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.

61. Geese Are Magical Birds – Journal Entry 23rd Nov 1980

Had a very sore throat yesterday and a fairly severe earache. Went to bed at 10 pm and woke again at 3 am with the pain. Did some summation of sequences, took a couple of Panadeine, had a hot coffee, worked some more and felt much better. Went back to bed but still couldn’t sleep so I read a book on sorghum. Talked with Johnny this morning and he is worried about me being erratic and unpredictable.

Activities from last week:

Friday: COBOL exam (didn’t do well) and had lunch for Tom.

Saturday: Slaughtered ducks and chooks.

Monday: Met Sam at the camping grounds to talk about what was going on there. Went with others of the protest group to talk to the Lions Club about the park. Dinner was good in spite of the patchwork pastry on the meat and potato pie.

Tuesday: Went out talking to a few people about the petition and then later to the public meeting at the CWA on whether the town needed a youth and citizen association. The library building will be vacant and this group would like to use the building as a community centre. Took Monika to Farnborough. Spent time chatting with friends and didn’t get back until 12 noon. Nancy called in and we picked tomatoes then went to see Joan. Gareth was out and I continued to repair the duck coop.

Wednesday: Felt euphoric after weeks of hard work and long hours. More signatures to collect on the petition and Barbie at home under medication.

Thursday: Went to the library in Rocky and returned at 3 pm for a siesta until 5 pm. Gran is out at Tannum Sands. Johnny returned at 5 pm and helped get dinner ready.

Friday: Cooked all day and made tomato sauce, tomato puree, oatmeal crunch, beans for salad, veal stew and stewed peaches. Mrs D was invited to morning tea. Will make mango pickle and mango chutney.

30th Nov 1980

Draft Letter to Andrew:

Thank you for your last two letters and for that excellent parcel of honey. I must apologise for taking so long to tell you how much the family enjoy the honey. Johnny really liked the comb honey and it is something we have not had before. Not only is comb honey delicious, its structure is so wondrous. I cannot decide which I enjoyed more, the appearance or the taste.

Your news of the geese was appreciated. To me, geese are intelligent and affectionate birds and you seem to feel the same way about them. Of course, you won’t be too upset when they hiss or attack you during brooding time, will you? They make excellent parents. Goslings, on the other hand, tend to give their adult relatives a hard time. The geese seem to find it difficult to control their young!

Study time is over for me for a while, although I have extra revision and study I want to do over the holidays.

Mango season is on us which means chutney time. You must be busy with making your chutney too. We grew a lot of small tomatoes so I’ve been busy converting them into tomato sauce and puree. Guavas were plentiful and I’ve made guava cheese. During semesters I freeze the fruit until I have the spare time to attend to them. It has been a good year for fruit: the mulberries were plentiful; the peach tree was loaded with relatively insect-free fruit; we’ve managed to grow some rockmelon; the tomatoes went crazy and we have a few okra plants; pretty handy for our large family. Oh yes, and my mother’s chooks laid lots of eggs. Life has never been so full of good things to eat.

Grain for the chickens is expensive and we’ve decided to grow sorghum wherever we can. It is difficult to let the chooks scratch for themselves, even though there is ample space, because of the neighbourhood dogs. Watering and my studies are the two main things stopping the garden from being really productive.

I may have told you I’m doing first-year mathematics and computing, a few subjects at a time. I’m a slow worker so I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time studying. Once I get the hang of it, I should be able to do more.

Life has been good and quite exciting these past two years. As I keep saying, we are very lucky to live in this part of the world and in this part of Australia – long may she prosper.

A later entry on 22nd Dec 1980:

Dear Andrew,

Hello and Happy Christmas. I started three letters to you but ended up with this little card.

Thank you for your package of honey and wax. The comb honey was excellent and much enjoyed by us, especially Johnny. I was taken by the beauty and simplicity of the structure of the comb.

I’m very glad you and the geese get on so well. Geese are magical birds. Here’s wishing you a productive and peaceful 1981.

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.

48. A Difficult Childhood, R’s Memories – Journal Entry 27th Jun 1980

Third day of holidays – we woke up at about 8 o’clock after an excellent night until 2 am. Felt very good after a hot shower, really good. Ate breakfast and went to the CIAE to deliver some exam papers Johnny had marked, and to hand in my assignment.

Met with R who told me some more episodes from his childhood in India. I’m not sure if his vivid recollection has been improved on over the years but I doubt it.

R was separated from his mother at age four and clearly recalls the day. His mother was crying, his father appeared and insisted she come back to him, but she refused. R even remembers the shirt he was wearing when he went away with his father to live with his paternal grandmother.

For some reason he was taken to live with another grandmother, a grandaunt actually. Even while he was there, R hardly saw his father who had to work as a water carrier on the railway station. At about the age of six, he went to live in another strange household. His mother was away at a teacher’s training college and life was very strict, with many rules to live by. When the other children came home from holidays, he noticed the same rules were not enforced on them. R had to bring his own plate to the table and wash it after use. He woke in the morning, went to the lavatory, did yoga, had a bath and then after a cup of milk, had to sit down to his books. He says he didn’t get much time for play.

One day he was sitting at a huge table working and he saw his grandmother arrive. R remained sitting at the table but burst into great sobs; he cried and cried when he saw her. He insisted and pleaded to go away with her.

R went to live with his grandmother. After some time had passed the grandmother said she could not control him, that he was always in trouble and up to mischief. So it was suggested that he go back to the grandaunt’s house. R told all his friends that he would never go back to his grandmother’s place again.

R maintains that he tried very hard to go back to his grandmother’s little village but he did not succeed. He is extremely cautious now about making such definite statements lest they come true, especially when he talks to his wife and children.

He was tutored at his grandaunt’s house, by his mother, who was now a trained primary school teacher. The adults were afraid he would run away if he attended the local primary school. He couldn’t understand their attitude, especially when he had agreed to stay with them.

His mother was an orphan who had to live with relatives. The householders persuaded her to marry an uncle on her mother’s side, even though he was illiterate. Strangely, one uncle’s name was on the wedding invitations but she was married to an elder uncle on the actual day of her wedding.

Don’t leave your children in other people’s houses, R warns me, people can be so inhuman.

So many restrictions were placed on him in that household that now, at thirty-six, he is being firm about not being the one to adjust his ways.

R and his wife are such different people. She has the attitude that if someone else is there to get things done, why not let him. His family seems very dependent on him and he gets very little relief. Minor things niggle: he has his bath early in the morning and his wife likes to bathe at midday or late at night; he would like to stay home and play board games but she doesn’t want to play board games and would rather visit her friends; he wants her to get a bank card to handle more purchases and household matters, but she doesn’t want a bank card – he thinks she doesn’t know how to manage one, and the niggles go on and on.

His wife says that he is the one that loves going out and that he goes out a lot while she likes to stay at home. She says he doesn’t read much. She nags the children and wants them to do well at school, complaining that he is not firm enough with them.

R says he’s had to learn to manage a household and family without having had brothers or sisters, or his mother or father for any length of time.

He feels uneasy because he now has his uncle’s name. When R was in high school his uncle went there and changed it from his father’s name. At that time R’s mother’s age was changed too so there is now only about eight years difference between R’s age and his mother’s age.

Even now he feels a sense of regret. When R was a kid, his father came to live in the same village with him and his mother. The father would follow him about, calling out affectionately, trying to speak to him, but R always ran away.

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.

29. Crows and Cane Toads – Journal Entry 6th Dec 1978

The weather has changed, my skin feels cool, dry and slightly uncomfortable. A storm? The winds for the past few days have been strong. It was difficult using the gas stove because of the strong draughts through the house, especially the kitchen.

Last night was very pleasant.

First before dinner we packed a forequarter of beef into the freezer, a slightly tedious job, cutting up, sorting, weighing and packing. Meat prices are going up, so we must be more restrained in our eating habits.

Then dinner, which was good. Marcello and Monika are away. Gran talked of her National Fitness Christmas party. We talked about the trip to the dentist and so on. Immediately after dinner Johnny made two fruit cakes with Karen. I offered light relief and very little help. Then went to read The Lord of the Rings. After that I sat at my desk for a while, sulking a little and then told Johnny, rather dramatically, that I would have to rearrange my life. We sat in the file room and had a glass of whisky and coffee and talked – with me getting quite giggly and amorous after another half glass of whisky.

This pen is so fine I could go on writing and writing words, lots of words.

It was a reasonably good day today. I spent several hours getting the Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) papers in order and writing up the minutes of the last meeting and typing the Treasurer’s financial statement.

Monika rang wanting to know when Marcello wanted her to come back – this afternoon or evening. I gave her the Svendsen’s telephone number. By about 10am Marcello rings in to get a lift home and to ask for the drill and sanding disc. So I put together some strawberry jam, marmalade and empty egg cartons for the Svendsens as a small thank you for putting up Marcello for a couple of days. Mark and Marcello load a lot of gear into the Rover, give me some fish that they had caught and suggest I come later in the afternoon for Marcello.

I drive home and head for my desk, switch on the cassette tape recorder again and continue working for a while.

No, I’m wrong. What I actually did was fry some fish as soon as I got in and served lunch. It was a gorge of crisply fried fresh fish. I then went to my desk, switched on the cassette tape recorder again and continued working until midday.

After a small rest for about 60 minutes, I mix a bowl of pikelet batter and get the roast in the oven. While putting herbs on the roast and sticking garlic in the meat, I tell my mother that perhaps the chickens have chickenpox. I had observed a very small chick sitting with his head smack on his shoulders and beak pointing at the roof. He then woke up, made a few pecking motions and then settled his head back again into hunched shoulders with the same strange beak-up pose. A little while later, mum came in to say that not only was this chick missing, another like him in size and behaviour was also missing and would I creep into the pen and search for them, please.

“Do you mind if I went later?” I asked. “I’d like to get this finished. If I went now I’d come back with chicken pooh on my hands and knees from crawling through the low chicken coop door.” Mum agreed, so the pikelets were made first and the tea tray prepared for Gareth’s ‘Jaguar’ friends who should race to our kitchen this afternoon as soon as school is over.

In the chicken coop, I couldn’t find the missing chickens or their carcasses. Trying to count thirty fast-moving chicks and three ducklings was difficult, but fortunately those nursing chicks were much smaller than the others.

Then I went looking for cane toads. They have been known to eat very young ducklings. There was one toad, which I killed. Next, I checked for holes or gaps in the wire netting overhead that would allow the crows in. Recently, large numbers of crows moved into the neighbourhood and one large family was nesting in the tree in the poultry yard. I found a large gap and fixed it with a piece of wire I found lying in the coop. We removed the Rouen ducklings because they foul the chickens’ drinking water.

Back inside the house, I clear the sink and get ready to go pick up Barb at the Yeppoon bus stop. I write a little while waiting for her. While driving back up Phillips Street, I see an embarrassed S talking to J O’D who is holding a mangled white Leghorn hen. He has it by the feet and it’s bloody neck and head dangle while he talks. Good, he has evidence I think – he must have caught the Dean’s two dogs while they were attacking his chooks. They have killed over 17 of our birds within a few months. I should have stopped to add my complaint too, but I continued home.

After dinner Marcello and Gareth shot a crow. We have a large family to feed too, the crows can search for carrion (there’s plenty on the road), instead of stealing our eggs and chicks. The kookaburras are a bit of a pest.

The day was not yet over. I leave at 7:15pm to say hello to the Batik class and say how sorry I am that I can’t join them because I have a M.O.W meeting at 7:30pm. The M.O.W. meeting was short and lively. We’re having problems getting volunteers. One woman is terrified of a M.O.W. recipient dying while being served a meal, another is alleged to have said she was not willing to be a servant to anyone. Pearl is having to do 2 hours a week.

Back at the desk, I’m writing in this notebook and drinking black coffee. The red Japanese clock strikes ten. I’ve just challenged Johnny to a game of chess. Karen has made a row of greeting cards with pressed flowers and Monika is making hers. The two lads were hunting cane toads. Death to cane toads and crows. Sometime last fortnight there was a very bad smell just near the rose bush. After a bit of a search we found a small galvanised bucket full of dead, bloated cane toads.

I must remember to separate the Rouen duckling from the geese. Her companion gosling is missing and she is being picked on. How she quacks; if she didn’t make such a noise and if she were white instead of chocolate brown, she might lead a less stressful life among the geese. I hope she takes to the spare Rouen drake we have, but he may not make the right noises; she thinks she’s a goose.

There’s a moth on this page as I write, a greeny mother-of-pearl creature, slim and long with flowing antennae. Now he is still, but for quite a while he would flutter, rise and jump or fly backward to land on his feet with a slight noise; curious movement this hopping backwards and landing with a thump. There’s another like him now flying around the lamp. He won’t last long.

CicadaPoem
Poem by Gita 1978

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Marcello’s girlfriend Monika came to live with us in May 1978 and she has been added to the Emu Park Family Tree

26. Endless Waiting – Journal Entry 18th April 1978

I’m in Yeppoon, sitting at a table in front of a small cafe that’s shut. It’s rather dark here, a few metres away, maybe 10 or 15, a hot bread sign keeps flashing, giving the illusion of movement and the bulbs make a clicking sound as they go on and off. Around and around the hot bread, hot pies, cakes and pastries board they seem to move. Click, Click, Click, around and around. I’m using the light from the sign and also light from the glassed and refrigerated drink stands in the shop at the back of me. The headlights of passing cars occasionally flash in my direction, brightening the table for a few seconds. There are two young girls sitting at the next table. It’s very quiet in this corner. The Strand Hotel Motel across the road has a few drinkers. I wonder who bought the hotel at the auction a couple of weeks ago?

As usual, patients are hanging around waiting for the doctor to arrive; and, as usual, he is late. How long will his patients remain his patients? Especially when there are more punctual physicians in town.

Quality is an interesting concept. The Bororo people of Brazil, according to Levi-Strauss, have it. Quality in cooking, yes, but what about the kitchen? Should that be tidy and aesthetically pleasing before one starts or can one produce good food on the one hand and have a mess in the kitchen while producing quality food? No. Quality does not or should not occur in patches.

The garden is taking shape. What do I have to do tomorrow?

  1. Plant zucchini – the plot is ready
  2. Finish removing the grass from the path
  3. Tackle the strawberries
  4. Plan the plots near the duck pen
  5. Peas – plan their plot

There’s too much on the list for tomorrow.

We’re sewing too. List of sewing jobs:

  1. Cut out hats – D-hats
  2. Patchwork for blankets
  3. Make some green hats

15th Jun 1978

Thursday is People’s Day at the Rocky Agricultural Show. It is about 12:30 pm and I’m sitting near the Radio 4RO booth. Mum and Barbie are playing the lucky envelope stalls. Lots and lots and lots of people at the show today, such a collection of humanity, but mainly homogeneous because this is the heart of Central Queensland. A country town. A few foreigners are around and one Vietnamese family obviously enjoying themselves. First, they had a hot drink. Two rows of stalls later they were buying pluto pups for the kids. Money is changing hands very fast at some stalls. One-way traffic from people – mainly children – to the stall holders. Actually, most of the stalls seem to be doing well, except perhaps the ear-piercings and some of the religious stalls.

I would have loved to have spent more time at the poultry section. I always get carried away by some of the beautiful birds – this time by Doblo’s Indian game fowl and some bantams. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll have a few different breeds. I must find out the name of the largish bantams that looked like Doblo’s birds. People and paper are littered on the lawn about me. It’s lunch-time so more and more people are dropping on the grass, more chip bags are flying in the breeze.

The show seems to offer everyone something to their liking. Competitors get competition, young lovers get excitement and fun and children seem to enjoy themselves the most. The high cost of rides and darts don’t seem to worry them and neither do the plastic prizes. The wind has come up again, cold and biting. The man at the kite shop is flying an eagle kite made from black and white plastic. It looks pretty from here. All the children watch. Nice smell of steak somewhere nearby. A loudspeaker calls people to try lucky envelopes at the sub-normal children’s stall. Suddenly people are rising from the grass, they all dust off their bums before heading off.

17th Jul 1978

At last, a place in Yeppoon where a person can sit on a Monday night and enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee. I’m having chips with my cup of coffee. Can’t decide whether to put sugar in the coffee. It’s dog obedience night. Dusty went without a backward glance. She was either eager or resigned. No use struggling.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Added my mother’s sister Barbara to the family tree. As Barbara was dependent on my grandmother, both Barbara and Grandma joined the Emu Park Family.

25. Cyclone David – Journal Entry 12th Dec 1975

Dear Jean, here at last is my letter as it was written before and after your telephone call.

Thanks for your letter. We will not be coming to Melbourne for the Christmas holidays, Johnny cannot get away, though we may manage the odd week or weekend in the bush. Sayang*.

I was looking forward to visiting Melbourne for several reasons – the main one being because it contains your family. There is a paper mill I would like to visit and learn to hand-make paper. Actually one buys a kit (you may like to get one for the kids: The Mould & Deckle Papermill, 221 Canterbury Road, Heathmont VIC 3135). And, of course, I wanted to see the shops. Heard a lot about them.

After minding our own business for two years, Johnny and I are right in the middle of community participation. He is out tonight attending an A.A.P.** meeting, to get the best deal for Emu Park in particular and the Capricorn Coast. Last night he attended the Emu Park Progress Association meeting where he was told that we would at last be getting a community hall. Emu Park had been without a hall for many years. The old hall was burned down by a firebug. This firebug had a temper; whenever someone insulted him, he burned a building or two. He set fire to the school. They caught him one day with a stolen bicycle in hand and lots more under his house. They tell me he was Welsh and an incorrigible thief. He died in a road accident and his body and car were stripped before the police got to him.

We’ve started Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) In the beginning we thought it was all a big mistake; we only had two customers. However, when we served our first day’s meal, we had seven customers. In a month’s time we were up to ten and then sixteen, by which time we wanted to drop some. Now we are at a manageable amount.

We’ve also started a group called MATTARA to keep an eye on people, especially old and sick people living on their own. We get taps mended, supply transport when needed, look after gardens, etc. Yesterday we had our first social afternoon-tea and sing-song because of Christmas. Sounds dreadful, but we all enjoyed ourselves, and the homemade cakes and jams we offered as prizes were really appreciated. Some of our clients were housebound and had not seen their friends (also housebound) for a long time. By bringing them together, they were able to catch up on news and gossip. Our oldest person there was 82. She had been in a home for over 15 years. As she wanted to spend time here, the Community Health people boarded her with a woman in Emu Park. This was her first two week holiday.

Our most dramatic case to date has been cleaning an 82 year old German man’s house. His house was condemned long ago, but the Council won’t pull it down until he dies. A strange man Fritz. And Emu Park left him alone. He was a first class carpenter and boat builder. He drinks, is excessively independent and has an enormous golden Labrador which knocks him into hospital at least once a month. When in hospital he accuses the staff of keeping him away from his dog. To get back to the house cleaning: the M.O.W. volunteers complained about the overflowing urine bucket in the kitchen doorway and maggots on the floor, not to mention the egg-smeared dishes laid ready for the day’s meal. So on Sunday, four MATTARA women gird up their loins, put perfumed masks over their face and attacked Fritz’s house. Fritz helped by burning the rubbish. He only cooperated because he had been told to do so by the Community Health Nursing Sister. To give you an idea of Fritz’s present state – he doesn’t know what day of the week it is, forgets to switch off his kettle, lays lighted mosquito coils on boxes of matches and lights a pipe that is not there.

Back to the housecleaning for Fritz. Right in the middle of all this filthy, stinking, dusty and seemingly hopeless job, a neighbour (who bought Fritz’s house and land) came in to tell us what interfering do-gooders we were and why the hell hadn’t we asked her to help. She continued to tell us that everyone knew she helped Fritz, that Fritz wanted the house filthy anyway and why couldn’t we leave it so. We apologised for not knowing she helped Fritz. What else could we do? She went to meet with the President of M.O.W., who was mowing his son’s lawn at the time. The President had seen her going into Fritz’s house so he was ready and pointed out that Fritz was a health and fire hazard! To do the woman justice, she returned to us and apologized.

Much later, Fritz was asked how his rooms came to be so clean and with eyes twinkling behind small, round, steel-rimmed glasses, he replied, “It rained.”

CyclonePic

19th Jan 1976

Today we are expecting Cyclone David. The wind is blowing at about 60 knots. The trees are trying to touch their roots.

The M.O.W. President and I delivered the meals because we wanted to warn the clients that we might not be able to get to them tomorrow. We offered to do any shopping they might need. All of them were prepared except old Fritz. He was in bed when I went in. The Blue Nurse was there and also the woman who cleans the house. The women were worried about him as the wind was blowing the rain right across to his bed. Fritz wasn’t bothered, he was hungry and wanted to be fed right away. Couldn’t get out of bed, he said, because he had no pants on. That was true, I saw that a couple of pairs of dirty shorts were soaking in a bucket in the kitchen.

This afternoon, a MATTARA volunteer will check on Fritz and take him to her house if necessary.

22nd Jan 1976

Very few people on the Capricorn Coast slept on the night of the 19th. The winds at our place were horrific because of the pine trees; and we were well away from the eye of the storm. Very little damage at Emu Park, just a few old, unused houses had the roof ripped off, and some toots (lavatories) found their way to the middle of the street. Had the wind been just a little stronger…

Apart from a wet study and a few broken branches, we thrive at Phillip Street. The kids are getting ready for school – which starts again next week.

Christmas was very wet, but most pleasant, playing with the kids’ toys. New Year or thereabouts was hectic because of visitors. We haven’t been on camp as yet; much too wet where we want to go.

Lots of love and a great good 1976 to you all.

Footnotes:

*Sayang means ‘Too bad!’ in the Philippines.
**The Australian Assistance Plan (A.A.P.), provided regional funding for local projects and social welfare programs. Ref: Local government and the Commonwealth: an evolving relationship, Research Paper no. 10 2010-11, Dr Lyndon Megarrity, Politics and Public Administration Section, 31 January 2011, Ref. The A.A.P was set up by the Whitlam Government in 1972.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Footnotes have been added
  • Cyclone “David crossed to the north of St Lawrence. It passed over Gannet Cay. Winds unroofed 30 buildings in Yeppoon. The breakwater at Rosslyn Bay was destroyed along with yachts and trawlers. Wave recording stations at Yeppoon recorded a peak wave height (Hmax) of 7.6m.” Ref: Capricorn Coast Storm Tide Hazard Investigation For Livingstone Shire Council Final Report, 105201cw/ Revision 3, Connell Wagner Pty Ltd, 28 May 2003, Ref

 

 

24. Meals On Wheels – Journal Entry 5th Sep 1975

Went to see Steve McL at the library about visiting people in the community. She is interested in lending large-print books to old people and doing activities with young people.

Those interested should help with Meals On Wheels (M.O.W.) to have contact and a raison d’etre. One or two women will be organisers and contacts. Lectures and films could be shown to help educate and entertain helper groups. We decided to meet next week to sort out the committee and roster for M.O.W.

A few of our potential recipients:

Mrs A is psychotic and almost everybody avoids speaking to her. She grew up in Emu Park. Horse-whipped her kid once and he is now middle-aged, an alcoholic, collects antique furniture and will not do anything for this woman. He hates her. She is completely un-loveable, very much the grand lady.

Mr B lives in a caravan and seems to have no-one except the people who own the weekend home whose garden he maintains. Very lovely, going blind with possible kidney trouble.

Mr C has a senile wife. She interferes when he cooks and he doesn’t get much sleep. An old friend helped by taking his wife out for a drive while Mr C had a sleep or went for a walk. His wife is now in a home. It’s very sad but he is a different man after regular sleep.

We called a public meeting. Priests, representatives of various organisations, a social worker and a community health nurse were all present. The chairman was good, everyone was in favour of Meals On Wheels. A very successful meeting.

6th Sep 1975

The school fete is on and it’s a cold and windy day. No rain though. In the morning I went with the kids to help at school. Everyone was rummaging at the White Elephant stall. Much excitement among the kids. In the afternoon there was a very good crowd. During the speeches, various people traced the history of Emu Park School. I worked in the tea stall.

In the evening we had dinner with Margo and Norman. The discussion centred around how to find out what the Aboriginals did around Rockhampton. Norman to find out what is needed. Margo to help with homework at One People of Australia League.

15th Sep 1975

Meals On Wheels started. Many did not want to get meals; hope they change their minds later.

16th Sep 1975

“What do you think of the kedgeree, Gareth?” I query.

He says, “Oh, the flavours don’t go well together. Those flavours don’t go well with the tomatoes.”

There was a sad incident on Sunday. Got a call from the neighbour about Mr E.

Mr E was expecting a meal from M.O.W. – kept looking out for it and getting quite agitated. When I called by, he walked down to the vehicle and peered in. It was 1pm and all the meals had been delivered. So the neighbour, kind soul, made soup and put it on a tray with cold meat, bread and a sweet. She walked the food across to Mr E’s house.

Mr E’s house was a shell and barely liveable. A strong urine smell was everywhere, especially in a room which seemed to serve as a kitchen, dining room, bathroom and latrine. The latrine was a blue plastic bucket. Meat was rotting in the frying pan; near which was a lump of dripping and over 15 egg shells, egg cartons and egg smeared plates. It was absolute squalor. Empty jam jars and dirty towels lay strewn on the benches and floor.

The house was described by some as “the funniest in the street” and the occupant has always been a mystery. He has no friends, speaks very little English and people suspect he knows more than he lets on.

Strangely, Mr E has a lovely golden dog, called Laddie, who is in prime condition. He spends most of his time at the pub. Every afternoon the pub people tell him, “The Meals On Wheels people are going to your house now.” To which he downs his can of beer, scoots out, races along the street, gets home and sets himself at the table. Some days he eats a slice of bread while waiting.

Mr E has a round face, youthful complexion and a freshness about him. His eyes give nothing away. He is 82 years old, lights a pipe that is not there, puts burning mosquito coils on top boxes of matches and drinks a lot of beer.

Mr E loves his dog Laddie. He is regal and seems to do you a favour by just being and allowing you to do things for him.

3rd Oct 1975

The Welshman was a smoothie, very charming with the women and drank heavily. He would offer to help with some job around the house, look around and then steal. Usually timber, paint or some other building material.

One day he was drunk and announced, “If anyone annoyed me, I’d burn their house down, just like that, no messing around… wouldn’t be the first time either.”

He was suspected of having burned down the community hall, the school and even a second community hall. He was Master of Ceremonies (M.C.) at six-penny dances that were run to pay for the community hall. But one night he arrived drunk so the people refused to have him as M.C. That was the night the community hall burned down.

Letter to The President of the RSL

[Emu Park, October 1975]

We need your help! Not your money! A group of local people have organised MATTARA* to seek out anyone in the community needing care; not medical care, not charity, just contact with other members of their community.

Some elderly folk are fit and well, others have helpful relatives or neighbours. Some, however, lead very lonely lives, others need practical help in small but important matters. Some, for example, have weak eyesight and cannot even read a newspaper; some are too frail to catch the bus and need to be taken shopping for necessities. Others have electrical fittings which are faulty and deteriorating. The main need on their part is for a little human contact and on our part to be able to find out when help is needed.

Younger people, too, may run into temporary difficulties and may need similar kinds of help. We do not seek out any specific age group, just people in need of care.

We have no doubt that your organisation will wish to share our concern and we shall greatly appreciate your nominating one of your members to join our group – not necessarily for visiting – advice of those needing care will be of tremendous assistance.

[Eight members were listed, including my mother, with three as contact people]

A meeting will be held at the Library on Thursday, 30th October at 7:30 pm. May we welcome your representative then? If unable to attend please telephone to convey your willingness to help us.

%%%%%%%%

*MATTARA – an Aboriginal word meaning ‘hand of friendship’

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

1. Preamble – My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

If you haven’t already, please read the Home page for the background to this intimate journal series.

Blog posts will contain my mother’s journal entries in chronological order from June 8th, 1969 (when our family settled in Australia from India) until just prior to my mother’s death in 1985. Some of her poetry and letters will be included.

I have used ‘Gita’ to refer to my mother throughout this journal series as it was the pen name she used for her short stories and articles.

Gita, late 1960s

If you are new to this blog you can read  previous journal entries in date order via Archived on the Home page. Then Follow to receive each new post as it is published.

Sadly, Johnny (the love of my mother’s life), passed away ten years after her death. He was a devoted father to our very large family and I dedicate this journal series to both of them.

Johnny, late 1960s

Let us begin…

Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • The Home page contains a gallery of photos, click here.