16 January 1983

Letter: Church Council Meeting

Letter 16 / 1 / 83

What a day we've had. I would lie down and sleep now, but when I tried the mossies kept getting me. Besides, I need to unwind a little, and also I would like to get a letter on tomorrow's plane ... if there is one. We heard on the radio yesterday that they are changing the flight from Monday to Tuesday, but we didn't hear when the change is effective from.

For the protection of all concerned we made up a semi-legal document, I typed up umpteen copies, and the church council met after church this morning to sign it - it had already been agreed on. Then the strangest thing happened. One fellow who is a church deacon - but not of this church, he is only visiting here and not a member of the council either - suddenly went quite mad. He started ranting and raving and beating his chest ... it didn't seem to be particularly against us. And the priest started arguing and yelling back at him. It was all very strange, and embarrassing for all who were present. With the shouting, people began to come from all over and stood at a distance, but no one seemed to really know what it was all about. So all sorts of rumours started about us being thrown off the island. It really had nothing to do with us, it was a personal disagreement between this deacon-guy and the priest. He is apparently a real trouble-maker from way back. The paper didn't get signed, they decided to meet again on Wednesday.

The guest house

We were just trying to relax after that trauma, when there was a knock at the door, it was Wilfred and his father. They are in the middle of a dispute over the ownership of the 'guesthouse' on their land - one reason we were so glad to move out of there. Wilfred's father leaves on tomorrow's plane, and wanted to get things tidied up before he left - he had hoped it would all be sorted out in the three months he's been here, but in real island style they have been put off and put off ... so they wanted us to word a document for them, and type out umpteen copies. And that was my afternoon - typing. And here I am at the typer again!

Getting ready to leave

So, as if it isn't enough to have to pack up and get things stored away this week, we have to wait on this church council meeting and hope there isn't any more unpleasantness. We also hope that Wilfred keeps his word and doesn't go saying that we helped him - we would be willing to do the same for anyone. Living in this place we feel like we are constantly playing with fire no matter what we do. Did I tell you why the last school teacher had to run for his life? The then chairman was having his life threatened by a bunch of tough guys armed with knives etc, and he went to the school teacher for help, who rang the police on TI, so they came for him too.

Let me try and think of all the mundane things that have been happening to us this week. Its been so quiet. James and Peter have been down with colds and so we've kept pretty much to ourselves and not been to any feasts or anything. Peter finally made a hole in the wall, making it into a window in the kitchen, with a shutter. Its been one of those weeks that you say at the end of the day - "Well, I made some bread today" or some such insignificant achievement.

Checkout trouble

The store is empty again, after being open for four days. I told you the boat came on Thursday, but the store didn't open on Friday because of a big feast. Rumour went around it would open Saturday (only because people thought it should) but it didn't because the manager was too drunk to care what people thought. On Sunday he opened for two hours - we didn't even know. On Monday we were down there bright and early with the rest at 9am, but as if to make up for Sunday he didn't open until 10. We grabbed mild and sugar, a few canned drinks, some apples and oranges (eggs were already off, mostly broken by the rats or sold the day before) and made our way to the checkout ... only to stand there for another hour - I'll never complain about checkouts down south again. It was so hot, and the queue just didn't seem to move - they don't really queue the way we do, people just keep slipping in from the side. Anyway, the shelves are bare again now ... we managed to run out of toilet paper, but we picked up a couple of boxes of tissues before they were all gone too.

So, as you can guess, we are feeling very tired, and with the light at the end of the tunnel in sight we are really looking forward to getting down to Cairns. I dream about things like lettuce and cheese ... air conditioned shops to browse through, newspapers to read. We rang our friends in Cairns to say we're coming and we'd like to be booked into a caravan park or somewhere rather than live in their pockets for a couple of weeks, and they said they had heard only the day before of a family who have a little house right next to their own which they have set aside for poor missio's like us ... so if the wet season is 'in' in Cairns as it is here we'll be more comfortable ( and James less frustrated and frustrating) than living in a caravan.


Another lovely windy day on Murray. I've got my washing all done (in the Bamix "presawash") and I'm daring those clouds to rain on it before the wind blows it all dry. I've learnt that most Mondays seem to be water 'on' days, and sometimes Thursday too. What is annoying is when it comes on on a Sunday and I can't do the washing then. Sometimes I'm ready to wash on Monday, and it doesn't come on till Tuesday ... maybe those guys just don't know what day of the week it is.

Porridge for dinner

We've been feeling a bit poor the last few days. With Peter being sick, and me tired, and the store empty ... well the night before last we had porridge for tea, and last night we shared a fillet of schnapper and I boiled our last spoonful of rice. Its the lack of potatoes I feel most. I get very tired of eating bread and Sao biscuits. This morning I felt very proud of myself when I found some instant potato hidden away in the store. And peanut butter - there hasn't been any in the store for ages and this morning I found some among the pickled onions! (past its use-by date, though).

Uncle Ses

There is a funny little old man here, we call him Uncle Ses. He's a bachelor and reputedly went as senile as he is now when his mother refused to let him marry when he was 20 - he is now 70 or 80 I suppose. He is a bit stooped, but still quite sprightly, and he's the sort that when you see him coming you try to get out of sight because he'll talk your ear off and you won't understand much of what he says. But he's really quite clever in his own way, and we try to make time for him as well as being quite strict about him leaving us alone if we are busy, and generally he respects that.

This morning he turned up to ask us help him read and understand something he had received in the mail. It was something about a $5 raffle in which you can win a home unit in Coolangatta. Ses didn't really understand about home units, he thought maybe if he won it he could get the carpenters (everyone knows they can work magic) to somehow remove his home unit from its sixth-floor position and bring it up here for him. He also had a hopeful idea that the pretty girl in the picture might be part of the prize.

Ses really dotes on James, and James is beginning to get less frightened of him. He always calls James "Peter", even though he knows his name is James.