105. Passionfruit Meringue – Journal Entry 12th Oct 1982

Johnny leaves for Brisbane at noon. We spent a delightful evening together last night. When Claire rang to thank us for JB’s birthday dinner, cooked by Johnny, I spoke tentatively of JB; he had not been his usual outgoing self. Although we have known him for over fourteen years, Johnny and I still have no idea what JB feels or in what way we can help. Since he and Claire are also having relationship problems, their troubles have multiplied. Johnny and I are desperately busy to be of much use, but if we have them over for Sunday dinner, it will revive all of us. We enjoy their company and need a break too. 

Now, back to Cost Accounting, I am quite far behind. I am getting confused between applied debt and budgeting, especially the information used to calculate the total budget. I don’t have much time because the assignment is due. What a rare luxury it is to be able to study for a whole day.

14th October 1982

Later today, Monika, the kids and I plan to go to the beach while mum is at her clinic appointment; our dinner of liver, eggs and noodles will take relatively little preparation. We’ll have passionfruit meringue and passionfruit jelly for pudding.

Nathaniel and I had enjoyed our breakfast on the lawn early in the morning. After gardening for half an hour and cleaning the bathroom, I have settled down to my studies. It is still relatively early. Nathaniel has been in and out of the little room and seems half-asleep and uncooperative, but wanting further contact. He started on one puzzle while I set out two more. Suddenly, his shoulders slumped. Overwhelmed, Nathaniel complained he couldn’t do them. After dumping out the pieces I had started putting back into the boxes and refusing to help put the puzzles away, he was sent out of the room.  After crying for a short while on the couch, he went in search of his mother.

19th October 1982

I telephoned Helen Douglas about having Barbara stay at home for the next two days. She mentioned that Graham King was annoyed that parents were told of possible transfers to Quay Street before he had officially informed them. She was so helpful and offered to send Barbara with Mrs Jeffrey to assist with her swimming class on Fridays. I also let Young’s bus service know that Barbara would not be on the bus today or tomorrow. After cleaning the laundry wall, I phoned the RACQ regarding the towing bill and Yeppoon High about their Cleanathon. I’ve organised a few jobs for Barbara to keep her busy when she is not resting: move mango leaf mulch onto the plants, hose the garden, and brush soap and oil onto the lemon tree. Barbara is presently in front of the television.

Last night Gareth was quite upset after a phone call from a friend—Denis rang to say his family were leaving that night. My mood became rather gloomy after Johnny pointed out that I was spending too much time on Methodology and not enough time on Programming; that the course was about computing, not methodology. He was concerned about the poor effort Gareth and I put into our studies and wondered what we could do about it. We both went to bed quiet and somewhat distant. This morning was the same. I had discovered more gloomy news: several large bills had accumulated and now I must do a bank reconciliation.

20th October 1982

Nasty, nasty, nasty. Johnny tells me I should not go to the Yeppoon Town Planning Conference as I am not yet in control of my studies. I think I ought to go because our  subcommittee of Emu Park ratepayers did a lot of work on the Livingstone Shire Strategic Plan. Also, this would be the perfect opportunity to meet some of the more active members of the Yeppoon community interested in town planning, in particular along the Capricorn Coast, and to gauge what the interest is. I wonder how many people from Emu Park will be there?

Is Johnny right? Well, yes, he is, because my track record on subjects taken so far, sadly, is not good. Most other activities seem to take higher priority than my studies. However, I would enjoy the conference because it would be stimulating and thought-provoking. The last two enjoyable outings for me were the methodology tutorial for external students and the town planning meetings in Emu Park; I cannot, at the moment, recall any other times.

My head hurts with tension. One feels worthless, hopeless and frustrated.
Shit.

104. It’s a fair mongrel! – Journal Entry 24th Sep 1982

I had a wonderful break on the beach yesterday. It was so relaxing to lie in the hot sun, talk, eat and look around at the calm blue sea; the beach sprinkled with people. Even a surf fisherman was up to his knees in foam.

I wonder if anyone would run a second-hand bookshop in Emu Park, together with a book exchange? Might be worth pursuing.

Karen rang to thank the family for their presents. She had an excellent day with many of her friends wishing her for her birthday.

Today I must: finish cost accounting exercises; finish methodology chapter five; make dinner of fish baked in tomato and lemon, served with carrots, followed by mulberries and custard for pudding; go to the post office; buy tomatoes and more vegetables.

Mum and I strolled down to the post office and bought a crab for our lunch.

27th September 1982

Had to chase members of the family for most of the morning; it was one of those mornings where everyone needed reminding about something. It seems like a lifetime has passed since I woke up at 5 am. 

29th September 1982

Panic! Panic! September is almost over. The semester is almost over. And yet I do not have firm control of my subjects. While Karen and Gareth are not here, I shall do as much study as possible. Barbara, who is home for the next two weeks, will need extra attention. She informed me of her break when she returned home from the Activity Training Centre.

Why do I feel hassled? Stop it! It’s a lovely morning. There are plenty of opportunities to catch up and get ahead. I have already written the shopping list, had my breakfast and exercised. Johnny has very kindly done the Yeppoon run while I have been scattering grapeshot for the past few days. Johnny warned me of it. Someday I should record my gaffes.

In the meantime, dinner preparations are about to begin for Bavarian meatballs, rice, pumpkin and a capsicum and bean salad. We shall have freshly picked pawpaw for pudding.

2nd October 1982

Yesterday was special. Students of Methodology spent a whole day at the Institute in discussion with our teacher P. Galle. He is such a skilled teacher; we were privileged to have him hold the session for the seven of us; it was of great benefit.

Gareth cooked dinner. It was delicious. My date with Johnny that night, a truly wonderful one,  began with Löwenbräu München and crisps. Johnny dropped off to sleep at around 11 pm. I slipped away to join mum and Marcello. We watched the Commonwealth Games into the early hours of the morning.

3rd October 1982

After breakfast this morning, I made Johnny a cut lunch. He has to go to Rocky for a tutorial with a group of external third-year students.

Today I will be making a cake for the Bowling club which mum must be able to carry since I don’t have a car. Apart from the usual housework and study, I will prepare dinner—hamburgers and chocolate cake.

Here’s an interesting snippet: heard a comment by a driver in the Hardie Ferodo race comment on his view of the road. He said, “It’s a fair mongrel!”

4th October 1982

The game is on! Only six weeks to go before the exams and a great deal of study remains. Tomorrow I must pay the bank card, pickup Melleril for Barbara, remind Marcello to get chops or sausages, drive the family to the beach at 11 am, take mum bowling and drop off bottles at St Vincent.

These days I only seem to manage a few quick paragraphs in the diary.

8th October 1982

The heavy teaching workload for Johnny is now worse. Five out of thirteen teachers remain. Three or four subjects are to be distributed among the remaining teachers for the next two weeks—on top of their already very full loads.

To back Johnny up over the next year, I must get on top of my studies, run the house efficiently and earn a living. If I can contribute to the family finances, it will lighten his load.

More pressing right now is to keep Barbara busy until lunchtime. She is recovering somewhat from her withdrawal and is already talking about lunch. It is only 10:40 am.

103. Zilzie Beach – Journal Entry 16th Sep 1982

Toby and I plan to go for a long walk along Zilzie Beach on Thursday. I telephoned the newsagency about the advertisement and Woodworking magazine. I really must get my program working, telephone Johnny for hard copies, pay bills and work on cost accounting, otherwise the progress I’ve made this week will be lost.

18th September 1982

I make endless lists and schedules. The next three weeks will be very busy. Karen will only be home on 25 & 26 Sep so I’ll need to send her presents earlier, Gareth will be camping between 26-28 Sep and Barbara is now home for 2 weeks. Other jobs: cook for the wedding on 28 Sep, organise our Rocky day on 1 Oct, pick up books on woodworking machines and finally plan my study, specifically to finish methodology and cost accounting on time…oh and organise the roosters to be killed.

19th September 1982

Dear Nora,

We were wondering whether you will be visiting us in December? Mum seems to think you will be, but could you please let us know what your plans are? By the way, the international airport for Queensland is in Brisbane.

Mum also wanted to know about dad’s grave and how much money was involved—we didn’t get an answer about it.

At the risk of upsetting you, I would like to add my advice to M’s, that perhaps you should become very skilled in shorthand typing instead of pursuing a B.A.? The Indian B.A. is not worth much and as you know M has to do 80% of the Australian B.A. to get a recognisable degree. Shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and accounting are skills that could get you somewhere. Once you’ve acquired those basic skills, there is no reason you couldn’t just go onto the B.A. course. Unless you take extra units in a particular area such as social welfare, a diploma in teaching or computing to specialise, B.A. holders can usually get a clerical job.

20th September 1982

Read two articles in the Australian Women’s Weekly today. The first article provided advice on coping with arthritis: keeping cheerful, being well-rested and having confidence in oneself. The second article stressed the importance of keeping level-headed under pressure or when facing a crisis.

Tonight we will have Kofta curry, dhal with greens, onions in yoghurt and fried brinjal. After that we can have orange salad or maybe a whole orange each. 

Managed to finish William Golding’s Rites of Passage—such an unusual plot with highly polished and professional writing. Spent two hours typing Karen’s assignment to avoid my cost accounting and programming.

21st September 1982

I woke up this morning feeling nauseous. My back felt sore too. Nevertheless, I must bake chocolate cakes this afternoon. Fortunately, tonight’s dinner will require very little preparation: noodles with prawns, omelette strips, kabanas and vegetables from the garden. After I sort out my study schedule, I’ll ring Yeppoon High.

23rd September 1982

Very interesting extract from a letter by Thomas Gray to his friend Mr Bonstetten, Cambridge, April 12, 1770:

I must cite another Greek writer to you, because it is much to my purpose: he is describing the character of a genius truly inclined to philosophy: “It includes,” he says, “qualifications rarely united in one single mind, quickness of apprehension, and a retentive memory, vivacity and application, gentleness and magnanimity:” to these he adds “an invincible love of truth, and consequently of probity and justice. Such a soul,” continues he, “will be little inclined to sensual pleasures, and consequently temperate; a stranger to illiberality and avarice; being accustomed to the most extensive views of things, and sublimest contemplations, it will contract an habitual greatness, will look down with a kind of disregard on human life, and on death, consequently, will possess the truest fortitude. Such,” says he, “is the mind born to govern the rest of mankind.”

My back is still not getting better and causing me quite a bit of anxiety. Possible causes: a muscle pulled during an awkward movement; arthritis; degeneration of the lower spine, common in older women; colon or bone cancer; a virus. My legs seem to tire easily and I’m usually most comfortable lying on my back or stomach, so I shall persist with rest and gentle exercise. 

I’m off to Zilzie Beach with Toby.

102. Two Days Lost – Journal Entry 8th Sep 1982

Oh, dear! Two days lost. Was it the combination of red wine and oranges the night before that triggered an extremely severe headache and frequent vomiting? Waves of nausea and constant vomiting continued until midday on Monday, accompanied by intense throbbing head and eye pain.

Finally it has eased. I feel weak but need to tackle the jobs that have piled up. First some planning:

Wednesday jobs:  Programming 1B, Cost accounting, type tax papers, write letters to the Rocky Permanent Building Society and Shannon, post letters, clean bedroom, pick beans and prepare one of the family’s favourite dinners, Bavarian meatballs with tomato and bacon sauce and brown rice. Simple and nourishing.

Thursday’s jobs: Programming 1B, Methodology, letters to Mary and Max, prepare a talk, weed the garden, make bangers and mash and cheese tart for dinner.

10th September 1982

I am expecting a call from Mr Carpenter, who lives in Yeppoon, about woodworking courses at TAFE. I also spoke to Ken Sinclair about whether they run a typewriter mechanics course. He patiently explained that although they don’t have a typewriter mechanics course, he would be interested to explore the possibilities. He wanted to talk for quite a while.  From our conversation, I gathered that adult education courses are not going well, in fact he is quite short of ideas. I have thought for some time that there should be adult education in Emu Park and so has Edral Damrow. However, do others feel the same, and if so, what sorts of skills or knowledge would they want to acquire or access? 

Nancy Balsys has taught Batik in Emu Park and she intends to ask her friends what interests them, what they are doing and why, and what they think should happen. Nancy’s husband Ron offered to look after their children so she could attend an activity one night a week. She found a yoga class which she could attend casually; other courses went too long and expected regular attendance and commitment.

I would like to identify local snakes and spiders; being able to discern which are poisonous would mean I could avoid killing them unnecessarily in the garden and chook pens. I also want to learn how to service my typewriter, and would like to see discussion groups form for these types of skills training.

A tentative plan would be to ask Edral to organise a meeting of a few women to look at community learning groups. Possibly a Citizen’s Advisory Bureau? I need to find out what is going on in Emu Park, now and in the past five years. There may be resources that could be tapped from the local school. I wonder if the Progress Association might be interested to organise courses or to back a community newsletter?

14th September 1982

Today, after the breakfast dishes, I must attend to Johnny’s desk and clean the study. I still have the problem of white ants. Library books must be returned, bills paid and prezzie buying organised through Johnny. I will telephone Mr Carpenter on 391830 about woodworking courses and finish off the letter to Mary and Maxy.

Dinner was delicious: veal chops marinated in lemon juice with a drizzle of Marsala, accompanied by the delightful Sauce Messine, potatoes in a box, lettuce salad and carrots. Pudding of fresh mulberries in sugar, ice cream and cream was thoroughly enjoyed by all, as it usually is. With satisfyingly full bellies, everyone went off to different parts of the house.

I was guest speaker at the CWA annual general meeting and had to speak for fifteen minutes on litter. I could think of nothing more dull than litter, especially at an AGM! After a brief introduction, I used the search technique and elicited answers from those at the meeting using two questions: What do you think is the litter problem, and, what should be done about it? A lively discussion followed and one member told me she was highly amused at the way I had everyone contributing their ideas instead of coming up with the information myself. Another representative of the RSL and Rifle Club was pleasantly surprised. On his way to the meeting he had been wondering how the topic could possibly be interesting he told me. He even contributing some clever ideas of his own!

100. Hot, Greasy, High-Cholesterol Lunch – Journal Entry 9th Aug 1982

Yet another lengthy gap between diary entries. It is still relatively early in the day. I marked the T.V. guide for programmes to watch this week after a leisurely breakfast, then read the papers and skimmed through the Women’s Weekly. 

I have managed to complete the first Calculus assignment. It wasn’t as daunting as expected; formulae and identities must be memorised so I had better get on with it. Household jobs always seem to take longer than expected, and afterwards, I am not in the right frame of mind for study. 

This week I will have a few days at home for completing assignments. Mum said she would cook dinner on Monday, we’ll be in Rocky on Tuesday, Gareth may be out on Friday night and Karen is coming home for dinner on Saturday. Perhaps we can have a family picnic on Sunday. I might cancel the CIAE afternoon meeting on Thursday since I am behind in my studies.

Johnny and I listened to the ZBS’s production of “The Taj Express”, a rather poor programme of Indian short stories. The stories seem to have been chosen more for their adaptability to radio, than anything else. “It mauls the rich and old Indian culture,” says 24 hours. However, the Bach programme was very enjoyable—particularly the definition of musical terms:
Partita is a suite, a form of instrumental music, in some sense the forerunner of the sonata, and used to be four movements, four dances.
Cantata is a sung piece, usually short vocal works, sacred or secular and for single voices or choir with accompanying instrumentals.
Sonata is either a type of composition in three or four movements, usually in sounded form as opposed to sung form. The second type of Cantata is a musical form.
Toccata meaning to touch or to play, usually contains scales, shakes and other brilliant figuration often interspersed with slow chordal passages.

11th Aug 1982

Another morning and I’m alive. We drove to Rocky only to find it was a gross mistake…we were meant to go Tuesday of next week! I had a shocking headache. Whether this was a result of the wasted day or just the effect of the sun and lack of sleep, I don’t know. Perhaps it was because my mind was as clogged as my bowels. I tried to work when we arrived but couldn’t focus. We spent the day rather pleasantly. First, we let Johnny know about the mix-up, then Gareth and I went to the corner cafe and bought a hot, greasy, high-cholesterol lunch of roast chicken, kabana, fish, meatball and chips. After selecting some cans of sugary, fizzy drinks to add to our heart-stopping feast, we hurried to the riverside and sat on the end of the boat ramp. We ate quickly while the food was still warm. 

The broad, muddy Fitzroy river seemed quiet. There were small heaps of black, oily rubbish near where we were sitting; left, no doubt, by the boatmen working nearby on the dilapidated trawlers. These small boats on the river looked quite adventurous despite their untidy appearance.

We returned to the library feeling rather full and sluggish. Gareth fell asleep on a beanbag in the young adult corner and I read a romance called “The Rules of Marriage”, one of the better romances for women.

Last night Carmen Keller rang from Brisbane to say that she is visiting her parents and expects to be in Australia for the next three weeks; she plans to come to Emu Park. How wonderful.  We met her in the Philippines and she had written to us from South Africa, then later from Switzerland where she settled. It has been so long since we saw her.

12th Aug 1982

The family has given me such lovely and thoughtful presents for my birthday. I gave them liver for dinner, which they ate without complaint.

99. The Cinderella Complex – Journal Entry 31st July 1982

Today I have some rather important jobs to complete and missed my morning exercises. Several bills must be paid, so I will need to check the bank balance to ensure we can cover them. I think my Calculus problems will take several hours and Johnny’s clothes do not appear to have ironed themselves. The morning is almost over. I’m pleased that I managed to convince Barbara to hose the garden instead of sitting on the lawn talking to herself.

2/8/82

This week looks fairly clear for catching up on study. Monika needs a lift to Yeppoon Hospital on Friday and the family are looking forward to the Rocky fete on Saturday. We may even have a picnic on Sunday depending on the weather. 

The day unfortunately started with Johnny and I arguing briefly about Henry Miller. In spite of that, I read several interesting articles in the National Times: When the Bad Times Came, a short story written by Fay Weldon about urban families and infidelity; then and a review of a book on women’s dependence on men, The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling, which Yvonne Preston described as a flimsy, superficial study of women, containing half-truths. She pointed out it did not mention that men also wanted to leave the world of work and be dependent on someone and that few women are capable of supporting a man. “We badly need a book which starts, not from the readily assumed premise of female weaknesses, but from questioning the readily assumed strength of the male of the species,” she said.

Another article of interest was of women, and no doubt men, advertising for other interesting people as a means of widening their social circle. Pickups at a bar were deemed unsatisfactory. A group of women advertised and set up lunch meetings instead. It turned out to be highly successful. 

3/8/82

My mind is a jumble of thoughts, possibly brought on by Orwell’s Burmese Days. I read half of it and then read the ending. After that I reread the passage in The Road to Wigan Pier, where Orwell describes his upbringing in a shabby-genteel family and makes accurate observations on class distinction and class hatred; very applicable here to the Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal conflict I think. 

Today is another clear day for study. Barbara is still at home and getting worse; we have had to increase the tranquilliser dosage. Johnny is at an evening meeting of the CQ computer users society and I need to pop out to pick up some kerosene.

Letter to Max

Mum was so happy to receive your letter and especially pleased that L liked the bicycle parts she sent for him. Maybe he could write her a few lines if he has not already done so? Attached to this letter are photocopies; it is all I could find in the library on flush doors and I hope it is of some use to you.

We are picking up two second-hand books this week on building construction. I am told that although they do not have much on flush doors, they are useful books to own, so I hope you will find them interesting and informative. There are very few books available on woodworking machines it seems, but we will go ahead with another advert in the Saturday paper to see what we get and will be posting William Watson Sharp’s book, Australian Methods of Building Construction. It is now out of print so quite a challenge to find this copy. Your job could definitely improve your woodworking skills.

About the home problem… you seem to be doing the right thing especially as A is dependent on you. She is the children’s mother and the three of you are responsible for her, no?

Talking to Mary from time to time should help, but don’t forget Mary and Cliff may leave in a few years, so enjoy their company while you can. Mary had said she would like to help the kids with their homework. Impress upon the children the importance of a good education.

You should keep healthy and cheerful now you are in charge. Please do not hesitate to let us know your troubles. Mum will help if she can. Writing to us will help you clarify your problems.

Thanks for inviting mum; she has read and re-read your letter so many times! She thinks about writing but when it comes to putting pen to paper, she cannot think of what to say; perhaps because I usually do the letter writing for her.

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.

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

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

11th July 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

12th July 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Z,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

92. Exam Stress – Journal Entry 14th June 1982

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

16th June 1982

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

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

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

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

18th June 1982

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

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

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