28 November 1983

Letter: Friends leaving soon

Letter 28 / 11 / 83

There have been so many interruptions today. We had to help write out documents for a land ownership business - that was very time-consuming. And just as we finished the S family turned up. (He is the white school principal).

They have just one week to go, and they are really ready to leave! We see a fair bit of them lately, I think they need to let go of a few of their tensions. Funny, we hardly ever saw them at the start of their year here.

James and their two girls play really well together, which keeps all the adults happy too ... but makes Alison get very animated in her desire to join in.

Peter S is in a spot of "trouble" at the moment. Saibo (you might remember he was the chap who took us for a ride in his boat around the back of the island, and left us there) has come to school drunk umpteen times. (He's a teacher). Peter S has given him several warnings, and the other day he sacked him ... and so now of course Saibo has been making all sorts of violent threats against him. Fortunately Saibo is not a popular fellow at the moment and no one is on his side.

New window

Peter made me another window in the kitchen today (the third window). I remember when we first moved in, it was dark, hot, dusty, with boxes of old louvre blades and roofing nails, and then there were wasps nests, rats nests.... bleh!

Now its so bright and airy, with rows of kitchen tools hanging, and neat lines of spice bottles, a sink, a Formica bench top, and a fridge. Not your conventional kitchen, but very "us"!

We've pulled out of a recent low patch - we are all well and happy and thoroughly enjoying ourselves at present. The ducks are growing fast, the tank is full of water, our dinghy should be here next week ... what more could we want? Not a lot of 'formal' language work going on, but plenty of valuable informal contacts.

More ducks

We ordered some more ducks, and they arrived safely and have been sold to island friends, who are delighted with them. James Rice bought three. Peter delivered them to him late in the evening, and James R said he was enjoying them so much he wanted to sit up all night watching them.

22 November 1983

Letter: Boisterous Baby

Letter 22 / 11 / 83

Its early Tuesday - the kids are up but Peter lingers in bed under the effects of an antihistamine (his old mango allergy - not that he has eaten any!) A certain boisterous baby has just crawled to me and is standing, swiping at my paper (which I am holding in the vicinity of my left shoulder as I write). She's so much livelier than James was at this age, and full of little clevernesses. Some of these we appreciate - like we can leave a bottle in her cot and she'll find it and use it without calling for me. She has her first tooth at last, and now she is thoroughly good at sitting, crawling, standing - and even makes a fair go at pulling herself along things.

As for her big brother - he speaks Torres Strait Creole quite well for his age. We'll have to spend the summer holidays teaching him English too. Alison thinks he's wonderful, even though he frequently hits her or knocks her over. They are so funny together - they look so alike and they have so many private giggles.


I've just taken James to kindy - he was very reluctant today. I haven't made him go the last couple of weeks because it seemed something there was frightening him. We're not sure if it was stories he was being told, or whether something was happening when all the kids are sent to the toilet. Anyway, with only 1 1/2 weeks left this year I thought we'd give it another try - see whether he sleeps well tonight or starts screaming again. Next year there will be 16 grade one kids - most classes are only 6-10 - so I guess there's presently rather a lot of 'big' kids in kindy, it will be a lot nicer for him next year when they move on.

We didn't get our boat on the last ship after all. We had been told it was on TI, but when Peter rang around no one had seen it. Finally they admitted we had been "short-shipped" - it was off-loaded and left on the wharf in Cairns! They tried to console us by saying there wouldn't have been room on the Melbidir from TI anyway. There's supposed to be another Melbidir about Dec 5, so we wait eagerly.

The ducks continue to grow rapidly. Whereas 4 could swim around in their crisper of water, now there's only room for one to "duck" in, but no room to actually swim as such. We've searched the island dump, but can't find anything bigger, and don't feel they're big enough for the ocean yet. We have to admit to not knowing a great deal about ducks. We are wondering how soon they will lay. And how can we tell male from female? And how much should they eat?

We now have water on tap! Its really hard to get used to, I still reach for a jug to dip into the barrel. Peter has put a pipe from our tank to the laundry sink, the kitchen sink, and a tap by the back steps - isn't he clever?

12 November 1983

Letter: Black Magic at Work

Letter 12 / 11 / 83

Its supposed to be our "day off", but we are all too tired and sick to walk anywhere ... James, Ali and I have colds, Peter has swollen, infected feet. Peter S. made Peter an offer he couldn't refuse (ie a fishing trip in his boat) ... so here I am in the "Mir Meta" with a glass of Diet Coke and a handful of peanuts and a mozzie coil smoking by my ankles. Alison is asleep, and James has gone off to the S's place to play with their two little girls (and harass Sue, I guess). Its a perfectly beautiful day - rather hot, but lovely sitting in this little house.

I am sitting staring at the incredibly beautiful blue ocean, I can see the dark patches of sardines, and some weed, and the sandy patches on the reef. Its very hard to imagine scenery like misty mountains! The church women are all jabbering away, doing 'mission work' - ie sitting in the shade or raking leaves from around the church.

This crazy place. Sam Passi is an elderly deacon in the church, yet announced at a public meeting yesterday that he is scared to go to his garden alone since George B died and he wants to hold a ceremony to find who worked 'pourri pourri' on George. Wilfred (of all people) stood up and pointed out that this is now a Christian island and we don't do that stuff any more ... then a fight broke out and we don't know whether in the end they decided to go ahead or not.

After George died Sam was burning little bonfires around his house at night - he lives right next to George's (now empty) house. These days any mishap gets blamed on George's ghost. Amongst other things talked about at yesterday's meeting, it was pointed out (by one non-churchgoer) that it is against the law on this island to go fishing on a Sunday. These people are so mixed up!

Yes, we have a boat! So far its got as far as TI - so we are told. Its only a 13' aluminium dinghy with a 25hp outboard. We hope it will arrive on the Melbidir this week. The S's will only be here for another 3 weeks, so it would be nice to have it before they leave. We've bought a drum of petrol in anticipation!

Sunday pm

Things are really beginning to move again after some months of considerable apathy in the church. There were all kinds of people in church this morning ... maybe it will return to the days (like when we first came here) of having to sit outside because of no seats left. I didn't entirely understand the sermon, but I have an idea it was fairly fiery. Actually it was a repeat (in a longer form) of one Fr Tabo gave about two weeks ago when there was hardly anyone to hear it. George's death is beginning to have all sorts of effects. People are scared - some of the ghost, and some of the possibility of going back to the old ways of looking for the 'killer' by divination.

James seems to have musical ability - he can hold a tune really well for a 3 year old, even when he's not sure of the words! I don't think there is a piano anywhere on the island, even in the school. I guess these people wouldn't know what one is - can you imagine bringing one in in a dinghy and dragging it up the beach? Guitars and drums are all they know about, and cassette players.

The ducks are growing fast - they are so funny, even more than chooks! We have finally persuaded them that the mash we dish up to them is actually for eating, not just walking on. Soon we will have to make different arrangements for their daily swims as they are getting too big for their crisper. I gather swimming isn't actually essential to them, but they certainly enjoy it and I gather they do it to keep cool. We keep talking about taking them to the ocean when they are "bigger", but haven't fully worked out the practical side of it yet. They love fish - I can just imagine them getting into a school of sardines.

11 November 1983

Letter: Ghost at Large

Letter 11 / 11 / 83

Just a quick note to accompany your Christmas presies.

People are still scared after the death of George B. When Saibo's boat was caught in the tide the other day they blame it on his ghost, and various other things have happened. There was a big meeting today because Sam Passi wants to look into a glass (not sure what that means) to find out who killed George.