PAPERBACK BOOKS
GREEK ROOTS  

Arriving in Australia as an immigrant Greek child in the 1950s,  Emmanuel Alexion finds adjustment difficult, with the strong racial discrimination at that time. Overcoming language difficulties and taunts of being called a dago and wog at school, he works as a newspaper boy and later becomes a schoolteacher.  

After an absence of almost half a century, Emmanuel returns to the Greek Island of Rhodes. Here he and his wife Michelle experience unexpected changes in the life-style and country of his birth. Finding long-lost family members and walking the cobblestone streets of his childhood, Emmanuel takes the reader on a sentimental and often  humorous journey through his Greek Roots. 

This book will rekindle memories to many Greeks, those of Greek  ancestry and Australians who remember this era when migrant intake was at its peak. 

A wonderful read for those who dream of visiting their homeland; a time to remember the smells of sizzling souvlakia and oregano and to nibble on mezethes and sip ouzo at a Kaffenion with friends.  

In Store Price: $AU26.95 
Online Price:   $AU25.95

ISBN: 1-9211-1840-7
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 280
Genre: Non Fiction

 


 Buy as a pdf  Ebook version - $AUD9.00
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Author: Emmanuel V. Alexion
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English

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FOREWORD

 

As a migrant youngster desperately trying to make Australian friends I tried very hard to fit in with the other children’s playground games, especially at primary school. It was very difficult because I could not converse with them. My English was very limited; nonetheless I tried.  

On one occasion at Hindmarsh Primary School in Adelaide I thought I had it made when I was allowed to join in, in a game of “Cowboys and Indians” as we called it in those days. My playmates tied me to a basketball post with skipping ropes and began to do a war dance around me, as was supposedly the practice in the Wild West days of America . We were having a ball. They were enjoying it, I was feeling accepted by my playmates, and so the game went on until the bell rang. As soon as it rang they disappeared from the scene to prepare for classes. I was left stranded and tied to the post. Eventually I was able to free myself and I too went to the classroom but of course I was late. The teacher was none too impressed with my lateness and of course demanded to know where I had been and why I was late. What could I tell her? I could not put an English sentence together at that stage in my young migrant life so I was severely chastised and I think given detention. My playmates were not saying anything. They enjoyed the severe reprimand I received from the teacher while I simply cried my eyes out. Which was not unusual for me during my early years of schooling in Australia .  

Children can be cruel to one another and this was a case in point.

I can’t recall ever playing that game again especially with that lot at that school. This was an example of racial discrimination of which there were many in the early fifties.

As a child I was very conscious of being different; different from the other Australian children. I even tried hard to look like an Aussie. I noticed that lots of Australian children had freckles so I tried hard to get freckles. Somehow I got the notion that if I were to eat Cornflakes I would develop some. How that idea got into my head I do not know but I ate lots of Cornflakes. I also got to believe that by eating Cornflakes I would become very strong. I needed to become stronger than my Aussie counterparts so that I could survive some of the fights that were foisted upon me because I was a dago as we were referred to in those days.  

During my newspaper selling days in Adelaide , my mother made me an apron with a large pocket in the front for my loose change. Just above that pocket I printed my initials in quite large lettering. The initials were “M.A.” of course standing for Manuel Alexion. A high school student at the bus stops where I usually sold my papers, one afternoon asked me what the initials stood for. I told him, “Mervyn Adams”. Of course he didn’t believe me and made no bones about it by giving me a clip over the ear. I did not retaliate because he was much bigger and older than I was. I did not want to tell him my wog name because I was very conscious of being a new Australian. Such was the plight of new arrivals to Australia in the 1950’s.  

My business ability came to the fore early because I sold lots of newspapers. At first I would sell about 75 papers but I increased this to 150 at the same selling point. This was accomplished by my chance discovery that if I stood at the entrance to a tall office block building and waited till the office workers poured out of it, at five o’clock, I could sell lots of newspapers fast.  

My newspaper boss was amazed and very pleased with me until he received a complaint from another of his sellers just down the road from my selling point. Evidently this seller was used to servicing the clientele of the office block I had recently discovered and was now selling about 75 newspapers fewer than before I arrived on the scene. I was not prepared to revert to selling only 75 newspapers again so I secured a new selling Job in Hindley Street in the heart of Adelaide City . I did very well there because I was able to purchase a second-hand bike, which I very much treasured. It was a blue bike with back-pedal brakes which in those days was ‘the ants pants’ of bicycle technology. I very lovingly cleaned and polished and repainted that bike while using it to carry my heavy load of newspapers to my allotted ‘stand’. I loved it so much that when one day it got a puncture, I cried because I had not, as yet, learned how to repair it. After all it did cost me the princely sum of five pounds ($10 in today’s terms or probably about $50 if I purchased it today). Five pounds was about two week’s wages for me working five days after school and half a day on Saturday.  

I worked my way up to being the best schoolboy newspaper seller in Hindley Street and nearby streets that my boss serviced. He actually put us to the test one day by sending someone up Hindley Street looking as if he was out to buy a newspaper. I recall he did this by tossing up a coin in front of himself and trying to look like a likely customer. I was a seasoned newspaper seller by then so I spotted it immediately and offered the decoy a paper. Of course he told my boss who duly praised me in the presence of the other sellers at ‘pay-in’ time. ‘Pay-in’ time was about 6pm when all the sellers had to hand in their takings for the afternoon and be given their commission. This was calculated on how many dozen newspapers each of us sold. It worked out to about a halfpenny (approximately half a cent) per newspaper.  

Working after school became a necessity. It wasn’t just for pocket money. The only money I ended up with was the tip I received. My money went towards supplementing the family budget and was an integral part of it. Without my income we couldn’t really manage because my father was often without a job. Jobs were hard to obtain in those days, especially if you were an unskilled migrant such as my father was. Most of the time he was factory fodder; he worked in a factory doing the work most home grown Australians would not do. He would earn about seven pounds ($14) a week while my weekly bring-home pay was ($5). Not bad for a little boy aged 10.  

As it turned out, I didn’t go into business. I became a schoolteacher instead. A teacher who in those days was paid considerably less than a friend of mine who, after finishing primary school, got a job washing cars at the Holden assembly plant which was then situated in Fortitude Valley not far from the central business district of Brisbane. To become a teacher had to be a miracle if one considers my lack of English and the lack of continuity in my English education. Continuity was a bigger problem than my lack of the mastery of the English language because my father was rather itchy-footed.  

After making the momentous move from Rhodes, we landed in Adelaide . In Rhodes I received a very sketchy Greek education because my father could not make up his mind as to whether we should live in the village of Asklipio or in Rhodes City . In Adelaide I had to transfer from one school to another, three transfers in all, because my father once again could not make up his mind as to where we should live.  

We soon left Adelaide to live in Brisbane where once again I had to adjust to a different curriculum. It was hard, for apart from my lack of good English the Queensland education system was more ambitious than the South Australian system. Consequently I had to be put down a grade. Just as I was settling down to my schooling in Brisbane, my father decided we should return to Adelaide where once again my school grade had to be adjusted. Now because the Queensland system was ‘ahead’ of the South Australian, system, I was put up a grade.

You guessed it! We again returned to Brisbane to try and continue the mess my schooling was in by now. One can now understand why I’ve called it a miracle to have been able to become a teacher. Adelaide to Brisbane , back   to Adelaide , then back to Brisbane again. My father must have not just been itchy-footed, but also a little crazy!

My intention has been to deliver an account of my feelings on visiting the land of our birth after an absence of almost half a century. The rekindling of memories after such a long time was, to say the least, an exhilarating, very interesting and rewarding experience. The experience consisted of many happenings some of which can perhaps be described as oddities; oddities for us but a way of life for the locals. It is these oddities and unexpected happenings in Europe and Greece itself that should make this book one you cannot easily put down. Especially if you are Greek, of Greek descent, or have visited Europe and Greece , and the famous holiday islands of the latter.  

The decision to re-acquaint ourselves with our roots was a timely one. Forty-eight years for me, and approximately the same for my wife Michelle whom I met and married in Brisbane , Australia . We were both born on the small Greek Island of Rhodes but never knew of each other until we became neighbours in Baynes Street West End, south of the Brisbane River . Michelle was born in Rhodes, the capital city, which in turn is the capital of the group of twelve islands called the Dodecanese . I was born in Asklipio, one of 44 small villages on the island. Michelle can therefore claim a more aristocratic birthplace while I can only claim to be of peasant stock.  

A passage of 48 years is a lifetime in anybody’s language. We expected to see changes yes, but to experience what we did was quite moving and, at times, extraordinary. The delayed re-acquaintance with our roots was inadvertently brought about by three main reasons; the ill-health and subsequent early deaths of my parents, children’s milestones, and of course the financial one.  

My mother died at the early age of 47 of cervical cancer and my father at age 63 of heart disease. Illness prior to their deaths prevented a normal life for my two young sisters and me. It was certainly no time for a holiday, any holiday, let alone one in Rhodes .

Our three children were quite ‘inconveniently’ spaced so the milestones in their young lives had to be catered for carefully in order to prevent irreparable disruption to their education, their vocational training and subsequent choice of career. Financing a visit to our birthplace would have been a disaster seeing we had a growing family completely dependent on us. Especially on me who was the sole breadwinner, insisting on being so, as I did not believe, and still do not, that a mother should be away from her growing children before they reach primary school age.  

As it turned out, we still had to leave our youngest at home in Australia to live safely with her now married brother and sister, having decided we could no longer wait for her to be married, otherwise we would end up being too old to enjoy a decent overseas holiday.  

We bit the bullet and decided to spend 3 months or so away. Approximately two and a half months would be spent in Greece and Rhodes and we would do a 20-day tour of Europe prior to visiting our Greek roots for the first time in 48 years.

CHAPTER 1  (part sample)  

London marked the end of our 20-day European tour. At Heathrow Airport we suffered a long and restless wait because our flight to Athens was delayed three hours. As recompense, Virgin Atlantic issued us with an evening meal voucher with which we decided to acquire genuine English fish and chips. The meal did not go down too well as the fish was tasteless and the chips looked and tasted old. With queasy stomachs we boarded the flight and sat in our allocated seats unable to do justice to the airline food.

 In Athens we were subjected to our first rip-off; not as big as one of the many yet to come but a rip-off just the same. A taxi-driver overcharged us at least A$3 for a drive to the domestic terminal for our 40-minute flight to Rhodes . This rip-off merchant seemed a nice enough guy prior to the misdemeanour taking place. He spoke as if we were his friends, talking freely about Australia where he said he once lived. He was a courteous, friendly fellow. Because of his manner we did not think for one moment to question his fare until we compared the fare with a fellow traveller later. A friend would not rob you. The manner of a con man, obviously.

We had trouble getting onto another flight for Rhodes because of the previous delay in London , courtesy of Virgin Atlantic. I panicked a little and went everywhere, rang everyone possible, to try getting onto another flight so we would not have to have an overnight stay in Athens . We planned to have a three-day Athens stopover on our way back to Australia . Surely there must be plenty of other flights if Rhodes is only 40 minutes away, I thought. The booking clerk put our names down on the waiting list in case of cancellations, but did not sound too confident that we would be able to get onto a flight that day. So I went seeking the manager of the domestic terminal who was very polite, understanding but quite inefficient. I imagined that it would only mean one phone call and we would be on the next flight. After three calls she was unsuccessful, so I left her and tried to ring Virgin Airlines to tell them of the inconvenience they caused us because of the delay we had to suffer in London . Again I wrongly imagined they would use their influence to help us obtain a flight to Rhodes . No go! Could not even raise them on the phone. All the panic, the phone calls, the interview with the manager were to no avail and need not have been gone through because on our going back to the booking clerk she was able to tell us of our 10.30am booking. I could have kissed her! She obviously feared as much because as she ticked off our names she drew back a bit – perhaps I had bad breath at the time but she certainly was not in the kissing mood. She looked as if she had had a tiring day already and it was only 9.00am. Lord knows when she started her shift.

The 10.30am flight was chopped and changed a bit. It was supposedly delayed till 11.30am, but we left at 10. 30am; dead on schedule. Lucky I returned to the departure lounge when I did because I was wandering around the airport killing time. Only by chance did I return to find Michelle was lined up ready to board. She was not in a state of panic either; she was lined up calmly waiting her turn to have the tickets checked. I wonder to this day if she would have boarded without me. I must ask her one day.  

The forty-minute flight to Rhodes was uneventful. We did not see or remember much of it as we slept most of the time. An orange juice was all we saw of the refreshments. The flight attendants were putting things away as we awakened and were not too pleased when we made a last minute grab for a drink.

Rhodes Airport is a very busy, but small place, busy because this was peak tourist season. Like most airports it is served with a good supply of taxis. We obtained one whose driver stuffed two lots of luggage and passengers into his Mercedes. He thus procured two full fares into Rhodes City ; quite legal I believe. He was helpful and courteous though, and found us a place to stay at a reasonable price. 6,000 drachmas we were told, but later we were pleasantly surprised to find we had to pay only 4,000 drachmas per day. Compared to Brisbane ’s accommodation prices, that is cheap! A$22.00 per day! The first place the taxi driver took us to was deserted so he just backed his cab up the same street a little to a place called ‘Emerald’. Rather reminded us of a town in central Queensland bearing the same name. It was owned by an American Greek and run by an elderly, inefficient Greek manager who promised much in the form of services but delivered none.

We settled in, somewhat, but could not wait to take a bus into Rhodes City itself to at last revive and try to recall our Greek roots and childhood after 48 years! I personally found my memory had dimmed quite a lot as we gazed at buildings and places, which at first produced only a glimmer of recognition. Things were to improve later though.

We had our first full meal at Mandraki. Mandraki is sometimes referred to as the New Market Nea Agora as opposed to the Old Market Balia Agora, which is situated in the ancient, more interesting part of Rhodes . Old Rhodes is where Michelle lived and where I sometimes lived when my business-minded father decreed we should, to suit his sometimes-on sometimes-off business commitments. The meal was good, cheap and filling. For about A$26 we both adequately filled our bellies.  

Dealing with Greek banks was a thing that lay heavily on our minds. There was just on A$4,000 in a bank account which my deceased father left me and which had been sitting there since about 1980. We tried to transfer the money to an account in Australia a few times but to no avail. Even the efforts of the biggest bank in Australia failed, so the money just sat there, thankfully gaining interest. We feared going along and claiming it because we heard from one of my sisters in Brisbane, who had already claimed her share and spent it in Rhodes the last time she was there, that the bankers are none too gentle with customers, especially those from overseas. They try to fob you off and make life generally difficult, she told us – especially if you are trying to ‘withdraw’ money. We had no such trouble. We made the withdrawal easily, even though I was prepared for the worst. I had brought along all sorts of legal documents to help facilitate the withdrawal and the closure of the account. One of the difficulties I expected to have to confront was the surname. In Australia we use a different surname from the one that exists in Rhodes . The anomaly occurred because our sponsors as migrants to Australia registered us by the original family name rather than the present surname which ‘evolved’ through our family’s history later.

Papavasiliou, our ‘evolved’ name, is still regarded as such in Greece . That is why there are such a lot of Greeks named Papas; much easier to handle and spell. The two surnames did not bother the bank teller although I was prepared to show her documents from the Greek Consulate in Brisbane that I was one and the same person. She did not want to view them. Needless to say the money came in very handy. Naturally the withdrawal was given to us in drachmas, so exchanging money was not something we had to do nor would we lose from, rate-wise.

When I said sponsored into Australia , I did not mean the kind of sponsoring migrants got later. Today a migrant is well looked after financially and is helped to settle with the minimum of fuss or hardship by the Australian Government. In our day as migrants it was much more difficult and the Government much less helpful.

There was no such thing as a ‘sponsored’ migrant as became common later. A potential migrant was obliged to finance his own fares. My father spent the first six years of our lives in Australia paying off our fares. As we came to Australia as a family of four an addition to the family came later, there was quite a sum to pay off. I helped by selling newspapers after school, not for pocket money but to help my dad with repayments and day-to-day living expenses. I could not even speak English but soon managed to learn to call as newspaper boys used to, ‘Paper! Tele! City Final! Casket Classified!’

I also learned to speak the language very quickly having been thrown in at the deep end. In six to nine months I was quite fluent. Of course I had the advantage of being young. Young children tend to pick up an adopted language rather quickly.

My newspaper boss was rather proud of me, especially the one in Adelaide where I first started to sell the daily afternoon paper. In Brisbane I was a newsboy all through my primary and secondary schooling, having been promoted to ‘foreman’ when I reached the Junior Certificate year at high school, year 10 today. Being a foreman or foreboy meant I had the responsibility of telling 10 newsboys and 2 men-sellers where to sell their papers. At the end of the night or afternoon, it was also my responsibility to have them ‘pay in’ as we called it. They would give me the money they collected from selling the newspapers and I would give them back so much for every dozen they had sold. In those days a newsboy would earn a half penny (about half a cent) per paper. It may seem little recompense but a penny then could buy much more than it could buy today.

 After my 12 employees paid in I would then hand the entire proceeds to the ‘big boss’, a man in charge of a part of the inner city. Most boys, and of course the men, who worked for me used their earnings as pocket money. The best time to sell newspapers in Brisbane was on Saturday night. Then one could earn a whole penny per newspaper. We would begin selling the Sunday papers at 10.00pm and finish around 1.00am. We would then begin the trek home to West End over the old steel Victoria Bridge , through Musgrave Park and home to where most Greek migrant children lived. We never encountered any problems going home so late, young as we were, and dark and unlit as the park was.

The two men who worked for me were paedophiles. They worked at selling newspapers possibly for the easy access to young boys. These men and their hangers-on did quite well for themselves purchasing the company of young boys with cash inducements.

One notable chap of that ilk was Chester ; I found him to be a very interesting character. A man with a beautiful tenor voice and a very keen sense of humour. He was lead singer in the choir at a little chapel that used to be in Elizabeth Street , Brisbane near the Theatre Royal where the late George Wallace performed. His voice was much sought after, by the chapel choir especially seeing Chester could sing all that was required in Latin. Chester wanted me! He knew he could not have me and that really cut him up, especially as he was untruthfully told by a homosexual hanger-on that I was available and that he had ‘gammarooshed’ me, to use a popular word going around in those days, which today means oral intercourse, male to male.

One Saturday night after I had finished selling the Sunday papers, by then I sold only on Saturday night, I was on my way home and as I passed by the old treasury, now a casino, I saw Chester sitting high up on one of the many steps leading to the main entrance of the building. I looked up at this likeable soul and noticed that he was quite drunk. Not unusual for Chester because he was an alcoholic who often went on a drinking binge. What was unusual was that he was crying. Tears were streaming from his eyes. I called from below, “What’s wrong Chester ?” He did not tell me. All he said was, “Manuel, why don’t you let me take you home?” I told him that I was not that sort of boy, whereupon he told me that he had heard otherwise. I put him straight by telling him it was all a big lie and that his homosexual friend had not been anywhere near me. That seemed to sober him up and the tears ceased to flow. I left him on the treasury steps and continued to walk home, all the time looking over my shoulder to see if he was following me.

The next day a completely sober Chester told me that he ‘got even’ with the perpetrator of the lie about me. What he meant by ‘got even’ I do not to this day know, but I have hazarded a few guesses, all of which have to do with paedophilia.

Chester wore a white pith helmet, which was always kept immaculately clean. One night I saw it looming round the corner of a bank where I was selling the Sunday papers. He had been drinking again and it was the first time I had seen him violently drunk. Usually he was a friendly drunk; too friendly at times. He was angry; angry with me. I thought for a moment that I was to have to bear another of his sex-related complaints but it was not to be. He was angry because I had not given him a good ‘stand’ from which to sell the afternoon edition of The Telegraph the week before. He lurched at me with a fist, missed his mark and walked quickly on down Queen Street . I hurriedly took off my leather coin bag, threw it onto my bundle of newspapers and gave chase. I was angry too. I caught up with him near a chemist’s window, took a few swipes at him, missed, and then pushed him via his ample beer belly nearly through the shop’s window. He ran off as best he could and I walked back to my bundle of unsold papers. The coin bag was missing! I was quite shaken and doubly upset. The next day it was a different Chester I saw. He was sober, clean, friendly and courteous and with his usual dry wit said to me, “You couldn’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag.” He was probably right. That was Chester , the alcoholic paedophile.

My stolen leather coin bag, of which I was proud and which I lovingly polished with brown shoe polish, was never recovered. I reported it to the West End police who interviewed me on the theft. They questioned me at length on its disappearance. At the end of the interrogation I stormed out the police station angry at their preposterous insinuation that I had stolen my own coin bag and was reporting it to gain sympathy or get some unclaimed money out of them. Their clever and practised questioning got me so tangled up they had me admitting that I had faked its loss. Needless to say my opinion of some police took a nosedive at that point in time.

Chester was not the only alcoholic/homosexual with whom I worked. After I had graduated from the newspaper business, I took on casual work, any kind of work that became available, mostly to finance further study and to a now lesser degree help my father make ends meet a little more easily. One of the many jobs I took on and one which brought me in contact with two more alco/homos was as a civilian employee with the army at Greenbank military camp south-west of Brisbane . Here and at other camps I used to obtain work of three weeks duration living in tents whilst on the job.  

How I was able to purchase a second-hand Holden, one of the first models ever put out by GMH, was quite something, because not many of my peer group owned or could afford a car. ‘Probably the Papavasiliou frugality trait coming to the fore here.’ It was a black sedan, which had the lock on the front passenger side rather than on the driver’s side, the vehicle having been designed in the USA for American (left hand side of car) drivers. The manufacturers remembered the steering wheel, with the gear lever on the steering column, to suit Australians but forgot about the locking system. It was rectified with later model Holdens, and I was the owner of a second-hand one of those too. It was my pride and joy and I used it to get to work if it was necessary. It was not really necessary to use it to get to Greenbank because the army always provided transport for its civilian employees. All they had to do was get themselves to, in this instance, Kelvin Grove Barracks, a stone’s throw from the centre of the city of Brisbane , and the army did the rest. I used the car because it gave me freedom of movement; freedom to get back to Brisbane whenever I had time off. It was especially handy in the evenings when I felt like going to a dance or a movie to see a ‘film’ as we called it in those days.

Unfortunately word got around that I had a vehicle at my disposal and on a couple of occasions I was offered a share in some ill-gotten gains, gains obtained from the army illegally. One gent offered to stuff the boot of my Holden with army blankets for delivery to Brisbane . It was the same gent who took me into the butcher shop at the camp where a civilian butcher was cutting up meat and throwing it into a barrel, which had a false bottom. The false bottom contained army rifles and ammunition destined, I assumed, for the black market. He was into every thing, that guy, but I refused him the use of my Holden’s boot stating that I valued my job at present, and jobs in the future as a civilian employee.  

On one stint as an employee of the army at Greenbank, (I also did stints at other camps) I drove to Kelvin Grove Barracks to report for duty. There I told the officer in charge that I would be driving myself to Greenbank. On hearing this Tom, with whom I had previously worked at Greenbank, offered to keep me company on the hour-long drive. I accepted his offer and soon we set off for the camp about twenty minutes before the trucks with other civilian employees. On the way Tom and I conversed amicably until I noticed an appreciable change in Tom’s demeanour. On looking at him I noticed his face was pale, he had profuse beads of sweat coming from his forehead, his eyes were bulging and he had the shakes. On my asking him what was the matter he said he needed a drink badly. Not water or soft drink but a beer or some other alcoholic beverage. I told him I had no liquid refreshment of any kind with me whereupon he put his hand in his pocket to retrieve some money. He offered me all the money he possessed, which was not very much, if I would drive him to the nearby Jimboomba pub, which was on the way to Greenbank Camp. I told him that it would not be wise as we would be late for work. He pleaded with me and I had to accede to his pleadings because by now he was in a sorry state. The shakes had become worse, his eyes were nearly popping out of their sockets, and he perspired more profusely. So, we detoured slightly and drove and drove and drove, but a pub was nowhere to be seen nor did we seem to be getting closer to one as there were no signs of civilisation looming. The further we drove the more bush we encountered and the further away from our job site we were getting. ‘That hotel will never appear’, I thought and I told Tom I was not prepared to drive any further. He was in near hysterics by now, worse when I told him of my plan to get back on track to the camp.

We arrived there a little late, were forgiven, and allocated our duties. Tom was given the duties of batman and I the duties of steward in the officers’ mess. Tom was an alcoholic all right. This was proved to me very vividly by his desperate need for a drink. However, not once did he show any sign of asserting his homosexual leanings as we travelled together in my black Holden sedan. I half expected him to put the hard word on me and was prepared for it but he did not. Is it any wonder? The poor man was grappling with another more urgent call, a call far stronger than any sexual desire he may have harboured.

Tom was not seen for a day or two after we were assigned our duties. Whether he carried out his duties during those days I am not sure, but what I am sure of is that Tom went through a ‘drying off’ period. When he had finished drying out, he was back, bright as a button, full of humour and homosexual mischief, and very, very good at his job. He was renowned for his ability as a batman and army officers were known to vie for Tom’s services whenever he hit a military camp.

Tom offered to show me the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of being a good batman in his tent on many a balmy night but I declined because the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ he had in mind were not the kind I wished to experience. However, it was rumoured, Tom did organise certain educational activities of the kind some permanent army officers were particularly partial to.  

Excuse me for digressing as you will find I am often prone to do. Back to paying our fare to Australia and the so-called sponsored migration scheme of the 1950s. The only thing our relatives had to do in sponsoring us was to guarantee that we would have a roof over our heads and a place to work. The rest was up to us. A roof over our heads was quite easy to come by as our relatives provided one at low cost.  

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