74. Periodic Headaches – Journal Entry 5th Sep 1981

Woke up this morning in a bad mood and must be extra careful not to pick quarrels with the family. I feel extremely touchy, my mind is not functioning clearly and I have a bad headache. Had a good breakfast of toasted fruit bread and black coffee.

Just picked a quarrel with Johnny on a minor point. I wanted to claim an income tax rebate on a jacket that he had bought and he didn’t think I should because it would be rejected. I challenged his statement and he quote an article in the National Times. I asked why I hadn’t had my attention drawn to it and he said he’d mentioned it to me but that I must have ignored it, the way I do with many of the things he tells me. I refuted his statement that he’d shown me the article. Maybe, he says, but then I’m difficult to communicate with for weeks on end so maybe he had refrained from showing the article to me. Johnny agreed there was a contradiction between his two statements then asked me to desist from being so picky, and to relax. I responded, “Someday I shall think clearly and beat you at your own game.”
“There is no game,” he replied.

6th Sep 1981

A slow start to the day. Feeling profusely periodic and woke up in a mess. I was aware of the mess a few hours before getting out of bed. The headache is still there making me feel sleepy and dull. Took a few premenstrual tablets yesterday and was very drowsy. Finally realised what was happening and drank lots of black coffee.

Sunday breakfast was leisurely with members of the family appearing or not appearing to eat. We tried out Marcello’s delicious new pork sausages brought from work.

Gareth is mowing the CWA lawn. We couldn’t get it done yesterday because the school had a street stall on the grass.

Johnny has been working on the Rover to fix a brake oil leak but we will have to take it to the garage, getting the nut off the assembly was too difficult.

According to a book review on women writers by the National Times, women who have time to write novels seem to dwell on trivia and don’t want to write about crime, violence, pornography, etc.
Let’s get on with the story:
“Gee, it’s good to have a woman in the house, she cleaned my bedroom you know. There was a cowboy program on T.V. and we sat and watched that. She made tea and we ate the cake you made, most of it is gone.”
“Tell your mother there’s an old man down the road who’s lonely and whom she ought to visit now and then.”
“I’ll tell her you got your washing done and hung out. But tell her I have difficulty getting them off the line. Honest, I find it hard to reach up to the clothes line.”

7th Sep 1981

After taking Barbara to the bus stop and gathering a bowl of mulberries, I put the chicks back in their pen. An animal, possibly a rat, had eaten a new chick. Now I will need to set some rat poison over several nights and bring the chicks inside at night. After a thorough search through the pen, I managed to kill a toad. I left two large green tree frogs to their own devices then realised they eat each other, so why wouldn’t they try to eat a chick?

When I came inside, mum was agonising over her affair with Les and wanted to discuss it further. We talked while I tidied the kitchen. I told her to either give up sex and go to communion or give up communion and enjoy sex, that she couldn’t have both. And that she was to enjoy the friendship and not get serious about details like divorce and marriage.

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.

59. A Quarter Of Beef – Journal Entry 16th Oct 1980

Plan for Thursday: Do Stats and Cobol, iron Johnny’s clothes and make the dinner: blanquette de veau (veal tail), lots of veg and rice followed by stewed mulberries and guava.

5:30 am Woke up and stayed in bed reading the Cobol book, did exercises, washed and dressed, talked to Johnny over coffee.

When I went to the kitchen at 6:10 am with Johnny, Barbara wanted to make coffee after she had started eating her egg. Johnny had said no because she didn’t do it while waiting for her egg to cook and would run out of time. When Johnny left the table, Barbara asked me if she could have coffee. I pointed out that Johnny had said no and if Johnny had said no, it was a no from me also. Johnny came back and said to Barbara something like, “Are you being tricky again?”
“Johnny…” I warned and mum appeared to freeze. I tried to explain to Barbara that she should be better organised.
“She knows all that,” says Johnny.
“You know all that, Barbara? Why didn’t you say so?” I asked.
“My mouth was full,” she replied.

Johnny went and had a quiet talk with Barbara about her talking on the bus and involving other people in her problems. Barbara was very sulky when she returned to the kitchen.

Nathaniel came with us to the bus stop this morning, it was such a lovely morning and so good to be outside.

When I returned, mum wanted my help with putting the newly hatched ducklings and their mother into a coop. Fifteen bright yellow ducklings were strolling around the yard while crows and kookaburras watched and waited in the trees. Also, a pullet had disappeared recently and there were small gaps in the fence.

The coop took a while to repair as we had neglected to maintain any of the coops so far and the chicken wire had come away from the frame. Monika and I had a talk about how to regularly and systematically maintain the house and yard.

The ducklings were tiny, really tiny, and they hopped away when we tried to catch them. The mother moved away from us when we approach. She seemed nervous, so I put a screen around the coop to calm her. The ducklings huddled together around their mother. The fence proved to be more difficult and will take longer to fix. One side of the fence had no retaining wall and we’ll have to stack logs and rocks against it by hand.

11:00 am Did some Stats, had some lunch and talked to mum and Monika.

1:00 pm Read some Cobol on file processing. Johnny came home with a quarter of beef, half a sheep and groceries from Flashers. We cut up, weighed and bagged the meat after quickly putting away the groceries. Mum managed to extract nearly a kilo of meat scraps from the bones after cooking. The bones will go to the dog and chooks and the soup, after having the fat removed, will be mixed with flour and given to the ducks.

2:00 pm Made coffee, put veal tail on the stove, tried again to ring Graham, the psychologist, and did some writing. Dozed a little after reading more Cobol.

Seems I did very little work today but worked later on from 7:30 to 9:30 pm

17th Oct 1980

Did one hour of study in the morning; who knows what else I did?

20th Oct 1980

Don’t move away from the desk unless absolutely necessary!

Made Spaghetti Bolognese, took mum to the clinic and went to the Conference Centre.

24th Oct 1980

Funny day today: Nathaniel is sick; Gareth is on holiday and limping around; Barbara is at home because of a school holiday and no bus run; Johnny is on holiday and not able to get on with any solid piece of work because he has to take the family to Rocky this afternoon. He is also unwinding after a hectic and tense week of important meetings; I have a pain passing through my head, almost on its way out now.

I must sort out what jobs need to be done. First the cooking of mashed potatoes, vegetables, sausages and liver. Johnny is making a cake and doing the library trip so I really have lots of time to sort myself out, tidy the desk, make scribble pads and phone calls, write-up my involvement in the Ecumenical Conference and sort papers into files.

25th Oct 1980

Did a little Stats revision in the morning and evening and picked our tomatoes –  two small baskets full. Made the meat and bean goulash for Friday and stuffed a veal flap for tomorrow’s sandwich filling. Had liver and bacon for dinner. The liver was excellent.

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.

58. What Actually Happened – Journal Entry 14th Oct 1980

What am I planning and what am I actually getting done? What can I do to use my time more efficiently?

Notes on today:

5:10 am Got up and checked the horse outside. Tidied clean clothes in the bedroom, made two lots of sandwiches, had breakfast and took Barbara to the bus stop.
7:30 am Looked at the problem with the floor. Had tea with mum and Monika, talked to Nathaniel and sorted out what had to be done today at my desk.
8:15 am Regression line: linear problem 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 then had a break for 10 minutes.
9:45 am At goat pen mulching melons then had a phone call from Johnny.
10:15 am Doing Cobol assignment.
11:15 am Knocking off for a while.
1:30 pm Had a shower, went to the shop for floor polish and dropped off Gran.
3:40 pm Did floor with Monika and had a brief visit with Colin for a Cobol walk through. Had veal escalope with veg, new potatoes and guava in jelly for dinner.
7:30 pm Did Cobol coding checking and revision of Assignment 3
9:45 pm Johnny home and showered
11:15 pm Went to bed

Do a lot more Stats, finish Payroll updating and start new assignment.

15th Oct 1980

Plan:

Do Stats and Cobol, tidy bedroom and little room, ironing for Johnny and help him make dinner and pudding.

What actually happened:

5:30 am Last minute checking and revising of coding sheets so they could be sent off to the Computer Centre.
7:30 am Had breakfast, read the papers, went to the bus stop and talked to the bus driver about Barbara’s deteriorated state. There was a fight on the bus – Julie, the girl who had hit Barbara, scratched Brett badly on the arm. Brett her back, Julie laughed at him and Barbara howled. His had is swollen. The bus kids also tease Barbara when she talks to herself. Julie has been interfering with Barbara and Mandy.
9:30 am Cleaned the kitchen floor, made the coffee, had coffee, talked to Johnny and now at the desk about to begin Stats (Week 10, Chapter 9)
10:15 am Sum of normal random variables and scalar multiplication of normal random variables. Also had a talk on the phone with Helen about Barbara. Had a chat earlier about Rolf’s house.
10:40 am Had a break, picked mulberries and went for a walk with the turkey chicks.
12:00 pm Random sampling in finite and infinite population. Had lunch
1:15 pm Read the Woman’s Weekly then dozed until
2:35 pm Went outside with Nathaniel who was crying and then had tea in the kitchen.
3:45 pm Now at the desk and broke off to look for Barbara. Spoke to Reggie who drove the bus to the driveway. Barbie is burned up about being accused of pinching Julie’s boyfriend – this must have happened months ago, if it happened at all.
4:45 pm Didn’t get much done and had to drop Gareth’s friends off. Went to the new bus shelter so Gareth could put his initials in the wet concrete.
6:00 pm Had an excellent dinner.

Johnny made smoked cod in a cheesy cream sauce, yellow rice, cauliflower, carrots with lots of parsley and a lovely coffee sponge for the sweet course. This was the first time most of us had smoked cod and I hadn’t bought any because it wasn’t local and came from South Africa, although it could be from Japan.

Marianne, who I haven’t seen in a while, came up to turn off our tap; we were helping to fill their pool. Even with two taps running for most of the day, the pool was still only half-full. She was very impressed with the dinner Johnny had cooked and laughed, “When he’s finished up here would you send him down to my place?”

After dinner Johnny and I went out to pick up the little gravel that was left over after they made the floor of the new bus stop and we put a sack full on our driveway near the roots of the Moreton Bay fig tree.

When we got home, we had a nice evening with the family sitting around the kitchen talking about the election campaign and Doug Everingham’s intelligent and witty adverts. Marcello had cooked himself another meal of steak and eggs. I did some Stats but didn’t make much progress. I found a recipe for salted pumpkin seeds.

Rolf’s house was to be painted and cleaned up after the last tenants. There might be a prospective buyer and arrangements have been made for an auction after the cleaning and painting is finished.

Barbara has been over-excited at work and raving about being accused by Julie of pinching her boyfriend Robert. Brett’s incident seems to have aggravated her again. Apparently Julie slapped Barbara’s face and called her a slut some weeks back. I think Helen sent Barbara to the psychologist and the psychologist wanted to speak with me and the bus driver. On the way home, Barbara tried to enlist the bus kids’ sympathy on this pinching-of-boyfriends behaviour.

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.

57. Petty Behaviour – Journal Entry 13th Sep 1980

Extreme irritation seems to be the only indication or symptom I can identify over the past two weeks. I seem to have lost my girlish laughter and enthusiasm. Just about everything irritates me, the most irritating thing being me; Johnny and my mother next.

29th Sep 1980

Got over my irritation after talking to Johnny about it. Then this terrible evening where I was remorseful and then angry at Johnny. Must sort it out. Johnny says I must use my loaf, my excellent mind. I shocked myself at my angry response over a reasonable comment. I’m not working at the relationship. I’m self-absorbed, irrational and indulging in petty behaviour. Nor am I applying the same rules to myself as I apply to others. Johnny is afraid to say anything because of my unpredictable response and wants me to consider what it’s like to be Johnny having to live with Gita. He has to wait for the sun to shine again. What’s wrong between Johnny and Gita?

Let me list some of my recent petty behaviour:

I refused to use the stylus because Johnny had it when I needed it for my assignment. I was in the middle of writing, said he wouldn’t be long and then left it on his desk after using it to chat with one of the kids. I was furious but should have quietly pointed out what happened and carried on with the pen;

I was upset last night at Johnny shouting at Barbara over setting an extra place at the table;

I was angry and slightly bewildered at Johnny being nervous over my borrowing books on programming on his account. I gave him the book even though I needed it for my work. Then I made a mental note not to borrow books through Johnny. I will get my own ID on Monday so that I can borrow books on my own account.

Rather dangerous resolutions are taken thus, almost without thinking, which could cause further alienation: Not wanting to talk to Johnny about certain things because we seem to end up arguing or I clam up. Why do I clam up? Either because of a refusal to explore oneself, the topic is not important enough to bother arguing about or I don’t feel like standing up to Johnny; Not wanting to ask Johnny anything on study if I can help it. He is Head of Department and I am a mere student (a rather awkward position really) and also I don’t study very hard (then why don’t you pull your finger out) and might embarrass Johnny.

Surely it can’t be all my fault. I’ve listed most of what Johnny says about me, what can I say about Johnny that could contribute to bad relations between us? I couldn’t think of anything. He is good in most ways and also lets me know when I am triggering him. What about Johnny? Having taken the best years of his life and all of his money, what does he have? What about growing old together. Isn’t this another version of “I don’t want it anyway, keep the bloody thing?”

And having paid such a high price and involving so many people, can I just say, “Things are not working well, let’s call it off.” Especially as I’ve been told it’s mainly my fault. What can be done to make the relationship work all of the time?

When I try to explain, I’m told it is not time, I only think about myself or get a rude reply which means “Precious isn’t it?”

I said last night that I had a nasty habit of reacting badly when criticised. Johnny’s comment on being shocked at my selfishness over the book really threw me into despair.

I am such a shit, I feel a shit and occasionally I want to act like a shit. I feel so sorry for myself that I feel sick, yet if Johnny says I’m full of self-pity,  I get angry at him. Go on, really roll in the tears and snot…

To get back to our conversation, there I was confessing a nasty habit I had become aware of and Johnny mocks me with it the next morning! He repeated some of what I had said in a slightly mocking tone, saying I sounded almost proud that there was nothing I could do about it. He’s probably right. How was he to know it was an exposed nerve he was jumping on? Then he says, “Dramatic Gita, very dramatic. You said it, so why look surprised if it’s referred to again? You didn’t say it was a deadly secret, never before confessed to anyone, not even yourself and that it was not to be referred to again.”

All this is very well but we are far from a solution. As I see it there are three options:

  1. Give up the relationship
  2. Live together but live separate lives
  3. Make the relationship work excellently

I had thought of points 1 and 2 before July 1979, but not in detail. It was difficult to live with Johnny being critical of my behaviour. I find myself difficult to live with.

I thought of point 3 after Johnny rescued me from myself. Now it seems we’re back pre-July 1979. Johnny is critical of me so I don’t want to live with him. Terribly noble of me, no?

It would seem as though I’m doing the opposite of building a good relationship; trying to destroy it. But why? Is it classical psychology textbook behaviour? Having damaged the relationship, I am looking for ways to justify its destruction? Johnny, I’ve done this for you, can’t you behave better? Why must I always use my head for us, why can’t you?

Johnny appears to have given up all topics of conversation except what I want to talk about. It is quite ridiculous because I don’t have much to talk about. This complete dependence on me to keep the talk going, simply because I know very little and it is easier for Johnny to talk about what interests me, is not fruitful.

I don’t know what to do. I love him, I want him, I need him. I think he needs me. Then why do I think I don’t love him? Because if I did, I would look after him better than I do.

PoemToJohnny
By Gita

29th Sep 1980

Why do I feel so glad to see him when he returned early from the island yesterday afternoon? He had caught the hydrofoil back. We had coffee together and then I cut his hair. He cooked the evening meal, a simple meal of mashed potatoes with chives, a lettuce salad and veal marsala. He looked good with his face sunburnt and his hair short.

Later, after discussion, we reached the conclusion it was not a question of whether I loved him or not, but rather whether I was in a loving mood or not!

Quotes to remember:

“Mother, nothing can mask the taste of liver,” says Karen in reply to something I had said.

“Mr Fraser has finally made it to the family noticeboard,” says Gareth. Part of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s picture was on the back of the latest tide tables.

3rd Oct 1980

Last night the family had a discussion over dinner on whether we ought to give up Christmas presents to buy lino for the kitchen floor. Everyone decided against it.

15th Oct 1980

Solved the floor problem by removing the lino, scrubbing and oiling the floorboards. Looks very nice…

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.

52. The Benedictine Nuns – Journal Entry 30th Jul 1980

I had a very nice chat with Sister Gregory. She told me a Benedictine nun from England, who belongs to an intellectual order, is in Australia to attend a conference of the Benedictine order.  The monks are smitten by her intelligence and knowledge and she will be holding a discussion on prayer. Sister Theresa is trying to find at least twenty people who might be interested in hearing the English nun speak. Sister Gregory said it was a case of Sodom and Gomorrah – at least 20 good people?

BenedictineNuns
Benedictine nuns with Gita 1980

Sister Gregory says that the more she hears about our activities and what goes on at our place the more she thinks that ours must be the only Christian household. I don’t think that’s much of a compliment though. Apparently, Barbara comes out with bits of our lore and language, which amuses the nuns. Mum is the only religious one among us and likes to attend church.

Today again I didn’t get much done. A letter came in from India, Nora wants to visit us so she can spend time with mum. She also wants to start an export business and we will have to think about that.

Telephone the solicitors – they haven’t done anything yet about the insurance claim.

Barbara had another upset today. Cliffy is said to have teased her about someone and she is supposed to have said that if he teases her again she would kill herself. She was withdrawn when she returned home. She has also been excited by the last visit to town when she met some Quay Street friends and has been marking time for our next Rocky visit.  She seems to be making a big issue about friends, old friends, and sending cards to them. It’s been nearly two months since Barbara has been on Mellaril, mum tells me.

I stopped the Rover in an awkward place and it wouldn’t start.  It doesn’t take much to start the engine but you do need that little slope and Johnny doesn’t know what the problem is.

Mum was upset now because she was to go to the pensioners social and had baked a cake. If she had known the Rover wasn’t available, she would have walked and made time for it. Now she would be late and the cake was heavy, she said. I stopped her from disturbing the neighbours and walked with her, carrying the old-fashioned coffee cake. The swamp had over 30 Whistler ducks sitting quietly among the weeds.  On the way back, I sat and watched them. How I wished, yet again, that I had a pair of binoculars.  A car passed by very close to me when I walked back, funny bugger.

The corned leg of mutton didn’t turn out so well. The overnight soaking was insufficient and it tasted rather salty, the gravy was worse.

At 9:30 p.m. I talked about the draft program for Warby’s conference and Johnny suggested changes. I told Johnny about N and M’s possible visit and laughed at his consternation. Told him of my day and also Monika’s delight at fixing the duck fence.

31st Jul 1980

Rang the Activities Therapy Centre about Barbara, saying she would kill herself if Cliffy teased her again. The bus driver told me that Barbara has started her talk of boyfriends and was being teased by the schoolboys on the bus. I advised her to tell Barbara to stop talking about it. Reggie the bus driver, is very kind and believes in treating adults as equals. She was concerned enough to see Graham, the psychologist, about the problem of dealing with Barbara on the bus.

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.
  • Check out the photos under the Gallery menu option

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

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

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

Death means you can’t go fishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

29th Jul 1980

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

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

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

Several plans were mooted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jobs for today:

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

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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

 

Memories of Kathmandu in 1968, Special Interview With My Mother’s Best Friend – 25th Jul 2018

In a fortunate turn of events, I was able to track down my mother’s best friend Cynthia. My mother, Marcello, Gareth and I spent time with Cynthia in 1968 when we  stayed in Kathmandu, Nepal, prior to moving to Australia in 1969. Cynthia has since adopted the name Kami and resides on Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada.

When did you and mum first meet?

I was working at the British Council there at that time and was living in this old palace called Thamel Lodge,  in a little round house with a thatched roof. Your mum, you and Marcello, came to live in one of the little apartments. The house was quite primitive, for a London girl like me, with a mud floor. I had problems keeping it clean, although I had been roughing it for months on the road and had lived in a few rather bizarre places. Somehow, we swapped homes – your mum and you two kids lived in the little round house and I lived in the apartment. She knew how to look after and clean the mud floor.

CynthiaMum
Cynthia with Marcello, Gita and Karen in Kathmandu, Nepal 1968

What sort of person was she, with you?

We bonded straight away and we were great friends. She was very open and very knowledgeable and I immediately looked up to her as this rather special being. I had been working in Thailand, learning about other cultures, and started to have a fascination with India, although Nepal and India are very different. So she was like my teacher or mentor even though she was only two years older than me. Gita already had four children and I hadn’t even married or had a child. She seemed to be well-educated, she read a lot and knew a great deal about poetry and literature. I got her a bit of work at the British Council as she had worked for them as a secretary before, in India.

What was Kathmandu like at that time?

It was full of temples with very devout Hindus practicing there. People would go to the temples everyday and put flowers all over town on the deities. One was a Shiva lingam, you know what a lingam is, and they would worship it. Gita was there right at the influx of the hippy era, I was there at the beginning of that and it was extraordinary. There was nowhere at the time to buy western clothes so you had to wear traditional dress like the kurta and salwar kameez. We had all been travellers when we arrived in Kathmandu, so our clothes might have looked a bit worn. Many of the early hippies were just free-spirited people who were studying the Asian art, culture, religion and customs but later the term was associated with drugs.

What kinds of things do you remember doing together?

I was working every weekday so we would catch up on the weekends. I don’t think she had much money at the time so I would come over and have dinner with Gita and you kids quite a lot. There was a nice man from Calcutta, a Mr Bose who was working in Kathmandu and missed his family, so he ‘adopted’ us, your mum and I and you and Marcello, and then Gareth. We would all go out for picnics. One thing I remember was going to a jazz concert with American guitarist Charlie Byrd at the National Stadium in Kathmandu, and when the band (who were angry about their disastrous concert) were leaving in their hired limousine, I asked for a ride home for us as Gita was pregnant with Gareth at the time. There wasn’t a lot of mixing in those early east-meets-west days in Kathmandu and although Nepalese men showed interest in me, I actually only had one Tibetan boyfriend. It was quite difficult to have Nepalese women friends at that time unless you met them through their work. Your family and I discovered Kathmandu together.

I know you supported mum at Gareth’s birth, can you tell me about it?

Well, I was very excited as I had never been that close to anyone who was pregnant before and when I left home most of my friends weren’t married or having children. She went into labour in the night and we had to walk to the Bir Hospital because after dark there were no rickshaws or taxis. There were no telephones either so we couldn’t call anyone and anyway we didn’t know anyone with a car. Along the way, whenever she had a contraction, Gita sat down on the footpath. I was quite worried because I didn’t know how long it was going to take or whether I would have to help with the birth on the way. We finally got to the hospital and it was a bit of a shambles there.

Was it a difficult birth?

No, not really, we were met at the Bir Hospital by a nurse and I don’t think we were even signed in. She said to me, “Are you a nurse?” because I was going to go with Gita as support.

I said, “No.” I didn’t want to lie because I had never been at a birth before, didn’t know what to expect and I thought I might faint or something! The nurse told me that I could go and lie on a bench in the corridor. There were patients lying on the ground on mattresses because there weren’t enough wards. Of course I couldn’t sleep and I could hear the sound of rats scuttling around on the ground. I was thinking, Oh my God, these people are on the ground, at least I’m up on a bench, it was like a nightmare. I don’t know if Gareth wants to hear this… The nurse eventually came and got me, nothing had been cleaned up, I saw the afterbirth in a bucket, it was a pretty bloody place. I was so happy to see Gita with a healthy baby!

How long did she stay there and how did she get home?

She stayed in the hospital, in a bed, overnight. I brought flowers but there was nowhere to put them. They eventually found a tin can. I came to pick her up soon after and we got a rickshaw home.

CynthiaGarethBaby
Cynthia holding Gareth, Kathmandu 1968

Did you help mum with the baby and with looking after us?

Not really, because I was working all day but we did hire a woman to help with the housework. In those days it was expected that foreigners would provide employment for local workers. In those days you didn’t have throwaway diapers (we used to call them nappies in England) and so they had to be boiled and washed everyday.

Marcello asked if you remembered the time when I was electrocuted? He literally saved my life.

No, I think it might have happened when I was away because I left for Japan. You stayed on some months after I left and when I came back you were gone, to Australia.

How did you meet your husband Minoru at that time?

Gita wanted to learn Aikido, the Japanese martial art, from Minoru the Japanese instructor.  Because he only taught men and boys, she wanted me to go with her.  That is when he really started getting friendly with me. Then Gita decided she wanted to learn Shiatsu massage, which he was also offering mainly to the foreign community.  So he came back to your little round house and used me to practice on. That’s when one thing lead to another and we ended up together.

Did we attend your wedding to Minoru in Kathmandu?

Yes, it was a very traditional Nepalese-Hindu wedding with a Brahmin priest and held in an old palace called Bagh Durbar. The wedding was all arranged by members of the Nepalese Royal Family as Minoru had been living with them at the time. They had tried to marry him off to a Nepalese woman but he was with me so they checked me out to see if I was suitable. They were happy that I had a good job at the British Council, so they deemed me suitable. I remember Gita saying, the Bagh Durbar palace, with its many rooms, was like something out of a Kafka story. Anyway, I had a red sari for my wedding dress. Recently I found out that there was a huge protest to save Bagh Durbar, so I wrote to say that this heritage building should be saved and also that I was married there. They found my picture on Facebook and posted it, with some of my words on top, on their Facebook page.

 

Cynthia-Wedding (1)
Minoru and Cynthia, Nepalese Wedding at Bagh Durbar, an old palace in Kathmandu Nepal in 1968

 

Cynthia Wedding (1)
Cynthia and Minoru wed Nepali Style in Bagh Durbar under supervision of Brigadier General Sushil Shumsher Rana, brother of the former Queen Mother of Nepal.

 

MinoruCynthia-JapaneseWedding (1)
Minoru and Cynthia also wed in traditional Japanese style at Hotel Takanawa, Tokyo, January 1969, four months after their Nepalese wedding

Where did you have your child Anna?

I was staying in Japan with my husband and he, and his family, wanted me to have the baby there, but it was very difficult for foreign women in Japan at the time. I remember reading an anthropology book which said that Japanese women are not permitted to cry out during childbirth! I thought, Oh my God that sounds primitive, so I went back to England to my family and had the baby. I realised also that I had made a terrible mistake and it was getting hard for me to cope with the expectations of me in my relationship with Minoru. I wanted to go back to my own country without all those restrictions. I did visit Kathmandu in March 1969 on the way back to England, but you had all gone.

CynthiaAnna
Cynthia with Anna 2 weeks old, England 1969

Did mum stay in the one area the whole time?

As well as the little round house, Gita rented a room above a shop around the Buddhist Stupa of Boudhanath, where many of the Tibetans had settled. It’s a little out of town and I think it was mostly used at weekends. I remember staying there once or twice.  It was very quiet, apart from the Tibetans walking around the stupa, turning their prayer wheels and reciting the prayer Om Mani Padme Hum.  Now it’s overcrowded and not very nice.

Mum left India in difficult circumstances, leaving behind two children, did she ever talk about it?

Actually she didn’t talk much about it but she had told me that she had run away from your dad and that she was worried he would track her down as she had you and Marcello. She told me about Johnny and that she was going to move to Australia with him. Maybe she didn’t want to talk to me about leaving your brother and sister behind. There was so much happening at the time we were just dealing with what was happening then and there. Johnny would send letters to her through me.

Was there anything else you remember about mum?

When I was pregnant and leaving for Japan, Gita gave me a piece of fabric that came from an Art Colony in India and wanted me to make something special with it. So I had a maternity dress made – it was only just big enough. It was a bit short but it was ok to wear in England. I lent it to many people but insisted they give it back to me. Which they did. Now I use it for patches and my patched gardening shirt is on display in the Bowen Island Heritage Museum at the moment. I’ve also patched a pair of pants with it, so Gita lives on!

Can you tell me about how you came to change your name to Kami?

After I moved to Canada, I felt that Cynthia sounded too English a name – I didn’t feel like a Cynthia anymore. I had lived the better part of five years in Nepal and it had changed me. In Canada I was learning dance with an African and I mentioned I wanted to change my name. He suggested a very long name, Oledapo Kemi Funimolaya, and I adapted Kemi to Kami. I’m still Cynthia on all my official documents, so when I travel, I’m Cynthia, but everyone on Bowen Island knows me as Kami.

How did you feel when I contacted you, after all these years?

I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe it at first, that you had found me was miraculous in a way. When I looked at your photo in Facebook when you sent me the message, having only seen you as a little five year old girl with dark hair to now with grey hair, it took me a while to work out what it was about. I was in shock that day, and going to a reading a friend was doing for a book she had published. I was telling everybody, Oh my God something big happened. Then when you told me Gita had passed away I had what I could only be described as a delayed grieving – it was terribly sad. I had already grieved the fact that I was never going to reconnect with Gita after trying for years unsuccessfully to track her and your family down. I had lost her once already.

How did you and mum lose touch with each other?

If she was still alive and we had reconnected, I have a feeling we would have just carried on our friendship where we left off. She had such a different life to me. I lived alone for much of my life since Anna left home. I admired the fact that Gita had this big love. I had moved around quite a bit and tried for so many years to track her down. I searched and searched. I feel like there have been all these little messages since I lost touch with Gita. She gave me the Haiku book translated by R.H. Blyth when I got together with Minoru and then I found one at the Bowen Island annual book sale this year.

I believe you are writing memoir at the moment. Can you tell me about it?

Oh, it must be the slowest memoir in the world! I had been thinking about it for thirty years and I sometimes stall when I am working on it. It starts with me travelling overland from London to Kathmandu in August 1966, going through sixteen countries, how it was arriving in Kathmandu when there were very few foreigners living there and how extraordinary it was then. After that we were ‘thrown out’ after our four month visa expired which we had already extended for a month. Most of the travellers were asked to leave if they weren’t staying in the big hotels because we were renting in people’s homes. That was before the term “hippy” came up and they were still using the term “beatnik”. You couldn’t renew your visa unless you could produce a lot of money, were staying in one of the hotels or came with an organisation. There were a lot of NGOs there at that time.

Have you done any other writing lately?

I recently wrote a 750 word piece called The Tokyo Letters, for a flash non-fiction competition for a magazine in Mexico, about connecting with you. It came about when you sent me copies of the aerogrammes that I had sent to your mum, back when I was in Tokyo. I was reminded about what a horrible time if was for me and that Gita was the only person I could write to about it.

Kami-Anna
Kami with her daughter Anna in Edmonton, Canada in 2018

 

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This special interview forms part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • My mother’s early journal entries contain draft letters she wrote to Cynthia (Kami) and all photos here have been included by permission.
  • I have continued to use my mother’s pen name Gita in this transcript.
  • A photo gallery, for the early part of the Journal Series, has now been added to the home page here.

50. A Whole Week of Study – Journal Entry 25th Jul 1980

Monday 21st

Went to 8 o’clock meeting with John W until 9:15 am. After that Reg and I worked in the library on the Friday workshop. Had lunch with Johnny, attended COBOL lecture and then left Rocky. At home, Gran took charge of the meal and gave me the afternoon off. Started reading Elkin’s book, The Australian Aborigines.

Tuesday 22nd

Stayed home, did a bit of COBOL, cooked soup, beans and a curry meal. Can’t remember doing much else.

Wednesday 23rd

Johnny stayed home and worked while I made a beef daube and stewed pears for dessert. Gran cooked the rice while I transplanted the lettuce seedlings. Wrote another COBOL program and finished Chapter 3A.

Thursday 24th

Went to CIAE at 8 o’clock and started self-test 3A COBOL exercises. At 9 o’clock went to Barry to sort out first COBOL program and went back to Johnny’s office to work on more self-test problems. Read a bit on Aboriginal myths, had lunch, chatted with Ellen and went to the COBOL lecture. Went home, put away the groceries, ironed Johnny’s clothes, read a bit and Gran, Karen and Monika made dinner. We all listened to Johnny read The Odyssey by Homer and went to bed early.

Friday 25th

It rained most of last night and is still raining. Gareth is at home, Karen is at school after a few days at home with the flu – hope she is all right. The day is wet, dark and windy. There are about twelve ducklings, small, yellow and fluffy, and two newly hatched chicks – hope they are kept warm by their mothers.

Jobs Outstanding:

  • Income tax returns
  • Probability and Statistics, Chapter 5 then assignment
  • COBOL assignment
  • Bills and car registration
  • House insurance
  • Stuff for school fete, especially cakes
  • Make moussaka with leftover lamb and bake bread
  • Sort out the fridge
  • Plan the weekend food
  • See Colin about the data file

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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