104. It’s a fair mongrel! – Journal Entry 24th Sep 1982

I had a wonderful break on the beach yesterday. It was so relaxing to lie in the hot sun, talk, eat and look around at the calm blue sea; the beach sprinkled with people. Even a surf fisherman was up to his knees in foam.

I wonder if anyone would run a second-hand bookshop in Emu Park, together with a book exchange? Might be worth pursuing.

Karen rang to thank the family for their presents. She had an excellent day with many of her friends wishing her for her birthday.

Today I must: finish cost accounting exercises; finish methodology chapter five; make dinner of fish baked in tomato and lemon, served with carrots, followed by mulberries and custard for pudding; go to the post office; buy tomatoes and more vegetables.

Mum and I strolled down to the post office and bought a crab for our lunch.

27th September 1982

Had to chase members of the family for most of the morning; it was one of those mornings where everyone needed reminding about something. It seems like a lifetime has passed since I woke up at 5 am. 

29th September 1982

Panic! Panic! September is almost over. The semester is almost over. And yet I do not have firm control of my subjects. While Karen and Gareth are not here, I shall do as much study as possible. Barbara, who is home for the next two weeks, will need extra attention. She informed me of her break when she returned home from the Activity Training Centre.

Why do I feel hassled? Stop it! It’s a lovely morning. There are plenty of opportunities to catch up and get ahead. I have already written the shopping list, had my breakfast and exercised. Johnny has very kindly done the Yeppoon run while I have been scattering grapeshot for the past few days. Johnny warned me of it. Someday I should record my gaffes.

In the meantime, dinner preparations are about to begin for Bavarian meatballs, rice, pumpkin and a capsicum and bean salad. We shall have freshly picked pawpaw for pudding.

2nd October 1982

Yesterday was special. Students of Methodology spent a whole day at the Institute in discussion with our teacher P. Galle. He is such a skilled teacher; we were privileged to have him hold the session for the seven of us; it was of great benefit.

Gareth cooked dinner. It was delicious. My date with Johnny that night, a truly wonderful one,  began with Löwenbräu München and crisps. Johnny dropped off to sleep at around 11 pm. I slipped away to join mum and Marcello. We watched the Commonwealth Games into the early hours of the morning.

3rd November 1982

After breakfast this morning, I made Johnny a cut lunch. He has to go to Rocky for a tutorial with a group of external third-year students.

Today I will be making a cake for the Bowling club which mum must be able to carry since I don’t have a car. Apart from the usual housework and study, I will prepare dinner—hamburgers and chocolate cake.

Here’s an interesting snippet: heard a comment by a driver in the Hardie Ferodo race comment on his view of the road. He said, “It’s a fair mongrel!”

4th October 1982

The game is on! Only six weeks to go before the exams and a great deal of study remains. Tomorrow I must pay the bank card, pickup Melleril for Barbara, remind Marcello to get chops or sausages, drive the family to the beach at 11 am, take mum bowling and drop off bottles at St Vincent.

These days I only seem to manage a few quick paragraphs in the diary.

8th October 1982

The heavy teaching workload for Johnny is now worse. Five out of thirteen teachers remain. Three or four subjects are to be distributed among the remaining teachers for the next two weeks—on top of their already very full loads.

To back Johnny up over the next year, I must get on top of my studies, run the house efficiently and earn a living. If I can contribute to the family finances, it will lighten his load.

More pressing right now is to keep Barbara busy until lunchtime. She is recovering somewhat from her withdrawal and is already talking about lunch. It is only 10:40 am.

103. Zilzie Beach – Journal Entry 16th Sep 1982

Toby and I plan to go for a long walk along Zilzie Beach on Thursday. I telephoned the newsagency about the advertisement and Woodworking magazine. I really must get my program working, telephone Johnny for hard copies, pay bills and work on cost accounting, otherwise the progress I’ve made this week will be lost.

18th September 1982

I make endless lists and schedules. The next three weeks will be very busy. Karen will only be home on 25 & 26 Sep so I’ll need to send her presents earlier, Gareth will be camping between 26-28 Sep and Barbara is now home for 2 weeks. Other jobs: cook for the wedding on 28 Sep, organise our Rocky day on 1 Oct, pick up books on woodworking machines and finally plan my study, specifically to finish methodology and cost accounting on time…oh and organise the roosters to be killed.

19th September 1982

Dear Nora,

We were wondering whether you will be visiting us in December? Mum seems to think you will be, but could you please let us know what your plans are? By the way, the international airport for Queensland is in Brisbane.

Mum also wanted to know about dad’s grave and how much money was involved—we didn’t get an answer about it.

At the risk of upsetting you, I would like to add my advice to M’s, that perhaps you should become very skilled in shorthand typing instead of pursuing a B.A.? The Indian B.A. is not worth much and as you know M has to do 80% of the Australian B.A. to get a recognisable degree. Shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and accounting are skills that could get you somewhere. Once you’ve acquired those basic skills, there is no reason you couldn’t just go onto the B.A. course. Unless you take extra units in a particular area such as social welfare, a diploma in teaching or computing to specialise, B.A. holders can usually get a clerical job.

20th September 1982

Read two articles in the Australian Women’s Weekly today. The first article provided advice on coping with arthritis: keeping cheerful, being well-rested and having confidence in oneself. The second article stressed the importance of keeping level-headed under pressure or when facing a crisis.

Tonight we will have Kofta curry, dhal with greens, onions in yoghurt and fried brinjal. After that we can have orange salad or maybe a whole orange each. 

Managed to finish William Golding’s Rites of Passage—such an unusual plot with highly polished and professional writing. Spent two hours typing Karen’s assignment to avoid my cost accounting and programming.

21st September 1982

I woke up this morning feeling nauseous. My back felt sore too. Nevertheless, I must bake chocolate cakes this afternoon. Fortunately, tonight’s dinner will require very little preparation: noodles with prawns, omelette strips, kabanas and vegetables from the garden. After I sort out my study schedule, I’ll ring Yeppoon High.

23rd September 1982

Very interesting extract from a letter by Thomas Gray to his friend Mr Bonstetten, Cambridge, April 12, 1770:

I must cite another Greek writer to you, because it is much to my purpose: he is describing the character of a genius truly inclined to philosophy: “It includes,” he says, “qualifications rarely united in one single mind, quickness of apprehension, and a retentive memory, vivacity and application, gentleness and magnanimity:” to these he adds “an invincible love of truth, and consequently of probity and justice. Such a soul,” continues he, “will be little inclined to sensual pleasures, and consequently temperate; a stranger to illiberality and avarice; being accustomed to the most extensive views of things, and sublimest contemplations, it will contract an habitual greatness, will look down with a kind of disregard on human life, and on death, consequently, will possess the truest fortitude. Such,” says he, “is the mind born to govern the rest of mankind.”

My back is still not getting better and causing me quite a bit of anxiety. Possible causes: a muscle pulled during an awkward movement; arthritis; degeneration of the lower spine, common in older women; colon or bone cancer; a virus. My legs seem to tire easily and I’m usually most comfortable lying on my back or stomach, so I shall persist with rest and gentle exercise. 

I’m off to Zilzie Beach with Toby.

101. Dear Mary – Journal Entry 13th Aug 1982

On Thursday I gave the family a meal they least like—liver. Mum, Barbara, Johnny and I like the way I cook it, but the rest of the family are not fond of liver, in any form. Before the new recipe I would fry largish slabs, but now I cook very thin slices and it is delicious and tender. Fortunately, Marcello brings fresh calf liver from work as the liver from the butcher is rarely fresh. 

The recipe is as follows: Finely chop one or two onions and slice the liver into thin strips. In a large pan, fry the onion until tender, then set aside. Add chunks of butter to the pan and when foaming, saute the liver pieces over low heat until just cooked. The slices need to be stirred gently, just until they lose their bloody appearance. Place the liver on the onions and squeeze a little lemon juice over them to taste. Next add some chopped sage to the pan and fry briefly, add a tablespoonful or so of flour, stir well, then add a cup of white wine and whisk. Add more liquid if the sauce is too thick and if you don’t have wine, water with a dash of vinegar would be a fine substitute. Finally, stir in a large handful of chopped parsley or chives and slide in the liver and onions. Add salt to taste and grind in lots of black pepper. Don’t let the liver cook further or it will become too rubbery. Serve with buttered rice and a plain vegetable dish. We usually fry eggs too, especially for those who are not keen on liver. Bacon or sausages can be added for extra flavour but it is the sage which gives this dish a special flavour, although garlic can be substituted.

Anyway, as mentioned, I gave the family liver on my birthday and chocolates much later with coffee. On Saturday Johnny will be cooking a special meal and Karen is coming home for dinner. I asked for paella, which I’m very keen on, banana splits for pudding followed by chocolates and coffee.

14 August 1982

Well, we had our paella meal, although as this one didn’t have many prawns, Johnny added scallops and mushrooms. Tiger prawns, unlike banana prawns, have distinctive stripes and a sweet flavour. Needless to say it was delicious and I ate so much that I couldn’t eat the individual servings of pudding: a whole banana sliced lengthwise with a blob each of vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream and whipped cream, and crushed nuts strewed over the lot. Before dinner, Karen and I went for a long walk on the beach. The weather is delightful now but summer will be upon us, before we know it, with frogs in the lavatory bowl and flies in the kitchen! M, R and Z rang for my birthday on Thursday, it was so good to chat with them. Unfortunately, I have to report that mum hasn’t been well: about six weeks ago she had a medical examination and was told that her blood pressure was worse; she then worried about that and of course everything started to deteriorate—she had head pains, belching at night and insomnia. Last week I took her to the clinic to see the GP and I think she will be back to normal in a fortnight. Barbara insists on taking mum to the park on Sundays for a picnic.

Nathaniel is talking quite well now and TJ is beginning to lose the staring, unresponsive look which newborns usually have. I call him “Kumarakut” because he looks so small, round and brown, almost glossy. Monika hopes he won’t lose his brownness the way Nathaniel had, however, I don’t think she needs to worry because TJ is darker than Nathaniel as a baby. I wonder how TJ will like it? I think he can expect a rough time until he grows up and no longer cares. Monika has her hands full when both kids are crying at the same time.

Life is hard work with very little play because Johnny is tied up with extra lecturing, besides all the other tasks he must complete. I’ve taken on four subjects this semester, twice as much as before. Gareth has his studies too, and so we all have to keep going, even on weekends. However, semester ends in November, with a two-week break in September for the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. Tough times, like good times, must come to an end. Mine is, of course, self-inflicted, and will continue well into next year. Thank you very much for your cheeky card; I pinned it on the noticeboard along with the label from the back of the envelope. 

27th August 1982

It seems our correspondence could easily be concerned with just swapping recipes—thanks for yours! Do you think the sweet mango pickle would last longer if vinegar was substituted for the water? The onions could be cooked longer perhaps or left out?

Your recent visit must have started something because after you left, two long-absent friends came to stay for a while. The first was a Canadian friend who brought his new wife to visit his old stamping grounds. Then last week another friend, whom we met in Manila about ten years ago, came to stay. Carmen is a Filipino married to a Swiss and now lives in Lund, near Geneva. We climbed rocks, raided guava and mango trees, and ate lots of curry with bread and pickles. She loved being photographed with the kangaroos at Cooberrie Park. To our delight, there was a mother koala with her baby for a photo. Carmen’s ten-year-old son wanted to come on the trip; I think he will feel the photos are a poor substitute for the experience. Carmen had spent time with friends and relatives in Manila and then with her parents and sisters living in Brisbane. She was very tired on arrival because on her journey down from Brisbane, the bus driver kept dozing off! Absolutely terrified, she took turns with another passenger to speak to him the whole way.

100. Hot, Greasy, High-Cholesterol Lunch – Journal Entry 9th Aug 1982

Yet another lengthy gap between diary entries. It is still relatively early in the day. I marked the T.V. guide for programmes to watch this week after a leisurely breakfast, then read the papers and skimmed through the Women’s Weekly. 

I have managed to complete the first Calculus assignment. It wasn’t as daunting as expected; formulae and identities must be memorised so I had better get on with it. Household jobs always seem to take longer than expected, and afterwards, I am not in the right frame of mind for study. 

This week I will have a few days at home for completing assignments. Mum said she would cook dinner on Monday, we’ll be in Rocky on Tuesday, Gareth may be out on Friday night and Karen is coming home for dinner on Saturday. Perhaps we can have a family picnic on Sunday. I might cancel the CIAE afternoon meeting on Thursday since I am behind in my studies.

Johnny and I listened to the ZBS’s production of “The Taj Express”, a rather poor programme of Indian short stories. The stories seem to have been chosen more for their adaptability to radio, than anything else. “It mauls the rich and old Indian culture,” says 24 hours. However, the Bach programme was very enjoyable—particularly the definition of musical terms:
Partita is a suite, a form of instrumental music, in some sense the forerunner of the sonata, and used to be four movements, four dances.
Cantata is a sung piece, usually short vocal works, sacred or secular and for single voices or choir with accompanying instrumentals.
Sonata is either a type of composition in three or four movements, usually in sounded form as opposed to sung form. The second type of Cantata is a musical form.
Toccata meaning to touch or to play, usually contains scales, shakes and other brilliant figuration often interspersed with slow chordal passages.

11th Aug 1982

Another morning and I’m alive. We drove to Rocky only to find it was a gross mistake…we were meant to go Tuesday of next week! I had a shocking headache. Whether this was a result of the wasted day or just the effect of the sun and lack of sleep, I don’t know. Perhaps it was because my mind was as clogged as my bowels. I tried to work when we arrived but couldn’t focus. We spent the day rather pleasantly. First, we let Johnny know about the mix-up, then Gareth and I went to the corner cafe and bought a hot, greasy, high-cholesterol lunch of roast chicken, kabana, fish, meatball and chips. After selecting some cans of sugary, fizzy drinks to add to our heart-stopping feast, we hurried to the riverside and sat on the end of the boat ramp. We ate quickly while the food was still warm. 

The broad, muddy Fitzroy river seemed quiet. There were small heaps of black, oily rubbish near where we were sitting; left, no doubt, by the boatmen working nearby on the dilapidated trawlers. These small boats on the river looked quite adventurous despite their untidy appearance.

We returned to the library feeling rather full and sluggish. Gareth fell asleep on a beanbag in the young adult corner and I read a romance called “The Rules of Marriage”, one of the better romances for women.

Last night Carmen Keller rang from Brisbane to say that she is visiting her parents and expects to be in Australia for the next three weeks; she plans to come to Emu Park. How wonderful.  We met her in the Philippines and she had written to us from South Africa, then later from Switzerland where she settled. It has been so long since we saw her.

12th Aug 1982

The family has given me such lovely and thoughtful presents for my birthday. I gave them liver for dinner, which they ate without complaint.

98. Sad Farewell – Journal Entry 23rd July 1982

Early this morning I made Danish pastries for Karen, decorating them with P, C and D in pastry to correspond with her last semester results. Johnny delayed his departure for work until they were cool enough to pack. I brought coffee and warm pastries to the study for breakfast with Johnny; we had a little longer than usual to talk. Among other topics, we discussed the meaning of “polemic”, a word one knew vaguely but not specifically. Even Johnny had a different idea of its meaning. It turned out to be a controversial view or argument of someone’s principles or opinions stated aggressively; either verbally or in writing.

24/7/82

It was a very busy week full of people and cooking. Farewells are sad. I must not feel sad. We were privileged to have known Rolf for such a long time—almost seven years. Must not panic. Sadness and panic are a terrible combination.

25/7/82

Last night was an excellent dinner. The family sat and talked longer than usual; no one seemed in a hurry to leave the table so we indulged in our favourite quizzes. Gran arrived too late to attend her usual church service so now I am waiting in the car, writing in my diary and watching other cars arrive for the next service which will be in an hour and a half.

28/7/82

Yesterday was Gareth’s day in Rocky, the first stop being a long overdue visit to the orthodontist where we were told he would need both top and bottom braces and the removal of two top teeth to make room. We then went shopping to buy him some much-needed clothes and shoes. Monika and bubbies came with us to Rockhampton. Gareth very kindly returned to Monika to give her the small amount of money she needed to make some purchases at Vinnies. 

I dashed off to get through my list of jobs, however, I was disappointed to be refused repayment on Karen’s eye examination at Medibank and only received  0.25% off the orthodontic examination fee for Gareth. 

At the bookshop, things turned around somewhat as a customer overheard me asking the lady at the counter if she had any books on how to make flush doors and general books on woodworking machines. The customer asked if he could help me, having been a manual arts teacher in Darwin, and recommended a list of books and references: Australian Methods of Building Construction by Watson and Sharp, Building Construction by C. Lloyd, Notes on the Science of Building: Experimental Building Station, North Ryde, Sydney, and finally Carpentry and Joinery by Department of Labour and National Service. I made the list of the suggested books, thanked him warmly for his help and bought myself Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston.

Jobs list complete, I went to the pie shop to buy lunch and cold soft drinks for the family. They had been patiently waiting in the library and quickly followed me out.  Nathaniel insisted on carrying the coke to our picnic spot under the sprawling Moreton Bay fig tree at the edge of Rocky Town Hall grounds. We enjoyed lunch and mainly talked about our purchases. Monika had found a skirt just like Karen’s and Gareth and I were pleased with his new clothes.

30/7/82

Managed some yoga yesterday but neglected my diary writing. I didn’t exercise at all due to a headache accompanying a period.

Barbara is at home today and on Mellaril, so it is important to keep her busy. She will drive us all to distraction by sitting and talking to herself.

Trying out a new creamy lemon and mustard sauce for the fish which I will crumb and fry for dinner tonight, accompanied by brown rice, carrots and lettuce from the garden. Pudding will be one of Johnny’s favourites: baked apples and custard. 

Tomorrow I have committed myself to Programming after I finish my Calculus review and Cost Accounting assignment. It is time to focus on study.

96. Plato’s Four Virtues – Journal Entry 14th July 1982

We had a very comforting dinner last night of veal tail stew with turnips, carrots, beans and potatoes for main course followed by fruit and custard. Yesterday was essentially a non-study day. Monika cleaned the kitchen mess after breakfast while gran kindly cleared the concrete area outside and made up a colourful vase of flowers. I cleaned the dining room which was in a filthy state. My clothes were also in a woeful state, dirty and waiting to be washed. I had to borrow one of Johnny’s shirts to greet our first guest of the day. While chatting, I put together some lunch. 

The Livingstone Shire Council’s Strategic Plan meeting went well and a draft list of recommendations were drawn up before the meeting was finalised. After the meeting, Mr T called me aside and asked me about the four virtues I had listed on the board*. In a hushed tone, he asked why they were written up and who had done it. I told him about our family dinner time quizzes and he explained that he belonged to a society that had the four virtues as their tenets. I responded that one could hardly go wrong following them and that nowadays they seem to be lost virtues. Mr T ended the conversation by telling me he tries to live by them every day. And indeed he does, many others sadly do not possess such integrity.
*Ed.—Plato’s four cardinal virtues are wisdom, courage,  moderation and justice. To learn more click here.

The members dispersed fairly quickly as gran’s new bottom dentures were hurting her. I whisked her off to the dentist without further delay; poor thing, she had been eating pap for the past two days and couldn’t stand it any longer. Monika and the boys came with us to Yeppoon. We drove home worrying that Barbara was going to arrive at an empty house because Gareth had afternoon footy practice, however, we arrived to discover all was well, Gareth was home and showered and Barbara her usual chatty self. I took Gareth down to the newsagent for school supplies and then trimmed the hair out of his eyes. Gran prepared a divine vindaloo with rice and dahl for dinner.

I had taken a quick shower and was about to settle down to some study when Yvonne, who had missed the morning meeting, came to discuss the recommendations and work on the strategy for the health centre, as well as several other matters. It was very pleasant without a single interruption throughout our very fruitful discussion.

Before she left, we talked about bread making as she bakes regularly for her family. Yvonne also divulged something interesting about her past: she had not approved of a large sum given to a group whose mandate was to redeem marriages. She felt that if two people were not able to live together, what was the point of wasting time and money trying to keep them together? I had thought so too until David had told Johnny that ‘official’ people just believed everything was over between him and his wife and did not even consider their reconciliation; it was assumed they only needed help to face life apart. 

Yvonne explained that she had left her husband, with whom she had two sons, but didn’t tell me the reason for leaving the marriage. Her ex-husband took another wife—and her  three grown-up sons; one of whom was in the habit of bringing home pregnant women who left their children behind; incredibly, this happened three times to the same stepson. Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, his new wife was caught shoplifting, took an overdose of something and ended up in a psychiatric ward. Finally, on the advice of his sons, Yvonne’s ex-husband sold his house and contents and rented a flat with his second wife. This turned out to be an excellent solution as the rest of the mob had to find a place of their own. Yvonne seems to have lived in Rocky for a long time, one of her sons is studying at the Institute and the other is a policeman, and her elderly mother is still quite active. By the time we finished talking, it was already 9:30 pm, much too late to start intensive studying. After moving some papers around on my desk and drinking a cup of coffee, I went to bed.

Last night I read Čapek’s essay on proletarian art which examines the combinations that appeal to the urban dweller, the worker. He says “folk art is a luxurious primitive production” and I quote:

Proletarian art is that which is consumed by the workers because of their vital necessity. If they care more for a mouth organ than for quarter-time music, let’s talk about mouth organs and not about the music of the future…the actual mission of art is to abolish boredom, anxiety and the greyness of life…the world  needs proletarian art…living joy is passionately sought after…art contains certain natural and constant values like love, courage, intelligence, beauty, optimism, powerful and exciting action, great achievements, adventure, justice and such like motives which have not changed much since the creation of the world. Amazement and sympathy: inexhaustible and deep springs of popular enjoyment, primitive and invincibly human. Certain ancient traditions: news from the court, heroic epics, reportage novels and other grudgingly appreciated resources, should be reexamined and art created out of them.

If he knew how, Karel Čapek would write a novel of love, heroism and other great virtues and it would be so beautiful, so sentimental and so uplifting that worker hands will pass it to other work-worn hands.

94. Letter to Z – Journal Entry 24th June 1982

Dear Z,

We all thoroughly enjoyed your visit; it was great to see the whole family and our only regret is that we were not able to take more time off. However, as Johnny says, you are all most welcome anytime. Why not come up for Christmas? Be warned though, it is usually very quiet apart from the midnight tree-raiding and special feasts. Our only outing seems to be a slow walk on the beach mid-morning after a huge Christmas breakfast. This is usually followed by another family beach cavort on New Year’s morning. Christmas time is mango season and unfortunately, the beginning of wet weather.

Thank you for the photographs. Gran has now carefully arranged them into her album. Monika ordered extra copies of those she took and we picked them up from Yeppoon yesterday; I’m sending you a batch for distribution, as you see fit

For a few days after your departure, Nathaniel walked around saying rather forlornly, ‘Z dorn!’. He excitedly pointed you out in Monika’s photographs and even remembered the dressing gown you used while you were here.

I am relieved examinations are now over. I had two exams and Karen had six. Barbara is going for five days to the annual ATC camp at the bottom of Phillip Street. Gran and I will probably bake several large chocolate cakes for them, like we did last year. Karen is back for a few days before going on a week-long camp in the Bunya Mountains; it will be freezing there.

The temperature dropped dramatically last week. Even though we are on the Queensland coast, it was down to 7℃ inside the kitchen with the most dreadful wind from down your way. It’s a glorious morning but still quite cold, so I am sitting at my desk with the heater on. Next semester will be busy because I was rash enough to sign-up for four subjects.

I am particularly looking forward to a subject called Methodology, part of the Associate Diploma in Computing, that teaches students to think clearly; something I am very much in need of! The prescribed textbooks are: Thinking about Thinking by Anthony Flew and Learning to Philosophise by E. R. Emmet. The lectures will be given by CIAE’s resident philosopher and I am curious to see a philosopher in action.

I recall two evenings spent listening to Johnny and a philosopher discuss a range of topics. They had the extraordinary ability to explore and develop concepts, many of which represent the most important aspects of humanity, civilisation and education. 

I shall quote from Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He categorises people as Romantics or Classics.  Romantics, Pirsig says, are intuitive, aware of appearances, imaginative and creative… Classics, however, see underlying forms and because he is essentially in favour of Classics, he describes their style or approach to things thus:

The classic style is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Its purpose is to bring order out of chaos and make the unknown known. It is aesthetically restrained. Everything is under control. Its value is measured in terms of how well this control is maintained.

All of that to say, I am looking forward to the Methodology subject to see what effect it has on the students, myself included. I must ask Johnny about last year’s students; I imagine it would be difficult to measure clearer thinking.

Gran, Monika, Gareth, Nathaniel, Johnny and I are very keen on naan bread and I now make it once a week. A major breakthrough thanks to R, for helping develop the recipe. We now have a twenty-five-kilo bag of rye flour to make chapatis, which I find are infinitely better than bread. Chapatis can be made much quicker, they freezes well and a few at a time can be used for breakfast or lunch.

By the way, our house number is not “2” even though it is on our kitchen door; Gareth found the number under our house and decided to put it up. Our official address is 11/17 Clement Street. You can use 11/17 Cnr Phillip and Clement Street, however, Phillip Street will suffice. Emu Park is a small town and I am sure your mail will find us.

Gran seems to have settled down to her gardening and social activities. She managed to water her garden for years with only a trickle until Johnny installed a new tap for her near the barbecue. The radishes, shallots, lettuce and brinjals are thriving now that the sprinkler has a better flow of water. Gran is much happier with this simple fix.

I shall post the photos with this letter when we go to Rocky later this morning.

90. A Birth and Fish Feast – Journal Entry 10th June 1982

What better way to start a brand new, best ever notebook than to record the birth of a child: TJ born on the 8th of June and brother to Nathaniel, a day after Gareth’s birthday and on the same birthday as Clare Cosgrove. Monika is still in the hospital and due back in a few days.

Thank you Johnny, my Johnny, for finding an unruled notebook for me to write my diary.

Our neighbour Hector also had a birthday so we rang and wished him a happy birthday; we are one of only a few people who know it’s his birthday. When Barbara took him some flowers he told her his daughter was coming for dinner and he was looking forward to it.

Z rang for a chat and announced Mary finally packed all her bags, her purchases are at last over. However, Mary is not looking forward to leaving the girls and Australia, she likes everything here. When Mary stayed with us in Emu Park, I noticed she took a keen interest in all that went on around her and loved the meals Johnny cooked; she insisted I list them all and is keeping a detailed diary of her visit to Australia.

Marcello and Monika have taken some lovely photographs of Mary and her family.

M, R and Z moved easily with the household, pitching in and helping with the work, so the burden was not on any one person.

Among the many memorable meals we had while they were here, I must mention the fish feast that was prepared by M, R and me; the diversity of colour was particularly appealing. Early in the morning, Marcello, Monika, M and R went with Merv to Rosslyn Bay Harbour and caught about thirty-seven steely backs or bony salmon. M made a good South Indian fish curry, R made Bengali stuffed fried fish and I made a herb fish curry.

I shall attempt to describe the fish feast in greater detail: M, R and I initially discussed what we would do with the fish and jointly drew up the menu. First, we picked fresh coriander seedlings, curry leaves, chillies and chives from our garden—a very pleasant activity for M and R after two years of Melbourne city life. M’s curry was excellent, a pleasant dark brown colour with ground coriander, cumin and chilli, fresh coriander leaves and red chilli roughly chopped, and finally thick tamarind pulp and salt to taste. The curry sauce was left to simmer for quite some time, getting browner and thicker with glimmers of red chilli flecks throughout. The prepared fish fillets were slipped in at the end and cooked only for a short while.

My curry, which we chose in contrast to M’s Madras fish curry, was mostly green and yellow, a mixture of finely chopped herbs and turmeric, with a handful of glossy whole red chilli thrown in, and lemon juice as the souring agent—fish curry is greatly improved with a sprinkle of lemon juice, vinegar or tamarind pulp, just before serving.

R made a lovely green herb and white coconut cream stuffing for his fish dish. Whole fish were slit open and cleaned thoroughly, stuffed carefully with coriander, mint, chilli and coconut cream, then shallow-fried until a dark golden brown. When served, the exposed green stuffing was a pleasing contrast to the brown crispy skin with extra stuffing served in a little bowl on the side.

Accompanying dishes were plain buttered rice, chopped tomato and onion salad and a large bowl of yoghurt.

Needless to say, the family were quite impressed and appreciative, our dinner talk as loud as ever.

89. Reflections – Journal Entry 9th February 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me not forget this again, ever.

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

88. Relationship Breakup – Journal Entry 30th January 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

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