66. This Daily Life – Journal Entry 6th May 1981

Still have this wretched cold. Poor Johnny now has it and didn’t sleep well last night; his second disturbed night.

Dropped Barbie off at the bus stop after an early breakfast, saw Johnny off to work, put out the guinea chicks, tidied the chicken coops on the lawn and the garbage heap outside the kitchen, talked to the dentist about Gareth’s lip and made appointments for Karen and Gareth for July. 

Did a little study, listened to Tom O’Shanter, hung out the clothes and made a cuppa. Managed to squeeze in more study then removed the tall grass in the goat paddock, made the Bolognese ragu with the mince Marcello had brought from work (a little fatty to taste but fine for the price), sorted out the tomato puree and did the laundry.

Ate lunch with mum after a little bit of reading and bringing in the laundry. More cooking after that: a current slice or ‘fly pastry’ as we like to call it, and tomato juice. Finally, I  gathered more grass for the chooks.

Karen, Johnny and Gareth were leaving for Rocky for Karen’s public speaking competition so we had an early dinner. Gran was already in Rocky bowling and would be picked up later. I read Barbie a story until Nathaniel woke up. He had a long crying spell but settled down after a while and played in the sitting room until 8:30 pm. Studied and ironed while waiting for Johnny to come home.

7th May 1981

After a couple of hours of study, I did the ironing, made the bread dough, cleaned the dining room, cooked some vegetable patties and started Max Blacks’ The Labyrinth of Language.

Read a novel called The Street Sparrows, a historical romance that didn’t quite come off. It was naive and over-ambitious. An unsatisfactory evening because I chose to have an early night then read the novel, which was quite poor, and insisted on finishing it into the early hours of the morning.

9th May 1981

Karen and Monika worked in the garden for an hour while Gareth mowed the lawn. The tree pruning can wait until tomorrow. The rest of the week was spent on meetings, meetings and more meetings: first the Computer Users Society meeting then the P&C meeting and after that the Progress Association meeting. Johnny was away for a few days and Karen had her social.

13th May 1981

What an odd day!

The whole morning was spent searching for dad’s death certificate. Mum is applying for a widow’s pension, now she has been in the country for five years, and the certificate has to be sighted before the application is accepted.

Rob from Social Security was most helpful. Mum couldn’t find the death certificate and was getting into an awful state so I rang Rob and told him about our difficulties. He has now arranged for a representative in Brisbane to check the Immigration Department’s records for some mention of mum’s widowhood and has asked us for a copy of the guarantee Johnny signed to see what could be done.

In the meantime, I sent a telegram to Nora asking for another copy of the certificate. All this took half a day and the rooms are now strewn with boxes and papers. Nathaniel joined into the search and scattered the treasures he found. He also pulled a few boxes off the shelves in his excitement and mum was madly cleaning up after him while searching. We think the certificate may have been kept in the Philippines.

After giving up on the search, I clipped the wings of two young turkeys before putting them with the old turkey tom in the goat pen, made pikelets for the children and then rested while I made a few phone calls.

The electricity has gone off twice and has been off for over four hours. We had a quick and unexpected shower of rain so we now sit around the dining table in the strange light of a large gas lamp whirring near us. It is 8:45 pm and I read a few stories to Barbara – I must write a letter to Nora explaining our telegram.

This daily life… of study and jobs.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes

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

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.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

57. Petty Behaviour – Journal Entry 13th Sep 1980

Extreme irritation seems to be the only indication or symptom I can identify over the past two weeks. I seem to have lost my girlish laughter and enthusiasm. Just about everything irritates me, the most irritating thing being me; Johnny and my mother next.

29th Sep 1980

Got over my irritation after talking to Johnny about it. Then this terrible evening where I was remorseful and then angry at Johnny. Must sort it out. Johnny says I must use my loaf, my excellent mind. I shocked myself at my angry response over a reasonable comment. I’m not working at the relationship. I’m self-absorbed, irrational and indulging in petty behaviour. Nor am I applying the same rules to myself as I apply to others. Johnny is afraid to say anything because of my unpredictable response and wants me to consider what it’s like to be Johnny having to live with Gita. He has to wait for the sun to shine again. What’s wrong between Johnny and Gita?

Let me list some of my recent petty behaviour:

I refused to use the stylus because Johnny had it when I needed it for my assignment. I was in the middle of writing, said he wouldn’t be long and then left it on his desk after using it to chat with one of the kids. I was furious but should have quietly pointed out what happened and carried on with the pen;

I was upset last night at Johnny shouting at Barbara over setting an extra place at the table;

I was angry and slightly bewildered at Johnny being nervous over my borrowing books on programming on his account. I gave him the book even though I needed it for my work. Then I made a mental note not to borrow books through Johnny. I will get my own ID on Monday so that I can borrow books on my own account.

Rather dangerous resolutions are taken thus, almost without thinking, which could cause further alienation: Not wanting to talk to Johnny about certain things because we seem to end up arguing or I clam up. Why do I clam up? Either because of a refusal to explore oneself, the topic is not important enough to bother arguing about or I don’t feel like standing up to Johnny; Not wanting to ask Johnny anything on study if I can help it. He is Head of Department and I am a mere student (a rather awkward position really) and also I don’t study very hard (then why don’t you pull your finger out) and might embarrass Johnny.

Surely it can’t be all my fault. I’ve listed most of what Johnny says about me, what can I say about Johnny that could contribute to bad relations between us? I couldn’t think of anything. He is good in most ways and also lets me know when I am triggering him. What about Johnny? Having taken the best years of his life and all of his money, what does he have? What about growing old together. Isn’t this another version of “I don’t want it anyway, keep the bloody thing?”

And having paid such a high price and involving so many people, can I just say, “Things are not working well, let’s call it off.” Especially as I’ve been told it’s mainly my fault. What can be done to make the relationship work all of the time?

When I try to explain, I’m told it is not time, I only think about myself or get a rude reply which means “Precious isn’t it?”

I said last night that I had a nasty habit of reacting badly when criticised. Johnny’s comment on being shocked at my selfishness over the book really threw me into despair.

I am such a shit, I feel a shit and occasionally I want to act like a shit. I feel so sorry for myself that I feel sick, yet if Johnny says I’m full of self-pity,  I get angry at him. Go on, really roll in the tears and snot…

To get back to our conversation, there I was confessing a nasty habit I had become aware of and Johnny mocks me with it the next morning! He repeated some of what I had said in a slightly mocking tone, saying I sounded almost proud that there was nothing I could do about it. He’s probably right. How was he to know it was an exposed nerve he was jumping on? Then he says, “Dramatic Gita, very dramatic. You said it, so why look surprised if it’s referred to again? You didn’t say it was a deadly secret, never before confessed to anyone, not even yourself and that it was not to be referred to again.”

All this is very well but we are far from a solution. As I see it there are three options:

  1. Give up the relationship
  2. Live together but live separate lives
  3. Make the relationship work excellently

I had thought of points 1 and 2 before July 1979, but not in detail. It was difficult to live with Johnny being critical of my behaviour. I find myself difficult to live with.

I thought of point 3 after Johnny rescued me from myself. Now it seems we’re back pre-July 1979. Johnny is critical of me so I don’t want to live with him. Terribly noble of me, no?

It would seem as though I’m doing the opposite of building a good relationship; trying to destroy it. But why? Is it classical psychology textbook behaviour? Having damaged the relationship, I am looking for ways to justify its destruction? Johnny, I’ve done this for you, can’t you behave better? Why must I always use my head for us, why can’t you?

Johnny appears to have given up all topics of conversation except what I want to talk about. It is quite ridiculous because I don’t have much to talk about. This complete dependence on me to keep the talk going, simply because I know very little and it is easier for Johnny to talk about what interests me, is not fruitful.

I don’t know what to do. I love him, I want him, I need him. I think he needs me. Then why do I think I don’t love him? Because if I did, I would look after him better than I do.

PoemToJohnny
By Gita

29th Sep 1980

Why do I feel so glad to see him when he returned early from the island yesterday afternoon? He had caught the hydrofoil back. We had coffee together and then I cut his hair. He cooked the evening meal, a simple meal of mashed potatoes with chives, a lettuce salad and veal marsala. He looked good with his face sunburnt and his hair short.

Later, after discussion, we reached the conclusion it was not a question of whether I loved him or not, but rather whether I was in a loving mood or not!

Quotes to remember:

“Mother, nothing can mask the taste of liver,” says Karen in reply to something I had said.

“Mr Fraser has finally made it to the family noticeboard,” says Gareth. Part of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s picture was on the back of the latest tide tables.

3rd Oct 1980

Last night the family had a discussion over dinner on whether we ought to give up Christmas presents to buy lino for the kitchen floor. Everyone decided against it.

15th Oct 1980

Solved the floor problem by removing the lino, scrubbing and oiling the floorboards. Looks very nice…

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got to go.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

55. The Nasty Mood Continued – Journal Entry 18th Aug 1980

The nasty mood continued. I had a particularly bad one and I was hurtful to Johnny.

We had a rather important discussion last night with reference to Ellerbrock’s article on Acne: we talked about faith healing and wondered how it worked; then looked at worry and stress and the damage it does. I said the body was in a state of siege and defined that to mean normal functions were stopped because the system was ready for an emergency, of an undefined sort, which could play havoc with the endocrine and nervous systems. Faith healing would appear to induce a relaxation that could be beneficial and is, in fact, beneficial because it would leave the body to get on with the repair.

Another important item of discussion was my observation that I would like to get back to being one hundred percent respectful and loving towards Johnny-blue-eyes. Apart from the problem of being together and thereby losing excitement through habituation, one has a closer idea of a person’s weaknesses. But now I realised that all of Johnny’s weaknesses are very minor and could be dealt with politely and easily. No, the problem as Johnny sees it is a cultural one, where being courteous and loving towards one’s spouse is not a prevalent habit, nor does it seem to be appreciated – though those who know us think Johnny and I have a wonderful relationship.

This morning I upset myself through a couple of minor skirmishes with Barbara and mum, but I did it to myself by not treating their incident as routine and minor. Being courteous and formal keeps emotions in check (and in perspective) rather than getting emotional then doing and saying things out of proportion to the incident.

I’m sick of lecturing to myself – why can’t I buckle down, steady up, just get on with it, instead of getting emotional and excited – to the point of not being able to breathe properly. Then I use this as an excuse for not doing work?

Johnny’s on holiday and it is very good to have him at his desk. At the moment he is trying to get a bumper bar for the moke. The bullbar we had proved too heavy for the moke and it snapped a steel mounting. A new bullbar costs $90, plus fitting costs, and the wreckers don’t seem to have anything suitable. Oh well, yet another bill. We could use the $50 I earned towards half a bullbar or tow.

19th Aug 1980

Illnesses must be regarded as madness of the body, indeed as “idees fixes” according to Novalis.

To get back to Johnny and my small talk a couple of nights back, I re-read Ellerbrock’s article again and found these hypotheses of his alarming, though Johnny says it’s something we’ve known about for a while.

  • “Human language, [a product of perceptual/cognitive/affective processes] reflects the error and distortions inherent in those processes; the language learned and used, with inherent errors, in turn, leads to additional perceptual and behavioural errors.”
  • “Irrational verbal behaviour, so readily allowing the making of statements contrary to reality, and irrational non-verbal behaviours initiate circular feedbacks which tend toward multiple repetitions, with corresponding amplification of the harmful responses of the body and the brain.” Both quotes from Ellerbrock, Co-Evolution Quarterly.

Anita called briefly yesterday to introduce us to her new husband. They seem very happy. It was good to see two people getting on well, especially after a long first marriage to someone else; presumably, Peter was married before too.

Madonna brought her horse to graze in our paddock. He’s albino and hence called Pinkie. His eyes are a peculiar colour, his mane and tail plaited with pretty string.

What else happened yesterday? Johnny went into Rockhampton to a meeting and came home with half a pig from the Schulz household, Gareth made a macrame hanging, Gran went to a lecture on prayer. Nathaniel is not well, nor is Gareth, and Barbara has the sniffles too. Marcello is not well this morning and was up most of the night because of Nathaniel’s crying. Johnny and Gareth cooked us an excellent roast mutton with turnips and yellow rice, followed by brandy snaps. I did some weeding and Barbara helped by bringing the grass for mulching around the plants.

We waited up for Gran who came in at 10:30 pm and then Johnny and I settled down to spend time together in the study until 1 am.

Mum80s
Gita in the study, early 1980s

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

54. A Particularly Bad Patch – Journal Entry 6th Aug 1980

Dropped Barbie off at the bus stop and then went to Colin’s place to give Johnny his lunch. Had a quick chat, read the National Times, had coffee, chatted to M about books as he is working on Reading Faster and Better, read Elkin’s book and D.H. Lawrence Vol II Poems and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

I was in the toot when I heard mum yelling for me and I ran out in alarm. All she wanted to know was whether her outfit was suitable or not. Mum was cross when I said it was not. Monika helped out with a white top to replace the dreadful lemon blouse she was wearing.

It is 9:30 am now and I need to do Probability and Stats, get the Cobol assignment together, clean the bedroom, iron the clothes, bring in the beans from outside and do the kitchen jobs.

So what did I actually do? Got the ironing done, planted spinach seedlings, picked up Gran from bowling and brought in the beans. Must do four hours of mathematics a day, at a minimum.

8th Aug 1980

Did a lot of gardening today – Monika and I weeded the rock garden. I prepared the rest of the bed for spinach and planted the whole bed.

Monika and Mum
Monika and Gita | Emu Park 1980

11th Aug 1980

Pretty foul day in parts; it is 8:30 pm now and we’ve hit a particularly bad patch.

Karen cooked the dinner and the beef daube was very good, although Marcello said that perhaps it lacked salt. That might have annoyed Karen to start with. At pudding time, she brought in the chocolate cake and asked me whether to put cream on it. I assumed there was an icing filling in the cake and answered, “People might like to put cream on the cake when serving themselves.” Soon after, I discovered that there was in fact no filling and the cream was meant to go between the two cakes as a filling.

“What, no dark chocolate icing in between?” I asked in surprise.
“And where’s the nice dark moist chocolate cake?” queried Marcello.

Karen was quite upset and took the cakes away to fill them.  We had to wait a long while before she brought them back to the table. Barbara looks with eyes bulging at Karen and then says into the quiet that has fallen over the dining table, “Karen is crying.” There was a further silence. Then Barbara adds, “Then why are her eyes wet?”
“Shut up Barbara,” I say firmly. She shuts up and Karen leaves the table.

Marcello pointed out that we had teased Karen yesterday for offering to make a chocolate cake and not making one, so today when she did produce the cake, we passed these comments. I cannot see the comments as being any more rude than the ones the family make when I bring in the odd pudding, but this on top of all the other things that took place today has made Johnny quiet and unhappy.

I’m in a pretty foul mood and it’s stupid really. Most things irritate me and the moods come on very suddenly too. The main reason is myself – I don’t do what I set myself and then I feel guilty and get irritable. I snapped at Gareth today, which was unkind. He pulled the sack out of the Rover spilling some of the chicken manure for the garden.

I have no right to be irritated, as above all we have a wonderful family.

Calm, one should learn to be calm and kind. Johnny tells me I set myself up against the world. It was a particularly bad scene this morning and I felt ashamed of myself and feel so guilty that I want to creep away for a few days. Johnny says I won’t get away from the problem and it won’t disappear while I’m away.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

51. World of the First Australians – Journal Entry 26th Jul 1980

Baked some rye and wholemeal bread for the school fete. An excellent night, the rain went away and the weather for the fete today couldn’t have been better. Went to Colin this morning about data input in Cobol. We sat on the verandah. The sun was bright, the sea views were what they should be.

Afterwards, Colin walked back with me to get some scented geraniums. We had lunch in the kitchen, red wine and coconut macaroons which Gareth and Johnny had made.

Death means you can’t go fishing.

Yesterday mum looked after the bread and moussaka. I fed bone meal, fresh from the band saw at the meatworks, to the plants. Then I dug up peanuts and planted garlic and tomato seedlings.

One of the brinjal bushes has the droops. I noticed this usually happens when we’ve had rain and wind. Must keep an eye on that bush. The damn dog (I think she did it) dug up the bone meal.

The garden is exciting at this time of year. The herbs are doing well, the garlic is sprouting, the dhal is ripening. I planted the strawberries late this year and I don’t think we will get much.

Marcello, Monika and Nathaniel are away for the weekend. Karen and Gareth went to the fete. Gareth won a Parker ballpoint and a packet of almond flour. We had garlic soup for dinner and a tart of pears in a walnut pastry. Gran went as usual to her Saturday bowling and then to church.

Took some onions, apples, carrots and bread to the Benedictine nuns. They are such special people in an otherworldly way, so different from others who lead a secular life. What is it? A life of prayer and dedication, time to think, free of responsibilities? Avoiding the usual worries over children, love and jealousies? Sister Gregory and Sister Benedict really enjoyed their stroll to church taking the long way there.

Bach’s unaccompanied cello is on the record player. Johnny and Karen have made a big batch of crisps. We sit eating the crisps while I write and Johnny, Karen and Gareth play Scrabble. The cello plays on.

Started Berndt and Berndt, The World of the First Australians yesterday and read a paper on Sexual Conquest and Submission in Australian Aboriginal Myths.

Notes:

  • Myths for men, enacted by them at which women and children not present.
  • Myths for women, acted out by women, in seclusion.
  • Women after menopause take the part with men in enacting myths.
  • Especially among West Australian myths, males pursuing women and forcing them into sexual intercourse then going their separate ways.
  • Recurrent theme – snake, long phallus, phallus capable of travelling by itself to reach women, excitement about women urinating or the smell of female urine.
  • Women usually fleeing from a male (or seek out a male and then say no or run away) but submits after a struggle. Rarely are there stories about illicit sexual encounters.
  • Myths about Dreamtime heroes who then disappear.
  • Greek myths also have encounters between Gods and human females who then separate. Also, this behaviour seems restricted to mythical beings.
  • Australian social life has groupings of different sex and ages. It is rare for married couples to spend much time together, especially after children are born.

29th Jul 1980

It is already 10:15 am and half the morning is gone. Kneaded bread dough at 6:45 am and made six loaves of bread. Put a pot of bones on the stove for soup, soaked dhal, made kofta curry, gave a few weeds to the ducks, picked herbs, ordered flour from the mill, took Barbie to the bus stop and put out the garbage. Also had time to have a mug of tea with mum and Monika. Oh yes, telephoned Johnny about picking up the flour.

It’s a beautiful day with bright sunlight. The ducks are amongst the ferns and potted plants again. Now I’m at the kitchen table writing while waiting for the next batch of bread to bake.

Yesterday was quite full. Had an 8 am meeting with Warby. It was a conference with the clergy to tackle the problem of ministering to Aboriginal people. Most of the clergy neither understood them or seemed to be making an effort to and are, quite frankly, uncomfortable with them. Most have not met an adult Aboriginal; most have observed drunken Aboriginal people and heard the usual tale of shiftlessness. The conference was to be residential to achieve maximum contact and discussion among participants.

Several plans were mooted:

  1. Have equal numbers of clergy and Aboriginal people from the start
  2. Have a group of clergy separately examining problems of dealing with Aboriginals; also a group of Aboriginals examining problems of interacting with clergy then bring them together to report discussions
  3. Have clergy alone for first two days then bring in a group of Aboriginals who would be willing to act as a consulting panel to the results of the clergy discussions.

Points 1 and 2 do not appear feasible, mainly as there is a lack of Aboriginals in comparison to the middle-class, articulate clergy. Also, Aboriginal people have many problems and interfacing with clergy appear to be quite minor in comparison. For the clergy, their inability to minister to Aboriginal people could be viewed as a serious breach of their Christian faith.

Warby is not happy with the third option and is strongly in favour of interaction between Aboriginals and clergy, possibly in a live-in situation. We meet again next Monday at the same time to discuss further.

Dropped Johnny off at the CIAE and then called on N at 9 am. We had a quick look at her garden then went upstairs so she could make cabbage parcels, sambar and rice.

Meanwhile, we caught up on the gossip: An Indian teacher has lost his job because his accent was causing students difficulty. He was without a job for six to eight months. His family turned Christian about a year or so ago and he gets the odd session as a fill-in.

Then there was A who is pregnant and had an abortion before study leave; been upset about it ever since. Friends are hoping everything will go well. And A seems to be terribly sensitive and easily swayed. S and his wife are spoiling their six month son, trying to turn him into a genius by buying jigsaw puzzles and so on. Apparently, they are the joke of the Indian cosmopolitan crowd. R and family may be going to Melbourne on study leave and the youngest son told N he had picked it up from conversation his father had with someone else.

I was back at the Institute at 11:30 am in time for Johnny to keep a 12 o’clock appointment in the Town Hall about setting up a computer society.

Felt quite giddy, tried to shake it off before the Cobol lecture. Went to the Computer Centre after to sort out the program. Colin gave me an old program he had written so I could get an idea of what a professional Cobol program looked like. Picked up Monika and Nathaniel from Farnborough. Noticed some dhal growing along the hedges, will get some as soon as possible. We had a good dinner of roast beef, zucchini, cabbage and potatoes. There were lamingtons for pudding.

Marcello brought home a corned leg of mutton. Johnny read another chapter of the Odyssey to us. I did a little bit of Cobol, read an article in the National Times about an illegal immigrant from Hong Kong, and grumpily lost at chess to Johnny. Went to bed early and read a little of more of Berndt and Berndt.

Jobs for today:

  • Make chapatis, veg curry and rice for dinner
  • Start on Stats again, for heaven’s sake
  • Cobol
  • Visit the Benedictine nuns again – I don’t know why

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • 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.

 

50. A Whole Week of Study – Journal Entry 25th Jul 1980

Monday 21st

Went to 8 o’clock meeting with John W until 9:15 am. After that Reg and I worked in the library on the Friday workshop. Had lunch with Johnny, attended COBOL lecture and then left Rocky. At home, Gran took charge of the meal and gave me the afternoon off. Started reading Elkin’s book, The Australian Aborigines.

Tuesday 22nd

Stayed home, did a bit of COBOL, cooked soup, beans and a curry meal. Can’t remember doing much else.

Wednesday 23rd

Johnny stayed home and worked while I made a beef daube and stewed pears for dessert. Gran cooked the rice while I transplanted the lettuce seedlings. Wrote another COBOL program and finished Chapter 3A.

Thursday 24th

Went to CIAE at 8 o’clock and started self-test 3A COBOL exercises. At 9 o’clock went to Barry to sort out first COBOL program and went back to Johnny’s office to work on more self-test problems. Read a bit on Aboriginal myths, had lunch, chatted with Ellen and went to the COBOL lecture. Went home, put away the groceries, ironed Johnny’s clothes, read a bit and Gran, Karen and Monika made dinner. We all listened to Johnny read The Odyssey by Homer and went to bed early.

Friday 25th

It rained most of last night and is still raining. Gareth is at home, Karen is at school after a few days at home with the flu – hope she is all right. The day is wet, dark and windy. There are about twelve ducklings, small, yellow and fluffy, and two newly hatched chicks – hope they are kept warm by their mothers.

Jobs Outstanding:

  • Income tax returns
  • Probability and Statistics, Chapter 5 then assignment
  • COBOL assignment
  • Bills and car registration
  • House insurance
  • Stuff for school fete, especially cakes
  • Make moussaka with leftover lamb and bake bread
  • Sort out the fridge
  • Plan the weekend food
  • See Colin about the data file

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • 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.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.

46. Day of the Cyclone – Journal Entry 24th Feb 1980

It’s Sunday and the time is 4:50 pm. Destructive Cyclone Simon, also called Small Destructive Cyclone Simon, is 40 km away NNE and travelling toward us at 10 km/h. The wind in the centre is said to be over 200 km/h, and right now there are gusts at about 50 km/h. Six or eight roofs in Yeppoon have been damaged.

28th Mar 1980

Dear Joan,

What a wonderful surprise your letter was. It had very bad effect really because it arrived just as I was making a ‘fair copy’ of an Algebra assignment. After reading your letter, I found I was making too many mistakes and wasting sheets of paper. So, I decided to stop and write to you instead! If there are mistakes in this letter, you were the cause of them.

It’s nearly three months since you left. I saw Fr. Meade once when Johnny and I were at the airport leaving for Canberra. I met Nadine at the supermarket and she gave me news of you.

Speaking of mores and depression, I fully agree with you. When we left Manila to come back to Emu Park, I hurt for over a year. Actually, that was because we had left my mother and sister behind in rather uncertain conditions and circumstances. It took two years before we were reunited. I used to have nightmares. My sister had a bad nervous breakdown.

It does get harder as the years go by and we begin to appreciate people a lot more than we did when we were inexperienced. Let us not talk of age; right now I think life has never been so good for me and that a whole new world and perspective is before me. I have the privilege to participate, if I make an effort. I feel you also are very privileged and can do many more things in Brisbane than Rocky. So go to it my dear, use your time well, very well; you have no right to do otherwise. But also remember, being a delightful companion to your family is the number one priority, they need you, especially now when they are hurting too.

Your Australorp rooster is in full glory, he has the run of the yard and thirty hens besides. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to enjoy the chooks, there’s always study or family to attend to.

Marcello has a fine lot of Rouen ducks and they quack in unison when anyone calls out to them, especially at feeding time. Marcello works now, deciding that higher studies were not for him. I’m hoping quietly that he will do so someday because he has a good brain and should use it. But then I suppose most mothers feel that way. Monika has had a boy-child. Naturally, his grandmother in Emu Park thinks he is the most beautiful baby in the world! His hair, a dramatic black when he was born, is now a light brown colour which threatens to turn golden. Marcel Nathaniel has lovely brown skin. We’ve accused Monika of sun-tanning him on the quiet.

Lynne is also taking Computer Science I, so I see her at lectures when I attend them. Computing is fun but a hard art to master. Someone can write a program, however, an elegant one is a different matter. Intelligibility is the keyword, my Johnny tells me.

Johnny is as gorgeous as ever but overworked as usual. I look forward to the time he has less to do and can write poetry and novels and play the flute. He writes beautifully and I have a whole case of love letters to prove it.

Talking about books, Johnny bought me a crop of D. H. Lawrence books which I raced through; I should say I read voraciously. Also D. Ireland books and a very interesting study by Dr Kamien on community medicine among the Bourke Aboriginals. At the moment I am reading Manning Clark’s A History of Australia and am up to the age of Macquarie.

I don’t know if I told you that I joined a group known as the CIAE Search Group which helps people identify their problems and suggest solutions. At the moment we are working with the Aboriginal community groups as well as a group of Aboriginal delegates from central Queensland. We held our first 1980 workshop recently (the first for me) which was very exciting. A further weekend workshop with the delegates is scheduled for Rocky and Gladstone. Hervey Bay and a few others will be making requests soon I think. Reg is in charge and these workshops come under community development. If you are interested I could tell you more in some future letter.

I hear much laughter from the kitchen. It’s my mother who enjoys seeing the baby smile, laugh or make noises. She makes more noises than the baby! The kids won’t agree with the last statement. They will tell you I am much more noisy with the baby, but don’t believe it, it’s not true.

The weather is so beautiful, especially as we’re heading fast towards winter. The sunshine, butterflies, the egg-laying-cackle of the chooks and even the chatter of the builders below make me feel so good to be alive. What does it matter if there are a few mosquitoes around, the lawn needs to be done again and Gran’s garden has more weeds than veggies in it? We’ll get around to them sometime, but in the meantime, everything smells good, the sea is calm and I’m writing to you. At least I was writing to you, but now I’ve come to the end of my letter.

Look after yourself and give my regards to the family.

Love,
Gita
PS: Do practice your letter writing on me!

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • 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.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.
  • Added Nathaniel to the Emu Park Family Tree.

44. Seven Year Recap – Journal Entry 2nd Jan 1980

Dear Marcie,

Thank you very much for being so tolerant. It must be nearly seven years since we were in Manila.

Christmas in particular is a curious time when one takes stock and wonders about one’s friends. I had wondered how you were going.

The report over the last seven years would be something like this:

Year 1 – 1973

Glad to be back and without servants. People are friendly, warm, small townish and so dearly Australian – offhand and casual but helpful and interested in one’s doings.

Queensland in particular (not Brisbane, that’s the capital and not typical) has this reputation for having barefoot lotus eaters, who would rather go fishing than build your house or repair your plumbing. Only emergencies need to be attended to promptly. Newcomers to the area take a while to adjust.

Johnny is very busy setting up the Department of Mathematics and Computing.

Marcello, Karen and Gareth attend the primary school down the road. The kids in particular remarked on the friendliness of everyone in Emu Park and deplored the segregation in their primary school in Manila.

Year 2  – 1974

Went north right up to Cook Town – didn’t make it to the Cape York Peninsula. Camped on a jut of land between the sea and a bit of backwater. The fish jumped onto the sand, asking to be eaten. We were warned of crocodiles but didn’t see any. A  lone fisherman who was camped nearby gave us huge crabs. They were delicious. We all agreed it was the best of all our camping trips. Did lots of camping nearby. There was a beautiful little waterfall and great beaches, one as long as nine miles and hence called Nine Mile Beach. Needed our four-wheel drive. We slipped away every fortnight when the weather was good.

Johnny still working very hard.

Year 3 – 1975

Had a lot of hassle getting my mother and sister Barbara into Australia. Took two years of persuasive letter writing by Johnny and an appeal to an M.P. My sister is mentally retarded, hence the problem. Things were not quite as carefree at our place after that. Our movements were cramped considerably.

Johnny working harder than ever.

My sister was in a bad way, twenty-nine years of being messed about with witchcraft, neglect, faith healing, drugs and electric shock treatment. She was pathetic, frightened, selfish, repulsive – a nuisance to everyone and yet she had affection to give.

So the next two years was devoted to sorting her out and getting her to relate in a human way to others around her. She was taken on at the Sub-Normal Children’s Therapy Centre and that helped a lot. Now she was going to work like everyone else. She travels with Johnny as the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education (CIAE) is near the therapy centre. Johnny has been mainly responsible for humanising Barbara, he maintains that Barbara’s home life should be predictable and stable.

Life gets a bit unpleasant when my mother objects to our handling of Barbie, however apart from that, my mother has a good vegetable garden going and a vast number of Australorp hens. We get about a dozen brown eggs a day, bananas when they ripen, the occasional pawpaw, passionfruit, chilli, aubergine, pumpkin, etc, etc.

So our standard of living improved and of course some people envy our extended family. During the 1979 Christmas holidays I was only cooking once a week! Everyone takes turns now with Johnny cooking dinner at weekends. I’ll save telling you of the menus until some other letter.

Grandma, as we call my mother, seems popular at the National Fitness Club (second oldest member), the Singing Ship Bowling Club and the Pensioner’s Club, whose members seem to regard her as a cute oriental mascot. She loves going out and is forever baking or cutting sandwiches for some tea or other. The expression is ‘taking a plate’ to ‘afternoon tea’.

To get back to Barbara; she is beginning to feel secure and has a sense of belonging. She is useful and helpful and good to have around. Above all she can work some things out for herself and does whole jobs on her own rather than working from a set of instructions. She has an excellent sense of humour, especially of the absurd, and it’s nice getting her to laugh.

Skipping to 1979

A year of crises but not all bad; in fact some positive gains. Marcello finished high school reluctantly. He will be a father in mid-January and Johnny and I will be grandparents. Monika is Swedish and dropped out of school mid-grade eleven because of the pregnancy. Apparently she wasn’t enjoying school much anyway. We’ve just added an extra room to the house. Monika has lived with us now for two years.

We always cause a stir when we visit Rockhampton library. Between us we take out forty-eight books and with three sets of surnames listed under one general name, things get a little complicated. Only the more adventurous of the library assistants are willing to tackle us.

After stuffing around all these years organising markets, nursery and candle-making and even giving an adult education course on Indian cooking, I took a preliminary maths course at the CIAE, a pilot course Johnny had introduced, using some material which had proved successful in the UK. The hardest part of the course was getting into the habit of regular study. The course is intensive, with four years of high school maths in one year.

The novelty of the material is that it is maths for adult students and not high school maths. Some of the examples are hilarious like the statement, “Minnie Snodgrass is the most beautiful girl in the world when the light is just right.” One clever device in the text, is the use of a dreadful character called Authur O’Figgis who makes the silly mistakes that one tends to make in maths when one is not thinking. For example, (a + b)2 = a2 + b2 instead of the correct answer a2 + 2ab + b2, so when O’Figgis joins Comp-Ferrat, production drops.

There could be interest in other parts of Australia in this course. Johnny wrote several chapters, eliminating some and rewriting a fourth of the course to suit Australian education requirements. There have been many conferences at which Johnny has delivered papers on P-maths. He is heartily sick of the subject and this is only the beginning.

We will be in Canberra at a conference for maths teachers where he will tell everyone about the Australian experience of ‘Poly-Maths’, as it is called in England. The author of the bridging course will also be at the conference talking about ‘Poly-Maths’. He is a tough, intelligent, beer-drinking, Rugby-playing, Welsh mathematician who will then come to Rockhampton for the second time to discuss P-maths at CIAE. I don’t know if you are aware that a lot of teaching in Australia is done through correspondence. I think Australia leads the world in external teaching. P-maths depends a lot on discussion between lecturer and students. It had to be changed to suit external students. Tapes were made which have proved very successful. Actually on the whole the external students did better than the part-timers and towards the end, the part-timers were demanding the tapes.

At the end of 1979, Johnny and I realised that being hellishly busy without making time for each other was disastrous. After all, our relationship was the most important thing. Every evening we had to stop whatever we were doing to meet at 9 o’clock. If we could meet earlier that was better still. The rule seems to be working very well.

We also took several holidays together, but because of the large number of people in the family and the fairly high probability of things going wrong, we couldn’t go away. So we spent our time at home in Johnny’s study and spare room (called the talking room) and stayed up late and woke up late. The family had to look after itself and only approach us in an emergency. We lived off omlettes, cheese, olives, bread, lots of rum, brandy, creaming soda and coffee. It was a marvellous time. We went for long walks along the beach and along the disused railway track and had long discussions. The family was most circumspect.

1980

So, Marcello looks for a job. Karen has two more years of high school and seems to be doing well. Joined the debating team last year, will work for her Duke of Edinburgh gold medal award this year and is taking science and maths as board subjects. Gareth is in his last year of primary school. If he carries on the way he has been, he should be quite a scholar. He’s read Silmarillion, is attempting to teach himself Greek (not working well at it), is well acquainted with the Iliad and is having the Odyssey re-read to him. He was interested in Aztecs a while back and seems to have enjoyed reading The Once and Future King. Things should be better for him at high school as he lacks intellectual stimulation at his age level.

Johnny still carries a heavy load: Chairman of the School of Science, Planning Committee and the Management Advisory Committee. He is involved in the Computer Centre and would like to organise rotating H.O.D of Maths (sounds like a windmill) to give him more time. So 1980 brings no relief. I have signed on for three subjects: Computer Science I, Algebra I and Probability & Statistics I. Also, in the meanwhile, I’ve decided to read about social anthropology and Australian history with a long reading list on selected books on sociology (some very dull) and  philosophy.

You are probably aware of Seymour B Sarason’s writings, two of his books are especially good: The Creation of Settings and the Future Societies and Human Services and Resource Networks. On philosophy, Johnny has discovered an Australian, John Passmore .

Please let me know in some some detail what your interests are and what you’ve been doing.

All the best for 1980 to you and the family

More next time,
Gita

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • 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. It can be found in Archived on the Home page.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.