cultivate and preserve charming illusions about each other considering much mystery is lost by morbid or senseless discussions and delving into telling-it-all. As if “being honest” was what made good relations between people! Being honest usually means saying a few home truths that could have perhaps been left unexpressed. My darling guru is a very discreet man.