62. What I Want To Be – Journal Entry 23rd Dec 1980

Baked little chocolate cakes for Gran to take to her Christmas breakup party at the Pensioner’s Club and then had a long talk with Johnny about what he would really like to be doing.

“Be an independent scientist or scholar, work less at my academic job and more in the real world,” he says.

Johnny’s interests are anthropology and social sciences. Ideally, he would like to take two or three years off to do more arts, act in more plays, write more, and play flute and bagpipes. He would improve the present set up so he could read more books, peruse ACM periodicals and work on algebraic manipulation and programming on small computer networks. Perhaps, he says, a PhD on mathematical programming for small computers and probabilistic networks; maybe even write a series of papers.

“What would you like to do?” Johnny asks.

I would like to learn to use the resources around us, write books, grow trees and shrubs, study, read, work part-time, learn to repair cars, do household repairs, learn about plumbing, sewing and embroidery. I would like to travel interstate more and work in the Emu Park community, especially at the planning level.

I want to be a well-disciplined person with good general knowledge and skills in many areas, continue my studies in the Department, in at least one area, and lead a fairly steady and well-balanced life. In order to achieve this, there must be strict adherence to study before relaxing my guard. The essentials are 15 mins exercising, 30 mins writing in my diary, 3 hours of study, 2 hours of reading, 1 hour in the kitchen, a ½ hour at the bus stop and do 1 hour of homework each weekday at 4 pm.

15th Jan 1981

Went to the beach at 6 am with Karen and we met Sister Benedict and Sister Elizabeth. They were returning to the convent after a paddle in the sea and a stroll along the beach.

They were down to only four nuns in the convent so Sr Benedict had come with four new nuns to make up the numbers. They will be building a new convent soon at Lammermoor Beach.

Sr Elizabeth said that these things take a while to set up and get started. I noted it was important to get an organisation going, well before worrying too much about housing, and Sr Benedict agreed. I made the observation that the nuns were crowded at the Sisters of Mary’s house and that they were all too accessible.

“Too accessible, Gita, too accessible!” Sr Benedict laughed, highly amused. The Benedictines are an enclosed order.

Karen and I continued on our walk to the beach. We tried the new “scout” gait of running a certain number of steps and walking a certain number of steps. This way of travelling by foot is said to be effective for covering great distances.

Dusty was let off the lead and ran around most vigorously. She has a bad habit when greeting people and demonstrated it on Dick. Dusty ran up to him and practically shoving her nose up his bum before sniffing his ankles. Dick didn’t react much though! He goes running every day and must be quite used to dogs chasing him.

On seeing me running, Dick grinned. “Are you trying to take some weight off?” he asked.
I’m sure he wasn’t even aware of the beauty of the restless waves in the early morning light.

Johnny worked at home today so I cancelled our planned picnic lunch at Farnborough.

Nancy and Ron’s new house is made out of rough rock block and wood with a verandah out the back and a porch at the front. Beautiful views from practically every window, of green fields, a few hills, and far away in the distance, the sea glistening in the sunlight. There was a slow combustion stove in the kitchen keeping the water hot, lots of pine and a cupboard full of pottery, cookbooks, crockery, jars of wholemeal spaghetti, beans, soy sauce and various decorative vegetables. In the sitting room were a few old pieces of furniture and a small bookshelf containing books on mothercraft. The rest of the spaces were taken up with toys and more toys. Hanging baskets and potted plants hung on the back verandah with the usual washing tubs and washing machine. Ron had built most of the house himself and Nancy had planted most of the trees. They spent most weekends last year on getting the house ready. I hope they do great things there, it’s a lovely patch of earth.

17th Jan 1981

After a fairly busy morning, I went to the kitchen to find Gran had started on the cake icing and made quite a mess of it. I was a bit annoyed. I gave her a small lecture later on about not being hasty. Anyway, I put the icing through the mouli and beat in a couple of yolks but the icing remained sticky. We couldn’t pack the patty cakes in sets of six so we took the lot down to the Bowling Club street stall and left the organisers to sort them out. After leaving the cupcakes at the stall, I bought a piece of pumpkin and some passionfruit while Gran bought raffle tickets. The raffle prize was a beautifully iced cake. It was a large heart-shaped cake with white icing and on top were a lovely arrangement of delicate pink open-petalled icing flowers with blue stigma. Bev won the cake and the club made about $130 on the sale of cakes, plants and vegetables at their stall. I drove the family home and Karen and I went for a long walk along the beach.

18th Jan 1981

This morning I had a small chat with Johnny about not seeing much of each other in the past 24 hours. Johnny has been playing Piquet with Gareth and they’ve been having a lot of fun over it. It’s a game they’ve just taught themselves and they’re keen to play it, their best card game so far.

I’ve been taking long walks with Karen and Dusty. The beach this morning was crowded with families, dogs, surfboards and kites. Mum was taken to the church in Yeppoon and has just returned to one of her nutritious breakfasts: yoghurt, cereal, malt, molasses, fruit and honey for the first course and toast and apricot jam for the second, although she usually has a couple of fried eggs on her toast.

The topic of conversation on the beach yesterday was about sex and violence in our society against women, mainly pack rape and rape in one’s bedroom by an intruder. Karen and I decided to take lessons in self-defence! This morning we talked about the family and wondered what everyone would do with their lives in the future.

It is raining now and seems to be settling in for a while. I must make a rag doll for Nathaniel, revamp the clothes in my wardrobe, get a brush and brown paint for the dining room table legs, make the pork adobo and do lots of reading and writing.

For lunch, I made soybean vada and brinjal chutney. Ellen called before lunch and Johnny lent her a small pile of good books to read, like The Savage Mind, The Black People of Bourke, etc. It was so good to see Ellen again.

In the evening we went to Greg’s housewarming party and Karen and Gareth seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
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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

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11. Tree Poem and Locals – Journal Entry 17th Jul 1969

Strange sort of evening. First dinner with the speakers of tomorrow’s symposium on technology in Queensland and the way in which the institute* can help. There were about eight or nine spread over this huge dinner table, everyone madly trying to make conversation.

Sketch didn’t come for the dinner, apparently he was very tired and had plonked himself in front of the TV, not looking at it. He did walk in during the dinner to have a word with his wife and then pushed off again.

We then went onto a concert by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. A rather big social event in Rocky but the concert wasn’t good except for a young girl who played the violin rather well. She looked lovely too.

18th July 1969

A beautiful day; cloudy and sunny in turns. I went to visit a friend and read his poetry. I rode there on the bike with Gareth on my back. On the way home, young Buster Brown (Gareth) dropped a shoe. Seeing the darn pair cost four dollars, I went to search for it, found it and we had fish and chips for lunch on the beach.

Couldn’t sleep or think because Gareth thought I lay on the sand to allow him to jump on my back, the sand flying most of the time. He enjoyed himself though. And he does love chips.

A super day all in all.

The things that made it super were:

  1. Being given a seal-top mug for Buster Brown
  2. Being given a duck
  3. Buying tiny tumblers for visiting children at $2 each
  4. Buying cigars
  5. Chatting with Anita P’s mother who I’m going to play cards with one day
  6. The electrician turning up; a huge guy wearing a shirt like mine and humming merrily

We chatted about almost everything. The children and two of their friends came in while we were having tea. They looked confused so I served milk and cakes to them, talking madly to Callow all the time. A very, very, nice man. And he sawed a bit off the legs of a bar stool Johnny bought me. I sat on it at the kitchen table excitedly chopping onions. He had turned up when I was out and Mrs O’D told him I might be at Bunny’s. Well I’d left Bunny’s place for quite a bit, came home and was told Callow was searching for me. So I tried to phone the motel to see if he was working there. A search was made, but no Callow. In fact, he pitched up here while this kind woman who answered the phone was scouring the motel for him.

Marvellous place Emu Park.

Was there ever such a place as Emu Park? Or is it like most small towns, friendly, informal and all-knowing? It has everything has Emu Park, except emus of course. Emus roamed her unborn streets long ago but what was she named before the emus came?

I’ll stop rambling.

SkinnyTreesPoem
Poem by Gita July 1969

Now for the people. I always say it’s the people who make a place. Don’t you think so too? I mean Emu Park has beaches, fish and chips, sunshine and islands the same as everybody else and yet she has more appeal than any she-town.

Why, there is Mrs D who talks in a croak, makes tea, holds raffles and cleans floors for her club. She donated $4 to her club only last week and got her name in the papers for that. Mrs M, who writes a bit of our social chat is sixty, excitable, inquisitive, short-sighted and gets her facts deliberately wrong. She has more dust in her shop than goods, likes cats, has a lover and dines out someplace every Sunday night. Her husband works for her but he is there and not there. Mrs L, who helps her son to run his shop, swears she gets beaten whenever she forgets the price of something. A fisherman, very old, who has a fish run on one of the beaches, loves to fish all day. The shop owners don’t like hawkers because it spoils their sales. The owner of the local dinky supermarket is dying and is such a good man.

Mrs J keeps goats and they think she is off her top.

Footnote:

*The institute refers to the Queensland Institute of Technology (Capricornia) in Rockhampton  where Johnny worked as an academic. In 1972 it became the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education and then in 1990 it became known as the University College of Central Queensland. Re-branded as CQUniversity Australia in 2008.

 

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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

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  • 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

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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
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