91. Citizens Bureau – Journal Entry 11th June 1982

A broken-down fridge is the latest problem in our household, but little help is to be expected from a professional on a long weekend. One really should be able to contact a 24 hr Citizens Bureau with suggestions on how to cope with things that can go wrong in a household. If we could get a spare fridge from somewhere, there would be much less urgency over the repairs and we could then decide at our leisure who would be best for the job. Failing appliances and interruptions to the supply of water, electricity and gas usually happen at an awkward time.

Monika may come home today after giving birth to TJ, if the doctor agrees to let her out of the hospital after only three days.

I am finding it extremely difficult to settle down to my studies. The warmth outside is alluring, winter here is so mild and enjoyable, and the garden is more pleasant than our cold study. The vegetable garden is thriving, so I want to sit in the warm sun and weed, hoe or plant more seeds. Besides, there are books to be read and bread to be baked. I must pull myself together and stop avoiding my study, stop eating lotuses and stop being distracted by household tasks. I only have four days to the accounting exam and it’s closed book, perish the thought. Must stop.

Marcello and Gareth are away for the night and I am at the desk again, this time determined not to get sidetracked by minor jobs, errands or watching mediocre TV shows. Once I get started, my studies are quite enjoyable and interesting, however, it is easy to get distracted when young Nathaniel comes to talk or needs attention. Human relations are important, but when do I get on with what I set myself? Is the study of computers or accounting so important compared with that? And what about talking and working with my mother? Surely it is just a matter of scheduling one’s work and disciplining oneself?

12th June 1982

My Johnny has gone to pick up Gareth, who is at the Thorntons in Rocky, so I can stay at home and write in my diary. Control yourself and you have freedom, says Johnny on his way out.

As well as exercising and writing in my diary every day, I would also like to write stories or articles, play chess and spend more time at the park or beach rather than at home. When reading a classic, one needs to discuss a concept or word, even a whole page.

Fortunately, today has not been completely unproductive: I made bread, reviewed a chapter on financial accounting procedure, fed the chooks, looked for eggs, wheeled up two loads of wood, picked greens from the patch about to be worked on, made lunch for Mum so she would not be late for her meeting, zonked out after lunch for an hour and read a Maigret short story by Simenon. I must plan my vacation well since I have a full study load next semester. Calculus could be quite time-consuming and I am constantly fighting a strong urge to give it all up and concentrate on writing but at this stage that would be foolish. My studies have been extremely useful and help me think more clearly. Although the Methodology subject requires revision, it seems promising, helping students sort out problems in a constructive way.

Mum told me this morning that I didn’t listen to what she had to say and that I was not interested in what she had to say. Unfortunately, she is partly right. I’m not that interested and tend to switch off because she invariably repeats herself, like Barbara. Instead of being receptive or helpful, I avoid involvement with the activities mum and Barbara are enthusiastic about, such as shell collecting or fern growing.

13th June 1982

We had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast on Zilzie beach again with Roger and Christine, a fine idea of theirs which would be hard to beat unless we take them on a camp at Five Rocks. The family has not been camping for a long time—not a real camp. We don’t consider camping at Stoney Creek the real thing since it is too close to civilisation. Of course, living one’s life in the garden would make daily living a camping holiday.

My dream would be a house that opens up to or includes the garden and that is capable of being partly or fully closed to protect against the wind, rain or too much sun. Our present house is not designed for that, the Queensland-style verandahs have been closed in to serve as extra rooms and to keep out the rain. All the bedrooms are set quite far in with no direct sunlight and ceiling or sky windows are not practical with our roof. I wonder if we can redesign the house or part of it instead of building a new one? If we had the time or money, we could renovate under our house where there is adequate space for three rooms looking out through the pine trees to the sea.

Love is a topic I have pondered upon for a long time, with no clear idea of how to write about it. I’ve looked at D. H. Lawrence’s treatment of love and passion in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Han Suyin and Erica Jong. I have even read love stories in the Australian Women’s Weekly and Plato (symposium).

Love is very much a process which has to be nurtured. Love evolves in a relationship and changes the people in love.

I think I should approach the subject by writing a love story like Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Han Suyin’s A Many-Splendoured Thing and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, poetry, pop songs full of love, in fact, love seems to occupy a greater part of most people’s lives and thoughts.

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.

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.”

82. Liver, Liver and More Liver – Journal Entry 20th October 1981

After the usual breakfast activities of feeding chicks and hens, washing clothes and tidying the kitchen, I settled down to finish the next chapter on indefinite integrals and start my next assignment. Andrew will be coming for a homework session; I must have a look at his maths book.

Mulberries and ice-cream seem to be the favourite pudding these days; the rich darkness of the berries mixes with the melting ice-cream in deep purple swirls. Dinner was pizza, with quite an array of Johnny’s different toppings, accompanied by a salad of lettuce, grated carrot and shallots, from our garden.

Over the next two days, I have a lot of cooking and gardening to do. Both activities seem to take many hours, leaving little time for anything else. The bean plants need to be staked and tended and other patches in the garden need work too. I will be trying two new cake recipes for pudding and we will be having our delightful sausages and liver one night and chops, carrots and boiled cabbage for the next. Boiled cabbage… reminds me of Dickens.

27th Oct 1981

Liver, liver and more liver, say the kids. Packed with vitamins you need, I say. Can’t mask the taste of liver, they say, but having sausages with the liver does help to get it down.

Gran was out bowling all day with the other pensioners. Johnny is still in Brisbane, busy gathering information on the new computer; he will be teaching external students.

I’m feeling yicky and must get on with some work and write letters. Andrew will be coming this afternoon for another homework session.

29th Oct 1981

Johnny and I will be going out for dinner to Ellen and Geoff’s place. I must check what clothes I have for the evening.

Made bread dough, cleaned a bit of the kitchen, arranged a vase of flowers and prepared a dinner of fried fish with sauce, beans, lettuce salad and rice for the rest of the family.

This weekend Gareth will be mowing the church lawns and setting up the side verandah. More study needs to be done and maybe a garbage run to the dump?

31st Oct 1981

The everyday jobs in life are tedious and I am still spending more time on everything but my studies. How much time should we be able to spend on what we really want to be doing?

I met Frank when Gareth was mowing and had a tour of the Sadari’s garden and ducks. Frank grows enormous pumpkins; he gave us a large one from his garden that was perfectly formed. Maybe I will make pumpkin scones?

Mark should be coming today for his homework session and I must finish off my assignment before then.

10th Nov 1981

This morning was lovely. The black cockatoos called briefly but the pine cones are not ready for them.

16th Nov 1981

Barbara wants to go to camp, but Helen tells me other parents are not sending their kids because of the inclusion of the Quay Street trainees. Phoned the library and discovered that they have found the Mozart tape that was supposed to have been overdue. After mixing the chapati dough, I made the vindaloo, beans in onion paste and dhal with spinach picked from the garden.

Not getting much writing done these days. There is so much to do.

81. Family Dinners – Journal Entry 13th October 1981

Tonight’s dinner will be lasagne, boiled cauliflower, tomato and onion salad followed by cold custard, mulberries, ice-cream and cream.

I must make progress on studying Chapter 7: Definite Integral, do the laundry and clean the dining room after cooking the bechamel and ragu for the lasagne.

It is windy and cloudy with the odd drizzle of rain; our moods are so linked to the weather and even the poultry look damp and disgruntled today.

I talked to Mrs K about Barbara calling on her after getting off the bus yesterday afternoon.

Mrs K was in bed and Barbara had walked straight into her house and said she had a problem: Patrick had another girl and what was she to do?
“Go with another boy,” Mrs K replies, sitting up in bed.
“You know I don’t go with any boys,” says Barbara.
“Don’t you?” Mrs K is somewhat surprised by this answer.

Then Mrs K says to me, “You know, sometimes Barbara talks as sensibly as anyone else.”
To which I reply, “Oh yes, it’s only when you notice her putting a flask of hot coffee into the fridge, you feel something’s not quite right.”

Then when we see Mrs K at the bus stop, she asks Barbara, “Barbie, what does Monika advise you on your problem?”
“It’s none of her business,” mutters Barbara and while I turn to chat with Mrs K further, Barbara asks Monika what she should do about her problem.

15th Oct 1981

After the usual pre-breakfast tasks, I have a leisurely breakfast with Johnny who is leaving a little later today. We chat while I cut his hair in the garden. It was very pleasant in the sun with the chicks wandering around the garden cheeping and the strawberry leaves a lovely dark green shining in the sunlight.

When Johnny left, I fed the chooks, emptying the large galvanised garbage cans we use for their food bins and leaving them in the sun to be filled later with pellets and cracked corn. My next job was to wash Johnny’s maroon shirt and hang it in the shade to drip dry. Then I checked with the Building Society on our new repayment amount and, to my relief, they explained that our payment stays the same and we don’t have to change anything with the bank.

After lunch, I cleaned the dining room and bedroom,  and as I planted out the melons, I noticed that Barbara was quite stirred up about the next pair of trainees at her work who may be going to the Quay Street Workshop; she is hoping to be one of them. I had to break it to her that she would not be going and that she would not be able to cope with the amount of work they expected to be done there; it would not be suitable for her. She desperately wants to go there, refusing to accept this explanation. Barbara had already spoken to the manager explaining that she liked hard work!

The seasoning for the roast duck tonight is onion, garlic, a splash of soy sauce and a drizzle of vinegar. To accompany the roast, we’ll have rice, sweet and sour cabbage, pineapple and onion salad and shallots. For pudding we can have lychees and ice-cream.

16th Oct 1981

Dr Gold examined a slight rash on Karen’s skin in his Rocky clinic and said it was probably hormonal changes because of her age and to ignore it, however, excessive exposure to the sun could aggravate the condition. He also commented it was a pleasure to see good skin compared with what he normally saw – spots, blotches and crocodile skin from excessive sunbathing – not a good thing in the hot Queensland sun.

Johnny and Gareth picked up the moke, purchased bike parts, adjusted the moke clutch and arrived home by 3pm to prepare dinner. Gran, Barbara, Monika and Nathaniel were at the library while Karen and I were at the clinic; after that Karen and I went looking for swimsuits; it was a good afternoon in Rocky although it was rather hot in town.

For dinner we had lightly fried smoked fish, cauliflower and broad-beans with cheese sauce and boiled potatoes, followed by cold, juicy rockmelon.

It is almost 9pm and Johnny has gone to collect Karen from her work at the Sailing Club.

Additions to Gallery – Philippines 1972

Photos added to the Gallery: following on from our arrival in the Philippines in 1971, these were during 1972.

1972-May-Philippines-Camp
Gita collecting shells, camping May 1972
1972-Jun-Philippines
Karen, Johnny, Gareth, Marcello, camping Jun 1972
1972-Jun-Philippines
Gita camping Jun 1972, mum was scared of deep water as she couldn’t swim.
1972-Apr-Philippines
Gita and Johnny, exploring Apr 1972
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Beach fun Gareth, Karen and Marcello
1972-May-Philippines-Camp
Johnny camping May 1972
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On a large motorised canoe, driver, Karen and Johnny.
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Those black sands again, Karen, Marcello and Gareth 1972 (or 1971?)
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Gareth, Karen, Marcello, Johnny and friends exploring the islands camping 1972
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Johnny collecting wood for the camp fire 1972
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Gita on left front row at a conference 1972
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At one of our favourite pools: Gareth, Karen and Marcello 1972

77. Hypertensive Crisis – Journal Entry 19th Sep 1981

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20th Sep 1981

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

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

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

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

76. The Courtship – Journal Entry 9th Sep 1981

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

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

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

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

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

10th Sep 1981

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

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

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Gita’s mum Rosa (our Grandma) and Nathaniel

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

11th Sep 1981

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

75. Brown Bread – Journal Entry 8th Sep 1981

While feeding the chooks, I noticed a duck trying to eat a large green frog that I had killed last night. It was rather mangled and had been dragged around in the chook shit. The carcass was too large to swallow whole and the duck wasn’t getting anything off the frog. I tried to pull a limb off but it was surprisingly hard to casually pull off a leg. I left it, not willing to try harder.

I was still in the chicken pen when Les drove up to see mum. Joan and Sue arrived behind him to pick up Monika and Nathaniel. I watched mum shyly introduce Les to Joan and Sue. Mum and Les are now admiring mum’s flowers. There aren’t many but they’re hers and she’s proud of them. They are having coffee now. I had a quick chat to find out whether Les liked the boiled fruit cake so I could make him a reasonable exchange for his strawberries, enough for Johnny to make another batch of jam. Mum seems to be making an effort to get to know Les better and they seem quite happy together.

Would love to write and tell the folks back home that mum is having an affair! Actually I don’t think it would surprise them, even though mum has not done this before. I don’t think her capacity for such action is in doubt. She told me today that she didn’t have to be asked twice and seems very much in the air, absent-minded, giggly and thinking of snatches of romantic songs to express how she feels.

This is a queer position for Johnny and I, being all mature and responsible. We advised her not to get serious and worried about details but to get to know Les better and enjoy the relationship. There are certainly problems, if one cared to look further than the next few months. Would mum want to spend more days at his house? What would the mentally retarded daughter have to say about the new relationship? Would she welcome it or will it be a great loss to her? Mum has been Barbara’s closest companion until now. Why is Les pressing mum to spend the night with him at his daughter’s house?

Yesterday was the first cooking day of the season and I wonder if it is worth having a baking day; can one afford to spend a whole day cooking?

Made five loaves of brown bread, the evening meal, beef goulash for Wednesday, a pot of beans for Monika, a pot of beans for salad, lots of hot water for coffee and tea, three boiled fruit cakes, two chocolate chip cakes, a tray of buns and two small loaves of fruit bread. We lit the gas stove for the cakes and used the wood stove for the rest.

If planned properly, we could make savings of time and fuel by cooking more evening meals to freeze, making plain and sweet bread, storing cakes in the cupboard for immediate consumption and cooking beans or dishes that need long cooking times. Some things could be prepared the night before and we could start early in the morning. Dishes should be washed and tidied as one goes along or else there’s a lot of work at the end of baking.

Brown Bread Recipe (3 loaves)

Ingredients:
9 cups wholemeal flour (3 lbs)
1 dessert spoon of dried yeast (1 oz) or ½ oz fresh baker’s yeast
1 heaped Tbsp milk powder
3 tsp salt
3 cups water (1½ pints)
1 Tbsp oil

Please note, these measurements are approximate and with practice you will get the right feel for the dough. For instance, the water might be too much or too little for the flour you use, the main thing is that the dough should not stick too much to your fingers when kneading.

1st Stage

Take 7 cups of the flour, the yeast, milk powder and water and mix to a sloppy dough.
Cover and leave overnight.
This stage ensures a strong and elastic bread. If it is not convenient to keep the dough overnight at least let it stand for a minimum of 4 hours.

2nd Stage

Put in the salt, the rest of the flour and a tablespoon of oil or fat and knead to a smooth dough. When smooth, continue kneading for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough may need more flour if it is too sticky. You can add 2 teaspoons of treacle, molasses or sugar if you wish.
Cover the dough with a sheet of plastic to keep the moisture and warmth in the dough.
Leave for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

3rd Stage

Knead dough for 10 minutes and shape into 3 loaves, put into greased tins (cake tins are fine but loaf tins preferred).
Cover with plastic and leave for 1 hour or until the dough rises to the top of the tin.

4th Stage

Bake in a hot oven 225 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 200 degrees Celsius and continue baking for 60 minutes.
Take the bread out of the tins and cool on wire stands.

Notes

  1. There is no need to keep the dough warm or to heat the water for the bread. Remember, use a plastic sheet to cover the dough and keep the bread bowl out of draughts. For a lighter bread, substitute a few cups of plain baker’s flour say 7 cups wholemeal and 2 cups plain flour.
  2. Elizabeth David’s book English Bread and Yeast Cooking is an excellent manual to own, and interesting to read even if you don’t use her recipes.
  3. Bread freezes well and if you put a frozen loaf into the fridge the night before, you’ll have fresh bread in the morning. This means you only have to bake once a week if you are willing to make a big batch in one go.
  4. You may increase the flour without increasing the quantity of yeast used because leaving the dough overnight will increase the yeast.

73. Family Life – Journal Entry 3rd Sep 1981

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

What has the family been doing lately?

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

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

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

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

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

4th Sep 1981

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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