In Sydney Harbour, going on

Returning migrant on board luxury cruise liner, summer '69, contemplates magnificent Sydney city and harbour, green parklands, rich suburbs, indented coastline. Reaching the ocean he sorely regrets his decision to leave N.S.W. with family for good.

In Sydney Harbour, going on.

Fernando García Izquierdo

When a man has successfully settled in a new country, where he has found employment and begun a new life, something must be troubling him very deeply if he leaves of a sudden one day to start a new life elsewhere. It was said in my case that I was only seeking a new pang of despair.
Ten years had I spent with my wife Down Under, the best years of our lives. A lucky New Australian they would had said of me a couple of years before: naturalised, a perfectly assimilated man of property with a lovely family, all so happy.
And yet, I was leaving. I was putting an end to all that, and much more, voluntarily. Nobody understood the step I was taking. I changed. I went away one day from what would become presently (I would think in despair) an irretrievable past.
Of course there was a reason for all that, for what I did… had done. Every effect has got to have a cause. I did know, in my case, the cause, which others might have found irrelevant. It was very relevant for me.
It had something to do with art. In short I loved literature much more than the law, which gave me employment and money. I was stubborn, insisted. I would write and write until I ceased to exist.
I had discussed the situation with Nicky. We had worked together these ten years. In fact, it was she who suggested, one Sunday of summer 1959, on Balmoral Beach, that I had to write that novel. And she agreed now, almost eleven years on that we had to try, either in New York or London.
All the same, it was my own decision to move on. And it was a crazy decision. I should have known. Why, oh hell, why? had I now thought, in the first place, that a solution to my problem was to be found elsewhere? If it could not be! I would be an unsuccessful writer all my life.
I felt very depressed and quite bewildered. I fully realised I was starting a new more uncertain life, now that I was nearing forty. No guarantee of anything, when I was beginning to feel burnt out.

When I was young I was full of enthusiasm. A long adventure, that summer ’53, which would change my life. England, Nicky and all we did was a success. Why should I have tempted Fortune again. Then I had had my optimism. Today it was only stubborness. And I was dragging with me my faithful loving wife and our two daughters, away from what they loved.

*
The sun had just set behind a motley array of modern buildings made of glass, aluminum and cement, jointly known as the New Ocean Terminal. Overhead I could see that sombre assemblage of stones, vegetation and some rather ancient houses which the public called The Rocks, the promontory where the soldiers of the First Fleet built the first British Garrison in 1788. The sky all over was bright and perfectly blue. It had been so all that day.
A number of people were there, known and unknown to us. That’s to say, the great majority of them, men, women and children were strangers.
… I’m trying to concentrate my thoughts, leaning my arms on the railing, slightly pushed on by other passengers crowding behind us, on the second deck of the majestic SSCanberra, the latest and most beautiful jewel of the Peninsular & Orient Line. The three women whom I love are next to me, my wife holding to my left arm and our little ones on my right peering through the railing’s steel bars.
… We’re gazing at the crowd down below, standing on the wharf, calling, making signs and throwing colourful streamers. The majority, of course, I had not seen in all my born days. That is to say, their being there does not concern us at all.
… but about a dozen of them happen to be our dearest friends. They’ve come to the terminal to wish us a good journey. It’s to be goodbye! Perhaps we shall not see them again.
… they are my friends and Nicky’s.They were called a moment ago ‘the visitors.’ Visitors to the ship for the afternoon. We all met in this land; some of them ten years ago.
A collection of about two hundred people at the new terminal, though there was another much smaller crowd floating in the air, as it were, standing on a steel-and-concrete platform projecting out of the main terminal building: they are rather young, and they also throw and receive streamers. Some are shouting in German: ‘Dieter! Johannes! Helmut! Aufwiedersehen!!’
Never mind. We four were leaving, returning migrants, and now I was not sure of anything. They, our friends, were staying in Australia, migrants and first or second generation Aussies.
We all were making the same gestures, producing the same noises, similar movements, uttering many exclamations nobody understood, and smiles and laughs. Also sighs from time to time.
‘Anna, don’t forget,’ Nicky shouts, bending forward. And somebody calls back from the quay, while at the same time throwing up a rolling paper ribbon meant for us. ‘Bon voyage!’
All of us, on the decks, though not all returning migrants, were soon to leave this favoured land, some for good, to sail away to cross for six weeks some of the most beautiful seas and oceans of the world, with calls in many ports, exotic places for the most part. It was a cruise ship.
… it makes you think of how everything changes so quickly. I think of when we came to Australia. Migrants Nicky and I. Both bewildered but full of hope. We soon found everything we wanted.
… of course we both felt that first pang (or at least I did.) Who doesn’t notice upon arrival, all those oddities? I found many. Even the fact that here autumn was starting while back there it was spring. It seemed to affect me.
… nothing remains stable. Time and matter eternally following its course. I soon become adjusted to everything. It was progress. Now I’m ten years older. Why, it has been on the whole a good life.
I observed the whole quay area. The ferries on the left far away. Twenty jetties for the ferryboats that constantly cross the Bay, from south to norrth and viceversa. And today (I thought) I was going to traverse that most beautiful deep-water bay from west to east, or at least a great portion of it, down to the Heads from the City.
On an imposing brand new liner, the Canberra. She has been berthed on this New Ocean Terminal these last few days. We had actually arrived with our two little daughters when afternoon was just commencing. And soon we found our place of residence to be, for six weeks. Our cabin. We met the Goan citizen, the steward for our part of the boat. He helped us to install ourselves comfortably, our luggage for the journey, and the girls already started to dispute which berth was ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. (We knew that all our other material belongings were in the holds of the ship, even some small pieces of furniture we couldn’t part with for one reason or other.)
That was hours ago. Our friends then began to arrive. They had been there with us, in the cabin or spreading out of the door.
About half an hour ago the liner’s loudspeakers have been blasting onto the air, not letting passengers and friends enjoy the last minutes together. ‘Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors ashore!’ Making the visitors jittery and soon to send them dashing along the corridors, up and down passages and staircases.
… loudly, monotonously, persistently. ‘Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors ashore!’ A pause and again, ‘Gangways about to be lifted!’, all the time the pause becoming shorter. ‘Visitors are requested to leave the ship immediately! We repeat, im-med-iate…lyyyy!’
… up and down the narrow staircases, those types called ‘visitors’, running, escaping into free air, along the decks, striving to reach in time the gangways. Mrs. Brown is there.
… she has been shedding tears in my wife’s arms, having both joined the school’s staff the same year. ‘You have an adorable companion, Mr.Isquiro.’ she says to me, and Mr. Brown is of the same opinion.
… for a while, then, there have been expansive demonstrations of friendship everywhere. In our cabin three visiting couples plus Pippo, and four children. Many laughs, conversation, exchange of addresses and notes.
… and the wine, of course, a couple of bottles of sparkling wine. We all knew what to expect. Famous ‘Barossa Pearl’.The children too (soda and orangeade, in their case: such good friends, for such a long time.
… when shall we see one another again? The Lanes have just arrived. We’ve made some excursions together: the bush, the beaches, those Christmas nights at Coogee Bay, and ‘Christmas Carols by Candlelight’. Wonderful moments.
Of course, there will always remain the remembrance, I said to myself leaning on the railing and seeing them all now on the quay. A multitude of raised hands, hats, and handkerchiefs. The children hold Australian flags. A profusion of streamers rolling out now in the air, multicoloured paper-ribbons. More and more of those colour-ribbons now flying this way and that, all the time. Off in all directions extremely long streamers flying for a while from the hands of those on the ship to the fingers of those who were staying.

There was the noise too, reaching my ears from down below, a multitude of our friends and the friends of other passagers, and from those encircling us.
I saw these all along the length and width of the quay, right down to the water’s edge, that is, the whitish-creamy body of the superb liner, SSCanberra. In some places the people are crowding without bothering (or without noticing) about the enormous cranes and all sorts of machinery, smeared with soot and grease. The very ones which last night and in the early hours of this morning were busily shifting containers from the quay into the holds of the ship.
The flying of streamers this way and that never ceases: crossing and recrossing each other’s trajectory. Some minutes ago, on our backs, two enterprising men have been making a few pounds of pocket money, offering their wares: ‘Streamers, streamers! Who’ll buy my streamers?’ And Nicky, of course bought two or three paper bags with enough merchandise to go on, mainly because of our children, who were demanding them. As a consequence, the two now were for a while engaged upon a sisterly dispute about who was to have this or that coloured paper roll. ‘Oh, look! Daddy! Mummy gimme another one !’
‘Like that. Here, Luli, you see. Unroll first a little bit; you hold tight the end between thumb and finger.’ Now her hand was raised and, with a skillful flick of the wrist (with Daddy’s help), Luli hurls the unwinding ribbon in the air, and down below. A shriek: ‘Daddy! Oh jump, Pete! Catch it!’ And Daddy shouting: ‘Well done, Luli!’ But little Oli was not so vociferous. She hurled no streamer at all; for she horded them in the little satchel Mummy had bought for her to start her kindergarten course.
Crossing and recrossing each other’s trajectory the colourful ribbons flew all the time. Here! one more! and another one! We were beginning to see a mesh of streamers on our friends’ and other people’s heads, a paper vault of colourful beauty in the approaching evening. And I saw, among others the Krcnarics waving, a family of three, our best friends in the land. Anna is still teaching at Claremont.
… I remember I came across my Polish friend (now a high executive of a transnational corporation) the very first time I set my foot on the school grounds, many years ago, during a Saturday fête.
… we have begun talking while watching the girls at their games. A beautiful sunny afternoon. An hour later our young wives, coming arm in arm. ‘Why, I see you’ ve already become acquainted,’ Nicky’s surprise. ‘And we were going to introduce you!’)
I wake up with a start. Nicky had called my attention by a knock on my shoulder. My secretary Maureen is waving. Blonde and beautiful. She left the firm a few days before I presented my resignation, only, in her case, in order to go into Paddington’s Maternity Hospital. Rootsey, her husband, is holding the tiny baby in his hands.
… Maureen. She knew I was writing ‘Dorotea’ in office hours. I would have liked to show her the nine-hundred-page manuscript, but in the end I desisted. Why bother? Nobody will ever like my novel.
From Maureen’s little family, my eyes passed on to the Parkers and their son and daugther, good friends these of our girls. ‘Fernando!’ I heard, ‘good luck, but not good-bye. See you in London.’ While our girls were calling, shrieking, crying. ‘Bye Danny! See you soon Melissa! Don’t forget us!’
… Tom is a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, and had spent two years in Vietnam: has just renounced his commission. He has made plans to live again in London, where he met Joan, who was the secretary of a famous writer.
The band was still playing ‘God Save the Queen!’ and I knew the liner would soon be starting on its course. Turning my gaze right, I saw two tugs approaching, their long red chimneys painting the prussian blue sky with dense curly strokes of black smoke.
And when I looked again at the quay down below I chanced to see my old Irish friend at the back of the crowd with Connie.
‘Oh, how glad, how happy I am you’ve been able to make it! Paddy!’ I cried.
Joe Murphy and Connie Rayburn were intimate friends of another sort. Both older than us had belonged to the Communist Party since the War of Spain, first the British one, and now the Australian. Paddy had fought for the Spanish Republic, in the International Brigades.
*
I had to turn my head round again because I sensed the time had come to say goodbye to the City. To think that I had been working in one of those skyscrapers for ten years. I saw the lights of the city coming on, one by one as it were: public lighting in the streets, and the lights of the shops, the motorcars, the advertisments! ‘Oh, the smears of capitalism!’ I said to myself
We were already being pulled away from the quay by those two little craft called tugs. In the end, after a pronounced sort of rotation, and the tugs having succeeded in placing the enormous ship perpendicular to the wharf, without ceasing to pollute the air with, the little craft drifted away.
The sound of a hoot was heard and we were well on our own, advancing slowly to the middle of the Bay. Coming out from the two funnels I now saw some thin serpents of white smoke, and soon sensed the vibration from inside the liner.
I saw a set of newly built tall apartment buildings in Kirribilli, Milson’s Point wharf. It was sad to see the City drawing away. Soon the Canberra would be sailing off into the Pacific Ocean. The tugs (with their huge red funnels still smoking vigorously) were meanwhile proceeding under the Harbour Bridge towards Darling Harbour, a bay surrounded by industrial inner suburbs full of factories, Glebe, where we had settled soon after our arrival.
… and my Australian past is already a dream. Sydney had really become my home town! Never mind, oh!, my days in Madrid, Valladolid, those long years of civil war, my studies, university, and my early travelling abroad.
… that happy encounter with the woman I love. Who could have believed that after so many years of happy family life here I would have become a returning migrant.
… an exile. I would now become the eternal wanderer going without rest here and there, backwards and forwards… to nowhere. Trying to resurrect a past which no longer represented anything. Painted forms of former times.
… I think I still hear the cries and sounds coming from the quay, including that ‘God save the Queen’ of the terminal band. Somebody is saying good bye! take care! bon voyage!
Another loud hoot in the air, from somewhere behind me, brought me out of my reverie. The din around me of half an hour before had ceased. I now only heard my daughters having another altercation. And I felt a sweet kiss from my wife on my left cheek, and sensed the hugging of her hand on my arm. She was murmuring something in my ear. I was thinking, trying already to recollect the past.
… when the Canberra was drawn out of port by the tugs, there was that link between us on board ship and the crowd of Sydneysiders, as it were. That canopy of colourful paper streamers, an infinite number of them in the hands of those that left and the fingers of those that were staying, a bond of friendship, so to say: paper ribbons. Then, after a first tremendously long new hoot, and the little tugs were fast upon each side of the liner, the Canberra slowly drew away, almost imperceptibly. Following a few seconds of hopeless resistance, the multicoloured streamers, that paper canopy which not so long ago was covering the multitudes down on the wharf, burst asunder. All finished now.
As I looked down to the sea I saw bits of coloured paper floating, other lengths of streamers were trimming on the side of the liner, fluttering in the evening breeze. I burst out laughing.
I was alone. I look at my watch. Seven fifty. Nicky had left with the kids for the cabin. I hoped she would come back soon. I sense I was going to need her.
There were fewer passengers now on the deck. I walked slowy towards the stern of the ship. In the distance I saw that majestic mass of steel which was called Harbour Bridge. I still saw it looming high above the harbour, and the waters all the way down to the Parramatta River. I imagined (having seen the scene many times before) the innumerable coves and ports and little bays everywhere, right and left, plenty of forests and houses in the many western suburbs, now all in the dark.
I had climbed up to the top deck, where I stood leaning on the railing completely alone, as it was the time the first sitting in the dining hall commenced, and people had other things to do than sightseeing. As we moved on, for a while I contemplated some of the northern suburbs, the sails of some pleasure-craft drifting past between the Canberra and North Sydney. It was a beautiful sight. But in my solitude I became sadder and sadder as time went on, and in the end I was moping like a child.
It was because of the strain of the last few days, I thought, the many friends and comrades left behind. I got depressed in the end.
The liner passed near the suburb of Neutral Bay, a place of great memories. I had lived there with Nicky during the first two months after our arrival in Australia. A very large boarding-house, in Kurraba Road, where some three or four young families of migrants were lodged, with many children, as were two couples, also young, who had moved from the outback into Sydney, where there were undoubtly good possibilities of employment, and an easier way of life.
Cremorne now, a swift revelation of red brick houses at different levels on the hills and well down to the water’s edge, where there was a tiny little port for yachts and motorboats. My colleague Maurice Weiss lived there with his family. Very fond of his profession, Maurice was. He was the only one who, knowing my interest in things other than the law, one day quite seriously told me to forget about novels. ‘You should buy a partnership in the firm,’ he said, ‘work hard, and try to make lots of money.’
The liner was gathering speed. I don’t know what I was calculating now. The thought passed like a flash through my brain that I was wrong in undertaking this journey, a big mistake. Maybe because I remembered my colleague’s words. I felt horribly confused. I tried to relax, realising somehow that nothing would now be easy for me and I had better forget about everything, and got ready to go forward. I had to be careful with my health.
I began clambering down back to the middle deck. There were now some people moving around, but not many. I strolled pensively, very slowly holding on to the railing from time to time. I thus took the opportunity of stopping short from time to time and turning my gaze back. In any case, I had to stop, because the ship was divided in two watertight compartments. Ordinary and luxury classes. And so, I saw for the last time the lights of the city, the big advertisements floating in a sky, as it were, sky which back there had turned rather murky on account precisely of the lights, that abundance of colourful symbols and words, letters, marks, all those things.
… I see in my mind the winter days (which didn’t mean in any case low temperatures) when I came out of my office and ran to catch the bus to Coogee Bay, where we had moved, after Glebe.
… the sky already dark at five thirty, and I proceeding from Caltex House to George Street and Circular Quay, with thousands of Sydneysiders, ready to catch one of the several dozen buses, to go home, tea, the television programme (new then in Australia.)

Turning round Bennelong Point, I ceased seeing the City, because the great dark structure of the new Opera House, under construction. Cement, steel and almost nothing else. They began to build it one year after our arrival, and never completed it.
The world around became suddenly very dark, everything being obliterated by that strange dark construction, until I glimpsed in the background some public light along the coast. A bigger cove where all seemed to be enveloped in darkness. For I was facing the Royal Botanic Gardens. I knew the place well.
… my loving wife, so very young when we migrated together in the fifties… I see her now in my imagination. We have just come from Glebe where we own a little cottage. We first came to visit the Botanic Gardens by bus, and by bus now go there every Sunday.
… we used to spend that first winter many hours promenading along the footpaths and avenues, among the trees of many colours, jacarandas, poinsettias and others.
… today we carry Luli, our new-born baby, in our arms, passing on the precious littlle bundle to the other from time to time. Those winding walks; and when we are near enough to the water, we sit down on the grass.
… we see the ferryboats passing by, little ones red-and-yellow just crossing the bay: and bigger ones, all green, coursing the length of the bay to Manly, a small town at the very entrance of the harbour.
… I am feeling young, strong and optimistic. Already in employment in a law firm. We are so much in love, feel so happy, such good weather. And always this splendid scenery, all around, these marvellous trees. It does not look like winter. The well attended lawn so intensely green and so much colour on the bushes too.
One particular day now came to mind. We had been sitting on one of those grass promontories one Sunday. I took a few steps down towards some rocks by the water, and stood up on one of the rocks, contemplating my two pretty ones infatuated, so much in love. I could see them now in my imagination, as I saunter on the deck of the Canberra..
… Nicky’s golden tresses have lost their lustre after her pregnancy and baby’s birth, and she doesn’t want to be photographed. And yet, she does look adorable, all the same.
… she wears an autumn dress, apricot colour, with a white neck and golden buttons, holding Baby in her arms. A picture now would be beautiful, the two over the green background, a colour film bought in George Street, technicolour they call it.
… ‘Oh no, Nano,’ she cries, changing her positon with the baby, thinking of standing up and going away. But she can’t, and her apricot skirt has folded in, letting me see her splendid suntanned legs, her shiny rounded knees.
… ‘Snap!’ A most beautiful loving wife. The first colour potograph I’ve ever taken. A most cherished souvenir in the big album.
A young couple passed by, arm-in-arm, strolling quietly, united with their arms around each others’ waists. I saw them kissing passionately in the dark, then they disappeared towards the stern of the ship, under the life boats.
As for me, now, I wonder if Nicky is looking for me in order to go together to the second sitting in the second-class passengers’ dining-room.

The liner was going fast, close this time to Point Piper. I had seen some minutes ago Clark Island, a rocky (and yet green) place which already received on it the full force of the tide, as the opening through which the ocean entered the bay was near.
And remembered the picnics we used to have there with the Parkers, on that little Clark Island. A vision now filling my mind with souvenirs. Some years back we used to spend some Saturday afternoons picnicking on that and other islands in the harbour, with the Parkers and their kiddies. Tom, being an officer of the Royal Australian Navy, used to make arrangements with the high command, which allowed him to take one of the speedboats out, for the weekend. One day he was sent over to the Seas of South East Asia to make war against the Vietnamese. He only came back about two months ago, a depressed and prematurely old navy captain. For a while then I thought of writing a novel about Vietnam with his help. A ridiculous idea, I knew.
... it is not only that no publisher would have been found, but a novel must be a work of art, images of an experience you have had and then feel inside you, something you feel you must communicate.
… besides, nobody’s ever made an offer for my own novel, Dorotea, which I know is good. A pity, for a writer needs friendship and help. A coterie! … that is it. Before you begin you must belong to a circle of poets and other artists who become enthusiastic about your work. Then they find a publisher for you. Just tentative literary work which everybody shall admire even before you’ve written a dozen pages. … and you proceed from there. Articles might appear, written by your friends, about your monumental novel which they have not even read.
… must we have Dicey shoved down our throat all our life? Great critics have taught me one essential truth: if ever I should find myself disposed not to admire those whom all the learned have admired, I must believe that I’m dull, rather than think that the rest of the world has been imposed on.’
‘I’m dull, dull!’ I shouted. ‘Oh, sycophants!’
The moon had risen. I was looking at the Eastern Suburbs, of wealthy abundance in front of me, Rose Bay. In one of the big mansions upon the hill some celebrations were going on. Fireworks.
‘A Man of Property,’ I said to myself.
… we have planned to spend the day on the beach, a bank holiday. We have been only a few months in Australia. A man is plodding on the sand (to meet us, I thought) as we were. He stops short, recognising my wife’s clear English accent. ‘Sir Moses Greene, of the Sydney Stock Exchange, previoulsy of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange,’ he introduces himself.
… ‘And previously of the London Stock Exchange, I guess?’ I say, shaking hands with him, after my wife. We become good friends in an instant. He’s big and fat, and talks of the importance of owning a good packet of shares. ‘The right way to Fortune,’ he says.
… in the end Mr Greene sits down with us, under our beach umbrella. And we three have lunch together. The following morning Sir Moses comes down to pay me a visit. Herbert Harriman & Moses Greene have premises in the same skyscraper as Spruson and Ferguson.
… within a fortnight I have lost all our savings (not very much, fortunately.) The shares of the corporation in which I happen to have invested have gone down. Absolutely no value.

I heard a noice, looked up and saw a rocket flying high, and many other fireworks soaring up into the dark sky, bursting into showers of little stars of all colours. And I heard the bangs. And saw the lights. No doubt, some merriment going on over there.
‘A Remarkable Rocket!’ I said to myself, and thought of the short story. ‘There’s only one thing that sustains me through life: the conscience of the immense inferiority of everybody else.’
We have moved east. There appeared just now around us a very tumultuous sea, due to the proximity of the ocean. As we passed near a little cove in the harbour’s side of Watson’s Bay, I caught a glimpse of the Ozone Restaurant, run by our friends the Lanes. We had gone there, an excellent fish restaurant, to celebrate the first anniversary of our wedding; and there is where we met Eric and Corrie.
The Canberra headed left towards the Heads, and we were facing the ocean.
… when we went of a Sunday for an excursion to Manly, boarding the ferry at Sydney Cove, the moment we came within sight of the ocean the boat began swaying quite alarmingly.
… Manly was the second town to be built in the colony of New South Wales, on the land around the North Head, a sort of sentinel at the harbour entrance facing both the harbour and the ocean.
… now, when the ferry is about to end its journey it receives the battering of the waves on its right side, specialy if there are strong winds. The vessel had turned north, and the swaying goes until it reaches the little wharf, and the passengers can land safely on the jetty.
When the pilot in charge of the SSCanberra set course towards the Heads, ready to lead the vessel on to the Pacific Ocean and hand it over to the captain, we were already much more eastward than any Manly ferry could ever be. However our modern liner did not sway in the least. I could see the rocks at the bottom on either side, as I was on the prow of the vessel. The Military Reserve on the left, the Hornby Lighthouse on the right, both looming high above us as we passed.
The moon was now high in the sky, and I watched waves rolling from afar and bursting on the liner’s shiny body, spraying foam and salt high about us. There were other people on the deck watching.
Though I don’t think the showers reached me at all, I took off by instinct my spectacles and carefully wiped them with my handkerchief, all the time gazing back at the Heads, the lighthouse, where probably the rollers were pounding on the rocks and all along the bottom of the cliffs. On top of the cliffs I saw some small clusters of houses, light glittering now and then.
‘That is the last I see of Australia,’ I thought. ‘And for how long?’ I asked myself.
Suddenly I perceived some movement of people around me and heard some noise on the side of the liner. I looked down. A hatchway opened a few feet below. Two pairs of black arms were seen coming out, the four hands fully stained in blood.
I had long noticed that all this time we had been followed by a score or so of marine birds. I’d heard them screeching, flying with us, then turning round, going away and coming back once more. But now, at this moment, I saw a great number of them all together, pressing with great tumult overhead and down by where the hatchway had opened. The noise was really terrific. I had been wondering what the hell those birds were doing following the ship? And now, watching the sudden agitation of all the birds going to where the hatchway had opened, I got the answer to my question.
The four red hands were throwing out into the sea chunks and chunks of red meat or portions of fish and perhaps other food; and the agitation in the air knew no limits. The screeches, cries and calls now simply became unbearable. Shadows in the night moving with great acceleration, with some silvery-white reflexions. Howling, diving, fighting, soaring and diving again without end. A most interesting spectacle to watch, I said to myself. And when they caught something in the air or on (or in) the water, they shot up into the sky at once and, with the prize in their beaks, soared up and disappeared.
It had been warm all day, but now it was chilly and gusty, and I sensed I had to get moving at once, look for an entrance through which to climb down to the cabins and try to find Nicky, when suddenly the progress of the Canberra onward to the high sea stopped short. Every mechanical sound ceased too, that sort of vibration I had been sensing from the moment our journey had started at Circular Quay. I happened to be at that moment on the right side of the ship, moving slowly, on the deck, and the moon being on the other side, it was rather sombre where I was
‘What’s happened,’ I heard a femenine voice nearby.
A man answered in a low whisper, ‘Darling… the pilot off… going… on the other side.’
The woman spoke again, ‘Please, let’s go and see.’ I saw the couple rushing away and I followed them, tired as I was, going on I knew not where. Within a minute, gazing down on the other side of the ship, I saw a hatchway being opened. Presently someone came out and it heard it was the pilot, whom I now saw hanging on a vertical cord-gangway, he was followed at once by another man, both clambering down on the side of the ship. Both jumped into a motorboat which had been fastened no doubt to the ship from the very moment we left the terminal.
‘The pilot and his assistant,’ someone commented. For there were several other people around me.
The motor launch was soon speeding away and I followed nervously with my eyes the two men going back to Sydney. And I don’t why I thought then of the job I had left behind and of Caltex House, and my friends at the firm.
… no, I was not born to be a writer. The law is my province. There is all I need. What am I doing here? It was a geat mistake. I shall now be continually making mistakes, all my life. Maurice was right. I shall see Doctor Ladas in New York. Perhaps. He knows me well and likes my work.
… great artists and writers are recognised as such at once, not when they are old and rusty. And they are right, my friends back in Sydney. Of course great critics have taught them (should have taught me) that you have to start young. Why, by the time you’re twenty-four or twenty-five… I am nearly forty! dull, dull!
… Steinbeck, Salinger and the others… why, they were famous even before they put pen to paper. There is something in that! … famous… You have been selected from… you’ve been made, moulded already, to be a success. To attain a pinnacle of fame.

… money, the one goes with the other. I shall from now on concentrate in making thousands of dollars a year, a month. I know I can do it. A good job and then a partnership.

A soft touch on my arm brought me out of my lethargy. She now wore a beige cardigan, and a turquoise kerchief round her neck. Always so nice, smiling.
‘Are they alright?’
‘Both sound asleep, darling.’
Of Australia now there was nothing, save the shining of a spark of light very far away amid the darkness. Hornby Lighthouse? I still saw a long line of cliffs on the horizon, my country, my job, my life. Who would have said! Nothing, nothing! All a product of my imagination.
She kissed me on my face. We stood upright, in a close embrace, for a minute or two.
‘Please, please, don’t get depressed, my Nano. Don’t you worry, everything’ll be alright.’
‘Everything?’
‘Yes, and you will publish your book. You will now write it in Spanish, and you’ll see how soon you’ll find a publisher.
There were tears in her beautiful eyes, and I felt guilty. It happened so very seldom, my precious wife, so sad. We had been facing one another, holding hands. Then I pleaded: ‘No, I pray you! you must not become sad too. Now, darling, please smile again.’

Walking very slowly along the deck, she led me to one of the entrances, we went down some steps and inside. And I knew that in fact, with her help, everything would be alright.

Address: 9, rue Vernet,
78150 Le Chesnay,
France
E-mail: fg.izquierdo@yahoo.es

In Sydney Harbour, going on.

Fernando García Izquierdo

When a man has successfully settled in a new country, where he has found employment and begun a new life, something must be troubling him very deeply if he leaves of a sudden one day to start a new life elsewhere. It was said in my case that I was only seeking a new pang of despair.
Ten years had I spent with my wife Down Under, the best years of our lives. A lucky New Australian they would had said of me a couple of years before: naturalised, a perfectly assimilated man of property with a lovely family, all so happy.
And yet, I was leaving. I was putting an end to all that, and much more, voluntarily. Nobody understood the step I was taking. I changed. I went away one day from what would become presently (I would think in despair) an irretrievable past.
Of course there was a reason for all that, for what I did… had done. Every effect has got to have a cause. I did know, in my case, the cause, which others might have found irrelevant. It was very relevant for me.
It had something to do with art. In short I loved literature much more than the law, which gave me employment and money. I was stubborn, insisted. I would write and write until I ceased to exist.
I had discussed the situation with Nicky. We had worked together these ten years. In fact, it was she who suggested, one Sunday of summer 1959, on Balmoral Beach, that I had to write that novel. And she agreed now, almost eleven years on that we had to try, either in New York or London.
All the same, it was my own decision to move on. And it was a crazy decision. I should have known. Why, oh hell, why? had I now thought, in the first place, that a solution to my problem was to be found elsewhere? If it could not be! I would be an unsuccessful writer all my life.
I felt very depressed and quite bewildered. I fully realised I was starting a new more uncertain life, now that I was nearing forty. No guarantee of anything, when I was beginning to feel burnt out.

When I was young I was full of enthusiasm. A long adventure, that summer ’53, which would change my life. England, Nicky and all we did was a success. Why should I have tempted Fortune again. Then I had had my optimism. Today it was only stubborness. And I was dragging with me my faithful loving wife and our two daughters, away from what they loved.

*
The sun had just set behind a motley array of modern buildings made of glass, aluminum and cement, jointly known as the New Ocean Terminal. Overhead I could see that sombre assemblage of stones, vegetation and some rather ancient houses which the public called The Rocks, the promontory where the soldiers of the First Fleet built the first British Garrison in 1788. The sky all over was bright and perfectly blue. It had been so all that day.
A number of people were there, known and unknown to us. That’s to say, the great majority of them, men, women and children were strangers.
… I’m trying to concentrate my thoughts, leaning my arms on the railing, slightly pushed on by other passengers crowding behind us, on the second deck of the majestic SSCanberra, the latest and most beautiful jewel of the Peninsular & Orient Line. The three women whom I love are next to me, my wife holding to my left arm and our little ones on my right peering through the railing’s steel bars.
… We’re gazing at the crowd down below, standing on the wharf, calling, making signs and throwing colourful streamers. The majority, of course, I had not seen in all my born days. That is to say, their being there does not concern us at all.
… but about a dozen of them happen to be our dearest friends. They’ve come to the terminal to wish us a good journey. It’s to be goodbye! Perhaps we shall not see them again.
… they are my friends and Nicky’s.They were called a moment ago ‘the visitors.’ Visitors to the ship for the afternoon. We all met in this land; some of them ten years ago.
A collection of about two hundred people at the new terminal, though there was another much smaller crowd floating in the air, as it were, standing on a steel-and-concrete platform projecting out of the main terminal building: they are rather young, and they also throw and receive streamers. Some are shouting in German: ‘Dieter! Johannes! Helmut! Aufwiedersehen!!’
Never mind. We four were leaving, returning migrants, and now I was not sure of anything. They, our friends, were staying in Australia, migrants and first or second generation Aussies.
We all were making the same gestures, producing the same noises, similar movements, uttering many exclamations nobody understood, and smiles and laughs. Also sighs from time to time.
‘Anna, don’t forget,’ Nicky shouts, bending forward. And somebody calls back from the quay, while at the same time throwing up a rolling paper ribbon meant for us. ‘Bon voyage!’
All of us, on the decks, though not all returning migrants, were soon to leave this favoured land, some for good, to sail away to cross for six weeks some of the most beautiful seas and oceans of the world, with calls in many ports, exotic places for the most part. It was a cruise ship.
… it makes you think of how everything changes so quickly. I think of when we came to Australia. Migrants Nicky and I. Both bewildered but full of hope. We soon found everything we wanted.
… of course we both felt that first pang (or at least I did.) Who doesn’t notice upon arrival, all those oddities? I found many. Even the fact that here autumn was starting while back there it was spring. It seemed to affect me.
… nothing remains stable. Time and matter eternally following its course. I soon become adjusted to everything. It was progress. Now I’m ten years older. Why, it has been on the whole a good life.
I observed the whole quay area. The ferries on the left far away. Twenty jetties for the ferryboats that constantly cross the Bay, from south to norrth and viceversa. And today (I thought) I was going to traverse that most beautiful deep-water bay from west to east, or at least a great portion of it, down to the Heads from the City.
On an imposing brand new liner, the Canberra. She has been berthed on this New Ocean Terminal these last few days. We had actually arrived with our two little daughters when afternoon was just commencing. And soon we found our place of residence to be, for six weeks. Our cabin. We met the Goan citizen, the steward for our part of the boat. He helped us to install ourselves comfortably, our luggage for the journey, and the girls already started to dispute which berth was ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. (We knew that all our other material belongings were in the holds of the ship, even some small pieces of furniture we couldn’t part with for one reason or other.)
That was hours ago. Our friends then began to arrive. They had been there with us, in the cabin or spreading out of the door.
About half an hour ago the liner’s loudspeakers have been blasting onto the air, not letting passengers and friends enjoy the last minutes together. ‘Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors ashore!’ Making the visitors jittery and soon to send them dashing along the corridors, up and down passages and staircases.
… loudly, monotonously, persistently. ‘Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors ashore!’ A pause and again, ‘Gangways about to be lifted!’, all the time the pause becoming shorter. ‘Visitors are requested to leave the ship immediately! We repeat, im-med-iate…lyyyy!’
… up and down the narrow staircases, those types called ‘visitors’, running, escaping into free air, along the decks, striving to reach in time the gangways. Mrs. Brown is there.
… she has been shedding tears in my wife’s arms, having both joined the school’s staff the same year. ‘You have an adorable companion, Mr.Isquiro.’ she says to me, and Mr. Brown is of the same opinion.
… for a while, then, there have been expansive demonstrations of friendship everywhere. In our cabin three visiting couples plus Pippo, and four children. Many laughs, conversation, exchange of addresses and notes.
… and the wine, of course, a couple of bottles of sparkling wine. We all knew what to expect. Famous ‘Barossa Pearl’.The children too (soda and orangeade, in their case: such good friends, for such a long time.
… when shall we see one another again? The Lanes have just arrived. We’ve made some excursions together: the bush, the beaches, those Christmas nights at Coogee Bay, and ‘Christmas Carols by Candlelight’. Wonderful moments.
Of course, there will always remain the remembrance, I said to myself leaning on the railing and seeing them all now on the quay. A multitude of raised hands, hats, and handkerchiefs. The children hold Australian flags. A profusion of streamers rolling out now in the air, multicoloured paper-ribbons. More and more of those colour-ribbons now flying this way and that, all the time. Off in all directions extremely long streamers flying for a while from the hands of those on the ship to the fingers of those who were staying.

There was the noise too, reaching my ears from down below, a multitude of our friends and the friends of other passagers, and from those encircling us.
I saw these all along the length and width of the quay, right down to the water’s edge, that is, the whitish-creamy body of the superb liner, SSCanberra. In some places the people are crowding without bothering (or without noticing) about the enormous cranes and all sorts of machinery, smeared with soot and grease. The very ones which last night and in the early hours of this morning were busily shifting containers from the quay into the holds of the ship.
The flying of streamers this way and that never ceases: crossing and recrossing each other’s trajectory. Some minutes ago, on our backs, two enterprising men have been making a few pounds of pocket money, offering their wares: ‘Streamers, streamers! Who’ll buy my streamers?’ And Nicky, of course bought two or three paper bags with enough merchandise to go on, mainly because of our children, who were demanding them. As a consequence, the two now were for a while engaged upon a sisterly dispute about who was to have this or that coloured paper roll. ‘Oh, look! Daddy! Mummy gimme another one !’
‘Like that. Here, Luli, you see. Unroll first a little bit; you hold tight the end between thumb and finger.’ Now her hand was raised and, with a skillful flick of the wrist (with Daddy’s help), Luli hurls the unwinding ribbon in the air, and down below. A shriek: ‘Daddy! Oh jump, Pete! Catch it!’ And Daddy shouting: ‘Well done, Luli!’ But little Oli was not so vociferous. She hurled no streamer at all; for she horded them in the little satchel Mummy had bought for her to start her kindergarten course.
Crossing and recrossing each other’s trajectory the colourful ribbons flew all the time. Here! one more! and another one! We were beginning to see a mesh of streamers on our friends’ and other people’s heads, a paper vault of colourful beauty in the approaching evening. And I saw, among others the Krcnarics waving, a family of three, our best friends in the land. Anna is still teaching at Claremont.
… I remember I came across my Polish friend (now a high executive of a transnational corporation) the very first time I set my foot on the school grounds, many years ago, during a Saturday fête.
… we have begun talking while watching the girls at their games. A beautiful sunny afternoon. An hour later our young wives, coming arm in arm. ‘Why, I see you’ ve already become acquainted,’ Nicky’s surprise. ‘And we were going to introduce you!’)
I wake up with a start. Nicky had called my attention by a knock on my shoulder. My secretary Maureen is waving. Blonde and beautiful. She left the firm a few days before I presented my resignation, only, in her case, in order to go into Paddington’s Maternity Hospital. Rootsey, her husband, is holding the tiny baby in his hands.
… Maureen. She knew I was writing ‘Dorotea’ in office hours. I would have liked to show her the nine-hundred-page manuscript, but in the end I desisted. Why bother? Nobody will ever like my novel.
From Maureen’s little family, my eyes passed on to the Parkers and their son and daugther, good friends these of our girls. ‘Fernando!’ I heard, ‘good luck, but not good-bye. See you in London.’ While our girls were calling, shrieking, crying. ‘Bye Danny! See you soon Melissa! Don’t forget us!’
… Tom is a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, and had spent two years in Vietnam: has just renounced his commission. He has made plans to live again in London, where he met Joan, who was the secretary of a famous writer.
The band was still playing ‘God Save the Queen!’ and I knew the liner would soon be starting on its course. Turning my gaze right, I saw two tugs approaching, their long red chimneys painting the prussian blue sky with dense curly strokes of black smoke.
And when I looked again at the quay down below I chanced to see my old Irish friend at the back of the crowd with Connie.
‘Oh, how glad, how happy I am you’ve been able to make it! Paddy!’ I cried.
Joe Murphy and Connie Rayburn were intimate friends of another sort. Both older than us had belonged to the Communist Party since the War of Spain, first the British one, and now the Australian. Paddy had fought for the Spanish Republic, in the International Brigades.
*
I had to turn my head round again because I sensed the time had come to say goodbye to the City. To think that I had been working in one of those skyscrapers for ten years. I saw the lights of the city coming on, one by one as it were: public lighting in the streets, and the lights of the shops, the motorcars, the advertisments! ‘Oh, the smears of capitalism!’ I said to myself
We were already being pulled away from the quay by those two little craft called tugs. In the end, after a pronounced sort of rotation, and the tugs having succeeded in placing the enormous ship perpendicular to the wharf, without ceasing to pollute the air with, the little craft drifted away.
The sound of a hoot was heard and we were well on our own, advancing slowly to the middle of the Bay. Coming out from the two funnels I now saw some thin serpents of white smoke, and soon sensed the vibration from inside the liner.
I saw a set of newly built tall apartment buildings in Kirribilli, Milson’s Point wharf. It was sad to see the City drawing away. Soon the Canberra would be sailing off into the Pacific Ocean. The tugs (with their huge red funnels still smoking vigorously) were meanwhile proceeding under the Harbour Bridge towards Darling Harbour, a bay surrounded by industrial inner suburbs full of factories, Glebe, where we had settled soon after our arrival.
… and my Australian past is already a dream. Sydney had really become my home town! Never mind, oh!, my days in Madrid, Valladolid, those long years of civil war, my studies, university, and my early travelling abroad.
… that happy encounter with the woman I love. Who could have believed that after so many years of happy family life here I would have become a returning migrant.
… an exile. I would now become the eternal wanderer going without rest here and there, backwards and forwards… to nowhere. Trying to resurrect a past which no longer represented anything. Painted forms of former times.
… I think I still hear the cries and sounds coming from the quay, including that ‘God save the Queen’ of the terminal band. Somebody is saying good bye! take care! bon voyage!
Another loud hoot in the air, from somewhere behind me, brought me out of my reverie. The din around me of half an hour before had ceased. I now only heard my daughters having another altercation. And I felt a sweet kiss from my wife on my left cheek, and sensed the hugging of her hand on my arm. She was murmuring something in my ear. I was thinking, trying already to recollect the past.
… when the Canberra was drawn out of port by the tugs, there was that link between us on board ship and the crowd of Sydneysiders, as it were. That canopy of colourful paper streamers, an infinite number of them in the hands of those that left and the fingers of those that were staying, a bond of friendship, so to say: paper ribbons. Then, after a first tremendously long new hoot, and the little tugs were fast upon each side of the liner, the Canberra slowly drew away, almost imperceptibly. Following a few seconds of hopeless resistance, the multicoloured streamers, that paper canopy which not so long ago was covering the multitudes down on the wharf, burst asunder. All finished now.
As I looked down to the sea I saw bits of coloured paper floating, other lengths of streamers were trimming on the side of the liner, fluttering in the evening breeze. I burst out laughing.
I was alone. I look at my watch. Seven fifty. Nicky had left with the kids for the cabin. I hoped she would come back soon. I sense I was going to need her.
There were fewer passengers now on the deck. I walked slowy towards the stern of the ship. In the distance I saw that majestic mass of steel which was called Harbour Bridge. I still saw it looming high above the harbour, and the waters all the way down to the Parramatta River. I imagined (having seen the scene many times before) the innumerable coves and ports and little bays everywhere, right and left, plenty of forests and houses in the many western suburbs, now all in the dark.
I had climbed up to the top deck, where I stood leaning on the railing completely alone, as it was the time the first sitting in the dining hall commenced, and people had other things to do than sightseeing. As we moved on, for a while I contemplated some of the northern suburbs, the sails of some pleasure-craft drifting past between the Canberra and North Sydney. It was a beautiful sight. But in my solitude I became sadder and sadder as time went on, and in the end I was moping like a child.
It was because of the strain of the last few days, I thought, the many friends and comrades left behind. I got depressed in the end.
The liner passed near the suburb of Neutral Bay, a place of great memories. I had lived there with Nicky during the first two months after our arrival in Australia. A very large boarding-house, in Kurraba Road, where some three or four young families of migrants were lodged, with many children, as were two couples, also young, who had moved from the outback into Sydney, where there were undoubtly good possibilities of employment, and an easier way of life.
Cremorne now, a swift revelation of red brick houses at different levels on the hills and well down to the water’s edge, where there was a tiny little port for yachts and motorboats. My colleague Maurice Weiss lived there with his family. Very fond of his profession, Maurice was. He was the only one who, knowing my interest in things other than the law, one day quite seriously told me to forget about novels. ‘You should buy a partnership in the firm,’ he said, ‘work hard, and try to make lots of money.’
The liner was gathering speed. I don’t know what I was calculating now. The thought passed like a flash through my brain that I was wrong in undertaking this journey, a big mistake. Maybe because I remembered my colleague’s words. I felt horribly confused. I tried to relax, realising somehow that nothing would now be easy for me and I had better forget about everything, and got ready to go forward. I had to be careful with my health.
I began clambering down back to the middle deck. There were now some people moving around, but not many. I strolled pensively, very slowly holding on to the railing from time to time. I thus took the opportunity of stopping short from time to time and turning my gaze back. In any case, I had to stop, because the ship was divided in two watertight compartments. Ordinary and luxury classes. And so, I saw for the last time the lights of the city, the big advertisements floating in a sky, as it were, sky which back there had turned rather murky on account precisely of the lights, that abundance of colourful symbols and words, letters, marks, all those things.
… I see in my mind the winter days (which didn’t mean in any case low temperatures) when I came out of my office and ran to catch the bus to Coogee Bay, where we had moved, after Glebe.
… the sky already dark at five thirty, and I proceeding from Caltex House to George Street and Circular Quay, with thousands of Sydneysiders, ready to catch one of the several dozen buses, to go home, tea, the television programme (new then in Australia.)

Turning round Bennelong Point, I ceased seeing the City, because the great dark structure of the new Opera House, under construction. Cement, steel and almost nothing else. They began to build it one year after our arrival, and never completed it.
The world around became suddenly very dark, everything being obliterated by that strange dark construction, until I glimpsed in the background some public light along the coast. A bigger cove where all seemed to be enveloped in darkness. For I was facing the Royal Botanic Gardens. I knew the place well.
… my loving wife, so very young when we migrated together in the fifties… I see her now in my imagination. We have just come from Glebe where we own a little cottage. We first came to visit the Botanic Gardens by bus, and by bus now go there every Sunday.
… we used to spend that first winter many hours promenading along the footpaths and avenues, among the trees of many colours, jacarandas, poinsettias and others.
… today we carry Luli, our new-born baby, in our arms, passing on the precious littlle bundle to the other from time to time. Those winding walks; and when we are near enough to the water, we sit down on the grass.
… we see the ferryboats passing by, little ones red-and-yellow just crossing the bay: and bigger ones, all green, coursing the length of the bay to Manly, a small town at the very entrance of the harbour.
… I am feeling young, strong and optimistic. Already in employment in a law firm. We are so much in love, feel so happy, such good weather. And always this splendid scenery, all around, these marvellous trees. It does not look like winter. The well attended lawn so intensely green and so much colour on the bushes too.
One particular day now came to mind. We had been sitting on one of those grass promontories one Sunday. I took a few steps down towards some rocks by the water, and stood up on one of the rocks, contemplating my two pretty ones infatuated, so much in love. I could see them now in my imagination, as I saunter on the deck of the Canberra..
… Nicky’s golden tresses have lost their lustre after her pregnancy and baby’s birth, and she doesn’t want to be photographed. And yet, she does look adorable, all the same.
… she wears an autumn dress, apricot colour, with a white neck and golden buttons, holding Baby in her arms. A picture now would be beautiful, the two over the green background, a colour film bought in George Street, technicolour they call it.
… ‘Oh no, Nano,’ she cries, changing her positon with the baby, thinking of standing up and going away. But she can’t, and her apricot skirt has folded in, letting me see her splendid suntanned legs, her shiny rounded knees.
… ‘Snap!’ A most beautiful loving wife. The first colour potograph I’ve ever taken. A most cherished souvenir in the big album.
A young couple passed by, arm-in-arm, strolling quietly, united with their arms around each others’ waists. I saw them kissing passionately in the dark, then they disappeared towards the stern of the ship, under the life boats.
As for me, now, I wonder if Nicky is looking for me in order to go together to the second sitting in the second-class passengers’ dining-room.

The liner was going fast, close this time to Point Piper. I had seen some minutes ago Clark Island, a rocky (and yet green) place which already received on it the full force of the tide, as the opening through which the ocean entered the bay was near.
And remembered the picnics we used to have there with the Parkers, on that little Clark Island. A vision now filling my mind with souvenirs. Some years back we used to spend some Saturday afternoons picnicking on that and other islands in the harbour, with the Parkers and their kiddies. Tom, being an officer of the Royal Australian Navy, used to make arrangements with the high command, which allowed him to take one of the speedboats out, for the weekend. One day he was sent over to the Seas of South East Asia to make war against the Vietnamese. He only came back about two months ago, a depressed and prematurely old navy captain. For a while then I thought of writing a novel about Vietnam with his help. A ridiculous idea, I knew.
... it is not only that no publisher would have been found, but a novel must be a work of art, images of an experience you have had and then feel inside you, something you feel you must communicate.
… besides, nobody’s ever made an offer for my own novel, Dorotea, which I know is good. A pity, for a writer needs friendship and help. A coterie! … that is it. Before you begin you must belong to a circle of poets and other artists who become enthusiastic about your work. Then they find a publisher for you. Just tentative literary work which everybody shall admire even before you’ve written a dozen pages. … and you proceed from there. Articles might appear, written by your friends, about your monumental novel which they have not even read.
… must we have Dicey shoved down our throat all our life? Great critics have taught me one essential truth: if ever I should find myself disposed not to admire those whom all the learned have admired, I must believe that I’m dull, rather than think that the rest of the world has been imposed on.’
‘I’m dull, dull!’ I shouted. ‘Oh, sycophants!’
The moon had risen. I was looking at the Eastern Suburbs, of wealthy abundance in front of me, Rose Bay. In one of the big mansions upon the hill some celebrations were going on. Fireworks.
‘A Man of Property,’ I said to myself.
… we have planned to spend the day on the beach, a bank holiday. We have been only a few months in Australia. A man is plodding on the sand (to meet us, I thought) as we were. He stops short, recognising my wife’s clear English accent. ‘Sir Moses Greene, of the Sydney Stock Exchange, previoulsy of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange,’ he introduces himself.
… ‘And previously of the London Stock Exchange, I guess?’ I say, shaking hands with him, after my wife. We become good friends in an instant. He’s big and fat, and talks of the importance of owning a good packet of shares. ‘The right way to Fortune,’ he says.
… in the end Mr Greene sits down with us, under our beach umbrella. And we three have lunch together. The following morning Sir Moses comes down to pay me a visit. Herbert Harriman & Moses Greene have premises in the same skyscraper as Spruson and Ferguson.
… within a fortnight I have lost all our savings (not very much, fortunately.) The shares of the corporation in which I happen to have invested have gone down. Absolutely no value.

I heard a noice, looked up and saw a rocket flying high, and many other fireworks soaring up into the dark sky, bursting into showers of little stars of all colours. And I heard the bangs. And saw the lights. No doubt, some merriment going on over there.
‘A Remarkable Rocket!’ I said to myself, and thought of the short story. ‘There’s only one thing that sustains me through life: the conscience of the immense inferiority of everybody else.’
We have moved east. There appeared just now around us a very tumultuous sea, due to the proximity of the ocean. As we passed near a little cove in the harbour’s side of Watson’s Bay, I caught a glimpse of the Ozone Restaurant, run by our friends the Lanes. We had gone there, an excellent fish restaurant, to celebrate the first anniversary of our wedding; and there is where we met Eric and Corrie.
The Canberra headed left towards the Heads, and we were facing the ocean.
… when we went of a Sunday for an excursion to Manly, boarding the ferry at Sydney Cove, the moment we came within sight of the ocean the boat began swaying quite alarmingly.
… Manly was the second town to be built in the colony of New South Wales, on the land around the North Head, a sort of sentinel at the harbour entrance facing both the harbour and the ocean.
… now, when the ferry is about to end its journey it receives the battering of the waves on its right side, specialy if there are strong winds. The vessel had turned north, and the swaying goes until it reaches the little wharf, and the passengers can land safely on the jetty.
When the pilot in charge of the SSCanberra set course towards the Heads, ready to lead the vessel on to the Pacific Ocean and hand it over to the captain, we were already much more eastward than any Manly ferry could ever be. However our modern liner did not sway in the least. I could see the rocks at the bottom on either side, as I was on the prow of the vessel. The Military Reserve on the left, the Hornby Lighthouse on the right, both looming high above us as we passed.
The moon was now high in the sky, and I watched waves rolling from afar and bursting on the liner’s shiny body, spraying foam and salt high about us. There were other people on the deck watching.
Though I don’t think the showers reached me at all, I took off by instinct my spectacles and carefully wiped them with my handkerchief, all the time gazing back at the Heads, the lighthouse, where probably the rollers were pounding on the rocks and all along the bottom of the cliffs. On top of the cliffs I saw some small clusters of houses, light glittering now and then.
‘That is the last I see of Australia,’ I thought. ‘And for how long?’ I asked myself.
Suddenly I perceived some movement of people around me and heard some noise on the side of the liner. I looked down. A hatchway opened a few feet below. Two pairs of black arms were seen coming out, the four hands fully stained in blood.
I had long noticed that all this time we had been followed by a score or so of marine birds. I’d heard them screeching, flying with us, then turning round, going away and coming back once more. But now, at this moment, I saw a great number of them all together, pressing with great tumult overhead and down by where the hatchway had opened. The noise was really terrific. I had been wondering what the hell those birds were doing following the ship? And now, watching the sudden agitation of all the birds going to where the hatchway had opened, I got the answer to my question.
The four red hands were throwing out into the sea chunks and chunks of red meat or portions of fish and perhaps other food; and the agitation in the air knew no limits. The screeches, cries and calls now simply became unbearable. Shadows in the night moving with great acceleration, with some silvery-white reflexions. Howling, diving, fighting, soaring and diving again without end. A most interesting spectacle to watch, I said to myself. And when they caught something in the air or on (or in) the water, they shot up into the sky at once and, with the prize in their beaks, soared up and disappeared.
It had been warm all day, but now it was chilly and gusty, and I sensed I had to get moving at once, look for an entrance through which to climb down to the cabins and try to find Nicky, when suddenly the progress of the Canberra onward to the high sea stopped short. Every mechanical sound ceased too, that sort of vibration I had been sensing from the moment our journey had started at Circular Quay. I happened to be at that moment on the right side of the ship, moving slowly, on the deck, and the moon being on the other side, it was rather sombre where I was
‘What’s happened,’ I heard a femenine voice nearby.
A man answered in a low whisper, ‘Darling… the pilot off… going… on the other side.’
The woman spoke again, ‘Please, let’s go and see.’ I saw the couple rushing away and I followed them, tired as I was, going on I knew not where. Within a minute, gazing down on the other side of the ship, I saw a hatchway being opened. Presently someone came out and it heard it was the pilot, whom I now saw hanging on a vertical cord-gangway, he was followed at once by another man, both clambering down on the side of the ship. Both jumped into a motorboat which had been fastened no doubt to the ship from the very moment we left the terminal.
‘The pilot and his assistant,’ someone commented. For there were several other people around me.
The motor launch was soon speeding away and I followed nervously with my eyes the two men going back to Sydney. And I don’t why I thought then of the job I had left behind and of Caltex House, and my friends at the firm.
… no, I was not born to be a writer. The law is my province. There is all I need. What am I doing here? It was a geat mistake. I shall now be continually making mistakes, all my life. Maurice was right. I shall see Doctor Ladas in New York. Perhaps. He knows me well and likes my work.
… great artists and writers are recognised as such at once, not when they are old and rusty. And they are right, my friends back in Sydney. Of course great critics have taught them (should have taught me) that you have to start young. Why, by the time you’re twenty-four or twenty-five… I am nearly forty! dull, dull!
… Steinbeck, Salinger and the others… why, they were famous even before they put pen to paper. There is something in that! … famous… You have been selected from… you’ve been made, moulded already, to be a success. To attain a pinnacle of fame.

… money, the one goes with the other. I shall from now on concentrate in making thousands of dollars a year, a month. I know I can do it. A good job and then a partnership.

A soft touch on my arm brought me out of my lethargy. She now wore a beige cardigan, and a turquoise kerchief round her neck. Always so nice, smiling.
‘Are they alright?’
‘Both sound asleep, darling.’
Of Australia now there was nothing, save the shining of a spark of light very far away amid the darkness. Hornby Lighthouse? I still saw a long line of cliffs on the horizon, my country, my job, my life. Who would have said! Nothing, nothing! All a product of my imagination.
She kissed me on my face. We stood upright, in a close embrace, for a minute or two.
‘Please, please, don’t get depressed, my Nano. Don’t you worry, everything’ll be alright.’
‘Everything?’
‘Yes, and you will publish your book. You will now write it in Spanish, and you’ll see how soon you’ll find a publisher.
There were tears in her beautiful eyes, and I felt guilty. It happened so very seldom, my precious wife, so sad. We had been facing one another, holding hands. Then I pleaded: ‘No, I pray you! you must not become sad too. Now, darling, please smile again.’

Walking very slowly along the deck, she led me to one of the entrances, we went down some steps and inside. And I knew that in fact, with her help, everything would be alright.

Address: 9, rue Vernet,
78150 Le Chesnay,
France
E-mail: fg.izquierdo@yahoo.es

In Sydney Harbour, going on.

Fernando García Izquierdo

When a man has successfully settled in a new country, where he has found employment and begun a new life, something must be troubling him very deeply if he leaves of a sudden one day to start a new life elsewhere. It was said in my case that I was only seeking a new pang of despair.
Ten years had I spent with my wife Down Under, the best years of our lives. A lucky New Australian they would had said of me a couple of years before: naturalised, a perfectly assimilated man of property with a lovely family, all so happy.
And yet, I was leaving. I was putting an end to all that, and much more, voluntarily. Nobody understood the step I was taking. I changed. I went away one day from what would become presently (I would think in despair) an irretrievable past.
Of course there was a reason for all that, for what I did… had done. Every effect has got to have a cause. I did know, in my case, the cause, which others might have found irrelevant. It was very relevant for me.
It had something to do with art. In short I loved literature much more than the law, which gave me employment and money. I was stubborn, insisted. I would write and write until I ceased to exist.
I had discussed the situation with Nicky. We had worked together these ten years. In fact, it was she who suggested, one Sunday of summer 1959, on Balmoral Beach, that I had to write that novel. And she agreed now, almost eleven years on that we had to try, either in New York or London.
All the same, it was my own decision to move on. And it was a crazy decision. I should have known. Why, oh hell, why? had I now thought, in the first place, that a solution to my problem was to be found elsewhere? If it could not be! I would be an unsuccessful writer all my life.
I felt very depressed and quite bewildered. I fully realised I was starting a new more uncertain life, now that I was nearing forty. No guarantee of anything, when I was beginning to feel burnt out.

When I was young I was full of enthusiasm. A long adventure, that summer ’53, which would change my life. England, Nicky and all we did was a success. Why should I have tempted Fortune again. Then I had had my optimism. Today it was only stubborness. And I was dragging with me my faithful loving wife and our two daughters, away from what they loved.

*
The sun had just set behind a motley array of modern buildings made of glass, aluminum and cement, jointly known as the New Ocean Terminal. Overhead I could see that sombre assemblage of stones, vegetation and some rather ancient houses which the public called The Rocks, the promontory where the soldiers of the First Fleet built the first British Garrison in 1788. The sky all over was bright and perfectly blue. It had been so all that day.
A number of people were there, known and unknown to us. That’s to say, the great majority of them, men, women and children were strangers.
… I’m trying to concentrate my thoughts, leaning my arms on the railing, slightly pushed on by other passengers crowding behind us, on the second deck of the majestic SSCanberra, the latest and most beautiful jewel of the Peninsular & Orient Line. The three women whom I love are next to me, my wife holding to my left arm and our little ones on my right peering through the railing’s steel bars.
… We’re gazing at the crowd down below, standing on the wharf, calling, making signs and throwing colourful streamers. The majority, of course, I had not seen in all my born days. That is to say, their being there does not concern us at all.
… but about a dozen of them happen to be our dearest friends. They’ve come to the terminal to wish us a good journey. It’s to be goodbye! Perhaps we shall not see them again.
… they are my friends and Nicky’s.They were called a moment ago ‘the visitors.’ Visitors to the ship for the afternoon. We all met in this land; some of them ten years ago.
A collection of about two hundred people at the new terminal, though there was another much smaller crowd floating in the air, as it were, standing on a steel-and-concrete platform projecting out of the main terminal building: they are rather young, and they also throw and receive streamers. Some are shouting in German: ‘Dieter! Johannes! Helmut! Aufwiedersehen!!’
Never mind. We four were leaving, returning migrants, and now I was not sure of anything. They, our friends, were staying in Australia, migrants and first or second generation Aussies.
We all were making the same gestures, producing the same noises, similar movements, uttering many exclamations nobody understood, and smiles and laughs. Also sighs from time to time.
‘Anna, don’t forget,’ Nicky shouts, bending forward. And somebody calls back from the quay, while at the same time throwing up a rolling paper ribbon meant for us. ‘Bon voyage!’
All of us, on the decks, though not all returning migrants, were soon to leave this favoured land, some for good, to sail away to cross for six weeks some of the most beautiful seas and oceans of the world, with calls in many ports, exotic places for the most part. It was a cruise ship.
… it makes you think of how everything changes so quickly. I think of when we came to Australia. Migrants Nicky and I. Both bewildered but full of hope. We soon found everything we wanted.
… of course we both felt that first pang (or at least I did.) Who doesn’t notice upon arrival, all those oddities? I found many. Even the fact that here autumn was starting while back there it was spring. It seemed to affect me.
… nothing remains stable. Time and matter eternally following its course. I soon become adjusted to everything. It was progress. Now I’m ten years older. Why, it has been on the whole a good life.
I observed the whole quay area. The ferries on the left far away. Twenty jetties for the ferryboats that constantly cross the Bay, from south to norrth and viceversa. And today (I thought) I was going to traverse that most beautiful deep-water bay from west to east, or at least a great portion of it, down to the Heads from the City.
On an imposing brand new liner, the Canberra. She has been berthed on this New Ocean Terminal these last few days. We had actually arrived with our two little daughters when afternoon was just commencing. And soon we found our place of residence to be, for six weeks. Our cabin. We met the Goan citizen, the steward for our part of the boat. He helped us to install ourselves comfortably, our luggage for the journey, and the girls already started to dispute which berth was ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. (We knew that all our other material belongings were in the holds of the ship, even some small pieces of furniture we couldn’t part with for one reason or other.)
That was hours ago. Our friends then began to arrive. They had been there with us, in the cabin or spreading out of the door.
About half an hour ago the liner’s loudspeakers have been blasting onto the air, not letting passengers and friends enjoy the last minutes together. ‘Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors ashore!’ Making the visitors jittery and soon to send them dashing along the corridors, up and down passages and staircases.
… loudly, monotonously, persistently. ‘Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors ashore!’ A pause and again, ‘Gangways about to be lifted!’, all the time the pause becoming shorter. ‘Visitors are requested to leave the ship immediately! We repeat, im-med-iate…lyyyy!’
… up and down the narrow staircases, those types called ‘visitors’, running, escaping into free air, along the decks, striving to reach in time the gangways. Mrs. Brown is there.
… she has been shedding tears in my wife’s arms, having both joined the school’s staff the same year. ‘You have an adorable companion, Mr.Isquiro.’ she says to me, and Mr. Brown is of the same opinion.
… for a while, then, there have been expansive demonstrations of friendship everywhere. In our cabin three visiting couples plus Pippo, and four children. Many laughs, conversation, exchange of addresses and notes.
… and the wine, of course, a couple of bottles of sparkling wine. We all knew what to expect. Famous ‘Barossa Pearl’.The children too (soda and orangeade, in their case: such good friends, for such a long time.
… when shall we see one another again? The Lanes have just arrived. We’ve made some excursions together: the bush, the beaches, those Christmas nights at Coogee Bay, and ‘Christmas Carols by Candlelight’. Wonderful moments.
Of course, there will always remain the remembrance, I said to myself leaning on the railing and seeing them all now on the quay. A multitude of raised hands, hats, and handkerchiefs. The children hold Australian flags. A profusion of streamers rolling out now in the air, multicoloured paper-ribbons. More and more of those colour-ribbons now flying this way and that, all the time. Off in all directions extremely long streamers flying for a while from the hands of those on the ship to the fingers of those who were staying.

There was the noise too, reaching my ears from down below, a multitude of our friends and the friends of other passagers, and from those encircling us.
I saw these all along the length and width of the quay, right down to the water’s edge, that is, the whitish-creamy body of the superb liner, SSCanberra. In some places the people are crowding without bothering (or without noticing) about the enormous cranes and all sorts of machinery, smeared with soot and grease. The very ones which last night and in the early hours of this morning were busily shifting containers from the quay into the holds of the ship.
The flying of streamers this way and that never ceases: crossing and recrossing each other’s trajectory. Some minutes ago, on our backs, two enterprising men have been making a few pounds of pocket money, offering their wares: ‘Streamers, streamers! Who’ll buy my streamers?’ And Nicky, of course bought two or three paper bags with enough merchandise to go on, mainly because of our children, who were demanding them. As a consequence, the two now were for a while engaged upon a sisterly dispute about who was to have this or that coloured paper roll. ‘Oh, look! Daddy! Mummy gimme another one !’
‘Like that. Here, Luli, you see. Unroll first a little bit; you hold tight the end between thumb and finger.’ Now her hand was raised and, with a skillful flick of the wrist (with Daddy’s help), Luli hurls the unwinding ribbon in the air, and down below. A shriek: ‘Daddy! Oh jump, Pete! Catch it!’ And Daddy shouting: ‘Well done, Luli!’ But little Oli was not so vociferous. She hurled no streamer at all; for she horded them in the little satchel Mummy had bought for her to start her kindergarten course.
Crossing and recrossing each other’s trajectory the colourful ribbons flew all the time. Here! one more! and another one! We were beginning to see a mesh of streamers on our friends’ and other people’s heads, a paper vault of colourful beauty in the approaching evening. And I saw, among others the Krcnarics waving, a family of three, our best friends in the land. Anna is still teaching at Claremont.
… I remember I came across my Polish friend (now a high executive of a transnational corporation) the very first time I set my foot on the school grounds, many years ago, during a Saturday fête.
… we have begun talking while watching the girls at their games. A beautiful sunny afternoon. An hour later our young wives, coming arm in arm. ‘Why, I see you’ ve already become acquainted,’ Nicky’s surprise. ‘And we were going to introduce you!’)
I wake up with a start. Nicky had called my attention by a knock on my shoulder. My secretary Maureen is waving. Blonde and beautiful. She left the firm a few days before I presented my resignation, only, in her case, in order to go into Paddington’s Maternity Hospital. Rootsey, her husband, is holding the tiny baby in his hands.
… Maureen. She knew I was writing ‘Dorotea’ in office hours. I would have liked to show her the nine-hundred-page manuscript, but in the end I desisted. Why bother? Nobody will ever like my novel.
From Maureen’s little family, my eyes passed on to the Parkers and their son and daugther, good friends these of our girls. ‘Fernando!’ I heard, ‘good luck, but not good-bye. See you in London.’ While our girls were calling, shrieking, crying. ‘Bye Danny! See you soon Melissa! Don’t forget us!’
… Tom is a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, and had spent two years in Vietnam: has just renounced his commission. He has made plans to live again in London, where he met Joan, who was the secretary of a famous writer.
The band was still playing ‘God Save the Queen!’ and I knew the liner would soon be starting on its course. Turning my gaze right, I saw two tugs approaching, their long red chimneys painting the prussian blue sky with dense curly strokes of black smoke.
And when I looked again at the quay down below I chanced to see my old Irish friend at the back of the crowd with Connie.
‘Oh, how glad, how happy I am you’ve been able to make it! Paddy!’ I cried.
Joe Murphy and Connie Rayburn were intimate friends of another sort. Both older than us had belonged to the Communist Party since the War of Spain, first the British one, and now the Australian. Paddy had fought for the Spanish Republic, in the International Brigades.
*
I had to turn my head round again because I sensed the time had come to say goodbye to the City. To think that I had been working in one of those skyscrapers for ten years. I saw the lights of the city coming on, one by one as it were: public lighting in the streets, and the lights of the shops, the motorcars, the advertisments! ‘Oh, the smears of capitalism!’ I said to myself
We were already being pulled away from the quay by those two little craft called tugs. In the end, after a pronounced sort of rotation, and the tugs having succeeded in placing the enormous ship perpendicular to the wharf, without ceasing to pollute the air with, the little craft drifted away.
The sound of a hoot was heard and we were well on our own, advancing slowly to the middle of the Bay. Coming out from the two funnels I now saw some thin serpents of white smoke, and soon sensed the vibration from inside the liner.
I saw a set of newly built tall apartment buildings in Kirribilli, Milson’s Point wharf. It was sad to see the City drawing away. Soon the Canberra would be sailing off into the Pacific Ocean. The tugs (with their huge red funnels still smoking vigorously) were meanwhile proceeding under the Harbour Bridge towards Darling Harbour, a bay surrounded by industrial inner suburbs full of factories, Glebe, where we had settled soon after our arrival.
… and my Australian past is already a dream. Sydney had really become my home town! Never mind, oh!, my days in Madrid, Valladolid, those long years of civil war, my studies, university, and my early travelling abroad.
… that happy encounter with the woman I love. Who could have believed that after so many years of happy family life here I would have become a returning migrant.
… an exile. I would now become the eternal wanderer going without rest here and there, backwards and forwards… to nowhere. Trying to resurrect a past which no longer represented anything. Painted forms of former times.
… I think I still hear the cries and sounds coming from the quay, including that ‘God save the Queen’ of the terminal band. Somebody is saying good bye! take care! bon voyage!
Another loud hoot in the air, from somewhere behind me, brought me out of my reverie. The din around me of half an hour before had ceased. I now only heard my daughters having another altercation. And I felt a sweet kiss from my wife on my left cheek, and sensed the hugging of her hand on my arm. She was murmuring something in my ear. I was thinking, trying already to recollect the past.
… when the Canberra was drawn out of port by the tugs, there was that link between us on board ship and the crowd of Sydneysiders, as it were. That canopy of colourful paper streamers, an infinite number of them in the hands of those that left and the fingers of those that were staying, a bond of friendship, so to say: paper ribbons. Then, after a first tremendously long new hoot, and the little tugs were fast upon each side of the liner, the Canberra slowly drew away, almost imperceptibly. Following a few seconds of hopeless resistance, the multicoloured streamers, that paper canopy which not so long ago was covering the multitudes down on the wharf, burst asunder. All finished now.
As I looked down to the sea I saw bits of coloured paper floating, other lengths of streamers were trimming on the side of the liner, fluttering in the evening breeze. I burst out laughing.
I was alone. I look at my watch. Seven fifty. Nicky had left with the kids for the cabin. I hoped she would come back soon. I sense I was going to need her.
There were fewer passengers now on the deck. I walked slowy towards the stern of the ship. In the distance I saw that majestic mass of steel which was called Harbour Bridge. I still saw it looming high above the harbour, and the waters all the way down to the Parramatta River. I imagined (having seen the scene many times before) the innumerable coves and ports and little bays everywhere, right and left, plenty of forests and houses in the many western suburbs, now all in the dark.
I had climbed up to the top deck, where I stood leaning on the railing completely alone, as it was the time the first sitting in the dining hall commenced, and people had other things to do than sightseeing. As we moved on, for a while I contemplated some of the northern suburbs, the sails of some pleasure-craft drifting past between the Canberra and North Sydney. It was a beautiful sight. But in my solitude I became sadder and sadder as time went on, and in the end I was moping like a child.
It was because of the strain of the last few days, I thought, the many friends and comrades left behind. I got depressed in the end.
The liner passed near the suburb of Neutral Bay, a place of great memories. I had lived there with Nicky during the first two months after our arrival in Australia. A very large boarding-house, in Kurraba Road, where some three or four young families of migrants were lodged, with many children, as were two couples, also young, who had moved from the outback into Sydney, where there were undoubtly good possibilities of employment, and an easier way of life.
Cremorne now, a swift revelation of red brick houses at different levels on the hills and well down to the water’s edge, where there was a tiny little port for yachts and motorboats. My colleague Maurice Weiss lived there with his family. Very fond of his profession, Maurice was. He was the only one who, knowing my interest in things other than the law, one day quite seriously told me to forget about novels. ‘You should buy a partnership in the firm,’ he said, ‘work hard, and try to make lots of money.’
The liner was gathering speed. I don’t know what I was calculating now. The thought passed like a flash through my brain that I was wrong in undertaking this journey, a big mistake. Maybe because I remembered my colleague’s words. I felt horribly confused. I tried to relax, realising somehow that nothing would now be easy for me and I had better forget about everything, and got ready to go forward. I had to be careful with my health.
I began clambering down back to the middle deck. There were now some people moving around, but not many. I strolled pensively, very slowly holding on to the railing from time to time. I thus took the opportunity of stopping short from time to time and turning my gaze back. In any case, I had to stop, because the ship was divided in two watertight compartments. Ordinary and luxury classes. And so, I saw for the last time the lights of the city, the big advertisements floating in a sky, as it were, sky which back there had turned rather murky on account precisely of the lights, that abundance of colourful symbols and words, letters, marks, all those things.
… I see in my mind the winter days (which didn’t mean in any case low temperatures) when I came out of my office and ran to catch the bus to Coogee Bay, where we had moved, after Glebe.
… the sky already dark at five thirty, and I proceeding from Caltex House to George Street and Circular Quay, with thousands of Sydneysiders, ready to catch one of the several dozen buses, to go home, tea, the television programme (new then in Australia.)

Turning round Bennelong Point, I ceased seeing the City, because the great dark structure of the new Opera House, under construction. Cement, steel and almost nothing else. They began to build it one year after our arrival, and never completed it.
The world around became suddenly very dark, everything being obliterated by that strange dark construction, until I glimpsed in the background some public light along the coast. A bigger cove where all seemed to be enveloped in darkness. For I was facing the Royal Botanic Gardens. I knew the place well.
… my loving wife, so very young when we migrated together in the fifties… I see her now in my imagination. We have just come from Glebe where we own a little cottage. We first came to visit the Botanic Gardens by bus, and by bus now go there every Sunday.
… we used to spend that first winter many hours promenading along the footpaths and avenues, among the trees of many colours, jacarandas, poinsettias and others.
… today we carry Luli, our new-born baby, in our arms, passing on the precious littlle bundle to the other from time to time. Those winding walks; and when we are near enough to the water, we sit down on the grass.
… we see the ferryboats passing by, little ones red-and-yellow just crossing the bay: and bigger ones, all green, coursing the length of the bay to Manly, a small town at the very entrance of the harbour.
… I am feeling young, strong and optimistic. Already in employment in a law firm. We are so much in love, feel so happy, such good weather. And always this splendid scenery, all around, these marvellous trees. It does not look like winter. The well attended lawn so intensely green and so much colour on the bushes too.
One particular day now came to mind. We had been sitting on one of those grass promontories one Sunday. I took a few steps down towards some rocks by the water, and stood up on one of the rocks, contemplating my two pretty ones infatuated, so much in love. I could see them now in my imagination, as I saunter on the deck of the Canberra..
… Nicky’s golden tresses have lost their lustre after her pregnancy and baby’s birth, and she doesn’t want to be photographed. And yet, she does look adorable, all the same.
… she wears an autumn dress, apricot colour, with a white neck and golden buttons, holding Baby in her arms. A picture now would be beautiful, the two over the green background, a colour film bought in George Street, technicolour they call it.
… ‘Oh no, Nano,’ she cries, changing her positon with the baby, thinking of standing up and going away. But she can’t, and her apricot skirt has folded in, letting me see her splendid suntanned legs, her shiny rounded knees.
… ‘Snap!’ A most beautiful loving wife. The first colour potograph I’ve ever taken. A most cherished souvenir in the big album.
A young couple passed by, arm-in-arm, strolling quietly, united with their arms around each others’ waists. I saw them kissing passionately in the dark, then they disappeared towards the stern of the ship, under the life boats.
As for me, now, I wonder if Nicky is looking for me in order to go together to the second sitting in the second-class passengers’ dining-room.

The liner was going fast, close this time to Point Piper. I had seen some minutes ago Clark Island, a rocky (and yet green) place which already received on it the full force of the tide, as the opening through which the ocean entered the bay was near.
And remembered the picnics we used to have there with the Parkers, on that little Clark Island. A vision now filling my mind with souvenirs. Some years back we used to spend some Saturday afternoons picnicking on that and other islands in the harbour, with the Parkers and their kiddies. Tom, being an officer of the Royal Australian Navy, used to make arrangements with the high command, which allowed him to take one of the speedboats out, for the weekend. One day he was sent over to the Seas of South East Asia to make war against the Vietnamese. He only came back about two months ago, a depressed and prematurely old navy captain. For a while then I thought of writing a novel about Vietnam with his help. A ridiculous idea, I knew.
... it is not only that no publisher would have been found, but a novel must be a work of art, images of an experience you have had and then feel inside you, something you feel you must communicate.
… besides, nobody’s ever made an offer for my own novel, Dorotea, which I know is good. A pity, for a writer needs friendship and help. A coterie! … that is it. Before you begin you must belong to a circle of poets and other artists who become enthusiastic about your work. Then they find a publisher for you. Just tentative literary work which everybody shall admire even before you’ve written a dozen pages. … and you proceed from there. Articles might appear, written by your friends, about your monumental novel which they have not even read.
… must we have Dicey shoved down our throat all our life? Great critics have taught me one essential truth: if ever I should find myself disposed not to admire those whom all the learned have admired, I must believe that I’m dull, rather than think that the rest of the world has been imposed on.’
‘I’m dull, dull!’ I shouted. ‘Oh, sycophants!’
The moon had risen. I was looking at the Eastern Suburbs, of wealthy abundance in front of me, Rose Bay. In one of the big mansions upon the hill some celebrations were going on. Fireworks.
‘A Man of Property,’ I said to myself.
… we have planned to spend the day on the beach, a bank holiday. We have been only a few months in Australia. A man is plodding on the sand (to meet us, I thought) as we were. He stops short, recognising my wife’s clear English accent. ‘Sir Moses Greene, of the Sydney Stock Exchange, previoulsy of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange,’ he introduces himself.
… ‘And previously of the London Stock Exchange, I guess?’ I say, shaking hands with him, after my wife. We become good friends in an instant. He’s big and fat, and talks of the importance of owning a good packet of shares. ‘The right way to Fortune,’ he says.
… in the end Mr Greene sits down with us, under our beach umbrella. And we three have lunch together. The following morning Sir Moses comes down to pay me a visit. Herbert Harriman & Moses Greene have premises in the same skyscraper as Spruson and Ferguson.
… within a fortnight I have lost all our savings (not very much, fortunately.) The shares of the corporation in which I happen to have invested have gone down. Absolutely no value.

I heard a noice, looked up and saw a rocket flying high, and many other fireworks soaring up into the dark sky, bursting into showers of little stars of all colours. And I heard the bangs. And saw the lights. No doubt, some merriment going on over there.
‘A Remarkable Rocket!’ I said to myself, and thought of the short story. ‘There’s only one thing that sustains me through life: the conscience of the immense inferiority of everybody else.’
We have moved east. There appeared just now around us a very tumultuous sea, due to the proximity of the ocean. As we passed near a little cove in the harbour’s side of Watson’s Bay, I caught a glimpse of the Ozone Restaurant, run by our friends the Lanes. We had gone there, an excellent fish restaurant, to celebrate the first anniversary of our wedding; and there is where we met Eric and Corrie.
The Canberra headed left towards the Heads, and we were facing the ocean.
… when we went of a Sunday for an excursion to Manly, boarding the ferry at Sydney Cove, the moment we came within sight of the ocean the boat began swaying quite alarmingly.
… Manly was the second town to be built in the colony of New South Wales, on the land around the North Head, a sort of sentinel at the harbour entrance facing both the harbour and the ocean.
… now, when the ferry is about to end its journey it receives the battering of the waves on its right side, specialy if there are strong winds. The vessel had turned north, and the swaying goes until it reaches the little wharf, and the passengers can land safely on the jetty.
When the pilot in charge of the SSCanberra set course towards the Heads, ready to lead the vessel on to the Pacific Ocean and hand it over to the captain, we were already much more eastward than any Manly ferry could ever be. However our modern liner did not sway in the least. I could see the rocks at the bottom on either side, as I was on the prow of the vessel. The Military Reserve on the left, the Hornby Lighthouse on the right, both looming high above us as we passed.
The moon was now high in the sky, and I watched waves rolling from afar and bursting on the liner’s shiny body, spraying foam and salt high about us. There were other people on the deck watching.
Though I don’t think the showers reached me at all, I took off by instinct my spectacles and carefully wiped them with my handkerchief, all the time gazing back at the Heads, the lighthouse, where probably the rollers were pounding on the rocks and all along the bottom of the cliffs. On top of the cliffs I saw some small clusters of houses, light glittering now and then.
‘That is the last I see of Australia,’ I thought. ‘And for how long?’ I asked myself.
Suddenly I perceived some movement of people around me and heard some noise on the side of the liner. I looked down. A hatchway opened a few feet below. Two pairs of black arms were seen coming out, the four hands fully stained in blood.
I had long noticed that all this time we had been followed by a score or so of marine birds. I’d heard them screeching, flying with us, then turning round, going away and coming back once more. But now, at this moment, I saw a great number of them all together, pressing with great tumult overhead and down by where the hatchway had opened. The noise was really terrific. I had been wondering what the hell those birds were doing following the ship? And now, watching the sudden agitation of all the birds going to where the hatchway had opened, I got the answer to my question.
The four red hands were throwing out into the sea chunks and chunks of red meat or portions of fish and perhaps other food; and the agitation in the air knew no limits. The screeches, cries and calls now simply became unbearable. Shadows in the night moving with great acceleration, with some silvery-white reflexions. Howling, diving, fighting, soaring and diving again without end. A most interesting spectacle to watch, I said to myself. And when they caught something in the air or on (or in) the water, they shot up into the sky at once and, with the prize in their beaks, soared up and disappeared.
It had been warm all day, but now it was chilly and gusty, and I sensed I had to get moving at once, look for an entrance through which to climb down to the cabins and try to find Nicky, when suddenly the progress of the Canberra onward to the high sea stopped short. Every mechanical sound ceased too, that sort of vibration I had been sensing from the moment our journey had started at Circular Quay. I happened to be at that moment on the right side of the ship, moving slowly, on the deck, and the moon being on the other side, it was rather sombre where I was
‘What’s happened,’ I heard a femenine voice nearby.
A man answered in a low whisper, ‘Darling… the pilot off… going… on the other side.’
The woman spoke again, ‘Please, let’s go and see.’ I saw the couple rushing away and I followed them, tired as I was, going on I knew not where. Within a minute, gazing down on the other side of the ship, I saw a hatchway being opened. Presently someone came out and it heard it was the pilot, whom I now saw hanging on a vertical cord-gangway, he was followed at once by another man, both clambering down on the side of the ship. Both jumped into a motorboat which had been fastened no doubt to the ship from the very moment we left the terminal.
‘The pilot and his assistant,’ someone commented. For there were several other people around me.
The motor launch was soon speeding away and I followed nervously with my eyes the two men going back to Sydney. And I don’t why I thought then of the job I had left behind and of Caltex House, and my friends at the firm.
… no, I was not born to be a writer. The law is my province. There is all I need. What am I doing here? It was a geat mistake. I shall now be continually making mistakes, all my life. Maurice was right. I shall see Doctor Ladas in New York. Perhaps. He knows me well and likes my work.
… great artists and writers are recognised as such at once, not when they are old and rusty. And they are right, my friends back in Sydney. Of course great critics have taught them (should have taught me) that you have to start young. Why, by the time you’re twenty-four or twenty-five… I am nearly forty! dull, dull!
… Steinbeck, Salinger and the others… why, they were famous even before they put pen to paper. There is something in that! … famous… You have been selected from… you’ve been made, moulded already, to be a success. To attain a pinnacle of fame.

… money, the one goes with the other. I shall from now on concentrate in making thousands of dollars a year, a month. I know I can do it. A good job and then a partnership.

A soft touch on my arm brought me out of my lethargy. She now wore a beige cardigan, and a turquoise kerchief round her neck. Always so nice, smiling.
‘Are they alright?’
‘Both sound asleep, darling.’
Of Australia now there was nothing, save the shining of a spark of light very far away amid the darkness. Hornby Lighthouse? I still saw a long line of cliffs on the horizon, my country, my job, my life. Who would have said! Nothing, nothing! All a product of my imagination.
She kissed me on my face. We stood upright, in a close embrace, for a minute or two.
‘Please, please, don’t get depressed, my Nano. Don’t you worry, everything’ll be alright.’
‘Everything?’
‘Yes, and you will publish your book. You will now write it in Spanish, and you’ll see how soon you’ll find a publisher.
There were tears in her beautiful eyes, and I felt guilty. It happened so very seldom, my precious wife, so sad. We had been facing one another, holding hands. Then I pleaded: ‘No, I pray you! you must not become sad too. Now, darling, please smile again.’

Walking very slowly along the deck, she led me to one of the entrances, we went down some steps and inside. And I knew that in fact, with her help, everything would be alright.

Address: 9, rue Vernet,
78150 Le Chesnay,
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