Journals

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.

11the 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.

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.

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.