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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 Nov 1981

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

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

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

26 Nov 1981

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

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

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

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

Lots of love from all of us.

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

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

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

84. Dear Joyce (Part 2) – Journal Entry 4th November 1981

Last night, Karen and I felt quite nervous when Gran had not returned by ten o’clock. Eighteen months ago she had been in a terrible car accident after a pensioners’ dinner where drinks were plentiful. On that occasion, I sat up for my mother until a policeman came at midnight to break the news. One woman died, the second suffered several broken limbs and my mother sustained an injury to several ribs, a punctured lung and quite bad bruising to her face. The driver, a newcomer to Emu Park, was unharmed but an active eighty-two year old, a beloved long-time resident, was killed instantly in the crash.

With this in mind, I walked down the street just in time to see the bus pull up and to my great relief, Gran stepping out. She was closely followed by Ivy who walked part of the way home with us and had been in the same crash. We bid farewell to Ivy at her gate and continued home in the warm night air; Gran had enjoyed herself thoroughly and talked all the way home.

Summer is almost here, spring begins on the first of September and the wet season usually starts on Christmas Day.

5th Nov 1981

Today, Guy Fawkes Day, is Johnny’s birthday. Originally from Bradford, Johnny studied at Edinburgh University and has enjoyed climbing throughout Scotland.

Gran has encouraged us to celebrate birthdays and there is now a birthday ritual in our household. Weeks before the date, the person whose birthday is coming up, puts up a present list which is almost always ignored. Johnny didn’t put anything up because no-one reminded him, however, we knew he wanted a wide squat two-handled cooking pot for paella he had been admiring for months, in an industrial kitchenware shop.

A very detailed menu for the dinner is also pinned onto the noticeboard, in this case, whole grilled fish, cream sauce, chips, mushrooms, beans and lettuce followed by melon shells filled with melon balls, canned cherries and slices of kiwi fruit. During the meal, we had the usual quiz questions from Mastermind, some of which are so hard we couldn’t even answer on the third or fourth attempt. It was a hot evening and we drank too much Tasmanian cider.

It should be clear by now that our family enjoy cooking and eating enormous meals. We love the meals Johnny and Gareth cook on the weekends and feast days. Johnny lists the menu for a fortnight and tacks it onto the noticeboard in the kitchen so members of the family can check what’s been planned to avoid missing their favourite meals. It’s very convenient and takes the hassle out of deciding what to cook for dinner.

9th Nov 1981

I’ve taken a while over this letter and shall attempt to finish it today. Could you tell me more about the aims of the Women’s Institute you have joined? I noticed in Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, that the Federations of Women’s Institutes have compiled books such as Cornish Recipes: Ancient and Modern (1934, 11th edition), The Isle of Wight Cookery Book and Through Yorkshire’s Kitchen Door (31st edition).

For nearly ten years I enjoyed doing things I had not had an opportunity to do like looking after a child full-time, housekeeping, gardening, going to club functions, driving a car, cooking and sewing. I had to teach myself to behave acceptably in Anglo-Saxon society and Johnny rarely corrected me, which made the learning period longer than necessary. I still have difficulties cleaning the house because I would rather garden or read a book and although I realise it is a common issue, I notice that everyone’s house seems cleaner and tidier than ours. For the past three years, I have been studying mathematics and computer programming after completing a one-year bridging course based on the English Polymaths course. I enjoy studying, even though I make heavy weather of it, and I’m fortunate to have Johnny to help me. The College of Advanced Education serves Central Queensland and does a fair amount of external teaching with a focus on practical applications rather than pure or theoretical subjects. Johnny’s department, Maths and Computing, has a heavy external teaching load.

Gran and I enjoy gardening although I tend to focus more on herbs and vegetables while she prefers flowers and ferns. A couple of years ago with a few of the neighbours, I started a local market and sell candles and potted plants. It’s good fun but very time-consuming.

I must stop and get this letter to you.

82. Liver, Liver and More Liver – Journal Entry 20th October 1981

After the usual breakfast activities of feeding chicks and hens, washing clothes and tidying the kitchen, I settled down to finish the next chapter on indefinite integrals and start my next assignment. Andrew will be coming for a homework session; I must have a look at his maths book.

Mulberries and ice-cream seem to be the favourite pudding these days; the rich darkness of the berries mixes with the melting ice-cream in deep purple swirls. Dinner was pizza, with quite an array of Johnny’s different toppings, accompanied by a salad of lettuce, grated carrot and shallots, from our garden.

Over the next two days, I have a lot of cooking and gardening to do. Both activities seem to take many hours, leaving little time for anything else. The bean plants need to be staked and tended and other patches in the garden need work too. I will be trying two new cake recipes for pudding and we will be having our delightful sausages and liver one night and chops, carrots and boiled cabbage for the next. Boiled cabbage… reminds me of Dickens.

27th Oct 1981

Liver, liver and more liver, say the kids. Packed with vitamins you need, I say. Can’t mask the taste of liver, they say, but having sausages with the liver does help to get it down.

Gran was out bowling all day with the other pensioners. Johnny is still in Brisbane, busy gathering information on the new computer; he will be teaching external students.

I’m feeling yicky and must get on with some work and write letters. Andrew will be coming this afternoon for another homework session.

29th Oct 1981

Johnny and I will be going out for dinner to Ellen and Geoff’s place. I must check what clothes I have for the evening.

Made bread dough, cleaned a bit of the kitchen, arranged a vase of flowers and prepared a dinner of fried fish with sauce, beans, lettuce salad and rice for the rest of the family.

This weekend Gareth will be mowing the church lawns and setting up the side verandah. More study needs to be done and maybe a garbage run to the dump?

31st Oct 1981

The everyday jobs in life are tedious and I am still spending more time on everything but my studies. How much time should we be able to spend on what we really want to be doing?

I met Frank when Gareth was mowing and had a tour of the Sadari’s garden and ducks. Frank grows enormous pumpkins; he gave us a large one from his garden that was perfectly formed. Maybe I will make pumpkin scones?

Mark should be coming today for his homework session and I must finish off my assignment before then.

10th Nov 1981

This morning was lovely. The black cockatoos called briefly but the pine cones are not ready for them.

16th Nov 1981

Barbara wants to go to camp, but Helen tells me other parents are not sending their kids because of the inclusion of the Quay Street trainees. Phoned the library and discovered that they have found the Mozart tape that was supposed to have been overdue. After mixing the chapati dough, I made the vindaloo, beans in onion paste and dhal with spinach picked from the garden.

Not getting much writing done these days. There is so much to do.

75. Brown Bread – Journal Entry 8th Sep 1981

While feeding the chooks, I noticed a duck trying to eat a large green frog that I had killed last night. It was rather mangled and had been dragged around in the chook shit. The carcass was too large to swallow whole and the duck wasn’t getting anything off the frog. I tried to pull a limb off but it was surprisingly hard to casually pull off a leg. I left it, not willing to try harder.

I was still in the chicken pen when Les drove up to see mum. Joan and Sue arrived behind him to pick up Monika and Nathaniel. I watched mum shyly introduce Les to Joan and Sue. Mum and Les are now admiring mum’s flowers. There aren’t many but they’re hers and she’s proud of them. They are having coffee now. I had a quick chat to find out whether Les liked the boiled fruit cake so I could make him a reasonable exchange for his strawberries, enough for Johnny to make another batch of jam. Mum seems to be making an effort to get to know Les better and they seem quite happy together.

Would love to write and tell the folks back home that mum is having an affair! Actually I don’t think it would surprise them, even though mum has not done this before. I don’t think her capacity for such action is in doubt. She told me today that she didn’t have to be asked twice and seems very much in the air, absent-minded, giggly and thinking of snatches of romantic songs to express how she feels.

This is a queer position for Johnny and I, being all mature and responsible. We advised her not to get serious and worried about details but to get to know Les better and enjoy the relationship. There are certainly problems, if one cared to look further than the next few months. Would mum want to spend more days at his house? What would the mentally retarded daughter have to say about the new relationship? Would she welcome it or will it be a great loss to her? Mum has been Barbara’s closest companion until now. Why is Les pressing mum to spend the night with him at his daughter’s house?

Yesterday was the first cooking day of the season and I wonder if it is worth having a baking day; can one afford to spend a whole day cooking?

Made five loaves of brown bread, the evening meal, beef goulash for Wednesday, a pot of beans for Monika, a pot of beans for salad, lots of hot water for coffee and tea, three boiled fruit cakes, two chocolate chip cakes, a tray of buns and two small loaves of fruit bread. We lit the gas stove for the cakes and used the wood stove for the rest.

If planned properly, we could make savings of time and fuel by cooking more evening meals to freeze, making plain and sweet bread, storing cakes in the cupboard for immediate consumption and cooking beans or dishes that need long cooking times. Some things could be prepared the night before and we could start early in the morning. Dishes should be washed and tidied as one goes along or else there’s a lot of work at the end of baking.

Brown Bread Recipe (3 loaves)

Ingredients:
9 cups wholemeal flour (3 lbs)
1 dessert spoon of dried yeast (1 oz) or ½ oz fresh baker’s yeast
1 heaped Tbsp milk powder
3 tsp salt
3 cups water (1½ pints)
1 Tbsp oil

Please note, these measurements are approximate and with practice you will get the right feel for the dough. For instance, the water might be too much or too little for the flour you use, the main thing is that the dough should not stick too much to your fingers when kneading.

1st Stage

Take 7 cups of the flour, the yeast, milk powder and water and mix to a sloppy dough.
Cover and leave overnight.
This stage ensures a strong and elastic bread. If it is not convenient to keep the dough overnight at least let it stand for a minimum of 4 hours.

2nd Stage

Put in the salt, the rest of the flour and a tablespoon of oil or fat and knead to a smooth dough. When smooth, continue kneading for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough may need more flour if it is too sticky. You can add 2 teaspoons of treacle, molasses or sugar if you wish.
Cover the dough with a sheet of plastic to keep the moisture and warmth in the dough.
Leave for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

3rd Stage

Knead dough for 10 minutes and shape into 3 loaves, put into greased tins (cake tins are fine but loaf tins preferred).
Cover with plastic and leave for 1 hour or until the dough rises to the top of the tin.

4th Stage

Bake in a hot oven 225 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 200 degrees Celsius and continue baking for 60 minutes.
Take the bread out of the tins and cool on wire stands.

Notes

  1. There is no need to keep the dough warm or to heat the water for the bread. Remember, use a plastic sheet to cover the dough and keep the bread bowl out of draughts. For a lighter bread, substitute a few cups of plain baker’s flour say 7 cups wholemeal and 2 cups plain flour.
  2. Elizabeth David’s book English Bread and Yeast Cooking is an excellent manual to own, and interesting to read even if you don’t use her recipes.
  3. Bread freezes well and if you put a frozen loaf into the fridge the night before, you’ll have fresh bread in the morning. This means you only have to bake once a week if you are willing to make a big batch in one go.
  4. You may increase the flour without increasing the quantity of yeast used because leaving the dough overnight will increase the yeast.

72. Strange Jokes – Journal Entry 25th Aug 1981

I’ve been noticing strange jokes lately, about couples that have been married for many years, where the wife refers to the husband as “that codger”, “the old bugger”, “that bastard” or “the old man”; the husband refers to the wife as “the old bag”, “me old girl”, “old woman”. There seems to be so much bitterness behind the laughter and one does not hear many mother-in-law jokes bandied around lately. Perhaps couples don’t have much to do with their mothers-in-law?

It’s baking day and I will make two carrot cakes and several fruit breads after preparing dinner; tonight I’m making Bavarian meatballs followed by a sponge cake with cream and chocolate filling. Must also check with the family on birthday presents for Barbie, do the income tax preliminary notes and revise Calculus notes.

Today I remembered when Marcello was four years old, he thought cars had to be pushed to start them and seemed surprised when the car he was getting ready to push, started with no help from him. Another time Karen and Marcello were fighting over a frog, pulling and pushing, finally settling the matter with half a frog each. Life in India was so different.

28th Aug 1981

Time slips away so quickly.

Yesterday we went to Rocky to the library, bought presents for Barbara and of course had fish and chips for lunch in the park. Nathaniel sat with everyone and ate his fish and chips and drank his coke, dipping his chips into the tomato sauce.

Today the weather is glorious, not hot, not cold and the sun, bright and warm on my back as I picked broccoli for dinner. The days are golden and tranquil with a round of fresh eggs collected from the Australorp hens, snow peas, beans, lettuce and silverbeet from our abundant vegetable patches. Everyone seems to be peaceful in this dreamlike time – a rural paradise; can paradise be anything other than rural?

Parrots and topknot pigeons descend in a great flapping cloud, engrossed in the task of gathering their food. Magpies seem to have taken over the garden patrolling for pests. Mum is not happy with the echidnas that dig holes in her flower patches. Early this morning I heard Dusty barking angrily, nervously returning to warn me of strange happenings; I investigated and there were four big fat echidnas, heads and feet hidden, pretending not to be there. Queer monotremes. Later, warning cries from the chickens alerted us to one ambling past their pen, the poor chickens still jittery from a recent dog attack. Two marauding cats have been after their chicks. The ducks are not immune from attack either with hungry ravens swooping down to steal their eggs.

2nd Sep 1981

I know I would like to write stories, my diary, articles, poetry and letters, but the trouble is, how long can I go on without working for money to help relieve Johnny and hence free him for more of his own work? Johnny says maybe there will be no need to work. Last night was another agonising session with Johnny who says I do not care much for him and that he is at the bottom of my list of priorities. Fortunately, we didn’t argue too long, I said that I was slack about most things at the moment, that I was getting better and the evening ended wonderfully; thank goodness.

What is holding me back from doing all the things I want to do and seem capable of doing? I failed a subject with my suicidal attitude to work; almost paralysed with agony on how one feels and doesn’t feel. It’s silly to think of going away for a week to think, silly to want to talk to someone about being inadequate, I should just talk to myself, I know the answers. I thought I had improved somewhat but seem unable to work hard and consistently at my studies. If I can just work out what I want to do next year, that would tell me what I should be doing the rest of this year. I would actually like to work for money, with flexitime. I had a tentative offer from TAFE for tutoring, but realistically, do I know enough for that?

I went outside to feed the chooks and picked shallot flowers with their stalks. Mum cooked them with balachan and they were delicious.

Mum seemed to want to talk so I stayed in the kitchen, chatted and made a curry with the leftover liver and eggs. Lunch was relaxing. I tried to talk to mum about what I was thinking this morning and we agreed I should go ahead and learn what I can, not to be put off by the thought that I’m too old to be employed and to learn more anyway, especially about computing.

We picked strawberries at Les’ house and mum stayed on to talk to him. He wants to cook a meal for her and also came straight to the point: they could stay the night at his daughter’s house just outside Rocky or they could watch television at Les’ and mum could stay the night.

She said she would think about it!

Here are two seventy-year-old pensioners, mum and Les (who is missing part of his leg) having an “affair” or “liaison” shall we say. 

Monika’s comment on Les’ proposition: ‘Cheeky bugger!!’

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.

65. Easter Weekend – Journal Entry 20th April 1981

It was a wonderful Easter weekend, eating excellent meals and spending time with the family.

On Good Friday we enjoyed baked mackerel, freshly caught by a local fisherman, with a delightful fruit salad to follow.

Easter Saturday lunch was an absolute gorge of prawns, aioli and fresh white bread. Mmmmm… I skipped everything except the prawns and aioli. Our usual array of pizzas followed for dinner with stewed mulberries and whipped cream for dessert.

The Easter bunny visited on Easter Sunday so there were loads of Easter eggs. Johnny and I ate bread and chocolate eggs, quite an acceptable way of eating Easter eggs for breakfast without feeling too sick. Everyone piled into the Rover for a picnic lunch of pizza at Stoney Creek, a very nice outing with the family.

Easter Sunday dinner was the event of the weekend if one can call it that with so many wonderful meals eaten already. We had rump steak, Johnny’s cordon bleu standard béarnaise sauce and boiled potatoes, corn and zucchini. After dinner we all went for a quick trip to the Singing Ship – the full moon brought many others to the top of the hill too. We played the dictionary game several times that night, then Gareth, Karen, and her friend Shannon listened to Goon records until late into the evening. 

After eating a large granny smith at 2 am in the morning, I went to bed and was plunged into a long nightmare of monsters surrounding me while I desperately tried various ways of escaping. I can only remember one segment: I was in a room full of people and creatures, circled by tall black lizard-like men with long snarling whips in their hands. I had to wake up to escape, my heart still beating fast.

Had an idea for a story. Through a door into a room leading to a bakery, male voices can be heard and a woman is standing, breaking open eggs. One after the other, they turn out bad with large black spots on the yolks and watery whites. A man comes out of the bakery, stands and looks at the woman. She shows him the bad eggs and says they are bad, breaking a few more. There is no movement from the man who continues to watch her intently; she moves to leave looking appealingly at him. He softens and makes a small movement toward her, she rushes into his arms pressing herself against him. She puts her arms tightly around his neck, her body pressed against him. They stand for a while, then he releases himself to pull curtains closed but does not shut the adjoining door to the bakery, male voices can still be heard in the next room. They lie down on the floor, eyes locked together, the woman gazes down at his face brushing the hair from his forehead.

Did a lot of digging in the garden and planted a few seedlings of brinjal, the genuine eggplant that looks just like eggs, made a list of seeds to be planted and also what goes where. Made a batch of bread and must now iron Johnny’s clothes.

Very much in love.

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.

64. Carnage, Dog vs Ducks – Journal Entry 26th Feb 1981

Made oatmeal crunchies for Nathaniel’s playgroup, with extra for the family, and a salad for my lunch. After a little bit of tidying, I took Monika and Nathaniel to Yeppoon and then called on Linda. The Rover was spluttering somewhat, so I looked under the bonnet but couldn’t locate any obvious defect. Had coffee with Linda and we talked about being in our forties, feeling inadequate and frustrated, feeling one has missed the boat and wondering about one’s marriage. We discussed what skills to acquire, at this late age, in order to earn a living.

Made a chilli and coriander omelette for lunch with cold duck, brown bread, carrot salad and cider, put everything onto a tray, and ate outside at the barbecue table. After I had coffee in the kitchen and talked to mum, I managed to collect a few herbs and guava seedlings.

On the way to pick up Monika and Nathaniel, the Rover came to a standstill outside the Island View Caravan Park. After cleaning two spark plugs, I was able to drive off proudly.

When I returned, the family were back from school and work, so I read for a while and then made noodles and liver for dinner.

Johnny rang to say the moke was not back from the garage; he suggested I drive the Rover in the daylight to Rocky so I wouldn’t have to worry about its faulty light switches. Managed to get to CIAE to pick up Johnny, the Rover only “coughed” once or twice. The light, although brighter than twilight, was strange and heartbreaking and the countryside looked bright green. After the rains, Cawarral Road was lined on both sides with tall grass with delicate blades.

27th Feb 1981

A cyclone is heading for the coast, 300 km north of us. The rain is already falling steadily and the wind is very gusty; our chooks and ducks are drenched. The chickens must feel miserable in this weather without adequate dry housing.

11th Apr 1981

Poor mum cried when she saw the carnage in the duck pen. We lost eight ducks, many ducklings and two young Australorps. Another duck carcass was found inside the shed. Later I found a young injured drake that had tried to escape, caught between a sheet of iron and the wire fence. It had managed to stay alive, hiding from the dog that mauled its leg. Marcello’s ducks were safe and another young duck and some of our ducklings crept out of the bushes later that day. However, the next day, the rogue dog, a blue heeler, returned to Marcello’s pen, chasing his bantams around with great leaps. Dusty, our own dog, was encouraging it and, in fact, she nearly joined in the game! We found out who owned the dog and had permission to beat it (which I did) with a hose and a dead hen. Neither hurt the dog and it was glad to get away under a nearby caravan; I was upset and breathless from the effort. One of our other neighbours told me he had seen a few dogs over the weekend, one of them with a brown duck in its mouth.

It was so good to see Hamish. He called in for a visit with an American lass who was studying for a Master’s degree in Zoology at the University of Queensland. She told me the members of the Zoology Department’s Coffee Club owned a Jersey cow. They sold the surplus milk, far too much for their club, to the other department coffee clubs. They also had an egg cooperative, started by an adept member, who was told he could not exceed the limits of hens allowed for any one household. He consulted Legal Aid, then formed a cooperative and now looks after all the hens; the Egg Board can’t do anything about it.

“In true hegemonic style, the locally powerful were busy blaming their victims rather than themselves.” Colin Bell

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.

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.

59. A Quarter Of Beef – Journal Entry 16th Oct 1980

Plan for Thursday: Do Stats and Cobol, iron Johnny’s clothes and make the dinner: blanquette de veau (veal tail), lots of veg and rice followed by stewed mulberries and guava.

5:30 am Woke up and stayed in bed reading the Cobol book, did exercises, washed and dressed, talked to Johnny over coffee.

When I went to the kitchen at 6:10 am with Johnny, Barbara wanted to make coffee after she had started eating her egg. Johnny had said no because she didn’t do it while waiting for her egg to cook and would run out of time. When Johnny left the table, Barbara asked me if she could have coffee. I pointed out that Johnny had said no and if Johnny had said no, it was a no from me also. Johnny came back and said to Barbara something like, “Are you being tricky again?”
“Johnny…” I warned and mum appeared to freeze. I tried to explain to Barbara that she should be better organised.
“She knows all that,” says Johnny.
“You know all that, Barbara? Why didn’t you say so?” I asked.
“My mouth was full,” she replied.

Johnny went and had a quiet talk with Barbara about her talking on the bus and involving other people in her problems. Barbara was very sulky when she returned to the kitchen.

Nathaniel came with us to the bus stop this morning, it was such a lovely morning and so good to be outside.

When I returned, mum wanted my help with putting the newly hatched ducklings and their mother into a coop. Fifteen bright yellow ducklings were strolling around the yard while crows and kookaburras watched and waited in the trees. Also, a pullet had disappeared recently and there were small gaps in the fence.

The coop took a while to repair as we had neglected to maintain any of the coops so far and the chicken wire had come away from the frame. Monika and I had a talk about how to regularly and systematically maintain the house and yard.

The ducklings were tiny, really tiny, and they hopped away when we tried to catch them. The mother moved away from us when we approach. She seemed nervous, so I put a screen around the coop to calm her. The ducklings huddled together around their mother. The fence proved to be more difficult and will take longer to fix. One side of the fence had no retaining wall and we’ll have to stack logs and rocks against it by hand.

11:00 am Did some Stats, had some lunch and talked to mum and Monika.

1:00 pm Read some Cobol on file processing. Johnny came home with a quarter of beef, half a sheep and groceries from Flashers. We cut up, weighed and bagged the meat after quickly putting away the groceries. Mum managed to extract nearly a kilo of meat scraps from the bones after cooking. The bones will go to the dog and chooks and the soup, after having the fat removed, will be mixed with flour and given to the ducks.

2:00 pm Made coffee, put veal tail on the stove, tried again to ring Graham, the psychologist, and did some writing. Dozed a little after reading more Cobol.

Seems I did very little work today but worked later on from 7:30 to 9:30 pm

17th Oct 1980

Did one hour of study in the morning; who knows what else I did?

20th Oct 1980

Don’t move away from the desk unless absolutely necessary!

Made Spaghetti Bolognese, took mum to the clinic and went to the Conference Centre.

24th Oct 1980

Funny day today: Nathaniel is sick; Gareth is on holiday and limping around; Barbara is at home because of a school holiday and no bus run; Johnny is on holiday and not able to get on with any solid piece of work because he has to take the family to Rocky this afternoon. He is also unwinding after a hectic and tense week of important meetings; I have a pain passing through my head, almost on its way out now.

I must sort out what jobs need to be done. First the cooking of mashed potatoes, vegetables, sausages and liver. Johnny is making a cake and doing the library trip so I really have lots of time to sort myself out, tidy the desk, make scribble pads and phone calls, write-up my involvement in the Ecumenical Conference and sort papers into files.

25th Oct 1980

Did a little Stats revision in the morning and evening and picked our tomatoes –  two small baskets full. Made the meat and bean goulash for Friday and stuffed a veal flap for tomorrow’s sandwich filling. Had liver and bacon for dinner. The liver was excellent.

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.