Journals

8. Rocky Show – Journal Entry 22nd Jun 1969

It’s Saturday today.

I’m sitting on the beach in the sun with the baby. It’s a good place for sitting and gazing at the sea which is so calm and flat.

Gareth, Emu Park beach 1969

We lost a plastic ball a little while ago and nearly lost a friend with it. There was this girl, about eleven or twelve, swimming around when she noticed our green plastic ball and matching surfboard starting to drift out to sea. She tried to get both, got out of her depth and panicked.

I screamed too because I can’t swim.

There was an elderly couple, smiling as they passed by, with their squat, overweight dog. I practically fell on their chests.

“Now it’s alright,” the old man said, “she’s coming out now.”

But the kid was crying and I didn’t know what to do. So, like you see in films, I directed the old woman to stay with Gareth, who was scared stiff of their dog, threw off my jibbah* and tamely walked into the sea in my bikini. Fortunately for me, the girl waded out still sobbing. She’s fine now and busy making Gareth walk up and down the beach. Even though he is a year old, he can’t walk by himself.

What a beautiful beach this is. Islands not very far away, or so it seems, the land jutting well into the sea with cars, trees, beach huts and a white dinghy anchored and ghostly. It’s a bit cold for swimming – it’s cold enough on the beach with the wind blowing.

I’m sitting in a friend’s house with the TV on full blast, it is now 8 o’clock. I thought I would have a quiet time reading and writing. Let me explain. Johnny is acting; the last night of Antigone** and there’s a cast party. I decided to skip the play and get some reading done but this blasted TV is on, with it’s adverts and corny programmes. It’s terrible. Can’t even think and find myself watching the damn screen. I decided to sit in the kitchen and it’s so much better.

Let me tell you about these friends. They are a very good couple. She is dead efficient, finishes her housework in next to no time (they have six kids plus one Aboriginal boy who lives in during school term) and does things like amateur dramatics, social welfare work, reading and I don’t know what else. She is only a tiny creature too. He is marvellous, has lots of racing pigeons, knows about fossicking and is now back in college trying to get a Diploma in Engineering. They are wonderful parents and watching them makes me feel rather inadequate. Johnny has a high regard for them.

I bake our own bread now. The kids and Johnny seem to prefer it to the shop bread, which of course pleases me. We have ducks in the yard and Marcello is supposed to look after them, they are his and meant for the table. Killed one the other day and Johnny cooked it for lunch with lots of green peas and potatoes. We also had a salad of lettuce from the garden. Just think, homegrown duck and lettuce.

Yesterday we went to the Rockhampton Show. My goodness it was expensive at 2.5 rupees^  for a try at any darn game stall. And with two kids wanting to have a go at most things, a bit of money was spent. However, they managed to win some toy each and even I won a couple of packets of toffees.

The birds, fruit and animals on show were so good and it was interesting to see what won prizes. I would have loved to wander around looking at them all day, but that sort of thing doesn’t interest small children. In fact looking at the animals, birds and farm produce made me want to become a ‘cocky’. A cocky being a farmer or man of the soil.

Oh goodness, listen to this. A neighbour of ours was having a birthday, so as a special treat, we sent across a bottle of burgundy. Back comes a report some days later that nobody could drink it; it tasted like vinegar, they said. Honestly, what do you do with people as backward as that? Of course it’s only recently that Australians have started drinking wine. PLONK they called it, in a derogatory tone of voice. Beer was the thing.

Footnotes:

*jibbah is a South Indian name for a ‘kurta’ which is a collarless, long-sleeved shirt to knee-length. However, jibbah also refers to a hand-rolled cigarette containing marijuana…

**Antigone is the name of a tragedy by the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, written around 442 BCE. More information here.

^Equivalent to 30 cents Australian in 1969

Useful Links

  • Click here for the home page
  • For email followers, click here to read this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • A draft letter to a friend living in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have added the footnotes.

7. Rain Poem – Journal Entry 17th Jun 1969

On Monday I walked along the beach. No-one was there except for two pelicans. They could well have been deformed cranes. They walked away, two ugly creatures in love with each other. Something about their rear view gave me a feeling of tenderness for their awkwardness and vulnerability.

The sterility of the town and the place we live in is slightly disappointing. Sterility in the sense of being devoid of such things as flowers in women’s hair, peanut sellers, betel juice squirted on the pavement benches, auto rickshaws and the smell of jasmine. Ah dear me, but still, there are things you don’t get on the Indian scene, like dear ladies (in powder and hat) selling raffle tickets, Aboriginal couples quietly talking to each other, meat shops with plastic fruit and Christmas decorations, supermarkets and fish and chip shops.

RainPoemMum
Poem by Gita 17th June 1969

Notes and Links

  • Click here for home page
  • Preamble post updated for new blog viewers
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

6. Cocktail Party – Journal Entry 15th Jun 1969

Sunday was hectic.

First a cocktail party where we were supposed to meet a few famous people like the Chairman of the Meatworks and the Harbour Board, the Archers, who were the first settlers in Rocky.

Best of all were the host and hostess – Shorty Leah and his wife. A good couple, old, who own a pineapple farm in Tanby. Very dramatic is pineapple farming.

In the evening we had six people to dinner. I wish I could describe what went on. One couple kept having digs at one another, the other couple (J&S) egged on another older couple who were hankering for Darwin and felt that Rocky was a dead hole and filled with old people. No culture too. J and Sue, the bright, young, newly married couple stayed the night with us and we sat up till 3am talking about all sorts but mainly about whether one had a purpose in life or not. A subject I’d prefer not to think about.

16th June 1969

This morning was not so good. Had to get up at 7.30am (which wasn’t too early really), fed the kids and myself and the pup on the front verandah that belonged to J&S and then took them all to the beach so the others could sleep on.

Ah! The beach in the early morning.

Saw the boat leave for the Great Keppel Island – one of the reef islands. Apparently there are lots and lots of coral islands, every one of them beautiful, with oysters for the picking. And fine white sand beaches to sit on and eat them. We will be going sometime. The thing to do is to own a boat and go sculling round these islands, fishing or just exploring.

Holidays are fabulous here with everything so conveniently near – mountains, forests, creeks, gem fields, beaches and islands. What more could you want? Not money, because all this costs so little.

It’s been a warm and glorious day today. I find it difficult to describe the days when they are warm and glorious; so difficult…

The swamp twinkles at me from between the trees with ducks and swamp hens foraging into it’s soft belly; the main road is behind the swamp and stray cars flash past the few houses on the hills around me which seem to stretch themselves luxuriously in the not too bright sunlight. Thieving gulls scream hideously at our uncomplaining, fat, good-natured ducks who take not the slightest notice and gulp down their food before the mob of seagulls descend on them. When I see all of this I know it’s a beautiful, warm and glorious day. I hang out of a window and go mushy.

Karen and Gareth, camping near Emu Park 1969
Marcello, Gareth and Karen, camping near Emu Park 1969
Notes and Links
  •    Click here for home page updates
  •    This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

 

5. Fish ‘n Chips – Journal Entry 13th Jun 1969

Ah now, today has been very good.

Johnny bought me two pairs of jeans and a donkey jacket. And we wandered round the shops and shopped. We talked to people and looked at lino. We asked for plain brown lino which the army buildings and orphanages get rigged out in but no, nothing like it. It will have to be ordered from Brisbane at $5 a yard which is a helluva lot for us to spend on a rented house.

And we had fish ‘n chips. I can eat fish ‘n chips anytime of the day or night.

14th June 1969

Saturday was great.

Went to Byfield looking for picnic spots.

Found one particularly good one with a shallow creek, stony and fairly fast moving. Lots of trees and rocks and quite isolated. The water was very cold though. Should be good in the summer.

Saw a small bird. He was curious about us and kept flying off the wire he sat on, came towards us then went back. This he did for some time until we moved away.

Blog Updates:

  •    Click here for the Emu Park Family Tree on the home page footer
  •    Shorter journal entries have now been combined into one post
  •    How to read my blog infographic added to top of home page
  •    This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

4. Pig’s Cheek – Journal Entry 12th Jun 1969

Shopping day. Each day seems to be so good.

Mrs O’D and I shopped together for a while. She is a person who has lived. That sounds corny but how else could I put it? She has worked hard all her life, brought forth nine children, lost two, and has one with a bad heart.

“Look Gita, she spends so much money on her glory box. She’ll never get married, we don’t even know how long she will live. She thinks she will find a man to love her for herself and that they can adopt a child. She is not grown up. She is twenty-one but acts like she is fifteen. She has no idea of things and I had to mollycoddle her till she got her tonsils out because of her heart, but after her tonsils came out I haven’t mollycoddled her. Look, she didn’t menstruate till she was eighteen. You will be lucky if you see it once in twelve months, the doctor told us, and she’s been as regular as any other woman. She’s a bit cranky at that time but then I say, ‘What are you doing here?’ and she goes back to bed.”

So we had coffee and studied the papers for the special sales, found none except the usual lousy mince and sausages at so much for two pounds.

I bought a pig’s cheek for 25c. I was going to try all sorts with it but when I had to hack the thing I felt all squirmy and it smelled a bit too, even though it was pickled. I suspect the little piggy hadn’t been cleaning his teeth or alternatively not chewing his apple before bedtime. Ugh. So even though the pig cheek was so cheap (and I can’t resist such bargains) I won’t be buying one in a hurry.

Did the week’s shopping. Then went off with L for lunch with B. The house was unusual for central Queensland, arched windows, thick brick walls, big rooms, verandahs and so on. ‘Twas built by a German brickmaker, later taken over by a nunnery in which two nuns committed suicide. It’s a lovely house and B seems to have worked hard on it. Lunch was hilarious and L and I returned to town cheerfully intoxicated.

At least I was disgustingly cheerful.

 

Notes:

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

3. Sickle and Scythe – Journal Entry 10th Jun 1969

Winter days here seem beautiful days. I don’t know what makes the days so unbearably sweet. Today especially was glorious.

I hacked at the long thick grass. It looked so easy but really wasn’t and besides I don’t know how to handle a sickle. I own a sickle and Johnny owns a scythe, like real country-folk.

Of course after an hour’s work, Gareth and I lay on the newly turned earth.

It was happiness.

Note:

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

2. Sunday Lunch – Journal Entry 8th Jun 1969

John and Virginia came with their brand new truck carrying a rotary hoe. What a relief to watch the grass disappearing into the earth when the ripper passed over it. In no time the front yard was neatly ploughed and we planned where the trees would go and where the onions and garlic beds were to be.

Emu Park First House 1969
Gareth, Karen, Gita, Marcello | Emu Park first house 1969

The day was lovely with Fritz, Jan, Virginia, the kids and I watching John happily driving the ripper around. There were many little birds after the refugee insects that were disturbed out of their homes. We found a baby snake under a packing case but it ran away.

I baked bread and there was salad, cold meat and salami for lunch. We were all waiting for  lunch to be ready. Then you know what happened? The three men go to the back yard and try to burn the long dry grass.

Just beat it out when you’ve burned a reasonable area,” one of them said…

The fire looked very pretty and we called the kids to watch. Everybody was quite happy. Then, of course, the fire spread quite rapidly and raced up the steep slope of our back yard. Everybody pitched in to help. I tell you it was frightening. Such a wide ring of fire and every minute increasing and increasing. We worked, my goodness how we worked. Two of our neighbours ran to help. We had to beat at the fire with branches off the gum tree. Johnny and I used cloth.

I panicked and phoned the police station. The policeman and another man pitched up just when the fire was put out and gave us a sermon.

“You’ve got to have a permit to light a fire. You could be put into court for this, and be fined $30 to $40 so that you don’t go out and light another fire. You didn’t know about this of course.”

One of our friends interrupted to say he was the one who suggested it, and that it wasn’t our fault, but the policeman continued,

“I don’t care who told who to light the fire, you get prosecuted all the same. Anyway, see it doesn’t happen again!” And he stomped down the hill to his interrupted Sunday lunch.

Oh dear, we were a sad group. I had to prepare the salad. I could hardly stand, let alone hold a knife. We were dirty and covered with prickles from the long grass. The others collapsed onto the verandah and recovered over a glass of beer. Was lunch good? And did we eat enormously?

Of course we did. It was very good.

BushFirePoem
Poem by Gita 8th June 1969

Note:

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

1. Preamble – My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

If you haven’t already, please read the Home page for the background to this intimate journal series.

Blog posts will contain my mother’s journal entries in chronological order from June 8th, 1969 (when our family settled in Australia from India) until just prior to my mother’s death in 1985. Some of her poetry and letters will be included.

I have used ‘Gita’ to refer to my mother throughout this journal series as it was the pen name she used for her short stories and articles.

Gita, late 1960s

If you are new to this blog you can read  previous journal entries in date order via Archived on the Home page. Then Follow to receive each new post as it is published.

Sadly, Johnny (the love of my mother’s life), passed away ten years after her death. He was a devoted father to our very large family and I dedicate this journal series to both of them.

Johnny, late 1960s

Let us begin…

Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • The Home page contains a gallery of photos, click here.