JOURNAL - 1975 - MAY

1 May, Auckland

Les is a burly, young middle-aged man. He's separated from his wife, but has been working for Sandoz in NZ and Australia for quite some while. He is the technical services manager - a good guy. For some reason he can't look us straight in the eye when teaching, and when we answer his questions they are never good enough. Sometimes he goes off at a tangent and we take a long time getting through the topic. I suggest it would be better to give us the notes and then go over them. Thinking about it, Les puts a lot more work into teaching us well but Mike comes over much better.

Last night I went down town to look for the pub where Laurie worked when I met her last Easter - sure enough I found it, a poshish place - they weren't going to let me in because I was only wearing sandals but they did when I asked for Laurie - I spent the evening with her, her brother and friends - I felt a bit of a burk about my job, Laurie couldn't believe it. I was a little uneasy as I knew nothing of their chatter about people and parties.

2 May

Most of the mornings are usually taken up by oral or written tests which take hours to go over.

Saturday 3 May

I whizz into town, walk around, pick up letters from Mel and Dad. Mike drops around after lunch - we drink and play some pool, then I take him to his flat - he lends me his car, a Toyota, the same as I shall have. At 7:30 we eat and drive back to Mike's flat for a party. It's a slow build up but I have two or three talks with people. The best natter is with Kerry, Les's girlfriend - she is interesting, about 30. She says she knows me, and I swear I know her, and yet we could never have met. She has fine eyes. I get to know Annette and Julie a little better - Julie, Wendy and Mary get really pissed and fall about all over the place. Annette lives with a typical Australian, Bill, and Mary is in a flat with four other professionals. Mike is snazzily dressed. I make small talk with Gordon, who has two fine looking kids. I also talk to Penny, Mary's flatmate. In all the party was fairly well enjoyed by all. When Mike eventually kicked out his neighbour and Les and Kerry, Later Mike and I go to watch the FA cup final between West Ham and Fulham at Bill and Annette's (Mike has no TV).

4 May

I spend a lot of Sunday with Mike too. We go to the university open day which is nothing exceptional, watch an auction for hours so Mike could can buy two carpets, and clear up Mike's pad because it's one hell of a mess after the party. I spend the evening at Mary's. I'm sure she doesn't work as hard as Mike expects her too - she tries to keep to 18 interviews a week, whereas Mike is on about 30 a week.

5 May

I go for dinner with Ed and Jenny. When Ed picks me up he is a little pissed. I spend most of the time telling them about my journey. They are still very happy to be here in NZ.

6 May

The work continues - the cardio-vascular system is pretty bloody complex and bitty, all for the sake of Visken. We cover other drugs, odds and sods - Sandomigran, Melleril, Deseril, Sando K. Mike has a hefty talk with me. He says I am getting a bit on top of them, criticising, thinking I'm right all too often, even when I'm told I'm wrong. He asks me questions like: what will be your best point in selling? I can't answer him. At night we go to see a play 'Dark Going Dawn' by Gordon Dryland. The son of a doctor rebels against society, latches on to an older woman who feels sorry for him - very good.

9 May

No work today. Mike takes me to a friend of his that works at a clothes wholesalers - I buy two suits for $120 - I think of them as uniform for the job. Gordon has a chat with us - he asks me bastard questions: 'How do you see your future with Sandoz developing?' For the life of me I can't see what he's getting at - I tell him I don't see myself in Sandoz in ten years time but I do see myself in the commercial world. Then, Mike and Gordon have a quick private natter. We all eat a fine steak lunch in a salubrious London pub, the conversation seems to dwell on beer and cars and such non-entities.

I can't see much on the flight home. Margaret picks me up - I feel pretty alone by tea-time, so go to see Blerta travelling museum/players and then to a Malaysian party. I write letters to Maya and Jacques.

10 May, Christchurch

Letters from Phil, Jo and Rog. This morning we go to New Brighton - I buy a suitcase for $10, visit Viv and Mark (which allows me to listen to some Donovan and Bread music); in the evening all we can think of doing is visiting public houses. I carry three-quarters of a cabbage and Margaret takes a four-pronged fire poker.

11 May

I listen to Rick Wakeman's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'. I must read some medical notes. Mike comes round in the afternoon. I make a fire. I don't really want to go to the folk club so tease Margaret instead with difficult questions - I think I am nearly sexually attracted to her this weekend.

12 May, Dunedin

Margaret gives me a ride to the airport early in the morning. It's an hour's bus ride to Dunedin from the airport. I check into the Southern Cross Hotel, let my suitcase breathe, and go to pick up the car - a red Toyota Corona! Then straight down to business, on George Street, the main street. I visit lots of doctors, chats to the nurse, make lots of appointments. The car is crowded with literature - there's a tin drawer of files for each doctor but no order, doctors in the phone book but not on files, doctors on the files not in the phone book - doctors not in either. In the afternoon there just happens to be a meeting of the pharmacological society - which is an excuse for a booze up - lots of food and drink. I talk to various people (one girl who's been to China) but generally feel a bit lost and rely on Mike. The relationship with Mike is a bit strained.

Margaret is going to live in a paraplegic's house to look after children for a couple of weeks. Thinking back, there was something of a relationship built up between us but, gee, it was difficult. When I asked her, last night, if she considered me a good friend she refused to answer in case it might incriminate her.

13 May

We make more appointments and check out Wakani Hospital. We see 'Murder on the Orient Express' in the cinema.

14 May

We get down to detailing. Mike does the first few, I do one that is a complete failure. The transition from drug to drug is not as difficult as I think it will be. I'm not having too much success looking for a place to live. I hope something better comes along. In the evening we eat in the hotel and very luxurious it is too - four courses and a nice dry red wine - a few drinks in the bar afterwards. Dunedin has a simple up-down one way system - a busy main street - George St - not a particularly attractive centre. The Octagon is nothing special not like Christchurch's Square. The very central area is next to a sea inlet and is flat and full of industry which gives an ugly impression, but the surrounding hills are beautiful - old large houses and autumn trees.

15 May

I'm now doing all the work - driving, phoning, detailing - and Mike is just having a good time. We get boozy in the evening. Mike joins a group of medical students in the London lounge; he keeps plying them with drink - jug after jug and they leave slowly one by one. I am really pissed and Mike is pumping me for info, just as much as I am pumping him but we learn a lot about each other.

Two weeks ago Saigon fell to the communists, a few days later all of Cambodia fell, and very soon all of Laos will follow. One and a half million people die in Vietnam during the war.

Here in NZ there is a big battle between Bluff and Port Chalmers about which should be the second container port - it really is a bitter battle filling the front pages of the newspapers.

16 May

Mike listens to me do a detail, he thinks I'll be all right. Mike does others - we listen to an old doctor ramble on about respect and a time when doctors used to be the pillars of society.

I ring up 104 Victoria Road and commit myself to moving in. It's owned and run by a paraplegic lady. The last three days, I've been tossing and turning over whether to move in or not. It is well equipped and cheap.

Mike gives a small dinner party for some friends of his - good food again in the Southern Cross, but all night it is jokes, jokes and jokes, some pretty funny but what a bore.

17 May

I move in to 104 and unstock the boot of the car - there's one hell of a lot of junk there - endless piles of therapeutic quarterlies and Sandoramas and leaflets and samples, endless samples. Then I walk and walk all around the town, around the green belt, up and down hills, beautiful autumn trees, lots and lots of walking - botanical gardens and an aviary. It's very quiet, few people around.

18 May

I do very little today. I take Mike to the airport and discuss some last minute points. I clean the car. I visit the museum, just the same as every other museum.

19 May

Today is the first day of doing my job on my own.

22 May

I walk into the Cook public bar and there is a girl sitting on her own, so I sit down next to her and we have a very blunt conversation. She used to be a biker's girl and still loves bikes - her name is Al. She is waiting to see a friend of hers, hoping to scrounge a place to sleep. The whole conversation, however, is coloured by the fact that she thinks I am trying to pick her up. She says she is looking for a classy lady with size five and a half feet - she has some shoes to give away. Chris comes in and they talk for a while and then this classy lady comes into the pub on her own. She joins our little party thanks to Al and turns out to be the most typical Geordie you've ever seen - she's very lively and pretty.

This was one of those good nights that don't happen very often.

23 May

I'm finding it difficult to work more than five hours a day, there just aren't that many GPs. I hang around the hospital a lot, at the switchboard operators, but that's no good. I realise it's best to go in once in a while then they try harder for you. It can get a little bit embarrassing wandering around the hospital all day long. At Wakari it's a bit better - I can go and have cups of tea there, and generally I have a good chat with the registrar or house surgeons, but the specialists are really difficult to find (their secretaries are tucked away behind little desks in little corners). The orthopaedic department use virtually no calcium and they're not prepared to listen - they wave me off, especially the bastard Rothwell who ruins my entire day.

24 May

We have a colour television and I find myself watching programmes I'd much rather not watch.

We pick up a couple of young physiotherapists and go to a house out towards Port Chalmers where eight or ten people are sitting around drinking wine and eating bread. Here I meet Alan Laney and Peter Olds, two of NZ's more contemporary poets. Alan talks about his old printing press at Taylor's Mistake, and the things he published on it. The conversation becomes a bit one-sided, like poets are good intelligent independent people and everybody else is shit - not quite but almost.

25 May

I hitch out to Waitati and chat to Al's boyfriend. There are beautiful views over the bay. A lot of dope-growing hippies are fighting over land and starting hip religions with their stereos on max.

June 1975

Paul K Lyons


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