Thursday 4 November

At work, I have fallen into a routine: 7:12 awake; 7:26 leave house; 7:45 take bus; 8:00 supervise entering class; 8:10 take coffee and read or practice Spanish; 10:00 supervise break time; 10:20 teatime, continue reading; 10:43 up to higher school for sandwiches; 10:55 return to reading; 11:20 supervise break; 11:30 take another coffee and continue reading; 12:55 supervise packing up; 1:30 lunch with Victor and Roberto; 2:30 to Sporting Club, and home as soon as possible.

Monday 8 November

Life is a succession of bright yellow sunflowers and purple violets. Last Friday, the music teacher surprised me early, so we ate, watched the sunset on the beach, and giggled and laughed our way through feigned arguments. Suddenly we were so close the rest of the world had ceased to exist. We talked of priorities and morals and travellers that come and go, of loveliness, beauty, seconds and decades, memories and futures. On Saturday we went to Horcon. We loved on a pebble beach, and swam and clasped hands; only gods could stay, we were golden, the pebbles grey. A sort of mist came on Sunday. We hitched from town to town and walked through valleys, past plain ugly beach resorts, some super-rich or super-elegant, and slowly, slowly came back to Vina. N wanted to stay with me and snuggled into my bed. My landlady and her family were out, and when they returned I was tempted to say nothing but N to tell them. She one of the family had said it would be alright if she stayed in the room, so she snuggled in bed again. Then, while making tea, the Senora showed enraged, and told me the girl had to go, and this was a respectable house, and that there were other houses for that sort of thing. So, like naughty children and very very tired, we dressed and went through the night to find N's other friends. N was very nearly in tears. We clasped hands very tight through the unfriendly night. When I got back I exploded a little bit, in rage. This morning the senora explained N could have stayed but not with me.

Books I've read recently: '1984' by George Orwell - the theory is interesting but the story is weak; 'Poems of Edgar Allan Poe' - intense emotion of love and loneliness in simple poetry that, on the whole, I don't find very stimulating; 'El Cuero' de Diablo by Guillermo Blanco - Chilean stories about bandits and village life and the approach of death; 'Merry Wives of Windsor' - Shakespeare; 'The Man who was Thursday - a surprisingly original and interesting by G K Chesterton.

Saturday 13 November

What has happened the week passed? The cueros, Diegos, Christian, David are around. I spent one pleasant afternoon with a lady who has a young kid and is well travelled. The lady teachers in the lower school have accepted me at last just in time for me to be put back to the upper school to deal with the petty idiocy there. I sneak below and scrounge cafecito. During detention on Friday I hit some boys softly. One is a daisy, he was complaining, and I got angry, it seemed to pass without notice. The school badly needs corporal punishment.

I visited my yerberia for poleo (like menta), salvia, ajenjo (horrible), and I visite my multicultural church. I went to a Hadyn concert, saw a film about the isle of Arran, and attended a lecture that pretended to be an emotional plea for humanism. I wrote letters to home, Phil, Dace, Helen and Doug.

Mornings pasteurise, evenings dawdle - sometimes I go to the studio, sometimes to the workshop - I feel greedy - I need a woman for the week - love could exist on Wednesdays as well and holding hands on Thursday. Shall we dance.

Sunday 14 November

The third weekend with N has just come to an end. It was a weekend in which my emotions undulated like the waves of Aran. I demand so much, so very much from anyone who wants to be my friend - do I give enough in return? The weekend before was a dream, this weekend was not: from the dream of Horcon to the reality of Santiago. For the first time in my life I wept on a girl's lap. I slept very little on the Friday night after a hard day getting to Santiago. On the Saturday morning, I just got sadder and sadder listening to the most melancholy music. I went to find a church to cry in, but it was locked. It felt like there was nowhere to cry in all Santiago. When I got back I read something N had written, and wept. Although part of my sadness was feeling an impasse in the relationship with N, there were other reasons too: the travelling, the weariness, the fatigue, the accumulation of everything since Lima. The weekend continued to undulate and was full, full of emotion. On Sunday we skipped together up a mountain. Her parents came home from a month in the US and handed their children presents: clothes, rackets for tennis, a new stereo radio, a walkie talkie set. The father I said not a word to each other. The mother is sympatica. We also went to a very elegant party. When the nights came, we had to sleep in separate rooms which was hard. It was so nice last weekend having her close.

I think of my own time at school. I think about the discipline at the Renaca school and any changes that could be made. I think about what I have learnt, what I am learning, what are the advantages of this travel business. Is it better not to be aware of the world and to live a narrow little existence? I always end up answering no, and that it is good to travel But better how? I think about living day-to-day and the things that happen. I think about the pettiness of the people at the school, and the pretense of work.

Without a wink or a nudge, I seem to have a reputation as a maricon, a homosexual. It was very easily acquired. Talking to the boys, they asked me about drink, grass and women. I said I didn't touch any of them. I hear one boy just mention the word maricon. A little later I took a boy into the office to adjust his tie. When I opened the door to let him out, he was fiddling with his trousers and a whole crowd of boys outside were looking in, watching.

Tuesday 16 November

Today I have been talking to lots of people. On the beach there was a young American girl and her boyfriend who are looking after two NZ kids. She much prefers the way of life here, thinks the people are closer to each other. At the N. A. Institute I asked the director about finding someone to exchange English for Spanish lessons. At the Institute of Tourism, I talked to a Chilean with a Scottish accent, and got introduced to the American teaching community, who may also help me find somone to exchange lessons with. I also met the girls from Julian's boarding house who invited me over. In the street, I met Ignacio who is getting married very very shortly - mad kid. And then I also went to see the cueros - they all went to Horcon last weekend.

Thursday 18 November

Wow, letters from Chris West, Mum, the Schnapps of all people who are in Canada, and N. I have £200, $51 in cash; 4,400 pesos Argentinian; $650 travellers cheques; $80 air ticket; plus I have earned 400 pesos Chilean and spent them.


We are travelling north in a bit of a hurry. We come across a 'carpenter tree'. Jim and Annabelle climb it to collect dates, leaving me to pick them up when they fall to the ground. But they drop only pips. I get bored so I go to sleep in a bed in the courtyard. When I wake, I go to see if there are any dates, but there are only insects. One of them is enormous. Two strangers enter and I ask them what it is. They don't know. Then I shout up into the tree 'are you still there?'. A startled reply comes from some bedroom where I can see, through a window, the two of them putting their clothes on quickly. I shout something at them with a smile and try to decide whether to let them dress or to undress myself and join them!

Sunday 21 November


Looking through the window here in Horcon one sees lots of eucalyptus trees. We went out in the morning to buy goodies - steaks and chicken, wine and cake - and the rest of the day we spent dreaming, sleeping and eating. And the eucalyptus trees sway calmly in the window as in a slow motion nature film. My head sways, playing little games rock-a-bye freedom, rock-a-bye have-a-good-time-while. 'Nothing but the dead back in my little town' sings Paul Simon on the radio.

Yesterday late in the afternoon we walked far, to the sea. I made an offering of a purple flower and pinewood cones to the furious savage waves, to the force of the sea - it is the eternal beauty, the eternal hurt, the eternal solitude, the eternal tranquillity. Sun worshippers sat on rocks, saying ciao to the sunset. The music student and traveller walked through the rocks, the cactuses, the flowers, the sandy paths, the fields and woods, all in silence, feeling the evening approach, and watching the monstrous brilliant round thing obscure itself behind miniature tree shadows and pantomimes that froze on the hill-top.

It is very good to be in Horcon. I am quiet and a little humble because I don't know anyone well enough to initiate conversation, and the other gringos are enough of a circus for the whole of Horcon. N wanders around town saying hello to the regulars she knows. She tells me she is disobeying her mother. Her mother is not keen on me, and does not like the idea of us coming here to Horcon together. So N doesn't tell her. I feel bad, responsible - but only because of the lack of honesty. Poor N her mind must be as confused as her ideals, her desires are spun around like a purple flower and pinewood cones in the raging ocean.

There are few things to tell about the past week. On Thursday I went to a lecture about China. I discovered the rico, rico Santa Maria University, with a swimming pool in the middle, and lots of club notices, and gardens and flowers. It's really peaceful and tranquil, I could study there with no trouble at all.

Books read: 'Winnie the Pooh' by A.A. Milne, very amusing and funny; 'Antologia de Cuentos' by Victor Domingo Silve, unhappy endings with distraught or shamed lovers killing themselves; a book of poems by Milton, too much like hard work; Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, excellent story of an old man living in isolation and discoursing over his suicide.

Tuesday 23 November

Today I received a startling letter. There, in bold capital letters, were words from P: 'I AM GAY'. How to explain my feelings. Disbelief, confusion, even fear. It frightened me, it seemed to say you are my closest friend; but I don't want that responsibility. JS came into my mind, as did the group in Dunedin, and the guys at the weekend. I've had several discussions about homosexuality in the last three days. It's great for P - if he has been hiding under the wrong fig leaf he should be a happier now. He says he has made gay friends and that he is withdrawing from old friends because he's not confident to tell them, to open up immediately. He has a boyfriend. I wrote back to him immediately but it wasn't a nice letter, provocative and awkward: I even felt I had to confirm my own heterosexuality, just in case.

Wednesday 24 November


Pablo's easy existence unsettles me. The whole handicrafts scene looks good, makes me jealous and feel as though I want to be part of it, which in turn disturbs me. I spent the evening half listening to some mediocre folk music and half listening to my brain ticking over. And on the micro home, I decided on an idea life: first to build a small company, grow quickly, and make a lot of money; then to go into arts and drama, acting and writing; and then to go to university. This seems a good order, with five, six or seven years each, after which I will still only be middle-aged. Then I could choose the most satisfying route for an old men. The logicality marches on: my mathematical brain is like a computer looking for the square root of two. If I can find the square root of two it will equal happiness.

Friday 25 November

N hasn't written. I don't know when letters arrive, but without a letter from N I can do nothing. I shall wait here all afternoon and if no letter arrives I shall wait here all evening, until 8:30 no later, hoping she will arrive any way.

Here are some things to report from the last week. The University of Chile held a folk festival. I saw one reasonable band called Caracas. I went to the Instituto Frances to see a play. It also has exhibitions of paintings, drama workshops, a library etc. I found a place selling 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns' at a super special price of 25 pesos - how could I not buy it. The cobblers next door are tranquil in the afternoon. I listened to my record there. I have also begun to make some sandals under the watchful eye of Pablo (he, who is restless to travel).

There is a small cute morena lady who sits often on one bench at this end of Valparaiso. Sometimes we link eyes as I walk past, but sometimes I ignore her. But one day this week we met in Valparaiso. She was walking with a man. Her face was one large smile. We laughed at each other as though it was strange to know that we actually existed away from the bench. I gave her a peach yesterday, but I was dressed in a tie and jacket and I don't think she recognised me.

George is studying to be a translator. He decided to exchange lessons with me, so I see him quite often. He speaks good stuttering English, too much sometimes. He lives in an apartment with his brother and sister. He always has something to say, 'Oye Paul', and gesticulates madly by poking me. He's very inquisitive about my travels and life, which is a form of humility I suppose. He will insist on saying things I know perfectly well. For example, I say 'it used to confuse me the word largo, it meant large to me', and he leans back on his chair with a big smile and proudly says, like the ultimate in teachers, 'no, it means, long'. Yesterday we prepared a speech on the British Empire for him in English and got into a heated discussion about some fundamental differences between Latins and Europeans.

Monday 28 November

N arrived on Friday evening a few hours after a very sweet letter. We hitched to Horcon with some difficulty, but were eventually picked up by friends of N from music school. An old boyfriend (who, coincidentally, used to live with the cobblers) joined us for the weekend. N had visited Father Christmas and came with all sorts of presents. On the Saturday we had a bad shock. There was a knock at the door and we were startled out of their skins. N's mother and sister and brother had arrived unexpectedly. In a fluster we had to put on pants, clean the bed, move clothes, hide presents. They came with mountains of food, so we spent the rest of the weekend eating. The mother remained rather cool. N and I danced a little in the unopened banos of the Gloria. We flew early on Sunday, and I was left to wander the streets of Vina which were full of excitement: Valparaiso Calle was choco bloco with millions of people whistling, rattling, shouting: ever for Everton.

December 1976

Paul K Lyons


Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG

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