85. Letters to Family – Journal Entry 18th November 1981

I would be very interested to know your impressions of Europe. Mary tells us you missed visiting London and Lourdes. What a pity! How many days were you away?

Marcello is in his second year of work and still enjoys it. His wife is expecting the second child. Nathaniel is now nearly two years old and starting to talk. He seems bright and is mainly interested in tape recorders, radios and hi-fi equipment. His maternal grandmother gave him a couple of old cassette tape recorders/radio and he knows which button to press, how to put in the tapes and take them out again. His mother encourages him to be as independent as possible so he can feed himself very well, selects the right pan for his omelette at breakfast and can usually make himself understood. There is no worry about toilet training – he just does all the right things – he used to crawl to the bathroom after his mother for his early morning scrub! There was no question of carrying him, however, the bathroom is next to their bedroom. Mum and I have to stop ourselves from fussing over him because he is quite aware of being the centre of attention. I find it very hard because he is very good-looking and has the most engaging manner, but then grandmothers are always mushy over their grandchildren. We are very lucky to have Marcello, Monika and Nathaniel with us.

At last, I have a photograph of Karen for you, taken at the twelfth-grade students’ formal dance. I also had a newspaper cutting of the three top students with a small photograph of each student, however, someone removed the newspaper from my desk. Yesterday she sat for her last subject examination and we will know the results today;  the academic year will not start until February ’82. Karen hopes to stay at the residential college which will be a break from home, she is eighteen years old after all, and may come down on weekends. Rockhampton is only forty kilometres away and Johnny is in Rocky most of the week. Last week we attended the high school speech night where Karen and the male co-captain gave valedictory speeches. She has been on debating teams for about four years and we thought she spoke well. Both Gareth and Karen won certificates for the mathematics competition.

Mum is almost into her round of Christmas celebrations with her various pensioner clubs. She was ill a month ago when she decided not to take her medication for high blood pressure, headaches and nerves. After a week or two, she collapsed with very high blood pressure and was in a highly nervous state. She enjoyed her week in our local hospital which is a very pleasant place; no-one is seriously ill there and if they were, they would be sent to Rockhampton Base Hospital. Our little hospital is right on the beach with good views from the public wards, the staff are usually friends or known to the patients, the food is good for a short stay and everything is clean, airy and cheerful. There is a TV in the lounge and in each ward. With only four patients in each ward, it’s really like a free holiday. The rest and change did mum a lot of good and after the initial heavy dosage of medicine, mum is now back to taking her medication only two times a day. All in all, life has never been better for mum, especially after hearing that all is well with Mary.

Barbara is improving steadily but it’s really difficult to keep her occupied because she is not interested in the usual activities like drawing, knitting or gardening. However, she now collects shells from the beach and mum takes her for a stroll at weekends. She can now choose books from the library for mum, cassette tapes of pop music and found a book on shells. At night, mum reads to Barbara; a recent activity which started after we decided to ban the TV from the house. When there is a particularly good programme, family members intended to go to the neighbours for TV. We’re not against having a television set for short periods, however, we consider indiscriminate television viewing keeps a person from being more constructive and active because it is a passive occupation and much time is given in exchange for very little information or pleasure. Now we read a lot, play games, play the record player or radio and talk to each other. When we see mum and Barbara enjoying their reading sessions, we feel quite firm about not having a TV.

Are you planning to come with Mary and Cliffy next year? Mum intends to go to Melbourne when they come so that she has a longer time with them.

Going onto something different, I wonder if you can give me recipes for Indian dishes which are either old and hence not known much, or regional. Let me explain: I have a small collection of Indian cookbooks, but I would like to add to them, either by getting more books or adding individual recipes which families may have, for instance, Cliffy’s mango seed pudding. I have the Dalda cookbook but it only gives a few recipes from each of the four states and one, of course, on South Indian cooking.

I have Veerasawmy’s cookbook on Indian food and several others. I thought Henry’s mum or Aunty Olive may have some and I though another source may be book stalls. Do you think it would be worth advertising for old cookbooks?

There are three that I am looking for (if you could find them and if the price is right):

  • Culinary Jottings for Madras by “Wyvern” (Colonel Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert), Higginbotham & Co, Madras, 5th ed, 1885 and first published in 1878
  • Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book by the author of Manual of Gardening for Western India, R Riddell.
  • The Indian Cookery Book: A Practical Handbook to the Kitchen in India, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co, 1944 1st ed, 1869.

If you or Mary have time, I would appreciate it if you could jot down a recipe or look in a second-hand bookstall. If what I ask for is too difficult, please forget it.

Did I mention that a few years ago I ran an Indian cookery course? There was a good response, three classes of about ten each, and I was paid quite well. I was reminded of this the other day when one of the participants asked for help with an Indian dinner party she was to give at her home. Curiously enough, the vindaloo was the one dish that most of the participants raved about. One can buy bottled vindaloo paste, at quite a high price, and it tastes better than our own mix. Do you know what is used?

23 Nov 1981

Tio Danding
Thank you very much for your letter. My mother, of course, is upset to know you are finding life very difficult and even before you wrote to us, we sent some money for you to Tio Vincente. It is not much (a little above 35 pesos) starting from October. I hope you have received it. My mother is the one who sends that every month for you and I don’t know how long she can afford to do that, so enjoy the money while it comes; I will let you know when she cannot send any more. In spite of the pain in her head after a car accident two years ago, she is keeping active. The rest of the family are well but working hard at study or a job. Barbara attends a special therapy centre in Rockhampton and a free bus takes her there and back over forty kilometres away. It is a very good place, Barbara has greatly improved and is learning many things there.

Look after yourself and try to be as cheerful as possible.

I sent a letter to Singapore about a year ago but did not receive a reply; perhaps you should write directly to them because we don’t know if they received my mother’s greeting cards.

26 Nov 1981

Tio Vincente
I was wondering whether you received any money? We are a little worried because we haven’t heard from you as yet. Did you get my letter written in August? I hope the money is arriving regularly and that you will have a good Christmas and New Year.

Over here life goes on as usual. My mother always has pain in her head from an accident two years ago, otherwise, she is quite well. There are many activities like physical exercise classes and sports clubs for retired people; they have a jolly time together.  She tries to be active, gets out and about and likes her garden of flowers. Barbara is in good health and her behaviour has improved; she still has her bad moods and talks to herself, however, with a little medicine she quickly gets out of her withdrawn moods.

It is getting hot now and the flies and mosquitoes are active again. Winter here lasts from June to September and is like Banawae weather; cold during the day in the shade, when it is windy or at night.

Karen has now finished high school and will start college next year, Gareth has just finished his first year at high school with four more years to complete matriculation. Johnny is still working long hours. I do the cooking and study a little mathematics. Our best wishes for Christmas and New Year.

Lots of love from all of us.

Tio Vincente
Another short letter in case you have not received my August letter.

I hope you realise that one-sixth of the money is for Tio Danding. Your family gets five shares and he gets one share. However, I also said in the letter that the first amount was for your family only, so starting from the September money, which should have arrived at your bank in October, Tio Danding should have received his share for October and November. By the time you get this letter, there should be another payment for him through you. I hope I have explained the arrangements clearly. If you have any doubts please let me know. My mother is sending the money for Tio Danding through your bank account as it will be too costly to send it separately to both of you. I hope you do not mind.

Note: ‘Tio’ means Uncle in Tagalog (Philippines)

83. Dear Joyce (Part 1) – Journal Entry 3rd November 1981

Please thank your neighbour for me, I was so relieved that my letter had reached you. Earlier today I lost my bet on the horses and your quick and warm response was compensation. No, I haven’t become a gambler since arriving in Australia; today is the Melbourne Cup race and the whole of Australia stands hypnotised for a few minutes watching TV or listening to the radio while the race is run. Just about everybody bets and the commentary is very exciting. Last year I bet on the Melbourne Cup for the first time. Johnny tells me the Grand National is somewhat similar but here office meetings are rescheduled to keep 1:45pm clear on the first Tuesday of November so people can place bets and watch the race. It’s even a public holiday in Victoria where the race is held. Charitable institutions run fashion shows and luncheons with raffles based on the Melbourne Cup race winners.

Life indeed has moved on and I’m glad to know you are a grandmother. We have one twenty-two month old grandson Nathaniel (Marcello’s son) and we are fortunate they all live with us. My mother and sister Barbara (who is mildly retarded) live with us too and have been here for five years. At the moment I am writing to you and trying to encourage Barbara to go to sleep. She is easily excited and waiting up for my mother to return from a pensioner’s dinner. Barbara is naturally very attached to our mother.

We arrived in Australia with Gareth, Karen and Marcello, and settled down in Emu Park. Blue-eyed Gareth was only six months old and we joined Johnny who had gone ahead to set up home for us. They were strange and wondrous years; a little worrying too because I was on a visitor’s visa and fearful of complications with the Immigration Department. After a few years, we moved to Sydney where Johnny started at a consultancy firm. I loved Sydney and we were then sent to the Philippines on a contract and staying in Manila for a couple of years. Johnny did not extend his contract as we were longing to get back to Australia. The children chose to return to Emu Park, rather than Sydney, and we finally moved back at the end of 1972, bought a house and have been here ever since.

Last night we went to the high school for speech night and are naturally very proud of Karen who gave the valedictory speech as school captain. She has worked hard and consistently to get through her studies and hopes to start a Mechanical Engineering degree next year at the College of Advanced Education in Rockhampton. She changed her mind about Queensland University because Brisbane seemed large and overcrowded.

This is Gareth’s first year at high school and he has another four years to go. The school is in Yeppoon, a little town about twelve miles away. A free bus takes Emu Park kids there and back every day.

We live in a large wooden house, said to be over eighty years old, resting on eighty stumps. The ‘garden’ is about an acre in size and the house set on a shale hilltop with two rows of fully grown Norfolk Island pines as wind breakers. There are views of the sea and a five-minute walk straight down the hill. The trip back is quite a bit slower.

With such a large, mostly adult family, we have to grow a few vegetables and keep chickens (chooks) and ducks. We buy fruit and vegetables in bulk from the farms in the area – mostly what they can’t sell to the shops. Ducks are not considered a special treat in Australia. Marcello has a job at the local meatworks dealing in small animals so we don’t do badly at all. As Johnny says, food is no problem, it’s the bigger bills like car payments or repairs, registration fees, house and water rates that we struggle with.

There are fourteen clubs in Emu Park with only a population of fourteen hundred or thereabouts. My mother, who is seventy-three, leads a very busy life indoor bowling twice a week, the National Fitness club once a week, church once a week and the Pensioner’s Leagues socials once a month. The clubs also have special tea parties and Johnny bakes a supply of cakes so Gran can ‘take a plate’. There are also the inevitable fund-raising street stalls and she attends Christmas dinners, bus trips and goodness knows what else. We have to keep a diary of my mother’s movements.

Bob Dylan has been on our record player for the past week and Barbara is now snoring gently so I shall join Karen and Johnny who are hard at work at the dining table.

63. Laid Low By Migraine – Journal Entry 5th Feb 1981

Ha! I’m up and about at last. It’s 5 pm and I spent all of yesterday and today flat on my back, brought low by a migraine.

Tuesday was a full day in Rocky with the family and a particularly excellent day of shopping. I bought a pair of blue trousers, which I discovered were too tight for me, however, I squeezed myself into them for a later theatre performance; a couple of very talented Italian clowns.

While in Rocky, I took Barbie to see Dr Morgan. He looked very familiar and I wondered where I had seen him – of course, he attended to mum at the Yeppoon Hospital! At that time, well before her car accident, she had an attack of hysteria and her body went rigid. Dr Morgan discussed her symptoms right in front of her, said it was a classic case of hysteria and put her on a course of tablets for a year.

Dr Morgan didn’t approve of Melleril for Barbara and thought that the long-term effects of Melleril were shocking. While in London, he had seen a whole ward of patients on Melleril, sitting with tongues lolling out of their mouths, hands and legs jerking. His demonstration looked frightening! He recommended Barbara take Lithium, a mild drug which prevented highly excitable periods in a patient’s emotional life. The time we spent waiting for Dr Morgan, and speaking with him for our appointment, seemed an inordinately long time; that’s the way of it now.

I dropped Barbie off and bought mash, which I had forgotten to buy earlier for Monika when Barbie and I went to the garage to fill the car with petrol. From there I went to pick up the bean bag Monika wanted and after the bean bag was securely fastened in the back of the moke, I continued on to St Paul’s Cathedral office for a meeting.

With a few minutes to spare before the meeting, I slipped across to George’s (the trouser specialist) to see if he had a suitable shirt to go with my new trousers. I was absorbed in the styles of shirts, not much variety actually, and turned to walk away from the racks, almost colliding with a man standing squarely in my way. I was astonished and a little alarmed. He was tall, dark-skinned and wore a single gold earring, the image of a picture-book pirate. I imagined him in pirate clothes, a cutlass between his teeth and a large green leering parrot on his shoulder.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, twisting away in the narrow passage between the shirts, sleeping bags and piles of large-brimmed khaki hats.
“I’m not…” he said in a low voice.

8th Feb 1981

Jung, and the pursuit of his unconscious is disturbing. It must have been terrifying for him and I will have to read his books before I can have a clear idea of what he is on about. It has encouraged me to work out my own vague or nagging fears and to write about them, however bizarre or trivial.

Why am I scared of going into the garden at night, or to the bathroom late at night? Why am I scared? Do I imagine I am going to see some spirit – the latest being Elaine who has just died – may she rest in peace. And why do I say rest in peace when I don’t believe in life after death?

I’m tired and cannot think clearly. I shall pursue this in the morning.

11th Feb 1981

I don’t think I shall continue with the 8th Feb entry. However, I wish to record my extremely severe migraine which lasted two days, the nausea almost constant. The last terrible migraine was over a year ago. The outcome of my migraine was that I listened to a good many tapes and lost a bit of weight, something I had been trying to do for at least six months.

14th Feb 1981

It is difficult to write about a migraine so long after the event. Perhaps it is better to forget the nasty experience. This morning I went to sleep at 1:45 am and reviewed my write-up of the weeks activities.

18th Feb 1981

Have to take hold of myself. Can’t do much Calculus I without revising P-Maths, so I must spend time working through Pre-Calculus. In fact, there will be no mucking around. I’ll need to reorganise my day to study as much as possible.

24th Feb 1981

Feeling frustrated, inadequate, guilty and mad. I want to go away for a while, somewhere I don’t have to do anything, see anybody or speak to anyone. Ridiculous I know. Shirking my responsibilities is a luxury I cannot have.

Let’s have optimistic thoughts, I’m lucky to be where I am, I’m lucky to be doing what I am doing, it’s a wonderful view and a cool, airy verandah. I’m sitting on a deck chair with the afternoon sun on me and Johnny is a wonderful man.

I’m dissatisfied because I have not made progress with Pascal. I can’t seem to write an appropriate note for a task set for me.

Last night was a night for celebration. Karen was chosen as female school captain (there was competition for the position) and Craig S was chosen as male school captain.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

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

My dear M,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

51. World of the First Australians – Journal Entry 26th Jul 1980

Baked some rye and wholemeal bread for the school fete. An excellent night, the rain went away and the weather for the fete today couldn’t have been better. Went to Colin this morning about data input in Cobol. We sat on the verandah. The sun was bright, the sea views were what they should be.

Afterwards, Colin walked back with me to get some scented geraniums. We had lunch in the kitchen, red wine and coconut macaroons which Gareth and Johnny had made.

Death means you can’t go fishing.

Yesterday mum looked after the bread and moussaka. I fed bone meal, fresh from the band saw at the meatworks, to the plants. Then I dug up peanuts and planted garlic and tomato seedlings.

One of the brinjal bushes has the droops. I noticed this usually happens when we’ve had rain and wind. Must keep an eye on that bush. The damn dog (I think she did it) dug up the bone meal.

The garden is exciting at this time of year. The herbs are doing well, the garlic is sprouting, the dhal is ripening. I planted the strawberries late this year and I don’t think we will get much.

Marcello, Monika and Nathaniel are away for the weekend. Karen and Gareth went to the fete. Gareth won a Parker ballpoint and a packet of almond flour. We had garlic soup for dinner and a tart of pears in a walnut pastry. Gran went as usual to her Saturday bowling and then to church.

Took some onions, apples, carrots and bread to the Benedictine nuns. They are such special people in an otherworldly way, so different from others who lead a secular life. What is it? A life of prayer and dedication, time to think, free of responsibilities? Avoiding the usual worries over children, love and jealousies? Sister Gregory and Sister Benedict really enjoyed their stroll to church taking the long way there.

Bach’s unaccompanied cello is on the record player. Johnny and Karen have made a big batch of crisps. We sit eating the crisps while I write and Johnny, Karen and Gareth play Scrabble. The cello plays on.

Started Berndt and Berndt, The World of the First Australians yesterday and read a paper on Sexual Conquest and Submission in Australian Aboriginal Myths.

Notes:

  • Myths for men, enacted by them at which women and children not present.
  • Myths for women, acted out by women, in seclusion.
  • Women after menopause take the part with men in enacting myths.
  • Especially among West Australian myths, males pursuing women and forcing them into sexual intercourse then going their separate ways.
  • Recurrent theme – snake, long phallus, phallus capable of travelling by itself to reach women, excitement about women urinating or the smell of female urine.
  • Women usually fleeing from a male (or seek out a male and then say no or run away) but submits after a struggle. Rarely are there stories about illicit sexual encounters.
  • Myths about Dreamtime heroes who then disappear.
  • Greek myths also have encounters between Gods and human females who then separate. Also, this behaviour seems restricted to mythical beings.
  • Australian social life has groupings of different sex and ages. It is rare for married couples to spend much time together, especially after children are born.

29th Jul 1980

It is already 10:15 am and half the morning is gone. Kneaded bread dough at 6:45 am and made six loaves of bread. Put a pot of bones on the stove for soup, soaked dhal, made kofta curry, gave a few weeds to the ducks, picked herbs, ordered flour from the mill, took Barbie to the bus stop and put out the garbage. Also had time to have a mug of tea with mum and Monika. Oh yes, telephoned Johnny about picking up the flour.

It’s a beautiful day with bright sunlight. The ducks are amongst the ferns and potted plants again. Now I’m at the kitchen table writing while waiting for the next batch of bread to bake.

Yesterday was quite full. Had an 8 am meeting with Warby. It was a conference with the clergy to tackle the problem of ministering to Aboriginal people. Most of the clergy neither understood them or seemed to be making an effort to and are, quite frankly, uncomfortable with them. Most have not met an adult Aboriginal; most have observed drunken Aboriginal people and heard the usual tale of shiftlessness. The conference was to be residential to achieve maximum contact and discussion among participants.

Several plans were mooted:

  1. Have equal numbers of clergy and Aboriginal people from the start
  2. Have a group of clergy separately examining problems of dealing with Aboriginals; also a group of Aboriginals examining problems of interacting with clergy then bring them together to report discussions
  3. Have clergy alone for first two days then bring in a group of Aboriginals who would be willing to act as a consulting panel to the results of the clergy discussions.

Points 1 and 2 do not appear feasible, mainly as there is a lack of Aboriginals in comparison to the middle-class, articulate clergy. Also, Aboriginal people have many problems and interfacing with clergy appear to be quite minor in comparison. For the clergy, their inability to minister to Aboriginal people could be viewed as a serious breach of their Christian faith.

Warby is not happy with the third option and is strongly in favour of interaction between Aboriginals and clergy, possibly in a live-in situation. We meet again next Monday at the same time to discuss further.

Dropped Johnny off at the CIAE and then called on N at 9 am. We had a quick look at her garden then went upstairs so she could make cabbage parcels, sambar and rice.

Meanwhile, we caught up on the gossip: An Indian teacher has lost his job because his accent was causing students difficulty. He was without a job for six to eight months. His family turned Christian about a year or so ago and he gets the odd session as a fill-in.

Then there was A who is pregnant and had an abortion before study leave; been upset about it ever since. Friends are hoping everything will go well. And A seems to be terribly sensitive and easily swayed. S and his wife are spoiling their six month son, trying to turn him into a genius by buying jigsaw puzzles and so on. Apparently, they are the joke of the Indian cosmopolitan crowd. R and family may be going to Melbourne on study leave and the youngest son told N he had picked it up from conversation his father had with someone else.

I was back at the Institute at 11:30 am in time for Johnny to keep a 12 o’clock appointment in the Town Hall about setting up a computer society.

Felt quite giddy, tried to shake it off before the Cobol lecture. Went to the Computer Centre after to sort out the program. Colin gave me an old program he had written so I could get an idea of what a professional Cobol program looked like. Picked up Monika and Nathaniel from Farnborough. Noticed some dhal growing along the hedges, will get some as soon as possible. We had a good dinner of roast beef, zucchini, cabbage and potatoes. There were lamingtons for pudding.

Marcello brought home a corned leg of mutton. Johnny read another chapter of the Odyssey to us. I did a little bit of Cobol, read an article in the National Times about an illegal immigrant from Hong Kong, and grumpily lost at chess to Johnny. Went to bed early and read a little of more of Berndt and Berndt.

Jobs for today:

  • Make chapatis, veg curry and rice for dinner
  • Start on Stats again, for heaven’s sake
  • Cobol
  • Visit the Benedictine nuns again – I don’t know why

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.

 

49. Letter To Nora, My Sister – Journal Entry 29th Jun 1980

Now that my exams are over, I can take the time to breathe and write the odd letter. Mum wanted me to write and tell you that she had a car accident. I wrote separately to M and at great length about it.

At the end of March, the 30th to be precise, mum went to a pensioners dinner given by a local supermarket. On the journey home, the car crashed into the front end of a bridge. Fortunately, the car didn’t plunge into the water and the driver, who had put his seat belt on, got out without a scratch.

The woman in the front was killed instantly. The second woman, who lives on our street, was sitting in the back seat with mum and had both her arms broken, one in two places, the other near the elbow. Very nasty breaks. She also had a lot of skin ripped off her legs and is still in hospital, having had skin grafts and physiotherapy. She can’t use one arm, even though the bone has healed, the other arm is still in plaster and has been held up the whole three months – can you imagine?. She is over seventy, has a history of not healing well or easily and looks very thin and brittle.

Finally to get to mum: she received a terrific whack to her right cheekbone and the black eye was fearful to see. Her eye, when one opened the puffy eyelid, was red, red, red. She had stitches in her lip and a couple above her chin, stitches on her shin (I don’t know how they damaged their legs) and worst of all she had six of her bottom teeth broken – gums as well. The hospital staff kept the teeth in her mouth until the dentist could see to her. When she did, the dentist removed the remaining two precious bottom teeth. Previously we had spent hundreds of dollars trying to save her bottom teeth!

After a couple of days in the hospital, x-rays showed that mum had a cracked sternum and several cracked ribs. Also, her lungs had blood which was drained by poking a hole in her side and inserting a tube between the ribcage and lung. They took out two litres in the first hour and two more over the next day. Mum suffered a mild heart attack, possibly from the irritation of the drainage tube.

Terrible as all this may sound, she was out of the hospital in about ten days. She spent about a month and a half very quietly at home and is now back at her various social activities. She has been to church about three times.

The uncomfortable part of the accident for her was having to do without teeth for nearly three months. All the food had to be minced. Even when she was fitted with new teeth, the bottom part hurt because of the sensitive, broken gum underneath. Also, bits of bone would push to the surface. The dentist says it will take about a year for the gum to settle down. We went back for another fitting and he put soft padding inside the bottom teeth and now mum can eat without much pain. All the medical treatment and the new teeth were free by the way. The service has been excellent, with nurses and doctors making a great fuss over mum. They were so happy to see her recover quickly from the accident.

Mum’s friends also have been marvellous, with their telephone calls, hospital visits, cards and presents.

By the way, she has not received a card from you for her birthday and she thinks perhaps you are cross with her. I said most likely your card went astray.

We celebrated her 70th birthday twice. The first celebration was with chicken biryani, the second dinner with a very big fish a friend gave her for Mother’s Day. We kept it for her birthday because we knew she would have to eat without her teeth.

She has been worrying about not writing to all of you; mainly worry about not being able to put pen to paper. I don’t know why she hesitates, her English is pretty good and besides, she has been practising by copying bread recipes and other recipes she might want to use when she cooks the family meal.

Apart from the accident, things are pretty much quiet at home, in fact, we are almost back to normal.

Karen is just over her end of first semester exams in eleventh grade. She has a year and a half of high school left and working very hard. Last year she won a few prizes for debating and overall performance at school.

Marcello is working at a small meatworks. He turned down a job with a bank because he doesn’t fancy sitting behind a desk all day. At the meatworks, he works part-time in the office and part-time in the abattoir. He likes it very much because of the homely atmosphere and friendly staff.

Monika is Swedish and a very steady character. She does all the feeding and tending of the chickens, bantams, turkeys and about fifteen ducks that Marcello keeps buying. The bantams are special breeds that he recently bought at the local agricultural show so poor Monika gets more and more work besides looking after the baby. The baby is absolutely gorgeous and is made a great fuss of by everyone in the family. He seems to be bright and alert. He is only five months old and seems pretty grown-up already.

It is cold this morning, Sunday 6th July. The temperature is 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Cold enough for socks and a thick sweater. The other way to keep warm is to put the wood stove on or go out in the sun. The sun feels good and one can strip to just a thin shirt and skirt and, if you walk fast enough, you can get down to bikinis. Some people actually swim in the sea… southerners!

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Added mum’s sister Nora to the family tree.
  • NEWS: this week I interviewed my mum’s best friend, who we knew when we lived in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1968. Cynthia (now Kami) lives on an island in BC, Canada. The interview post is coming soon.
  • 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.
  • See the map of where we lived and the family tree at the bottom of the Home page, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

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.

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

24. Meals On Wheels – Journal Entry 5th Sep 1975

Went to see Steve McL at the library about visiting people in the community. She is interested in lending large-print books to old people and doing activities with young people.

Those interested should help with Meals On Wheels (M.O.W.) to have contact and a raison d’etre. One or two women will be organisers and contacts. Lectures and films could be shown to help educate and entertain helper groups. We decided to meet next week to sort out the committee and roster for M.O.W.

A few of our potential recipients:

Mrs A is psychotic and almost everybody avoids speaking to her. She grew up in Emu Park. Horse-whipped her kid once and he is now middle-aged, an alcoholic, collects antique furniture and will not do anything for this woman. He hates her. She is completely un-loveable, very much the grand lady.

Mr B lives in a caravan and seems to have no-one except the people who own the weekend home whose garden he maintains. Very lovely, going blind with possible kidney trouble.

Mr C has a senile wife. She interferes when he cooks and he doesn’t get much sleep. An old friend helped by taking his wife out for a drive while Mr C had a sleep or went for a walk. His wife is now in a home. It’s very sad but he is a different man after regular sleep.

We called a public meeting. Priests, representatives of various organisations, a social worker and a community health nurse were all present. The chairman was good, everyone was in favour of Meals On Wheels. A very successful meeting.

6th Sep 1975

The school fete is on and it’s a cold and windy day. No rain though. In the morning I went with the kids to help at school. Everyone was rummaging at the White Elephant stall. Much excitement among the kids. In the afternoon there was a very good crowd. During the speeches, various people traced the history of Emu Park School. I worked in the tea stall.

In the evening we had dinner with Margo and Norman. The discussion centred around how to find out what the Aboriginals did around Rockhampton. Norman to find out what is needed. Margo to help with homework at One People of Australia League.

15th Sep 1975

Meals On Wheels started. Many did not want to get meals; hope they change their minds later.

16th Sep 1975

“What do you think of the kedgeree, Gareth?” I query.

He says, “Oh, the flavours don’t go well together. Those flavours don’t go well with the tomatoes.”

There was a sad incident on Sunday. Got a call from the neighbour about Mr E.

Mr E was expecting a meal from M.O.W. – kept looking out for it and getting quite agitated. When I called by, he walked down to the vehicle and peered in. It was 1pm and all the meals had been delivered. So the neighbour, kind soul, made soup and put it on a tray with cold meat, bread and a sweet. She walked the food across to Mr E’s house.

Mr E’s house was a shell and barely liveable. A strong urine smell was everywhere, especially in a room which seemed to serve as a kitchen, dining room, bathroom and latrine. The latrine was a blue plastic bucket. Meat was rotting in the frying pan; near which was a lump of dripping and over 15 egg shells, egg cartons and egg smeared plates. It was absolute squalor. Empty jam jars and dirty towels lay strewn on the benches and floor.

The house was described by some as “the funniest in the street” and the occupant has always been a mystery. He has no friends, speaks very little English and people suspect he knows more than he lets on.

Strangely, Mr E has a lovely golden dog, called Laddie, who is in prime condition. He spends most of his time at the pub. Every afternoon the pub people tell him, “The Meals On Wheels people are going to your house now.” To which he downs his can of beer, scoots out, races along the street, gets home and sets himself at the table. Some days he eats a slice of bread while waiting.

Mr E has a round face, youthful complexion and a freshness about him. His eyes give nothing away. He is 82 years old, lights a pipe that is not there, puts burning mosquito coils on top boxes of matches and drinks a lot of beer.

Mr E loves his dog Laddie. He is regal and seems to do you a favour by just being and allowing you to do things for him.

3rd Oct 1975

The Welshman was a smoothie, very charming with the women and drank heavily. He would offer to help with some job around the house, look around and then steal. Usually timber, paint or some other building material.

One day he was drunk and announced, “If anyone annoyed me, I’d burn their house down, just like that, no messing around… wouldn’t be the first time either.”

He was suspected of having burned down the community hall, the school and even a second community hall. He was Master of Ceremonies (M.C.) at six-penny dances that were run to pay for the community hall. But one night he arrived drunk so the people refused to have him as M.C. That was the night the community hall burned down.

Letter to The President of the RSL

[Emu Park, October 1975]

We need your help! Not your money! A group of local people have organised MATTARA* to seek out anyone in the community needing care; not medical care, not charity, just contact with other members of their community.

Some elderly folk are fit and well, others have helpful relatives or neighbours. Some, however, lead very lonely lives, others need practical help in small but important matters. Some, for example, have weak eyesight and cannot even read a newspaper; some are too frail to catch the bus and need to be taken shopping for necessities. Others have electrical fittings which are faulty and deteriorating. The main need on their part is for a little human contact and on our part to be able to find out when help is needed.

Younger people, too, may run into temporary difficulties and may need similar kinds of help. We do not seek out any specific age group, just people in need of care.

We have no doubt that your organisation will wish to share our concern and we shall greatly appreciate your nominating one of your members to join our group – not necessarily for visiting – advice of those needing care will be of tremendous assistance.

[Eight members were listed, including my mother, with three as contact people]

A meeting will be held at the Library on Thursday, 30th October at 7:30 pm. May we welcome your representative then? If unable to attend please telephone to convey your willingness to help us.

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*MATTARA – an Aboriginal word meaning ‘hand of friendship’

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