98. Sad Farewell – Journal Entry 23rd July 1982

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

24/7/82

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

25/7/82

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

28/7/82

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

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

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

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

30/7/82

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

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

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

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

97. La Dolce Vita – Journal Entry 15th July 1982

Managed to put in a good slab of time at the desk last night, mostly writing a report to the Progress Association on town planning. Read the draft report to Peter, who approved of it, so I rang Tennant next; when he answered with a mouthful of toothpaste I thought I had caught him without his teeth! Left Laurie a message today so we can talk about using the School of Arts building as a health centre.

 It seems I have set myself a fairly rigid daily schedule to complete my weekly study load of 15 hours of Cost Accounting, 15 hours of Calculus, 10 hours of Programming and 10 hours of Methodology. To achieve it, I would need to get up at 5 am, exercise, write in the diary, study, prepare the meals, study again, do the housework, study some more and spend time with Johnny from 9:30 to 11 pm. I haven’t maintained consistency thus far.

Nevertheless, today was reasonably productive apart from feeling drowsy since midday. We went to the post office to get mum’s money, Monika bought stamps and posted letters and we were back for a late lunch. I found it quite difficult to stay alert at the desk, so I literally jumped up and vacuumed various rooms, sorting out various household matters. Later I managed cost accounting and even studied after dinner. Johnny arrived home late, having been away from home since Tuesday morning, and we spent some time together chatting while he ate dinner.

While making dinner, the usual worries were chasing round and round in my brain, probably because I couldn’t do a few of the Programming exercises the first time around. I must break this cycle, it is depressing, utterly ridiculous and a waste of energy. 

16/7/82

I realised that we may have to have another meeting to discuss two omissions in our report: development of the trading centres and examination of the adequacy of the land set aside for industry. Will mention these to Peter later this morning. In fact, a special meeting on employment should be held before finalising our recommendations.

Mum needs to make a dental appointment today and I will start making dinner for tonight: fish, brown rice, cauliflower, sliced tomatoes and lemon meringue pie.

 18/7/82

Last night Johnny and I went to bed after midnight, read a little and ate mandarins. Today will be busy: Gareth needs a lift to Yeppoon for his football match, I need to concentrate on Calculus revision, try the Programming assignment, read a chapter of Cost Accounting and get on top of washing Johnny’s clothes. This week we have some guests: Mick is coming to dinner on Tuesday and I must clean the room for Rolf who is arriving on Thursday. We plan to have Biryani with onions and yoghurt, devil chutney followed by fruit salad.

Today gran has a dental appointment at the hospital and I must make chops, sausage, eggs and mashed potatoes for dinner.

21/7/82

Peter called about the draft proposals for the strategic plan. He mentioned that he will lend me two Polish cookbooks. His mother kept him out of the kitchen when he was young and since then he has been meaning to teach himself cooking. It hasn’t happened yet.

Mick seems to have enjoyed himself. He is a genuine Queensland country lad whose family lives in Clermont. To celebrate his first twenty-five years as a priest, the town had an ecumenical service, threw a huge party and presented him with a car. We discussed the growing number of men importing Filipino women for marriage. Two brothers, confirmed bachelors over fifty, both married Filipinos; these women and their children will be worth quite a lot when the old men die. Most of these men appear to be strange in some way and would find it hard to find an Australian partner.

I feel I should jot down the ideas for stories I would like to write rather than just having them in my head.

Yesterday, I thought that someone should do for the Mills and Boon market what Raymond Chandler did for the pulp magazine market; write extremely well within that framework. Most of their love stories have predictable plots—two people are antagonistic towards each other with hints of grudging admiration or irresistibility, another man or woman thwarts them in their progress toward romance but all comes good in the end. 

In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane is an orphan, an important factor in the hero’s decision to marry her. Our hero’s insane wife is living in the attic and he is a proud, rich and bitter man, a guardian to the child of his French mistress, a worldly man who spent most of his time abroad with women, leading the good life or la dolce vita. Jane is not scared of him although everyone else is. They fall in love and he is smitten, charmed by her wit, frankness and innocence. At their wedding, the wife’s brother denounces our hero and the ceremony is called off.

A remarkable scene takes place: our hero shows his insane wife to witnesses, the insane woman attacks her brother and our hero wrenches her off. In the meantime, Jane creeps off to her room and slips away. Jane is surprised to find her long-lost cousins and finds she has been left a fortune by a rich uncle in America. The hero had been blinded in an attempt to rescue his insane wife from a blaze she had started.

Finally, Jane and our hero find each other again, have a child and he slowly regains his sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

95. My Darling Guru – Journal Entry 5th July 1982

Johnny needs me to be affectionate, comforting and well organised. He is overworked and dealing with a tricky staffing problem. Nonetheless, he worries more about me than his other problems because I don’t seem to be getting on with my work. I’m also liable to go off on tracks which are often time-consuming or destructive. We discussed the topic of employment for redundant housewives; it was depressing and I foolishly scared myself again. Not a very pleasant evening.

11th July 1982

Staying in bed in the morning with a full and uncomfortable bladder, Johnny says, is “the height of sloth” but of course, I view it as harmless even though it is not. This attitude of has manifest itself in many ways—yesterday, for instance, I read a crappy book and wasted three hours of precious time. More seriously, I did poorly in the accounting examination through lack of application. I am inclined to blame my father who at the age of forty-five or fifty became fat, and because he sat or slept most of the time became even fatter. 

Nevertheless, let us stick to the existential maxim that one gets through life through one’s efforts. Also to be remembered, by chanting it constantly to oneself, is Solzhenitsyn’s advice to do tasks to their last half or quarter inch. My Johnny is a remarkable man and an excellent example of how a serious person lives. We have been together for seventeen years, so why can’t I improve myself? Can I do something about the “stuckness” I am wallowing in? I must look back as honestly as I can and jot down the good and bad things about myself:

  • As a kid I was wilful and demanding. I wandered alone quite a lot, pursued my desires and ideas and hence was in trouble much more than my siblings.
  • Recently Marcello accused me of neglecting him as a child: not feeding him properly, letting him run around filthy and unshod, not protecting him enough against getting hepatitis and ruining his liver. I answered that some illnesses are through neglect and some through straightforward neglect. This exchange happened because I asked him to keep Nathaniel warmly dressed since he had a second cold almost immediately after the last one. Marcello touched a very vulnerable side of most parents—their hope of having done the right things by their children and their anxiety about messing them up. 
  • My mediocre examination results are from a lack of preparation and study, not from a lack of ability.
  • I expect high standards from others but ignore my own slackness.

Despite this, the first half of the year has been reasonably good, better than the previous year, until I started to worry about money—a recurring theme of mine—and distracted myself from my studies by spending a lot of time with Toby. Then the relatives came; a marvellous visit, but again I really should have been well ahead. I could have done better in the programming exam and had to rely on my assignments to pull me through. I am still worried about the second half of ‘82 which promises to be very busy and Johnny tells me I may have to drop a subject because of my poor track record. If I work consistently and score reasonable marks, next semester I can take a full swag of subjects rather than spending an equivalent amount of study time on only one or two subjects. 

Habituation, that’s what I need to practice every day, says my darling guru. The past few days have been good with Johnny; he is laughing quite a bit even though his work is quite grim. So much administrative work when he ought to be doing real work for himself. How long will this go on?

I read a rather clever romance about a forty-year-old intellectual who falls in love with a first-year nurse. The man, a legend in pathology at the hospital in which he works, was very rich. Worried that women would want him for his wealth and position, he lived a fairly secluded life. The girl, a country girl from a large turkey farm, is attractive, friendly, mature and very sensible. They meet early in the story during a thunderstorm on a hill and take shelter in a shed where the man had been bird watching. She talks at great length under his skilful questioning but doesn’t tell him her name. A few weeks later she receives a letter addressed to her which contain photographs of the birds they had seen together. They exchange more letters and she uses him as an oracle, which amuses him; she is impressed by the quality of his answers to her questions, and also sends him problems from her friends who have nicknamed him her “professor”. The usual misunderstanding arises: he thinks she is interested in a young medical student and she thinks the professor only views her as a young, pleasant friend although she is interested in him. After their first meeting, he visits her parents in the country and asks their permission to court their daughter but not to give his real identity until they hear from her. Naturally, everything works out well in the end, though considering he is very intelligent, it takes a long time.

12th July 1982

Johnny and I had a wonderful evening last night. I told Johnny the story of the professor. Gareth joined us and Johnny read T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” and some of Hilaire Belloc’s poems.

We discussed the story further this morning and Johnny asked the same question—why did the professor take such a long time if he is allegedly so intelligent? He had even gone to meet the parents after their first encounter. The tale could have been improved by making it less implausible and removing remarkable coincidences or chance meetings. Maybe a twist added: he does not win her before the callow youth does and they are both miserable for the rest of their lives, if only he had spoken to her before…or he approaches her and is turned down on account of his great age…

It was a lovely drive to the hospital today with Gran for her new bottom dentures, Karen and Shannon return from Cooee Bay today, Marcello took a sickie to work on his car, Monika is helping him remove rust spots, Gareth is back at school and Barbie is back at the ATC.

Johnny is on leave today but has gone into Rocky to do the grocery shopping. He will be away in Brisbane for two nights so will get the shopping done today and then bring the girls back home. 

Great rapport between Johnny and me at the moment; when I reflect on it, there always has been, except when I feel nagged or guilty about something. I decided to discuss my latest fears with him. This was the right approach and led to fruitful discussion and resolution. However, I don’t agree that that’s what a mate is for; mates should cultivate and preserve charming illusions about each other considering much mystery is lost by morbid or senseless discussions and delving into telling-it-all. As if “being honest” was what made good relations between people! Being honest usually means saying a few home truths that could have perhaps been left unexpressed. My darling guru is a very discreet man.

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

Dear Z,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

93. Exams Over – Journal Entry 22nd June 1982

I’m quite relieved that the programming exam was not too difficult. An open book exam is not easy either, one has to know the subject or time is wasted hunting for the relevant section. All I needed was one reasonable performance to boost my spirits after the disastrous accounting procedure exam. It was enjoyable answering questions for pleasure after the required number.

The invigilators are worthy people, but they must be quite bored going through the same routine several times a day for a month: let in a horde of students, check exam slips and identification, call out perusal time, call out starting time. Ever vigilant for cheating or disruption, they are quick to supply more paper to students signalling for more and disappear in turns for a quick coffee or toilet break. They seem like old friends. Whenever I attend an exam we nod sedately to one another and exchange slight smiles.

At this point, I am reminded of Margaret who took a flask of coffee with her when she sat a three-hour exam! She gets tired after an hour or so of intensive paperwork. Of the five of us who finished P-Maths, Rod, Margaret and I continued our studies.

Next semester could be grim unless I organise myself extremely well and not waste time spending more effort than necessary trying to absorb the material. There must be a better method than the one I’ve been using. I shall try the following for each subject: quick review; detailed study; summary and review; repeat for the next section; perform another review a few days later. I have four subjects, two of which are three hours a week, another six-hours per week and the fourth, the Methodology subject which I am most interested in, one hour per week. That would be forty-five hours plus time to be added for assignments; this is possibly overgenerous, but I suspect not. I had planned to do so much during the semester break.

Holiday plans for the family:
Gareth – 2 weeks from 28 June
Barbara – 2 weeks from 28 June (camping the first week)
Karen – 4 weeks from 21 June (Shannon has holidays for 2 weeks starting 4 July, not sure if she will spend them with us)
Gita – 4 weeks from 21 June
Johnny – Nil

In between enjoying the children’s company and taking them on outings, mostly to fish, I need to stick to my schedule: exercise, diary, calculus, reading, programming and (last but not least) Johnny. I must focus on writing programs and revising the first part of calculus, then forge ahead with next semester’s calculus material.

Gareth has a heavy cold but needs to be well enough for a debate today. To avoid the early morning coolness, I’ll be taking him to school an hour late. Will stop now and write a letter to the school office about his late arrival.

24th June 1982

Karen came home yesterday. We had a nice evening in the little room talking until midnight, just the three of us.

92. Exam Stress – Journal Entry 14th June 1982

What needs to be done today?  I still can’t decide what to make for tomorrow’s meal, but first, I must memorise the forms for accounting, do the inventory exercises and finish the last question in the practice exam paper. Johnny’s clothes also need ironing, my next task, and perhaps I can ask Barbara and Gareth to bring up the wood.

16th June 1982

I feel quite gloomy over my performance at yesterday’s exam, even though the subject matter was easy and the exam quite straightforward. I know exactly what happened… I tackled a problem, which I had planned to leave until the end, yet missed a relatively easy question because I assumed I would have to remember the form, when in fact, the form was given. Of course I didn’t realise this until I opened the booklet for answers but even then I didn’t switch the order of questions. Perhaps students ought to be told some forms will be given? And that there are a choice of questions? Now I’m not looking forward to the programming exam because it is trickier and I lack the speed of mind and hand, especially in examinations, where careful revision is required.

Pirsig divides people by classical and romantic modes of understanding. The classical mode is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Classical understanding is seeing the world primarily as the underlying form itself. Romantic understanding, on the other hand, is seeing the world primarily in terms of immediate appearance and the mode is inspirational, imaginative, creative, intuitive, with feeling rather than fact. The classical aesthetic is often missed by romantics. I must discuss this further with Johnny. I remember his comment that science ignores art at its peril; art is more important than science.

I had eight hours of sleep last night, which is unusual, and stayed in bed for half an hour reading Illich’s article, Vernacular Gender, a provocative piece. Johnny tried to coax me out of bed, to which I responded angrily,  telling him I did not need to leap out of bed this morning as he was leaving late. As it turned out, he only left a little later than usual. He had intended to work at home today but as Mick wanted some notes on the ecumenical course to be run by the priests next year, Johnny stayed up late last night and will take the report to the Institute this morning to be typed and photocopied. He should be home earlier than usual.

I had depressing and rash thoughts on the way back from the exam yesterday. What is the use of studying since I had not performed well in any of the exams so far? Next semester will be much harder. How was I doing to cope? Perhaps I ought to drop out and not embarrass Johnny any more. Am I embarrassing him all that much? Next semester, Karen and I will be sitting the same exam. I wonder how we will perform? I do want to continue methodology as I’m interested in the material and how it is conducted but then there is cost accounting, Programming 1B and Calculus 1B. I’ll stop now and make a detailed plan of Pascal revision.

18th June 1982

It is 9 am and too cold at my desk, so I am working on the side verandah. It is so hot I need to wear a large brimmed hat to keep direct sunlight off my head and avoid a headache. Mum is in the garden with her radio on full blast. I wish she could keep it close to her on low volume, I can’t hear Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” on FM. Rang Toby to arrange a scramble on the rocks at Voss’ Point next Wednesday.

I felt extremely sleepy today and decided to water the stressed-looking ferns near Marcello’s blue car to give myself a break. The hose had a leak and repairing it was a surprisingly pleasant task: first I smoothed black sealant over the leak, wrapped a bandage over it as snugly as possible and then covered the bandage with more sealant. This repair looks good, but the fix to the hose for the chicken pen is not as effective and I will have to remove the sealant and repair it once more.

Time to stop distracting myself with minor tasks and tackle an exam paper.

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.

89. Reflections – Journal Entry 9th February 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me not forget this again, ever.

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