106. The Allure of Romance Novels – Journal Entry 3rd Nov 1982

Dear Nora, 

Please forgive my delay; it’s been almost a week since I received your letter. Life is at its busiest right now.

In response to your three queries: Firstly, mum would prefer the lesser of the two prices quoted and will contribute half. Would you like us to keep the $150 (1500 rupees) here for you or would you want us to send a bank transfer in rupees? Secondly, come whenever you can. It does seem inadvisable for you and Henry to be away at the same time. Henry would be very welcome here anytime if he wishes to make a trip on his own. Finally, the road trip from Sydney to Rockhampton takes two nights and one day. It would cost say $100 (1000 rupees) without food. 

I would suggest you book Madras to Brisbane and Brisbane to Madras with an option to leave from Melbourne. Mum will buy you a plane ticket from Brisbane to Rocky when we know definite dates. Once you are here, we will book your Rocky to Brisbane or Rocky to Melbourne flight. The same arrangement could be used by Henry, of course. If you can raise the fare to Australia, we will look after you here.

Perhaps Mary can advise you on what to pack. You can borrow warm clothes from mum as I am sure you wouldn’t care for mine! If you are thinking of buying small presents for the folks here, may I delicately suggest that it would not be necessary as many Indian things are available here. I do agree you should pack as lightly as you can and remember, no seeds, rawhide leather, skins, plants or flowers are allowed into Australia.

I am posting this letter today as we have to go and withdraw mum’s money at the Post Office and I’m cashing the child endowment cheque too. I look forward to hearing about your plans!

4th November 1982

Today, Mum is off on a pensioners’ bus trip.

While dropping Barbara at the bus stop, I started thinking about Mills and Boon romance novels. Written by females, for female consumption, these novels are quite lucrative.  Nevertheless, educated women don’t seem to read them, and not all uneducated women read them either. Young girls, married women and old ladies read romance novels and have done so for nearly two-hundred years, according to a recent article of dubious scholarship. There are strict rules: passionate kissing and retaining one’s honour are allowed but rarely (in fact never) is fondling of the breasts or (god forbid) any touching below the waist. Sexual intercourse, and a certain amount of fondling, is now included within a particular subset of these novels. 

The heroine is usually independent and beautiful, with a sense of humour, honest and passionate. The men tend to be tall, handsome and quite ardent. They are often very wealthy farmers with large estates. Initially, there is antagonism and distrust, explained later as a ploy to fight against their mutual attraction. The main characters endure many incidents, working together in crises until eventually they can’t help but admire and respect one another. Usually, there is another male and female who delay our happy couple from finding true love. Finally, they come together and, as in fairy tales, live happily ever after.

The article in the Weekend Australian says that women’s taste for these novels indicates their interest in sex and, according to a Kinsey Report of the 1950s, more women were turned on by hardcore pornography than men. 

Off the cuff reply to that—from what one gathers after reading romantic novels, such as Jane Eyre, is that women want to feel powerful in the sense that the man wants her, and only her and that she can make him completely happy. On the other hand, only he can cause her to succumb and revel in her femaleness: burying his face in her beautiful hair and saying things like, “you elf-creature, what magic have you bound me with?” I’m not sure how explicitly the sexual act comes into it, not very I suspect unless the man is skilful enough to give her pleasure, intense pleasure at that. It seems that the sexual act is a vague part of the passionate kissing in a tight embrace.

We should keep in mind, I suppose, that these novels portray characters who are larger than life. The women are more beautiful,  competent, faithful and courageous than the female reader. The hero is handsome, humorous, wildly passionate but not out of control, and articulate enough to say most of the things women want to hear. He does not go off to the pub drinking with his mates. There is more than enough delightful concentration on the lucky couple; their preoccupation with one another would satisfy most female readers. However, what women read and what they want in real life might be two different things. How does one find that out?

103. Zilzie Beach – Journal Entry 16th Sep 1982

Toby and I plan to go for a long walk along Zilzie Beach on Thursday. I telephoned the newsagency about the advertisement and Woodworking magazine. I really must get my program working, telephone Johnny for hard copies, pay bills and work on cost accounting, otherwise the progress I’ve made this week will be lost.

18th September 1982

I make endless lists and schedules. The next three weeks will be very busy. Karen will only be home on 25 & 26 Sep so I’ll need to send her presents earlier, Gareth will be camping between 26-28 Sep and Barbara is now home for 2 weeks. Other jobs: cook for the wedding on 28 Sep, organise our Rocky day on 1 Oct, pick up books on woodworking machines and finally plan my study, specifically to finish methodology and cost accounting on time…oh and organise the roosters to be killed.

19th September 1982

Dear Nora,

We were wondering whether you will be visiting us in December? Mum seems to think you will be, but could you please let us know what your plans are? By the way, the international airport for Queensland is in Brisbane.

Mum also wanted to know about dad’s grave and how much money was involved—we didn’t get an answer about it.

At the risk of upsetting you, I would like to add my advice to M’s, that perhaps you should become very skilled in shorthand typing instead of pursuing a B.A.? The Indian B.A. is not worth much and as you know M has to do 80% of the Australian B.A. to get a recognisable degree. Shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and accounting are skills that could get you somewhere. Once you’ve acquired those basic skills, there is no reason you couldn’t just go onto the B.A. course. Unless you take extra units in a particular area such as social welfare, a diploma in teaching or computing to specialise, B.A. holders can usually get a clerical job.

20th September 1982

Read two articles in the Australian Women’s Weekly today. The first article provided advice on coping with arthritis: keeping cheerful, being well-rested and having confidence in oneself. The second article stressed the importance of keeping level-headed under pressure or when facing a crisis.

Tonight we will have Kofta curry, dhal with greens, onions in yoghurt and fried brinjal. After that we can have orange salad or maybe a whole orange each. 

Managed to finish William Golding’s Rites of Passage—such an unusual plot with highly polished and professional writing. Spent two hours typing Karen’s assignment to avoid my cost accounting and programming.

21st September 1982

I woke up this morning feeling nauseous. My back felt sore too. Nevertheless, I must bake chocolate cakes this afternoon. Fortunately, tonight’s dinner will require very little preparation: noodles with prawns, omelette strips, kabanas and vegetables from the garden. After I sort out my study schedule, I’ll ring Yeppoon High.

23rd September 1982

Very interesting extract from a letter by Thomas Gray to his friend Mr Bonstetten, Cambridge, April 12, 1770:

I must cite another Greek writer to you, because it is much to my purpose: he is describing the character of a genius truly inclined to philosophy: “It includes,” he says, “qualifications rarely united in one single mind, quickness of apprehension, and a retentive memory, vivacity and application, gentleness and magnanimity:” to these he adds “an invincible love of truth, and consequently of probity and justice. Such a soul,” continues he, “will be little inclined to sensual pleasures, and consequently temperate; a stranger to illiberality and avarice; being accustomed to the most extensive views of things, and sublimest contemplations, it will contract an habitual greatness, will look down with a kind of disregard on human life, and on death, consequently, will possess the truest fortitude. Such,” says he, “is the mind born to govern the rest of mankind.”

My back is still not getting better and causing me quite a bit of anxiety. Possible causes: a muscle pulled during an awkward movement; arthritis; degeneration of the lower spine, common in older women; colon or bone cancer; a virus. My legs seem to tire easily and I’m usually most comfortable lying on my back or stomach, so I shall persist with rest and gentle exercise. 

I’m off to Zilzie Beach with Toby.

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

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

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

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

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

11th Aug 1982

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

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

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

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

12th Aug 1982

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

99. The Cinderella Complex – Journal Entry 31st July 1982

Today I have some rather important jobs to complete and missed my morning exercises. Several bills must be paid, so I will need to check the bank balance to ensure we can cover them. I think my Calculus problems will take several hours and Johnny’s clothes do not appear to have ironed themselves. The morning is almost over. I’m pleased that I managed to convince Barbara to hose the garden instead of sitting on the lawn talking to herself.

2/8/82

This week looks fairly clear for catching up on study. Monika needs a lift to Yeppoon Hospital on Friday and the family are looking forward to the Rocky fete on Saturday. We may even have a picnic on Sunday depending on the weather. 

The day unfortunately started with Johnny and I arguing briefly about Henry Miller. In spite of that, I read several interesting articles in the National Times: When the Bad Times Came, a short story written by Fay Weldon about urban families and infidelity; then and a review of a book on women’s dependence on men, The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling, which Yvonne Preston described as a flimsy, superficial study of women, containing half-truths. She pointed out it did not mention that men also wanted to leave the world of work and be dependent on someone and that few women are capable of supporting a man. “We badly need a book which starts, not from the readily assumed premise of female weaknesses, but from questioning the readily assumed strength of the male of the species,” she said.

Another article of interest was of women, and no doubt men, advertising for other interesting people as a means of widening their social circle. Pickups at a bar were deemed unsatisfactory. A group of women advertised and set up lunch meetings instead. It turned out to be highly successful. 

3/8/82

My mind is a jumble of thoughts, possibly brought on by Orwell’s Burmese Days. I read half of it and then read the ending. After that I reread the passage in The Road to Wigan Pier, where Orwell describes his upbringing in a shabby-genteel family and makes accurate observations on class distinction and class hatred; very applicable here to the Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal conflict I think. 

Today is another clear day for study. Barbara is still at home and getting worse; we have had to increase the tranquilliser dosage. Johnny is at an evening meeting of the CQ computer users society and I need to pop out to pick up some kerosene.

Letter to Max

Mum was so happy to receive your letter and especially pleased that L liked the bicycle parts she sent for him. Maybe he could write her a few lines if he has not already done so? Attached to this letter are photocopies; it is all I could find in the library on flush doors and I hope it is of some use to you.

We are picking up two second-hand books this week on building construction. I am told that although they do not have much on flush doors, they are useful books to own, so I hope you will find them interesting and informative. There are very few books available on woodworking machines it seems, but we will go ahead with another advert in the Saturday paper to see what we get and will be posting William Watson Sharp’s book, Australian Methods of Building Construction. It is now out of print so quite a challenge to find this copy. Your job could definitely improve your woodworking skills.

About the home problem… you seem to be doing the right thing especially as A is dependent on you. She is the children’s mother and the three of you are responsible for her, no?

Talking to Mary from time to time should help, but don’t forget Mary and Cliff may leave in a few years, so enjoy their company while you can. Mary had said she would like to help the kids with their homework. Impress upon the children the importance of a good education.

You should keep healthy and cheerful now you are in charge. Please do not hesitate to let us know your troubles. Mum will help if she can. Writing to us will help you clarify your problems.

Thanks for inviting mum; she has read and re-read your letter so many times! She thinks about writing but when it comes to putting pen to paper, she cannot think of what to say; perhaps because I usually do the letter writing for her.

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.