29. Crows and Cane Toads – Journal Entry 6th Dec 1978

The weather has changed, my skin feels cool, dry and slightly uncomfortable. A storm? The winds for the past few days have been strong. It was difficult using the gas stove because of the strong draughts through the house, especially the kitchen.

Last night was very pleasant.

First before dinner we packed a forequarter of beef into the freezer, a slightly tedious job, cutting up, sorting, weighing and packing. Meat prices are going up, so we must be more restrained in our eating habits.

Then dinner, which was good. Marcello and Monika are away. Gran talked of her National Fitness Christmas party. We talked about the trip to the dentist and so on. Immediately after dinner Johnny made two fruit cakes with Karen. I offered light relief and very little help. Then went to read The Lord of the Rings. After that I sat at my desk for a while, sulking a little and then told Johnny, rather dramatically, that I would have to rearrange my life. We sat in the file room and had a glass of whisky and coffee and talked – with me getting quite giggly and amorous after another half glass of whisky.

This pen is so fine I could go on writing and writing words, lots of words.

It was a reasonably good day today. I spent several hours getting the Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) papers in order and writing up the minutes of the last meeting and typing the Treasurer’s financial statement.

Monika rang wanting to know when Marcello wanted her to come back – this afternoon or evening. I gave her the Svendsen’s telephone number. By about 10am Marcello rings in to get a lift home and to ask for the drill and sanding disc. So I put together some strawberry jam, marmalade and empty egg cartons for the Svendsens as a small thank you for putting up Marcello for a couple of days. Mark and Marcello load a lot of gear into the Rover, give me some fish that they had caught and suggest I come later in the afternoon for Marcello.

I drive home and head for my desk, switch on the cassette tape recorder again and continue working for a while.

No, I’m wrong. What I actually did was fry some fish as soon as I got in and served lunch. It was a gorge of crisply fried fresh fish. I then went to my desk, switched on the cassette tape recorder again and continued working until midday.

After a small rest for about 60 minutes, I mix a bowl of pikelet batter and get the roast in the oven. While putting herbs on the roast and sticking garlic in the meat, I tell my mother that perhaps the chickens have chickenpox. I had observed a very small chick sitting with his head smack on his shoulders and beak pointing at the roof. He then woke up, made a few pecking motions and then settled his head back again into hunched shoulders with the same strange beak-up pose. A little while later, mum came in to say that not only was this chick missing, another like him in size and behaviour was also missing and would I creep into the pen and search for them, please.

“Do you mind if I went later?” I asked. “I’d like to get this finished. If I went now I’d come back with chicken pooh on my hands and knees from crawling through the low chicken coop door.” Mum agreed, so the pikelets were made first and the tea tray prepared for Gareth’s ‘Jaguar’ friends who should race to our kitchen this afternoon as soon as school is over.

In the chicken coop, I couldn’t find the missing chickens or their carcasses. Trying to count thirty fast-moving chicks and three ducklings was difficult, but fortunately those nursing chicks were much smaller than the others.

Then I went looking for cane toads. They have been known to eat very young ducklings. There was one toad, which I killed. Next, I checked for holes or gaps in the wire netting overhead that would allow the crows in. Recently, large numbers of crows moved into the neighbourhood and one large family was nesting in the tree in the poultry yard. I found a large gap and fixed it with a piece of wire I found lying in the coop. We removed the Rouen ducklings because they foul the chickens’ drinking water.

Back inside the house, I clear the sink and get ready to go pick up Barb at the Yeppoon bus stop. I write a little while waiting for her. While driving back up Phillips Street, I see an embarrassed S talking to J O’D who is holding a mangled white Leghorn hen. He has it by the feet and it’s bloody neck and head dangle while he talks. Good, he has evidence I think – he must have caught the Dean’s two dogs while they were attacking his chooks. They have killed over 17 of our birds within a few months. I should have stopped to add my complaint too, but I continued home.

After dinner Marcello and Gareth shot a crow. We have a large family to feed too, the crows can search for carrion (there’s plenty on the road), instead of stealing our eggs and chicks. The kookaburras are a bit of a pest.

The day was not yet over. I leave at 7:15pm to say hello to the Batik class and say how sorry I am that I can’t join them because I have a M.O.W meeting at 7:30pm. The M.O.W. meeting was short and lively. We’re having problems getting volunteers. One woman is terrified of a M.O.W. recipient dying while being served a meal, another is alleged to have said she was not willing to be a servant to anyone. Pearl is having to do 2 hours a week.

Back at the desk, I’m writing in this notebook and drinking black coffee. The red Japanese clock strikes ten. I’ve just challenged Johnny to a game of chess. Karen has made a row of greeting cards with pressed flowers and Monika is making hers. The two lads were hunting cane toads. Death to cane toads and crows. Sometime last fortnight there was a very bad smell just near the rose bush. After a bit of a search we found a small galvanised bucket full of dead, bloated cane toads.

I must remember to separate the Rouen duckling from the geese. Her companion gosling is missing and she is being picked on. How she quacks; if she didn’t make such a noise and if she were white instead of chocolate brown, she might lead a less stressful life among the geese. I hope she takes to the spare Rouen drake we have, but he may not make the right noises; she thinks she’s a goose.

There’s a moth on this page as I write, a greeny mother-of-pearl creature, slim and long with flowing antennae. Now he is still, but for quite a while he would flutter, rise and jump or fly backward to land on his feet with a slight noise; curious movement this hopping backwards and landing with a thump. There’s another like him now flying around the lamp. He won’t last long.

CicadaPoem
Poem by Gita 1978

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • Marcello’s girlfriend Monika came to live with us in May 1978 and she has been added to the Emu Park Family Tree

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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14. Cakes and Neighbours Poem – Journal Entry 12th Nov 1969

My goodness Cynthia, I started this letter on the 4th and look what date it is.

Before I forget and I hope this letter gets to you before you leave, could you please post the enclosed letter to my mother? I’m sending it direct to her address (instead of through a friend) because she hasn’t written for several months and I’m rather worried.

Another thing I haven’t sent you your wedding present and will wait until you know a little more clearly what you will be doing and also what you have got so I can look around for something Australian. Still a koala bear or something eh?

I can drive now and back a little; still lots to learn but Johnny doesn’t seem to have much time to spare as there is always something else to do. However, for the past two mornings I drove the car to school and back. Great activity at the school – a fete on Saturday. I’m supposed to bake cakes for the cake stall, get wine bottles filled with cordial for the bottles stall and get some groceries for the groceries gambling stall. Big deal.

It is very nice living in a small community and being part of it. Everybody knows everybody else. You go for Bessemerware* parties, or to a tuckshop** meeting (yes the school has a tuckshop and I’m one of the helpers, once a month) or the P.T. Club^ which I run and all these sorts of things. I try to keep to myself as much as possible otherwise many useless hours are spent at some useless meeting or other.

It is warm again and we’re heading towards really hot weather fast.

I now bake cakes and enjoy doing so. The children have lots of friends calling after school and on weekends and of course mum is there to dish out cakes or biscuits and cordial. It is great to have all these little kids rushing into the kitchen eager for their afternoon tea. TEA is the evening meal, so you say afternoon tea when you mean tea in the English sense. My English is deteriorating fast. Do I make sense?

Emu Park family and friends in the moke, 1969

Gareth is very well – except that his canine and molar teeth are sprouting and he is in slight difficulties over them. We have long conversations together where he says something – very like a flowerpot man – I reply and he points and says something more… He is all over the place and I have to check very often to see where he is. I usually yell and he appears, rather pained at being disturbed from whatever he had been doing. He can also do a few jobs for me, very few of course. It’s a pity I don’t own a camera, however, I shall borrow one so I can send a photograph of him. Anna will be quite proud of him.

Footnotes:

*Bessemerware – An Australian company (Bessemer) started in the early 1960s, currently selling non-stick cookware and other products

**tuckshop – a small canteen selling food and drinks

^P.T. Club – Parent Teacher Club for fundraising

Poem-Neighbours
Poem by Gita 12th Nov 1969

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11. Tree Poem and Locals – Journal Entry 17th Jul 1969

Strange sort of evening. First dinner with the speakers of tomorrow’s symposium on technology in Queensland and the way in which the institute* can help. There were about eight or nine spread over this huge dinner table, everyone madly trying to make conversation.

Sketch didn’t come for the dinner, apparently he was very tired and had plonked himself in front of the TV, not looking at it. He did walk in during the dinner to have a word with his wife and then pushed off again.

We then went onto a concert by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. A rather big social event in Rocky but the concert wasn’t good except for a young girl who played the violin rather well. She looked lovely too.

18th July 1969

A beautiful day; cloudy and sunny in turns. I went to visit a friend and read his poetry. I rode there on the bike with Gareth on my back. On the way home, young Buster Brown (Gareth) dropped a shoe. Seeing the darn pair cost four dollars, I went to search for it, found it and we had fish and chips for lunch on the beach.

Couldn’t sleep or think because Gareth thought I lay on the sand to allow him to jump on my back, the sand flying most of the time. He enjoyed himself though. And he does love chips.

A super day all in all.

The things that made it super were:

  1. Being given a seal-top mug for Buster Brown
  2. Being given a duck
  3. Buying tiny tumblers for visiting children at $2 each
  4. Buying cigars
  5. Chatting with Anita P’s mother who I’m going to play cards with one day
  6. The electrician turning up; a huge guy wearing a shirt like mine and humming merrily

We chatted about almost everything. The children and two of their friends came in while we were having tea. They looked confused so I served milk and cakes to them, talking madly to Callow all the time. A very, very, nice man. And he sawed a bit off the legs of a bar stool Johnny bought me. I sat on it at the kitchen table excitedly chopping onions. He had turned up when I was out and Mrs O’D told him I might be at Bunny’s. Well I’d left Bunny’s place for quite a bit, came home and was told Callow was searching for me. So I tried to phone the motel to see if he was working there. A search was made, but no Callow. In fact, he pitched up here while this kind woman who answered the phone was scouring the motel for him.

Marvellous place Emu Park.

Was there ever such a place as Emu Park? Or is it like most small towns, friendly, informal and all-knowing? It has everything has Emu Park, except emus of course. Emus roamed her unborn streets long ago but what was she named before the emus came?

I’ll stop rambling.

SkinnyTreesPoem
Poem by Gita July 1969

Now for the people. I always say it’s the people who make a place. Don’t you think so too? I mean Emu Park has beaches, fish and chips, sunshine and islands the same as everybody else and yet she has more appeal than any she-town.

Why, there is Mrs D who talks in a croak, makes tea, holds raffles and cleans floors for her club. She donated $4 to her club only last week and got her name in the papers for that. Mrs M, who writes a bit of our social chat is sixty, excitable, inquisitive, short-sighted and gets her facts deliberately wrong. She has more dust in her shop than goods, likes cats, has a lover and dines out someplace every Sunday night. Her husband works for her but he is there and not there. Mrs L, who helps her son to run his shop, swears she gets beaten whenever she forgets the price of something. A fisherman, very old, who has a fish run on one of the beaches, loves to fish all day. The shop owners don’t like hawkers because it spoils their sales. The owner of the local dinky supermarket is dying and is such a good man.

Mrs J keeps goats and they think she is off her top.

Footnote:

*The institute refers to the Queensland Institute of Technology (Capricornia) in Rockhampton  where Johnny worked as an academic. In 1972 it became the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education and then in 1990 it became known as the University College of Central Queensland. Re-branded as CQUniversity Australia in 2008.

 

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7. Rain Poem – Journal Entry 17th Jun 1969

On Monday I walked along the beach. No-one was there except for two pelicans. They could well have been deformed cranes. They walked away, two ugly creatures in love with each other. Something about their rear view gave me a feeling of tenderness for their awkwardness and vulnerability.

The sterility of the town and the place we live in is slightly disappointing. Sterility in the sense of being devoid of such things as flowers in women’s hair, peanut sellers, betel juice squirted on the pavement benches, auto rickshaws and the smell of jasmine. Ah dear me, but still, there are things you don’t get on the Indian scene, like dear ladies (in powder and hat) selling raffle tickets, Aboriginal couples quietly talking to each other, meat shops with plastic fruit and Christmas decorations, supermarkets and fish and chip shops.

RainPoemMum
Poem by Gita 17th June 1969

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2. Sunday Lunch – Journal Entry 8th Jun 1969

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course we did. It was very good.

BushFirePoem
Poem by Gita 8th June 1969

Note:

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