While the stay at the chalet high-up at Bressanone was a ‘life changing event’ ( as modern parlance would have it), the question soon arose on how to go forward. While many would agree on ‘money doesn’t make happiness, ‘happiness doesn’t make money either.’ Money still needs to be available when buying the corn-flakes or onions and paying bills.
The big question was that while a career, wearing a suit or doctor’s coat, wasn’t anymore on my horizon how on earth would I survive? Bernard had been working as a tourist guide and with his knowledge of languages it was a fairly easy and well paid job. He suggested that I do the same. I wasn’t sure I was cut out or possessed the jovial countenance or enough savoir faire, to fulfil the expectations of tourists that had been primed by travel agents to experience Italy in a 6hour discounted bus-trip through Tuscany and back to Pompeii!
In Australia I had experienced a long list of many jobs and also done a certificate course in quantity surveying. To this day I don’t know why I did it, but perhaps it had something to do with my ‘suit wearing’ ambition period. I would imagine sitting in an office, conversing with Moroccan architects and quantity surveyors offering expert advice on how to get through the tricky bits of attracting quotes for all the different trades, while rocking on my Finnish Alvar Aalto pressed ply-wood chair. I had already worked on building sites including working outside buildings from swinging stages. I had also, together with Bernard, worked for painting contractors and prior to that, apprenticed for a while in that trade.
In the meantime I decided to return to my family in Australia. So did Bernard who suggested we set up a business with buff coloured letter-heads and matching envelopes. We both booked a boat from Naples through Thomas Cook travel agents. I remember a Mr Diacomo in Sydney who had arranged my travel to Europe before, but Thomas Cook in Naples was a different animal. Not once did we get an acknowledgement of our requests for a booking to Australia. While Bernard decided to go to Naples to sort out our fares, I decided to stay on in the chalet and wait for confirmation of the date that we would sail from Naples to Sydney.
When the travel confirmation finally arrived I decided to try and catch a lift to Naples. On the first hour of my effort to catch a lift the rubber band through the sole of my thongs and held between my toes snapped. Even despite that, or because of my limping on one thong, I managed to get a lift half way and caught the train for the remaining distance. Travelling by train in Europe is always fascinating. At most stations in Italy, someone would be walking alongside the train and for a few hundred lire one could get a hot chicken with crispy bread roll and small bottle of red wine. Absolutely fantastic and complete strangers would offer bits of their food as well. It was a cultural eye opener how in Italy food is shared no matter where or how. One Italian man got up when I arrived in Naples and even adjusted my tie. I could not imagine on the Bowral – Sydney train journey someone adjusting my tie even if I was wearing one. The police would probably make an arrest!
The arrival in Naples was as busy and hectic as Bressanone in Tirol was quiet and serene. An amazing rail station and amazing city. Bernard had a hotel room at Piazza Garibaldi right opposite the rail station. It was a very busy part of Naples with coffee sipping, loud talk and lively arguments on the footpaths day and night. The noise level of Naples alone makes it a wonderful and lively city. How a noisy city vibrates and excites! We had just enough money left to see us through the five weeks on-board, a car on arrival in Sydney for our planned contracting business, and the printing of the buff coloured letterheads with ‘Head-Office’ at my parents place in Revesby.
The trip on board was of course taken up with chess while Bernard also met a French woman who took a fancy to him even though her husband was right besides her. She had a very large pony-tail and she played footsy with Bernard while playing bridge. It came to a disastrous head some months later when she decided to cut of this large pony tail and posted it to Bernard as a sign of her profound love and devotion. But as most ship romances flounder on the rocks of on-shore reality, so did this one. She and husband were living in Brisbane and Bernard in Sydney. We had sat up a good business and were getting reasonable contracts painting blocks of home-units. Sydney was in the middle of a home-unit boom and we caught its head-wind with acute shortages of workers needed to fulfil housing needs.
The French girl in Brisbane could not contain her love for Bernard and decided to visit him in Sydney (without her pony tail). My friend took the day off and at the end it was all over. It had run its course. She went back to husband and presumably grew a new ponytail.