104. It’s a fair mongrel! – Journal Entry 24th Sep 1982

I had a wonderful break on the beach yesterday. It was so relaxing to lie in the hot sun, talk, eat and look around at the calm blue sea; the beach sprinkled with people. Even a surf fisherman was up to his knees in foam.

I wonder if anyone would run a second-hand bookshop in Emu Park, together with a book exchange? Might be worth pursuing.

Karen rang to thank the family for their presents. She had an excellent day with many of her friends wishing her for her birthday.

Today I must: finish cost accounting exercises; finish methodology chapter five; make dinner of fish baked in tomato and lemon, served with carrots, followed by mulberries and custard for pudding; go to the post office; buy tomatoes and more vegetables.

Mum and I strolled down to the post office and bought a crab for our lunch.

27th September 1982

Had to chase members of the family for most of the morning; it was one of those mornings where everyone needed reminding about something. It seems like a lifetime has passed since I woke up at 5 am. 

29th September 1982

Panic! Panic! September is almost over. The semester is almost over. And yet I do not have firm control of my subjects. While Karen and Gareth are not here, I shall do as much study as possible. Barbara, who is home for the next two weeks, will need extra attention. She informed me of her break when she returned home from the Activity Training Centre.

Why do I feel hassled? Stop it! It’s a lovely morning. There are plenty of opportunities to catch up and get ahead. I have already written the shopping list, had my breakfast and exercised. Johnny has very kindly done the Yeppoon run while I have been scattering grapeshot for the past few days. Johnny warned me of it. Someday I should record my gaffes.

In the meantime, dinner preparations are about to begin for Bavarian meatballs, rice, pumpkin and a capsicum and bean salad. We shall have freshly picked pawpaw for pudding.

2nd October 1982

Yesterday was special. Students of Methodology spent a whole day at the Institute in discussion with our teacher P. Galle. He is such a skilled teacher; we were privileged to have him hold the session for the seven of us; it was of great benefit.

Gareth cooked dinner. It was delicious. My date with Johnny that night, a truly wonderful one,  began with Löwenbräu München and crisps. Johnny dropped off to sleep at around 11 pm. I slipped away to join mum and Marcello. We watched the Commonwealth Games into the early hours of the morning.

3rd November 1982

After breakfast this morning, I made Johnny a cut lunch. He has to go to Rocky for a tutorial with a group of external third-year students.

Today I will be making a cake for the Bowling club which mum must be able to carry since I don’t have a car. Apart from the usual housework and study, I will prepare dinner—hamburgers and chocolate cake.

Here’s an interesting snippet: heard a comment by a driver in the Hardie Ferodo race comment on his view of the road. He said, “It’s a fair mongrel!”

4th October 1982

The game is on! Only six weeks to go before the exams and a great deal of study remains. Tomorrow I must pay the bank card, pickup Melleril for Barbara, remind Marcello to get chops or sausages, drive the family to the beach at 11 am, take mum bowling and drop off bottles at St Vincent.

These days I only seem to manage a few quick paragraphs in the diary.

8th October 1982

The heavy teaching workload for Johnny is now worse. Five out of thirteen teachers remain. Three or four subjects are to be distributed among the remaining teachers for the next two weeks—on top of their already very full loads.

To back Johnny up over the next year, I must get on top of my studies, run the house efficiently and earn a living. If I can contribute to the family finances, it will lighten his load.

More pressing right now is to keep Barbara busy until lunchtime. She is recovering somewhat from her withdrawal and is already talking about lunch. It is only 10:40 am.

102. Two Days Lost – Journal Entry 8th Sep 1982

Oh, dear! Two days lost. Was it the combination of red wine and oranges the night before that triggered an extremely severe headache and frequent vomiting? Waves of nausea and constant vomiting continued until midday on Monday, accompanied by intense throbbing head and eye pain.

Finally it has eased. I feel weak but need to tackle the jobs that have piled up. First some planning:

Wednesday jobs:  Programming 1B, Cost accounting, type tax papers, write letters to the Rocky Permanent Building Society and Shannon, post letters, clean bedroom, pick beans and prepare one of the family’s favourite dinners, Bavarian meatballs with tomato and bacon sauce and brown rice. Simple and nourishing.

Thursday’s jobs: Programming 1B, Methodology, letters to Mary and Max, prepare a talk, weed the garden, make bangers and mash and cheese tart for dinner.

10th September 1982

I am expecting a call from Mr Carpenter, who lives in Yeppoon, about woodworking courses at TAFE. I also spoke to Ken Sinclair about whether they run a typewriter mechanics course. He patiently explained that although they don’t have a typewriter mechanics course, he would be interested to explore the possibilities. He wanted to talk for quite a while.  From our conversation, I gathered that adult education courses are not going well, in fact he is quite short of ideas. I have thought for some time that there should be adult education in Emu Park and so has Edral Damrow. However, do others feel the same, and if so, what sorts of skills or knowledge would they want to acquire or access? 

Nancy Balsys has taught Batik in Emu Park and she intends to ask her friends what interests them, what they are doing and why, and what they think should happen. Nancy’s husband Ron offered to look after their children so she could attend an activity one night a week. She found a yoga class which she could attend casually; other courses went too long and expected regular attendance and commitment.

I would like to identify local snakes and spiders; being able to discern which are poisonous would mean I could avoid killing them unnecessarily in the garden and chook pens. I also want to learn how to service my typewriter, and would like to see discussion groups form for these types of skills training.

A tentative plan would be to ask Edral to organise a meeting of a few women to look at community learning groups. Possibly a Citizen’s Advisory Bureau? I need to find out what is going on in Emu Park, now and in the past five years. There may be resources that could be tapped from the local school. I wonder if the Progress Association might be interested to organise courses or to back a community newsletter?

14th September 1982

Today, after the breakfast dishes, I must attend to Johnny’s desk and clean the study. I still have the problem of white ants. Library books must be returned, bills paid and prezzie buying organised through Johnny. I will telephone Mr Carpenter on 391830 about woodworking courses and finish off the letter to Mary and Maxy.

Dinner was delicious: veal chops marinated in lemon juice with a drizzle of Marsala, accompanied by the delightful Sauce Messine, potatoes in a box, lettuce salad and carrots. Pudding of fresh mulberries in sugar, ice cream and cream was thoroughly enjoyed by all, as it usually is. With satisfyingly full bellies, everyone went off to different parts of the house.

I was guest speaker at the CWA annual general meeting and had to speak for fifteen minutes on litter. I could think of nothing more dull than litter, especially at an AGM! After a brief introduction, I used the search technique and elicited answers from those at the meeting using two questions: What do you think is the litter problem, and, what should be done about it? A lively discussion followed and one member told me she was highly amused at the way I had everyone contributing their ideas instead of coming up with the information myself. Another representative of the RSL and Rifle Club was pleasantly surprised. On his way to the meeting he had been wondering how the topic could possibly be interesting he told me. He even contributing some clever ideas of his own!

69. Pension Granted – Journal Entry 5th Jun 1981

Dear Nora,

Your letter and card with the family photograph arrived yesterday.

Mum says your children have grown so much since she last saw them that she hardly recognises them. We think D looks a lot like Marcello did at that age, and Monika, in particular, was struck by the likeness. We searched for a photo of Marcello to compare but couldn’t find a single one. I have yet to take a good photograph of Karen and stopped taking photographs for about five years now. Silly really. The children change so much and it’s nice having pictures of them.

Mum is looking forward to seeing you next year. Delaying your visit was no bad thing as money is extremely tight here at present. We would have been upset at not giving you a good time.

Barbara returned last night after the bus tour up to Townsville. She talked until she fell asleep and then started talking again when she woke up.

Barbara goes to the Activities Therapy Centre, the adult section of a school for the mentally retarded. The “trainees” at the centre make handicrafts such as beadwork, clothes-peg furniture and beer bottle holders.

Barbara used to receive $5 per week but that was stopped years ago. Now everyone only gets $1 per fortnight and families have to pay $6 per week for activities and outings. As you probably know, we live thirty-five miles from where the centre is located in Rockhampton, and for years had trouble getting Barbie there and back. Now a free bus takes Emu Park children to both the special school and the sub-normal school. Barbara is allowed to catch the bus with them and it has made a huge difference, she is so much more independent.

Thanks for being so quick to get dad’s death certificate to us. We have lodged it with the pensions office and now wait to see if mum will be given a widow’s pension. Mum was so excited when the certificate arrived, she had been worrying about delays in the post.

16th July 1981

Yes, the days slip by so quickly.

Where has this time gone since I started this letter to you? With a bit of luck, it should reach you before your birthday.

Happy birthday! We hope you have a wonderful time. How does it feel to be forty? Almost the age of reason, no?

The good news is that mum now gets the pension and it has made a tremendous difference to her morale – she seems perkier than she has ever been. The great thing, apart from money, is that pensioners receive concessions for travel, theatre tickets and many other activities – often at half rates. Mum would like to go on a bus tour to see parts of Australia and is now saving; it will take quite some time so nothing is planned as yet.

Barbie emptied her money-box and I took her to the shops to buy printed sheets. She even had enough for a matching pillowcase. Karen had bought sheets with money she had earned at a cafe so Barbara wanted a pair too. Barbie’s next project, she tells me, is to buy a skirt; she is very careful with her pocket money and only buys two soft drinks a week.

About the land at Perungudi, do the two children want it? I really have no idea of the set-up there so perhaps you can let me know what is going on, how they are and their attitude to the place. Perhaps it could be sold so they can use the money?

In one of your letters, you mentioned giving money to Max. What is happening? Is he earning enough and does he have many people to support? We would like to know if we can help, I can’t of course, but mum would be able to.

The typewriter I’m using keeps sticking. Electric typewriters are expensive to repair so it hardly seems worth fixing.

I haven’t heard from M for a while, no doubt she is busy settling into her new home in Melbourne. I shall post this letter while I’m out taking mum for her monthly checkup at the clinic.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • My brother Jeffrey and sister Sandra (referred to as ‘the two children’ above) have been added to the family tree in Gallery.
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

68. A Strong Urge To Write – Journal Entry 24th May 1981

A feeling of restlessness overcomes me with a strong urge to write.

I would like to especially write about the children – to exorcise certain passages of my life and to explain to them why things happened as they did.

Of course, we’re guilty.

We’ll always be guilty.

Also, I would like to write a recipe book for the children of the favourite dishes we have made and enjoyed over the years, so they can cook them for their own families.

There are so many little stories I want to write about – the story of Barbara being one of them – and never mind if they don’t get into print, it would be a challenge.

So many women these days are writing about the relationship between men and women and their “search for identity”. Johnny says this phase should last a long time because men and women are interested in each other and will continue to be so. I wonder if equality is a middle-class preoccupation vigorously pursued by female graduates?

Right now, the path I have chosen is to finish Computer Science this year and revise basic maths next year.

Today is Sunday, an extremely lovely sunny day, warm outside but almost cold inside. The earth is damp from three days of rain and the strong winds have tattered a few of the pigeon-pear bushes.

Barbara and I worked in the garden for a while. The shallots and garlic are nearly ready to harvest and the peas and beans are sprouting. I hope we have a good crop of vegetables this winter, the plants shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain.

Marcello and Monika are getting married while on holidays in the Atherton Tablelands and Karen wants to go. We weren’t invited as they will take their vows while on holiday up north; they seem pretty keen on the idea.

25th May 1981

A constant pain in my head has spirited away any gardening pleasure.

Mum and I sat in the Women’s Rest Centre, an excellent circular building on the riverbank with large windows and a verandah. The tea was lovely and the woman who is in charge of the service is always friendly. Mum used the lavatory and didn’t see the sign saying there was a charge of five cents a time. When I pointed it out, she tried to shove five cents into the money box for the Blue Nursing Service! Managed to stop her just in time.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at “Vinnies Boutique”, fossicking about in the second-hand goods. Nathaniel loved the swing and slide in the church garden. The place was packed with people looking through rack after rack of clothes. As always, I checked the books and found several histories of chemistry, advertising, communication and rockets. They were slightly damaged, presumably from rain, and a little smelly, but apart from that the print was fine and the pictures, especially the old diagrams, were exquisite.

On the way back we stopped at Boyen Valley Saw Mill and picked up some free firewood. Cedric has quoted $50 for a truckload.

The afternoon was spent at home with homework, dinner and more homework.

Dinner was very pleasant with the family in a good mood over their lamb chops.

26th May 1981

Today I must sort out the Progress Association minutes and see Sam for the meeting later in Rockhampton at 7:30 pm.

After unloading firewood from the Land Rover, I made scones and cakes for afternoon tea and curry and dhal for dinner. Barbara will be pleased.

Had lunch with Johnny and caught up with the homework group.

There is always something to be done, today was no exception, but it seems a bit of a messy day with no long, quiet stretches.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

Additions to Gallery – 21st Oct 2018

The following photos have been added to the Gallery for My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series.

Prior to 1968

Johnny-Pre1969
Johnny Pre-1968

1969 / 1970 Sydney

1970-LeavingEmuPark
Presentation to Gita by CWA 1970 for teaching yoga and other activities.
1970Sydney
Sydney: (Front) Marcello, Johnny, a friend, Karen (Back) Gareth, Gita
Version 4
Gita 1970
Version 2
Johnny 1970

1981

1981-MumGarethNat
Gita, Gareth, Nathaniel 1981

60. Settling In Australia – Journal Entry 19th Nov 1980

My dear M,

We are delighted with your good news. I am so excited I cannot settle down to my siesta.

We would love to have you here, there are jobs, but let us be cautious and say that the two of you should not find it difficult to earn a living.

However, we should take a long view of your life here and try to work out what might be best.

My own preference would be to advise you to stay in Queensland with us for one or two years until you become reasonably “Aussiefied”. I think your mum would be happier with that arrangement, no?

With R’s Bachelor of Commerce, a three-year external course on computing should make him highly competitive; within a year he would be viable. Without knowing too much, even now he should be able to get a nine to five job in some business without any difficulty.

I envisage both of you doing some study for a few years. Courses are free at tertiary institutions, but books and transport would be at your own expense.

If you would enjoy living thirty-five miles away from your place of work, be close to the sea on the weekends and holidays, lead a very quiet life, work hard for the next three years, then we would suggest you stay with us until you find your feet.

Now about what to bring, I find it hard to recommend anything. You need very little by way of household goods and only the most precious and personal possessions. Maybe sheets and towels to last three to five years? Shirts are about $20 to $30 each; maybe R already has a few suits? He could do with a few smart trousers I suppose. Menswear, for most business purposes, is casual; it is too hot otherwise, except only a couple of months a year.

Again you would need enough office clothes to last a few years. There are plenty of second-hand clothes shops that only charge a couple of dollars for clothes.

To explain: Johnny and I believe in making do with what we can get locally without hankering for foreign or “back home” goods. However, it is so good to have silk saris and gold jewellery to wear on special occasions.

Most masalas, Indian bedspreads, clothes and chappals are available in Australia; a little expensive in some cases, but not excessively so.

You might like bringing things like stainless steel cooking gear, plates and tumblers, enough say to entertain six to eight people. Stainless steel utensils are associated with hospitals here!

I enjoy occasionally setting a table for friends using banana leaves or stainless steel plates with tumblers to match – they seem to get a thrill out of it!

Bring a dosai skillet, cooking spoon, dhal masher or anything uniquely Indian for your own use – even an idli pot if you wish.

After discussing all of this with Johnny, his view is to get on without delay to one of the big cities (where the head offices are) if you are career-minded and want to get on in the world. Please don’t get the idea that we don’t want you to stay with us, we would like you to, but as Johnny suggests, it might not be a clever thing to do now.

There are such places as migrants’ hostels where you stay until you are able to set up on your own. I shall find out details about the migrant hostels in Brisbane or Sydney for you; we stayed in one.

I find it difficult to advise you on where to live without knowing your philosophy or aim in life. The weather should be the least of your worries when choosing a capital city. Melbourne is said to have the worst weather and is extremely changeable, even in one day. Sydney is colder than Brisbane and both are delightful in summer although Brisbane can be very hot. Don’t get me wrong, our northern winters are like a hot summers day in England or New Zealand! I like our mild winter here.

While I am delighted for you, I feel sad for those you will leave behind. You could well suffer from culture shock – the smells, sounds and gestures are all different. Now we love Australia and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Brisbane and Sydney are both good places to live in. Brisbane is more “rural” or should I say like a large thriving country town. Sydney is a lot colder, but don’t bring any woollens, there are plenty around.

Gran has left it to us to advise you she is very happy for you.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

56. Letter From A Year Ago – Journal Entry 16th Jun 1979

I’m sitting outside the student cafeteria, trying to stay cool under a big umbrella. Today we have a minor test in preliminary maths, a course run by Johnny, which I started at the beginning of the year. With approximately one hour to go, I decided to reply to your letter. I’m reading an excellent book by Zimmer called Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilisation, however, I found it difficult to concentrate on.

The campus here is really beautiful as tertiary institution campuses go. A landscape expert was hired and within a couple of years, the garden improved out of sight. Large rocks, huge lumps of driftwood and two or three bleached tree trunks are arranged attractively with trees and flowering shrubs grouped in hillocks. Mind you, winter here is mild – about 15 degrees Celsius in the morning – and the gardens are so colourful, just about anything will grow in winter if you take the trouble to tend the plants, even daffodils.

To get back to the campus and the people milling around, I just like being in a learning environment. I suppose having stopped school so early could account for it. I could be an eternal student if circumstances would allow it. We shall see.

The course I’m doing is something designed for adults, it prepares one for entry to a maths degree or just for the pleasure of doing mathematics. It’s an excellent course that was designed in England with great results. Johnny introduced it here for the first time this year and three lecturers have put many hours of work into developing it for Australians. There are great notes and tapes to accompany the texts. The drop-out rate, however, among part-timers has been high as they just found it too hard. So that will be something for the Maths Department to think about.

In the course of my letters, I’ll try to convey the flavour of life here, though we’re rather prejudiced. We think life in Queensland is really “beaut” if you’re independent, handy and make your own life instead of hankering after the pleasures of a big city. One feels isolated here, one is isolated, but as long as there is mobility, trips south to catch up on news, new things, say once a year, life in Central Queensland can be very good. Sydney we loved, an unusual city with its ferries, gardens and swimming pools; Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide I don’t know and look forward to visiting them sometime in the future.

To get off the subject of Australia, I was wondering if you could look out for old recipe books on Indian cooking from the second-hand book stalls or friends. I have Veerasami’s cookbook. I don’t particularly want the latest books, unless you think them worth having. Ask Aunty Nora too, she may be able to pick up something.

Also I wonder if R would mind giving me recipes that the hotel uses – the kormas and biriyanis seem hard to reproduce here – actually any recipes of Indian cooking as I’m deeply interested. Last year I ran a course on basic Indian cooking and could have run a couple more this year if I hadn’t started this course.

I am also very interested in kolams. Aunty Nora sent me some pamphlets years ago and Jaya drew some kolams for me. If you are able to dig up information on them and any stories on Indian food, I’d be grateful.

The Travels of Marco Polo is useful to give you an idea of what life must have been long ago and yet one asks, has anything changed? Nilakanta Sastri’s History of South India gives one a glimmer. I deeply regret not learning much about Indian life and culture, especially when I am asked about certain customs and taboos. When we first came here we were dismayed at the barrenness of culture when compared to India and Southeast Asia. The streets here are empty, no drums are heard, there is very rarely a procession and the markets are missing…

When we returned from the Philippines, I appreciated the privacy, the having to “do for oneself”, the way of life, the freedom to take whatever job one wanted without worrying about loss of status. Mind you there are some silly people around but then you get them everywhere.

Blast it, the more I think about it, the more I’m attracted to going back to India to explore a few things, just to revel in its crowds, flower bazaars, trains, silks, dances and music… above all Kathakali, whole nights of Kathakali.

Gran keeps trying the local lotteries (it’s seven years since she left India) she’d like to go back for a visit, mainly to see the family.

Got to go.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Found this draft letter from 1979 amongst notes and journals on loose-leaf papers dated 1980, so I have added this to the journal series with some of my mother’s hand-drawn kolams.
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page.

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.