1-27 January, Sydney

North Head - what a fine place we're in - this whole area is government property - a police training college, some barracks and this quarantine station built in the middle of fly-infested scrub - lots of flies around. The quarantine station has lots of wooden tiled huts with varying numbers of rooms - I'm in one big enough for two, a decent bed, a sink, a couple of chairs, a table and a wardrobe - the only window is in the door and it's covered by a venetian blind. Meal times are 7:30-8:30, 12:30-1:30 and 6-7 - the meals are usually fair to good - steaks, chops, salads. But there's lots of screaming - Greek families and their kids - at one time there were 180 people here, now we're down to about 150. At night it is beautiful and quiet; and, during the day, the views are beautiful - Sydney harbour and environs, cliffs and beaches, boats and ferries - housing estates and high rise buildings. A doctor comes every day, and there are three sisters around most of the time - also lots of groundsmen in dark blue overalls.

My main occupation is watching Australian television - foul commercials (insect sprays, big stores, cars, beers, cigarettes, banks) with a few old movies in between, or thrillers and soap box comedies. Australian TV produces a few of its own series but they're of very mediocre standard - 90% of TV is imports. Plenty of Coronation Street type rubbish, and a few old favourites like 'The Man from Uncle'/. I've been watching in the afternoon and all night too - quite often Gerry and I were the only two left in the telly room, which was quite a standing joke between us.

I've been going into Sydney at least every third day and into Manly every two days. The main reason for going into town was to check the post office (lots of news from Howard and Chris - neither in top spirits, both thinking again of coming out to Aussie). All the time I've been thinking what am I to do? Get a job? Go to NZ?. Every day I looked at the Sydney Morning Herald and Manly Daily but I never made any real effort to get a job. I became pretty sure I would go to NZ as soon as I received the money the government owed me. But that wasn't easy to get. I rang Housing and Construction, they sent a telex and told me to ring back the next day - I did that and the following day and again - three weeks later, after being sent from the Public Inspector to the Treasury to Australia Square dept of H and C, the boss there apologised profusely and demanded over the phone the amount they owed me and paid me there and then £250 for 7 days.

Gerry and I met Pauline in the post office one day - she was really lonely, living with Alan's snobby parents - she had planned to hang around the post office all day waiting for somebody to turn up and there we were - so she was happy and lively. We spent one day with her and she promised to come around the following evening but then we didn't see her till a fortnight or so later. By then she was living in Hunter's Hill with a friend of her parents. She's young, only 17 (although Alan said she was only 16 and always telling lies.) She told me Harry is living with his ex-wife, and Sue has deserted John and gone back to NZ. She reckoned Sue was a bitch, always boasting about her boyfriends. She also told me about the girl from Brisbane that Wayne had hitched up (the one that had fancied me): she stole stuff from Peter's house and from another new house (I never knew this). Pauline's got very little money and was scrounging off everybody - she complimented me by saying I made her feel more guilty than anyone else - she sure is an old 16.

Jacques, an old friend of Gerry's from Peter's house has been here too. Another old mate of theirs, Bob, took us out (with his slightly snobby girlfriend) to see some sights in his new Beetle - Botany Bay, Bondi Beach (terrible, horrible ugh, never want to see it again). We met up with Bob again, a couple of times - for a late drink one night with eight or nine burly males. Another time we met up with a couple I'd first seen at Darwin High School. Gerry bought some dope from them - but it turned out to be rubbish.

Suddenly, one morning, having been itching for days, I found a sore on my back and right foot in the form of a ring. Gerald said it was ringworm. The doctor told me to put Mycil on it for a while. A guy called Henri also had a fungus infection so they moved him in with me (after a short while of solitary confinement, which was bliss). Henri was a weirdo. He repeated things over and over again and grunted and sighed loudly. He'd been a sailor I think - travelled through Asia encouraging the opium scene - he was blunt and dull. Anyhow, soon after he moved in I developed small pimples all over - I thought it was just an extension of ringworm but no, it was scabies - the dreaded lurgy. Scabies, ringworm and diarrhoea (I've still got that too).

Gerry left - he flew to Wellington and was heading for Christchurch. It's amazing, because we have that little stamp in our passport we don't need a visa for NZ, we can stay and work for ever - also we don't need a re-entry visa for Aussie. I carried on going to the library, to town, strumming around. The scabies was a hassle - it involved me in having hot showers and then spreading this liquid all over me.

One day I have a drink with Alan and Jacques - Alan was looking his super-smooth self. We spent an hour or so clambering across rocks in the bright sun - Alan said Peter is in a psychiatric ward in Tennant Creek. Another day I went to see the Rocky Horror Show with Jacques and Pauline - it was amazing and entertaining (but then I was expecting it to be terrible, and I remember expecting Hair to be so great and being disappointed - on reflection, though I think Hair is better than RHS).

One morning, Henri had a fit - I was half asleep. He threatened to hit me if I touched his towel or bed. The same evening, when I got back from the Opera, he came in wailing and crying and throwing things - shit I was scared. The next day I found out he'd been drinking oozy and that the few remaining people here at the quarantine station had really egged him on. He told me he would hit one woman because she went on and on teasing him.

Another time we went down to Manly to watch a surfing carnival - surf boats, surf boards, surf canoes, races around a buoy and back, running races - lots of sweet apples. I bumped into with Allan, the Joni Mitchell freak I'd met at the airport. He said he'd had a good time here through people he knew - parties and accommodation - but he's getting skint now and is having trouble finding a job. He agreed to come with me to the Opera House that night - cheap £1 restricted vision tickets go on sale at 6:30 - extortionate prices charged in the bars and coffee lounge - although we were first there we only got the third and fourth tickets which meant less good seats - second balcony - but we could see well enough - The Rise and Fall of Mahogany - my first opera - I fell asleep in the second half - more from tiredness than boredom - mildly entertaining.

28 January, Sydney

This was a hanging around day. Mid-morning (having moved into Jacques little room) I whizz out to a showground to see GO 75 - but, when I get there, I find it doesn't start till 2:00 in the afternoon - I wander through Paddington, past tree-lined avenues with two-storey terraced houses with iron grills - just like home. I spend a while in a library, eat pie and chips, and fall asleep in a park. Then I go back to the big exhibition, and somehow find myself inside without having paid. Kids are rushing around collecting as many magazines as possible. I smile because I remember myself doing the same thing. It's mostly Australian airlines and Japan displays - I watch a couple of horrible travel films, and feel glad I haven't paid a dollar. I walk over towards Redfern and the Black Arts and Culture Theatre, and kill almost three hours having a drink, reading a paper, eating hamburger and chips. Then I go to a theatre to see a play called The Cakeman in a packed warehouse with seats built on scaffolding. It was ace. In the first scene an aborigine family are caught and transferred to christian society and English living - the man won'g conform so he is shot. The rest of the play deals with a modern aborigine family in a mission.

29 January, Sydney

I get a letter at last from Darwin - Wayne, Paul, Gus, Joey and Susie all write a little. They've been earning $4 an hour (repeat $4 an hour) for general clearing up. They're still living in Darwin High School. Paul's been in hospital for and Susie is running some laundry place. They seem to be having a good time. I sleep in the airport with a whole load of students whose charter flight is delayed.

30 January, Christchurch

I take a big big Qantas jet - it's almost empty and it's more than three hours delayed. I read Punch and eat a handsome mixed grill. A bus gets me to Christchurch at five minutes to five, and a kind man leads me to the post office just in time. There's a letter from Mum but not one from Gerry. I walk miles vaguely hoping that the Youth Hostel headquarters will be open - but it isn't - but there are directions to the Youth Hostel, which is another long walk - but when I ask directions a man gives me a lift. People seem very kind and helpful in this place. The Youth Hostel is full but the warden gives me an address of a private home. An old couple with five married children helps the hostel out when its full - $1.50 a night - 50 cents for breakfast - not so cheap. I go out for a hamburger.

31 January, Christchurch


First, I check out the bank's interest rates, and then decide to deposit my money with the post office. I joing the YHA for $7, and check out the employment agencies, some government departments, and a market research company. The latter gives me an appointment for an interviewing job. I look at the cathedral (pretty ordinary) and visit the tourist office. All the shops have neon signs hanging down like in Aussie - the town is full of burger and milk bars. It's not a racy city at all, but very pleasant. I check with the old couple that it's OK to stay another night, and they give me an evening meal for a dollar. I watched the Birdman of Alcatraz on telly in the evening.

February 1975

Paul K Lyons


Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG

1974 1975

1976 1977

1978 1979

1980 1981

1982 1983

1984 1985

1986 1987

1988 1989

1990 1991

1992 1993

1994 1995

1996 1997

1998 1999

2000 2001

2002 2003

2004 2005

INTRO to diaries