67. Maintenance Guarantee – Journal Entry 13th May 1981

Dear Nora,

What a day it has been!

Mum is making an application for a widow’s pension and we were asked to send dad’s death certificate (which we couldn’t find) and his birth certificate (which we suspect is in the same file in some Government office in Manila) hence our telegram to you. I hope it wasn’t too cryptic. 

Telephone calls cost a small fortune.

We spent three to four hours turning the house upside down in our search. Our grandson, who is fifteen months old, joined into the chase making an even bigger mess. Mum was getting quite upset at finding nothing but I managed to calm her down by saying all we could do was wait for news from you. I hope you can get a copy and if we haven’t received anything in a month, I’ll send another telegram.

I haven’t really explained anything, have I?

Originally Johnny signed a maintenance guarantee for mum and Barbara when they migrated to Australia. To be eligible for a widow’s pension you must have been in the country for five years and ten for an aged pension. We tried applying earlier but Johnny’s income was considered too high, even though five adults are managing on one salary in a house with six bedrooms.

It was worse before Marcello started working. He gives us board for his family and it certainly helps. All of this does not cut any ice with the Social Security Department because we signed a maintenance guarantee and that’s that; which is fair enough really.

We have been on a tight budget for as long as I can remember, ever since dad died in 1965. I cannot hold a full-time job while looking after the children, mum and Barbara. I’ve been studying first-year mathematics and computer science so maybe I can get contract work in computing next year. Despite this, life is very good and we eat extremely well. The vegetable garden is flourishing, we buying bulk meat and eat our own chooks, ducks and eggs. I’m often busy at my desk and mum isn’t as strong so we don’t get much gardening done. 

Oh yes, things will get tighter with Karen going to University. She won’t get a student allowance, again because of the means test, and she will need a minimum of $50 a week to live on, maybe even $70. We want her to concentrate on her studies and enjoy her time at University. She is working very hard at her matriculation this year.

I know you would like some photos but the ones I took were terrible; the camera was too old so I shall have to wait until someone takes better photos.

Gareth has started high school this year and is enjoying it. They learn Japanese as a second language.

Mum seems to lead a very busy life. On Tuesday afternoons she goes to indoor bowling. Once a month on Wednesdays the pensioners have an afternoon tea social. A regular physical fitness session is held every Thursday morning and on Saturdays, she goes to afternoon bowling followed by church in the evenings.

Her bowling club has a special day for visiting clubs and each member has to “bring a plate” so mum cooks something or gets us to bake a cake, a tart or whatever.

Then once every two months, either the pensioners club or bowling club organises a long bus journey for the day.

Of course, we encourage mum to go to everything but I tell you, we can hardly keep track of her engagements.

She takes a few medications now for blood pressure, cramps and arthritis in her neck; she is in pain most of the time.

Mum follows “a balanced diet” with gusto. It includes lots of fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, meat, fish when we can get it, honey, malt, molasses and bran. What a great sight she is at the breakfast table with her yoghurt, honey, molasses, malt, bran and corn flakes mixed in a bowl, followed by brown bread and a couple of eggs from her Australorp hens. Her enormous breakfast ends with a steaming mug of tea or coffee.

Barbara is also being more adventurous and gradually getting used to the fact that she can’t have rice and curry at every meal. She takes almost an hour to eat breakfast after making her own toast and steamed egg. Finally, she prepares a flask of coffee to take to the workshop. Barbie washes up when it’s her turn and is in charge of setting the table.

At the Activities Therapy Centre where she goes every day by bus, they go bowling and horse riding once a week, cook their lunches on Thursdays, go shopping and see school plays for entertainment. They went to the circus and go on picnics once a month. All of this in the last two months! Her new manager is doing a wonderful job.

Mum reads Barbie fairy tales at night, so yes, a vast improvement. However, she tends to withdraw about once a month and on those occasions, we have to give her tranquillisers; very low doses, thank goodness. 

Mum, of course, thinks of all of you but seems unable to put pen to paper to express herself.

I have a Calculus examination in four weeks time and then immediately after I have to buckle down to some serious and concentrated study of computer science which is a quick learning of PASCAL with a long, careful look at the structure of computer languages. Last year I studied Basic, Fortran and Cobol.

Well, my dear, I’d better stop and tackle a few sums. The house gets awfully dusty because we have so little time to spare, apart from cooking and eating large meals!

Your loving sister,
Gita

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.

60. Settling In Australia – Journal Entry 19th Nov 1980

My dear M,

We are delighted with your good news. I am so excited I cannot settle down to my siesta.

We would love to have you here, there are jobs, but let us be cautious and say that the two of you should not find it difficult to earn a living.

However, we should take a long view of your life here and try to work out what might be best.

My own preference would be to advise you to stay in Queensland with us for one or two years until you become reasonably “Aussiefied”. I think your mum would be happier with that arrangement, no?

With R’s Bachelor of Commerce, a three-year external course on computing should make him highly competitive; within a year he would be viable. Without knowing too much, even now he should be able to get a nine to five job in some business without any difficulty.

I envisage both of you doing some study for a few years. Courses are free at tertiary institutions, but books and transport would be at your own expense.

If you would enjoy living thirty-five miles away from your place of work, be close to the sea on the weekends and holidays, lead a very quiet life, work hard for the next three years, then we would suggest you stay with us until you find your feet.

Now about what to bring, I find it hard to recommend anything. You need very little by way of household goods and only the most precious and personal possessions. Maybe sheets and towels to last three to five years? Shirts are about $20 to $30 each; maybe R already has a few suits? He could do with a few smart trousers I suppose. Menswear, for most business purposes, is casual; it is too hot otherwise, except only a couple of months a year.

Again you would need enough office clothes to last a few years. There are plenty of second-hand clothes shops that only charge a couple of dollars for clothes.

To explain: Johnny and I believe in making do with what we can get locally without hankering for foreign or “back home” goods. However, it is so good to have silk saris and gold jewellery to wear on special occasions.

Most masalas, Indian bedspreads, clothes and chappals are available in Australia; a little expensive in some cases, but not excessively so.

You might like bringing things like stainless steel cooking gear, plates and tumblers, enough say to entertain six to eight people. Stainless steel utensils are associated with hospitals here!

I enjoy occasionally setting a table for friends using banana leaves or stainless steel plates with tumblers to match – they seem to get a thrill out of it!

Bring a dosai skillet, cooking spoon, dhal masher or anything uniquely Indian for your own use – even an idli pot if you wish.

After discussing all of this with Johnny, his view is to get on without delay to one of the big cities (where the head offices are) if you are career-minded and want to get on in the world. Please don’t get the idea that we don’t want you to stay with us, we would like you to, but as Johnny suggests, it might not be a clever thing to do now.

There are such places as migrants’ hostels where you stay until you are able to set up on your own. I shall find out details about the migrant hostels in Brisbane or Sydney for you; we stayed in one.

I find it difficult to advise you on where to live without knowing your philosophy or aim in life. The weather should be the least of your worries when choosing a capital city. Melbourne is said to have the worst weather and is extremely changeable, even in one day. Sydney is colder than Brisbane and both are delightful in summer although Brisbane can be very hot. Don’t get me wrong, our northern winters are like a hot summers day in England or New Zealand! I like our mild winter here.

While I am delighted for you, I feel sad for those you will leave behind. You could well suffer from culture shock – the smells, sounds and gestures are all different. Now we love Australia and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Brisbane and Sydney are both good places to live in. Brisbane is more “rural” or should I say like a large thriving country town. Sydney is a lot colder, but don’t bring any woollens, there are plenty around.

Gran has left it to us to advise you she is very happy for you.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • 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.

56. Letter From A Year Ago – Journal Entry 16th Jun 1979

I’m sitting outside the student cafeteria, trying to stay cool under a big umbrella. Today we have a minor test in preliminary maths, a course run by Johnny, which I started at the beginning of the year. With approximately one hour to go, I decided to reply to your letter. I’m reading an excellent book by Zimmer called Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilisation, however, I found it difficult to concentrate on.

The campus here is really beautiful as tertiary institution campuses go. A landscape expert was hired and within a couple of years, the garden improved out of sight. Large rocks, huge lumps of driftwood and two or three bleached tree trunks are arranged attractively with trees and flowering shrubs grouped in hillocks. Mind you, winter here is mild – about 15 degrees Celsius in the morning – and the gardens are so colourful, just about anything will grow in winter if you take the trouble to tend the plants, even daffodils.

To get back to the campus and the people milling around, I just like being in a learning environment. I suppose having stopped school so early could account for it. I could be an eternal student if circumstances would allow it. We shall see.

The course I’m doing is something designed for adults, it prepares one for entry to a maths degree or just for the pleasure of doing mathematics. It’s an excellent course that was designed in England with great results. Johnny introduced it here for the first time this year and three lecturers have put many hours of work into developing it for Australians. There are great notes and tapes to accompany the texts. The drop-out rate, however, among part-timers has been high as they just found it too hard. So that will be something for the Maths Department to think about.

In the course of my letters, I’ll try to convey the flavour of life here, though we’re rather prejudiced. We think life in Queensland is really “beaut” if you’re independent, handy and make your own life instead of hankering after the pleasures of a big city. One feels isolated here, one is isolated, but as long as there is mobility, trips south to catch up on news, new things, say once a year, life in Central Queensland can be very good. Sydney we loved, an unusual city with its ferries, gardens and swimming pools; Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide I don’t know and look forward to visiting them sometime in the future.

To get off the subject of Australia, I was wondering if you could look out for old recipe books on Indian cooking from the second-hand book stalls or friends. I have Veerasami’s cookbook. I don’t particularly want the latest books, unless you think them worth having. Ask Aunty Nora too, she may be able to pick up something.

Also I wonder if R would mind giving me recipes that the hotel uses – the kormas and biriyanis seem hard to reproduce here – actually any recipes of Indian cooking as I’m deeply interested. Last year I ran a course on basic Indian cooking and could have run a couple more this year if I hadn’t started this course.

I am also very interested in kolams. Aunty Nora sent me some pamphlets years ago and Jaya drew some kolams for me. If you are able to dig up information on them and any stories on Indian food, I’d be grateful.

The Travels of Marco Polo is useful to give you an idea of what life must have been long ago and yet one asks, has anything changed? Nilakanta Sastri’s History of South India gives one a glimmer. I deeply regret not learning much about Indian life and culture, especially when I am asked about certain customs and taboos. When we first came here we were dismayed at the barrenness of culture when compared to India and Southeast Asia. The streets here are empty, no drums are heard, there is very rarely a procession and the markets are missing…

When we returned from the Philippines, I appreciated the privacy, the having to “do for oneself”, the way of life, the freedom to take whatever job one wanted without worrying about loss of status. Mind you there are some silly people around but then you get them everywhere.

Blast it, the more I think about it, the more I’m attracted to going back to India to explore a few things, just to revel in its crowds, flower bazaars, trains, silks, dances and music… above all Kathakali, whole nights of Kathakali.

Gran keeps trying the local lotteries (it’s seven years since she left India) she’d like to go back for a visit, mainly to see the family.

Got to go.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Found this draft letter from 1979 amongst notes and journals on loose-leaf papers dated 1980, so I have added this to the journal series with some of my mother’s hand-drawn kolams.
  • 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.

38. Memories of India – Journal Entry 30th Apr 1979

It was good to receive your letter. We wondered how you had gone with the interview. Johnny certainly enjoyed reading your letter as good letter writers are so rare.

The photographs were very informative, they revived memories and feelings that have been sternly suppressed for twelve years. One is of course grateful for any scrap of news. Averil in a sari was a heartening sight. Johnny and I feel very strongly about being as Indian as possible in India, one is Indian, and any other way is slightly suicidal. Yes, it’s easy for us to speak from this comfortable distance, but we love and miss many of the good things of India. Indians abroad are usually invited to speak on India and are asked many questions about religion, poverty, food, clothing, etc.

I’ve run adult education classes on Indian cooking and given a few talks and demonstrations at the local high school. Many of our Indian friends tell us quietly, but with amusement, that they have had to visit the nearby libraries so they are able to answer the queries put to them about India.

I regret very much not having bothered to learn more of the culture I was born in. Had I a choice of an overseas holiday, I would most likely spend it in India, pursuing a few of my interests like kolams and regional cooking.

I’ve written a teach-yourself-to-cook Indian cookbook but haven’t bothered to revise the manuscript, something I’d been meaning to get to daily for the past three years!

Perhaps R can swap recipes? For instance, I’ve tried making Naan roti but have yet to achieve a reasonable one. The recipe books are not much use. What actually goes into Naan and should the oven be hotter than 550 degrees F?

Today gran and I made brinjal pickle (homegrown) and lemon pickle too. The lemon pickle recipe is one your mother taught us when we were kids.

We can grow most Indian vegetables if we have the seed. We have to depend on what’s available through the seed companies as seeds are not allowed into the country. Our most precious plants are two curry leaf seedlings. We grow, or have grown, okra, brinjal, four different types of chilli, guavas, mangoes, spinach, bitter gourd, snake gourd, pumpkin and dhal greens. Not the proper dhal greens, a weed, but good enough. The house we bought already had four large mango trees.

Gran (or Nana, as you call her) is the keen gardener and raiser of chicks and ducks. The garden suffers when she gets a temporary job – usually looking after invalid old ladies. At the moment she is sewing hats, bags and shirts, to sell in a friend’s craft shop.

19th May 1979

Have lost my perspective of what I was going to do this year. Sidetracked again but something good and right came up. Joan has formed a catering group and there is much work to be done before any return can be seen. In the meantime I have neglected P-maths and am very agitated. Need to sort myself out.

Jobs Pending
  • Meals On Wheels (M.O.W.) – ask Janet to take over
  • Pancakes for tuckshop – what should I do? Give it away?
  • Candles – lots of wax to be used up
  • Plants at Magnussons – continue?
  • Garden – needs attention
  • Chooks and pen
  • Family, of course
  • Car Maintenance

Just phoned Janet, she will take over M.O.W. Also ordered some avocados for Monday evening.

3rd Jul 1979

A few things have to be planned for next week. I’m away Tuesday and Wednesday nights. And maybe Thursday?

  • Cheque to Bankcard
  • Letter of resignation
  • Make cooking and house notes for family
  • Lots of P-maths
  • Sort out insurances
  • Visit Cyss
  • Johnny’s clothes need to be prepared.

Cleansing Diet

The general idea is that if the body is purified, it will heal itself.
So apply (1) and (2) on alternate days.

Breakfast (1)
Grated pineapple with grated seeds
(almonds but not peanuts)

Breakfast (2)
Plain biscuits with butter
1 slice wholemeal toast
2 lightly poached eggs

Mid-morning: juice 3 oranges

Lunch (1)
Salad (any)
Raisin, nuts

Lunch (2)
Fruit (apples in particular)

Mid-afternoon: 3 oranges

Dinner (1)
Steamed veg
Veg rissoles (onions, egg, no sauces)

Dinner (2)
Salad
Nutmeat

No liquids for an hour before and two hours after a meal. No meat, condiments, tea or coffee. If sweets are craved, eat brown rice with milk but no sugar, yoghurt or custard without sugar. Drink Kurk brew instead of tea or coffee.

***

The pain is constant. Time, that clichéd healer, should dull it, but at the moment I welcome the pain – in fact, I deliberately foster it.

Absolute folly, it interferes with day-to-day activities. I wish to write it off as a delightfully human and rare experience and leave it at that. What else is there to do? You must get on with your life, and soon, please. We only have one life each of us, and the years go so quickly. I agree most heartily, I wish we had never met, the agony is terrible. The conflict for me is awful.

All this must seem rather dramatic to you but what the hell, if we can’t make love let us at least attempt to make literature! Shall I put you in a book and thereby absorb you in a less destructive way?

In what way is my behaviour different from Barbie’s behaviour when she withdraws? I have the same urge to be by myself, I don’t feel hungry, well not as much as I normally do. I like wandering about in the garden and I can’t concentrate. Sleep is at a minimum.

The disco was fun. I danced from the time I got there to finishing time which was 11:30pm. My partner was ‘stretch’, a very tall guy. He was young and clean and wore glasses, which gave the impression he was learned. Took a crowd afterwards to the Singing Ship. The moon was disturbingly bright. The young ones went off to make wishes at the well. I sat in the moke and brooded. It had been a wonderful evening.

There is no future or present, only a brief past. A past that should not have been.

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.
  • In Emu Park: “The Singing Ship memorial commemorates Captain Cook`s Bicentenary in 1970 and marks his exploration of the bay in May, 1770. The memorial represents the billowing sail, mast and rigging of his ship Endeavour. Concealed organ pipes use the sea breezes to create eerie music.” Ref: Monument Australia, click here.

34. Catching Up On Letters – Journal Entry 13th Jan 1979

The weather is humid, the sky overcast and there’s a steady roar of mowers.

We have been rearranging furniture in various rooms. Brown built bookshelves have replaced our wooden shelves. Some planks went to Marcello’s room to make shelves. Mum moved boxes, from under her bed, to a shelf over her bedroom door. I’m now in the file room and my old desk has gone to the verandah for a sewing table. The pink table is still for glass cutting. Now the house looks a lot tidier and workmanlike.

Finished Illich’s Tools for Conviviality:
– Must use verbs rather than nouns
– Limits should be set on the use and growth of tools and the type of tools used

I must catch up on my letters.

Rolf,
I called on Herman after talking to you. He was shocked at the price too and mentioned “having it out” with one or two people. I pointed out that the object of the exercise – in view of the letter from the Council – was to get the darn thing fixed. He agreed. I also pointed out that if we argued now, we’d find it difficult to get the job done. He agreed with that too and said the plumber at Keppel Sands was terrible anyway. He couldn’t think of alternatives. If you wish to sue someone later, you may do so, but frankly it’s not worth the effort. I told Herman the history of the septic tank, as told to me by J.A.

Herman said that if what I said was true, the man who installed it was not licensed to have done so. I was also told by J.A. that Emu Park must have the worst drainage system for miles around with lots of clay. However, I looked at your place. The allotment next to you has had an electric pole erected quite near yours. Water appears to be sitting in the gutter on the road and right across the allotment entrance. I don’t think we have to look far for the informant.

Marcello mowed and cleaned up the yard after the runaway tenants and now doesn’t owe you any money. Herman has agreed to do the yard – we thought it a diplomatic gesture; Marcello doesn’t mind and I hope you don’t. I told Herman how much Marcello charged. Business is not good at the moment and they’re glad of odd jobs.

Herman said Julie had someone about to move in but I can’t confirm yet and the real estate phoned today to say he has a tenant, so I directed him to Julie. Herman is also trying to sell a house (to get money for building materials to give his boys work) and wanted to know if you wanted him to try and sell yours too. If any more house problems arise do let us know directly, or through Herman, as four heads are better than two.

Frank,
After all the trouble you’ve taken to give me forms for the Indian cooking, I’ve decided I’d be pushing my luck trying to run good cooking courses while studying maths. My fairly large family also make demands on my time, I’d better concentrate on a bit of study, so I can be a more useful member of the community. It’s a pity really because I could do with the money. However, I’m still interested in Worrabinda, but at the weekends. Also, anything going on out west to which I can contribute – even candles – let me know. If pushed, I can stretch the course!

Hamish,
Thank you very much for your card. May you have an excellent 1979. I met Cathy the other day and got some news of you. I hope your new home is as nice as the one you had at Emu Park. Things are very quiet, one soldiers on. It was good to have Rolf with us for a few days in mid-December. Otherwise, it’s chooks and garden and some S.F. and Illich and much discussion of unemployment, rapid change, bewilderment, anxiety, government, UFOs and some bad chess.

Doris,
It was good to receive your card. May you have an excellent 1979. Over here, things are quiet, uneventful, yet hellishly busy. The Rover has had an engine transplant (a Holden engine) and we’ve managed to camp twice at Five Rocks. We’re leaving on Thursday on our third camp to round off the school holidays. Apart from life getting tougher, what else is there in the new future dear friends?

Andrew,
I must apologise for the inordinate delay in replying to your letter. Also for not noting you had given me Greg’s number and hence taking so long to contact him. I sent a message through a neighbour which didn’t reach him.

However, this is the present state of play: Greg is building a new boat and won’t be going anywhere this year. His brother Chris may be going in June or July and Greg will ask his brother if he would bring the birds to you. I’m to await a reply.

I’ve asked several people but so far no luck. The present price for guinea fowl is $5 for an adult and $2 for a chick. If the arrangement with Chris does not come off, I thought I might send eggs through the post. They’re less likely to die on the way, if well-packed. Then all you need to do is hatch them with a foster-bird, preferably a duck for the goose eggs. You can see the advantages, can’t you, of having a large brood straight away instead of waiting for the adult birds to breed? Geese start laying in August. I know guinea fowl lay around that time too. But whether the guinea fowl lay twice a year, I’m not sure. I do know they don’t lay eggs as often as hens.

I was going to contact a woman for pheasants, but she has sold or given them all away. I was told that someone in Mackay has pheasants. You may wish to make enquiries. In the meantime, I changed my mind about attempting to get some for myself. I’d like to reduce our bird stock to a manageable size so that when we go camping, the neighbour’s daughter can look after the poultry.

I haven’t yet thanked you for your nice long letter. Please write as much and as often as you like. The kids and I are keen on poultry, goats, veg and islands and thoroughly enjoyed reading your letter.

My widowed mother lives with us too and it’s thanks to her efforts that we have a thriving poultry yard and a reasonably productive vegetable garden.

The kids help (Gareth 10 years old, Karen 15 years, Marcello 17 years and Monika 17 years) and are amazed at the results of their labour. They cleared a patch of garden, which we reclaimed, dumped an old mattress, paper and household rubbish, then mulched the top with lots of cut lucerne and grass clippings. My mother and I then planted honey dew melons, okra, tomato and pumpkin. Now the area is a profusion of leaves and vines with okra, capsicum and tomato sticking out here and there above the pumpkin leaves. We also grow a lot of eggplant. It is hardy and prolific. Today is the 23rd of January and there’s a gusty wind blowing through the Queensland hoop pine trees. The sun is shining after yesterday’s heavy rain. The garden is well soaked, a blessed relief after such a long, dry spell. We have water restrictions so no sprinklers are allowed, only hand-held hoses.

I’ve started reading a fascinating book entitled, The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird. I’m halfway through and will have to read it several times (and read some of the other books referred in it) before I can digest it. Even this preliminary reading is mind-bursting. Much of it may be familiar to you, who are so much in contact with plants and growing and caring for them. If you can borrow or buy a copy of this book, please do so.

We were to go camping at Stockyard Point (just north of Corio Bay) but decided the road would be too boggy even for a Land Rover with winch attached. So we’re staying home for the last 5 days of the children’s school holidays. We’ll go to the swamp to collect duckweed for the ducks, play cards, read, cook big festive meals and generally live it up.

Kim and Jill called some while back. It was good to see them so brown and physically fit. They gave me more details of your island.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

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

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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

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  • 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

 

 

22. Back Home to Australia – Journal Entry 17th Nov 1973

Muchlater

We returned to Emu Park from the Philippines and our family bought a beautiful Queensland home set on the top of a hill. We could see the ocean in the distance through a row of fully grown Norfolk pines.

Beloved,

I dreamed of you last night. You returned without your beard. I was very surprised. The dream is easily explained, I had shown your R.A.F. photograph to Gareth.

Thank you, my love, for your letter of the 11th received today. We bought three chooks, frozen, from Benn’s.

Quite a day. We went at 6am to the beach; the pup ran around and Gareth rode his bike. We won’t go tomorrow because the pup is sick. We may have overfed him and carried him around too much.

So then we came home from the beach and did some housework (or homework as Janine says). And then about 10am the Svendsen kids came and we all went to the beach again to eat cake and watermelon and to swim.

Left them at their house to get ready for Cinderella, a play by the Junior Little Theatre. We went home, had lunch and then went to the Daltons.

Sue left on Thursday. Benjamin was not well and she thought she’d keep him quiet at home. He gets rather excited here.

Oh darling, all the lettuces have gone to seed.

It’s fun having the Rover to drive.

About Blue, the pup. Do you like the name? Well about Blue; Marcello is in charge of him and it’s the funniest thing – Marcello cleaning Blue’s pooh! And his vomit. Mig is also very fussy and protective over Blue. He stayed in the car with Blue in case stray dogs attacked. Won’t give us much time with the pup. At the moment they’re asleep together. Poor Karen, she wants a pup now. Anyway she’s waiting for her kitten. Gareth and I are to look after Blue when Marcello is at school.

Johnny, I love you. Things are strange without you.

18th Nov 1973 – Night

The Rs called. I was asleep, the kids were at the beach. However, the Rs returned after visiting the Fullers and stayed till 7pm. It was very nice. R’s parents separated when he was 4. He lived with his father till 8 years of age and then returned to his mother. However, he was always away from home and only spent one year living with his mother. They told me lots more things. They send $100 every month to R’s mother.

I’ve unpacked our files. Found the Curry chapter. Finished The Thousand and One Nights. Wrote out cheques. Felt quite important doing so. I’m working at your desk.

The kids and I now sleep in the main bedroom. Not Marcello though, he has Blue in his room because Blue plays at night and bites our toes and tugs our hair! Pity, I enjoyed sleeping in the study.

Don’t know what happened to that crate of apples. Railway strike was on a couple of days so don’t know when the plums etc will arrive.

End of a whole week without you.
I love you my love.

Your
Gita

WastpaperBasketPoem
Poem by Gita Nov 1973

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18. Holiday Goat – Journal Entry 24th Aug 1970

[First part of a letter to a friend. One footnote added.]

Would you have time to dash off a few(?) illustrations for the manuscripts attached? I’m sending one manuscript by the man* to give you an idea of the sort of drawings we have in mind – simple and childish.

What do you think? If you are busy just read the stories and send them back with suggestions if you have any. There is another very long story the man has written, for children, which I would very much like to be illustrated by you. I have yet to type it. That too I shall send in a few days’ time; don’t worry if you can’t do the drawings – at least read it and tell me what you think of it.

We move to Sydney in six weeks time. Got the job with the consultancy firm. We’re looking forward to the change. Will report.

The two weeks August holidays were spent in a house on the beach. ‘Twas good. The man worked and the children played on the beach.

We lost our goat, much to our delight and slight guilt on my part. It was like this: I borrowed the goat as a pet for the children because we don’t like dogs or cats in the house – not that the goat was allowed in the house. She came in once and peed into our coffee cups. At least, we thought, the goat won’t follow us around and she will eat grass. No problem. Alas, the goat thought she was a dog, followed us about, ate the duck’s feed every chance she got, slipped to the neighbour’s garden every chance she got and was generally a nuisance. So when we went to the beach house, we let her loose because we were away from people. She followed us everywhere – even when we went to look at the moonlight on the sea. One day she was gone. Don’t know whether she followed people walking along the beach or whether the dingoes got her. I tried – honestly I tried – offering her to everyone I saw, but no luck.

I heard a good story the other day. There was an old man cleaning the garden of the beach house when we arrived for our holiday (just two miles from our house). A nice old man. His name, I learnt is Ollie. His surname is Collie, so people call him Ollie Collie. He drank too much at one time, went off his head and was put in an asylum. He was let out after a while. Some time later he had a fight in the pub with another guy and this Ollie Collie stood up and announced, “I’m the only man in Emu Park who has a certificate to say he is sane.”

Footnote:

* man refers to Johnny. He wrote short stories for us when we were young children.

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15. Fair Dinkum Aussies – Journal Entry 13th Dec 1969

My dear Cynthia,

So you are back in Nepal. Thank you for a very nice letter. Things seem not so bad your way. I’ll try and write as much as possible but honestly Cynthia, you can be so busy doing absolutely nothing. Not really, but you know what I mean… school picnics, farewell parties, breakup parties and goodness knows what else. I quite enjoy it all but I hate being rushed. The housework rarely gets done.

Last night we laid tiles on the bathroom floor. We’ve decided to rent this place for another year and the landlord gave us the material and we supplied the labour – the bathroom was in a mess before and water always leaked onto the stairs.

I haven’t given you the good news – we are allowed to stay in Australia for two years, that is two years from February next. And my mother received the letter you posted. Thank you very, very much. I was so relieved (sounds like an ad for constipation pills or something). You know what Cynthia, my mother has been without money from us for nearly 4 months. I don’t know what the bank had been up to. I was absolutely shattered. Poor mum was so worried. Anyway now everything is fine again. My brother is back at work (I think I told you this) and he lost his second son aged  1½ years. They didn’t tell me how.

We are fair dinkum Aussies. Got a new lawn mower and a fridge. We’re paying for them out of the housekeeping money. Grass grows so quickly here and the risk of grass fires is very high. Don’t forget, the houses are made of wood which makes people highly nervous of fires. It is illegal to have a bonfire even. You have to have permission. I told you about the fire we started up the hill at the back of the house and how it got out of hand. My word was I scared. Could have been fined $40 (400 or more rupees) but the cop let us off because we were green and ignorant.

It is summer now and pleasantly hot and mosquitoey. It is miserable in Rockhampton. Don’t forget we are on the coast 35 miles away. Fancy having Christmas in bikinis. I made myself a pair the other day and will be making some more. Much cheaper. The bikinis.

Gareth can now say mum, mum, mum, and sing This Old Man (hum it of course) and two of the children’s school songs. He understands quite a lot and shuts doors when he is told to, and shuts drawers. Gareth can’t see an open drawer without going up to it and pushing it in – I wonder what sort of complex he is going to have? He helps clear the dining table and also likes hosing the ducks, driving the car and mopping the floor. He has long conversations with anyone who is willing to have long conversations with him.

The older kids have just finished school and have been promoted with honours to the next grade. Marcello actually was given an E for mathematics so I’ll be working with them over the holidays trying to get them up to standard for the new term.

Now a couple of requests at your convenience: Could you collect stamps that come your way and shove them into an envelope to send to me? That is you keep them in a drawer until they number four or six or something and then send them. No hurry. There is a very nice kid who has asked me to write to my friends for them. The other request is for a copy of the Peace Corps Nepali cookbook I had. It disappeared in the post and I would very much like to have another copy to help me with the recipe book I’ll be working on. I don’t know how easy it is to get it but could you please try? Anything I can do for you at this end you only have to ask.

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