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

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

Last night was very pleasant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CicadaPoem
Poem by Gita 1978

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

28. Lack of Gumption – Journal Entry 5th Dec 1978

A crisis – a serious one; I don’t think I’ll be doing a preliminary course in Maths – too many instances of lack of gumption and stamina for Johnny to ignore. He doesn’t want known dropouts on the test course. Will have to make new plans for 1979.

On the way in to the hospital I did a random mental review of all the things I attempted and failed to finish or see through, the list is long and goes back a long long way.

So what conclusions to draw?

What direction to take?

Where should I start examining myself?

Let’s take a look at what is on at the moment:

  1. House: 6 to 9; 11 to 12; 4:30 to 7:30pm, +(9) about 30 to 60 minutes a day
  2. Family: includes 18, 17
  3. Cookbook: not yet started revision
  4. Journal: irregular
  5. Computing: taking off very slowly
  6. Candles ?
  7. Glass-cutting ?
  8. Sewing ?
  9. Gardening/chooks
  10. M.O.W and
  11. MATTARA 1 hr a week
  12. Reading: Zen, DH Lawrence, Van Gulik (spend 2-3 hrs)
  13. Market ?
  14. Craft (will drop)
  15. Tuckshop – 60 to 90 minutes a week
  16. Entertainment for Johnny’s friends – 1 ½ days once a fortnight on average
  17. Soon: evening trips for Karen (one to two evenings a week)
  18. Driving Barbie to bus stop
  19. XBX 12 minutes – this pen seems to seize up often.

The Base Hospital is a good place to sit and think or write. You’re sorted out pretty fast here. You also get lots of time to think. The mole’s growths are benign; they told me today. I was in and out of Surgical in a few minutes. That’s a great relief. Now I can sit in emergency to get the stitches seen to. A good long wait I guess.

It wasn’t a long wait. I was called and asked to sit with three other women. One had severe sunburn. The doctor came, stood in our midst and loudly called my name. She was young, petite and Chinese. “Me,” I said in a small voice from under her arm.
She spun around in surprise and said, “Oh, it’s you. How’s the arm?” So, on Friday I will go to get the sutures removed.

There’s plenty on hand, so why do Polymaths?

  • I would like a structured course with work to be produced in public
  • I like working in a group
  • I would like to be with people who are studying

But, because of my poor performance I’m not going to be given the chance. I myself cannot promise steady work – like an alcoholic who knows he’s an alcoholic. Besides the circumstances demand that I produce good results as Johnny is in charge.

Too bad.

Am I determined to make yet another attempt at studying maths? Yes.

What would I do if I say no? Get a job, any job, so as to shake myself out of my lethargy.

Lethargy is not exactly right. I’m not able to keep to a schedule or meet deadlines that I make myself. All this sounds pretty weak. My face feels stiff with resentment and hopelessness. Partly self-pity. Jobs are hard to get. Besides I don’t want to be away from the family for long stretches of time. So if one is choosy it’s even harder to find a job. I’ve been over this many times. If I work steadily on making stuff for the shops I should earn enough money to cover extra expenditure but that’s not the point is it?

Long-term viability is the aim and how best to achieve it.

What else? Write for money – hard but can be done.

Why do anything? I can’t understand it, I’m not happy if I’m studying something, so why can’t I be steady?

Why get so distracted, so easily? Not motivated enough.

11:15pm
Quite a nice day in Rocky despite shock to the system and ego.

Met Johnny on East Street and then went to look at cassette tape recorders, with a radio, for mum.

Phoned the farm to see if Marcello wanted a lift home. He wasn’t there and was out fishing. Nestor thought Marcello wouldn’t be keen to come home because he hadn’t shot a dingo as yet. They caught fish.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • List items 1, 2 and 19 are a bit cryptic, but I have included everything for completeness.

26. Endless Waiting – Journal Entry 18th April 1978

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

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

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

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

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

There’s too much on the list for tomorrow.

We’re sewing too. List of sewing jobs:

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

15th Jun 1978

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

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

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

17th Jul 1978

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

25. Cyclone David – Journal Entry 12th Dec 1975

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CyclonePic

19th Jan 1976

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

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

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

22nd Jan 1976

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

 

 

23. Three Rivers Camping – Journal Entry 12th Aug 1975

Muchlater

The Three Rivers is a camping area located 18 km north-east of Byfield. It was only accessible by four-wheel drive. Byfield is 67 km north of Emu Park.

Tuesday, 12th Aug 1975

We set off for Camp 5 at 4:30 am. Got bogged at 3 Tracks. Chopped down a stump that was in the way and then got bogged at McNevin’s Crossing. Winched ourselves out; then the winch broke or maybe it disconnected. Made it to 3 Rivers by 9 am.

Carried our stuff over rocks to Camp 5. The packs were heavy and it took 45 minutes. After a quick rest, we returned to the Rover and had lunch while Johnny packed more gear – mainly food and utensils. I had thirty pounds of canned food in my pack, just part of the week’s supply for five.

The tide was high so we had to go over the hills. It would have been a pleasant walk but for our heavy packs:

Marcello had a surfboard.
Gareth had fishing rods.
Karen had kerosene and fishing bag.
Johnny had a very heavy pack of food.
Gita had a heavy pack of food.

Crawled to camp at 1 pm.

Johnny had to make two more trips. The rest of us set up tents and had the fire going for coffee and evening meal.

End of the first day at camp.

Oh yes, I was given a piece of driftwood for my birthday by Johnny.

Wednesday, 13th Aug 1975

Decided to spend the day at camp recovering. It was an ideal camp – low, well-vegetated hills and a medium-sized waterfall with lots of pools at the bottom; lots of firewood nearby for the campfire; many Pandanus trees and three coconut trees. The sand cliffs to the north of us were many coloured – white, orange, yellow and cream. There was a family-sized beach, about ¾ mile long, with rocks at each end.

Went exploring the rocks on the north end of the beach to see what the next bay looked like. Discovered it would have taken ¾ to 1 hour to walk over the rocks. Returned home over the hills because the rocks were too slow to cross.

Attempted a rather steep climb, almost came to a bad end. A gnarled casuarina tree saved me; crawled up the hill and headed for home camp. Crossed wooded areas, dark and mysterious and still; expected wild people to tear me apart. Returned in time for breakfast.

The family went fishing after lunch. Caught the evening’s meal, and a few oysters.

Thursday, 14th Aug 1975

Went to 3 Rivers to repair winch. Washed my hair and explored rivers while Johnny worked. Located ferns, eucalyptus and banksia to take home. Collected driftwood and soil. Ate oysters after lunch.

Returned to camp at high tide. The waves were white and rough against the dark jagged rocks. Many of the rock shelves looked like sets from a spooky film, they had holes, and streaks running out of the holes – as though something horrible had dripped out.

The walk back over the hills was most pleasant this time. Many shrubs were in flower; such strange shrubs with such strangely beautiful flowers. There were many cow tracks – most useful if you don’t know your way over the hills.

The day ended with a rowdy game of Brag and garlic fried peanuts.

Friday, 15th Aug 1975

The kids decided they’d like to spend the day at camp. We had planned a visit to the next beach – possibly an hours walk over the hills.

The sky was overcast, a wind was blowing and so the trip was postponed. I went oystering for two hours, determined to give the family a feast. What a lunch today – oysters fried in oil and vinegar, canned ham, cheese spread, jam and biscuits.

It rained from lunch onwards. So we stayed in the big tent, and read, played cards and had dinner there too. 10 pm and it is still raining, lightly now.

It is a pity it rained all day. Found some white clay and yellow clay. Would have liked to have looked for the sources. Finished book on Coasts & Life on the Seashore.

Saturday, 16th Aug 1975

Found large quantities of grey, white and yellow clay – mainly grey. Looked for four-wheel drive tracks on the hills behind camp. Found them, so Johnny and Marcello brought the Rover to Camp 5! Tremendous, we won’t have to carry our things back to 3 Rivers.

Wildflowers were in bloom on the hillsides’ hardy vegetation, they have to withstand wind and grow in relatively poor soil, so they are low-growing and they flower early.

Didn’t catch fish – caught oysters though; discovered a bed of large-sized ones. Gareth and Karen picked smooth pebbles and bits of glass.

Sunday, 17th Aug 1975

Set out, after an excellent breakfast, to explore the next beach that was ½ an hour over the top of the hills.

Passed a creek with palm ferns growing by the sides, a bush turkey’s nest and Queensland umbrella trees.

So many different trees and shrubs, cool glades of low-branched trees and springy grass. Good cattle tracks to follow. Had to climb one steep hill.

The beach was exciting because it was there, uninhabited and waiting to be explored. Marcello found a glass float straightaway. We picked a ferny coppice, with a creek running through, to have our lunch. In the meanwhile, there was plenty to see and possible treasures to be picked up.

Quite excited by the beauty of the beach and the blue-green glass float. So we decided to press on to the next beach which was another 30-minute walk over the hill. The rocks were impassable in parts.

This time, Karen found a small stoneware jar; shipwrecked with a small mouth. And Marcello found another glass float (a small clear glass one), a cow skull and a wooden packing case. Gareth found a tube that he used as a telescope and a small plastic fishing reel. We returned to the first beach for lunch. After lunch, Marcello caught two big bream. A third, enormous,  according to Marcello and Karen, got away with his line.

The return journey took a while because we went well out of our way. It was slow too because we had no cattle tracks to follow and so had to crash through bushes and over fallen dead trees.

Hot fish curry and oysters for dinner.

Learned many games of Patience over freshly fried peanuts.

Monday, 18th Aug 1975

Took some stuff to Rover. Collected ferns, pandanus, banksia, yellow sand and a few pieces of driftwood. Marcello found another glass float, his 3rd. Shifted more stuff to Rover in the afternoon. Kids played ball near Rover while I collected more plants.

Usual game of cards in the evening. High and dramatic tides, up to edge of beach, lovely moonlight. Cold.

Tuesday, 19th Aug 1975

Packed. Left at 8:30 am. Rough journey to 3 Rivers. Riding along paths at an angle.
Bogged in one of the 3 Rivers!
Water gurgling away, Rover at 45 degree angle while we winched it.
Winch broke, but Rover was out by then.
After several tries, we make it over the sand dunes.

Next excitement was a fire. Right at McNevin’s Crossing where one could get bogged very easily, and where we wanted to have lunch. Fortunately, someone had laid branches to make a neat road across the bog. So we crossed easily and drove fearfully away. The fire was too sinister to encourage loitering.

Oh yes, between Camp 6 and 3 Rivers we had a flat tire. Had to stop several times to tighten the wheel.

A mile away from home, we ran out of petrol. Filled up from the jerrycan and cruised home at 3 pm.

Lots of mail and eggs to greet us.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

22. Back Home to Australia – Journal Entry 17th Nov 1973

Muchlater

We returned to Emu Park from the Philippines and our family bought a beautiful Queensland home set on the top of a hill. We could see the ocean in the distance through a row of fully grown Norfolk pines.

Beloved,

I dreamed of you last night. You returned without your beard. I was very surprised. The dream is easily explained, I had shown your R.A.F. photograph to Gareth.

Thank you, my love, for your letter of the 11th received today. We bought three chooks, frozen, from Benn’s.

Quite a day. We went at 6am to the beach; the pup ran around and Gareth rode his bike. We won’t go tomorrow because the pup is sick. We may have overfed him and carried him around too much.

So then we came home from the beach and did some housework (or homework as Janine says). And then about 10am the Svendsen kids came and we all went to the beach again to eat cake and watermelon and to swim.

Left them at their house to get ready for Cinderella, a play by the Junior Little Theatre. We went home, had lunch and then went to the Daltons.

Sue left on Thursday. Benjamin was not well and she thought she’d keep him quiet at home. He gets rather excited here.

Oh darling, all the lettuces have gone to seed.

It’s fun having the Rover to drive.

About Blue, the pup. Do you like the name? Well about Blue; Marcello is in charge of him and it’s the funniest thing – Marcello cleaning Blue’s pooh! And his vomit. Mig is also very fussy and protective over Blue. He stayed in the car with Blue in case stray dogs attacked. Won’t give us much time with the pup. At the moment they’re asleep together. Poor Karen, she wants a pup now. Anyway she’s waiting for her kitten. Gareth and I are to look after Blue when Marcello is at school.

Johnny, I love you. Things are strange without you.

18th Nov 1973 – Night

The Rs called. I was asleep, the kids were at the beach. However, the Rs returned after visiting the Fullers and stayed till 7pm. It was very nice. R’s parents separated when he was 4. He lived with his father till 8 years of age and then returned to his mother. However, he was always away from home and only spent one year living with his mother. They told me lots more things. They send $100 every month to R’s mother.

I’ve unpacked our files. Found the Curry chapter. Finished The Thousand and One Nights. Wrote out cheques. Felt quite important doing so. I’m working at your desk.

The kids and I now sleep in the main bedroom. Not Marcello though, he has Blue in his room because Blue plays at night and bites our toes and tugs our hair! Pity, I enjoyed sleeping in the study.

Don’t know what happened to that crate of apples. Railway strike was on a couple of days so don’t know when the plums etc will arrive.

End of a whole week without you.
I love you my love.

Your
Gita

WastpaperBasketPoem
Poem by Gita Nov 1973

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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21. Philippines Snapshot – Journal Entry 2nd May 1971

Muchlater[Our family stayed in Sydney for another year and then spent two years in the Philippines. Unfortunately, there are no journals for this period so I have included the few letters my mother sent from the Philippines. Martial law was introduced to the Philippines by President Marcos in September 1972. This prompted us to return to Emu Park in 1973.]

2nd May 1971

Yes, we’d be delighted to have Mark. Leave him with us for as long as you like. A holiday in the Philippines and the countryside would do him a world of good. Manila is a pleasant city and the countryside in Luzon is magnificent. We haven’t had the chance to visit any of the other islands. The best thing is the people, diverse, very able and friendly in a person to person fashion.

We’ll send him back to you speaking Tagalog.

7th May 1971

So we are here in the Pilipinas. Magandang umaga po = Good morning Sir or Madam.

What have I to report? Nothing very much really. So terribly ordinary – like ordering furniture, looking for kapok and buying fish and coffee beans. We went out to a Welcome to the Philippines Dinner last night and it was all wrong, discreet and rich. I felt sad although the view was good. An 11th floor Sydney view without water and two nice bits of meat spoilt with too much food beforehand. I drank lemon and soda, longing for a cigarette.

We have a fish pond in the tiny garden and we have stocked it with fish. Lost all the guppies because they swam away forever through the outlet pipe. Bought more – very expensive. Anyway, a stupid price for a guppy. Especially guppies given to disappearing down the drain.

Was it hot when we arrived! Man was it hot. Port Moresby was an adventure. A slow roast at 325F. This machine [IBM electric typewriter] sticks at a certain place and all the keys are different for each golf ball and I have a chart which I don’t look at and so get things wrong. My reflexes are all wrong too, I press to get a semi-colon on golf ball courier 72 and I get an N with a curl on top of it. I ask you, how does one disguise an N with a curl on top of it to look like a semi-colon? Life is very difficult.

We have one maid and seem to have difficulty getting another. That’s because Johnny would like a mature woman who is able to cook Pilipino foods. These golf balls are the end and I feel so hungry, it is 1.30pm and I’m waiting for Johnny to return.

We have a betel leaf creeper in the garden and alas and alack, poetic justice and whatnot, I burnt my mouth trying out a betel-nut-lime chew. The lime being wot you whitewash catacombs with.

Can I think of nothing else but food? Yennyway, the place we are in is good. It’s going to rain presently and so things will cool off. Got to type a long paper for Johnny now – wish me luck. I will be at it all weekend if this letter is any guide. So bye for now. Maybe I shall have something worthwhile to say tomorrow.

15th May 1971

So wot to report. I’m sitting in the kanteen of the Philippine Women’s University drinking black instankoffee, facing a notice which says:

PLEASE REPORT
DISCOURTEOUS PERSONNEL
TO THE MANAGEMENT (Establishment?)
IMMEDIATELY

This reminds me of a super one I’d been saving for you. On a noticeboard somewhere I read:

UNAUTHORISED PERSONS
DON’T READ THIS

Alas, nothing below the arrow.

Which brings to mind (though I fail to see the connection) of hundreds of wooden carvings for sale of a fist with the middle finger (extra long) sticking straight up. Wot significance? Dare I ask? Whom?

People here are great. Mostly smiling and bursting into song now and then.

There’s this market filled with 2” by 2” shops (I exaggerate very little) selling ready-made dresses. Thousands and thousands of 2’ by 2’ shops and everyone (der women) wears dresses, she said sadly burning herself with the instakoffee.

Why yam I drinking koffee at the kanteen of the Phil. Women’s Univ.? Because I am waiting for a 9am to strike so that I can present myself for the dance course I am attending.

We’re being taught by der famous Bayanihan dancers. Them dat goes round the world many times. They are good. We’re a mixed class – mainly school teachers and young kids. Every Saturday the Bayanihan dancers put on a show and this Saturday, tomorrow, we will go to see them.

It is now Saturday and I’ve returned from the dance performances and am copying out what I wrote in my notebook to you. We have learnt three dances so far. Jota Canitena, Pandanggo and the well-known Tinikling. There are no fs and vs in Tagalog by the way and c comes out as k; pity me, am I not mixed up already?

There seems to be a natural grace about everybody and the students don’t look awkward learning the dances. I feel like a bluddy giraffe.

The first dance I can only just do, the second needs practice because we’re supposed to balance a glass, with burning candle inside, on our head and a glass (mit said candle) on the back of each hand and dance and smile and look graceful.

17th June 1971

Thank you very much for your letter. It came as a great relief to me because I was worried. I had visions of the three of you in a Nepalese jail gnawing on dry powroti.

You could keep up your reading at least can’t you? When Anna is asleep? I should be the last one to ask that question – I would like to do so many things but what happens? I get side-tracked and end up doing very little. Are we not frail?

It is good to be in Manila but it will be better when we get out of to the Provinces – when we can speak Pilipino. We are here initially for another year, but would like to stay on for another year.

Let me know when you know your short-term and long-term plans. Maybe.

Oh hell, are we not all insecure? That is, most of us don’t have very much money, don’t know where we’re going etc. etc. and all that. This is not much help is it? But above all, don’t worry, it is killing, I know.

The kids are fine, the moves upset them a little initially and then they make friends and enjoy themselves till the next move. Gareth is three now and talks and talks.

I’m using an IBM electric typewriter and when I change the golf ball type I don’t know where everything is and get the queerest things when I want a question mark or say a simple comma.

I had better stop and post this to you soon. Give Anna a big kiss for me, maybe I’ll see you someday. Give my regards to Minoru.

Use the Australian address, it is much quicker.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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20. Arrival Story – Journal Entry 1st Sep 1970

[My mother’s story version of arriving in Australia.]

Gita’s arrival at Brisbane airport was dramatic and foolish. She has flown straight from Kathmandu, the youngest child in a sling on her back, the two elder children clutching at her skirts, big bags in her hands. One child had a Nepalese drum – at the sight of which the Customs officials sighed and took a tight grip on themselves. Gita was dressed in a short thick black cotton sari. These were the sort worn by women in a particular Nepalese tribe to show off the tattoos on their calves. She knew the fumigation was coming and hoped to add to the dramatic effect in retaliation. But Gita didn’t have tattooed calves.

All this was quite stupid. There was a reporter who sensed something and wanted to take photographs. The reporter had noticed Gita exchanging a long intense, slightly smiling glance with Johnny who was waiting outside the customs barrier. Johnny, in his typical cool manner, continued leaning against the pillar, glanced at the reporter and quietly drawled that he had better not. The reporter was a middle-aged Australian, short and plump, a disappearing race of understanding country reporters. He must have sensed tragedy, fear, who knows what, so he didn’t argue but stood by Johnny and watched until Gita was through with Customs and had greeted Johnny with one word, “Hello.”

Gita was taken straight from the Third World into a two-storied wooden house on stilts in a very small coastal village of Australia.

Immediate differences in cultures came fairly quickly one after another. White labourers working on the roads – a strange sight to someone coming from a colonised country. Vendors calling in motorised vehicles. The postman driving to your post box was hard to get used to at first as Gita assumed all postmen walked with heavy bags on their shoulders. There was hot and cold piped water in the house, separate bedrooms for the children, supermarkets in the nearby city and many clubs for people – especially women.

Women called on Gita to invite her to join the CWA, the National Fitness Club and the Bowling Club. She went on to the school tuckshop roster.

The neighbours were a little slow in making contact, they didn’t know what to make of this bizarre family dumped in their midst – two dark-skinned children who talked Gurkhali to each other in a low voice, one small blue-eyed baby boy, one large blond blue-eyed man who smoked a pipe and one South-East Asian woman.

Johnny suggested that Gita make the initial calls on neighbours, first to the couple living on the right and then to the couple on the left. Later they came, a little ashamed of themselves and not quite looking Gita in the eye. They told her what day was garbage collection day, and about milk, bread and newspaper deliveries.

Life in Emu Park was still at the stage where neighbours called on newcomers to welcome them and make their entry into the community as easy and pleasant as possible.

The earliest encounter with the Queensland dialect was when a young lad called with a message from his mother.
“Do you have any spice in your fridge?” he asked politely.
“Oh, no,” replied Gita, “I don’t keep spice in the fridge, I keep them on the shelf.”
A puzzled look came into the lad’s eyes and he almost backed away.
“Mum asked if you have spice in your fridge,” he repeated.
Gita repeated her answer and so it would have gone if the lad hadn’t changed his wording.
“Mum says if your fridge is not big enough, she could keep things for you in her fridge.”
Pretty soon they sat down to tea and biscuits.

It took Gita several years to get over her horror at having people spell words for her over the telephone. The a’s and i’s were hard to differentiate and her English wasn’t all that good either. One man jovially told her it reminded him of Peter Sellers, which surely was a chicken and egg question. On the other hand, Australians were surprised at Gita speaking English at all, and made such remarks as, “How is it that you speak straighter English than we do?”
“I’ve never spoken to one of your kind before,” said a taxi driver in Sydney, “I really enjoyed that.”
And another man asked, “Are you a school teacher?”

On the whole, Gita was mostly absorbed in Johnny and their new life together. Johnny concentrated on Australianising his new family as fast as possible. Gita’s attitude to that was pretty easy until she took the children to a cafe in Sydney where they stuck their fingers into everything and generally behaved so oddly that they soon attracted the attention of the other eaters. It didn’t take very long for the kids to learn to handle knives and forks and say excuse me and please and thank you. Life became a little less conspicuous.

Ah, the freshness of those early years in Australia, despite Johnny and Gita’s fear and sorrow.

The year was the late nineteen sixties, Australia was riding high, beef was expensive because of the export prices cattlemen were getting for their beasts, minerals were being dug up and shipped out at good prices and employment was plentiful.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • This closes the chapter on the early years in Emu Park. Our family then moved to Neutral Bay in Sydney, Australia.

17. Public Speaking and History – Journal Entry 28th Jul 1970

Muchlater

Many months later, the following year.

Goodness knows what
the date, round about
28th July, 1970

My dear Cynthia,

Thanks for your letter – it makes good reading. Your life is not exactly dull. Goodness knows what news I can give you to come near the cake and pot story.

The weather, yes the weather is always a good starter. Had rain today after a long dry spell. Things were really dry and crisp, but not as bad as out west. Out west is a drought and has been for the past so many years. You hear stories of people selling out their tiny farms and looking for steady jobs. The wool industry is packing up. American meat standards are shooting up – you probably know that most of Australia’s beef and mutton go to America.

What else – general house cleaning and cooking etc. is held on Thursday; this is something new I’ve hit on and a friend who is deaf, or very nearly, comes and helps me. She is so quick in everything and usually pitches up with bunches of freshly plucked herbs and aubergines. Then at 11am more women pitch up and we have a yoga session together, then lunch. Quite pleasant and then I have a fairly clean house.

I’ve been for a Forum meeting – public speaking for housewives it seems. It was good. Very nice to see most of the women take the rostrum and deliver short speeches. Even I got up and said a few words. I was told that I should have prepared my speech by the critic. Told her I didn’t mean to speak but couldn’t resist after hearing a couple of remarks made by previous speakers. “Wot to do,” I said. “If I feel strongly about something,” I said. “Stay quiet?” I said.
“Oh no,” she said. “You don’t have to,” she said.
“Then you’ve probably frightened other women from speaking off the cuff,” I said.
“Oh I hope not,” she said. She (the critic) was a very attractive spinster who worked on a farm during the day.

Then there is this discussion group I seem to have attached myself to. They are a gang of rather rich housewives who think up a subject, get some expert to talk on it and ask questions to get a bit of general knowledge. The meeting tomorrow is on Child Psychology.

I’m also trying to get a picture of Emu Park’s history. Started 80 to 90 years ago. This is the place we live in. It is fascinating. Will probably send you a copy of what notes I put together if and when I do so. In the meantime, I interview the old folk who have lived all their lives here. Remarkable memories some of them. Not much history I grant you, but the men who were here seemed to have had character. There were seven oystermen in 1912 and bags of oysters in their shell were sent out by rail practically everyday. Now only private oyster picking takes place and that too very little.

About 60 years ago a prisoner escaped from New Zealand on a sailboat and landed in Yeppoon (12 miles from here). He either sold or used the boat to go to the coral islands to get fish and oysters. However, this is mere conjecture. He sold the boat to a guy who owned one of the islands and who then managed to ground the boat in Emu Park. A Mr Morris (an oysterman) bought it, repaired it and called it The Crete. He made money by taking people to the islands and back. Many people even got married after such a trip. As many as 40 packed into the boat. Overnight visitors to the islands would catch lurking turtles, turn them onto their backs and when ready for a ride would turn the turtles right way up, hop on to them and be taken out to sea. Imagine a beach full of turrrrrned turrrtles.

In between all this speaking to people I’m trying to learn to make tarts, play the guitar (yes, still), swot up my arithmetic and keep house. Wot a life. Johnny goes to Sydney next week and to Canberra the week after for interviews. Let’s keep fingers crossed.

I got on to a farm which sold me avocado pears. My word Cynthia, I ate them till they came out of my ears. The season is just about over now – sadly enough.

People have been very kind to me. They always give me things like strawberries, and cabbages, and lettuces and clothes for the kids. Living it up?

Much love from all of us to all of
you.

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16. Raising Pigs – Journal Entry 15th Dec 1969

[My mother’s account of raising pigs in India]

Found a book on pig farming. Just the thing I think, all you’ve got to do is get some pigs and you’re in business – what with the Government encouraging pig-farming and all that.

I wrote off to a farm asking permission to purchase a pair of piglets and was asked to call at Katpadi the next day.

We set off on motorbike and scooter, my brother and his friend on the motorbike and my husband and I on the scooter. When we got there we discovered there were only two sizes available, the first size too large to be carried by the pillion rider on his lap and the other still sucklings, with one month to go before weaning.

We settled for the babies. Oh, we’ll bottle feed them, we told ourselves, and off we went.

They squealed almost all the way back – about thirty miles of squeals. Only when we were nearing our farm did they settle down and enjoy the ride.

As soon as we got back there was no time to rest, beds and bottles had to be prepared. Feroke (the male) and Sara (the female) were hungry all the time. They could never get enough. In fact Feroke would quickly finish his bottle (an old beer bottle) and would rush over to where Sara was daintily sucking on hers, scuff her aside, grab the nipple and go guzzle, guzzle. He’d drink till the milk dripped out of his snout. The milk bill was enormous and still they were hungry all the time – so what to do? We decided to feed them on porridge and milk. That solved the problem.

They were kept in a Deal Wood packing case in the common room during the night. The first night they were exhausted and slept right through. The next night I heard a slight noise and cautiously opened my eyes – Feroke and Sara stood cheek to cheek peering at me. I jumped up from my mat, took them to their packing case, tucked them in and went back to sleep. A little later they were back so what to do? I give them their bottles.

All too soon they were grown up. We had to keep them in separate pens till Sara was eight months old, which was a reasonable time to get her mated. The number of times poor Munuswamy had to repair the pens. If dinner and lunch was a little late, we would hear smash and they’d be out to see what was happening. At night the kitchen, which was just a small hut, was attacked because there’d be no-one to chase them away.

The children would go piggy-back on Feroke and Sara, a hilarious sight. Then Faroke took to chasing passing villagers. One man climbed a tree to get out of his way and howled at us to call Feroke back to his pen. Irate housewives would come storming in holding broken pots and warble out a list of misdeeds committed by Feroke and Sara interlaced with juicy words of abuse.

So for their sins, the pigs had to be put in very strong pens.

Then Sara upped and gave us six beautiful bouncing piglets. I attended at the births – but that didn’t give me licence to touch the babies. No. If I did they’d squeal as if I was pinching or poking  them and Sara would charge. Believe me, when a huge sow, however sweet looking, chases you – you run.

The piglets grew round, pink and beautiful and we loved them, except for their nasty habit of squealing about us to their mother. Soon they were weaned and kept in a huge pen by themselves.

We had so much difficulty keeping them in. The smallest piglet would stand near the fence and one by one the others would climb on his back. Then they would be up and over the wooden fence jumping down to freedom. There was only one snag – the little chap who had turned himself into a chair for his brothers and sisters was left in the pen squealing blue murder because there was no-one for him to climb on.

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