Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

23 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 12.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. 
The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

3rd February

Although in the heat of the Indian Ocean, we have noticed a certain nip in the air at times today. There have been one or two rain showers going on around us and we have run into a couple. During the later part of the afternoon the sea became absolutely flat and leaden, this sort of state leaves the sea so that we can see whatever goes on on the surface. I missed a school of porpoises during the afternoon while I was having a shower, but hope to see some monsters yet!

6th February

Since the last entry there has not been anything out of the usual run happening.

[‘The usual run’ on the  J v O  as, I imagine, on any ocean liner, was the inevitable routine that develops in a small community completely locked within inescapable boundaries. The first week or so is a collage of new and often enchanting experiences. I expect prison is much the same but without the enchantments. Pat and I had an inside cabin so we never knew what the day was like until we had dressed and gone on deck. Often we were inappropriately dressed and had to return for a quick change. The daily round pivoted upon meal times - breakfast, lunch, dinner - which were, in effect, breaks in tedious days. There was always a queue of passengers waiting for the dining room to open.

A young group of travellers met on the afterdeck -  the poop - everyday. We played quoits or deck tennis, swam (rarely) in one of the pools, or generally chatted about life and experiences. Our crowd was comprised of two sorts : those emigrating from the United Kingdom to either Australia or New Zealand , or those returning home to both countries after having done work in or paid pleasure visits to the UK.

But there were others with whom we rarely came into touch. Most of the complement were Dutch people with their families travelling under low-cost government sponsored immigration arrangements to both countries. Nearly all of the children on board were Dutch; the manners of nearly all of  them were appalling. We tried to avoid them as much as  possible and (I’m ashamed to admit) resented their access to facilities for which we had paid full fare.

Pat and I - still, in truth, young lovers - had little time for anybody but ourselves but were amused to see shipboard romances develop, not only among our contemporaries but also the oldies - anyone over 30, I guess. One such fascinating romance took place between a very attractive Dutch blonde and a ship’s officer; they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I last saw her just after we’d arrived in Wellington, she was pushing a pram and accompanied by a man who certainly wasn’t the ship’s officer (who, by then, was on his way to Panama!)

Many of the passengers spent long hours in the bars - especially the fashionable ‘Neptune Tavern’. We avoided the bars because we had no money. The ship’s entertainments officers worked hard putting on dances, fancy dress events, sods’ operas and running bingo evenings. There was a ship’s library, hairdressing salon and shops, but in essence little diverted us from whiling the hours away from one meal-time to the next.]

We have been steaming into a very long and heavy swell which is coming from the south and seems to indicate a big storm away to the south. We passed under the sun yesterday and theoretically it should start getting cooler now.

We were invited to the Captain’s cabin for drinks last evening.

[This honour usually features as the highlight of a voyager’s trip but its importance clearly escaped us for it made little impression. No doubt every passenger (at least every paying passenger) had their turn. I felt sorry for the captain who would probably have been more fulfilled commanding a battleship or aircraft carrier than driving a schoolbus.]

They have been showing travelogues about New Zealand in the ship’s cinema. Today we are sailing in what could easily be the Atlantic type of sea, there is no blue in the water, it is quite grey and if it weren’t for the high temperature one would think it rather forbidding.


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By Don Donovan