71. Keeping A Diary – Journal Entry 23rd Aug 1981

For my belated birthday celebration yesterday, Johnny made a fantastic paella with tiger prawns, mussels, chicken, scallops, peas and purple beans. I was surprised the whole family liked it and went for second helpings, they hadn’t liked previous paella Johnny had made.

Life seems untenable. I’ve been in agony this past fortnight over my studies and it looks like I will have to drop yet another subject because of tardiness. I’m interested in Maths and yet do nothing about it. What am I going to do with myself? I have pondered this question many times but haven’t found any answers as yet…

Keeping a diary means you can write about events or topics you wish to talk about but refrain from because you feel no-one would be really interested. Besides, many people want to tell you their thoughts and stories and often don’t give you a chance anyway. Thoughts and feelings can be examined and processed through a diary and besides, it is good writing practice.

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Gita and Johnny 1981
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Gita and Johnny 1981

24th Aug 1981

At breakfast, Nathaniel sat with Johnny and I and ate mulberries and cream with a small spoon. He asked for a second helping but then didn’t eat the fruit. He was distracted by the unsalted butter, playing with the lid and losing interest in his food. When I took away his bowl, he had a slightly bad-tempered outburst and tried to kick me. I scooped him up, said goodbye to Johnny and took him to the chicken pen to feed the birds.

Nathaniel noticed a guinea fowl was trying to get back into the pen and a second guinea fowl joined it. He was amused by the two idiot birds bobbing about in a fruitless effort to get back inside the chicken pen. The turkey hen, who will soon join them, is remarkably agile; she can climb up the wire fence out to the goat pen but can’t get back into the chicken pen where the food and water are plentiful.

The fridge is being cleaned today and Barbara is home with a heavy cold. I rang Mrs K to wish her a happy 80th birthday, she hadn’t remembered telling me last year and was pleasantly surprised. Her son held a special celebration at his farm and today the Benedictine nuns have invited her to a special birthday morning tea in her honour. It’s a surprise and they sent word through the son to tell her it was for another neighbour. 

We have had some excellent meals, usually cooked by Johnny at weekends. Last night’s Sunday dinner was a roast beef, Bordelaise sauce, snow peas, sautéed cauliflower and zucchini with an enormous dessert selection of orange cake, chocolate and almond cake and stewed mulberries with cream and ice cream.

Karen, who was working at the Sailing Club, missed Friday night’s dinner of smoked cod which was poached and served in a light cheese sauce with rice, broccoli and snow peas.

The snow peas have been an excellent addition to our vegetables this season, growing tall and bushy with many pickings. They are by no means finished, in fact, I think mum has some young creepers beginning to flower and the broccoli has been very satisfying despite the warmer weather.

Food, the preparation and enjoyment of it, plays a major role in our family; it is the one time the family gathers together and everyone shares their stories of the day. Sometimes we play games around the dinner table and Johnny will quiz us, on capital cities or general knowledge questions – it can get quite raucous.

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.

53. Our Christmas Traditions – Journal Entry 5th Aug 1980

Dear Nora, You, Mary or any of the family are very welcome to come here and take potluck with us. Mum, of course, would be delighted. My only concern is that we would not be in a position to give you as good a time as we would like. Out here in the country, things are on a small scale and fairly quiet. I myself will be tied up with studies until mid-November and I agree with you, Christmas is for children and family. Your children should have their parents with them at the one and only major festival of the year. I will tell you about Christmas festivities in Australia, in a little while. I don’t know how long you intend to spend here, however, a possible program could be:

  • Stay in Singapore with the aunt for a few days
  • Call into Melbourne (before or after staying with us) and check if it will cost extra, as travel from Emu Park to Melbourne is expensive
  • Stay with us, preferably after mid-November so I can drive you around. On the other hand, I am free half the week (most weeks) so if mid-November is not convenient, come when you can.

About the export business, I can’t give you an answer straight away. I will have to make enquiries. There are already many Indian goods on sale here and it will be a matter of getting the right combinations, contacts, etc. There are also import licences to worry about here, however, I will find out what I can and let you know.

Christmas here seems to be very much a family celebration. Friends without families  set up a round of dinners, parties and picnics. Christmas also falls in the middle of summer, usually the wet season from Christmas Day, and all the shops are decorated and Christmas music played in lifts and stores from the 1st November. There are dances held at hotels (called pubs here) and a certain amount of entertainment between families takes place.

Over the years we have formed a pattern which we follow. For weeks before Christmas Day, the family wrap mysterious parcels for different members of the family and hang them or place them under the Christmas tree. There is a pile under the tree and everyone, with the occasional prodding and feeling, tries to guess what are in the parcels. Some wrap parcels to themselves with tags saying “Secret Admirer” or “Anonymous”. The kids find these activities exciting and in fact, they generate the excitement, but Johnny and I are not encouraged to put our packages out until the last minute.

At midnight on Christmas Eve, we beat our big gong to mark the occasion, have drinks, eat cakes and sit around while each person opens a package in turn. There is much oohing, aahing, thanking and saying, “It is just what I wanted!”

Once all the presents have been opened, people slip off to bed.

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Karen in lounge room | Christmas Eve 1980

Breakfast is a special one with bacon and eggs. Lunch is often cold prawns, mayonnaise, salads and bread. Dinner would be the special meal with a roast bird, vegetables, potatoes or whatever. We gave up making Christmas pudding for dessert as by the end of the dinner we were so stuffed and the pudding so rich that we would end up feeling rather sick. I think we have fruit salad now. Last Christmas we had roast turkey although usually it would be duck or goose. However, turkey was so delicious that we decided to have it every Christmas. The problem here is that festive food is available throughout the year and turkey and ham do not seem special anymore. We have now restricted ourselves to only having turkey at Christmas.

That is usually how we celebrate Christmas. Recently I realised that there are not many rituals and festivals in our lives and it is good to have some. We also celebrate birthdays with an extra special dinner chosen by the birthday person.

About things from India, we don’t need anything really. We can get almost everything we wish here. Over the years we’ve managed with what is available locally. Just come, use your money for travel, however, if you are visiting the aunt in Singapore, you may need to take a few gifts.

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.
  • The Gallery of photos is now on a menu option for ease of viewing.

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

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

At the end of March, the 30th to be precise, mum went to a pensioners dinner given by a local supermarket. On the journey home, the car crashed into the front end of a bridge. Fortunately, the car didn’t plunge into the water and three women were passengers.

The driver, who had put his seat belt on, got out without a scratch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karen is just over her end of first semester exams (11th grade). She has a year and a half of high school and working very hard. Last year she won a few prizes for debating, overall performance at school, etc.

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

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

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

43. Christmas Day – Journal Entry 25th Dec 1979

Christmas at last for the kids. We sat around the tree and each person chose a present addressed to himself and we watched while it was opened. A delightful ritual, Barbara, in particular, was wide-eyed and eager about Christmas and the opening of presents. She was given perfume, soaps and bubble bath scents by Karen and Monika and she loved them. She had a bath this morning with her new cosmetics and has invited me to use some too.

It’s nice to be writing in the diary but before I go further, I must work out why I feel frustrated with Johnny – at moments very intensely. It’s a contradiction because if I saw someone behaving badly towards Johnny, I’d be the first to defend him and attempt to protect him. So how to go about this… perhaps if I noted down the occasions of irritation:

  1. Didn’t want to go swimming this morning at 11 am. It seemed the hottest morning yet. At 8 am this morning the heat whacked you hard. On the road to the beach, Johnny made some comment (which I can’t remember) and I said, “Working up the right frame of mind to go swimming?” and he said, “Oh Gita.” I can’t remember but all I knew was that it was a short answer and I thought inappropriate.
  2. Made comments on my comments about the rice (made by Gran) not being heated well. Said it was the nature of the method of cooking, knew all about it, had lots of experience. Bullshit in this case, Gran admitted to being hasty and taking the pan off too soon.
  3. Told Karen I would withdraw my offer to wash up as it was her turn and she tended to swap washing up duties if she could. But I don’t think I put it well. Karen looked a little put out but admitted, however, that she didn’t like washing up. Johnny asked me to stop recriminating and I didn’t agree we were. Could be wrong.

Surely this general feeling of irritation is because I haven’t written much for a while.

27th Dec 1979

Johnny and I sorted out my general irritability. It was mainly my fault, which I projected onto him. Also agreed that Johnny nagged occasionally. So much general tension over mum, Barbara, and occasionally the kids.

I must record our Christmas dinner. It was so very very good. We should really reserve it for Christmas and not repeat it during the year.

We had:

  • Roast turkey stuffed with rice and apricots
  • Beans and corn in butter
  • Spherical chips
  • Gravy and Rosella jam

The large size of the turkey was novel for us and the meat was tender and delicious.

Johnny beamed with pleasure at the determined way we ate our food and demanded more. Pudding was mango and cherry salad with orange juice jelly, cream and ice-cream. Sighs of pleasure from everyone. A real success.

Boxing Day lunch was:

  • Moreton Bay bugs and lots of prawns
  • A dish of aioli to dip them into
  • A salad of onion, olives and leftover beans
  • Rolls and a couple of other things I can’t remember.

A gorge. Dinner, following that, was simple:

  • Avgolemono soup
  • Cake
  • Fruit
  • Ice-cream and cream.
  • Apple turnovers at Barbie’s request.

Our trees have been supplying us with bananas. Borrowed a book from the library on growing bananas to help us grow better ones.

Finish reading Lewis’ Social Anthropology in Perspective and have started Emery’s Towards a Social Ecology. Excuse me, I’ll put a record on the player. Indian maybe? Flute by Ramani, an exciting and poignant recording.

I love my love with Johnny because he’s Johnny and has given me so much. Terribly loyal guy. I love that best of all, the fiercely loyal streak in him.

In the meanwhile, I’ve read Phallos by some Danish psychologist and dipped into a book called Surrogate Wife – a bit of pornography wrapped up in pop psychology. The book Phallos was disappointing.

Today is Friday and what has happened?

Finished Phallos, helped a little with changing the door in Gareth’s new room and had a long discussion with Johnny on Passmore’s Perfectability of Man.

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.

41. Johnny’s Birthday Feast – Journal Entry 6th Nov 1979

It was Johnny’s birthday yesterday. The day before that, I wondered a bit about D and what he was thinking and feeling. Tried to work up anger over the whole thing and I ended up getting irritated with the family, the people I love.

Yesterday had bright spots, but Johnny found me unpredictable and moody. On the drive home from Yeppoon yesterday, the moke hood was down and Johnny had his shirt off. On houseless stretches of road, I had my shirt off too. The sun and wind delightful on my body. D rang yesterday when I was out. Said he would ring back but didn’t.

We bought so many good things for the birthday feast. Prunes, dried pears, apricots, peaches, figs, brazil nuts, peanuts and cashew nuts. The pistachios were for Johnny and I. The meal was superb with Johnny seeing to some of the cooking: we had lamb kebabs, mushrooms, sprouted beans and rice. The sweet course was half a rockmelon stuffed with strawberries, cream and ice-cream. Later, after the washing up, we brought out the nuts, fruit, rum, Cinzano and coffee.

There was an awkward situation earlier where two diggers were expected to pitch up during the evening. How to stop them coming during the festivities when they would be most unwelcome? Especially as the house had been invaded by diggers for over a month. Most of them were boring, with talk of themselves and whinges about the Australian Army. Johnny especially was fed up and he was not free in his own home. Anyway, to get back to the awkward situation, we talked it over while cleaning the sprouted beans and it was decided that Marcello would write a letter to Kevin, asking him not to call until Thursday, thereby solving two problems (hope it works). Kevin is intelligent but very self-absorbed and insensitive to other people in the room. He talks all the time, about himself and all the things he has done. Impossible to turn the talk. Laurie was to be met at the door, should he come during the meal, and parked in the pub until we retrieved him. However, Marcello and Monika met him at the camp when they went to deliver the letter. Poor Laurie had been scrubbing kitchens all day. He agreed to come at 8:30 pm and turned up at 8 pm. It was a good time to come because we had finished early. He came in filthy with kitchen grease, fed up with work and mentioned he was on duty again at midnight, guarding the equipment loaded on the trucks lined up for departure the next day. It was his last evening with Karen.

Infatuation: a foolish or extravagant love or admiration. D called. I couldn’t muster any anger against him. His gravelly Australian voice was so good to hear. What am I going to do? He feels helpless too, agrees that things are impossible. Can we forget or at least refrain from contact and get on with what we have to? D is all wrong for me and what I value. I could be all wrong for D, in fact, I think I am. His world is unreal, so far removed from the basic, hard, down to earth world I inhabit. His world would destroy us. It seems to have had an unsettling effect on D, always rushing around, restless, not given to reading much, no proper roots, getting his living from the labour of others. What the hell do I see in him? What? What? What?

Johnny says it is an escape from the slightly hard times we’re in, power or whatever D represents. Would I care if D were poor? Is it the life he can offer that attracts – the smell of money that gives D charm and attraction?

7th Nov 1979

  • Concentrate on P-maths
  • Stew, early dinner
  • Out this evening at 7 pm
  • Get clothes ready

8th Nov 1979

D not as fantastic as I had imagined. He was 30 minutes late to phone because he was busy bargaining for a higher rate of interest on his money. Another thing, he was anxious to get on with his appointments and so wanted to give me the taxi fare home. Shit. Next time, if you must pursue or explore people, Gita, find out their views on Aborigines, politics, religion and money! Anyway, D made it very easy to break clean. We agreed that even if I were free, he would not want to change his way of life, and I would not want to change mine. We were pursuing different aims. So why not call it a day and part good friends? There seems no need for false promises. Very little to add, I suppose, except to realise I mustn’t ‘finger sores’, it tends to be very distracting and extremely discourteous to Johnny. It hurts to think I’ve been a fool yet again – surely the ‘cafe’ business was another. Balance for God’s sake.

9th Nov 1979

Last night was good, with the house full of people and the younger ones doing the after-dinner entertainment. Had a long talk with Johnny. He said what I had done to him was worse than anything he could imagine. However, the thing to concentrate on is Johnny and Gita and their great debt to life. Our life had been built upon trust which I have damaged and must now repair. A big repair job I’m told.

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.
  • Australian Army soldiers, commonly known as ‘diggers’, were stationed at a training camp near Emu Park.