97. La Dolce Vita – Journal Entry 15th July 1982

Managed to put in a good slab of time at the desk last night, mostly writing a report to the Progress Association on town planning. Read the draft report to Peter, who approved of it, so I rang Tennant next; when he answered with a mouthful of toothpaste I thought I had caught him without his teeth! Left Laurie a message today so we can talk about using the School of Arts building as a health centre.

 It seems I have set myself a fairly rigid daily schedule to complete my weekly study load of 15 hours of Cost Accounting, 15 hours of Calculus, 10 hours of Programming and 10 hours of Methodology. To achieve it, I would need to get up at 5 am, exercise, write in the diary, study, prepare the meals, study again, do the housework, study some more and spend time with Johnny from 9:30 to 11 pm. I haven’t maintained consistency thus far.

Nevertheless, today was reasonably productive apart from feeling drowsy since midday. We went to the post office to get mum’s money, Monika bought stamps and posted letters and we were back for a late lunch. I found it quite difficult to stay alert at the desk, so I literally jumped up and vacuumed various rooms, sorting out various household matters. Later I managed cost accounting and even studied after dinner. Johnny arrived home late, having been away from home since Tuesday morning, and we spent some time together chatting while he ate dinner.

While making dinner, the usual worries were chasing round and round in my brain, probably because I couldn’t do a few of the Programming exercises the first time around. I must break this cycle, it is depressing, utterly ridiculous and a waste of energy. 

16/7/82

I realised that we may have to have another meeting to discuss two omissions in our report: development of the trading centres and examination of the adequacy of the land set aside for industry. Will mention these to Peter later this morning. In fact, a special meeting on employment should be held before finalising our recommendations.

Mum needs to make a dental appointment today and I will start making dinner for tonight: fish, brown rice, cauliflower, sliced tomatoes and lemon meringue pie.

 18/7/82

Last night Johnny and I went to bed after midnight, read a little and ate mandarins. Today will be busy: Gareth needs a lift to Yeppoon for his football match, I need to concentrate on Calculus revision, try the Programming assignment, read a chapter of Cost Accounting and get on top of washing Johnny’s clothes. This week we have some guests: Mick is coming to dinner on Tuesday and I must clean the room for Rolf who is arriving on Thursday. We plan to have Biryani with onions and yoghurt, devil chutney followed by fruit salad.

Today gran has a dental appointment at the hospital and I must make chops, sausage, eggs and mashed potatoes for dinner.

21/7/82

Peter called about the draft proposals for the strategic plan. He mentioned that he will lend me two Polish cookbooks. His mother kept him out of the kitchen when he was young and since then he has been meaning to teach himself cooking. It hasn’t happened yet.

Mick seems to have enjoyed himself. He is a genuine Queensland country lad whose family lives in Clermont. To celebrate his first twenty-five years as a priest, the town had an ecumenical service, threw a huge party and presented him with a car. We discussed the growing number of men importing Filipino women for marriage. Two brothers, confirmed bachelors over fifty, both married Filipinos; these women and their children will be worth quite a lot when the old men die. Most of these men appear to be strange in some way and would find it hard to find an Australian partner.

I feel I should jot down the ideas for stories I would like to write rather than just having them in my head.

Yesterday, I thought that someone should do for the Mills and Boon market what Raymond Chandler did for the pulp magazine market; write extremely well within that framework. Most of their love stories have predictable plots—two people are antagonistic towards each other with hints of grudging admiration or irresistibility, another man or woman thwarts them in their progress toward romance but all comes good in the end. 

In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane is an orphan, an important factor in the hero’s decision to marry her. Our hero’s insane wife is living in the attic and he is a proud, rich and bitter man, a guardian to the child of his French mistress, a worldly man who spent most of his time abroad with women, leading the good life or la dolce vita. Jane is not scared of him although everyone else is. They fall in love and he is smitten, charmed by her wit, frankness and innocence. At their wedding, the wife’s brother denounces our hero and the ceremony is called off.

A remarkable scene takes place: our hero shows his insane wife to witnesses, the insane woman attacks her brother and our hero wrenches her off. In the meantime, Jane creeps off to her room and slips away. Jane is surprised to find her long-lost cousins and finds she has been left a fortune by a rich uncle in America. The hero had been blinded in an attempt to rescue his insane wife from a blaze she had started.

Finally, Jane and our hero find each other again, have a child and he slowly regains his sight.

91. Citizens Bureau – Journal Entry 11th June 1982

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

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

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

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

12th June 1982

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

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

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

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

13th June 1982

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

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

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

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

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

79. Fegato Alla Italiano – Journal Entry 5th October 1981

Bach sonatas are filling the house. FM is the best thing that has happened to us in five years. Maybe even ten years?

The day so far has been a very enjoyable one. Lazed in bed after waking at 5am and doing a few exercises. I went into the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches for Johnny’s lunch. It was pleasant to chat for a while before the tasks of the day.

Monika took Barbara to the bus stop and I stayed in the kitchen and chatted to Gareth and Karen before they went to school. Usually, I only pass the children on the way back from the bus stop, so it was a nice change; I even made their sandwiches for school today, an unusual activity.

After dealing with the breakfast dishes, putting a load of washing in the machine and feeding the chooks, I was back at my desk by 8:30am. It took a whole forty-five minutes to tidy my desk, think a bit and drink my coffee before I finally settled down to work; of course, FM was on. I studied with sweet baroque music filling the air followed by gentle, soulful pre-baroque music and singing.

6th Oct 1981

I was late to my desk, it was rather a long morning filled with household tasks. The bus was late and then I sat with Johnny for a chat and coffee before he left for work. Monika is taking Nathaniel to playgroup and she also has a nursing mothers meetings today. We swapped the big Australorp chicks to a different cage to make room for the new brood that hatched yesterday and today. I put nine eggs under the broody duck in spite of my resolve to stop breeding ducks for a few years! I want to see if the few Pekin eggs, nestled among the Muscovy eggs, are fertile. I tell myself I can always sell or give away ducklings. There is a sick chick among the older chicks so I had to put sulphurquin in their drinking water. I wonder what they think about the taste.

Mum reminded me that the garbage was collected today, so I left the chook feeding in a hurry and made my way down our stony driveway with a bag of rubbish, only to be met by mum staggering up the drive struggling for breath. She managed to gather herself together after a short rest and went to get ready for her indoor bowling session.

It is now late afternoon and I have not yet started on Calculus. I have, however, made bread, Danish pastry and stewed mulberries.

For dinner, we had liver with sage, onions, parsley, grilled bacon, new potatoes, leftover vegetables and carrot salad. The children are glad of the bacon to help the liver go down. The sage, parsley and lemon juice add a fragrance to the strong flavour.

Fegato Alla Italiana (Liver)

Ingredients:

½ kg onions (diced)
100g butter
800g calves liver (slice and pat dry)
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup dry white wine
2 fresh stalks sage
1 small bunch parsley
Salt and pepper

Method:
  • Brown the finely chopped onions in half the butter.
  • Gently brown the liver slices in a separate pan for about 5 minutes in the remaining butter until cooked, adding salt and pepper.
  • Take out the liver from the pan and sprinkle with lemon juice.
  • Pour most of the white wine into the pan to deglaze.
  • Add onions and sage and reduce.
  • Add fried liver, parsley and the remaining wine, warm through and mix gently.
  • Serve with grilled bacon, new potatoes and steamed vegetables or salad.

§

Pudding was a delicious combination of stewed mulberries, ice-cream and Danish pastries.

Must remember to wash the pots on the top shelf which are covered with cobwebs and mildew.

Found out today that Mary was in the hospital for minor surgery. How to tell mum?  She is already in a nervous state and may see Mary’s suffering as connected to her ‘sins’ of late; she may even get depressed. I’m not sure she will handle the news.

Additions to Gallery – Philippines 1972

Photos added to the Gallery: following on from our arrival in the Philippines in 1971, these were during 1972.

1972-May-Philippines-Camp
Gita collecting shells, camping May 1972
1972-Jun-Philippines
Karen, Johnny, Gareth, Marcello, camping Jun 1972
1972-Jun-Philippines
Gita camping Jun 1972, mum was scared of deep water as she couldn’t swim.
1972-Apr-Philippines
Gita and Johnny, exploring Apr 1972
img_0428
Beach fun Gareth, Karen and Marcello
1972-May-Philippines-Camp
Johnny camping May 1972
img_0432
On a large motorised canoe, driver, Karen and Johnny.
img_0713
Those black sands again, Karen, Marcello and Gareth 1972 (or 1971?)
img_0691
Gareth, Karen, Marcello, Johnny and friends exploring the islands camping 1972
img_0419
Johnny collecting wood for the camp fire 1972
img_0448
Gita on left front row at a conference 1972
img_0676
At one of our favourite pools: Gareth, Karen and Marcello 1972

72. Strange Jokes – Journal Entry 25th Aug 1981

I’ve been noticing strange jokes lately, about couples that have been married for many years, where the wife refers to the husband as “that codger”, “the old bugger”, “that bastard” or “the old man”; the husband refers to the wife as “the old bag”, “me old girl”, “old woman”. There seems to be so much bitterness behind the laughter and one does not hear many mother-in-law jokes bandied around lately. Perhaps couples don’t have much to do with their mothers-in-law?

It’s baking day and I will make two carrot cakes and several fruit breads after preparing dinner; tonight I’m making Bavarian meatballs followed by a sponge cake with cream and chocolate filling. Must also check with the family on birthday presents for Barbie, do the income tax preliminary notes and revise Calculus notes.

Today I remembered when Marcello was four years old, he thought cars had to be pushed to start them and seemed surprised when the car he was getting ready to push, started with no help from him. Another time Karen and Marcello were fighting over a frog, pulling and pushing, finally settling the matter with half a frog each. Life in India was so different.

28th Aug 1981

Time slips away so quickly.

Yesterday we went to Rocky to the library, bought presents for Barbara and of course had fish and chips for lunch in the park. Nathaniel sat with everyone and ate his fish and chips and drank his coke, dipping his chips into the tomato sauce.

Today the weather is glorious, not hot, not cold and the sun, bright and warm on my back as I picked broccoli for dinner. The days are golden and tranquil with a round of fresh eggs collected from the Australorp hens, snow peas, beans, lettuce and silverbeet from our abundant vegetable patches. Everyone seems to be peaceful in this dreamlike time – a rural paradise; can paradise be anything other than rural?

Parrots and topknot pigeons descend in a great flapping cloud, engrossed in the task of gathering their food. Magpies seem to have taken over the garden patrolling for pests. Mum is not happy with the echidnas that dig holes in her flower patches. Early this morning I heard Dusty barking angrily, nervously returning to warn me of strange happenings; I investigated and there were four big fat echidnas, heads and feet hidden, pretending not to be there. Queer monotremes. Later, warning cries from the chickens alerted us to one ambling past their pen, the poor chickens still jittery from a recent dog attack. Two marauding cats have been after their chicks. The ducks are not immune from attack either with hungry ravens swooping down to steal their eggs.

2nd Sep 1981

I know I would like to write stories, my diary, articles, poetry and letters, but the trouble is, how long can I go on without working for money to help relieve Johnny and hence free him for more of his own work? Johnny says maybe there will be no need to work. Last night was another agonising session with Johnny who says I do not care much for him and that he is at the bottom of my list of priorities. Fortunately, we didn’t argue too long, I said that I was slack about most things at the moment, that I was getting better and the evening ended wonderfully; thank goodness.

What is holding me back from doing all the things I want to do and seem capable of doing? I failed a subject with my suicidal attitude to work; almost paralysed with agony on how one feels and doesn’t feel. It’s silly to think of going away for a week to think, silly to want to talk to someone about being inadequate, I should just talk to myself, I know the answers. I thought I had improved somewhat but seem unable to work hard and consistently at my studies. If I can just work out what I want to do next year, that would tell me what I should be doing the rest of this year. I would actually like to work for money, with flexitime. I had a tentative offer from TAFE for tutoring, but realistically, do I know enough for that?

I went outside to feed the chooks and picked shallot flowers with their stalks. Mum cooked them with balachan and they were delicious.

Mum seemed to want to talk so I stayed in the kitchen, chatted and made a curry with the leftover liver and eggs. Lunch was relaxing. I tried to talk to mum about what I was thinking this morning and we agreed I should go ahead and learn what I can, not to be put off by the thought that I’m too old to be employed and to learn more anyway, especially about computing.

We picked strawberries at Les’ house and mum stayed on to talk to him. He wants to cook a meal for her and also came straight to the point: they could stay the night at his daughter’s house just outside Rocky or they could watch television at Les’ and mum could stay the night.

She said she would think about it!

Here are two seventy-year-old pensioners, mum and Les (who is missing part of his leg) having an “affair” or “liaison” shall we say. 

Monika’s comment on Les’ proposition: ‘Cheeky bugger!!’

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

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

70. Longing To Be Alone – Journal Entry 26th Jun 1981

After the work for the day is done, the dishes washed after dinner and the family have gone to their rooms, sometimes a feeling washes over me; I would like to be alone to do whatever I wish.

Usually, this desire is not very strong or isn’t there at all. I love Johnny and his company, however, occasionally I long for a corner where I can go to be by myself. The feeling doesn’t last long but I wonder about it. Does Johnny feel the same way too? What triggers this particular antisocial feeling? On the occasional night that Johnny is away, there seems a quiet time, a freedom, where one can do whatever one wishes.

Today, I wanted to lie in the dark, by myself. This could have been brought on by Johnny filling out the Census, asking me how old I was and at what age I had left school. Then mum chimed in saying she left school after grade three, what a sad life she had not being able to join into the writing games at the National Fitness Club and how Barbara would not crochet to keep herself occupied.

I retired to the little room and lay on my stomach in the dark. I knew Johnny was occupied with the Census forms so I had a few minutes to myself. I also knew that when he came to the study, he would ask me what I was doing in the dark.
Sure enough:
“What are you doing?” he asks several times.
“Why are you lying there?” several times more.
“Why don’t you apply your standards to yourself? If Barbara did that, you would go berserk.” Or words to that effect, I’m not sure of the exact phrase.

The comparison to Barbara is an uncomfortable one and something that has occurred to me often. Is this the manifestation of “going round the bend”, this withdrawal that is so noticeable and painful in Barbara and for which she is put on Melleril? And for which she is kept busy? Or is it a response to our almost continuous “keep Barbara busy” campaign?

Writing about the way I feel helps to sort out my thoughts, otherwise, my thinking is muddled, over emotional and explosive. I’m not sure though, whether I’m clearer in my thinking this evening.
What did I expect Johnny to ask? “Darling, are you alright?”
And on receiving my muffled, “Yes, thank you,” for him to leave discreetly? Why? To him it was yet another instance of Gita flopping around, not doing anything.
Or is it simply a product of feeling full after an excellent dinner cooked by Johnny and having my periods?

Time for a shower.

Recently I have been most unsure of myself, feeling inadequate, ignorant, unreliable and unstable. I had made an enquiry unthinkingly, with all sorts of wrong assumptions, and hurt the feelings of an old lady; on another occasion I said something that angered Johnny and I felt annoyed with myself that he was annoyed at me; and finally, I didn’t do well in Calculus, an easy subject, not using the time set aside for study.

Also, I nag or criticise the family and on some days, I pick on everyone. Why do they have to put up with me?

Bah, this is boring.

Perhaps, as Johnny says, I have a curious paralysis when actual work has to be done. Oh, I can talk and plan and get excited but the parsnips don’t get buttered.

27th Jun 1981

What right do I have to be upset? I suppose in my menstrual condition, any little incident can set me off-track.

Early this morning, frustrated at my inability to sort out computer programs, I went outside.

The mist was heavy. The clothes on the line, grass and lettuces were covered with dew, and the morning was mysterious; familiar sights looked strange. Two Rouen ducks were standing on the lawn near the Guinea chicks’ cage. A dog had been marauding again and several birds had been taken in the night because we had failed to repair the fence.

There was a distinctly eerie feel about the day.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

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

68. A Strong Urge To Write – Journal Entry 24th May 1981

A feeling of restlessness overcomes me with a strong urge to write.

I would like to especially write about the children – to exorcise certain passages of my life and to explain to them why things happened as they did.

Of course, we’re guilty.

We’ll always be guilty.

Also, I would like to write a recipe book for the children of the favourite dishes we have made and enjoyed over the years, so they can cook them for their own families.

There are so many little stories I want to write about – the story of Barbara being one of them – and never mind if they don’t get into print, it would be a challenge.

So many women these days are writing about the relationship between men and women and their “search for identity”. Johnny says this phase should last a long time because men and women are interested in each other and will continue to be so. I wonder if equality is a middle-class preoccupation vigorously pursued by female graduates?

Right now, the path I have chosen is to finish Computer Science this year and revise basic maths next year.

Today is Sunday, an extremely lovely sunny day, warm outside but almost cold inside. The earth is damp from three days of rain and the strong winds have tattered a few of the pigeon-pear bushes.

Barbara and I worked in the garden for a while. The shallots and garlic are nearly ready to harvest and the peas and beans are sprouting. I hope we have a good crop of vegetables this winter, the plants shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain.

Marcello and Monika are getting married while on holidays in the Atherton Tablelands and Karen wants to go. We weren’t invited as they will take their vows while on holiday up north; they seem pretty keen on the idea.

25th May 1981

A constant pain in my head has spirited away any gardening pleasure.

Mum and I sat in the Women’s Rest Centre, an excellent circular building on the riverbank with large windows and a verandah. The tea was lovely and the woman who is in charge of the service is always friendly. Mum used the lavatory and didn’t see the sign saying there was a charge of five cents a time. When I pointed it out, she tried to shove five cents into the money box for the Blue Nursing Service! Managed to stop her just in time.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at “Vinnies Boutique”, fossicking about in the second-hand goods. Nathaniel loved the swing and slide in the church garden. The place was packed with people looking through rack after rack of clothes. As always, I checked the books and found several histories of chemistry, advertising, communication and rockets. They were slightly damaged, presumably from rain, and a little smelly, but apart from that the print was fine and the pictures, especially the old diagrams, were exquisite.

On the way back we stopped at Boyen Valley Saw Mill and picked up some free firewood. Cedric has quoted $50 for a truckload.

The afternoon was spent at home with homework, dinner and more homework.

Dinner was very pleasant with the family in a good mood over their lamb chops.

26th May 1981

Today I must sort out the Progress Association minutes and see Sam for the meeting later in Rockhampton at 7:30 pm.

After unloading firewood from the Land Rover, I made scones and cakes for afternoon tea and curry and dhal for dinner. Barbara will be pleased.

Had lunch with Johnny and caught up with the homework group.

There is always something to be done, today was no exception, but it seems a bit of a messy day with no long, quiet stretches.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

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

Additions to Gallery – 21st Oct 2018

The following photos have been added to the Gallery for My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series.

Prior to 1968

Johnny-Pre1969
Johnny Pre-1968

1969 / 1970 Sydney

1970-LeavingEmuPark
Presentation to Gita by CWA 1970 for teaching yoga and other activities.
1970Sydney
Sydney: (Front) Marcello, Johnny, a friend, Karen (Back) Gareth, Gita
Version 4
Gita 1970
Version 2
Johnny 1970

1981

1981-MumGarethNat
Gita, Gareth, Nathaniel 1981

67. Maintenance Guarantee – Journal Entry 13th May 1981

Dear Nora,

What a day it has been!

Mum is making an application for a widow’s pension and we were asked to send dad’s death certificate (which we couldn’t find) and his birth certificate (which we suspect is in the same file in some Government office in Manila) hence our telegram to you. I hope it wasn’t too cryptic. 

Telephone calls cost a small fortune.

We spent three to four hours turning the house upside down in our search. Our grandson, who is fifteen months old, joined into the chase making an even bigger mess. Mum was getting quite upset at finding nothing but I managed to calm her down by saying all we could do was wait for news from you. I hope you can get a copy and if we haven’t received anything in a month, I’ll send another telegram.

I haven’t really explained anything, have I?

Originally Johnny signed a maintenance guarantee for mum and Barbara when they migrated to Australia. To be eligible for a widow’s pension you must have been in the country for five years and ten for an aged pension. We tried applying earlier but Johnny’s income was considered too high, even though five adults are managing on one salary in a house with six bedrooms.

It was worse before Marcello started working. He gives us board for his family and it certainly helps. All of this does not cut any ice with the Social Security Department because we signed a maintenance guarantee and that’s that; which is fair enough really.

We have been on a tight budget for as long as I can remember, ever since dad died in 1965. I cannot hold a full-time job while looking after the children, mum and Barbara. I’ve been studying first-year mathematics and computer science so maybe I can get contract work in computing next year. Despite this, life is very good and we eat extremely well. The vegetable garden is flourishing, we buying bulk meat and eat our own chooks, ducks and eggs. I’m often busy at my desk and mum isn’t as strong so we don’t get much gardening done. 

Oh yes, things will get tighter with Karen going to University. She won’t get a student allowance, again because of the means test, and she will need a minimum of $50 a week to live on, maybe even $70. We want her to concentrate on her studies and enjoy her time at University. She is working very hard at her matriculation this year.

I know you would like some photos but the ones I took were terrible; the camera was too old so I shall have to wait until someone takes better photos.

Gareth has started high school this year and is enjoying it. They learn Japanese as a second language.

Mum seems to lead a very busy life. On Tuesday afternoons she goes to indoor bowling. Once a month on Wednesdays the pensioners have an afternoon tea social. A regular physical fitness session is held every Thursday morning and on Saturdays, she goes to afternoon bowling followed by church in the evenings.

Her bowling club has a special day for visiting clubs and each member has to “bring a plate” so mum cooks something or gets us to bake a cake, a tart or whatever.

Then once every two months, either the pensioners club or bowling club organises a long bus journey for the day.

Of course, we encourage mum to go to everything but I tell you, we can hardly keep track of her engagements.

She takes a few medications now for blood pressure, cramps and arthritis in her neck; she is in pain most of the time.

Mum follows “a balanced diet” with gusto. It includes lots of fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, meat, fish when we can get it, honey, malt, molasses and bran. What a great sight she is at the breakfast table with her yoghurt, honey, molasses, malt, bran and corn flakes mixed in a bowl, followed by brown bread and a couple of eggs from her Australorp hens. Her enormous breakfast ends with a steaming mug of tea or coffee.

Barbara is also being more adventurous and gradually getting used to the fact that she can’t have rice and curry at every meal. She takes almost an hour to eat breakfast after making her own toast and steamed egg. Finally, she prepares a flask of coffee to take to the workshop. Barbie washes up when it’s her turn and is in charge of setting the table.

At the Activities Therapy Centre where she goes every day by bus, they go bowling and horse riding once a week, cook their lunches on Thursdays, go shopping and see school plays for entertainment. They went to the circus and go on picnics once a month. All of this in the last two months! Her new manager is doing a wonderful job.

Mum reads Barbie fairy tales at night, so yes, a vast improvement. However, she tends to withdraw about once a month and on those occasions, we have to give her tranquillisers; very low doses, thank goodness. 

Mum, of course, thinks of all of you but seems unable to put pen to paper to express herself.

I have a Calculus examination in four weeks time and then immediately after I have to buckle down to some serious and concentrated study of computer science which is a quick learning of PASCAL with a long, careful look at the structure of computer languages. Last year I studied Basic, Fortran and Cobol.

Well, my dear, I’d better stop and tackle a few sums. The house gets awfully dusty because we have so little time to spare, apart from cooking and eating large meals!

Your loving sister,
Gita

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27th Feb 1981

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

11th Apr 1981

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

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

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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