106. The Allure of Romance Novels – Journal Entry 3rd Nov 1982

Dear Nora, 

Please forgive my delay; it’s been almost a week since I received your letter. Life is at its busiest right now.

In response to your three queries: Firstly, mum would prefer the lesser of the two prices quoted and will contribute half. Would you like us to keep the $150 (1500 rupees) here for you or would you want us to send a bank transfer in rupees? Secondly, come whenever you can. It does seem inadvisable for you and Henry to be away at the same time. Henry would be very welcome here anytime if he wishes to make a trip on his own. Finally, the road trip from Sydney to Rockhampton takes two nights and one day. It would cost say $100 (1000 rupees) without food. 

I would suggest you book Madras to Brisbane and Brisbane to Madras with an option to leave from Melbourne. Mum will buy you a plane ticket from Brisbane to Rocky when we know definite dates. Once you are here, we will book your Rocky to Brisbane or Rocky to Melbourne flight. The same arrangement could be used by Henry, of course. If you can raise the fare to Australia, we will look after you here.

Perhaps Mary can advise you on what to pack. You can borrow warm clothes from mum as I am sure you wouldn’t care for mine! If you are thinking of buying small presents for the folks here, may I delicately suggest that it would not be necessary as many Indian things are available here. I do agree you should pack as lightly as you can and remember, no seeds, rawhide leather, skins, plants or flowers are allowed into Australia.

I am posting this letter today as we have to go and withdraw mum’s money at the Post Office and I’m cashing the child endowment cheque too. I look forward to hearing about your plans!

4th November 1982

Today, Mum is off on a pensioners’ bus trip.

While dropping Barbara at the bus stop, I started thinking about Mills and Boon romance novels. Written by females, for female consumption, these novels are quite lucrative.  Nevertheless, educated women don’t seem to read them, and not all uneducated women read them either. Young girls, married women and old ladies read romance novels and have done so for nearly two-hundred years, according to a recent article of dubious scholarship. There are strict rules: passionate kissing and retaining one’s honour are allowed but rarely (in fact never) is fondling of the breasts or (god forbid) any touching below the waist. Sexual intercourse, and a certain amount of fondling, is now included within a particular subset of these novels. 

The heroine is usually independent and beautiful, with a sense of humour, honest and passionate. The men tend to be tall, handsome and quite ardent. They are often very wealthy farmers with large estates. Initially, there is antagonism and distrust, explained later as a ploy to fight against their mutual attraction. The main characters endure many incidents, working together in crises until eventually they can’t help but admire and respect one another. Usually, there is another male and female who delay our happy couple from finding true love. Finally, they come together and, as in fairy tales, live happily ever after.

The article in the Weekend Australian says that women’s taste for these novels indicates their interest in sex and, according to a Kinsey Report of the 1950s, more women were turned on by hardcore pornography than men. 

Off the cuff reply to that—from what one gathers after reading romantic novels, such as Jane Eyre, is that women want to feel powerful in the sense that the man wants her, and only her and that she can make him completely happy. On the other hand, only he can cause her to succumb and revel in her femaleness: burying his face in her beautiful hair and saying things like, “you elf-creature, what magic have you bound me with?” I’m not sure how explicitly the sexual act comes into it, not very I suspect unless the man is skilful enough to give her pleasure, intense pleasure at that. It seems that the sexual act is a vague part of the passionate kissing in a tight embrace.

We should keep in mind, I suppose, that these novels portray characters who are larger than life. The women are more beautiful,  competent, faithful and courageous than the female reader. The hero is handsome, humorous, wildly passionate but not out of control, and articulate enough to say most of the things women want to hear. He does not go off to the pub drinking with his mates. There is more than enough delightful concentration on the lucky couple; their preoccupation with one another would satisfy most female readers. However, what women read and what they want in real life might be two different things. How does one find that out?

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.

91. Citizens Bureau – Journal Entry 11th June 1982

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

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

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

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

12th June 1982

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

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

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

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

13th June 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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