Journals

91. Citizens Bureau – Journal Entry 11th June 1982

A broken-down fridge is the latest problem in our household, but little help is to be expected from a professional on a long weekend. One really should be able to contact a 24 hr Citizens Bureau with suggestions on how to cope with things that can go wrong in a household. If we could get a spare fridge from somewhere, there would be much less urgency over the repairs and we could then decide at our leisure who would be best for the job. Failing appliances and interruptions to the supply of water, electricity and gas usually happen at an awkward time.

Monika may come home today after giving birth to TJ, if the doctor agrees to let her out of the hospital after only three days.

I am finding it extremely difficult to settle down to my studies. The warmth outside is alluring, winter here is so mild and enjoyable, and the garden is more pleasant than our cold study. The vegetable garden is thriving, so I want to sit in the warm sun and weed, hoe or plant more seeds. Besides, there are books to be read and bread to be baked. I must pull myself together and stop avoiding my study, stop eating lotuses and stop being distracted by household tasks. I only have four days to the accounting exam and it’s closed book, perish the thought. Must stop.

Marcello and Gareth are away for the night and I am at the desk again, this time determined not to get sidetracked by minor jobs, errands or watching mediocre TV shows. Once I get started, my studies are quite enjoyable and interesting, however, it is easy to get distracted when young Nathaniel comes to talk or needs attention. Human relations are important, but when do I get on with what I set myself? Is the study of computers or accounting so important compared with that? And what about talking and working with my mother? Surely it is just a matter of scheduling one’s work and disciplining oneself?

12th June 1982

My Johnny has gone to pick up Gareth, who is at the Thorntons in Rocky, so I can stay at home and write in my diary. Control yourself and you have freedom, says Johnny on his way out.

As well as exercising and writing in my diary every day, I would also like to write stories or articles, play chess and spend more time at the park or beach rather than at home. When reading a classic, one needs to discuss a concept or word, even a whole page.

Fortunately, today has not been completely unproductive: I made bread, reviewed a chapter on financial accounting procedure, fed the chooks, looked for eggs, wheeled up two loads of wood, picked greens from the patch about to be worked on, made lunch for Mum so she would not be late for her meeting, zonked out after lunch for an hour and read a Maigret short story by Simenon. I must plan my vacation well since I have a full study load next semester. Calculus could be quite time-consuming and I am constantly fighting a strong urge to give it all up and concentrate on writing but at this stage that would be foolish. My studies have been extremely useful and help me think more clearly. Although the Methodology subject requires revision, it seems promising, helping students sort out problems in a constructive way.

Mum told me this morning that I didn’t listen to what she had to say and that I was not interested in what she had to say. Unfortunately, she is partly right. I’m not that interested and tend to switch off because she invariably repeats herself, like Barbara. Instead of being receptive or helpful, I avoid involvement with the activities mum and Barbara are enthusiastic about, such as shell collecting or fern growing.

13th June 1982

We had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast on Zilzie beach again with Roger and Christine, a fine idea of theirs which would be hard to beat unless we take them on a camp at Five Rocks. The family has not been camping for a long time—not a real camp. We don’t consider camping at Stoney Creek the real thing since it is too close to civilisation. Of course, living one’s life in the garden would make daily living a camping holiday.

My dream would be a house that opens up to or includes the garden and that is capable of being partly or fully closed to protect against the wind, rain or too much sun. Our present house is not designed for that, the Queensland-style verandahs have been closed in to serve as extra rooms and to keep out the rain. All the bedrooms are set quite far in with no direct sunlight and ceiling or sky windows are not practical with our roof. I wonder if we can redesign the house or part of it instead of building a new one? If we had the time or money, we could renovate under our house where there is adequate space for three rooms looking out through the pine trees to the sea.

Love is a topic I have pondered upon for a long time, with no clear idea of how to write about it. I’ve looked at D. H. Lawrence’s treatment of love and passion in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Han Suyin and Erica Jong. I have even read love stories in the Australian Women’s Weekly and Plato (symposium).

Love is very much a process which has to be nurtured. Love evolves in a relationship and changes the people in love.

I think I should approach the subject by writing a love story like Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Han Suyin’s A Many-Splendoured Thing and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, poetry, pop songs full of love, in fact, love seems to occupy a greater part of most people’s lives and thoughts.

90. A Birth and Fish Feast – Journal Entry 10th June 1982

What better way to start a brand new, best ever notebook than to record the birth of a child: TJ born on the 8th of June and brother to Nathaniel, a day after Gareth’s birthday and on the same birthday as Clare Cosgrove. Monika is still in the hospital and due back in a few days.

Thank you Johnny, my Johnny, for finding an unruled notebook for me to write my diary.

Our neighbour Hector also had a birthday so we rang and wished him a happy birthday; we are one of only a few people who know it’s his birthday. When Barbara took him some flowers he told her his daughter was coming for dinner and he was looking forward to it.

Z rang for a chat and announced Mary finally packed all her bags, her purchases are at last over. However, Mary is not looking forward to leaving the girls and Australia, she likes everything here. When Mary stayed with us in Emu Park, I noticed she took a keen interest in all that went on around her and loved the meals Johnny cooked; she insisted I list them all and is keeping a detailed diary of her visit to Australia.

Marcello and Monika have taken some lovely photographs of Mary and her family.

M, R and Z moved easily with the household, pitching in and helping with the work, so the burden was not on any one person.

Among the many memorable meals we had while they were here, I must mention the fish feast that was prepared by M, R and me; the diversity of colour was particularly appealing. Early in the morning, Marcello, Monika, M and R went with Merv to Rosslyn Bay Harbour and caught about thirty-seven steely backs or bony salmon. M made a good South Indian fish curry, R made Bengali stuffed fried fish and I made a herb fish curry.

I shall attempt to describe the fish feast in greater detail: M, R and I initially discussed what we would do with the fish and jointly drew up the menu. First, we picked fresh coriander seedlings, curry leaves, chillies and chives from our garden—a very pleasant activity for M and R after two years of Melbourne city life. M’s curry was excellent, a pleasant dark brown colour with ground coriander, cumin and chilli, fresh coriander leaves and red chilli roughly chopped, and finally thick tamarind pulp and salt to taste. The curry sauce was left to simmer for quite some time, getting browner and thicker with glimmers of red chilli flecks throughout. The prepared fish fillets were slipped in at the end and cooked only for a short while.

My curry, which we chose in contrast to M’s Madras fish curry, was mostly green and yellow, a mixture of finely chopped herbs and turmeric, with a handful of glossy whole red chilli thrown in, and lemon juice as the souring agent—fish curry is greatly improved with a sprinkle of lemon juice, vinegar or tamarind pulp, just before serving.

R made a lovely green herb and white coconut cream stuffing for his fish dish. Whole fish were slit open and cleaned thoroughly, stuffed carefully with coriander, mint, chilli and coconut cream, then shallow-fried until a dark golden brown. When served, the exposed green stuffing was a pleasing contrast to the brown crispy skin with extra stuffing served in a little bowl on the side.

Accompanying dishes were plain buttered rice, chopped tomato and onion salad and a large bowl of yoghurt.

Needless to say, the family were quite impressed and appreciative, our dinner talk as loud as ever.

89. Reflections – Journal Entry 9th February 1982

It is a lovely morning, the household has eaten breakfast and everyone is busy getting on with their day. The time is 7:15 am, Monika and Barbara are at the bus stop, Johnny is about to leave for work and I will ask Gareth to help me put out the garbage. Johnny and I went to the garage earlier to fill the Rover with petrol and put air into the tyres so I can drive grandma to her afternoon bowling.

This is Monika’s typewriter, and I am finding it difficult to use it after an electric machine. One has to hit the keys so much harder and slow down considerably to give the keys time to get back into place.

Yesterday I followed the first half of the day’s schedule and then settled down for a couple of hours to read Johnny’s earliest letters. I took a stroll on the beach with Gran, Monika and Nathaniel for half an hour, but couldn’t fully relax, I was longing to get back to the letters. I wanted to read my early letters to Johnny, starting with our long train journey to Benares. Unfortunately, on our return I noticed the house needed attention, so with my mind elsewhere, I cleaned and dusted. Then Gran asked for some help to prepare our evening meal which meant I couldn’t get back to the letters until after dinner. Johnny went to meet a new member of staff from Canada at Rocky airport, so I settled down to read my journal entry of our train trip. It sounded fun in parts and rather adventurous, especially to one who had never been on a three-day train journey.

The letters are upsetting, fascinating and beautiful, and extremely passionate, especially Johnny’s.

Has living together for fourteen or fifteen years dulled our love for each other?

Certainly, one ghastly incident has placed a large stain on the relationship that one cannot clear away. Our large family and commitments have given us very little time for each other. We are still incredibly close and our relationship has improved, but my ignorance and stubborn ways have marred some of our time together. Now, on reading the letters again I find I was indeed so unaware, Johnny must have been very much in love and endlessly patient to have put up with me all these years. He is so wise, the most understanding and kind man I know, and such a rare human being.

Let me not forget this again, ever.

It is now 7:15 pm and everything went more or less to schedule today. The hardest part of my day was studying as I was constantly fighting the urge to bob up every five minutes from my desk. Now it is time to compose a letter to Madras about the bike parts before Johnny gets home.

88. Relationship Breakup – Journal Entry 30th January 1982

Thursday was a thoroughly enjoyable day. Karen and I left at 7 a.m. for an 8 o’clock meeting I was attending in Rockhampton. Karen waited for me in the car; she read, wrote and slept. My meeting at Warby’s was reasonably crisp and productive, and in fact, covered quite a bit of ground. At about 10 o’clock, Karen and I left for Vinny’s where we examined the goods for sale and tried on some weird outfits. By this time we had spent eight dollars and were yet to buy the rubber thongs Karen wanted, her sole purpose for coming to town. Luckily we found Ersatz school sandals at a bargain price. Without any money left over for a snack or drink, we headed home to have lunch, but just out of Rocky the brakes in the Rover failed completely, it was a slow and cautious trip back. Ah, lunch was so good: fish and chips for Karen and egg and chips for me, followed by jellied mulberries, rice pudding and cream. We snorted in our pits to prepare ourselves for dinner that evening: Karen was shouting us dinner in a fancy French restaurant.

Only four of us were going – Karen, Johnny, Gareth and me. We prepared dinner for the rest of the family, dressed in our best clothes and drove to Rockhampton in high spirits. The dining room of the restaurant was painted a deep red with maroon curtains, tablecloths and table napkins. Everything was hushed and padded with soft background music. Imitation oil lamps, containing clusters of tiny electric bulbs, hung from the ceiling and smartly-dressed waiters hovered expectantly.

Dinner was a great success and a new experience for Gareth who seemed to enjoy it very much. We drank house wine (accompanied by large amounts of cold water to stay sober), sampled the snails, ate numerous brown plaited rolls with gusto and sang rude songs in the car all the way home. Johnny walked around the house with a cheerful expression on his face; he had enjoyed being out with the two young ones and was pleased about the way they were developing.

Saturday was quite eventful. At half-past five in the morning, Johnny and I did our customary walk and physical exercises. After buying the bread for breakfast in town we walked home via the beach. Then Johnny took a few members of the family to Yeppoon after breakfast, dropping off Gareth and the mower at Mrs Reller’s place.

Karen was feeling apprehensive of her meeting with T because she proposes to sever relations with him. He also has something to tell her, so she will try to find out what it is before she gives him her prepared speech, just in case it is no longer relevant, superfluous. Marcello and I were in the kitchen while she awaited T’s arrival. She was mad at Johnny (and me) for offering some advice and then, according to her interpretation of Johnny’s expression, sneering when she turned down the advice. I pointed out that she ought to know Johnny wasn’t in the habit of sneering, in fact, he never sneers. She also complained about Johnny’s remark: that she wanted it both ways.
“What did that mean?” I asked. She didn’t know, too angry to find out what Johnny meant by that.
In the meantime, Marcello tried to find out what we were talking about but Karen refused to tell him; despite this, she did ask how one told someone to piss off.
“Tell him to piss off,” said Marcello. “Just like that… tell him to piss off,  that you have your studies to get through and you aren’t going to follow the example of your brother.”
“You got your balls cut off at Grade 9.” says our Karen to her brother.

We talked about a friend L, who was in a similar position to Marcello. He is at present out of a job. “He should go back to his studies,” I remarked.
“He can’t,” Marcello said. “For the same reasons I can’t.”
“Bullshit,” I said. “You won’t because you are too fond of the good life, and lots of money, unlike the enforced poverty some of us put up with.”
“Mother,” warned Karen, “you said you wouldn’t talk about it.”
In the meantime, Marcello had a breakfast of a couple of steaks with a couple of eggs. I cannot recall if he had any bread with them but he did have a glass of cordial.

T finally arrived and walked up our long gravelly driveway towards Karen. Although I am probably making this up and misinterpreting what I saw, he seemed to have a soft and eager expression on his face.
“Where did she meet him?” Grandma wanted to know, making biscuits in the kitchen.
“At a disco,” I said. “The poor chap is quite taken with her.”
“Where does he work?” she asked.
“At the mines.”

87. Love Stories – Journal Entry 23rd December 1981

Read The Wanderer by Knut Hamsun and Miss Julie by August Strindberg after reading Friends by Henry Miller. Johnny considers Miller’s exploits rather juvenile with all that indiscriminate f@#king. Certainly, because of Miller’s many marriages, it would seem he could not be devoted to only one woman. Why am I raving so much about Miller’s writing? Perhaps because it seems to be so open, naive and accessible. There is a joy of life and no thought of yesterday or tomorrow. Hamsun is an extraordinarily good writer. No wonder Miller was taken by him; he would be the first to admit how much he has been influenced by Hamsun.

My head is filled with the readings of the past week: Graham Greene’s essays and autobiography, Miller’s World of Sex, Friends and Tropic of Capricorn and the books of Strindberg and Hamsun. One has such an itch to write, but to write what?

Spent two hours on a long but condensed version of a love story entitled Zamindar, about the English in India featured in The Woman’s Weekly. This was followed by a short modern love story of a rich man and his mysterious cleaning lady who fall in love. Why do most women like reading love stories? Why do I enjoy reading love stories, even though I know it is not what really happens? Most women look benignly on young women and their lovers and husbands. Perhaps they are thinking of their youth?

D.H. Lawrence comes closest to describing how it is between a man and woman who love one another and enjoy each other’s bodies and Han Suyin would be second. Many of the ancient Chinese stories seem to convey passion and devotion.

Let me look at an idea I had long ago: when younger sister was born, father was with his mistress while his wife was in labour.

25 Dec 1981
Last night, a little before midnight, we went to the Singing Ship. Johnny stayed behind for a phone call but didn’t see Santa Claus putting the presents around the tree.

A lovely time was had by all. First, we drank cold Spumante that Gareth had won at the school fete. Then Johnny’s Christmas cakes were ceremoniously cut: first a Dundee cake and the other a West Indian bride’s cake, dark and moist. Finally, the moment the family had been waiting for, the presents were distributed and opened one at a time while everyone else admired each gift. There was genuine pleasure in the receiving of presents. Barbara was given two books on shells which had many coloured pictures. She was also given a selection of beautiful shells, mainly cowries, and the delicate skeleton of a seahorse. Barbara was absolutely terrified when she opened the package of the seahorse skeleton, believing it was a snake. We had all retired to our beds by 1:30am but she was up by 5am, so mum read the shell books with her.

After a large breakfast of bacon and eggs, the family went to the beach. Barbara found a few shells and we all returned for an excellent lunch of cold ham, lettuce, bread and wine. We now await dinner of roast turkey and three vegetables, followed by a large fruit salad and fruit jellies for dessert.

Started reading A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin. M and Z rang to wish us a happy Christmas before going out to a family Christmas dinner of forty people. It was good talking to them, they have found people extremely friendly and seem to have made many friends. Mary and Cliffy are coming to Australia on the 15th of February and it was decided that mum would go down to Melbourne when they arrive and then return with them when they come to visit us. Cliffy cooks well and likes doing things for other people but is quite mischievous, swapping things like his clapped-out parts for somebody else’s good parts, his old records or whatever.

26 Dec 1981
Finished A Many-Splendoured Thing. Han Suyin has captured the strong and passionate bond that can form between a male and female. The complete absorption with one another appears to be idealised by the Chinese which is strangely at odds with their polygamous family system. This ideal in Western society is a bit of a nuisance because most people feel cheated when their mating is not perfect or well matched.

Several things were discussed with Johnny this morning. What is said in “true love” is usually the same in ersatz relationships and misunderstandings occur at a phonetic level of conversation rather than at a deeper level. Also, the danger of offering advice is that it is usually misinterpreted or acted on in a totally different way from what the adviser had intended. People rarely check and recheck whether they had understood correctly and cryptic messages are esteemed.

86. Pre-Christmas Camp – Journal Entry 13th December 1981

We are at camp. Most of the family are swimming in the creek while I sit at the campsite watching the kettle of water I just placed onto the fire. Breakfast was at 6:30 am and Johnny and Gareth cooked an enormous meal of porridge, fried slices of canned ham, baked beans and fried rice; our typical camping food. For lunch, we shall have canned fish, spam, processed cheese and bread or biscuits. Last night for dinner we ate “hearty beef soup”, corned meat with fried onions, corn and beans. There was no pudding this time; I refused to buy the yucky instant puddings sold in supermarkets. Why does all this canned, freeze-dried and processed cheese taste so good when we are camping? Apart from baked beans and canned fish at home, the family would never eat the food they eat at camp.

We haven’t camped for at least two years and are thirty or forty miles north of Emu Park, not a serious camp by any means. There are miles of wild and empty beaches, mostly Army Reserve land, with great fishing. We used set off in the early morning in our trusty four-wheel drive Rover and spent leisurely days eating oysters off the rocks and many hours trying to catch fish. Marcello was the only one who had the patience for fishing. Occasionally we would find the odd treasure here and there, much to the delight of the children: rusty anchors, blue and green glass floats encased in heavy macrame mesh, Taiwanese oil jars and a few beautiful shells.

16 Dec 1981

This week I shall get on top of the mildew in the bathroom and mend the fences and coops. On Thursday we have planned a trip to Rockhampton where the family will swim, rummage around the shops, have lunch in the park, spend a few hours at the library, swim again and return home.

In the garden, the banana trees need attention, as do the okra and bean plants. I will have to plant more okra and beans and make sure that the lawns are mowed; everything grows so fast in summer.

I must finish Gellner’s Legitimation of Belief and press on with my studies of Pascal and Functions, however, that will be after I make mango pickle.

85. Letters to Family – Journal Entry 18th November 1981

I would be very interested to know your impressions of Europe. Mary tells us you missed visiting London and Lourdes. What a pity! How many days were you away?

Marcello is in his second year of work and still enjoys it. His wife is expecting the second child. Nathaniel is now nearly two years old and starting to talk. He seems bright and is mainly interested in tape recorders, radios and hi-fi equipment. His maternal grandmother gave him a couple of old cassette tape recorders/radio and he knows which button to press, how to put in the tapes and take them out again. His mother encourages him to be as independent as possible so he can feed himself very well, selects the right pan for his omelette at breakfast and can usually make himself understood. There is no worry about toilet training – he just does all the right things – he used to crawl to the bathroom after his mother for his early morning scrub! There was no question of carrying him, however, the bathroom is next to their bedroom. Mum and I have to stop ourselves from fussing over him because he is quite aware of being the centre of attention. I find it very hard because he is very good-looking and has the most engaging manner, but then grandmothers are always mushy over their grandchildren. We are very lucky to have Marcello, Monika and Nathaniel with us.

At last, I have a photograph of Karen for you, taken at the twelfth-grade students’ formal dance. I also had a newspaper cutting of the three top students with a small photograph of each student, however, someone removed the newspaper from my desk. Yesterday she sat for her last subject examination and we will know the results today;  the academic year will not start until February ’82. Karen hopes to stay at the residential college which will be a break from home, she is eighteen years old after all, and may come down on weekends. Rockhampton is only forty kilometres away and Johnny is in Rocky most of the week. Last week we attended the high school speech night where Karen and the male co-captain gave valedictory speeches. She has been on debating teams for about four years and we thought she spoke well. Both Gareth and Karen won certificates for the mathematics competition.

Mum is almost into her round of Christmas celebrations with her various pensioner clubs. She was ill a month ago when she decided not to take her medication for high blood pressure, headaches and nerves. After a week or two, she collapsed with very high blood pressure and was in a highly nervous state. She enjoyed her week in our local hospital which is a very pleasant place; no-one is seriously ill there and if they were, they would be sent to Rockhampton Base Hospital. Our little hospital is right on the beach with good views from the public wards, the staff are usually friends or known to the patients, the food is good for a short stay and everything is clean, airy and cheerful. There is a TV in the lounge and in each ward. With only four patients in each ward, it’s really like a free holiday. The rest and change did mum a lot of good and after the initial heavy dosage of medicine, mum is now back to taking her medication only two times a day. All in all, life has never been better for mum, especially after hearing that all is well with Mary.

Barbara is improving steadily but it’s really difficult to keep her occupied because she is not interested in the usual activities like drawing, knitting or gardening. However, she now collects shells from the beach and mum takes her for a stroll at weekends. She can now choose books from the library for mum, cassette tapes of pop music and found a book on shells. At night, mum reads to Barbara; a recent activity which started after we decided to ban the TV from the house. When there is a particularly good programme, family members intended to go to the neighbours for TV. We’re not against having a television set for short periods, however, we consider indiscriminate television viewing keeps a person from being more constructive and active because it is a passive occupation and much time is given in exchange for very little information or pleasure. Now we read a lot, play games, play the record player or radio and talk to each other. When we see mum and Barbara enjoying their reading sessions, we feel quite firm about not having a TV.

Are you planning to come with Mary and Cliffy next year? Mum intends to go to Melbourne when they come so that she has a longer time with them.

Going onto something different, I wonder if you can give me recipes for Indian dishes which are either old and hence not known much, or regional. Let me explain: I have a small collection of Indian cookbooks, but I would like to add to them, either by getting more books or adding individual recipes which families may have, for instance, Cliffy’s mango seed pudding. I have the Dalda cookbook but it only gives a few recipes from each of the four states and one, of course, on South Indian cooking.

I have Veerasawmy’s cookbook on Indian food and several others. I thought Henry’s mum or Aunty Olive may have some and I though another source may be book stalls. Do you think it would be worth advertising for old cookbooks?

There are three that I am looking for (if you could find them and if the price is right):

  • Culinary Jottings for Madras by “Wyvern” (Colonel Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert), Higginbotham & Co, Madras, 5th ed, 1885 and first published in 1878
  • Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book by the author of Manual of Gardening for Western India, R Riddell.
  • The Indian Cookery Book: A Practical Handbook to the Kitchen in India, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co, 1944 1st ed, 1869.

If you or Mary have time, I would appreciate it if you could jot down a recipe or look in a second-hand bookstall. If what I ask for is too difficult, please forget it.

Did I mention that a few years ago I ran an Indian cookery course? There was a good response, three classes of about ten each, and I was paid quite well. I was reminded of this the other day when one of the participants asked for help with an Indian dinner party she was to give at her home. Curiously enough, the vindaloo was the one dish that most of the participants raved about. One can buy bottled vindaloo paste, at quite a high price, and it tastes better than our own mix. Do you know what is used?

23 Nov 1981

Tio Danding
Thank you very much for your letter. My mother, of course, is upset to know you are finding life very difficult and even before you wrote to us, we sent some money for you to Tio Vincente. It is not much (a little above 35 pesos) starting from October. I hope you have received it. My mother is the one who sends that every month for you and I don’t know how long she can afford to do that, so enjoy the money while it comes; I will let you know when she cannot send any more. In spite of the pain in her head after a car accident two years ago, she is keeping active. The rest of the family are well but working hard at study or a job. Barbara attends a special therapy centre in Rockhampton and a free bus takes her there and back over forty kilometres away. It is a very good place, Barbara has greatly improved and is learning many things there.

Look after yourself and try to be as cheerful as possible.

I sent a letter to Singapore about a year ago but did not receive a reply; perhaps you should write directly to them because we don’t know if they received my mother’s greeting cards.

26 Nov 1981

Tio Vincente
I was wondering whether you received any money? We are a little worried because we haven’t heard from you as yet. Did you get my letter written in August? I hope the money is arriving regularly and that you will have a good Christmas and New Year.

Over here life goes on as usual. My mother always has pain in her head from an accident two years ago, otherwise, she is quite well. There are many activities like physical exercise classes and sports clubs for retired people; they have a jolly time together.  She tries to be active, gets out and about and likes her garden of flowers. Barbara is in good health and her behaviour has improved; she still has her bad moods and talks to herself, however, with a little medicine she quickly gets out of her withdrawn moods.

It is getting hot now and the flies and mosquitoes are active again. Winter here lasts from June to September and is like Banawae weather; cold during the day in the shade, when it is windy or at night.

Karen has now finished high school and will start college next year, Gareth has just finished his first year at high school with four more years to complete matriculation. Johnny is still working long hours. I do the cooking and study a little mathematics. Our best wishes for Christmas and New Year.

Lots of love from all of us.

Tio Vincente
Another short letter in case you have not received my August letter.

I hope you realise that one-sixth of the money is for Tio Danding. Your family gets five shares and he gets one share. However, I also said in the letter that the first amount was for your family only, so starting from the September money, which should have arrived at your bank in October, Tio Danding should have received his share for October and November. By the time you get this letter, there should be another payment for him through you. I hope I have explained the arrangements clearly. If you have any doubts please let me know. My mother is sending the money for Tio Danding through your bank account as it will be too costly to send it separately to both of you. I hope you do not mind.

Note: ‘Tio’ means Uncle in Tagalog (Philippines)

84. Dear Joyce (Part 2) – Journal Entry 4th November 1981

Last night, Karen and I felt quite nervous when Gran had not returned by ten o’clock. Eighteen months ago she had been in a terrible car accident after a pensioners’ dinner where drinks were plentiful. On that occasion, I sat up for my mother until a policeman came at midnight to break the news. One woman died, the second suffered several broken limbs and my mother sustained an injury to several ribs, a punctured lung and quite bad bruising to her face. The driver, a newcomer to Emu Park, was unharmed but an active eighty-two year old, a beloved long-time resident, was killed instantly in the crash.

With this in mind, I walked down the street just in time to see the bus pull up and to my great relief, Gran stepping out. She was closely followed by Ivy who walked part of the way home with us and had been in the same crash. We bid farewell to Ivy at her gate and continued home in the warm night air; Gran had enjoyed herself thoroughly and talked all the way home.

Summer is almost here, spring begins on the first of September and the wet season usually starts on Christmas Day.

5th Nov 1981

Today, Guy Fawkes Day, is Johnny’s birthday. Originally from Bradford, Johnny studied at Edinburgh University and has enjoyed climbing throughout Scotland.

Gran has encouraged us to celebrate birthdays and there is now a birthday ritual in our household. Weeks before the date, the person whose birthday is coming up, puts up a present list which is almost always ignored. Johnny didn’t put anything up because no-one reminded him, however, we knew he wanted a wide squat two-handled cooking pot for paella he had been admiring for months, in an industrial kitchenware shop.

A very detailed menu for the dinner is also pinned onto the noticeboard, in this case, whole grilled fish, cream sauce, chips, mushrooms, beans and lettuce followed by melon shells filled with melon balls, canned cherries and slices of kiwi fruit. During the meal, we had the usual quiz questions from Mastermind, some of which are so hard we couldn’t even answer on the third or fourth attempt. It was a hot evening and we drank too much Tasmanian cider.

It should be clear by now that our family enjoy cooking and eating enormous meals. We love the meals Johnny and Gareth cook on the weekends and feast days. Johnny lists the menu for a fortnight and tacks it onto the noticeboard in the kitchen so members of the family can check what’s been planned to avoid missing their favourite meals. It’s very convenient and takes the hassle out of deciding what to cook for dinner.

9th Nov 1981

I’ve taken a while over this letter and shall attempt to finish it today. Could you tell me more about the aims of the Women’s Institute you have joined? I noticed in Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, that the Federations of Women’s Institutes have compiled books such as Cornish Recipes: Ancient and Modern (1934, 11th edition), The Isle of Wight Cookery Book and Through Yorkshire’s Kitchen Door (31st edition).

For nearly ten years I enjoyed doing things I had not had an opportunity to do like looking after a child full-time, housekeeping, gardening, going to club functions, driving a car, cooking and sewing. I had to teach myself to behave acceptably in Anglo-Saxon society and Johnny rarely corrected me, which made the learning period longer than necessary. I still have difficulties cleaning the house because I would rather garden or read a book and although I realise it is a common issue, I notice that everyone’s house seems cleaner and tidier than ours. For the past three years, I have been studying mathematics and computer programming after completing a one-year bridging course based on the English Polymaths course. I enjoy studying, even though I make heavy weather of it, and I’m fortunate to have Johnny to help me. The College of Advanced Education serves Central Queensland and does a fair amount of external teaching with a focus on practical applications rather than pure or theoretical subjects. Johnny’s department, Maths and Computing, has a heavy external teaching load.

Gran and I enjoy gardening although I tend to focus more on herbs and vegetables while she prefers flowers and ferns. A couple of years ago with a few of the neighbours, I started a local market and sell candles and potted plants. It’s good fun but very time-consuming.

I must stop and get this letter to you.

83. Dear Joyce (Part 1) – Journal Entry 3rd November 1981

Please thank your neighbour for me, I was so relieved that my letter had reached you. Earlier today I lost my bet on the horses and your quick and warm response was compensation. No, I haven’t become a gambler since arriving in Australia; today is the Melbourne Cup race and the whole of Australia stands hypnotised for a few minutes watching TV or listening to the radio while the race is run. Just about everybody bets and the commentary is very exciting. Last year I bet on the Melbourne Cup for the first time. Johnny tells me the Grand National is somewhat similar but here office meetings are rescheduled to keep 1:45pm clear on the first Tuesday of November so people can place bets and watch the race. It’s even a public holiday in Victoria where the race is held. Charitable institutions run fashion shows and luncheons with raffles based on the Melbourne Cup race winners.

Life indeed has moved on and I’m glad to know you are a grandmother. We have one twenty-two month old grandson Nathaniel (Marcello’s son) and we are fortunate they all live with us. My mother and sister Barbara (who is mildly retarded) live with us too and have been here for five years. At the moment I am writing to you and trying to encourage Barbara to go to sleep. She is easily excited and waiting up for my mother to return from a pensioner’s dinner. Barbara is naturally very attached to our mother.

We arrived in Australia with Gareth, Karen and Marcello, and settled down in Emu Park. Blue-eyed Gareth was only six months old and we joined Johnny who had gone ahead to set up home for us. They were strange and wondrous years; a little worrying too because I was on a visitor’s visa and fearful of complications with the Immigration Department. After a few years, we moved to Sydney where Johnny started at a consultancy firm. I loved Sydney and we were then sent to the Philippines on a contract and staying in Manila for a couple of years. Johnny did not extend his contract as we were longing to get back to Australia. The children chose to return to Emu Park, rather than Sydney, and we finally moved back at the end of 1972, bought a house and have been here ever since.

Last night we went to the high school for speech night and are naturally very proud of Karen who gave the valedictory speech as school captain. She has worked hard and consistently to get through her studies and hopes to start a Mechanical Engineering degree next year at the College of Advanced Education in Rockhampton. She changed her mind about Queensland University because Brisbane seemed large and overcrowded.

This is Gareth’s first year at high school and he has another four years to go. The school is in Yeppoon, a little town about twelve miles away. A free bus takes Emu Park kids there and back every day.

We live in a large wooden house, said to be over eighty years old, resting on eighty stumps. The ‘garden’ is about an acre in size and the house set on a shale hilltop with two rows of fully grown Norfolk Island pines as wind breakers. There are views of the sea and a five-minute walk straight down the hill. The trip back is quite a bit slower.

With such a large, mostly adult family, we have to grow a few vegetables and keep chickens (chooks) and ducks. We buy fruit and vegetables in bulk from the farms in the area – mostly what they can’t sell to the shops. Ducks are not considered a special treat in Australia. Marcello has a job at the local meatworks dealing in small animals so we don’t do badly at all. As Johnny says, food is no problem, it’s the bigger bills like car payments or repairs, registration fees, house and water rates that we struggle with.

There are fourteen clubs in Emu Park with only a population of fourteen hundred or thereabouts. My mother, who is seventy-three, leads a very busy life indoor bowling twice a week, the National Fitness club once a week, church once a week and the Pensioner’s Leagues socials once a month. The clubs also have special tea parties and Johnny bakes a supply of cakes so Gran can ‘take a plate’. There are also the inevitable fund-raising street stalls and she attends Christmas dinners, bus trips and goodness knows what else. We have to keep a diary of my mother’s movements.

Bob Dylan has been on our record player for the past week and Barbara is now snoring gently so I shall join Karen and Johnny who are hard at work at the dining table.

Dear readers, I’ll be back next week!

This is a quick note to let you know that I am currently organising a Premiere Live Screening for the Coal Coast Film Festival in NSW, Australia – one of my other jobs.

This will run from 3-9pm on Saturday 9th March at the beautiful Anita’s Theatre and is the culmination of a year’s work, curating short films from Australian and around the world.

If you are interested, check out the festival website at http://www.coalcoastfilmfestival.com

Or the event details here https://bit.ly/2EtT5dL

You can follow on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @LundinStudio and #CoalCoastFilmFest

In the meantime, enjoy browsing through earlier posts of ‘My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series’ and I will be back next week.

Yours,
Karen