Journals

22. Back Home to Australia – Journal Entry 17th Nov 1973

Muchlater

We returned to Emu Park from the Philippines and our family bought a beautiful Queensland home set on the top of a hill. We could see the ocean in the distance through a row of fully grown Norfolk pines.

Beloved,

I dreamed of you last night. You returned without your beard. I was very surprised. The dream is easily explained, I had shown your R.A.F. photograph to Gareth.

Thank you, my love, for your letter of the 11th received today. We bought three chooks, frozen, from Benn’s.

Quite a day. We went at 6am to the beach; the pup ran around and Gareth rode his bike. We won’t go tomorrow because the pup is sick. We may have overfed him and carried him around too much.

So then we came home from the beach and did some housework (or homework as Janine says). And then about 10am the Svendsen kids came and we all went to the beach again to eat cake and watermelon and to swim.

Left them at their house to get ready for Cinderella, a play by the Junior Little Theatre. We went home, had lunch and then went to the Daltons.

Sue left on Thursday. Benjamin was not well and she thought she’d keep him quiet at home. He gets rather excited here.

Oh darling, all the lettuces have gone to seed.

It’s fun having the Rover to drive.

About Blue, the pup. Do you like the name? Well about Blue; Marcello is in charge of him and it’s the funniest thing – Marcello cleaning Blue’s pooh! And his vomit. Mig is also very fussy and protective over Blue. He stayed in the car with Blue in case stray dogs attacked. Won’t give us much time with the pup. At the moment they’re asleep together. Poor Karen, she wants a pup now. Anyway she’s waiting for her kitten. Gareth and I are to look after Blue when Marcello is at school.

Johnny, I love you. Things are strange without you.

18th Nov 1973 – Night

The Rs called. I was asleep, the kids were at the beach. However, the Rs returned after visiting the Fullers and stayed till 7pm. It was very nice. R’s parents separated when he was 4. He lived with his father till 8 years of age and then returned to his mother. However, he was always away from home and only spent one year living with his mother. They told me lots more things. They send $100 every month to R’s mother.

I’ve unpacked our files. Found the Curry chapter. Finished The Thousand and One Nights. Wrote out cheques. Felt quite important doing so. I’m working at your desk.

The kids and I now sleep in the main bedroom. Not Marcello though, he has Blue in his room because Blue plays at night and bites our toes and tugs our hair! Pity, I enjoyed sleeping in the study.

Don’t know what happened to that crate of apples. Railway strike was on a couple of days so don’t know when the plums etc will arrive.

End of a whole week without you.
I love you my love.

Your
Gita

WastpaperBasketPoem
Poem by Gita Nov 1973

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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21. Philippines Snapshot – Journal Entry 2nd May 1971

Muchlater[Our family stayed in Sydney for another year and then spent two years in the Philippines. Unfortunately, there are no journals for this period so I have included the few letters my mother sent from the Philippines. Martial law was introduced to the Philippines by President Marcos in September 1972. This prompted us to return to Emu Park in 1973.]

2nd May 1971

Yes, we’d be delighted to have Mark. Leave him with us for as long as you like. A holiday in the Philippines and the countryside would do him a world of good. Manila is a pleasant city and the countryside in Luzon is magnificent. We haven’t had the chance to visit any of the other islands. The best thing is the people, diverse, very able and friendly in a person to person fashion.

We’ll send him back to you speaking Tagalog.

7th May 1971

So we are here in the Pilipinas. Magandang umaga po = Good morning Sir or Madam.

What have I to report? Nothing very much really. So terribly ordinary – like ordering furniture, looking for kapok and buying fish and coffee beans. We went out to a Welcome to the Philippines Dinner last night and it was all wrong, discreet and rich. I felt sad although the view was good. An 11th floor Sydney view without water and two nice bits of meat spoilt with too much food beforehand. I drank lemon and soda, longing for a cigarette.

We have a fish pond in the tiny garden and we have stocked it with fish. Lost all the guppies because they swam away forever through the outlet pipe. Bought more – very expensive. Anyway, a stupid price for a guppy. Especially guppies given to disappearing down the drain.

Was it hot when we arrived! Man was it hot. Port Moresby was an adventure. A slow roast at 325F. This machine [IBM electric typewriter] sticks at a certain place and all the keys are different for each golf ball and I have a chart which I don’t look at and so get things wrong. My reflexes are all wrong too, I press to get a semi-colon on golf ball courier 72 and I get an N with a curl on top of it. I ask you, how does one disguise an N with a curl on top of it to look like a semi-colon? Life is very difficult.

We have one maid and seem to have difficulty getting another. That’s because Johnny would like a mature woman who is able to cook Pilipino foods. These golf balls are the end and I feel so hungry, it is 1.30pm and I’m waiting for Johnny to return.

We have a betel leaf creeper in the garden and alas and alack, poetic justice and whatnot, I burnt my mouth trying out a betel-nut-lime chew. The lime being wot you whitewash catacombs with.

Can I think of nothing else but food? Yennyway, the place we are in is good. It’s going to rain presently and so things will cool off. Got to type a long paper for Johnny now – wish me luck. I will be at it all weekend if this letter is any guide. So bye for now. Maybe I shall have something worthwhile to say tomorrow.

15th May 1971

So wot to report. I’m sitting in the kanteen of the Philippine Women’s University drinking black instankoffee, facing a notice which says:

PLEASE REPORT
DISCOURTEOUS PERSONNEL
TO THE MANAGEMENT (Establishment?)
IMMEDIATELY

This reminds me of a super one I’d been saving for you. On a noticeboard somewhere I read:

UNAUTHORISED PERSONS
DON’T READ THIS

Alas, nothing below the arrow.

Which brings to mind (though I fail to see the connection) of hundreds of wooden carvings for sale of a fist with the middle finger (extra long) sticking straight up. Wot significance? Dare I ask? Whom?

People here are great. Mostly smiling and bursting into song now and then.

There’s this market filled with 2” by 2” shops (I exaggerate very little) selling ready-made dresses. Thousands and thousands of 2’ by 2’ shops and everyone (der women) wears dresses, she said sadly burning herself with the instakoffee.

Why yam I drinking koffee at the kanteen of the Phil. Women’s Univ.? Because I am waiting for a 9am to strike so that I can present myself for the dance course I am attending.

We’re being taught by der famous Bayanihan dancers. Them dat goes round the world many times. They are good. We’re a mixed class – mainly school teachers and young kids. Every Saturday the Bayanihan dancers put on a show and this Saturday, tomorrow, we will go to see them.

It is now Saturday and I’ve returned from the dance performances and am copying out what I wrote in my notebook to you. We have learnt three dances so far. Jota Canitena, Pandanggo and the well-known Tinikling. There are no fs and vs in Tagalog by the way and c comes out as k; pity me, am I not mixed up already?

There seems to be a natural grace about everybody and the students don’t look awkward learning the dances. I feel like a bluddy giraffe.

The first dance I can only just do, the second needs practice because we’re supposed to balance a glass, with burning candle inside, on our head and a glass (mit said candle) on the back of each hand and dance and smile and look graceful.

17th June 1971

Thank you very much for your letter. It came as a great relief to me because I was worried. I had visions of the three of you in a Nepalese jail gnawing on dry powroti.

You could keep up your reading at least can’t you? When Anna is asleep? I should be the last one to ask that question – I would like to do so many things but what happens? I get side-tracked and end up doing very little. Are we not frail?

It is good to be in Manila but it will be better when we get out of to the Provinces – when we can speak Pilipino. We are here initially for another year, but would like to stay on for another year.

Let me know when you know your short-term and long-term plans. Maybe.

Oh hell, are we not all insecure? That is, most of us don’t have very much money, don’t know where we’re going etc. etc. and all that. This is not much help is it? But above all, don’t worry, it is killing, I know.

The kids are fine, the moves upset them a little initially and then they make friends and enjoy themselves till the next move. Gareth is three now and talks and talks.

I’m using an IBM electric typewriter and when I change the golf ball type I don’t know where everything is and get the queerest things when I want a question mark or say a simple comma.

I had better stop and post this to you soon. Give Anna a big kiss for me, maybe I’ll see you someday. Give my regards to Minoru.

Use the Australian address, it is much quicker.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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20. Arrival Story – Journal Entry 1st Sep 1970

[My mother’s story version of arriving in Australia.]

Gita’s arrival at Brisbane airport was dramatic and foolish. She has flown straight from Kathmandu, the youngest child in a sling on her back, the two elder children clutching at her skirts, big bags in her hands. One child had a Nepalese drum – at the sight of which the Customs officials sighed and took a tight grip on themselves. Gita was dressed in a short thick black cotton sari. These were the sort worn by women in a particular Nepalese tribe to show off the tattoos on their calves. She knew the fumigation was coming and hoped to add to the dramatic effect in retaliation. But Gita didn’t have tattooed calves.

All this was quite stupid. There was a reporter who sensed something and wanted to take photographs. The reporter had noticed Gita exchanging a long intense, slightly smiling glance with Johnny who was waiting outside the customs barrier. Johnny, in his typical cool manner, continued leaning against the pillar, glanced at the reporter and quietly drawled that he had better not. The reporter was a middle-aged Australian, short and plump, a disappearing race of understanding country reporters. He must have sensed tragedy, fear, who knows what, so he didn’t argue but stood by Johnny and watched until Gita was through with Customs and had greeted Johnny with one word, “Hello.”

Gita was taken straight from the Third World into a two-storied wooden house on stilts in a very small coastal village of Australia.

Immediate differences in cultures came fairly quickly one after another. White labourers working on the roads – a strange sight to someone coming from a colonised country. Vendors calling in motorised vehicles. The postman driving to your post box was hard to get used to at first as Gita assumed all postmen walked with heavy bags on their shoulders. There was hot and cold piped water in the house, separate bedrooms for the children, supermarkets in the nearby city and many clubs for people – especially women.

Women called on Gita to invite her to join the CWA, the National Fitness Club and the Bowling Club. She went on to the school tuckshop roster.

The neighbours were a little slow in making contact, they didn’t know what to make of this bizarre family dumped in their midst – two dark-skinned children who talked Gurkhali to each other in a low voice, one small blue-eyed baby boy, one large blond blue-eyed man who smoked a pipe and one South-East Asian woman.

Johnny suggested that Gita make the initial calls on neighbours, first to the couple living on the right and then to the couple on the left. Later they came, a little ashamed of themselves and not quite looking Gita in the eye. They told her what day was garbage collection day, and about milk, bread and newspaper deliveries.

Life in Emu Park was still at the stage where neighbours called on newcomers to welcome them and make their entry into the community as easy and pleasant as possible.

The earliest encounter with the Queensland dialect was when a young lad called with a message from his mother.
“Do you have any spice in your fridge?” he asked politely.
“Oh, no,” replied Gita, “I don’t keep spice in the fridge, I keep them on the shelf.”
A puzzled look came into the lad’s eyes and he almost backed away.
“Mum asked if you have spice in your fridge,” he repeated.
Gita repeated her answer and so it would have gone if the lad hadn’t changed his wording.
“Mum says if your fridge is not big enough, she could keep things for you in her fridge.”
Pretty soon they sat down to tea and biscuits.

It took Gita several years to get over her horror at having people spell words for her over the telephone. The a’s and i’s were hard to differentiate and her English wasn’t all that good either. One man jovially told her it reminded him of Peter Sellers, which surely was a chicken and egg question. On the other hand, Australians were surprised at Gita speaking English at all, and made such remarks as, “How is it that you speak straighter English than we do?”
“I’ve never spoken to one of your kind before,” said a taxi driver in Sydney, “I really enjoyed that.”
And another man asked, “Are you a school teacher?”

On the whole, Gita was mostly absorbed in Johnny and their new life together. Johnny concentrated on Australianising his new family as fast as possible. Gita’s attitude to that was pretty easy until she took the children to a cafe in Sydney where they stuck their fingers into everything and generally behaved so oddly that they soon attracted the attention of the other eaters. It didn’t take very long for the kids to learn to handle knives and forks and say excuse me and please and thank you. Life became a little less conspicuous.

Ah, the freshness of those early years in Australia, despite Johnny and Gita’s fear and sorrow.

The year was the late nineteen sixties, Australia was riding high, beef was expensive because of the export prices cattlemen were getting for their beasts, minerals were being dug up and shipped out at good prices and employment was plentiful.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • This closes the chapter on the early years in Emu Park. Our family then moved to Neutral Bay in Sydney, Australia.

19. The Opening of Emu Park – Journal Entry 31st Aug 1970

When it is considered how the early residents suffered from enervating fevers, which required a healthy and bracing climate to restore people to their former vigour, it is remarkable that the townspeople were so slow in obtaining access to a seaside resort.

How Emu Park was first discovered is not very clear, but it was certainly not much known before 1867.

About that time, four men took a trip to the coast for fishing and shooting. Three of them were Messrs R Hewitt, A Matthews and J Phillips. The identity of the fourth is not known at this time.

Mr Matthews owned a small vessel with which he traded between Rockhampton and northern ports. It is quite likely he knew something about the bald hills, that now form Emu Park, from sailing along the coast.

Mr Matthews, by the way, was the brother of the clever actress and singer Miss Julia Matthews, who, when asked her nationality on one occasion, said she was an amalgamation. Her father was Scottish and her mother was Irish. She was born in England and brought up in the colonies.

Mr Phillips was the father of Mr H Phillips, fruiterer on East Street, and he came to Rockhampton in 1861. He worked for the Bulletin proprietor, Mr R Ross, who owned Cawarral station. Those connected with the station must have known of the existence of what is now Emu Park, but did not make that knowledge public.

The party of four referred to above, were found fishing and shooting by Mr Ross who summoned them for trespassing and disturbing his stock. He had them fined. It is supposed that one of the four men wrote to the Government.

As the people of Rockhampton had made an application for a township on the sea coast, a commission was formed and consisted of Captain R M Hunter and Messrs T Macdonald-Paterson, James Atherton, William Pattison, Henry Jones, William Davis and probably one or two others.

Mr R Sharples, who had previously been to the coast, was asked by Captain Hunter to go with him. The reason was that the Captain had a different opinion from the other members of the commission, and believed that the bald hills, from which they were looking, were to the north of Cawarral Station. The others thought the hills were to the south. The party was thus split in two, each going its own way on horseback.

The upshot of it all of this was that what is now Emu Park was discovered and reported on to the Government. The first land sale took place in about 1869 or 1870.

A considerable time elapsed before any buildings were erected there, but people went to the locality for picnics and on holidays. They camped under the trees in what is now the Botanic Reserve.

Emu Park was generally considered to have been discovered by Mr Hewitt. He evidently had a hand in it as the town was first named Hewittville.

A large number of emus and marsupials in those days were to be seen in the combes of Emu Park, but they were soon shot off by so-called sportsmen from town, whose only idea of sport is to destroy.

Mrs R Pearson was induced to put up a boarding house at Emu Park in 1871, and Mr J Brown, who took great delight in the place from the very start, also built a house.

Mr Alexander Grant built on the side of the hill above the Grand Hotel. Where that hotel now stands was the site of Mrs Pearson’s house. Mr E Macaree also put up a cottage. A mail coach was run every week for some years by Mr R Hewitt, the return fare being £1.

Very early in the history of Emu Park, Captain Little built a cottage not far from Tanby Head, known as Tanby Hall. It was a lovely spot, but decidedly lonesome. Captain Little is dead, but he has a daughter living in Marlborough. In about 1873, the late Mr P Downer built what is now a portion of the Emu Park Hotel, and after a year or two he was succeeded by Mr Hugh Fulton. Since the advent of the railway, which was opened on the 22nd December 1888, the picturesque little township had considerably increased in size.

Mr Morris was the first man in Emu Park (perhaps 70 years ago) to go to the islands in a dinghy and bring back oysters and fish. He sold them in Emu Park. He then bought a small boat called Annabel and then later bought a boat which he named Crete (because he was a Cretan) which was large enough to carry about 40 passengers. He took people on cruises and fishing trips.

The passengers on the Crete would go over to the Peak Islands on weekend trips, find turtles that came ashore to lay eggs and turn them on their backs so they wouldn’t run away during the night. The next morning they would set the turtles on their feet again, scramble on the turtles’ backs and get a free ride out to sea, jump off the turtles and swim back to shore again.

The history of the Crete is a fascinating one. It was made in New Zealand, originally a sailing boat, and was owned by a man called Lucas who lived on South Keppel Island. Apparently a convict from New Zealand managed to escape and came across to Australia in a boat, landing in Yeppoon. People believe that the Crete could well have been that boat, which was subsequently sold to Lucas, and that got beached at Emu Park sixty years or so ago. It was sold to Mr Morris who repaired it and used it for his fishing trips. Later on, Mr Morris fitted a Wilson engine onto the Crete. The boat sits on land and will probably never be put to sea again.

The Pine Beach Hotel was originally a boarding house and Grand Central was the name of the hotel which is now Mrs Mac’s newsagency. The Old Imperial Hotel, which was between Blue Bird Cafe and Green’s Hardware Store, burned down in 1925. There were a total of four hotels in Emu Park: the Riviera, Pine Beach, Imperial and Grand Central.

Mrs Large’s shop was originally a post office, facing onto Patterson’s Street. Beggs owned it. Jimmy McDougal, Ronny McDougal’s father, rented it for a shop after the post office shifted to its present building.

The cafe next to Mrs Large’s shop served meals and sold groceries. Patterson seemed to have been the original owner. Then a series of people owned it, but one man committed suicide over the shop. Apparently he was losing money and one day in desperation he cut his throat in one of the back rooms of the cafe. About that time a family of Greeks were waiting on his doorstep to see whether he would sell his shop to them.

Mrs Mills’ house used to be a Haberdashery run by a Miss Henni Powers. She also sold soft drinks, biscuits and lollies and was very popular with the children.

Leight’s second-hand shop was once a grocery shop run by Mrs Mills’ father, Matt Rhine.

Mr Mills, Mr Billy Mills’ father, owned what is now Buehows. They sold groceries and served afternoon tea.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • My mother interviewed many long-term residents as part of her research into the history of Emu Park.

 

 

 

18. Holiday Goat – Journal Entry 24th Aug 1970

[First part of a letter to a friend. One footnote added.]

Would you have time to dash off a few(?) illustrations for the manuscripts attached? I’m sending one manuscript by the man* to give you an idea of the sort of drawings we have in mind – simple and childish.

What do you think? If you are busy just read the stories and send them back with suggestions if you have any. There is another very long story the man has written, for children, which I would very much like to be illustrated by you. I have yet to type it. That too I shall send in a few days’ time; don’t worry if you can’t do the drawings – at least read it and tell me what you think of it.

We move to Sydney in six weeks time. Got the job with the consultancy firm. We’re looking forward to the change. Will report.

The two weeks August holidays were spent in a house on the beach. ‘Twas good. The man worked and the children played on the beach.

We lost our goat, much to our delight and slight guilt on my part. It was like this: I borrowed the goat as a pet for the children because we don’t like dogs or cats in the house – not that the goat was allowed in the house. She came in once and peed into our coffee cups. At least, we thought, the goat won’t follow us around and she will eat grass. No problem. Alas, the goat thought she was a dog, followed us about, ate the duck’s feed every chance she got, slipped to the neighbour’s garden every chance she got and was generally a nuisance. So when we went to the beach house, we let her loose because we were away from people. She followed us everywhere – even when we went to look at the moonlight on the sea. One day she was gone. Don’t know whether she followed people walking along the beach or whether the dingoes got her. I tried – honestly I tried – offering her to everyone I saw, but no luck.

I heard a good story the other day. There was an old man cleaning the garden of the beach house when we arrived for our holiday (just two miles from our house). A nice old man. His name, I learnt is Ollie. His surname is Collie, so people call him Ollie Collie. He drank too much at one time, went off his head and was put in an asylum. He was let out after a while. Some time later he had a fight in the pub with another guy and this Ollie Collie stood up and announced, “I’m the only man in Emu Park who has a certificate to say he is sane.”

Footnote:

* man refers to Johnny. He wrote short stories for us when we were young children.

Updates and Links

  • Addition of poem to Journal Entry 17th July 1969
  • Overlapping years added to Where in the World We Lived map
  • Addition of content key words to post title
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  • For email followers click here to read this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

17. Public Speaking and History – Journal Entry 28th Jul 1970

Muchlater

Many months later, the following year.

Goodness knows what
the date, round about
28th July, 1970

My dear Cynthia,

Thanks for your letter – it makes good reading. Your life is not exactly dull. Goodness knows what news I can give you to come near the cake and pot story.

The weather, yes the weather is always a good starter. Had rain today after a long dry spell. Things were really dry and crisp, but not as bad as out west. Out west is a drought and has been for the past so many years. You hear stories of people selling out their tiny farms and looking for steady jobs. The wool industry is packing up. American meat standards are shooting up – you probably know that most of Australia’s beef and mutton go to America.

What else – general house cleaning and cooking etc. is held on Thursday; this is something new I’ve hit on and a friend who is deaf, or very nearly, comes and helps me. She is so quick in everything and usually pitches up with bunches of freshly plucked herbs and aubergines. Then at 11am more women pitch up and we have a yoga session together, then lunch. Quite pleasant and then I have a fairly clean house.

I’ve been for a Forum meeting – public speaking for housewives it seems. It was good. Very nice to see most of the women take the rostrum and deliver short speeches. Even I got up and said a few words. I was told that I should have prepared my speech by the critic. Told her I didn’t mean to speak but couldn’t resist after hearing a couple of remarks made by previous speakers. “Wot to do,” I said. “If I feel strongly about something,” I said. “Stay quiet?” I said.
“Oh no,” she said. “You don’t have to,” she said.
“Then you’ve probably frightened other women from speaking off the cuff,” I said.
“Oh I hope not,” she said. She (the critic) was a very attractive spinster who worked on a farm during the day.

Then there is this discussion group I seem to have attached myself to. They are a gang of rather rich housewives who think up a subject, get some expert to talk on it and ask questions to get a bit of general knowledge. The meeting tomorrow is on Child Psychology.

I’m also trying to get a picture of Emu Park’s history. Started 80 to 90 years ago. This is the place we live in. It is fascinating. Will probably send you a copy of what notes I put together if and when I do so. In the meantime, I interview the old folk who have lived all their lives here. Remarkable memories some of them. Not much history I grant you, but the men who were here seemed to have had character. There were seven oystermen in 1912 and bags of oysters in their shell were sent out by rail practically everyday. Now only private oyster picking takes place and that too very little.

About 60 years ago a prisoner escaped from New Zealand on a sailboat and landed in Yeppoon (12 miles from here). He either sold or used the boat to go to the coral islands to get fish and oysters. However, this is mere conjecture. He sold the boat to a guy who owned one of the islands and who then managed to ground the boat in Emu Park. A Mr Morris (an oysterman) bought it, repaired it and called it The Crete. He made money by taking people to the islands and back. Many people even got married after such a trip. As many as 40 packed into the boat. Overnight visitors to the islands would catch lurking turtles, turn them onto their backs and when ready for a ride would turn the turtles right way up, hop on to them and be taken out to sea. Imagine a beach full of turrrrrned turrrtles.

In between all this speaking to people I’m trying to learn to make tarts, play the guitar (yes, still), swot up my arithmetic and keep house. Wot a life. Johnny goes to Sydney next week and to Canberra the week after for interviews. Let’s keep fingers crossed.

I got on to a farm which sold me avocado pears. My word Cynthia, I ate them till they came out of my ears. The season is just about over now – sadly enough.

People have been very kind to me. They always give me things like strawberries, and cabbages, and lettuces and clothes for the kids. Living it up?

Much love from all of us to all of
you.

KarenProfileCircle120 Links

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

16. Raising Pigs – Journal Entry 15th Dec 1969

[My mother’s account of raising pigs in India]

Found a book on pig farming. Just the thing I think, all you’ve got to do is get some pigs and you’re in business – what with the Government encouraging pig-farming and all that.

I wrote off to a farm asking permission to purchase a pair of piglets and was asked to call at Katpadi the next day.

We set off on motorbike and scooter, my brother and his friend on the motorbike and my husband and I on the scooter. When we got there we discovered there were only two sizes available, the first size too large to be carried by the pillion rider on his lap and the other still sucklings, with one month to go before weaning.

We settled for the babies. Oh, we’ll bottle feed them, we told ourselves, and off we went.

They squealed almost all the way back – about thirty miles of squeals. Only when we were nearing our farm did they settle down and enjoy the ride.

As soon as we got back there was no time to rest, beds and bottles had to be prepared. Feroke (the male) and Sara (the female) were hungry all the time. They could never get enough. In fact Feroke would quickly finish his bottle (an old beer bottle) and would rush over to where Sara was daintily sucking on hers, scuff her aside, grab the nipple and go guzzle, guzzle. He’d drink till the milk dripped out of his snout. The milk bill was enormous and still they were hungry all the time – so what to do? We decided to feed them on porridge and milk. That solved the problem.

They were kept in a Deal Wood packing case in the common room during the night. The first night they were exhausted and slept right through. The next night I heard a slight noise and cautiously opened my eyes – Feroke and Sara stood cheek to cheek peering at me. I jumped up from my mat, took them to their packing case, tucked them in and went back to sleep. A little later they were back so what to do? I give them their bottles.

All too soon they were grown up. We had to keep them in separate pens till Sara was eight months old, which was a reasonable time to get her mated. The number of times poor Munuswamy had to repair the pens. If dinner and lunch was a little late, we would hear smash and they’d be out to see what was happening. At night the kitchen, which was just a small hut, was attacked because there’d be no-one to chase them away.

The children would go piggy-back on Feroke and Sara, a hilarious sight. Then Faroke took to chasing passing villagers. One man climbed a tree to get out of his way and howled at us to call Feroke back to his pen. Irate housewives would come storming in holding broken pots and warble out a list of misdeeds committed by Feroke and Sara interlaced with juicy words of abuse.

So for their sins, the pigs had to be put in very strong pens.

Then Sara upped and gave us six beautiful bouncing piglets. I attended at the births – but that didn’t give me licence to touch the babies. No. If I did they’d squeal as if I was pinching or poking  them and Sara would charge. Believe me, when a huge sow, however sweet looking, chases you – you run.

The piglets grew round, pink and beautiful and we loved them, except for their nasty habit of squealing about us to their mother. Soon they were weaned and kept in a huge pen by themselves.

We had so much difficulty keeping them in. The smallest piglet would stand near the fence and one by one the others would climb on his back. Then they would be up and over the wooden fence jumping down to freedom. There was only one snag – the little chap who had turned himself into a chair for his brothers and sisters was left in the pen squealing blue murder because there was no-one for him to climb on.

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15. Fair Dinkum Aussies – Journal Entry 13th Dec 1969

My dear Cynthia,

So you are back in Nepal. Thank you for a very nice letter. Things seem not so bad your way. I’ll try and write as much as possible but honestly Cynthia, you can be so busy doing absolutely nothing. Not really, but you know what I mean… school picnics, farewell parties, breakup parties and goodness knows what else. I quite enjoy it all but I hate being rushed. The housework rarely gets done.

Last night we laid tiles on the bathroom floor. We’ve decided to rent this place for another year and the landlord gave us the material and we supplied the labour – the bathroom was in a mess before and water always leaked onto the stairs.

I haven’t given you the good news – we are allowed to stay in Australia for two years, that is two years from February next. And my mother received the letter you posted. Thank you very, very much. I was so relieved (sounds like an ad for constipation pills or something). You know what Cynthia, my mother has been without money from us for nearly 4 months. I don’t know what the bank had been up to. I was absolutely shattered. Poor mum was so worried. Anyway now everything is fine again. My brother is back at work (I think I told you this) and he lost his second son aged  1½ years. They didn’t tell me how.

We are fair dinkum Aussies. Got a new lawn mower and a fridge. We’re paying for them out of the housekeeping money. Grass grows so quickly here and the risk of grass fires is very high. Don’t forget, the houses are made of wood which makes people highly nervous of fires. It is illegal to have a bonfire even. You have to have permission. I told you about the fire we started up the hill at the back of the house and how it got out of hand. My word was I scared. Could have been fined $40 (400 or more rupees) but the cop let us off because we were green and ignorant.

It is summer now and pleasantly hot and mosquitoey. It is miserable in Rockhampton. Don’t forget we are on the coast 35 miles away. Fancy having Christmas in bikinis. I made myself a pair the other day and will be making some more. Much cheaper. The bikinis.

Gareth can now say mum, mum, mum, and sing This Old Man (hum it of course) and two of the children’s school songs. He understands quite a lot and shuts doors when he is told to, and shuts drawers. Gareth can’t see an open drawer without going up to it and pushing it in – I wonder what sort of complex he is going to have? He helps clear the dining table and also likes hosing the ducks, driving the car and mopping the floor. He has long conversations with anyone who is willing to have long conversations with him.

The older kids have just finished school and have been promoted with honours to the next grade. Marcello actually was given an E for mathematics so I’ll be working with them over the holidays trying to get them up to standard for the new term.

Now a couple of requests at your convenience: Could you collect stamps that come your way and shove them into an envelope to send to me? That is you keep them in a drawer until they number four or six or something and then send them. No hurry. There is a very nice kid who has asked me to write to my friends for them. The other request is for a copy of the Peace Corps Nepali cookbook I had. It disappeared in the post and I would very much like to have another copy to help me with the recipe book I’ll be working on. I don’t know how easy it is to get it but could you please try? Anything I can do for you at this end you only have to ask.

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14. Cakes and Neighbours Poem – Journal Entry 12th Nov 1969

My goodness Cynthia, I started this letter on the 4th and look what date it is.

Before I forget and I hope this letter gets to you before you leave, could you please post the enclosed letter to my mother? I’m sending it direct to her address (instead of through a friend) because she hasn’t written for several months and I’m rather worried.

Another thing I haven’t sent you your wedding present and will wait until you know a little more clearly what you will be doing and also what you have got so I can look around for something Australian. Still a koala bear or something eh?

I can drive now and back a little; still lots to learn but Johnny doesn’t seem to have much time to spare as there is always something else to do. However, for the past two mornings I drove the car to school and back. Great activity at the school – a fete on Saturday. I’m supposed to bake cakes for the cake stall, get wine bottles filled with cordial for the bottles stall and get some groceries for the groceries gambling stall. Big deal.

It is very nice living in a small community and being part of it. Everybody knows everybody else. You go for Bessemerware* parties, or to a tuckshop** meeting (yes the school has a tuckshop and I’m one of the helpers, once a month) or the P.T. Club^ which I run and all these sorts of things. I try to keep to myself as much as possible otherwise many useless hours are spent at some useless meeting or other.

It is warm again and we’re heading towards really hot weather fast.

I now bake cakes and enjoy doing so. The children have lots of friends calling after school and on weekends and of course mum is there to dish out cakes or biscuits and cordial. It is great to have all these little kids rushing into the kitchen eager for their afternoon tea. TEA is the evening meal, so you say afternoon tea when you mean tea in the English sense. My English is deteriorating fast. Do I make sense?

Emu Park family and friends in the moke, 1969

Gareth is very well – except that his canine and molar teeth are sprouting and he is in slight difficulties over them. We have long conversations together where he says something – very like a flowerpot man – I reply and he points and says something more… He is all over the place and I have to check very often to see where he is. I usually yell and he appears, rather pained at being disturbed from whatever he had been doing. He can also do a few jobs for me, very few of course. It’s a pity I don’t own a camera, however, I shall borrow one so I can send a photograph of him. Anna will be quite proud of him.

Footnotes:

*Bessemerware – An Australian company (Bessemer) started in the early 1960s, currently selling non-stick cookware and other products

**tuckshop – a small canteen selling food and drinks

^P.T. Club – Parent Teacher Club for fundraising

Poem-Neighbours
Poem by Gita 12th Nov 1969

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13. Mrs J’s Joke – Journal Entry 16th Oct 1969

[Disclaimer: If you are easily offended, please do not read the last paragraph of this post.]

“Wait, wait for the days whose shining garland still hangs before me to go out one by one. Finally the last one goes out and it is total blackness.” Camus

The day is so beautiful. Not brilliant because it looks as if it doesn’t know whether to cry or laugh. It has an undecided look which is quite becoming. Don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m like the farmers waiting for the drought to break. But will it? I have been so dry for so long. Insipid. At least the farmers have had a bit of rain.

The local policeman is making arrangements to take his chooks with him. He can’t bear to be parted from them. He is the young, earnest, broody guy who cleaned up Emu Park. The youths from all around would use the one main road as a racing track and terrify the pensioners.

The previous policeman took to writing a book. A detective yarn. People who went to make a complaint or just to pay their state insurance and would be asked to sit down, the complaint waved aside, and be made to listen to several chapters of his book. All the while the youths would be racing outside. The people were glad when he was transferred. The book doesn’t seem to have been published so far though his ‘victims’ look out for it.

Mrs K has been driving since she was 11 years old. They lived on a farm and not many were able to afford cars. Her mother sent a message through the children to the father asking if he would put up $500 if she did the same. He agreed and they were able to buy a more expensive car. Mrs K had her ears boxed when learning to drive. She drove most of her life and had lots of pets on the farm including koala bears. But she had always wanted a monkey so a monkey was brought from overseas – maybe from Africa? Anyway, it was not allowed to dock because of an epidemic in the home of the monkey and was sent back. Mrs K has always regretted it.

20th October 1969

Mrs K bought pullets and laying hens and said she could let them have a run on the lawns at the nun’s rest home. The nuns usually gave her their left-over groceries, at the end of their holiday, for the chooks. Mrs K said the dog had better not get at her chooks or she’d whack it.

Today we went to a poultry farm in Farnborough which used the battery system. What a cruel sight and sound. A real din. Rows and rows of fat white hens in wire cages, front and back, row upon row, some pecking at their food, some making before-laying noises, some almost bald with backsides hanging. The eggs rolled out to the long wire gutter-like contraption, ready for picking and grading.

Is it better to let the chooks scratch around on warm damp earth and then kill them or leave them in cages, their claws clinging onto the large wire mesh and kill them anyway after they’ve laid enough eggs? Why do we eat meat? And yet it’s so delicious. Horrible thought.

Mrs K and I went to visit Mrs J who breeds cats. Had the most beautiful Persian kittens at $22 each. She also had Siamese cats and the tom had it’s eye scratched out. The cockatoo says hello when people appear.

The Siamese tom is chained to prevent him mating with the low-caste neighbourhood cats. A Siamese cat was also chained near him because she is in kitten and Mrs J doesn’t want her too wild and savage. The cats are wild from birth and maybe the tom will be able to tame her.

Mrs J has a beautiful herd of goats, all expensive breeds.

She tells us, “I’m off my top they say because I keep goats. But I tell you something – you can talk to goats and they won’t repeat what you’ve said. That fellow there, I paid $100 for him.”

She also has a stud billy goat, a peacock and three peahens and lots of turkeys, ducks and chickens.

While Mrs K and I were looking at all of this, Mrs J says, “I heard a good joke yesterday – how many animals can you fit into a panty hose?” We didn’t know so she gave us the answer: “Two calves, one pussy and a thousand hairs.” Then she says, “You’d think they’d make up jokes about men for a change.” Mrs K, all Catholic, clean and embarrassed didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t manage a laugh.

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