89. Reflections – Journal Entry 9th February 1982

It is a lovely morning, the household has eaten breakfast and everyone is busy getting on with their day. The time is 7:15 am, Monika and Barbara are at the bus stop, Johnny is about to leave for work and I will ask Gareth to help me put out the garbage. Johnny and I went to the garage earlier to fill the Rover with petrol and put air into the tyres so I can drive grandma to her afternoon bowling.

This is Monika’s typewriter, and I am finding it difficult to use it after an electric machine. One has to hit the keys so much harder and slow down considerably to give the keys time to get back into place.

Yesterday I followed the first half of the day’s schedule and then settled down for a couple of hours to read Johnny’s earliest letters. I took a stroll on the beach with Gran, Monika and Nathaniel for half an hour, but couldn’t fully relax, I was longing to get back to the letters. I wanted to read my early letters to Johnny, starting with our long train journey to Benares. Unfortunately, on our return I noticed the house needed attention, so with my mind elsewhere, I cleaned and dusted. Then Gran asked for some help to prepare our evening meal which meant I couldn’t get back to the letters until after dinner. Johnny went to meet a new member of staff from Canada at Rocky airport, so I settled down to read my journal entry of our train trip. It sounded fun in parts and rather adventurous, especially to one who had never been on a three-day train journey.

The letters are upsetting, fascinating and beautiful, and extremely passionate, especially Johnny’s.

Has living together for fourteen or fifteen years dulled our love for each other?

Certainly, one ghastly incident has placed a large stain on the relationship that one cannot clear away. Our large family and commitments have given us very little time for each other. We are still incredibly close and our relationship has improved, but my ignorance and stubborn ways have marred some of our time together. Now, on reading the letters again I find I was indeed so unaware, Johnny must have been very much in love and endlessly patient to have put up with me all these years. He is so wise, the most understanding and kind man I know, and such a rare human being.

Let me not forget this again, ever.

It is now 7:15 pm and everything went more or less to schedule today. The hardest part of my day was studying as I was constantly fighting the urge to bob up every five minutes from my desk. Now it is time to compose a letter to Madras about the bike parts before Johnny gets home.

88. Relationship Breakup – Journal Entry 30th January 1982

Thursday was a thoroughly enjoyable day. Karen and I left at 7 a.m. for an 8 o’clock meeting I was attending in Rockhampton. Karen waited for me in the car; she read, wrote and slept. My meeting at Warby’s was reasonably crisp and productive, and in fact, covered quite a bit of ground. At about 10 o’clock, Karen and I left for Vinny’s where we examined the goods for sale and tried on some weird outfits. By this time we had spent eight dollars and were yet to buy the rubber thongs Karen wanted, her sole purpose for coming to town. Luckily we found Ersatz school sandals at a bargain price. Without any money left over for a snack or drink, we headed home to have lunch, but just out of Rocky the brakes in the Rover failed completely, it was a slow and cautious trip back. Ah, lunch was so good: fish and chips for Karen and egg and chips for me, followed by jellied mulberries, rice pudding and cream. We snorted in our pits to prepare ourselves for dinner that evening: Karen was shouting us dinner in a fancy French restaurant.

Only four of us were going – Karen, Johnny, Gareth and me. We prepared dinner for the rest of the family, dressed in our best clothes and drove to Rockhampton in high spirits. The dining room of the restaurant was painted a deep red with maroon curtains, tablecloths and table napkins. Everything was hushed and padded with soft background music. Imitation oil lamps, containing clusters of tiny electric bulbs, hung from the ceiling and smartly-dressed waiters hovered expectantly.

Dinner was a great success and a new experience for Gareth who seemed to enjoy it very much. We drank house wine (accompanied by large amounts of cold water to stay sober), sampled the snails, ate numerous brown plaited rolls with gusto and sang rude songs in the car all the way home. Johnny walked around the house with a cheerful expression on his face; he had enjoyed being out with the two young ones and was pleased about the way they were developing.

Saturday was quite eventful. At half-past five in the morning, Johnny and I did our customary walk and physical exercises. After buying the bread for breakfast in town we walked home via the beach. Then Johnny took a few members of the family to Yeppoon after breakfast, dropping off Gareth and the mower at Mrs Reller’s place.

Karen was feeling apprehensive of her meeting with T because she proposes to sever relations with him. He also has something to tell her, so she will try to find out what it is before she gives him her prepared speech, just in case it is no longer relevant, superfluous. Marcello and I were in the kitchen while she awaited T’s arrival. She was mad at Johnny (and me) for offering some advice and then, according to her interpretation of Johnny’s expression, sneering when she turned down the advice. I pointed out that she ought to know Johnny wasn’t in the habit of sneering, in fact, he never sneers. She also complained about Johnny’s remark: that she wanted it both ways.
“What did that mean?” I asked. She didn’t know, too angry to find out what Johnny meant by that.
In the meantime, Marcello tried to find out what we were talking about but Karen refused to tell him; despite this, she did ask how one told someone to piss off.
“Tell him to piss off,” said Marcello. “Just like that… tell him to piss off,  that you have your studies to get through and you aren’t going to follow the example of your brother.”
“You got your balls cut off at Grade 9.” says our Karen to her brother.

We talked about a friend L, who was in a similar position to Marcello. He is at present out of a job. “He should go back to his studies,” I remarked.
“He can’t,” Marcello said. “For the same reasons I can’t.”
“Bullshit,” I said. “You won’t because you are too fond of the good life, and lots of money, unlike the enforced poverty some of us put up with.”
“Mother,” warned Karen, “you said you wouldn’t talk about it.”
In the meantime, Marcello had a breakfast of a couple of steaks with a couple of eggs. I cannot recall if he had any bread with them but he did have a glass of cordial.

T finally arrived and walked up our long gravelly driveway towards Karen. Although I am probably making this up and misinterpreting what I saw, he seemed to have a soft and eager expression on his face.
“Where did she meet him?” Grandma wanted to know, making biscuits in the kitchen.
“At a disco,” I said. “The poor chap is quite taken with her.”
“Where does he work?” she asked.
“At the mines.”

76. The Courtship – Journal Entry 9th Sep 1981

Yesterday Marcello came home with a bag of five corner fruit from a mate of his; he gave some to Glen, telling him that their Tagalog name was ‘bilimbing’. We enjoyed the rest for dessert.

While waiting for the bus which was running late this morning, I spoke to Mrs K about a horse that was somewhat neglected and tied up most of the time. She is going to find out how much they want for the horse and we will see if we can raise the money to buy it for someone who will care for it properly. Mrs K told me she had bought a share in the $200,000 lottery to give to the head of the Fire Brigade; he had burned off the grass behind the convent but refused to take the ticket. “Nevermind,” she said, shaking her head, “he will get the money if we win.”

When I got home, mum was up and about and told me of her decision to stop going to church; she asked if I could tell the nuns so they wouldn’t be worried and to let Pearl know that she wouldn’t be going to the Community Health socials for a while. Making the decision seemed to set her mind at ease. Les came to pick her up for their trip to Rocky for lunch and looked smart in his suit and hat with his empty trouser leg neatly pinned up. Mum came out looking quite dashing and smart too and both looked pleased to be going out together. Even Sam the dog seemed happy, sitting up straight in the back seat with an expectant look on his face. Off they all went in their six-cylinder car.

Monika and I picked mulberries and Nathaniel picked them into his own bowl too, after we showed him how to spot and pick the ripe fruit. Nathaniel is not well today and he is whingeing, his nose thick with snot. They had a great day yesterday in Rocky with Sue and when they came back, Sue and her mother Joan had to sit in the kitchen to give their car engine time to cool off; the oil level was low and smoke was coming out of it. Joan and I looked over the engine and discovered the cooling system had a large leak. I hope they have it fixed by now. Joan complained the car was costing her great sums of money and that she was heartily sick of paying for repairs. One either learns to do basic repairs oneself or gets some good man (preferably one’s own) to do it, rather than paying a packet to the garage.

And now to the rest of the family: Gareth’s news was that a girl chased him around school most of the day and that some boys were trying to frame him, saying he liked the girl; Karen had not had a good day at school. She was chosen to present a birthday cake to the Principal and another girl resented her for it, being nasty to Karen whenever she could. Yesterday she successfully riled Karen who was a bit annoyed with herself for having responded; Barbara seems to be coming out of her withdrawn state, despite the death of a male trainee after an operation.

10th Sep 1981

This morning, Nathaniel and I went for a ride on Barbie’s bus and it was good fun. He sat up the front with a clear view of the road and on the way back from Kinka Beach, he gazed silently at the kids we picked up. Sister Frances gave us two large papayas and when we returned from our bus ride, Johnny was waiting for us at the gate. Mum had been fussing about cashing her pension cheque so as to pay her board and have some shopping money. She was in bed, her mind fuzzy from lack of sleep and worry about wanting to be with Les and also wanting to be with the family.

Les called in that morning and in spite of my mother’s determination to stay in bed, he coaxed her to get up and go home with him. They spend that day and the next playing house, cleaning the kitchen and gardening.

GrandmaNathaniel
Gita’s mum Rosa (our Grandma) and Nathaniel

Johnny is in Gladstone and we picked up mum from Les’ before returning home from our trip to Rockhampton by 8pm. Everybody was in a delightful mood: Karen had a little black dress; Gareth had a new pair of leather sports shoes; Barbie had a pair of sandals; Nathaniel came home with a box of large Lego, excitedly running to the next room to fetch his dad to play. Marcello made a Lego aeroplane which pleased Nathaniel.

11th Sep 1981

Mum was all set to move, saying Les was pressing her to move in with him. At this stage, Barbara seemed to be getting unnerved by my mother’s frequent visits to Les and kept saying that mum didn’t have to help him and that he could do the work himself. Johnny had a quiet talk with mum and advised her to take it easy, not to rush into living with Les because Barbara would take it badly and that over a period of time she may get used to the idea of her mother moving away. Mum agreed and said she’d try it for three months to see if Barbara could be reconciled. There was no question of Barbara living with them; mum quite rightly felt she would not have any privacy.

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

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

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

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

IMG_0900 (1)
Gita and Johnny 1981
IMG_0901 (1)
Gita and Johnny 1981

24th Aug 1981

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

70. Longing To Be Alone – Journal Entry 26th Jun 1981

After the work for the day is done, the dishes washed after dinner and the family have gone to their rooms, sometimes a feeling washes over me; I would like to be alone to do whatever I wish.

Usually, this desire is not very strong or isn’t there at all. I love Johnny and his company, however, occasionally I long for a corner where I can go to be by myself. The feeling doesn’t last long but I wonder about it. Does Johnny feel the same way too? What triggers this particular antisocial feeling? On the occasional night that Johnny is away, there seems a quiet time, a freedom, where one can do whatever one wishes.

Today, I wanted to lie in the dark, by myself. This could have been brought on by Johnny filling out the Census, asking me how old I was and at what age I had left school. Then mum chimed in saying she left school after grade three, what a sad life she had not being able to join into the writing games at the National Fitness Club and how Barbara would not crochet to keep herself occupied.

I retired to the little room and lay on my stomach in the dark. I knew Johnny was occupied with the Census forms so I had a few minutes to myself. I also knew that when he came to the study, he would ask me what I was doing in the dark.
Sure enough:
“What are you doing?” he asks several times.
“Why are you lying there?” several times more.
“Why don’t you apply your standards to yourself? If Barbara did that, you would go berserk.” Or words to that effect, I’m not sure of the exact phrase.

The comparison to Barbara is an uncomfortable one and something that has occurred to me often. Is this the manifestation of “going round the bend”, this withdrawal that is so noticeable and painful in Barbara and for which she is put on Melleril? And for which she is kept busy? Or is it a response to our almost continuous “keep Barbara busy” campaign?

Writing about the way I feel helps to sort out my thoughts, otherwise, my thinking is muddled, over emotional and explosive. I’m not sure though, whether I’m clearer in my thinking this evening.
What did I expect Johnny to ask? “Darling, are you alright?”
And on receiving my muffled, “Yes, thank you,” for him to leave discreetly? Why? To him it was yet another instance of Gita flopping around, not doing anything.
Or is it simply a product of feeling full after an excellent dinner cooked by Johnny and having my periods?

Time for a shower.

Recently I have been most unsure of myself, feeling inadequate, ignorant, unreliable and unstable. I had made an enquiry unthinkingly, with all sorts of wrong assumptions, and hurt the feelings of an old lady; on another occasion I said something that angered Johnny and I felt annoyed with myself that he was annoyed at me; and finally, I didn’t do well in Calculus, an easy subject, not using the time set aside for study.

Also, I nag or criticise the family and on some days, I pick on everyone. Why do they have to put up with me?

Bah, this is boring.

Perhaps, as Johnny says, I have a curious paralysis when actual work has to be done. Oh, I can talk and plan and get excited but the parsnips don’t get buttered.

27th Jun 1981

What right do I have to be upset? I suppose in my menstrual condition, any little incident can set me off-track.

Early this morning, frustrated at my inability to sort out computer programs, I went outside.

The mist was heavy. The clothes on the line, grass and lettuces were covered with dew, and the morning was mysterious; familiar sights looked strange. Two Rouen ducks were standing on the lawn near the Guinea chicks’ cage. A dog had been marauding again and several birds had been taken in the night because we had failed to repair the fence.

There was a distinctly eerie feel about the day.

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.

69. Pension Granted – Journal Entry 5th Jun 1981

Dear Nora,

Your letter and card with the family photograph arrived yesterday.

Mum says your children have grown so much since she last saw them that she hardly recognises them. We think D looks a lot like Marcello did at that age, and Monika, in particular, was struck by the likeness. We searched for a photo of Marcello to compare but couldn’t find a single one. I have yet to take a good photograph of Karen and stopped taking photographs for about five years now. Silly really. The children change so much and it’s nice having pictures of them.

Mum is looking forward to seeing you next year. Delaying your visit was no bad thing as money is extremely tight here at present. We would have been upset at not giving you a good time.

Barbara returned last night after the bus tour up to Townsville. She talked until she fell asleep and then started talking again when she woke up.

Barbara goes to the Activities Therapy Centre, the adult section of a school for the mentally retarded. The “trainees” at the centre make handicrafts such as beadwork, clothes-peg furniture and beer bottle holders.

Barbara used to receive $5 per week but that was stopped years ago. Now everyone only gets $1 per fortnight and families have to pay $6 per week for activities and outings. As you probably know, we live thirty-five miles from where the centre is located in Rockhampton, and for years had trouble getting Barbie there and back. Now a free bus takes Emu Park children to both the special school and the sub-normal school. Barbara is allowed to catch the bus with them and it has made a huge difference, she is so much more independent.

Thanks for being so quick to get dad’s death certificate to us. We have lodged it with the pensions office and now wait to see if mum will be given a widow’s pension. Mum was so excited when the certificate arrived, she had been worrying about delays in the post.

16th July 1981

Yes, the days slip by so quickly.

Where has this time gone since I started this letter to you? With a bit of luck, it should reach you before your birthday.

Happy birthday! We hope you have a wonderful time. How does it feel to be forty? Almost the age of reason, no?

The good news is that mum now gets the pension and it has made a tremendous difference to her morale – she seems perkier than she has ever been. The great thing, apart from money, is that pensioners receive concessions for travel, theatre tickets and many other activities – often at half rates. Mum would like to go on a bus tour to see parts of Australia and is now saving; it will take quite some time so nothing is planned as yet.

Barbie emptied her money-box and I took her to the shops to buy printed sheets. She even had enough for a matching pillowcase. Karen had bought sheets with money she had earned at a cafe so Barbara wanted a pair too. Barbie’s next project, she tells me, is to buy a skirt; she is very careful with her pocket money and only buys two soft drinks a week.

About the land at Perungudi, do the two children want it? I really have no idea of the set-up there so perhaps you can let me know what is going on, how they are and their attitude to the place. Perhaps it could be sold so they can use the money?

In one of your letters, you mentioned giving money to Max. What is happening? Is he earning enough and does he have many people to support? We would like to know if we can help, I can’t of course, but mum would be able to.

The typewriter I’m using keeps sticking. Electric typewriters are expensive to repair so it hardly seems worth fixing.

I haven’t heard from M for a while, no doubt she is busy settling into her new home in Melbourne. I shall post this letter while I’m out taking mum for her monthly checkup at the clinic.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • My brother Jeffrey and sister Sandra (referred to as ‘the two children’ above) have been added to the family tree in Gallery.
  • 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.

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.

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.

60. Settling In Australia – Journal Entry 19th Nov 1980

My dear M,

We are delighted with your good news. I am so excited I cannot settle down to my siesta.

We would love to have you here, there are jobs, but let us be cautious and say that the two of you should not find it difficult to earn a living.

However, we should take a long view of your life here and try to work out what might be best.

My own preference would be to advise you to stay in Queensland with us for one or two years until you become reasonably “Aussiefied”. I think your mum would be happier with that arrangement, no?

With R’s Bachelor of Commerce, a three-year external course on computing should make him highly competitive; within a year he would be viable. Without knowing too much, even now he should be able to get a nine to five job in some business without any difficulty.

I envisage both of you doing some study for a few years. Courses are free at tertiary institutions, but books and transport would be at your own expense.

If you would enjoy living thirty-five miles away from your place of work, be close to the sea on the weekends and holidays, lead a very quiet life, work hard for the next three years, then we would suggest you stay with us until you find your feet.

Now about what to bring, I find it hard to recommend anything. You need very little by way of household goods and only the most precious and personal possessions. Maybe sheets and towels to last three to five years? Shirts are about $20 to $30 each; maybe R already has a few suits? He could do with a few smart trousers I suppose. Menswear, for most business purposes, is casual; it is too hot otherwise, except only a couple of months a year.

Again you would need enough office clothes to last a few years. There are plenty of second-hand clothes shops that only charge a couple of dollars for clothes.

To explain: Johnny and I believe in making do with what we can get locally without hankering for foreign or “back home” goods. However, it is so good to have silk saris and gold jewellery to wear on special occasions.

Most masalas, Indian bedspreads, clothes and chappals are available in Australia; a little expensive in some cases, but not excessively so.

You might like bringing things like stainless steel cooking gear, plates and tumblers, enough say to entertain six to eight people. Stainless steel utensils are associated with hospitals here!

I enjoy occasionally setting a table for friends using banana leaves or stainless steel plates with tumblers to match – they seem to get a thrill out of it!

Bring a dosai skillet, cooking spoon, dhal masher or anything uniquely Indian for your own use – even an idli pot if you wish.

After discussing all of this with Johnny, his view is to get on without delay to one of the big cities (where the head offices are) if you are career-minded and want to get on in the world. Please don’t get the idea that we don’t want you to stay with us, we would like you to, but as Johnny suggests, it might not be a clever thing to do now.

There are such places as migrants’ hostels where you stay until you are able to set up on your own. I shall find out details about the migrant hostels in Brisbane or Sydney for you; we stayed in one.

I find it difficult to advise you on where to live without knowing your philosophy or aim in life. The weather should be the least of your worries when choosing a capital city. Melbourne is said to have the worst weather and is extremely changeable, even in one day. Sydney is colder than Brisbane and both are delightful in summer although Brisbane can be very hot. Don’t get me wrong, our northern winters are like a hot summers day in England or New Zealand! I like our mild winter here.

While I am delighted for you, I feel sad for those you will leave behind. You could well suffer from culture shock – the smells, sounds and gestures are all different. Now we love Australia and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Brisbane and Sydney are both good places to live in. Brisbane is more “rural” or should I say like a large thriving country town. Sydney is a lot colder, but don’t bring any woollens, there are plenty around.

Gran has left it to us to advise you she is very happy for you.

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.