78. How To Read A Great Book – Journal Entry 23th Sep 1981

The whole family felt very proud; Nathaniel won a baby competition. Barbara is still at camp and Mum doesn’t feel well, she is still somewhat withdrawn after the dramatic events with Les.

It was a good day, Karen turned eighteen and we had an excellent dinner of eye fillet, broccoli, corn, beans, crinkle cut chips and a creamy peppercorn sauce with shallots, followed by an exotic fruit salad.

Cream and Peppercorn Sauce

Ingredients
150ml fresh cream
1 heaped tsp flour
1 heaped tsp butter
2 tsp green peppercorns (rinsed)
1 tsp brandy
½ beef stock cube dissolved in a little boiling water (or meat glaze)
Shallots, finely sliced (optional)

Method
Melt the butter and add the flour slowly while stirring as for a roux
Add cream, peppercorns, brandy and stock
Mix until thick
Pour over meat

I spent most of the day dipping into Adler’s book How To Read A Book, The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, which explained in great detail, how to read a great book, “those that are of enduring interest and importance” and “of reading analytically, interpretively, and critically”. After dinner, Johnny and I had a long discussion about the process of reading properly.

24th Sep 1981

It’s been a leisurely morning so far. After a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs, I fed the chickens and ducks, tidied the bedroom, gave the vacuum a thorough clean and then vacuumed the kitchen.

Nathaniel and I picked a huge bowl of mulberries and then I hung out the clothes. Jobs had to be done by 3pm so we could leave for Rocky to see Karen off to Brisbane.

28th Sep 1981

Made a mutton-chop curry and dhal early in the morning; the masala for the curry was fragrant and delicious with a mixture of curry powder, clove powder, 5-spice powder, chilli, ginger, fresh coriander leaves, fennel leaves, lots of chives, tomatoes, yoghurt and pepper.

In the afternoon, I took Barbara to Yeppoon Hospital to have her foot examined. They confirmed what we thought, it was a pulled tendon and no bones were broken, however, recovery would be slow. Managed to read a number of short stories from Century of Humour by P.G. Wodehouse while waiting at the hospital. We arrived home at 5:30pm and Johnny had already made the rice for our dinner so we could eat straight away. Had a rum evening with Johnny.

29th Sep 1981

Today Johnny, Karen and Gareth are away so I have a family free day from housework. I should be able to work at my desk most of the day.

The conversation with myself went as follows:
What to do next year?
Why?
Because I’m not sure I can do mathematics.
You haven’t really given it a go.
True.
I might have to work next year.
As what? Why not press on with what you are doing this year and consider the matter in November?
The problem has not been defined as yet.
Yes, it has.

  1. I may not have the ability to do mathematics
  2. Seem incapable of working hard and consistently at study
  3. May have to earn money for the family

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes:

How to Read a Great Book by Alder & Van Doren (1965) PDF here.

77. Hypertensive Crisis – Journal Entry 19th Sep 1981

So much has happened since I wrote in the diary a week ago. Last Saturday, mum’s blood pressure shot up to two hundred. She felt ill at bowls so we brought her home early. She managed to play through to the end of the match. When she got home she was raving about not wanting to see Les and asking God to forgive her. This was surprising as only earlier that morning she was discussing her plans to move to Les’ house and we hadn’t realised it was cracking her up. Mum hadn’t slept for the past week and she didn’t sleep at the hospital either, despite being heavily sedated.

Mum and Barbara had planned to have lunch at Les’ on Sunday; he had bought three pork chops for their meal and a bottle of orange squash for Barbara. In the meantime, before mum had her turn, I scratched my eye on a leaf and in bed for two days as a result. With all the trips to the hospital for my eye and for mum, we didn’t get around to telling Les; he had a cold saveloy for his Sunday lunch. On Monday, he called to find out what had happened. After telling him, I also explained mum’s attitude toward him.

Les’ reasons for mum backing out of their friendship were that mum was upset at his asking whether they would be sharing expenses and that she had interfered in their lives by going to the priest.

The case against Les was that he ordered her around and fornicated too often; he was not suitable for her and she realised she didn’t love him; her health did not permit her to keep up with his pace. Other reasons were that she wanted to help the family, she was ashamed of his disability and was interested in other men.

The week was taken up with visiting mum in hospital. She was in a highly excited state but one that was not too worrying; she was laughing and boisterous, more than usual. Mum wants male companionship for her remaining years and the two other men who may be interested are a fisherman with a glass eye who says his dog died and that he is lonely and another is Ron who, like Les, has one leg. His wife walked out on Ron because she said he was inordinately jealous of her children from a previous marriage and that she had to support herself and the children throughout her marriage. Even after the children were grown up and married, he continued to be jealous and put a lock on the telephone. She accused him of stealing some of her possessions. Despite this, mum is keen on Ron.

Les called in the day after mum got home. She had already sent him a letter to call things off and delivered the very same message in a loud and excited voice, asking him to bring back her towels and face cloths and pleading with him to forgive and forget before retreating to her bedroom. In the silence that remained, Les turned to me and said this was the opposite of what she had said at his place, and that she told lies.

I asked mum to come back to the kitchen to confront this new statement, but she yelled even more than before and threatened to throw something at him. She denying having said we should not have gone to the priest. She insisted that we were all for their friendship and that we wanted her to be happy. We helped her to her bedroom before she did herself an injury.

Les left saying he learned something new every day and that he was glad he had found out now rather than eight months later when he would be expected to spend his money keeping her.  His parting words were that he had better change the oil in the car and that he had done a lot of gardening in the past few days.

20th Sep 1981

It’s a difficult time and Johnny is not getting much peace at home and doesn’t get much at work either. Mum thinks up little errands which take up time. She doesn’t seem to realise that Johnny has precious little time to himself and that while he is most helpful to all of us, the little tasks we set him should really be scheduled to fit in to his list of tasks.

I am cranky as hell myself and haven’t studied for two weeks from lack of opportunity but also lack of inclination. I tend to get side-tracked by gardening and justifying it to myself as thinking things out.

This morning, members of the family noted my non-study and Johnny repeated his intention to throw out students who did not take thirty percent of the course content. Mum said I went too far in my advice to other people so I went into the garden to think things out. Earlier I dug out the shallots so I could plait some into garlands; the other bulbs I stored in a cardboard box. Finally, I came to the conclusion that there is little point or desire to hang around the house full-time, administering to the family. I don’t do it well and resent the ‘sacrifice’.

How is mum going to live her life without the transport we provide? What about my own transport? If one goes out more, one needs a car to fuel. Is going out more going to help me study more? Do I want to study? What a fickle mind, only a few weeks ago I sorted that one out.

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.

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.

74. Periodic Headaches – Journal Entry 5th Sep 1981

Woke up this morning in a bad mood and must be extra careful not to pick quarrels with the family. I feel extremely touchy, my mind is not functioning clearly and I have a bad headache. Had a good breakfast of toasted fruit bread and black coffee.

Just picked a quarrel with Johnny on a minor point. I wanted to claim an income tax rebate on a jacket that he had bought and he didn’t think I should because it would be rejected. I challenged his statement and he quote an article in the National Times. I asked why I hadn’t had my attention drawn to it and he said he’d mentioned it to me but that I must have ignored it, the way I do with many of the things he tells me. I refuted his statement that he’d shown me the article. Maybe, he says, but then I’m difficult to communicate with for weeks on end so maybe he had refrained from showing the article to me. Johnny agreed there was a contradiction between his two statements then asked me to desist from being so picky, and to relax. I responded, “Someday I shall think clearly and beat you at your own game.”
“There is no game,” he replied.

6th Sep 1981

A slow start to the day. Feeling profusely periodic and woke up in a mess. I was aware of the mess a few hours before getting out of bed. The headache is still there making me feel sleepy and dull. Took a few premenstrual tablets yesterday and was very drowsy. Finally realised what was happening and drank lots of black coffee.

Sunday breakfast was leisurely with members of the family appearing or not appearing to eat. We tried out Marcello’s delicious new pork sausages brought from work.

Gareth is mowing the CWA lawn. We couldn’t get it done yesterday because the school had a street stall on the grass.

Johnny has been working on the Rover to fix a brake oil leak but we will have to take it to the garage, getting the nut off the assembly was too difficult.

According to a book review on women writers by the National Times, women who have time to write novels seem to dwell on trivia and don’t want to write about crime, violence, pornography, etc.
Let’s get on with the story:
“Gee, it’s good to have a woman in the house, she cleaned my bedroom you know. There was a cowboy program on T.V. and we sat and watched that. She made tea and we ate the cake you made, most of it is gone.”
“Tell your mother there’s an old man down the road who’s lonely and whom she ought to visit now and then.”
“I’ll tell her you got your washing done and hung out. But tell her I have difficulty getting them off the line. Honest, I find it hard to reach up to the clothes line.”

7th Sep 1981

After taking Barbara to the bus stop and gathering a bowl of mulberries, I put the chicks back in their pen. An animal, possibly a rat, had eaten a new chick. Now I will need to set some rat poison over several nights and bring the chicks inside at night. After a thorough search through the pen, I managed to kill a toad. I left two large green tree frogs to their own devices then realised they eat each other, so why wouldn’t they try to eat a chick?

When I came inside, mum was agonising over her affair with Les and wanted to discuss it further. We talked while I tidied the kitchen. I told her to either give up sex and go to communion or give up communion and enjoy sex, that she couldn’t have both. And that she was to enjoy the friendship and not get serious about details like divorce and marriage.

Additions to Gallery – Philippines 1971

Photos added to the Gallery: these were taken during 1971 when our family moved to Manila, Philippines from Sydney, Australia.

Going out
Johnny and Gita (on right) at a work function 1971
IMG_0711
Barbara (my aunt), Gita, Rosa (my grandma) in handwoven sarongs 1971
1971-Dec-Philippines
Johnny 1971
IMG_0712
Karen, Gita, Gareth, Marcello camping in Nov 1971
1973-Jun-Philippines
Gita, the only time I’ve seen her on a horse 1971
1973-Jan-Philippines
Marcello, Gareth, Gita 1971
IMG_0430
Karen, Gareth, Marcello making use of the black sands on one of the islands 1971
Version 5
Gita 1971
IMG_0412
Johnny, Marcello, Karen, Gareth camping 1971
Version 4
Gita 1971

73. Family Life – Journal Entry 3rd Sep 1981

Today is another gloriously bright warm day with birds twittering, dogs barking and roosters crowing. Spring has definitely sprung.

What has the family been doing lately?

Gareth had a haircut last night and his hair lay well on his head without curling annoyingly (for him).

Karen complained about the Grade 12 girls going in for boyfriends, all but two have male friends. The male students, however, seem to be keeping themselves free.

Monika did very well over the birthday gift for Gareth’s classmate but will not easily forget the sick and dejected baby she had seen in the supermarket.

Johnny is not happy; so much routine and dull work to handle when there was more constructive, fruitful work to be getting on with.

We talked about the article on suicide in Co-Evolution Quarterly. Most suicides fail but the person is usually maimed by his attempt. The human body is hard to kill, and most beliefs of suicide are wrong – they don’t work – and worse they are permanently damaging.

4th Sep 1981

A pleasant day so far but one mainly of food gathering and routine work. Our birds lay lots of eggs today and we had our first picking of mulberries. I gathered a whole basketful of broccoli which I shall cook for dinner tonight.

After waking at 5 am and a brief struggle, I made a flask of coffee for Johnny, did my exercises and went out early to the bakery for a high-top brown crusty loaf. Johnny has an important meeting today so I tried to leave him to think and get dressed. We enjoyed breakfast together with the not-so-crusty bread, Johnny’s chunky marmalade and some homemade peanut paste.

Mum had finished mixing and baking the orange and sultana cakes so I made a few cakes straight after breakfast as I realised I would not have time later in the morning. Mum is out with Les for lunch, I wonder how it is going?

While waiting for Barbara’s bus to come, which took a while, I chatted to Mrs K who grumbled that our glorious Fire Brigade had not responded to her call for a burn-off behind the convent. We decided that if Cowdrey persisted in staying away and that she had permission from the policeman, we (the neighbours) would help with the burn-off. Out west, according to eighty-one-year-old Mrs K, property owners called their neighbours to help burn fire hazardous paddocks.

Barbara is still somewhat withdrawn and probably still upset from hearing that Patrick went on a trip to Brisbane; any news or mention of Patrick triggers another episode. There is to be a camp in Emu Park for the Activities Centre trainees during the first week of the school holidays; how strange it will be having Barbara camping down the road.

The Ratepayers Association meeting last night was lively. Laurie Daly is a very good chairman, I must tell him so and thank him for one of the nicest meetings we’ve had. The Association would like to repair the jetty perhaps with the help from the Council, however, it seems an excellent community project with all the organisations helping to raise money. I suggested we familiarise ourselves with the existing area plan so we can be constructive and critical about the new town and coast plan when it comes out in a year. Merle suggested spreading ideas around Emu Park with pamphlets and wanted notices sent regularly to remind people of the date and time of Association meetings. Everyone discussed the future needs and shape of Emu Park.

What an odd situation to be in. Mum returned from her lunch at Les’ place and announced she had fun and what would Johnny say? I said it was none of his business.

What would the neighbours say, I laughingly ask myself, two seventy-year-olds carrying on an affair in the middle of the day, after curried sausages.

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.

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.