13. Mrs J’s Joke – Journal Entry 16th Oct 1969

[Disclaimer: If you are easily offended, please do not read the last paragraph of this post.]

“Wait, wait for the days whose shining garland still hangs before me to go out one by one. Finally the last one goes out and it is total blackness.” Camus

The day is so beautiful. Not brilliant because it looks as if it doesn’t know whether to cry or laugh. It has an undecided look which is quite becoming. Don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m like the farmers waiting for the drought to break. But will it? I have been so dry for so long. Insipid. At least the farmers have had a bit of rain.

The local policeman is making arrangements to take his chooks with him. He can’t bear to be parted from them. He is the young, earnest, broody guy who cleaned up Emu Park. The youths from all around would use the one main road as a racing track and terrify the pensioners.

The previous policeman took to writing a book. A detective yarn. People who went to make a complaint or just to pay their state insurance and would be asked to sit down, the complaint waved aside, and be made to listen to several chapters of his book. All the while the youths would be racing outside. The people were glad when he was transferred. The book doesn’t seem to have been published so far though his ‘victims’ look out for it.

Mrs K has been driving since she was 11 years old. They lived on a farm and not many were able to afford cars. Her mother sent a message through the children to the father asking if he would put up $500 if she did the same. He agreed and they were able to buy a more expensive car. Mrs K had her ears boxed when learning to drive. She drove most of her life and had lots of pets on the farm including koala bears. But she had always wanted a monkey so a monkey was brought from overseas – maybe from Africa? Anyway, it was not allowed to dock because of an epidemic in the home of the monkey and was sent back. Mrs K has always regretted it.

20th October 1969

Mrs K bought pullets and laying hens and said she could let them have a run on the lawns at the nun’s rest home. The nuns usually gave her their left-over groceries, at the end of their holiday, for the chooks. Mrs K said the dog had better not get at her chooks or she’d whack it.

Today we went to a poultry farm in Farnborough which used the battery system. What a cruel sight and sound. A real din. Rows and rows of fat white hens in wire cages, front and back, row upon row, some pecking at their food, some making before-laying noises, some almost bald with backsides hanging. The eggs rolled out to the long wire gutter-like contraption, ready for picking and grading.

Is it better to let the chooks scratch around on warm damp earth and then kill them or leave them in cages, their claws clinging onto the large wire mesh and kill them anyway after they’ve laid enough eggs? Why do we eat meat? And yet it’s so delicious. Horrible thought.

Mrs K and I went to visit Mrs J who breeds cats. Had the most beautiful Persian kittens at $22 each. She also had Siamese cats and the tom had it’s eye scratched out. The cockatoo says hello when people appear.

The Siamese tom is chained to prevent him mating with the low-caste neighbourhood cats. A Siamese cat was also chained near him because she is in kitten and Mrs J doesn’t want her too wild and savage. The cats are wild from birth and maybe the tom will be able to tame her.

Mrs J has a beautiful herd of goats, all expensive breeds.

She tells us, “I’m off my top they say because I keep goats. But I tell you something – you can talk to goats and they won’t repeat what you’ve said. That fellow there, I paid $100 for him.”

She also has a stud billy goat, a peacock and three peahens and lots of turkeys, ducks and chickens.

While Mrs K and I were looking at all of this, Mrs J says, “I heard a good joke yesterday – how many animals can you fit into a panty hose?” We didn’t know so she gave us the answer: “Two calves, one pussy and a thousand hairs.” Then she says, “You’d think they’d make up jokes about men for a change.” Mrs K, all Catholic, clean and embarrassed didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t manage a laugh.

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12. My Duck Maisy – Journal Entry 19th Jul 1969

[My mother’s childhood memory of keeping ducks.]

My mummy said I wasn’t old enough to own a dog so she bought me some ducks from a farm nearby.

She said that at least the ducks can be eaten.

I went with my dad and mum to pick them up. We bought six ducks. I had to feed the ducks every day and give them clean water. They were always dirtying the bowls of water I’d put out for them. They had baths in their drinking water. We didn’t have a pond for the ducks to swim in nor did we have an old bathtub which we could use as a tiny pond.

So one day my mummy asked my friend’s dad if we could search the village dump for an old tub for my ducks. My friend’s dad is in charge of the dump. He said yes. So we went there and found an old petrol tank which my friend’s dad cut open. Then he hammered the sharp edges and made it into a super swimming pool for my ducks.

At first they didn’t go near the tub when I had filled it with lots and lots of water. They were afraid. The next day they took water in their beaks and threw it over themselves like they did with the bowls of drinking water.

After a few days, one clever black and white duck jumped into the tub. She liked it so much that after she’d had a bath, jumped out and dried herself she jumped back into the tub to have another bath.

Before we found this tub I had to hold a water hose over them so that they could have a shower. Some ducks didn’t like it and tried to run away but I could easily spray them with my hosepipe so the poor things just had to sit quietly and get washed.

Afterwards they loved flapping their wings and fluffing out their feathers to dry themselves. They looked very happy drying themselves in the sun.

One day when I returned from school I found two ducks missing and I saw a few feathers near the back verandah.

I knew my mum had taken them for our dinner.

So I went to her and told her not to kill my favourite little white duck Maisy. Well, at least not till all the other ducks had gone first. And as my mummy said, “The ducks were bought for the table, after all.” She also said she’d buy more ducks and a drake, and that the white moscovy ducks with the black spots on their heads would be kept for me.

Moscovy ducks can fly. They were always flying over their fence and into the garden. They ate the cabbage and for that their wings were clipped. Now they climb up the wire netting fence and jump down into the garden. But they know they mustn’t go near the vegetables and I quickly chase them back to their pen whenever I see them out.

In the afternoons, when I remember, I take them for a walk up the hill at the back of our house. They love eating weeds and catching insects. I have to be very careful though because they head straight for the cabbage patch when they think I’m not looking.

My ducks started laying eggs. The magpies sometimes stole the eggs.

Maisy, my little white duck made a nest right under the duck house. She was so far in that my mummy pulled up a board in the duck house so I could look at Maisy sitting on her eggs.

The other ducks are very rude to her, I don’t know why. They hiss at her with their necks on the ground, their heads up and beak open. They look very nasty and mean. The drake is good to Maisy and talks to her when she comes out to feed.

The other ducks started laying their eggs in Maisy’s nest. She is getting more eggs to sit on now.

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2. Sunday Lunch – Journal Entry 8th Jun 1969

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course we did. It was very good.

BushFirePoem
Poem by Gita 8th June 1969

Note:

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

1. Preamble – My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

If you haven’t already, please read the Home page for the background to this intimate journal series.

Blog posts will contain my mother’s journal entries in chronological order from June 8th, 1969 (when our family settled in Australia from India) until just prior to my mother’s death in 1985. Some of her poetry and letters will be included.

I have used ‘Gita’ to refer to my mother throughout this journal series as it was the pen name she used for her short stories and articles.

Gita, late 1960s

If you are new to this blog you can read  previous journal entries in date order via Archived on the Home page. Then Follow to receive each new post as it is published.

Sadly, Johnny (the love of my mother’s life), passed away ten years after her death. He was a devoted father to our very large family and I dedicate this journal series to both of them.

Johnny, late 1960s

Let us begin…

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