42. Life Rebalancing – Journal Entry 8th Dec 1979

A warm morning. The black cockatoos are doing the rounds of the Queensland hoop pine trees. The nuts are ready for eating. Their harsh cries seem to have stopped. They must have settled down to feed.

It’s been a month since I wrote in this pad. What has happened until now?

P-maths, that almost constant influence in my life, is over. Now I can start revisiting it and have been doing that since the end of November.

Had ten whole days with Johnny at the end of the semester. We walked up hills, up and down the railway tracks and under the bridge, went to the beach and lived off eggs, cheese, bread and olives. We drank much rum, brandy, wine and creaming soda. There was much love and we talked and discussed many things: adults in education and their transition, urban Aborigines and manipulation/facilitation.

The family was so good while we were on holiday.

I’m back in gear, doing a few things I didn’t have time to do during study time and we’ve made several family shopping trips to Rocky. We’ve planned more. Johnny invited me to join the CIAE search group and it could be the most exciting happening in my life. I attended a few meetings and enjoyed them very much. They were intellectual and stimulating.

I seem to have time to read and think because the big ones take turns cooking. My cooking day is Friday and Johnny takes the weekend. As for gardening and chooks, I’ve just about retired completely from those two activities, but will take the time to plant banana and pawpaw trees – they look after themselves. Late night shopping on Thursday was fun and we are going again next Thursday.

22nd Dec 1979

The lass who is looking after Cassidy’s house is a Finn, reads about Kundalini and is only interested in that type of reading – Rama Krishna, etc. She has two boys aged 7 and 12. Presumably, she knew Connie because of a common interest in the occult. The Cassidy’s dog has a spear grass thorn in its eyeball and Herbert has taken it to the vet. Poor Herbert and Marian, they have many dogs of their own. They also have Ellen’s dog Sugar. Neurotic Sugar, who bleeds a lot when she urinates, then squats in it and shakes herself. Unfortunately, she will probably die soon and her mistress is in hospital too. I wonder who has that poor Persian cat that was kept chained all the time. A beautiful, frustrated cat with matted fur.

So many good books to get acquainted with. Read Graham Greene’s In Search of a Character, two journals about his books: A Burnt-Out Case and The Heart of the Matter. He wonders, in the first journal, what makes so many people want to become writers: “Why should this dream of writing haunt so many? The desire for money? I doubt it. The desire for a vocation when they find themselves in a life they haven’t chosen? The same despairing instinct that drives some people to desire rather than to experience a religious faith?”

Re-read Lady Chatterley’s Lover for the fourth or fifth time. Lawrence is such a good writer. Nothing yet to touch this love story – rather the telling of this common theme – love between a man and woman.

Why are Johnny and Gita lucky to have each other? I think it is because each has what I call a ‘generous heart’. A giving, in spite of high cost, and it’s rare for two such people to be together. Looking around, there seem to be many couples where one partner is generous and the other is not. Such a loss it seems, though the couples seem to make a go of things without feeling anything is missing. Social Anthropology in Perspective by Lewis is most enjoyable and sets me thinking. I had better start re-reading Emery’s works for the Canberra trip.

The relationship with my Johnny is good but runs into trouble sometimes because of my moodiness. But I am learning to control moodiness. Life is so good – the only life one has and Johnny says we should do something substantial to merit this life we have together.

Last night was such happiness. We decided not to use the word happiness, overused and ambiguous, surely we mean ecstasy or rapture.

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. It can be found in 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.

41. Johnny’s Birthday Feast – Journal Entry 6th Nov 1979

It was Johnny’s birthday yesterday. The day before that, I wondered a bit about D and what he was thinking and feeling. Tried to work up anger over the whole thing and I ended up getting irritated with the family, the people I love.

Yesterday had bright spots, but Johnny found me unpredictable and moody. On the drive home from Yeppoon yesterday, the moke hood was down and Johnny had his shirt off. On houseless stretches of road, I had my shirt off too. The sun and wind delightful on my body. D rang yesterday when I was out. Said he would ring back but didn’t.

We bought so many good things for the birthday feast. Prunes, dried pears, apricots, peaches, figs, brazil nuts, peanuts and cashew nuts. The pistachios were for Johnny and I. The meal was superb with Johnny seeing to some of the cooking: we had lamb kebabs, mushrooms, sprouted beans and rice. The sweet course was half a rockmelon stuffed with strawberries, cream and ice-cream. Later, after the washing up, we brought out the nuts, fruit, rum, Cinzano and coffee.

There was an awkward situation earlier where two diggers were expected to pitch up during the evening. How to stop them coming during the festivities when they would be most unwelcome? Especially as the house had been invaded by diggers for over a month. Most of them were boring, with talk of themselves and whinges about the Australian Army. Johnny especially was fed up and he was not free in his own home. Anyway, to get back to the awkward situation, we talked it over while cleaning the sprouted beans and it was decided that Marcello would write a letter to Kevin, asking him not to call until Thursday, thereby solving two problems (hope it works). Kevin is intelligent but very self-absorbed and insensitive to other people in the room. He talks all the time, about himself and all the things he has done. Impossible to turn the talk. Laurie was to be met at the door, should he come during the meal, and parked in the pub until we retrieved him. However, Marcello and Monika met him at the camp when they went to deliver the letter. Poor Laurie had been scrubbing kitchens all day. He agreed to come at 8:30 pm and turned up at 8 pm. It was a good time to come because we had finished early. He came in filthy with kitchen grease, fed up with work and mentioned he was on duty again at midnight, guarding the equipment loaded on the trucks lined up for departure the next day. It was his last evening with Karen.

Infatuation: a foolish or extravagant love or admiration. D called. I couldn’t muster any anger against him. His gravelly Australian voice was so good to hear. What am I going to do? He feels helpless too, agrees that things are impossible. Can we forget or at least refrain from contact and get on with what we have to? D is all wrong for me and what I value. I could be all wrong for D, in fact, I think I am. His world is unreal, so far removed from the basic, hard, down to earth world I inhabit. His world would destroy us. It seems to have had an unsettling effect on D, always rushing around, restless, not given to reading much, no proper roots, getting his living from the labour of others. What the hell do I see in him? What? What? What?

Johnny says it is an escape from the slightly hard times we’re in, power or whatever D represents. Would I care if D were poor? Is it the life he can offer that attracts – the smell of money that gives D charm and attraction?

7th Nov 1979

  • Concentrate on P-maths
  • Stew, early dinner
  • Out this evening at 7 pm
  • Get clothes ready

8th Nov 1979

D not as fantastic as I had imagined. He was 30 minutes late to phone because he was busy bargaining for a higher rate of interest on his money. Another thing, he was anxious to get on with his appointments and so wanted to give me the taxi fare home. Shit. Next time, if you must pursue or explore people, Gita, find out their views on Aborigines, politics, religion and money! Anyway, D made it very easy to break clean. We agreed that even if I were free, he would not want to change his way of life, and I would not want to change mine. We were pursuing different aims. So why not call it a day and part good friends? There seems no need for false promises. Very little to add, I suppose, except to realise I mustn’t ‘finger sores’, it tends to be very distracting and extremely discourteous to Johnny. It hurts to think I’ve been a fool yet again – surely the ‘cafe’ business was another. Balance for God’s sake.

9th Nov 1979

Last night was good, with the house full of people and the younger ones doing the after-dinner entertainment. Had a long talk with Johnny. He said what I had done to him was worse than anything he could imagine. However, the thing to concentrate on is Johnny and Gita and their great debt to life. Our life had been built upon trust which I have damaged and must now repair. A big repair job I’m told.

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. It can be found in 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.
  • Australian Army soldiers, commonly known as ‘diggers’, were stationed at a training camp near Emu Park.

40. The Aftermath – Journal Entry 30th Oct 1979

Today I have to take a firm stand. Johnny is destroying himself and suffering inordinately. Last night was the worst ever, he says. My rejection, that is my disinclination for lovemaking, is taken as a deep rejection and hurts him very much. I don’t know what to do. Actually, I know what to do – put all thoughts of D from my mind. My relationship with Johnny is the most important thing in the world. It grew over the past fifteen years and we paid for it very dearly. The present family is very precious. There should have been no question of prolonging the agony and indecision for so long. I can’t think clearly. I don’t want to think clearly.

It is nice sitting at the desk and writing. The wind is very strong, parts of the house rattle and the pine trees are singing. The little sunbird has started sitting on her eggs. She seems unafraid, her curved beak is visible, looking like a witch’s nose.

The cramps in my leg are annoying, still, such wonderful news on my health. Will telephone Dr Russ in the middle of November.

Let’s build on strengths, rather than dwell on weaknesses:

Simplicity
Excellence
Hospitality
Warmth
Contributing
Care

Discussion on the above list ended rather disastrously, mainly my fault for side-tracking this year, very poor performance, most anti- intelligence, care, etc. I saw it in Johnny’s attack on me personally. Practically reduced to tears.

Never mind, let’s dwell on weaknesses:

  • I want to be treated differently, to be given privileges which others don’t get;
  • I stay in bed trying to sleep with a full bladder;
  • I go on unreasonable tracks (1) cafe and catering business (2) wanting to stop drinking on the grounds that alcohol destroys brain cells (3) work at the hotel (4) affair with D;
  • Most important: very short-term thinker and lose sight of objective or direction very easily.

What are my strengths?
What do I want to do now, in the next year, in five years from now?

31st Oct 1979

Johnny wrote this after I noticed a wry smile on his face this morning and asked what he was thinking:

“I woke up and lay happily absorbed with her, absorbed in the beauty of her skin; and then recalled with a slow shock, the monster thing.

Wondered how I would go in the same position, but I knew that.

Recalled the times a little tempted by the possibility of liaison and each time had thought of her and our love and ruled it out. Even in recent months, frustrated beyond endurance, with fantasies of beautiful girls, I said to myself each time, you know bloody well you wouldn’t do it Johnny. Something strange is happening but you could not betray Gita. Sex could never be so good as you and she have known it.

Recalled how last night, all the time, she avoided saying, ‘I love you.’ But these moments together are true, pure, good and wonderful.

Will she chase the monster thing away?
We’ll see tonight perhaps.

I believe that Gita goes my way too, but she is not far-sighted and occasionally cultivates strange obsessions. I wonder too whether the monster thing is her first infatuation after meeting me (and that young Frenchman, years before). Perhaps she doesn’t recognise it or think of handling it.

As the stronger partner, my betrayal of her would be worse than hers of me.”

1st Nov 1979

At 12 noon yesterday, I reached a decision. Go home Gita and stay there. There was really no choice. The affair with D was all fantasy and escapism. All the pain and hurt was one-sided and my beautiful, kind, sensitive, intelligent, innocent Johnny was hurt the most.

So I cooked a carefully chosen Indian meal for Johnny. Made coffee for his early return and was happy to make tentative steps out of limbo.

How soon will we heal, what should I do to make up, to compensate for the days of terror that Johnny lived through? His terror has not gone away completely. Will it ever?

A very happy evening with wonderful lovemaking. God, how tame the phrase is. The alternative is to fill several pages with a detailed description of what took place, but I won’t. Best ever?

The rain lilies were white and crowded on the lawn in the moonlight. Johnny and I stepped carefully between them to avoid damage, while taking quiet pleasure in their beauty. Strange and hardy things these rain lilies. This lot was very short-stalked. Their leaves had not had a chance to grow because of the long dry weather, so only the buds pushed through the parched ground. Watering them does not produce the flowers. They only seem to respond to rain and their bulbs keep underground for years. Tova barbecued and ate some of the bulbs. She said they tasted delicious, but they made her and Bob sick for two days.

Happiness was waiting for mum to come back on the bus from a bowling match in Rocky. Tired from our long evening of sex and booze, we sat in the bus stop shivering a little in the cool midnight air. When the bus did come, mum hadn’t noticed our car and got off to a smart trot up the hill. We frightened her, as she thought we might have been soldiers. We slept well, except for Johnny who woke up at 2 am with a bad intestinal pain.

He gave me a good idea of how to get out of this latest self-absorption – concentrate on Johnny!

So many good things to be getting on with, but also a great deal of rebuilding:

  • Study Algebra
  • Study Computer Science I (a skill if needed)
  • French or Chinese (French first, I think)
  • Lots of reading and writing
  • Teach self to read faster
  • House and family
  • Johnny of course

A nine o’clock rule has been in force since last Saturday. No work after 9 pm and meet in the study.

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. It can be found in 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.

39. Relationship Breakdown – Journal Entry 10th Oct 1979

Johnny is a civilised bastard. He makes me feel secure. I see hair and I want to singe it, a habit I acquired from singeing the scraggy ends of my hair.

13th Oct 1979

Johnny sees no hope in his job and in his home. He has hardly seen me for the past few weeks. Says he is even lower on my list of priorities than P-maths and that I appear to be systematically destroying our relationship. He has to hang around most of the time waiting for me, occasionally we have a good evening together. Johnny’s in a bad way; says I have reduced him to a blubbering mess.

My God, this is terrible – a wonderful guy, thoroughly trapped through his love and kindness. What have we given him in return? He is destroying himself in his work because he has all of us to support and cannot just walk out to part-time teaching. He would use his spare time so well.

He calls my suggestions to free him, crazy. I suppose they are. He is to go wherever he wishes. We get support from the Government or work. It is crazy because while mum and Barb could get money, they will be seriously disadvantaged if they don’t have family support. Sure, we can make it on our own but how much warmer and richer our lives are through living together and cooperating. So where’s the problem?

Well, the big problem is me.

A look around the home and a quick scan into my past, gives me a very gloomy opinion of myself. There is a serious air of neglect in the house. I’m always caught up in things, no time to keep the house reasonably tidy and always getting side-tracked. Worse still, the children are infected by my bad habits, slack thinking and behaviour. Are there any good points?

Most of what I am interested in, Johnny possesses, and more besides for his knowledge is years ahead of most people. He is so good-looking, experienced in so many good things and yet, yet I cannot seem to respond steadily.

A couple of nights a week, and then nothing.

What hope is there?

If I love Johnny and help him, then he is not a mess. We have debts and a tight budget for a few more years. He is in a mess if I don’t love him. Then he has nothing and the burden he carries will be unbearable.

14th Oct 1979

The Fiesta captain to trawler in front, over the address system: “Okay guys, give us about ten feet of slack please.” Laughter from the guys in the trawler and dinghies.

It’s good to be sitting in the harbour. The sun is low and warm, the wind not very strong, so it’s pleasant walking about. The second boat has come in full of day-trippers to Keppel Island. I want to watch the people getting off.

18th Oct 1979

A few very dramatic days.

On Saturday, Johnny asked me if I had been unfaithful to him. I ducked the issue. The question was a result of my insistently questioning him on what his attitude to me would be if I were unfaithful. His question was precise, “Are you intending to be unfaithful or have you been unfaithful?”

What was talked over the weekend and early week seems blurred, so soon too. I think most of my talk was manoeuvring Johnny into agreeing to my going away for a weekend or a week. First I said a few months, then reduced it to a week or weekend.

To questions on what I intended to do while away I replied, “Think and just wander around.”

Now there seems no chance of going away. I mustn’t. Sunday night was terrible. I was jittery and my thoughts were far away. I will have to brutally sort them out. Will do so right away and then come back to writing about what took place between Johnny and I.

After fifteen years of being free and devoted to Johnny, I go into a relationship with another man.

“What is he like?”
“What do you mean?”
“As a person.”
“Oh, as a person.” I had to think carefully.

He is good with people, very easy to be with. At the first meeting there was instant recognition of male and female. There was some chat together. He was setting out on a boat with a crew of three or four. The men were packing food and dinghies into the car. He didn’t have to do anything; at the Hotel there are always people doing jobs for him, even taking his crushed shirt off him and ironing it.

The next meeting was when D returned – the weather wasn’t good, so they returned a few days later. We had a talk about four-wheel-drive camping spots on the coast. We always only snatched an exchange when he passed by on his way from some place to another. He also watched me from a distance. A very restless man. Even though he owned the place, to me he seemed not welcomed because of his position, almost alien. Old man T told me of D’s love life and the women involved. D is alleged to have said he likes women

Wild promises made to me by D. “I’ll give everything up for you. Come to Europe for three months. I’ll buy a house here so I get more privacy and not mess up accommodation arrangements at the hotel.”

When he realised the extent of my family commitments he knew all he could hope for was a little of my time. He wants to show me many things, take me to so many places. Alas, there is no future for us, nor a present. He wants an heir and time is running out for him, so he must get another woman.

How do I feel about that?
No right to feel anything. I’d be happy for him and the child. He is good with children. What have I gauged about D?
First his general appearance: he is a little taller than me, 50 years old, holds himself well because of army training and is overweight (but otherwise brown and fit). Has admitted he is restless, always on the move. D has blue eyes and short wiry brown hair. He has a lovely smile and a quiet sense of humour. D is relatively unspoilt in spite of his wealth, but all the same, makes remarks like, “What are the damages?” He pays with money, as if that would cover everything. He believes everyone has a price. I’ll admit he might have been in a tense mood when he said these things.

“I can’t get you out of my mind,” he said when I saw him next. “I had to wait two weeks to get your phone number. I’ve been thinking about you. You little devil, I wish I had never met you, I mean that, this is terrible. I want you with me all the time. I’d take you with me everywhere.” An achievement I think, because D likes moving around alone – more freedom for sexual opportunity?

I laughed and said, “I wished most heartily we had never met.”

“I’m alive when I’m with you,” he said while breathing deeply and leaning back in his seat. “I don’t want to meet your husband, it would spoil things.”

A cruel laugh from me and, “Good, it would solve our problem.”

He gave me a wry look. If I hadn’t seen him in dark blue shorts and shirt relaxed and cleaning the boat I don’t know if I’d have gone with him a second time because he looks very like a Gold Coast businessman – no, I don’t think that’s right.

Anyway, I’ve written him a letter that he will get sooner or later. It is written to end a love affair – let us forget each other – take someone else and be happy. Soulful stuff. I’m not free, so don’t hold yourself up, get on with producing a child as I cannot give you one.

A brutal remark to Johnny when I told him I thought I was in love with someone else: “I don’t want to be here. Do you realise that? That’s how I feel about things.

“It’s more serious than I thought,” Johnny muttered.

I want to go to D but I have a feeling I’d soon find him dull and deadening. I don’t know, it is very presumptuous of me to make this completely unfounded judgement. He is an exciting man and good to be with, but I know nothing about him and there isn’t the complete trust in him that I had, and still have in Johnny. A bit unfair really because I haven’t known D very long and he’s usually surrounded by people. He has to watch what he says for fear of compromising me.

He is free and has no need to hide his women.

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. It can be found in 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.

37. Language, Emotion and Disease – Journal Entry 24th Feb 1979

Notes from Wallace Ellerbrock, MD: Language, Emotion and Disease, Omni Nov 78

  • Objective knowledge is a myth; all “knowledge” being based on biases in “perception” and “cognition” is subjective and emotionally determined.
  • There is no such thing as a fact. Any verbal statement is an opinion. Any statement can be called an opinion or a fact and if called an opinion, it leaves the possibility of an error. If called a fact, neurotically expressing a belief that the statement is gold-plated, it is never to be questioned. More importantly the mind is turned off that fact (not questioning).
  • There are only two emotions, like and dislike – all others are components of one of these plus a personally formulated comment about “reality”. For example, lonely means “I am alone” and “I don’t like being alone”.
  • Anger and depression are not separate emotions. Anger, reality as I perceive it, does not match my image of how it ought to be, but I think there is something I can do about it. Depression is the same, but I think there is nothing I can do about it.
  • Negative emotions are associated with unnecessary disturbances of bodily mechanisms, proportional to the duration and intensity of the negative emotional state. Such reactions are not limited to a particular organ. All bodily organs and cells express their response to such brain states in various ways. If you are angry or depressed about your job, your stomach acids will either go up or down, your blood pressure will go up or down, your glands will increase or decrease their functioning, and so on.
  • Consider the concept of “stress”. There are two reactions. If the stress makes you miserable, your body will have all kinds of deleterious reactions. If it is enjoyable, your body will function better than ever, up to the limits of the body’s installations.
  • Learn to quickly identify the onset of anger and depressive feelings in yourself.
  • Pick something you don’t want to happen to you, such as a removal of an organ for instance, and when something happens that would normally make you angry or unhappy, ask whether giving in to these negative feelings is worth the disease price you’ll have to pay.
  • Discontinue any medications that are central nervous system depressants.
  • Use alcohol in trivial amounts as it is the worst brain depressant.
  • Start observing other people: their postures, their choice of words, tones of voice, pitch and levels of stress. Study the reactions of others and try to guess what is going on in their heads. And then watch yourself. Shoulder posture – down and forward is depressed, up and forward is hostile whereas up and back gives you a feeling that you are working towards the control of your own reality.
  • Decide each morning that throughout the day, whatever happens, it will not make you as angry or as unhappy as it would have the day before.
  • Get rid of the words “got to”, “have to”, “should”, “must”, “ought to” and “will power”. You can’t do anything except what you want to do – so enjoy it.

Notes from The Medium Is The Massage (sic) by Marshall McLuhan

  • The personal and social consequences of any medium i.e. of any extension of ourselves, result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each technology or extension of ourselves.
  • Automation technology is integral and decentralised in depth. The machine was fragmentary, centralist and superficial in it’s patterning of human relationships.
  • Medium is the message because medium shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.
  • The medium is the message and one should not be distracted by the content.

Notes on writing by author Georges Simenon and advice by editor Colette

  • Colette’s advice to Simenon: “It almost works. But not quite. You are too literary. You must not be literary. Suppress all the literature and it will work…”
  • Simenon makes the habits and idiosyncrasies of his characters so known to the reader that each and every reader emotionally equates the character with the person of his most intimate acquaintance, himself. Similarly, localities realised in such exact and penetrating detail can be treated by the reader’s emotions only as the one locality we have all apprehended in truly vivid detail, the setting of our childhood.
  • All his life, Simenon has not just observed but simulated man and woman: their loves, deliriums, obsessions, the secret hiding places of their mind, their urge towards self-realisation or self-destruction. Above all, he’s imagined and lived through the character’s loneliness.
  • If there is to be any art, if there is to be any aesthetic doing and seeing, one physiological condition is indispensable – frenzy. It must first have enhanced the excitability of the whole machine, or else there is no art. All kinds of frenzy, however diversely conditioned, have the strength to accomplish this, but above all, the frenzy of sexual excitement – this most ancient and original form of frenzy.

How to make pizza

Make a big batch of pizza dough and prepare the pizza bases to rise in a warm place.

Make the sauce for the base: fry chopped onion and garlic in olive oil, add tomato puree, add chopped oregano and basil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Top bases with pizza sauce and your favourite flavours:

  • Mince, as in bolognaise sauce
  • Bacon and cheese, fry chopped bacon and spread on base with thin slices of mozzarella
  • Kabana, sliced thinly, pan fried then spread thickly over base with pizza sauce on top

Cook on high for 10 mins then turn down for 35 mins.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to my blog Home page
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • The Preamble post marks the beginning of the series and can be found here

25. Cyclone David – Journal Entry 12th Dec 1975

Dear Jean, here at last is my letter as it was written before and after your telephone call.

Thanks for your letter. We will not be coming to Melbourne for the Christmas holidays, Johnny cannot get away, though we may manage the odd week or weekend in the bush. Sayang*.

I was looking forward to visiting Melbourne for several reasons – the main one being because it contains your family. There is a paper mill I would like to visit and learn to hand-make paper. Actually one buys a kit (you may like to get one for the kids: The Mould & Deckle Papermill, 221 Canterbury Road, Heathmont VIC 3135). And, of course, I wanted to see the shops. Heard a lot about them.

After minding our own business for two years, Johnny and I are right in the middle of community participation. He is out tonight attending an A.A.P.** meeting, to get the best deal for Emu Park in particular and the Capricorn Coast. Last night he attended the Emu Park Progress Association meeting where he was told that we would at last be getting a community hall. Emu Park had been without a hall for many years. The old hall was burned down by a firebug. This firebug had a temper; whenever someone insulted him, he burned a building or two. He set fire to the school. They caught him one day with a stolen bicycle in hand and lots more under his house. They tell me he was Welsh and an incorrigible thief. He died in a road accident and his body and car were stripped before the police got to him.

We’ve started Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) In the beginning we thought it was all a big mistake; we only had two customers. However, when we served our first day’s meal, we had seven customers. In a month’s time we were up to ten and then sixteen, by which time we wanted to drop some. Now we are at a manageable amount.

We’ve also started a group called MATTARA to keep an eye on people, especially old and sick people living on their own. We get taps mended, supply transport when needed, look after gardens, etc. Yesterday we had our first social afternoon-tea and sing-song because of Christmas. Sounds dreadful, but we all enjoyed ourselves, and the homemade cakes and jams we offered as prizes were really appreciated. Some of our clients were housebound and had not seen their friends (also housebound) for a long time. By bringing them together, they were able to catch up on news and gossip. Our oldest person there was 82. She had been in a home for over 15 years. As she wanted to spend time here, the Community Health people boarded her with a woman in Emu Park. This was her first two week holiday.

Our most dramatic case to date has been cleaning an 82 year old German man’s house. His house was condemned long ago, but the Council won’t pull it down until he dies. A strange man Fritz. And Emu Park left him alone. He was a first class carpenter and boat builder. He drinks, is excessively independent and has an enormous golden Labrador which knocks him into hospital at least once a month. When in hospital he accuses the staff of keeping him away from his dog. To get back to the house cleaning: the M.O.W. volunteers complained about the overflowing urine bucket in the kitchen doorway and maggots on the floor, not to mention the egg-smeared dishes laid ready for the day’s meal. So on Sunday, four MATTARA women gird up their loins, put perfumed masks over their face and attacked Fritz’s house. Fritz helped by burning the rubbish. He only cooperated because he had been told to do so by the Community Health Nursing Sister. To give you an idea of Fritz’s present state – he doesn’t know what day of the week it is, forgets to switch off his kettle, lays lighted mosquito coils on boxes of matches and lights a pipe that is not there.

Back to the housecleaning for Fritz. Right in the middle of all this filthy, stinking, dusty and seemingly hopeless job, a neighbour (who bought Fritz’s house and land) came in to tell us what interfering do-gooders we were and why the hell hadn’t we asked her to help. She continued to tell us that everyone knew she helped Fritz, that Fritz wanted the house filthy anyway and why couldn’t we leave it so. We apologised for not knowing she helped Fritz. What else could we do? She went to meet with the President of M.O.W., who was mowing his son’s lawn at the time. The President had seen her going into Fritz’s house so he was ready and pointed out that Fritz was a health and fire hazard! To do the woman justice, she returned to us and apologized.

Much later, Fritz was asked how his rooms came to be so clean and with eyes twinkling behind small, round, steel-rimmed glasses, he replied, “It rained.”

CyclonePic

19th Jan 1976

Today we are expecting Cyclone David. The wind is blowing at about 60 knots. The trees are trying to touch their roots.

The M.O.W. President and I delivered the meals because we wanted to warn the clients that we might not be able to get to them tomorrow. We offered to do any shopping they might need. All of them were prepared except old Fritz. He was in bed when I went in. The Blue Nurse was there and also the woman who cleans the house. The women were worried about him as the wind was blowing the rain right across to his bed. Fritz wasn’t bothered, he was hungry and wanted to be fed right away. Couldn’t get out of bed, he said, because he had no pants on. That was true, I saw that a couple of pairs of dirty shorts were soaking in a bucket in the kitchen.

This afternoon, a MATTARA volunteer will check on Fritz and take him to her house if necessary.

22nd Jan 1976

Very few people on the Capricorn Coast slept on the night of the 19th. The winds at our place were horrific because of the pine trees; and we were well away from the eye of the storm. Very little damage at Emu Park, just a few old, unused houses had the roof ripped off, and some toots (lavatories) found their way to the middle of the street. Had the wind been just a little stronger…

Apart from a wet study and a few broken branches, we thrive at Phillip Street. The kids are getting ready for school – which starts again next week.

Christmas was very wet, but most pleasant, playing with the kids’ toys. New Year or thereabouts was hectic because of visitors. We haven’t been on camp as yet; much too wet where we want to go.

Lots of love and a great good 1976 to you all.

Footnotes:

*Sayang means ‘Too bad!’ in the Philippines.
**The Australian Assistance Plan (A.A.P.), provided regional funding for local projects and social welfare programs. Ref: Local government and the Commonwealth: an evolving relationship, Research Paper no. 10 2010-11, Dr Lyndon Megarrity, Politics and Public Administration Section, 31 January 2011, Ref. The A.A.P was set up by the Whitlam Government in 1972.

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to go to this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • Footnotes have been added
  • Cyclone “David crossed to the north of St Lawrence. It passed over Gannet Cay. Winds unroofed 30 buildings in Yeppoon. The breakwater at Rosslyn Bay was destroyed along with yachts and trawlers. Wave recording stations at Yeppoon recorded a peak wave height (Hmax) of 7.6m.” Ref: Capricorn Coast Storm Tide Hazard Investigation For Livingstone Shire Council Final Report, 105201cw/ Revision 3, Connell Wagner Pty Ltd, 28 May 2003, Ref

 

 

20. Arrival Story – Journal Entry 1st Sep 1970

[My mother’s story version of arriving in Australia.]

Gita’s arrival at Brisbane airport was dramatic and foolish. She has flown straight from Kathmandu, the youngest child in a sling on her back, the two elder children clutching at her skirts, big bags in her hands. One child had a Nepalese drum – at the sight of which the Customs officials sighed and took a tight grip on themselves. Gita was dressed in a short thick black cotton sari. These were the sort worn by women in a particular Nepalese tribe to show off the tattoos on their calves. She knew the fumigation was coming and hoped to add to the dramatic effect in retaliation. But Gita didn’t have tattooed calves.

All this was quite stupid. There was a reporter who sensed something and wanted to take photographs. The reporter had noticed Gita exchanging a long intense, slightly smiling glance with Johnny who was waiting outside the customs barrier. Johnny, in his typical cool manner, continued leaning against the pillar, glanced at the reporter and quietly drawled that he had better not. The reporter was a middle-aged Australian, short and plump, a disappearing race of understanding country reporters. He must have sensed tragedy, fear, who knows what, so he didn’t argue but stood by Johnny and watched until Gita was through with Customs and had greeted Johnny with one word, “Hello.”

Gita was taken straight from the Third World into a two-storied wooden house on stilts in a very small coastal village of Australia.

Immediate differences in cultures came fairly quickly one after another. White labourers working on the roads – a strange sight to someone coming from a colonised country. Vendors calling in motorised vehicles. The postman driving to your post box was hard to get used to at first as Gita assumed all postmen walked with heavy bags on their shoulders. There was hot and cold piped water in the house, separate bedrooms for the children, supermarkets in the nearby city and many clubs for people – especially women.

Women called on Gita to invite her to join the CWA, the National Fitness Club and the Bowling Club. She went on to the school tuckshop roster.

The neighbours were a little slow in making contact, they didn’t know what to make of this bizarre family dumped in their midst – two dark-skinned children who talked Gurkhali to each other in a low voice, one small blue-eyed baby boy, one large blond blue-eyed man who smoked a pipe and one South-East Asian woman.

Johnny suggested that Gita make the initial calls on neighbours, first to the couple living on the right and then to the couple on the left. Later they came, a little ashamed of themselves and not quite looking Gita in the eye. They told her what day was garbage collection day, and about milk, bread and newspaper deliveries.

Life in Emu Park was still at the stage where neighbours called on newcomers to welcome them and make their entry into the community as easy and pleasant as possible.

The earliest encounter with the Queensland dialect was when a young lad called with a message from his mother.
“Do you have any spice in your fridge?” he asked politely.
“Oh, no,” replied Gita, “I don’t keep spice in the fridge, I keep them on the shelf.”
A puzzled look came into the lad’s eyes and he almost backed away.
“Mum asked if you have spice in your fridge,” he repeated.
Gita repeated her answer and so it would have gone if the lad hadn’t changed his wording.
“Mum says if your fridge is not big enough, she could keep things for you in her fridge.”
Pretty soon they sat down to tea and biscuits.

It took Gita several years to get over her horror at having people spell words for her over the telephone. The a’s and i’s were hard to differentiate and her English wasn’t all that good either. One man jovially told her it reminded him of Peter Sellers, which surely was a chicken and egg question. On the other hand, Australians were surprised at Gita speaking English at all, and made such remarks as, “How is it that you speak straighter English than we do?”
“I’ve never spoken to one of your kind before,” said a taxi driver in Sydney, “I really enjoyed that.”
And another man asked, “Are you a school teacher?”

On the whole, Gita was mostly absorbed in Johnny and their new life together. Johnny concentrated on Australianising his new family as fast as possible. Gita’s attitude to that was pretty easy until she took the children to a cafe in Sydney where they stuck their fingers into everything and generally behaved so oddly that they soon attracted the attention of the other eaters. It didn’t take very long for the kids to learn to handle knives and forks and say excuse me and please and thank you. Life became a little less conspicuous.

Ah, the freshness of those early years in Australia, despite Johnny and Gita’s fear and sorrow.

The year was the late nineteen sixties, Australia was riding high, beef was expensive because of the export prices cattlemen were getting for their beasts, minerals were being dug up and shipped out at good prices and employment was plentiful.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to read this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • This closes the chapter on the early years in Emu Park. Our family then moved to Neutral Bay in Sydney, Australia.

2. Sunday Lunch – Journal Entry 8th Jun 1969

John and Virginia came with their brand new truck carrying a rotary hoe. What a relief to watch the grass disappearing into the earth when the ripper passed over it. In no time the front yard was neatly ploughed and we planned where the trees would go and where the onions and garlic beds were to be.

Emu Park First House 1969
Gareth, Karen, Gita, Marcello | Emu Park first house 1969

The day was lovely with Fritz, Jan, Virginia, the kids and I watching John happily driving the ripper around. There were many little birds after the refugee insects that were disturbed out of their homes. We found a baby snake under a packing case but it ran away.

I baked bread and there was salad, cold meat and salami for lunch. We were all waiting for  lunch to be ready. Then you know what happened? The three men go to the back yard and try to burn the long dry grass.

Just beat it out when you’ve burned a reasonable area,” one of them said…

The fire looked very pretty and we called the kids to watch. Everybody was quite happy. Then, of course, the fire spread quite rapidly and raced up the steep slope of our back yard. Everybody pitched in to help. I tell you it was frightening. Such a wide ring of fire and every minute increasing and increasing. We worked, my goodness how we worked. Two of our neighbours ran to help. We had to beat at the fire with branches off the gum tree. Johnny and I used cloth.

I panicked and phoned the police station. The policeman and another man pitched up just when the fire was put out and gave us a sermon.

“You’ve got to have a permit to light a fire. You could be put into court for this, and be fined $30 to $40 so that you don’t go out and light another fire. You didn’t know about this of course.”

One of our friends interrupted to say he was the one who suggested it, and that it wasn’t our fault, but the policeman continued,

“I don’t care who told who to light the fire, you get prosecuted all the same. Anyway, see it doesn’t happen again!” And he stomped down the hill to his interrupted Sunday lunch.

Oh dear, we were a sad group. I had to prepare the salad. I could hardly stand, let alone hold a knife. We were dirty and covered with prickles from the long grass. The others collapsed onto the verandah and recovered over a glass of beer. Was lunch good? And did we eat enormously?

Of course we did. It was very good.

BushFirePoem
Poem by Gita 8th June 1969

Note:

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

1. Preamble – My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

If you haven’t already, please read the Home page for the background to this intimate journal series.

Blog posts will contain my mother’s journal entries in chronological order from June 8th, 1969 (when our family settled in Australia from India) until just prior to my mother’s death in 1985. Some of her poetry and letters will be included.

I have used ‘Gita’ to refer to my mother throughout this journal series as it was the pen name she used for her short stories and articles.

Gita, late 1960s

If you are new to this blog you can read  previous journal entries in date order via Archived on the Home page. Then Follow to receive each new post as it is published.

Sadly, Johnny (the love of my mother’s life), passed away ten years after her death. He was a devoted father to our very large family and I dedicate this journal series to both of them.

Johnny, late 1960s

Let us begin…

Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • The Home page contains a gallery of photos, click here.