Departures and Arrivals
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Eric Newby recounts his life, from his earliest childhood adventures in darkest Barnes, to an elephant fair in India; from the faded glamour of days and nights on the Orient Express, to a troglodytic settlement of opal miners in Australia where even armed men have disappeared.
that made a noise like the Traitor’s Gate being slammed shut when they were fired off; and there were models of the sort of ships and boats I had sailed or rowed in – a curragh from the Arran Islands, oolaks and panswais from the Ganges, a four-masted Cape Horn sailing ship, a caïque from Ruad, the Syrian island in the Eastern Mediterranean on which they are still built to this day. There was a large, empty tin of what had contained a kilo of Malossol caviar – the two halves of the tin held
160 miles, half of them in the dark, in order to see the sun rise, which it failed to do while I was there as it was winter and I arrived much too early. All I can remember is the fearful cold, wondering what Druids wore under their robes to keep their spirits up, and the interminable ride home along the A303. An even longer ride, with two other boys, was from Crickhowell on the southern side of the Black Mountains, where we had been camping, to London. One of them crashed while riding downhill
for ever, dangerous-looking youths, and signs which read Danger de Mort. ‘You’re some picker, Newby, when it comes to routes,’ Pat said, and it was difficult to disagree with him. At this moment we heard a cuckoo and saw a bluebell which had lost its colour. At Cambrai the hotel, Le Cluny, had no food and our room was on the third floor, reached by a spiral staircase, and was the only place to leave our bicycles. By the time we had carried them up, together with eight pannier-bags and two stuff
because their attendants – two scrubbers and the driver, the mahout; there were three men for each one of them – were trying to move them from some nook in the river bed which they found comfortable to another less so in order to get their brushes to one of those parts which even an elephant with a proboscis around six feet long cannot reach easily. It takes anything from an hour to an hour and a half to scrub an elephant thoroughly from stem to stern and that year 134 had to be given the
preparing them. ‘Have you any use for a large, morning-gathered swordfish?’ I asked Wanda, having told the fisherman that I had nothing to cook it in. It was meant as a joke but she doesn’t always understand when I am joking. ‘Why do you always want to buy tings you don’t need?’ she said, meanly, being the biggest collector of arcane objects the world has ever seen. We set off for Ponza at 3.15 p.m. from the Molo Innocenziano, travelling in an aliscafo (hydrofoil) that was only half full.