106. The Allure of Romance Novels – Journal Entry 3rd Nov 1982

Dear Nora, 

Please forgive my delay; it’s been almost a week since I received your letter. Life is at its busiest right now.

In response to your three queries: Firstly, mum would prefer the lesser of the two prices quoted and will contribute half. Would you like us to keep the $150 (1500 rupees) here for you or would you want us to send a bank transfer in rupees? Secondly, come whenever you can. It does seem inadvisable for you and Henry to be away at the same time. Henry would be very welcome here anytime if he wishes to make a trip on his own. Finally, the road trip from Sydney to Rockhampton takes two nights and one day. It would cost say $100 (1000 rupees) without food. 

I would suggest you book Madras to Brisbane and Brisbane to Madras with an option to leave from Melbourne. Mum will buy you a plane ticket from Brisbane to Rocky when we know definite dates. Once you are here, we will book your Rocky to Brisbane or Rocky to Melbourne flight. The same arrangement could be used by Henry, of course. If you can raise the fare to Australia, we will look after you here.

Perhaps Mary can advise you on what to pack. You can borrow warm clothes from mum as I am sure you wouldn’t care for mine! If you are thinking of buying small presents for the folks here, may I delicately suggest that it would not be necessary as many Indian things are available here. I do agree you should pack as lightly as you can and remember, no seeds, rawhide leather, skins, plants or flowers are allowed into Australia.

I am posting this letter today as we have to go and withdraw mum’s money at the Post Office and I’m cashing the child endowment cheque too. I look forward to hearing about your plans!

4th November 1982

Today, Mum is off on a pensioners’ bus trip.

While dropping Barbara at the bus stop, I started thinking about Mills and Boon romance novels. Written by females, for female consumption, these novels are quite lucrative.  Nevertheless, educated women don’t seem to read them, and not all uneducated women read them either. Young girls, married women and old ladies read romance novels and have done so for nearly two-hundred years, according to a recent article of dubious scholarship. There are strict rules: passionate kissing and retaining one’s honour are allowed but rarely (in fact never) is fondling of the breasts or (god forbid) any touching below the waist. Sexual intercourse, and a certain amount of fondling, is now included within a particular subset of these novels. 

The heroine is usually independent and beautiful, with a sense of humour, honest and passionate. The men tend to be tall, handsome and quite ardent. They are often very wealthy farmers with large estates. Initially, there is antagonism and distrust, explained later as a ploy to fight against their mutual attraction. The main characters endure many incidents, working together in crises until eventually they can’t help but admire and respect one another. Usually, there is another male and female who delay our happy couple from finding true love. Finally, they come together and, as in fairy tales, live happily ever after.

The article in the Weekend Australian says that women’s taste for these novels indicates their interest in sex and, according to a Kinsey Report of the 1950s, more women were turned on by hardcore pornography than men. 

Off the cuff reply to that—from what one gathers after reading romantic novels, such as Jane Eyre, is that women want to feel powerful in the sense that the man wants her, and only her and that she can make him completely happy. On the other hand, only he can cause her to succumb and revel in her femaleness: burying his face in her beautiful hair and saying things like, “you elf-creature, what magic have you bound me with?” I’m not sure how explicitly the sexual act comes into it, not very I suspect unless the man is skilful enough to give her pleasure, intense pleasure at that. It seems that the sexual act is a vague part of the passionate kissing in a tight embrace.

We should keep in mind, I suppose, that these novels portray characters who are larger than life. The women are more beautiful,  competent, faithful and courageous than the female reader. The hero is handsome, humorous, wildly passionate but not out of control, and articulate enough to say most of the things women want to hear. He does not go off to the pub drinking with his mates. There is more than enough delightful concentration on the lucky couple; their preoccupation with one another would satisfy most female readers. However, what women read and what they want in real life might be two different things. How does one find that out?

103. Zilzie Beach – Journal Entry 16th Sep 1982

Toby and I plan to go for a long walk along Zilzie Beach on Thursday. I telephoned the newsagency about the advertisement and Woodworking magazine. I really must get my program working, telephone Johnny for hard copies, pay bills and work on cost accounting, otherwise the progress I’ve made this week will be lost.

18th September 1982

I make endless lists and schedules. The next three weeks will be very busy. Karen will only be home on 25 & 26 Sep so I’ll need to send her presents earlier, Gareth will be camping between 26-28 Sep and Barbara is now home for 2 weeks. Other jobs: cook for the wedding on 28 Sep, organise our Rocky day on 1 Oct, pick up books on woodworking machines and finally plan my study, specifically to finish methodology and cost accounting on time…oh and organise the roosters to be killed.

19th September 1982

Dear Nora,

We were wondering whether you will be visiting us in December? Mum seems to think you will be, but could you please let us know what your plans are? By the way, the international airport for Queensland is in Brisbane.

Mum also wanted to know about dad’s grave and how much money was involved—we didn’t get an answer about it.

At the risk of upsetting you, I would like to add my advice to M’s, that perhaps you should become very skilled in shorthand typing instead of pursuing a B.A.? The Indian B.A. is not worth much and as you know M has to do 80% of the Australian B.A. to get a recognisable degree. Shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and accounting are skills that could get you somewhere. Once you’ve acquired those basic skills, there is no reason you couldn’t just go onto the B.A. course. Unless you take extra units in a particular area such as social welfare, a diploma in teaching or computing to specialise, B.A. holders can usually get a clerical job.

20th September 1982

Read two articles in the Australian Women’s Weekly today. The first article provided advice on coping with arthritis: keeping cheerful, being well-rested and having confidence in oneself. The second article stressed the importance of keeping level-headed under pressure or when facing a crisis.

Tonight we will have Kofta curry, dhal with greens, onions in yoghurt and fried brinjal. After that we can have orange salad or maybe a whole orange each. 

Managed to finish William Golding’s Rites of Passage—such an unusual plot with highly polished and professional writing. Spent two hours typing Karen’s assignment to avoid my cost accounting and programming.

21st September 1982

I woke up this morning feeling nauseous. My back felt sore too. Nevertheless, I must bake chocolate cakes this afternoon. Fortunately, tonight’s dinner will require very little preparation: noodles with prawns, omelette strips, kabanas and vegetables from the garden. After I sort out my study schedule, I’ll ring Yeppoon High.

23rd September 1982

Very interesting extract from a letter by Thomas Gray to his friend Mr Bonstetten, Cambridge, April 12, 1770:

I must cite another Greek writer to you, because it is much to my purpose: he is describing the character of a genius truly inclined to philosophy: “It includes,” he says, “qualifications rarely united in one single mind, quickness of apprehension, and a retentive memory, vivacity and application, gentleness and magnanimity:” to these he adds “an invincible love of truth, and consequently of probity and justice. Such a soul,” continues he, “will be little inclined to sensual pleasures, and consequently temperate; a stranger to illiberality and avarice; being accustomed to the most extensive views of things, and sublimest contemplations, it will contract an habitual greatness, will look down with a kind of disregard on human life, and on death, consequently, will possess the truest fortitude. Such,” says he, “is the mind born to govern the rest of mankind.”

My back is still not getting better and causing me quite a bit of anxiety. Possible causes: a muscle pulled during an awkward movement; arthritis; degeneration of the lower spine, common in older women; colon or bone cancer; a virus. My legs seem to tire easily and I’m usually most comfortable lying on my back or stomach, so I shall persist with rest and gentle exercise. 

I’m off to Zilzie Beach with Toby.

99. The Cinderella Complex – Journal Entry 31st July 1982

Today I have some rather important jobs to complete and missed my morning exercises. Several bills must be paid, so I will need to check the bank balance to ensure we can cover them. I think my Calculus problems will take several hours and Johnny’s clothes do not appear to have ironed themselves. The morning is almost over. I’m pleased that I managed to convince Barbara to hose the garden instead of sitting on the lawn talking to herself.

2/8/82

This week looks fairly clear for catching up on study. Monika needs a lift to Yeppoon Hospital on Friday and the family are looking forward to the Rocky fete on Saturday. We may even have a picnic on Sunday depending on the weather. 

The day unfortunately started with Johnny and I arguing briefly about Henry Miller. In spite of that, I read several interesting articles in the National Times: When the Bad Times Came, a short story written by Fay Weldon about urban families and infidelity; then and a review of a book on women’s dependence on men, The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling, which Yvonne Preston described as a flimsy, superficial study of women, containing half-truths. She pointed out it did not mention that men also wanted to leave the world of work and be dependent on someone and that few women are capable of supporting a man. “We badly need a book which starts, not from the readily assumed premise of female weaknesses, but from questioning the readily assumed strength of the male of the species,” she said.

Another article of interest was of women, and no doubt men, advertising for other interesting people as a means of widening their social circle. Pickups at a bar were deemed unsatisfactory. A group of women advertised and set up lunch meetings instead. It turned out to be highly successful. 

3/8/82

My mind is a jumble of thoughts, possibly brought on by Orwell’s Burmese Days. I read half of it and then read the ending. After that I reread the passage in The Road to Wigan Pier, where Orwell describes his upbringing in a shabby-genteel family and makes accurate observations on class distinction and class hatred; very applicable here to the Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal conflict I think. 

Today is another clear day for study. Barbara is still at home and getting worse; we have had to increase the tranquilliser dosage. Johnny is at an evening meeting of the CQ computer users society and I need to pop out to pick up some kerosene.

Letter to Max

Mum was so happy to receive your letter and especially pleased that L liked the bicycle parts she sent for him. Maybe he could write her a few lines if he has not already done so? Attached to this letter are photocopies; it is all I could find in the library on flush doors and I hope it is of some use to you.

We are picking up two second-hand books this week on building construction. I am told that although they do not have much on flush doors, they are useful books to own, so I hope you will find them interesting and informative. There are very few books available on woodworking machines it seems, but we will go ahead with another advert in the Saturday paper to see what we get and will be posting William Watson Sharp’s book, Australian Methods of Building Construction. It is now out of print so quite a challenge to find this copy. Your job could definitely improve your woodworking skills.

About the home problem… you seem to be doing the right thing especially as A is dependent on you. She is the children’s mother and the three of you are responsible for her, no?

Talking to Mary from time to time should help, but don’t forget Mary and Cliff may leave in a few years, so enjoy their company while you can. Mary had said she would like to help the kids with their homework. Impress upon the children the importance of a good education.

You should keep healthy and cheerful now you are in charge. Please do not hesitate to let us know your troubles. Mum will help if she can. Writing to us will help you clarify your problems.

Thanks for inviting mum; she has read and re-read your letter so many times! She thinks about writing but when it comes to putting pen to paper, she cannot think of what to say; perhaps because I usually do the letter writing for her.

27. The Brahmin – Journal Entry 18th July 1978

He was so kind to me, the brahmin with a hare-lip. One could hardly make out what he said, yet he talked without apparent embarrassment. He taught me just one thing: I don’t think he needed to worry about my other faults, the one he pointed out was the worst and most important. My family background was pretty rough and occasionally for entertainment, we made fun of people with physical defects or queer mannerisms.

For some reason, I suppose because Mr Subramaniam carried his hare-lip so naturally and with such dignity, I hardly noticed it. He was so helpful to me, an awkward 15 year old, gaining experience as an unpaid typist. He found the office a busy and unfriendly place.

However, someone else amused me, another person who tried to help me, but who, to me, seemed suspect. He was a droll character, with his techno-coloured silk shirts, large moustache and rolling eyes. His eyes and hands seemed to move together in all directions, but definitely in harmony.

Mr Subramaniam must have seen the mocking amusement on my face, but he didn’t say anything until one day I commented on how funny Mr X looked. He didn’t laugh, just looked at me and asked quietly what right I had to make fun of Mr X; he then softened the rebuke by saying that many people made rude fun of others and that it would be a pity if I behaved like them. He then amused me by jotting down shorthand phrases and getting me to read them; they were practice phrases from the Pitman’s Shorthand Instructor.

Indian Dress

In any society there are three important and highly conventional forms. These three forms are very basic.

  1. The getting and eating of food
  2. The getting and exercise of sex
  3. The way people dress

Studying these three basic forms will give us some idea of a society’s structure and philosophy.

When looking at the dress of another culture, we must remember we are looking at the end result of a long process. For example, European dress allegedly began with some fig leaves then animal-skin loin cloths which rapidly progressed to bustle skirts for women and smoking jackets for men to some present day cheeky swimming gear for the beach.

Long Indian skirts for women and loose Indian lalchi or jibbah for the men are from ancient Indian sculpture and it would appear that the dress of the early Indians of both sexes was simply jewellery around the neck, waist, wrists and ankles. The next stage seems to have been sarong-like garments of fine material, presumably cotton.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • This appears to be a story followed by an article, however, my mother had worked in an office in India in the late 60s and knew Pitman’s shorthand.