PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1975 - MARCH
DIARY 2: March 1975 - February 1976
3 March, Christchurch
Letters from Tudor, Judith, Phil, Colin
4 March, Christchurch
Butterflies are Free? And so are we? - a play by Harold Painter at the Repertory Theatre - story of a blind boy trying to escape from his over-protective mother - only fair. Paper Moon - Ryan O'Neil - not very good - young girl brings happiness and sparkle into the life of two-bit con-salesman.
5 March, Christchurch
We suss out how to lock four bikes together with three padlocks and two chains - we check out a fair at the Student Union - nothing more than socio-religious-pseudo set up - feminists - guru - an ordinary half hour of poetry readings - some super pseudo Scottish dancing - two ordinary rock bands, Euclid and Rocking Horse. Chris shows up at tea-time much to Clare's pleasure and astonishment. I soak in the atmosphere of the Town Hall on opening night - Tartuffe by Moliere - pretty ace, well acted and produced - simple effective set.
8 March, Christchurch
Letters from Dad and Grandma. It's the start of the Christchurch Arts Festival. I cycle around the festivities area - lots of people milling around, some dressed up, some holding metal things (vaguely like musical instruments) - it's beautiful and warm, a short's only day. We park ourselves in the square and watch the symbols of our politics, society, culture and religion roll slowly into the square (some in Bentleys, some in colourful processions) - some little speeches - the mayor calling for more funds from the government - other speeches are soppy. The pigeons are soppy - the balloons are soppy, the bands are a little less soppy - the Maori dancers performing their once a year ritual are soppy. Clare suggests visiting her friend in Peterborough St. We go there and spend two hours drinking tea and eating cheese and tomato toasts with two ladies. Subsequently, they join us as we proceed up to Ilam. I am, however, aware that Chris (Clare's fiancee) is coming down this weekend - it's a big surprise and so we can't tell Clare.
9 March, Christchurch
Payments from Heylon $19.68 and $15.18. I suppose I must confess to sitting around the house most of the morning reading - Chris and Clare whizz off to see the town sights. I get eight lifts to Araroa (including a doctor, a moto cross guy, and ice cream van going to the races). I investigate an empty house, watch a little cricket, drink tea with hippies turned country folk who are teaching and farming, and walk the length of Araroa along a small grey beach with thousands of pretty little shells. There is a museum here with a historical caretaker - a small art gallery of pencil landscapes and abstracts revealing a struggle between the mature and the immature, the clear and the frenzied. Two young mechanics take me right back and help me whip the pictures from the deserted house. There's a big crowd at home just waiting for dinner - beef stroganoff - pretty good.
10 March, Christchurch
At lunchtime in the square I watch the NZ army band playing lots of catchy tunes, and, in the Haywright Theatre, an audio-visual review of industrial design. Also I go to a reading (Jane Austen from Pride and Prejudice, Emma and various letters she wrote, living very much the life of her characters) - with Judie Driscoll and Jan Frischer (both of whom were in Tartuffe) - in a pretty full Court Theatre. After expending a lot of energy and cleaning my greasy fingers 83 times during the course of cooking chops, I bicycle to town in search of the Forum Debating Club. After telephone books and passerbys and a lack of ingenuity, I arrive - three hours superb entertainment - it's a middle-aged sort of group - a lot of heckling, all for fun - debating could be in.
11 March, Christchurch
I write letters to Melanie, Chris, Tudor and Judith. I am thinking today, while riding into town, that I'll never see Julian and Melanie as I know them again - it makes me very sad - we are going to be great friends later in life. I miss most of all watching and helping them grow. I start learning Spanish. The sitting room in our flat is now nearly pleasant with three framed Maori pictures include a portrait and an angel, and Qantas posters neatly arranged around - a cover over the divan and bright orange cushions - magazines piling up on the shelf.
12 March, Christchurch
I go to see a number of New Zealand poets such as Fleur Alcock, Janet Frame, Ursula Bethella. It's a pretty good event, quite enjoyable, a lot of people. I receive another letter from Maja with lots of questions, she is a little concerned I hadn't written for her birthday. It's Margaret's birthday, so we go for drinks in Carlton.
13 March, Christchurch
I go to a lecture on Transcendental Meditation - just like the Afghani medicine sellers in Leh, like Billy Graham. I offer you better social life, better health, more success - just do our course for $30. Phooey, what a lot of rubbish - two con men - two soft-spoken, tyed and suited con men. I also go to two lectures on English, one on Dryden (dry old Dryden) and one on Marlowe (The Jew of Malta). It's raining very hard. I read Maja's letters again and become all melancholic and write some poems.
17 March, Christchurch
I sign this diary (Diary 2) off as finished - new words, new poems, new days must start with new papers.
Books I've read so far in March (with rating out of 10): Some text book on psychology, 5; An introduction for psychology, Mackay, 7; Poems of Elliot, 6; The rivals, Sheridan, 8; The eye of the hurricane, Fleur Adcock, 6; Imagination, ES furlong, 2.
19 March 1975
A WEST COAST JOURNEY
Having been out for a drink late one evening and wallowing in a jug, I decided on my return to go down south for the weekend. Checking the map, a good route seemed to be the West coast to Queenstown and back through Lindis and Bruce's Pass. I left early in the morning after checking there were no jobs in the paper. Without too much bother I got on the Arthur's Pass Rd, but then I got lots of piddly little lifts. By 3:00 I hadn't even got to the summit - it was raining off and on and several times I was tempted to turn back. A lovely lady in a 68 mini (that she bought for $1,500) took me beyond the pass and down the other side which was wet and very steep - there were more bends to the mile than inches in a yard - fine gorgeous scenery amidst the wet and the mist. She dropped me at Jackson, where I found a pretty fine pub with an open hearth and beer and pies. Two jokers took me to Woodstock - they had just bought a car in Christchurch. Percy had had throat cancer and so was a bit croaky speaking with a machine he held against his throat. They were certainly getting a little pissed - they assured me of the friendliness of the locals and that I was going to have a wonderful time at their pub - I might have stayed if there had been some sheilas, but the first chance I had I crept out of the pub (having promised to stay) and stealthily made my way up the road in the dark. Then I got a lift in a milk lorry and another with some more youths before more drinking in Lake Inthem Hotel - I slept uncomfortably on very wet grass.
It was a clear fine morning, and I got lifts with a policeman and a clergyman - there were fine views of Mt Cook and lakes and flats, rain forests and hills - early mist over rivers, wide stony rivetted creeks and plenty of fast flowing white glacier rivers - lots of glacier Franz Josef in view - but Fox not so spectacular. Andrea and Craig, newly marrieds, took me down the coast on the way to Queenstown - past white endless beaches with weathered ragged woods strewn like rubbish - crags reaching out to sea - evidence of hard struggle to clear the land - the dense bush, land for cows, helicopters above the bush line killing the deer. It felt like a long way from anywhere. Eventually we cut away from the coast up the Head Pass - more beautiful views of glaciers and Mt Hook and a waterfall (90ft straight drop) and eventually arriving at dryer moors and grasslands - Lake Wanaka - so beautiful and quiet and serene - a picture of pictures - calm huge water reflecting the hills and skies, real beauty - but many sandflies (because it was so calm). We stopped by another waterfall which could have been headlines in England - chips at Wanaka - before a steep dirt track arriving at Queenstown by early evening.
Queenstown is just a mass of hotels suffocating the village and polluting the lake - Lake Wanaka has far superior views - the youth hostel looked dull and, even though American Graffiti was getting a showing in the local hall, I tried to hitch out - I ended up walking, looking for a quiet dark spot to doze off with the stars as my dreams. My sleep was intercepted by the crackling of twigs and an increased heart rate - it took me half an hour to believe it was only twigs dropping from the tree.
There was so little traffic and all of it was local - a guy building a house and a stock lorry driver took me to near Lindis Pass, then Rog, in his old Holden, heading for Christchurch, picked me up - more land and moor land, sheep and cattle country, widely dispersed - views of Mt Cook again as I headed round the other way - two long man-made lakes - near the second one was Twizel, a new town, completely self-sufficient, cheap rates for living, high wages to provide the labour for the quarries and enormous hydro project. We stopped for tea with a young housewife - I think Ray was fond her. We stopped for a while and watched the hydro project - so many bulldozers and lorries looking just like ants. Apart from the lakes, the drive was pretty boring - after Bruce's Pass and McKenzie country, the land became a little greener, with crops and grazing fields. Then Ray's car got a puncture - it took half an hour to replace with a bald tyre. And, after Fairlie, another puncture - Ray didn't have enough money to buy a new tyre, so he was going to stay by the road until 5:00 to see if a friend of his would come along. I hitched on, and after half an hour or so, a business man in a super coupe rode me to Christchurch. But I thought about poor old Ray - he was just in the process of moving from Cornwall to Christchurch and was in trouble with money and his wife.
I read three Marlowe plays whilst waiting by the roadsides.
LECTURES AND CHESS
I sent a card to Grandma Todd. I cycle a lot today. In the afternoon I go to an interesting lecture on psychology - removal of unwanted characteristics, omission training and reinforcement. Margaret cooks a tasty pie. At chess club, the chairman is having the time of his life with so many newbies and grading them all - I talk to a young Sarah Jane (more than I play chess) who gets up at 6:30 to run around the block with her Mum every day - she is a practicing Christian - I come away very annoyed with myself for having felt the necessity to boast of previous exploits.
Letters from Maya and Grandma - Maya echoes my feelings and Dolly just confirms about her friend in Sydney for whom I didn't look hard enough. I go to a poetry reading at lunchtime (including the exuberant romantic Summer who runs a second-hand bookshop, Rob Jackaman, an English lecturer at uni, who was good and made sense, and that feminist poet who I saw before with Clare). It's such a nice day. I ride around and around the square and absent-mindedly through the streets with only my shorts on, soaking in the day. Rosencranz and Guildenstein in the evening with Margaret. Very amusing - three pretty good actors with good parts but otherwise poor actors with poor parts - Sartre-type conversations between courtiers in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Margaret is really beginning to annoy me. Life, once again, is not living up to expectations. I want to live with people who treat life seriously and happily - having a lot of fun, intelligent learning fun, not farcing about giggling immaturely, and with people who talk seriously, discussing, learning off one another.
Some 3,000 people run today in the Come Alive event.
Having just read Tolstoy's short story 'Elias' it suddenly occurred to me (though I have pondered on it little more than a few seconds), that those who are happiest in life's turmoil are those who are living at the right level of responsibility and personal relationship.
Letters to Colin, Grandma, Phil, Jacques. So many things to do this morning. I cancel the paper, post letters, check mail, buy a record player - $111 between three of us. I see a film by Penn on South America. It seems I'm really set on going there one day - I'm learning Spanish. I have an interview with a small importer of chemicals - it's just the sort of job I'm looking for, but I don't think I'll get it. Because my head hurts so badly, I stop off at hospital for an hour wait - I am clutching my head all the time.
My head is a little more under control today though I still need to take disprin. I have four Spanish lessons in the morning. I'm waiting to hear my new record - Joni's 'Court and Spark' - and then I'll be off up North. We finally collect our $111 stereo but have to take it back because we can't get it started - we are pretty stupid - it's 5:00 before I hear my record and get on the road. It's no trouble getting out of Christchurch, and then a farmer and his wife take me to within 50km of Kaikowa - a family on holiday from Twizel then take me intot the town. There's a clear sky and a near full moon - I am sleeping near the crashing waves, between a disused railway line and the road. I sleep from about 11:00 to just after dawn.
TO THE NORTH ISLAND
A short lift takes me across broken down roads - great gullies have been eroded out of the bush-covered hills, sweeping mud and debris across the road - many bulldozers working to clear it. Just after 9:00, a couple of lads take me into Picton, mostly following the coast, grey sand and shingle beaches, murky roughish water. I go for a fine walk through forest and along the beach in Picton. And for an hour or so I swim and sunbathe nude. I then join some lads who are water skiing - they give me a few rides in their speed boat.
I catch a ferry at 2:20 - as it travels through Queen Charlotte Sound, we pass forest-covered hills randomly protruding from the sea. The trip takes three and a half hours or so - there's good cheap food. I start hitching a few minutes out of the docks, and get a lift from a man in a van to 12 miles out of town, and then another from a couple of ladies, and another on the back of a motorbike (I had to hang on for dear life, and the ride left me very cold). I sleep 30 miles out of Tampou in the middle of nowhere.
Early in the morning, a Maori lorry driver picks me up. The countryside is pretty scraggy - just outside Taupo are many metal funnels with steam steaming out of them - geysers being used industrially - weird - apparently it produces a blanket mist all around in winter. A sporty car takes me right through to Auckland and, believe it or not, I make it to the Youth Hostel by 9:30.
Auckland centre is pretty dull and uninteresting - the tourist office is unfriendly. Albert Park and the Art Gallery are quite interesting (some humourist drawings and large woven sculptures). I walk around the university, which looks a pretty scrappy place, disorganised (lots of bare feet). Queen Street is the main street. The Domain is the number one park with the war museum perched on top - it's pretty good on Maori stuff - two halls of remembrance for the two wars - period furniture. I walk quite a lot.
About 3:30 I take a bus to Massey area, Huru Huru road. I feel a bit of twit standing on the Bailey's doorstep; no way does Jenny recognise me. I introduce myself as Paul Lyons from Hoddesdon - looks of startlement and amazement - she was just packing because they're off for Easter to a bible weekend - I had been wondering if they might had given religion a miss on coming out here but no way - they are well and truly involved in a Baptist church. It's not even two years that they've been here but they can't praise it enough, or so it seems - Jenny acts very happy - we list the good and bad -she seems a little materialistic in outlook. Simon doesn't recognise me, he is still quiet and the introverted one - the little girl is pretty and growing up, a little like Melanie - she comes from a party with a Gingerbread biscuit that's broken. They have a typical bungalow with an acre or so of land (right by the motorway) - three cars - Ed has changed his job recently and likes it a lot better which makes them both happier - Jenny works at a Mission bookshop in the morning and is proud of her driving and her little Morris 1,000. Ed comes home in his normal mood and doesn't take long to recognise me. We talk on and they hurry to get things ready, the kids being quite obedient. They do have trouble with their neighbours, who are deaf and rude and very un-neighbourly - the Bailey's have lost all patience with them (and I'm sure they consider them beyond the realm of salvation). In fact, one of the kids lets out that they have talked about moving. Jenny keeps in regular contact with Joy and Sue who are thinking of coming out to NZ. I go with them to their new Youth Fellowship, who are all excited about the ensuing house party. Ed drops me off near the hostel. I am left with the feeling that they are generally pretty happy but not as content as they make out.
The evening rolls on pleasantly with games of pool at the hostel in the company of a Dane and two sexy Australians. Later on I talk to a very receptive American about travelling across Asia. I like him and we both expect to meet on the road somewhere northwards.
Good Friday 28 March
I start hitching with relative easy and with two lifts am across the wide Auckland harbour bridge. I am dropped off by the motorway where there isn't an entrance so a copper catches me walking on the motorway - he takes me away and tells me to hitch on the main highway but it is only used by locals - three miles further on the motorway merge with it and it isn't until I've walked the three miles that I get a lift - a mother and her her pretty daughter and son off to their batch. The next lift is Pom in a van who is just driving around for the weekend and wants company but I find him boring (although he has travelled) so don't stay long. I decided to hitch up the west coast and get a lift with a retired couple in their Mercedes. They gave me swordfish (from the Bay of Islands) sandwiches and beer. We pass muddy waters of weird shaped harbours, rolling sheep and beef country. A country taxi-driver (from Holland) takes me a long way, and, at one point, we stop so he can show me a big fat kauri tree - kauri gum was dug for by early Yugoslav settlers because it was very valuable. There is a beautiful view of Hokianga harbour and sand dunes approaching Opononi. The taxi driver persuades me to take the ferry across the harbour from Rowene but, once the other side, I am stuck. I have a three mile walk and two hour wait before I am finally rescued by a joker and his four young children in quest of watercress - by the time he get to the place where it might be it is too dark so he takes me to the main road instead - nice guy. A Maori gives me a lift through to Kaitaii, a homely hostel. I scrounge a cup of tea. I sleep very badly in a small room because my nose won't stop running.
I wake at dawn as usual, and am off early. I get one lift from a silent local and another from a couple of tourists - I arrive at the cape early but there no views straight away of the ocean, just rolling dunes and occasional glimpses of the sea - a long dusty track - quite a view at the end of the rocky cape, though, and some lonely beaches. No breakfast available, just a railway station, toilet and a car park.
My next lift is Gary and Shad (I'm sure they passed me before), just when I am expecting to have to walk for miles. They already have one hitchhiker - Laurie - so I sit in the back with a puppy doberman (Sheba) who is very friendly. I answer occasional questions from Laurie. We stop at the first pub (the most northern pub in NZ) where we beer and lunch on chips and smoked fish. Gary and Shad are from Australia, and are working in Hamilton. Laurie is from Canada on a six month working holiday with a couple of friends (they stopped off at Fiji, Hawaii and Samoa before NZ, and will go to Singapore, Djakarta, Tokyo and Bangkok on the way back).
Because I am heading for the Bay of Islands, like the others, it becomes sort of accepted that I should join the party. After the pub we drive on, and onto Ninety Mile Beach - a vast expanse of flat beach (where the world speed record was set in 1932). There are only a few day trippers every half mile or so.
We find we are lacking petrol. We go back to Kaitaii and find a panelbeaters. We wait two hours while a good guy solders a million holes in the tank - they'd been caused by rocks hitting it, and it was only dirt blocking the holes that had kept any petrol in the tank at all. We take the coast road to the Bay of Islands. I've got a bad cold. I still plan to leave the party once we get to the Bay, but I want to see Waitangi and it's off the main road, and it's dark, and I'm tired. Laurie offers me her tent, so I agree to stay with the group. We drink some more in a packed bar, with tourists and a host of Maoris, on the sea at Paihe. We squeeze into a campsite which has more people than a city. We set up camp and go for a meal at the only exciting place - $3 for a good sized piece of habuka or groper (occasional man-eater). It's a little difficult because the Aussies are living at a higher cost ratio than I - it's OK for Laurie because they are paying for her, although, to be fair, they are being generous with me too.
Many laughs in the morning over Laurie's attempted seduction - I trying to get out of the side of the tent but find it is all sealed in - Laurie has become of the boys. We trip around, to Waitangi where we find a good value museum and Marae (intricately carved wood meeting houses) where the Treaty was signed giving NZ to the Queen - old pictures and maps and accounts of battles and governors' furniture. It's Easter Sunday and a very dry day (the pubs really should be open 365 days a week). Laurie and Gary cook some fine sausages and eggs. Gary is keeon on Laurie and follows her around which is good for Laurie's ego. Apparently, he's been married once and is just engaged to marry again. Shad, on the other hand, talks less, is younger, less skilled and rather glad he's in with Gary, although he's not ruled by him. Mostly Shad looks after the dog and dreams.
Big excitement of the day is that Laurie's friend, Barbara, is arriving on the bus from Whangerei. For half an hour we laugh loud as an afghan puppy makes mincemeat of Sheba. Well Barbara turns out to be a big, plain girl - both Gary and Shad try to hide their disappointment. But Barb soon joins in and becomes one of the boys.
Lots of dusty travelling and a couple of dairies - we learn about the islands from Barb - I establish some of rapport with Laurie (which might flourish given more time). We hit Whanaki - sandy banks and rocks jutting out of the harbour, a few houses and mud flats. We drive along a beach to an old pier where we camp - I walk across to the islands and check the toilets out. In the meantime, Gary raids a poor man's batch for a grill from the fridge and gets the barbecue going. Yes, sausages. The evening goes so smoothly. Shad I talk for a long time by the light of the fire. I wrote a couple of poems and feel excellent all evening - just staring at the fire and lying on the beach as the tide rises to within a couple of feet of me and recedes again. All the time there are lots of boats going in and out - fishermen.
The morning is nice too - barbecued bacon and eggs, endless cups of coffee - walking along the beaches and rocks - a little swimming - it's cold but when you're in it's fine. Later, we learn that there is a sting ray under the pier just where the two Aussies had been diving from the top of the van. It is quite late in the morning before we hit the dusty track again. I read half a book on the state of Harlem negroes. We drink a few jugs in a pub where Shad has a chance to talk to some bikers that we keep meeting - they turn out to be from the same part of Sydney as Shad. Next, we stop at the girls' small flat in Auckland where we get coffee. We say goodbye with promises to write. It takes two and half hours to get to Hamilton - Gary sleeps - Shad gets tired driving. At their two-bedroomed unit, we eat chicken for dinner and watch a lousy cop show on TV. I am tired and sleep well.
Paul K Lyons
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