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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11th July 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

12th July 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Z,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

93. Exams Over – Journal Entry 22nd June 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24th June 1982

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

92. Exam Stress – Journal Entry 14th June 1982

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

16th June 1982

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

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

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

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

18th June 1982

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

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

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

91. Citizens Bureau – Journal Entry 11th June 1982

A broken-down fridge is the latest problem in our household, but little help is to be expected from a professional on a long weekend. One really should be able to contact a 24 hr Citizens Bureau with suggestions on how to cope with things that can go wrong in a household. If we could get a spare fridge from somewhere, there would be much less urgency over the repairs and we could then decide at our leisure who would be best for the job. Failing appliances and interruptions to the supply of water, electricity and gas usually happen at an awkward time.

Monika may come home today after giving birth to TJ, if the doctor agrees to let her out of the hospital after only three days.

I am finding it extremely difficult to settle down to my studies. The warmth outside is alluring, winter here is so mild and enjoyable, and the garden is more pleasant than our cold study. The vegetable garden is thriving, so I want to sit in the warm sun and weed, hoe or plant more seeds. Besides, there are books to be read and bread to be baked. I must pull myself together and stop avoiding my study, stop eating lotuses and stop being distracted by household tasks. I only have four days to the accounting exam and it’s closed book, perish the thought. Must stop.

Marcello and Gareth are away for the night and I am at the desk again, this time determined not to get sidetracked by minor jobs, errands or watching mediocre TV shows. Once I get started, my studies are quite enjoyable and interesting, however, it is easy to get distracted when young Nathaniel comes to talk or needs attention. Human relations are important, but when do I get on with what I set myself? Is the study of computers or accounting so important compared with that? And what about talking and working with my mother? Surely it is just a matter of scheduling one’s work and disciplining oneself?

12th June 1982

My Johnny has gone to pick up Gareth, who is at the Thorntons in Rocky, so I can stay at home and write in my diary. Control yourself and you have freedom, says Johnny on his way out.

As well as exercising and writing in my diary every day, I would also like to write stories or articles, play chess and spend more time at the park or beach rather than at home. When reading a classic, one needs to discuss a concept or word, even a whole page.

Fortunately, today has not been completely unproductive: I made bread, reviewed a chapter on financial accounting procedure, fed the chooks, looked for eggs, wheeled up two loads of wood, picked greens from the patch about to be worked on, made lunch for Mum so she would not be late for her meeting, zonked out after lunch for an hour and read a Maigret short story by Simenon. I must plan my vacation well since I have a full study load next semester. Calculus could be quite time-consuming and I am constantly fighting a strong urge to give it all up and concentrate on writing but at this stage that would be foolish. My studies have been extremely useful and help me think more clearly. Although the Methodology subject requires revision, it seems promising, helping students sort out problems in a constructive way.

Mum told me this morning that I didn’t listen to what she had to say and that I was not interested in what she had to say. Unfortunately, she is partly right. I’m not that interested and tend to switch off because she invariably repeats herself, like Barbara. Instead of being receptive or helpful, I avoid involvement with the activities mum and Barbara are enthusiastic about, such as shell collecting or fern growing.

13th June 1982

We had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast on Zilzie beach again with Roger and Christine, a fine idea of theirs which would be hard to beat unless we take them on a camp at Five Rocks. The family has not been camping for a long time—not a real camp. We don’t consider camping at Stoney Creek the real thing since it is too close to civilisation. Of course, living one’s life in the garden would make daily living a camping holiday.

My dream would be a house that opens up to or includes the garden and that is capable of being partly or fully closed to protect against the wind, rain or too much sun. Our present house is not designed for that, the Queensland-style verandahs have been closed in to serve as extra rooms and to keep out the rain. All the bedrooms are set quite far in with no direct sunlight and ceiling or sky windows are not practical with our roof. I wonder if we can redesign the house or part of it instead of building a new one? If we had the time or money, we could renovate under our house where there is adequate space for three rooms looking out through the pine trees to the sea.

Love is a topic I have pondered upon for a long time, with no clear idea of how to write about it. I’ve looked at D. H. Lawrence’s treatment of love and passion in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Han Suyin and Erica Jong. I have even read love stories in the Australian Women’s Weekly and Plato (symposium).

Love is very much a process which has to be nurtured. Love evolves in a relationship and changes the people in love.

I think I should approach the subject by writing a love story like Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Han Suyin’s A Many-Splendoured Thing and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, poetry, pop songs full of love, in fact, love seems to occupy a greater part of most people’s lives and thoughts.

87. Love Stories – Journal Entry 23rd December 1981

Read The Wanderer by Knut Hamsun and Miss Julie by August Strindberg after reading Friends by Henry Miller. Johnny considers Miller’s exploits rather juvenile with all that indiscriminate f@#king. Certainly, because of Miller’s many marriages, it would seem he could not be devoted to only one woman. Why am I raving so much about Miller’s writing? Perhaps because it seems to be so open, naive and accessible. There is a joy of life and no thought of yesterday or tomorrow. Hamsun is an extraordinarily good writer. No wonder Miller was taken by him; he would be the first to admit how much he has been influenced by Hamsun.

My head is filled with the readings of the past week: Graham Greene’s essays and autobiography, Miller’s World of Sex, Friends and Tropic of Capricorn and the books of Strindberg and Hamsun. One has such an itch to write, but to write what?

Spent two hours on a long but condensed version of a love story entitled Zamindar, about the English in India featured in The Woman’s Weekly. This was followed by a short modern love story of a rich man and his mysterious cleaning lady who fall in love. Why do most women like reading love stories? Why do I enjoy reading love stories, even though I know it is not what really happens? Most women look benignly on young women and their lovers and husbands. Perhaps they are thinking of their youth?

D.H. Lawrence comes closest to describing how it is between a man and woman who love one another and enjoy each other’s bodies and Han Suyin would be second. Many of the ancient Chinese stories seem to convey passion and devotion.

Let me look at an idea I had long ago: when younger sister was born, father was with his mistress while his wife was in labour.

25 Dec 1981
Last night, a little before midnight, we went to the Singing Ship. Johnny stayed behind for a phone call but didn’t see Santa Claus putting the presents around the tree.

A lovely time was had by all. First, we drank cold Spumante that Gareth had won at the school fete. Then Johnny’s Christmas cakes were ceremoniously cut: first a Dundee cake and the other a West Indian bride’s cake, dark and moist. Finally, the moment the family had been waiting for, the presents were distributed and opened one at a time while everyone else admired each gift. There was genuine pleasure in the receiving of presents. Barbara was given two books on shells which had many coloured pictures. She was also given a selection of beautiful shells, mainly cowries, and the delicate skeleton of a seahorse. Barbara was absolutely terrified when she opened the package of the seahorse skeleton, believing it was a snake. We had all retired to our beds by 1:30am but she was up by 5am, so mum read the shell books with her.

After a large breakfast of bacon and eggs, the family went to the beach. Barbara found a few shells and we all returned for an excellent lunch of cold ham, lettuce, bread and wine. We now await dinner of roast turkey and three vegetables, followed by a large fruit salad and fruit jellies for dessert.

Started reading A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin. M and Z rang to wish us a happy Christmas before going out to a family Christmas dinner of forty people. It was good talking to them, they have found people extremely friendly and seem to have made many friends. Mary and Cliffy are coming to Australia on the 15th of February and it was decided that mum would go down to Melbourne when they arrive and then return with them when they come to visit us. Cliffy cooks well and likes doing things for other people but is quite mischievous, swapping things like his clapped-out parts for somebody else’s good parts, his old records or whatever.

26 Dec 1981
Finished A Many-Splendoured Thing. Han Suyin has captured the strong and passionate bond that can form between a male and female. The complete absorption with one another appears to be idealised by the Chinese which is strangely at odds with their polygamous family system. This ideal in Western society is a bit of a nuisance because most people feel cheated when their mating is not perfect or well matched.

Several things were discussed with Johnny this morning. What is said in “true love” is usually the same in ersatz relationships and misunderstandings occur at a phonetic level of conversation rather than at a deeper level. Also, the danger of offering advice is that it is usually misinterpreted or acted on in a totally different way from what the adviser had intended. People rarely check and recheck whether they had understood correctly and cryptic messages are esteemed.

80. Pork Vindaloo – Journal Entry 8th October 1981

Today I have a long list of jobs to do; household tasks like washing and hanging out clothes, making the veal tail stew and preparing a basket for our trip to Rocky. On the way I will pick up wax sheets for the candles, take mum to the Cultural Centre, visit the library, get money from the post office and pick up the refund at Medibank. I also need to find shirts for Gareth, a raincoat for Barbara, material for Gran and stop for lunch, our usual fish and chips and fizzy drinks in the park.

Even I’m calling mum Gran these days since all the children, their friends and our friends call her Grandma.

The trip to Tanby for the wax took over an hour with a delightful visit to the Blanks shed. There were hives, huge vats of honey, boxes full of squeezed honeycomb and bees buzzing around boxes in the yard. Under the house were stacks of new hive boxes with frames waiting to have the foundation sheets pressed on.

Blank has a scheme for making money from pollen.
“What stopped you doing this before?” I query.
“Lack of pollen,” he shrugs.
“Where would the pollen come from now?” I press him to elaborate.
He explained that he was going to Mackay to spread his beehives around but expects trouble from the Mackay people who don’t like his bees. Such is the life of a beekeeper.

9th Oct 1981

Dinner tonight will be baked salmon, rice, peas, tomato salad, Johnny’s excellent homemade capsicum sauce followed by Danish pastries. The capsicum sauce looks fiery red on the pink fish. Perhaps I should make saffron rice to add to the colour scheme?

Monika took Barbara to the bus stop so I washed up the breakfast dishes, minced the sheep hearts for the new chicks and fed the chickens. The older chick that had been quite sick seems to be getting better. I collected the eggs and hung out the washing and was at my desk by 8:30am. Johnny is at home today; after I managed to put in some solid study on my Calculus problems finding relative extrema, we had an enjoyable lunch of bread, cheese, olives and wine.

Nathaniel is now being weaned before his nap. He cried, ate four coconut macaroons and vomited, then vomited again. Monika gave him several baths to calm him down, wheeled him in the pram and put him in bed but he would not sleep. By 3:40pm Monika and Nathaniel called a truce; he stopped crying and played cheerfully about until dinner time and then fell asleep when Monika took him for a ride with Johnny who drove Karen to work.

I shall tackle Emmet’s Learning to Philosophize this week and How to Read Better and Faster by Lewis next week.

12th Oct 1981

Johnny was asked at work why he was looking so happy. Life is good at the moment, in spite of the usual piling up of bills and the continuous shortage of money because of our large family.

Just paid $112 to the solicitor last week; on listing our current bills we have, in addition to our usual ones, car repairs to pay off at $100 per month for the next twelve months, the electricity bill arriving soon and the Rover needing money for repairs which mum has kindly offered to give. Christmas is coming up and then we will have Karen’s living expenses when she starts her studies. I will need textbooks next year too. Fortunately, Karen has a good chance of earning a certain amount towards her expenses for higher education.

Dinner tonight is pork vindaloo with dhal, rasam, tomato onion salad, coconut chutney and chapati. I also need to make the tomato puree and ragu for tomorrow and pikelets for afternoon tea.

Vindaloo

(a Portuguese development)

Ingredients:

½ kg pork (or stewing beef)
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
3 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground chilli
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika (optional)
1 tsp curry powder or 2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
2 Tbsp vinegar
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Fry the chopped onion and garlic in oil
  • Add the spices and fry a minute more (add a little water if too dry)
  • Add the diced meat and fry until coated
  • Add a drizzle of water, put the lid on the pot and simmer on low until tender
Variations:
  • Add curry leaves when frying onions
  • Add grated ginger to frying onions
  • Add ¼ tsp of ground cloves and ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Add 2 Tbsp tomato puree with meat

78. How To Read A Great Book – Journal Entry 23th Sep 1981

The whole family felt very proud; Nathaniel won a baby competition. Barbara is still at camp and Mum doesn’t feel well, she is still somewhat withdrawn after the dramatic events with Les.

It was a good day, Karen turned eighteen and we had an excellent dinner of eye fillet, broccoli, corn, beans, crinkle cut chips and a creamy peppercorn sauce with shallots, followed by an exotic fruit salad.

Cream and Peppercorn Sauce

Ingredients
150ml fresh cream
1 heaped tsp flour
1 heaped tsp butter
2 tsp green peppercorns (rinsed)
1 tsp brandy
½ beef stock cube dissolved in a little boiling water (or meat glaze)
Shallots, finely sliced (optional)

Method
Melt the butter and add the flour slowly while stirring as for a roux
Add cream, peppercorns, brandy and stock
Mix until thick
Pour over meat

I spent most of the day dipping into Adler’s book How To Read A Book, The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, which explained in great detail, how to read a great book, “those that are of enduring interest and importance” and “of reading analytically, interpretively, and critically”. After dinner, Johnny and I had a long discussion about the process of reading properly.

24th Sep 1981

It’s been a leisurely morning so far. After a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs, I fed the chickens and ducks, tidied the bedroom, gave the vacuum a thorough clean and then vacuumed the kitchen.

Nathaniel and I picked a huge bowl of mulberries and then I hung out the clothes. Jobs had to be done by 3pm so we could leave for Rocky to see Karen off to Brisbane.

28th Sep 1981

Made a mutton-chop curry and dhal early in the morning; the masala for the curry was fragrant and delicious with a mixture of curry powder, clove powder, 5-spice powder, chilli, ginger, fresh coriander leaves, fennel leaves, lots of chives, tomatoes, yoghurt and pepper.

In the afternoon, I took Barbara to Yeppoon Hospital to have her foot examined. They confirmed what we thought, it was a pulled tendon and no bones were broken, however, recovery would be slow. Managed to read a number of short stories from Century of Humour by P.G. Wodehouse while waiting at the hospital. We arrived home at 5:30pm and Johnny had already made the rice for our dinner so we could eat straight away. Had a rum evening with Johnny.

29th Sep 1981

Today Johnny, Karen and Gareth are away so I have a family free day from housework. I should be able to work at my desk most of the day.

The conversation with myself went as follows:
What to do next year?
Why?
Because I’m not sure I can do mathematics.
You haven’t really given it a go.
True.
I might have to work next year.
As what? Why not press on with what you are doing this year and consider the matter in November?
The problem has not been defined as yet.
Yes, it has.

  1. I may not have the ability to do mathematics
  2. Seem incapable of working hard and consistently at study
  3. May have to earn money for the family

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes:

How to Read a Great Book by Alder & Van Doren (1965) PDF here.

66. This Daily Life – Journal Entry 6th May 1981

Still have this wretched cold. Poor Johnny now has it and didn’t sleep well last night; his second disturbed night.

Dropped Barbie off at the bus stop after an early breakfast, saw Johnny off to work, put out the guinea chicks, tidied the chicken coops on the lawn and the garbage heap outside the kitchen, talked to the dentist about Gareth’s lip and made appointments for Karen and Gareth for July. 

Did a little study, listened to Tom O’Shanter, hung out the clothes and made a cuppa. Managed to squeeze in more study then removed the tall grass in the goat paddock, made the Bolognese ragu with the mince Marcello had brought from work (a little fatty to taste but fine for the price), sorted out the tomato puree and did the laundry.

Ate lunch with mum after a little bit of reading and bringing in the laundry. More cooking after that: a current slice or ‘fly pastry’ as we like to call it, and tomato juice. Finally, I  gathered more grass for the chooks.

Karen, Johnny and Gareth were leaving for Rocky for Karen’s public speaking competition so we had an early dinner. Gran was already in Rocky bowling and would be picked up later. I read Barbie a story until Nathaniel woke up. He had a long crying spell but settled down after a while and played in the sitting room until 8:30 pm. Studied and ironed while waiting for Johnny to come home.

7th May 1981

After a couple of hours of study, I did the ironing, made the bread dough, cleaned the dining room, cooked some vegetable patties and started Max Blacks’ The Labyrinth of Language.

Read a novel called The Street Sparrows, a historical romance that didn’t quite come off. It was naive and over-ambitious. An unsatisfactory evening because I chose to have an early night then read the novel, which was quite poor, and insisted on finishing it into the early hours of the morning.

9th May 1981

Karen and Monika worked in the garden for an hour while Gareth mowed the lawn. The tree pruning can wait until tomorrow. The rest of the week was spent on meetings, meetings and more meetings: first the Computer Users Society meeting then the P&C meeting and after that the Progress Association meeting. Johnny was away for a few days and Karen had her social.

13th May 1981

What an odd day!

The whole morning was spent searching for dad’s death certificate. Mum is applying for a widow’s pension, now she has been in the country for five years, and the certificate has to be sighted before the application is accepted.

Rob from Social Security was most helpful. Mum couldn’t find the death certificate and was getting into an awful state so I rang Rob and told him about our difficulties. He has now arranged for a representative in Brisbane to check the Immigration Department’s records for some mention of mum’s widowhood and has asked us for a copy of the guarantee Johnny signed to see what could be done.

In the meantime, I sent a telegram to Nora asking for another copy of the certificate. All this took half a day and the rooms are now strewn with boxes and papers. Nathaniel joined into the search and scattered the treasures he found. He also pulled a few boxes off the shelves in his excitement and mum was madly cleaning up after him while searching. We think the certificate may have been kept in the Philippines.

After giving up on the search, I clipped the wings of two young turkeys before putting them with the old turkey tom in the goat pen, made pikelets for the children and then rested while I made a few phone calls.

The electricity has gone off twice and has been off for over four hours. We had a quick and unexpected shower of rain so we now sit around the dining table in the strange light of a large gas lamp whirring near us. It is 8:45 pm and I read a few stories to Barbara – I must write a letter to Nora explaining our telegram.

This daily life… of study and jobs.

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.