46. Day of the Cyclone – Journal Entry 24th Feb 1980

It’s Sunday and the time is 4:50 pm. Destructive Cyclone Simon, also called Small Destructive Cyclone Simon, is 40 km away NNE and travelling toward us at 10 km/h. The wind in the centre is said to be over 200 km/h, and right now there are gusts at about 50 km/h. Six or eight roofs in Yeppoon have been damaged.

28th Mar 1980

Dear Joan,

What a wonderful surprise your letter was. It had very bad effect really because it arrived just as I was making a ‘fair copy’ of an Algebra assignment. After reading your letter, I found I was making too many mistakes and wasting sheets of paper. So, I decided to stop and write to you instead! If there are mistakes in this letter, you were the cause of them.

It’s nearly three months since you left. I saw Fr. Meade once when Johnny and I were at the airport leaving for Canberra. I met Nadine at the supermarket and she gave me news of you.

Speaking of mores and depression, I fully agree with you. When we left Manila to come back to Emu Park, I hurt for over a year. Actually, that was because we had left my mother and sister behind in rather uncertain conditions and circumstances. It took two years before we were reunited. I used to have nightmares. My sister had a bad nervous breakdown.

It does get harder as the years go by and we begin to appreciate people a lot more than we did when we were inexperienced. Let us not talk of age; right now I think life has never been so good for me and that a whole new world and perspective is before me. I have the privilege to participate, if I make an effort. I feel you also are very privileged and can do many more things in Brisbane than Rocky. So go to it my dear, use your time well, very well; you have no right to do otherwise. But also remember, being a delightful companion to your family is the number one priority, they need you, especially now when they are hurting too.

Your Australorp rooster is in full glory, he has the run of the yard and thirty hens besides. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to enjoy the chooks, there’s always study or family to attend to.

Marcello has a fine lot of Rouen ducks and they quack in unison when anyone calls out to them, especially at feeding time. Marcello works now, deciding that higher studies were not for him. I’m hoping quietly that he will do so someday because he has a good brain and should use it. But then I suppose most mothers feel that way. Monika has had a boy-child. Naturally, his grandmother in Emu Park thinks he is the most beautiful baby in the world! His hair, a dramatic black when he was born, is now a light brown colour which threatens to turn golden. Marcel Nathaniel has lovely brown skin. We’ve accused Monika of sun-tanning him on the quiet.

Lynne is also taking Computer Science I, so I see her at lectures when I attend them. Computing is fun but a hard art to master. Someone can write a program, however, an elegant one is a different matter. Intelligibility is the keyword, my Johnny tells me.

Johnny is as gorgeous as ever but overworked as usual. I look forward to the time he has less to do and can write poetry and novels and play the flute. He writes beautifully and I have a whole case of love letters to prove it.

Talking about books, Johnny bought me a crop of D. H. Lawrence books which I raced through; I should say I read voraciously. Also D. Ireland books and a very interesting study by Dr Kamien on community medicine among the Bourke Aboriginals. At the moment I am reading Manning Clark’s A History of Australia and am up to the age of Macquarie.

I don’t know if I told you that I joined a group known as the CIAE Search Group which helps people identify their problems and suggest solutions. At the moment we are working with the Aboriginal community groups as well as a group of Aboriginal delegates from central Queensland. We held our first 1980 workshop recently (the first for me) which was very exciting. A further weekend workshop with the delegates is scheduled for Rocky and Gladstone. Hervey Bay and a few others will be making requests soon I think. Reg is in charge and these workshops come under community development. If you are interested I could tell you more in some future letter.

I hear much laughter from the kitchen. It’s my mother who enjoys seeing the baby smile, laugh or make noises. She makes more noises than the baby! The kids won’t agree with the last statement. They will tell you I am much more noisy with the baby, but don’t believe it, it’s not true.

The weather is so beautiful, especially as we’re heading fast towards winter. The sunshine, butterflies, the egg-laying-cackle of the chooks and even the chatter of the builders below make me feel so good to be alive. What does it matter if there are a few mosquitoes around, the lawn needs to be done again and Gran’s garden has more weeds than veggies in it? We’ll get around to them sometime, but in the meantime, everything smells good, the sea is calm and I’m writing to you. At least I was writing to you, but now I’ve come to the end of my letter.

Look after yourself and give my regards to the family.

Love,
Gita
PS: Do practice your letter writing on me!

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.
  • Added Nathaniel to the Emu Park Family Tree.

44. Seven Year Recap – Journal Entry 2nd Jan 1980

Dear Marcie,

Thank you very much for being so tolerant. It must be nearly seven years since we were in Manila.

Christmas in particular is a curious time when one takes stock and wonders about one’s friends. I had wondered how you were going.

The report over the last seven years would be something like this:

Year 1 – 1973

Glad to be back and without servants. People are friendly, warm, small townish and so dearly Australian – offhand and casual but helpful and interested in one’s doings.

Queensland in particular (not Brisbane, that’s the capital and not typical) has this reputation for having barefoot lotus eaters, who would rather go fishing than build your house or repair your plumbing. Only emergencies need to be attended to promptly. Newcomers to the area take a while to adjust.

Johnny is very busy setting up the Department of Mathematics and Computing.

Marcello, Karen and Gareth attend the primary school down the road. The kids in particular remarked on the friendliness of everyone in Emu Park and deplored the segregation in their primary school in Manila.

Year 2  – 1974

Went north right up to Cook Town – didn’t make it to the Cape York Peninsula. Camped on a jut of land between the sea and a bit of backwater. The fish jumped onto the sand, asking to be eaten. We were warned of crocodiles but didn’t see any. A  lone fisherman who was camped nearby gave us huge crabs. They were delicious. We all agreed it was the best of all our camping trips. Did lots of camping nearby. There was a beautiful little waterfall and great beaches, one as long as nine miles and hence called Nine Mile Beach. Needed our four-wheel drive. We slipped away every fortnight when the weather was good.

Johnny still working very hard.

Year 3 – 1975

Had a lot of hassle getting my mother and sister Barbara into Australia. Took two years of persuasive letter writing by Johnny and an appeal to an M.P. My sister is mentally retarded, hence the problem. Things were not quite as carefree at our place after that. Our movements were cramped considerably.

Johnny working harder than ever.

My sister was in a bad way, twenty-nine years of being messed about with witchcraft, neglect, faith healing, drugs and electric shock treatment. She was pathetic, frightened, selfish, repulsive – a nuisance to everyone and yet she had affection to give.

So the next two years was devoted to sorting her out and getting her to relate in a human way to others around her. She was taken on at the Sub-Normal Children’s Therapy Centre and that helped a lot. Now she was going to work like everyone else. She travels with Johnny as the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education (CIAE) is near the therapy centre. Johnny has been mainly responsible for humanising Barbara, he maintains that Barbara’s home life should be predictable and stable.

Life gets a bit unpleasant when my mother objects to our handling of Barbie, however apart from that, my mother has a good vegetable garden going and a vast number of Australorp hens. We get about a dozen brown eggs a day, bananas when they ripen, the occasional pawpaw, passionfruit, chilli, aubergine, pumpkin, etc, etc.

So our standard of living improved and of course some people envy our extended family. During the 1979 Christmas holidays I was only cooking once a week! Everyone takes turns now with Johnny cooking dinner at weekends. I’ll save telling you of the menus until some other letter.

Grandma, as we call my mother, seems popular at the National Fitness Club (second oldest member), the Singing Ship Bowling Club and the Pensioner’s Club, whose members seem to regard her as a cute oriental mascot. She loves going out and is forever baking or cutting sandwiches for some tea or other. The expression is ‘taking a plate’ to ‘afternoon tea’.

To get back to Barbara; she is beginning to feel secure and has a sense of belonging. She is useful and helpful and good to have around. Above all she can work some things out for herself and does whole jobs on her own rather than working from a set of instructions. She has an excellent sense of humour, especially of the absurd, and it’s nice getting her to laugh.

Skipping to 1979

A year of crises but not all bad; in fact some positive gains. Marcello finished high school reluctantly. He will be a father in mid-January and Johnny and I will be grandparents. Monika is Swedish and dropped out of school mid-grade eleven because of the pregnancy. Apparently she wasn’t enjoying school much anyway. We’ve just added an extra room to the house. Monika has lived with us now for two years.

We always cause a stir when we visit Rockhampton library. Between us we take out forty-eight books and with three sets of surnames listed under one general name, things get a little complicated. Only the more adventurous of the library assistants are willing to tackle us.

After stuffing around all these years organising markets, nursery and candle-making and even giving an adult education course on Indian cooking, I took a preliminary maths course at the CIAE, a pilot course Johnny had introduced, using some material which had proved successful in the UK. The hardest part of the course was getting into the habit of regular study. The course is intensive, with four years of high school maths in one year.

The novelty of the material is that it is maths for adult students and not high school maths. Some of the examples are hilarious like the statement, “Minnie Snodgrass is the most beautiful girl in the world when the light is just right.” One clever device in the text, is the use of a dreadful character called Authur O’Figgis who makes the silly mistakes that one tends to make in maths when one is not thinking. For example, (a + b)2 = a2 + b2 instead of the correct answer a2 + 2ab + b2, so when O’Figgis joins Comp-Ferrat, production drops.

There could be interest in other parts of Australia in this course. Johnny wrote several chapters, eliminating some and rewriting a fourth of the course to suit Australian education requirements. There have been many conferences at which Johnny has delivered papers on P-maths. He is heartily sick of the subject and this is only the beginning.

We will be in Canberra at a conference for maths teachers where he will tell everyone about the Australian experience of ‘Poly-Maths’, as it is called in England. The author of the bridging course will also be at the conference talking about ‘Poly-Maths’. He is a tough, intelligent, beer-drinking, Rugby-playing, Welsh mathematician who will then come to Rockhampton for the second time to discuss P-maths at CIAE. I don’t know if you are aware that a lot of teaching in Australia is done through correspondence. I think Australia leads the world in external teaching. P-maths depends a lot on discussion between lecturer and students. It had to be changed to suit external students. Tapes were made which have proved very successful. Actually on the whole the external students did better than the part-timers and towards the end, the part-timers were demanding the tapes.

At the end of 1979, Johnny and I realised that being hellishly busy without making time for each other was disastrous. After all, our relationship was the most important thing. Every evening we had to stop whatever we were doing to meet at 9 o’clock. If we could meet earlier that was better still. The rule seems to be working very well.

We also took several holidays together, but because of the large number of people in the family and the fairly high probability of things going wrong, we couldn’t go away. So we spent our time at home in Johnny’s study and spare room (called the talking room) and stayed up late and woke up late. The family had to look after itself and only approach us in an emergency. We lived off omlettes, cheese, olives, bread, lots of rum, brandy, creaming soda and coffee. It was a marvellous time. We went for long walks along the beach and along the disused railway track and had long discussions. The family was most circumspect.

1980

So, Marcello looks for a job. Karen has two more years of high school and seems to be doing well. Joined the debating team last year, will work for her Duke of Edinburgh gold medal award this year and is taking science and maths as board subjects. Gareth is in his last year of primary school. If he carries on the way he has been, he should be quite a scholar. He’s read Silmarillion, is attempting to teach himself Greek (not working well at it), is well acquainted with the Iliad and is having the Odyssey re-read to him. He was interested in Aztecs a while back and seems to have enjoyed reading The Once and Future King. Things should be better for him at high school as he lacks intellectual stimulation at his age level.

Johnny still carries a heavy load: Chairman of the School of Science, Planning Committee and the Management Advisory Committee. He is involved in the Computer Centre and would like to organise rotating H.O.D of Maths (sounds like a windmill) to give him more time. So 1980 brings no relief. I have signed on for three subjects: Computer Science I, Algebra I and Probability & Statistics I. Also, in the meanwhile, I’ve decided to read about social anthropology and Australian history with a long reading list on selected books on sociology (some very dull) and  philosophy.

You are probably aware of Seymour B Sarason’s writings, two of his books are especially good: The Creation of Settings and the Future Societies and Human Services and Resource Networks. On philosophy, Johnny has discovered an Australian, John Passmore .

Please let me know in some some detail what your interests are and what you’ve been doing.

All the best for 1980 to you and the family

More next time,
Gita

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

43. Christmas Day – Journal Entry 25th Dec 1979

Christmas at last for the kids. We sat around the tree and each person chose a present addressed to himself and we watched while it was opened. A delightful ritual, Barbara, in particular, was wide-eyed and eager about Christmas and the opening of presents. She was given perfume, soaps and bubble bath scents by Karen and Monika and she loved them. She had a bath this morning with her new cosmetics and has invited me to use some too.

It’s nice to be writing in the diary but before I go further, I must work out why I feel frustrated with Johnny – at moments very intensely. It’s a contradiction because if I saw someone behaving badly towards Johnny, I’d be the first to defend him and attempt to protect him. So how to go about this… perhaps if I noted down the occasions of irritation:

  1. Didn’t want to go swimming this morning at 11 am. It seemed the hottest morning yet. At 8 am this morning the heat whacked you hard. On the road to the beach, Johnny made some comment (which I can’t remember) and I said, “Working up the right frame of mind to go swimming?” and he said, “Oh Gita.” I can’t remember but all I knew was that it was a short answer and I thought inappropriate.
  2. Made comments on my comments about the rice (made by Gran) not being heated well. Said it was the nature of the method of cooking, knew all about it, had lots of experience. Bullshit in this case, Gran admitted to being hasty and taking the pan off too soon.
  3. Told Karen I would withdraw my offer to wash up as it was her turn and she tended to swap washing up duties if she could. But I don’t think I put it well. Karen looked a little put out but admitted, however, that she didn’t like washing up. Johnny asked me to stop recriminating and I didn’t agree we were. Could be wrong.

Surely this general feeling of irritation is because I haven’t written much for a while.

27th Dec 1979

Johnny and I sorted out my general irritability. It was mainly my fault, which I projected onto him. Also agreed that Johnny nagged occasionally. So much general tension over mum, Barbara, and occasionally the kids.

I must record our Christmas dinner. It was so very very good. We should really reserve it for Christmas and not repeat it during the year.

We had:

  • Roast turkey stuffed with rice and apricots
  • Beans and corn in butter
  • Spherical chips
  • Gravy and Rosella jam

The large size of the turkey was novel for us and the meat was tender and delicious.

Johnny beamed with pleasure at the determined way we ate our food and demanded more. Pudding was mango and cherry salad with orange juice jelly, cream and ice-cream. Sighs of pleasure from everyone. A real success.

Boxing Day lunch was:

  • Moreton Bay bugs and lots of prawns
  • A dish of aioli to dip them into
  • A salad of onion, olives and leftover beans
  • Rolls and a couple of other things I can’t remember.

A gorge. Dinner, following that, was simple:

  • Avgolemono soup
  • Cake
  • Fruit
  • Ice-cream and cream.
  • Apple turnovers at Barbie’s request.

Our trees have been supplying us with bananas. Borrowed a book from the library on growing bananas to help us grow better ones.

Finish reading Lewis’ Social Anthropology in Perspective and have started Emery’s Towards a Social Ecology. Excuse me, I’ll put a record on the player. Indian maybe? Flute by Ramani, an exciting and poignant recording.

I love my love with Johnny because he’s Johnny and has given me so much. Terribly loyal guy. I love that best of all, the fiercely loyal streak in him.

In the meanwhile, I’ve read Phallos by some Danish psychologist and dipped into a book called Surrogate Wife – a bit of pornography wrapped up in pop psychology. The book Phallos was disappointing.

Today is Friday and what has happened?

Finished Phallos, helped a little with changing the door in Gareth’s new room and had a long discussion with Johnny on Passmore’s Perfectability of Man.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

42. Life Rebalancing – Journal Entry 8th Dec 1979

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

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

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

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

The family was so good while we were on holiday.

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

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

22nd Dec 1979

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

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

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

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

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

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

35. A Short Course in Just Writing – Journal Entry 31st Jan 1979

Second day of organising the breakfast and school lunches. When I went for the bread, Bernice told me not to feed stale bread to the chooks late in the afternoon. They roost soon after eating and the bread sours in the crop which, he tells me, is not good for them.

This morning I put shell grit and sand in containers in most of the coops – even for the fluffy yellow ducklings. The Rouen duck pond was slushy and almost dry so I filled that up. The lame Australorp chick has been given back to it’s mother and it may not survive but it cheeped so much there was little choice. The three scrawny filthy white chicks that were sick, seem much better today. All of Marcello’s bantam eggs under the hen are addled. The wind still blows, it must be the sixth day of high winds. The high tides were quite destructive, the radio tells us. The house is quiet without the children. For Marcello and Karen, it’s their first day back at school.

It’s 10am. Let me list what I’ve done so far:

5:30am exercise
5:50am usual jobs in the kitchen – lunches, supervising Barbara, breakfast, washing up, chopping onions, getting meat for chicks
9:00am went to the pen to check on livestock

Back at my desk. Checked with Radio Rentals over the return of the T.V. and date of contract. They decided that having accepted the T.V. they’d take responsibility, which was very decent of them. We have an option to take it back within six months.

It was good to hear from Lyn after so long and she seems to be doing well. Mark seems to be thriving also. I’m hungry and I’d better start P-Maths now.

Jobs waiting:
-car insurance
-Chandlers
-subsidy
-note to marriage counselling
-roster to Mrs Tennent
-letter to Mr Braithwaite

4th Feb 1979

Notes on A Short Course in Just Writing by Bill Bernhardt, in an article in Teachers & Writers Collaborative Newsletter, Vol 6, No 2, 1975

Page 1

  • Which comes first when you speak, knowing that you have something you want to say or the words? Test yourself to find out.
  • Make a short statement out loud.
  • Write down the same words you said. Are you sure that you wrote the same words? How can you tell? Can you make a much longer statement and write down the words accurately? (It doesn’t matter if you misspell)
  • Think of something else you could say, but instead of speaking, write it down without speaking.
  • Can you think of something to say and write the words down as they come into your mind, without taking the time to say them to yourself first?

Page 2

  • Take a pencil and a piece of blank paper and write continuously for three minutes. Pay no attention to whether what you write makes sense or is spelled correctly. If you can’t think of what to say, just write down all the words you can think of. When you’ve finished, turn the paper over without reading what you wrote.
  • Write for three more minutes on the reverse side of the paper following the same directions.
  • Write for three more minutes on a second sheet of paper. Count how many words you wrote each time. Did your output increase the second and/or the third time? Read what you wrote aloud and listen to yourself. Does it make sense? Does it sound like the English you speak?

Page 3

  • Complete the following sentence by adding one word at the end: As they turned the corner they saw…
    Copy the completed sentence onto the top of a blank sheet of paper and continue by writing a second sentence which begins with the word: Maybe…
    Add a third sentence to the story.
    Add five more sentences to the story.
    End the story.
    How much of the story was given to you and how much did you have to provide? Could you see in your mind what was happening in the story? If so, was it like a picture or movie? Did you see all of it at the beginning or did more come into your mind as you continued? Can you see it all again when you read the story over?
  • Close your eyes and picture in your mind a difficult or embarrassing situation. Describe in writing what the situation is. Write what you would say to get yourself out of that situation.
  • Do this again with a pleasant situation.

Page 5

  • Write rapidly for 10 minutes without stopping or pausing to make corrections. When you have finished writing, put the paper aside, without reading what you write – for at least 20 minutes.
  • Read what you wrote aloud, making sure you do two things:
    (1) Read exactly what is written on the paper.
    (2) Listen to yourself reading and catch the points when what you hear fails to make sense or sounds ‘funny’. If you find anything which doesn’t make sense, change the words so that it does make sense. If you find anything which sounds funny, change it so that it sounds right.
    When you finish, read the corrected copy over again to see if you need to make further changes.
  • Is it easier to make corrections and improvements at the same moment you are writing down what you want to say or at a later time?
  • Do writing and making corrections require the same state of mind? Or a different state of mind?

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

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

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

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

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

I must catch up on my letters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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33. Christmas Holidays – Journal Entry 24th Dec 1978

There is a slight air of excitement about the place. Would be more if the weather was less humid and there wasn’t so much tidying to do. Marcello went mowing today and Gareth and I hung around filling sacks with grass clippings. Good stuff for the chickens and the plants.

Jobs to be done today:

  1. Fridge to be cleaned
  2. Bottles to be taken under the house
  3. M.O.W rosters to be delivered
  4. Clothes to be washed, sorted and put away
  5. Stay at desk as much as possible
  6. Bills to be sorted and paid

At 3:10pm Gareth and I went out and delivered the M.O.W. rosters. We worked efficiently, I thought, and were back home in 30 minutes.

Johnny is cooking dinner – garlic soup, bread, Christmas cake and ice-cream. Later in the evening we are going to Yeppoon to pick up Monika.

The black cockatoos are leaving the pine trees for home. Where is home for them? They were here all day, large, raucous, destructive black birds, almost unlovely if it wasn’t for the flash of red feathers under their tail.

I have to structure my life, Johnny tells me, rightly of course.

11pm We’re waiting for midnight. There was no late night shopping in Yeppoon. Maybe the shops stayed open later than usual but they were shut by 9:30pm. So we drove home through Tanby. We were in Yeppoon, where Monika’s mum lives, to drop Marcello off for their Christmas gathering and opening of presents. What a lot of presents there are under our Christmas tree.

So midnight came and the family had a drink of Vermouth on the rocks and fruitcake before opening the presents.

Christmas Day was quiet and enjoyable. We also tidied the house in preparation for leaving on camp the next morning. I will tell Trudy what to do about the chooks. My desk was tidied and also part of the bookshelves. The evening was spent in front of the TV with the kids. Read a bit of Schumacher.

31st Dec 1978

The last day of the year. Will have a do a review of 1978 and a rough plan for 1979.

To W. J. Cass,

Thank you very much for making it possible for us to receive the rates discount. Your allowance for our error is much appreciated. If more bureaucrats adopted the attitude that systems should serve people and not vice versa the life of the common man would be more pleasant.
May the Livingstone Shire Council have a trouble-free and joyous year in 1979.

1st Jan 1979

I didn’t get very far with my entry yesterday.

We cleaned another plot in the garden. The rains we’ve had over Christmas have made our weeding easier. Marcello did more mowing so we had a lot of mulch.

At breakfast Johnny, Ruth and I discussed ‘women’. I’m going to try to put down my thoughts on the subject:

More women are in the workforce:

  • Purely for economic reasons?
  • Because ‘housework’ and ‘housewife’ have been devalued?
  • A mixture of both?
  • A genuine desire to get out among people?

Women’s Lib. seems to have missed the main point which is developing or pointing to a better way of life. At the moment these women haven’t contributed anything new, they might even have contributed to chaos or an upsetting of the social patterns used hitherto i.e. full-time mother and hometender. Women’s Lib. wants a fair slice of the present cake, has no philosophy on how to bake a better and more humane cake. They are attempting to be breast-swinging men, jostling for an equal stand in a world created by men. What have they contributed? What have they to offer that’s of value to people, to the social system we’re in?

Random questions:

  • Why are women afraid of the dark, of isolated places?
  • Why don’t more women go off on their own camping and fishing?
  • Why don’t women do car maintenance, repair household equipment, design household machinery, indeed any type of machinery?
  • Why, in their own area – fashion – do men seem to do better than women?

What can women do better than men? Johnny questions the validity of the question and it’s relevance. It’s rather like the European attitude that because a race hasn’t produced an Einstein, they are somehow second-rate human beings.

Women appear to have a different perspective. They’re made differently, are capable of bearing young, their ambient is different, their perspective must necessarily be different.

If more women read Mareuse, Friere, Illich, Schumacher, would they be able to implement a new direction or philosophy which will make living more humane than it is at the moment? Will they be able to stop the suicidal trend of medicine, education and technology? Johnny is very depressed; the worst I’ve seen so far.

The weather is slightly humid and still. Not as bad as I expected. I must keep cool however, and not lose my temper. The urge to twist someone’s ear or squeeze an arm comes over me so violently I’m quite dangerous, not to mention unpleasant to have around the place.

The problem is Barbara, having one of her withdrawals. She saw Patty in Yeppoon across the road and she went white with excitement, nostrils flared as she said his name in a shrill voice. She saw him several times as we went up and down the street in our Land Rover, once to the sports shop, then to the veg shop and then back to pick up a member of our party. Barbara only needs a certain type of excitement to make her go inward, lose her appetite and start talking to herself. If left without attention, she does not sleep at night.

We have so many chicks and ducklings. The three Rouen ducklings have been promoted to the main pen – it must be rather frightening to be put in a general pen with so many strange adult birds they haven’t seen before. On the whole, the ducklings seem happy, especially with the large communal pool. They spend most of their time either in the pool or on the edge. A male Rouen died and was buried in the compost drum.

This afternoon, Johnny and I went for a walk on the beach. The cloudy weather kept most of the holiday folk away from the sea, so Nun’s beach was nearly empty. The wind was strong and small stinging showers of rain fell from time to time. We talked and laughed and at the end of the walk, Johnny declared he had got out of his depressed, hemmed in, state.

Dinner was good: mutton chops in marjoram, golden rice, chokos and a Provencal sauce from the book of sauces. The Provencal sauce was made from chopped tomatoes, chives and garlic, onion fried in olive oil and a little meat glaze. The special almond and chocolate cake was a near disaster. The oven went out while the cake was in it and it sunk horribly in the middle. Johnny was in despair. However, he served the cake stuffed with whipped cream. It was delicious.

Johnny has started reading The Lord of the Rings to the whole family. He reads extremely well. We stopped for a while to eat chocolates and cake. Had an excellent date later.

There have been sharp, scattered showers most of the evening. The wind sounds very loud through the pine trees.

Barbara is a little withdrawn after having seen Patty in Yeppoon on Saturday. She’s back on Melleril at night to get her over this relapse.

3rd Jan 1979

Gareth and I had to get fishing line in Yeppoon, to the replace the one we damaged while camping at Five Rocks.

What happened?

I had snagged my hook on an oyster shell on the rocks. Gareth came to help me and dropped the yellow plastic reel over the edge. “Not to worry,” he tells me with a grand gesture holding my line, “I know a way of getting the reel back.” So he starts pulling the line off the reel. The line curls up in a tangled mess at his feet. Then he reaches the end of the line, but it’s not tied on, so the yellow reel bobs further down near the water. Gareth has the line to sort out.

Meanwhile, I climb down carefully, holding on tightly. A wave hits against me as I reach down to get the fishing hook. I can’t pull it up. It’s caught inside an oyster which grips it’s shell tightly. I break off the line, asking forgiveness of the oyster, for any damage the hook might do to it, and then I go lower down the rocks near the crashing waves to get the reel. I move cautiously. The rocks and waves together can do considerable damage to me. I have to go around some rocks into a gully to get at the moving reel. I almost reach it when a large wave whacks me from behind and lifts me back onto the rocks. Another wave crashes and pushes me further up. I flop flat onto the rocks, barely scratched, with the reel.

Feeling a little sore, I take the bream I’ve caught and Gareth takes his trevally and we go back to the others to get a hook. But the line is too tangled to use. We’re told the reel was not ours. It belongs to the neighbours.

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30. Journey to Ixtlan – Journal Entry 7th Dec 1978

A busy day. We have an order for 35 container candles. Marcello is cutting the stubbies and green wine bottles. It seems such slow work for so little money. Still, it’s money being earned while at home, where we like being.

We picked strawberries, a poor bowlful, from plants covered with weeds. Monika picked strawberry flowers for pressing and has made a batch of greetings cards. Gran bought a dollar’s worth, making it Monika’s first sale. There seems to be a rush to make money for Christmas. The kids were too busy with school to do any work for themselves. Karen is still not free until the end of the week.

Another sick chick is not able to stand up, so Gran dosed it with garlic, milk and bread and put it on a piece of hessian in the cockatoo cage we found at the dump. It won’t live.

It’s a lovely day, sunny and hot outside but with a cool wind blowing, I hear Marcello grinding glass; the geese talk among themselves under the low branch of the Queensland hoop pine. The Rouen duckling is silent for the time being. I’ll disturb them if I fill their plastic water container, so I’ll sit here enjoying writing with this pen. A baby butcherbird is crying for food.  You can tell it’s a young bird because it’s brown and white, not black and white like it’s mother, however, they are the same size.

Lot’s more noises. An earthmoving machine is on the hill a little down the street, it has been working for a while cutting a path to Mrs N’s old house and levelling the yard. Bottles clink – that’s Marcello. The butcherbirdling still whinges in hunger. Gran keeps shouting out messages to us which jars the otherwise warm and peaceful atmosphere. A magpie sings far away; it could be a butcherbird.

I’ve got to leave now to clean my darling’s desk and the file room.

9:30pm
It was twelve hours ago that I stopped writing to clean the study. I did Johnny’s corner fairly well; wiping walls and cleaning louvres. I polished his writing pane of glass – a very large sheet of glass – and put Monika’s drawings under it. Then I did the file room. It needs paint on the walls, roof beams and some floor covering, then it will be a good little room, clean, sweet-smelling and lovely to be in. Monika and I went looking for stubbies and Tooheys beer bottles. Marcello needed more to make the candle containers. None in the hotel bin so Monika suggested the dump. We filled up two small boxes with stubbies. There were a few flowers on the roadside, so we stopped to pick them.

Lunch was good. As usual it was a spread and we talked of catching fish, of Christmas presents and a few other things. I forget what. Had a short nap. Just before dozing I started Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan.

9th Dec 1978 8:40am

Back at the Base Hospital to get my stitches removed. I’ve dropped Mum, Marcello and Monika near the East Street shops. It’s cool here.

I must get a tight grip on myself, I’m in a bad mood. I was aware of it  when I made a remark about Johnny’s hair and he said not to maternalise him. Apparently that meant (what I would call) making cute noises at a child. Fair enough, I make comments without considering the effect they have on the recipient.

Anyway, in fairness to Johnny, I did make several comments about his new haircut. So I just stood under the tree near the old garage and he, after a look at my face, slowly drove away to the airport.

My bad mood was a result of last night. Just a few minutes before dinner, Johnny yelled at Gareth for not having done his bedroom in spite of repeated suggestions. He thumped Gareth on his bottom, then banished him to his room. This sort of occurrence is unpleasant whenever it happens simply because one is yelled at and the other is forced to do the yelling. I had just prepared a very special meal. We hadn’t had fish for weeks and weeks. Also the fish I had crumbed and fried crisp, were caught by Marcello. Now what was going to happen? Was Gareth to stay in his room while we ate a meal that would almost certainly be spoilt by his absence from the table? Why couldn’t Johnny time his chastisement better? I suppose we all are slack in choosing the right time for unpleasant things. And a time for pleasant things too, except pleasant things don’t dampen a scene.

I remember another time sitting down to a meal with Johnny, when he told me my brother had had a nervous breakdown and was in a sanitorium that I knew of and disliked. That was because of it’s uncaring treatment of the patients when the cows were always well stocked with feed. I remember being amazed, in spite of my shock and pain at the news, that Johnny hadn’t told me after the meal. Some would call it nitpicking. I don’t care, I maintain that discretion is essential.

Again, a telephone message came through for a neighbour one night, Johnny wrote out the message and handed it to young Gareth. The kid had to go down the drive, which is dark and spooky, and the neighbour may have been asleep. The message didn’t appear to be urgent at all, it was a confirmation of an arrangement three weeks away.

Anyway, I add to Gareth’s nervous state by shouting at him this morning. He was rude, but on reflection later, it appeared to be a natural exclamation one would make. He wanted a stapler for school and had planned to be taken to the shop and returned home so he could cycle to school.

12th Dec 1978

Jobs that have to be done:
Verandah
Dining room
Sitting room
Bookshelves
Laundry shelves
Get camping gear sorted
Slaughter chook and drake and duck.
Tonight: Put away cakes, make bread, clean bedroom

Don Juan [Notes from Journey to Ixtlan]:

“People hardly ever realise that we can cut anything from our lives, any time, just like that.”

Erasing Personal History

It is best to erase personal history because that would make us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.

Nobody knows who I am or what I do. Not even I.

You see we only have two alternatives; we either take everything for sure and real, or we don’t. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state in which we don’t know where the rabbit will pop out, not even ourselves.

Losing self-importance

You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed. You are so goddamn important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything. You’re so damn important that you can afford to leave if things don’t go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That’s nonsense. You’re weak and conceited.

Death is an adviser

Death is our eternal companion, it is always to your left at an arm’s length. It is always watching you. It always will until the day it taps you.

How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us?

A thing to do when you’re impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death.

Death may tap you at any moment so really there’s no time for crappy thoughts and moods.

Assuming responsibility

When a man decides to do something he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions, without any doubts or remorse about them.

In a world where death is the hunter, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.

To assume responsibility of one’s decisions means that one is ready to die for them.

There are no small or big decisions, there are only decisions that we make in the face of our inevitable death.

The Last Battle on Earth

For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable, my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvellous time. I wanted to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.

If this was your last battle on earth, I would say that you are an idiot.

You are wasting your last act on earth in some stupid mood. You have no time, my friend, no time. None of us have time.

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