84. Dear Joyce (Part 2) – Journal Entry 4th November 1981

Last night, Karen and I felt quite nervous when Gran had not returned by ten o’clock. Eighteen months ago she had been in a terrible car accident after a pensioners’ dinner where drinks were plentiful. On that occasion, I sat up for my mother until a policeman came at midnight to break the news. One woman died, the second suffered several broken limbs and my mother sustained an injury to several ribs, a punctured lung and quite bad bruising to her face. The driver, a newcomer to Emu Park, was unharmed but an active eighty-two year old, a beloved long-time resident, was killed instantly in the crash.

With this in mind, I walked down the street just in time to see the bus pull up and to my great relief, Gran stepping out. She was closely followed by Ivy who walked part of the way home with us and had been in the same crash. We bid farewell to Ivy at her gate and continued home in the warm night air; Gran had enjoyed herself thoroughly and talked all the way home.

Summer is almost here, spring begins on the first of September and the wet season usually starts on Christmas Day.

5th Nov 1981

Today, Guy Fawkes Day, is Johnny’s birthday. Originally from Bradford, Johnny studied at Edinburgh University and has enjoyed climbing throughout Scotland.

Gran has encouraged us to celebrate birthdays and there is now a birthday ritual in our household. Weeks before the date, the person whose birthday is coming up, puts up a present list which is almost always ignored. Johnny didn’t put anything up because no-one reminded him, however, we knew he wanted a wide squat two-handled cooking pot for paella he had been admiring for months, in an industrial kitchenware shop.

A very detailed menu for the dinner is also pinned onto the noticeboard, in this case, whole grilled fish, cream sauce, chips, mushrooms, beans and lettuce followed by melon shells filled with melon balls, canned cherries and slices of kiwi fruit. During the meal, we had the usual quiz questions from Mastermind, some of which are so hard we couldn’t even answer on the third or fourth attempt. It was a hot evening and we drank too much Tasmanian cider.

It should be clear by now that our family enjoy cooking and eating enormous meals. We love the meals Johnny and Gareth cook on the weekends and feast days. Johnny lists the menu for a fortnight and tacks it onto the noticeboard in the kitchen so members of the family can check what’s been planned to avoid missing their favourite meals. It’s very convenient and takes the hassle out of deciding what to cook for dinner.

9th Nov 1981

I’ve taken a while over this letter and shall attempt to finish it today. Could you tell me more about the aims of the Women’s Institute you have joined? I noticed in Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, that the Federations of Women’s Institutes have compiled books such as Cornish Recipes: Ancient and Modern (1934, 11th edition), The Isle of Wight Cookery Book and Through Yorkshire’s Kitchen Door (31st edition).

For nearly ten years I enjoyed doing things I had not had an opportunity to do like looking after a child full-time, housekeeping, gardening, going to club functions, driving a car, cooking and sewing. I had to teach myself to behave acceptably in Anglo-Saxon society and Johnny rarely corrected me, which made the learning period longer than necessary. I still have difficulties cleaning the house because I would rather garden or read a book and although I realise it is a common issue, I notice that everyone’s house seems cleaner and tidier than ours. For the past three years, I have been studying mathematics and computer programming after completing a one-year bridging course based on the English Polymaths course. I enjoy studying, even though I make heavy weather of it, and I’m fortunate to have Johnny to help me. The College of Advanced Education serves Central Queensland and does a fair amount of external teaching with a focus on practical applications rather than pure or theoretical subjects. Johnny’s department, Maths and Computing, has a heavy external teaching load.

Gran and I enjoy gardening although I tend to focus more on herbs and vegetables while she prefers flowers and ferns. A couple of years ago with a few of the neighbours, I started a local market and sell candles and potted plants. It’s good fun but very time-consuming.

I must stop and get this letter to you.

83. Dear Joyce (Part 1) – Journal Entry 3rd November 1981

Please thank your neighbour for me, I was so relieved that my letter had reached you. Earlier today I lost my bet on the horses and your quick and warm response was compensation. No, I haven’t become a gambler since arriving in Australia; today is the Melbourne Cup race and the whole of Australia stands hypnotised for a few minutes watching TV or listening to the radio while the race is run. Just about everybody bets and the commentary is very exciting. Last year I bet on the Melbourne Cup for the first time. Johnny tells me the Grand National is somewhat similar but here office meetings are rescheduled to keep 1:45pm clear on the first Tuesday of November so people can place bets and watch the race. It’s even a public holiday in Victoria where the race is held. Charitable institutions run fashion shows and luncheons with raffles based on the Melbourne Cup race winners.

Life indeed has moved on and I’m glad to know you are a grandmother. We have one twenty-two month old grandson Nathaniel (Marcello’s son) and we are fortunate they all live with us. My mother and sister Barbara (who is mildly retarded) live with us too and have been here for five years. At the moment I am writing to you and trying to encourage Barbara to go to sleep. She is easily excited and waiting up for my mother to return from a pensioner’s dinner. Barbara is naturally very attached to our mother.

We arrived in Australia with Gareth, Karen and Marcello, and settled down in Emu Park. Blue-eyed Gareth was only six months old and we joined Johnny who had gone ahead to set up home for us. They were strange and wondrous years; a little worrying too because I was on a visitor’s visa and fearful of complications with the Immigration Department. After a few years, we moved to Sydney where Johnny started at a consultancy firm. I loved Sydney and we were then sent to the Philippines on a contract and staying in Manila for a couple of years. Johnny did not extend his contract as we were longing to get back to Australia. The children chose to return to Emu Park, rather than Sydney, and we finally moved back at the end of 1972, bought a house and have been here ever since.

Last night we went to the high school for speech night and are naturally very proud of Karen who gave the valedictory speech as school captain. She has worked hard and consistently to get through her studies and hopes to start a Mechanical Engineering degree next year at the College of Advanced Education in Rockhampton. She changed her mind about Queensland University because Brisbane seemed large and overcrowded.

This is Gareth’s first year at high school and he has another four years to go. The school is in Yeppoon, a little town about twelve miles away. A free bus takes Emu Park kids there and back every day.

We live in a large wooden house, said to be over eighty years old, resting on eighty stumps. The ‘garden’ is about an acre in size and the house set on a shale hilltop with two rows of fully grown Norfolk Island pines as wind breakers. There are views of the sea and a five-minute walk straight down the hill. The trip back is quite a bit slower.

With such a large, mostly adult family, we have to grow a few vegetables and keep chickens (chooks) and ducks. We buy fruit and vegetables in bulk from the farms in the area – mostly what they can’t sell to the shops. Ducks are not considered a special treat in Australia. Marcello has a job at the local meatworks dealing in small animals so we don’t do badly at all. As Johnny says, food is no problem, it’s the bigger bills like car payments or repairs, registration fees, house and water rates that we struggle with.

There are fourteen clubs in Emu Park with only a population of fourteen hundred or thereabouts. My mother, who is seventy-three, leads a very busy life indoor bowling twice a week, the National Fitness club once a week, church once a week and the Pensioner’s Leagues socials once a month. The clubs also have special tea parties and Johnny bakes a supply of cakes so Gran can ‘take a plate’. There are also the inevitable fund-raising street stalls and she attends Christmas dinners, bus trips and goodness knows what else. We have to keep a diary of my mother’s movements.

Bob Dylan has been on our record player for the past week and Barbara is now snoring gently so I shall join Karen and Johnny who are hard at work at the dining table.

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.

80. Pork Vindaloo – Journal Entry 8th October 1981

Today I have a long list of jobs to do; household tasks like washing and hanging out clothes, making the veal tail stew and preparing a basket for our trip to Rocky. On the way I will pick up wax sheets for the candles, take mum to the Cultural Centre, visit the library, get money from the post office and pick up the refund at Medibank. I also need to find shirts for Gareth, a raincoat for Barbara, material for Gran and stop for lunch, our usual fish and chips and fizzy drinks in the park.

Even I’m calling mum Gran these days since all the children, their friends and our friends call her Grandma.

The trip to Tanby for the wax took over an hour with a delightful visit to the Blanks shed. There were hives, huge vats of honey, boxes full of squeezed honeycomb and bees buzzing around boxes in the yard. Under the house were stacks of new hive boxes with frames waiting to have the foundation sheets pressed on.

Blank has a scheme for making money from pollen.
“What stopped you doing this before?” I query.
“Lack of pollen,” he shrugs.
“Where would the pollen come from now?” I press him to elaborate.
He explained that he was going to Mackay to spread his beehives around but expects trouble from the Mackay people who don’t like his bees. Such is the life of a beekeeper.

9th Oct 1981

Dinner tonight will be baked salmon, rice, peas, tomato salad, Johnny’s excellent homemade capsicum sauce followed by Danish pastries. The capsicum sauce looks fiery red on the pink fish. Perhaps I should make saffron rice to add to the colour scheme?

Monika took Barbara to the bus stop so I washed up the breakfast dishes, minced the sheep hearts for the new chicks and fed the chickens. The older chick that had been quite sick seems to be getting better. I collected the eggs and hung out the washing and was at my desk by 8:30am. Johnny is at home today; after I managed to put in some solid study on my Calculus problems finding relative extrema, we had an enjoyable lunch of bread, cheese, olives and wine.

Nathaniel is now being weaned before his nap. He cried, ate four coconut macaroons and vomited, then vomited again. Monika gave him several baths to calm him down, wheeled him in the pram and put him in bed but he would not sleep. By 3:40pm Monika and Nathaniel called a truce; he stopped crying and played cheerfully about until dinner time and then fell asleep when Monika took him for a ride with Johnny who drove Karen to work.

I shall tackle Emmet’s Learning to Philosophize this week and How to Read Better and Faster by Lewis next week.

12th Oct 1981

Johnny was asked at work why he was looking so happy. Life is good at the moment, in spite of the usual piling up of bills and the continuous shortage of money because of our large family.

Just paid $112 to the solicitor last week; on listing our current bills we have, in addition to our usual ones, car repairs to pay off at $100 per month for the next twelve months, the electricity bill arriving soon and the Rover needing money for repairs which mum has kindly offered to give. Christmas is coming up and then we will have Karen’s living expenses when she starts her studies. I will need textbooks next year too. Fortunately, Karen has a good chance of earning a certain amount towards her expenses for higher education.

Dinner tonight is pork vindaloo with dhal, rasam, tomato onion salad, coconut chutney and chapati. I also need to make the tomato puree and ragu for tomorrow and pikelets for afternoon tea.

Vindaloo

(a Portuguese development)

Ingredients:

½ kg pork (or stewing beef)
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
3 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground chilli
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika (optional)
1 tsp curry powder or 2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
2 Tbsp vinegar
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Fry the chopped onion and garlic in oil
  • Add the spices and fry a minute more (add a little water if too dry)
  • Add the diced meat and fry until coated
  • Add a drizzle of water, put the lid on the pot and simmer on low until tender
Variations:
  • Add curry leaves when frying onions
  • Add grated ginger to frying onions
  • Add ¼ tsp of ground cloves and ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Add 2 Tbsp tomato puree with meat

79. Fegato Alla Italiano – Journal Entry 5th October 1981

Bach sonatas are filling the house. FM is the best thing that has happened to us in five years. Maybe even ten years?

The day so far has been a very enjoyable one. Lazed in bed after waking at 5am and doing a few exercises. I went into the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches for Johnny’s lunch. It was pleasant to chat for a while before the tasks of the day.

Monika took Barbara to the bus stop and I stayed in the kitchen and chatted to Gareth and Karen before they went to school. Usually, I only pass the children on the way back from the bus stop, so it was a nice change; I even made their sandwiches for school today, an unusual activity.

After dealing with the breakfast dishes, putting a load of washing in the machine and feeding the chooks, I was back at my desk by 8:30am. It took a whole forty-five minutes to tidy my desk, think a bit and drink my coffee before I finally settled down to work; of course, FM was on. I studied with sweet baroque music filling the air followed by gentle, soulful pre-baroque music and singing.

6th Oct 1981

I was late to my desk, it was rather a long morning filled with household tasks. The bus was late and then I sat with Johnny for a chat and coffee before he left for work. Monika is taking Nathaniel to playgroup and she also has a nursing mothers meetings today. We swapped the big Australorp chicks to a different cage to make room for the new brood that hatched yesterday and today. I put nine eggs under the broody duck in spite of my resolve to stop breeding ducks for a few years! I want to see if the few Pekin eggs, nestled among the Muscovy eggs, are fertile. I tell myself I can always sell or give away ducklings. There is a sick chick among the older chicks so I had to put sulphurquin in their drinking water. I wonder what they think about the taste.

Mum reminded me that the garbage was collected today, so I left the chook feeding in a hurry and made my way down our stony driveway with a bag of rubbish, only to be met by mum staggering up the drive struggling for breath. She managed to gather herself together after a short rest and went to get ready for her indoor bowling session.

It is now late afternoon and I have not yet started on Calculus. I have, however, made bread, Danish pastry and stewed mulberries.

For dinner, we had liver with sage, onions, parsley, grilled bacon, new potatoes, leftover vegetables and carrot salad. The children are glad of the bacon to help the liver go down. The sage, parsley and lemon juice add a fragrance to the strong flavour.

Fegato Alla Italiana (Liver)

Ingredients:

½ kg onions (diced)
100g butter
800g calves liver (slice and pat dry)
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup dry white wine
2 fresh stalks sage
1 small bunch parsley
Salt and pepper

Method:
  • Brown the finely chopped onions in half the butter.
  • Gently brown the liver slices in a separate pan for about 5 minutes in the remaining butter until cooked, adding salt and pepper.
  • Take out the liver from the pan and sprinkle with lemon juice.
  • Pour most of the white wine into the pan to deglaze.
  • Add onions and sage and reduce.
  • Add fried liver, parsley and the remaining wine, warm through and mix gently.
  • Serve with grilled bacon, new potatoes and steamed vegetables or salad.

§

Pudding was a delicious combination of stewed mulberries, ice-cream and Danish pastries.

Must remember to wash the pots on the top shelf which are covered with cobwebs and mildew.

Found out today that Mary was in the hospital for minor surgery. How to tell mum?  She is already in a nervous state and may see Mary’s suffering as connected to her ‘sins’ of late; she may even get depressed. I’m not sure she will handle the news.

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
img_0428
Beach fun Gareth, Karen and Marcello
1972-May-Philippines-Camp
Johnny camping May 1972
img_0432
On a large motorised canoe, driver, Karen and Johnny.
img_0713
Those black sands again, Karen, Marcello and Gareth 1972 (or 1971?)
img_0691
Gareth, Karen, Marcello, Johnny and friends exploring the islands camping 1972
img_0419
Johnny collecting wood for the camp fire 1972
img_0448
Gita on left front row at a conference 1972
img_0676
At one of our favourite pools: Gareth, Karen and Marcello 1972

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

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

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

Cream and Peppercorn Sauce

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

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

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

24th Sep 1981

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

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

28th Sep 1981

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

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

29th Sep 1981

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

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

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

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes:

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

74. Periodic Headaches – Journal Entry 5th Sep 1981

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

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

6th Sep 1981

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

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

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

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

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

7th Sep 1981

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

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

Additions to Gallery – Philippines 1971

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

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

72. Strange Jokes – Journal Entry 25th Aug 1981

I’ve been noticing strange jokes lately, about couples that have been married for many years, where the wife refers to the husband as “that codger”, “the old bugger”, “that bastard” or “the old man”; the husband refers to the wife as “the old bag”, “me old girl”, “old woman”. There seems to be so much bitterness behind the laughter and one does not hear many mother-in-law jokes bandied around lately. Perhaps couples don’t have much to do with their mothers-in-law?

It’s baking day and I will make two carrot cakes and several fruit breads after preparing dinner; tonight I’m making Bavarian meatballs followed by a sponge cake with cream and chocolate filling. Must also check with the family on birthday presents for Barbie, do the income tax preliminary notes and revise Calculus notes.

Today I remembered when Marcello was four years old, he thought cars had to be pushed to start them and seemed surprised when the car he was getting ready to push, started with no help from him. Another time Karen and Marcello were fighting over a frog, pulling and pushing, finally settling the matter with half a frog each. Life in India was so different.

28th Aug 1981

Time slips away so quickly.

Yesterday we went to Rocky to the library, bought presents for Barbara and of course had fish and chips for lunch in the park. Nathaniel sat with everyone and ate his fish and chips and drank his coke, dipping his chips into the tomato sauce.

Today the weather is glorious, not hot, not cold and the sun, bright and warm on my back as I picked broccoli for dinner. The days are golden and tranquil with a round of fresh eggs collected from the Australorp hens, snow peas, beans, lettuce and silverbeet from our abundant vegetable patches. Everyone seems to be peaceful in this dreamlike time – a rural paradise; can paradise be anything other than rural?

Parrots and topknot pigeons descend in a great flapping cloud, engrossed in the task of gathering their food. Magpies seem to have taken over the garden patrolling for pests. Mum is not happy with the echidnas that dig holes in her flower patches. Early this morning I heard Dusty barking angrily, nervously returning to warn me of strange happenings; I investigated and there were four big fat echidnas, heads and feet hidden, pretending not to be there. Queer monotremes. Later, warning cries from the chickens alerted us to one ambling past their pen, the poor chickens still jittery from a recent dog attack. Two marauding cats have been after their chicks. The ducks are not immune from attack either with hungry ravens swooping down to steal their eggs.

2nd Sep 1981

I know I would like to write stories, my diary, articles, poetry and letters, but the trouble is, how long can I go on without working for money to help relieve Johnny and hence free him for more of his own work? Johnny says maybe there will be no need to work. Last night was another agonising session with Johnny who says I do not care much for him and that he is at the bottom of my list of priorities. Fortunately, we didn’t argue too long, I said that I was slack about most things at the moment, that I was getting better and the evening ended wonderfully; thank goodness.

What is holding me back from doing all the things I want to do and seem capable of doing? I failed a subject with my suicidal attitude to work; almost paralysed with agony on how one feels and doesn’t feel. It’s silly to think of going away for a week to think, silly to want to talk to someone about being inadequate, I should just talk to myself, I know the answers. I thought I had improved somewhat but seem unable to work hard and consistently at my studies. If I can just work out what I want to do next year, that would tell me what I should be doing the rest of this year. I would actually like to work for money, with flexitime. I had a tentative offer from TAFE for tutoring, but realistically, do I know enough for that?

I went outside to feed the chooks and picked shallot flowers with their stalks. Mum cooked them with balachan and they were delicious.

Mum seemed to want to talk so I stayed in the kitchen, chatted and made a curry with the leftover liver and eggs. Lunch was relaxing. I tried to talk to mum about what I was thinking this morning and we agreed I should go ahead and learn what I can, not to be put off by the thought that I’m too old to be employed and to learn more anyway, especially about computing.

We picked strawberries at Les’ house and mum stayed on to talk to him. He wants to cook a meal for her and also came straight to the point: they could stay the night at his daughter’s house just outside Rocky or they could watch television at Les’ and mum could stay the night.

She said she would think about it!

Here are two seventy-year-old pensioners, mum and Les (who is missing part of his leg) having an “affair” or “liaison” shall we say. 

Monika’s comment on Les’ proposition: ‘Cheeky bugger!!’

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

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