A sentimental journey through Sydney, seven
Australia, British dominion, drew its people from the start from the British Isles. During WorldWar 2 US defended it from Japanese invasion. Then came migrants from Continental Europe: White Australia policy; Herein portrait of Sydney during fifties
A sentimental journey through Sydney, seven
Fernando García Izquierdo
There were at that time, in the first colony founded in Australia by the British, a town called Sydney, a smaller town named Manly, at the entrance of the immense bay, and half a dozen other settlements to the south of said town.
On the north of Sydney town, there was the immense, immensely beautiful bay which had been discovered, half a century earlier, by Captain Cook.
The settlements on the south were convict barracks and are nowadays inner suburbs: Surry Hills, somewhat towards the west, and entirely to the south Pyrmont, Glebe, Haymarket, Forest Lodge and Ultimo.
Today’s boundless Sydney, of course, is an entirely different proposition. It is above all a wealthy place: enterprising people, profitable property, expanding free market, innovation, prospects galore. Immigrants arriving all the time, mainly attracted, like in yesteryears, by the usual glitter and promise of a better life to come. Helped, once there, by agents, contractors and activists all around, they all soon become men of property, with a mortgage.
The state of nature lies well behind, civilisation having gradually and grandly taken over. On the political side, there are of course individuals who will devote their lives to the preservation of nature, as yesterday their ancestors worked for deforestation.
More to the point, there are lots of real estate development corporations working actively. So many and so powerful that citizens, including New Australians, have the freedom to chose as they like. And there will be more real estate to purchase tomorrow.
However, it is not of today’s developments and estates (or the capitalist entanglement generally) that I purport to write today; nor of yesterday’s colonising endeavours. My interest herein lies in the Sydney and the Sydneysiders of the late fifties.
Luis Galvao was in a rather taciturn mood when Mr. Sheldon Pariente entered his office to say good-bye. He had been thinking of the uselessness of all his efforts, specially in love, while quietly revising some the files recently passed on to him, his senior colleague no longer being a member of the Sydney firm. The two men sat opposite one another.
‘Time flies,’ Sheldon said, ‘who would have thought, when we were purchasing that Neutral Bay property, which I’ve just put in the hands of The Prudential Trustees Limited, we would be leaving so soon?.’
‘I know,’ Galvao answered, ‘Helena told us, Kurraba Road. She loved it.’
Pariente said that in the end they had decided they could not be bothered with agents. ‘It had been decided,’ he repeated, ‘we’ve to leave now, and let the trustee company deal with it.
‘Yes,’ Luis said, ‘specially… the partnership in New York needs you.’
‘Well, it’s done. Luis, I came to say, we’re leaving on Saturday. Perhaps you’ll make it to New York one day. I won’t say any more. I know there is a blank in your life. We both understand your suffering. Loving her like our own daughter.’
‘How is Mrs. Pariente?’ Galvao rushed to ask.
‘Helena is okay. These are hectic days for both of us. I wouldn’t have believed it. We have disposed these days of so many things. Sending the luggage by ship, of course. Enough to fill a container. Exhausting. Then it’s always sad to leave. Why, Sydney is such a beautiful place, and we’ve made many good friends,’
Sheldon went on, trying to touch his friend’ s desolate ear, cheer him up.
‘Luis I’d like you to say goodbye to Helena. She loves her and you, so much.’
‘Would it be alright if I went down to the airport?’
‘Of course. My wife, you see, can’t come down, so very few days left. She’ll like to talk to you, I’m assured. The plane leaves very early on Saturday morning.’
‘I shall be there.’
As soon as he was alone, Luis Galvao began writing a letter to Manuel Suárez, who had no access to a telehone line at work. For it so happened that his Spanish friend had invited him to a tavern meal in a public house at Haymarket on Saturday. He explained in his letter that a friend of his was leaving from Mascot that same Saturday, early morning. ‘I am writing,’ Luis concluded, ‘in case anything causes a delay, but I’ll try to be there in good time.’
At lunch-hour Luis walked down, with the letter in his pocket, to post it at once and make sure his friend received it as soon as possible. He ambled along George Street, so full of Sydneysiders at that hour, looking at the pretty girls in mini-skirts fulfilling their usual tasks at noon, striding along so beautifully, going in and out of WOOLWORTHS, COLES and others. When coming back from the G.P.O., he too went into a store, bought a packet of sandwiches and a tin of GOLDEN CIRCLE pineapple-juice and went back, plannjng to have lunch at his office.
On Saturday, when the taxi from the airport left Galvao on Little Pier Street, he found himself in a busy working-class district of low cottages, with no front garden or area-railing; some falling in decay or in a state of disrepair; some with an added bay-window, painted brick façades, fibrocement-covered verandas, corrugated-iron roofs and iron or brick smokeless chimneys.
To his surprise, Luis saw his friend in heated discussion with a tall handsome policeman, who held a notebook ready in his left hand, Manuel protesting and touching the policeman on the other hand, in which he held a biro. This increased the policeman’s bad temper. Luis went up to them to make his presence known and find out what was wrong. Manuel said the policeman wanted to make him pay a fine for no reason; and turning round to face the man again: ‘Sir, I assure you,’ he said, one finger now on his chest, ‘the Ford Falcon’s perfectly parked.’
To his friend’s annoyance Luis advised him to pay the fine and be done with it. It was only a few bob.
It had to be said that the little lane and all the streets, lanes and alleyways around, were badly congested with cars, carts, waggons and motor-vehicles of all sorts, without counting the movement of the crowd, the number of wooden boxes and other containers with produce which were piled in the corners.
‘He says I’ve parked badly,’ Manuel insisted, lifting one arm and puffing.
In the other hand, he now held a paper which he read. ‘Not parallel to the pavement. Now, what d’ye say to that? And he doesn’t even know how to spell parallel.’ Pointing with his finger to the fine. ‘Goodness me!’
‘Sir,’ the man interrupted nervously, also getting red on the face, ‘and not only that. Go on reading. Your car is two feet away from the pavement. You’re occupying too much space, on a market day.’
Luis noticed the Ford’s backseat was full of fruits and vegetables in baskets and boxes. He repeated his advice, gripping his friend’s arm and pushing him on, away from the officer. ‘This happens to all car proprietors,’ he said.
Soon the two stepped into the public house, where the tavern meal was to be had, sat at one of the unoccupied tables, drinking. Manuel began to smoke.
‘Why don’t you too try to smoke one of these?’ he suggested. ‘I see you’re still depressed. How is life treating you at Kirribilli?’
‘The home-unit is alright. Roomy, in any case.’
‘You need a room companion.’
‘Correct! A girl-companion.’
Manuel laughed heartily, holding his belly and coughing. ‘I called you, dear Luis,’ he said, calming down, ‘I’d like you to say bye-bye to my dear Nino; I know you aren’t fond of him, but he likes you. You never made an effort to understand the dear boy.’
‘I shall be there,’ Luis replied, curtly. ‘You know Heribert will be also on the S.S. Himalaya.’
‘I’ll fetch you at your office, to make sure you won’t default.’ Manuel laughed again; then, finishing his beer and putting out his cigarette in the ash-tray, he looked up. A tall young man was standing between their table and the kitchen one could glimpse beyond the bar. The fellow had not moved from his post since he brought the jug of beer, staring and wondering what kind of men these two might be. He now responded to a sign from Manuel, bringing two greasy white dishes, two huge healthy-looking steaks with a fried egg on top, surrounded by an extraordinary amount of peas perfectly round and shiny green.
While they were enjoying their meal Manuel mumbled something about a Spanish Club being created. So that Spanish migrants might be able to come together of a Sunday, just as the Italians were doing in Leichhardt. He asked his friend to join the group.
Galvao was generally a man that took rapid decisions, and though he hardly danced he like to invite girls... pasodoble, Latin music. But here, he hesitated.
‘You should, you know, if you want to be recognised as a founding member,’ Manuel added, ‘in years to come. Absolutely.’
‘Years to come,’ Luis murmured, but without intending to mock his friend.
‘Besides, my dear Luis,’ the other concluded, holding him by the wrist, ‘you could be a great help, now and once the Club becomes a reality… and important posts have to be filled up. You could give me a push, my pretty boy, my candidature, I mean, for I am going to try for the presidency, that sort of thing.’
Luis had never been a busybody, waste of time sort-of-thing. ‘You know,’ he hesitated, ‘I don’t have much time left now I own this flat in a big house: property implies some duties; then the job, studies and you know I like to read.’
After a few more minutes conversation, it was time for them to say goodbye for the present, for although it was Saturday, Manuel did work that afternoon at the university. He was supervising the cleaning of the stables, thus combining job with studies.
Once in the street, Manuel Suárez got quickly into his Ford-Fiesta, and asked. ‘Luis, shall I drive you somewhere?’
‘Oh, no!’ Luis replied, ‘I’ve nothing much to do for the rest of the day, and adore ambling about.’
After accomodating his big body on his seat, he got out a golden packet of ‘Benson & Hedges’, and offered his friend a cigarette.
Whereupon Manuel got out a gold lighter and began to smoke. His friend saw him driving away, turning round the Hay Street corner. Then Luis Galvao moved among the thick crowd coming out of the market, observing the Sydneysiders as well as the homely prospect of houses, stores, small empty workshops, smokeless chimneys, the flying cumulus and the sky.
He was letting his feet direct his steps, in his mind his beautiful girlfriend, no longer with him. Eventually he reached George Street. At Central Railway square he caught a bus that took him down to an ocean beach. He often went to that beach with Malgorata of a Saturday.
… it was the hour when we lay sunbaking side by side; those were happy days, a perfectly circular bay with a forest reserve at either end and yellow sands in between which, on other occasions, we observed with our arms on the parapet, dreaming. In her swimmers, she jumped, my lovely wife, on to the sand, and ran, so much like a perfect goddess.
… today I was following from the parapet the calls and wanderings of a family of four near the water’s edge. He is tall, has a broad brow, black hair and marked features; his young wife is slim, very pretty and a little above average height for women. So softly sun-tanned and glowing hair blond and pure, under the perfectly blue sky.
… they are plodding on the sands, flying a kite. The younger of the two kids has just grabbed the cord of the kite from the elder one, and - oh, bad luck! now the kite is flying high and away in the blue sky, towards New Zealand. There has been a slight altercation between the two and the little girl is weeping miserably.
… at once the parents run to console their girls, and with them, respectively, in their arms, man and woman come together. Raising herself a little, looking into his face, she kisses him. For me, it is only a reverie: that pretty face, that wavy blond hair. Twice I’ve loved that very person, once in England, long ago.
One lovely Autumn day, when the sky was exquisitively blue and the sea, though inviting, probably fairly cold, Luis Galvao walked in his grey flannel suit, his black attaché-case balancing in his right hand, past George Street and past Circular Quay towards Bennelong Point, observing while he went the misery and splendour of Australian life. Satisfied that the building of the Opera House was proceeding, he sat on a rock, his eyes for the moment fixed on the ferries floating by towards Manly or the other towns and suburbs of the north. After a while, he placed the atttaché-case on his knees, opened it with a little key and got out a packet of sandwiches and a thermos full of tea.
In the afternoon he received an unexpected visit at his office, Heribert Wormser, his friend and former room-companion. He was accompanied by a dark-eyed gentleman he thought he recognised but could not attach a name to the face, until Wormser said: ‘Sir Reginald Greene!’
Among other things, the celebrated Rose Bay multibillionaire was an inventor. He wanted Luis Galvao, and particularly his New York principals, to help him to maximise profits as the registered proprietor of the corresponding patent. In a world of currency-circulation control, two sets of financiers in different countries often got together ‘to exploit’ their patents to maximise results the way one squeezes a lemon to extract all the juice. A patent is an intellectual property and therefore rare are the individuals that can attach exact prices to them. Within the realm of miracles, it is seen, on the other hand, that an ‘innovation’ that is not worth a penny, under a regime of successful capitalism, a set of celebrated crooks can pass on, from one country to another, with great formality, ‘one such innovation’ (of absolutely no value.) The gist of the deal lies in that in the meantime two or three million dollars have changed hands. That is changing geographical position, chasing interest rates, currency revaluations. I am talking to you quite frankly. About a dozen laws, international and municipal, have to be infringed. But this legally, you who are a lawyer know, always acting under our Law. ‘Nothing easier,’ said Luis Galvao, calmly, ‘our Manhattan principals will deal with it, We have the perfect lawyer for that in Chicago, Illinois.’ When the discussions had been completed and arrangements made for Sir Reginald’s flight to New York or wherever, the Rose Bay celebrity left, and Luis turned to his German friend and said, smiling naturally: ‘Well, Heribert, are you happy? A returning migrant. In a few months, back in Köln. Is that what you wanted?’ ‘Germany’s again a world industrial and economic power, yes,’ Heribert said. ‘West Germany is. Yes, much power. Good country. No secret woe corroding joy and youth.’ Luis replied, solemny. ‘Ja!’ the German was touching his pear-shaped head, cropped flaxen hair. ‘Pyrmont 13,’ Luis uttered, ‘the thirty-first, I shall be there.’ * On the thirty-first day of March, Manuel Suárez was seen entering Caltex House at exactly 5 p.m. when the large ground-floor hall was beginning to get filled with very pretty secretaries and girls from different typing-pools, ‘inter alia’. He dashed towards the sliding doors. Two lifts arrived at the same time and twelve or thirteen people scampered out among those waiting. Manuel rushed to embrace and kiss his Spanish friend Galvao. Luis felt furious. His normally pale face became red like a tomato. In public! To have been seen by everyone with such an individual! To cap it all he had descended in the same lift with his secretary! ‘I was passing the time with a friend who brought me by car from uni,’ Manuel was saying. And Luis was thinking he would not have minded half as much if it were not that Maureen was there, one foot away. What might she have thought? Had he been seen in the arms of that man by the whole world he would not have minded as much. They began the descent to Circular Quay arm-in-arm, and as they were turning the George Street corner, Manuel abruptly parted company from him. The Quay was always full of people, as other times, full of sreet vendors, too, and newspaper boys and carts with exotic fruits. ‘Wait a mommo, dear Luis, I want to buy a dozen kiwis from New Zealand which the big boy adores,’ Manuel called, and as they again joined steps towards the concrete columnade, he continued. ‘I’m so glad you’ll come to his cabin now. You know Nino adores you, but you’re such a disgraceful ballocks. I wonder how people can stick to you, old Mate, or why I love you so much.’ They reached the taxi-stand, agreed they would share the fare and minutes later they were being expertly driven through back streets and avenues to the wharves. ‘Have you heard anything about Malgorata?’ Luis asked, gloomily. ‘Jesus, don’t you know?’ ‘But know what? Explain.’ Whereupon, jovial Suárez told a story about a nuclear accident in the South Australia desert, just a hundred miles north of the Woomera Base. They’re always experimenting’ he commented, ‘only this time a score of Aborigenes were wiped out, all burned alive. Why, didn’t you read it in the papers? A crew of Abos, Walk-abouts as they say. No, nothing to do with logistics sort-of-thing. All was according to plan. Shouldn’t have been walking up there. Absolutely.’ ‘And Malgorata?’ ‘That’s the point. Oh, what a scandal, dear! The old story. Millions had to be spent to cover it up. That well known argument, collateral damage. Journalists were bought and with so much worry and unavoidable confusion discipline, you see, slackened. The imperialists revealed their weakness… well, not even…
‘I repeat, and Malgorata?’ Luis shouted so savagely that the taxi-driver turned and looked round.’ ‘Malgorata absconded with a Lithuanian. They’re flying back to the Soviet Union.’
‘It cannot be. You’re inventing, damned liar!!’ The taxi was then passing through the open steel gates. They alighted on the macadamised road, paid and walked the rest of the way. Majestic, refurbished an newly painted the S.S. Himalaya was seen in the distance in the dark-blue evening air.
* The place, Pyrmont 13. The hour, 7 p.m. The scene, a typical one. A liner is about to depart. On the quay and on the decks of the ship many noisy excited people of all ages. Some are leaving, some are staying behind. Most of them have this in common, they are sad and agitated. The moment of separation has arrived.
In about two hours, S.S. Himalaya will have sailed under the Harbour Bridge, gone the length of the bay to the Heads and on to the ocean. When shall we see one another again, oh dear, oh dear? So many moments of shared happiness, so many things done in common these last two years; now I follow the voice which calls me back to the land of my birth, and leave this wealthy world, this liberty, your friendship. … caught by this sense of mental fatigue, constant contradiction, this weariness, almost like old age, I see this beautiful land, almost surely for the last time. The easy life among these friendly if somewhat sullen people. … while you stay. So many emotions experienced together over the years: the arrival, the initial difficulties, a style of life I came to cherish, the rich surroundings. … and, since the decision to leave, I’ve had no peace of mind. I’m forsaking so many things and friends, turning my back on so many opportunities. Yearning for this return and suddenly this remorse. ‘Oh, blind Fortune! Why are you doing this to me?’ wails a lonesome man that had at last found a girl as his companion who goes away from him. ‘I can’t understand! You leave, and I’m staying behind.’ Oh sadness! And we shall pass the rest of our lives away from one other. That promise of in one year’s time meeting again in Napoli will never be fulfilled, we both know it. Maybe the remembrance will remain. Another returning migrant thinks that soon he’ll be back in the old country and still feels sad: ‘A thorn is about to come out, and perhaps a bigger one will penetrate my flesh still deeper and much more painfully…, a chill that will send me into a misery more profound than anything I have experienced so far.’
For now our best years are left behind, and nothing will replace that energy, that youthful enthusiasm with which we once embarked upon that great adventure; that wonderful enterprise, visiting foreign parts, that wish to roam the earth, sweet home left well behind, in order to discover new places and people… and to conquer! On the quay, a multitude of raised hands, Australian flags and waving handkerchiefs. A profusion of streamers displayed all over and specially above the crowd of visitors saying goodbye on the shore. Off in all directions fly the streamers, from the hands of those on the ship, unrolling down to the keen fingers of those on the pier and viceversa. Some passengers have paper bags full of streamers; they get one out, hold the end of the paper ribbon tightly between thumb and finger, raise their hand and with a skilful flick of the wrist hurl the unwinding serpentine towards their friends on shore down below. ‘There it goes!’ ‘Jump!’ ‘Catch it!’ Multicoloured paper threads, crossing and recrossing each other’s trajectory, more and more of them all the time, all over. Likewise those on the ship do try to catch hold of the end of unrolling streamers coming their way from down below. On the wharf and on the decks vendors move about, yelling out, ‘Oh, streamers, streamers! Who’ll buy my streamers?’ Until a mesh is formed which rather looks like a vault of interwoven paper threads, the end of a streamer now held in every hand. From the fingers of one who is about to leave, returning migrant, to those of a dear one standing on the shore. A woman sighs, a man responds smiling on the shore, the land where he’s found, at last, employment.
‘Behold, beloved one! our last tangible contact, this feeble paper link.’ … an elderly couple returning to Europe after a long stay in New South Wales visiting a son and daughter-in-law who migrated so far away years ago, and getting to know a crew of Aussie grandchildren. Poor oldies! They are quieter than usual. All has passed and gone so very quickly! ‘It’s the last time we see them,’ the old man murmurs, and his little wife, clutching his hand, responds, ‘Time does wear wings.’ Time does fly. And matter turns round and round. Moving, moving, passing on, eternally changing, transforming itself into a new kind of energy… it was… it seemed to be durable, quite essential and… it’s gone, it’s gone.
‘What does life come to?’ a lonely returning migrant on one of the upper decks asks himself, contemplating with sad eyes the scene, the din and tumult, which every moment increases. ‘What then?’ asks a young man; he was brought Down Under as a child, and now he doesn’t know why he’s leaving really. Perhaps adventure. ‘In a month or two I’ll be overthere; shall I find what I’m looking for? How long will I take, I too, to be homesick… the other way round?’ If she, the girl he leaves behind… had he known… he’ll miss so many things, this atmosphere, this exuberant life… The loudspeakers are heard: Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors ashore! For there are still a good many non-travellers on the ship, mainly in the cabins of departing friends. Bottles of sparkling wine ‘Barossa Pearl’ are being opened in profusion to wish ‘bon voyage’… to drink and celebrate God knows what. They are forgetful, the visitors are, they’ve heard the official calls inviting them to leave the liner, and although they know it will cost them dear if they overstay their visit and have to return to port with the pilot in his little boat, they fail to heed the order. ‘Never mind!’ ‘To hell with everything!’ ‘Drink, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’ ‘Come on!’ A final embrace, a hug, a big kiss. ‘When shall we meet again?’ There follows the usual exchange of blessings, messages to be passed on once overthere, mutual promises soon to be forgotten, sudden fears, regrets, expressions of grief and shouts aplenty, cursing fate and destiny. ‘Damn it all!’ ‘What will the future reserve us?’ ‘What shall I do without you, my love?’ They already feel, returning migrants, that once in the native land, solitude once more will be their daily lot, that overthere they will miss the new country tremendously, the Australia they have been railing against for years and which so generously had received them in the first place. Whatever has now made them decide to go back home to suffer fresh, perhaps fatal, disappointment? … when I was a little boy, one summer, my father took us to a port in the north. One day, my brother took me to see the liners arrive from Buenos Aires, Caracas, Havana, New York. Beautiful women descending the gangways
… one night, on the quay there was another sort of people. We watched them from behind the wire fence. ‘They’re emigrants,’ someone muttered, nearby. … it was a crowd of miserable people. They had been there since early morning (our informant added), around a pile of boxes and other luggage. … I wanted to run away. There was a ship in the port, just arrived. There were children playing around the baggage. … one of the two funnels had a whistle sticking out. We suddenly heard two terrible hoots in the air, coming from the ship. … and at once the ‘emigrants’ stood up and began to trail, each one carrying a box or two, suitcases or whatever: the children too carried things. … through my tears (I had not a clue why the tears were running down my cheeks) I saw the gangways full of dark shadows climbing up, climbing… … my brother asked one of the people, standing with us, if he please knew the time? ‘A quarter past nine,’ the man replied. And we ran home. ‘Gangways about to be lifted! Visitors are requested to leave the ship immediately!’ Luis Galvao heard the loudspeakers going on.
There is tumult and confusion on the ship; people rushing out of crowded cabins, hustle and bustle in the corridors and passages; friends and relatives galloping away… and parting lovers are still holding hands near the crowded gangways, those that go and those that stay, so many trembling fingers that cling desperately to the flesh of other hands. A man parts from his wife, a lovely Calabrian girl taking the ‘bambino’ to the ‘nónna’ in their native village. ‘I’ll soon be back, my darling, we shall work together, make money, and perhaps one day… She cannot finish the sentence for tears are choking her, large salty tears: like those of her sturdy husband with a foot already stepping down the gangway. Numerous are those already stumbling down the ship’s gangways, some of them quite drunk. As if there had been anything to celebrate. Coming down, the ‘visitors’ are still singing or blowing some whistles and paper trumpets: like in a party, for that is what had been going on in some of the cabins. And the now furious call, coming from the loudspeakers: ‘We repeat, visitors are requested to leave the ship immediately… we repeat, im – media – te – lyyyyyyy!’ And the man from Calabria now moving rather mechanically, following those that like himself are climbing down to the quay. Everybody has something to do. But Galvao has not moved at all these last few minutes. He has been thinking deeply. The moment of his departure, back in fifty-six. The thought is brought back to him with renewed bitterness: so many associations with things past. Why can’t he be like the rest of humans. Oh, forgetfulness! Won’t it come at last one day? … my English girl so beautiful.That Summer ’53. Yorkshire. Margaret. And she wanted to see the New Year in, 1954. We both saw a Kiev orchestra, from the Soviet Union. The Guildhall. … a Ukrainian violin player so much like my beautiful English fiancée as to be almost the same person. I have told Margaret. I found that violin player beautiful because she looked like her. … she laughed and kissed me. Oh, my Margaret! That summer ’53. Can it be true that we are separated for ever? I’ve dreamt that you are on your way to Sydney to come and live with me. Luis Galvao gazes back at the deck full of people, still trying to rush down the gangways. Again, he sees the Calabrian fellow, notices how he has stopped short in the middle of the descent, gazing at his beloved, with the bambino, that pretty peasant woman waving … Till when? the husband is probably thinking. Will not something change the course of our life? Arrivederci, amata mia! A group of fair-haired youngsters have succeeded in climbing upon a platform by the Customs’ Office, overhanging the pier, they are making a deafening noise, singing in their German language (they are standing on a concrete surface, at the height of the lower deck.) They’ve just hurled up into the air a grotesque sort of streamer made up of old nylon stockings, which they have tied one to another, like a unending string of ‘chorizo’ sausages… unrolling, flying down to the eager fingers of another German youth on the ship. ‘’Catch it !’’ ‘’Well done, Dieter!’’ ‘’Now then, smile !’’ ‘’Goodbye, Dieter!’’ ‘’Have a good trip !’’ And all at the same time, with the full strength of their lungs: ‘’Auf… wieder… sehen, Dieter’’ And a loud shout, ‘’Bye-bye Gunther, Richard… ‘’Auf.. wieder… sehennnnn!’’ ‘’Good luck to you, dear Dieter, goodbye!’’ ‘’See you in Hamburg, Willy…, Helmut…!’’ In the meantime the loudspeakers once more are calling: ‘’We repeat…. Last call…. Gangways about to be withdrawn… All visitors ashore… Visitors are requested to leave the ship im-media-tely, we repeat, im – medi – atelyyyyyyy!’’ There is pandemonium: the pangs of hearts torn asunder; a last-minute feeling of repentance – in some cases cries of utter despair – from those who are no longer sure of anything; the mutual promises at cruel partings; the new prospects ahead; the regrets of those who now think they should have stayed a bit longer, to give Australia a real chance, and perhaps Australia would have reciprocated.
Oh, so many, many doubts and misgivings… and the impossibility of turning the clock back! By now the gangways are thronged with people coming down from the liner SS Himalaya. The railings along the decks facing the pier become still more crowded: bodies bending over, heads above other heads and shoulders, arms outstretched, lifting hats and handkerchiefs, hands still clutching the ends of streamers. And similarly a multitude of friends and relatives ashore just as excited and agitated. From the shore Manuel Suárez gazes amorously at a large young man seen on the lower deck above the shoulders and heads of other returning migrants. My!! Oh, my good boy, my dear dear good boy!! ‘Nino, don’t forget!’ he shouts, cupping his hands around his mouth. He doesn’t know whether to smile or to weep. Smoothing his sleeky hair with the palm of his hand, still waiting for Nino’s reply, he sees the big boy waving sloppily and shouting something which he cannot catch. A last streamer comes to his hands, whirling, whirling round. He catches it. He doesn’t know where it comes from. For Nino hasn’t moved. And when they were together in his cabin, eating kiwis, the same. Almost as if he were not alive. … Manuel recalls their last few hours together, near the window, in the upstairs room. That was on a Sunday. They made a solemn promise to remain in touch; but the Sicilian can hardly write, so that how they will keep in touch is quite a mystery.
… no, it can’t be! Palermo, what’s he going to do there? That witch of a Nónna will come to the village, of a Saturday, with girls of his age, Nino’s. ‘Bene, bene! Túa cugina!’ And the young girl-cousin will say, grabbing him by the arm: ‘Andiamo Nino, il passéggio.’ He feels the tears welling up, and makes an effort not to give way to despair. He passes discreetly one hand over his brows. He would like to look manly today of all days, so that his boyfriend may take as good an impression of him as possible. After a while, Manuel turns to Galvao and says sadly: ‘Luis, it’s not only that I feel a sense of loss, a gnawing pain in my heart, that sort of thing. But the way we’ve been forced to part company! Absolutely disgusting.’ ‘I know. I mean, I guess your grief,’ says Galvao, who for his part is trying to trace Heribert Wormser in one or other of the main decks. He has a long journey back, the German has. From Southampton another boat to the Continent, then the train to Cologne. Köln, as Heribert liked to say. The decks are so crowded now that he cannot see the friend who for more than nine months was his room-companion. Perhaps two months before that fellow sets foot in Cologne (he thinks.) The blast of a hooter from the liner puts an end to Luis Galvao’s reveries. He turns to Manuel, who is blowing a kiss to the young Italian. Another hoot, and the imposing ‘’Himalaya’’ begins to move away, pulled out by two steaming tugboats. Bits of many-coloured paper ribbons are now seen fluttering on the side of the liner; confetti and bits of streamers are visible on the floor of the pier, trampled by the already-leaving mass of people. ‘Heh!! Oh, dear!,’ Luis Galvao hears. ‘Heribert is making signs at you!’ ‘Heribert, old fellow,’ he thinks, as he at last catches sight of his friend waving from the upper deck, ‘’may you find back home all the fine things you have been missing these last two years in Australia!’ Another blast of a hooter from the liner. And he sees the ‘Himalaya’ drawing away between the two tugboats: filling the air above them with black smoke. ‘Arrivederci!’ Manuel murmurs, quite moved and still waving, although it is obvious that nobody from the liner sees him. ‘So, Nino has now left,’ Galvao comments. ‘It was his father, the bloody greengrocer,’’ Manuel replies, choking. ‘’He claims I was corrupting his son.’’ Galvao was watching the liner, already in the middle of the harbour. For a moment it seemed as if time had stopped still and the ship would after all not go away. For she is stockstill where the smaller bay joins the waters of Port Jackson harbour. At length another blast is heard, the little tugs once more pull away most forcefully, throwing up long wreaths of black smoke. Then the ‘’Himalaya’’ too begins to throw smoke out in great quantities. And for the visitors the whole ado is over. The returning migrants, for their part, will soon be sailing under the Harbour Bridge, heading towards the mysterious (elusive for the early explorers) gate of Sydney’s harbour, the two rocky promontories called the Heads, so very near the one from the other… and out into the Pacific Ocean. The two Spaniards walk together past one of the parking lots, towards an open gate; and the massive Goods Yard now also left behind, they climb up a narrow lane to the height of the Pyrmont Power Station. ‘He’s acted like a pig,’ Manuel resumes the interrupted conversation when they saunter along a short road called Union Street. ‘Fucking greengrocer! Nino had to return to Palermo as a matter of course. Shit! To live with his granny, he said. Now, talk of corrupting the youth. Why, they are destroying by their act their own child! You understand? He’ll go crazy over there, poor Nino. He’s never lived in Sicily, you know. It’s not his country. For they brought him over when he was just a babe-in-arms. Now, what is he going to do, alone… without me; what’s he going to do overthere with an old hag he doesn’t know and whom he’s not going to understand at all? Ludicrous, I tell you! Gosh, they treat him like a bambino, a lad of nineteen!’’ Galvao said nothing, and Manuel, passing the palms of his hands over his brow and eyes, exclaimed: ‘’Oh, how I love that man! Going to miss ‘im terribly!’’ ‘I know, ‘’ Galvao uttered, ‘’he was ever so attached to you.’’ ‘The dearest boy! And they’ve not even come, as you’ll have noticed, to see ‘im off, their only son. They talk! It’s more important for them to keep the store open than to kiss him goodbye. Making money, that’s what it is. The all-important business. Fifteen hours a day, that sort of thing. That’s all that counts, the greedy-guts. Much they care about my Nino. Why, they had abandoned him. Absolutely. It was me, Luis, that taught ‘im everything he knows. That’s why the bloody father had to meddle. Jealousy, my dear Luis, I’m certain of that!’’ They reached the main road and, as if by magic all that sadness that had so overcome Manuel, a minute ago, had disappeared. Without saying a word, he ran on the zebra crossing and at the opposite pavement, under the spherical yellow beacon on a tall pole he called cupping his hands around his big lips: ‘I say, Luis, why don’t we dine together in a restaurant tonight?’ ‘You’ll have to cross back,’ Galvao shouted.’ Next moment they both were running along Pyrmont Bridge, for a double-decker bus was coming. It was the bus going to North Sydney, which Luis normally caught to go home to Kiribilli. But this time they both got off at the Kent Street stop. On their way down to the City they passed the well-illuminated Wentworth Hotel. A group of Japanese, all men, was standing by a rather small coach. ‘A group of tourists,’ Manuel commented, hooking his friend’s arm, ‘they’re taking them to Doyle’s or some other first-class restaurant by the sea.’ ‘Get away from me,’ Luis yelled, pushing his friend’s hand off with fury. ‘And those Japs have just arrived from Mascot. What they’ve come for is not booze, but business… Japan is becoming one of the wealthiest countries in the world.’ At George Street they turned right towards the town centre. ’This is what beats me,’ Manuel said, ‘We are in the centre of the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere, and hardly a few stragglers in the streets at nine p.m.’ ‘So, what do you want?’ Luis replied. ‘You love the madding crowd. I don’t.’ ‘Overthere, the Madrileños, hell Luis! you must remember, overthere in the autumn, this corresponds to our October sort of thing, I assure you, the streets are full of lights all night, with this weather, what d’you say?’ ‘I say that this street and the others are full of lights. All I need to find my way to the restaurant. Excuse me!’ Luis got out of his jacket pocket an airmail letter and climbed up the stone steps of the G.P.O. building to post it. And on they went until Luis stopped short and said: ‘This is the place.’ It was a long and narrow establishment which rather looked like an old-fashioned railway carriage with a series of uniform wooden benches and broad Formica planks for the corresponding tables between the benches. Windows on one side, and on the other a very long mirror which covered the whole wall. On it there were some embossed Chinese characters with the translation, ‘Australian and Chinese Meals’, and the design of pagodas, stylised birds and some almond or cherry trees, misty clouds and delicate Oriental ladies holding parasols. All very well made and ornamented, and at the same time quite cosy. Manuel was the first to speak. He asked something he had already asked before. ‘Now, tell me dear, how are you getting on in your new place? I’ll pay you a visit one of these days.’ ‘You don’t need to bother, Luis said, abruptly; then he added: ‘Solitude is a bad companion, of course, and you feel it more living in a skyscraper. ’You know, I’m a man who needs a woman, can’t do anything without my wife. I’ll be seeking for her all my life.’
‘Her? Malgorata, or the Margaret on the airmail envelope?’ asked Manuel with a queer quizzical look in his eyes. ‘You bastard, what d’you know?’ exclaimed Galvao in astonishment. ‘Well, wasn’t it Margaret, the addressee of the letter you’ve just posted at Martin Place?’ ‘I see, you bloody bastard!’ Galvao smiled. ‘You’re as curious as a cat. Sticky beak.’ Just then an elegant almond-eyed waitress came to their table, holding a pencil and a note-book in her hands. Pushing his hair back with one hand and holding the menu in the other, Manuel went over all the listed items, reading the English names, wondering at the Chinese characters, entering into conversation now and then with the Asian waitress, who obviously thought him handsome and interesting. When the meal had been ordered and the waitress had passed on to another table, Manuel asked, somewhat coquettishly. ‘Now, did you notice how she looked at me? I looked handsome, didn’t I?’ and once more Manuel passed his hand through his hair. Luis did not answer. His eyes, conscience and all his being were concentrated on the client the waitress was talking to at the opposite table. … I see a young lady who, though she gives her back to me, I’m sure I know, I love and I desire; her short hair so blond and wavy and that perfectly straight-up back of hers, a swimmer and a tennis-player: elegant, agile, enchanting figure.
… and I now hear her melodious beautiful voice: nearly six years have elapsed, that first time in Yorkshire. She’s now asking the Chinese waitress questions and I listen, her accent, I am sure, comes from Yorkshire or Lancashire. ‘Luis,’ he hears his friend’s voice, with a simultaneous nudge on his elbow, ‘what’s the matter, oh, dear?’ Their dinner has been served, complete with a pot of Lapsang Suchong tea and a ceramic small container with colourful gravy. Making an extraordinary fuss about the different chunks of meat or chicken and bits of vegetables, which he insists on naming, and giggling all the while, Manuel serves the gravy, pours the tea into similar ceramic bowls. Afterwards he begins to pass some elements from one dish to the other, asking some questions about preferences and giving instructions about sauces and different kinds of pepper or mustard or God knows what. Once these preliminaries completed, he advises Luis to make use, as he does, of the chopsticks. ‘Like this, don’t you see?’
At length, after again exchanging some words with the waitress, the young woman who had so much intrigued Luis Galvao rose from her seat, turned and stepped foward to pay the bill and he saw her in all her splendour. As she passed by, she inadvertently dropped a piece of paper she held in her hand. He stood up. ‘Your bill,’ he exclaimed, picking it up and handling it to her. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered; and as she smiled, a dimple appeared on her left cheek. * On the first April, during the lunch hour, Luis Galvao found himself sauntering along the streets of the city, searching into the face of every blond woman he came across, blaming himself for having let the girl last night pass by without saying another word to her and explaining that he wanted, that he needed her. At Martin Place he turned right into Pitt Street and went on until he entered the Chinese restaurant and sat down at one of the formica tables, which he shared with a middle aged lady of rather severe aspect, who wore a flat white bonnet. A girl of Oriental aspect served him his lunch, which he ate with his spoon to avoid difficulties and complications, and this absence of etiquette caused the woman to look at her neighbour with suspicion; she had an ugly wart on her chin, which seemed to be pointing at him. After eating his lunch, he rose from his seat and went to the Chinese waitress to pay his bill. As he was going away, he asked rather awkwardly if a blond young lady who spoke with a northern English accent was a regular client. He had come there with the hope of seeing her. She did not know anything; in fact she did not understand him at all. Retracing his steps to Caltex House, he spent the afternoon alone in his office. Alone again at night, after supper, he stood in the dark by the window, facing the harbour, watching the maritime traffic, the work being performed by the wharfies on the docks far and near, the many little coves, north and south of the bay and the lights of the City far away. * … no woman’s voice is heard these days in my apartment. No sound other than that coming from the record-player: the Pathétique, her favourite piece of music. … to think I was never fond of classical music until I met my other girl, that summer ’53, in the students’ camp, that record, Peer Gynt. She went in 1956. … the pang of my undoing. Rembrance of that night by the abandoned canal, that divine song of Solveij, that I hear tonight in my flat standing by the window. … then sitting down with the record-cover in my hand. A heavy dark night. A wide view across a fjord. A dark dense forest in the distance. … sitting at the entrance of a cabin, there is a woman, quietly laying her hands on her lap. On the left of the picture, at the water’s edge, a returning migrant? … but she cannot see him, for she’s gone blind in old age. the beginning of some craggy cliffs, rocks battered by the foaming waves. All is dark and gloomy. For Luis Galvao all had ended in fatal solitude. His thoughts were interrupted by the ring of the telephone. It was Manuel. ‘Ah! Is it you? All right. I will try. Friday.
Friday evening at the pub, Toxteth Hotel, in Glebe. They were meeting for a chat over a glass of beer, with a few of Manuel friends.
Third-generation Australians, some of them, which is the most anyone can claim in this young country.
Paddy, MacGregor, Barry, Kelly, Johnny, Murphy, Bruce.
‘Australia’s as good as any country an’ much better than many!’
‘We receive newcomers with open arms.’
‘There’s the devil overthere’: ‘war, destruction, famines and communism.’
‘Italy, Spain and Greece, and plenty of Eastern Europeans.’
‘And now they all are New Australians.’
‘Hold it! And the assisted passages, who pays for them, you tell me.’
‘And our ancestors, who paid for their passage? Now you tell me!’
‘It was thanks to the Royal Authorities then in London, as once they decided to send out all our ancestors.’
‘An’ bring’em here.’
‘Barry, shut up. It was only they didn’t find room for them in the jails of London, Glasgow and Dublin.’
‘They should ‘ave sent them to France. One thousand times better. I know in France the birds are fair dinkum.’
‘I’ve been in Paris, mate.’
‘Oh, tell us! I’d like to hear. I’m told the streets of Paris are full of women of easy living.’
‘Easy fingers, too, a friend of mine saw ‘is purse off one night.’
‘All noight on the spree, that’s what. Com’ on! pass us that bowl of peanuts.’
Old MacGregor had his pipe in his left hand. ‘What I could tell you of French women,’ he says meditalively.
‘Hey, mate! don’t blow yer smoke in my face.’
‘And you, bastard, respect age.’
‘I was about to say as there’s a street full of low birds here in Kings Cross.’
‘And Greyhounds in Glebe, mate, Harold Park; twelve ov’em running like mad after a mechanical hare, ha! ha!’
The whole pub burst out with laugher. All was beer, all was conversation, all was mirth.
‘I look to winning a pile one day. I mean the horses.’
Joe McMurray is a legal clerk in an important solicitor’s firm in Glebe. He now turns to Luis Galvao: ‘Glad to see ye more animated, hope to see you again.’ ‘He’s still in love.’ ‘Fair dinkum.’
‘I thank you very much. It will pass,’ Galvao says, ‘there is a proverb in my mother song which says, “There’s no evil as may last one hundred years, nor a Spaniard as can stand it.’
* Luis Galvao was buckling a haversack on his back. He had had breakfast, with his friend Manuel Suárez at a Chinese tea-room. ‘And who did it, you will ask. One of the Rangers. He was making love to Malgorata. Leo was about to throttle him, and he stabbed him with his clasp-knife. And the other two, can you imagine?’ he burst out, laughing, ‘absconded together. Your Malgorata and her Croat lover. ’ ‘You’re a liar.’ The lanes around Paddy’s Market were full of people, parked vehicles, wooden boxes and other containers. A bulldog had jumped up and was biting at a wooden cage full of pigeons. ‘Com-o-on, here!!’ shouted his master, a rather rough fellow.
The two friends went around Harbour Street, entering Paddy’s Market through the main gate. An immense closed space, one of the largest single-roof structures Luis had seen in his life. Voices in English, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Maltese and other languages. Farmers and cattle-breeders have come with their produce from Parramatta, Orange, Mudgee, Murrumbidgee River Valley, Katoomba and other near and faraway places. All over one can see the men and their wives singing out, calling, offering, bawling: ‘there! Come back! Twoerbob, twoerbob!’ ‘What d’ee say to that? Come on! Take the lot!’ ‘Here! if you mike me an offer!’ ‘Cheap, cheap!’ Box upon box full of goods like towers everywhere. And everywhere the pungent smell of fresh fruit and veggies recently gathered in small and large farming properties alike; the aroma of many different plants, and mixed with it all the enervating odour of sea food, oysters and other molluscs and all kinds of fish and meat and live animals domestic and wild: the most varied of fish, and the best beef in the world, and mutton, poultry and salted bacon; cages with rabbits and birds, fowl to eat or ornamental to keep; four-legged familiar pets as well as tortoises big and small, and lizards, guinea pigs… you name it! The air is moist and grey. One can hear the tapping of the persistent rain on the corrugated iron roof, which is seen from the ground at some distance overhead, murky and unattractive. Flying about or perched on the many wrought iron beams and girders, pigeons cooing, sparrows diving from time to time to catch some goodies on the ground. Nor could the white silky seagulls be missing in a place like this. On the ground another bizarre population of living beings, engaged in essential commercial transactions. Market economy. Vendors and purchasers. The ones singing the praises of wanted or unwanted commodities. Here is where he excels. ‘Now here, my jolly mates everyone of you, come and buy my apricots, sweet apricots! Try one!’ The others looking for bargains. Just now they are listening. ‘Ten bob a case! Ten bob a case!’ ‘Now, wot’d you say for the lot? No? I’ll throw a whole marrow on top!’ ‘Shilling a bunch! Shilling a bunch!’ ‘Two-a bob! a dozen for six bob!’ ‘A pound, fifteen shilling, five bob? No? Wot’ll you give?’ ‘Hey, mate, I really am ashamed of you. Come an’ buy me lettuces!’ ‘No, ma’am, you won’t ave’it for one bob, or I’d rather give’t to you.’ ‘Come ‘eer Missus, don’t go!!’ ‘Two shillin’, a shillin’, who says a pawpaw’s expensive at a shillin’ a piece?’ ‘Come on! Come, I’ll tell’ee wot! I’ll throw in a big water melon!’ ‘Two a bob, two a bob! Come!’ ‘Two bob, one bob, ten pence, come on!’ ‘There now! What d’ee say for both?’ ‘This is a fantastic offer!! This is me, me, Johnny Brown, from Parramatta!’ ‘Here, come back, come back! I’ll tell’ee what I’ll do for you! You buy the box an’ I’ll throw in some extra oranges!’ ‘Hey! Don’t go away!’ ‘Buy my grapefruit!’ And along the aisles the purchasers moving on, screwing their necks right and left, spying out for big bargains. ‘Carmela, veni qui!’ ‘Oranges! I need them. Hurry up Jack!’ ‘Damn you, you’ve torn my stockings with your trolley!’ ‘No, Missus, I haven’t!’ ‘You bleddy well have!’ ‘Why, you should’ve walked faster!’ ‘An’ you shouldn’t bring them bleddy things in a crowded place like this.’ ‘Shut up! Where am I supposed to carry me shoppin’, you tell me!’ ‘A bob! Ten pence! Sixpence! Only sixpence for a bunch of celery!’ ‘Anybody wants?’ ‘Come! What you offer?’ ‘Fresh! Fresh! Get yer greens here!’ ‘Three bob! Wot d’ee say at this splendid offer? Come on, don’t be shy!’ ‘Here, I’ll throw in a bunch of parsley.’ ‘Oranges! Who wants a box? Here, missus, say two quid, say one quid, say ten bob, say nine bob, hey! nine bob for the bloody lot! Givin’em away! Nine shillin’ for a crate of best South Australian oranges!’ ‘Here, lady! Chuck this pumpkin into your bag!’ ‘You say two-n-three, mate? No, you shan’t have the lot for two-n-three!’ ‘Free, free, free, giv’em free! Two-n-sixpence. Who wants ‘em?’ ‘Come here, don’t go away!’ ‘Now, my lords and ladies Aussies and New Australians all! I’ll let you into a secret: sweet bananas, from Queensland’.
‘Bloody hell! You’ve no manners, man! Pushing!’ ‘Madam, you should’ve kept on moving.’ ‘And you, knocking people about! Is that what you come here for?’ ‘There, now, come back! Two a bob, you find that dear? Three a bob, missus, what d’ye say to that? Don’t go, don’t go, if you make me a offer… She’s gone! A case of oranges: two bob, one bob sixpence. Ye say one bob sixpence, okay, mate, here it goes, take care. Them oranges from my orchard.” ‘’Sixpence for the lot. What d’you say now, madame? Come, sixpence too much? Pawpaws like these?” “Stop! I’ll find you a bigger one. Here, Queensland pineapples! Sweet Queensland pineapples! Sixpence, who wants ‘em? Hey I’m giving the merchandise away. This is me, Mario from Brisbane land.’’ ‘’Hey, don’t run away ma’am, come here, have ‘em all for three shillin!’ ‘Dear you say? Well then, I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you. I’ll heap ‘em all in your cart. Here they are!’ ‘Only one bob, only one bob.’ ‘From Murrumbidgee! Fresh, fresh!’ ‘I hav’em golden! I hav’em golden!’ ‘Grannies, beautiful grannies from Tasmania!’ ‘Oranges from the Riverina Valley! Navels, five shilling’ the big box!’ ‘Mangoes, mangoes, mangoes!’ ‘Marrows, marrows, look at ‘em big! Ha, ha!’ ‘Bag o’ onions! Quick, quick I’m givin’em away!’ ‘Case of cucumbers!’ ‘Sweet melons, make yer choice, one-n-three a piece!’ ‘Sugar bananas from Queensland!’ ‘Sixpence! Wot d’ee say now?’ ‘Come on, come on, take ’em all away!’ ‘A bargain, a bargain!’ ‘This is me, givin’ the stuffaway!’ ‘You won’t? Well then, I’ll tell you what, take the lot for ten shillin’!’ ‘Now lookee ‘ere, cheap and good!’ ‘Careful, mister, yer crushing me pears! No fingers, please.’ ‘Here, pineapple, mate! You’ve never seen such a one in all your born days!’ ‘Make yer choice, nothing better in the whole wide world!’ ‘Take it, you won’t find better anywhere in the market and you may do worse.’ ‘Fresh! Take my word for it!’ ‘Look’ee, ma’m, come and try my passionfruit!’ ‘Ice-cream, couple-or-one!’ ‘Have some refreshments!’ ‘Antonio! Gelati!’ ‘Andiamo! Andiamo!’ ‘Shillin’ now, shillin’ now!’ An impressive picture, if ever there was one: shade and light, colour and dimness, and sound. A moving feast, heavy saltry atmosphere, and human sweat. Vitality everywhere. A real spectacle, with actors and public all together, the latter strolling along. There is colour, and sound. Joy, sympathy. Nothing is missing to make an observer happy. But Luis Galvao, who was never known as entertaining company, these days is acting like a real moron, while his friend is filling his wicker-basket with all kinds of goods. ‘What did I tell you?’ Manuel was saying, ‘cheap everything. Did I lie? For Galvao images pass before his eyes like in a cinefilm. Only the persistent rain seems real, conveys some meaning to him. The electric lights up there are not on. As for the people on the ground, the dancing vendors on the platforms, and the produce they offer… he is definitely going through a period when the view of crowds depress him instead of giving him that strength of character he so badly needs. And he feels cold, almost feverish. ‘What an abominable young man you are,’ Manuel says, rather playfully. ‘I don’t know why I like you so!’ He hooks his hand through his friend’s arm and pulls him on.
Stopping before one of the stands, he picked up a ripe red plum and has daintily taken it to his mouth, just a nibble between his handsome thick lips, sucking the faintest amount of the juice, then passing it on to his friend, whose cheek he pinches with the other hand. ‘Stop it, please,’ Galvao says, drawing away. ‘I can’t. I’m not hungry in any case !’’ ‘Why, it’s no use trying with you,’ the other complains, sadly. ‘Come, let’s see you buying provisions. Onward Christian Soldiers! Here, the money and the basket. Fill that sack of yours, come on!’ Shuffling through the crowd along the well-marked aisles and alleys. The whole immense enclosure crossed, length-wise, about a dozen times. ‘All for three bob!’ ‘Right you are!’ ‘Fair dinkum, mate!’ ‘Pick’em out, my lady, pick’em yerself!’ He goes on, hears the vendors and sees the silhouettes of their pretty, healthy enterprising wives as his mind goes floating close to a reverie. ‘Come, Luis. Cheer up!’’ he hears Manuel. ‘Why don’t you listen? I still had to say… yes, I’ve been telling you… a lot has happened since you left Harris Street, you know. Oh, dear! You seem interested only in your own things.’’ ‘Alright, tell me. And excuse me, Manuel,’ Galvao utters with a moan. ‘Okay! Don’t worry, but on the contrary, cheer up. About your ex-girlfriend nothing is known for sure. The N.A.S.A. people have been trying a series of experiments in the desert. Explosions is the word. I don’t know what. In the middle of the desert. Maybe you know, Lake Torrens or Lake Eyre, I know nothing for sure… they say lakes, that is what they… on the maps, but they are big salt deserts, that is what the plains are, for the lakes dried up one thousand years ago.’ ‘Know nothing, a complete ignoramus. And I don’t care.’ ‘Anyhow, something very terrible happened. There was a crew of Aborigenes walking about, perhaps looking for a better place north or south. Well they were wiped away, burned out of existence, the Abbos, absolutely. Collateral damage ‘Did you read it in the papers?.’ ‘And there was great confusion,’ Manuel went on. ‘An opportunity for these two. They chose well the moment.’ ‘What?’ Luis shouted. ‘Okay, old boy!’ Manuel also shouted, ‘the moment Malgorata ran away with a guy, you follow me. And the proprietor dead, the place’s been put for sale. Ultimo is a good district. Perhaps you will help me with the mortgage. For me, the ideal place. So near the university. There’s a Greek fellow as wants to buy the property. About the particular nationality of the guy I’m not sure. Handsome blond man… her tastes must have changed… unlike my dear Luis. Trust women.’ ‘Once a liar, always a liar.’ ‘Anyhow, her true lover. And you Simple Simon, believing in eternal love, silly stuff… she’d hardly left Ultimo and already with another man… Oh, Lemons! I’ve forgotten to buy lemons!’ Luis Galvao is no longer listening. There is a long dusty window, very tall and narrow, on the opposite side of the aisle at which he had been buying some oranges. Though outside it is raining and the day is in all respects very dull, in the still dimmer atmosphere inside, where the electric lights are not on, that window appears quite bright, even though it is dusty and dirty. In the din and tumult of that extraordinary place, his green eyes open wide. He is following a sunray that comes from the window down to one of the quays. Over and above the shrill litany of the vendors, their shadowy bodies stirring (one would say) almost on top of Luis, and over the constant murmurs of the public passing by, his gaze falls on that beam of light coming from the long oblong window on the brick wall. … the glowing figure of a young woman of extreme beauty… a divine apparition so ethereal! … and she looks at me! Her golden hair is glittering, as if all the luminosity of this murky place had been concentrated on her figure, her head, her face, that dimple on her left cheek! … but specially her hair. She is static like a marble statue, the only thing I see amidst this immense multitude of hovering shadows. … this girl I now see has the same sweet face I had near mine in the restaurant the other evening. And Luis bounds to the lateral lane that cuts across the cement platforms, his brow burning, his heart beating fast. He enters the next aisle, elbowing his way through the thickening crowd, and arrives just in time to see the silhouette of the girl going out into a cul-de-sac full of stationary vehicles, lorries, utility trucks, cars and cats, people and dogs. Always following the girl, bumping into still more shoppers coming in through the entrance; the girl is nowhere to be seen.
Again he catches sight of her, now moving beyond a row of badly parked vehicles of several kinds. He crosses to the other side of the street. She has just opened a pink nylon umbrella which adds a rosy tint to her rather pale and mystic face. Oh, my beautiful angel! Turning up the lapels of his coat, he runs towards the main road, where the girl has arrived. He follows her in the midst of the crowd, ready to quicken his pace if necessary. The thoroughfares are thronged with people, doing their Saturday shopping, which causes him to lose sight of her twice in the many-coloured crowd of umbrellas, and twice he sighs with relief on finding her again. They enter George Street and for a minute or two their bodies nearly touch. All the umbrellas disappear as the crowd moves steadily under the overhanging, where the neon lights have been lit. In Campbell Street, he sees the pink umbrella again, and when she turns into a semi-deserted side-street, he follows her, for he wants to know where she lives before accosting her. They proceed along a series of back streets and little lanes. Thoroughly drenched by now, he stops at every corner, then dashes on to reach the next one before she has the time to disappear in the next street. And so until he stops at the entrance of a dim alleyway of two rows of identical terrace-houses with no front gardens. For he has seen the girl fumbling in her basket at the entrance to one of the houses. She has produced a little leather purse. He breathes with relief. She takes something out of her purse. A set of keys. Once the door is open, she turns and walks into the place, folding the umbrella as she enters.