PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1977 - MARCH
1 March, Buenos Aires
N and Christian have gone. I cried for five minutes as the train left and had a sad expression on my face for days. N has Christian to comfort her on the homeward voyage, and I have a multitude of gringos. I am depressed, depressed, depressed. N se fue. Yo me voy. I am going to Barcelona on the Marconi boat, leaving 5 March arriving 20 March.
What is there to write about? I have stopped smoking yet again. I am in B.A. too long. I saw a film 'Foxtrot' with Max Von Sydow, Peter O'Toole, and I went to the third international book fair. Arturo got us entrance tickets for the inauguration. An American with a big metal trunk came from Naples on the Marconi and has told me all about it: it'll be two weeks of luxury it seems - food and wine. I think I will buy a recorder and play to Miss Atlantic.
5 March, The Marconi
The whole ship wreaks of Butlins. All I can say is 'fuck, I'm going home'. The boat left a few minutes late only, with lots of people screaming from dock, but here are not many people screaming now as B.A. fades into a lilac sunset. I am screaming inside. The loudspeakers are driving me mad with their incessant impersonal announcements. I am crying also. A small tear is growing, there will be brutality on arriving home.
6 March, The Marconi
I feel very empty. After N left, I busied myself with gringo affairs. There was a Belgian couple, Jean and Dominique, married with lots of problems, and an Australian married couple, Dale and Nancy, who had been travelling for four years and with whom I played scrabble. They are heading for Canada for the winter. There was Sevalo, the Brazilian boyfriend of the girl who works at American Express. It's possible I might find in Rio, when the boat docks there, and maybe he will find me some grass for the long Butlinsy boat trip home. Also in B.A. I bought lots of things: a badly made suede jacket; a well-made leather jacket; a few stones; a couple of knives; a sprinkling of belts; a pair of shoes.
Ding a ling a ling a ding. Lunch time.
My initial contact with people on the ship has not been good. I have nothing in common with those on my meal table or those in my cabin. The only travellers on the boat seem to be German, apart from a Dutch couple who seem OK. But I need to use this time to practice the recorder, cement my Spanish vocab, do some writing, get my head ready for London.
The boat docked in Montevideo this morning at 6:30 below a beautiful lilac dawn. I ran around the city for a while with the Boliviano from my room.
Ding a ling a ling.
I sent some letters to warn of arrival: Home, Grandma, Anna, Phil, Chris, Maja, Howard.
7 March, The Marconi
Having made concerted efforts to meet people for a couple of days I gave up yesterday and decided I would spend the 15 days at the sea very quietly and calmly. I took my recorder to the quietest corner I could find. I practised to the wind, but people passed like seeds in the wind disturbing me then and there. People on ships like this one are seeds I suppose - seeds emigrating to plant themselves in a new country, wanting to bear new fruit. But one seed didn't fly by with the wind, she planted herself in my dreams and my thoughts. M is pretty, intelligent, a real woman, yet young enough to play like a child. We played many games between first and tourist class. And we had argument over the nationality of Marquez, and went around asking lots of people. In the evening there was a beautiful red thing in the sky just as the sun had entered the water. Was it a flying saucer? Jupiter? Superman? No it was the moon, that old thing.
The wine goes down well after lunch and dinner. It makes me sleepy and a little borracho. I am so tempted to smoke.
Martes 8 Marzo, The Marconi
The day divides itself between eating, playing my recorder, reading and being with M. Being with her is a new discovery. She is so different from N who is still very much on my mind. M is an actress and a dancer but she hasn't travelled like I have. We talk for long hours. Last night, the moon was so full, the wind was so strong, but our first kisses were light.
The ship becomes more and more ours as we discover its parks and lanes, its dark and quiet places, as we learn to flout the routines of passengers and crew alike. The boat is full of silly laws and regulations. They are everywhere, in every corner. Just one example: I wanted to change my table, to move to M's where there was a spare place, but it was not allowed. I show mock anger and laugh on the inside.
I look for no-one now except M, and yet meet all sorts of people.
Wednesday 9 March, The Marconi
During the stopover, M and I played games with Rio. She is between two worlds, that of her mother and that of the hippy traveller. She is brave to have left home.
Now the boat has left Rio and South America. I am sad. I felt good when I arrived back on board. I showered and went to watch the exit. But so many thoughts of people, so many feelings crowded my mind, my view, I suddenly became deeply depressed. I tried to find somewhere to be alone, but wherever I went people came. I ended up in the chapel which was cook, and then somehow I had a headache. Dinner dampened the pain, and sadness.
Thursday 10 March
I just met a Swede, an architect student. I like him. The travellers are drawing together on the boat and having night poolside parties. Last night I slept on top of the Marconi with the wind and the moon, but the rain man woke me early. After breakfast, I took a swim and washed some clothes.
The wine and the heavy food hangs like an anchor from the body. I keep fighting with the regulations and the regulation keepers.
Friday 11 Marzo
The movement of the boat makes it difficult to stand on one's head when drunk. I talked to two children who are so light, so breezy. First comes the unknowing fright, and then the unknowing trust. Of course I am a child but they can never know it. I have a beard, my trousers are long, my voice is deep.
Saturday 12 March
Our games have degenerated and I am sad, M has left me, or I have left her. I cannot give more. She is nonchalant, an actress. She disturbs. I am only ten days away frmo England.
The last paragraph of T. Mann's 'Magic Mountain': 'Farewell - and if thou livest or diest, thy fortunes are poor. The desperate dance, in which thy fortunes are caught up, will last yet many a sinful year, we should not care to set a high stake on thy life by the time it ends. We even confess that it is without great concern we leave the question open. Adventures of the flesh and in the spirit, while entrancing thy simplicity, granted thee to know in the spirit what in the flesh thou scarcely coulds't have done. Moments there were, when out of death, and the rebellion of the flesh, there came to thee, as thou tookest stock of thyself, a dream of love. Out of this universal feast of death, out of this extremity of fever, kindling the rain-washed evening sky to a fiery glow, may it be that love one day shall mount.'
Domingo 13 March
We are in the Northern Hemisphere. I am in the Northern Hemisphere. When will I leave it again?
M and I have been all over the ship now, but, after seven days of trying, we had still failed to get permission to use the gymnasium. I was a bit angry about this so, last night when, at half past eleven, I saw the captain I confronted him. He said there was nothing he could do but that I should continue to insist. 20 minutes later we had permission - not that it was worth the bother, the deck is better for exercises. We also conned our way into the engine room pretending we had permission. A young engineer didn't believe us, but showed us around any way.
Nine polizontes (stowaways) have been discovered. They were hiding in friends' cabins. All of them are Chilean, Peruvian or Argentinian except for one French woman, who is the angriest and ugliest of them all. They are now confined to rooms and allowed one hour's exercise a day. Some of them do not have passports; some say they are political refugees from Chile and if sent back will be taken prisoner. A Dutch couple and a Unesco guy from Denmark are trying to help them. They are going to telegram from Lisboa to the Dutch embassy.
Lunes 14 Marzo
The dance of the evening
The dance of the evening
The dance of the evening star
When you don't want a woman
And you don't want a man
And all you've ever seen is the stars
Look above and you will find what you do seek
That they abound
The dance of the evening
The dance of the evening
The dance of the evening star
Martes 15 Marzo
Sometimes there is no escape to words. Is it a seasickness that flutters in the stomach, or desire? Everything is.
The boat slows steady forwards. It is one o'clock in the morning, they are cleaning the dancing room. They should clean me too. I am sad. M rejected me and now she forgets me. We are strangers. The actress has drowned me, I have drowned myself.
Reading some letters of friends - a great surge of desire to see them
Jueves 17 Marzo
In the morning shines the wind of dawn. Tomorrow we are in Europe. It is two years and nine months since I left. Now it is warmer inside the boat than out. There is an air of arriving; people who were alone now put serious faces on as they talk to their new confidantes.
Viernes 18 Marzo
5:00pm. I am so tired, I have enormous rings around my eyes. It is a fitting way to end this voyage. Lisbon was beautiful, like a fairy land of jousting fields and castles. The city full of tiny tram-filled alleys, hills and bridges, monuments and parks. So obviously Europe again.
I shall mention Jorge, a 20 year old Spaniard who was travelling in Columbia and Brazil. He lives in Catalunya. I spent a lot of time with him. He's tranquilo and has hair down to his waist. During the voyage he would sit all day long staring into space never feeling he ought to do something. We never talked much about anything, but we played cards and laughed a little.
European grey clouds fill the sky, the sun occasionally filters through them as it falls to rest again. We go due south to enter the Mediterranean through the night.
Sabado 19 Marzo
If I go by train I can be in London on Monday evening. We follow the east coast of Spain, it is very beautiful.
Wednesday 23 March, 64 Carlton Hill, London NW8
This England. I am less than 48 hours in the drizzle and things are so strange, yet so familiar. Mother is a little older. Father is a little more tense. Julian is a man. He's warm, friendly and thoughtful. Melanie sounds sharp on the phone. The house is not very settled, but it's beautiful.
I throw away ten kilos of letters, every letter I've ever received except those from Maja and the longer ones from Colin and N and Clare.
It is difficult to accept that everyone is speaking English. Good to hear. So good to the ears. This is my home but I look at the faces, the streets, the churches, the clothes like a stranger.
My two oldest friends - Mr Harper and Mr West - came to London, and we had some drinks. Chris talked of skiing, oil and women, and Colin wanted to convert me to Reikian therapy and to liberate my free energy trapped below the sub-conscious. Chris has an MG, and hasn't hitched anywhere for a long time. They tell me most of our old schoolfriends are married. We reminisced with old stories, school stories, car stories, pub stories. We all remembered a few things the others didn't, and I told one or two things about my trip.
Saturday 26 March
AWAKING IN THE NIGHT
Last night I slept in a bed in Chris's room in his family's house in Hoddesdon. I half awoke several times in and found myself in dimensions, times and places I did not understand, and I had a tremendous struggle to comprehend where I was and what I was doing. Being in Hoddesdon, seeing old faces, the same and yet a million miles away: who was real, who was imaginary, who had passed through the magic mirror, who stood on the magic mountain? I have immersed myself too quickly. Everything is as it was, and I am denying my travel, I am denying myself. It is though I have passed through no mirror, stood on no mountain. I've only been looking at an old stone wall. I think I should have screamed in the night when I woke up.
Here are some notes on people. Bob Brewster is married and has a house in Sele Farm Estate; Phil Burrel is nearly married and sports a moustache; Chris Newnham is married with a baby boy; George Taylor is married and has his own business, and an MGBGT; Howard is engaged; Anne King is married; Chris Hadder is around; Dick is in the States; John is running the Christian Way Out; Sue is in London teaching; Kay, Jo, Jill are far away; Rob is married.
Anna is working with Chilean refugees. She seems to have her future sorted out but is sad and happy in the same moments. Annabelle is much same as I remember her. She is working in Cheshunt on electronic design, and is living near Trafalgar Square with lots of friends visiting.
I cannot get my New Zealand residency visa extended. That leaves me with a big problem, and I have given myself until 26 April to make a decision about whether to return to NZ soon. Thinking about it this evening, I feel as though I might go to live there, but I shall give England a chance. If I can't find a life better than I could have in NZ, I will pack my bags on the 26th. I almost cry when I think of the decision I have to make. To say ciao to NZ would not be not easy.
It is Julian's birthday today. My father has left my mother.
Tuesday 29 March 1977
I seem to be thinking I might try market research. There is behaviour and attitude market research at the IBA, a research studentship at the Open University which sounds really quite interesting. I feel that I am worth a really good job, but I can't imagine what it would be; if I could put a name to it, I could look for it.
Melanie is suspended from school. Julian will not work.
The weather is so exciting in England. I am not surprised the people talk about it so much. Bright cold sunshine and snow yesterday. Bright cold sunshine and cloud today. Riding to the library on my bicycle, I was surprised by an early sunset, so I stood in the middle of a crossroads, a pedestrian oasis, and watched the round ball disappear in its glory and pride.
Edward Weston - selection of photographs from as far back as 1920, interesting. Went to the Hayward with Anna and Sheila. Anna shows me around the Chilean refugee organisation at Sinclair House. They have offices and a hotel in Shepherd's Bush, and four people working full time. Mostly, the refugees say they have been tortured. They fly from Santiago or Buenos Aires to London where they are met and taken to Sinclair House; there they may stay for several weeks until transferred to one of the provincial offices for jobs, housing etc. Most of them need medical treatment of one sort or another. Anna might take the kids for a walk or to the dentist or help with translations.
Paul K. Lyons
Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG