64. Carnage, Dog vs Ducks – Journal Entry 26th Feb 1981

Made oatmeal crunchies for Nathaniel’s playgroup, with extra for the family, and a salad for my lunch. After a little bit of tidying, I took Monika and Nathaniel to Yeppoon and then called on Linda. The Rover was spluttering somewhat, so I looked under the bonnet but couldn’t locate any obvious defect. Had coffee with Linda and we talked about being in our forties, feeling inadequate and frustrated, feeling one has missed the boat and wondering about one’s marriage. We discussed what skills to acquire, at this late age, in order to earn a living.

Made a chilli and coriander omelette for lunch with cold duck, brown bread, carrot salad and cider, put everything onto a tray, and ate outside at the barbecue table. After I had coffee in the kitchen and talked to mum, I managed to collect a few herbs and guava seedlings.

On the way to pick up Monika and Nathaniel, the Rover came to a standstill outside the Island View Caravan Park. After cleaning two spark plugs, I was able to drive off proudly.

When I returned, the family were back from school and work, so I read for a while and then made noodles and liver for dinner.

Johnny rang to say the moke was not back from the garage; he suggested I drive the Rover in the daylight to Rocky so I wouldn’t have to worry about its faulty light switches. Managed to get to CIAE to pick up Johnny, the Rover only “coughed” once or twice. The light, although brighter than twilight, was strange and heartbreaking and the countryside looked bright green. After the rains, Cawarral Road was lined on both sides with tall grass with delicate blades.

27th Feb 1981

A cyclone is heading for the coast, 300 km north of us. The rain is already falling steadily and the wind is very gusty; our chooks and ducks are drenched. The chickens must feel miserable in this weather without adequate dry housing.

11th Apr 1981

Poor mum cried when she saw the carnage in the duck pen. We lost eight ducks, many ducklings and two young Australorps. Another duck carcass was found inside the shed. Later I found a young injured drake that had tried to escape, caught between a sheet of iron and the wire fence. It had managed to stay alive, hiding from the dog that mauled its leg. Marcello’s ducks were safe and another young duck and some of our ducklings crept out of the bushes later that day. However, the next day, the rogue dog, a blue heeler, returned to Marcello’s pen, chasing his bantams around with great leaps. Dusty, our own dog, was encouraging it and, in fact, she nearly joined in the game! We found out who owned the dog and had permission to beat it (which I did) with a hose and a dead hen. Neither hurt the dog and it was glad to get away under a nearby caravan; I was upset and breathless from the effort. One of our other neighbours told me he had seen a few dogs over the weekend, one of them with a brown duck in its mouth.

It was so good to see Hamish. He called in for a visit with an American lass who was studying for a Master’s degree in Zoology at the University of Queensland. She told me the members of the Zoology Department’s Coffee Club owned a Jersey cow. They sold the surplus milk, far too much for their club, to the other department coffee clubs. They also had an egg cooperative, started by an adept member, who was told he could not exceed the limits of hens allowed for any one household. He consulted Legal Aid, then formed a cooperative and now looks after all the hens; the Egg Board can’t do anything about it.

“In true hegemonic style, the locally powerful were busy blaming their victims rather than themselves.” Colin Bell

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.

62. What I Want To Be – Journal Entry 23rd Dec 1980

Baked little chocolate cakes for Gran to take to her Christmas breakup party at the Pensioner’s Club and then had a long talk with Johnny about what he would really like to be doing.

“Be an independent scientist or scholar, work less at my academic job and more in the real world,” he says.

Johnny’s interests are anthropology and social sciences. Ideally, he would like to take two or three years off to do more arts, act in more plays, write more, and play flute and bagpipes. He would improve the present set up so he could read more books, peruse ACM periodicals and work on algebraic manipulation and programming on small computer networks. Perhaps, he says, a PhD on mathematical programming for small computers and probabilistic networks; maybe even write a series of papers.

“What would you like to do?” Johnny asks.

I would like to learn to use the resources around us, write books, grow trees and shrubs, study, read, work part-time, learn to repair cars, do household repairs, learn about plumbing, sewing and embroidery. I would like to travel interstate more and work in the Emu Park community, especially at the planning level.

I want to be a well-disciplined person with good general knowledge and skills in many areas, continue my studies in the Department, in at least one area, and lead a fairly steady and well-balanced life. In order to achieve this, there must be strict adherence to study before relaxing my guard. The essentials are 15 mins exercising, 30 mins writing in my diary, 3 hours of study, 2 hours of reading, 1 hour in the kitchen, a ½ hour at the bus stop and do 1 hour of homework each weekday at 4 pm.

15th Jan 1981

Went to the beach at 6 am with Karen and we met Sister Benedict and Sister Elizabeth. They were returning to the convent after a paddle in the sea and a stroll along the beach.

They were down to only four nuns in the convent so Sr Benedict had come with four new nuns to make up the numbers. They will be building a new convent soon at Lammermoor Beach.

Sr Elizabeth said that these things take a while to set up and get started. I noted it was important to get an organisation going, well before worrying too much about housing, and Sr Benedict agreed. I made the observation that the nuns were crowded at the Sisters of Mary’s house and that they were all too accessible.

“Too accessible, Gita, too accessible!” Sr Benedict laughed, highly amused. The Benedictines are an enclosed order.

Karen and I continued on our walk to the beach. We tried the new “scout” gait of running a certain number of steps and walking a certain number of steps. This way of travelling by foot is said to be effective for covering great distances.

Dusty was let off the lead and ran around most vigorously. She has a bad habit when greeting people and demonstrated it on Dick. Dusty ran up to him and practically shoving her nose up his bum before sniffing his ankles. Dick didn’t react much though! He goes running every day and must be quite used to dogs chasing him.

On seeing me running, Dick grinned. “Are you trying to take some weight off?” he asked.
I’m sure he wasn’t even aware of the beauty of the restless waves in the early morning light.

Johnny worked at home today so I cancelled our planned picnic lunch at Farnborough.

Nancy and Ron’s new house is made out of rough rock block and wood with a verandah out the back and a porch at the front. Beautiful views from practically every window, of green fields, a few hills, and far away in the distance, the sea glistening in the sunlight. There was a slow combustion stove in the kitchen keeping the water hot, lots of pine and a cupboard full of pottery, cookbooks, crockery, jars of wholemeal spaghetti, beans, soy sauce and various decorative vegetables. In the sitting room were a few old pieces of furniture and a small bookshelf containing books on mothercraft. The rest of the spaces were taken up with toys and more toys. Hanging baskets and potted plants hung on the back verandah with the usual washing tubs and washing machine. Ron had built most of the house himself and Nancy had planted most of the trees. They spent most weekends last year on getting the house ready. I hope they do great things there, it’s a lovely patch of earth.

17th Jan 1981

After a fairly busy morning, I went to the kitchen to find Gran had started on the cake icing and made quite a mess of it. I was a bit annoyed. I gave her a small lecture later on about not being hasty. Anyway, I put the icing through the mouli and beat in a couple of yolks but the icing remained sticky. We couldn’t pack the patty cakes in sets of six so we took the lot down to the Bowling Club street stall and left the organisers to sort them out. After leaving the cupcakes at the stall, I bought a piece of pumpkin and some passionfruit while Gran bought raffle tickets. The raffle prize was a beautifully iced cake. It was a large heart-shaped cake with white icing and on top were a lovely arrangement of delicate pink open-petalled icing flowers with blue stigma. Bev won the cake and the club made about $130 on the sale of cakes, plants and vegetables at their stall. I drove the family home and Karen and I went for a long walk along the beach.

18th Jan 1981

This morning I had a small chat with Johnny about not seeing much of each other in the past 24 hours. Johnny has been playing Piquet with Gareth and they’ve been having a lot of fun over it. It’s a game they’ve just taught themselves and they’re keen to play it, their best card game so far.

I’ve been taking long walks with Karen and Dusty. The beach this morning was crowded with families, dogs, surfboards and kites. Mum was taken to the church in Yeppoon and has just returned to one of her nutritious breakfasts: yoghurt, cereal, malt, molasses, fruit and honey for the first course and toast and apricot jam for the second, although she usually has a couple of fried eggs on her toast.

The topic of conversation on the beach yesterday was about sex and violence in our society against women, mainly pack rape and rape in one’s bedroom by an intruder. Karen and I decided to take lessons in self-defence! This morning we talked about the family and wondered what everyone would do with their lives in the future.

It is raining now and seems to be settling in for a while. I must make a rag doll for Nathaniel, revamp the clothes in my wardrobe, get a brush and brown paint for the dining room table legs, make the pork adobo and do lots of reading and writing.

For lunch, I made soybean vada and brinjal chutney. Ellen called before lunch and Johnny lent her a small pile of good books to read, like The Savage Mind, The Black People of Bourke, etc. It was so good to see Ellen again.

In the evening we went to Greg’s housewarming party and Karen and Gareth seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

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.

61. Geese Are Magical Birds – Journal Entry 23rd Nov 1980

Had a very sore throat yesterday and a fairly severe earache. Went to bed at 10 pm and woke again at 3 am with the pain. Did some summation of sequences, took a couple of Panadeine, had a hot coffee, worked some more and felt much better. Went back to bed but still couldn’t sleep so I read a book on sorghum. Talked with Johnny this morning and he is worried about me being erratic and unpredictable.

Activities from last week:

Friday: COBOL exam (didn’t do well) and had lunch for Tom.

Saturday: Slaughtered ducks and chooks.

Monday: Met Sam at the camping grounds to talk about what was going on there. Went with others of the protest group to talk to the Lions Club about the park. Dinner was good in spite of the patchwork pastry on the meat and potato pie.

Tuesday: Went out talking to a few people about the petition and then later to the public meeting at the CWA on whether the town needed a youth and citizen association. The library building will be vacant and this group would like to use the building as a community centre. Took Monika to Farnborough. Spent time chatting with friends and didn’t get back until 12 noon. Nancy called in and we picked tomatoes then went to see Joan. Gareth was out and I continued to repair the duck coop.

Wednesday: Felt euphoric after weeks of hard work and long hours. More signatures to collect on the petition and Barbie at home under medication.

Thursday: Went to the library in Rocky and returned at 3 pm for a siesta until 5 pm. Gran is out at Tannum Sands. Johnny returned at 5 pm and helped get dinner ready.

Friday: Cooked all day and made tomato sauce, tomato puree, oatmeal crunch, beans for salad, veal stew and stewed peaches. Mrs D was invited to morning tea. Will make mango pickle and mango chutney.

30th Nov 1980

Draft Letter to Andrew:

Thank you for your last two letters and for that excellent parcel of honey. I must apologise for taking so long to tell you how much the family enjoy the honey. Johnny really liked the comb honey and it is something we have not had before. Not only is comb honey delicious, its structure is so wondrous. I cannot decide which I enjoyed more, the appearance or the taste.

Your news of the geese was appreciated. To me, geese are intelligent and affectionate birds and you seem to feel the same way about them. Of course, you won’t be too upset when they hiss or attack you during brooding time, will you? They make excellent parents. Goslings, on the other hand, tend to give their adult relatives a hard time. The geese seem to find it difficult to control their young!

Study time is over for me for a while, although I have extra revision and study I want to do over the holidays.

Mango season is on us which means chutney time. You must be busy with making your chutney too. We grew a lot of small tomatoes so I’ve been busy converting them into tomato sauce and puree. Guavas were plentiful and I’ve made guava cheese. During semesters I freeze the fruit until I have the spare time to attend to them. It has been a good year for fruit: the mulberries were plentiful; the peach tree was loaded with relatively insect-free fruit; we’ve managed to grow some rockmelon; the tomatoes went crazy and we have a few okra plants; pretty handy for our large family. Oh yes, and my mother’s chooks laid lots of eggs. Life has never been so full of good things to eat.

Grain for the chickens is expensive and we’ve decided to grow sorghum wherever we can. It is difficult to let the chooks scratch for themselves, even though there is ample space, because of the neighbourhood dogs. Watering and my studies are the two main things stopping the garden from being really productive.

I may have told you I’m doing first-year mathematics and computing, a few subjects at a time. I’m a slow worker so I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time studying. Once I get the hang of it, I should be able to do more.

Life has been good and quite exciting these past two years. As I keep saying, we are very lucky to live in this part of the world and in this part of Australia – long may she prosper.

A later entry on 22nd Dec 1980:

Dear Andrew,

Hello and Happy Christmas. I started three letters to you but ended up with this little card.

Thank you for your package of honey and wax. The comb honey was excellent and much enjoyed by us, especially Johnny. I was taken by the beauty and simplicity of the structure of the comb.

I’m very glad you and the geese get on so well. Geese are magical birds. Here’s wishing you a productive and peaceful 1981.

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.

58. What Actually Happened – Journal Entry 14th Oct 1980

What am I planning and what am I actually getting done? What can I do to use my time more efficiently?

Notes on today:

5:10 am Got up and checked the horse outside. Tidied clean clothes in the bedroom, made two lots of sandwiches, had breakfast and took Barbara to the bus stop.
7:30 am Looked at the problem with the floor. Had tea with mum and Monika, talked to Nathaniel and sorted out what had to be done today at my desk.
8:15 am Regression line: linear problem 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 then had a break for 10 minutes.
9:45 am At goat pen mulching melons then had a phone call from Johnny.
10:15 am Doing Cobol assignment.
11:15 am Knocking off for a while.
1:30 pm Had a shower, went to the shop for floor polish and dropped off Gran.
3:40 pm Did floor with Monika and had a brief visit with Colin for a Cobol walk through. Had veal escalope with veg, new potatoes and guava in jelly for dinner.
7:30 pm Did Cobol coding checking and revision of Assignment 3
9:45 pm Johnny home and showered
11:15 pm Went to bed

Do a lot more Stats, finish Payroll updating and start new assignment.

15th Oct 1980

Plan:

Do Stats and Cobol, tidy bedroom and little room, ironing for Johnny and help him make dinner and pudding.

What actually happened:

5:30 am Last minute checking and revising of coding sheets so they could be sent off to the Computer Centre.
7:30 am Had breakfast, read the papers, went to the bus stop and talked to the bus driver about Barbara’s deteriorated state. There was a fight on the bus – Julie, the girl who had hit Barbara, scratched Brett badly on the arm. Brett her back, Julie laughed at him and Barbara howled. His had is swollen. The bus kids also tease Barbara when she talks to herself. Julie has been interfering with Barbara and Mandy.
9:30 am Cleaned the kitchen floor, made the coffee, had coffee, talked to Johnny and now at the desk about to begin Stats (Week 10, Chapter 9)
10:15 am Sum of normal random variables and scalar multiplication of normal random variables. Also had a talk on the phone with Helen about Barbara. Had a chat earlier about Rolf’s house.
10:40 am Had a break, picked mulberries and went for a walk with the turkey chicks.
12:00 pm Random sampling in finite and infinite population. Had lunch
1:15 pm Read the Woman’s Weekly then dozed until
2:35 pm Went outside with Nathaniel who was crying and then had tea in the kitchen.
3:45 pm Now at the desk and broke off to look for Barbara. Spoke to Reggie who drove the bus to the driveway. Barbie is burned up about being accused of pinching Julie’s boyfriend – this must have happened months ago, if it happened at all.
4:45 pm Didn’t get much done and had to drop Gareth’s friends off. Went to the new bus shelter so Gareth could put his initials in the wet concrete.
6:00 pm Had an excellent dinner.

Johnny made smoked cod in a cheesy cream sauce, yellow rice, cauliflower, carrots with lots of parsley and a lovely coffee sponge for the sweet course. This was the first time most of us had smoked cod and I hadn’t bought any because it wasn’t local and came from South Africa, although it could be from Japan.

Marianne, who I haven’t seen in a while, came up to turn off our tap; we were helping to fill their pool. Even with two taps running for most of the day, the pool was still only half-full. She was very impressed with the dinner Johnny had cooked and laughed, “When he’s finished up here would you send him down to my place?”

After dinner Johnny and I went out to pick up the little gravel that was left over after they made the floor of the new bus stop and we put a sack full on our driveway near the roots of the Moreton Bay fig tree.

When we got home, we had a nice evening with the family sitting around the kitchen talking about the election campaign and Doug Everingham’s intelligent and witty adverts. Marcello had cooked himself another meal of steak and eggs. I did some Stats but didn’t make much progress. I found a recipe for salted pumpkin seeds.

Rolf’s house was to be painted and cleaned up after the last tenants. There might be a prospective buyer and arrangements have been made for an auction after the cleaning and painting is finished.

Barbara has been over-excited at work and raving about being accused by Julie of pinching her boyfriend Robert. Brett’s incident seems to have aggravated her again. Apparently Julie slapped Barbara’s face and called her a slut some weeks back. I think Helen sent Barbara to the psychologist and the psychologist wanted to speak with me and the bus driver. On the way home, Barbara tried to enlist the bus kids’ sympathy on this pinching-of-boyfriends behaviour.

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.

57. Petty Behaviour – Journal Entry 13th Sep 1980

Extreme irritation seems to be the only indication or symptom I can identify over the past two weeks. I seem to have lost my girlish laughter and enthusiasm. Just about everything irritates me, the most irritating thing being me; Johnny and my mother next.

29th Sep 1980

Got over my irritation after talking to Johnny about it. Then this terrible evening where I was remorseful and then angry at Johnny. Must sort it out. Johnny says I must use my loaf, my excellent mind. I shocked myself at my angry response over a reasonable comment. I’m not working at the relationship. I’m self-absorbed, irrational and indulging in petty behaviour. Nor am I applying the same rules to myself as I apply to others. Johnny is afraid to say anything because of my unpredictable response and wants me to consider what it’s like to be Johnny having to live with Gita. He has to wait for the sun to shine again. What’s wrong between Johnny and Gita?

Let me list some of my recent petty behaviour:

I refused to use the stylus because Johnny had it when I needed it for my assignment. I was in the middle of writing, said he wouldn’t be long and then left it on his desk after using it to chat with one of the kids. I was furious but should have quietly pointed out what happened and carried on with the pen;

I was upset last night at Johnny shouting at Barbara over setting an extra place at the table;

I was angry and slightly bewildered at Johnny being nervous over my borrowing books on programming on his account. I gave him the book even though I needed it for my work. Then I made a mental note not to borrow books through Johnny. I will get my own ID on Monday so that I can borrow books on my own account.

Rather dangerous resolutions are taken thus, almost without thinking, which could cause further alienation: Not wanting to talk to Johnny about certain things because we seem to end up arguing or I clam up. Why do I clam up? Either because of a refusal to explore oneself, the topic is not important enough to bother arguing about or I don’t feel like standing up to Johnny; Not wanting to ask Johnny anything on study if I can help it. He is Head of Department and I am a mere student (a rather awkward position really) and also I don’t study very hard (then why don’t you pull your finger out) and might embarrass Johnny.

Surely it can’t be all my fault. I’ve listed most of what Johnny says about me, what can I say about Johnny that could contribute to bad relations between us? I couldn’t think of anything. He is good in most ways and also lets me know when I am triggering him. What about Johnny? Having taken the best years of his life and all of his money, what does he have? What about growing old together. Isn’t this another version of “I don’t want it anyway, keep the bloody thing?”

And having paid such a high price and involving so many people, can I just say, “Things are not working well, let’s call it off.” Especially as I’ve been told it’s mainly my fault. What can be done to make the relationship work all of the time?

When I try to explain, I’m told it is not time, I only think about myself or get a rude reply which means “Precious isn’t it?”

I said last night that I had a nasty habit of reacting badly when criticised. Johnny’s comment on being shocked at my selfishness over the book really threw me into despair.

I am such a shit, I feel a shit and occasionally I want to act like a shit. I feel so sorry for myself that I feel sick, yet if Johnny says I’m full of self-pity,  I get angry at him. Go on, really roll in the tears and snot…

To get back to our conversation, there I was confessing a nasty habit I had become aware of and Johnny mocks me with it the next morning! He repeated some of what I had said in a slightly mocking tone, saying I sounded almost proud that there was nothing I could do about it. He’s probably right. How was he to know it was an exposed nerve he was jumping on? Then he says, “Dramatic Gita, very dramatic. You said it, so why look surprised if it’s referred to again? You didn’t say it was a deadly secret, never before confessed to anyone, not even yourself and that it was not to be referred to again.”

All this is very well but we are far from a solution. As I see it there are three options:

  1. Give up the relationship
  2. Live together but live separate lives
  3. Make the relationship work excellently

I had thought of points 1 and 2 before July 1979, but not in detail. It was difficult to live with Johnny being critical of my behaviour. I find myself difficult to live with.

I thought of point 3 after Johnny rescued me from myself. Now it seems we’re back pre-July 1979. Johnny is critical of me so I don’t want to live with him. Terribly noble of me, no?

It would seem as though I’m doing the opposite of building a good relationship; trying to destroy it. But why? Is it classical psychology textbook behaviour? Having damaged the relationship, I am looking for ways to justify its destruction? Johnny, I’ve done this for you, can’t you behave better? Why must I always use my head for us, why can’t you?

Johnny appears to have given up all topics of conversation except what I want to talk about. It is quite ridiculous because I don’t have much to talk about. This complete dependence on me to keep the talk going, simply because I know very little and it is easier for Johnny to talk about what interests me, is not fruitful.

I don’t know what to do. I love him, I want him, I need him. I think he needs me. Then why do I think I don’t love him? Because if I did, I would look after him better than I do.

PoemToJohnny
By Gita

29th Sep 1980

Why do I feel so glad to see him when he returned early from the island yesterday afternoon? He had caught the hydrofoil back. We had coffee together and then I cut his hair. He cooked the evening meal, a simple meal of mashed potatoes with chives, a lettuce salad and veal marsala. He looked good with his face sunburnt and his hair short.

Later, after discussion, we reached the conclusion it was not a question of whether I loved him or not, but rather whether I was in a loving mood or not!

Quotes to remember:

“Mother, nothing can mask the taste of liver,” says Karen in reply to something I had said.

“Mr Fraser has finally made it to the family noticeboard,” says Gareth. Part of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s picture was on the back of the latest tide tables.

3rd Oct 1980

Last night the family had a discussion over dinner on whether we ought to give up Christmas presents to buy lino for the kitchen floor. Everyone decided against it.

15th Oct 1980

Solved the floor problem by removing the lino, scrubbing and oiling the floorboards. Looks very nice…

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.

55. The Nasty Mood Continued – Journal Entry 18th Aug 1980

The nasty mood continued. I had a particularly bad one and I was hurtful to Johnny.

We had a rather important discussion last night with reference to Ellerbrock’s article on Acne: we talked about faith healing and wondered how it worked; then looked at worry and stress and the damage it does. I said the body was in a state of siege and defined that to mean normal functions were stopped because the system was ready for an emergency, of an undefined sort, which could play havoc with the endocrine and nervous systems. Faith healing would appear to induce a relaxation that could be beneficial and is, in fact, beneficial because it would leave the body to get on with the repair.

Another important item of discussion was my observation that I would like to get back to being one hundred percent respectful and loving towards Johnny-blue-eyes. Apart from the problem of being together and thereby losing excitement through habituation, one has a closer idea of a person’s weaknesses. But now I realised that all of Johnny’s weaknesses are very minor and could be dealt with politely and easily. No, the problem as Johnny sees it is a cultural one, where being courteous and loving towards one’s spouse is not a prevalent habit, nor does it seem to be appreciated – though those who know us think Johnny and I have a wonderful relationship.

This morning I upset myself through a couple of minor skirmishes with Barbara and mum, but I did it to myself by not treating their incident as routine and minor. Being courteous and formal keeps emotions in check (and in perspective) rather than getting emotional then doing and saying things out of proportion to the incident.

I’m sick of lecturing to myself – why can’t I buckle down, steady up, just get on with it, instead of getting emotional and excited – to the point of not being able to breathe properly. Then I use this as an excuse for not doing work?

Johnny’s on holiday and it is very good to have him at his desk. At the moment he is trying to get a bumper bar for the moke. The bullbar we had proved too heavy for the moke and it snapped a steel mounting. A new bullbar costs $90, plus fitting costs, and the wreckers don’t seem to have anything suitable. Oh well, yet another bill. We could use the $50 I earned towards half a bullbar or tow.

19th Aug 1980

Illnesses must be regarded as madness of the body, indeed as “idees fixes” according to Novalis.

To get back to Johnny and my small talk a couple of nights back, I re-read Ellerbrock’s article again and found these hypotheses of his alarming, though Johnny says it’s something we’ve known about for a while.

  • “Human language, [a product of perceptual/cognitive/affective processes] reflects the error and distortions inherent in those processes; the language learned and used, with inherent errors, in turn, leads to additional perceptual and behavioural errors.”
  • “Irrational verbal behaviour, so readily allowing the making of statements contrary to reality, and irrational non-verbal behaviours initiate circular feedbacks which tend toward multiple repetitions, with corresponding amplification of the harmful responses of the body and the brain.” Both quotes from Ellerbrock, Co-Evolution Quarterly.

Anita called briefly yesterday to introduce us to her new husband. They seem very happy. It was good to see two people getting on well, especially after a long first marriage to someone else; presumably, Peter was married before too.

Madonna brought her horse to graze in our paddock. He’s albino and hence called Pinkie. His eyes are a peculiar colour, his mane and tail plaited with pretty string.

What else happened yesterday? Johnny went into Rockhampton to a meeting and came home with half a pig from the Schulz household, Gareth made a macrame hanging, Gran went to a lecture on prayer. Nathaniel is not well, nor is Gareth, and Barbara has the sniffles too. Marcello is not well this morning and was up most of the night because of Nathaniel’s crying. Johnny and Gareth cooked us an excellent roast mutton with turnips and yellow rice, followed by brandy snaps. I did some weeding and Barbara helped by bringing the grass for mulching around the plants.

We waited up for Gran who came in at 10:30 pm and then Johnny and I settled down to spend time together in the study until 1 am.

Mum80s
Gita in the study, early 1980s

 

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.

53. Our Christmas Traditions – Journal Entry 5th Aug 1980

Dear Nora, You, Mary or any of the family are very welcome to come here and take potluck with us. Mum, of course, would be delighted. My only concern is that we would not be in a position to give you as good a time as we would like. Out here in the country, things are on a small scale and fairly quiet. I myself will be tied up with studies until mid-November and I agree with you, Christmas is for children and family. Your children should have their parents with them at the one and only major festival of the year. I will tell you about Christmas festivities in Australia, in a little while. I don’t know how long you intend to spend here, however, a possible program could be:

  • Stay in Singapore with the aunt for a few days
  • Call into Melbourne (before or after staying with us) and check if it will cost extra, as travel from Emu Park to Melbourne is expensive
  • Stay with us, preferably after mid-November so I can drive you around. On the other hand, I am free half the week (most weeks) so if mid-November is not convenient, come when you can.

About the export business, I can’t give you an answer straight away. I will have to make enquiries. There are already many Indian goods on sale here and it will be a matter of getting the right combinations, contacts, etc. There are also import licences to worry about here, however, I will find out what I can and let you know.

Christmas here seems to be very much a family celebration. Friends without families  set up a round of dinners, parties and picnics. Christmas also falls in the middle of summer, usually the wet season from Christmas Day, and all the shops are decorated and Christmas music played in lifts and stores from the 1st November. There are dances held at hotels (called pubs here) and a certain amount of entertainment between families takes place.

Over the years we have formed a pattern which we follow. For weeks before Christmas Day, the family wrap mysterious parcels for different members of the family and hang them or place them under the Christmas tree. There is a pile under the tree and everyone, with the occasional prodding and feeling, tries to guess what are in the parcels. Some wrap parcels to themselves with tags saying “Secret Admirer” or “Anonymous”. The kids find these activities exciting and in fact, they generate the excitement, but Johnny and I are not encouraged to put our packages out until the last minute.

At midnight on Christmas Eve, we beat our big gong to mark the occasion, have drinks, eat cakes and sit around while each person opens a package in turn. There is much oohing, aahing, thanking and saying, “It is just what I wanted!”

Once all the presents have been opened, people slip off to bed.

Christmas1980
Karen in lounge room | Christmas Eve 1980

Breakfast is a special one with bacon and eggs. Lunch is often cold prawns, mayonnaise, salads and bread. Dinner would be the special meal with a roast bird, vegetables, potatoes or whatever. We gave up making Christmas pudding for dessert as by the end of the dinner we were so stuffed and the pudding so rich that we would end up feeling rather sick. I think we have fruit salad now. Last Christmas we had roast turkey although usually it would be duck or goose. However, turkey was so delicious that we decided to have it every Christmas. The problem here is that festive food is available throughout the year and turkey and ham do not seem special anymore. We have now restricted ourselves to only having turkey at Christmas.

That is usually how we celebrate Christmas. Recently I realised that there are not many rituals and festivals in our lives and it is good to have some. We also celebrate birthdays with an extra special dinner chosen by the birthday person.

About things from India, we don’t need anything really. We can get almost everything we wish here. Over the years we’ve managed with what is available locally. Just come, use your money for travel, however, if you are visiting the aunt in Singapore, you may need to take a few gifts.

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.
  • The Gallery of photos is now on a menu option for ease of viewing.

52. The Benedictine Nuns – Journal Entry 30th Jul 1980

I had a very nice chat with Sister Gregory. She told me a Benedictine nun from England, who belongs to an intellectual order, is in Australia to attend a conference of the Benedictine order.  The monks are smitten by her intelligence and knowledge and she will be holding a discussion on prayer. Sister Theresa is trying to find at least twenty people who might be interested in hearing the English nun speak. Sister Gregory said it was a case of Sodom and Gomorrah – at least 20 good people?

BenedictineNuns
Benedictine nuns with Gita 1980

Sister Gregory says that the more she hears about our activities and what goes on at our place the more she thinks that ours must be the only Christian household. I don’t think that’s much of a compliment though. Apparently, Barbara comes out with bits of our lore and language, which amuses the nuns. Mum is the only religious one among us and likes to attend church.

Today again I didn’t get much done. A letter came in from India, Nora wants to visit us so she can spend time with mum. She also wants to start an export business and we will have to think about that.

Telephone the solicitors – they haven’t done anything yet about the insurance claim.

Barbara had another upset today. Cliffy is said to have teased her about someone and she is supposed to have said that if he teases her again she would kill herself. She was withdrawn when she returned home. She has also been excited by the last visit to town when she met some Quay Street friends and has been marking time for our next Rocky visit.  She seems to be making a big issue about friends, old friends, and sending cards to them. It’s been nearly two months since Barbara has been on Mellaril, mum tells me.

I stopped the Rover in an awkward place and it wouldn’t start.  It doesn’t take much to start the engine but you do need that little slope and Johnny doesn’t know what the problem is.

Mum was upset now because she was to go to the pensioners social and had baked a cake. If she had known the Rover wasn’t available, she would have walked and made time for it. Now she would be late and the cake was heavy, she said. I stopped her from disturbing the neighbours and walked with her, carrying the old-fashioned coffee cake. The swamp had over 30 Whistler ducks sitting quietly among the weeds.  On the way back, I sat and watched them. How I wished, yet again, that I had a pair of binoculars.  A car passed by very close to me when I walked back, funny bugger.

The corned leg of mutton didn’t turn out so well. The overnight soaking was insufficient and it tasted rather salty, the gravy was worse.

At 9:30 p.m. I talked about the draft program for Warby’s conference and Johnny suggested changes. I told Johnny about N and M’s possible visit and laughed at his consternation. Told him of my day and also Monika’s delight at fixing the duck fence.

31st Jul 1980

Rang the Activities Therapy Centre about Barbara, saying she would kill herself if Cliffy teased her again. The bus driver told me that Barbara has started her talk of boyfriends and was being teased by the schoolboys on the bus. I advised her to tell Barbara to stop talking about it. Reggie the bus driver, is very kind and believes in treating adults as equals. She was concerned enough to see Graham, the psychologist, about the problem of dealing with Barbara on the bus.

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.
  • Check out the photos under the Gallery menu option

47. Crash at the Bridge – Journal Entry 28th May 1980

This letter has a happy ending somewhere in the middle, so don’t get alarmed by my story. Gran asked me to give you the news and now that some days have passed I can think about events calmly.

On Sunday 30th March, a local supermarket gave a gala dinner for 200 pensioners. Our branch of the Pensioner’s League was given some tickets. Gran and her friends were invited and transport arranged.

Off all the pensioners went, each dressed up as though it were Christmas. They had been looking forward to the dinner for several weeks. Gran, as you can imagine, put on nearly all her jewels. I had to advise her to take a sparkling necklace off and to rub a bit of rouge off too. Anyway, down the road she went, to wait for two friends. We, of course, teased her and said what a mad social life she led, that she was never at home and so on.

I waited up for her from about 10 pm. I did a lot of work while waiting and the rest of the family were in bed. At 12:30 am a police car pulls up and the policeman tells me that Gran is in hospital.

“What..? What happened?” I cry out.
“A car accident.”
In shock, I ask what the damages were. I start to shiver.
“I don’t know,” he says. “One had a couple of bad leg breaks, one has facial injuries.”

He comes into the kitchen to ask a few details. While he is there, the telephone rings. It’s the hospital, ringing to ask me about Gran’s age, whether she is allergic to anything and a few other details. The policeman listens to my answers and writes them down as I speak, they were the details he was after too.

Then he asks me where Mrs M’s son lives.

I ask why and am told Mrs M died in the crash. Oh my God, this is unreal. I have known this person for the past ten years. Such a wonderful character. She was seventy-five. Barbara, in the meantime, has heard the commotion and is stirring in her room. We head her off and keep her in her room.

I go out with the policeman to show him where Mrs M’s son lives. The driver in the crash was sitting in the front seat of the police car. We dropped him off at his house first. The policeman told me that the driver had been checked to see whether he was drunk… but he was not. The accident happened when Mrs M allegedly tried to put the sun visor up in the car and the driver leaned over to help because, he said, he didn’t want her to get hurt! He drove straight into the entry post of a narrow bridge and Mrs M was killed instantly; a vein in her neck burst. We understand she was very badly injured on impact. The other back passenger had both her arms broken (the left arm is broken in two places) and large patches of skin on her legs stripped off. Gran was on top of her with her bum in the air. Both of them had passed out and both have no recollection of the accident. Gran vaguely remembers a bit of conversation in the ambulance. She thought she heard the ambulance driver say that one woman was dead.

The accident has made a little bit of local history. People have been saying for months that the bridge was too narrow and that one day there would be a nasty accident. Well, this was the nastiest accident on record.

When I returned home I rang the hospital and found out that Gran had facial injuries but was out of danger and doing very well. The next morning I visited her in the hospital, which was 36 miles away, and found her almost unrecognisable. She looked terrible. Her face was swollen. Six of her precious bottom teeth and some gum had broken off in one chunk, fallen inside her mouth and stayed there for a few days until the swelling had gone down enough for the dentist to see what had to be done. She had the worst black eye I have ever seen, her bottom lip was stitched and she had a huge swelling on her right cheekbone. The eye was so red inside the puffed flesh that I wondered whether there was serious damage to her sight. Not only were her facial injuries severe, she had massive bruising all over her body and eight stitches on her shin.

Many of her friends rang to ask how she was. The telephone rang often over the next week. A couple of days later the funeral for Mrs M was held. She had a huge turnout and most of Emu Park was in mourning. I went to the funeral even though I was very worried about Gran. Subsequent X-rays had shown two cracked ribs, a cracked sternum and a damaged lung. They were draining her lung on the day of Mrs M’s funeral.

The day after the funeral the hospital rang to say Gran was asking for me. You can imagine how I felt. When I got there, I learned that two litres of blood had been removed and that more was dripping out. The drain was a hole in the side of her chest with a tube inserted and fixed between the lung and the chest wall; the tube then led into a plastic container. I stayed in the hospital that night, a good thing too because Gran had a mild heart attack. It wasn’t a full heart attack but something was causing her heart to beat irregularly and the staff and doctors worked on her for two to three hours, checking her pulse and heart at regular intervals. The next night, the palpitations started again, very mildly, and continued to do so for a few days.

Things weren’t so good at home either. Barbara was hysterical at the Activities and Therapy Centre and cried for hours. We had to put her on tranquilisers, the family was fearful of further accidents and Johnny and I drove for the next few days at 45 mph! I was torn between staying the night with Barbara and staying at the hospital.

Poor Gran has had to do without her teeth. Tomorrow she will be at the dentist all day and a week later she will get a new set of teeth. She has had to eat pap these past two months.

Her friends have been very supportive with lots of flowers and cards and visits. When Gran realised she was going to live, she perked up and improved so rapidly that she was out of the hospital in about ten days. The other woman, who was the same age as Mrs M, is still in hospital and likely to stay for several months more as she is not healing well. Gran, in comparison, is very fit and healthy. She has been wanting me to write and give you all of the news but as I mentioned at the beginning of my letter, I didn’t want to think about what had happened, let alone write about it. I also decided to wait a bit rather than write in a hurry and cause anxiety amongst you. Now Gran is reasonably fit but tends to tire easily and gets the odd pain in her ribs. She is taking it easy.

To get on with today, it is Gran’s 70th birthday – your letter and Mary’s arrived and was beautifully timed. That cheered her up tremendously. The family gave her presents: slinky black trousers and a chiffon top, a lottery ticket ($80,000 if she wins), some hand lotion, two coffee mugs from Barbara and a tiny vase with a dried flower arrangement.  A friend gave her a large and very smart handbag.

I made Chicken Biriyani for dinner. On Sunday, when Johnny gets back from a tour of the coal mines, he will be cooking another birthday dinner for Gran, this time a large Red Emperor. The friend who gave the fish to Gran as a Mother’s Day present will be coming to help us eat it. There will be chocolate mousse to follow with roasted almonds strewn on top. Cold cider will flow.

I should sketch out the household we have, so you can understand how Gran fits in, why she has so many friends and why so many people call her Grandma and give her little gifts. In these parts, an extended family is very rare indeed and almost all our friends call her Grandma.

There are eight in the family and now we are nine because of a very young grandson called Marcel Nathaniel. You can guess whom he belongs to! His mother is a young blonde Swede called Monika. They all live with us and have been doing so for the past three years. Marcello finished high school last year and is working now. He doesn’t want to study further at the moment.

Then, of course, there are Gran and Barbara. Barbie has improved so much that you would be pleasantly surprised should you meet her again. True, some things never change, like her penchant for blurting out all your news as soon as someone gets home or telling you the same thing about four hundred times. Apart from these minor faults, she is now fairly reasonable and helpful around the house. She still attends the Activities and Therapy Centre and, better still, there is a bus to take her the 36 miles to the centre and back again. She has even started talking in an Australian accent, like saying ‘plight’ for plate and can joke and tease when she is in the mood.

Gran (I may have told you this or you may have learned of her activities from Nora) is a member of the National Fitness Club, the indoor bowling club and the pensioners club. She goes to church and has many friends: priests, nuns and lay people. In the hospital, she was visited by the priests and the nuns sent her gifts. Sometimes one of the clubs hires a bus and goes out visiting another club out in the sticks, so of course, Gran is out for the day. All in all there is a reasonable amount of socialising for Gran and she is often attending an afternoon tea. Then she has her garden and precious Australorp chickens. Did I tell you, our present Australorp egg production is about a dozen a day? Beautiful large brown eggs with the occasional speckled one in the mix.

Karen is in her second last year of high school and studying very hard. She intends to go for tertiary education and is a very determined young lady. She likes discos, writes funny letters to her friends, is artistic, can cook and is, in fact, a competent person – good to have around.

Young David Gareth is normally referred to as Gareth (That Dreaded Took or that bloody boy) and is doing well at school.

You may not know what is a normal day here: Marcello and Johnny go out to work quite early in the morning, usually 6 am to 7 am, then Barbie catches the bus, then Karen sets off, also by bus to high school, then after a while, Gareth hops on his bike and rides to school (which is at the bottom of the road). Four of us are left and we get through the household chores as swiftly as possible, then I go to my desk, Gran pads around doing this and that, Monika attends to the baby or makes cards with shells or pressed flowers and clever little designs. The day is interspersed with cups of tea and lunch, until the family comes home again. The first one home is Gareth at 3:15 pm, then Karen and Barbie at 4 pm, then Marcello and Johnny return between 5 and 7 pm.

I suppose I ought to go to bed now. It is 10:40 pm and the household is fast asleep. I have to wake up early, as usual, to get Barbie off to ‘work’. She is rather slow and gets distracted, taking approximately one hour and fifteen minutes to get washed, dressed, make a flask of coffee, pack some biscuits for morning tea or little lunch, eat some cereal, fry herself an egg and eat it, pack her bag, comb her hair and get trotted down the road (by me now that Gran is not too well) and put onto the bus.

The baby is so sweet, he is four months old and well looked after by Monika. He seems very good-natured and is usually laughing, cooing or trying to say something. He has just learned to grab things and stuff them in his mouth. They are talking about finding a place of their own… I hope they don’t move too soon, we shall miss watching Nathaniel grow.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.