108. Worms – Journal Entry 7th Nov 1982

Monika and I have had a range of discussions over the past few days: advantages and disadvantages of higher education, how to conduct arguments at the Parents Association meetings, borrowing money and the various types of Mills & Boon romance novels (M&B).
She told me about the M&B romances between a white woman with a black slave or a white man with an exotic slave woman. Even mum became involved in our M&B discussions and very kindly bought me a pile of old M&B books from a street stall in Mount Morgan. I was amused to come across phrases such as, “feeling the male hardness rising,” or others where passionate embraces extended below the waist: “Molding her to him with his hands firmly on her hip or lower back…” Quite an unusual practice within M&B romance fictions.

Our discussion about the inevitable conflicts that arise when working in groups, setting up meetings and generally getting things done in a group or organisation, such as the Parents Association, was interesting. Monika realises the importance of conducting a discussion coolly and articulately. She finds valid arguments when away from the group but doesn’t do well in the actual situation. The house discussions on such matters were quite helpful, she said.

I rang Karen yesterday to pass on Johnny’s thanks for her magnificent birthday present—a bottle of Courvoisier VSOP. We had a long chat and discussed the Christmas holiday camping plans. 
The most amusing bit of the conversation was on worms. She had worms, she said. 
“How did you know?” I asked. She told me Chris looked. 
“Why didn’t you look yourself, you nit?” I exclaimed and went on at great length about the modern toilets flushing away excrement which could otherwise be examined for such purposes and how the old latrines were best because the excrement stayed where it was dropped until one flushed it away. Karen interrupted my long speech to tell me she had not examined her excrement. 
“What?!” 
She felt itchy, she said and suspected worms, so Chris examined her and confirmed having seen a worm. The three or four friends then took worm medicine. 
“What do you want to show your arse to him for?” I asked rather foolishly, laughing at the image and wondering at the openness of the present generation. 
My feelings on the matter are that incidents like shitting in the beloved’s presence or having your anus examined by the lover, decrease the mystery or romance of a relationship. Johnny doesn’t agree with me and yet he will not even pee in my presence. I don’t think it is because of my attitude. I think I even asked him once and he just said that was how our relationship was. 

I went for a long walk along Ritamada Beach and saw a young, stocky man wearing a black felt hat and white shorts, strolling along the beach with a fishing reel in his hand. I thought perhaps he was one of the priests staying in the seminary holiday shack nearby, but then I saw three cars parked in the adjoining land between Ritamada Beach and Fisherman’s Beach. Lounging on the cars were four young lads and the “priest” had joined them. They were very young and looked like they were recovering from a late night out. I decided to take a  detour towards the house on Vor’s point as they were blocking the narrow path ahead of me.
“Chinese,” said one voice and several of the lads whistled. I wore tight jeans and a black bikini top, they could not see the grey hairs in my long hair flying loose. I suddenly felt concerned that my shouts would not be heard by the occupants of the houses from the empty beach and could not laugh or raise a smile in reply. My detour veered towards them for a moment and the young Aboriginal lad seemed the keenest. Soon, to my relief, I was out of earshot of the group.

I was reminded of an incident a few years ago. A group of us were in the “club” of an Aboriginal reserve. The “club” was the grog shop in an enclosure surrounded by a high barbed-wire fence. We sat on the grass drinking beer and talking to a few of the elders. The noise around us seemed warm and happy. Children were not allowed into the enclosure and conversed with the adults through the fence. Some of the older children pushed prams and strollers while others ran after toddlers. The son of one of the elders decided to join us and sat right next to me. He had been drinking. Then he started gently caressing my hair. 
“I haven’t seen such long, black hair…you don’t mind me doing this darling? It’s sooo beautiful,” he sighed. 
His movements and voice were sensual and appreciative. It seemed so natural. Then he went further, putting his arms around me, telling me I was beautiful and asking if he could go with me. 
None of us knew how to handle this. Several times he begged, “Answer me darling.” The elders tried to discourage him with disapproving looks and by clicking their tongues, but he ignored them. 
I laughed and shook my head, no, I said, he couldn’t go with me and would he please stop stroking my hair. We decided the best course of action was to head for the gate. It was annoying to curtail our pleasant afternoon relaxation because of this tipsy and amorous, young man. When we were leaving, his father told him bluntly to behave himself. 
“But darling doesn’t mind, do you darling?” he drawled, gazing at me.
“I do mind,” I declared, unable to suppress a smile.
He didn’t follow us out and I’m sure he went back for another cold glass of beer, the lucky devil. 
We had to drink tea for the rest of the evening in the guest house kitchen.

101. Dear Mary – Journal Entry 13th Aug 1982

On Thursday I gave the family a meal they least like—liver. Mum, Barbara, Johnny and I like the way I cook it, but the rest of the family are not fond of liver, in any form. Before the new recipe I would fry largish slabs, but now I cook very thin slices and it is delicious and tender. Fortunately, Marcello brings fresh calf liver from work as the liver from the butcher is rarely fresh. 

The recipe is as follows: Finely chop one or two onions and slice the liver into thin strips. In a large pan, fry the onion until tender, then set aside. Add chunks of butter to the pan and when foaming, saute the liver pieces over low heat until just cooked. The slices need to be stirred gently, just until they lose their bloody appearance. Place the liver on the onions and squeeze a little lemon juice over them to taste. Next add some chopped sage to the pan and fry briefly, add a tablespoonful or so of flour, stir well, then add a cup of white wine and whisk. Add more liquid if the sauce is too thick and if you don’t have wine, water with a dash of vinegar would be a fine substitute. Finally, stir in a large handful of chopped parsley or chives and slide in the liver and onions. Add salt to taste and grind in lots of black pepper. Don’t let the liver cook further or it will become too rubbery. Serve with buttered rice and a plain vegetable dish. We usually fry eggs too, especially for those who are not keen on liver. Bacon or sausages can be added for extra flavour but it is the sage which gives this dish a special flavour, although garlic can be substituted.

Anyway, as mentioned, I gave the family liver on my birthday and chocolates much later with coffee. On Saturday Johnny will be cooking a special meal and Karen is coming home for dinner. I asked for paella, which I’m very keen on, banana splits for pudding followed by chocolates and coffee.

14 August 1982

Well, we had our paella meal, although as this one didn’t have many prawns, Johnny added scallops and mushrooms. Tiger prawns, unlike banana prawns, have distinctive stripes and a sweet flavour. Needless to say it was delicious and I ate so much that I couldn’t eat the individual servings of pudding: a whole banana sliced lengthwise with a blob each of vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream and whipped cream, and crushed nuts strewed over the lot. Before dinner, Karen and I went for a long walk on the beach. The weather is delightful now but summer will be upon us, before we know it, with frogs in the lavatory bowl and flies in the kitchen! M, R and Z rang for my birthday on Thursday, it was so good to chat with them. Unfortunately, I have to report that mum hasn’t been well: about six weeks ago she had a medical examination and was told that her blood pressure was worse; she then worried about that and of course everything started to deteriorate—she had head pains, belching at night and insomnia. Last week I took her to the clinic to see the GP and I think she will be back to normal in a fortnight. Barbara insists on taking mum to the park on Sundays for a picnic.

Nathaniel is talking quite well now and TJ is beginning to lose the staring, unresponsive look which newborns usually have. I call him “Kumarakut” because he looks so small, round and brown, almost glossy. Monika hopes he won’t lose his brownness the way Nathaniel had, however, I don’t think she needs to worry because TJ is darker than Nathaniel as a baby. I wonder how TJ will like it? I think he can expect a rough time until he grows up and no longer cares. Monika has her hands full when both kids are crying at the same time.

Life is hard work with very little play because Johnny is tied up with extra lecturing, besides all the other tasks he must complete. I’ve taken on four subjects this semester, twice as much as before. Gareth has his studies too, and so we all have to keep going, even on weekends. However, semester ends in November, with a two-week break in September for the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. Tough times, like good times, must come to an end. Mine is, of course, self-inflicted, and will continue well into next year. Thank you very much for your cheeky card; I pinned it on the noticeboard along with the label from the back of the envelope. 

27th August 1982

It seems our correspondence could easily be concerned with just swapping recipes—thanks for yours! Do you think the sweet mango pickle would last longer if vinegar was substituted for the water? The onions could be cooked longer perhaps or left out?

Your recent visit must have started something because after you left, two long-absent friends came to stay for a while. The first was a Canadian friend who brought his new wife to visit his old stamping grounds. Then last week another friend, whom we met in Manila about ten years ago, came to stay. Carmen is a Filipino married to a Swiss and now lives in Lund, near Geneva. We climbed rocks, raided guava and mango trees, and ate lots of curry with bread and pickles. She loved being photographed with the kangaroos at Cooberrie Park. To our delight, there was a mother koala with her baby for a photo. Carmen’s ten-year-old son wanted to come on the trip; I think he will feel the photos are a poor substitute for the experience. Carmen had spent time with friends and relatives in Manila and then with her parents and sisters living in Brisbane. She was very tired on arrival because on her journey down from Brisbane, the bus driver kept dozing off! Absolutely terrified, she took turns with another passenger to speak to him the whole way.

100. Hot, Greasy, High-Cholesterol Lunch – Journal Entry 9th Aug 1982

Yet another lengthy gap between diary entries. It is still relatively early in the day. I marked the T.V. guide for programmes to watch this week after a leisurely breakfast, then read the papers and skimmed through the Women’s Weekly. 

I have managed to complete the first Calculus assignment. It wasn’t as daunting as expected; formulae and identities must be memorised so I had better get on with it. Household jobs always seem to take longer than expected, and afterwards, I am not in the right frame of mind for study. 

This week I will have a few days at home for completing assignments. Mum said she would cook dinner on Monday, we’ll be in Rocky on Tuesday, Gareth may be out on Friday night and Karen is coming home for dinner on Saturday. Perhaps we can have a family picnic on Sunday. I might cancel the CIAE afternoon meeting on Thursday since I am behind in my studies.

Johnny and I listened to the ZBS’s production of “The Taj Express”, a rather poor programme of Indian short stories. The stories seem to have been chosen more for their adaptability to radio, than anything else. “It mauls the rich and old Indian culture,” says 24 hours. However, the Bach programme was very enjoyable—particularly the definition of musical terms:
Partita is a suite, a form of instrumental music, in some sense the forerunner of the sonata, and used to be four movements, four dances.
Cantata is a sung piece, usually short vocal works, sacred or secular and for single voices or choir with accompanying instrumentals.
Sonata is either a type of composition in three or four movements, usually in sounded form as opposed to sung form. The second type of Cantata is a musical form.
Toccata meaning to touch or to play, usually contains scales, shakes and other brilliant figuration often interspersed with slow chordal passages.

11th Aug 1982

Another morning and I’m alive. We drove to Rocky only to find it was a gross mistake…we were meant to go Tuesday of next week! I had a shocking headache. Whether this was a result of the wasted day or just the effect of the sun and lack of sleep, I don’t know. Perhaps it was because my mind was as clogged as my bowels. I tried to work when we arrived but couldn’t focus. We spent the day rather pleasantly. First, we let Johnny know about the mix-up, then Gareth and I went to the corner cafe and bought a hot, greasy, high-cholesterol lunch of roast chicken, kabana, fish, meatball and chips. After selecting some cans of sugary, fizzy drinks to add to our heart-stopping feast, we hurried to the riverside and sat on the end of the boat ramp. We ate quickly while the food was still warm. 

The broad, muddy Fitzroy river seemed quiet. There were small heaps of black, oily rubbish near where we were sitting; left, no doubt, by the boatmen working nearby on the dilapidated trawlers. These small boats on the river looked quite adventurous despite their untidy appearance.

We returned to the library feeling rather full and sluggish. Gareth fell asleep on a beanbag in the young adult corner and I read a romance called “The Rules of Marriage”, one of the better romances for women.

Last night Carmen Keller rang from Brisbane to say that she is visiting her parents and expects to be in Australia for the next three weeks; she plans to come to Emu Park. How wonderful.  We met her in the Philippines and she had written to us from South Africa, then later from Switzerland where she settled. It has been so long since we saw her.

12th Aug 1982

The family has given me such lovely and thoughtful presents for my birthday. I gave them liver for dinner, which they ate without complaint.

90. A Birth and Fish Feast – Journal Entry 10th June 1982

What better way to start a brand new, best ever notebook than to record the birth of a child: TJ born on the 8th of June and brother to Nathaniel, a day after Gareth’s birthday and on the same birthday as Clare Cosgrove. Monika is still in the hospital and due back in a few days.

Thank you Johnny, my Johnny, for finding an unruled notebook for me to write my diary.

Our neighbour Hector also had a birthday so we rang and wished him a happy birthday; we are one of only a few people who know it’s his birthday. When Barbara took him some flowers he told her his daughter was coming for dinner and he was looking forward to it.

Z rang for a chat and announced Mary finally packed all her bags, her purchases are at last over. However, Mary is not looking forward to leaving the girls and Australia, she likes everything here. When Mary stayed with us in Emu Park, I noticed she took a keen interest in all that went on around her and loved the meals Johnny cooked; she insisted I list them all and is keeping a detailed diary of her visit to Australia.

Marcello and Monika have taken some lovely photographs of Mary and her family.

M, R and Z moved easily with the household, pitching in and helping with the work, so the burden was not on any one person.

Among the many memorable meals we had while they were here, I must mention the fish feast that was prepared by M, R and me; the diversity of colour was particularly appealing. Early in the morning, Marcello, Monika, M and R went with Merv to Rosslyn Bay Harbour and caught about thirty-seven steely backs or bony salmon. M made a good South Indian fish curry, R made Bengali stuffed fried fish and I made a herb fish curry.

I shall attempt to describe the fish feast in greater detail: M, R and I initially discussed what we would do with the fish and jointly drew up the menu. First, we picked fresh coriander seedlings, curry leaves, chillies and chives from our garden—a very pleasant activity for M and R after two years of Melbourne city life. M’s curry was excellent, a pleasant dark brown colour with ground coriander, cumin and chilli, fresh coriander leaves and red chilli roughly chopped, and finally thick tamarind pulp and salt to taste. The curry sauce was left to simmer for quite some time, getting browner and thicker with glimmers of red chilli flecks throughout. The prepared fish fillets were slipped in at the end and cooked only for a short while.

My curry, which we chose in contrast to M’s Madras fish curry, was mostly green and yellow, a mixture of finely chopped herbs and turmeric, with a handful of glossy whole red chilli thrown in, and lemon juice as the souring agent—fish curry is greatly improved with a sprinkle of lemon juice, vinegar or tamarind pulp, just before serving.

R made a lovely green herb and white coconut cream stuffing for his fish dish. Whole fish were slit open and cleaned thoroughly, stuffed carefully with coriander, mint, chilli and coconut cream, then shallow-fried until a dark golden brown. When served, the exposed green stuffing was a pleasing contrast to the brown crispy skin with extra stuffing served in a little bowl on the side.

Accompanying dishes were plain buttered rice, chopped tomato and onion salad and a large bowl of yoghurt.

Needless to say, the family were quite impressed and appreciative, our dinner talk as loud as ever.

84. Dear Joyce (Part 2) – Journal Entry 4th November 1981

Last night, Karen and I felt quite nervous when Gran had not returned by ten o’clock. Eighteen months ago she had been in a terrible car accident after a pensioners’ dinner where drinks were plentiful. On that occasion, I sat up for my mother until a policeman came at midnight to break the news. One woman died, the second suffered several broken limbs and my mother sustained an injury to several ribs, a punctured lung and quite bad bruising to her face. The driver, a newcomer to Emu Park, was unharmed but an active eighty-two year old, a beloved long-time resident, was killed instantly in the crash.

With this in mind, I walked down the street just in time to see the bus pull up and to my great relief, Gran stepping out. She was closely followed by Ivy who walked part of the way home with us and had been in the same crash. We bid farewell to Ivy at her gate and continued home in the warm night air; Gran had enjoyed herself thoroughly and talked all the way home.

Summer is almost here, spring begins on the first of September and the wet season usually starts on Christmas Day.

5th Nov 1981

Today, Guy Fawkes Day, is Johnny’s birthday. Originally from Bradford, Johnny studied at Edinburgh University and has enjoyed climbing throughout Scotland.

Gran has encouraged us to celebrate birthdays and there is now a birthday ritual in our household. Weeks before the date, the person whose birthday is coming up, puts up a present list which is almost always ignored. Johnny didn’t put anything up because no-one reminded him, however, we knew he wanted a wide squat two-handled cooking pot for paella he had been admiring for months, in an industrial kitchenware shop.

A very detailed menu for the dinner is also pinned onto the noticeboard, in this case, whole grilled fish, cream sauce, chips, mushrooms, beans and lettuce followed by melon shells filled with melon balls, canned cherries and slices of kiwi fruit. During the meal, we had the usual quiz questions from Mastermind, some of which are so hard we couldn’t even answer on the third or fourth attempt. It was a hot evening and we drank too much Tasmanian cider.

It should be clear by now that our family enjoy cooking and eating enormous meals. We love the meals Johnny and Gareth cook on the weekends and feast days. Johnny lists the menu for a fortnight and tacks it onto the noticeboard in the kitchen so members of the family can check what’s been planned to avoid missing their favourite meals. It’s very convenient and takes the hassle out of deciding what to cook for dinner.

9th Nov 1981

I’ve taken a while over this letter and shall attempt to finish it today. Could you tell me more about the aims of the Women’s Institute you have joined? I noticed in Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, that the Federations of Women’s Institutes have compiled books such as Cornish Recipes: Ancient and Modern (1934, 11th edition), The Isle of Wight Cookery Book and Through Yorkshire’s Kitchen Door (31st edition).

For nearly ten years I enjoyed doing things I had not had an opportunity to do like looking after a child full-time, housekeeping, gardening, going to club functions, driving a car, cooking and sewing. I had to teach myself to behave acceptably in Anglo-Saxon society and Johnny rarely corrected me, which made the learning period longer than necessary. I still have difficulties cleaning the house because I would rather garden or read a book and although I realise it is a common issue, I notice that everyone’s house seems cleaner and tidier than ours. For the past three years, I have been studying mathematics and computer programming after completing a one-year bridging course based on the English Polymaths course. I enjoy studying, even though I make heavy weather of it, and I’m fortunate to have Johnny to help me. The College of Advanced Education serves Central Queensland and does a fair amount of external teaching with a focus on practical applications rather than pure or theoretical subjects. Johnny’s department, Maths and Computing, has a heavy external teaching load.

Gran and I enjoy gardening although I tend to focus more on herbs and vegetables while she prefers flowers and ferns. A couple of years ago with a few of the neighbours, I started a local market and sell candles and potted plants. It’s good fun but very time-consuming.

I must stop and get this letter to you.

49. Letter To Nora, My Sister – Journal Entry 29th Jun 1980

Now that my exams are over, I can take the time to breathe and write the odd letter. Mum wanted me to write and tell you that she had a car accident. I wrote separately to M and at great length about it.

At the end of March, the 30th to be precise, mum went to a pensioners dinner given by a local supermarket. On the journey home, the car crashed into the front end of a bridge. Fortunately, the car didn’t plunge into the water and the driver, who had put his seat belt on, got out without a scratch.

The woman in the front was killed instantly. The second woman, who lives on our street, was sitting in the back seat with mum and had both her arms broken, one in two places, the other near the elbow. Very nasty breaks. She also had a lot of skin ripped off her legs and is still in hospital, having had skin grafts and physiotherapy. She can’t use one arm, even though the bone has healed, the other arm is still in plaster and has been held up the whole three months – can you imagine?. She is over seventy, has a history of not healing well or easily and looks very thin and brittle.

Finally to get to mum: she received a terrific whack to her right cheekbone and the black eye was fearful to see. Her eye, when one opened the puffy eyelid, was red, red, red. She had stitches in her lip and a couple above her chin, stitches on her shin (I don’t know how they damaged their legs) and worst of all she had six of her bottom teeth broken – gums as well. The hospital staff kept the teeth in her mouth until the dentist could see to her. When she did, the dentist removed the remaining two precious bottom teeth. Previously we had spent hundreds of dollars trying to save her bottom teeth!

After a couple of days in the hospital, x-rays showed that mum had a cracked sternum and several cracked ribs. Also, her lungs had blood which was drained by poking a hole in her side and inserting a tube between the ribcage and lung. They took out two litres in the first hour and two more over the next day. Mum suffered a mild heart attack, possibly from the irritation of the drainage tube.

Terrible as all this may sound, she was out of the hospital in about ten days. She spent about a month and a half very quietly at home and is now back at her various social activities. She has been to church about three times.

The uncomfortable part of the accident for her was having to do without teeth for nearly three months. All the food had to be minced. Even when she was fitted with new teeth, the bottom part hurt because of the sensitive, broken gum underneath. Also, bits of bone would push to the surface. The dentist says it will take about a year for the gum to settle down. We went back for another fitting and he put soft padding inside the bottom teeth and now mum can eat without much pain. All the medical treatment and the new teeth were free by the way. The service has been excellent, with nurses and doctors making a great fuss over mum. They were so happy to see her recover quickly from the accident.

Mum’s friends also have been marvellous, with their telephone calls, hospital visits, cards and presents.

By the way, she has not received a card from you for her birthday and she thinks perhaps you are cross with her. I said most likely your card went astray.

We celebrated her 70th birthday twice. The first celebration was with chicken biryani, the second dinner with a very big fish a friend gave her for Mother’s Day. We kept it for her birthday because we knew she would have to eat without her teeth.

She has been worrying about not writing to all of you; mainly worry about not being able to put pen to paper. I don’t know why she hesitates, her English is pretty good and besides, she has been practising by copying bread recipes and other recipes she might want to use when she cooks the family meal.

Apart from the accident, things are pretty much quiet at home, in fact, we are almost back to normal.

Karen is just over her end of first semester exams in eleventh grade. She has a year and a half of high school left and working very hard. Last year she won a few prizes for debating and overall performance at school.

Marcello is working at a small meatworks. He turned down a job with a bank because he doesn’t fancy sitting behind a desk all day. At the meatworks, he works part-time in the office and part-time in the abattoir. He likes it very much because of the homely atmosphere and friendly staff.

Monika is Swedish and a very steady character. She does all the feeding and tending of the chickens, bantams, turkeys and about fifteen ducks that Marcello keeps buying. The bantams are special breeds that he recently bought at the local agricultural show so poor Monika gets more and more work besides looking after the baby. The baby is absolutely gorgeous and is made a great fuss of by everyone in the family. He seems to be bright and alert. He is only five months old and seems pretty grown-up already.

It is cold this morning, Sunday 6th July. The temperature is 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Cold enough for socks and a thick sweater. The other way to keep warm is to put the wood stove on or go out in the sun. The sun feels good and one can strip to just a thin shirt and skirt and, if you walk fast enough, you can get down to bikinis. Some people actually swim in the sea… southerners!

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Added mum’s sister Nora to the family tree.
  • NEWS: this week I interviewed my mum’s best friend, who we knew when we lived in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1968. Cynthia (now Kami) lives on an island in BC, Canada. The interview post is coming soon.
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • 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.
  • See the map of where we lived and the family tree at the bottom of the Home page, click here.