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.

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.

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