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Diaries
of
PAUL K LYONS

1975

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JOURNAL - 1975 - APRIL

1 April, Christchurch

Gary and Shad drop me way out of the town with promises to visit me in the South Island. It is a boring trip down to Wellington - during the last lift (for which I have to wait hours in a gale) I have more conversation than in all the others put together. Taupo is pretty. I can't decide whether to go into Wellington or not, but decide to catch the 6.40 ferry. I spend most of the trip alone reading and writing, but I do talk to a girl named Helen for a little while. Later, we learn the ferry can't dock because of high winds and rain, so then of course everybody talks to everybody else - isn't that strange. It is nearly 1:30 before the winds abate and the captain docks - another ship had anchored too. The electricity in Picton is dead - the roads to Nelson and Blenheim are closed - a lot of people waiting - all sleep on the boat - Helen in her car and I in the waiting room. Helen is a lonely teacher of five year olds in Nelson - we talk a while again. In the morning I endeavour to walk to the blocked roads but Helen picks me up before then and, though the water is across the road, it is low enough to ford. In Blenheim, a joker in a van picks two of us up (there was already one hitcher). I drive for last 50 miles, and we are in Christchurch before 2:00 pm.

3 April

I get up around 8:00, drink a cup of tea, and read the end of Tolstoy's short stories. I listen to Joni Mitchell music, make eggs on toast, and sort out what to do today. Into town, just after 9 - I read sits vacant in the library - check out price of telegram to UK - post letter - phone IHC and Anne - tell the press officer we aren't get any papers - and, at last, get my $5 off bill. I enter my cheque to PO savings account - go to the library again, read the Observer, take out books, ride back slowly. Margaret is just going to college. I listen to Joan Baez - do two-three hours of Spanish lessons - go to Dairy for milk - cycle to university - lecture on contemporary psychology - cycle back. Maggie cooks meal - I read and listen to music - cycle again to uni to play chess. Letter from Maya.

4 April

My head is starting to ache a lot so I go to the Barrington Medical Centre where a doc diagnoses acute sinusitis and gives me a prescription. It really is time to work - anything considered - please employ me - I wouldn't mind a job writing other people's diaries. I have a political conversation with a political science student in the Star and Garter pub. Clare goes back to Palmerston for eight weeks teaching practice.

5 April

A serious conversation with Margaret. The two girls find me too quiet and too different from them. I speak my mind also. The day is mostly music and reading and situations vacant. I go to my first party in NZ - I dance a lot - I give away apples but do not communicate with anyone.

The press held two adverts today: 'A room for 5/6 weeks - 1, 11 Nairn St', and 'A graduate seeks interesting position 1, 11 Nairn St.' So, during the day, we had people around answering the former. The first was Joe, a Swiss who came overland on a Hughes tour and is crashing at the home of a girl he travelled with, then came a big fat Maori who Margaret virtually rejected on sight (we argued about that later on), and two Christians. Margaret was pretty stuck on Joe so that's who we'll get.

6 April

I hitch to the university area at Lincoln but walk a lot of the way. It's quite a large place with 600 residents - one splendid (by NZ standards) old building. A couple of drinks in the refectory - a terrible game of snooker - a small talk to a man from Peshawar.

A tasty casserole for tea. I do not cycle down town for the fun of the folk club, but go collecting walnuts instead.

7 April

There is a very poor debate, on the flag and anthem, at the forum, but, nevertheless, it is a good night. Everyone, including I, does a three minute impromptu speech. I do mine very badly.

World affairs: five or six killed in Northern Ireland; Cambodia falling to the Khmer Rouge, US aid and war effort withdrawn; Vietnam suffering severe setbacks, a few embassies being evacuated in Saigon; Kissinger fails or gives up in the Middle East; the Kurds are hopelessly lost having been given an amnesty but are committing suicide. A letter to Maya, and one from Julian.

8 April

La Salamanche - yes, a very interesting and quite amusing Swiss classic.

9 April

I ring up about a pharmaceutical rep job, and I talk to another of the chaps at the Key employment agency who said he'd get me an interview with the guy who coming down from Auckland. I try for a kitchen job but the guy wants a married man

I pay $1 to see the world trotting championship. Every half hour or so there is a race with maybe ten runners (and riders from all over the world) doing one or two laps. The finishes are exciting. A lot of people betting. I spend $2-3. Joe and Margaret join me for a while.

10 April

I go to ILAM, play a game or two of chess with a five year philosophy student (who's taking up the cloth when he finishes!) The rest of the evening I spend with my friend Ong who, I discover, is married with a kid and is supported by his father who lives not far from Ipoh. Letters home and to Joe/Roger.

11 April

One letter from Maya and another from Jacques in Darwin. Maya has too much energy to be stuck for seven years studying to be a vet - sometimes she sounds so happy and other times I sense some despair. Jacques is saving money and having a good time. He tells me Wayne and Susie are on their way to NZ.

We go 'en famille' to see Streetcar Named Desire at the Court Theatre - very good. The play is a classic of course and deserves to be so, A party afterwards - I drink some liquor and dance to the Beatles and Catch Bull at Four.

13 April

An excellent jumble sale - I buy a grand overcoat for $1.25, a jacket and heavy jumper for 25c, and some cake and Time magazines. Joe is studying French - he got a job yesterday as a fitter.

I had a Tidy Boy interview with the Sandoz Sales Manager. It went quite well. We had a good chat in the Ramada Inn. He told me to ring back on Sunday. (Before that, though, I had been offered a job with a security firm, and another, in June or November, with the Territorials.) I try all day today to ring Garvey but there is no answer - and when, finally, I do get through, he says to leave it.

We go a long way to watch some Polo, en famille again. Later we get a rollicking from a walnut tree owner but we come home with packets full of chestnuts and walnuts and we can't stop eating them. The cops catch me cycling along Hagley Avenue without any lights.

14 April

Letters home and to Maya, Clare, Ed and three jobs. Letters from Grandma and Howard. Howard doesn't sound very happy and Grandma repeats a load of guff but really wants to know whether or not I got her money which I forgot to thank her for.

15 April

Letters to Al and Grandma. I race into town in my special clothes on my bike and race into a car door that is opened in my face - I swerve to miss and tear my trousers and graze my knee - I let off a fair amount of steam and tension 'fucking new trousers' I shout and scream. The driver just walks away. I hang around cooling off and decide to wait in the hope of persuading him to give me $10. He is a long time returning so I zip into town and go to the traffic cops who persuade me against pressing charges. There is a good job in the paper but I miss it. When I go back, the car has gone, so I go home dejected. Immediately, I write a letter to the Press. On telly, I watch 'The Cranes were Flying', a Russian film I've seen before about lovers separated by a boy's desire to go to war.

16 April

Letters from Dave Swift and Tudor. Tudor is unsatisfied and is still thinking of coming to Aussie, and Dave too is thinking along similar lines. I receive a telegram from Garvey [Sandoz] asking me to ring tonight, and so we arrange an interview tomorrow morning. In the evening watch an Indian film called Company - it's about a business man in Calcutta and his motivations symbolised by the presence of his sister-in-law - I thought Indian influences didn't come into the film enough - probably quite a remarkable film to come out of India.

17 April

BIG DAY

First I go into town to buy some trousers for my 11:15 interview. In the library, I read up a little more about salesmanship. I have to choose a shirt - first I iron my blue one with short sleeves, then try my grey one, but both have lousy collars for my type of tie knot. I feel untidily dressed as I walk around to the motel where the managing director and Garvey, the sales director, are waiting for me. I am bombarded with questions for one hour - it seems to go pretty well (like when they ask what makes me give up I give them the example of doing a collage, and, deciding, finally, I don't have enough elements to make it work). After I can't settle to do anything at home, I'm just thinking about the job. My letter about the bike accident is printed in the paper - this makes me happy even though the registration number of the car has been edited out.

I am just dossing about in my hovel of a flat when the two smart Sandoz men arrive unexpectedly at the front door. I am in my shorts (thank god I wasn't wearing my kaftan). The managing director is a smooth bugger, he's got a look about him. They don't seem to mind my dress but they want a snap decision. I have to say YES, so they welcome me to Sandoz. These two suited men in my dirty flat, shaking hands with me in my shorts - it's worth a picture. Afterwards, one thing sticks in my mind: Garvey looking very pleased with himself and muttering about how we should make a good team. The job is in Dunedin! I am to spend two weeks in Auckland and then move to Dunedin. I will have a salary of five and half thousand pounds, plus car. Well baby!

18 April

Phnom Phen finally falls to the Khmer Rouge; Congress votes against aid to Vietnam. Suez Canal is open for use by all but Israel. NZ is still deciding whether to use Lyttleton or Port Chalmers as the main container port; unemployment is just over 3,000. Britain's budget is terrible - cigarettes 50p, everything has gone up a phenomenal amount - tax up too.

Gees I had butterflies in my stomach yesterday afternoon, I couldn't take it in, I'm a sales rep, I've a car, I'm in Dunedin for a year - I couldn't stop laughing. I had to write home.

I buy a Moody Blues double album. In the evening I go to the university and play chess and snooker. Ong brings me home and we play a few paper games.

POEM
Love of life, love of world
This fear of string and rope and knots
The heart beating no, no, no
Yesterday I gave away my soul
For a car and a suit and pretty girls, or was it fear
Nature's protegees whispering no, no
The walls of man calmly selling yes, yes
But anyhow yesterday, I gave away my soul
Or just pawned it for a while.

19 April

A lot of cleaning and washing today, and buying books at jumble sales, and bicycling, and picking a box of walnuts, and making walnut cake and casserole and baked potatoes, and going to a film (Chinatown, a better than average US cop movie). Also I go to a lecture on Echenka but it is just another American money-making scheme.

25 April

It's Anzac day, I'm in the right country but don't see any parades, I'm too busy walnut picking and making walnut and sultana cake with Margaret's help.

Hitching to Akaroa with Margaret. Our first lift is with a psychology student who takes us to a hilltop tavern with fine views over the bay and hills; the Bishop of Canterbury gives us a lift down the hill to Pecheurs tavern which was smaller and more pleasant. One more lift into Akaroa. M looks around, I suss out the two pubs, both pretty good - get involved with a drunk crowd in one - M knows one pretty girl who is embarrassed at her father's blue singing.

On the way back we have a boring lift (an amusement machine operator) so I decide not to carry on and check out a pub in Little River (leaving M to continue back to Christchurch). But the weather turns cold and wet, and then it is getting dark and nobody is picking me up - I stoop to swearing at the miserable bastards who pass me by. After half an hour of near misery four students pick me up and take me home amidst constant chatter about other people - they invite me to a party. By the time I get home, M has cooked tea - I gobble it down and whizz off to the repertory theatre (nobody else wants to go). It's really cold and wet so I put my big $1 coat on and tuck it in as best I can when I go on Joe's bike. I don't like the play, the production, nor the acting. I cycle past the party but there are too few cars outside so go home to drink coffee. I talk a while, and then put my layers of clothes back on before venturing out again - I infiltrate into the cliquey party and then infiltrate out. I owe letters to Judith, Tudor, Dave S, Howard and Jacques.

26 April

Joe goes over to the West Coast with friends - I make a steak dinner with some ugh wine.

POEM
Sound and spray and sight
Mesmerises
My soul

How many days
Have I been here
Rocking in the breeze

The rocks have moved
Trees are upside down
The waterfall has fallen

27 April

Listening to records - packing - Margaret gives me a lift to the airport with Joe. Here goes, here goes, here goes - in my sale jacket and sale trousers. I look around the other passengers to see who could be the other Sandoz guy. There are beautiful views of snow on the mountains, but it's cloudier over the North Island. Mike meets us and takes us to the CT club where we have a few beers (even though it's Sunday) and settle in to watch television.

28 April

FIRST DAY OF WORK WITH SANDOZ

It's all a little much to take in - new building, four offices, four managers, a board room, three secretaries, the store below with drugs and literature. We are going to spend two weeks in that board room, two weeks of solid learning. One or other of the secretaries makes us coffee whenever it is wanted. Gordon starts of the week with a welcoming 'work hard' speech. Soon we are learning all about osteoporosis - a weakening of the bones in old people. Give them calcium and they get better. We learn more about it than your actual GP knows, or so we're told - the old lady who shrinks and looks crippled when walking around - diagnosis osteoporosis - treatment drugs.

29 April

Mike picks me up at 8:00. Continuing osteoporosis. It's concentrated learning during the day. We eat lunch across the road - meet Annette, one of the Auckland reps - 30ish, a little nervous - I'm clumsy, no social manners, opening doors and shutting them for others etc.. Generally we are back in the hotel by 6:00 in the evening - Mike generally stays for a few beers and a meal - we eat in one of the bars (Bistro) with dozens of suited commercial travellers - steaks and chops and flounder - good rich food. We play pool and snooker.

30 April

Annette takes us this afternoon to tell us about Hydergine, her pet subject - it helps people who are just starting to get old - but I'm not sure they really know how these drugs work. We practise 'detailing' for the first time.

May 1975

Paul K Lyons

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