Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

28 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 15.

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).

16th February

Having now crossed the Australian Bight we arrived at Port Melbourne at about 0800 on 15th. The quayside here is about the best designed we’ve seen so far. The gangways are brought out to the ship from the first floor and one enters a well laid out customs room straight from the ship.

We caught a single deck bus into Melbourne city. It travels through what must be quite an early part of Melbourne. The houses are covered in ornate carvings in the best? Victoriana style, some of them have corrugated iron roofs.

[I didn’t appreciate at that time that the ‘ornate carvings’ that decorated verandahs, fences, gates and railings were in fact cast iron mouldings, what post-colonial architects call ‘lace’. Some of those houses and others, similar, in places like Sydney’s Paddington became highly fashionable, valuable and sought after. I heard that the mouldings were carried out as ballast in ships from England.
The sight of corrugated iron roofs was, in time, to become unremarkable to us both in Australia and New Zealand. But at that time we had only ever seen them in England on inferior buildings like sheds and chicken coops. In Australasia they were and are still a practical material widely used even on the most prestigious of houses and other buildings.]

The roads into the city are awful and inclined to shake one’s internal organs into new and interesting positions! The city itself is laid out into right angled streets which are very wide and busy. Trams are evident everywhere, single-decked and rather dowdy looking. The whole place looks old fashioned and the streets are stained with rust from the tramlines.
[In the Botanical Gardens]

Melbourne has a nice atmosphere about it, however, and we rather liked it, the shops are well stocked and there is a very American feel about the tempo of life and the goods in the stores. It reminded me of films of the lesser parts of New York that one sees with Marlon Brando in. We took a trip to the Botanical Gardens where it is very quiet and peaceful. There are all sorts of temperate and tropical trees shrubs and plants there, and people are allowed to walk on the grass!

[What a telling observation that was. In England, in such a formal park as might rival the Melbourne Botanical Gardens there would have been little notices on every lawn warning ‘Keep Off The Grass’].

We had lunch in a restaurant in the gardens. It was a very well cooked steak with appropriate veg. and some tea.

We later took a bus into Melbourne city again past the Olympic Pool and the open air concert hall (rather like the Hollywood Bowl). The bus to the road along the side of the Yarra River which was very muddy due to the fact that there had been a lot of rain in the hills which had washed the mud down.

We walked past Flinders Street station and up Elizabeth Street to collect a light meter which I had left for repair (it cost £2:10!)  [I think the exclamation mark was intended to emphasize that I thought the charge outrageous].

Then visited the Regal cinema to see ‘On The Beach’, the film was bad but the cinema was good. No Smoking in Aussie cinemas - good thing. [I had lighted a cigarette and was told to put it out!].

We later returned to the ship tired but having enjoyed a good day.

[Wild farewell from Melbourne. Probably for Aussies going to Europe]

We sail today for Sydney where we’ll arrive in two days time and where we shall say goodbye to most of the friends we have met on the ship.

[Throughout my diary I neglected to mention a family who, one way or another, became important in our lives for many subsequent years. Richard and Judy Thomas were travelling with their three sons, Chris (16?) Michael (11?) and Patrick (8?). Richard was on his way to Melbourne to take up Managing Directorship of a wallpaper factory owned by the British Reed Group.

They were always friendly to us but we saw little of them socially on board ship simply because we had no money and therefore couldn’t shout at the bar and so repay their hospitality. Knowing them as we came to I have no doubt that Richard would have treated us any time and all the time but that would not have suited Pat and me. On one notable occasion we won the grand prize at Bingo (card stakes one guilder - about 20cents) and immediately rushed to the Neptune Tavern. One round broke us again!

The night before we docked at Melbourne, Judy took Pat on one side and told her that if things didn’t work out for us in New Zealand, Richard would find a job for me in Melbourne. We were deeply touched. Some years later Richard came to New Zealand as chief executive of Ashley Wallpapers Ltd. and we saw more of them because they lived in Lower Hutt and we close by in Lowry Bay, Wellington. Richard’s company eventually became a client of my company, Carlton-Carruthers du Chateau, and so we did business.

The son Chris went to live in Bangkok but returned many years later married to Joanna, daughter of an ex-monarchist Greek general. Now middle-aged grand-parents, they live in Nelson. Michael, something of an eccentric by all accounts, became a highly qualified academic at Lincoln University. Patrick, sadly, committed suicide. By that time both Richard and Judy were dead, thank God.]


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By Don Donovan