98. Sad Farewell – Journal Entry 23rd July 1982

Early this morning I made Danish pastries for Karen, decorating them with P, C and D in pastry to correspond with her last semester results. Johnny delayed his departure for work until they were cool enough to pack. I brought coffee and warm pastries to the study for breakfast with Johnny; we had a little longer than usual to talk. Among other topics, we discussed the meaning of “polemic”, a word one knew vaguely but not specifically. Even Johnny had a different idea of its meaning. It turned out to be a controversial view or argument of someone’s principles or opinions stated aggressively; either verbally or in writing.

24/7/82

It was a very busy week full of people and cooking. Farewells are sad. I must not feel sad. We were privileged to have known Rolf for such a long time—almost seven years. Must not panic. Sadness and panic are a terrible combination.

25/7/82

Last night was an excellent dinner. The family sat and talked longer than usual; no one seemed in a hurry to leave the table so we indulged in our favourite quizzes. Gran arrived too late to attend her usual church service so now I am waiting in the car, writing in my diary and watching other cars arrive for the next service which will be in an hour and a half.

28/7/82

Yesterday was Gareth’s day in Rocky, the first stop being a long overdue visit to the orthodontist where we were told he would need both top and bottom braces and the removal of two top teeth to make room. We then went shopping to buy him some much-needed clothes and shoes. Monika and bubbies came with us to Rockhampton. Gareth very kindly returned to Monika to give her the small amount of money she needed to make some purchases at Vinnies. 

I dashed off to get through my list of jobs, however, I was disappointed to be refused repayment on Karen’s eye examination at Medibank and only received  0.25% off the orthodontic examination fee for Gareth. 

At the bookshop, things turned around somewhat as a customer overheard me asking the lady at the counter if she had any books on how to make flush doors and general books on woodworking machines. The customer asked if he could help me, having been a manual arts teacher in Darwin, and recommended a list of books and references: Australian Methods of Building Construction by Watson and Sharp, Building Construction by C. Lloyd, Notes on the Science of Building: Experimental Building Station, North Ryde, Sydney, and finally Carpentry and Joinery by Department of Labour and National Service. I made the list of the suggested books, thanked him warmly for his help and bought myself Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston.

Jobs list complete, I went to the pie shop to buy lunch and cold soft drinks for the family. They had been patiently waiting in the library and quickly followed me out.  Nathaniel insisted on carrying the coke to our picnic spot under the sprawling Moreton Bay fig tree at the edge of Rocky Town Hall grounds. We enjoyed lunch and mainly talked about our purchases. Monika had found a skirt just like Karen’s and Gareth and I were pleased with his new clothes.

30/7/82

Managed some yoga yesterday but neglected my diary writing. I didn’t exercise at all due to a headache accompanying a period.

Barbara is at home today and on Mellaril, so it is important to keep her busy. She will drive us all to distraction by sitting and talking to herself.

Trying out a new creamy lemon and mustard sauce for the fish which I will crumb and fry for dinner tonight, accompanied by brown rice, carrots and lettuce from the garden. Pudding will be one of Johnny’s favourites: baked apples and custard. 

Tomorrow I have committed myself to Programming after I finish my Calculus review and Cost Accounting assignment. It is time to focus on study.

97. La Dolce Vita – Journal Entry 15th July 1982

Managed to put in a good slab of time at the desk last night, mostly writing a report to the Progress Association on town planning. Read the draft report to Peter, who approved of it, so I rang Tennant next; when he answered with a mouthful of toothpaste I thought I had caught him without his teeth! Left Laurie a message today so we can talk about using the School of Arts building as a health centre.

 It seems I have set myself a fairly rigid daily schedule to complete my weekly study load of 15 hours of Cost Accounting, 15 hours of Calculus, 10 hours of Programming and 10 hours of Methodology. To achieve it, I would need to get up at 5 am, exercise, write in the diary, study, prepare the meals, study again, do the housework, study some more and spend time with Johnny from 9:30 to 11 pm. I haven’t maintained consistency thus far.

Nevertheless, today was reasonably productive apart from feeling drowsy since midday. We went to the post office to get mum’s money, Monika bought stamps and posted letters and we were back for a late lunch. I found it quite difficult to stay alert at the desk, so I literally jumped up and vacuumed various rooms, sorting out various household matters. Later I managed cost accounting and even studied after dinner. Johnny arrived home late, having been away from home since Tuesday morning, and we spent some time together chatting while he ate dinner.

While making dinner, the usual worries were chasing round and round in my brain, probably because I couldn’t do a few of the Programming exercises the first time around. I must break this cycle, it is depressing, utterly ridiculous and a waste of energy. 

16/7/82

I realised that we may have to have another meeting to discuss two omissions in our report: development of the trading centres and examination of the adequacy of the land set aside for industry. Will mention these to Peter later this morning. In fact, a special meeting on employment should be held before finalising our recommendations.

Mum needs to make a dental appointment today and I will start making dinner for tonight: fish, brown rice, cauliflower, sliced tomatoes and lemon meringue pie.

 18/7/82

Last night Johnny and I went to bed after midnight, read a little and ate mandarins. Today will be busy: Gareth needs a lift to Yeppoon for his football match, I need to concentrate on Calculus revision, try the Programming assignment, read a chapter of Cost Accounting and get on top of washing Johnny’s clothes. This week we have some guests: Mick is coming to dinner on Tuesday and I must clean the room for Rolf who is arriving on Thursday. We plan to have Biryani with onions and yoghurt, devil chutney followed by fruit salad.

Today gran has a dental appointment at the hospital and I must make chops, sausage, eggs and mashed potatoes for dinner.

21/7/82

Peter called about the draft proposals for the strategic plan. He mentioned that he will lend me two Polish cookbooks. His mother kept him out of the kitchen when he was young and since then he has been meaning to teach himself cooking. It hasn’t happened yet.

Mick seems to have enjoyed himself. He is a genuine Queensland country lad whose family lives in Clermont. To celebrate his first twenty-five years as a priest, the town had an ecumenical service, threw a huge party and presented him with a car. We discussed the growing number of men importing Filipino women for marriage. Two brothers, confirmed bachelors over fifty, both married Filipinos; these women and their children will be worth quite a lot when the old men die. Most of these men appear to be strange in some way and would find it hard to find an Australian partner.

I feel I should jot down the ideas for stories I would like to write rather than just having them in my head.

Yesterday, I thought that someone should do for the Mills and Boon market what Raymond Chandler did for the pulp magazine market; write extremely well within that framework. Most of their love stories have predictable plots—two people are antagonistic towards each other with hints of grudging admiration or irresistibility, another man or woman thwarts them in their progress toward romance but all comes good in the end. 

In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane is an orphan, an important factor in the hero’s decision to marry her. Our hero’s insane wife is living in the attic and he is a proud, rich and bitter man, a guardian to the child of his French mistress, a worldly man who spent most of his time abroad with women, leading the good life or la dolce vita. Jane is not scared of him although everyone else is. They fall in love and he is smitten, charmed by her wit, frankness and innocence. At their wedding, the wife’s brother denounces our hero and the ceremony is called off.

A remarkable scene takes place: our hero shows his insane wife to witnesses, the insane woman attacks her brother and our hero wrenches her off. In the meantime, Jane creeps off to her room and slips away. Jane is surprised to find her long-lost cousins and finds she has been left a fortune by a rich uncle in America. The hero had been blinded in an attempt to rescue his insane wife from a blaze she had started.

Finally, Jane and our hero find each other again, have a child and he slowly regains his sight.

94. Letter to Z – Journal Entry 24th June 1982

Dear Z,

We all thoroughly enjoyed your visit; it was great to see the whole family and our only regret is that we were not able to take more time off. However, as Johnny says, you are all most welcome anytime. Why not come up for Christmas? Be warned though, it is usually very quiet apart from the midnight tree-raiding and special feasts. Our only outing seems to be a slow walk on the beach mid-morning after a huge Christmas breakfast. This is usually followed by another family beach cavort on New Year’s morning. Christmas time is mango season and unfortunately, the beginning of wet weather.

Thank you for the photographs. Gran has now carefully arranged them into her album. Monika ordered extra copies of those she took and we picked them up from Yeppoon yesterday; I’m sending you a batch for distribution, as you see fit

For a few days after your departure, Nathaniel walked around saying rather forlornly, ‘Z dorn!’. He excitedly pointed you out in Monika’s photographs and even remembered the dressing gown you used while you were here.

I am relieved examinations are now over. I had two exams and Karen had six. Barbara is going for five days to the annual ATC camp at the bottom of Phillip Street. Gran and I will probably bake several large chocolate cakes for them, like we did last year. Karen is back for a few days before going on a week-long camp in the Bunya Mountains; it will be freezing there.

The temperature dropped dramatically last week. Even though we are on the Queensland coast, it was down to 7℃ inside the kitchen with the most dreadful wind from down your way. It’s a glorious morning but still quite cold, so I am sitting at my desk with the heater on. Next semester will be busy because I was rash enough to sign-up for four subjects.

I am particularly looking forward to a subject called Methodology, part of the Associate Diploma in Computing, that teaches students to think clearly; something I am very much in need of! The prescribed textbooks are: Thinking about Thinking by Anthony Flew and Learning to Philosophise by E. R. Emmet. The lectures will be given by CIAE’s resident philosopher and I am curious to see a philosopher in action.

I recall two evenings spent listening to Johnny and a philosopher discuss a range of topics. They had the extraordinary ability to explore and develop concepts, many of which represent the most important aspects of humanity, civilisation and education. 

I shall quote from Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He categorises people as Romantics or Classics.  Romantics, Pirsig says, are intuitive, aware of appearances, imaginative and creative… Classics, however, see underlying forms and because he is essentially in favour of Classics, he describes their style or approach to things thus:

The classic style is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Its purpose is to bring order out of chaos and make the unknown known. It is aesthetically restrained. Everything is under control. Its value is measured in terms of how well this control is maintained.

All of that to say, I am looking forward to the Methodology subject to see what effect it has on the students, myself included. I must ask Johnny about last year’s students; I imagine it would be difficult to measure clearer thinking.

Gran, Monika, Gareth, Nathaniel, Johnny and I are very keen on naan bread and I now make it once a week. A major breakthrough thanks to R, for helping develop the recipe. We now have a twenty-five-kilo bag of rye flour to make chapatis, which I find are infinitely better than bread. Chapatis can be made much quicker, they freezes well and a few at a time can be used for breakfast or lunch.

By the way, our house number is not “2” even though it is on our kitchen door; Gareth found the number under our house and decided to put it up. Our official address is 11/17 Clement Street. You can use 11/17 Cnr Phillip and Clement Street, however, Phillip Street will suffice. Emu Park is a small town and I am sure your mail will find us.

Gran seems to have settled down to her gardening and social activities. She managed to water her garden for years with only a trickle until Johnny installed a new tap for her near the barbecue. The radishes, shallots, lettuce and brinjals are thriving now that the sprinkler has a better flow of water. Gran is much happier with this simple fix.

I shall post the photos with this letter when we go to Rocky later this morning.

93. Exams Over – Journal Entry 22nd June 1982

I’m quite relieved that the programming exam was not too difficult. An open book exam is not easy either, one has to know the subject or time is wasted hunting for the relevant section. All I needed was one reasonable performance to boost my spirits after the disastrous accounting procedure exam. It was enjoyable answering questions for pleasure after the required number.

The invigilators are worthy people, but they must be quite bored going through the same routine several times a day for a month: let in a horde of students, check exam slips and identification, call out perusal time, call out starting time. Ever vigilant for cheating or disruption, they are quick to supply more paper to students signalling for more and disappear in turns for a quick coffee or toilet break. They seem like old friends. Whenever I attend an exam we nod sedately to one another and exchange slight smiles.

At this point, I am reminded of Margaret who took a flask of coffee with her when she sat a three-hour exam! She gets tired after an hour or so of intensive paperwork. Of the five of us who finished P-Maths, Rod, Margaret and I continued our studies.

Next semester could be grim unless I organise myself extremely well and not waste time spending more effort than necessary trying to absorb the material. There must be a better method than the one I’ve been using. I shall try the following for each subject: quick review; detailed study; summary and review; repeat for the next section; perform another review a few days later. I have four subjects, two of which are three hours a week, another six-hours per week and the fourth, the Methodology subject which I am most interested in, one hour per week. That would be forty-five hours plus time to be added for assignments; this is possibly overgenerous, but I suspect not. I had planned to do so much during the semester break.

Holiday plans for the family:
Gareth – 2 weeks from 28 June
Barbara – 2 weeks from 28 June (camping the first week)
Karen – 4 weeks from 21 June (Shannon has holidays for 2 weeks starting 4 July, not sure if she will spend them with us)
Gita – 4 weeks from 21 June
Johnny – Nil

In between enjoying the children’s company and taking them on outings, mostly to fish, I need to stick to my schedule: exercise, diary, calculus, reading, programming and (last but not least) Johnny. I must focus on writing programs and revising the first part of calculus, then forge ahead with next semester’s calculus material.

Gareth has a heavy cold but needs to be well enough for a debate today. To avoid the early morning coolness, I’ll be taking him to school an hour late. Will stop now and write a letter to the school office about his late arrival.

24th June 1982

Karen came home yesterday. We had a nice evening in the little room talking until midnight, just the three of us.

92. Exam Stress – Journal Entry 14th June 1982

What needs to be done today?  I still can’t decide what to make for tomorrow’s meal, but first, I must memorise the forms for accounting, do the inventory exercises and finish the last question in the practice exam paper. Johnny’s clothes also need ironing, my next task, and perhaps I can ask Barbara and Gareth to bring up the wood.

16th June 1982

I feel quite gloomy over my performance at yesterday’s exam, even though the subject matter was easy and the exam quite straightforward. I know exactly what happened… I tackled a problem, which I had planned to leave until the end, yet missed a relatively easy question because I assumed I would have to remember the form, when in fact, the form was given. Of course I didn’t realise this until I opened the booklet for answers but even then I didn’t switch the order of questions. Perhaps students ought to be told some forms will be given? And that there are a choice of questions? Now I’m not looking forward to the programming exam because it is trickier and I lack the speed of mind and hand, especially in examinations, where careful revision is required.

Pirsig divides people by classical and romantic modes of understanding. The classical mode is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Classical understanding is seeing the world primarily as the underlying form itself. Romantic understanding, on the other hand, is seeing the world primarily in terms of immediate appearance and the mode is inspirational, imaginative, creative, intuitive, with feeling rather than fact. The classical aesthetic is often missed by romantics. I must discuss this further with Johnny. I remember his comment that science ignores art at its peril; art is more important than science.

I had eight hours of sleep last night, which is unusual, and stayed in bed for half an hour reading Illich’s article, Vernacular Gender, a provocative piece. Johnny tried to coax me out of bed, to which I responded angrily,  telling him I did not need to leap out of bed this morning as he was leaving late. As it turned out, he only left a little later than usual. He had intended to work at home today but as Mick wanted some notes on the ecumenical course to be run by the priests next year, Johnny stayed up late last night and will take the report to the Institute this morning to be typed and photocopied. He should be home earlier than usual.

I had depressing and rash thoughts on the way back from the exam yesterday. What is the use of studying since I had not performed well in any of the exams so far? Next semester will be much harder. How was I doing to cope? Perhaps I ought to drop out and not embarrass Johnny any more. Am I embarrassing him all that much? Next semester, Karen and I will be sitting the same exam. I wonder how we will perform? I do want to continue methodology as I’m interested in the material and how it is conducted but then there is cost accounting, Programming 1B and Calculus 1B. I’ll stop now and make a detailed plan of Pascal revision.

18th June 1982

It is 9 am and too cold at my desk, so I am working on the side verandah. It is so hot I need to wear a large brimmed hat to keep direct sunlight off my head and avoid a headache. Mum is in the garden with her radio on full blast. I wish she could keep it close to her on low volume, I can’t hear Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” on FM. Rang Toby to arrange a scramble on the rocks at Voss’ Point next Wednesday.

I felt extremely sleepy today and decided to water the stressed-looking ferns near Marcello’s blue car to give myself a break. The hose had a leak and repairing it was a surprisingly pleasant task: first I smoothed black sealant over the leak, wrapped a bandage over it as snugly as possible and then covered the bandage with more sealant. This repair looks good, but the fix to the hose for the chicken pen is not as effective and I will have to remove the sealant and repair it once more.

Time to stop distracting myself with minor tasks and tackle an exam paper.

91. Citizens Bureau – Journal Entry 11th June 1982

A broken-down fridge is the latest problem in our household, but little help is to be expected from a professional on a long weekend. One really should be able to contact a 24 hr Citizens Bureau with suggestions on how to cope with things that can go wrong in a household. If we could get a spare fridge from somewhere, there would be much less urgency over the repairs and we could then decide at our leisure who would be best for the job. Failing appliances and interruptions to the supply of water, electricity and gas usually happen at an awkward time.

Monika may come home today after giving birth to TJ, if the doctor agrees to let her out of the hospital after only three days.

I am finding it extremely difficult to settle down to my studies. The warmth outside is alluring, winter here is so mild and enjoyable, and the garden is more pleasant than our cold study. The vegetable garden is thriving, so I want to sit in the warm sun and weed, hoe or plant more seeds. Besides, there are books to be read and bread to be baked. I must pull myself together and stop avoiding my study, stop eating lotuses and stop being distracted by household tasks. I only have four days to the accounting exam and it’s closed book, perish the thought. Must stop.

Marcello and Gareth are away for the night and I am at the desk again, this time determined not to get sidetracked by minor jobs, errands or watching mediocre TV shows. Once I get started, my studies are quite enjoyable and interesting, however, it is easy to get distracted when young Nathaniel comes to talk or needs attention. Human relations are important, but when do I get on with what I set myself? Is the study of computers or accounting so important compared with that? And what about talking and working with my mother? Surely it is just a matter of scheduling one’s work and disciplining oneself?

12th June 1982

My Johnny has gone to pick up Gareth, who is at the Thorntons in Rocky, so I can stay at home and write in my diary. Control yourself and you have freedom, says Johnny on his way out.

As well as exercising and writing in my diary every day, I would also like to write stories or articles, play chess and spend more time at the park or beach rather than at home. When reading a classic, one needs to discuss a concept or word, even a whole page.

Fortunately, today has not been completely unproductive: I made bread, reviewed a chapter on financial accounting procedure, fed the chooks, looked for eggs, wheeled up two loads of wood, picked greens from the patch about to be worked on, made lunch for Mum so she would not be late for her meeting, zonked out after lunch for an hour and read a Maigret short story by Simenon. I must plan my vacation well since I have a full study load next semester. Calculus could be quite time-consuming and I am constantly fighting a strong urge to give it all up and concentrate on writing but at this stage that would be foolish. My studies have been extremely useful and help me think more clearly. Although the Methodology subject requires revision, it seems promising, helping students sort out problems in a constructive way.

Mum told me this morning that I didn’t listen to what she had to say and that I was not interested in what she had to say. Unfortunately, she is partly right. I’m not that interested and tend to switch off because she invariably repeats herself, like Barbara. Instead of being receptive or helpful, I avoid involvement with the activities mum and Barbara are enthusiastic about, such as shell collecting or fern growing.

13th June 1982

We had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast on Zilzie beach again with Roger and Christine, a fine idea of theirs which would be hard to beat unless we take them on a camp at Five Rocks. The family has not been camping for a long time—not a real camp. We don’t consider camping at Stoney Creek the real thing since it is too close to civilisation. Of course, living one’s life in the garden would make daily living a camping holiday.

My dream would be a house that opens up to or includes the garden and that is capable of being partly or fully closed to protect against the wind, rain or too much sun. Our present house is not designed for that, the Queensland-style verandahs have been closed in to serve as extra rooms and to keep out the rain. All the bedrooms are set quite far in with no direct sunlight and ceiling or sky windows are not practical with our roof. I wonder if we can redesign the house or part of it instead of building a new one? If we had the time or money, we could renovate under our house where there is adequate space for three rooms looking out through the pine trees to the sea.

Love is a topic I have pondered upon for a long time, with no clear idea of how to write about it. I’ve looked at D. H. Lawrence’s treatment of love and passion in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Han Suyin and Erica Jong. I have even read love stories in the Australian Women’s Weekly and Plato (symposium).

Love is very much a process which has to be nurtured. Love evolves in a relationship and changes the people in love.

I think I should approach the subject by writing a love story like Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Han Suyin’s A Many-Splendoured Thing and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, poetry, pop songs full of love, in fact, love seems to occupy a greater part of most people’s lives and thoughts.

87. Love Stories – Journal Entry 23rd December 1981

Read The Wanderer by Knut Hamsun and Miss Julie by August Strindberg after reading Friends by Henry Miller. Johnny considers Miller’s exploits rather juvenile with all that indiscriminate f@#king. Certainly, because of Miller’s many marriages, it would seem he could not be devoted to only one woman. Why am I raving so much about Miller’s writing? Perhaps because it seems to be so open, naive and accessible. There is a joy of life and no thought of yesterday or tomorrow. Hamsun is an extraordinarily good writer. No wonder Miller was taken by him; he would be the first to admit how much he has been influenced by Hamsun.

My head is filled with the readings of the past week: Graham Greene’s essays and autobiography, Miller’s World of Sex, Friends and Tropic of Capricorn and the books of Strindberg and Hamsun. One has such an itch to write, but to write what?

Spent two hours on a long but condensed version of a love story entitled Zamindar, about the English in India featured in The Woman’s Weekly. This was followed by a short modern love story of a rich man and his mysterious cleaning lady who fall in love. Why do most women like reading love stories? Why do I enjoy reading love stories, even though I know it is not what really happens? Most women look benignly on young women and their lovers and husbands. Perhaps they are thinking of their youth?

D.H. Lawrence comes closest to describing how it is between a man and woman who love one another and enjoy each other’s bodies and Han Suyin would be second. Many of the ancient Chinese stories seem to convey passion and devotion.

Let me look at an idea I had long ago: when younger sister was born, father was with his mistress while his wife was in labour.

25 Dec 1981
Last night, a little before midnight, we went to the Singing Ship. Johnny stayed behind for a phone call but didn’t see Santa Claus putting the presents around the tree.

A lovely time was had by all. First, we drank cold Spumante that Gareth had won at the school fete. Then Johnny’s Christmas cakes were ceremoniously cut: first a Dundee cake and the other a West Indian bride’s cake, dark and moist. Finally, the moment the family had been waiting for, the presents were distributed and opened one at a time while everyone else admired each gift. There was genuine pleasure in the receiving of presents. Barbara was given two books on shells which had many coloured pictures. She was also given a selection of beautiful shells, mainly cowries, and the delicate skeleton of a seahorse. Barbara was absolutely terrified when she opened the package of the seahorse skeleton, believing it was a snake. We had all retired to our beds by 1:30am but she was up by 5am, so mum read the shell books with her.

After a large breakfast of bacon and eggs, the family went to the beach. Barbara found a few shells and we all returned for an excellent lunch of cold ham, lettuce, bread and wine. We now await dinner of roast turkey and three vegetables, followed by a large fruit salad and fruit jellies for dessert.

Started reading A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin. M and Z rang to wish us a happy Christmas before going out to a family Christmas dinner of forty people. It was good talking to them, they have found people extremely friendly and seem to have made many friends. Mary and Cliffy are coming to Australia on the 15th of February and it was decided that mum would go down to Melbourne when they arrive and then return with them when they come to visit us. Cliffy cooks well and likes doing things for other people but is quite mischievous, swapping things like his clapped-out parts for somebody else’s good parts, his old records or whatever.

26 Dec 1981
Finished A Many-Splendoured Thing. Han Suyin has captured the strong and passionate bond that can form between a male and female. The complete absorption with one another appears to be idealised by the Chinese which is strangely at odds with their polygamous family system. This ideal in Western society is a bit of a nuisance because most people feel cheated when their mating is not perfect or well matched.

Several things were discussed with Johnny this morning. What is said in “true love” is usually the same in ersatz relationships and misunderstandings occur at a phonetic level of conversation rather than at a deeper level. Also, the danger of offering advice is that it is usually misinterpreted or acted on in a totally different way from what the adviser had intended. People rarely check and recheck whether they had understood correctly and cryptic messages are esteemed.

86. Pre-Christmas Camp – Journal Entry 13th December 1981

We are at camp. Most of the family are swimming in the creek while I sit at the campsite watching the kettle of water I just placed onto the fire. Breakfast was at 6:30 am and Johnny and Gareth cooked an enormous meal of porridge, fried slices of canned ham, baked beans and fried rice; our typical camping food. For lunch, we shall have canned fish, spam, processed cheese and bread or biscuits. Last night for dinner we ate “hearty beef soup”, corned meat with fried onions, corn and beans. There was no pudding this time; I refused to buy the yucky instant puddings sold in supermarkets. Why does all this canned, freeze-dried and processed cheese taste so good when we are camping? Apart from baked beans and canned fish at home, the family would never eat the food they eat at camp.

We haven’t camped for at least two years and are thirty or forty miles north of Emu Park, not a serious camp by any means. There are miles of wild and empty beaches, mostly Army Reserve land, with great fishing. We used set off in the early morning in our trusty four-wheel drive Rover and spent leisurely days eating oysters off the rocks and many hours trying to catch fish. Marcello was the only one who had the patience for fishing. Occasionally we would find the odd treasure here and there, much to the delight of the children: rusty anchors, blue and green glass floats encased in heavy macrame mesh, Taiwanese oil jars and a few beautiful shells.

16 Dec 1981

This week I shall get on top of the mildew in the bathroom and mend the fences and coops. On Thursday we have planned a trip to Rockhampton where the family will swim, rummage around the shops, have lunch in the park, spend a few hours at the library, swim again and return home.

In the garden, the banana trees need attention, as do the okra and bean plants. I will have to plant more okra and beans and make sure that the lawns are mowed; everything grows so fast in summer.

I must finish Gellner’s Legitimation of Belief and press on with my studies of Pascal and Functions, however, that will be after I make mango pickle.

85. Letters to Family – Journal Entry 18th November 1981

I would be very interested to know your impressions of Europe. Mary tells us you missed visiting London and Lourdes. What a pity! How many days were you away?

Marcello is in his second year of work and still enjoys it. His wife is expecting the second child. Nathaniel is now nearly two years old and starting to talk. He seems bright and is mainly interested in tape recorders, radios and hi-fi equipment. His maternal grandmother gave him a couple of old cassette tape recorders/radio and he knows which button to press, how to put in the tapes and take them out again. His mother encourages him to be as independent as possible so he can feed himself very well, selects the right pan for his omelette at breakfast and can usually make himself understood. There is no worry about toilet training – he just does all the right things – he used to crawl to the bathroom after his mother for his early morning scrub! There was no question of carrying him, however, the bathroom is next to their bedroom. Mum and I have to stop ourselves from fussing over him because he is quite aware of being the centre of attention. I find it very hard because he is very good-looking and has the most engaging manner, but then grandmothers are always mushy over their grandchildren. We are very lucky to have Marcello, Monika and Nathaniel with us.

At last, I have a photograph of Karen for you, taken at the twelfth-grade students’ formal dance. I also had a newspaper cutting of the three top students with a small photograph of each student, however, someone removed the newspaper from my desk. Yesterday she sat for her last subject examination and we will know the results today;  the academic year will not start until February ’82. Karen hopes to stay at the residential college which will be a break from home, she is eighteen years old after all, and may come down on weekends. Rockhampton is only forty kilometres away and Johnny is in Rocky most of the week. Last week we attended the high school speech night where Karen and the male co-captain gave valedictory speeches. She has been on debating teams for about four years and we thought she spoke well. Both Gareth and Karen won certificates for the mathematics competition.

Mum is almost into her round of Christmas celebrations with her various pensioner clubs. She was ill a month ago when she decided not to take her medication for high blood pressure, headaches and nerves. After a week or two, she collapsed with very high blood pressure and was in a highly nervous state. She enjoyed her week in our local hospital which is a very pleasant place; no-one is seriously ill there and if they were, they would be sent to Rockhampton Base Hospital. Our little hospital is right on the beach with good views from the public wards, the staff are usually friends or known to the patients, the food is good for a short stay and everything is clean, airy and cheerful. There is a TV in the lounge and in each ward. With only four patients in each ward, it’s really like a free holiday. The rest and change did mum a lot of good and after the initial heavy dosage of medicine, mum is now back to taking her medication only two times a day. All in all, life has never been better for mum, especially after hearing that all is well with Mary.

Barbara is improving steadily but it’s really difficult to keep her occupied because she is not interested in the usual activities like drawing, knitting or gardening. However, she now collects shells from the beach and mum takes her for a stroll at weekends. She can now choose books from the library for mum, cassette tapes of pop music and found a book on shells. At night, mum reads to Barbara; a recent activity which started after we decided to ban the TV from the house. When there is a particularly good programme, family members intended to go to the neighbours for TV. We’re not against having a television set for short periods, however, we consider indiscriminate television viewing keeps a person from being more constructive and active because it is a passive occupation and much time is given in exchange for very little information or pleasure. Now we read a lot, play games, play the record player or radio and talk to each other. When we see mum and Barbara enjoying their reading sessions, we feel quite firm about not having a TV.

Are you planning to come with Mary and Cliffy next year? Mum intends to go to Melbourne when they come so that she has a longer time with them.

Going onto something different, I wonder if you can give me recipes for Indian dishes which are either old and hence not known much, or regional. Let me explain: I have a small collection of Indian cookbooks, but I would like to add to them, either by getting more books or adding individual recipes which families may have, for instance, Cliffy’s mango seed pudding. I have the Dalda cookbook but it only gives a few recipes from each of the four states and one, of course, on South Indian cooking.

I have Veerasawmy’s cookbook on Indian food and several others. I thought Henry’s mum or Aunty Olive may have some and I though another source may be book stalls. Do you think it would be worth advertising for old cookbooks?

There are three that I am looking for (if you could find them and if the price is right):

  • Culinary Jottings for Madras by “Wyvern” (Colonel Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert), Higginbotham & Co, Madras, 5th ed, 1885 and first published in 1878
  • Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book by the author of Manual of Gardening for Western India, R Riddell.
  • The Indian Cookery Book: A Practical Handbook to the Kitchen in India, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co, 1944 1st ed, 1869.

If you or Mary have time, I would appreciate it if you could jot down a recipe or look in a second-hand bookstall. If what I ask for is too difficult, please forget it.

Did I mention that a few years ago I ran an Indian cookery course? There was a good response, three classes of about ten each, and I was paid quite well. I was reminded of this the other day when one of the participants asked for help with an Indian dinner party she was to give at her home. Curiously enough, the vindaloo was the one dish that most of the participants raved about. One can buy bottled vindaloo paste, at quite a high price, and it tastes better than our own mix. Do you know what is used?

23 Nov 1981

Tio Danding
Thank you very much for your letter. My mother, of course, is upset to know you are finding life very difficult and even before you wrote to us, we sent some money for you to Tio Vincente. It is not much (a little above 35 pesos) starting from October. I hope you have received it. My mother is the one who sends that every month for you and I don’t know how long she can afford to do that, so enjoy the money while it comes; I will let you know when she cannot send any more. In spite of the pain in her head after a car accident two years ago, she is keeping active. The rest of the family are well but working hard at study or a job. Barbara attends a special therapy centre in Rockhampton and a free bus takes her there and back over forty kilometres away. It is a very good place, Barbara has greatly improved and is learning many things there.

Look after yourself and try to be as cheerful as possible.

I sent a letter to Singapore about a year ago but did not receive a reply; perhaps you should write directly to them because we don’t know if they received my mother’s greeting cards.

26 Nov 1981

Tio Vincente
I was wondering whether you received any money? We are a little worried because we haven’t heard from you as yet. Did you get my letter written in August? I hope the money is arriving regularly and that you will have a good Christmas and New Year.

Over here life goes on as usual. My mother always has pain in her head from an accident two years ago, otherwise, she is quite well. There are many activities like physical exercise classes and sports clubs for retired people; they have a jolly time together.  She tries to be active, gets out and about and likes her garden of flowers. Barbara is in good health and her behaviour has improved; she still has her bad moods and talks to herself, however, with a little medicine she quickly gets out of her withdrawn moods.

It is getting hot now and the flies and mosquitoes are active again. Winter here lasts from June to September and is like Banawae weather; cold during the day in the shade, when it is windy or at night.

Karen has now finished high school and will start college next year, Gareth has just finished his first year at high school with four more years to complete matriculation. Johnny is still working long hours. I do the cooking and study a little mathematics. Our best wishes for Christmas and New Year.

Lots of love from all of us.

Tio Vincente
Another short letter in case you have not received my August letter.

I hope you realise that one-sixth of the money is for Tio Danding. Your family gets five shares and he gets one share. However, I also said in the letter that the first amount was for your family only, so starting from the September money, which should have arrived at your bank in October, Tio Danding should have received his share for October and November. By the time you get this letter, there should be another payment for him through you. I hope I have explained the arrangements clearly. If you have any doubts please let me know. My mother is sending the money for Tio Danding through your bank account as it will be too costly to send it separately to both of you. I hope you do not mind.

Note: ‘Tio’ means Uncle in Tagalog (Philippines)

78. How To Read A Great Book – Journal Entry 23th Sep 1981

The whole family felt very proud; Nathaniel won a baby competition. Barbara is still at camp and Mum doesn’t feel well, she is still somewhat withdrawn after the dramatic events with Les.

It was a good day, Karen turned eighteen and we had an excellent dinner of eye fillet, broccoli, corn, beans, crinkle cut chips and a creamy peppercorn sauce with shallots, followed by an exotic fruit salad.

Cream and Peppercorn Sauce

Ingredients
150ml fresh cream
1 heaped tsp flour
1 heaped tsp butter
2 tsp green peppercorns (rinsed)
1 tsp brandy
½ beef stock cube dissolved in a little boiling water (or meat glaze)
Shallots, finely sliced (optional)

Method
Melt the butter and add the flour slowly while stirring as for a roux
Add cream, peppercorns, brandy and stock
Mix until thick
Pour over meat

I spent most of the day dipping into Adler’s book How To Read A Book, The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, which explained in great detail, how to read a great book, “those that are of enduring interest and importance” and “of reading analytically, interpretively, and critically”. After dinner, Johnny and I had a long discussion about the process of reading properly.

24th Sep 1981

It’s been a leisurely morning so far. After a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs, I fed the chickens and ducks, tidied the bedroom, gave the vacuum a thorough clean and then vacuumed the kitchen.

Nathaniel and I picked a huge bowl of mulberries and then I hung out the clothes. Jobs had to be done by 3pm so we could leave for Rocky to see Karen off to Brisbane.

28th Sep 1981

Made a mutton-chop curry and dhal early in the morning; the masala for the curry was fragrant and delicious with a mixture of curry powder, clove powder, 5-spice powder, chilli, ginger, fresh coriander leaves, fennel leaves, lots of chives, tomatoes, yoghurt and pepper.

In the afternoon, I took Barbara to Yeppoon Hospital to have her foot examined. They confirmed what we thought, it was a pulled tendon and no bones were broken, however, recovery would be slow. Managed to read a number of short stories from Century of Humour by P.G. Wodehouse while waiting at the hospital. We arrived home at 5:30pm and Johnny had already made the rice for our dinner so we could eat straight away. Had a rum evening with Johnny.

29th Sep 1981

Today Johnny, Karen and Gareth are away so I have a family free day from housework. I should be able to work at my desk most of the day.

The conversation with myself went as follows:
What to do next year?
Why?
Because I’m not sure I can do mathematics.
You haven’t really given it a go.
True.
I might have to work next year.
As what? Why not press on with what you are doing this year and consider the matter in November?
The problem has not been defined as yet.
Yes, it has.

  1. I may not have the ability to do mathematics
  2. Seem incapable of working hard and consistently at study
  3. May have to earn money for the family

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes:

How to Read a Great Book by Alder & Van Doren (1965) PDF here.