66. This Daily Life – Journal Entry 6th May 1981

Still have this wretched cold. Poor Johnny now has it and didn’t sleep well last night; his second disturbed night.

Dropped Barbie off at the bus stop after an early breakfast, saw Johnny off to work, put out the guinea chicks, tidied the chicken coops on the lawn and the garbage heap outside the kitchen, talked to the dentist about Gareth’s lip and made appointments for Karen and Gareth for July. 

Did a little study, listened to Tom O’Shanter, hung out the clothes and made a cuppa. Managed to squeeze in more study then removed the tall grass in the goat paddock, made the Bolognese ragu with the mince Marcello had brought from work (a little fatty to taste but fine for the price), sorted out the tomato puree and did the laundry.

Ate lunch with mum after a little bit of reading and bringing in the laundry. More cooking after that: a current slice or ‘fly pastry’ as we like to call it, and tomato juice. Finally, I  gathered more grass for the chooks.

Karen, Johnny and Gareth were leaving for Rocky for Karen’s public speaking competition so we had an early dinner. Gran was already in Rocky bowling and would be picked up later. I read Barbie a story until Nathaniel woke up. He had a long crying spell but settled down after a while and played in the sitting room until 8:30 pm. Studied and ironed while waiting for Johnny to come home.

7th May 1981

After a couple of hours of study, I did the ironing, made the bread dough, cleaned the dining room, cooked some vegetable patties and started Max Blacks’ The Labyrinth of Language.

Read a novel called The Street Sparrows, a historical romance that didn’t quite come off. It was naive and over-ambitious. An unsatisfactory evening because I chose to have an early night then read the novel, which was quite poor, and insisted on finishing it into the early hours of the morning.

9th May 1981

Karen and Monika worked in the garden for an hour while Gareth mowed the lawn. The tree pruning can wait until tomorrow. The rest of the week was spent on meetings, meetings and more meetings: first the Computer Users Society meeting then the P&C meeting and after that the Progress Association meeting. Johnny was away for a few days and Karen had her social.

13th May 1981

What an odd day!

The whole morning was spent searching for dad’s death certificate. Mum is applying for a widow’s pension, now she has been in the country for five years, and the certificate has to be sighted before the application is accepted.

Rob from Social Security was most helpful. Mum couldn’t find the death certificate and was getting into an awful state so I rang Rob and told him about our difficulties. He has now arranged for a representative in Brisbane to check the Immigration Department’s records for some mention of mum’s widowhood and has asked us for a copy of the guarantee Johnny signed to see what could be done.

In the meantime, I sent a telegram to Nora asking for another copy of the certificate. All this took half a day and the rooms are now strewn with boxes and papers. Nathaniel joined into the search and scattered the treasures he found. He also pulled a few boxes off the shelves in his excitement and mum was madly cleaning up after him while searching. We think the certificate may have been kept in the Philippines.

After giving up on the search, I clipped the wings of two young turkeys before putting them with the old turkey tom in the goat pen, made pikelets for the children and then rested while I made a few phone calls.

The electricity has gone off twice and has been off for over four hours. We had a quick and unexpected shower of rain so we now sit around the dining table in the strange light of a large gas lamp whirring near us. It is 8:45 pm and I read a few stories to Barbara – I must write a letter to Nora explaining our telegram.

This daily life… of study and jobs.

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.

45. Hospital Flashback – Journal Entry 7th Jan 1980

It has been raining for the past forty-eight hours; well almost. The Australorp chooks are drenched. The wind is strong. As usual, the front verandah is a bit wet, with fine rain blowing onto the books and papers. The louvres can’t be tightly shut. Also, water is seeping down the walls of the verandah. A good day for tidying the house and cutting bottles for tumblers.

The family went to the Kavlon Theatre last night to see two Terence Hill/Bud Spencer movies. Too much slapstick, with baddies and goodies smashing stores and hitting each other with bottles. Boring to us but the others seemed to have enjoyed them. The cinema was packed.

Today I should like to get the following done:

  1. Pay the bills
  2. Type the letter to Marcie
  3. Do some algebra
  4. Finish networks to get onto SEARCH
  5. Cook some curries

List of items for Canberra:

  • Jeans 2 or 3
  • Tops 2 or 3
  • Skirt, black embroidered + blue
  • 2 saris and blouses
  • 1 cardigan
  • Swimsuit?
  • Lungi
  • Toothbrush, hairbrush
  • Toe-rings
  • Notepad, pencils
  • Algebra?
  • Handbag

What to look for in Canberra:

  • Outline of Social Anthropology Studies
  • Bibliography on Aboriginal studies; esp urban
  • Spices
  • Granite pestle and mortar for Gran
  • Turkish delight
  • Present for Monika

Muchlater

17th Jul 1979

A lovely new biro and a new pad. Ward 13, Room E, just after a meal of Shephard’s pie made of mince and large chunks of meat. Wish I’d bought a bottle of chilli sauce. The noise of the crockery being washed is deafening, such loud crashes and the domestic aid handles them with a stern face and tight lips. I sat next to a short square woman in a blue chenille dressing gown. Her mouth is misshapen. Most likely it is a mild paralysis or stroke. Her specs are as thick as old-fashioned soda water bottles. Perhaps my tastes have changed since last here and now I’m more choosy or more observant. The tea tastes grey and weak, the bread tastes grey and dry, and even the potato and lentil soup tastes grey. This is food produced in vast quantities with no care or love. The pie was fairly tasty though. One patient was on a special diet and was given her pudding first instead of the main course. She plastered it with Worcestershire sauce before she realised it was custard and not scrambled egg.

Back in the ward. I’ve got a bed near a window and Rocky is slowly putting on its lights.

Funny type of conversation going on. There are three people, each determined to tell the others the story of her life. One woman had a particularly hard life with seven kids from five pregnancies: one has had a kidney out, two attend opportunity school, one has a hearing aid and two were in an accident recently.

I’m going to do some sums, this is very boring.

At the dinner table, most of the women claimed to like Kamahl.

19th Jul 1979

Yesterday was an exceptionally long day. We were asked to wash in Phisohex at noon and get dressed in ‘theatre clothes’. These were a grey cotton top, open at the back, and the most awkward crumpled grey cotton tie-on underpants. At two, the woman of the seven pregnancies was taken away for a full hysterectomy. At 3:15 pm it was my turn, fortunately for a very minor operation.

A jolly young bearded man wheeled the trolley into the ward and said, “Who’s next?”
I echoed, “Who’s next?”
He pointed dramatically at me, paused and said loudly, “YOU.”
So I said, “Surely not.”
“You’re Gita aren’t you..?”
He smiled. “Then it’s you.”
He went into his litany in a sing-song voice, “Any nail polish? Wooden leg, false eyelashes, teeth, glass eye, jewellery?”
“Oh well, we have the genuine article,” he concluded and asked me to hop on the stretcher.

I climbed on and was taken to a nurse and to get my medical file. Some slight delay as the nurse has lost a patient. Besides, I haven’t been given an injection to keep me quiet and I’m glad of it. We proceeded to move out of the nurse’s room and towards the lift where the wardsman trotted out his next stock joke: “This lift is not working, so I’m going to have to take you down the stairs.”

We went through the door leading to the operating theatre. There is a very long narrow white corridor in front of me as we glide through. Men stood in front of some of the doors, white-gowned and capped. The women were in purple. The light was strange, almost disco-like without the flashes. Everything had a T.V. science fiction look about it – a Dr Who feeling – except these people could have been baddies. The timid could have very well wrecked their nervous system. What price must one pay to cure one’s ills, especially minor ones? A large white-clad attendant dwarfed the wardsman and me.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • 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.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.
  • The hospital visit was written in the journal after the 7th Jan 1980 entry and has been included here as a flashback.

33. Christmas Holidays – Journal Entry 24th Dec 1978

There is a slight air of excitement about the place. Would be more if the weather was less humid and there wasn’t so much tidying to do. Marcello went mowing today and Gareth and I hung around filling sacks with grass clippings. Good stuff for the chickens and the plants.

Jobs to be done today:

  1. Fridge to be cleaned
  2. Bottles to be taken under the house
  3. M.O.W rosters to be delivered
  4. Clothes to be washed, sorted and put away
  5. Stay at desk as much as possible
  6. Bills to be sorted and paid

At 3:10pm Gareth and I went out and delivered the M.O.W. rosters. We worked efficiently, I thought, and were back home in 30 minutes.

Johnny is cooking dinner – garlic soup, bread, Christmas cake and ice-cream. Later in the evening we are going to Yeppoon to pick up Monika.

The black cockatoos are leaving the pine trees for home. Where is home for them? They were here all day, large, raucous, destructive black birds, almost unlovely if it wasn’t for the flash of red feathers under their tail.

I have to structure my life, Johnny tells me, rightly of course.

11pm We’re waiting for midnight. There was no late night shopping in Yeppoon. Maybe the shops stayed open later than usual but they were shut by 9:30pm. So we drove home through Tanby. We were in Yeppoon, where Monika’s mum lives, to drop Marcello off for their Christmas gathering and opening of presents. What a lot of presents there are under our Christmas tree.

So midnight came and the family had a drink of Vermouth on the rocks and fruitcake before opening the presents.

Christmas Day was quiet and enjoyable. We also tidied the house in preparation for leaving on camp the next morning. I will tell Trudy what to do about the chooks. My desk was tidied and also part of the bookshelves. The evening was spent in front of the TV with the kids. Read a bit of Schumacher.

31st Dec 1978

The last day of the year. Will have a do a review of 1978 and a rough plan for 1979.

To W. J. Cass,

Thank you very much for making it possible for us to receive the rates discount. Your allowance for our error is much appreciated. If more bureaucrats adopted the attitude that systems should serve people and not vice versa the life of the common man would be more pleasant.
May the Livingstone Shire Council have a trouble-free and joyous year in 1979.

1st Jan 1979

I didn’t get very far with my entry yesterday.

We cleaned another plot in the garden. The rains we’ve had over Christmas have made our weeding easier. Marcello did more mowing so we had a lot of mulch.

At breakfast Johnny, Ruth and I discussed ‘women’. I’m going to try to put down my thoughts on the subject:

More women are in the workforce:

  • Purely for economic reasons?
  • Because ‘housework’ and ‘housewife’ have been devalued?
  • A mixture of both?
  • A genuine desire to get out among people?

Women’s Lib. seems to have missed the main point which is developing or pointing to a better way of life. At the moment these women haven’t contributed anything new, they might even have contributed to chaos or an upsetting of the social patterns used hitherto i.e. full-time mother and hometender. Women’s Lib. wants a fair slice of the present cake, has no philosophy on how to bake a better and more humane cake. They are attempting to be breast-swinging men, jostling for an equal stand in a world created by men. What have they contributed? What have they to offer that’s of value to people, to the social system we’re in?

Random questions:

  • Why are women afraid of the dark, of isolated places?
  • Why don’t more women go off on their own camping and fishing?
  • Why don’t women do car maintenance, repair household equipment, design household machinery, indeed any type of machinery?
  • Why, in their own area – fashion – do men seem to do better than women?

What can women do better than men? Johnny questions the validity of the question and it’s relevance. It’s rather like the European attitude that because a race hasn’t produced an Einstein, they are somehow second-rate human beings.

Women appear to have a different perspective. They’re made differently, are capable of bearing young, their ambient is different, their perspective must necessarily be different.

If more women read Mareuse, Friere, Illich, Schumacher, would they be able to implement a new direction or philosophy which will make living more humane than it is at the moment? Will they be able to stop the suicidal trend of medicine, education and technology? Johnny is very depressed; the worst I’ve seen so far.

The weather is slightly humid and still. Not as bad as I expected. I must keep cool however, and not lose my temper. The urge to twist someone’s ear or squeeze an arm comes over me so violently I’m quite dangerous, not to mention unpleasant to have around the place.

The problem is Barbara, having one of her withdrawals. She saw Patty in Yeppoon across the road and she went white with excitement, nostrils flared as she said his name in a shrill voice. She saw him several times as we went up and down the street in our Land Rover, once to the sports shop, then to the veg shop and then back to pick up a member of our party. Barbara only needs a certain type of excitement to make her go inward, lose her appetite and start talking to herself. If left without attention, she does not sleep at night.

We have so many chicks and ducklings. The three Rouen ducklings have been promoted to the main pen – it must be rather frightening to be put in a general pen with so many strange adult birds they haven’t seen before. On the whole, the ducklings seem happy, especially with the large communal pool. They spend most of their time either in the pool or on the edge. A male Rouen died and was buried in the compost drum.

This afternoon, Johnny and I went for a walk on the beach. The cloudy weather kept most of the holiday folk away from the sea, so Nun’s beach was nearly empty. The wind was strong and small stinging showers of rain fell from time to time. We talked and laughed and at the end of the walk, Johnny declared he had got out of his depressed, hemmed in, state.

Dinner was good: mutton chops in marjoram, golden rice, chokos and a Provencal sauce from the book of sauces. The Provencal sauce was made from chopped tomatoes, chives and garlic, onion fried in olive oil and a little meat glaze. The special almond and chocolate cake was a near disaster. The oven went out while the cake was in it and it sunk horribly in the middle. Johnny was in despair. However, he served the cake stuffed with whipped cream. It was delicious.

Johnny has started reading The Lord of the Rings to the whole family. He reads extremely well. We stopped for a while to eat chocolates and cake. Had an excellent date later.

There have been sharp, scattered showers most of the evening. The wind sounds very loud through the pine trees.

Barbara is a little withdrawn after having seen Patty in Yeppoon on Saturday. She’s back on Melleril at night to get her over this relapse.

3rd Jan 1979

Gareth and I had to get fishing line in Yeppoon, to the replace the one we damaged while camping at Five Rocks.

What happened?

I had snagged my hook on an oyster shell on the rocks. Gareth came to help me and dropped the yellow plastic reel over the edge. “Not to worry,” he tells me with a grand gesture holding my line, “I know a way of getting the reel back.” So he starts pulling the line off the reel. The line curls up in a tangled mess at his feet. Then he reaches the end of the line, but it’s not tied on, so the yellow reel bobs further down near the water. Gareth has the line to sort out.

Meanwhile, I climb down carefully, holding on tightly. A wave hits against me as I reach down to get the fishing hook. I can’t pull it up. It’s caught inside an oyster which grips it’s shell tightly. I break off the line, asking forgiveness of the oyster, for any damage the hook might do to it, and then I go lower down the rocks near the crashing waves to get the reel. I move cautiously. The rocks and waves together can do considerable damage to me. I have to go around some rocks into a gully to get at the moving reel. I almost reach it when a large wave whacks me from behind and lifts me back onto the rocks. Another wave crashes and pushes me further up. I flop flat onto the rocks, barely scratched, with the reel.

Feeling a little sore, I take the bream I’ve caught and Gareth takes his trevally and we go back to the others to get a hook. But the line is too tangled to use. We’re told the reel was not ours. It belongs to the neighbours.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

30. Journey to Ixtlan – Journal Entry 7th Dec 1978

A busy day. We have an order for 35 container candles. Marcello is cutting the stubbies and green wine bottles. It seems such slow work for so little money. Still, it’s money being earned while at home, where we like being.

We picked strawberries, a poor bowlful, from plants covered with weeds. Monika picked strawberry flowers for pressing and has made a batch of greetings cards. Gran bought a dollar’s worth, making it Monika’s first sale. There seems to be a rush to make money for Christmas. The kids were too busy with school to do any work for themselves. Karen is still not free until the end of the week.

Another sick chick is not able to stand up, so Gran dosed it with garlic, milk and bread and put it on a piece of hessian in the cockatoo cage we found at the dump. It won’t live.

It’s a lovely day, sunny and hot outside but with a cool wind blowing, I hear Marcello grinding glass; the geese talk among themselves under the low branch of the Queensland hoop pine. The Rouen duckling is silent for the time being. I’ll disturb them if I fill their plastic water container, so I’ll sit here enjoying writing with this pen. A baby butcherbird is crying for food.  You can tell it’s a young bird because it’s brown and white, not black and white like it’s mother, however, they are the same size.

Lot’s more noises. An earthmoving machine is on the hill a little down the street, it has been working for a while cutting a path to Mrs N’s old house and levelling the yard. Bottles clink – that’s Marcello. The butcherbirdling still whinges in hunger. Gran keeps shouting out messages to us which jars the otherwise warm and peaceful atmosphere. A magpie sings far away; it could be a butcherbird.

I’ve got to leave now to clean my darling’s desk and the file room.

9:30pm
It was twelve hours ago that I stopped writing to clean the study. I did Johnny’s corner fairly well; wiping walls and cleaning louvres. I polished his writing pane of glass – a very large sheet of glass – and put Monika’s drawings under it. Then I did the file room. It needs paint on the walls, roof beams and some floor covering, then it will be a good little room, clean, sweet-smelling and lovely to be in. Monika and I went looking for stubbies and Tooheys beer bottles. Marcello needed more to make the candle containers. None in the hotel bin so Monika suggested the dump. We filled up two small boxes with stubbies. There were a few flowers on the roadside, so we stopped to pick them.

Lunch was good. As usual it was a spread and we talked of catching fish, of Christmas presents and a few other things. I forget what. Had a short nap. Just before dozing I started Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan.

9th Dec 1978 8:40am

Back at the Base Hospital to get my stitches removed. I’ve dropped Mum, Marcello and Monika near the East Street shops. It’s cool here.

I must get a tight grip on myself, I’m in a bad mood. I was aware of it  when I made a remark about Johnny’s hair and he said not to maternalise him. Apparently that meant (what I would call) making cute noises at a child. Fair enough, I make comments without considering the effect they have on the recipient.

Anyway, in fairness to Johnny, I did make several comments about his new haircut. So I just stood under the tree near the old garage and he, after a look at my face, slowly drove away to the airport.

My bad mood was a result of last night. Just a few minutes before dinner, Johnny yelled at Gareth for not having done his bedroom in spite of repeated suggestions. He thumped Gareth on his bottom, then banished him to his room. This sort of occurrence is unpleasant whenever it happens simply because one is yelled at and the other is forced to do the yelling. I had just prepared a very special meal. We hadn’t had fish for weeks and weeks. Also the fish I had crumbed and fried crisp, were caught by Marcello. Now what was going to happen? Was Gareth to stay in his room while we ate a meal that would almost certainly be spoilt by his absence from the table? Why couldn’t Johnny time his chastisement better? I suppose we all are slack in choosing the right time for unpleasant things. And a time for pleasant things too, except pleasant things don’t dampen a scene.

I remember another time sitting down to a meal with Johnny, when he told me my brother had had a nervous breakdown and was in a sanitorium that I knew of and disliked. That was because of it’s uncaring treatment of the patients when the cows were always well stocked with feed. I remember being amazed, in spite of my shock and pain at the news, that Johnny hadn’t told me after the meal. Some would call it nitpicking. I don’t care, I maintain that discretion is essential.

Again, a telephone message came through for a neighbour one night, Johnny wrote out the message and handed it to young Gareth. The kid had to go down the drive, which is dark and spooky, and the neighbour may have been asleep. The message didn’t appear to be urgent at all, it was a confirmation of an arrangement three weeks away.

Anyway, I add to Gareth’s nervous state by shouting at him this morning. He was rude, but on reflection later, it appeared to be a natural exclamation one would make. He wanted a stapler for school and had planned to be taken to the shop and returned home so he could cycle to school.

12th Dec 1978

Jobs that have to be done:
Verandah
Dining room
Sitting room
Bookshelves
Laundry shelves
Get camping gear sorted
Slaughter chook and drake and duck.
Tonight: Put away cakes, make bread, clean bedroom

Don Juan [Notes from Journey to Ixtlan]:

“People hardly ever realise that we can cut anything from our lives, any time, just like that.”

Erasing Personal History

It is best to erase personal history because that would make us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.

Nobody knows who I am or what I do. Not even I.

You see we only have two alternatives; we either take everything for sure and real, or we don’t. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state in which we don’t know where the rabbit will pop out, not even ourselves.

Losing self-importance

You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed. You are so goddamn important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything. You’re so damn important that you can afford to leave if things don’t go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That’s nonsense. You’re weak and conceited.

Death is an adviser

Death is our eternal companion, it is always to your left at an arm’s length. It is always watching you. It always will until the day it taps you.

How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us?

A thing to do when you’re impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death.

Death may tap you at any moment so really there’s no time for crappy thoughts and moods.

Assuming responsibility

When a man decides to do something he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions, without any doubts or remorse about them.

In a world where death is the hunter, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.

To assume responsibility of one’s decisions means that one is ready to die for them.

There are no small or big decisions, there are only decisions that we make in the face of our inevitable death.

The Last Battle on Earth

For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable, my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvellous time. I wanted to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.

If this was your last battle on earth, I would say that you are an idiot.

You are wasting your last act on earth in some stupid mood. You have no time, my friend, no time. None of us have time.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series