Sentimental journey Sydney four
In the late fifties Australia was rich, prosperous and offered full employment, tremendous opportunities for migrants; but only a few got very wealthy. Sydney has always been the largest city, the first built in 1788. Even then there was capitalism.
Sentimental Journey, Four
Fernando García Izquierdo
Two, three, four thousand commuters on the spot, men and women moving in all directions on a fine November morning. The Quay, that is the place. The very point in all the thousand and thousand miles of Australian coast where the English landed in the eighteenth century: the so-called First Fleet of sixteen small ships and one thousand four hundred men plus about seventy women come from the home country, the first New Australians ever in History.
They reached a small cove inside an immense beautiful bay that Captain Cook had named Port Jackson several years previously. The landing took place in January 1788, and the spot of settlement was called Sydney Cove. It was a circular beach, hence the name of the spot of present interest, Circular Quay.
Today, spring 1958, the place which no longer looks like a cove or a beach, is traversed by an expressway, full of vehicles, that passes high above the docks and splits later on into two currents, one of which traverses the bay by means of the Harbour Bridge, which also brings commuters into town from the northern suburbs. There is also a railway line which, in those parts, runs underneath the highway. And then, there are a dozen jetties where ferryboats bring commuters from the north side of the bay; and about thirty bus lines which have their terminus at Circular Quay.
To supplement the picture, let me say that all these commuters will be retracing their steps in the evening, using as a rule the same means of transport they used in the morning. Then the City will become practically empty, except for Friday or Saturday evening. The commuter will be arriving back home for dinner between half past five and six. After dinner, those who have already bought a television set will watch their favourite programmes, ‘Skippy the Bush Kangaroo’ ‘Perry Mason’. Then supper and to bed. Until the new day. Getting up with the sun, and again the conmmuter’s journey to town.
Some evenings, however, the men may take a turn after work, and enter a pub to enjoy a drop of icy beer; but it will not last long, this temporary evasion, for at about eight minutes to six the publican shouts emphatically, from the bar: “Six o’clock swig!”, and the customers will know they have a few more minutes left to swallow (if they can) real cataracts of icy Australian beer, before retiring for the day.
Luis Galvao is to have, at last, on this November morning, an interview with an important man in town, an engineer graduated from Manchester Tech and also a lawyer from the New South Wales Barristers’ Admision Board. That is the reason why this morning he finds himself in the midst of the madding crowd, rushing like mad to his destination, at exactly twenty past eight when he left one of the bus-stops at Circular Quay. It is now half past eight and he is scampering along to join a crowd that enters a main throroughfare called George Street, under a long overhanging which covers all the length of the pavement.
He feels lonely, in the midst of such active people. As a migrant he percieves an air of prosperity surrounding him which he did not see in Europe, whence he came to Down Under. The men (not all, but the majority) wear grey flannel suits and hats. Women also wear hats and mostly some kind of matching skirt and jacket; but the younger ones dress lightly in colourful cotton or satin dresses.
Gliding along, then, in several streams, are all kinds of Sydneysiders, Aussies or migrants, commuters and city-dwellers, all busily proceeding to their destination, each one of them an isolated atom, as solitary as if he or she were travelling across a vast desert. This is the scene which an outside observer, say, positioned at a window inside one of the buildings, right or left, will look at every workday at this hour. For on Saturday the shopping crowds would be different, and the observer would see nothing, no movement at all on Sunday.
The roadways, of course, are congested, all sorts of vehicles moving for the most part bumper-to-bumper. The young ladies, who usually wear high-heeled shoes at work, specially if they are secretaries or typists, are now walking in low-heeled shoes or sandals (they carry in their big handbags the said high-heeled footwear.) Elderly ladies also carry big handbags. The men hold swinging leather briefcases, which more often than not only contain a sandwwich box and a thermos full of tea.
The several places of employment are ready to receive them for the day. Public or private offices in the main. People employed in departmental stores and small shops have of course been reaching their places of employment at least half an hour earlier. But now, between half past eight and nine, is when the pavements of the city are really crowded and when the roadways are more congested. Sometimes a man (never a woman) crosses a busy street where he should not, and he is seen by the crowd edging in and out of the traffic, putting his life at risk, until he reaches safely the other side of the street.
At the zebra crossings pedestrians stay put for a minute, and wait for the traffic lights to change in their favour. It is red now (green for the automobiles) and the cars, buses and other vehicles proceed slowly on the left, from Circular Quay to Martin Place or viceversa. Eventually the light changes. Green for pedestrians who begin to cross the way, George Street. One other common trait of conduct to be found at the moment in all these Sydneysiders is that as time goes on, the pace of the stride increases, each commuter becoming more concentrated in himself or herself. No one speaks or calls to another, or indeed utters a single rational sound during the whole race. It is painful for Luis Galvao to observe this: no one making the slightest effort to communicate with any other, not one single thought transmitted to a fellow pedestrian, man or woman; if indeed anyone has anything to communicate, or indeed notices the presence now of anyone else of the human race around. Even worse, no one at this moment willingly throws the slightest glance at any other, far or near, even if they continue to scuttle together following the course of one of the streams on any given pavement. Their angle of vision has been fixed, the direction has been traced. As solitary each one of these commuters as any shelfish on the rocks by the seaside.
The only exception to the general pattern followed regularly by these commuters is when a citizen steps aside in order to buy his peper from a newspaper boy on the side of the pavement shouting, ‘Today’s Erald!!’ ‘A Telly!!’ and so on… or a lady who stops a minute to purchase some fruit or other edible; for there are vendors with small carts, offering ‘Sweet bananas from Queensland!’ ‘Apples, Granny Smiths from Tasmania! ‘Passionfruit from Surfer’s Paradise’; or other commodities.
Luis Galvao is about to reach his destination. The lights have just changed, green for pedestrians. Two goups of men and women now on the zebra crossing, coming from opposite sides. The encounter threatens to be tremendous. But nothing very horrible happens. The two currents filter through one another. The light, in the meantime, has changed to amber… to red. The members of each opposing band scramble up onto the desired pavement.
At Grosvenor Street corner he starts the ascent towards Caltex House, a lofty building looming above the rest of the city. He passes by the famous Wentworth Hotel on the left side of the street, the oldest hotel in Australia, coming right from colonial times. He then crosses York and Clarence streets and finally reaches a long cement platform with many people just descending from the buses that have come mainly from North Sydney, over the Harbour Bridge. A score of people over the final zebra-crossing with him, some of them rushing towards Caltex House . They pass through the revolving doors into the hall, already crowded with office workers all queuing before one or other of the five lifts. Several men now find some leisure to prepare themselves a cigarette for afterwards. Galvao’s lift arrives. Twelve of those waiting scramble inside, the doors slide closed again, the lift flies up. The travellers are compressed, but observing all of them civilised and courteous manners: some with chin against chest, others looking at the ceiling; no one utters a single sound. The lift stops with a bump, the doors slide open. Seventh floor. Some people scramble out. Galvao stops before a large glass-door with the notice, ‘Hutchkinson and Whyte – Registered Patent Agents’. He talks to a beautifully made-up receptionist. Afterwards he sits down. He sees her picking the telephone up. On his seat, he observes a man passing by, entering the premises: ‘Good morning, Mr Rance!’ ‘Good morning, Ivy!’ After a minute or two, a middle-aged gentlemen appears in the reception room, confronting him. ‘Morning, Mr. Galvao, pleased to meet you!
Luis Galvao found Mr. Kim Hutchkinson a most agreeable person and a very untypical Australian. He was in fact a Yorkshireman who had fought, when young, in the Pacific with the Royal Navy, helping the Americans to liberate some of the islands from the Japs, and who had stayed in Sydney ever since. Now, sixteen years later, he is the head of an important patent-law firm.
Luis Galvao opened his briefcase and showed the originals of his diplomas and credentials, copies of which the gentleman had already received by mail. He looked at them, asked for the translation of some Spanish words, which apparently Luis had omitted to include in the sworn translations which he had sent with the originals. Afterwards, with a nice smile on his face, the gentleman sat back in his armchair and spoke about Australia.
‘Mark my words, Mr. Galvao, in ten years’ time this country is going to be a new America,’ he said. He had a nice face, wore gold-rimmed glasses and looked younger than he was (considering – Luis thought- he must be between forty-five and fifty.)
‘The newest continent, that is how it is,’ the gentleman went on. They call it the Awakening Giant. We’ll have doubled our population in less than ten years.’
Luis Galvao was listening, trying to look relaxed and interested in the conversation. It was a rather big office they were in, very well furnished and a nice décor, with oil paintings that looked original, aboriginal art. The partner’s bureau and the chairs on which both sat were undoubtedly of some fine wood. And looking discreetly about the office, which was big and in a corner of the building, he also had a vision of the outside: the sun shone bright across the bay and all over that part of North Sydney in the distance, of which he could just have a glimpse from his seat.
‘So you know well Mr. Scziadovo, is that it?’ he heard Mr. Hutchkinson say. ‘He was telling me the other day that you’re trying to requalify your degree. He seems to be interested in your wellbeing. Good friends?’
‘His ancestors… oh, long ago!... originated from Spain, Castille, which is the region where I was born. He thinks we may be related.’
‘How come he doesn’t offer you, say, a partnership. Don’t want to meddle, of course. Let me tell you, I’m all for association, as opposed to a one-man practice. Since I decided to bring Ray Whyte in, I’ve never looked back. The firm hasn’t ceased to grow these last eight years.’
‘You’re right, Mr. Hutchkinson. Partnership is a great thing, the way to grow, as you say. Division of labour and all that. But no…, conveyancing is not my cup of tea. I did some patent law before… oh, long ago,’ Luis realised that he was getting nervous, a thing he had not anticipated at all. But in fact, his practice as a lawyer was nothing to boast about.
‘I see. Anyhow, not everyone is interested in partnerships, which also can bring headaches.”
There was a knock at the door of the office. A woman entered with a big trolley, carrying the urn of tea, a big tray with biscuits, plus cups and the rest. When the tea had been served and the lady had left, Mr. Hutchkinson resumed the interrupted conversation.
‘But going back to the subject,’ he began, ‘the whole country is continually growing. We need many migrants. The good sort of migrant. Have you heard of the Kimberleys? A region in the west. It is enormous and it’s empty, and an immensely rich subsoil.’
‘Yes, I know. Arid, though.’
‘There are plans to build dams. Tens of thousands of acres of desert land could be devoted to agriculture; cattle stations could be created; with airstrips; there are plans for two or three new townships already.’
Luis Galvao was listening and looking out of the window (the whole of the two opposite walls were made of glass, from the low ceiling to the wall-to-wall carpet.
… the several landstrips between arms of sea he could see in the distance. Being so fond of colours he delighted perceiving the perfect blue sky with one or two cumulus clouds; then the vivid green of the land, and the prussian-blue of the bay.
… the only drawback: there were industrial installations on the side of the Harbour Bridge, underneath on one the side, and some curling snakes of black smoke.
‘I know. Australia is now an industrial power,’ Galvao said.
‘How right you are. We make our own motorcars. A flourishing industry, automobiles. Have you seen the all-Australian “Holden”?’
‘Yes, Mr. Hutchkinson. I own one myself.’
‘Good on you! Our own car, yes. Factories in Sydney and Melbourne. Constant growth. See what I mean? We build our own destroyers, too. Here! A few miles from where we are. The Royal Australian Navy. I was in the service in the Navy. First RN, then the RAN.’
‘Ah, yes! the Korean War,’ Galvao muttered, and he at once knew he shouldn’t have spoken. ‘I mean, now we are keeping the peace in South East Asia... the free world, in partnership with the United States.’
Mr. Hutchkinson, however, went on talking, without listening. “More importantly, as I was saying, there is every reason to believe that one day Australia will satisfy the most optimistic. Yes, a life both pleasant and satisfying. If only God one day made Australian agriculture work,’ he repeated, ‘so we could satisfy that ambition! The demands of a food-hungry world!”
Luis remembered he had worked in agriculture in Yorkshire, and said so to his extraordinarily nice interlocutor (he had always been a good talker and now was pleased to show he had once been a manual worker.)
‘Millions of acres of good arable land, I assure you,’ the other developed his own theme, ‘when once we have managed to secure bountiful rainfall.’
‘You know, Mr. Hutchkinson,’ Galvao said, ‘even Franco knew, what you say, the importance of water. During the first years of the regime, already, many dams were built in Spain.’
“We export wool. Number one in the world. Your Merino, sir.”
‘Estremadura, that was the origin of the Merino, yes!. Some came here from Saxony, though. Part of Germany was linked to Spain many centuries ago. That is why.’
‘You’re saying,’ the man uttered, and for the moment said no more.
‘World commerce,’ said the Spaniard a bit lost. ‘What I mean to say, a sturdy race, the Merino. Wool. Trade, you can’t beat it. A lovely country, Estremadura, Mr. Hutchkinson, all that land. Southern Spain. Very poor.’
‘And we make our own wine, Mr. Galvao. The Barossa Valley. Have you tried our sparkling wine? Talk of French wines, Barossa Pearl, sir. I say, “ça vaut bien un Champagne!” Mr. Hutchkinson spoke French.)
For a time, while the Yorkshireman spoke, Luis Galvao looked absent- mindedly at the prospect beyond what he guessed was North Sydney, beyond the petrol refinery with the trade mark of a multinational. “Green,” he thinks, “like the moors in north England,” he thinks. Only, there are many brown specks, here and there which break the image in his mind. Residential properties.
‘Engulfed in the wonderful corner of Sydney Cove, where the First Fleet built a town,’ the gentleman was going on, ‘now this city. It contains part of our history, in many beautiful areas…’
The office was large and L-shaped, situated right on one of the four corners of the building, the one facing Harbour Bridge, wiith a view too of the docks of Darling Harbour. From his armchair Luis Galvao was facing the man separated from him by a large table. There was air-conditioning in the premises which suddenly caused Luis Galvao to sneeze. ‘There is going to be a change in the weather,’ he said, for no reason at all.
But his interlocutor went on with the theme of the changing face of Australia. ‘Industry, sir, economic growth. We haven’t allowed the world to relegate us to being a simple supplier of raw materials. I say, industrial production, all over: Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Wollongong… have you seen the industrial complex at Port Kembla?”
Galvao said he had lived and worked near Wollongong, without explaining what kind of work he did.’ The interview lasted an unexpected two hours. Mr. Hutchkinson was an extremely convivial man, specially after Galvao (who did not mind mentioning he had been long ago a manual worker) mentioned his having worked long ago in an agricultural camp in England, Yorkshire. ‘A VAC near Pocklington, sir!,’ he said, ‘in my student days.’
‘Ah, Pocklington! And what do you think of the Yorkshire moors! How much I miss my fatherland, despite everything,’ the gentleman became sentimental, and he sang ‘soto-voce’: ‘I loove Down oonder! boot after all… these hills ain’t the hills of my youth!’ And he showed to the other photographs which he brought out of drawer on one side of his desk. ‘Do you take snaps, sir?’
‘Well, not so many,’ Galvao lied; for he did not take any. ‘Don’t have a camera at present.’
‘Oh, you’ll have to buy yourself one. Buy a Canon. D’you know, the Japanese are not what some think. Cheap stuff, they say. On the contrary. They sell cheap to conquer markets, but their products are good, excellent in fact. They’ll be like America in a few years time, mark my words. I’ve been to Tokyo, sir. Nippon corporations. I’ve been to offices, visited plants. Got some clients for the partnership. Mitsubishi, Mr. Galvao. D’you know what that name means? Hutchkinson and Whyte, Patents and Trade Marks, registration, oppositions, licenses, court actions fighting against infringement. Well, I feel I have now convinced you,’ he heard the nice Yorkshireman conclude. ‘If we are not an industrial giant yet, we soon shall be.’
Luis Galvao was offered a job. There would be a trial period. He would be allowed to show his art and the partnership would decide in three months time. He would be contacted by letter. Hutchkinson and Whyte’s had an international ambition (he was told) and Luis felt that morning, after such a long interview with such a nice person, happier and more confident than ever since his arrival in Australia. He had been lucky, he thought, for an old articled lawyer, Mr. Kevin Dean, whose place he would occupy, was about to retire.
As he came out into the street, greatly excited after such a succesful interview, Luis Galvao turned left and bought, on a stand, a packet of fish and chips and a bottle of soda water. ‘What a nice chap,’ he thought, sitting on a bench, just to the back of Caltex House. ‘Nearly two hours… no more… of his precious time… I am sure.’
He went down a narrow lane on to Sussex Street, all the time watching the prospect. Down below he could see an extended arm of sea, getting deep into some working-class suburb or suburbs, Darling Harbour, one of the busiest sections of the whole bay, the docks where cargo ships and liners arrived all the time.
… precisely, Pyrmont 13, the wharf where I arrived. SS Himalaya. A liner full of immigrants like himself, Pacific and Orient Line. Alone and disoriented, February 1958, what could he have done but accept the first job offered. Didn’t take long to find some friends. A well paid job, felling eucalypts.
… a little further away, the Pyrmont Power Station, with its serpents of white smoke. And beyond Balmain, a partly residential area, so near and yet so far away. The whole big bay was like that. Lots of small peninsulas, with many green spaces, and real estate developments. He walked all the way along the warehouses until he reached Pyrmont Bridge, that spanned Darling Harbour; which he crossed turning left, already near the suburb of Ultimo, and Harris Street.
Entering the bedroom downstairs, without knocking, he found Malgorata reading on the couch under the window, lying down most beautifully in a light-blue dress, one hand holding the book, the other under her golden head on a cushion.
‘What a big success, my darling,’ he said, elated. ‘I’ve got the job.’
However Margorata did not seem to rejoice as he did at such a big success. There had been some differences lately between the two. She was for eloping, disappearing altogether, taking a plane to North America or South Africa, where nobody would find them. He had started his studies at the Barristers’ Admission Board of NSW and, having convinced himself that the husband would never come back, for he had got news (through Manuel Suárez) that two famous Tel-Aviv lawyers were after him, and the fellow was hiding. It was a fact that Krappov had not been seen in the house for many weeks now.
‘There’s going to be a trial period, darling,’ he said, ‘but as soon as the post is confirmed we’ll buy our own house in a distant suburb. He’ll cease to be a problem, even if he doesn’t agree to a divorce.’
Just then a motorbike passed by in the street, and in an instant the old terrors came back. Luis withdrew into a corner, undecided whether to run away upstairs to his room (which he hardly used nowadays) or stay put. Malgorata rushed to the window and on her knees on the couch, holding with both hands to one half-curtain, she watched until the motorcyclist passed on.
‘That is the answer to your question,’ she said. ‘It shows we do not feel sure. He may be a thousand miles away…’
‘I’ll tell you something,’ he cut her off. ‘Let’s think things through calmly. First and foremost, don’t let’s quarrel, then...’ But he had no explanation to offer.
Malgorata had gone back to playing the violin and had begun giving lessons to two children of a couple of New Australians in the same terrace, Silwia and Tomec, with whom they had developed a certain friendship. Among other things, Silwia told Malgorata that already in 1944 the Americans knew that her man (whose real name was Ladislaw Crushchov) was a nazi and a war criminal. It was Tomec (he had told her), who arrived in Orleans at the same time.
They were standing near the couch. ‘Please, perhaps you’ll find a good post in the law too if we emigrate to America or Canada,’ said Malgorata.
On another occasion Luis found Malgorata sitting on the carpet, resting her back against the side of the bed. The violin was on the floor by her side. He came in and sat on the floor with her. Her eyes were glistening and she looked painfully distressed.
‘What’s happened,’ he asked.
‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ she exclaimed, and her bosom heaved.
‘Come on, tell me,’ he cried, pressing her against his heart.
She panted out imploringly: ‘Oh, my dear Luis! Don’t ever leave me. Let’s elope before he comes back. You’ll take me away. Promise.’ And after a few more sobs and tears, she explained in a weak voice that, when she was doing her daily practice, playing a piece of Mozart she liked, the telephone rang, and said no more. ‘The violin is my life… it is my all, my all, I was born for…’ After another moment, she went on, choking. The telephone had rung, she picked it up, she had been receiving threats these past few days
‘Tell me,’ he pleaded, caressing her cheeks and wiping her tears with his fingers.
‘The voice of a man who frightened me out of my wits.’
‘Did you recognise his voice? What did he actually say?’
She raised her eyes, shaking her head and said: ‘It was not… him.’
‘Tell me more.’
She led him to the couch under the window, where to his surprise she said the callers were Americans. ‘I thought of that day long ago,’ she whispered, ‘and the idea came back to me.’
‘What d’you mean, the idea?’
‘When I left my orchestra in Manchester. The day I defected to the west. An American, I mean I didn’t speak… but recognised the accent as American.’
Manchester! 1953! a very dear remembrance passed through his mind, while Luis was listening to Malgorata.
… one evening we passed a very busy illuminated street which Margaret called Deansgate (I would always remember the name) in the centre of Manchester. We were holding one another by the waist, for we were much in love.
… I didn’t still know what I would be doing in my life henceforth. I held a degree from Madrid University and was already twenty-three, an exile, rather than a student. I would apply for political asylum and would never return to Spain.
… her father had written a letter to me at the Volunteer Agricultural Camp, in Yorkshire. I was invited to spend the Christmas holidays and see the New Year 1954 in, in their house. The letter said Margaret had spoken a lot about me.
… it was winter, but not cold, and it was for us two, like walking under a canopy of light. The main streets were all illuminated: millions of white specks floating in the air several yards above us. Streams of lively people walking, like us
… Margaret was eighteen. She had showed me that afternoon the University. “Where I am studying,” she had said, proudly, and Ashburne Hall, the girls’ residence where she was staying. She had started three months ago.
… we had been strolling together almost the whole day, and I had all day been having in the back of my mind the idea of asking her to marry me, even if I had nothing to offer her, still two students. Such a lovely blond girl.
… the second January, before returning to the camp, we passed by another busy road where there was a theatre or concert hall. People were arriving and and greeting one another: ‘How d’you do, Mr Moore!’ ‘Good evening, Mrs Hoad!’
… fine music was advertised. There had recently come an orchestra from the Soviet Union, Kiev. In tonight’s performance there were pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Grieg. We made up our minds, bought the tickets and went in.
… and I was surprised to see there were in the orchestra many young people, both men and women. I looked at a girl, most specially, a violin player next to the conductor. She was blond, energetic, fantastically good.
… even with a full orchestra going I could hear her playing, partly because of the coordinated movements of her whole body, which I followed with great enthusiasm. Such a good-looking girl, her short curly hair falling over the violin.
… I watched her with delight; always bending forward as she moved playing; her chin on the violin, her beautiful slender arms on high, one hand holding the bow, the other the violin, the fingers obviously in full activity.
… in the street, later on, I told my Margaret about the young violin player. She laughed and kissed me on the mouth, to shut me up. For she was not jealous of the Ukrainian girl. And I said: ‘But what I liked most about her, oh, my lovely!, was that she looks so much like you.’ She laughed again.
Luis Galvao felt the time had come for him to chose. His lover had again said they must elope, for she had been receiving those calls which sent her out of her wits and made her unapproachable. He had this Saturday been looking out of the window at the back garden, trying to call Malgorata’s attention, but she would not raise her eyes at him. It was one of her bad moments. She felt most upset these days. Luis had done his level best to accommodate her, but it served no purpose. He was an associate attorney at Hutchkinson and Whyte, learning common law, industrial property and improving his English. He would not go back to ‘manual work’ (he had told Margorata) emigrating, say to North America, just to follow her whim. But it wasn’t a whim. It was fear, unsurmountable terror.
‘You know,’ Heribert said, almost teasing him, ‘I wouldn’t personally place all my affection in a single bird, yes.’ They were both in the bedroom they still shared.
‘You’re at it again, I see,’ responded Luis, turning round. For he was at the window, watching Malgorata pruning some bushes with secateurs.
The German came gradually nearer. ‘Did she look at you, at least?’ he asked with typical Germanic scorn.
‘It is jealousy, pure and simple,’ Luis remarked, ‘you blighted New Australian without a girl. Hungry bloke.’
‘Be practical, old boy!’ was all Heribert answered.
‘If you knew what’s to love a woman,’ Luis said, with habitual self-sufficency.
‘Better to love two, three, four women… you learn more that way, yes,’ the other sneered. ‘Since you’re so haughty, I’ll show you something if you come with me one day to a party in Double Bay.’
‘What? Who invites me?’
‘I invite you. I’ll show you my girl. A pretty bird, if ever there is one. And non of your Slavonic shits, by the way. A real Walkyrie, yes!’
‘Is she German, then?’ Luis asked, and without giving Heribert a chance to reply, he went on: ‘Then, you will be thinking to take her back to Cologne when you leave, next month, ain’t it? I’ve seen you crossing out the days in your calendar.’
The other came nearer screwing up his features. ‘Not at all, man. She’s married, and very happily so. The husband is a potentate, one of them captains of industry, yes. You should see their mansion in Rose Bay, two-storeyed, columnated porch, frenchwindows all around, and balconies on the two upper floors; immense grounds almost like a park, and very near the sea.’
‘Have you seen the property, then?’ asked Luis in astonishment.
‘I go there quite often. A favourite of the husband, too. Tell you what, come with me next Saturday, and I’ll introduce her to you. She’s never known a Spaniard, she says: thinks you must be dark-skinned, hot-blooded, all that. And another thing, I’ll introduce you to the husband too. You may find him useful in your career, my little lawyer.’
It was agreed they would meet in town on Saturday, and would catch a bus together in Macquarie Street. Sir Reginald Greene (the husband) was giving one of those sumptuous parties for which he was famous. It was one of those social gatherings where folks drink endlessly, standing up, chatting about nothing in particular, touching only and that superficially the most anodyne subjects, the same things being said over and over again by all sorts of people with the same modulated brain power. A score of people engaged in eating and drinking, standing up in little groups, each guest holding a glass in one hand, something to eat in the other, while the smiling host and hostess plus one or two intimate friends moved about from group to group making sure that everybody is enjoying himself or herself.
Luis Galvao has been introduced to the couple. About ten years age difference between husband and wife . He saw the beautiful being led by the arm out into the garden through one of the french-windows. Taller even than Heribert, who was himself a handsome German fellow.
‘Enjoying yourself, Mr. Gallway?’
‘Yes, M… Sir Reginald.’
The two moved into an L-shaped room, where most guests were congregated. Noisy too. ‘Now, what would you like for a drink?’ the host asked one of them. ‘Louise love, what will you have?’ ‘Well…?’ ‘Gin-n-tonic, dear, or vodka-n-orange, whisky-n-soda, brandy-n-ginger ale, rum-n-coke, you name it?’ Without interfering with the servants, who moved quietly about, handing around trays of tiny sandwiches (pâté, salmon, caviar), Sir Reginald Greene passed from group to group.
A servant with a marked Aussie accent comes to lonely Galvao: ‘Like another drink, sir?’ Or the Valkyrie herself (who has reappeared, but not Heribert.) ‘What can I offer you, Sissy?’ ‘You alright, Kim?’ ‘So pleased ye could come, Gladys and John!’
In one of the groups, made up exclusively of male elements, a bloke of about forty is relating his exploits with unnamed individuals of the opposite sex. ‘’And now, listen to this… a devil of a woman she was… and she wasn’t such a fright after all… well, no! I’d say she was tolerably good-looking, ha! ha!… (there is that accompanying roar of laughter.) Well, I say… You know, I didn’t perform… devil of a fucking bastard! Maybe I didn’t feel like it. No sexual chemistry between me and her after all.‘’ The laughter bursts out afresh and then another guy, dressed in immaculate white and quite refined, starts to tell his adventure. Luis Galvao moves away.
At a certain stage of the celebrations (for sir Reginald is celebrating a big success in a certain speculation which has brought him ‘a cool million’) the dolls begin to withdraw to some suitable corners in order to talk more freely of their things, the guys’ bawling out all the time, telling idiotic jokes, stamping their feet and making those aggressive gestures.
Luis Galvao moves on, is stopped by a servant. ‘Shall I fill your glass?’ ‘Scotch, please.’ ‘And how would you like it?’ ‘Neat, please.’ ‘On the rocks?’ ‘Oh yes, on the rocks.’ Afterwards he joins a group composed exclusively of young ladies.
A cloud of tobacco smoke envelops the few things still visible in the pervading darkness of the room. Two people are dancing. A bearded young man, shaking like an epileptic, with an apathetic young woman, who however follows him with absolute precision like a mechanical doll. Modern music comes from the ceiling.
‘Oh, hold it!’ Galvao protests; for somebody is filling his glass again. He hears a woman’s voice. ‘Beg yer pardon?’ ‘You a friend of the house?’ ‘Well, a friend of a friend.’ ‘A friend of Hildegard’s?’ ‘Ah, yes.’ A pretty doll joins in the conversation. ‘New Australian?’ ‘That’s correct. Aye!’ ‘You Italian, why don’t you write about Itie migrants?’ ‘I know what you mean; eating spaghetti. Pure rubbish, my pretty one. Besides I’m Spanish.’ ‘Olé, torero!’
Through a cloud of smoke, Galvao sees the two dancers in the middle of the floor, still shaking convulsively this way and that, sometimes coming together, other times drawing away from one another, now bending forward so that their foreheads almost touch; then towards one side; towards the other; now squatting, their shoulders quivering, their faces grimacing, and all the while moving their arms backwards and forwards, elbows rigid, on and on.
Another pretty bird talks to him, and in a moment, another three. They are all about thirty to thirty-two, and, but for the perfume and sometimes the tint of their hair, all very much alike, both physically and mentally. Still holding his glass with some whisky, he exchanges some words with the women, here and there.
‘Shall I fill your glass to cheer you up?’ ‘Ritee oh! I need cheerin’ up.’ ‘Of course, a little sip of this gives one some nerve to go on,’ ‘What is it?’ ‘Pimm’s.’ ‘Lemme first put me lips to yer drink a’ see.’ ‘Just now Luis has young ladies all around him. Large drooping eyes and black hair that sticks upwards like the spines of a porcupine; or glittering platinum blond. ‘Allow me to drink yer health, Lewis! Is that the nime?’ ‘Ye a friend o’ Hildegard’s?’ ‘Actually, a friend o’ a friend.’ ‘I see.’’
As he comes out into the corridor in search of the bathroom, the intensity of the neon light, by contrast with the previously pervading twilight, makes his poor eyes blink. He opens a door at random and sees two persons making love on a couch. ‘Sorry!’ he mutters, shifting away. In two contiguous narrow doors he sees stylised designs: one is a little girl sitting on a chamber pot; the other one, a male toddler urinating holding his willy with both hands. He opens the appropriate door and steps inside. Three Pekinese puppies, that probably were asleep, jump out of a feather-cushioned wicker-basket as the light is switched on and run shakily toward the intruder, yapping. Galvao kicks them aside and for the next few moments the pets are at his feet, six shiny beady eyes fixed on him, three insignificant bodies trembling like electric toys.
And length he finds the way out, and breathes in the pure evening air, resting his tired head back on the palm of one hand, while in the other he still hold his glass with some whisky. A prussian-blue sky resplendent with stars, a colourful jacaranda tree in the light of a spherical garden lamp. Oh, such a splendid night! And the feeble sound of music, rising and falling in monotonous style, coming from the house in waves, as he wanders in a sort of shrubbery where from time to time he glimpses passing shadows, solitary beings or amorous couples.
A lozenge-shaped swimming pool with a naked woman showing her exquisite forms on the shining surface of the water. It’s actually an inflated rubber balloon.
From the shouts and peals of laughter, coming from the garage, and the pungent smell of burned meat that blows to the path on which he is now walking, he understands there is another party going on in that part of the property. He approaches the immense garage step by step.
‘Hellish pump !’ he hears a scream. Another voice is heard, replying: ‘Fuckin’ pump works fair dinkum!’ A hysterical cry. ‘My foot!’ ‘Like hell, it does!’ ‘Works marvellously’. Some stamping of heavy footwear is heard, like bestial dancing. ‘Nothing of the kind!’ A sudden fight crops up. ‘Pump, he syes! Shit!’ ‘You bastard! why I repeat it does fuckin’ well’ ‘Shit, lika-fuckin’bust, you wait!’ Three men with half-a-pint glasses in their hands; some movement inside the garage: and out ‘Fuckin’ bastard o’a fuckin’ keg!’ ‘Shake, man!’ ‘Stye there, yer fuckin’ bastards!’ ‘Any fuckin’how a bloody good drop, I sye!’ ‘My word!’ ‘Jesus Christ!’
As Luis Galvao comes nearer there is like a mild explosion and a piercing cry, and he sees two guys emerging from behind the shrubbery splitting their sides with laughter: jets of frothing beer now shooting up into the air, uncontrollably.
‘Told you!’ ‘Fuckin’ mess of a fuckin’ keg of bloody beer!’ ‘Bastards! They’ve cheated me this time, the rogues!’ And Sir Reginald Greene in person is now rushing into the shed, where the keg has burst, at full speed, screeching.
At the same time a young fellow squeezes out through the narrow back entrance, thoroughly drenched with foaming liquid. ‘Keg exploding on me! Crissake!!’ he yells, amid much laughter. And the fun goes on.
‘Well done, Keith!’ Sir Reginald said, ‘I know your great value.’
For the shower of beer has now stopped. Yet, the boss too comes out half wet, though triumphant, exultant with the exploit. ‘Never mind!’ he shouts, with military dignity. ‘No use crying over spilt milk.’
‘Spilt ale!’ cries a joker.
‘They’ve brought me a bad keg this time, the bastards! Bruce, you will see to it on Monday. Now, bring out the bottles, double quick! And let everyone have a bite of something, too.’ A big cardboard box full of bottles is brought out from a fridge in the garage. And for the moment they all have another fish to fry.
Galvao thinks nobody has seen him, but he is mistaken. In another moment the master himself is next to him, patting him affectionately on the shoulder. ‘’You a friend of Heribert’s, if I remember rightly?’’ he asks.
‘That’s right, Mr. Greene.’
‘Call me Reg. Yer Lewis?’
‘Luis,’ the great technocrat goes on, ‘polish off that glass and enjoy this middy.’ (For strangely enough Luis Galvao is still holding his glass of whisky.)
For the next quarter of an hour there is only guzzling and drinking, with some belching and a guffaw now and then. Galvao thinks Mr. Greene has forgotten him, but again he is wrong.
‘Tell me, Luis,’ he hears, ‘how d’yer like Australia?’
‘Wonderful, sir…, Reg. Lovely land, generous people, plenty of everything.’
‘Right you are, plenty o’ everything!’ Sir Reginald exclaims, vehemently. ‘It is a good country, dammit! ‘S’good as any and much better than many. Ye agree?’
‘O’course. I couldn’t agree more. Plentifully… good ov every thin’, yeah…’
‘Plenty o’ everything, you say. Full of windows of opportunities.’
‘You are right, hip!.’
‘Opportunities, sir, at this point of time in particular. Immense wealth, comfort. What d’yer do for a living, Luis?’
‘Studying, I mean… I’m in the Law. Just beginning… a lawyer.’
‘Are you?! Great! Splendid opportunities for lawyers. No doubt you’ve already found out. For lawyers and for many others, Hip! Business. A most respectable rate of investment. I’m an entrepreneur!’ Reg shouts. ‘Ye a man of property?’
‘Well, no. Not really.’
‘What?!’ growls the technocrat, getting redder in the face.
The other elements of the party, who have come and crowd around the guru, and are looking at the New Australian, also express their wonderment: Not a man of property! one with a growl, another with a subdued laugh, and the rest with grimaces or guffaws. Like their women, they all look alike, somewhat younger than the boss, but made entirely of the same stuff. Well educated men all of them. Sir Reginald Greene is a hard-featured man of about fifty or fifty-two, tall and big-bellied, with abundant black hair and a stern keen eye.
‘Splendid opportunities, yes,’ says someone who wishes to ingratiate himself with the great man.
‘Plenty of job opportunities,’ adds another sycophant.
‘Continuous productivity increase,’ comments a third.
‘You’ve said it, Keith, dear. Good on you! Now the question is,’ growls the great technocrat, turning to view the whole assembly. ‘Will this growth continue to be satisfactory in the long run? My own view – I’m an optimist – is that it will. Anyhow, I’ve decided, after long and due consideration, to invest this coming year in mining. Broken Hill. Equities. There is the rub!’
‘A bit risky,’ Luis ventures to say, not knowing exactly what he says or why.
‘Nonsense!’ Sir Reginald rejoins. ‘I’m a decider, sir, and I see opportunities where others see only problems.’
‘My! problems! Ah, yes, hip, mine are of another nature. I think…’ starts Luis . His mind is miles away, for he is thinking of women… Malgorata – Margaret… he hasn’t yet solved the dilema. He is a frustrated ‘family man’. They… these Aussies around wouldn’t see him here, if he had a wife, a family to stay with…
But the great man stops his reverie short. ‘Oh, Jesus Christ!’ he exclaims, touching him ‘You said a minute ago… you think that…. Don’t think, man! We need men of action, numbers… Think! You Luis, you’re unbelieveable!’
‘But, unbelieveable is only an adjective…’
‘…which qualifies something… an unbelievable story, need… the noun, hip!’
‘Nonsense, Luis! Let’s have another beer.’
‘A person says some…thing believable… but he himself is neither believable nor un… unbelieveable,’ Galvao insists.
‘Stuff and nonsense!’
After a drinking pause, Mr. Greene goes on, patronisingly: ‘Luis, I’ll show you a manual later on, when… when’ee go inside. Mining, you said? Good… good prospects. Operations have turned out to be quite… quite fascinating. Yes, very exciting deals! I’ll show you, I’ll show you. You’ve to take the plunge, man, if you wish to invest.’ (Turning to the whole audience and his voice gaining strength): ‘I’ve lived in America!’ And again patting the New Australian: ‘Yer old Europe is a thousand light-years behind, believe me. Another beer?’ And after some further eating and drinking: ‘Ah, here it is… Broken Hill.’ He shows a paper during another drinking pause: ‘You were saying, Luis?’
‘No. I was simply… simply wondering.’
‘It’s forbidden to wonder. Deeds, Luis, is what the world requires at this moment of time. I’m a practical man, sir, and as a practical man at the end of the day I want to see results, balance sheets, pounds, shillings and pence!’
‘You see, Reg, I ain’t pragmatical… that I know. I am, I am… simply a wretched… man of letters.’
With a terrific guffaw, which is followed by the usual accompanying laughs, Sir Reginald explains to the audience: ‘Letters!? Why, he’s making me laugh. Be positive, man, be positive. Numbers, numbers, numbers, pleaeee…ssse! Look at me. I’ve invested myself most decidedly on the future. Finance, Industry. There is a market for everything. You a lawyer, you said?’
‘Well, but …’
‘No, I’m not asking yer that. How much money d’you command?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Now, have another drink.’
Another large carton of bottles has been brought out. And for the moment that is the Sacred Cow they all devote themselves to most religiously. For their thirst for beer is never quenched. Cold beer, at that: for it has come out from a fridge in the garage. One, two, three… twenty bottles have already been consumed. Best quality. As they like it: numbers, marks, symbols and market values. And as with all fundamentalisms, here too, the guru has to impart some knowledge. Lifting one bottle he talks about quality, good quality, all that money can buy.
‘You were saying, Luis, now, about thinking, hip!, how much is it worth, say, that thinking of yours? What I say to you is, facts, sir, gimme facts. Be positive.’
‘Well, I fear…’
‘What! There’s no need, at this moment of time, to fear any downturn. A healthy environment, good salaries, good rents and profits. No need to panic.’
‘I’ve heard a squeeze in the economy is coming.’
‘Nonsense! On the contrary,’ the great man goes on, smacking his lips, ‘we are looking at a long period of expansion. Hip! That economic slowdown of which we heard last month is bottoming out. And I see progress coming. Growth, sir, growth! Consumers’ expectations. Unlimited possibilities. The long and the short of it is…
‘You’ve got productivity growth in all branches of activity.The smart citizen grows rich and thrives; the uncouth die and are forgotten.’
‘There is chaos and anarchy.’
‘There’s where the error lies,’ Sir Reginald growls. ‘Not at all, Luis. Satisfying… Investor in the form of paying out dividends will see to it. The invisible hand of the economy, hip!, sees to all that. Paying money to investors. Progress, productivity numbers, d’you understand? Now, boys, let’s go back, the girls must be getting bored.’
All the guys now get on the move, bawling at one another. The boss, who has decided to patronise poor Galvao, passes his long arm round his shoulder and leads the way to the house, adding some bits of advice here and there.
‘You say, Luis, about investing,?’ he says as soon as they are in the house, ‘now that’s the sixty-seven million dollar question, my friend. What I won’t hesitate to tell you, at this point of time, is this: computers, sir, computers, there is the future. We are entering an entirely new era.’ (For the Spaniard, who has no idea about computers, mum’s the word.) ‘And credit, you see… I’ve already told you this, hip! And now mark my words, how are we going to become sure winners in an age of computers and credit? Now you tell me!’
He really likes Galvao. Giving him a friendly pat on the shoulder, Sir Reginald adds solemnly: ‘You see, in every aspect of every situation we must try to adopt a system, Luis, which ensures optimisation of results. We live in a free world.’
In the twilight of the large L-shaped room when the guys entered the house the dolls were in fact so bored as to be nearly asleep, seated as they were in comfortable armchairs, sofas and cushions, all around. The music was still going on, but no one was dancing. A guy then ceremoniously approached one of the sleeping beauties, pulled her up by both hands, and they started dancing. Others followed suit. The butler had in the meantime brought a cardboard box, and soon there were balloons of all sizes, shapes and colours everywhere, particularly on the floor, among the dancers, or floating up and sticking to the ceiling. One of the young ladies inadvertently pierced one of the balloons with her stiletto heel and there was a minor explosion. The men laughed, the women giggled. Whereupon a young man, who had something of the buffoon in him, stuck the lit-end of his cigarette upon a phallus-shaped red balloon, and there was another explosion, and then another guy, and another cigarette and another balloon blown to pieces, followed by another, and another… ‘Boom!’ ‘Boom!’ ‘Boom!’ It was an extraordinary moment. To see the pretty faces so frightened, eyes opened wide with excitement and admiration while their rounded pouting mouths looked pretty like appetising red cherries!
Only Luis and Reginald aren’t partaking of the general enjoyment.
‘You’ll find it all in here, Luis, in… he…here,’ said the great man, handing over an expensively printed booklet. ‘Yyerrr can keep it… There are exciting opportunities for those, and.. and only f…for those, who know how to conduct themselves…, I mean … h..how… how to conduct themselves.’
‘O’course… mining… hip! What d’yer… think? That is, mining. But… I warn you, as in all business… you must take a very robust approach… a very robust approach… or… or it won’t work. Another whisky?’
‘Thank’eee… Couldn’t hold another drop.’
‘Or… orr, what can I serve you?’
‘Ooooh! No… thing, nothing reel... reeeel-ly.’
‘What can I do for… for you, then? As for… for an investment, Luis… I recommend you to invest your… yourself in… in the task. Follow me? You… We’re talking about… about results… business… this moment of time… as good a one as money can… can buy. You see? Now, please, don’t say no… You must take a pull at this! …from …mmm-bia.’
‘I’ve never smoked in my life.’
‘This is dif… different.’
‘Oa… oak… keeey, le… lemme, thanks!’
‘Now I must under…line this for… for your good… goood. Tell me, what are your views on… on the subject, eh? Printed a week ago… mm..mining. See… are finding it fascinating. Pray, you keep it…. Take it with you…. Hey!’
A servant passes by, and their glasses are filled again.
‘Yerrr seeee, Reg…, what I meenter say… no ques… question of my….’
Sir Reginald looks at his now intimate and very tired friend with a look of surprise. ‘That’s beside the point, Lu… Luis. Liberate your potentials, man.’
‘Earn two hund… two tootoo thousand a year plus, man. You… you can do.’
‘Millions…, sir, yer… yer mean?’
‘Oh yes, mmm… millions. Yer glass is emmm… pty.’
‘Well, orright sir… sir… Sir Reg, just pour one… finger. Oooh, hold it!’
‘A… very… extra… ordinary occ… occasion, I’m tellin’ you. Hip!’
‘Yeah… a verrrry… ord… dinarextroc… casion diiinarrrycation.’
‘Oo! Haw… haw! Yer funny! A very extra..remarkable oc… occurrence, that one, dear Luis… which has occ… occurred to yeerrr.’
He was awakened by a horrible scratching noise and found he was lying on a tiger skin utilised in that sumptuous residence as a rug (he had been embracing the tiger’s head when he awoke.) All his body was aching, his heart was throbbing, his head about to split. Sitting up, he sees he is in a large L-shaped room. The place is full of sunlight and the frenchwindows are open, but the horrible smell of nicotine and ladies’ perfume is there.
Scattered about on the floor lay rubber or plastic particules of all colours, and now Luis remembered the explosions of the night before. Balloons, many balloons bursting all the time, and the handsome guys and painted dolls of Sir Reginald Greene’s party: everywhere, on the carpet, the tables, the chairs, the sofas, mantlepieces… bottles lying about… vodka, whisky, wine, gin… and on the coffee-table on which Luis puts his hand in a moment to stand up. He falls to a sitting position upon an armchair and when he finally moves on, he has to close his eyes and remain stockstill for a minute to avoid tumbling down.
After a while he realises he has lost his tie and jacket, and moves around in search of them: opening a sort of pantry or dressing-room he sees a record-player with a record turning round and round, but no music. It was the scratching of the needle on the record that he heard when he awoke. It probably had been going all the time since the end of the party in the early hours.
At length he comes out into a long corridor, hanging his jacket with one hand from his shoulder. The sound of running water directs him towards a door which he opens, and as he steps inside he sees the face of a red-haired woman emerging from a rose-marble bath overflowing with a quantity of snow-white suds. He cannot help it, and next moment he is urinating in a corner of the room; three pekinese dogs are barking and frisking at his feet.
‘Eh you!’ he hears, ‘Behave, yes!’ The woman, no longer young, has firm round breasts and large sensual lips. Water is dripping down her long red hair.
Luis mumbles something, buttoning his trouser front, and she bursts out laughing, her dainty pointed foot emerging from inside the white foam, then the other foot. Luis Galvao loses his trousers altogether, which falls on the carpeted floor.
A generous female body, bronze-coloured and handsome, shaking off suds all over, white pearls firstly, which then leave black circular marks on the carpet.
‘Now, don’t stand there like a scarecrow,’ she calls out. ‘Shut the door and pass me a towel, yes?’
Dumbfounded Luis pushes the door shut, and gets hold of a towel, which he is going to hand to the Valkyrie, while three Pekinese puppies jump forward yelping and showing their little fangs. And Luis Galvao begins to dry the beauty’s back, caressing her shoulders with the towel, the small of the back, the sublime rounded buttocks and the thighs. He passes the tip of one finger along the entrancing borderline where the bronze of her shoulders meets the milky-white of her breasts, pressing the nipples caressingly, and she writhes with pleasure. Not being a practical man he totters to the floor, when she falls on him and they begin to make love.
Just then, the bathroom door is flung open and in steps a tall, big-bellied man, kicking his way about and shouting. ‘Hildegard! I’ve told you! Not in the bathroom! There’s a place for everything!’
Upon which he proceeds to punish the insolent intruder, snatching him by the sleeves of his shirt (which is the only thing he is still wearing), shaking him and forcibly leading him out of the bathroom. And the mythical Valkyrie, knowing she has infringed the law, does nothing to save her lately-arrived lover from her husband’s wrath. She stands naked in a corner, with the three pets silently frisking about her legs. Sir Reginald Greene, never letting go of his victim, opens the front door and throws him like a rag upon the dewy lawn.
‘My belongings, sir?’ Galvao asks, pleadingly.
The door opens again, and trousers, shoes and glasses come flying out.
‘And my jacket!’
Through an open frenchwindow now come tie and jacket, and a yell: ‘Sir, leave my property at once. I insist upon it!’
It was a tired downtrodden Luis Galvao that began moving on, that Sunday morning, all along New South Head Road, not knowing what to do or where to go. In the end he just walked to the nearest public garden, lay down on the buffalo grass and fell into a slumber, more convinced now than ever that he was not made for this world. He would never fit anywhere. One of those poor creatures for whom nothing ever would turn out right, an odd number whom god or nature have officially designed as redundant, worthy only of being thrown into that hole which some call the dustbin of history and forgotten for evermore,
He spent most of that Sunday on a promontory overlooking the cove of Rose Bay, watching the yachts sailing in and out; others going directly out of the great bay of Sydney into the ocean, for Rose Bay is quite near the Heads. And there, in the park, at the other end of the lawn, two separate groups of immigrants were picnicking. In one of them, some of the men played the accordion and the rest of the party were dancing; and in the other group there was a guitar player, and both men and women were singing and clapping their hands.
Luis Galvao left the place when one of groups began to make preparations for eating and drinking, roasting an entire little pig in a stand they have built, away from the euchalyptus trees, but still quite dangerously. The evening was mild and pleasant. The air was full of the scent of the flowers blossoming in the gardens of the properties on both sides of the avenue. Just before the bus stop he saw a fountain with a pump. He worked the handle a couple of times, and thrusting his head under the spout, his mouth wide open, let the water gush upon his face and head, until he no longer felt that itchy dryness which had been troubling him since the morning. He ran to catch a bus which was going to the town centre.
Luckily Heribert was not in the room; for he would have hated to enter into conversation with his fellow-lodger concerning Rose Bay, Mr. Greene, and in particular the handsome Valkyrie.