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Vive Le Nuytsland

Graham Lees

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Author’s Introduction.

It is probably a good idea, right at the outset, to explain what the Astral
Plane is.
Firstly, I will explain what it isn’t, in case you have any pre-conceived no-
tions or some quasi-religious beliefs which have distorted your view and
scared you away from the subject.
It is not a place where spirits and ghosts and angels dwell. It is not even a
supernatural dwelling place for lost souls nor a limbo as some ideologies
preach. It is not scary nor complicated and is definitely not something to reject
if you have an inquisitive, healthy mind.
These are all ideas which priests, rabbis, imams, gurus and other religious
leaders have sought to impress on their followers in order to have better con-
trol over them.
Sceptics seek to debunk it because they like to debunk anything which
does not fit their particular tiny capacity for thinking.
Science tends to ignore it. It doesn’t fit the paradigm, which doesn’t really
matter as it doesn’t affect the physical world. Why waste its time on it? Prob-
ably good sense, too. Obviously, some scientists spend time on the Astral
Plane, benefit from it, and learn. But because it does not have application in
the physical world, do not publish papers about it or promote it. I suppose if
it did, a scientist would discuss it as normally as he talks about subjects within
the accepted human reality.
Astral travellers don’t try to prove its existence, and if you have ever been
there, you will understand why. If you have not, it is impossible to explain
why they don’t. Human languages have not developed with the plane in mind
and do not have words, phrases nor syntax to accurately convert it into speech
or writing. I am having a lot of difficulty trying to do just that, and failing
miserably.
I am not saying this to cop out. It would be in my best interests, seeing as
I wrote this book, to at least try to prove it is there and has the qualities and
features which I try to describe, but the truth is, I cannot.
All the plane happens to be is another world, universe or reality, running
adjacent and parallel to our physical realm. It doesn’t ‘overlap’ or ‘encroach’
on us, any more than it is affected by what we are familiar with. They exist,
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side by side, and I don’t know whether it benefits in any way from our reality.
I know humans can benefit from it, can use it in the several ways I describe
in this book. But other than that, I do not know why it is there!
This plane cannot be reached with our bodies, only our mind. As science
still struggles with the concept of the human mind, it cannot accept the concept
of a bodiless mind, and wise people do not even try. Sometimes I doubt my
wisdom and sanity in even trying to explain it as I have done this far.
When a person’s mind exits his body — an ‘out-of-body experience’ —
one is immediately freed from the boundaries and limitations and distractions
one’s body imposes on it. It allows one to travel anywhere in space in the part
of the plane adjacent to the equivalent in our ‘normal’ universe. It also allows
movement backwards in time to any place which exists or existed, also adja-
cent to this world.
Therefore, the mind cannot use it to travel to imaginary places or to places
and times which do not exist or have never existed. So one cannot move for-
wards past the point in time from which they entered. The future does not
have a direct link to any features of our universe and will not until it happens.
A number of factors can trigger a portal to the Astral Plane. Hallucinatory
drugs, extreme trauma, weariness, ecstatic excitement. And of course, delib-
erate entry, normally when one is sufficiently experienced to be able to ‘come
and go as one pleases.’
Some people enter simply and without effort. Some almost accidentally,
some with great effort and planning. With assistance from an experienced As-
tral Traveller, I would not be surprised if any sane mind could be guided
though the transition. It definitely makes it much easier for a novice.
The big benefit from being disassociated from your body is that you are
not, as I said, distracted by it. You no longer have to worry about that full blad-
der or toothache. Recent events or news do not seem pertinent unless they
have a direct bearing on the reasons why you chose to visit, or any other busi-
ness arising from that choice.
Other people cannot distract you, nor can events, such as a kettle on a stove
which needs watching to prevent from boiling over. You are aware of these
things, but they do not occupy enough of your mind to cause you to place im-
portance on them.
I first became aware of its existence while on the Island of Rottnest, when
I awoke and was obviously on the periphery of it. I became aware of an abo-
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riginal woman near my bed, who, when she realised I was white, seemed to
take fright and leave.
Rottnest Island was used as a prison for many years during Western Aus-
tralia’s European settlement, and exceptional cruelty was not uncommon. Her
fear would have been natural to someone who did not understand what was
going on.
The house I was in was immediately above the morgue and very near the
cemetery, so this mind may have left its body shortly before death due to the
trauma, and been unable to return when it had died. That is only a suggestion
I can offer, because I simply do not know. I only used it as an illustration and
possible explanation.
As I do not credit any supernatural realm, the Austral Plane had to be nor-
mal or paranormal, which I accepted and eventually embraced.
Many very intelligent people have visited it, including Thomas Edison,
who told me that he went there to help him solve problems which other people
set for him. I knew, because there is no fear of misunderstanding, that he meant
that he took other people’s ideas and made them work. But he was also an
‘ideas man’ himself, but was too modest to admit it. He would have formulated
and worked on his own original inventions there, as well.
But one thing which can be a blessing or a drawback, depending on the
situation, is the inability to be on the the Astral Plane in the same time and
place as yourself in another visit. It isn’t possible for your mind, visiting a lo-
cation and time from Wednesday and another from Friday, to both be there at
the same time.
They either do one thing or another. Repel or attract. Either your mind re-
treats to your body or, if no body is available, as in the aboriginal’s case, you
become one. Not simply ‘become’ one, your solo existence is just obviated.
That’s about all I can say, really, having not had the resources to go into
an in-depth study of it.
I have no doubt that, with an open mind, you can discover a lot more you
can do on it than I describe here. Don’t shy away from the concept, and defi-
nitely do not dismiss me as a crackpot or you will miss out on the information
and entertainment my story may impart.

7
Livre Un
Terre de Nuyts

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1.
‘Chien de Granit!’
If anyone had told me, as the train slid into the station, that the day would
have great significance in my life and in world history, I would have laughed
in his face!
Probably not actually laughed in his face, because that is not the sort of
thing Australians do! Although I must admit that living among these French
Colonials for eight years I had learned that this sort of behaviour is common,
and that rudeness is almost a way of life.
The contemptuous “Aw Haw Haw”, pressing your face up close to your
opponent, in a ridiculous, Gallic attempt to belittle and intimidate was not my
cup of tea.
Besides that, I was only one hundred and seventy centimetres tall, hardly
built to laugh in anyone’s face, much less the suntanned visages of these peas-
ants, most of whom were twenty kilos heavier than me, and hugely muscled
from years spent in the vineyards and orchards which spread inland from the
city of Port George, capital of Terre de Nuyts or, Anglicised as nearly every-
thing was these days, Nuytsland.
Before we go any further, we should agree on the pronunciation. The
Dutch say ‘Nu-ichland’, and after all, it was named after their sailor, Pieter
Nuyts. But Aussies prefer ‘Newtsland’, so when you see it, you can take your
pick as to your preference.
There was a joke going around Australia that it had to be ‘Newts’ as they
are amphibians, like frogs, which, as you know, is a derogatory name for
French people. While I never repeated the joke, I must admit I chuckled when
I first heard it.
So here was little, lightweight moi, stepping off the train at the station just
along from the Rue de Bêche near the intersection of Perth Road, Champs
Napoleon and Terrasse de Jacques Hamelin, clutching my briefcase and folded
umbrella
Jean-Claude poured a cafe noir into a plastic cup and wrapped a twenty
centimetre square of croque monsieur in a piece of greaseproof. Onion instead
of ham, as I liked it, with a five millimetre thick melt of gruyere on top.
I went up to the rather grandly named Kiosque de Journeaux and picked

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up a newspaper from the bundle, which, only half an hour before, had been
on the back of lorry, speeding down Perth Road to arrive before the shops
opened. I pressed the ten centime piece into the little coin box.
The headline immediately grabbed my attention. Sir Robert Menzies,
safely ensconced in Kirribilli House, was again demanding the French cede
Nuytsland to Australia and offering them Papua New Guinea this time. The
eastern part of our northern neighbour was becoming a burden on Canberra,
as the government in Djakarta, under President Sukarno, was pressing against
the West Irian border. To boot, he was also confronting Singapore and main-
land Malaysia, in a bid to impress nationalistic fervour on his people.
It was obvious Charles de Gaulle would not give up this prize piece of
real-estate in one of the most fertile corners of the Southern Hemisphere. Not
for some disease-ridden jungles and swamps with no value except maybe to
grow rubber and coffee! Why, it was all inaccessible mountain ranges, deep,
rocky precipices and, if the French press was to be believed, savages who still
practised cannibalism!
Although I was viewed with considerable suspicion (people from Australia
were regarded as foreigners) and with more than a little xenophobia, my com-
ments were often reported in the local paper. As professor of History at the
University, and an outspoken United Australia supporter, I was pretty news-
worthy. I had no doubt that before the day was through, this subject would
have been been brought up again, disseminated, and my opinion sought. Pos-
sibly by the local journal, but most likely in the common room.
Bob Menzies was flogging a dead one here, I had to admit. The French
were not going to give up this province easily. They had done a good job on
this territory which stretched from Geographe in the west, right around to the
Recherche Archipelago, past Esperance, and north as far as Petit Orleans.
It was serviced by one of the most modern road and rail networks in the
southern hemisphere, a telephone system which left the shambles in Paris for
dead, three independent Universities, at Port du Roi George (the full name of
the city), D’Entrecasteaux and Geographe with excellent teaching hospitals,
turning out medical practitioners, much sought after not only in the territory,
but all over the continent.
As well as this, the schools and colleges were first rate, attracting fee-pay-
ing students from as far away as Adelaide and Broome, the public edifices
more ornate than anything in Sydney or Melbourne with their grotesque Art
Deco architecture. The port facility outshone the even the famed Victoria Quay
which C Y O’Connor had created at Fremantle.
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Nestled between Mont Albert and Mont Clarence, the city of Port George
was known as ‘La Perle du Sud’, Pearl of the South, right across the French
speaking world.
And the climate! Tres Magnifique! Cool Mediterranean, an annual rainfall
of 940 centimetres, the occasional hot day in summer and cold day in winter
but never any snow or heatwaves.
There were few social problems, no poverty and very little crime. Not
since the Aborigines were convinced to head north to where the Western Aus-
tralian social welfare could look after them much better than the far-off gov-
ernment in Paris. A few hung on, attached to the land by tribal custom and
Dreamtime mythology, and these were exploited as farm hands, domestic ser-
vants and labourers. They only cost a few francs a day in wages and were a
small but important part of the economy.
So why would France want to give up such a lucrative gem for some bits
of tropical rainforest and mountain range where the only export was a few
mangoes and pineapples and a bit of tin and coffee? One which was certain to
see a lot of unrest as the Indonesian military constantly harassed both Port
Moresby and Canberra to return it to what they claimed was its rightful own-
ers.
I wasn’t that sort of United Aussie who wanted to bargain and treat, like
the Liberal government in Canberra! I just believed that it would be in every-
one’s best interest if Nuytsland joined the Federation. Like the North Korean
people intended with their divided country and the Communist regime yearned
for in Vietnam, another French territory until recently.
But not with all the bloodshed and violence that these countries had en-
dured. Just nice and easy and everyone kept their white shirts and pinstripe
suits and didn’t go around in drab olive or military blues, shooting each other
and blowing each other up.
But I knew deep down it wasn’t going to happen!
I rolled the paper and pushed it under my arm and walked across the pedes-
trian bridge to the University.
A few of the faculty roared up on motorcycles while most walked from
the station or sedately parked their Renaults and Citröens. A couple of the
Australians owned Holdens which were too big for the tiny parking bays and
had to be left out on the side street.

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The students mainly rode pushbikes or walked, and were indistinguishable
from University students in Paris, Boston or Berlin. The men either looked
scruffy and wild like Mick Jagger or clean-cut and tailor-fitted like Sacha Dis-
tel. Among the girls there was definitely the influence of Bardot and Françiose
Hardy.
When building this edifice back around the turn of the century, the French
had spared no expense. Grey granite walls, ivy covered verandahs, broad, airy
windows and immaculately mown lawns, which the rest of Australia would
describe as ‘manicured’. They had an impression of superiority to maintain.
They had to let the British colonial Australians know that the French way was
infinitely better than the scraggy, careless approach to education adopted by
Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
And to this end, the teaching faculty was also the best that money could
employ.
French, German and New England universities were scoured and the finest
staff lured to the Pearl of the South. Occasionally an Australian or English ed-
ucator, particularly if he was from Oxford or Cambridge, would pass muster,
and these would be recruited with much fanfare and triumph! But they had to
be good, top in their field and speciality.
Hence me!
Well, let’s face reality! History was such an attractive subject in these days
when so much history was being made. Students of it made comments about
learning from your past mistakes, but politicians didn’t want to know about
that! They wanted to make their mistakes, when and how they liked, unen-
cumbered by what had gone on in the past!
Who doesn’t?
‘Morning, Berthos!’ I placed my umbrella in the hat stand near the door
of the common room and fumbled in my briefcase for my reading glasses.
Berthos Merriweather nodded his greeting and pushed some books aside
on the table, making room for my croque monsieur and half empty coffee cup.
‘I see you Aussies are stirring the Frogs up again!’ he grinned in his lop-
sided, University of Massachusetts manner. ‘You should stick to your
boomerangs and kangaroos and stop trying to become world leaders!’
‘Yeah, like you Septic Tanks!’ I retorted. ‘We could be joint leaders of the
free world! I see LBJ is busting to have a go at they those Commies in Hanoi!’
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It was a game with us, but the naive French really thought we didn’t like
each other.
I found Berthos an island of sanity in all this European-ness, while I know
he liked me for . . . well, what wasn’t there to like?
Merriweather was Professor of Psychiatry and normally worked with his
medical students at the Hôpital de George in Yakamia, several kilometres from
the city. It was a good arrangement that his lectures would be carried out at
the Chien de Granit Campus. It was considered ‘the’ Institute of Psychiatry in
the French speaking world, and his students came from Australia, Reunion,
Seychelles and other Indian Ocean countries, and even some from New Cale-
donia.
He was popular among his students, although he was nearly old enough
to be the grandfather of some of them. Still, the French always did respect
their elders, unlike the unruly mob at my last university, Victoria, where any-
one over thirty five was seen as old and doddery and out of touch! I know the
dean, the alumni and the other faculty members had a high regard for him as
his attraction meant good income from the overseas fee-paying families, keen
to have their offspring well-educated, while getting them out of their hair dur-
ing their more rebellious age.
In Paris, in particular, young people made a mockery of their Universities.
They used them as a headquarters for their anarchic, anti-establishment col-
lectives and societies. The Sorbonne housed so many opponents of de Gaulle
that an uprising was imminent. Serious students left France to study in Mas-
sachusetts, California, Britain and Germany. And some even found their way
into the remote outpost of Nuytsland.
While there was no way I agreed with de Gaulle, I couldn’t condone the
use of public institutions for subversive activities. The OAS in Algeria was
defeated, the people felt de Gaulle was a dictator and rebellion was rife. It was
time for the Second World War leader to realise this and step down, one of
the reasons why I believed Nuytsland should become independent or join the
Commonwealth of Australia. France was losing territory all over the world
and being a remote province, so far away, was both unfeasible and unworkable
in the twentieth century.
Even Australia was at last breaking its colonial ties with England. Fifteen
years ago they won the right to consider themselves Australian citizens and
not just British subjects, although they had never enjoyed the rights and du-
bious privileges that inferred.

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Republican viewpoints were often aired in learning institutions around
Australia, but in Port George, there was never any talk of secession from La
Belle France!
Prof Merriweather always seemed completely remote from any political
stance and attempts to lure him into discussion would result in him getting
out his baccy tin, his beloved briar and start a process which stank out the
common room and resulted in his being asked to leave. I think, in fact I know,
this was the desired outcome!
He didn’t want to talk politics!
Almost as if he were reading my mind, as he had a habit of doing, Berthos
leaned towards me and at first I though he was going to help himself to one
of the triangular shaped pieces of croque monsieur on the table. Instead, he
looked very thoughtful.
‘I have a new student I would like you to meet, Eric!’ he said, gravely.
‘She is a very thoughtful woman with whom I think you could have some
pretty good conversations.’
‘She’ startled me. Most of Berthos’ students were boys in their early twen-
ties. The use of ‘woman’ startled me even more. There weren’t many mature-
aged pupils anywhere, and to get one here in Port George was very
uncommon. Before I could reply, he continued.
‘She is from Clermont, in France and has similar ideals to yours. I am not
saying she would agree with you on all matters, in fact I would think that if
you had a chat with her, you would soon get into a blazing row. She is very
outspoken.’
Oh, all I needed was an opinionated, middle-aged intellectual to fight with!
One of the things I loved about Port George was the peace and quiet, especially
in the Department of Social Science. But I listened.
‘She practices . . . I suppose you would call it meta-physical principals.
Or extra-natural. I don’t mean seances and all that baloney, rather power of
the mind stuff.’
‘Why do you think that would interest me?’ I asked, reasonably enough.
Although I trusted Berthos’ enough to know he would have considered this
very carefully.
‘Your interest in history and the idea that courses set do not necessarily

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have to be the courses followed. It’s hard for me to explain. Psychiatry hasn’t
the terminology I need.’
Strange! I thought psychiatry had the all the questions and answers sewn
up tighter than a football. If it didn’t have the answers, it certainly had all the
terminology to make you think it did.
Still, what he said intrigued me. I wanted to find out more, meet this
woman, if what I thought he said was what he actually meant!
‘Her name is Catherine Minnett, but she prefers her maiden name, Cler-
mont, which, as I mentioned, is her hometown. I think there is some sort of
connection there. Peerage or Lady of the Manor sort of stuff. Do you wish to
speak to her? She is very keen to meet you!’
‘Have you discussed me with her?’ I felt both flattered and slightly vio-
lated, although I knew this man’s discretion would not permit him to speak ill
nor ridicule me.
‘We had coffee at the beach on Sunday. I was out with the dogs and she
had a little poodle. We got chatting outside the cafe and sat at a table and or-
dered. That’s all. Mary-Anne was there, too!’ he said, defensively.
‘She asked about you. I didn’t bring the subject up. You are not that inter-
esting to me.’ He looked up, waiting for me to bite.
‘Have a piece of my sandwich,’ I said, waiting for him to continue and
pretending I had not recognised his gentle insult. He grinned, realising what
I was all about and took a quarter, which was by now, congealed and unap-
petising.
‘Yes, she said she knew you were an anti-Gaullist, and a secessionist,
ideals she holds, apparently. I told her you would probably not describe your-
self in that way, and it seemed to interest her even more.’
‘Where does this fit into her extra-natural beliefs?’ I asked and immedi-
ately wished I hadn’t. I had shown an interest, and that, in my experience, al-
ways led to a certain degree of commitment. I had always been as interested
in committing myself to a cause as I was to committing myself to a person.
Not at all like me, I thought.
Yet I was intrigued.
Not because she was an intellectual. She may not be.

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Not because she was a seperationist. Berthos never said that in his delib-
erately non-committal way.
And not because she was a woman, that’s for sure! Who knows what she
would turn out to be?
Although I could guess.
Prim, proper, aristocratic, stern, sensible shoes and toffy nosed! Weren’t
they all, these intellectual women?
‘If you want to meet her, she just walked along the verandah and I can see
her searching through her purse just outside the window. Are you interested?’
I followed his gaze and couldn’t see anyone who fitted my description.
Only a Jeanne Moreau lookalike and two rather nerdy (as Berthos would say)
young lasses in duffel coats and spectacles.
But the Moreau lookalike, I realised, was in her late thirties. Not the im-
mediate impression of a young university student that her figure suggested.
Not that I ever went to French movies, on the very infrequent occasions
they showed in the cinema, so I wasn’t terribly familiar with her.
But she had an attraction about her. An aura. Not so much sexual, although
plenty of men would look twice or three times.
And definitely not snooty nor toffy nosed.
‘That’s her,’ he said.
‘Let’s go!’ I said.

The corners of her mouth were turned down, in that typical pout which
Bardot and Moreau made famous. An almost miserable look when coupled
with unfocused eyes, but as soon as Berthos spoke and she looked up, a trans-
formation happened.
‘Professor Catlin! How delightful to meet you.’
I would not, in my wildest dreams, describe meeting me as being delight-
ful. But I was already captivated, entranced.
Those lips, so recently pursed, broadened into a radiant smile and her eyes
literally beamed!
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She reached over and hugged Berthos, kissing him on the cheek and press-
ing her hands into his shoulders: a sort of controlled hug as though Mary-
Anne Merriweather were there, too. Then she focused all her attention on me
and held out a hand. When I took it, she used it to pull me a little closer in a
slightly provocative way. It was the warmest handshake I had ever received!
‘I have a class now, but I am free this evening. Would you two gentlemen
do me the honour of being my guests for dinner?
‘And your charming wife, Mary-Anne, of course, Professor,’ she added,
almost as an afterthought.
‘I would be . . . er, delighted,’ I stammered and Berthos indicated that he
and his wife would also attend. They made the necessary arrangements and
she left for her class. We were both doing lectures, one of the reasons we were
at the University that morning, and had to hurry off.
Berthos picked me up that evening and Mary-Ann, who really found
French Colonial culture to be alien to her Southern upbringing, was not par-
ticularly looking forward to this event. She knew, though, that with me being
there too, she had something of common interest, as I had spent a year in Geor-
gia and ‘spoke the lingo’. Why, I even played a bit of Hank Williams on the
guitar now and again!
By ‘spoke the lingo’, I am not referring to the English language. Everyone
in Nuytsland spoke English. Most of them with an Australian accent, too. I
don’t know about those first twenty or so years of colonisation before Gover-
nor Stirling flew the Union Flag on the banks of the Swan River, but ever
since then, the territory depended on Western Australia for so much, it was
only common sense to speak the same language.
And we did depend on them! More than they were ever allowed to realise.
We made a big deal about everything we exported to them – wine, fruit, veg-
etables, dairy products, fish products, meat (especially poultry), wheat and
wool, timber, textiles and smallgoods, but we often forgot where most of our
electricity came from, where we got our coal, our heavy machinery and all
our everyday stuff we take for granted. Hardware, household equipment,
building supplies . . . the list is endless.
Of course not everything came from Perth. But nearly all overseas made
stuff came to us via the Port of Fremantle, other than that which came directly
from France. Stuff like cars and linen and luxury items.
And a lot came from the cities in the east, predominantly Melbourne. Our
17
trains and trams were all manufactured in Dandenong, even though we used
Western Australian 1067mm gauge rails. They came in directly to Port George
or Geographe, as it would be daft to ship them right past King George Sound,
around Cape Leeuwin to Fremantle, then the four hundred kilometres road
trip or six hundred and fifty kilometres sea voyage back again!
Simply put, it strengthened our argument to secede from France and form
some sort of political association with Australia.
But I digress again, just for the purpose of pumping you full of information
of which you are probably unaware.

Mademoiselle Clermont met us at the restaurant, the rather cornily named


L’Oven D’Or. Oven of Gold in French, but sounding crudely in English like
The Oven Door. Although it had only opened just before Christmas, its repu-
tation was growing and I had not been able to book a reservation there when
my sister visited with her husband in March. Obviously Mamselle Clermont
had a little bit of sway with the management.
Although it was now early May, we were already into winter clothes and
the maitre d’ called a waiter over to take our coats and hats. Port George gets
cool as soon as the sun drops behind Mont Albert and the chilly breeze blows
off the Sound.
‘Madam Merriweather. It is so nice to meet with you again. I love your
hat, so pretty. Did you buy it in New York? Yes? Oh I do love to shop in Fifth
Avenue. It is one thing I miss!’
Mary-Anne relaxed immediately. If there is one subject American women
love, it is talking about the shopping in New York. This woman knew her stuff
and put everyone at ease.
‘And Professor Merriweather! You are looking very debonair tonight. We
will make a Frenchman of you yet, you will see. No more leather patches on
your elbows like a Bostonian. You will become a gentilhomme de Français!’
Normally this would make any non-French person cringe with embarrassment,
but Catherine Clermont said it with such open joy and gaiety that nobody
could take offence.
Then she turned to me.
‘Please do not look so serious, Professor Catlin. We are here for a good
time tonight. We will enjoy ourselves with good food and great wine and
sparkling conversation, non?’
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I am sure she added that last syllable just to remind me that she was, above
all, a Frenchwoman. With maybe a touch of Moor, as her eyes were a deep
brown and I thought I detected there was just a touch of African in there some-
where. But definitely French!
Okay, fair enough. I was the foreigner here, not her, after all. This was as
much French soil as the beach at Calais, the vineyards of Provençe or the Bois
de Boulogne. It was just a surprise to me that she resorted to such a device.
She must have her reasons.
We carefully avoided all but small talk during dinner. It would have been
rude to discuss intellectual subjects, politics, work or religion. Besides, I never
discussed religion. I had dispensed with all that nonsense the last time I
stepped out of the Baptist Church on Collins Street, aged about fifteen. Since
then I had been happily agnostic and totally guilt-free!
Praise the Lord!
And inevitably, it turned to football! Everyone talks football knowing that
you at least have a degree of safety in that subject.
You might get fans from opposing teams fighting and bashing each other
on the terraces in England, but over dinner, even over a few beers, there seems
to be a convention which says you only discuss it. There might be some hood-
lums who defy this, but generally, it’s a lot safer than the SRP subjects. Sex,
Religion or Politics!
Catherine was an ardent follower of Stade Clermontois, not really surpris-
ingly. She spoke passionately about the football club’s desire to become a pro-
fessional team again, after so many French clubs had financial difficulties
following the war. Her knowledge of the club and of French football was en-
cyclopaedic, but her passion for the game was almost overwhelming,
I came from Melbourne where Australian Rules Football is a religion and
the VFL its archdeacons. I understood that it was almost a way of life for many
people. But for this woman to be so enthusiastic, there must be family con-
nections.
‘My brother was their centre half during the nineteen fifties. My father
played in goal for them prior to the war, but now he hobbles around on one
leg, doing odd jobs for them, like laundering their kit and blowing up their
balls. It is in the family blood. All my relatives . . . my cousin Emily is married
to a former captain and her sons are the most loyal supporters there are!’

19
I still referred to the game as “soccer” like most Australians, but had al-
ways enjoyed the skills and tactics which were not present in Aussie Rules.
Here in Port George, although the Associatione was only small, it was very
well supported, with some supporters even travelling to Petit Orleans or Ge-
ographe to watch away games.
‘We are trying to get Racing Paris to do a tour during their off-season.
They would do exhibition matches throughout Asia and the Pacific regions.
Vietnam, Mauritius, New Caledonia and Tahiti are very keen on the idea and
of course, the Associatione here is heading the negotiations.’
Before I knew it, I had promised to attend a match between Port George
and another local team, Montpelier, on Saturday afternoon. I found myself
looking forward to it. Not so much for the competition as the company of this
vibrant woman!
Watch it, Eric! I warned myself. You don’t even know her.
But I wanted to know her! It wasn’t a schoolboy crush, or even a grown
up desire. It was, I reluctantly admitted, for companionship! She was the first
person I had met in the whole territory with whom I felt I had something in
common. Even Berthos, who was, after all, merely a colleague whose sense
of humour matched mine. But I could hardly hold hands with Berthos at a
concert or promenading along the bêche!
And I admit I often felt lonely, particularly in the evenings, sitting reading
in my study at home, or researching in the University’s more-than-adequate
library.
I wanted someone of my own age, someone with at least half a brain with
good conversational skills and a the strength and forcefulness to project it!
And who looked as good as Mme Minnet!
I wondered about that Minnet bit. Who was M. Minnet? I wanted to know
yet I was scared of finding out. Particularly if he was a local businessman with
the power and influence to gut me, to ruin my career, to make me look like a
clown in front of these townsfolk.
I didn’t have long to wait to find out.
‘Arturo . . . that was my husband . . . was chairman of the Associatione,
and I have been awarded life membership. So we can watch it in comfort!’
she announced. With a note of triumph in her voice that she had successfully

20
converted a footy fan to what she referred to as ‘real football!’
I had to ask.
‘Um . . . your husband . . . er?’
‘Arturo passed away two years ago. He was quite elderly and received se-
rious injuries when his house was shelled by the the Boche. The Germans!
He never really recovered, but he was a good man and a good companion. I
miss him, I admit. We had so much in common!’
‘Such as?’ I felt she wanted to tell me about him, but not unless I wanted
to hear.
‘Well, football of course. And music! He loved me to play piano and sing
to him. Many people would not call that music, but we enjoyed it together.’
She laughed. A bright note, yet somehow tinged with melancholia. She re-
alised I had noted this and hurriedly continued.
‘And literature, opera and art. All the great impressionists. Monet, Renoir,
Pissaro and especially Manet. We met at an exhibition of Manet in Paris at
the Musée Marmottan in the Bois de Boulogne. Right in front of the painting
of Angelina. Are you familiar with the work?’
‘Yes, it has always been one of my favourites, along with Nina de Cal-
lias!’
She was delighted! I had evidently struck the right chord.
‘Mine too! Oh, you must have such exquisite taste. Arturo always called
me “Nina” because I loved that painting so much!’
For a second, I didn’t know what to say, what to do. Never before had one
of my pronouncements been met with such gushing enthusiasm. But I could
see it was genuine, an absolute joy that she had found someone with similar
tastes.
‘Other than your charming elegance, Catherine, I can think of no other re-
semblance!’
‘Merci! Oh, thank you for the compliment, Professor. May I call you Eric?’
‘You’d better!’
We both laughed and I knew I had a friend for life here. I almost couldn’t

21
bear to break the spell with saying something wrong, but I knew she was wait-
ing for me to speak again.
I knew very little of French literature, so that was out of the question.
Opera, although having been brought up in Melbourne, was equally foreign
to me. Music seemed the best choice.
We were sure to have different tastes but well, here goes. Faint heart never
won fair lady!
‘You mentioned music. Er . . . have you any favourites I may have heard
of?’
‘Oh, everything! Rogers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Louis Arm-
strong, Dizzy Gillespie. Why I even get a lot of pleasure from listening to
Cliff Richard and the Shadows!’
Thank God, I thought. This is my territory! But I realised that Berthos and
Mary-Anne were quiet listeners and had not joined in any of the conversation
so far.
‘Will you be able to join us at the football, you Merriweather people?’
‘I’d love to!’ enthused Berthos. ‘I used to play centre forward at Boston
University. In my day, I was a bobby dazzler! All the girls loved me. Except
Mary-Anne. She couldn’t see the attraction in soccer. Not like her beloved
gridiron game!’
‘That’s not true!’ objected his wife. ‘I just couldn’t understand it, that’s
all. That other game made more sense to me. What’s it called? Rugby?’
‘Now don’t get me started on rugby!’ Catherine’s eyes had suddenly
flashed with fire. ‘In university, I used to know this boy who played rugby. A
prop! But don’t get me going. Although he could get me going!’
‘That’s more information than we care to know!’ I interrupted and we all
laughed. Catherine’s chair was much closer to mine than during the entree
and her hand was almost touching my sleeve. I got out my wallet and started
to stand up.
‘This is all taken care of,’ Catherine whispered quietly. ‘You will have
plenty of opportunities in the future to impress me with how much a professor
earns that he can flash his money around!’
I hoped so. Many, many opportunities!
22
2.

She offered to drive me home that evening. The reason she gave was that
she lived in Cap Sainte Alice and I in Deschamps Hamelin, while the Merri-
weathers lived in Petit Bosquet on the south coast of the harbour.
But I didn’t mind one bit! Sitting alongside her in her Mercedes Benz was
far preferable to being cramped in the back seat of Berthos’ tiny Volkswagen.
And I know you have already guessed the real reason. I didn’t want to leave
the company of this woman!
She chattered on all the way home, and I sat there spellbound. I must admit
it. I have been honest with you so far and there is no reason for me to say ‘idly
listening’ or ‘bored to tears’. I was spellbound. I was rapt!
As she pulled into my driveway at the end of the street which overlooked
Port d’Oyster and Point d’Emu, she leaned over towards me and I thought for
a panic-stricken moment that she was going to subject me to a heavy pash ses-
sion, as we used to refer to it in my schooldays in Melbourne, when I was
young enough to indulge in such behaviour. But she simply kissed me on the
right cheek and said she had to hurry home because her dog had not yet been
fed.
I loved that! The best excuse I have ever received. I envied that poodle!
But the kiss lingered slightly and I was aware that she knew exactly what
she was doing.
‘Catherine,’ I asked. ‘Would you have any objections if I . . .’ I hesitated
‘What, Cheri?’ Her breath was hot on my cheek, but I felt her pull back
from me slightly.
‘Well, if I called you Nina?’
The tears welled up in her eyes and she clung to me for maybe fifteen sec-
onds. When she released me, I got out of the car, walked around to the left
hand side. The window was down.
I kissed her firmly, yet tenderly, full on her mouth, then turned and walked
up my driveway. At the porch, I turned to wave goodnight and saw her bright,
tear-stained face smiling back at me. I am almost sure her lips moved and
mouthed ‘Je t’adore.’

23
I saw her several more times that week. Each time we were both in a hurry.
I was also in an ecstasy. We only got the chance for a quick hands-on-shoul-
ders hug, a cheek kiss and a whispered ‘Hi, Sweetie!’ and ‘Bonjour, mon
cheri.’ but it was enough to keep me alive.
The students noticed and soon, when they saw us approaching, they would
stop what they were doing and as our faces touched, the chorus of ‘Ooh la la!’
and wolf whistles, and then the happy laughter which always followed.
This wasn’t derisory or ridiculing. This was joy, pure happiness that two
people were being affectionate. I will say this for the French, ‘amour, is para-
mount in their mind. They have so many words for love and affection and de-
sire, that the vocabulary has influenced their thinking. Or maybe it is the other
way around! I must ask Berthos.
But as Saturday neared, I began to get a bit nervous. Suppose I made a
fool of myself! Suppose I said something she did not agree with. How would
I handle it? How would she handle it? What if the ardour and passion of the
other night had worn thin and she was just being polite by her greeting?
And even if I was only a momentary diversion, a flirtatious distraction, I
was assured of a few hours in her company anyway. Apart from the match,
she had gone to considerable lengths to get me into some sort of discussion
about history or secession or whatever.
You don’t jack up Berthos Merriweather like that out of idle curiosity.
He’d see through you in a flash!
Stupid self-doubt!
It didn’t make sense, but that week, nothing made sense. The only thing
that made sense was her lips mouthing ‘Je t’adore.’ Not ‘Je t’aime bien’ which
would normally be the reaction on a first date.
I had gotten under the skin of this woman, even if only for a moment, by
asking something which meant a lot to her. It was calculated, but it also could
have gone against me.
She could have said ‘I’d rather you didn’t. Only my husband called me
that!’ or even ‘Je m’appelle Catherine!’
But her tears told me she welcomed it, that she wanted me to, that it had
become something very meaningful to only the two of us since her husband
had died.

24
Nina! Apart from anything, it suited her. Elegant, happy, beautiful, exqui-
site, enjoying herself, like Mme de Callias in Manet’s painting! Catherine was
a bit formal, straight-laced and just a tad too old-fashioned. Nina she was,
then!
But still the nervousness persisted, right up until she squealed her Mer-
cedes’ wheels into my driveway, scaring the sleepy old bobtail goanna which
stood guard over my mail box.
Again, I almost gasped at her beauty.
I was aware that she was not really ‘beautiful’ in appearance. Her face did-
n’t possess the qualities of being exactly proportionate, her figure slightly
larger than ‘correct body mass’, her hair minutely out-of-place. Not unkempt
or windswept! Just the tiniest wisp which occasionally crept from behind her
ear and dropped across her brow.
Just downright attractive!
I was wearing my old St Kilda Football Club scarf. It was the same red,
white and black as Port George wore and I was glad now I had kept it. It was
a bit moth eaten and frayed, but that gave it an authentic look, not as though
I had bought it especially for this occasion.
Nina was, as she always seemed to be, delighted with it! She was wearing
a replica of the team’s blouse over a very smart, black skirt. Under the blouse
she had a red Pierre Cardin sweater. She wore white tights to complete the
colour scheme, and for the first time I noticed how shapely her legs were.
They wouldn’t look that good without a lot of gym work!
Flat-heeled, leather pumps kept her height down to just below mine. I was
grateful for that, because although the notion was absurd, I always felt a man
should be taller than his female companion. This was, after all, 1964!
So I gasped, but she didn’t notice it. She was too busy making a fuss of
old Sleepy Bob and my black cat.
‘Such a beautiful pussy. What is his name?’
‘Oh, that’s old Arthur!’ I told her and I noticed the quizzical look on her
face. Arturo, her husband’s name, was the Spanish version of Arthur!
‘I named him after the Australian Leader of the Opposition, Mr Caldwell!
Unimaginative, discriminating and sometimes a grumpy old so-and-so!’

25
Maybe not a fair assessment, but it always got a laugh, especially in Nuyt-
sland. Arthur Caldwell was quite popular because he welcomed Europeans
and did not seem to be too concerned that the French shared the continent.
Well, not as obsessed as Robert Menzies, who was hated!
I won’t say the afternoon was an unqualified success. It rained and we got
drenched, but that was all part of the fun, shivering by the fireside in the clu-
brooms afterwards. It was Nuytsland, after all!
Also, Montpelier won 2-0! Not surprising. Our boys were all office work-
ers and university students, while the lads from the other team were rugged
orchardists and dairy farmers from the hinterland town fifty kilometres to the
north. Although they were perhaps lacking in skills, they made up for it in
sheer size and fitness. Their ‘keeper was at least two metres tall, weighed
around a hundred and twenty and was as alert as old Arthur when a scrub bird
invades the garden!
But I really enjoyed it. Much more than those games of Aussie Rules be-
tween St Kilda and the other teams in the VFL.
Was I turning French? Or did it have more to do with the screaming, ges-
ticulating, wild woman beside me? Probably the latter . . .
We had beers in a cafe after the game. A few others, friends of Nina’s, who
were also at the match, joined us and invited us around to a barbecue at Bêche
de Cité.
We bought a couple of bottles of vin blanc and drove around Chien de
Granit – the piece of rock which nature had carved into the shape of a re-
triever’s head – past the farm which was preserved exactly as it was when the
original resident, Captain Freycinet, lived there. They love memorialising
things, these French!
I loved this part of town. The wide sweep of beach, from the headland to
our right, all the way around to Point d’Emu, five kilometres away. It was
named, they say, because the original cartographer thought the tiny peninsular
resembled the head and neck of this flightless antipodean bird.
I always thought that if I ever decided to live permanently in this town,
the beach is where I would buy or build. There wasn’t much room between
the southern tip of Lac Peron, Mont Josephine and the ocean, and it was filling
up fast, so I’d have to decide to stay pretty soon. The tram which they put
from town down Rue de Bêche in the 1930s helped make this a very popular
and accessible suburb. There was talk of ripping out the tracks and widening
26
the thoroughfare for vehicles but in Port George, this was never going to hap-
pen.
But now there was an additional reason to make me want to put down
roots. I wasn’t getting any younger and didn’t want to spend my life as an itin-
erant history professor . . .
As always in small cities, I knew a few of the people present. Nina knew
everyone! I was surprised at that, as I had never encountered her before that
week. I must lead a terribly boring, insular sort of existence!
Now everyone seemed to accept us as an item, a done deal! Word travels
fast when the vine only holds a hundred thousand grapes!
I just basked in her glow. Men I barely knew, came up and chatted to me
on a range of subjects, from football, town politics, fishing and inevitably, se-
cession.
I loved football, normally steered clear of town politics, never fished nor
ate seafood and didn’t want to be drawn into the subject of secession. It caused
too many fights in this very patriotic neck of the woods! So I mainly listened.
After all, I was the centre of attention anyway, having arrived on Nina’s arm.
Who needed more than that!
A couple of times I referred to her as Nina. Inadvertently, as nobody else
called her that. Only me and her husband. But one of her closer chums picked
it up, dribbled it down the wing, then crossed it straight to me.
‘Arturo used to call her that!’
‘Ah, yes, I realise that.’ I almost apologised. ‘We were discussing Manet’s
work and found we both loved his painting of Nina. She told me afterwards
that it was his pet name for her. I am not trying to be presumptuous.’
‘You do know that she hasn’t looked at another man since her husband
passed?’
‘I . . . er . . . we are only friends!’ I gulped as I very nearly said the words
‘as yet’.
‘I don’t know whether she has “looked” at me.’
‘But you hope so?’
I could only smile. What could I say? I couldn’t even look inscrutable. So
I laughed in a non-committal, almost dismissive way. But I fooled no-one.
27
The arrival of Berthos and Mary-Anne saved me. They turned up late.
While Berthos had been at the match with us, Mary-Anne had taken the
dogs down for a romp along the foreshore, where they had rolled in something
nasty. They had to be taken home and bathed, then fed, before the Merriweath-
ers came back out, dogless, to the barbecue.
I was so glad when they arrived as it gave me a chance to escape the line
of questioning I was sure was going to follow. Also, it gave me someone to
talk to who wasn’t trying to glean a bit of juicy gossip. Mary-Anne, while not
being a reserved home-body, never involved herself in ‘the grapevine’ of the
Port George social set!
We settled on that topic, dear to both of us: meatless cuisine! Safe as
houses and while not everyone’s cup of tea, it was seldom the reason for any
dissent or unpleasantness. She described a recipe she had just received from
her sister in California, for something called ‘guacamole’, made from avoca-
dos which were almost unobtainable in Nuytsland. She was having some sent
down from Geraldton by a friend who had a dozen trees.
This topic kept me from the prying noses of most of the present company,
because when someone was obviously deep in conversation, social niceties
forbade one from interrupting.
Except one slightly older lady who must have overheard part of our con-
versation, and with an ‘excusez moi’, promised Mary-Anne some avocados
from her experimental garden.
So now I had ‘double indemnity’! Two ladies to protect me! But I knew
that as soon as Nina and I left, the chins would start and the old tongues would
get going until every last scrap of flesh was extracted from the seed!
I wondered how Nina was faring. I noticed her – hell, I couldn’t take my
eyes off her – talking to a number of different people, notably some of the
town’s biggest commérages. Gossipers! They were having a wonderful time!
They might have lost the soccer but they were scoring tonight, alright.
As I said before, French people have a heightened sense of l’amour. But I
wasn’t used to it and didn’t really know how to behave. But Nina had seen
my plight and taken pity on me. I saw her approaching.
‘I leave you for a moment and then I find you flirting with these other
women!’ she said, giving me a saucy wink and the rest of the guests a huge
smile. ‘Have you tried the côtelettes de noix? I am sure you would like them.’

28
She led me over to the barbecue. The plates of meat, corn and salad were
piled up on a sideboard and Nina selected me two nut cutlets, some pickled
aubergine and a pile of pommes frites. She guessed my Australian palate
needed tomato sauce and held up the bottle. I nodded and she dolloped some
over the supper.
I refilled my glass with some of last year’s chardonnay and we found a
quiet place to eat and talk.
‘Did you mind coming here? Some of my friends can get pretty unbear-
able!’
“I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in ages,’ I lied and she laughed. ‘No,
Mary-Anne protected me from the really persistent ones.’
‘I think it was mutual. Mary-Anne is a very sensible lady. Berthos is a
lucky man.’
I decided to take the plunge. We were sitting on a stone bench about thirty
metres away from the patio, near a small goldfish pond, and the others seemed
to be leaving us alone for the moment. When I say ‘take the plunge’, I do not
mean into the pond. Into the subject which had been carefully avoided until
now.
‘Talking of Berthos, he said you were interested in the para-normal. He
said you wished to speak with me about history and the alternatives. I didn’t
really understand what he was on about, but when he pointed you out . . . well,
er, I couldn’t refuse!’
She squeezed my arm.
‘For an Australian, that was a great compliment and I accept it as one.’ I
knew she was teasing me. ‘I had noticed you before, but when Professor Mer-
riweather introduced us, I knew we had a lot more in common than history.
Manet, for example!’
‘So what is all about? Not that I am not flattered!’
‘I wish to learn from you the complete history of this part of the Southern
Hemisphere. Not just what you can read in the Library, but some opinions.’
‘Opinions?’
‘Yes. What-ifs! Options, alternatives! What if Captain Cook had stayed
too long at his niece’s wedding and had thought “Let’s skip Botany Bay and
go straight up to Hawaii.” That kind of opinion.’

29
A glimmer of what she had in mind started to dawn on me. Go back to ba-
sics. Find out all about the French colonisation of Nuytsland and maybe try
to find a legal reason or something why the territory should really be Aus-
tralian.
I put it to her.
‘No, not that exactly. But you are very quick and perceptive.’
‘What, exactly?’ I wondered if she had drunk too much of that wonderful
Montpelier wine.
‘You will think I am crazy. I feel silly saying it but . . . with a view to
changing history.’
I completely misunderstood.
‘You can’t change history!’ I said. ‘You can negate its effects, channel a
different course of events into the future. Minimise the effects by careful guid-
ance and leadership. What do you want to do?’
‘Change it! Go back and change it!’
Oh, God. I had a nutcase on my hands. All my hopes of enjoying a rela-
tionship with this woman were suddenly dashed. Almost as if she had walked
off with another man, or announced she was a lesbian.
Why? So cruel! She must have had a very bad experience to be so stupid.
Traumatic, Berthos would say. Despair over the death of her husband. Or
maybe actual brain damage from an accident, an illness or even narcotics! Oh,
no, not those things again!
She didn’t appear drunk or ‘high’ and she wasn’t kidding, either.
‘Go back into time and change it?’
‘Go back and change history! It can be done. Have you heard of the Astral
Plane?’
I wasn’t sure if I had or not. I was still reeling from the disappointment of
finding out I had probably fallen for a lunatic.
“Er, I am not sure what you are talking about.’ Some dim recollection of
the phrase appeared somewhere in my mind, but there was nothing definite.
‘Have you heard of the the phrase “Out of body experience”, then?’
30
‘Yes, I think so. Some weird kids at the University of Victoria used to talk
about it. They said your mind could leave your head and independently move
around. I always thought they were daft.’
Why was I even joining in? I was going to get hurt, I just knew it!
‘Yes, basically that’s it. But it goes much deeper than that. You can move
around on more than one plane. The three dimensions that we know, but also
on many other planes as well. Other realities, other universes, some say.
‘And time is also a dimension. You can travel up and down that dimension,
too.’
‘So you can go and see how your kids turn out? Who’s going to win the
Cup Final or the races at Flemington. You could make a killing!’
‘Aha, there you are starting to accept what I say is true.’
‘Not really. But I haven’t dismissed you as a head case yet. Sorry, I mean
as an idiot.’
‘To answer your question: no. You cannot travel into the future. I don’t
know why, but you are limited to the past. The future hasn’t happened yet.
But you can travel back and forth, as well as you can travel across space. And
in an instant.’
This was getting too much for me and I was still amazed that Nina was
talking like this. I am a very straight laced, old fashioned sort of chap, not fa-
miliar with practical jokes and really naive as to when people were pulling
my leg.
So I stood up.
‘Are you going?’ she asked. ‘Can I drive you, or will you take the tram?’
‘No, I wasn’t going to leave. I need to clear my head. Have they got any
coffee brewing?’
She took my arm and led me back down the path to the patio.
‘Sorry!’ she whispered. ‘You asked, so I told you. I did not know you were
not ready yet.’
Not ready yet?
‘Not ready?’ I said. ‘You land something like that on me and expect me to
take it in my stride! Trouble is, I don’t know why, but I don’t disbelieve you!’
31
‘Good! You have an open mind. You are an intelligent man but I know you
are very conservative. I thought you might think I was an air head, a powder
puff. But you did me the great honour of listening to me. Your reaction was,
of course, amazement. But you did not condemn me.’
I bloody nearly did, though. I must have kept a pretty tight rein on my face
for her not to have read my mind.
By the living Harry, I hope she doesn’t think she can read minds, too!
Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!
I never use profanity, not even to myself. That outburst blew my mind
away and I hoped she hadn’t read my facial expression. Or my mind.
If she had, she was very understanding about it.
I didn’t say much for the rest of the evening, and I don’t think she expected
me to. I know she wanted me to invite her in when she drove me home, and I
think I was going to. But I hesitated too long and she used the dog excuse
again.
She promised to call in the following morning on her way into town. I as-
sumed she was going into church or something and agreed. I was still shell-
shocked from the bomb she had dropped that shattered my cosy little life.
Her kiss tried to be loving and hot, but it takes two to tangle. I really could
not put my heart and soul into it, but merely went through the motions. Of
course, she must have realised the state I was in, but even so, she seemed a
little disappointed.
‘Say goodnight to Arthur for me!’ she called from the window of her Mer-
cedes, and I tried to give a merry grin as I waved goodnight.
I found a bottle of Beefeater Gin which I had bought four years before and
poured a finger into a glass, topping it up with some Schweppes Tonic Water.
I knew, as I drank it that it would not solve anything but by the fourth one, I
was ready to go to bed. Along with the beer after the game and the chardonnay,
I felt exhausted and slept soundly and dreamlessly for about five hours.
Then I woke up with an alcohol inflated bladder. I thought that after emp-
tying it, I would return to slumber as I normally did, but the edge had just
gone off the booze and I lay there, going over and over what she had said.
By now, I imagined I should have handled it much better. But how? Maybe
32
if I had talked about it with her? She probably thought I had gone into a mood
with her for being potty and eccentric, but I reasoned that surely she would
have known that, to pronounce something so bizarre as she had, I would have
needed time to assimilate it.
I got back out of bed and went and found Arthur, but he wasn’t in the mood
for a smooch. He only smooched when he felt like it, and if you gave any in-
dication at all that you wanted a cuddle, he would arch his back and get out
of there on the double.
It was his way of telling me I didn’t own him, he owned me. I was only
there to put his Kit-E-Kat down, fill up his water bowl and give him some-
where warm to sleep on cold, wintry afternoons.
So I put a record on, but immediately realised I had leafed through the
cardboard covers until I found a Rogers and Hammerstein, an Irving Berlin
or a Dizzy Gillespie. Still, South Pacific was okay and easy to listen to, espe-
cially when you had heard it fifty times before already.
I thought of her and suddenly felt very close to her. It occurred to me that
she might be nearby on the . . . what was the expression . . . the Astral Plain!
Then I dismissed the notion and then immediately started wondering again.
It really gave me the spooks when Arthur woke up, hissed and then walked
over to me and rubbed against my leg! His eyes seemed to be fixed on some-
thing, a sort of feline focused stare. Then he jumped into my lap and curled
up and I could feel his purring against my thigh.
So I made some toast, spread it with Robinson’s Golden Shred and put a
Victor Borge record on the gramophone. I got marmalade all over the sleeve
of my dressing gown when I nodded off to sleep and the plate tipped over.
Arthur discovered it and licked it off.
I dropped off again and when I awoke, the eastern sky was already quite
bright. It must be about seven o’clock and I felt ratty. Even a lukewarm shower
didn’t work so I turned it on hot and nearly burnt my back. But it brought me
back into the real world.

33
3.
‘If we head south, then west, we can confirm our maps, maybe even correct
a few things we may have missed or misread’ Baudin insisted. “However, if
we head back to Timor, we will use up a lot of time!’
‘Oui, but I will be able to complete my circumnavigation and maybe pro-
duce the first map of New Holland, New South Wales and van Diemen’s Land.
Which is more important?’ Louis de Freycinet stood his ground.
‘However, if you order me to, the Casuarina will accompany you back to
Ile de France, taking the short route. But I must warn you, Captain. You will
be tacking all the way from Cape Leeuwin to the Cape of Good Hope. The
Forties are well north at this time of year!’
‘I realise that it will be tough going. I am tempted to follow you back up
into the tropics and bask in the warmth of the islands for a while,’ said Baudin.
‘But I gave you your command, you must make the decision. If I arrive back
in France before you, I will tell Napoleon it was a mutual decision.’
He gazed into the smoke from his pipe for a few minutes. He should not
really have promoted young Freycinet, but after that ridiculous near-mutiny
at Timor, he could no longer trust a lot of his officers. Any of them! But this
little âne was the best of a bad bunch.
‘And if you change your mind about Peron’s ridiculous plan to attack the
British Garrison here, I would appreciate it, Louis. I don’t really want too
much attention from the English. King has been a good host and I don’t want
to spoil it all’
‘Sounds like you have something of your own up your sleeve, Sir!’
‘This is just between you, me and the table,’ Baudin lowered his voice.
‘But I rather fancy reporting to the Little General that we could do worse than
to consider colonising the west of this continent!’
‘I see,’ Freycinet sounded disappointed. But he could see the sense in it.
French soldiers and marines would lose their lives in a battle against the Eng-
lish, especially in an attack on land. ‘I was sort of looking forward to the scrap!
But it will use up valuable time which would be better spent in scientific re-
search. For both of us, And for Peron.’
‘He may still get his chance. Napoleon might decide to attack Port Jackson
and to colonise Terra de Leeuwin.’

34
‘Ah, so that is where you intend to raise the Tricolor. On Geographe Bay?
‘No, actually. Do you remember that cove which Matthew Flinders was
so enthused about. He said it was a large harbour off King George Sound?’
‘Ah. East of Leeuwin! Right on the Grand Ocean. Why not at Geographe
Bay or Swan River?’
‘At King George Sound, we would control the gateway to New South
Wales. If we established our port on the Mer des Indes coastline, traffic to
Port Jackson and Van Dieman’s Land might bypass us to the South and sail
straight through. But at King George Sound, there would be added incentive
to trade, repair, resupply and give their crews some shore leave.
‘I intend to investigate it, plant a flag and claim it for France. It is then up
to Napoleon and the Emperor if they wish to ignore it, as they did D’Entre-
casteaux’ suggestions. And the British have indicated they are not interested,
either. Vancouver also made a formal claim, did you know, which the British
never took up.
‘Sweden and Holland have also had their opportunities, but neither got off
the ground. And the Norwegians with their whaling boats! Up until now, it
has involved too much effort, too much money!
‘But now Flinders is sniffing around, it may not be too long. He is not half
the cartographer that you are, Louis. But he is a shrewd Englishman, a politi-
cian, an empire builder. And we could have a permanent garrison there.’
‘I see. So if you could use your considerable powers of persuasion with
the First Consul . . .’ Freycinet left the sentence dangling. There was no need
to continue sucking up to his colleague. He changed the subject.
‘If we attempted to attack Botany Bay and Port Jackson, we would have
no home base, no nearby reinforcements. We need somewhere to garrison our
troops, where they will not take a month to send for, a month to arrive. We
may also have to neutralise Port Arthur and eventually need to establish More-
ton Bay.
‘So I heartily agree, Sir,’ continued Freycinet. ‘You must present your plan
at the earliest possible occasion. In that case, I will accompany you, if you so
wish.’
‘No need!’ declared Baudin, expansively. ‘You must do your own re-
search.’ Although deep in his heart he longed for the islands and to finish the
work that the mutiny had truncated.
35
‘I appreciate that, Sir! But is there no way we could do both? Sail north
and west, then south to King George Sound, complete a lot more work. Espe-
cially with both ships and crew. Then sail back together and present your plan.
Although it will be your report, with your name on it, I could endorse it and
maybe assist you in preparing it!’
‘While I am tempted by your generous offer, I am anxious to deliver my
plan at the earliest.
‘But by going our separate ways, we can achieve two objectives in the
same time. I must not stand in the way of your hydrography. I feel that this is
what you will become famous for!’
‘Thank you, Sir. I appreciate that! We are comrades and see eye to eye on
most things. This is very important to me. I am very anxious to do it!’
‘I agree with you, Louis,’ the older man said. ‘You have your work: hy-
drography. I have mine: collecting botanical samples. You feel your mission
is not completed yet, I feel I should take the remainder back to the Universities
and Museums of France before they spoil. I have collected quite a lot since
Jacques left! I don’t really know how much more our holds will take!’
The two sailors finished their cognac and went out into the night air. It
was still chilly and they pulled their greatcoats around them as they walked
down to the jetty where Naturaliste and Casuarina were moored.
‘How are you enjoying your first full command?’ asked Baudin. ‘Is this
colonial-built ship all they cracked it up to be?’
‘I have no complaints. On either score!’ Freycinet smiled.
Forever the diplomat, thought Baudin. He has been scathing and called it
a poorly constructed bathtub behind my back. But he does have the qualities
to make a great ambassador for our country! I must see that this youngster is
mentioned favourably in my report.
’And I could not have learned my craft under a better commander.’ Now
he was being a touch sycophantic. But that can be necessary as a politician.
‘This has been a very successful expedition for all of us, and I am sad at the
prospect of our departure.’
‘If I did not think you capable, I would not have given you the Casuarina!’
Baudin declared. ‘However, I am flattered that you do me the honour of cred-
iting me with being a good teacher. Captain Hamelin must also take some of
the credit.’
36
‘Of course, he was a fine master. But it was you, Sir, who entrusted me
with my own command. I will never forget it.’
The two men shook hands a final time and Baudin watched as the young
captain walked up the gang to his own ship. He had probably done the right
thing, and now this newly promoted captain seemed to confirm it. He again
considered accompanying him northwards, but his goals weighed more than
his desires.
Freycinet was the classic example of . . . how did the English say it? ‘Still
waters run deep!’ Hard to second guess, inscrutable, a dark horse! He would
enjoy getting to know him better, yet as a French gentleman, was compelled
to hide his true feelings. But all this sycophancy and two-faced behaviour was
beginning to irritate him. ‘Considerable powers of persuasion’, mon pied. I
have no energy left nor any desire to push home a point! But to be recognised
as the founder of a colony on L’Australie would be a fitting tribute to the years
I have donated to France.
His First Mate whistled him aboard then saluted.
‘When do we sail, Sir?’ he asked. ‘There is still six more hours of dark-
ness.’
‘First light, Number One. Is the ship fully provisioned and are all men are
on board?’
‘Aye, aye, Sir.’
Mary Beckwith was waiting for him in his cabin. Just lately she had some-
times not appeared for hours and Baudin knew she was entertaining several
other sailors aboard. But he did not really care much for her and did not even
speak sternly to her about it. After all, she was only a convict. He could dispose
of her at a whim, should he be of the mind. All it took was to put her ashore
at any British port.
He was rapidly getting exasperated with this command, the men under him
and the behaviour of the colonials with whom he had to contend. If is wasn’t
for the friendly way Governor King had welcomed him, he would probably
have agreed with Peron’s idea to sack the Garrison.
The New South Wales Corp was probably the most undisciplined, unruly
mob he had ever seen. Drunken, living the high life instead of helping the set-
tlers in this weird, dry land.

37
They spent all their time cavorting with the native women with a callous
disregard for their men and tribal customs! Why, even their uniforms no longer
conformed to regulations! And their ridiculous, perfumed hair? Pansies,
sissies! The French Marines would find them no match.
Any colony which used rum as their currency was beyond contempt and
if it had not been for King, he would have sailed long before. But he needed
a complete resupply, refit of his aged, damaged Naturaliste and did not want
to rush it or leave it up to these rough tradesmen and untrained ‘croppy’ con-
victs.
But now it was all over and he could just enjoy the trip back across the
south of this land. He would have another really good look at Port du Roi
George, take on water and maybe shoot a seal or two, haul in a few of those
magnificent salmon.
And then on to the Ile de France, or Mauritius as the Portuguese called it,
a few days at the Cape of Good Hope and up the coast of Africa to the home-
port, Le Havre.
How he longed to settle his feet on French soil again. He was sick of all
this. In his mid forties, he should be pensioned off and living the quiet life in
Paris, maybe an aid to the First Consul!
His detailed plan for Terra de Nuyts should impress the French hierarchy!
Within a few years, Napoleon should be Emperor of the Republic and then . .
. the sky would be the limit. Careers could be made where this new territory
was concerned, and he, Nicolas Baudin, wanted in at the ground floor!

38
4.
Nina turned up at ten thirty. I was glad she left it until later. I moved slowly
on a Sunday, sometimes not rising until eight, wandering down to the kiosk
and buying ‘The Sunday Times’ and a cup of coffee, then sitting on my porch
for an hour or so before showering and dressing.
Although my insomnia meant that I was a little earlier than usual, I was
also a little slower than usual. I was confused and kept churning over in my
mind what Nina had told me the previous evening.
By the time she arrived, I wondered whether I wanted to see her again.
Was it going to be more trouble than I wanted? I had more or less resigned
myself to a peaceful academic life, hopefully in this small city, for the rest of
my days. And then this whirlwind suddenly arrived and threw my world into
chaos.
She knew immediately what I was thinking and tried to gently console me
and ease me out of my mood. She did a halfway good job and I brewed some
more coffee, offering her something stronger if she wanted it.
The gin bottle was still on the table, alongside the tonic and a glass with
the water from the ice still in it. I knew she saw it.
‘You had a bad night?’ she asked. But I knew she was asking it rhetorically.
‘Did you read up on the history of French colonisation in this region?’
‘No. I am pretty familiar with it, but don’t have copies of log books or
anything. I would have to see if the University library, or even the City library
has them. They might only have them in Paris or maybe they have been de-
stroyed.’
‘Destroyed? Why’
‘A lot of stuff went missing in the Restoration and after the Battle of Wa-
terloo, and maybe these ship’s papers were among them. I will start a search
if you like, but I don’t know what we will find!’
‘Find out what you can, but I am more interested in your opinion of what
the outcome would have been if Baudin had not reported to Napoleon and Fr-
eycinet had not been sent back to colonise Port George.’
‘Well, the British would have claimed it all when they settled the Swan
River in 1829, I suppose!’

39
‘But is it likely that someone else in France would have arrived at the con-
clusion that Baudin did? Hamelin, Freycinet or Peron, for example? There
was twenty five or so years between the time Baudin reported to Napoleon
and the time Stirling declared the Swan River Colony was British.’
‘I don’t think so. They were in a turmoil and I believe Napoleon only
granted Baudin his request because it would help to win over dissidents who
were otherwise patriotic Frenchmen, but who were still influential despite the
Revolution. Napoleon was not really liked by the French, even the middle
classes. Of course, the poor originally worshipped him, but he let them down
and they were resentful.’
‘But . . .’
I had to interrupt.
‘Look, Nina, I need to think this through. I can’t really give you on-the-
spot answers to the questions which you are asking.’ I took the coffee cups
through the back verandah and pushed the newspapers away with my elbow
to make some space.
‘I will need to read a lot more before I can give you a definitive answer.’
I thought she would be crestfallen and impatient, but she wasn’t.
‘Of course. I will need to brief you on exactly what I want, too. And right
now, I want to drink this coffee and then take you to lunch at a new bistro
which has opened in Mont Eclair. It is owned by friends of mine, and they
have been expecting me to dine there.’
‘Only if you let me pay this time!’
‘Don’t be silly. This is my invitation and they are my friends. There will
be no charge.’
‘They’ll go out of business if they don’t charge their friends!’ I insisted.
‘They owed Arturo a great deal. He helped them establish themselves in
Nuytsland, and they insist that the first visit is complimentary!’
So once again, I let her bully me into something I felt uncomfortable with,
but I felt so relaxed in her company when she was just indulging in small talk,
that I let her have her way and we were soon speeding up the hill to Mont
Eclair.

40
I don’t know why it was called Mont Eclair. It was just a dome of granite
sticking out of the swampy marshes to the north-east of the CBD. Not a moun-
tain or even a hillock, but the French love to be grand when naming suburbs
and I suppose this rocky outcrop could be imagined to resemble one of those
choux pastry, cream and chocolate confections so loved by the townsfolk. At
least a dozen businesses included ‘eclair’ in their names.
And I knew, as soon as we arrived, that I was ‘expected’. Without being
told, or my having to ask, they presented me with their no-meat meals and
told me that any others could be prepared to my liking. Nina was certainly
trying to make an impression on me, and I hoped it wasn’t only so she get me
soft and malleable for her grand project.
Funny thing, when I was with her, I thought the idea was feasible, but last
night and this morning, when she wasn’t there, I though it was absurd. She
seemed to sense this and while she never mentioned it during the meal, she
kept doing little endearing things, stroking my ego so gently I almost missed
the fact, and she was so attentive I almost felt stifled.
I guess a normal man would not have felt this, but I was far from normal.
My almost hermit like existence since leaving Melbourne, alone, forsaken and
disillusioned, made her attentions seem almost extreme.
But I told myself that Sharlene had been lonely, too, before she started on
the course of behaviour which eventually led to her death.
Initially, she had been quiet, almost shy, loving and hanging on to every-
thing I said. Ours had been a very unremarkable affair, for nearly five years
and then eighteen months of marriage and I never noticed the tiny changes
which should have told me things were not quite right.
She wasn’t given to mood swings, emotional outbursts or even raising her
voice when discussing something on which we didn’t agree. She just quietly
went about things, lulling me into that false sense of peace and security which,
when it finally shattered, sent its shards so deeply into my soul that I believed
I would never recover.
When she was found with the needle, still in her arm, in a dirty little alley
in Fitzroy, I died inside. And I had remained dead until this French woman
started puffing life back into me.
I hadn’t openly grieved. I never cried, never got blindingly drunk or tried
to do anything silly.

41
I went about my day-to-day life and anyone who didn’t know me would
think nothing had happened to rip my soul apart.
I was clearly depressed, but as I never spoke very much to anyone, nobody
guessed. Even Berthos, a trained psychiatrist and very astute man, just thought
I was a ‘quiet type’ with a pithy sense of humour, who preferred to be alone
with his studies, his books and cat.
Sharlene had fussed over me, made sure I was happy, comfortable,
changed my underwear regularly and only ate what was good for me. And she
let me down terribly.
I know that sounds self-indulgent and I don’t mean it to. It’s just that I
trusted her implicitly and let her do all my thinking for me. It seemed to make
her happy.
And here was Nina doing pretty much the same thing! While I didn’t feel
there was anything suspicious or wrong, I wasn’t used to it and it didn’t sit
right with me. I felt that either I was being softened up or Nina had fallen in
love with me. I hoped it wasn’t that. I knew I wasn’t ready for that again. I
thought I knew I would never be ready for that again.
But it is very difficult, unless you are a complete mongrel, to ask someone
to stop who is paying you attention in a loving way. And I must admit, her
companionship was not unwanted.
The trouble was, I was forced to admit, I thought of myself as a basket
case, but being treated like one made me feel self-conscious and slightly less
than a proper person.
‘The mushroom omelette. I can heartily recommend that. And it sits on a
bed of petit pois which have been mashed in butter. Almost like a pease pud-
ding Anglaise.’
‘That sound delicious, but could you go light on the butter, please?’ I patted
my non-existent tummy and rolled my eyes.
‘You have the cholesterol?’ the waiter enquired. ‘I will ask my son to use
margarine.’
‘Perhaps just petit pois and pommes noisettes.’ I suggested. ‘Here we are
in the potato capital of the world. We should support our local industry!’
Nina supported it, too, with a fillet of King George Sound salmon with
béchamel sauce, grilled choufleur florets and haricot beans. And she put it
42
away like a champion, while I just picked at my omelette. Afterwards, while
she enjoyed crème caramel, I just sipped on a magnificent muscat from the
Rutherglen region of my home state.
I shouldn’t have started comparing Nina to Sharlene. It was not only mak-
ing me maudlin, it was blatantly unfair to my kind host. But in the past couple
of hours, I was seriously considering handing in my notice and catching the
next steamer east.
After lunch, we drove up to the apex of Mont Clarence and parked looking
over the sound, the harbour and Point d’Emu, to the riverine estuary beyond,
with its tiny green island which has been the subject of so many landscape
paintings.
Even Paul Gauguin stopped here on his way to Tahiti in order to paint Ile
Verde. That’s the one, with the big seagull almost obscuring the tiny mound.
But he knocked out about half a dozen paintings while he was here, closely
guarded by the descendants of the townsfolk who accepted them in lieu of tar-
iff for accommodation and services. Valuable beyond belief nowadays, so
prized that although collectors regularly made offers, they remained in safes
and vaults against that day, should it come, when cash was short and necessity
forced the sale of one or two.
We watched a couple of freighters steam between the heads and the tugs
come out to meet them under the Pont and haul them into the safe waters of
the harbour.
Nina got out of the Mercedes and walked around to the right hand door. I
opened it and stepped out into the cool breeze which was already starting to
strengthen as it did most afternoons.
‘It’s cold!’ she stated and pressed into me, putting her hands under my
Harris Tweed jacket and around my back. The next couple of seconds are just
a blur to me still, but suddenly I realised I was being kissed, very hotly and
very thoroughly. And rather than resisting, I felt myself joining in as whole-
heartedly as she was.
Eventually she pulled back slightly and whispered, hoarsely ‘Do you still
want to move back to L’Australie?’
I started to reply in the negative, then it struck me like a thunderbolt! I had
not mentioned to her, nor anyone else, the silly notion of running away, back
east to Melbourne.

43
I stared at her for a full five seconds, unable to speak! So this was the in-
terest on the paranormal! She could read my mind!
‘How did you know . . . ? Can you read what’s in my mind?’
‘Not your mind. Only your emotions.’
‘Is there a difference?’
‘A great big, huge difference. I do not know what you thought, only that
your mind was shying away from your present location, and being so conser-
vative, I realised that you would naturally want to return to a place with which
you are familiar.’
‘But could you read my mind? If you wanted to?’
‘If I could get a lot closer to you, the feelings would be more more intense,
but no, I probably could not read your mind.
‘Neither can I influence your thinking. But I am working on it.’
‘Just with me?’ I gawped. ‘Or generally?’
‘I will start with you,’ she grinned mischievously. ‘I am now going to try
to influence you to kiss me again!’
And I could not resist. I was completely under her spell!
I don’t know if the wind stopped, the sun came out or nightfall came a
couple of hours early that Sunday afternoon. Everything was too surreal after
that kiss up on the hill overlooking the town and the sea. That is a word that
gets misused a lot these days, but please, get out your dictionaries and look it
up.
The day took on a dream-like quality. I felt nothing but a numbness, an
ecstatic joy which completely insulated me from reality as I understood it.
And Nina sensed it. It almost quivered, it was so surreal.
Later that evening, she said something very strange.
‘You need to recapture that feeling if you want to leave your body and en-
counter the Astral Plane!’

44
The week passed somehow, and although I was able to function normally
at the university, everything else about my life seemed to change. As soon as
I left the auditorium, or stood up after preparing a lecture, put down a pile of
marking or interviewed a student struggling with his course, my mind whirled
off into its own little sphere.
Berthos noticed it and regarded me with his head slightly on one side.
Sometimes I could swear he was more English than New English.
‘How are you getting on with Catherine?’
I only thought of her as Nina now and had to force my mind back to
reality.
‘She is a remarkable woman. I have never met anyone quite like her.’
He tilted his head to the other side. ‘How so?’
He was my mate, probably the closest thing I had to a male confident.
‘She’s sort of got to me, Berthos. I can’t stop thinking about her.’
‘In love?’
‘I couldn’t say. She just keeps coming up in my thoughts.’
‘I am not an expert.’ (He was!) ‘But I would say that cupid got you bang,
smack in his sights and let that arrow go!’
We laughed and I shook his hand.
‘You’re a good mate,’ I told him. ‘And a good judge of character. If you
say I am in love, then I suppose I must be. But I thought that after
Sharlene . . .’
‘Sharlene?’
‘I was married to her and . . . she died.’
‘Oh God. I had no idea. I am so sorry, Eric!’
‘I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I haven’t been able to shed a tear. I
haven’t even talked about it, not to my sister, my mother, anyone.’
‘Professionally, I would say that the release of your emotions regarding
Catherine has triggered the opening up of your tensions and stresses.
45
‘But don’t think of me as your doctor. I am your friend, Eric. But if I can
help you, please let me. Mary-Anne and I are very fond of you!’
‘It’s a great comfort knowing that. I won’t try to hide it, I thought my life
was over when they found her there like that. But Nina . . . Catherine . . . has
. . . well she made me think . . .’
‘A very wise poet once said “No man is an island”!’
I thought of John Donne’s next verse and wondered whether I was the clod
being washed away by the sea. But Berthos continued:
‘You can’t exist keeping things bottled up. Just talking about it will help
you no end. Does Catherine . . . er, Nina, know about Sharlene?’
‘I’m not going to tell her,’ I said, knowing bloody well I was going to. I
wouldn’t be able to hide emotions that big, especially now they had surfaced
so abruptly. She would get intimate with me and know there was something
there.
Intimate with me? Why the hell did I think that? It takes two to tango, I
would have to be involved in intimacy. She couldn’t get intimate with me un-
less I wanted her to. Could she? Like starting without me?
Why did I even consider it, much less form the thought of her ‘getting in-
timate with me’? We would have to get intimate together. Wouldn’t we?
I still couldn’t get involved, for some reason. I couldn’t consider us being
intimate. She would have to be the donor, me the recipient. God, I was a mess!
‘I take it then, that you don’t consider that anything will come of this,
then!’ Berthos stated, bluntly. ‘You can’t have secrets!’
‘She knows I am a very private person. I think she will respect that!’ I told
him, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be like that. Nina did what Nina
wanted. And having developed that enhanced ability to detect emotions, she
would give me no quarter. She would drag it out of me, kicking and scream-
ing!
‘Very well,’ Berthos said, inconclusively. ‘If that’s what you say!’
But he grinned the sort of grin that says ‘I won’t question what you say,
but I know what you say is one hundred percent Grade A, unadulterated horse
manure!’

46
‘There is another issue, you realise?’
‘Another issue?’
‘Would you be so uncertain about your relationship with her if that was
all it was? A relationship?’
‘No! You’ve lost me now. What do you mean “all it was”?’
‘If there wasn’t the issue of the psychohistory?’
‘Psychohistory? What do mean?’
‘Nearly twenty years ago, a great man came to the Psychology faculty of
the university I was working in. He posed the question to us “is future history
determined by what has already happened, and would it be possible to broadly
foretell the future by calculating the odds of something happening, based on
history?”
‘Almost every member of that faculty reported back that in theory, it was
possible, in fact probability as high as ninety percent, that it would be accurate
if determined on a global scale.
‘Isaac Asimov went away and the following year produced the first of his
Foundation Trilogy.’
‘I am not familiar with the Foundation Trilogy. I thought Isaac Asimov
was a science fiction author!’
‘He is. He is also a very intelligent biochemist and probably the greatest
visionary this world has ever known.
‘The Trilogy is about a Foundation set up by Hari Selden whose lifelong
work was to build something called “the Prime Radiant” which listed proba-
bilities based on past and current history. I won’t go into detail, except the sci-
ence he used to build the Prime Radiant was called Psychohistory. Pyscho for
the reactions of the masses, history for the flow of global events.’
I looked at him dumbly and asked if he had a copy of this trilogy.
‘I went out and bought the books as soon as they were published. Dr Asi-
mov sent every member of our faculty a copy as well. Then I met him again
some years later and assisted him on another subject, that of intelligent robots,
and he presented me with a third, leather-bound volume containing all three
novels.

47
‘Mary-Anne owned a copy when I married her, so we have four copies. I
assume you want to read it? It is a massive work, and I believe that as we
speak, he is writing a prequel. That is what he calls a further novel, chrono-
logically preceding the original work.’
‘I think I had better. Will it help?’
Suddenly a thought occurred to me.
‘How do know about what Nina has in mind. Has she asked you to help
as well?’
‘She is my student. One day she called at our house to borrow some books,
saw the Foundation Trilogy and asked me about them. Then she asked me, in
the broadest possible terms, whether I thought her idea was feasible.
‘Having been associated with Dr Asimov, I stated that, in theory, it was
possible. I already knew about Astral Travel, having conducted some experi-
ments of my own which, by the way, were not personally successful. But they
convinced me that it was happening, and more often than you would like to
think.
‘But my contribution was simply to find out who I believed would be the
best historian in the world to assist her. As you are probably the only person
on this continent who has more than a passing interest in secession and a com-
plete knowledge of the history of Franco-Australian exploration and diplo-
matic affairs, you were my only choice. That was enhanced because you are
an Australian living in a French Province, are dedicated to your work and are
not encumbered by family, made you more-or-less perfect!’
‘And a soft touch, easy prey for a prowling bit of skirt and an all-round
nice bloke?’ I added and Berthos smiled. ‘Even though I am shop soiled and
shelf damaged goods?’
‘I took that into account!’ he said. ‘And you are not damaged. You have
my word on that!’

48
5.
The Naturaliste set sail at first light, as Baudin had ordered. However, they
had not even left the heads of the harbour, before six convicts were found in
the hold, and subsequent investigations discovered two more adults and a
child.
This was not uncommon, particularly on non-British ships. As the penal
colony was so remote from the rest of the world, convicts more or less roamed
freely, unless special punishment was being meted out. Obviously, anyone
with a history or a penchant for violence was shackled or imprisoned, but most
of them were resigned to the fact that they would not get far if they tried to
walk out of the Jackson Bay vicinity.
Some had tried to ‘walk to China’, but not realising that the sun is in the
north in Australian skies, had been discovered, years later, in the Blue Moun-
tains. A couple had died but the others were quite healthy, living like the abo-
rigines, and without a clue they were less than a hundred miles south west of
Sydney.
So Baudin simply had these would-be escapees shackled in the ship’s hold
and told them they would be released in Port Arthur, but as his plan was to
reach King George Sound as swiftly as possible, eventually released them to
the garrison on King Island in Bass Strait. They were British so let the British
worry about them. Why should he go right down the east coast of Van Die-
man’s Land, just to deliver a bunch of petty criminals. Why, most naval cap-
tains would just throw them overboard!
But he had formed a very loose bond with the convict woman, Mary Beck-
with, who had also stowed away on a previous visit. But it was just enough to
give him an edge of humanity, and besides, Mary always withheld her favours
when they disagreed over something, and he was sure that if he just disposed
of the stowaways, it would lead to a blazing row, and he would have to sleep
alone on the trip back across the Grand Ocean, which Matthew Flinders’ had
named the Bight, much to Freycinet’s chagrin.
So he put them in light chains and personally checked on their well-being
each day until the Naturaliste reached the tiny settlement on King Island. He
filled his ship’s barrels with water, bought several barrels of salt pork and
some bags of vegetables and headed west.
The going was a bit rough and it took five days to get to the Baie de l’Es-
perance, which he was considering as an alternative plan, should Port du Roi
George be unsuitable.
49
But he wasn’t impressed, mostly because he could envisage the shipping
that would be lost trying to navigate the Archipelago de la Recherche. Even
though he didn’t care much what happened to other craft after he was nicely
tucked away back in Paris, he knew he had to prepare the best possible plan
for the First Consul, and if he could show he had rejected other locations as
unsuitable, it would go down nicely with the fastidious Monsieur Bonaparte!
King George Sound was another proposition altogether. Protected by a
couple of islands which would make ideal lighthouses and signalling stations,
the Sound had a couple of coves, one which would make a natural harbour
and the other was formed by the estuaries of a couple of rivers and numerous
small streams.
After exploring both the northern and the southern sides of the harbour,
he decided this should be the settlement and garrison, serviced by a port in
the mouth of the harbour. The north shore was taken up by two reasonable
sized hills and a smaller one on the seaward side. The westernmost hill was
really a huge piece of granite sticking up out of the ground, with vegetation
reaching almost to the top in places. Around the back of it, he envisioned quar-
ries to supply the building materials and road paving. A lot of the land was
marshy but he guessed it could be drained to grow vegetables, graze dairy cat-
tle and support small farms.
There were plenty of streams to supply drinking water and a long bayou
near the sandy beach fronting the Sound. This proved potable and perfect for
irrigation and industrial use.
A few nets cast from the beaches proved there were shoals of salmon and
deeper in the sound there were plenty of snapper.
Turning his attention to the riverine estuary, he found a lot of big, ostrich
like birds, but these yielded very small amounts of meat, so he never pursued
that idea. But the estuary provided another gourmet feast! Abalone and oys-
ters.
And the larger of the two contributing waterways, Riviere de Français,
was home to many spawning trout. The estuary itself was very well protected
from the Grand Ocean, with only a narrow but deep channel allowing the wa-
ters out. This would be, in Baudin’s plan, an excellent fishing boat harbour.
The shores were covered by some large hardwood trees of the eucalyptus
genus. The aborigines they encountered called them jarrah and their timber
bore strong resemblance to the mahogany of Jamaica. Perfect for building
houses and furniture!
50
This place was a paradise on earth. Baudin, whose only interest originally
was the prestige his colonisation plans would bring, could actually picture it
all coming to life.
But he could not understand why the British had not already claimed it!
Or the French or Dutch or even the Portuguese. But particularly the British.
Not only would it make a fine garrison, but fortification on the easternmost
hill would protect not only the harbour, but have the advantage of keeping in
touch by lantern or semaphore with the two sentry islands he noticed on the
way in.
And if there was ever a better place for a settlement with or without convict
labour, Baudin had yet to see it!
He laid his claim all around the coastline from Bald Head to Cape Riche.
Then he set sail for the Ile de France where he restocked his ship before
sailing around the southern tip of Africa and the long passage north.

51
6.
It was the following Wednesday, I think, before Nina and I were alone to-
gether again. We saw each other constantly in the interim, and once even stole
a kiss when, after one of her night lectures, she encountered me turning off
the lights in the faculty room. I was about to lock the door when I saw her
walking towards me, obviously in a hurry.
Although the kiss lingered, she didn’t, as she was late for a cinematic film
in the City Hall which she particularly wanted to see. She asked if I wanted
to accompany her, but I could tell she thought I would be bored by it. Anyway,
I had an Australian Broadcasting Commission radio programme I always lis-
tened to and didn’t really want to miss an episode. She told me she was trav-
elling to Geographe on the weekend and would not be back until Monday
evening.
A bit more time to stew and worry and sweat
By now, you may have formed the opinion that I am a bit of a worry-wart.
Wrong! I am a dreadful worry-wart! I worry about everything, especially
things I have no control over! What if when my tenure concludes in three
years, they don’t want to renew my contract? What if diplomatic relations
break down with Canberra and I have my visa revoked? What if Ian Stewart
isn’t fit in time for the game against Collingwood at Moorabbin Park?
And what if Nina decides I worry too much and she cools off towards me?
Or that I fail her in her quest for data?
But as soon as I saw her again on Tuesday, walking across the tiny lawn
near the University entrance, I realised again all my doubts and fears were
groundless.
It was a cold morning, and she was wearing a black and white large-check-
ered coat that was about as short as anything Jean Shrimpton would strut down
the catwalks of London or Paris.
We had a huge advantage, fashion-wise, here in Nuytsland. Designers
would try out their upcoming winter couture on our ladies four or five months
before they were unveiled in the European autumn.
And Nina’s little shopping expedition at the weekend had obviously been
successful, as well. The boutiques of Geographe had obviously benefited from
her visit to the tune of many hundreds of francs.

52
Of course, they took Australian pounds as well. Only being three hours
drive from Perth, they did well out of their location and women from all over
Australia would fly in for the winter selection. TAA was even negotiating to
extend the runway at Geographe to accept interstate 727s when they went into
service later in the year.
There was a pretty loose agreement with the rest of Australia, and also
with New Zealand, about passport control in 1964, so crossing international
boundaries only caused the minimum of fuss. Of course, there was a declara-
tion for customs purposes that needed to be filled out, but was again, very sel-
dom enforced.
Sorry for explaining that, but it is the historian in me. I am pedantic for
detail and writing this has been a real chore, not for what content to include,
but what to leave out. So I implore you to bear with me and be patient because
I do believe you will be more rewarded by the plot as it reveals itself.
Anyway, back to the nitty-gritty, as Mary-Anne used to say. Nina looked
fabulous and her legs were just sensational. I saw students half her age turn
their heads as she walked by. Miniskirts had been around for a few months
now, so it was not the novelty factor. These young men, as well as every older
man, was staring in admiration! They all knew Nina by sight, as she was a fa-
miliar figure around town, but those legs . . .
And when she walked over to me and deliberately planted a long kiss on
my lips, the looks of respect I got did wonders to my ego. The French, with
their ‘Ooh la la!’ recognised class when they saw it!
I asked briefly about her expedition and she confirmed that it had been
successful. Just those whistles would have been evidence of that!
‘I have something for you, Cheri!’ she murmured while we still hugged
following the kiss. ‘Are you free tomorrow evening?’
My diary told me that I had nothing planned from two thirty in the after-
noon, for the remainder of the day. I repeated this information to her and she
looked like my niece does when she has a birthday card or present to give me.
‘Oh good! Can I come around at, say seize heures? About four o’clock?’
The French in Nuytsland really did not like our twelve hour clock and in-
sisted on using the French twenty four method.
For some reason, it popped into my head that at the time Baudin was dis-

53
covering Port George, many of his countrymen still used a decimal clock
which was introduced during the Revolution but did not even officially last
two years. It occurred to me that it was a wonder these ultra-conservative
Nuytslanders didn’t observe this and that Nina should tell me that she would
see me at six twenty five! It was so absurd that I grinned and she took it as a
positive. I wondered whether she knew that little bit of social history I just
imparted! I decided not to bother telling her in case she thought I was ridicul-
ing her.
But as soon as I arrived home the following afternoon, I quickly showered
and ran my razor over my face. Although I had only shaved and douched that
morning, I wanted every whisker well below the surface of my skin and my
body pristine. At four o’clock, I was decanting a rich Rievre Margarit Shiraz
to let it breathe. I heard the tyres crunch onto the driveway.
She hooted the horn and when I went out, she had the boot open and was
struggling with a large carton.
‘Help me, please’ she called and I jumped down the steps to do her bid-
ding.
‘When I said I had something for you, it was not perfectly the truth. Where
is Arthur? He is going to love this!’
Well, didn’t the old boy make a fuss of Nina after that. I had never bothered
much with spoiling him. He had a nice warm bed on the back verandah and a
huge water bowl. I fed him twice daily: tinned fish in the evening and a hand-
ful of cat kibble in the morning, and he seemed to be happy with that.
But when Nina stripped the cardboard away and revealed the scratchie
post with a small padded basket mounted on top and a cylindrical piece of
tube for brushing his back fur, he walked around it, butting it with his head,
testing out its suitability for raking his claws. And then, leaping into the basket,
he gazed adoringly into Nina’s eyes and purred contentedly.
She had captivated both of the males living at the end of Deschamps
Hamelin Boulevard!
‘Of course, this was not the only reason I came here this afternoon.’
‘The other?’ I asked.
“I missed you at the weekend. I needed to be with you, Eric. I . . . I have
grown very fond of you these past couple of weeks.’

54
‘I am pretty smitten with you, too!’ I told her. ‘I don’t normally seek com-
pany, but with you . . .’
‘I sensed that. That is one of the things which I admired. Also, the way
you like everything to be just right. Not obsessive compulsive!’ she had been
paying attention in Professor Merriweather’s lectures. ‘Just your desire to
make everything as easy and comfortable for the people around you.
‘And the way you hang on to every word I say. Oh, I know I talk too much
and have too many opinions. But you listen and don’t judge me. That is why
I think I am falling . . .’
‘You don’t need to say it,’ I told her as she hesitated. ‘Not yet. Unless you
want to. I feel the same about you!’
She was in my arms at once and I knew I had said the right thing. She
shrugged off the little faux fur coat and pulled me down onto the settee by my
arm.
‘Since Arturo . . . and he was an older man . . . It has been a long time.’
I wanted to enjoy the moment, but I could see it was not an easy thing for
her to do. I decided to tell her a very abbreviated story of my marriage to Shar-
lene.
‘I can understand,’ I whispered. ‘Since Sharlene, I have not felt like this
either.’
She stiffened and I knew she had no idea about my past. Berthos can only
have recommended me professionally and she hadn’t investigated further,
trusting her own assessment of me rather than the documented evidence.’
‘Who is this Sharlene?’ she asked, with not a trace of jealousy or anything
but a desire to know.
‘I was married to her in Melbourne. She died. She was twenty six. A few
years ago, now.’
Her heart broke. Tears flowed down her face and she clung to me, her grief
greater than I had been able to show up until then.
“I did not know . . .’ she began but I put my finger over her lips and stared
at her red, watery eyes. When I took it away, she just said ‘You poor, poor
man!’

55
‘I loved her,’ I said. ‘And I have missed her like crazy. But until you came
along I haven’t been able to . . .’
A huge achy lump came up to my throat and my whole face hurt. The tears
started flowing slowly and then gushed down my cheeks. I wasn’t even aware
that Nina was stroking my head and howling as well. Even Arthur came over,
realising we were distressed, and jumped onto her lap.
I tried to pull myself together and think I did a good job. Nina took this as
a sign and kissed me like my mother used to when I was small and hurt myself
on the beach at Sandringham.
I responded and then her tongue found mine and the grief started to ebb. I
found out why it is referred to by high school kids as a ‘French kiss’!

It was a cool night and I normally let the fire go out early and never used
radiators or electric blankets. My father was English and always insisted we
leave a window open in the bedroom, a habit I still adhered to. So on a cold
Southern night with a hint of frost, my bed was icy when I got into it.
It was obvious Nina was used to the exact opposite and cuddled up to me
for warmth, shivering and going ‘brrrr’ with her lips.
We never made love that night. Neither of us made any move to initiate it
as it just didn’t seem imperative, despite my anticipation.
Instead we talked. Holding each other’s body very close, more for comfort
than for warmth, chatting about trivia, she asking unimportant questions, such
as about my travel, museums I had visited, Australian culture. In turn, I asked
her about her dog, her trip to Geographe, where she learned to drive as if she
were at Le Mans.
It was well over a decade since I had held a naked woman in my arms, yet
I found the only arousal was in my head and in my heart.
Nina also seemed to be attempting to draw strength from me, like charging
her batteries. Although she wriggled quite a lot and tried to snuggle even
closer, it was not done in any sort of provocative way. It was probably the
most peaceful feeling I had ever experienced.
She kissed me frequently, sometimes on the mouth, mostly around my
forehead, cheeks and chin. At last our tongues come in contact, again, and it

56
was like our minds were connecting. I was aware of her love, her needs and
all her frailties.
I didn’t realise she had any frailties. I had thought she was by far the
strongest woman I had ever met, and in those days before Germain Greer, that
was something most men never considered.
But her kisses told me how much she missed the physical contact of a man
. . . up until now, Arturo. They also told me that she had a load of self doubt,
lack of confidence, uncertainty about the impression she made on other people,
especially men.
She also thought she talked too much, appeared false, opinionated and
bombastic, but behaved the way she did in order to conceal all these perceived
weaknesses. Like most women, she wondered if she appeared too fat, whether
her hair and general appearance was acceptable, even whether the pitch of her
voice was right.
Things I would have never guessed if I hadn’t had this insight into her
feelings. I understood perfectly what she had told me that day on the hill, that
she could read people’s emotions: she could even project her feelings into me.
But the biggest emotion, and the one which really surprised me, was the
depth of her love for someone she didn’t even know a month previously. Me!
How could she have formed so much love in what amounted to a little
over three weeks? Then I came to the stark realisation that I had done precisely
the same thing. While it had not been love at first sight, merely an attraction,
it had developed gradually until this evening it had burst forth like the explo-
sions on Bikini Atoll!
And she had done the same, although she had arrived at the conclusion
quite a while before I had.
I couldn’t escape it, it was a love, deep and clear, different to what I felt
with Sharlene. With Shar it was a cosy warmth, like sitting in front of the open
hearth after coming home from a Saturday afternoon footy game, or the log
fire in the ski lodge at Mt Bulla.
With Nina, it was like the Sun blistering not only your skin but penetrating
right through your flesh. Strange analogy, but that is the way it occurred to
me.
Overriding it all, though, but not in any way diminishing the love, was the
sense of an almost super-intelligence!
57
It was alien to me, as though she was a minor goddess. Because I can
analyse situations reasonably quickly, I gathered that it was more a case of a
very high IQ, coupled with an excellent education and overlaid with what
must be an eidetic memory.
I realised that we had stopped talking and was startled when she spoke.
‘I didn’t realise their were so many facets to you!’ she whispered.
“You have been in my emotions, haven’t you?’
‘Well, who are you to talk? You know more about me now than I ever
wanted to let anyone know!’
‘You laid it all bare for me. I just had to look and there it all was!’
‘I felt you looking, just as I saw you looking when I undressed. Did you
like what you saw?’
‘Both times! But I had advanced warning that your naked body was a sight
for sore eyes. Even with clothes you are the most attractive woman I have
ever seen.’
I felt her face smile and I knew she was pleased I had said that.
‘But I never expected what I saw inside your head. By the way, how do
you do that?’
‘How do you know exactly where the football will arrive when you are
running onto it? Do you have some analogue computer in your head which
calculates speeds, angles, trajectories, arrival times? Which tells you exactly
where to place your head and strike it just so, so that you will beat the goal-
keeper? No, it cannot be explained. It is an instinct just honed with experi-
ence.
‘I just learned how to do it, and how to project myself into another mind.
And yours was so receptive that it was like . . . what does Mary-Anne say . .
. “taking candy from a baby”!’
She pressed her face into my chest and for a moment I thought she was
trying to seduce me, then she pulled herself up with her elbows until our faces
were level.
‘Let’s join our emotions again. I enjoyed your probing!’

58
Falling in love with Nina was not an easy thing to do. For a start, when
love is new, a couple naturally want to spend as much time together as possi-
ble. With her, this was never going to happen. Everyone wanted their bit of
her and she freely gave her time to every charity, cause and event in town.
Everyone knew her, she knew everyone, and nothing, it seemed, ever got done
without including her.
That was okay by me, as I had been a loner for so long, it came second
nature, but when I did need her, it seemed she was never available.
Again, I am not complaining, because I knew I got every bit of time which
she didn’t commit to something else. And I always got invited along, but sev-
enty five percent of the time I didn’t take her up on it. I had my own work,
and this assignment she had given me.
But that in itself was starting to puzzle me! Why did she, a patriotic French
woman, want Nuytsland to separate from her country and join Australia, which
was still so basically British. Britain had never seen eye-to-eye with France,
regarding their cross-channel neighbours as weak, grasping and slightly ridicu-
lous. France, in turn, thought the British a soft touch, a country to take advan-
tage of when the going got too tough for them, and frightfully pompous and
condescending.
Both were pretty accurate descriptions, and most Australians thought both
their country and this little tag on the bottom left hand side of it would be
better off independent of their mother-countries.
The feeling was not mutual, though. Scratch a Nuytslander and you found
a Tricolore-waving, Marseilles-singing Frenchman who couldn’t care less
what Australia did, except send lots of pound notes and otherwise leave them
alone.
Except Nina! As I said, she was a puzzle and an enigma.
When I asked her why she wanted to change history, she replied with her
own question. ‘Don’t you think it would be a good thing?’
I said I thought so, but that didn’t answer my question, why did she?
‘It is complicated. It is to do with my upbringing, my birthright, who my
ancestors were! And French politics!’ And would say no more.
So I assumed that she still bore a grudge against De Gaul, that she was a
sympathiser of Organisation Armée Secrète, the Secret Army Organisation. I

59
naturally assumed that the ‘touch of the tar-brush’ I thought I detected was
Algerian Moroccan or other north African chromosome which had somehow
got into her gene pool. She didn’t want to talk about it so that was fine by me,
although it didn’t mean I couldn’t be curious! The OAS idea seemed the most
likely, so I ran with it.
We talked a lot that night. When we were not inside each other’s minds!
I didn’t know it then but this was a sort of ‘out of body’ experience, an ac-
tivity on the Astral Plane. Not the spectacular floating away from one’s phys-
ical self, which many people imagine it to be, but a part of it, nonetheless.
I was being softened up.
By breakfast time, we had probably only had a couple of hours sleep, yet
I felt relaxed, energetic and ‘raring to go’! Normally, I had to drag myself, al-
most kicking and screaming, to start the day, but this day, and every day since,
seems to be the start of a new episode, a new adventure, the beginning of my
life! And it hasn’t diminished over the years.
Nina was up, first, of course. Ever practical, she had packed for the next
day before she came around, but had not flaunted it and left her small port-
manteau in the boot of the Mercedes.
She slid out of bed, deliciously naked and searched through my wardrobe
until she found a t-shirt which would ‘cover her bits’ then ran barefoot onto
the porch and down to her car. When she came back with her case, we indulged
together in that greatest of all pleasures a man and woman can enjoy standing
up: a good soaping under the shower! We were like a couple of teenagers, all
slippery with soap, rubbing each other’s backs, front and all points between.
This woman had stripped twelve years off me in the space of one night.
Twelve years of gloom and misery and loneliness! Why shouldn’t I love her,
if only for that?
It was a pleasure to be driven in, instead of catching the bus down to Riv-
iere Avenue and hopping on the train into Chien de Granit. Nina had a class
at nine and I had to deliver a lecture at ten thirty, but needed a little time to
prepare, go over my notes and wipe that damned smile off my face!
Berthos observed when he came into the common room ‘You look like the
man who lost a dime and found a quarter!’
I met Nina at the Stadium and we watched the game together on Saturday.

60
I had been working at the University all morning, and as the ground was al-
most next door, told her I would meet her in there. They charged me five
francs! Even though my association with Nina had made me a minor celebrity!
Fixtures were arranged as they are nearly everywhere in the world, playing
at home one week and the next week away. D’Entrecasteaux Forêt had an in-
jury ravaged team and all the money was on us winning. But like teams every-
where when the odds are against them, they put up a tremendous defence and
we only managed to get one point each, which was rather disappointing.
The Leeuwin teams were not normally as successful as those further east,
and we were not having a good start to the season! After the loss to Montpelier,
we were soundly beaten four-nil away to Batôn Rouge, the suburb on the other
side of the harbour near where Berthos and Mary-Anne lived.
I had gone to the game the previous week with my American friend while
Nina was away, but couldn’t raise much interest, despite Berthos manufactured
enthusiasm and glee! I knew he didn’t support any local side, and since his
old New England Intercollegiate Soccer League days, had only shown a pass-
ing interest in Arsenal, the English First Division team.
Still, we enjoyed each other’s company and drank quite a lot of beer af-
terwards, prompting Mary-Anne to tell him that he would be sleeping on the
couch that night! They had asked after Nina, considering us a done deal, and
in my slightly inebriated state, I told them that I was enjoying her company
immensely but it was too soon to tell if anything would come of it!
Now, seven days later, we clung to each other, jumping for joy when
Dubois found the back of the net and commiserating when Hammond made
a courageous dive at the feet of the Forêt striker, but was not quite quick
enough.
The local lads called D’Entrecasteaux ‘The Donkeys’ which riled the
away-team supporters and a small fight broke out, so we moved into the bar,
where, inevitably, someone invited us to yet another barbecue.

We went back to her house at Cap Sainte Alice after the barbecue. High
on a hill overlooking the lagoon, with no neighbours for at least a hundred
metres all around, the main building itself was at least as big as my entire
block of land. And my block was an unusually large one, at one eighth of a
hectare, due to it being on the edge of a cliff at the end of a street!
Probably not huge as mansions go in Peppermint Grove or on Sydney’s

61
North Shore but ten times bigger than my salary would ever permit. And re-
member, we Port du Roi George University professors were pretty well paid!
Otherwise we would have been at Yale or the Sorbonne or Oxford, where the
prestige makes up for the pitiful stipend!
Five reception rooms, two libraries, a formal dining hall and a spacious
informal meals area (real estate agents love that word ‘spacious’) were on the
ground floor, with two downstairs bathrooms, a kitchen the size that most
restaurateurs would envy, plus an off-the-porch laundry in a wing of its own.
Upstairs was another library which was obviously used as a cinema room,
eight bedrooms, each with its own en-suite bathroom. Over the laundry, a
nursery had been added, which had been converted into a billiards room with
the best views from the property.
Aside from this, there was a small house, about the size of a family bun-
galow, where the servants lived, Those who lived on site, that is! Only nineteen
kilometres away from Port George, three commuted on the train or by car.
Fifty metres away was a shed with a tractor and gardening equipment in
it, and a greenhouse with Nina’s prized collection of tropical orchids.
Arturo must have been seriously rich! Probably a gangster or an opium
dealer to be able to afford this!
I gasped out loud.
‘You must think I’m only after you for your money!’ I managed, when I
got my breath back. ‘And you live here alone?’
‘With my dog, two cats and a parakeet. Oh, and the servants. You must
meet them, Jules will not have gone home yet and Belinda lives in the quarters
with her husband.’
‘Do you like it? Would you like to stay here?’
‘I assumed I was going to . . . overnight!’ I said. ‘But you are not asking
me to move in with you, are you?’
She shrugged in that French way which annoys most people but I found
endearing. A little vulnerably, I thought. She did it without thinking, a spur of
the moment thing which she may regret later.
‘One day!’ I replied. ‘The town commérages would have a field day if I
moved in so soon.’
62
‘And that worries you? I am not boasting, but everything I do comes under
their scrutiny. We ought to toss them a few juicy morsels now and again. But
you are right. I know you are very comfortable where you are, and besides,
Arthur would not get along with Olympia and Nana, nor Lola, my little poo-
dle.’
‘You named your pets after Manet’s paintings?’ I laughed and she joined
in, happy that I recognised the subjects of his better known works. I will se-
cretly admit to you that I looked him up in a big volume of Impressionists in
the library, and remembered these works. She didn’t know that and was
thrilled. I felt like a cheap con-artist, but like all sneaky people, got over it
pretty quickly when I gleaned the rewards of my furtive activity.
She pulled my face to hers, one hand on each end of my football scarf,
and gave me the most thoroughly sweet kiss. Well worth my effort!

63
7.
Captain Baudin booked passage in a stage coach from Le Havre to Ver-
sailles where he intended to seek audience with the First Consul. He felt as
nervous as he had three years ago when he was first introduced to the Little
General by the members of the Institut National des Sciences et Arts.
But this time he was alone, without the support of the eminent intelli-
gentsia who made his request for funding and ships on that previous occasion.
He needn’t have worried.
‘Ah, Nicolas! May I call you that? What a pleasure to see you have re-
turned safely from Terra Australie! Hamelin told me you would be arriving
soon to regale me with your adventures and report to the Institut.’
‘Merci, Mon General. The pleasure is all mine. May I congratulate you on
signing the Treaty of Armien . . .’
‘Non, it was an English initiative, they wished the war to end more than
we did. And please, call me Napoleon. Everyone, even the newspapers, do
these days.
‘Please, don’t be nervous! You are all stressed. Have a cigar. They are from
Haiti and I am told they are the best you can get!’
Baudin took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh, something he had been
taught to do when he was very young. It helped the tensions flow from his
body and put him at ease. Bonaparte was treating him like a friend and seemed
genuine. Hamelin must have put in a very good report on him!
‘I would like to chat with you all afternoon but that wretched woman has
organised some speech or presentation for douze heurs. Please don’t think me
rude, but I must ask you to be brief. Maybe my secretary can book you in for
dinner soon when I have more time! I am so looking forward to hearing all
about the other side of the world. I hope to visit there one day!’
‘Very well, Sire . . .’
‘Napoleon!’
‘Sorry, Napoleon. But I will need an hour at least to put forward my plan.
You see,’ he might as well get it over and done with now. ‘I think we should
establish a settlement and garrison at King George Sound.’
“King George Sound? I am not very familiar with the geography. So where
is that, exactly?’
64
‘It is on the Grand Ocean de L’Australie, at the western end of the conti-
nent. I have surveyed and staked out a claim at a natural port there and think
that if we are to get a pied de terre there, it could be beneficial. Especially as
I have now learned of your good relationship with Grande Brittagne.’
‘It is a treaty, that is all. The English are still as pompous as ever and will
never be my friends. Still, you did not come here for a political briefing . . .’
Napoleon raised a hand and a courtier approached. He said something to
him and a few minutes he returned, carrying a hydrograph.’
‘Louis Freycinet has probably produced a superior document, but this one
will do,’ he said. ‘Pray show me this King George Sound, Nicolas!’
So Baudin started explaining his idea to the First Consul, who seemed ex-
tremely interested. As a military and tactical expert, he immediately saw ad-
vantages even Baudin hadn’t realised.
They were deep in discussion when a stern but attractive woman entered
the room and demanded that they finish at a later date. Baudin was surprised
that she seemed six or more years Napoleon’s senior.
‘See my secretary for another appointment. But make it soon! I have been
ordered away!’ Napoleon theatrically marched off behind Joséphine to his
luncheon appointment.
Nicolas Baudin was heartened by his initial encounter and worked tire-
lessly, going over his notes, his charts and sketches. He sent for one of his
artists, Nicolas-Martin Petit, to enhance his paintings of Port du Roi George.
Also, a shrewd move, he thought, was to find out what Hamelin had given
to Josephine for her gardens at Chateau de Malmaison, and have his botanists
consider what additional gifts he could offer to sweeten her up a bit and make
her more amenable towards him. Napoleon would also be grateful for this,
and although he had seemed genuinely friendly, Baudin heard on the Paris
grapevine that he had queried his friendship with both Matthew Flinders and
Governor King. He now knew of Bonaparte’s deep mistrust of the British and
did his utmost to not mention it.
He was already starting to doubt his wisdom at their late-morning meeting,
of mentioning the Treaty of Armien and tried to remember exactly what he
had said. Nothing favourable to the English, he was certain, but an over-fa-
miliarity with those he met in the far east would not be definitely not be ad-
visable. Perhaps Freycinet was right to propose sacking the British garrison
and the efféminé New South Wales Corp.
65
But again Napoleon greeted him with frank and open friendship so Nicolas
relaxed a bit. He showed the First Consul his enhanced drawings of the har-
bour, the twin hills, the riverine estuary and some of the country they had ex-
plored in the region. He described in detail how fortifications and sentry
stations could be included on the islands in the Sound and on what he named
Mont Joséphine.
Napoleon nodded his head when this last suggestion was made.
‘She would like the mountain named after her. Were there any plants spe-
cific to this location which we could name after her, that you are aware?’
Baudin wracked his brains and suddenly had an inspiration.
‘Sollya heterophylla. It is a small, very delicate blue bell flower which we
only found growing in Mont Clarence and the valley between it and Joséphine.
I have brought specimens to give your wife for her Chateau Jardins. I had al-
ready considered that,’ he lied. ‘I intended giving it the common name “Marie-
Rose Bells” if you think that is suitable.’
‘Perhaps Joséphine Bells would be more applicable. The name Rose irri-
tates me, and I suspect she only uses it for that reason!’
The hours sped by in this comradely fashion. The First Consul was the
perfect host, and when the Lady Joséphine joined them later, she was also
very hospitable. Especially when Napoleon told her about the geographical
feature named after her, and the important role it would play in the town’s de-
fences.
‘And that is not all, Highness,’ Baudin said with a bow. ‘There is a bloom
of the genus Sollya heterophylla we have named in your honour. Here is a
drawing of the plant and a very good specimen will be delivered to Malmaison
for your garden.’
After she left, Napoleon thanked him profusely. ‘That will get the old bat
off my back for a while. You were a hit with her! I hear you have a way with
the ladies!’
‘Pardon? I don’t know where you got that impression. I do not know how
females react to me. I am a botanist and a ship’s captain, and do not socialise
to any great extent.’
‘That’s not what I heard. I believe the convict women of New South Wales
found you very much to their liking!’

66
Bloody Mary Beckwith! How he wished he had never set eyes on her. He
dumped her in Ile de France hoping that would be the last he would ever hear
of her.
He pretended to blush. ‘I believe one was infatuated with me and stowed
aboard the Geographe. I had her put ashore at Port Louis. English women do
not interest me.’
That should satisfy this Anglophile.
‘How did you find Governor King, Matthew Flinders and the other British
officers you encountered on your voyages?’
Oh, no! What has he heard? I was, after all, only extending cordiality to
them.
‘King seemed to be a pleasant person. I did not form any opinion of him
as we are culturally very different. And he is English and while I am not un-
familiar with the language, I could only speak with him about technical mat-
ters.
‘As for Flinders, Louis de Freycinet is a much better hydrographer and
navigator. I met Flinders in what he calls the Australian Bight, the Grand
Ocean, and he initially alerted me to Port de Roi George. We did not see eye
to eye on every matter, and I consider he is a man to be watched.’
Napoleon leaned back in his chair and placed his hands on his belt.
‘Nicolas, I have given your proposal serious consideration. It will almost
certainly go ahead. I will assemble the cabinet and tell them so in the next
week, and I am sure there will be no dissent. They all are loyal Frenchmen
and only want what is best for France.
‘Now, who to command this colony? Freycinet? Hamelin? Or you? Are
you up to it, Nicolas?
‘Nothing would please me more, Napoleon, but I am advancing in years,
approaching fifty. Hamelin is a very capable administrator and I think he
would be an excellent choice. Or Louis de Freycinet is a loyal, thoughtful
man, and very well known.’
‘You promoted young Freycinet to his own command,’ Napoleon looked
thoughtful. ‘You must have observed leadership qualities in him, mon ami.
And I trust your judgement.

67
‘If he arrives back before the expedition leaves, he will become governor
of this colony. Terre de Nuyts? Terre de Leeuwin?
‘If he arrives after the fleet sets sail, orders will travel with them to be left
at ports on the way, saying that he is to proceed to King George Sound!
‘Now tell me about this Australian pig they have named after you, Nico-
las!’

68
8.
I hadn’t been idle while Nina was out socialising instead of devoting all
her time to me. I had identified about a dozen possible points of intervention
and was narrowing it down to three.
The near mutiny on Timor was originally my favourite. It would be a sim-
ple matter for Nina to tip emotions to give the mutineers an edge and either
drive Baudin and Hamelin off their ships and ruin the whole voyage. Having
Baudin keelhauled or hanged would certainly see him unable to make his re-
port to Napoleon Bonapart and the French Parliament. And, it goes without
saying, with no support from that country, it would be impossible to support
the Tricolore on Australian soil.
But Nina pointed out that would cause too many other changes: Hamelin
would be likely to be killed, along with Freycinet and others loyal to the com-
mand and their absence from history would really change the face of the South
Pacific in ways we could not foresee. It needed to be very specifically Baudin
who should be stopped.
A disagreement with Mary Beckwith could do the trick. Her peasant emo-
tions would be easy to manipulate to poison or stab her lover. It was a tempting
one, but on the other hand, we weren’t sure that they did, in fact, have blazing
rows or whether she just sought solace in the arms and bunk of another crew
member, which all reports indicated she did.
An uprising by convicts on board the Geographe between Port Jackson
and King Island could see the end of him, quite easily. They were pretty des-
perate to get away from Sydney and the corrupt New South Wales Corp! But
there were only nine of them, one was a child and several others were women.
And the well nourished French sailors, who were not very fond of the mostly
Irish convicts, would easily overcome them and toss them overboard, alive or
dead. Baudin may never have even been in danger nor drawn his sword in
anger!
Nina and I discussed it late into the night and still had no plan. Maybe if
Josephine’s opinion of Baudin was so contemptuous, Napoleon could be
called upon to abandon the plan, just to keep the peace. But it wouldn’t serve
her acquisitive desire for Antipodean plants, animal and birds which Baudin
could, and did, supply.
I suggested that on entering the Sound, Baudin got into one of his disin-
terested moods and dropped the whole idea, but that was quickly scotched.

69
Also, I reasoned, during his meeting with Flinders near Kangaroo Island,
he could easily have been persuaded to go and work for the British, who had
far more to offer than the French. Permanent residence at Port Arthur or Jack-
son Bay where he could simply study his chosen profession, where he was re-
spected and liked by Governor King, where it didn’t get so damned cold or
crowded as Paris, and where he could retire in relative peace. But the isolation
and remoteness would eventually cause him to seek repatriation to his own
country.
While we know he admired Matthew Flinders and treated him as a friend,
we don’t really know how Flinders regarded the Frenchman. English are very
pompous and believe they are superior to all other races, particularly the
French and Spanish, with whom they were almost always at war. And Flinders,
we know from history, was jealous of Louis de Freycinet, whose maps were
regarded as considerably superior.
There was still a lot of work to be done, and we were in it for the long
haul, so to speak. A quick solution could very easily end in tears and we would
be required to start again, not from square one, but possibly a minus location!
Again that night I asked Nina why she was so against the French coloni-
sation of Nuytsland, and I thought she changed back to the original subject
but on a different tack.
‘Baudin treated the Aborigines with respect and ensured none of them were
injured or shot by any of his crew, didn’t he?’ she asked
‘Yes,’ I sleepily replied. ‘There is no evidence of his mistreatment of them.
I don’t know why. Most Europeans thought black people were sub-human,
little more than talking animals who walked on their hind legs. Baudin seemed
to get along with them okay, only there are no recorded cases of him treating
them particularly kindly, either.
‘I don’t think we could have him speared in anger and he die of wounds.’
‘No, I wasn’t thinking that,’ she said. ‘I just needed confirmation from
you. It makes it all the more difficult to plan to stop him reaching France by
meeting with an accidental death.’
‘He died anyway! I believe that he was taken ill in Mauritius while return-
ing to Nuytsland and died of the same ailment that Bonaparte did, fifteen years
apart to the day. Stomach cancer!’
‘Of course he died, Silly! If he hadn’t, he would be nearly two hundred

70
years old now. That is not possible. But somehow, I cannot bring myself to
condemn any person to death.’
I nearly got into an argument here, but bit my tongue. There was no palli-
ation in those days, except laudanum, and I am sure M. Baudin would have
welcomed a quick death rather than the interminable suffering he did. But it
was her conscience and her idea in the first place. And, most importantly, she
was funding all this.
Apart from that, there existed the fact that I could cause a rift, no matter
how tiny, in the affair we were having!
We made love for the very first time after that. It was dreamy, trance-like,
none of the violent heaving and panting in the way that ‘first-times’ are de-
picted in the cinema. We made love more with our minds than with our bodies.
Sometimes it felt like our bodies weren’t involved at all. I don’t know how
long it lasted but I know I wished it would just go on and on forever.

I met Jules, Belinda and some other staff at breakfast in the morning. With-
out saying anything, I could tell that they were happy in Mme Minnet’s em-
ploy, and that without having to be told, they enjoyed catering to her. I admit
to feeling the same way about my employer, the University, but thought that
was only because I never demanded much anyway.
This woman was perfect! There was nothing she ever did wrong, no un-
kindness or thoughtless acts or words came from her, no inconvenience was
ever caused by her, and she seemed to demand nothing of anyone. Even Ham-
mond had been instantly forgiven for allowing that goal past his outstretched
fingers!
Although I now accepted on faith that this Astral Plane thingy was real, it
still needed a lot of explaining. I know Christianity has a lot of followers who
have absolutely no evidence of their omnipotent God but accept it entirely on
faith. In fact, since I was a teenager, I have found it incredible that such a
mythology of stories, legends, teachings and imagined visitations has been
built up around something which has not skerrick of evidence that can be pre-
sented. And yet it has, and is probably the biggest industry in the Western
World. The same goes for Islam and Buddhism in their respective parts of the
world and if I knew more about them, I would include most religions, includ-
ing Hindi and Judaism.
So, to get back to Astral Travel, I was very keen to find out more! I realised
that something, which people might describe as spiritual, occurred when Nina

71
and I were intimate, something way beyond what I ever experienced with
Sharlene or the couple of other affairs I had before I met her. I realised that
she was entering my ‘space’ but was completely ignorant as to exactly how
she went about it.
‘It’s not just “how I went about it”. You were there, too. Couldn’t you feel
an altered state in your mind? A kind of ecstasy, a euphoria, but not one which
blinded or engulfed you until you could no longer reason?’
‘No, I was engulfed! You must have better control than I do. Or maybe
you have been doing it longer than me. I’m not going to ask about you and
Arturo, but . . .’
‘Of course. He was quite a bit older than me. We didn’t always need to be
physical. Towards the end, we shared our minds without our bodies. I am not
embarrassing you, am I?’
‘No, but I hate to discuss something so wonderful as though I am going to
write it in a technical publication. Can you show me how to be in control?’
She never answered but took me by the hands, her tiny fingers holding
mine. I felt a thrill, but not the same as when we made love or kissed on that
first night at my house. This was not even remotely sexual, but much more
intimate. I found myself analysing everything: the way her hands felt, their
warmth, her closeness and her perfume. Then her gentle mind-voice saying
‘Do you understand now, mon cheri?’
But it wasn’t coming from her vocal chords. It wasn’t sound! I couldn’t
hear it, it was as though there was a speaker right inside my head! But it didn’t
say words as in English or French, it said words which were pure thought.
And all the while, I remained dispassionate about it, disseminating the in-
formation and categorising it into compartments I never before even realised
existed. But I loved it as well! Both an absence and a presence in the same
place. A positive and a negative which never caused repulsion nor attraction.
And there seemed to be no limits to anything! I seemed to be everywhere
at the same time, to fill every space and yet observe everything as though I
didn’t take up any space. But I understood it. I accepted it without question
for there was nothing to question.
I speak English, the language I am using to write this to you. I also speak
a fair smattering of French and can understand German in its written form.
But I cannot adequately describe nearly what I am trying to say to you. Not

72
in language! I know exactly what I am trying to communicate within my own
mind, but I know you do not understand the complexities, the intricacies of
the concepts unless you have been where I have been.
Like a child or an imbecile trying to make himself understood, or vice
versa. There are simply not either the words nor the concepts for comprehen-
sion to be complete. Not unless you have also been on that same plane as I
was with Nina.
Superstitious people would have suspected her of being a witch or an angel
or even a demon. But superstition, including religion, is borne out of ignorance
and the need to fill an inexplicable void. I have never suffered this delusion
or I might have thought she had put a spell or charm on me. Being an historian,
I can relate many cases where innocent people were put to death simply for
being in possession of abilities others did not comprehend and weren’t taking
any chances that they would be placed under a hex.
But I was not one of these childlike creatures. I was an intelligent, educated
man who had been taught to observe, disseminate and deduce whether or not
a safe conclusion could be reached. If it can, accept it. If it cannot, don’t reject
it but seek more data.
I was well into Asimov’s first Foundation novel by now, and realised how
easy it would be to consider Hari Seldon a wizard or warlock. But thinking of
Asimov, it got me thinking that this Astral Plane must be some sort of equiv-
alent of hyperspace.
There was no time nor space but a continuum of both in the one place.
Everything was in the one place at the same time, despite where in time or
space you were. Confused? I doubt even Asimov had words to describe it, ei-
ther, but plenty of science fiction writers have pounced on it and used that
term to cover travel without limitations set by physical boundaries, as Newton
or Einstein understood them.
Even ‘continuum’ is not the right word. It is overused and is the non-reli-
gious terminology to explain something you cannot properly get a grip on.
Not even the various dictionaries can describe the meaning of the word in the
same way. Or even using similar concepts. Look it up!
‘Exactly!’ Nina cried, when I put my thoughts to her. ‘It seems you under-
stand without having actually travelled there!’
‘But I think I have. At least, I’ve stood on the viewing platform. It’s where
we go . . . where you take me when we are intimate, isn’t it?’
73
She was weeping with joy.
‘You understand. I knew you were a superior intellect, but I have discussed
this with other people who have experienced it, mainly Arturo. They don’t re-
alise what we can do when we leave our physical selves behind. You have fig-
ured it out for yourself. From your observations. I am so glad!’
‘When are we going to enter this . . . this Astral Plane?’ I asked. ‘Not that
I imagine I will need to pack anything.’
She laughed through the tears of joy. She hugged and kissed me, with her
body, not her mind. It was lovely, too!
But now she understood that I had figured out about the Plane, she was
anxious to get moving. She suggested I go back to my house and work on my
study of options and she would visit me later.
‘Later today?’ I asked.
‘Probably!’ She seemed to be deliberately vague. ‘I will just call in on you.
I will be busy and can’t give you a time. Does it matter?’
‘I suppose not. Are you keeping something from me.’
‘Trust me. Do you want a lift to the station, or will you walk?’
I was confused. Why had she suddenly turned from being so loving to al-
most indifferent? Was it something I had said or done? I couldn’t think of any-
thing and started thinking she was a bit psycho. I felt disillusioned and rejected
and a little bit angry.
‘I’ll walk, then. It looks like the rain will hold off and it’s less than a kilo-
metre.’ I made no move to kiss her or give her a hug and she walked me to the
door.
‘See you when I see you!’ I said and she just nodded.
I walked down to the station with my heart in my feet. What on earth had
gone wrong? All my dreams seemed to be shattered!
It started to rain as I waited on the platform, but fortunately I was standing
in the covered section. But when I got off at Deschamps Hamelin, I had a
three hundred metre walk home and no umbrella or raincoat. I pulled my
jacket around me, wrapped my St Kilda scarf tightly around my neck and
started off down the Avenue.

74
Then, for some reason I couldn’t fathom at the time, I retraced my steps
and went back to the station. The next train was fourteen minutes away, so I
had a coffee from the machine. It was dreadful and I poured it onto the tracks
and chucked the paper cup into the bin. Then I stared at the advertising posters,
wondering what the hell was going on. But Nina had said to continue my in-
vestigations, so I simply complied.
The train pulled in exactly on time and ten minutes later I was in Chien de
Granit. I got a cup of real coffee from Jacques and the Sunday Times from
the kiosk, then set off through the underpass to the University. I felt wretched
and not at all motivated to concentrate on the task at hand.
I walked across the car park, which was nearly deserted on a Sunday morn-
ing and noticed someone had parked their Mercedes on the path leading to
the main entrance.
Mercedes? There was only one person in Port George who owned a green
Mercedes! What was she doing here? How did she know I had decided to
come in to the University instead of going home? Did she have a lecture or
study group? Was she meeting Berthos? Why didn’t she just offer to drop me
home? It was only five minutes out of her way?
I strode into the library and she was sitting at one of the desks, smiling
broadly. Not a welcoming smile, more a victorious beam! What was going
on!
‘It worked! I knew it would!’
‘What? What worked?’
‘I caused you to change your mind! You were going to go home, and I in-
tervened and made you come here, instead!’
‘I . . . I . . .’ I started, not understanding for a couple of seconds. Then it
hit me!
Nina had deliberately gotten me into an emotional state, then after I left
her house, she had gone out of her body and followed me. After I got off the
train to go home, she had influenced my mind and put thoughts into my head!
If it had been anyone but Nina I would have felt violated, used! But seeing
her so happy and realising that everything was okay between us, I just felt re-
lief.
But slightly cross.
75
‘Why didn’t you tell me you were going to do that! You really upset me.
I thought I’d done something to hurt you, to make you . . . well, cross with
me.’
‘Silly! I had to do it that way, don’t you see? You were sad and introverted.
Emotional, so just right to be receptive. And we will not be able to say “Mon-
sieur Baudin, we would now like to alter your intentions and make you do
something else, instead”, would we.’
‘But why me? Why not someone at random?’
‘Because I have not done this so intensely before. I have to practise on a
sympathetic mind. Someone with whom I am familiar. And we were very fa-
miliar last with each other last night, no?’
‘Shush! Someone might hear you!’
She smiled and kissed me on my nose.
My newspaper lay on the desk, and she picked it up. The smile vanished
from her face when she saw the picture of the stooped, tired looking man shak-
ing hands with the tall, erect gentleman.
‘This must not happen! Harold McMillan is a fool to play up to de Gaulle!’
‘Well, although most Poms don’t want to join the Common Market, it
looks like the Tories do. And they are the democaratically elected govern-
ment.’
‘But de Gaulle does not want them to. He thinks admitting Britain will
mean bringing American influence to Europe.’
‘Is this why you want the British to colonise all of Western Australia. In-
cluding Nuytsland?’ Her motives were starting to dawn on me. ‘Reducing the
alliance between France and Britain? Nuytsland doesn’t play a very strong
part in that. If anything, the people here are more anti-British than Parisians.
More French than the French!’
‘It is not the European Common Market I am worried about. It is de
Gaulle. We must get rid of him. He is trying to make France a superpower
again!’
Eh, what! France a superpower? Not since before Napoleon! And the al-
liance with Germany because of the ECM meant they were sharing power
with the Boche!
76
‘I don’t follow. You don’t want France to let Britain into the Common Mar-
ket? I thought you were anti-de Gaulle.’
‘I am, but I am also a patriotic Frenchwoman. The countries are historically
separate. Even geography sees to that with the Straits of Calais.’
I was used to hearing it called this, rather than the Straits of Dover, as I
knew them from my time at Cambridge.
‘How is this affected by what we are hoping to do, then. Britain isn’t Aus-
tralia!’
‘No, but England has far too much influence over her Commonwealth.
She says jump, you ask how high! Their queen is your queen, they do some-
thing, you follow suit. Like a little puppy begging for attention! Wagging its
tail and asking to be allowed to play with the big dogs.
‘Nuytsland is like that too, with France. Although we are honest about it.
We make no pretence of being a sovereign nation. We are a province of France,
elect representatives to the Parlement Français. Australia just does whatever
the British tells them. Why, you are still British subjects although you proudly
declare yourselves Australian!’
‘I couldn’t agree more! Even though my father was a Pom, I am not! Oh,
I am a member of the British Empire, or Commonwealth as we call it now,
but I don’t want to be. I suppose I am a republican. Nothing against Queen
Elizabeth, but she should be irrelevant. And we are getting there, bit by bit.’
‘And Nuytsland’s future will be with Australia. Not Britain, not France!’
she declared. ‘Why should we be subservient to countries thousands of kilo-
metres away on the other side of the world. It takes four days by aeroplane!’
‘You do realise that during the Napoleonic Wars, Britain laid claim to
Nuytsland, don’t you? They actually annexed it. It was not handed back until
the war was over.’
‘Yes, and that is why the French here are so patriotic to metropolitan
France. They resented the British invasion. It happened in the Seychelles, in
Mauritius, in Reunion.’ She knew her history very well. ‘The British had their
hands full with rebellion, dissatisfied Frenchmen who were not going to ac-
cept British rule. They did not want to be constantly at war with the people.
They are more yielding, more forgiving than the French, the Spaniards. More
reasonable!’

77
‘Is that why you want to Nuytsland to have been settled by the British?
Because Australia has more autonomy than us?’
‘That, and other things!’ But the other things barely got a guernsey, as my
Aussie Rules mates would say. Didn’t get anywhere near the emphasis that
autonomy got. But I wanted to know.
‘What other things?’
‘Well the treatment of Aboriginals, for a start!’ she looked crestfallen. ‘We
French should be ashamed of how we have treated them.’
‘They never got such a good deal in Australia, either!’ I told her. ‘They
can’t vote, have South African-like segregation, and the way they are treated
on cattle stations in the North is terrible. They are treated worse than the con-
victs! In the late nineteenth century, around Darwin, they were shot just for
being aborigines. You can’t corner the market on guilt and lay all the blame
on the French! Even Stirling set up isolation prisons on Rottnest. That was a
leaf he got out of the French book!’
‘But we drove them out of Nuytsland. Or massacred them, put them in
gaols to rot. They were slaves, the property of their masters, if not legally then
in practise! Even the Australians looked after them better than that! They cared
for their children, gave them health care, gave them reservations to live on.
The French didn’t!’
‘Don’t tell the Aborigines that! They rotted on Rottnest.’ I was aware of
the inadvertant homonym. ‘They say we are stealing their children, that Aus-
tralian Aborigines are worse off than American Indians or South African
blacks.’
‘They suffer many inequalities, but all through the world, the French, the
Portuguese, the Spanish and the Germans have been cruel colonial masters
where it involved native people. The British, even the Americans, do more
for the original inhabitants. Why do you think Canadian natives have had more
suffering than those from the United States? Yes, the French influence!’
‘As an historian I dispute . . .’ I began, but she silenced me with a finger
over her mouth.
‘History, as Napoleon said, is a myth agreed upon. Not facts, but the mis-
interpretations of unreliable witnesses!’
Well, I don’t think my profession has taken a blow like that in quite a

78
while. But I had to agree. We got all our knowledge from diaries, logs, ac-
counts of events, dusty old ledgers in dusty old crypts, all written by people
with a vested interest. No wonder people made the same mistakes over and
over!
Even as I write this, I am fully aware that I am writing it from the point of
view of a man smitten by a woman, by a hopeless romantic. And although I
have letters after my name saying I have a Ph.D, does that mean I always tell
the truth? I am not going to denigrate something I love, nor exalt something I
abhor, am I? It is not human nature!
As much as I tried to find good in both the French and the British, and in
the Spanish and Portuguese, it was inescapable. The British had a marginally
better record with their colonies. They were more ready to hand them over for
semi-autonomy or even self-government. India was the best example, but not
the only one.
The French, I often thought, did not set out to be deliberately cruel, and
tried to assimilate their natives, but it had to involve them becoming French
and no consideration was ever given to their culture and customs that this re-
placed. When integration failed, as it inevitably did, they lost their tempers
and punished the people they believed would benefit from French influence.
The Spanish were much the same, while the Portuguese were a damn sight
worse. Their machismo got in the way too much and they would hurry the
pace along, using the sword and the rifle to make their point.
The Dutch didn’t seem to have too much stomach for confrontation but
were so motivated by trade and profit that they were sometimes unreliable
and their authority was haphazard.
In Nuytsland, the Aborigines were no different. They would be French, or
they could go elsewhere. If they did not go elsewhere, they had to knuckle
under. Their affinity with the land was not respected. The French simply took
what they wanted.
The British did too, in other parts of Australia, but always with a con-
science. They beat themselves up about it and as the Church of England and
the Methodists were more conciliatory than the Roman Catholic Church, they
tried to stop the slaughter where they could.
Aborigines in Australia these days were at least tried in a court of law and
most times, treated fairly. But that was not always the case. Only this century.

79
Not so in Nuytsland. The French attitude was that if something was hap-
pening and they didn’t like it, they would call in the gendarmes to take care
of it. And it always resulted in the blackfella receiving no justice whatsoever.
‘That’s the only kind of justice they understand. The whip and guillotine!’
was still often heard in this little pocket of land, even in the seventh decade of
the twentieth century.
So why was Nina concerned about the treatment of Aborigines? Did that
tiny bit of African blood I thought I detected make her more sensitive to the
treatment of coloured races?
“Are you aware of the artist Nicolas-Martin Petit?’
‘I am aware of the name. He drew many of the botanical specimens which
Hamelin and Baudin took back to France.’
‘He drew my great, great, great grandmother with a baby. Are you aware
of those pictures?’
‘You have Aboriginal blood in you? Oh, I am sorry. I assumed it was
African. Then how . . .?’
‘My entire family was slaughtered, except for one woman, my ancestor.
She was on the mainland with her white boss and avoided the massacre. But
she was a Tasmanian. French explorers, well before the Black War, slaughtered
my tribe, and that caused the friction which made them become enemies. They
couldn’t distinguish between French and British, and so attacked any white
man they saw. That was the reason the British wiped out the blackfella in Tas-
mania.
‘They were not intelligent people, these crop-farmers and settlers. They
perceived a danger, a threat, from the Tasmanian tribes and reacted he only
way they knew how. By killing the threat with their muskets.
‘That happened here in Terre de Nuyts, too, and that is why I despise the
early French settlers!’
I sat back, astounded at what I had just heard. Obviously, Australia would
be colonised by Europeans, and Aborigines were going to have to accept that.
Not simply resign themselves to the fact, but accept it.
But I had never heard that it was the French in Tasmania who goaded them
into their hatred of the white man. Again I was forced to recognise that we
only know what we read, not necessarily what really went on. This put a dif-
80
ferent complexion on everything. I needed a different approach to my study.
But the Napoleonic edict meant that I was almost certain to find out only
lies, half truths and misinterpretations. Only one side of the story meant, at
the most, only half the truth. Palawa, Koori, Murri, Nyoonga and all the other
tribes only spoke their languages, they never recorded them other than in pic-
torial form. So we have no diaries of events taking the Aboriginal viewpoint.
How could I form a judgement?
I quickly realised I should not. That was what had gone wrong! Everyone
judging, blaming, condemning. No-one trying to find a point where concilia-
tion could begin.
But here was Nina proposing that it was all the fault of the French and that
the reactionary measures forever after was the result of what they had com-
mitted!
‘I need time to think this over,’ I pleaded. ‘Please don’t try to influence
me. Neither by what you say to me or by approaching my emotions. I have to
get a clear picture.’
The Australian in me wanted to blame the French. The British in me
wanted to blame them too. The historian in me wanted to find out the true
facts, but the romantic in me just wanted to please my woman!

81
9.
Nicolas Baudin supervised the loading personally. Three hundred head of
sheep, two dozen hogs, a hundred head of Friesian cattle and a thousand chick-
ens. Draught horses, ponies and mules. Tubs of butter, sacks of flour, tuns of
beer and wine, barrels of cheese, smallgoods, bags of seed and row after row
of fruit trees, especially suited to the hotter climate. But most prized and han-
dled with most care were the vines. Each in a little burlap bundle, stacked nine
to a crate, these were hoped to be the future of the colony.
Then came the farmers, the builders, the vignerons, the clerks and the en-
gineers who would keep the machinery moving, who would make the roads
and dam the rivers. And of course, their wives, lovers and families.
Last, and occupying their own vessels, came the marines and all their
equipment. Guns, ammunition, howitzers, grenades and powder kegs. And the
small but incredibly strong ponies who could haul all this hardware from the
ships to the shore and into the garrison and fortress lookout Baudin had en-
visaged.
It took two weeks to assemble, pack and stow all this aboard the ten vessels
sitting alongside in Le Havre. Everything was checked three times: on arrival,
on transmission from shore to ship and again after it was loaded into the holds.
Every person, military and civilian, underwent a final medical check and iden-
tity parade. Cholera and typhoid were still at epidemic proportions within the
city and every precaution was taken to ensure none aboard carried these deadly
diseases.
When at last Baudin, and his colleague, Hamelin, were satisfied, the teams
of longshoremen sat at their oars to tow the ships out into the open water. The
sails were unfurled and the sheets tensioned and the convoy set off for the the
Antipodes.
Never before had such a flotilla been assembled. With no convicts, it could
not be likened to Cook’s First Fleet, and in the blaze of publicity, it could not
be compared with the secrecy of the Pilgrim Fathers journey to America.
No military campaign ever included so many civilians and crops, and no
exploration had so many craft involved. It was known popularly as ‘la Flotille
de Freycinet’, although, at this time, the man himself was not even aware of
his command!
Because of this, Baudin himself decided to accompany it to Ile de France
at least, or until they met up with the returning Louis Claude de Saulces de
Freycinet on his return to France.
82
It had taken over two years to plan and assemble this expedition and every
night, Nicolas Baudin lay awake, fearing that the following day would bring
the news that the British had pulled up his claim stakes and ensigns and de-
clared Terra de Nuyts and Terra de Leeuwin for the Crown.
Even as he stepped up the gangplank of the Cygne Noir, his flagship,
Napoleon’s aide whispered to him ‘Beat the British at their own game!’
Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor the previous year and this had
given the expedition royal status, although that meant as little to Baudin as it
meant to Napoleon himself.
But as his lead ship cleared the mouth of the harbour, he breathed a sigh
of relief. Now the real fulfilment of his plans were bearing fruition.
They sailed down the coast of Spain towards Africa, only once spotting
pirates who lost interest in the chase when they realised how well equipped
these vessels were and the presence of such a large military force. Also, mostly
new ships with extensive sails to the wind left the older, slower buccaneers
behind and from the time they left the Straits of Gibraltar until they neared
Capetown, they only saw one vessel, a British clipper, tacking northwards,
away to seaward. They saluted with a grand display of signal flags, but the
British clipper, racing against the wind, ignored them.
In the city below Table Mountain, Baudin enquired as to whether Freycinet
had passed by on his way back to Le Havre, but nobody knew anything about
him. The last anyone knew was he was still in Timor.
The British in Capetown were slightly curious about the fleet. Although
Baudin had left all his ships except Cygne Noir well outside Table Bay, not
wanting to draw attention to himself, ships were arriving and departing at a
rate of three or four a day, and soon someone put two and two together and
decided they had something to do with Baudin, so he cut his visit short.
With the trade winds at their stern, they passed south of Madagascar in
rapid time and as they were about to enter Port Louis, Baudin saw a familiar
profile rounding Tombeau Bay. It was the Casuarina with Captain Freycinet
at the helm, curious as the proverbial cat why so many French vessels were
sailing into Terre Rouge Estuary.
When he was hailed and he recognised his former commander, he was de-
lighted. And when Nicolas Baudin delivered his news, Freycinet beamed all
over his face.

83
Governor of a French colony which would almost certainly eventually be-
come a remote province! What a reward for his years of painstaking service
and loyalty.
Baudin agreed to sail back to France with the Casuarina, and took up tem-
porary residence in Port Louis, but took ill and missed the departure. He died
eighteen months later. Cancer had taken hold of his stomach and bowel. But
right up until his death, he eagerly sought news, every time a ship arrived from
the east, of the fledgling colony on Terre de Nuyts.

84
10.
It was not simply a task to identify a convenient time and place in history
to intervene and set Baudin on a different course of events and locations. That
would have been too easy!
What my real challenge was, and I understood the gravity of this, was to
ensure that the least possible change take place. While this seemed impossible
at first glance, it gradually fell into place as I proceeded to eliminate choice
after choice.
I had to make a massive change to the course of events to history. Baudin
and his crew would have to abandon their idea to set the Tricolore on the Aus-
tralian mainland. Napoleon and Freycinet would also have their courses al-
tered, Freycinet’s far more than any other notable figure. Napoleon’s would
not necessarily alter Earth’s timeline, but I had to be sure. Right up until now,
1964, events could be drastically altered, even in the rainforests of Borneo or
in the frozen tundra of Northern Russia if I did not get this right. And as in-
significant as that may have seemed in 1805, the effects could multiply and
cause major disruption by the mid twentieth century.
I don’t know how best to explain this, but I will have a go.
Say Freycinet got plastered one night at ‘La Chouette et La Minette’ on
the Friday before he sailed from Timor and seduced a young Timorese woman
who would go on to have his son. That son grew up to sire a large brood and
a string of descendants, one of who became a bishop and who brought Chris-
tianity to Indonesia, replacing the Muslim faith.
That would be a disruption to the timeline for which I could not compen-
sate. The consequences would be enormous! And that was only a minor hap-
penstance. Freycinet probably got drunk regularly in Timor for all I knew!
And he might have a whole litter of Franco-Malays clogging every main city
in South East Asia by now.
The job was enormous! I needed help!
Some of my students became infected with my enthusiasm for researching
the history of these men who had such a huge relevance to Nuytsland. They
thought I was going to write a thesis or even a book on the subject and I am
proud of the fact that they had affection and respect for me and wanted to help.
I could not have even approached this without their research, checking dates
and data, log books, official documents, shipping manifests, passenger lists,
departure and arrival dates.
85
And then genealogies! Even though this did not play a part in the curricu-
lum for the semester, they soon found excitement in seeing how people fitted
into the grand scheme of things. They searched far and wide for information,
family trees and church records. Whenever we hit a dead end which we
thought would scupper us, Nina would carefully copy down all our notes, and
then, within a month, come up with a letter from the Sorbonne or one of the
French Records Offices in Paris, Montreal, Louisiana or Port Louis.
‘How do you know so many people?’ I asked one day when she produced
a large sheaf of foolscap from a manilla envelope.
‘You don’t honestly think you are the only history professor who is in love
with me, do you?’
I very much doubted it. Everyone loved Madame Minnett, not only in Port
George, but on a trip back to Clermont-Ferrand, everyone fawned over her,
from porters to the City Mayor! I wasn’t jealous! Well, not much. I was re-
ceiving a fair bit of attention myself.
Mainly as an object of curiosity, being an Australian, a professor and the
paramour of one of Clermont’s favourite daughters. But at the universities and
libraries we visited, my opinions were listened to, discussed and respected.
We had a wonderful time that northern hemisphere Summer. Nuytslanders
love to spend their winters back in France because the weather in Port George
can get pretty lousy during May to September, while in the valleys of the Loire
and the Provence region, the warm days and pleasant evenings seem to go on
forever. And despite a pretty heavy workload, we still found time to motor
around the villages and vineyards, down to Marseilles, around the coast to
Barcelona and then trough the Andorran mountains to Bordeaux. This was,
on looking back, one of the more beautiful interludes in my life. Beautiful
country, excellent wines, delicious country-style cuisine and the most perfect
woman I have ever met. It seemed almost too idyllic!
But as soon as we flew back to Paris, the workload resumed. Long days
and evenings in the state records offices, libraries and council archives, a bowl
of soup at some pavement cafe, often too late to even grab a proper meal, then
to bed and rise to another coffee soaked day of eyestrain, tedium and leather-
bound volumes.
I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world!
And Nina didn’t sit back, enjoying the high life which Paris offers the well
heeled. She was right there with me, translating when necessary, searching
86
bookshelves for obscure references and giving me encouragement and moti-
vation simply by being there with me.
Did Hari Seldon have such an attentive assistant when he was building up
his Prime Radiant? Asimov doesn’t say and as his research took place way in
the future, I imagine he had endless information banks, maybe analogue or
even digital computers, robot servitors and retrieval systems to help him.
Poor man. I had Nina!
When we arrived back in Port George, Nina asked me for an estimate of
when the work would be complete.
‘Not in our lifetimes,’ I replied, cheerfully. ‘Unless we live to a hundred
and fifty!’
‘Seriously? Will we have to cut corners, make uneducated assumptions,
guesses and trust luck? I wanted it all ready to go in five years?’
‘Five years?’ I frowned. ‘Originally I would have said yes, but now I don’t
know. It seems the more we find out, the more reveals itself as needing atten-
tion.’
‘Should we approach Berthos? Would he be able to help?’ she asked me
and for a moment I wondered where this was leading.
‘Not with the history and research,’ I answered, as honestly as I could.
‘But with the predictions and possibilities, I am sure he could help. Does he
know the depth we require?’
‘I have talked with him and he is convinced that the normal state of affairs
will even itself out, that changes made will only have an altered effect for a
hundred years or so, unless that change is pretty big. Like stopping the coloni-
sation of Nuytsland.’
‘Why does he think that?’ I pondered. ‘I have been labouring under the
apprehension that as time goes by, the gap between realities widens. That it
compounds!’
‘Berthos doesn’t think so. He seems to think that in five hundred years,
even major discrepancies will have reverted. Without any intervention, Nuyt-
sland and Australia will be one country by twenty three hundred.’
‘It’s almost that now!’ I joked. ‘I like to be tucked up in bed by ten thirty!

87
‘No, seriously, though, that is a pretty big ask!’
“He doesn’t think so. Masses of people, he says, act in predictable ways.
Only individuals act on their own. These individual people are not enough,
normally, to influence the tide of the masses. As a rule, there are exceptions
which have to be weighed in.’
‘Like some smart arse French woman and a tired, worn-out history pro-
fessor deliberately changing history, you mean?’
‘You’ve got it in one!’ she laughed and made me put down my book. ‘And
it is time for worn-out, tired old men to be taken to bed by the self-same smart
arse French woman, to recharge his batteries!’
‘Ooh, I like the sound of that!’ I cried!

The following morning, being Saturday, but in the off-season for football,
we drove over Pont de Édouard Daladier and had coffee at a quiet little shop
near Vancouver’s Spring. It was approaching Christmas and the yellow Nuyt-
sia floribunda, the flora symbol of the province, was in full bloom. These par-
asitic trees contrasted gaudily with the bright blue sky and the deep green of
the Baie de Anglaise with its little white flecks where the waves broke against
the ruins of the old Norwegian whaling station.
‘Mary-Anne is not expecting us before twelve thirty, so we have time for
a little walk on the beach to blow away the cobwebs,’ Nina announced. ‘And
you could do with some exercise, old man! All you do is sit and eat croissants
and drink cafe noir. You need to stretch out your legs. Get your blood pump-
ing.’
‘I’ll race you to the ruins!’ I shouted and set off before she even had a
chance to remove her strapped high-heeled shoes she had bought on the
Champs Elysee during our sojourn in Paris. It was a good six hundred metres
and I regretted not keeping up my regular morning jogs and evening swims
in the University pool. I had only just reached the ancient, crumbling brick-
work when I heard her immediately behind me, shouting and accusing me of
cheating.
We held each other close and kissed passionately, standing there with the
sea, the sand and the sky all around us.
‘We have not done this for a long time!’ Nina whispered. ‘I have been
working you too hard!’

88
I pretended to have misunderstood her.
‘I reserve all my spare energy for making love to you. I haven’t any surplus
to waste on running!’
‘Huh! You should have beaten me by a hundred metres then, the amount
you do that!’
We walked hand-in-hand to the little point on which stood one of the few
statues of Napoleon left in the world other than France. But with the vista
spread out before us, we paid no attention to the Little General.
Way off to the north, across King George Sound, Point d’Emu sparkled in
the sunshine, all the little white sails of leisure craft which only came out on
days like this: perhaps five times a year. Then, east of that, Cap Sainte Alice
hid behind a small piece of headland, just out of our line of sight.
The two sentry islands stood guard at the entrance of the Sound while in
the east, Bald Head cut a tall, stern figure against the azure of the sky.
If we looked across the peninsular to the harbour, the twin peaks of Mont
Albert and Mont Clarence indicated where the port and town was.
‘Did you read in the paper that they are considering bridging the Emu
channel? That would cut a good twenty minutes off your journey each day!’
‘It seems a shame that everywhere you look, you see the evidence of
human presence on the landscape. Do you think, the British would have de-
veloped this beautiful place to such an extent that the French did?’
‘Probably more so,’ I replied. ‘It is the ideal place to build the capital of
Western Australia. The administration and commercial capital! Perth was one
of their big mistakes! Dry, windswept, a heat sink trapped between the Darling
Ranges and the sea. The only thing going for it is the Swan River, and they
don’t even take enough advantage of that! By now, there would be at least a
million people here. No virgin bush, no unspoilt beaches, no grazing paddocks
on the edge of the rivers.’
‘Why is Perth so neglected? Why do they find it so hard to get any money
out of Canberra? No wonder they so desperately want to get their hands on
the Pearl of the South. Why did they select Perth?’
‘It seemed the next best place on the Indian Ocean. Broome is closer to
Asia, to the mighty rivers to give them water to irrigate and supply hydro-
electric power. But then they found gold at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, and
89
needed the closest seaport to service the towns.
‘We already had Metz around to Geographe and the Swan River Colony
was the shortest distance between two points. Or as they say, as the crow flies!
‘And the Darling Ranges supplied timber, quarries and limited rain runoff
to irrigate their crops and pipe to the Goldfields. The hinterland is okay, I
guess, but soon turns into desert.
‘No, Port George would have been a much more suitable place. I bet if the
Poms had got it first, you wouldn’t recognise it now! Bricks and cement. Prob-
ably as big as Sydney or Melbourne. Definitely bigger than Brisbane.’
We walked back to the car, reluctant to end this glorious walk in each
other’s exclusive company. Concentrating only on each other. While we spent
a lot of time together, it was always with other people or study to distract us.
‘We should really start exercising, though, mon cheri,’ Nina said, seriously,
‘I wasn’t joking! We have the stadium next door and an excellent gym at the
university. There really isn’t any excuse.’
And, as always, I agreed with her.

Mary-Anne had baked a typical Southern lunch with typical Southern hos-
pitality. Combined with some magnificent Montpelier unwooded chardonnay,
and we were all in fine, if not slightly sleepy, form for sitting on the front
porch with a snifter of Courvoiser and a bowl of cherries and walnuts.
‘Catherine said you wanted some advice,’ Berthos said, stuffing shag into
his old briar pipe. ‘About how extensive your field of research should delve,
I have given it considerable thought and come up with the answer. To put it
simply: I don’t know!’
‘Don’t you dare light up that filthy thing when we have guests!’ Mary-
Anne growled. ‘I have told you before. Only smoke it in the shed or down by
the chopping block!’
‘I’m just getting it ready for when they leave, Dear!’
‘Put it away. Eric and Catherine will think you are hinting that you want
them to go!’
We all laughed. This always happened. I think it was a habit with Berthos.
Finish a meal, load the pipe and go down the back for a quiet smoke. Nina
started to say that it didn’t bother her, but Mary-Anne was adamant.
90
We went all through various other rituals which had become common only
to us, and then Berthos repeated his earlier statement.
‘I have come up with the answer to your question. I just don’t know!’
‘I suppose that’s as good an answer as you’d get anywhere!’ I responded.
‘Even the great Professor Seldon would be unable to answer with any degree
of certainty. It involves individuals, not masses!’
‘One thing is in our favour, though,’ Berthos continued, thoughtfully.
‘What you say is true, but Baudin would have behaved like the masses. In ac-
cordance with the feelings of the French people at the time. They were all
conditioned by years . . . decades . . . of war and unrest, uncertainty. And he
was not only a scientist, he was, firstly and foremostly, a naval man. With all
the traditions and conventional, conservative beliefs and habits of a lifetime
at sea.’
‘Like your New England habit of smoking that goddamned pipe!’ inter-
jected Mary-Anne, and Nina giggled.
Berthos ignored her, or at least, pretended to.
‘Conformity is what makes masses behave in a certain way. Mob dynam-
ics, it is unofficially called in the shrink business. Baudin’s decisions will have
been directly influenced by conditioning. Even his perceived individuality and
determination to colonise Australia was based on his dislike of the British.
Typical of every Frenchman at the time. And ever since, I think!
‘Many explorers before him have put forward plans to claim the continent
for their country. But the British did it. That rankled with every Frenchman at
the time. Freycinet, I believe, wanted to overcome the British forces in Sydney
and take the country by storm! Am I right?’
‘Yes, basically. So you are saying that if Baudin hadn’t done it, someone
else would have claimed Nuytsland for France, anyway?’
‘I don’t know my history like you, but I believe so. The British had since
1788 to make their move. What did they do? Sailed around it, mapped it,
talked about it. No resolve at all.’ Berthos looked at me for acknowledgement
of what he had just said.
‘The New South Wales Corp were a lazy bunch of privileged officers who
knew they were on a good wicket and did the minimum possible to maintain
the colony,’ I told him. ‘Empire building, to them, was amassing the biggest

91
stocks of rum for barter. Even Governor King was what Mary-Anne would
call a “good ole boy” who didn’t want to make any waves.’
‘So you see,’ Berthos went on. ‘France was the only country with any mo-
tivation, up until after the British sacked Napoleon at Waterloo. The French
aristocracy were so busy rebuilding their hierarchy, they didn’t have time for
foreign affairs.’
‘So when would the British have decided that the continent needed de-
fences on the western side?’ I asked.
‘You’re the historian. Don’t ask me. I can only tell you what the general
masses are likely to do. You have to look at history and see when they would
find conditions favourable to do it. Does that make sense?’
‘Yes. Definitely food for thought!’ I admitted. ‘But why do you say that
regardless of what changes are made, things eventually return to the same
state?’
‘Not always!’ Berthos felt for his pipe and thought better of it. “Maybe it
is the inevitability of it. It’s like an omnipotent being laying down a course
for mankind. For Earth. Maybe it is pre-ordained by the Big Bang. I can’t
offer any evidence to prove it, or even suggest it. It is just something in human
nature, in our genetic structure!’
He looked thoughtful. I tried to think of a question, a prompt to keep him
talking but he didn’t need it.
‘People who set out on a course of action, with all the odds against them,
normally succeed if they have resolve. But I don’t think this is so much deter-
mination, as the reason they set out on the course in the first place. It is their
destiny! They cannot do anything else. That is what makes them so deter-
mined.
‘Others, with much greater chances of success, fail miserably simply be-
cause they haven’t been given that drive by whoever, whatever, that instructs
them to embark on it.
‘Everyone says it was their will or desire to succeed, or lack of it! But as
a psychiatrist, I know that this isn’t so. And as often, those who fail when
everyone expects them to be victorious, get accused of throwing in the towel!
‘This isn’t so, either. The force which presented them with the assignment
was simply not there and it was only that person’s ego or some misapprehen-
sion which made them pursue it.
92
‘They are the ones who don’t accept defeat gracefully, but commit suicide,
go into a hermit-like state, become argumentative and non-realistic, won’t ac-
cept logic. We have all seen this. It isn’t pretty.
‘Baudin wasn’t like this. He died on Mauritius before he saw the result of
his plan. He knew it would succeed. It was preordained! France would, in his
reality, always colonise Terre de Nuyts!’
‘That’s a pretty convincing argument, Berthos!’ I said. ‘Did you formulate
it on your own? I never heard anyone else espouse that line of thinking!’
‘Ah, now! Our old mate Isaac Asimov did!’
‘I’ve read the Foundation Trilogy right through, and don’t remember that!’
‘A short novel called The End of Eternity! Published about ten years ago.
I have a copy. His characters travelled through Time and did exactly what you
are hoping to do. Change the course of events to attain better outcomes. But
they found that within a short time, the results evened out and things became
the same as before they interfered. Changes were only short lived. That was:
until the last great time-changing event at the end of the book . . . But you
may want to read it so I won’t spoil it for you!’
‘So, other than that one occurrence, all changes eventually watered them-
selves down and the outcome was the same whether change had taken place
or not? What . . . did they have someone monitoring it, or something?’
‘Yes,’ agreed Berthos. ‘The Time Travellers lived outside of normal time
and were known as Eternals. But I don’t see how it would be possible for you
to have have an observer, or referee, to oversee your case. If you make the
change, it sticks!’
‘Unless we go back again and undo it!’ Nina remarked. ‘I have given this
some thought and if it doesn’t work out as we want, we get a second try, then
a third, and so on, until the desired outcome is reached!’
‘Ah, but what if, in the progression of change which takes place after-
wards, your great, great, great, grand pappy dives in to save a person from
drowning and gets eaten by a shark before he gets home, marries and his wife
has your great, great, grandma?’ Berthos again reached for his pipe and Mary-
Anne frowned, touched his arm and shook her head. He was so absorbed in
his subject that he barely noticed, but refrained from lighting up, anyway.
‘That would mean you weren’t born, and do not exist in the new reality!

93
How can you be sure you can go back and undo, or rechange, what you do
the first time? And, on the law of averages, each time you try to make a
change, the greater the chance becomes of risking this!’
‘So we only get one shot? If Nina does exist afterwards she can go back
and try again, but if that shark makes an appearance, we are stuck with the al-
ternate reality?’ This was getting pretty complicated.
‘That’s why we both need to go!’ declared Nina. ‘If my ancestor becomes
lunch for a fish, you will have to assess the situation and go back again!’
‘But if you didn’t exist, I would never have met you? I would still be a
boring old historian with all his marbles intact!’
‘No, you don’t understand the Astral Plane! You and I will still share our
past, it is everyone else’s from the point of the change who will have different
memories, different experiences and different lives!’
‘So you want me to become an Astral Traveller too? I am too normal, too
conservative! I am not a free thinker (I was tempted to use the word “weirdo”
but refrained in time) like you are. I had never even read any science fiction
until Berthos loaned me the Foundation books. Now you are proposing I un-
dertake training as a . . . whatever . . .’ I finished lamely.
‘You can do it!’ Nina almost squeezed out the words. ‘If anyone, you can
soar with the spirits!’
‘Oh. No! I am not about to get involved with all that superstitious non-
sense. Spirits! No way. I don’t believe in all that claptrap. I thought it was a
physical phenomena, this Astral Plane. Not some delusional semi-witchcraft,
semi-religious bulldust!’
Nina looked crestfallen.
‘It was only a figure of speech. It is not your spirit or your soul or any of
that stuff, if you believe in it. In fact, I do not believe you you have a spirit or
soul. Just a mind and a body and they are so interconnected it is hard to get
them to separate.
‘Please, Cheri, do this thing for me. For Australia. For Unification!’
I fell silent and Nina, Mary-Anne and Berthos all thought I was sulking.
But I wasn’t. I heard what she said and was trying to think of another reason
to get me out of it, or if I couldn’t find a reason, then an excuse.

94
Eventually I piped up:
‘You will have to hold my hand, metaphorically, speaking. I am pretty set
in my ways! No shoving me off the diving board into the deep end and ex-
pecting me to find my own way around!’
Nina threw her arms around my neck in pretend glee, but I knew she had
things so well planned that she would get me to agree. I pondered for a second
that she could even get me to agree to diving in after her great, great, great,
grandfather and taking on the shark myself! I only had to look at her and I
knew I would do anything for this woman.

I was apprehensive about going out of my comfort zone. Heck, I was


frightened almost to point-blank refusal. But she persisted, softening me up
and explaining all sorts of little facets, anecdotes, memories and other little
bits and pieces which would allay my fears.
And then, one evening while we in a very intimate embrace, she reached
into my mind and said softly ‘Are you ready?’
I was used to her speaking without words, of course, as we regularly did
that now. And it seemed the most natural thing to lift up and leave our bodies,
intertwined on her silk sheets below.
I say ‘up’ and ‘below’ because I am writing in English. But in any spoken
or written language, you have to use concepts which are already laid down.
Besides, there are no words for where we moved to. We just moved! Changed
location, changed situation!
We spent some time observing ourselves lying there and Nina giggled. I
knew that her mind was saying ‘Your legs are so hairy, it is a wonder I don’t
get ticklish from them!’ I tried hard to think of a reply and she knew at once
and said ‘Don’t try. I think they are very masculine!’
We soared (there is no word even close to what we really did) away and
we were at once in the jardin of a mansion which I knew was in Clermont-
Ferrande,
‘I want you to see my home. It is older than Cap Sainte Alice but my an-
cestors all lived here. All except that small branch from Tasmania.’
I had never been to this part of provincial France before and if I could have
gasped at its beauty, I would have. Grey sandstone walls, built to withstand
trebuchet shot, covered with woodbine creeper, battlements and turrets which
95
had obviously had blood spilt on them, narrow, slit-like windows for archers
to fire from while remaining protected, and a heavy, oak door.
Nobody told me it was sandstone, woodbine or oak. I just knew. Same as
I knew that men had died up on those battlements, defending their families
from marauders.
Nina followed the direction of my thoughts and explained that the plane
we were on was totally different to everything I previously knew. Totally!
‘You just know all about it. You don’t have to pop off to the library to refer to
some document. The information is there. In the same way, there are no maps
or compasses or signposts. You want to be somewhere, you are there. It all
overlaps. There are far more routes from one place to another in the physical
world on this plane. And no halls or doors or passageways. Just be aware of
where you want to be and you are there.’
For some reason, I had no difficulty with this. It was like in your mind.
One second your memory could be filled with Melbourne, Australia, the next
with Atlanta, Georgia, or Bloemfontaine, South Africa.
‘That’s the closest analogy I have ever heard,’ Nina thoughted me. ‘Exactly
right. You don’t need aeroplanes or cars or boats. You just move as though
you are moving your thoughts. Your memories.’
‘Does it only work on Earth . . .’ I began to formulate the idea, and thought
of the images of the Moon which NASA were publicising. At once, we were
over the Mare Ibrium and my questions were answered.
This had serious possibilities!
‘And time, too. But only behind us. The Past! We cannot, as I once told
you, enter the Future. It has not happened yet, so does not exist. There is no
such thing as “the future” on this Astral Plane. Not like Berthos’ Eternals!’
‘So we could nip back to watch Betty Cuthbert win the gold in the 100
metres sprint in the 1956 Olympics?’ And instantaneously, we were five me-
tres above the track at the MCG with a line of young women bearing down
on us, the crowd making a deafening roar!
Really, really, really serious possibilities! All those Saints games when I
was cooped up in a lecture theatre on a Saturday afternoon. All those plays I
had missed. Why I might head off to Las Vegas and see Frank . . . And I was
in Caesar’s Palace, front row, centre! Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis
Junior, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford in a dreadful bush hat with corks!

96
‘Why can’t we do all our research here?’ I wondered and Nina’s thoughts
came in: ‘I have wondered the same thing. But we don’t know where the in-
formation is located. In our dimension, we have history all recorded. Here, it
all touches everything else. We need it, as you will realise better than anyone,
to be chronologically and geographically laid out.’
‘But if we need information, say for example, what the log entry for De-
cember 12, 1804 was, could we not just nip back here and watch it being en-
tered?’
‘Yes. That hadn’t occurred to me. Has anything like that come up in the
past few days, that you have not yet been able to locate?’
‘No, since we discussed our modus operandi with Berthos, I must admit
that details don’t seem so important, but from time to time, it would be useful
to get a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of Baudin and his crew.’
‘Then use it! Nothing says we may not!’ I could feel a new respect for me.
Not that I doubted her feelings for me before, but she always seemed to be
the leader, the one concerned with maintenance of our project, and now she
was prepared to entrust the nuts and bolts to me. Like when a master realises
his apprentice has at last become his equal, has learnt all he can from the
teacher and is now capable of formulating his own plans of action.
It felt good!

But it didn’t feel good re-entering the normal world where our bodies
lived. It was, as the Poms say, a bit of a drag! On the Astral, you feel so much
more alive, having no weight to haul around, no tired old bag of bones to lug.
Just your consciousness. Back here on Earth, it felt like you were shackled,
restricted. I wanted to live on the higher plane forever! Maybe this was the
Heaven my Sunday School teacher tried to tell me existed!
But my first concern was that before we left, when we were deep in each
other’s emotions, we had kicked off the duvet! Now we returned to a couple
of really cold bodies.
Nina was still in my mind, though, and said: ‘We’ve only been gone about
five seconds.’
‘No! I disagreed. We must have been gone longer! Thirty minutes at least!’
‘Time does not exist where we have been. Only here on Planet Humdrum
do we have clocks!’
97
‘I didn’t want to leave. Such a . . . I don’t have a word for it! But totally
unlike our dimension, our universe. How did you come across it, Nina?’
‘When I was a child, about twelve, immediately prior to the war, I went
into a coma. They thought I would die. Many children in Clermont-Ferrand
died from it. Rougeole! You call it measles. There was no treatment, they could
only give me aspirin.
‘The doctors were about to pronounce me dead but they noticed a very
faint pulse in my wrist and realised I was alive, but catatonic.
‘But my mind wasn’t. In a sort of defence mechanism, I suppose you
would say, I left my body because it was too weak. I thought I had died be-
cause the priests had told me that when you die, you go to heaven. And this
place was quiet, serene, beautiful, as you have found out. I didn’t have to hurt
anymore.
‘I stayed there for four days. They began to get worried and had les
derniers sacrements administered. The last rites, a sort of Catholic ritual to
send your body to God. Then I stumbled upon my body in my bed and went
back in and started breathing and functioning properly.
‘I got well very quickly after that. The doctor was amazed at my recovery.
‘My grandmere, a silly, superstitious old lady, claimed there were two an-
gels standing over my bed while I was in the coma, but I think she deluded
herself, hallucinating because of the grief and not understanding what was
happening. Or maybe it was the cognac! There were no angels. They do not
exist! Not in our world or the Astral Plane, and I do not believe in heaven after
what I have experienced.
‘After that, I found that if I ran very hard and filled my bloodstream with
endorphins, I could escape my body again. Then, as I did it more and more,
the mere thought of the ecstasy it brings from freedom, would be enough.
Now I can come and go as I choose. Sometimes when I am very tired I find
myself slipping over there without intending to and once when Arturo and I
got very drunk . . . I will not sadden you by telling you why . . . and we were
both emotional, I took him there with me.
‘At first he did not like it, he was scared. But later, particularly as he fell
ill, it was a great source of joy to him and therefore, to me.
‘And now you are here to join me when I go over.’

98
I had been silent all this time. I had also been very ill with measles back
in 1937 and my mother had said she took me to the Royal Children’s Hospital
when it was in the city. They treated her as though I was going to die, too, and
were very kind and sympathetic. I hallucinated quite a lot and can still remem-
ber those grotesque dreams. I thought my father was Cinderella and asked
him what he had brought me. He thought it was funny but Mum realised I was
delirious and probably hanging on by a thread.
I was obviously not meant to die, my time had not come then. I was being
saved for some master plan event still to come! Which got me thinking about
what Berthos had said about events being pre-ordained. Meant to happen and
will happen, regardless.
I was not convinced that what we were doing was meant to succeed. I
didn’t doubt it could be successful. It might go as we planned, and anyway,
everything would work out in the long term. So in the grand scheme of things,
say, over a millennium, it wouldn’t matter whether Baudin settled Port George
or whether Governor Bligh, Macquarie, or even Brisbane, would send some-
one around eventually to claim King George Sound for Old England.
It would all end off part of Australia sometime in the twenty first or twenty
second century anyway, if Berthos’ theory was correct.
But could we afford to risk it? I said no. Nina said no, too!
I said no, because I thought the situation was already getting too cumber-
some, too expensive and very unwieldy. I also believed that the federation of
states in Australia was causing too many problems and that all government
should be from Canberra, with just city councils and municipalities making
specifically local by-laws. The duplication of services with three layers of
government all having their own offices and administrations was unnecessarily
expensive.
And coupled with a tiny little state belonging to another country, tagging
onto and feeding off Australia, was really daft. Even New Zealand, I believed,
should close up shop and join the Commonwealth. But we won’t get too
deeply into that as I know our cousins over the Tasman have very strongly
held beliefs to the contrary.
Likewise, they say if you scratch a Sandgroper (which Western Australians
like to call themselves) you will find a secessionist.
Poor old Double You Aye going it alone? They were so dependent on the
few scraps the East threw them, taking their minerals and selling them at huge
99
profit to the USA and Europe and tossing mere coins in exchange. They would
never have the guts, the temperament nor the administrative skills to form
their own Nation.
Maybe they should secede and join forces with Nuytsland under the Tri-
colore!
And maybe I should expel that thought from my mind and never mention
it again. It would go down like a lead balloon in Nuytsland, Western Australia,
the Eastern States and France. Even the Queen would not be amused!
Too late!
Nina had learned to extract my emotions and could translate them into
some sort of thought wave.
‘You are not serious, are you, Eric?’ she was shocked, ‘I thought you were
a United Australia supporter!’
‘It was a random thought,’ I pleaded. ‘Thinking outside normal parameters.
A sort of “what-if” exercise like we did earlier.’
‘Yes, but for a second, you liked the idea,’ she persisted. ‘As if it could
ever happen with bombastic Frenchmen and cocky West Australians. They
need Australia, it has many years of running a country, very successfully, too,
I might add!’
‘Hang on a moment. I have never lived in Western Australia, never held
any sort of torch for them, and like all Victorians and New South Welshmen,
I hold them in contempt, to an extent. I am hardly likely to lump Nuytsland in
with them. Unless I wanted Australia to be rid of both places. And I don’t!’
Nina was nearly splitting her sides at my indignation and I couldn’t help
but see the funny side myself. I was trying to justify myself against a situation
which could never exist and getting a bit steamed up about it in the process!
‘I’m going to have a shower!’ I said and started to leave the room.
‘After that little outburst, you had better make it a cold one!’ she called
after me.

100
11.
We had been working on the project now for over two years. A very long
twenty four months in which time history was being made in Australia.
While having had a small cadre of military personnel in the Republic of
South Vietnam since 1962, Sir Robert Menzies decided to upgrade the com-
mitment during 1964. He sent planes to Vung Tau, plus medical staff in what
was widely seen as a precursor to increasing combat troop numbers. Then he
promised a battalion of infantry, plus support staff, against the advice of the
Department of Defence!
Conscription was introduced for all 20 year olds. The First Battalion of
the Royal Australian Regiment was deployed in April, 1965 and based at Vung
Tau, on the south coast, near Saigon.
Australia was divided over the issue. Old conservative stalwarts and World
War Two veterans insisted ‘if we don’t stop the communists up there, we’ll
have to fight them down here!’ while students, trade unions and the Labor
Party said they had no right interfering in another country’s civil war.
In Nuytsland, there were mixed feelings. France had realised the futility
of trying to stop reunification of Vietnam and was regretting their action, while
others said they pulled out before they should.
Then, on Australia Day, 1966, Sir Robert Menzies resigned as Prime Min-
ister and Harold Holt took over leadership of the Parliamentary Liberal Party.
In Nuytsland, everyone believed this would lead to reduced pressure on
the French Parliament to cede their territory on the Australian mainland. In
Australia, nobody cared. They had got rid of the decrepit old conservative,
the warmonger, the ardent monarchist and one of the strands linking Australia
to Great Britain.
I was pleased because, while approving of his stance to unite Nuytsland
with Australia, his presence in the cabinet room was often detrimental to
progress, often over-dominant and stuffy. He was going about reunification
all wrong, as though Britain was still relevant and would apply pressure on
behalf of their colonies. But Britain didn’t care, didn’t come to Australia’s as-
sistance, and distanced itself from the involvement in Vietnam. And they were
marching blindly into the Common Market, which would alienate the Com-
monwealth. Except of course, expatriates and some deluded people who still
thought we needed Brittain.

101
And Ming’s (as Sir Robert was nicknamed, replacing his preferred ‘Pig
Iron Bob’) sycophancy to Britain and in particular, Queen Elizabeth II was
not the stuff of statesmen, and Australia needed a new leader to take it into
exciting times ahead.
And there was cause for optimism! Discarding the Sterling units of cur-
rency and adopting the more manageable decimal system was the first, then
the timetable to do away with other imperial weights and measures.
This was met with joy in Nuytsland, because Australian legal tender was
accepted everywhere, but complicated sums had to be done to reckon the ex-
change rate. Decimals were much more simple. In the ‘old’ money, twelve
pennies equalled one shilling, twenty shillings equalled one pound.
And then there was the most ludicrous unit of all, the ‘guinea’. The guinea
was twenty one shillings, or one pound one shilling, and was only used to
trade horses. As breeding equines was big business in the east of Nuytsland,
especially near Esperance, and the biggest market was Australia, this absurd
currency unit was gone forever.
And as New Zealand always slavishly followed Australia, they were plan-
ning on decimalising the following year.
After the Battle of Long Tan, the decision was made to no longer be under
the command of MACV, the United States operations organisation in Vietnam,
but to pursue its own direction. This won wide acclaim, as Australia could
now go about their role in a more peaceful manner, resettle villagers displaced
by war and provide medical, infrastructure and educational facilities. Again,
this was seen as a good sign that Australia was maturing in confidence and as
a strong ally, even though contempt was almost as high as for the British.
Increased activity under Holt meant that Nuytsland was not so much in
the news and some people wondered whether reunification was no longer on
the agenda. But a department in Canberra kept plugging away at trying to con-
vince Paris to let the territory go. Occasionally, they released a bulletin to the
newspapers and once Harold Holt made a long, impassioned plea in the House
of Representatives, but it wasn’t the omnipresent news item that Menzies
made it.
In the rest of the world, Sir Winston Churchill died and everyone said,
hypocritically, that he was a great leader, even though only a few months pre-
viously he was the most reviled man in history, due to his attitude to France
in the War, especially in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

102
Charles de Gaul won the election in 1965 but his popularity continued to
wane. A few more assassination attempts were made on him, and everyone
said that this must be his last term in office.
In the USA, Lyndon Johnson won the presidential election in 1964, but
oversaw a very disjointed country. Race riots and anti-Vietnam protests caused
havoc all over the land but his social welfare programmes, particularly his
‘war on poverty,’ and healthcare reforms, won him respect from died-in-the-
wool Democrats, while Republicans approved of his escalation of the military
effort in South East Asia.
Sukarno held onto office in Indonesia, but was probably the most unpop-
ular leader in the world, by his own people and those of neighbouring coun-
tries. There was no doubt he would be gone in twelve months or so.
And in New Zealand, Keith Holyoake won his third election, mainly be-
cause nobody could mount a decent opposition campaign.
In Western Australia, David Brand also won his third election and contin-
ued as premier, bullied by Canberra and overseeing a pastoral boom, which
also affected Nuytsland as the best land in Double You Aye was adjacent to
the French territory’s rich farmlands. Cattle farming in the north of the state
was still big business and the Ord River Dam started to irrigate huge tracts of
agricultural land around Kununurra. As well, oil and gas promised rich returns
in the future and the industrial strip set up in Perth’s southern coastal suburbs
to process these resources, brought added wealth to the coffers. But Harold
Holt didn’t share Bob Menzies’ paternalism towards Premier Brand, and State-
Federal relations took a bit of a tumble.
All these things kept the mind busy, and the average Nuytslander, well-
educated, fairly sophisticated and very well heeled compared to his neigh-
bours, didn’t let much worry him or crease his brow.
It began to worry me that, because changes were, hopefully, going to be
made to alter the course of recent history, that the location of our bodies, while
our minds were on the Astral Plane, may not be very secure. Events during
the intervening century and a half could effect geography too.
To try to explain that, I will invent a situation.
If we left our bodies while in Nina’s mansion in Cap Sainte Alice, or my
house in Deschamps Hamelin, we might try to return and find only bushland
as the British may not have developed the suburbs. Or built a great big wall
around the cliff and gone right through where my lounge was, with us
mortared into the brickwork!
103
There was no guarantee that our location would be unaffected during that
hundred and sixty or so years. We would have to ensure that where we left
from would remain unchanged through the intervening years.
The house at Clermont-Ferrand was the obvious choice. But what if some-
how Baudin’s experiment resulted in altered military activity during the Sec-
ond World War and the Third Reich decided to occupy the building and use it
for headquarters? Imagine the situation if the Americans sent over a squadron
of Flying Fortresses to bomb it out of existence?
Or even if in the new reality, developers bulldozed the building and built
a housing estate? We could return to find our bodies no longer existed because
the house no longer existed.
This would need some serious consideration, and a location nowhere near
the likely effects of change would need to be found.
Sydney? If Matthew Flinders was more effective because Baudin never
stole the march on him, he might have buildings constructed in his honour in
a different place than where they were now. For example, instead of Macquarie
Street, they might call it Flinders Street, devoiding it of the dignity the name
automatically confers. It might not house all the government and legal offices
it does, but become a shopping thoroughfare like Oxford Street or Fifth Av-
enue!
Maybe Brisbane? But again, if he was that successful, any number of struc-
tures could be built on the site where we left our bodies.
Even Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Buenos Aires and Calcutta all had con-
siderable British histories, while New Orleans, Quebec and Pape’ete were out
of the question.
‘Arturo has an uncle in New York and I have a good friend in Rio de
Janiero, both in locations with very limited French influence,’ Nina said.
But this troubled me for a while, before I realised what my objection was.
It was Nina herself. She was the connection, the French connection. Her friend
in Brazil. Arturo’s uncle in the United States. She was very indirectly involved
through her ancestor who modelled for Monsieur Nicolas-Martin Petit!
While Arturo’s relative in Manhattan was not known to be connected, it
still left that tiny bit of suspicion, one which I wanted to eliminate if at all
possible.

104
Thinking about New York reminded me that Berthos had once mentioned
a Jesuit monastery near where he grew up in the Adirondack Mountains up-
state from the city. It dated back to the seventeenth century, before Baudin’s
father was even born. While it had a French connection, it had been abandoned
by the religious order in the mid eighteenth century and had become a hunting
lodge. Somewhere like that, completely unaffected by the passage of time,
would suit our purposes to a tee.

A couple of weeks later we were driving over to Geographe for another of


Nina’s ‘shopping expeditions’. The fact that it coincided with both Port George
teams playing both Geographe teams on consecutive days on Bois de Leeuwin
didn’t come into it, Nina assured me, but seeing as we would be there well,
we might as well at least lend our support!
We had left Port George straight after my final lecture on Friday and set
off right away, intending to stop at a well known vineyard between Montpelier
and Manjimup for supper. On Fridays, they often held a dance in a nearby
hall, and in anticipation of a big, thirsty crowd, their menu was always ex-
tremely lavish.
And at seventeen thirty, you seldom needed to book a table, as long as you
finished by nineteen thirty, when they filled up very quickly.
We were in an almost vacation mood as we motored through the vineyards
and tall karri country. The Mercedes seemed to love these roads and Nina as-
sured me that the police des autoroutes liked to knock off work early on Friday,
so her foot application on the accelerator was not exactly gentle.
‘A centime for your thoughts!’ Nina laughed and I was taken be surprise.
I had often heard, and probably used the English equivalent ‘penny for your
thoughts’ both in Melbourne and during my time at Cambridge.
‘I probably shouldn’t ask you this. It’s really none of my business.’
‘Well are you going to ask me or not? Should we park and make love so
that I can read your thoughts and you won’t have to ask me?’
‘Well,’ I began. ‘That’s not a bad idea, but I thought you were anxious to
get to Geographe by twenty hundred hours.’
‘Don’t tease me. You have made me all inquisitive now, and you know I
will nag you until you tell me!’
‘I was just wondering, what did Arturo actually do? Apart from flaunting
you at art galleries and football matches?’
105
‘It is no secret. He was a scientist. A physicist. He worked in the energy
research field.’
‘Oh. I thought he must have been a very successful businessman, what
with all your . . . the way you live.’
‘He was very well paid. And he received a huge pension when he . . . when
they said they would no longer be needing him!’
‘Redundancy? He must have been pretty high up. Those sort of people
don’t normally get kicked out onto the scrapheap!’
‘He would never have been on the scrapheap. He was independently
wealthy and was on the boards of some pretty influential companies.
‘The government said they no longer needed him and he went willingly.
He did not agree with what they were doing!’
‘Energy research? What they were doing? I don’t get it. Or . . . hey hang
on, was he a nuclear physicist? An atomic scientist?’
‘I didn’t want to have to tell you this. Arturo disagreed with the atmos-
pheric tests in Bikini and the underground tests in Algeria, and was not very
popular with the power agency. You can probably guess the rest.’
‘Has this got something to do with our going back . . . ?’ I began but tailed
off, not wanting to have to come to that conclusion.
‘Of course! Australia is a big wide land! The English conducted tests on
Montebello Island and at Maralinga because they didn’t care if a bit of land
became unusable for thousands of years. They have always lorded it over Aus-
tralians like they had no worth. The French conducted tests well away from
Metropolitan France in the Pacific and in North Africa. Many kilometres from
populated areas. But now the tests are finished in Algeria because of the peo-
ple’s opposition, and they are thinking of another site, far from population
centres, far from the Champs Elysee.’
I was astounded! That put everything into perspective. Why de Gaulle
would not meet with Menzies, why the Australian government were so keen
to wrest Nuytsland away from the French, why Paris spoilt us rotten with
funding for all our infrastructure while other territories and even the mainland
were taking so long to rebuild after the war.
‘Fortunately, what we are doing would be regarded as the ravings of ma-
niacs to the French government, but even so, I don’t really want them to get
wind of it.’
106
‘Was Arturo going to do this with you before he died?’
‘He knows of the plan. In fact, he put the idea into my head. Literally! We
had a form of telepathy when we were intimate. Not like us, we shout at each
other. With Arturo, it is not so strong, more like a whisper. I am sorry to have
to speak of him and me like that.’
‘I am not jealous!’ I declared. ‘I am fully aware that Arturo was a huge
part of your life before he died. I think that because you loved him so much,
you can understand the weird peccadilloes of a rather eccentric historian!
‘What did Arturo die of, by the way? Cancer?’
‘Of course. He was a hands-on scientist. He got a small dose of radiation
and as he was very an old man, it weakened him. But his mind was so sharp,
even when he was in pain! That is why I took him onto the Astral Plane, by
the way. To give him relief from the sickness.
‘And I am glad you regard Arturo like that. He was, as you say, a huge
part of my life, and continues to be. It will be that never a day goes by that
you do not think of Sharlene! But why should I feel any resentment towards
her? She had you, and now I have you!
‘I may not have said it in “out loud language”, but I love you very deeply,
Eric. Like I love Arturo, but yet in a very different way. Yet just as intensely.’
‘I can’t remember how I felt about Sharlene!’ I said. ‘I have never told
anyone this . . . I don’t talk about her, as you probably noticed. But I think I
stopped loving her when she killed herself. Not because of what she did to
me, our life. But from then on, all I could feel was pity for her, anger at myself
for not realising things were wrong. It killed all the love I had, and all the
memory of the love. It drained me, bled my emotions dry.
‘Until you came along, that is. Suddenly, I realised that what happened
can’t be undone.’ For a minute I pondered what I had just said. ‘Well, I sup-
pose it could, if you went back and convinced her to stop using! But then, fol-
lowing that to its conclusion, I wouldn’t have left Melbourne, wouldn’t have
taken this job and met Berthos. And wouldn’t have been introduced to you!’
‘And if you didn’t know me, how could you go back and reverse Shar-
lene’s death?’
Nina realised things were getting a bit maudlin and changed the subject.
‘You are wittering, Eric! Do you know, Arturo was sent to America to work
107
on the Manhattan Project. But when he realised what the atomic energy was
to be used for, he refused. He met Einstein and Bertrand Russell. But he al-
ways believed nuclear power was a gift to use, but that all anyone wanted to
develop it for was weapons.’
‘You have never asked me where I stand on the Nuclear issue, and I don’t
generally make my feelings known, but I have always believed that nuclear
power stations are there to deceive the population, to say “look at this this nu-
clear power! We can produce all the electricity we need, for practically no
cost, and forever!” but the reactors are really there to produce weapons grade
uranium.’
‘That is almost exactly what Arturo’s words would have been. He hated
what the French were doing. And despite being dishonest, it is extremely dan-
gerous. The radiation will stay in the air or in the ground for thousands of
years. They are not telling us that!’
‘So far, Australia has resisted building nuclear generators, but I don’t think
that will last long. They have the research reactor at Lucas Heights that they
tell us is for nuclear medicine. I think that the USA and Britain will push them
to generate their electricity from atomic reactors before long. It is inevitable,
as coal and oil can’t last forever. And they say Australian uranium is pretty
high grade.’
Nina nodded.
‘Arturo thinks so too,” she agreed.
Now that was strange. Nina thought in English. She didn’t formulate her
thoughts in French and then transcribe or translate them into English. It was
odd that she used the present tense rather than the the past. Surely it wasn’t
an accident, a mistranslation? She had used the present tense a couple of times
previously when saying what he thought. I decided to ignore it, but if she did
it again, I would have to ask her.
Was Arturo still alive and well and living on the Astral Plane? And all the
while, me, going like the clappers on his lovely wife!
‘It was he who originally had the idea that the French, the British and the
Americans would co-operate in nuclear research. It was starting to happen:
de Gaulle has been seen with Harold McMillan, President Johnson and other
leading world figures, even though he hates them intensely.
‘They fear the Russians. They want to be able to ensure that if one side

108
fires its missiles, the other side will counter attack immediately with even
greater firepower.
‘Destruction mutuellement assurée. Mutually Assured Destruction.’
‘But where does Australia stand on this? There is no policy on atomic sci-
ence.’
‘Australia cannot survive without American protection. They are not in
Vietnam for their health. If America says jump, Australia asks “how high?”
They are like little puppydogs, wagging their tails and begging for scraps.’
‘Surely America won’t poke its nose into Australia’s energy generation
policy. Why do you think France and Australia are involved?’
‘They are involved. There are spy antennae in Australia, looking at China.
Also a Communist country and therefore an ally of Russia, although they hate
each other passionately. And, of course, France is also a nuclear power! It has
to exert influence on Australia to become nuclear, mostly for the protection
of Nuytsland, but also because they are already preparing to conduct under-
ground explosions in the desert east of Esperance!’
You could have knocked me down with a feather! With international pres-
sure on them to stop the Pacific tests, and Algeria now being out of the ques-
tion, where better? Where in French territory is further from Paris.
Where do the people think that France can do no wrong? Where are the
neighbouring countries so apathetic they would be least likely to object?
Nuytsland!
‘Ah, where did you get this information?’ I asked. ‘It hasn’t been in the
Australian newspapers or on the radio. Are you sure?’
It was silly of me to ask.
‘Arturo still has contacts.’
There is was again. The present tense when mentioning her dead husband.
‘You mean “had contacts”!’ I said, not knowing whether it was wise to
challenge her outright.
‘Oh, yes! Had contacts up until he died.’
I dived in, up to my neck.
109
‘Only a few minutes ago you spoke about him in the present tense, too.’
‘Slip of the tongue.’ No denial, no facial expression, no inflection in her
voice. Was he still an influence? I became convinced he was still on the Astral
Plane, communicating with her from the alternate dimension.
While a couple of years ago, that would have freaked me right out, now I
was getting to think differently. Like Nina! I had to know the truth.
‘You can tell me Nina!’
She pulled over into a gravel lay-by, carefully and precisely, completely
unlike her usual driving tempo, which was more akin to a bull at a gate. For
perhaps sixty seconds, she bowed her head and if I never knew better, I would
have thought she was praying. But, of course, omnipotent beings were not
something she ever contemplated.
‘Can you take this, Eric?’ she eventually breathed.
‘I’ll try. What is it, Nina?’ I asked as carefully as I could.
‘Arturo is here with me. Inside my head.
‘We were on the Astral Plane when his body gave out and he had nowhere
to go. Except into me. He and I are one, inside me.’
It only took me a few seconds to realise what she meant.
I knew I had to say something so she wouldn’t think I was shocked. For-
tunately, my little-used sense of humour came to the rescue.
‘Are you telling me that I am in a menage a trois?’ I grinned and we both
burst out laughing.
“Eric, this is Arturo speaking. Oh I am using Nina’s voice, it is the only
one available to me. But only I can say this.
‘Thank you for all you have done for Nina, and for all you are doing for
her, for me, for our countries and for all the world. You may not realise how
serious the situation is, but I can assure you, it is most desperate. I will let
Nina do the talking now. She has had a lot more practise than me. After all,
she is a woman!’
I grinned and held her close. So close our minds melded and I could feel
Arturo very near. It wasn’t a masculine presence, which surprised me. It was
just Arturo.
110
‘Don’t say anything, Darling,’ I sensed her. ‘There is nothing to say. Now,
unless you are going to take your clothes off, and mine, we had better continue
our journey.’

The football went well, but I think the shopping expedition was also a
great success. I would have preferred to just sit and chat with Arturo in the
one of the waterfront bars on Geographe Bay, but Nina insisted he go with
her. He really didn’t have much option.
After visiting half a dozen boutiques and salons, though, she realised I did-
n’t have a clue when it came to the ‘shopping experience’ and led me to a cafe
where they were showing an Australian Rules game on a tiny television set.
Although it was only one of the previous week’s games from the WANFL in
Perth, it still beat standing around in tiny dress shops!
There were half a dozen Aussies in there, as well a couple of Nuytslanders
who seemed to understand the game as much as I understood Nina’s compul-
sion to empty the shops in Geographe. The Aussies were making an awful lot
of noise, cheering whenever Swan Districts scored or marked and shouting
obscenities at the South Fremantle players. I was quite glad when Nina even-
tually came and dragged me out of there.
Lunch on the Rue de Naturaliste was a quieter affair, and some friends
joined us: a couple from Port George and a very petite woman from the Uni-
versity at Geographe. I believe she was from the Art faculty but as the woman
from Port George insisted on talking constantly throughout the meal, I never
got a chance to converse with my fellow academic. However, I heard her men-
tion something about Manet to Nina, who looked pleased and glanced at me,
indicating what I could only interpret as pride and possessiveness. Like the
look Arthur gave me when Nina picked him up and made a fuss of him!

That evening, as we lay together, I started to say something to Nina, and


realised she had left. To the Astral Plain, that is.
Arturo told me!
She was able to leave her body in the custody of Arturo and go flitting off.
He could go without her, but it was more difficult, he explained.
You get drawn back to your body when you are in that dimension. Sort of
like gravity, as I had already discovered, a sort of centricity to the rest of your-
self. Like a sort of home dock where ships go for resupply, refitting and re-
pairs.
111
But Arturo didn’t have that body to gravitate back to and had to depend
on Nina to pull him back. After all these years, this wasn’t a problem, but
without Nina, he couldn’t get back in. She had to be there to open the door
for him.
I found this out when I suggested we go in search of her and he became
nervous about leaving without her. He suggested I go alone, but we both knew
she would be back very soon as there is no flow of time. You can leave, stay
away as long as you like – an hour, a day, even a week or more – and then re-
turn moments after you left. This way, you didn’t need to leave your earthly
goods unattended and risk accidental damage, like one of your pets getting
anxious about your absence and giving you too enthusiastic a wake-up call.
Or someone entering your room and assuming you were dead.
You see, when you went off on an excursion to the Astral Plain, your body
normally slows right down. Your heart rate drops to one or two beats a minute
and your pulse becomes very weak. Without knowing, you could be pro-
nounced deceased by a practising medic. This could lead to some rather hard
to explain complications.
But Nina and Arturo had discovered a way whereby she could leave her
husband in charge, knowing he would keep all systems functioning as normal.
Although he acted a like a man, still, if you didn’t know what was going on,
you would simply assume Nina was being a bit blokey. It explained her inter-
est in football, her manner of driving (which, I found out later, she always let
Arturo do as she was really a bit timid in traffic!) and her robust sense of hu-
mour.
But Arturo’s feminine side had developed, mostly because of the proximity
of his Nina, but also the practicalities of sharing a woman’s body. While re-
taining all his knowledge and professional skills, he had, to all intents and
purposes, become an extension of his wife!
And she had taken on some of his characteristics and traits as well, but not
having the maintenance of a male body, the imperative to do so was not so in-
tense.
I found myself in love with seven eighths woman and one eighth man. So
it didn’t really bother me, but it did take some getting used to!
Except, as now, when Nina was absent and I was just with Arturo. It didn’t
seem right to hug, kiss, be intimate with her body. But the rest of the time, I
just regarded him as being a disinterested observer, not really caring what we
got up to but definitely not disapproving. I imagined he just got on with his
112
nuclear mathematics and theories, content in the knowledge that the woman
part of him needed the attentions which I could bestow while he no longer
had the wherewithal!
But it really did help in reporting my research into our prime objective.
Instead of telling Nina what my studies into the French colonisation of the
Great Southern Land had unearthed, I simply let Arturo read my mind and
glean it for himself.
After all, I soon realised, it was all his idea, all his motivation and all his
hands on the steering wheel, just using Nina as his command module, as the
science fiction space movies called it!
And I suppose I was just his probe!
I knew Berthos would like that analogy, but I also knew he could never
find out. This was just a bit too deep, even for him!

‘Eric, did you form an opinion of Penelope?’ Arturo asked.


‘Penelope? Oh the lecturer from Geographe University? Not really. She
seemed very pleasant and not bad looking. Why?’
‘I found her very attractive!’
‘Well yes, I suppose she was. But haven’t you got eyes only for Nina?’
‘Of course. I have ever since I first met her. But while I was in that stage
between sleep and wakefulness, I fantasised about her.’
‘Why are you telling me? There is nothing you can do about it. Nina
doesn’t have the necessary equipment to . . . er . . . do anything about it. Unless
. . .’
‘But you do! What if we were to go back out onto the Astral Plain together,
and I were to come back into your body?’
‘Oh, hang on! I know you French have different morals to us Aussies, but
I won’t be a party to your being unfaithful to Nina!’
‘Yes? Continue!’ Arturo was challenging me.
‘And apart from that, she may not find me attractive! She may spurn my
advances!’

113
‘Suppose she doesn’t.’
‘Then what if she gets too fond of me. Forms an infatuation! I don’t want
to hurt her, not just so you can have a bit of casual sex!’
‘Okay, point taken. But the notion gave me a much greater suggestion.
One which has troubled me ever since my body became too frail and died. Do
you get what I am suggesting?’
‘No! The whole idea of you in my body gives me the creeps. I am only
just starting to accept the fact that you are in Nina’s body!’
‘Okay, we won’t speak of this again. But I have the feeling you will soon
catch on to what I am asking you to do. Until then, au revoir, and I am sorry
to have upset you.’
I catch on fast. This bloke hadn’t made love to his missus for maybe a
decade, yet he was with her constantly. Even though I got a hell of a big thrill
just sharing her mind, sharing her body was also a major part of our love. Ar-
turo was exactly the same.’
‘Arturo, are you asking me to let you into my body so you can use my
tackle on Nina?’
I felt Arturo’s mind roar with laughter at my use of the Australian vernac-
ular. And I felt a huge flow of warmth from him as he welcomed my accept-
ance of his desire for her. This man loved Nina as much as I did, no doubt
about it. And he had first claims by reason not only of seniority, but by length
of service.
How could I deny him?
‘Only with Nina’s permission, though!’ he stipulated, a fraction of a second
prior to my insisting on it being a condition.
So when Nina returned a moment later, he put the idea to her.
‘You conniving old fox!’ she scolded him. ‘You used your influence on
poor Eric! Shame on you.’
‘No!’ Arturo argued. “It was his idea!’

And it was a raging success.


At first, I subconsciously resisted Arturo trying to enter my head, even
114
though I wanted him in there. He reassured me he would get out as soon as
the ‘deed was done’ and I believed him. But I knew he would be knocking on
my front door time and again!
So I let him in and at first let him control everything, but with a woman
like that, how could I not get involved too. And she was so loving, so mag-
nanimous, that she welcomed us both and we all, as they say in the classics,
had a jolly good time!

115
12.
Louis de Freycinet stood on the prow of the Uranie as it sailed between
the heads of Port George. He felt a strong pull towards the little mud and gran-
ite settlement, nestled between the hills on the northern shore, as if he was
coming home at last.
It had been eight long years since he had last stood on the earth of Terre
de Nuyts, although in his dreams, nearly every night, he paid it a visit. And
now he was bringing his wife, Rose, along for her first visit.
Eight long, hard, fractious years. Years when his loyalty to Napoleon was
questioned, years when personal tragedy had reduced him to tears, fever
racked months on the Ile de France and Timor, and his constant battle with
the British, especially in Sydney Cove, made him long for the calm waters,
gentle rains and cool breezes of this tiny settlement so regally named Port du
Roi George.
And now he was returning, he wondered if he could ever leave again!
Not that the colony needed him any more. They had a new governor, a fel-
low sailor, Henri Dubois Lamont, who had served La Belle France well and
ended up taking this position as an alternative to accepting a promotion to the
Admiralty.
This visit was ceremonial.
At last the individual colonies of Terra de Nuyts were being amalgamated,
brought into some sort of colonial entity. Paris had administered to the indi-
vidual towns one by one for the past twelve years, and now they would be an-
swerable to a regional administrator’s office which would deal with police,
sanitation, housing, taxes, education, allocations and exchange of lands, titles
and property, mining leases, importing and exporting, maintenance of public
facilities and, not the least in a young, growing colony, settlement of disputes.
And the myriad of other minor affairs which even the smallest gatherings of
people required to go about their daily business.
Now at last, Paris was ridding itself of the duplication of services for each
town, each prefecture. It was putting them all into one office in the original
town, Port du Roi George, the most central and therefore the obvious choice
for the new capital.
From Geographe in the west, around the cape to D’Entrecasteaux, and
eastwards to the Recherche Archipelago and Esperance, north to Petit Orleans

116
and all the inland farming settlements which had sprung up in the colony’s
twelve years, all would have one governor, who in turn would be answerable
to Paris.
It was the most efficient, typically French way of expediting services to
the region, and setting it all up had occupied Freycinet for the past five years.
And now he was returning to put it all in place.
He was overjoyed to find that Captain Flinders was to honoured during
the celebrations. As a friend and adviser to Baudin, he was almost considered
one of the founding fathers, although he was never mentioned as such. How-
ever, Freycinet and he had formed a good friendship over the years, despite a
mild jealousy on Flinders’ part that this French navigator was getting nearly
all the credit for mapping the continent.
However, that was professional, not personal, envy, as the two had been
firm friends since that day they had boarded the Naturaliste in Encounter Bay
all those years ago. Many times when the Investigator sailed between the
heads, he would invite his friend Matthew for a day’s hunting or fishing, fol-
lowed by a feast in the Englishman’s honour.
He had attended his funeral in London, despite Napoleon’s opposition and
laid a wreath, on which was inscribed simply: Notre Bon Ami. Nicolas, Rose
et Louis.
July fifteen, the day after Bastille Day, the glorious ‘la Fête nationale’ had
been chosen as the date for this piece of history to be written. It was noted
that this would mean that two consecutive days would be celebrated and that
productivity would cease for an extended period, but the importance to people
would not be wasted. One day to remember the sacrifices of the previous cen-
tury in France, the next to glorify her newest offspring, Terre de Nuyts!
It was decided already that this would be an annual event, with market
places set up for the farmers to justify the trip into the towns, entertainment,
horse racing and sporting events, and of course, the Roman Catholic Church
would hold special masses and give thanks to the Good Lord Above for pro-
viding His Merciful Bounty.
As the sturdy three masted ship was being towed into the jetty by teams
of oarsmen, Freycinet observed the orderliness of the system, from the neat
customs and shipping offices lining the wharf area, to the well laid out streets
and gardens of of this tiny metropolis, the granite public edifices and the im-
pressive Champs Napoleon, lined with small stores and offices on one side,
117
and with churches and schools on the westward. And of course, the public li-
brary and town hall.
The streets, Freycinet noticed, were already well made and sturdy. Not the
loose clay and limestone tracks which were all they had been able to manage
by the time he left. Now they were ground and hammered stones from the
granite quarries, the tailings from the building blocks, carved out by native
labourers who flocked to the town for the benefits the white man brought. The
accessibility of food, always a problem faced by the aborigines of this conti-
nent, but which these pale skinned intruders seemed to magically produce,
was their foremost concern. But the pleasures of alcohol, the wine and raw
brandy made them forget their loss of dignity and the backbreaking task of
swinging the hammer, come rain or shine.
The good and the bad together! But for some Frenchmen, the temptation
for exploitation was already being realised and abuses and deprivation were
starting to creep in. Louis de Freycinet couldn’t see this from his perch on the
bow of the ship, but he knew that such magnificence had to have its downside.
He had learned from Baudin that if allowed to continue, these became a fes-
tering sore, a canker, and would lead to disunity among the gentlefolk of Terre
de Nuyts.
For Baudin had always treated his fellow man with respect and dignity,
according to that person’s attitude and demeanour. Even the convicts of Port
Jackson and the Tasmanians, the Timorese and the Africans of Ile de France
were treated cordially and fairly by Captain Baudin, who in return, had re-
spected and toiled for him with few complaints. He knew how to get the most
out of people, and it wasn’t via the lash, the manacles and the fear of death
which most colonial masters wielded so cruelly, until their slaves had no mo-
tivation, were too exhausted and sick to work, and finally no more will to live.
Baudin saw it differently, and although his role as an employer was limited,
his treatment of workers had been noted by the intelligent young officer, who
observed that things got done more quickly, more efficiently and with fewer
‘accidents’ than was normal when dealing with labourers.
Terre Australie and Terre de Nuyts could have learned a lot from this quiet,
balding man who unfortunately did not survive to see his dream come true.
Not that Freycinet would have much chance to exert any authority on the
industry of this colony. His was a vice-consular role only. A ceremonial figure
who was already well respected for his work in pulling it all together.
He braced himself and adjusted his tricorned hat to exactly the angle which
118
had made him famous in the paintings and cartoons. He fixed the warm,
friendly smile on his face, which betrayed his hatred of the pomp and vanity
which always surrounded these public welcoming committees. Then he regally
walked down the gangplank onto the jetty and shook hands with Governor
Lamont, Madam Lamont and the ten member corporation which comprised
tradespeople, farmers, a schoolteacher and the parish priest. Each bowed or
courtseyed, in deference to his vice consular status, and he shook hands with
them all, and knelt before the priest, as was the custom at these ceremonies.
A carriage awaited him: the only covered passenger vehicle available. It
bore the legend ‘Montpelier-Port George Diligence’. Harnessed to four horses,
this was the stagecoach which transported the passengers and mail between
the port and the inland town fifty kilometres away!
Now it was used to carry him to the town hall, with its carefully carved
bas-reliefs depicting the victories of Bonaparte, along with an almighty
amount of oak leaved wreaths and ribbon! A tiny corner near the main entrance
was concealed by a blue silk cover, which Freycinet correctly guessed hid a
commemorative stone tablet announcing that on this day, July fifteen, in the
year of our Lord Eighteen Hundred and Seventeen, Vice Consul Louis Claude
de Saulces de Freycinet did pronounce this public edifice open to the benefit
of all the citizens of Port de Roi George and Terre de Nuyts.
He duly completed the task of pulling the little drawstring to reveal the
stone, then went a few blocks up the Champs and performed the same cere-
mony on the Maison de Government, this time reciting the prepared speech
which he had carried over the waters from the President of France.
Nearly all of Port George’s eleven hundred residents clapped their hand
together and yelled ‘Bravo’ and ‘Vive la France” and a toast was made with
some of the finest sparkling wines made from the grape vines which the Cygne
Noir had carried over twelve years previously, and which were now bearing
fruit.
It was a grand day, and the rain held off until they were all securely in the
dining hall of the governor’s residence. Many toasts were proposed, many
hands were smote together and many signatures inscribed on official docu-
ments that day and all Louis de Freycinet wanted to do was go for a quiet walk
with his basset hound, Lionel, along the peaceful stretch of sand which lined
King George Sound.

During the following days, Freycinet became troubled.

119
Although slavery had been reintroduced by Napoleon when he became
Emperor in 1804, it was determined that Africans would not be brought to
Terre de Nuyts. Baudin had been specific about that and Freycinet had wit-
nessed the disgusting mess that forced, unpaid labour from the Dark Continent
had made of the Caribbean colonies, the Ile de France and, most particularly,
the former French colony of Louisiana. Apart from the human suffering (Fr-
eycinet considered all people, regardless of race, were human), productivity
on slave plantations was low, sabotage rampant and insurrection common.
Paid labour, whether indentured or free, was economically far more sound. It
was unequivocally stipulated that slavery was not to be tolerated in this out-
post.
But apparently, the Nuytslanders regarded the matter differently. They con-
sidered only Africans could be slaves, and therefore out-of-bounds, as per the
agreement. But the Australian natives were not African, were they? Therefore
they could not be regarded as slaves! It made sense, didn’t it?
And convicts, who were vital to the building of the cities in the east of this
continent were forced to work against their will, so if it was alright for the
British, it was okay for the French!
But France didn’t transport convicts. So who was Terre de Nuyts going to
use to get their work done? And there was plenty of work to be done in a fron-
tier province! Heaven knows! Buildings to be built, roads to be laid, land to
be cleared, timber to be hewn, rock to be quarried, farms to be tilled and har-
vested, stock to be tended and domestic chores to be attended to. And no one
to do it, except these damned aboriginals!
It was far too expensive to bring men with families in from Europe, they
needed tickets to get there, decent housing and food, and top francs for their
reward. Terre de Nuyts couldn’t afford that, so in the absence of slavery, they
forced the natives to work!
As they watched a gang of these wretched fellows breaking lumps of gran-
ite with sledgehammers at the quarry behind Mont Albert, Lamont carefully
explained all this to Freycinet, who listened with a heavy heart. When he tried
to object, to reason, to put forward a compassionate viewpoint, Lamont bullied
him down.
He, Lamont, was in charge here! Freycinet was merely a figurehead rep-
resenting a disorganised monarchy, in tatters after the defeat by Britain and
her Allies, leaderless since the exile of Napoleon and tired by a demoralised
population, thousands of kilometres away with little or no relevance to this
vibrant young province.
120
If Freycinet was to have any relevance here as vice consul, he would have
to knuckle under to Lamont and the other local administrators who were all
in agreement on the subject of native Australians.
They either work or they get out!

121
13.
The forthcoming Jour de Fondation celebrations held greater meaning this
year. It was the sesquicentenary of that day in 1817 when the settlements of
Nuytsland were pulled together into one province by Louis de Freycinet. Cou-
pled as it was with Fête Nationale on the fourteenth, it was a annual event
which the locals eagerly anticipated.
And not only the locals. Western Australians from Perth, Bunbury and Kal-
goorlie poured into the province for the celebrations because ‘those Froggies
know how to party!’
If the fourteenth and fifteenth fell on a weekend, the highways south were
packed with motorists taking a short vacation in the dead of winter. The cli-
mate across the province varied from cool with blustery winds in the Cape re-
gion, to cold and rainy along the south coast. Inland, they could expect a
soaking but shouldn’t be too surprised if the sky is blue and the midday sun
still carries a bit of heat.
Anyway, it wasn’t the season for barbecues and picnics on the beach! It
was the time for roaring log fires, eating and drinking and making merry with
family and friends.
Some said that the custom of ‘Christmas in July’ originated here and that
visiting Australians were so impressed with the Nuytsland festival that they
decided that December was too hot for the winter festivities of the northern
hemisphere and they would follow the French lead.
Who knows? And for West Aussies, who cares? You could jump in your
car and be in Geographe, D’Entrecasteau, Montpelier or Port George in a few
hours. Or if you lived in Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie or anywhere in the Goldfields,
the road to Petit Orleans or Esperance was wide and well made! And those
eastern Nuytslanders really celebrated.
The fourteenth fell on a Friday this year, so it was in effect a long weekend.
West Aussies who could not get time off work, planned to come down on Sat-
urday and stay until Sunday afternoon. But of course, Australia being the ‘land
of the sickie’, saw plenty of unauthorised absenteeism, with midwinter ‘flu
and colds being available as really good excuses for taking Friday off and
driving south on Thursday evening.
There were football matches, hockey, rugby union and the Port to Bêche
ten kilometre foot race on Sunday morning. The Opera Nationale de Paris
were visiting with a brand new performance of Orpheus in the Underworld.
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But the highlight of the weekend was a concert by Johnny Hallyday and
Sylvie Vartan, flown in specially for the celebration. Of course, they would
be extending their tour to Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland before flying to
Papeete where they were perhaps even more popular than in Europe.
Berthos and Mary-Anne were hosting a gathering of the university’s
alumni on Friday evening, when, in the tradition of Nuytsland, presents were
exchanged and thanks given for all the bounty this country afforded. Seafood,
particularly salmon, was high on the agenda for dîner du soir. Still being pre-
dominantly Catholic, this fitted well with the religious customs and require-
ments. I know Mary-Anne liked to do everything herself, despite the offers
of help from many of the old students. However, she did arrange for a number
of dishes to be cooked off-site as her own cuisine was not nearly large enough
to accommodate all the food to be prepared.
It was being held in the Petit Bosquet church hall, two doors down from
the Merriweather house on the other side of the harbour. Mary-Anne was a
legend in Port George and her Southern hospitality was as warm and generous
as the little lady herself. It promised to be a night to remember. Just so long
as Berthos kept his ‘stinky old pipe’ out of sight!
Naturally, Nina was invited to every event over the entire weekend, and
unless she cloned herself several times, she was going to have to let two thirds
of the event organisers down. Some would understand, one or two would not
even notice. But some would feel aggrieved and regard it as a slight, or even
an insult.
As I was regarded as her ‘L’autre moitié’, her other half, I would stand
proxy at a lot of them, and I had a boring weekend to look forward to. Things
like the exhibition of quilts and pillowslips from the Ladies Auxiliary, the
petanque tournament and the reading of Charles Baudelaire’s works by a
scholar who claimed to be a descendant of the venerable poet’s schoolmaster
in Lyon. It was rumoured, quite erroneously, that ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ was
completed in a room above a shop on Bruxelle Avenue, on Port George’s east
side!
What a wildly exciting time I would have while she sipped champagne
and nibbled petit fours with the nobility.
The university decided to clear out some of the old and obsolete books
from its library, and I volunteered to set up as a ‘vendeur de livres d’occasion’
in the Marché des Produits on Terrasse de Jacques Hamelin.
I used this to get out of the more mundane and tedious events which had
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been assigned to me. Berthos also volunteered as a way of getting out from
under the feet of Mary-Anne, and to allow him to puff away on his old briar.
A pipe looks very bookish, he informed me, and I didn’t have the heart to in-
form him that this was not necessarily a commonly held view.
I did agree to attend some rather good entertainment in the evenings after
the bookstall closed. A jazz quartet, featuring piano, bass, drums and trum-
peter/vocalist was playing in the Salle de Danse, and an interesting lecture on
‘Eating only what you grow yourself’ appealed to the vegetarian in me.
And of course I would have to attend the football, as well as a game of
Aussie Rules by two teams of ex-pats, who asked me to be a goal umpire.
People who understand the rules of this extra-ordinary contest were rather thin
on the ground, and as I had played it in my native Melbourne, I was naturally
co-opted.
They wanted me as the field umpire but, even though Nina and I had
started jogging regularly, I didn’t think I could keep up with these young
chaps, half my age.
Thursday morning came and it poured, despite the Bureau de Météorologie
promising us all week that it would be dry but cloudy.
At noon they changed the radio announcement after the news report, and
said there would be thunderstorms, gale force winds and heavy flooding in
some areas. They issued a road weather alert and told farmers to ensure their
stock was securely in barns or shelters.
By sixteen hundred the sun broke through, the clouds were blown away
and there was a gorgeous sunset over behind Mont Albert.
But then the storm really hit!
I was in my office, packing up for the weekend, when there was a tap on
my door. As was my custom I went over and opened it, rather than simply call
out ‘Come in!’, as most of my colleagues do. Nicer and friendlier that way.
There was a young aboriginal man, smartly dressed in a tweed blazer and
black slacks, and a middle aged white nun standing there, both looking terribly
nervous.
‘Come in!’ I said. ‘What can I do for you?’
The man started twisting his fingers and hung his head. I felt I would have
to be firm with him, as even history professors can be when the need arises.
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‘What is it? Stop fidgeting and look at me!’
He straightened up and I though he was going to slap up a salute, but I no-
ticed he welcomed the authority. Probably spent his life so far, under a very
strict regime.
‘It’s like this, Professor Catlin,’ he began and then all his confidence re-
turned as his emotion surfaced. ‘I am Johnny Farley and this is Sister
Bernadette. We are from Gnowangerup, from the Servite Mission there. Saint
Monica’s.’
He paused.
‘Yes. And?’
‘Three months ago we wrote to the organising committee and asked if we
could hold a corroboree sometime over this weekend. In the city square. We
didn’t get a reply so we rang and were told everyone was welcome to partic-
ipate in the . . . er . . . celebrations. Then when we arrived today, we found
that our accommodation had been cancelled and nobody seemed to know what
was going on.’
‘Why did you come to me?’ I asked. ‘I am not on the organising commit-
tee.’
‘But you do know Madam Minnet. You have influence with her.’
‘And you want me to find out what has happened? Look, Madam Minnet
is picking me up in about a quarter of an hour, so if you like, you can go and
have a cup of tea while you wait. I will give her your message. I know she
will take this matter seriously.’
‘So do we,’ said the nun. ‘That is why we came to her. But we couldn’t lo-
cate her and the man at the boarding house suggested we contact you to see if
you knew where she was.’
‘So where are rest of you?’ I asked.
‘We have no-where to go. There are fifteen of us and we got asked to leave
the library, so we are waiting in the railway station.’
‘Go and fetch them here. You can wait in the canteen. I will talk to the
manager.’
On the way out, I encountered Berthos, who accompanied us to the canteen

125
with a worried look on his face. He tried asking who they had spoken to on
the telephone, but they had enough of a problem with my Victorian twang and
his New England clipped accent was just too much for them to understand.
Berthos’ French was worse than his English, so I translated.
‘I don’t know. The receptionist spoke quickly and I didn’t understand her.
She put me through to someone who never announced himself.’
The troupe (I suppose that is the collective noun for a corroboree) arrived
and we got them all cups of tea, limonade for the younger ones.
Nina was ‘fashionably late’, by about ten minutes, and when we explained
she kept a very grim face. She asked a couple of questions and then requested
we go back to my office and use the telephone.
She rang a couple of numbers before she got an answer and then, when
she got a connection with someone on the committee, explained what the prob-
lem was. Then she listened for a while, her lips getting thinner and her face
getting grimmer.
‘No! I don’t accept your point. The Nyoonga people have as much right
as . . . Of course they helped build this town, you ignorant . . . who do you
think did all the quarrying, the sawing, the cutting . . .’
She listened again, this time I could hear the person on the other end,
though not very distinctly.
‘Of course yours is not the final say. If you doubt me, you had better think
again!’ And slammed down the receiver.
Then she picked it up again and asked for a trunk call. She gave a Perth
number and was put through, after a few minutes’ wait.
‘Bonjour, Frank! Yes, very well, thank you. Very busy! Very, very busy.
Look Frank, I have a favour to ask you. In fact, it will be a favour to you, too!’
The recipient must have responded favourably because she had a huge
smile.
‘Can you have a reporter down here tomorrow? And preferably a photog-
rapher? Oh, Charles Forrest. And Pixie! Oh good. I will give him a call. Do
you have his number?’
She scribbled on a pad, then thanked him again and promised to visit next
time she was in Perth.
126
Then she made the next call, and I don’t think I need to tell you the way
this conversation went. Charles was apparently already in town with his pho-
tographer and would be delighted to help in any way, especially if it would
help Nina, the original inhabitants and the circulation of his paper.
She made a quick call to her house and told Belinda what was going on.
She spoke her rapid-fire French so I barely understood a word of it. However,
a few ‘Ouis’ later, I knew Belinda had her orders and when Nina got home,
she would find everything exactly as she wanted it.
‘Now. What to do with all of you!’ she said to the waiting troupe when
we got back to the canteen. ‘Do you have transport?’
‘We’ve got the mission bus,’ said Johnny. ‘Have you found somewhere
for us to stay tonight?’
‘You are staying with me!’ Nina announced. A couple of the men will stay
at Eric’s house. I know he has a couple of spare beds, but the rest will come
with me. You go with them, Eric, and show Johnny the way. Sister, would you
like to ride in comfort with me?’
How I loved this woman. As feminine as any female on the planet. But
when something had to be done, she switched to efficient, authority mode in
an instant. Or was that really Arturo? No, definitely Nina, I decided.
When we got back to her house, Jules and Belinda, as I was sure they
would, had everything under control. One of the servants had been sent to the
supermarket, while others aired the beds and got sheets and duvets out from
storage. The cook and kitchen staff began preparing an evening meal and Be-
linda herself went around with a vacuum cleaner and then went into the
evening gloom to cut flowers for each room. Windows were opened to catch
the fresh air from the south, while fires were lit to warm the big house.
After supper, the troupe proved they were not only talented in their own
aboriginal arts, but two of them got out guitars and another sat at the piano
and played and sang so merrily that the servants abandoned their clearing up
and came through to listen. One of the men was a natural comedian and had
us all in stitches, mimicking Charles de Gaulle, Harold Holt, Lyndon Johnson
and other world leaders. I asked him how he knew who they were and their
idiosyncrasies and he explained that the big television antennae on Montpelier
sent out a strong signal which could be received by very tall aerials in
Gnowangerup. They could, atmospheric conditions permitting, even pick up
Perth and Adelaide channels. One of the men was a wizard with electronics
and maintained the equipment to ensure they got the best from it.
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And to think that all this talent was simply disregarded when it could have
been a centrepiece of the weekend’s entertainment!
Nina gave me the keys to a Citroen (she didn’t trust my driving her Mer-
cedes) and a couple of the chaps loaded their bags into my car for the trip back
to my house. Jules followed us in his own car to help make my bachelor pad
ready for the unexpected guests, and afterwards he continued on to his own
house in Saint Germain.

The following morning I was a bit apprehensive as I knew Nina was going
to force a showdown with the chairman of the organising committee. A couple
of the other members, who had also been deliberately kept in the dark, were
equally horrified when they heard what he had done. Two of them promised
Nina their support and she was suitably satisfied that they were honourable
people who would keep their promises.
Already, I had turned the book stall over to Berthos, knowing full well that
I would be able to spend very little time doing what I had been anticipating as
a pleasant way to spend a few hours. Chatting with University alumni and
perhaps those visiting from other institutions. Getting lost in an atmosphere
of academia and my American friend’s Amphora fumes!
Ah, well! This really was important!
I had turned on the radio at breakfast and the disk jockey announced that
there was an addition to the morning’s event, that a corroboree would be held
in Jacques Hamelin Place at eleven hundred, which promised to be a lot of
fun. Radio Port George would be there, and a television channel would be
filming to show on the evening news.
My fears were allayed slightly by this show of media support, but I still
felt a few butterflies in my lower abdomen.
There were perhaps a hundred people on the Place when we arrived. Nina
and Sister Bernadette were already there and shortly after we arrived, Johnny
and the other dancers turned up in the old Bedford. They were already in cos-
tume, as were my two, and they consulted each other before taking up their
positions.
Nina stepped up with an amplified bullhorn and was just about to address
the crowd, when three gendarmes walked up behind her. One took the micro-
phone from her and the other two grabbed an arm each.
I rushed forward to insist they release her immediately, but the commis-
128
saire stepped in front of me and the chairman of the organising committee
came out from his hidey hole behind a tram shelter.
‘This is an unlawful assembly. Please leave immediately or you will be
arrested.’
Nobody could hear what he was shouting as the crowd noise rose to a
crescendo. He tried to use the bullhorn, but it had been accidentally turned off
and he couldn’t figure out how to activate it.
The crowd loved that and roared with laughter at his attempts to be heard.
Finally the commissaire figured out how it worked and repeated his order.
Nobody moved and I saw the television crew move in and Pixie snapping
photographs like there was no tomorrow! A microphone was thrust in front of
him and when he brushed it away, the reporter turned his attention to the chair-
man.
Meanwhile, Nina and I were being pinned by the arms although neither of
us were read our rights.
The reporter noticed that, too, and asked the chairman if we had, in fact,
been arrested.
The chairman, realising that the media could do interminable damage to
his reputation, told the police to release us. Then, bright red in the face and
with tears of rage and frustration, tried to talk to the crowd with the assistance
of the bullhorn, which he had grabbed from the police superintendent.
In doing so, he had again turned it off and the policeman had to show him
how to turn it on. Then he tried again, but not being familiar with this sort of
technology, did not squeeze the prestle.
The crowd was jeering now! They couldn’t care less about anyone’s rights
but they loved seeing a pompous twit fall on his derriere, so to speak.
Meanwhile the didgeridoo player started blowing his instrument and two
women with sticks started up a captivating rhythm. The dancers started their
performance and the crowd forgot about the authority figures and turned their
attention on the gyrations of the group.
Nina came over and squeezed my arm.
‘Thanks, Eric. My knight in shining armour!’ She had a slightly mocking
tone but I knew she was impressed by the way I leapt to her defence. She
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kissed me on the cheek and although the crowd had one eye on the corroboree,
the other was always on this beautiful lady. The cry went up ‘Ooh, la, la!’
Although it was probably more because of the curiosity value than the con-
tribution to the sesquicentenary, the corroboree went down a treat. Most Nuyt-
slanders had never seen one performed live before, and neither, for that matter,
had most Australians. But while Aussies had all seen them on film, particularly
those ‘Discover Australia’ movies that a petrol company made, Aboriginal
culture was a complete unknown down in the South West.
You see, aborigines in this corner of the continent were told, ‘Adapt or
suffer the consequences!’
Originally these consequences were to be sent to work camps, exiled to
an island in the Bight or, depending on the severity of the misdemeanour, the
guillotine.
The favourite was exile. The French get a real kick out of exiling their
criminals. The knowledge that one has no chance of seeing family and loved
ones again was, to their culture, worse even than death. The despair, the utter
loneliness and desolation of seeing that water between you and everything fa-
miliar, water that is a greater barrier than any wall or fence. For to attempt to
traverse that stretch of ocean would either kill you with hypothermia, drown
you or feed you to the sharks and other sea creatures.
Why were the French even more cruel than the British, who were by no
means, angels? Particularly to aborigines, but also to every person who was
racially different?
Perhaps it was mistrust, xenophobia, suspicion! Or maybe they simply
could not accept anyone who wasn’t like everything that was familiar. It could
have been contempt for people who were not true blood French, although they
accepted those who volunteered naturalisation as one of their own.
It is obvious that intolerance played a huge part. They had no concept of
empathy, of the sensitivities and desires of the people they subjugated. It was
not something they worked out for themselves, it was bred into them, indoc-
trinated from the cradle. They had very little choice in the matter because
everyone else was doing it! It would take a superior intellect to go think out
for themselves how what they had been taught all their lives was not the only
option.
Like the hunting and grazing of animals for food, when the obvious option
is to gather and farm. Especially with modern agricultural techniques. But
130
abattoirs abound in every country, dirty, unhygienic, expensive, wasteful and
cruel.
But the French almost seemed to take a delight in watching others suffer.
From the days when the execution of prisoners was a social event, right down
to the derisory ‘Aw, haw, haw!’ when a person made a tiny mistake.
Many historians have noted that as colonial masters go, the French were
among the worst. The Germans just didn’t care and the Portuguese didn’t seem
to consider anything at all before acting. The British did everything for ap-
pearance sake, so cruelty was either accepted or rejected depending on who
was watching.
The Americans and Chinese wouldn’t do anything without anticipating the
profit motive. Other countries fell somewhere in this broader category: the In-
dians, Spanish, Norwegians, Russians and Italians.
There were two exceptions. The Japanese, who made a religion out of see-
ing who could outdo each other in the cruelty stakes.
And then there was the Australians, whose collective self-doubt and anx-
iety made them a laughing stock. Their self-esteem was very low, always aver-
ring to Mother England for guidance, and more recently to the United States.
An Australian would rather fight and die for England than figure out for
himself if what he was dying for was necessary or would benefit Australia
and the ones he loved.
Australians were not intentionally cruel to aborigines. The British were!
If an Australian beat an aborigine with a whip or a stick, it was only because
the English masters gave him the idea in the first place!
Oh, there were times when Aussies would do things off their own bat, but
normally, somewhere lurking in the background, was the desire to get Eng-
land’s approval.
In the Gulf Country, the Northern Territory, they were pure nasty and sent
posses out, armed with Martini-Henrys . . . elephant guns . . . to slaughter abo-
rigines sometimes for sport. There is a noted case of a German Kaiser joining
them on a shooting expedition.
And so these black men who turned up at Port George were alien to life in
Nuytsland. And so they were not welcome! There isn’t an easier way to say
it!

131
The colour and noise and dust they created were a distraction, a novelty
to these Nuytslanders and although most felt no animosity at all, they wouldn’t
have welcomed them into their churches, their restaurants or bars. And defi-
nitely not into their homes!
In fact, this was brought home very alarmingly after the corroboree!
Nina invited them into the Oven D’Or, where the maitre d’ made them
most welcome, as a perfect host would, to friends of a valued customer.
But the other patrons, at least all the French diners, after a few uncertain
moments hesitation, all decided to leave. They simply threw their francs onto
the table and walked out. One decided to go and the others then had the
courage to join him.
There were some Aussies in there, too, and they just went on drinking their
Swan Lager. One lady came over and told them how much she appreciated
their performance.
But the look on the faces of these aborigines was crestfallen. They had just
won an important victory in human rights, or at least Nina had. Then they
were rejected so horribly by the townspeople!
They put a brave face on it and sat down at a large table the waiters had
quickly organised. Menus were delivered, along with wine lists, which Sister
Bernadette gracefully refused. None of the men objected and I knew it was
because they could brook no discussion about the Mission boys pouring back
the liquor in the Oven D’Or.
The entree had not even been served, when a blue Renault pulled up out-
side and the Commissaire of Police stepped out of the passenger door. He held
the back door open and I saw the Chairman of the organising committee ex-
tract his huge frame from the small saloon. He nodded to the driver and said
something to the policemen, who saluted, unnecessarily and obsequiously.
When does a gendarme salute a civilian? What a suckhole, to use Aussie parl-
ance!
The maitre d’ dashed to the door!
‘Welcome, gentlemen! Are you here for lunch? A table for two? Or perhaps
you have other guests arriving . . .’
The chairman pushed him aside and stormed over to our table.
‘There’s no press in here!’ he crowed. ‘Out, all of you!’
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‘Sir, you have no jurisdiction!’ the maitre d’ objected. ‘This is a private
premises. How dare you barge in here, treating my guests like this!’
‘Arrest him, Pierre!’
‘On what charge? He has committed no crime?’ Nina screamed.
“Harbouring criminals! These men and this woman! They defied your
order in the square. They broke the law.’
‘But it is not harbouring to allow diners, whoever they are, to sit in a public
restaurant!’
‘It is not. He just said it is a private premises!’
A man, who had been standing with a women near a potted aspidistra,
walked over to the fat, red faced gentleman and proffered his hand.
‘May I be of assistance, gentlemen?’ he said with a grin. ‘I am Charles
Forrest, and I think you know Pixie.’
‘Get out!’ shouted the chairman. ‘This is nothing to do with you!’
‘But when you arrived, you said there was nobody from the news media
in here. I am from an establishment which distributes news and current affairs
to the public. I wondered if I could be of any service to you!’
The chairman went from red to purple. Nina was grinning, and white teeth
were flashing all around the table. I burst into laughter and Johnny quickly
followed. Soon the entire restaurant was laughing at the chairman’s discom-
fort.
Did I recently say that the French took a delight in watching people suffer?
Make that Australians, including aborigines, as well!

After that, the meal was almost an anticlimax. Although the staff came up
with the most delightful creations, there was still an uneasiness which the
maitre d’, with his careful ministrations, could not dispel. Even when a decent
person wins a confrontation, it is no real cause for celebration, as everybody
suffers when this happens.
Some of the Aussies chatted to Johnny as we were leaving, and he came
over to consult me.
‘These gentlemen are holding a footy match tomorrow morning and asked
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if any of us would like a kick!’ he grinned. ‘What do you reckon, Professor?
Will the chairman try to bring charges against us if we do? Illegal assembly
for the purpose of interracial disharmony? Consorting with the Whitefellas?
Assault on a bit of pigskin?’
‘If you want to, do by all means. Although I don’t think you should play
in bare feet. Maybe Nina could round up some soccer boots. She’s got a lot of
influence!’
The Aussies were delighted. I remembered from my time in Melbourne
how prized aboriginal players were. Lithe, accurate, fast and daring. Every-
thing the game called for.
‘One thing!’ the captain of one of the teams stipulated. ‘We get even picks!
We don’t want you all on one side. If you play like you eat, we’re no match!’
‘Oh, and while on the subject,’ another player chipped in. ‘The rules say
you must attend the barbie, afterwards!’
‘Looks like we had better head off down to the beach and run that meal
off, then!’ announced Johnny. ‘You’d better be our trainer, Eric!’
“I can’t!’ I protested. ‘I’m a goal umpire tomorrow. It wouldn’t be right!’

So the lads from Gnowangerup stayed another night. The party which
Mary-Anne organised was already fully subscribed and so, feeling we should
entertain these folk from Gnowangerup we asked them to again put on an im-
promptu concert.
But this time in the upstairs room of the Oven D’Or. It was mostly gentle
folk music, accompanied by guitars and a recorder. But when one of the young
men saw a piano accordion in a corner of the little stage, he asked Henri (all
maitre d’s are called Henri!) if he could use it.
He played some beautiful love songs from Paris, Rome and Madrid, and I
wondered who had taught him. He nodded over to Sister Bernadette.
‘She plays, but being from the Order, she will not play music which she
calls “secular”. Only hymns and Christmas Carols. But I don’t think she would
even play them for you, here. She says her gifts are only used in the Mass or
in the Lord’s work. Not for entertainment.’
‘She teaches us, because she says it is an important part of the discipline
of education. I agree with her. When you can play peaceful music like she
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teaches, who wants to go out and be violent?’
The more I got to know this little nun, the more I admired and loved her.
While I disdained organised religion, in fact, any religious beliefs at all, I
could see how this woman made it work for her community, and I thought
that could only be a positive thing.

It probably wasn’t the best football game I ever saw, and standing down
one end between the centre sticks didn’t allow me much of a view. However,
I enjoyed it, especially the goal umpiring. The Gnowangerup boys never let
their respective sides down and between the seven of them who played, they
scored a total of thirteen goals and twenty behinds. Nobody kept possession
statistics but they seemed to be everywhere the ball was, and really added to
the game’s speed. One of them dazzled the spectators, most of whom had
never seen this code before, with some very high marking: leaping way up
into the air to catch the ball and earn himself a free kick.
When the final siren blew, there were only eight points difference between
the teams. The winners got to use the showers first as a reward. The hot water
tanks were not made for two teams of eighteen plus four interchange players
and the losers complained that they had to use cold water! In a Port George
July, that is not a very pleasant way to end a match!
Nina, though, was ecstatic! Standing there with the other Gnowangerup
lads who didn’t play, along with Berthos and Mary-Anne, Henri and a crowd
of her A-Listers, she screamed and waved and jumped up and down, not hav-
ing a clue what was going on, but really caught up in it all, nevertheless.
Peculiarly the Commissionaire of Police was there, and he did know what
was going on, and after the game he came up to Sister Bernadette and shook
her hand.
‘I really miss a good game of footy!’ he told her. ‘I was stationed in Fre-
mantle and then Darwin during the war, and played a bit, too. Your boys are
fine players!’
Then he turned and walked away, and I am sure he was muttering some-
thing to himself as he got into his Renault and drove away. He had a job to
do, and he was doing it. He didn’t have to like it, either. But after the way he
saluted the chairman outside the Oven D’Or, I thought that when he spoke to
the Sister so nicely, he was a bit of a suckhole, a hypocrite!
I was glad to see the boys enjoy a few stubbies of Swan Lager at the bar-

135
becue. There was none of the town gossips present and everyone respected
everyone else. None drank to excess and all behaved perfectly, accentuating
how well Sister Bernadette and her mission staff had brought up and taught
these bright young men.
But that night, when they had all climbed into their bus and departed for
Gnowangerup, Nina came and sat beside me and put her head on my shoul-
der.
‘Eric, I think it is time we decided!’ was all she said.

136
14.
Louis de Freycinet viewed the colonisation of the Swan River and all lands
to the north with mixed feelings.
The French administration had lost interest in maintaining and adding to
Terra de Nuyts in the past few years and the British were again making it abun-
dantly clear that if the French were not going to annex the remainder of New
Holland, they would set up camp. There was even talk in Sydney and London
of invading and resuming the French colony for Mother England. But Fr-
eycinet knew this was just idle boasting, brash New South Welshmen and
grandiose Empirists. They neither had the will nor the need to take Terra de
Nuyts, and certainly not have the naval and ground forces required to do the
job.
Since the cessation of transportation, as the practise of sending convicts
from Ireland and the poor parts of the British Isles was called, Whitehall had
far better things to occupy their global domination-obsessed minds on. The
Americans were still giving them trouble, the natives in South Africa were
marauding and refusing to work in the Kimberley diamond and gold mines,
and the Far East, particularly Hong Kong, was distracting them from what
was likely to be their greatest asset, Australia.
So life went on in this remote little corner of ‘nouveau Europe’. The east
coast was bustling with activity. Port Jackson, or Sydney as it was more com-
monly called nowadays, had became a metropolis and the satellite settlements
at Hobart and Moreton Bay were well-developed towns in their own right. A
new city was proposed on Port Phillip Bay on the southern edge of the main-
land, as was a site attracting a lot of attention on the other side of the Bight,
at the northern part of the Fleurieu Peninsular. These should keep the British
occupied as they established the eastern part of this continent.
Freycinet was proud to be recognised, not only by the French, but by the
British and everyone else, as the man who mapped out the coastline and named
so many features. But he knew that merely plotting them out in his logs and
on his charts was not enough to claim ownership. The English were gradually
increasing and occupying their Empire, and it was only a matter of time before
they set up a permanent base in the west.
So when Captain James Stirling landed, with massive fanfare and postur-
ing, a few miles up the Swan River and proclaimed it for England, the French
were not surprised. Not particularly worried, either. While still mistrusting
each other to the point of open hatred, things had settled down since the heady
days of the turn of the century.
137
Louis de Freycinet was getting old!
It was nearly a quarter of a century since he had received his orders form
Napoleon, via Baudin, to build the King George Sound settlement.
Lamont had been involved in that scandal with the aboriginal women,
which had resulted in his removal back to France and a feeble youth named
La Rue instated as governor.
Partly as a reaction to the two French deaths that had occurred during the
infamous Battle of Montpelier, partly for the way the aborigines believed that
any animal, including livestock, was food, and partly because like all weak
men who find themselves in a position of authority, La Rue became a bully of
the worst kind.
He had Matthew Flinders’ name removed from all records and archives of
the colony as he considered this British popularity a threat to the French way
of life and the reign of terror he imposed.
The Nyoongas were terrified of him.
Public executions were a weekly ritual with three, four and on one occa-
sion, six natives beheaded. Needless to say, the ‘criminals’ did not understand
their ‘punishment’ and that only exacerbated the situation. And it was rarely
the miscreant who was punished, but any blackfella who happened along at
the wrong time. He was grabbed, accused and summarily executed without
investigation or trial.
Now there was real hostility to the white settlers who inexplicably mur-
dered their people, raped and tortured their women, burned their meagre
humpies and spoiled or confiscated their food. Their children were hunted as
sport and they were forced to move north out of reach of these these invaders.
So when Stirling proclaimed the Swan as British, the Nyoonga swarmed
to the Darling Range area, believing that these newcomers could not be as bad
as the southern settlers. And while atrocities still occurred, it was not with the
frequency as in Terra de Nuyts.
The Battle of Montpelier was still fresh in his memory when Freycinet de-
cided to visit James Stirling. He was going to advise him, if advice would be
taken, about the treatment of aborigines.
To slaughter one hundred and fifty men by enticing them into a trap, then
ambushing them might have been considered acceptable in modern war

138
against armed soldiers, but to starve and attract unarmed civillians to a corral
with food before opening fire on them was another thing altogether. And what
happened afterwards was even more despicable!
The women of the tribe were abused in the most degrading manner and
then driven into a couple of barns, which were then set alight. Any woman
who tried to escape was captured by the surrounding line of soldiers and farm-
ers and physically hurled back into the inferno, after having her legs broken
with a blow from a rifle butt so she could not do it again.
Then the children were hunted down with dogs, most of them being torn
apart by the beasts, which had not been fed for days to make them more fero-
cious. Those who were not, were barbecued on spits and eaten by the soldiers,
despite their having very little flesh and no fat. Their blood lust and the litres
of brandy supplied by the farmers made this a night they talked about proudly
for months!
La Rue reported this as a victory of magnificent proportions. He claimed
the French soldiers were ambushed, that the battle was long and hard fought,
and that the French won out against considerable odds.
The two farmers who were accidentally killed by the French soldiers were
acclaimed as heroes. The fact that they had thought they they knew better and
moved to the flank when ordered to stay at the rear was not taken into account.
In the ensuing confusion they were caught in the fire pattern of the soldiers
and were shot before they even knew what happened.
Someone pointed out to La Rue that he could blame their deaths on the
tribes people, and when he eventually made comprehended what was being
proposed, he excitedly included in his report that they were speared and died
of their wounds.
Freycinet had sent back a missive to his superiors in Paris explaining and
correcting this outright untruth, but had been ordered to report to La Rue for
further instructions.
La Rue simply told him if he didn’t like the way the colony was run, to
leave or shut up.
Further protests to Paris were ignored. Attempts to reason with the towns-
folk via the clergy and civic leaders resulted in his being imprisoned for a
month on minimum rations.
So he looked forward to the arrival of the British. Secretly, he hoped they

139
would put an end to La Rue, either by diplomatic representation or by direct
action, but he knew this was not likely to be the outcome. Their time would
be cut out making a living and building their city, far too busy to worry about
this whiner from the south.
But he was determined to try. He knew that the English had their own
atrocities against the natives which they tried to conceal. But he also was
aware that since the Rum Rebellion, and overthrow of Bligh, the soldiers of
the New South Wales Corps were under more disciplined command.
MacArthur and Foveaux had instilled in them a pride which the French
did not possess after years of defeats, lack of reinforcements and very poor
working conditions.
And Stirling, while a pompous egotist as only British officers can be, was
more of a reasonable and responsible man than that imbecile La Rue.
So he had mixed feelings as he and Rose boarded the small trading vessel
moored at the jetty in Port du Roi George and when they sailed through the
heads, he had convinced himself that even if he was regarded by Captain Stir-
ling as a dissenting Frenchman, his basic plea would be listened to. All he was
asking was to leave the Nyoongas alone, to educate them about the white cul-
ture, to understand why they hunted livestock, to make conditions for them
which would preclude hostile encounters with farmers and settlers, and to try
to live peacefully with these otherwise gentle people.
He had no axe to grind for the way they behaved. He only had a respect,
uncommon in those days, for all humans. He realised that with black men
working alongside white men, rather than as slaves, much greater productivity
could be achieved. The land would grow rich, the people happy and organised
and the need for punishment of criminals could be kept to a minimum.
This latter was always a problem in Australia. As it was set up as a place
to transport convicts in the first place, the British here naturally tended to be
very harsh in punishing anyone who broke the law.
They could not see that if the needs of someone was not being met, that
person, through purely survival motives, would resort to any measures to feed
his family and obtain the necessities of life. This is the basic demand on all
communities, religions and ideologies. To ensure the needs of your poorest
are being met, the weak protected and the hungry fed.
Christianity makes the biggest issue of it of all religions! Love they neigh-
bour. Give succour to the needy. Give alms to the poor. And forgive those who
140
trespass against you.
And yet if a beggar comes within fifty metres of you, cross to the other
side of the street, ignore him, pretend you did not see him. If he approaches
your house or is persistent, give him the broad side of your sword, the sting
of your whip! You cannot have these vermin, these scum, littering the towns
with their begging, their pleading and their grasping! Get rid of them!
And as all men who see things clearly and who see the overall broader
picture, Freycinet grieved that his fellows were so cruel, so ignorant. It is not
hard to follow a commandment from the Bible to feed the poor. But these so-
called Christians managed to argue against it..
It is easy to quote the Ten Commandments, especially ‘Thou shalt not
steal!’ He argued with clergy and congregations, but in vain. Christianity was
a tool be used against the other fellow, not to enrich your society. But years of
prejudice and hard-heartedness deafened their ears.
Freycinet retained his own private beliefs and did not condemn Christian-
ity. He could see that, practised properly, it was a cohesive force, a comforting,
community-making way of life, but he was well aware of most Christians
being able to exploit it for their own advantage, and to deceive others.
Perhaps the British, particularly the more lenient Church of England and
Methodists, would be more sympathetic than the strict Catholic upbringing
of these paisant Français.

141
15.
So began the laborious task of revisiting all the events we had researched
and read about for the past four years. I thought it would be an easy task, sim-
ply reading our notes and deciding where the drastic change (as we called it)
would be made.
But life never delivers rose flowers without the thorns as well. Within fif-
teen minutes of beginning the task, I realised that something that I had been
certain had occurred was proved to have taken place on a date three months
later and completely negated the original assumption.
Baudin’s chats with Napoleon had not gone exactly the way I believed
when I originally read his transcripts. Napoleon had been reluctant to host the
meeting and had sent a lieutenant in to listen and report what the old sea dog
was spouting on about. Only after a gift to Josephine had he consented to lis-
ten, and even then, with a very critical ear. I discovered that after following
up on a lead supplied by the lieutenant in question, who wrote a diary outlining
the conversations, which I had read prior to Baudin’s own account, and dis-
missed thoughtlessly.
This doesn’t sound a big deal now, but it occurred to me that it strength-
ened the case for making this the terminal point. If Napoleon had become im-
patient, Josephine had not been impressed by the gift, or even if the gift was
damaged or destroyed before the presentation took place, then it would
weaken Baudin’s chances of having a French settlement at Port George. But
was it a strong enough case? It altered the dynamic considerably.
Of course, we could never be certain that whatever actions we changed
would alter the course of history. And by how much? Too much and it could
all get out of hand, too little and it might be dismissed as a mere irritation.
On the night that Apollo 4 was launched, I dreamed that aliens intervened
and would not allow us to make the Astral trip which would put paid to French
settlement in Australia.
It was a compelling dream and it worried me for a while. Supposing we
were doing the wrong thing? Suppose it backfired and all Western Australia
became Nuytsland? Suppose it strengthened the French resolve to carry out
its atomic tests, even closer to centres of population?
But I realised it was only a dream, probably inspired by the Apollo mis-
sions resuming, and caused by the long hours I was putting in at the library
and in my study.
142
In the meantime, Nina took pity on me and suggested I take a trip back
east to Melbourne, with the weather warming up and the Spring Racing Car-
nival in full swing.
Not that I follow the horses, mind you!
But I think that Nina envisaged herself in the enclosure at Flemington, sip-
ping champagne and discussing haute couture with Zara Holt, maybe being
photographed by Rennie Ellis, laughing gaily with Jean Shrimpton, who had
visited Port George on her way to the Melbourne Cup two years earlier.
The Cup had been run several days ago but the official ‘week’, which sel-
dom lasts less than a fortnight by the time all the parties, events, hangovers
and regrets were taken into account, was still in full swing when we flew to
Perth in the little Fokker aircraft before Ansett-ANA delivered us to Essendon
Airport, where my sister met us with her family and their new HR Holden.
I was irritated during my stay in Melbourne. Although the weather was
particularly kind and my sister’s hospitality could not be faulted, I was con-
stantly anxious. Lucinda suggested I visit her doctor and try to get an appoint-
ment with a specialist out at Kew who was having success with stress and
anxiety patients. But in the mood I was in, I declined.
Nina only stayed with us one night and then took to the Windsor Hotel in
Spring Street, where, she said, she would not be in our way and I could enjoy
my family without the distraction of her.
I think she meant well, but when she left, I started getting maudlin about
Sharlene. Lucinda had been a work colleague with Shar, even before I came
on the scene, and it reminded me of the good times the four of us had enjoyed.
In fact, Lulu had introduced us in the hope that something would come of it.
We were both ‘a bit odd’ as I eavesdropped Robert saying once, and as we hit
it off immediately, I guess he was right!
I visited all our old haunts and those I frequented after she died. I walked
for hours along St Kilda Beach and went down to see if there was anything
happening at the footy club in Moorabbin. But it was mid November and pre-
season training didn’t start until late January. I watched some batting practice
in the nets of a nearby cricket pitch and then adjourned to the Sandringham
Hotel, were I drank too much and confided to a couple of fellow drunks that
I was the Professor of History at Port George University.
‘But!’ one of them said, then paused for effect as only a practised inebriate
can. ‘You ‘aven’t got a Froggy accent!’
143
His mate picked this up and it persuaded them that I was a phoney.
It was only after desperately trying to convince then for about five minutes
that I realised how ridiculous I must seem. An old couple at a table were giving
us curious glances and the barman was keeping a careful eye on us lest a fight
break out.
But they were too drunk and hilarious to pose any threat and I lost my mo-
tivation to argue any further. I went out the front and caught a bus back to
Brighton where I tried to sober up with a couple of cups of instant coffee and
a stale cheese and salad roll. It didn’t work too well and I dropped off to sleep
on the tram and woke up at Melbourne University. I was pretty embarrassed
by that and got off and walked around Lygon Street before getting on another
64 and retracing the route back to my sisters house in Caulfield.
Another day I wandered around the National Gallery and immersed myself
in a display of French Impressionists. I thought I saw Nina in there and was
not surprised, knowing her love of Manet, but when I approached with a huge
smile on my face, the much younger lady turned on her heels and fled. Maybe
I looked like a mad professor or a pervert, but it only served to deepen my de-
pression.
Even in the Botanic Gardens I got such a case of the blues I walked down
the St Kilda Road and cut short my outing. I was reminded of Sharlene every-
where I went, and although I now had Nina, it brought back to me the horror
of all those dreadful nights after she died.
Sitting on the top step of the Shrine of Remembrance, trying to count the
number of trams we could see up to the top of Swanston Street where the
shunt is, passing quiet ponds and stopping to kiss in secluded groves, studying
the displays of natural history and wondering at the nomenclature which
seemed to link this field of academia with my own. It all reminded me.
And invariably I ended up in Young and Jackson’s, opposite Flinders Street
Station, or the Vic in Collins Street, sobbing silently into my beer and wishing
I was back in Nuytsland where I could immerse myself in my work again.
Eventually I telephoned the Windsor and left a message for Nina to call
me. She was out, but the concierge detected a note of emotion in my voice
and as soon as he told Nina, she got into a silvertop and came directly to Lu-
cinda’s house.
Next day we flew back to Geographe on the very first commercial flight
into that city. How Nina managed that, I’ll never know, as it had been fully
booked for months.
144
But we were treated like royalty and the eight hour train trip back to Port
George was a real come-back-to-earth anticlimax, I can tell you!

Sitting in the warm, comfortable carriage, I voiced a doubt I had harboured


for months, but strangely, had never voiced it up until now.
‘Nina, Arturo! Are you both listening? If we change the history of Nuyst-
land, who’s to say we ever get there, ever meet, in the altered reality?’
‘That shouldn’t effect us! We will be on the Astral Plane.’
‘You mean we will have to stay there forever?’
‘No, Silly!’ Nina smiled a curious smile at me, almost a simpering look as
if I was a slightly dense child. ‘We just return to our bodies and resume life as
we left it!’
‘But if the University of Port George hadn’t recruited me, I would probably
have stayed in Melbourne, or gone to Macquarie or somewhere. There won’t
be a University of Port George when we change it so that the British colonise
it!’
‘I don’t think that will happen!’ I was aware that it was Arturo speaking.
Nina immediately cut in, in the same same voice, of course: ’I hadn’t thought
of that!’
So we went into each other’s minds so that it would not be so confusing
to me, conversing with both of them with one voice, not perplexing to any
eavesdroppers.
‘I am going to consult Berthos. He seems to have a clear mind when it
comes to thinking about this!’ I told them. ‘I don’t want to not have a body .
. . or yours! I use them both a fair bit!’
‘I am sure it won’t come to that. We will just bang back into our bodies
which have been waiting for us.’
‘But they might not be waiting for us. I might have been run over by a
football tram back in 1960, or you might be coaching the Women’s team at
Clermontois and never moved to Port George!’
‘I am sure it will all work out. Anyway, talk to Berthos. He will assure you
I am right!’

145
So I took my question to him and for a moment he looked puzzled. He
reached for the inevitable pipe and started filling it.
‘I think you have stumbled upon the big flaw in your plan, Eric!’ he slowly
announced. ‘You have hit on the thing which could derail this whole shebang!’
He sat for a while, deep in thought, and then stood up and went into his
his library.
I looked at Nina and she looked back. Neither of us had any facial expres-
sions. Eventually she said ‘So you might be right, Monsieur Smarty Pants.
But I am going ahead with it anyway!’
It suddenly occurred to me that nothing would be the same for us again.
For the majority of the people in the world, there would be no or very little
change. Their atlases and history books may become a little bit lighter or heav-
ier and there might be minor changes such as the brand of breakfast cereal
they ate or the polish they shone their boots with.
The people of France and England would change a lot more, and Aus-
tralians even more so.
Nuytslanders would change drastically. Some would not even exist! Others
would have been born where no other-reality person lived. Businesses, parks,
even whole suburbs and towns would change location, or spring into existence
or disappear.
Well, not quite as dramatically as that. Nobody but us would be aware that
anything was different. They would have grown up with it all being something
else entirely. And their current histories would be replaced in their minds, as
would their parents, grand parents and great grandparents.
The enormity of it all hit me. Up until now it had seemed unreal, an aca-
demic exercise, something to work on as a fictional plot.
Now all of a sudden I began to realise all the ramifications and it scared
me.
I may not have Nina anymore. I would know she existed because she
would have been on the Astral Plane with me when we made the switch.
Berthos and Mary-Anne would not be aware of us, nor Carmel and Didier,
Francçoise and Guy! And it might possibly have changed my new-reality life
so that Sharlene would not have entered my life, nor exited it in that fashion.
I might not even have been born! My father was English and fought in
146
France in the First World War. Suppose he had somehow been affected by
something one of Nina’s relatives had done? And in the new reality, that didn’t
happen and he was not injured and met my mother who was a nurse in the
Australian Expeditionary Forces? Or worse! He was killed?
Too many what-ifs. Too many conundrums!
‘You are buying a pig in a poke,’ observed Mary-Anne. I was familiar with
the saying and translated to Nina, who pulled a wry smile
Berthos came back, holding a slim paperback.
‘Asimov though, considered it!’ he announced. ‘In “The End of Eternity”,
the protagonists, the Technicians who made the changes, did not live in the
normal timeline that everyone else did. He doesn’t say where, he just calls it
Eternity and the operatives “Eternals”. Come to think of it, Eternity must have
been in the Astral Plane!’
‘Why?’ asked Nina.
‘Well, if they existed in Time, then they would have no reference point.
Some previous change could wipe them out or alter them. I fact, that is what
happened when Harlan and Noÿs go back beyond Time. But that is neither
here nor there in our case.’
‘So we will very likely be stuck on the Astral Plane?’
‘You WILL be stuck on the Astral Plane! You have to be there to conduct
your switch. You will not be able to enter the real world, as it were, because
you will not have your bodies with you. As Eric pointed out, your bodies may
not be where you left them. Almost certainly won’t be. If they indeed ever ex-
isted in that form!’
‘This puts a different complexion on everything,’ Nina said in an abesent-
minded whisper. Then she stood up.
‘No, it does not! I will do it anyway! It is more important than I am!’
‘The sacrifice by the few for the common good!’ I knew that last bit was
Arturo, although of course, Berthos didn’t know of his existence and went
and hugged Nina.
‘Very noble, Catherine, my dear. But surely there is another way . . .’
‘I have been over and over it! For years now! There is no other way!

147
‘I do not expect you to accompany me, Eric!’
‘What will I do here without you?’ I asked. ‘Life would be back to the old
humdrum it was before I met you, but in Melbourne or Sydney or somewhere
else. Not in Port George. Port George may not exist, not in any form, in the
new reality. Just a desolate bay with a couple of windswept hills, for all we
know!
‘I don’t want that! I would rather be with you on the the Astral Plane with
no body! At least there we would still have each other. It is outside the influ-
ence of Time, as Asimov calls it!’
Mary-Anne called us through to dinner, but none of us ate much, even
though her pumpkin pie was delicious and the potatoes fluffy and light.
Berthos was already grieving the loss of his two friends who he would not
even know had existed, while Nina and I were grieving the loss of everything
except each other.

148
16.
James Stirling was exactly what Freycinet expected. The quintessential
English gentleman, a perfect example of his class and the nobility and lineage
which forged him. As such, leaving his pomposity aside, he politely listened
to the Frenchman, realising that this wasn’t some blundering oaf, as he re-
garded most people from across the channel. Here was a man whose education
and conscientiousness had produced one of the most useful navigational tools
of the sailor: perfectly measured charts of every kilometre of the continent.
He listened. Sometimes agreeing, sometimes not. Sometimes forming no
opinion.
What is sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander, and
what is right to a Frenchman may be abhorrent, or at least distasteful, to an
Englishman.
But here was another variable to be thrown into the cooking pot of history.
Sir James Stirling was not an Englishman. He was a Scot!
And he was not just some child of a minor upper class nobleman who
thought it would be a good idea if his son got a commission in he Royal Navy.
He was was the fifth son and the eighth of the fifteen children of Andrew Stir-
ling of Drumpellier, Lanarkshire, Scotland. His mother, Anne, was his father’s
first cousin, being the daughter of Admiral Sir Walter Stirling and the sister
of Sir Walter Stirling, first baronet, of Faskine.
His breeding and naval lineage was immaculate, a perfect choice to head
the Swan River Colony and forge it into a territory to hold its head high should
Australia ever become a federation.
But, and Freycinet did not realise this, Stirling’s family had recently de-
veloped serious flaws. His uncle had been court martialled for corrupt prac-
tices and stood down on half pay. He had found that without his family’s
patronage, he would have to work very hard to get acceptance. After marrying
a girl much younger than himself, he achieved a promotion and posting in
New South Wales. He won Governor Darling’s friendship and admiration be-
cause he got things done. When La Rue started making boastful noises about
taking on the remaining third of Australia, and even cheekily sent a vessel to
make a nuisance of itself around Sydney, he realised action was called for
He was sent to set up a garrison on the Swan River, and, because by now
he was a sick man, he relied heavily on Captain Charles Fremantle, to whom
he reluctantly referred Freycinet. The Frenchman liked this pragmatic younger
man and they worked well together.
149
London, who was not really in favour of the new colony, as were so many
previous European governments, did not support Stirling and Fremantle, and
the advice and Freycinet’s experience in colonising was, fortunately, listened
to.
After the rude and brash French, Freycinet took a shine to these two men,
who tended to give everyone a fair audience, whether he be a settler, an officer
or a vising dignitary.
But once again, the situation of the aborigines could not be resolved, and
Freycinet was distressed to learn, five years later, that Stirling had personally
led a posse against them in the infamous and so-called ‘Battle of Pinjarra,
where fourteen natives and a policeman were killed.
If a person or even a cow was speared, the entire tribe suffered ‘to teach
them a lesson they won’t forget’.
While nowhere near as brutal and cruel as the Montpelier atrocity, (of
which the British knew nothing due to Paris’ embarrassment and secrecy,) his-
tory records his memory as being stained with the blood of these peaceful,
but hungry, people.
It should be noted here that on returning to Nuytsland, Freycinet learned
of other, similar, although smaller, incidents which had occurred. Again, bar-
baric action and cannibalism were involved and after listening to these ac-
counts, he was physically sick and again reported them to Paris, who claimed
to have never received them.
It is likely to be true, as collusion existed between the soldiers and visiting
seamen, and these missives could easily have ended up somewhere in the Mer
des Indes.
But this was the difference Freycinet wanted for the Nyoonga people. The
French were callous, brutal and bestial in their behaviour. The British were
simply misguided and confused, ignorant and uneducated for the main part,
and did not appreciate the lifestyles of these people who they simply referred
to as savages.
Not that it was any comfort to the relatives and friends of those who died,
but this dignified Frenchman knew the difference.
He imparted a lot of wisdom to these pioneers and tried to ensure their
success was based on a modicum of justice. His fair-minded ways were lis-
tened to in the Swan River Colony, while in the areas to the south, and in the

150
north, racial hatred grew more monstrous. The aboriginals realised life was
not worth living here and ceased generating offspring, while the elderly
yearned for the days of their youth before European settlement.

151
17.
I could not recover from my mild depression which manifested itself in
Melbourne but which I think had been brewing for months before that. As
Ashley did in ‘Gone With the Wind’, prior to the War between the States, I
realised that nothing could ever be the same again, that everything in our im-
mediate world would change by our actions.
Nina did not seem to see that this mattered, that the only thing was to undo
a century and a half of cruelty to the aborigines and to stop French nuclear
testing on Australian soil, along with its attendant use of atomic power for
generating electricity of war.
Arturo played the major role in this motive, and as I was beginning to re-
alise, his role in ‘Nina’ was a pretty major contribution.
But Nina seemed desensitised and clinical about it all, and this added to
my depression.
On the nights I stayed at my house in Deschamps Hamelin, I pondered
whether I was merely being used, whether I was just a pawn in a chess game,
something which could be sacrificed to achieve her check-mate, her prime
objective. I didn’t want to believe this and yet right from the start, I had har-
boured this tiny, nagging doubt.
But each morning I told myself that I was being silly, that since meeting
Nina, my life had improved beyond all boundaries.
One thing, whenever we went onto the Astral Plane for whatever reason,
and we were so busy that our only purpose was a data finding expedition, not
self-gratification, it left me with a feeling of euphoria.
Now my Baptist upbringing warned me that this was not a good thing.
Christians have believed for nearly two centuries that in order to be righteous,
one must suffer the slings and barbs, to wear sack cloth and ashes and be gen-
erally miserable. Although I had discarded their beliefs thirty years ago, some
remnants remained and I worried about getting hooked on this artificial ‘high’
I got from Astral Travel.
Even though some Christians ‘spoke in tongues’ and called it ‘gifts of the
spirit’ to enter another plane of consciousness, it was generally frowned upon
as a ‘work of the devil’.
But I even managed to rationalise that, telling myself I was not doing it
purely to get high, I was doing it for a purpose.
152
Like a cancer sufferer who uses marijuana, ostensibly to control the spread
of his disease but who knows it is really to make the pain and the anxiety of
approaching death seem more bearable, I think I began to make my fears and
doubts a bit lighter by indulging in the experience of being out of my body.
I wasn’t going to talk to Nina and Arturo about this because they would
not understand. This was their life’s work, and nothing would be allowed to
stand in its way.
Berthos was my closest friend, and his counsel would be the best available
on the planet, with his studies and casebooks all available for me at his dis-
posal. And yet I thought couldn’t talk to him, either.
I suppose I was actually suffering a slight mental disorder, and the shame
of admitting that was still very high in the late nineteen sixties. If you told
someone you had an anxiety issue, were stressed out or felt under pressure,
you believed they would think you were weak, flakey, inconsequential. I knew
there was actually no shame in these feelings, and if anyone was entitled to
having them, Berthos would realise my claim was pretty high on the pecking
order.
Even mainstream psychologists did not understand what depression was.
They though it was ‘feeling sad’. And while psychiatry did have better defi-
nitions for it, and a lot of untested medication, it was still very much a grey
area.
It wasn’t very long ago that soldiers and airmen were facing firing squads
for ‘lack of moral fibre’ when they were, in fact, succumbing to the enormous
pressures being placed on them by their superior officers, pressures a normal
person couldn’t be expected to bear.
Besides, I reasoned, I was really suffering for a cause I honestly believed
in: the unification of Australia. Someone had to rake a lead in this. It couldn’t
be left to the politicians, the statesmen and the diplomats. All with their own
selfish agenda, with their duplicity, their deceitfulness and their greed. If I
could help Nina and Arturo change the course of history, I knew I had a moral
obligation to assist, even at the expense of my health and sanity.
Now, I mentioned that Berthos could have helped me! And one evening
after a particularly intense day of lectures which always happened at the be-
ginning of semester when a whole bunch of new students arrived, he sat me
down in the common room and asked me what was bugging me.
I hesitated for a full minute and I guess the confusion must have shown
153
non my face, because he eventually got out his pipe and looked straight at me.
‘You are having second thoughts, aren’t you, Old Chap?’
‘Is it that obvious?’
‘Yes. Very. And I am not the only one who has noticed. Catherine visited
me yesterday. She was in tears. She feels she is making life impossible for
you and asked my advice.’
‘What did you say?’
Had Nina really approached Berthos, or had he spoken to Nina? I believed
the tears bit because I was sure that, in whatever way, she loved me and would
be distressed if I was suffering.
‘To start with, stop wondering who approached who! I can’t read minds,
but I can read faces. Nina came to me and told me things which I did not know.
She feels she is betraying both of you and the guilt is making her sick.’
‘She told you about Arturo?’
I found difficulty in believing it, but Berthos had as good as told me she
had.
‘Yes. That he is still there. I assume she means on the Astral Plane and that
he is omnipresent. That is making her feel bad. The “secret lover syndrome”
so to speak.’
‘I got over that almost immediately!’ I told him. I couldn’t tell him that he
was inside her head, and her loins, for that matter. Without a hell of a lot of
explaining and rigmarole, I couldn’t let him know that I approved to the point
of participating in a three-way-tryst, that the joy of knowing he was there with
Nina contributed to my own personal joy. He didn’t know exactly where Ar-
turo was! He would think I was perverted or had been influenced by the
French.
‘No, my tension and anxiety has nothing to do with that. I have . . . mis-
givings, I suppose you’d call them . . . about whether we are doing the right
thing, whether it is all going to be worth it and, mostly, about what will happen
to me . . . us . . . afterwards.
‘I know it will result in us being together on the Astral Plane, without bod-
ies we can return to.’

154
Berthos considered this and stroked his pipe. It was like Arthur is to me: I
feel more focused when I am stroking a cat. Berthos didn’t have a feline se-
curity blanket, he only had his pipe.
‘The quandary you put to me a couple of months ago! Yes, I cannot resolve
that and I know you are right. Pardon me if I speak in a detached manner, but
this is all so alien to me, I cannot empathise with you as as a friend should.’
‘Am I going crazy, Berthos?’ I blurted. ‘Is this all getting too much for
me? I feel I am out of my league, in it up to my neck, totally guided by Nina
and not making any contribution in case it all goes wrong.’
‘Come on, Eric! You don’t believe that for a second. You know Nina de-
pends on you one hundred percent. Without your input, she would still be at
square one! She can’t express that strongly enough, and you know it. Don’t
come “the raw prawn” with me.
‘What is eating you up is uncertainty. The same as someone who knows
death is imminent and yet is not ready to terminate life yet. You cannot bear
to give up what has become so familiar to you, the life you have grown to
love and which you feel nurtures you and keeps you going. You know that
will all change and you cannot see how it will be.
‘When Sharlene died, you knew that it would be rough on you, but your
surroundings wouldn’t change. You would still have everyone else, your
mother, your sister, your University colleagues and your friends your football
club.
‘When you applied for this job, in a foreign country on the other side of
the continent, you knew you would still have connections to your previous
home, plus your speciality, History, and your music, hobbies and whatever
you do in your spare time. It wasn’t a complete change, more of an exciting
challenge.
‘Now you have so much going against you. For a start, as you age you be-
come more conservative. I should know, I am ancient and I have acquired a
lifestyle that I wouldn’t change for Fort Knox!
‘And you too. Your life was idyllic, imparting wisdom and knowledge to
young minds in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, with a fair cli-
mate, a high standard of living, being spoilt rotten from all sides.
‘Who wouldn’t have “misgivings” about chucking that all in to go and live
on a cold, drafty Astral Plane where your tactile senses were non-existent,

155
where you couldn’t get pleasure from a nice bottle of wine, a beautiful
woman’s embrace or a pipe full of baccy?’
I smiled! It was such an eloquent speech that I felt tempted to applaud.
But rather than quell my doubts and fears, it raised a whole bunch of new
ones.
For example, I wondered how I would exist without the luxury of Arthur
sitting on my upper legs, gently digging in his claws as he chased scrub birds
in his slumber.
Softly strumming my guitar to soothe me and transport me away to Texas
or Kansas or the bar rooms of Chicago.
The delicious bite of the gruyere and onion, liberally sprinkled with white
pepper on my breakfast croque monsieur.
Okay, dismiss that as trivia, then imagine that you, in your healthy state
of mind, would never again experience that sudden, icy plunge into the ocean,
that exhilaration of swooping down the front of a wave, getting smoke in your
nostrils while burning a T-bone over jarrah flames or snuggling up warm and
cosy with your favourite squeeze under a blanket, around a campfire at night,
where the wild dingo calls . . .
‘So, what can I do, Berthos? Does psychiatry have the answer? You have
the diagnosis, now what is the treatment?’
‘Find your woman, tell her you love her, put your mind to her mind (or
whatever it is that Mr Spock does) and accept that it is going to happen with
you or without you.
‘And soon! I believe that you and Nina and Arturo have identified the exact
location for the change to take place.’
‘Hmm, that’s right. We are all ready.
‘Do you want big, sad, tearful farewells, or shall I walk out without looking
back? You know you and Mary Anne will not feel a thing. That after we make
the change, there will be a hundred and fifty . . . hundred and sixty . . . years
of history which will have existed and you will never know Port George,
Catherine Minnet, Eric Catlin or maybe even Mary Anne Merriweather were
here at all! Why, you may not, either!
‘And if we get it wrong, who knows? The world could have ended al-
ready!’
156
‘Now you are talking nonsense! Enough of your maudlin pessimism! I be-
lieve that what you are doing is the right thing, to the benefit of all mankind.
‘Farewell, Andrew Harland. Goodbye, Noÿs Lambent! Step into your Ket-
tle and put things right!’
After that, all I could do was shake his hand, and ask him to convey my
love to Mary Anne.

‘I never realised the outcome for us,’ Nina said. ‘I admit to being too ab-
sorbed in the outcome. We even discussed the best place to leave our bodies!’
‘I didn’t realise all the ramifications, either. Where we left them is of no
consequence once history is changed. The criteria to make the change is no
longer necessary in the revised universe. It is as much my fault.’
‘But it was all strange and new to you!’ Nina bit her lip. ‘I feel I have let
you down for not thinking it through!’
‘Do you want to go alone?’ I asked. ‘Leave Arturo here in charge of your
body? Then you will have a corporate body to return to?’
‘I don’t think that will work, either, Everything to do with Nuytsland will
have been changed. It’s hard to accept that, and I don’t think I really under-
stood what we were doing when I first met you that day in 1964. I almost cer-
tainly won’t be here. I will only recognise you because the Nuytsland me will
know what you look like. But you probably won’t have come here, either. And
in the new reality, you might be fat, have a beard, horn-rimmed spectacles,
wear silly hats. I might not be aware it is you. And . . .’
She thought for a few seconds before hitting me with it.
‘. . . I won’t be able to communicate with you. It is only our intimacy and
experience that makes you able to be receptive to my thoughts. Part of us is
always on the Astral Plane.’
‘So I will go too! That way we will at least be together on one plane, in
one dimension!’
‘But it might be permanent. I am prepared to accept that. You have indi-
cated you would find it very hard. Once we have committed, there is no hold-
ing back. No saying “But I had my fingers crossed!” Claiming barleez!’

157
I tried to be optimistic.
‘You never know, one of us in the new reality might get on the Astral Plane.
Most likely you, as you had that measles experience as a kid. We could all
pop into your body. Two Ninas, an Arturo and an Eric. I will have to lose
weight, but I think we might be able to fit.’
‘Bags me on top!’ She was delighted at the prospect but knew the chances
were very slim.
‘Are you aware that you can only be on the Astral Plane once? If an earlier
or later you enters that time space, you become one and don’t split until one
of you re-enters his body?’ she asked me.
‘It has happened to me on a few occasions and I have picked up a few bits
of future history. But I have never encountered me from after 1969? And never
a non-Nuytsland me.
‘It never occurred to me until then, but it is so!’
‘So what are you saying? That you don’t exist after this? That there is some
kind of blockage? That it doesn’t apply to a different-history you?’
‘There is no way of knowing. I can’t get into a future time space. I have
to depend on a future me going back and entering my “Then!”
‘But it is possible that a different reality me has just never encountered a
“this reality” me. The Astral Plane is the same one regardless of which reality
you originate!’
My head was starting to spin. I had understood everything she had just
told me but it was too concentrated for me to dissect. I had to have a mental
lie-down with nothing to interrupt me.
But as soon as relaxed, I went to sleep.
When I awoke, Nina had managed to get my shoes, trousers, jacket and
shirt off me. I don’t know if she tried for anything more, like my socks and
jocks but they were still there. Also, I had a thick duvet over me.
She was nowhere around.
But it all seemed crystal clear now. No more confusion, no more big black
cloud and I noticed that for the first time in weeks I was not fidgeting.

158
I dropped off back to sleep and noticed that when I awoke it was getting
light. Nina was still absent and I got up and found my clothes. She must have
slept in another room as it was unlike her to get up before me.
I had a shower and found some underwear I had stowed at her place for
those times when I stayed over unexpectedly.
I cleaned my teeth and rubbed on a bit of Old Spice and wondered if I
could get by without shaving.
Then I found my watch and while winding it, I idly glanced at the dial. it
told me it was five forty five, a lot earlier than my usual rising time but I
wanted to enjoy the dawn. I stepped out of the French windows onto the ve-
randah.
The sun was in the west! I had slept the whole night and day!

In my mind, everything was sorted out. I would accompany Nina to the


ends of the earth, to the very edge of the Astral Plane, and remain there with
her if that was the alternative. I knew I could not live without her, to go back
to the sad place I was in after Sharlene had died. Even though that might have
changed, it was unlikely. We had explored every path, every avenue and se-
lected the one which would cause the least exterior change. We thought we
knew the probability of every occurrence which would alter and narrowed it
down to the one with the least variables.
Just as Hari Seldon had done with his Prime Radiant, we had the maths,
the dates, the data, the timeline, the probabilities and the possibilities all
charted. Excluding some highly individualised event, like the assassination
of de Gaulle prior to the war, or the Casuarina sinking and taking the lives of
all who sailed in her, including Freycinet, we had every eventuality covered.
In a generalised way, of course! We couldn’t determine minutiae, such as
the birth of individuals, the exact placing of buildings, the programming of
unimportant events. And it was these which initially gave us the greatest
worry.
But as Berthos pointed out, after a century or so, the effects of these would
be minimised.
Unless some other agents were to use the Astral Plain to try to change His-
tory.

159
Or some other means, mechanical, mental or supernatural! Or alien, as I
had dreamed.
Einstein once told Arturo that he did not rule out the possibility that it
might be possible to physically travel across Time. That would be in the future,
of course, when we understood more of the structure of the universe than Ein-
stein or this bright young newcomer, Stephen Hawking.
We would just have to hold our breaths, cross all our fingers and hope
everything worked as we planned and that we would find some way back to
our bodies.

160
19.
Rose died in her sleep overnight. Louis was distraught as the physician
had assured him she would recover from the cholera which they had both con-
tracted.
He was too weak to make any of the arrangements for her funeral but was
able to leave his bed for long enough to attend the service and throw some
petals and earth onto her coffin.
Life held no meaning for him any more and he began to deteriorate men-
tally. He recovered from the cholera, but was left weakened, in body and mind.
He sailed back to France and nine years later at age sixty three, he too
passed away, demented and shivering in an asylum near Loriel, where he was
buried.
But he was one of the most influential of all the navigators, explorers and
administrators in Australia and his name lives on in locations right across the
south of the continent and throughout the Pacific which he loved and worked
for so ardently nearly all his life.

161
20.
We had eliminated all but two places where a successful change to the
known course of events would achieve the most likely desired outcome.
Baudin’s meeting in the Bight near Kangaroo Island was by far my favourite,
now. If we could convince either Matthew Flinders or Nicolas Baudin not to
meet up, make friends and swap information, Baudin would not be likely to
investigate King George Sound. As this was by far the best option for French
colonisation, without Flinders’ endorsement, Baudin may not have acted and
presented such a convincing argument. A lot of Baudin’s case rested on
Flinder’s enthusiasm, which would very likely translate into hard currency in
both Jackson Bay and the courts of Westminster.
The downside was that Baudin might have still gone ahead from his own
observations and made his report. Also, there was still the possibility that he
may have met up with Flinders somewhere else. It was known that they met
both in Sydney Town and on the Ile de France as well as Kangaroo Island, al-
though the invitation to visit Port Louis was almost certain to have been made
in the Bight. There were a lot of pros and cons, of course, but the overriding
factor, for me, was Flinders’ enthusiasm, which he conveyed, intentionally or
otherwise, which led Baudin to believe there could be a race to establish a
foothold on the otherwise uninhabited western part of the continent.
I had to amend that to ‘western part of the continent which had not been
settled by Europeans or other non-aboriginal inhabitants’. Nina was pedantic
about that, even though she was fully aware that I meant that.
This illustrates just how much of a racial inferiority the aborigines felt
from the years of being second class, if indeed they were regarded as citizens.
Europeans did not use their status wisely and had made it a lot worse for both
the white man and the blackfella to live in harmony as they should. They both
had a lot to contribute to this country yet, because of ignorance in the part of
the supposedly ‘more advanced’ culture, the whole country suffered.
And this goes for other countries than Australia, too. French arrogance and
British snobbery ruined the Caribbean, the Indian and Pacific Ocean islands
and wherever they stamped their mark in Africa and Asia. They very nearly
left Canada and Australia as third world countries with their treatment of the
native inhabitants.
Although this was not the prime reason for our plan, it was quite sufficient
and had any original inhabitants known of it, there would have been no short-
age of volunteers to assist us.

162
The second point in history which could be changed to bring the desired
result was purely based on the indecision which Baudin felt in the hostelry at
Jackson Bay, when he and Louis Freycinet decided to amiably part company
and pursue their individual goals. Freycinet would continue back to the Por-
tuguese and Dutch islands to the north, continuing his mapping and explo-
rations on the way. Baudin would sail south and explore and strengthen his
case for colonising the south western portions, known as Terre de Leeuwin
and Terra de Nuyts, after two very influential explorers and navigators. He
was also keen to add to his stocks of plants and animals, particularly birds, to
present to Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, for her collection in Mal-
maison. As the French, unlike the English, actually listened to their females,
Baudin realised her help in determining her husband’s decision to colonise
Terra de Nuyts rated pretty high on his agenda.
Freycinet and Baudin had intended meeting up again in Ile de France.
Baudin’s impatience to get his samples and report back to France before the
warlike Peron could formulate a plan to invade and overcome the New South
Wales Regiment in Sydney and ruin any chance Baudin would have of carry-
ing out his plan.
If this had happened, Baudin knew, Napoleon would be more likely to use
this as a way to cock a snook at the British rather than simply beating them to
colonise, as the British believed, a worthless bit of dirt in the west!
But after discussing it for hours with Nina and Arturo, in the company of
Berthos, whose opinion was greatly valued by all three of us, we settled on
the latter course. Baudin would be convinced to sail north with Louis de Fr-
eycinet.
As we had discovered from both his logs and from spying on him from
the Astral Plane, it would take less effort to swing his mind to join the Casua-
rina and Freycinet on a pleasant journey through the Dutch East Indies and
the Portuguese islands during the southern winter.
Trying to dissuade him from greeting his friend in Encounter Bay might
prove impossible. The two men obviously enjoyed each other’s company from
previous meetings in Port Jackson and at Van Dieman’s Land. They would
naturally want to spend time in each other’s company and the damage would
be done, as they say in the classics.
The desirability of a tropical journey during the fiercest weather of the
southern hemisphere would appeal to Baudin, indeed any sailor. Then as
spring and summer began, they would head down the coast of New Holland,

163
past Dirk Hartog Island, which had captured Freycinet’s interest, to the pleas-
ant woods and bays of King George Sound.
Somewhere on the way, maybe Baudin would be delayed long enough to
invalidate his proposal. In the meantime, hopefully, Flinders would persuade
King to send a colonising expedition to Terra de Nuyts or Leeuwin before
they got back to France.
Or the Naturaliste and Casuarina might even meet a storm and all the care-
fully tended samples which would enrapture Josephine would have to be jet-
tisoned for the safety of the passengers. With a long enough delay, Bonaparte’s
obsession with the British would see him too involved with war again and not
have time nor resources to mount an expedition such as Baudin proposed.
And because of the extra kilometres they would travel, their vessels would
be more damaged, more in need of maintenance. Hopefully there would be
an urgent need for an extended stay to affect repairs at either Port Louis or
Capetown!
It was, almost certainly, the better plan!

164
21.
The explosion shook the small town of Metz and chimney pots fell through
roofs and shattered furniture. In Petit Orleans, at the bowls and petanque club,
a wall cracked and part of the ceiling fell. Even in Esperance, the people felt
the shock and one of the Norfolk Island Pines developed a sixty degree lean
and had to be removed.
Cracks appeared in paddocks and seven horses and hundreds of sheep were
killed. A mission station near Balladonia was cut off by fissures for several
days as emergency services raced to fix the road across the Nullabour.
‘Minimal damage’ the official report said and in Paris, Le Figaro carried
a two paragraph article announcing a successful underground nuclear test in
Terra de Nuyts had resulted in no damage to properties.

165
22.
Four days later, at seven hundred hours on April 5, 1968, we lay together
on Nina’s bed in the Cap Sainte Alice house and said our goodbyes to Arturo,
who had elected not to join us on our expedition.
He claimed to be unsure whether our action would be successful and he
wanted to be in Nina’s body if we came back and had to alter our plans. He
wasn’t piking out, he had given it his fullest consideration.
If we were successful, he might well already be on the Astral Plane from
the moment he died back in 1962 and could meet us there. If the third possi-
bility eventuated, and we successfully changed history, but he and Nina had
not been together at the point of his death, he was prepared that, as he had
gained an extra seven years of life, to die gracefully.
Nina cried a lot over that but knew there was no point arguing with him.
He had never enjoyed Astral Travel, not as Nina had. I think he was appre-
hensive of being trapped with no way back into Nina’s body and would prefer
a death where he was not even conscious that he had been alive. Wouldn’t we
all?
I had no opinion. I loved Arturo. He was part of Nina and I wondered if
she would still be the same woman without him. But my mind was numb at
the thought of the enormous thing we were about to undertake.
Looking back on it now, I realised that, at the moment we went Astro, Mar-
tin Luther King Junior was breathing his final breath in Memphis, Tennessee.
Significant? I don’t know, but that day, the planet lost two of its greatest men
of peace!

166
23.
‘If we head south, then west, we can confirm our maps, maybe even correct
a few things we may have missed or misread’ Baudin insisted. “However, if
we head back to Timor, we will use up a lot of time!’
‘Oui, but I will be able to complete my circumnavigation and maybe pro-
duce the first map of New Holland, New South Wales and van Diemen’s Land.
Which is more important?’ Louis de Freycinet stood his ground.
‘However, if you order me to, the Casuarina will accompany you back to
Ile de France, taking the short route. But I must warn you, Captain. You will
be tacking all the way from Cape Leeuwin to the Cape of Good Hope. The
Forties are well north at this time of year!’
‘I realise that it will be tough going. I am tempted to follow you back up
into the tropics and bask in the warmth of the islands for a while,’ said Baudin.
‘But I gave you your command, you must make the decision. If I arrive back
in France before you, I will tell Napoleon it was a mutual decision.’
He gazed into the smoke from his pipe for a few minutes. He should not
really have promoted young Freycinet, but after that ridiculous near-mutiny
at Timor, he could no longer trust a lot of his officers. Any of them! But this
little âne was the best of a bad bunch.
‘And if you change your mind about Peron’s ridiculous plan to attack the
British Garrison here, I would appreciate it, Louis. I don’t really want too
much attention from the English. King has been a good host and I don’t want
to spoil it all’
‘Sounds like you have something of your own up your sleeve, Sir!’
‘This is just between you, me and the table,’ Baudin lowered his voice.
‘But I rather fancy reporting to the Little General that we could do worse than
to consider colonising the west of this continent!’
‘I see,’ Freycinet sounded disappointed. But he could see the sense in it.
French soldiers and marines would lose their lives in a battle against the Eng-
lish, especially in an attack on land. ‘I was sort of looking forward to the scrap!
But it will use up valuable time which would be better spent in scientific re-
search. For both of us, And for Peron.’
‘He may still get his chance. Napoleon might decide to attack Port Jackson
and to colonise Terra de Leeuwin.’

167
‘Ah, so that is where you intend to raise the Tricolor. On Geographe Bay?
‘No, actually. Do you remember that cove which Matthew Flinders was
so enthused about. He said it was a large harbour off King George Sound?’
‘Ah. East of Leeuwin! Right on the Grand Ocean. Why not at Geographe
Bay or Swan River?’
‘At King George Sound, we would control the gateway to New South
Wales. If we established our port on the Mer des Indes coastline, traffic to
Port Jackson and Van Dieman’s Land might bypass us and sail straight
through. But at King George Sound, there would be added incentive to trade,
repair, resupply and give their crews some shore leave.
‘I intend to investigate it, plant a flag and claim it for France. It is then up
to Napoleon and the Emperor if they wish to ignore it, as they did D’Entre-
casteaux’ suggestions. And the British have indicated they are not interested,
either. Vancouver also made a formal claim, did you know, which the British
never took up.
‘Sweden and Holland have also had their opportunities, but neither got off
the ground. Up until now, it has involved too much effort, too much money!
‘But now Flinders is sniffing around, it may not be too long. He is not half
the cartographer that you are, Louis. But he is a shrewd Englishman, a politi-
cian, an empire builder. And we could have a permanent garrison there.’
‘I see. So if you could use your considerable powers of persuasion with
the First Consul . . .’ Freycinet left the sentence dangling. There was no need
to continue sucking up to his colleague. He changed the subject.
‘If we attempted to attack Botany Bay and Port Jackson, we would have
no home base, no nearby reinforcements. We need somewhere to garrison our
troops, where they will not take a month to send for, a month to arrive. We
may also have to neutralise Port Arthur and eventually need to establish More-
ton Bay.
‘So I heartily agree, Sir,’ continued Freycinet. ‘You must present your plan
at the earliest possible occasion. In that case, I will accompany you, if you so
wish.’
‘No need!’ declared Baudin, expansively. ‘You must do your own re-
search.’ Although deep in his heart he longed for the islands and to finish the
work that the mutiny had truncated.

168
‘I appreciate that, Sir! But is there no way we could do both? Sail north
and west, then south to King George Sound, complete a lot more work. Espe-
cially with both ships and crew. Then sail back and together and present your
plan. Although it will be your report, with your name on it, I could endorse it
and maybe assist you in preparing it!’

I could feel Nina put all her concentration to work. I tried to add mine but
I am not sure it really helped a lot. She was much more experienced that me
and had drilled herself for weeks. Normally I was the subject of her mind
probes but I know Berthos and Mary Anne had both volunteered as subjects.
Our friend Didier had also, unwittingly, been subjected, something Nina felt
rather ashamed about.

Baudin considered this for a full five minutes. Louis de Freycinet began
to think that his superior had been disgusted at the suggestion, had not wel-
comed his intention. That he was trying to manipulate the older man to achieve
his own ends.
“I am sorry, Sir. I did not wish to impose my ambition . . .’
‘No, I agree with you, Louis,’ Baudin said. ‘There is, as you say, no reason
why both of our objectives cannot be met. And our alliance can be used to put
that upstart Peron in his place. I should not be speaking like this about a fellow
officer, but I feel that as a friend, you will accept what I say, not as an idle
opinion, but as a dire need.’
‘Shall we sail north tomorrow, the Geographe and the Casuarina in convoy
then Sir?’
‘I shall drink to that, Louis. My plans can still be met, and your work will
also be done. We will be immeasurably helpful to each other!’
The two sailors finished their cognac and went out into the night air. It
was still chilly and they pulled their greatcoats around them as they walked
down to the jetty where Geographe and Casuarina were moored.
‘How are you enjoying your first full command?’ asked Baudin. ‘Is this
colonial-built ship all they cracked it up to be?’
‘I have no complaints. On either score!’ Freycinet smiled.

169
The following morning at zero six hundred, the longshoremen sat at their
oars and towed first the Geographe, then the Casuarina out into the wind in
the middle of the harbour. They made a colourful display as Governor King
watched from his breakfast on the Governor’s Residence terrace.

170
24.
Before returning to nineteen sixty eight, we decided to do periodic checks
on Baudin, also on Flinders and other significant figures in this new reality.
Besides a revised timetable for Captain Flinders because there were no
more visits to Port du Roi George to be entertained by the governor, his life
played out very much as it had done in the previous reality.
Baudin and Freycinet had a real knees-up, as my English mates at Cam-
bridge used to say. They collected a lot of specimens and some emus, one of
which they intended to present to Josephine on their return to Paris. They
sailed around the northern part of Australia into what we now know as In-
donesia and revisited Timor before heading back down the western coast,
searching out other likely spots for France to colonise.
Then calamity happened. First, the animals and birds in the hold started
dying. Then Nicolas began to feel a bit short of breath and coughed up some
blood.
Freycinet decided that they would be able to get to Ile de France, or Mau-
ritius, in less time than it would take to return to Port Jackson and started tack-
ing west across the Mer des Indes. We were surprised he never decided to visit
a foreign port in Singapore or India, but he knew the people of Port Louis and
their hospitality, and felt Baudin would be more comfortable there.
However, shortly after arriving, Nicolas-Martin Baudin passed away and
was buried in a graveyard overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Louis de Freycinet returned to France and was honoured by several insti-
tutions for the botanical samples he donated, and later for his prowess with
the sextant, compass and calipers of his trade. He took an adventurous young
lass as his wife and stowed her aboard his ship, disguised as a man. Together
they sailed the high seas and she became famous in her own right for her
meticulous diaries and records. She died in 1832 and her husband nine years
later.
A number of geographic locations and towns are named after them.
But now came the time I was dreading. Returning to our own location in
Time.
We knew that our mission was a success but we didn’t know what we
would find on our return. Beyond a doubt, our bodies would not be in a grand

171
house overlooking the Great Australian Bight in the city of Port George. We
knew we were not only bodiless but stateless as well. I had become a French
national by virtue of my residence, although I could claim dual citizenship
with Australia and Britain, by my father’s nationality. But that does you little
good when you don’t have a passport, nor a body to wear a jacket in which to
stow it!
I must have a body somewhere, I supposed. Although not necessarily. As
I explained before, there was always the possibility that I had not been con-
ceived, that my parents may never have met in France during World War One.
Or that some other unforeseen event had happened.
Psychohistory only sees the big picture. It can only decide and plan the
actions of masses, of whole cityloads of people, not individuals, unless that
individual had been very influential, and then only if the masses had acted ac-
cordingly and as prescribed.
I guessed that Melbourne should be my starting point to see if a ‘this-re-
ality’ version of Eric Catlin existed.
Nina, we discovered, had succumbed to the measles and had died as a
child. There were few records of her anyway, and none after her funeral in
nineteen forty. So there was no use looking for her alive and kicking. We tried
to figure out why, in the previous universe, she had survived, but in this one,
she had died, but records in the Clermont mansion had all been destroyed dur-
ing the second war. All we could assume was that a doctor or nurse had been
absent or inattentive in this reality, whereas in the former situation, medication
or care was different.
We found Arturo’s grave in his birthplace town. The date of death was
June 7, 1944. He must not have survived the German tanks and mortars which
destroyed his house.
So I was possibly the only one alive in this up-dated, revised universe! It
was a bit daunting to think that, but at least I had Nina with me on the Astro,
as I had taken to calling it.
AstroTurf was just becoming an alternative to grass in field hockey, base-
ball and American Football. I believe it got its popular name when ChemGrass
was laid at the Houston Astrodome, home of the Houston Astros, and it had
captured the imagination of the sports fraternities in the USA.
A joke, popular at the time, went like this:

172
Sports Reporter to Football player: What do you think of AstroTurf instead
of grass?
Football player: I dunno. The coach don’t let us smoke any of that shit!
But although it was of some concern that we find a body to inhabit, the
imperative had not really started to impress itself on us. We both mourned Ar-
turo, of course, but on this level, it was hard to be sad, to have negative emo-
tions of any kind. In fact, it was soothing and Nina’s constant proximity was
making it even more so.
Of course, after checking that the world really had changed, we went back
to Port George to see just how it had affected that district. I was expecting a
huge British metropolis on or near the exact location, because I couldn’t for a
moment conceive that London or Sydney would pass up such a perfect plot
of land.
But instead we found a spotty little town, forgotten by time and the rest of
Western Australia, living on heritage and the reputation of being the first set-
tlement in the state. The Norwegians had set up a whaling industry and built
a processing plant at the formerly named Baie des Anglaise, now referred to,
ironically, as Frenchman’s Bay. This, plus wool sales, seemed to keep the town
alive.
There was probably ten or eleven thousand people there with outlying re-
gions accounting for about another fifteen hundred people.
But they were fiercely town-proud and patriotic, both to their state and
their country. They made a virtue out of being so far behind the rest of the
world and although they had a few fine buildings and an excellent High School
tucked away along the beach road, the town was nearly deserted at every hour
of the weekday. Only for a while on Friday afternoon and evening, and then
again from nine hundred until noon on Saturday, did the central business area,
or ‘town’ as the inhabitants called it, come to life.
In Port George, at no matter what time of evening or night, there were al-
ways crowds walking the street and boulevards, enjoying meals at the restau-
rants and being entertained at the theatres and cinemas. During the day, the
bustle of people going about their business, shopping and standing, chatting
in small groups was the norm and only on the coldest, rainiest days did they
stay indoors.
Here, everyone was tucked away, watching their television sets by nineteen
thirty. A few ventured out to their churches or to parking-lot-sized, open cin-
173
emas where you watched the movies from the comfort of your car, with a
speaker mounted next to the window, attached to a wire so that it could be
brought inside. A dance was held for teenagers in a disused cinema at the foot
of the main street: York Street, no doubt named after Frederick, Duke of York.
Curiously many of the suburbs had similar names to Port George, mostly
Nyoonga words, but I was surprised that Mont Clarence had retained its name,
while Mont Albert was now Mount Melville. Mont Josephine had become
Mount Adelaide.
The King George Sound colony was, we learned, not settled until 1827.
Our biggest fear had been that even if Baudin and Freycinet had not been
successful in their bid to settle the place, another French or even Dutch or Por-
tuguese proposal would have been accepted and we would have done all that
preparation in vain.
But everyone, even the British, had ignored what could have been a valu-
able little outpost and a seed from which to build a vibrant and strong com-
munity such as Port George.
We were again surprised that Captain Stirling’s Swan River Colony had
still not been established until after the King George Sound Settlement had
been under way for only a couple of years. We had originally assumed that
the latter would have been a thriving metropolis, larger than Perth. Instead,
Perth was beginning to show signs of coming to life, approximately the same
as it had been in the Nuytsland reality.
Albany, as the King George Sound town was called now, after a brief time
as “Frederick Town”, had been decided on, partly due to Matthew Flinders’
enthusiasm. But mainly as New South Wales was getting a bit nervous about
the French sniffing around again. Major Edmund Lockyer had been sent with
a small force of soldiers and settlers and on Boxing Day, 1826 had planted
the Union Flag on the shores of Princess Royal Harbour, towards the western
end, about where the third quay had been.
The names York, Frederick and Albany all belonged to the one person.
The Grand Old Duke of York of the children’s nursery rhyme. Frederick, Duke
of York and Albany. He was even honoured in Duke Street, which crossed
York Street. Earl Street and Ulster Road were in honour of his minor title,
Earl of Ulster. He seemed to have a lot of influence in this part of the world.
This was particularly appropriate as he was one of the main instigators of
Bonaparte’s ultimate defeat.

174
Captain James Stirling had come along later and chosen a site on the Swan
River, four hundred kilometres to the north. Or two hundred and fifty miles,
as the Australians called it.
Busselton stood slightly to the south west of where Geographe used to
exist, but the bay retained its name. D’Entrecasteux was still a very heavily
wooded rainforest, about fifty kilometres east of where Augusta now stood
on the tip of Cape Leeuwin. On the other end of the Freycinet Peninsula, Cape
Naturaliste stayed the same, but with a tiny township called Dunsborough.
Between the Capes, a flourishing wine industry at Margaret River rivalled
that of Nuytsland’s Riviere Margarit, but the other great vineyard district,
Montpelier, was mostly taken up by soft fruits, apples and pears. There were
a few vineyards, mostly with sour, German type grapes, and the nearby town
was now called Mount Barker, and the district was known as Plantagenet. An
experimental pea crop had been planted a few years ago, and was being
canned, along with salmon and tuna, in Albany.
Many of the inland towns were the same because Nyoonga names had
been retained, but in the east, Petit Orleans had ceased to exist. Esperance and
the Recherche Archipelago had still kept their names, having been mapped
by Freycinet long before the English got there.
Mainly, though, Western Australia, from Bunbury up to Kununurra, was
exactly the same, testimony to the enormous effort we put in on the ‘Prime
Radiant’.
That satisfied my professional pride, but even more so, the major events
of history seemed to have taken an almost identical course. Even the departure
of the ANZAC fleet in 1914 had happened in King George Sound, but now a
huge granite plinth with a statue stood on the back of Mount Clarence, de-
picting two soldiers, an Australian mounted and a New Zealander standing
beside his wounded steed.
The timeline, as far as we could make out, was the same for both realities.
Remember, my speciality was History and my memory pretty good, if not ei-
detic, so I went about checking where we could have overlooked something,
where the paths diverged unnecessarily. I checked the lists of governments
and Premiers, the dates of the periods of office and even the names of the
politicians in each party. With the inclusion of the former Nuytsland elec-
torates now taken into account, these were identical. Very occasionally, some-
thing was attributed to a Great Southern or South West land division member
and I recall that another, from somewhere to the north had done the deed in-
stead.
175
It was remarkable, although Nina just took it in her stride. She was of the
opinion that I was the authority and everything I had tried to predict had au-
tomatically happened. She hadn’t doubted for a second that if the change was
successful, the details would be totally sewn up. And that it was due to my
meticulous work!
I felt flattered, but sobered, too. While I had got it as near to perfect in
Australia, particularly the Great Southern, I had been unable to predict her
death in 1940 and Arturo’s in 1944.
We checked as best we could, on the current affairs situation and found
that although we were still heavily involved in Vietnam and President de
Gaulle was still boss cocky in France, there were only minimal diplomatic re-
lations between the countries.
Britain was still sniffing around the Common Market countries and
Charles de Gaulle was bitterly opposing their entry while Kurt Kiesinger was
still playing hard to get, extracting every millilitre out of the deal in Germany’s
favour.
There was no plan whatsoever for any nuclear testing and the world was
condemning France for its behaviour in the Muroroa Atoll. But de Gaulle was
unrepentant. He was one of the big boys now, and he was not going to stop
just because of world opinion.
Australia was still operating the Hi-Flux reactor at Lucas Heights, and
even though the Federal Government was trying to convince the people that
it was only for scientific and medical research, they were ‘pushing shit uphill’,
as one commentator famously said. Everyone knew it was an attempt at entry
level atomic power, and nothing would convince them otherwise.
So that was both objectives almost completely fulfilled. The state of the
aborigines was still very bad although they were living in relative peace and
harmony in the former Terra de Nuyts.
But they were a poor old lot with alcohol abuse rife among them. And, to
boot, the former Port George was beginning to enter what is known as ‘the
psychedelic age’!
LSD and cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, along with cannabis, was
pouring into the town. The French customs had done a reasonable job of keep-
ing the illicit importing under control, but the Australian customs officers and
police, a lazy and undisciplined bunch down in the Great Southern, were
mostly in on the act or turned a blind eye.
176
And, as usual, the local court magistrates didn’t have a clue what was
going on, nor realise the severity of the problem. In their tired, old-fashioned
way, they condemned everything they didn’t understand, and while being in
a strong position to lead the community thinking, decided to ignore it.
That started me thinking about Sharlene and I wondered if my timeline
was now altered, barring, of course, the Nuytsland job.
But I was such a tiny fish in a huge ocean that hardly any of my comings
and goings were reported. There were only newspapers and birth, deaths and
marriage registration offices and with no body, it was not always easy to read
these. The Astro had its limitations, too!
There were, of course, the archives at my schools and Universities. My
parents were ardent Baptists, but unlike with American Protestants, the Family
Bible was not a repository of events which could have assisted me. In fact,
we didn’t even have such a tome. Mum, Dad, Lu and I each had a Bible of
our own, and there were copies lying all over the house in Caulfield, but none
had any records in them.
A couple of framed photographs of us at graduation ceremonies, sports
events or church gatherings convinced me that my previous existence had not
been noticeably different. Many friends and families still existed, although
natural attrition had taken some of the older ones, and, tragically, a couple of
not-so-old.
But although I was stamped all over everything in Lu’s house, and in the
family home when I went back in Time to check, my present whereabouts was
not immediately apparent.
I encountered my Earth self on a couple of these backwards fact-finding
missions. I never realised what a gawky kid I was at tech school and how, by
Year Twelve, I had muscled up, gained confidence and was taller than my fa-
ther. As I am only a hundred and seventy centimetres, not quite five feet and
seven inches, that was not one of my striking characteristics. My goofy hairdo,
my bow tie and my rimless spectacles provided that!
And then I met Sharlene again.
Nina was with me as I was unnerved at the prospect that the emotion and
grief of seeing her would become too much to bear. I knew that it wouldn’t
make me discorporate or anything, but I was never that strong where my emo-
tions are concerned.

177
She was sitting at the table in Lu’s new house, talking to Robert while my
sister got the supper ready.
I couldn’t believe she was so ordinary! I was surprised as, until I met Nina,
she had been the only light in my life! I loved her so and never noticed her
appearance.
Alongside me I could sense Nina’s approval, though. She was telling me
how impressed she was that I had noticed a beautiful woman such as Sharlene.
Not for her appearance, but for her grace, charm, intelligence, kindness and
caring attitude.
I could see all that, too. I always have. They say love is blind, and I must
have loved her a lot.
I did love her a lot! She was all I had ever wanted in a girl, a woman and
a wife!
I heard the rattle and ding as my bike came up the path and the younger
me burst in the back door like a bull at a gate. Then I stopped, eyes agog and
face reddening when I saw the teenager sitting on the kitchen chair.
Bashfully, I put out my hand and said ‘My name’s Eric. I’m Lucinda’s sis-
ter . . . no, she’s my sister. I’m her brother.’
She stood up, smiled and took my hand.
‘I’m Catherine. But everyone calls me Sharlene. It’s my second name!’
How could I have forgotten. She had the same name as Nina, yet I had al-
most forgotten the given names of both women.
You see what you see and like what you see. What you call it is what you
think it should be called. That was Nina communicating, still as spellbound
as I was.
Nina said she had to leave as it wasn’t fair spying on my past life. She
didn’t feel uncomfortable, but knew that both the Astro me and the teenage
me were pretty awkward and that she felt we should have privacy. I said all
that came later, to wait until we started our rather amorous courtship, but she
laughed.
And then the extraordinary happened.

178
Livre Deux
Australia

179
1.
It had been a hard day, The sun was warm and it was over a mile from the
railway station in the town part of Caulfield. I was feeling quite tired after
working all afternoon in the warehouse, straight after two lectures, one im-
mediately following the other.
I laboured up the slight incline, my Malvern Star felt like it was made of
lead.
The reason I was not my usual, vibrant self, was, I knew, because I was
up until two o’clock, finishing assignments which had to be completed and
submitted in a week’s time. Added to that, during the semester, I had discov-
ered coffee.
My family only ever drank Amgoorie ‘It’s Good’ Tea, on account of my
mother having come from Adelaide, where it was packaged and probably the
only brand available as she was growing up. My gran, Mum’s mother, was
also an inveterate tea drinker who once counted that she had drunk sixteen
cups in one day during the depression, to ward off the hunger pangs until
Grandad came home with his railway pay packet. Mum said she had made
sure her children fed and often ran short of food by Friday morning, so she
skipped breakfast and lunch. They always, she said, had fish and chips for tea
on Friday, from the shop owned by Mr Papadopoulis. His son ran it now, and
we always had a feed there when visiting her.
So coffee was a novelty, but it served the purpose of stopping me falling
asleep over my books. Then, when I eventually got to bed, my body was still
too stimulated and I normally lay awake for another hour until my my mind
just dropped off, with my legs still ‘jimmying’ all over the place.
I was looking forward to a nice, replenishing cup when I arrived at Lu-
cinda’s. My sister had just moved into a new house in a new development,
with her husband of two years, Robert. Not only had his recent promotion
meant that they could afford the mortgage on a three bedroom bungalow, not
too far from the City, but that luxuries were also not out of the question any
more. Like a quart-sized coffee percolator and a hand operated grinder.
At home I had a jar of Bushells Instant, which Mum said was going to
slowly rot me from the inside out. She regarded coffee as an undesirable habit
we picked up from the Yanks during the war. She pointed to the fact that I al-
ways poured milk and sugar into it, and claimed it was unpalatable on its own.
She always drank her tea black and unsweetened, but Dad, being English,
180
had his syrupy, into which he poured a liberal splash of Carnation condensed
milk.
As I leaned my bike against the railing, I could already smell the pungent
aroma and hear the pumping sound as the coffee went up the stem and the
little gurgle as it trickled back down from the basket.
I put my jacket back on and went in through the back door.
To my amazement, there was a very pleasant young lady sitting at the table,
talking to my brother-in-law. As I entered, she looked up as though she was
expecting me.
Bashfully, I put out my hand and said ‘My name’s Eric. I’m Lucinda’s sis-
ter . . . no, she’s my sister. I’m her brother.’
She stood up, smiled and took my hand.
‘I’m Catherine. But everyone calls me Sharlene. It’s my second name!’
‘You’re sure about that, are you, Eric?’ said my sister from over near the
stove, and Sharlene chuckled.
But it wasn’t a silly, girlish giggle, it was a proper laugh, designed to put
me at my ease. I was grateful that the blood hadn’t rushed to my face, as it
normally does when I meet a new girl for the first time.
‘Lu has been telling me that you are in your third year at University. What
are you reading?’
‘I’m majoring in History and Politics, with a couple of units of Anthro-
pology and Comparative Linguistics. Pretty boring stuff!’
I shrugged, self-deprecatingly, but not to the extent that she would think I
had no confidence. More so that she had something to work on to make con-
versation, should she so desire.
She smiled again and I noticed her even, white teeth. She obviously didn’t
have any opinion.
‘Do you work with Robert?’ I enquired, wondering how dare he bring an-
other woman into my sister’s home, but I had no need to worry. Just my par-
ent’s influence. They were Baptists and always ready to think the worst of
everybody. One of the reasons why I hadn’t joined them in worship for about
four years.

181
Again that laugh. I decided that I liked it.
‘No! I am a student nurse at Royal Melbourne. I just came up from Trar-
algon and don’t know very many people here. Lucinda thought you might
show me around, introduce me to a few of your friends, maybe take me danc-
ing . . . ‘
Before I even had time to consider my heavy workload, I blurted out: ‘I’d
love to!’
But Lucinda was a smarter than me.
‘Semester break can’t be far off, now, can it, Eric? You should have a bit
of spare time then.’
And so I would have to wait two weeks before I got the chance to spend
any time with her! In that time, I would worry my heart out that someone else
would move in ahead of me and that he would have a car, be debonair,
wealthy, and would steal her heart away. In my mind I had put her on a
pedestal, so infatuated with her without even knowing anything more about
her than what I learned in the five minute chat we had in the kitchen.
I now know that it was what the penny dreadfuls call ‘love at first sight’.
For both of us! But at the time, I just knew I would do anything to see this
crush through to a satisfactory conclusion. And that conclusion was simply
taking her dancing, a tram ride back to the nurses’ quarters and maybe a brief
‘pash’ in the doorway before the matron, or whoever, came out to shoo me
away.
I was pretty distracted during my assignments which had to be handed in
by the following week. They were worth seventy five percent of my mark and
were very important if I didn’t want to have to repeat a subject.
But, fortunately, the bulk of the papers were already completed, with just
a revision and final ‘icing on the cake’ required to get a mark which would
pass me. But I was very distracted in that final couple of weeks and probably
could have got a point or two more if I had applied myself better. Still . . .
I had fancied the occasional young lady before and dated a couple, but
none had captured my attention like this Sharlene did.
Lu said she thought we were well suited to each other and I heard Robert
say something about us both being a bit odd.

182
Still, if we were both a bit different but well suited to each other, that could
only be a good thing.
Eventually I got up the nerve to ring the nurses’ quarters, but they said she
was working and that they would leave a message and could she call me.
Of course, Mum and Dad didn’t have a telephone so I asked when she
would be off duty. They told me and I rang back about half an hour after the
time they gave. But the girl went away for a while, then came back and told
me she had come in, had a quick shower and then got in a car which was
parked out the front.
My heart sank. Some other fellow had beaten me to the punch! I just knew
it and cursed the workload that had kept me from her.
But I shrugged, got back on my bike which I had left leaning against the
telephone box and rode home.
However, I couldn’t get her off my mind and seriously wanted to phone
her again. But I was worried that she might think I was pushing too hard, that
she wouldn’t welcome the complication of another young man getting in the
way of her new friendship with the car owner.
So I moped. For a week I moped.
Then I caught the train out to Caulfield and pedalled over to see my sister.
‘We thought you didn’t love us any more,’ said Lucinda. ‘We haven’t seen
you for three weeks!’
‘Oh, exams. And papers to finish,’ I muttered.
‘Sharlene is upset you haven’t called. Didn’t you like her?’
‘I called but they said she was out with another bloke in a car.’
‘Oh, I see. She only told me yesterday that she wished you had called her.
Other than when her Dad visited Melbourne last week, she hasn’t been out
anywhere.’
‘Her Dad?’ Maybe that was who picked her up!
‘Maybe that was who she was with when you rang,’ said Lucinda. ‘She’s
doing nights at the moment, but she should have finished her sleep by now.
Why don’t you give her a call from here. Robert got the phone put on. His
work, you know!’ she added, proudly.
183
‘Do you mind? I will if it’s okay!’
‘I just suggested it!’ Lu shook her head in mock disbelief. ‘I wouldn’t have
offered if it wasn’t okay!’ Sisters! You had to love them!
So I went out into the hall and picked up the receiver. The telephonist came
on and asked for ‘my party’s number’.
‘Please wait.’
And then Sharlene answered.
‘Royal Melbourne Nurses’ Rooms!’
‘Er, is that Sharlene?’ No one else was likely to have that awful Gippsland
accent.
‘Yes. Speaking. Is that you Eric? Why haven’t you called earlier?
‘Oh, er, I’ll explain later. What time is your next shift?’
‘Not for a couple of days. I have this evening and all tomorrow off. Can I
see you?’
My heart soared.
‘Yes!’ I answered. ‘Yes, of course! Can I meet you somewhere? Or pick
you up. You’re in Parkfield, right?’
So I kissed Lu goodbye and she looked surprised.
‘That was short and sweet! You only just got here!’
‘She said yes,’ I yelled. ‘She wants to go out with me!’
I raced back to Caulfield Station, left my bike behind the hedge, then
jumped on the next train into Flinders Street. I dodged around the other pedes-
trians and raced through the tunnel and up onto the street. As I crossed busy
Flinders Street, a number 19 tram was at the Elizabeth Street stop and I only
had a two minute wait.
It is only a few stops up to the hospital and I got told off by the conductor
for riding on the running board. They were starting to get strict about this now
as a couple of people had been injured by cars when the tram swung around
corners. I stood in the doorway and as soon as it stopped outside the hospital,
I leapt off and ran along Grattan Street to the accommodation building.
184
She was waiting for me in the lobby and as I came in, I expected her to
politely shake my hand, the way well bred young ladies were taught. But she
didn’t.
She rushed to the door and threw her arms around me, stood on tiptoes
and kissed me full in the mouth.
I was taken aback, not only because she had to stand on tiptoes! I am only
five feet seven but she was a good five inches shorter. I had only seen her sit-
ting before, except when she half rose to greet me in my sister’s kitchen. I
didn’t realise she was so tiny.
But that was only an incidental surprise. Her excitement at seeing me
bowled me over!
‘I thought you weren’t going to ring!’ she said. ‘I waited and waited and
thought you must have forgotten or lost interest!’
Of course, I explained what had happened and the confusion of her father’s
car, and we laughed.
‘At least you are here now!’ she chuckled in that tone I remembered so
well.
We had coffee in the tearooms on the corner of Swanston and Collins
Street, in a magnificent building called the Manchester Unity. She had to pay
because even though a trainee nurse earned next to nothing, a University stu-
dent earned even less, even one with a part time job in a warehouse. When
we came out, it had started to rain, and although we had planned a walk around
Fitzroy Gardens, we went to one of the cinemas instead and watched Barbara
Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster in ‘Sorry, Wrong Number’. It had been banned
for a while because it depicted drug taking, which is a bit ironic, as future
events proved
Nobody could have been happier than we were that summer! Although her
shifts meant we had to meet up at odd hours, surprisingly, they coincided quite
well with my work. The Storeman was very pleased with my diligence and
hard work and gave me a lot of overtime up until Christmas. He made me his
clerk and told me there was a full time permanent job going in the Richmond
warehouse, if I cared to apply, and he would put in a very good word for me
because he knew the manager.
However, I told him that my studies resumed in February, and although I
enjoyed having a little money to splash around, I was determined to get my

185
degree. He assured me I was doing the right thing in the long run, but that
there was always work for me after lectures, on the weekend and during va-
cations.
I was proud of that recommendation, and I think the experience helped me
develop a strong work ethic. Sharlene was pleased for me, as well, but insisted
my studies should come first.
So by the end of summer I had accumulated quite a tidy nest egg, for a
starving student. I gave Mum a percentage, of course, which, unbeknown to
me, she kept in a bank account with my name on it.
Before long, we were a recognised couple, Shar and me! At student and
nurses’ parties, at local dances and around town.
Her father used to visit her quite regularly and I know he approved. When-
ever he visited and I was at lectures or working, he would ask after me, and
when I was there, he treated me not as his daughter’s paramour, but as a friend.
He used to discuss the news with me, particularly once he found out I was
studying current affairs analysis. While other blokes awkwardly talked about
cricket or horse racing to their daughters’ boyfriends, our discussions were al-
ways on a higher plane.
‘I’d like you to come down and meet Molly and my brothers,’ he told me.
‘Maybe at Easter. It’s not bad weather, usually, and we could show you around
our little part of the world!’
But as luck would have, Sharlene was rostered on each day except Satur-
day and we never made it.
A couple of weeks later, her dad was killed when a tractor rolled on top of
him, way out in a back paddock and he lay there all day, in agony, before being
discovered. He died on the way to hospital.
Sharlene got compassionate leave, and as Anzac Day fell on the Tuesday
following his death, I asked the boss for an extra day off. On Friday evening,
we caught the train down. I stayed until Wednesday morning because I had a
lecture in the afternoon. Shar stayed until the following Sunday so she could
attend his funeral. I met her at Spencer Street Station in the evening.
In the tram going back along Victoria Avenue, she proposed to me.
‘We could get engaged now, so that when I finish my training and if you
have your Bachelors by then, we could marry.’

186
It seemed like a good idea to me!
Long engagements were not uncommon in those days, so I withdrew a
hundred pounds from my bank account and bought a diamond ring. There was
still twenty seven pounds left, so we rented a room at the Oddfellows and in-
vited a lot of our friends along for a big party.
The Oddfellows are a temperance organisation and some people were a
bit miffed that no alcohol was allowed but as none of my family drank and I
had never seen Sharlene consume anything stronger than sarsparilla, it never
worried us much.
I cannot remember any discord or arguments during our engagement. I
think both of us were too concerned about our ambitions and future that we
seldom discussed anything else. She would relate all her experiences on the
ward and in her classroom to me, and I would store up fragments from my
studies which I knew would interest her, and tell them to her as we sat on a
bench in Flagstaff Gardens, walking along the beach at Brighton or over coffee
in the Manchester Unity building.
She had never been very interested in football, but quite often, if her shifts
permitted, she would accompany me to watch the Saints play at Moorabbin
or away games if they were at one of the inner city ovals.
I bought her a beanie and a scarf and I recall those days standing around
the fence at Moorabbin, hugging each other when the Saints kicked a goal, or
just for the sheer pleasure of hugging each other.
If they won, which was not often, our hugs and kisses would get quite pas-
sionate and drew some disapproving glances from the old women you always
see at games, done up to nines in red, black and white knitwear, and who yell
abuse at the umpires or the visiting team!
The Saints were wooden spooners several times in the early fifties, but
that never deterred us nor detracted from our pleasure.
Afterwards we would catch the bus, shivering in the Saturday evening
cold, and have tea at Lucinda’s, eating buttered toast with Vegemite and drink-
ing big mugs of hot Milo.
We married in 1952 in the Methodist Church in Traralgon.
It was the first time I had been in a church since I was fifteen and Sharlene
had long ceased attending when I met her. Neither of us actually condemned

187
churchgoing, and although we did discuss it on one accession, we both agreed
that the existence of God was unlikely but we couldn’t prove it. So as long as
Christianity remained a cohesive force of goodness in our community, we
thought it was okay. If the Salvos rattled their tin, we might donate, but if they
rattled it under our nose, we would politely ask them to stop!
But my folks and her Mum and uncles were all regular church goers and
seeing as they were organising everything, so the little wood-panelled house
of worship was fine with us.
My Mum and Dad beamed when they were told, as they had worried and
prayed about my ‘turning away from the Lord’ and saw this as a positive sign.
A friend from University was supposed to be my best man, but never
showed up. One of her uncles stepped into the breach at the last minute and
gave a very funny, if slightly risque, speech at the breakfast, which won
Mum’s instant disapproval.
However, Gran laughed uproariously, much to Uncle Barry’s delight and
Mum’s horror!
Lucinda and Robert drove me down there and stayed at the same hotel as
I did. Rob made sure the uncles didn’t get at me and ply me with liquor, as
they threatened to do. I don’t know what would have happened if they had,
because other than the occasional schooner of Victoria Bitter at Uni, and a
glass of champagne after Lu’s wedding, I was a teetotaller.
I rented a small apartment in Balaclava. I say ‘apartment’ because Shar al-
ways referred to it as that, but it was actually a converted garage with attached
shed alongside a residence just off Carlisle Street, near the station. The bath-
room was barely bigger than the toilet at Mum’s, but it housed a zinc bath, a
stand with a tiny basin as well as the toilet.
There was an even smaller kitchen and a dining area which doubled as a
lounge when we had guests. I think there had once been two bedrooms be-
cause a big scar around the middle indicated that a stud wall had been removed
to make it a decent size ‘master’ room.
But we couldn’t have been happier. Trams and trains ran within cooee of
our front door, the shops were just around the corner and we were both gain-
fully employed.
Sharlene stayed on at the Royal Melbourne, while I worked in the ware-
house during the day and started studying for my Masters in the evening. Mr

188
Langtree retired shortly after I received my Bachelor’s degree and after a very
unsuccessful stint when a Storeman was seconded from Prahran, the General
Manager paid me a visit and asked if I would accept the position. It meant an
extra six pounds a week, and I was in no position to refuse.
But I was seldom at home. Straight after work, I would bolt down a salad
roll or a slice of spanakopita and wash it down with some coffee before head-
ing up to town for my lectures.
By now, Sharlene was a nursing sister in the day clinic and was normally
home by five fifteen. Her evenings were pretty boring, listening to the radio,
reading and sometimes going out with a friend.
I didn’t really like this friend. She was a bit too common and smoked. I
also knew she was no stranger to the gin bottle and once I heard the way she
spoke to some lads at the tram stop and thought her behaviour and language
belonged in the gutter.
But Sharlene dismissed it as ‘just Cheryl’s way’, and I didn’t want to try
to control who she saw. I had seen a few friends’ marriage dissolved because
of jealousy, nagging and distrust. Besides, I loved Sharlene and felt she would
never do anything like that herself.
And I felt kind of guilty about never spending any time with her. I could
hardly expect to keep tabs on her when I was always out! What time we did
spend together was wonderful and I did my darnedest to get away with her as
often as I could.
And she agreed that I had to make a living, had to make my mark in the
world!
Every evening when I eventually got home, she was waiting for me, and
on the few occasions when she would still be out, at the cinema or playing
housey-housey at the CWA, as soon as she got in she would be all over me,
making a fuss.
I thought I had it made! Even when she began to go out more regularly,
when sometimes her clothes smelt a bit smokey from the cigarettes Cheryl
and the other women puffed away on.
Shar’s breath never smelt of smoke or alcohol, so I was quite happy!
We took a vacation when I gained my Masters, and had two wonderful
weeks skiing at Mt Bulla. The mountains were beautiful, my wife was beau-

189
tiful and my career prospects were beautiful. The world was my oyster!
So what went wrong?

190
2.
One autumn evening, I arrived home from doing a stocktake to find the
house was in darkness. Ben, our tabby cat, had been fed and there was a note
saying there was a cheesy potato bake in the fridge. All I had to do was pop it
in the oven on regulo three for half an hour.
I settled down in my armchair and Ben, named after the previous Leader
of the Federal Opposition, Mr Chiffley, scratched at the arm until I invited
him onto my lap.
Then there was a knock on the door. Not Sharlene’s knock when she could-
n’t find her keys but knew I was at home. This was a controlled, official sort
of knock.
Ben leapt off my lap and crouched, hissing, in a corner.
I went over and answered it and a policeman and a woman in civvies stood
there, nervously twiddling with their hats.
‘Mr Eric Catlin?’ asked the policeman. I nodded and gulped. What was
going on?
‘Yes!’
‘Would you kindly come with us?’ the woman said. ‘Your wife, Catherine
Sharlene Catlin, has been taken ill and is in Hospital. We couldn’t telephone
you and it is quite imperative you come with us.’
I switched off the oven and went outside with them. There was a divvy
van parked on the street verge and the policeman apologised that it was the
only vehicle available to them. The woman offered to sit in the back and I sat
up front with the constable.
‘What’s happened?’ I asked. ‘Is it some sort of a seizure?’ Her aunt had
seizures and I vaguely recalled this and wondered if it was hereditary.
‘I can’t say, Sir. In fact I was not briefed. The phone call just said to collect
you and to impress upon you it was very important that you come with us.’
So I sat there, anxious and beside myself with worry. He parked in a police
bay outside St Vincent’s Hospital and walked around to open my door, but I
was already out.
We went up the ambulance driveway to the Emergency entrance and the

191
woman took my arm in a comforting gesture. I still didn’t know why I needed
to be comforted.
‘This is Mr Catlin!’ the constable said to the receptionist. Mrs Catherine
Sharlene Catlin’s husband.’
‘Ah, yes. Please take a seat. Someone will be along straight away!’
The woman, who said her name was Rita, sat with me, and the constable
gripped my hand and wrist in a supportive gesture, then excused himself and
left. The receptionist produced a cup of tea in remarkably quick time and then
a tall, bespectacled man came through a door into the waiting room.
“Mr Catlin? I am Dr Didier Rousell!’ he had a pronounced French accent.
‘Your wife is out of danger now, but we sent for you because we thought
we might lose her at one stage.’
‘Lose her? What happened? Why would you lose her?’
‘Would you come through into my office, please, Sir. May I call you Eric?’
‘Yes, of course. What happened?’
‘Your wife was found unconscious in an alleyway near Smith Street. She
had taken an overdose of amphetamines.’
‘Amphetamines? No, you’re having me on!’
‘Eric, I can assure you that was the reason for her state. Would you like to
see her. I am sure Matron will let you in.’
Rita excused herself but told me to ask at reception if I needed her. She
said she was sure everything would be alright, she was in the best hands.
And just as Dr Rousell said, there was Sharlene, her hair matted and her
skin as pale as parchment, lying on a bed with an oxygen canula in her nose
and a drip in her arm.
She was asleep or semi comatose, and never responded when I went and
kissed her cheek.
‘It’s all okay, Shar. I’m here now!’ I whispered, but there was still noth-
ing.

192
‘She is very, very lucky we got her in time. A member of the public found
her and a police patrol was walking past the alley and brought her straight in.
‘Were you aware she was using amphetamine, Eric? Your reaction was
that it came as a complete surprise.’
‘I never even suspected! Are you sure she wasn’t attacked and injected
against her will?’ I was foundering. ‘I would have known!’
‘The police picked up her supplier. They made him talk. He said she had
a been a regular for six months. And there are residuals in her body which in-
dicate she has been using for at least a few months.’
I was all weak around my knees. If you had asked me this afternoon, it
would have been about the last thing I would have thought of. What on earth
made her start using amphetamine, of all things? Only truck drivers used that!
A few students I knew had smoked marijuana: dope they called it. Mainly
some of the beatniks who were at university with me, but with whom I had
never had any association.
Amphetamine? We were all aware that it came in on Asian ships at Port
Melbourne, along with other smuggled goods and that quite a lot of gold and
opals went out, but where would she have got it from?
A thought struck me.
“Doctor, would she be . . . er, is she addicted?’
‘Almost certainly. It only takes one or two hits, and that’s it!’ he grunted.
‘I’ll do tests, but I will almost guarantee that she will be in a lot of pain as she
withdraws. Of course, there is a chance she won’t make it through the with-
drawal, you know. I am required to tell you that.’
‘But I thought you said . . .’
‘I only said we hadn’t lost her to the overdose. Her body is terribly weak
and the cravings she will be experiencing, even while she is unconscious, will
seem to be ripping her insides out!’
‘Er, have you handled drug overdoses before, Doctor. I mean, what are her
chances of making it through?’
‘Oh, they are moderate. Because we got to her in time. Her heart stopped
beating for a few minutes, but with resuscitation techniques, we got it going
again.’
193
‘And if she does . . . withdraw . . . give it up, how long will that take?’
‘I will want her in here for five weeks at least. What sort of work does she
do?’
‘She’s a nursing sister. At Royal Melbourne!’
‘We can have her transferred when she comes out of the Emergency
Rooms, if you like. But I think she is better off here. Do you have Hospital
Benefits?’
‘I am sure Royal Melbourne does. If we are better off keeping her here,
we probably should. If you’ll have her.’
The doctor went outside to the desk. He spoke to the receptionist and came
back.
‘Rita, the social worker, is coming back. She will arrange for a driver to
take you home. Please try to relax. She is in the best possible care and I will
contact you tomorrow afternoon when I come back on duty.
While we waited for the silvertop, Rita told me that Dr Rousell was a joy
to work with. He had studied at the Sorbonne and had been at St. Vincent’s
for about five months.
‘The nursing staff think he is wonderful. He is, of course, French and has
a charming manner. Your wife is in the best hands. Please don’t worry.’
But of course, I worried. Early next morning I rang the manager and told
him briefly that Sharlene had been hospitalised. He asked me what was wrong
with her, and I was a little evasive so he ceased his line of questioning. He
probably thought that she was pregnant and it was a complication. That’s what
most people think when you are reluctant to tell them that your young wife is
ailing.
He told me to take off all the time I needed and to keep him posted and
that if there was anything they could do, please let him know.
And that afternoon when I called by for visiting hours, there was a huge
bunch of flowers and a card from him. Very thoughtful!
Sharlene was awake but still very weak. She didn’t want to speak and she
was terribly embarrassed and sheepish. She thought she had let me down and
I had a hard time convincing her that I was in no position to judge her. I would-
n’t judge or accuse her or blame her. She must have had her reasons, and al-
though I wasn’t aware of them, I was sure she would tell me if she wanted to.
194
I left at four thirty, still no wiser, but so glad I had reassured her a little bit.
I had two and a half hours until the next visit started at seven o’clock so I rode
around on a tram, and as it was rush hour and I stood up for the elderly and
infirm people, didn’t enjoy it much.
So I went to the University and tried to catch up on some reading. The
words formed silly patterns in my head and I realised I had not understood
nor followed even one sentence.
At last I walked along Latrobe Street and back to the hospital. I didn’t have
much money on me, but I bought her some mandarins, which she had always
enjoyed.
They told me at the reception that she was in a general ward and I took
that as a sign that she was improving. She was sleeping when I went in and
other than to thank me for the fruit and mutter something I like to think was
‘I love you’, she barely woke up.
I came the following day, and the one after that. I didn’t want to tell her
mother in case she worried, although there was still a lot to worry about. Her
systems had all but closed down.
However, when she started at Royal Melbourne, she had to name a next-
of-kin, someone to be contacted in case of accidents or incidents such as this,
and a few days later, when Sharlene was not back at work, the systems all
kicked in and her mother was notified.
She came up on the next train and I met her at Richmond Station. She was
furious at me for not having rung her and I tried to explain, but of course, to
an over-anxious mother, no explanation was ever going to be enough.
Fortunately, she got the idea that she had accidentally taken too much of
a prescribed medicine, and I again got accused.
‘You should check she’s taking the right dose!’ her mother growled. ’You
know what she’s like!’
I knew that she was as careful with medications as nurses nearly always
are, and her meticulousness with everything she did would never allow her to
make an error like that. Besides, imagine if I went and checked up on her med-
icines, no matter what! She would think I was treating her like a child.
But I couldn’t tell her mother that, and stoically accepted it, knowing that
mothers-in-law traditionally hold their children’s spouses in contempt.

195
It took all of the five weeks for her to get back to where she was before
this all began. I acknowledged that she would never be in that same place as
she was before she started on the drugs.
But even when she had broken the addiction, I didn’t know what effect
our discussing it would have, so I waited for her to broach the subject.
She never did!
One evening after an appointment with her psychiatrist, he waited until
she had gone out of the room and was getting her coat, when he indicated me
to one side.
‘Could you make an appointment for yourself with my receptionist, Mr
Catlin?’
What was all this about? Did he think I was in need of counselling, too?
Was I doing something not quite right in his eyes? Had I displayed any traits
which needed correcting or modifying? Anyway, I said yes and the following
day I rang his office.
‘Doctor Merriweather is rather busy at the moment,’ she said, as they al-
ways say. ‘But he told me to fit you in at the earliest. Does three forty this af-
ternoon suit you?’
I told her that any time was okay, as long as it helped Sharlene and she,
presumably, wrote me into her appointment book.
‘Ah, Mr Catlin. Do you mind if I call you Eric. I am not normally this fa-
miliar with relatives of my patients, but I feel yours is a special case.
He was a nice, middle-aged American with an accent which wasn’t quite
New York, but I guessed he came from up that part of the country. Probably
studied at Harvard or Yale or somewhere in the New England area.
‘And on the same token, I want you to call me Berthos. Yes, it is a Scan-
dinavian name, my mother was Swedish although my father was a fourth gen-
eration American.’
‘My mother was from Adelaide, but my father came from England. I am
told Catlin is an Irish name, though,’ I rejoined for some reason. Anxiety?
Nervousness? Afterwards, I wondered why I did that.
‘You have probably gathered that I didn’t invite you here to discuss an-
cestry,’ Dr Merriweather said, reaching into his pocket and producing a briar
pipe, which he looked at then replaced.
196
‘I want to discuss Sharlene with you. While privacy does not allow me to
divulge her condition without her permission, I would like to talk about her
generally.’
‘Okay,’ I said. ‘What do you want to know?’
‘I want to know why you have never noticed she was using this stuff, why
you never asked her how she got started or what motivated her to begin. Peo-
ple don’t just suddenly think “I will inject myself with amphetamine today,
just for a bit of fun!” They normally have a psychological need or desire for
something more.’
‘Well, I work all day and at night, I attend lectures at University. My study
load is huge and I always stay on in the library, reading and researching. I am
doing my PhD. I don’t get to spend as much time as I should with her, I know,
but . . .’ I let my words trickle off.
‘She has told me that you are an abnormally attentive husband and that
every moment you have spare, you spend with her. But you don’t approve of
her friends. Are you possessive or jealous, do you think?’
‘I don’t think so. I admit some of her friends are a bit . . . well, I am sur-
prised she is interested in them, but I have never said anything about them or
criticised them. Does she think I have?’
‘She hasn’t said. But you don’t display any friendliness towards them?
Sometimes that can be misconstrued.’
‘Oh, come on now! What sort of a quack are you? Accusing me of alien-
ating my wife because I don’t like her friends! I have never even socialised
with them or even spoke more than a couple of sentences to them!
‘If this is the way you operate, I am taking my wife to someone else. Some-
one without your bleeding heart, soft-cock, American ideas!’ I was furious.
‘I am sorry, Mr Catlin.’ He had returned to addressing me with an hon-
orific. I must have hit a nerve there!
‘I never meant to infer that your relationship with your wife’s friends was
wrong in any way. It is just her perception. She is emotionally fragile and I
think this stems back to her childhood.’
‘So it’s her parent’s fault, is it? I think I have heard enough, Sir. Good-
bye!’

197
And I walked out. Creep! His job is to analyse her and all he wants to do
is lay blame.
Sharlene is the one who took the drugs, for whatever reason. Not her par-
ents, not her friends. And I certainly didn’t push her over the edge.
Stuff him!
I waited at the tram stop to get back to work, and I saw Dr Merriweather
come out of the doors and, after checking there was no traffic, come across
the road. There was an 86 coming and I stood up to swing onto it.
‘Please, Eric.’ Eric again? What happened to Mr Catlin?
But something in his voice made me think he still had something to offer
so I sat back down.
‘Make yer bloody mind up, Mate!’ yelled the conductor, dinged his bell
and moved off.
‘Can we talk, please? If you don’t want to go back to my rooms, I under-
stand. Let me buy you a cup of coffee!’
At the mention of coffee, I realised how much I needed one.
‘Okay, I said. ‘There is a cake shop around the corner.’

‘We didn’t get off to a very good start, did we?’ Doctor Merriweather said,
when we were seated. ‘I am sorry. I often read the signals wrongly. Australians
react differently to Bostonians.’
‘I may have over reacted, too,’ I admitted. ‘I thought I was being ques-
tioned. That I had done something wrong.’
‘No, no, no! I think your reaction to this crisis is admirable. The last thing
Sharlene needs is criticism, to feel alienated. But have you considered that
she was trying to end it all by taking those drugs?’
‘Suicide? No! that’s crazy. How do you arrive at that?’
‘It seems that she started small. At work. Just a tiny bit of methampheta-
mine to keep her weight down. It is available from a pharmacist for a couple
of pounds. She would have easy access to them. It’s often used to treat obesity,

198
an area in which your wife has been working in the day clinic. However, it is
a potent central nervous system stimulant and highly addictive.
‘In low to moderate doses, methamphetamine can elevate mood, increase
alertness, concentration and energy in fatigued individuals, reduce appetite,
and promote weight loss.
‘In the United States, we have been trying to have it banned because truck
drivers over-use it and have caused a number of accidents.’
‘But “to keep her weight down”? She isn’t overweight!’
‘I am not blaming you for this, and I don’t want you to over-react. Just lis-
ten and then pass judgement. Often, when a woman settles into a routine, par-
ticularly with a man she really loves, she gets, shall we say, “contented”. She
doesn’t realise it, but she serves herself the same portions as her husband.
Often eats the same food, foods she never usually ate before. Then she starts
putting on weight. You never noticed because the methamphetamine counter-
acted the weight gain!’
‘But you said she wanted to kill herself!’
‘She realised she was addicted. She knew better than most people what
that meant, being a nurse. She knew you would find out and she couldn’t stand
the thought of hurting you, your reaction, your disapproval. You can see how
easily that could happen!’
‘No, I can’t! It doesn’t make any sense to me! I would have tried to help
her if she’d come to me!’
‘And she knew that. She may have even imagined you had already found
out and was disgusted with her. After all, in her guilt, she imagined you dis-
approved of her friends.
‘These drugs alter your mind, you know. She was no longer capable of
reasoning like you do, or like she would have before the drugs addled her
mind.’
‘So where do we go from here?’
“Slowly, gently, and supporting her in every way. You will have to put
your life on hold, I am afraid. I can help you, advise you.
‘Look, Eric, I like you. You are a man after my own heart. You are consci-
entious, caring, and above all, intelligent and well educated. I want to help
199
you. And Sharlene. You are the sort of people who make this country the envy
of the world! Even America!’
‘And . . . ? I feel there is an “and” coming on.’
He laughed and got his pipe out and polished the bowl. Then he took a
pouch out of another pocket and asked if I minded. I told him to go right ahead.
‘You are no fool!’ he laughed. ‘You saw through me! But I do mean what
I said. You are worth helping. Sharlene loves you, you love her. You deserve
to be happy together!
‘But I need to do some additional work to get a teaching post at a univer-
sity. Become a professor. I am working on a thesis about drug addiction treat-
ment. I think it will become an important field in the not-too-distant future.
‘Simply, I would like to use you as a study case!’
‘So Shar would be a guinea pig?’ I mused. ‘I wonder how she’ll like that.’
‘But first, how do you like it? I will submit it to my old alma mater, Har-
vard, so your identity will be completely unknown. Nobody will even guess
it is Mr and Mrs Catlin. Nobody in Boston, I assume, even knows Mr and Mrs
Catlin.’
‘Will you just study her, or will you use all your skill and what you learn,
to treat her? Too many academics become so involved in their research, they
forget about the people they study . . . their patients. They treat them like . . .
like guinea pigs!’
‘You will have to trust me on this. I promise that won’t happen. I am, first
and foremost, a consultant psychiatrist. You have my solemn word!’
I began to warm to this man. He was frank, honest, open. He assessed me
perfectly, even noticing and mentioning my flaws. Why shouldn’t I trust him?
He was the best we had, and after a few private investigations, I discovered
he had the reputation of being the leading psychiatrist in Melbourne, with a
wonderful, caring bedside manner. And he got results.
I agreed, depending on Sharlene’s reaction, that I would suspend my stud-
ies for a semester and devote myself to getting her through this.

200
For about three weeks, Sharlene was almost a blank. She had what diggers
call ‘the thousand yard stare’, where they gaze off into the distance, unable to
focus their eyes and seemingly light years away in their thoughts. Berthos had
forewarned me of this and said not to be too alarmed or impatient if she
seemed to be totally ignoring me or someone else. Apparently, the phenomena
was common with servicemen who had been in Korea, particularly those who
has seen fierce combat or witnessed atrocities. It was a way of refusing to con-
nect with reality, and he was pretty sure that the mind was actually blank, in-
active, during these spells.
Gradually, she became more aware but still reluctant to communicate or
show any animation in her face. Once, she started laughing at a silly, slapstick
comedy, Lucille Ball or someone, and then just as quickly, the laughter turned
to tears. She sobbed for about three quarters of an hour and then went catatonic
again.
Berthos said this was an inability or lack of desire to control her emotions,
that the line between sorrow and joy was blurred and she had no way of know-
ing which was which. It frightened me a little, because I didn’t know how to
deal with it, either for her benefit, or my own peace of mind.
But the psychiatrist was as good as his word. Whenever I got confused
about reading the signals, when she did anything unforeseen or when it got
too much for either of us to deal with, Dr Merriweather would either give me
phone advice or, as happened on several occasions, visit us or make an ap-
pointment as soon as possible.
‘I hope we are not making a nuisance of ourselves!’ I told him on several
occasions, but he always smiled and said that was what he was there for, that
we were helping him as well as his helping us.
Needless to say, Sharlene lost her job as she was unemployable while she
was getting better. It seemed to be taking forever and I was glad I had been so
thrifty, and when Mum came up with two hundred pounds she had saved up
from my ‘board’ money, it kept the wolf from the door until she could be left
alone while I did a bit of overtime.
Lucinda was marvellous during all this. She hovered around all the while
I was working and brought our groceries from the store for us. The shops were
shut when I left in the morning, and had closed at the same time I left work,
so without wasting a fortune on milk bar prices, this was very welcome.
Robert had a really good job and so Lu did not have to work.

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Well, that is not the whole story, but in those days hospitals, like most
places would not employ women who were pregnant or who had dependent
children. They grew up a bit, soon afterwards, when Germaine Greer and oth-
ers demonstrated that being with child rarely impacted on a woman’s ability
to work.
It worked out fine for us and also gave my sister something to do during
her ‘confinement’. She swore she would go crazy with boredom, and even
with this extra task, I knew she was champing at the bit to get back to work!
Sharlene responded to Lucinda almost exactly the same as she responded
to me. The only person who seemed to be able to evoke any conversation or
facial animation was Berthos, and on a few occasions, his wife, Mary-Anne.
Mary-Anne was a gentle, Southern belle, extremely feminine and attrac-
tive, but also very capable and understanding. When she visited, Sharlene
would smile. Actually smile! She would seem to be aware of her surroundings
more when she was with this woman, and remained so for several hours af-
terwards, normally up until she fell asleep in the night.
Berthos and Mary-Anne did not have an answer or a reason for this, and I
know the good doctor spent a lot of time reading and researching in an attempt
at solving this.
But gradually, very gradually, so gradually that it almost seemed painful,
Sharlene became more responsive. Berthos first noticed that she greeted him
with a smile and ‘good day, Doctor’. Then she volunteered information.
‘Would you like a cup of tea. I am making one for myself.’ ‘Eric will get your
coat!’ and even ‘Are you warm enough?’
Then, one afternoon when the Saints had one of their infrequent wins, she
said, ‘I am pleased for you, Eric. You know I love you, don’t you?’
My heart ran over with joy. She had not shown any affection for me since
the overdose. No animosity either, I will add. But nothing to indicate that she
realised we had a relationship together.
I told Berthos and he seemed pleased by that.
But then there was nothing for a fortnight. No backup statement, no
squeeze, no loving looks or glances. Nothing.
But again one day when I got in after work:
‘I am glad you’re home. I missed you!’ Just a flat statement, but with just
202
a tiny bit of warmth, of feeling. I never told Berthos this time but I added it to
my store of memories.
That was what it was like. Excruciatingly slow, high moments then mas-
sive letdowns. Encouraging signs which, although not dashed, were not fol-
lowed up on, either.
But through all this, I had one overriding thought.
At least I didn’t lose her! I still had her!
I didn’t dare tell myself that it would all be better some day, and Berthos
never gave me any false hope or illusion. He said later that he never knew
himself whether she would remain at this level.
I often dreamed that she had died and I was left on my own. I awoke in a
blind panic and it wasn’t until I saw her lying next to me and heard her breath-
ing did I realise it was only a dream. It always seemed so real!
But she did get better. Not really better, because she never regained that
youthfulness, that wide eyed innocence and joie de vivre she had before, but
at least she could function as a human again. Gradually she resumed house-
work, shopping and cooking. She wasn’t so neat and tidy as she had been pre-
viously, but to messy old me, that seemed like a good thing.
But she wouldn’t go outside of about a quarter of a mile from the house.
Not without me or Lucinda. She seemed frightened of not being able to get
back, to become so attached to the very familiarity of her home, that leaving
it seemed scary. Berthos said there was a simple explanation. She was scared!
‘Her mind has altered, Eric. I know you love her just as much as you ever
did, but she is a different women now. And she loves you as much, too. But
you have changed. You are not a young man any more. You have been forced
to mature. It is a shame in some ways, but generally, not a bad thing. If nothing
ever happens to test us, we don’t grow.’
She still had periods of ‘the thousand yard stare’, though, and once I asked
her what she thought about.
‘I’m not thinking,’ she replied. ‘I am going to places. Places which we
can’t normally reach, but I don’t imagine them. They are real!’
That’s all I got. She had no other words, she simply repeated those phrases,
or paraphrased the same kind of thing.

203
Again I consulted Berthos.
‘She gives all the indications of her consciousness leaving her body,’ he
said after observing her. ‘Astral travel, some people call it. I have encountered
it among Harvard students who were into paranormal behaviour. I haven’t ex-
perienced it myself, but I have no doubt it exists.’
I remembered a party about four years ago when a group of Melbourne
University students went all floppy and claimed to have left their body. I
thought they were bullshitting and ignored them, but Berthos’ recollections
made me think again. It made sense and I accepted the explanation remarkably
quickly.
‘Should I say anything, Berthos?’ I asked. ‘Maybe prompt her a bit?’
‘No, I wouldn’t. She may not want you to know and might think you were
intruding!’
‘Okay, but if she says anything, how should I respond?’
‘Just agree with her and ask her where she went. Don’t push her, don’t
sound doubtful or judgemental or anything. Just say, “I wondered if you did,
what was it like there?” or something. You know her well enough by now.’

204
3.
So I asked her!
‘It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really anywhere!
It’s somewhere else instead!’

That sounded familiar. Someone like A. A. Milne whom my Gran used to


read to me when I was an infant!
Involuntarily I said ‘Halfway down the stairs . . .’
She smiled.
‘You know? Have you been there?
‘No,’ I replied. But my Gran used to tell me about it. Is that where you are
going when you go quiet?’
‘Do I go quiet? I didn’t know. Where you worried about me?’
And she caressed my cheek!
‘Not worried, exactly. But I did wonder because you looked so peaceful.’
‘It is peaceful,’ she said. ‘Oh, Eric, you would love it. Nobody telling you
things, nobody acting like you weren’t there. Nobody talking. When people
talk, they don’t make a sound. You just hear them.
‘And you can go anywhere you want. To the park, to the hospital, to Mary-
Anne’s house. Just by wanting to. Will you come with me?’
‘I don’t know how!’ I said. ‘Can you show me?’
‘Stop talking. Stop thinking! Just follow me!’
Well, that was the weirdest sensation I had ever experienced. I floated!
You know how sometimes you can dream that you are flying, floating
along. More gliding, I suppose you call it. Like running along with no gravity?
Have you ever dreamed that?
205
It is beautiful in your dreams, when you are asleep. But when you do it
and you are wide awake, it is very disorientating. Disturbing! Scary!
I dropped back into my body!
Sharlene was fussing over me, so concerned.
‘I’m sorry, Eric. I shouldn’t have done that. Are you okay?’
I got okay very quickly, but my nerves were shaken.
‘Give me a minute. I will be better prepared this time!’
I wasn’t thinking straight, I was totally confused, but that was in my favour.
When I followed her again, I was ready for the slight nausea, dizziness, then
the sense of deep calm. It didn’t alarm me and I actually enjoyed the sensa-
tion.
It felt like dreaming although you were wide awake, aware. Knowing what
you were doing was paranormal, but with it seeming the perfectly natural thing
to do.
I was aware of Sharlene, shining alongside me, delighted that I was there.
I was okay and was enjoying it.
‘It is so peaceful!’ she said but I didn’t hear it. I realised she didn’t even
say it! It was just there, inside my head, but I knew it came from her.
I must have indicated my agreement, because I knew she was so pleased
for me. Wordless communication! So easy, but I soon discovered that she was-
n’t reading my thoughts. It was just another way of communicating, a way I
can’t describe in our normal language.
Just like the dimensions were all different. There was up, down, north,
south east and west, but a whole lot more as well. Not just ‘south-west-up’
which we can understand in our plane, but whole lot of different dimensions
involving time and parallel universes.
Don’t expect me to explain. My mind boggles even now trying to write
about it.
She ‘took me by the hand’ although I did not have a hand to take me by.
Or a body! And neither did she. She was simply an entity on a plane I had
never encountered before, had never contemplated before and certainly never
even heard of before. Yet I felt completely at home in it!

206
And even that didn’t seem weird!
We soared around for what seemed like hours. We visited places I had
never even dreamed of and even some places which I thought never existed
except in the mind of Sharlene. It was all so effortless I never felt any transi-
tion, movement, air currents, heat, anything!
I realised that apart from travelling through spatial dimensions, we were
unbounded by temporal barriers, as well. We visited great events, great battles,
great occurrences which shaped the world, or which had no effect on any-
thing.
Look, I am having a very hard time thinking of words which don’t exist,
trying to describe this which I know you doubt. How could you even begin to
understand? On our normal plane, it is inexplicable, indescribable, unbeliev-
able! Just trust me and maybe you will achieve this level one day yourself. I
hope you do!
When we came back to our own reality, to our bodies, while it seemed nat-
ural to be there again, it didn’t seem unreal what we had just done. Where we
had been.
‘Where’ is the only word I have, in English. Maybe in Urdu or some east-
ern language there are words to describe this plane, but I don’t know them
and they would probably seem equally meaningless to you, too.
However, the change in Sharlene was nothing short of miraculous. She
was cheerful, chatty, witty and ate the first decent meal in months. Not quite
the old Sharlene, but very different to the one I had started to get used to.
Somehow, and I noticed this immediately, she seemed older. Not so girlish,
not so frivolous. Still fun-loving and sometimes a little mischievous, but now
there was a serious note, something I normally associate with experience, ma-
turity.
But I was over the moon at having her back. I asked her why she had
changed in a matter of a few short hours we were on the other plane.
‘We were only gone a few seconds! Look at the clock!’
I expected to see it was about six or seven in the evening, but it read two
thirty. Impossible!
‘Time stands still when you are having fun!’ she teased. ‘But seriously, we
re-entered our bodies a few seconds after we left. I only just learned to do that.
207
Before, if I was away for two hours, I would be gone for two rotations of the
minute hand. Now, I just adjust the time to suit. Do you get what I mean? It
isn’t hard when time means as much as location.’
‘But why are you different. That was what I was asking, although what
you said was very enlightening.’
‘I love you dearly, Eric. You will never know how much. When I . . . did
what I did . . . I thought I had completely alienated you. That you would not
want me, that I had lost you.
‘When you joined me on that “ride of a lifetime”, it changed everything.
You did it because you knew it was my thing, that I wanted to do it. That it
was the link to sanity.
‘You proved you still loved me, despite everything. Oh, I will still act
weird, still have to have time to adjust, but it is like when whoever it was
kissed Sleeping Beauty. It changed everything!’
‘The Handsome Prince!’ I muttered.
‘Well, we’ll leave out the “handsome” but you are my prince. Thank you
for believing in me!’
Berthos got out his pipe, rubbed it on the sleeve of his leather-patched
jacket, filled it from his pouch and did everything but light it. Eventually
Mary-Anne gave him the nod, and he got out a Zippo and applied a flame to
it and puffed thoughtfully.
Then he used the stem to scratch his head, all the while with an indeci-
pherable look on his face. Eventually he spoke.
‘Well, I’ll be . . . ‘ he spluttered.
I suppose you think that now everything was okay again, that would be
the end of the book.
Oh, no! The next chapter gets even better, and the one after that . . . well,
keep reading!

208
4.
Berthos went back to Harvard and came back a Professor. While he was
away, he grew a moustache which quickly got stained brown from the smoke
from his pipe. Mary-Anne and Sharlene told him it was disgusting and he
shaved it off.
I went back to University and with only a few courses to finish, soon had
my PhD in History. The University of Melbourne was very anxious that I
should start teaching and arranged for my being promoted to Professor as well.
So we made a fine couple of Academics as well as becoming best friends.
He was older by maybe fifteen years, but he never seemed to mind. I cer-
tainly didn’t! He tried to talk me into taking a post at Georgia State and I
wanted to do a couple of Semesters in Cambridge, but I was half hearted and
didn’t really do a good job on my application. I never heard back from either.
Then, suddenly, a University in Perth advertised two positions simultane-
ously. The medical school wanted a psychiatry professor and the Social Stud-
ies department were looking for someone in the Centre for Australian History.
We felt that was so fortuitous, we applied and in a couple of months, much
to our astonishment, we both got interviews!
I wasn’t astonished that Berthos was in demand. The work he had been
doing in Melbourne and his reputation in the field of Psychiatry was pretty
well legendary and he had even received an offer from Yale, which he rejected
out of hand. The bitter rivalry between this fine institution and Harvard is leg-
endary in the United States, but I didn’t realise how intense it was!
But I was simply a lecturer in my field and was not even known outside
my own University. Nobody billed me as ‘Professor Catlin, the well known
historian’, the papers and the TV current affairs programmes hardly beat a
path to my door when a point of contention was found, when a fragment of a
plaque was discovered on Dugite Island or when a document was discovered
on a demolition site which seemed to query a commonly-held belief.
In fact, they never beat a path to any historian’s door. History was not
deemed important in the late sixties and early seventies in Australia. All that
mattered was the present and how it could affect future profits.
Aboriginal land ownership was never even considered and the country was
‘much too young to have a history of its own’, bar a few short paragraphs in
a high school text. Sydney was still in the grip of ripping down all her beautiful

209
old historic buildings and Melbourne was trying to catch up as quickly as it
could, but with a lot more popular opposition.
But Perth offered new and exciting possibilities for both of us.
I should amend that and say ‘All of us!’!
A hospital had opened in the suburb of Nedlands, ten years earlier, less
than a mile from the University. Sharlene found numerous advertisements for
staff recruitment in a number of fields in which she had worked.
The pay was nowhere near as good as in Melbourne, though, but the cost
of housing, including rentals, was next to nothing: around a sixth of an average
salary! And, we were told by the University, was subsidised even further by a
generous grant from a former faculty member.
We managed to get interviews during the same week. Trans-continental
communication was barely in its infancy and still very unreliable, and a face-
to-face interview was always preferred. And this involved us flying to Perth,
at the university’s expense, for a week, to meet the department heads, to fa-
miliarise ourselves with the city and to give us a couple of days to prepare for
the meetings.
I don’t know about Berthos’ situation. He came away convinced he had
already been chosen for the post. The interview, he related, consisted of a few
questions along the lines of ‘what d’ya think of the place?’ and ‘How soon
can you start?’ ‘Any chance you could begin straight away?’ and ‘Do you need
to give a semester’s notice?’
I got the feeling I didn’t have many candidates up against me, either. I
think the interview served to convince some members of the Board that they
needed to spend more on staff and to see if anyone from ‘The Eastern States’
could fit in with the locals.
And Sharlene simply walked up the avenue to Sir Charles Gairdner Hos-
pital and asked to see the head matron, the Director of Nursing, they called
her.
She walked out with the concrete guarantee that if my application was suc-
cessful and we moved West, she had a senior position on the staff. She said
that they particularly emphasised the Emergency Department, as the pressures
on Royal Perth Hospital necessitated the opening of another major facility.
We loved Perth! So open, so airy and fresh compared with Melbourne. It
was a tiny city with a very small business precinct, and an excellent port fa-
210
cility nearby, called Fremantle. The public transport was barely sufficient for
even such a small town and nearly everyone had a car.
But there wasn’t the same congestion there was in Melbourne. As the town
expanded, the roads were being built wider and even in the immediate suburbs,
you seldom found a traffic jam, and then only if there was a collision or a
breakdown.
But even these were minimal and Sharlene joked that if we moved here,
we would need two cars, one for her to get to work, and the other for me and
I would have to learn to drive. But although we laughed at the time, this was
the way everybody did it over this side of the continent.
Berthos was a bit out of his comfort zone as he was used to really tightly
packed living. New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago were all high
density population areas and even Melbourne seemed more like a village to
him. But he appreciated the merits and advantages, and when we checked out
a real estate agency to see what was on offer, and the first place we visited
was on a third of an acre, with a big shed and a vegetable patch the size of a
whole Melbourne residential plot, he was won over.
‘You can go down to the shed with your damned pipe!’ Mary Anne told
him. ‘Instead of stinking up the verandah like you do now!’
So it was a foregone conclusion that we would take the offered jobs and
the University was delighted. They arranged everything: shifting our furniture,
giving us a choice of six houses in three suburbs, and ensuring we had ample
time to drive across the Nullabor and settle into our new lives before they
would call on us to work.
Sharlene rang the Director of Nursing and left a message saying she would
be available, and within the day, a similar offer was made to her.
We didn’t know at the time, but both the University and the hospital had
searched far and wide for applicants, and in Berthos’ case, even gone so far
as to send ‘talent scouts’ to Europe and North America.
Professionals, it seemed, did not want to take the risk of going to a ‘frontier
town’ however modern and well equipped that place may be. Everyone said
the place was full of prospectors, get-rich-quick entrepreneurs, Jewish money-
lenders, fly-boys, bludgers and prostitutes, but that was not the impression we
got.

211
Admittedly, mining seemed to be the main preoccupation in Perth, and
stock market reports on how the ‘nickel boom’ was progressing filled ‘The
West Australian’ newspaper, but the smart money predicted this would all be
over in a year or two, and the greater stability of iron ore, gold, natural gas
and petroleum would soon prevail.
But outside of St Georges Terrace, life went on as though everyone was
on holiday!
Picnics, parties on the beach and at local barbecue areas, football, cricket,
surfing and wine and cheese tasting nights were all that mattered, once the
suit and tie came off and the stubbies and thongs went on! Fire up the fondue
set and dim the lights, Baby!
‘One big shindig from Friday evening until midnight on Sunday,’ a col-
league said to Sharlene, on her first day at work.
Of course, in the emergency rooms, there was no such thing as a weekend
and even the notion of evenings free were beyond the realms of reality.
Whereas once I had been off working all hours, leaving Sharlene alone,
now the boot was on the other foot.
I had three lectures a week, unlimited resources, books, papers, tapes, films
and funds. I was expected to turn out a meaningful publication each semester
and be researching at least one other. There were only fifteen undergraduates
and five post grads and a number of others who mysteriously turned up for
lectures but who never took tests, did term papers or demanded anything.
These were mainly from the ‘blue-rinse set’ of Nedlands, Claremont and
Mosman Park, and I suspect that, while they were very respectful of the Uni-
versity and me, were mostly in it out of boredom and the social occasion. Once
when two students asked me to go down to the Governor Stirling, a nearby
pub, a group of these women were seated, sipping Riesling and discussing
what I had covered in that afternoon’s lecture.
But the University never seemed to mind. In fact, they even made them
feel welcome, and I suspect that their husbands were generous in their alumni
donations. Berthos observed the same thing.
And in due course, we started to get invitations to parties all up and down
the Stirling Highway strip. It wasn’t simply a matter of inviting influential or
popular characters, although social climbing was very prevalent, the attendees
were most warm and welcoming and everyone was on first name terms. It was

212
‘Charlie’ and ‘Dave’, not ‘Sir Charles Court’ or ‘The Honorable David Brand’.
But it wasn’t our scene. Any time we had off, we liked to go bush walking,
swimming or photographing the incredible range of flora specimens which
grew around the Swan River and into the Darling Ranges.
Berthos bought a new Olympus and equipped it with a couple of Weiss
lenses, prompting me to upgrade my Kodak to a Nikon, which the locals
sneered at and called ‘Jap Crap’. But I got some great results from it and soon
we were venturing far and wide, from New Norcia down to the Blackwood
River, in search of different species to photograph.
Mary-Anne often accompanied us and of course, if Sharlene could organ-
ise her roster to coincide, she loved our outings. One of the English professors
said we could use his caravan, so I had a tow bar and the necessary wiring in-
stalled in my Range Rover, and the four of us took off for a late September
long weekend in the Great South.
There seemed to be a bit of confusion over what the long weekend was
for. It was gazetted as ‘The Queen’s Birthday’ although no female monarch
of the British Empire had ever been born at that time of the year during Aus-
tralia’s European settlement.
Berthos said it was a bit late to be Labor Day in his country, although the
following weekend was scheduled in New South Wales as Labour Day.
Foundation Day was in June in Western Australia, so it wasn’t that. But
this weekend coincided with ‘People’s Day’ at the Royal Agricultural Society’s
Annual Show, and was generally called ‘Show Day’.
It was lovely and sunny when we left Perth on this spring Thursday after-
noon. Berthos and I had no lectures on Friday or through the weekend. I had
one at seven thirty on Monday evening. But I did notice my colleague took a
briefcase of papers which obviously needed marking.
Incredibly, Sharlene had been allowed to take a vacation, something almost
unheard of in Emergency Rooms as it included a long weekend, when more
injuries, overdoses and alcohol related incidents take place than they normally
do.
We arrived in the port town just after dark and threaded our way along Al-
bany Highway, past an obelisk set into the middle of the intersection of four
main streets, and down the road towards the beach.

213
‘Doesn’t that rock look just like a dog’s head?’ I observed and Mary-Anne
hunted through a guide book she had collected from the tourist bureau.
‘Huh! It’s called Dog Rock!’ she announced.
‘I wonder why that is,’ remarked Berthos, in mock sarcasm. ‘Must be
named after a local dignatory!’
The caravan park was a grubby, oily strip of land which ran parallel with
the beach. It was run by the local council, although ‘run-down’ would have
been a better description. There was a clutter of dilapidated red brick buildings
at the town end, and an awful lot of fighting and squabbling going on in most
of the vans. Here and there, a bit of Kikuyu grass was struggling to take hold
in the salty, white sand.
Mary-Anne referred back to her tourist guide and announced there were a
couple more caravan parks further around the beach at a place called Emu
Point we could try.
I felt Sharlene slip out of her body and less than a second later she an-
nounced that these were in much better shape, clean, orderly and although not
luxurious, they were sufficiently equipped for our needs.
So Berthos turned the Range Rover and van around and headed out along
the road to Emu Point.
These parks were much better, sheltered by trees, and with a little kiosk
for purchasing milk, bread and other groceries. There was a sign indicating
that they had vacancies, so we decided to stay here instead.
Berthos and Mary-Anne slept at one end of the trailer, behind a bi-fold
screen while Sharlene and I set up in the canvas annex. It was quite comfort-
able and the van itself was large and roomy with a well designed kitchen.
Mary-Anne had prepared a salad and Berthos pulled a bottle of Emu Ex-
port out from the car fridge. The kitchen cupboard provided four glasses and
a bottle opener. A couple of these and I realised how tiring driving two hundred
and fifty miles can be after a busy morning’s work.
I don’t know how the others slept, but I went out like a light! At six the
following morning, I was bright eyed, bushy tailed and raring to go. Sharlene
didn’t seem to have any life in her at all and there was the sound of someone
snoring in the van. Berthos, most likely. Mary-Anne was much too ladylike
to make a noise like that!

214
So I strolled down to the beach and turned northwards towards a channel,
perhaps a hundred and twenty yards wide. The water was moving quite fast,
and a fishing boat was battling away against it, obviously having left while it
was still dark. It probably had breakfast in the Esky, ready to be filleted.
Beyond the channel was one of the most beautiful riverine estuaries I have
ever seen!
It reminded me slightly of Lakes Entrance in my native state, but on a
smaller, much prettier scale.
There were waterfowl everywhere, from a dozen pelicans floating grace-
fully fifty yards away, some heron-like birds, picking their way along the shal-
lows, to swarms of seagulls and albatrosses, swooping and diving, coming up
with tiny fish or bits of offal where some men were gutting their catch. Some
black swans took to the sky when a powerboat started up along the beach. A
stork standing on one leg suddenly saw something under the water and
plunged his head in, emerging, sadly for him, with an empty beak.
Fortunately I had the Nikon with me and shot off a whole roll. I was just
loading a new one into the camera when Sharlene sneaked up beside me and
put her arm around me.
‘I think I could live her!’ she whispered, even though the raucous din from
the seagulls drowned her voice. I had long since learned to slip the relevant
sensors out onto the Astral Plane when she was around, because her thoughts
often conveyed far more than mere words she could utter.
‘Me too, although I believe it can get a bit fierce here in winter.’
‘Worse than Melbourne?’
‘Nothing is worse than Melbourne!’
She knew I still carried resentment at the life we had before we moved
West. I blamed the city for her slipping into the deep depression, the unnec-
essary stress of urban life that led to her overdose.
We didn’t discuss it much, even on the Astral, but I know she blamed her-
self for almost ruining my life. She also knew that I didn’t blame her, I blamed
myself for the workload I had taken on, the city for providing her with the
means, and her father for dying when he did, which I always believed was the
catalyst for what happened.

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Berthos had told us both a long time ago that we were both right and
wrong, that many factors combined to make an intelligent, vivacious, talented
woman feel that depth of despair. And coupled with the easy availability of
medications which had not been properly tested for Australian or American
conditions, he had argued that neither was entitled to burden ourselves with
so much guilt.
I guess he was right, that he knew what he was talking about, that the psy-
cho mumbo-jumbo was all very well for the rest of the population.
But I did not feel like the rest of the population, that I was way better than
that. I should have detected something . . .
‘I am not going to offer you a penny for your thoughts!’ interrupted Shar-
lene. ‘They are not worth a plugged nickel, as Mary-Anne would say. It’s
much too nice to be dwelling on things in the past. Let’s dwell on the present
and the future!’
There was a tiny tearoom just above the beach, but it had not opened as
yet, so we walked, hand in hand, back to the van and annex.
Mary-Anne was up and dressed and had a pot of coffee brewing and some-
thing which smelled deliciously like mushrooms sizzling in a pan. Berthos
was in swimming trunks and brandishing a towel. He insisted he was going
swimming, but about five minutes later he returned and asked ‘Have you
dipped your toe? It’s freezing!’
After breakfast, we wanted to head out to the Porongurup ranges, about
twenty miles from town, and about halfway to the Stirlings. The tourist guide
said that while not so prolific for flora, some magnificent walks and climbs
afforded panoramic vistas of the entire district. We decide that, judging by
this eloquent description, it was probably worth a look.
We refuelled the four-wheel-drive at Emu Point before we left and the
service station filled our Thermos flasks with tea and sold us some vanilla
slices and horseshoe rolls filed with salad. Very reasonably priced and with
such cheerful service, we warmed even further to this lovely little town. As
we took a long detour around the headland on a hardtop road called Marine
Drive, we couldn’t deny that it was located in the most beautiful setting we
had ever seen. A huge sound, dotted with islands, including two large sentinels,
a narrow channel which emptied a long, shallow harbour and views out to a
massive wedge of rock which the guide book said was called Bald Head.
But the town was such a tiny place! With such natural resources, a very
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temperate climate, fertile soil and grazing land everywhere, we couldn’t un-
derstand why this wasn’t a city rivalling Perth or Adelaide in size!
Instead, it serviced a sparsely populated hinterland as a port and hub to
the various bits of commerce that were carried out.
Very small scale! Even the tourist industry was half hearted, as though no-
body really believed all the glowing descriptions they wrote in their pamphlets
and guides, and never expected their readers to, either.
It was eight-thirty on Friday morning and other than the service station at
the beach, only the newsagency seemed to be open. And then only just, as an
old man, presumably the proprietor, stepped out onto the pavement, yawning
and stretching as though he resented being awoken at this ungodly hour!
And yet the fishermen out at the Point, and I’ll bet that in dozens of dairies
and chicken farms, yokels had been awake since before me, readying them-
selves for a day of labour and toil, accepting that it was the norm for country
folk!
What a contrast!
But also what a contrast it was to the city we had just escaped for the week-
end! While Perth was a small city, Albany was only a village by the same stan-
dard. But it didn’t end there.
A long main street with some gorgeous Victorian architecture and dozens
of shops was T-junctioned down at the harbour end by a much shorter terrace
of equally impressive Edwardian buildings and a curious, steepled building
at the eastern end of what seemed to be the shopping area. Built of red brick,
except for a band on the steeple of a dozen courses in pink, this was the tele-
graph and post office which received and distributed all communications out
of the Great Southern District.
Nearby was a small, blue painted railway station with a short passenger
platform and quite a few sets of rails passing by it on the seaward side, which
led our eyes to the wharves and jetty of the port.
All tiny, reflecting again that this was nowhere near as populated as it
should have been.
At the top of the street, named York Street after Frederick, Grand Old Duke
of York and Albany, there were roads branching vaguely nor’-nor’-west to
Perth and nor’-nor’-east to the beach and Emu Point.

217
Another road, which went due north, was signposted Locker Avenue and
‘Centennial Oval’. There were a few shops on each of these streets, as well as
on some others which crossed York Street further down.
But we were quite keen to get going while the weather held good. We were
told it could change rapidly and become miserable at the drop of a hat, similar
to Melbourne.
But it held good for the rest of the day and between us, we got several rolls
of Agfa exposed with unusual and magnificent flowers.
A few were of the same or similar genus found all over the south of the
continent. Eucalyptus, acacias, sheoaks and grevillea. But the variety of small
orchids, pea flowers and daisy-type blooms amazed us. Almost everywhere
we stopped, a carpet of colour stretched back from the road.
What delighted me was the range of different bottle brush and Banks
blooms, large and colourful, in a canopy of red, yellow, orange, grey and green
overhead.
And on the ground: small, blue, bell-shaped blossoms, white asters in
multi-bloom, cruciform arrangement and dozens of varieties of orange, yellow
and crimson pea flowers filled every frame of our photographs. Spider orchids,
donkey orchids, custard orchids and many varieties of anigozanthus, the mag-
nificent floral emblem of Western Australia.
And birds! We had not expected to see so many! Darting, flitting, collect-
ing honey and warbling, they added a vibrantly different splash of colour to
the mallet. Parrots, magpies, kookaburras, wagtails, sparrows and a few eagles
watching everything from far above.
Another photographer, who had stopped at the same layby us us, pointed
across to the looming line of the Stirling Range.
‘Ha’ ye bin a-craws ta tha Stirlings, yet, Mon?’ he asked. ‘Hoots, it’ll blae
yer mahnds!’
We told him we hadn’t, that we intended to visit them and climb Bluff
Knoll on Saturday. He described a different route to get to them and traced it
in Biro on Mary-Anne’s map. Everyone was so helpful!
Was this the best kept secret in the world? In Perth we were told vaguely
that it was nice down there, cool in the burning heat of summer, pretty, but
old-fashioned.

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And we were even more convinced that there was a conspiracy to protect
the way of life from nosey foreigners when we climbed Nancy’s Peak and
were ‘accorded the panoramic vistas of the entire district’. From way to the
north-west of Mount Barker, eastwards to the Stirlings, south-east to Mount
Manypeak and due south to the twin mounds of Mount Clarence and Mount
Melville which protected the rare jewel of the Town of Albany. And off to the
south-west, rich farmland, dark green forests and the brilliant blue of the
Southern Ocean. On this day, West Cape Howe was visible, although a tweed
jacketed woman with a curly walking cane told us that this was rare because
of the clouds and fog which usually hung low over the Bight.
We drove back into Albany and had supper at a large hotel located at Ellen
Cove, on Middleton Beach. It had a reasonably good menu, a selection of
wines which put most Melbourne restaurants to shame, and an incredibly loud,
out-of-key rock band playing in the ‘Winter Court’ next door.
They played in batches of six, leaving a lot of space between songs, prob-
ably to give the band members time to get drinks from the bar. None of the
songs were very long, so we had what could pass, at a pinch, as a reasonably
good conversation.
As we left, I glanced into the lounge where a stage had been set up with
amplifiers, a drum kit and microphones. There were guitars and a bass on
stands and a few gig bags untidily strewn on the floor alongside. The legend
on the bass drum skin was ‘If You See Kay’!
It wasn’t until I was in the car, driving back to the caravan, that the mala-
propism occurred to me!

The next day was nearly as successful as the first. The Stirlings were a lot
bigger and while Mary-Anne and I made it to the top of Bluff Knoll, Berthos
and Sharlene wended back down after only getting about three quarters of the
way up.
But the view was amazing! If Nancy’s Peak was worth raving about, this
really took the cake, the icing and even the candles!
And all over, some of the most curious flowers and grasses imaginable!
Even one which looked like a protea. It might have been, although I was al-
ways under the impression that this genus was native to South Africa. The
trees were stunted compared with in the valley beneath us, and as I looked
down, I could see Sharlene waving to us. Berthos came out from some bushes,
219
and I guessed where he had been. Or maybe he was photographing some rare
plant he had observed!
But there was an icy wind blowing and I was wearing a cotton shirt and
blue jeans. Mary-Anne had taken off her cardigan and slung it over her shoul-
ders, but now she put it back on and buttoned it up. Way off to the south-west,
about where Denmark was, we could see a rim of dark clouds.
At first I thought it was another mountain range, grey-blue in the sunlight,
but instead of staying the same height, it started getting bigger.
We slithered and slid down the loose shale and gravel and just as we
reached the bottom, the first huge drops of rain were beginning to fall. We
made it back to the car park and the Range Rover just as it let loose its full
fury!
We had no choice but to wait until it subsided. Visibility was down to ten
yards and the wipers would never be capable of moving such a volume of
water.
But twenty minutes later, the sun tried to make a feeble apology, but
quickly retired behind some nimbostratus which had replaced the stormy thun-
derheads of a few minutes ago.
It was still splattering but cleared up by the time we reached the farmlands
on the inter-mountain plain. The sky was still overcast, which kept the glare
from the wet road to a minimum.
But we were in high spirits, not the least from the exhilaration of that last
mad dash to the parked car, the rain getting heavier and the chance that we
would get caught in that downpour which was almost like a swimming pool
being emptied onto us!
We were laughing and singing B. J. Thomas’ song ‘Raindrops Keep Falling
On My Head’ when we pulled into the caravan park. Having learned not to
dine at a large dance venue the night before, we had booked into a small bistro
on the main street where we had what was probably the best evening of our
trip.
Later, when we tucked up in bed, Sharlene communicated that we should
go onto the Astral Plane for a ‘proper’ cuddle, one where our minds as well
as our bodies intertwined in pure bliss. Both of us knew we had discovered
our true home on the Earth Plane and although we could visit it with our Astral
selves whenever we wanted, this was where we needed to spend our day-to-
day lives.
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Of course, being Albany, it poured all Sunday. Mary-Anne, brought up
like me as a Baptist but deciding for herself what she really believed, claimed
it was God’s way of saying ‘Well, if you don’t spend the day in church, I am
going to make pretty darn sure you can’t do anything else!’
But if he actually did say that, he didn’t take into account that the Aus-
tralian bush looks vastly different on a wet, miserable day to what it normally
does when the sun is shining.
We got some of our best photos that day: dripping wet bushes, dripping
wet trees, dripping wet photographers. It wasn’t cold . . . well not very!
We got caught in a downpour on Misery Bay while we were taking a pic-
ture of where Captain George Vancouver found a spring and filled the water
tuns on the Discovery and the Chatham. It took us by surprise and with no
cover available, not even trees, we got drenched to the skin! So we went into
the sea and frolicked for a while, fully clothed. We had stout, waterproof bags
for our camera equipment and we left them on the beach.
When we retrieved them and started walking back to the car, another squall
hit us and washed all the seawater and sand from our clothes!
Fortunately we had brought dry clothes with us and we adjourned to the
Frenchman Bay Tearooms, where they had change room facilities with warm
showers, and were soon dry and comfortable.
This illustrates our time spent that weekend. Nothing went wrong! What
some may have seen as a disadvantage or a disappointment, we turned into
something positive.
Even when we got back to the van and found that the weight of the rain
had unclipped a fastener that attached the annex to the caravan and a few gal-
lons of water had gushed in, soaking our bed, we simply shrugged it off and
slept on the divan at the other end of the trailer from the Merriweathers!
After a rather too hearty breakfast on Monday, we set off back up the Al-
bany Highway. I had a class in the evening which I couldn’t leave to one of
the other lecturers and needed to bone up on a few details.
And as if it were a climax to our weekend, the subject involved Matthew
Flinders, Nicolas Baudin and Francois Peron and the exploration of the Great
Southern of Western Australia.

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5.
I couldn’t get Albany out of my mind. It felt as though it was a magnet
and we were iron filings being drawn in by its attraction. Sharlene felt the
same. I didn’t even need to go Astral to learn that! She talked about it often
and said on many occasions that she felt it was a kind of spiritual home.
Of course, I often visited it while on my Astral travels. Before long, I be-
came an expert on all facets of the town and its environs. I had used the Plane
on other occasions while working towards my Master’s degree and in my re-
search which I published from time to time. I even went back into the past on
a few occasions to clarify some point or other in my mind before I committed
to paper.
But it wasn’t ‘avoir les pieds sur terre’ as Baudin and Freycinet would
have said when they wanted to colonise King George Sound. It was not ‘being
there’, to feel the rain, get chilled by the wind, to sip the wine, immerse your-
self in the surf of Middleton Beach or to warm yourself by a roaring log fire
in a small cafe or restaurant with a gale howling outside the window.
You couldn’t take your camera with you and record what you saw, bring
back a beautiful nautilus shell you found at Two People Bay or even experi-
ence the warmth and friendliness of the people, who, once they got over their
initial suspicion of anyone who didn’t live in ‘Owba-nee’, were among the
kindest, most thoughtful folk on the planet.
It just wasn’t like living there!
We made the journey back at Christmas, spending a few days out near
Walpole at a little forest lodge and then motoring across to Albany for New
Year celebrations, which turned out to be a bit disappointing.
A few balls and parties were held to celebrate, but you had to know about
them, belong to a service organisation or football club or simply have friends
in the area.
We went to a dinner-dance and, while we quite enjoyed ourselves, at
twelve fifteen, they started stacking the chairs, emptying the tables and closing
the bar. Other patrons obviously had plans to party on at private residences,
but we simply returned to our hotel and watched some old English comedies
on the television.
Still, that was only one night out of fifteen. Our Christmas celebration had
gone very well, thanks to our host whose organisational skills ensured every-

222
one felt like they were among friends on this important day in the Christian
calendar.
Christmas Day saw us racing rubber bath ducks down a little creek on the
property and having a visit from Saint Nick who handed out bottles of wine
and cigars and said ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ a lot of times. In the evening, we had an ex-
travagant feast of brown windsor soup, fish, turkey and vegetables and a pud-
ding as big as a washbasin!
Sharlene and I were both vegetarians, but the English couple who ran the
lodge ensured that options were available for all dietary requirements, and as
we both ate eggs and dairy products, we were able to enjoy nearly everything.
Including a stilton Mr Hawcroft’s brother had shipped out from the old
country!
Afterwards, we sat around drinking, smoking and singing carols. Sharlene
convinced me to pick up a guitar and perform a couple of funny Christmas
songs, and then surprised everyone by taking the instrument from me and
playing a haunting rendition of Silent Night!
The Merriweathers were not with us on that occasion. Mary-Anne’s
mother had taken poorly back in Atlanta and her sister invited her to spend
what they feared could be her last Christmas. I am glad they took up the offer,
as she died before the Spring had set in.
But they did accompany us when we returned three weeks later for Aus-
tralia Day. This time we stayed at a resort in the Porongurup Ranges, driving
into Albany twice, but otherwise relaxing by the pool, bushwalking through
the jarrah, tuart and Karri forests and clambering up Devil’s Slide.
On this expedition, I took a few square inches of skin off my leg and they
had to drive me into Mount Barker to have it stitched up. But unfortunately
the doctor on duty was attending a childbirth in Kendenup and the nurse didn’t
feel competent enough to apply the sutures. We ended off driving down to the
Albany Regional Hospital.
While I was having my limb seen to, Berthos started talking to a registrar
who told him that they were desperately seeking a psychiatrist to work with
the high incidence of substance abuse in town.
Being a small but busy port, a lot of stuff was evading customs and was
eagerly snapped up by townsfolk who wanted to escape the reality and per-
ceived disadvantages of living so far away from the centre of things. That is:
from the capital city!
223
There were a couple of bikie gangs pushing this garbage onto the school
children and older teenagers for the lucrative profits that could be made, and
as a result, the hospitals and clinics were always full of spaced out kids.
Sharlene, who dealt with addictions regularly in her job at Sir Charles
Gairdner Hospital, or Charlie’s, as it was known, was also targeted as a likely
recruit. In fact, with her personal experience of being on ‘the other side’, she
was a very desirable prospect to this overstretched unit, operating virtually
blind and leaderless!
All the way back to Perth, that is all they talked about! It was what Berthos
had been wanting ever since he moved West, finding being restricted by the
University and teaching hospitals too confining. He longed to get back into
practise, of being a hands-on counsellor and dealing with the people to be
treated. Not the people who were going to administer the treatment!
Sharlene, it turned out, was exhausted by the long hours and the demands
of working in ER. She loved her work, make no mistake about it, and the feel-
ing that her work was important and that she was doing something to make a
difference was an overriding factor in her relentless work regime, But the at-
traction of living in Albany, the type of work and being part of a smaller team
appealed to her.
Both were overdue for a change. Both people were very important to me,
as well as Mary-Anne, who had just about taken over the role Lucinda used
to play: that of keeping me grounded, not letting me get away with anything
and gently mocking my more extravagant opinions!
I loved all three and never wanted to be parted from any of them again.
Sharlene and I were closer than ever. Our shared communication on the
Astral Plane had put us in a position you simply couldn’t imagine! We never
got to the point of finishing each other’s sentences, but we could have! Our
deep respect for each other prevented us from doing that.
And on top of that, I loved her so much. Even on the Astral Plane, I
couldn’t find ways of expressing how much! She was there in my thoughts
constantly and I never contemplated anything without consulting her and with-
out her consent.
She was the same with me!
Had I lost her that night in Fitzroy, I would have probably ended my life
too, I sometimes thought. Even though it was a long time ago now, I knew I

224
would be nothing without her. Her support, her guidance, her love. I said that
I couldn’t communicate my feelings on the other plane, so how can I write
them down in English?
And then there was the huge bond with the Merriweathers. Berthos had
taken more than just a professional interest in her, and me, it turned out. If he
hadn’t been so obviously in love with Mary-Anne, I could see him being in
love with Sharlene, too. Perhaps he was! He certainly loved her very much
and always seemed delighted when she was present.
And so, years ago, I acknowledged that I loved him more than a brother.
There was a reason for my love, not simply friendship bonds. This man had
proved himself repeatedly! He never demanded anything, he was just satisfied
to know that we loved and appreciated him in return!
We had, in the early days, tried to seduce him to leave his body and join
us on the Astral Plane. But he wouldn’t even consider it. He gave no reason,
nor did Mary-Anne, and I know that neither of them ever condemned us for
going there.
In fact, they almost encouraged us, knowing how good it was for our re-
lationship and development as humans. And they were not just saying this,
either.
I once asked Berthos if he thought we had relied on the plane too much,
like a drug addict or an evangelical Christian ‘speaking in tongues’. They de-
pended on their habits in order to function, and I was concerned that maybe
we were using it too much to cope with our day-to-day situations.
I wondered, in my uncertainty and naivety, if I was somehow ‘cheating’.
I guess you can take the boy away from the Baptists, but you can’t take Baptist
away from the boy!
He stroked his pipe bowl and grinned that lopsided grin he adopted when
he found human frailties amusing.
‘No. I don’t!’ he answered, with an air of finality in his voice: that he would
brook no disagreement with his opinion. ‘That crossed my mind a few years
ago. A decade ago, now, since you first came to me with your “secret”, but I
quickly dismissed it.
‘It is the most practical solution to life’s problems. Go somewhere where
the air is sweet, where distractions don’t exist, and examine your mind, free
from prejudices.

225
‘Not even religions can do that. You always have to take into account your
learnings, readings, what the yogi or priest or imam has impressed upon you.
Even if a deity existed, and we won’t discuss this now, you would never be
able to access it because of all the ceremony, the protocol and . . . bulltwang,
I suppose . . .that has been dumped on us by people whose self-interest over-
rides the good of the community.
‘If you don’t consider religion as a bad thing, and I don’t, how can you
think that about sorting your mind out by using the Astral Plane? It isn’t log-
ical.
‘And I am sure that if there is an Almighty, he would be delighted that you
were using what must certainly be one of his creations!’
He went back to rubbing his pipe bowl and musing silently.
‘You are very wise man, Berthos,’ I said simply, and meant it. ‘Even on
the Astral Plane, I wouldn’t have been able to formulate that reasoning, and
then put it into words. Thanks, Mate!’
And so the next phase of our lives started.
Berthos and Sharlene moved to Albany at the end of the semester. Mary-
Anne followed a few weeks later, staying to sell their house and finalise busi-
ness that had to be attended.
I was left in the house in Wembley, searching the journals and papers for
a suitable job for a historian so I could rejoin them.
I loved teaching! It was why I had taken the job in Perth in the first place.
Research and development was secondary in importance, but at first I was un-
able to separate the two disciplines of being a professor.
Then, one evening when Shar came up and visited me on the Astral Plane,
she suggested I go for a teaching only role at one of the high schools in the
town. If I still wanted to research and publish, I was still a respected professor
who would be a valuable resource to any historical society and even to the
Universities in Perth and the rest of Australia. It accentuated what Berthos
had told me about having prejudices and I realised that I sometimes even car-
ried them with me into the Astral Plane.
Of course, the Education Department was delighted to get its hands on me.
Specialist teachers were not exactly queuing up to go to the country town and
a variety of teachers with other disciplines and expertise were reluctantly fill-

226
ing in the positions. In one school, they had a sportsmaster teaching History
simply because they could get no-one else and he had matriculated in the sub-
ject!
Selling the house was very quick. There was a huge demand for residential
real estate and developments were springing up on cheap land surrounding
Perth. The Armed Forces offered land at next to nothing for returned service-
man, banks made very low interest mortgages available to employees and the
state government organised house and land packages which were oversub-
scribed even before they officially went under the hammer!
So selling a federation style dwelling in an inner suburb was no problem.
In a few short years, since iron ore was discovered in the north of the state
and natural gas and petroleum production was showing a positive return in
the balance sheets on St Georges Terrace, Perth had gone from being a quiet
little backwater, to being a vibrant, fiercely competitive metropolis which
everyone said was developing too quickly for its own good!
Pardon the historian in me, but I always feel I have to give reasons for
anything happening. It is not sufficient to say ‘I sold the house three days after
I put it on the market’, I have to explain the economic conditions, the popu-
lation shifts, the history of iron ore and gasoline in Western Australia and how
many rolls of paper they used in the lavatories of BHP.
And then I can tell you that the economic situation because of an influx of
workers to service the mines had created a demand for inner suburban resi-
dences. And I added the amount of hygiene products as a point of passing in-
terest!
So, no longer encumbered by property, I moved to Albany.
But I must have been getting old! I missed the continuity, the familiarity
and the security of the University. It was strange because only five years pre-
viously, I had leaped at the chance for a new life, embraced it with my whole
heart. The school term didn’t start until February and I was actually miserable!
I couldn’t understand it.
I had longed to live in this town, had dreamed about it, yearned for it and
visited it in reality and on the Astral Plane almost every waking moment for
over a year, and now that it happened, I had my doubts, misgivings. I thought
I regretted the move, even though I could see how much Sharlene had bene-
fited from it. And Berthos and Mary-Anne had fitted in to the routine of a
small town much better than I had. A few short years ago, it had been Berthos
227
who was not sure just how he would get on away from the hustle and bustle
of a large metropolis, while I couldn’t wait.
Now the boot was on the other foot.
‘Contentment. That is key,’ said Berthos. ‘You will see, in a couple of
months, you will be settled right in, probably grow a bushy beard and sport a
blank look on your face. Just like an Owbanian!
‘You are not sure about giving up a job in which you feel you were really
contributing, feeding knowledge into almost empty databases and using your
skills to show the reasons we became what we became. Now you enter the
unknown. You had more to conserve, so you became conservative!’
‘That makes sense. But really, I am just so happy for Sharlene. She almost
glows!’ I conceded. ‘And Mary-Anne! I have never seen her so happy, either!’
‘She has been house hunting. We made a tidy little packet when we sold
the place in Mount Lawley, and she’s got her eye on a bungalow in Little
Grove, right near the Yacht Club. Very New England looking place. It even
has a picket fence which she plans to paint white, if our offer is accepted!’
‘Perhaps that is what I need!’ I said. ‘Somewhere to put down roots, a place
to call home!’
And so the following morning I walked up York Street, looking in all the
Real Estate Agency windows. By evening I had narrowed it down to two and
arranged for the representatives to give me tours of inspection.
Sharlene was working the evening shift so one morning later that week, a
nice young man named Ralph drove us out to my first choice, a four bedroom
house in Flinders Park. I liked it, but I knew Sharlene was holding back a bit.
Ralph sensed it as well, and took us to our second choice. Again, neither of us
could muster much enthusiasm so Ralph suggested we have a look at another
listing which was a bit more expensive.
Not that we couldn’t afford it! I have explained what the economic climate
was in Perth due to the iron ore boom, so you understand that we were not
short of a bob or two.
This place took away our breath. Situated right down the end of Bayonet
Head, overlooking Oyster Harbour and Green Island, you could see all the
boats moored at Emu Point. And beyond it, Mount Adelaide and a bit of Mount
Clarence.

228
And inside, being a bit raised, you could also see the houses on Serpentine
Road at the base of Mount Melville.
But that wasn’t the only attraction inside. The master bedroom was enor-
mous with a large en-suite bathroom with two hand basins, a shower and a
roman bath. The other two bedrooms were decent-sized as well and the main
bathroom was magnificent.
There were two reception rooms, one a sort of library but the owner had
large leather armchairs in it as well. Ralph called it the sitting room. The main
one, which he said was called the lounge, was at the back of the house and
gave you a great view of the northern end of the estuary where the King River
flowed into the harbour.
And the kitchen was a hostess’ delight. Plenty of room to move, stacks of
cupboard space and an ‘island’ bench with a marble top, there was room for
three cooks to work without getting in each other’s way!
Large verandahs ran three quarters of the way around the house, so that,
no matter which way the prevailing wind was blowing, you could be almost
certain of finding a sheltered place to sit.
It was set on a half acre which had been cleared and grassed, all except
for a strip of bush along the back fenceline, which, Ralph said, would keep
the property ‘exclusive’ whatever that meant!
It was about fifteen thousand more than we had anticipated, but by the
time we got out of the car back on York Street, we were both certain that we
were doing the right thing by signing on the bottom line!
And I wasn’t even officially employed yet!
But it instantly quelled all my doubts and misgivings, and we couldn’t wait
for the settlement date when we could move out of our little rental in Grey
Street. The owners had built an even bigger place near Mount Willyung and
were moving in the following weekend.
So I spent the last week of the school holiday in complete accord with the
town. I joined up the Albany Historical Society and the public library. It was
still summer and the football clubs were dormant but I met up with a couple
of businessmen who talked me into supporting North Albany Football Club.
They liked the prestige of having Professor Catlin decked out in red and white
scarf and beanie, leaning on their clubroom bar, regaling the members with
tales of his Saint Kilda days. Or giving the lads a pep talk in the change rooms
before the game started.
229
And every man needs a footy club, somewhere to retreat to when his wife
is working evenings or he could do with a bit of masculine company.
I made friends with the sub-editor of the local newspaper and was quite
impressed by his passion for the town. He knew a lot of people, who in turn,
knew a lot about the social history. I felt Albany was tailor made for me!

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7.
The school term began and I was surprised at what an eager bunch of kids
these were. My first class was a fourth form, or Year Eleven, group, post com-
pulsory and anxious to do well. They soaked up information like they were
sponges! And questions? Every time I looked up, there was at least one arm
up, more than likely, two or more. And they asked sensible questions and jot-
ted down notes as I answered them.
Surely the whole school wasn’t like this? Not that I minded one bit if it
was. I wasn’t seeking any challenges as a teacher. I’ll leave that to Sidney
Poitier, thank you very much!
But in the twelve to fifteen year old range, I began to detect signs that in-
dicated there could be problems. Not naughtiness, exactly, but lapses of at-
tention, an inability to learn, almost a blankness! Not all the children, by any
means. Those in the higher streams were just fine, but in the classes where a
trade curriculum had been designated, where academic brilliance was not ex-
pected of a student, some of the boys, mainly boys, just seemed intent on goof-
ing off.
Again, I reiterate, it wasn’t rebelliousness or resentment at being in school.
It was just as though they were not able to concentrate for longer than the time
it took to address them.
They had the ‘thousand yard stare’! Not the distracted blank look that
many intelligent townsfolk had, that Berthos had made fun of that day, but
something deeper.
Then it struck me.
It was the same look that Sharlene had back in those dreadful months when
she was breaking her drug addiction.
These kids were zonked out.
Some of them even smelt of marijuana, most of tobacco and a few of them
had obviously been drinking alcohol as well!
I went to the deputy principal.
‘Yes!’ she said. ‘The lost ones!’
‘Sorry. You lost me. Lost ones?’

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‘Some kids escape into a world of cannabis. They argue it does them no
harm, but it does prevent them from learning. Anyone who cannot learn is
lost, in my opinion.’
‘You say it as though there is no hope for them.’ I said. ‘Surely there is
some way we can bring them back, break their addictions!’
I could have told her about Sharlene but that might have weakened my
case, not strengthened it. Prof. Catlin has a defective missus! His quality of
teaching must therefore, also be on the blink.
And it would ruin Sharlene’s career and reputation!
‘Not on our budget,’ she said. ‘Medibank used to supply money but now
the government has abandoned that, we just let them sit there, ignore them
when they don’t misbehave and punish them when they do. Mostly, they are
so spaced out, they are content to just sit there.’
‘Professor Merriweather . . . ‘ I began.
‘ . . . Can do nothing unless he receives a referral from a GP. Sorry, we
have been down that path many times before. I believe you and he are good
friends?’
‘Yes. For many years. We were in Melbourne together, then at UWA.’
‘He is a lovely man. Caring and very competent. But the doctors in this
town seem to think that if someone is known to be using drugs, they must re-
port it unless their misguided oaths say otherwise. Their responsibility ends
there.’
Ouch! Strong resentment!
‘I understand. I really do. My wife works in the ER at Albany Regional
Hospital and battles against the same obstinacy. But it is a real problem, and
I believe that real problems should receive real treatment!’
‘Don’t espouse that in the common room, then Eric. A few will agree with
you. One or two genuinely, but most will crucify you if you disrupt their cosy
little existences.
‘It’s not that they don’t care. They expect the authorities to do something,
they cannot tell you what. But if it means extra work for them, they will fight
tooth and nail against it!’

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‘Well, I could say that I have reported it to you and that is the bounds of
my responsibility. But . . . with your consent . . . do you mind if I take this
matter further?’
‘Not on school time or with school resources. But if you mean you want
to talk to them, try to convince them to change their spots, you do not under-
stand the leopard!’
‘I accept that. I’d be a fool not to take advice from someone who has been
trying to deal with it for a while now. But I will talk to Berthos . . . Professor
Merriweather . . . and take his advice, as well.’
‘And you will do so with my blessing. Just don’t tell anyone I said that. In
fact, please don’t even mention my name.’
I wasn’t going to argue with her, and I certainly wasn’t going to disobey
her, either. I didn’t even intend doing anything without my friend’s guidance,
or at least, his approval.
Sharlene agreed with me, but voiced her opinion.
‘Don’t bite off more than you chew, Darling!’ she said. That was all.
I loved meeting with the Historic Society. Many people referred to it, un-
kindly, as ‘The Albany Hysterical Society’ but I found the members refresh-
ingly down to earth. All they wanted to do was catalogue thousands of old
photographs, documents, ledgers, letters, drawing and maps. A simple task?
Think again.
In the country, without any guidance from a librarian or similar organiser,
these people really battled. They welcomed us into their club and made us feel
really at home.
They were ordinary folk. A newsagent, a watchmaker, shop owners, me-
chanics, a newspaper reporter, housewives, farmers. All with one bent. They
loved the town and recognised that as it became larger, some reference to the
past would always be sought, and that soon the population would exceed
twenty thousand here, it could wait no longer.
Teaching was by no means taxing! Even though I had to teach about the
crowned heads of Europe, the development of the New World and even some
Asian studies, in addition to my field of expertise, I enjoyed it. It was all about
giving the pupils some idea of what made us become the society we have
today.

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But that one aspect of the society disturbed me, and as I came to find out,
there was nothing I could do about it.
All I could do was try to involve the ‘lost ones’, try to get them to show
some interest, and to not condemn them as so many others in town wanted to.
There were some Nyoonga kids in the school, too. Not many, and I found
that while their environment might have made learning the white man’s history
slower and more difficult, they were great class participants. Those in Upper
School, particularly.
A few were very resentful and I knew they would just revert back to their
peripheral existence once they left their tenth year, but some had very bright
futures in our society ahead of them. I concentrated on those. Not to the detri-
ment of others, but I always strived to bring every student up to the top level,
without disadvantaging the best.
But, as I found out over the subsequent terms and years, it is impossible
to protect human beings if they are hell-bent on destruction. Some fiercely
fought for their right to do exactly that, some benefited from the help Professor
Merriweather, Sharlene, Mary-Anne and I offered them.
And many went unnoticed and slipped through the net and were destroyed
anyway.

This never put me off teaching younger minds than I had during my years
at the universities. In many ways, I found it more rewarding. They were eager
to learn and capable of absorbing vast amounts of information due to their fa-
miliarity with being taught. The realisation that they would be able to lead
much more productive and satisfying lives if they were educated. The benefits
brought about by the ability to access and disseminate information dawns on
some people at a young age, while others conventionally stick to the few snip-
pets of knowledge they learnt at their parent’s knee, and refused to accept any-
thing else.
This was also why institutions like the Historical Society were sneered at
and ridiculed.
‘What good is all this book-learning when you have a living to make?’ is
a commonly heard saying in towns like Albany. You cannot explain to them
that to improve yourself is to improve your condition, position and place in
the food chain! Some people accept what is thrust upon them and never query
that life my be a drudge, to be a burden rather than as a step to a higher level.
234
I guess that is why religions became so popular. They negated the need
for all that by promising all the reward that was due to the sufferer would
come to them in an afterlife which would go on for all eternity.

Sharlene and I grew closer than ever in Albany. Not through being insular
or sticking together because we were somehow different. It was mostly
through the additional time we could spend together and the number of things
we found we could do together.
Likewise our friendship with the Merriweathers. People would joking look
for Berthos if I walked into a room, observing that we were seldom apart.
This, of course, was blatantly untrue, but when a ‘clever’ comment is made
in the town, it continues to do the round for many years until the reason for it
drops into antiquity or all the original participants have died.
I admit, though, that the four of us spent as much time together as we
could, in various configurations. Mary-Anne and I always attended the His-
torical Society, Sharlene and Mary-Anne were members at CWA, Berthos and
I were members of North Albany Football Club, Towns Soccer Club and var-
ious service organisations.
While I introduced Berthos to Australian Rules Football, he managed to
get me interested in his own particular brand of football. Not American ‘Grid-
iron’! But what Americans and Australians call ‘soccer’. True football, he
called it.
He had been a ‘bobby-dazzler’ at Harvard and had been in demand by sev-
eral amateur clubs in Massachusetts. He even had a limited referee’s licence
and could act as a linesman in A Grade games, which he did on a regular basis.
I would accompany him, wondering at the complicated set of rules and the
speed and alacrity with which the players managed the ball, primarily with
their feet, legs, bodies and heads, but never their arms or hands.
It didn’t seem natural to my Aussie Rules reckoning, but sometimes we
would kick a ball one-to-another, his dogs barking, yapping and chasing it,
and it is a very satisfying feeling when you are limited by which body parts
you can use.
Sharlene roared with laughter when I told her this and said it was time, at
my age, to limit the use of some other body parts!
This lovely woman became so close to me, both in the physical world as

235
well as the mind-only universe, that we at last began to discuss her former
drug addiction. She was always mindful that once a substance gets a hold on
you, it is likely to have a grip, forever.
This was one of our intentions: that it not be given a chance to get a hold
on any more local kids and have them condemned to a peripheral place in our
society, involved in crime, or the fringes of it, in order to feed their addictions.
Because without the education they shunned, they would never be able to le-
gitimately earn the sort of money required to maintain their way of life.
And so we decided that, on the Astral Plane, we would revisit all the major
events in our life, starting right back at their first day we clamped eyes on
each other in Lu and Robert’s kitchen.

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8.
Sharlene also wanted to see herself growing up because she felt this had
some sort of bearing on the choices she made, and I thought my Baptist up-
bringing could be illuminating, as well. So we directed our path to what we
naively call ‘east’ and had a look at what seemed to me to be a very normal
girl, living a very normal life in Traralgon. Her parents behaved normally, im-
pressing a typical Methodist ideology and code of behaviour on an impres-
sionable teen.
Her uncles were a bit more interesting with their practical jokes and con-
stant teasing. But nowhere in her upbringing could we find any indication to-
wards addiction. There were no obvious alcoholics, gamblers or obsessive
behaviour.
Other than my gran’s tea drinking, the same could be said of my family
background. The religious dependence was a bit heavy, and the discipline in-
volved made it a bit more strict, but we both had remarkably similar formative
years.
If anything, I was more rebellious and I defended myself by considering I
had more to rebel against. But that had no bearing on why she took to drugs
and I didn’t. Besides, living in suburban Melbourne, I probably had a greater
chance of stumbling on a drug user and an available supplier.
In Traralgon, the men had their beer and their whiskey, the women their
aspirin-paracetamol-codeine compounds and their gin bottles. A few became
dependent on their various poisons, but not sufficiently and definitely not in
Shar’s very conventional family.
So we couldn’t pin anything on her past life. It must have all happened
after she started work at the hospital, which she insisted it did, anyway.
I suppose that people from any background, given a set of circumstances,
can start using drugs. Peer pressure seemed to be the most common one in
Albany, and coupled with natural adolescent rebelliousness, was a pretty
strong force to be reckoned with.
But not the only reasons. Disaffection, loneliness, being neglected, being
abused, and traumatic events all played a part.
There was the ‘performance enhancing’ aspect, but not really in Albany
as those who began using seldom had any competitiveness in them anyway.
Not even among their siblings!

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So we abandoned that avenue entirely and somewhat nervously ap-
proached the house in Caulfield where we both knew our earlier selves would
just be meeting for the first time.
I suppose it was my characteristic anxiety which made me hesitate. On the
Astral Plane, you normally feel neither reluctance not confidence, you don’t
shy away but you don’t go in with your guns blazing. You just do whatever
you set out to do!
So I delayed my visit by a small amount of what passes for time.
Shar entered the scene and I thought ’Okay, I’m going in!’

Suddenly, for a second or so, nothing made any sense at at all!


Then clarity, and I understood everything!
I can’t explain this because, while on the Astral Plane it is very clear and
well defined. To try to type it down on paper requires you to think in English,
or whatever language you intend using.
So I will not use words like ‘surprised’, ‘amazed’, ‘shocked’, or even
‘wham’, to describe what happened.
But the ‘me’ from the most recent part of the narrative combined with the
me from the first part, the part about Nuytsland and Nina!
I was almost certainly disoriented for a brief period of time! You have
probably forgotten, but my mind is human, and humans are prone to being
disoriented.
Then, as I said, a clarity and explanation came in such a natural way that
all my confusion (if you like to call it that), dissipated.
I was one mind but with the memories of two minds. They didn’t conflict
with each other, neither took precedence, neither was ‘him’ nor ‘me’! They
just dissolved together like when you put oil into cream and get mayonnaise.
But it didn’t make a new substance, a compound or alloy of any sort. I still
remained me, much wiser, much more knowledgeable, with far greater expe-
rience.
And in love with two women, both on the Astral Plane and who, like me,
realised what had happened in a twinkling of an eye!

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At last, Sharlene was back. Not the Sharlene who had just half-risen from
the chair, smiling at the me who was doing his best to make an arse of him-
self!
The Sharlene I could feel all around me, who had been with me the past
three decades! The Sharlene who meant more to me than life itself! And who
died that night with an overdose of amphetamines in her system.
And this other woman, who I knew was Nina but who I was completely
unfamiliar with until seconds before, despite spending about eighteen very
exciting years with, who egged me on to help her change the course of his-
tory!
And now I knew I had a body to go back to in Port George-Albany! A
sightly older body than the one I had discarded in 1968 but the same one I
had left so recently before our sojourn ‘east’.
Have I explained that clearly enough?
You do realise what happened, don’t you?
The me which I told you about in Book One, who worked in Port George
after losing his wife, and who met a beautiful French woman before going
back and changing the course of history, had become one with the boring old
high school teacher who looked forward to nothing more than growing old in
a small south coastal town, growing his own vegetables, stroking his cat Mal-
colm and loving his wife!

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9.
Everything after this is an anticlimax, but I am a Historian, and as such
must tidy up the loose ends and relate all the outcomes.
I have told you the cause, now I must report the effects, as we say in my
field of study.
Needless to say, we abandoned the fact finding mission and the new-world
exploration exercise. They were meaningless now and beside, most of the
questions were suddenly irrelevant.
We bore back to Albany to where two of us had bodies and one would
need to look for premises.
Naturally, I wanted Nina to join us in my body, as Arturo had in Nina’s.
But that was a little too intimate, unfair to Sharlene and in a way, adulterous!
Bigamous! If you see what I mean.
Sharlene was apprehensive at first, as she had never experienced having a
room mate before, especially one she didn’t know, and whose personality, ex-
perience and even culture was vastly foreign. But she made the suggestion,
because I don’t think she liked the idea of me being in such a relationship,
and it seemed a reasonably satisfactorily solution. She thought of it as boys
in one body, girls in the other.
That is incredibly simplistic and nothing like the real reason, but again,
words fail me. Shar had had no experience of more than one mind occupying
one body, except on those occasions when we were intimate and I slipped into
her mind to complement our bodies. So she tentatively made up a tenancy
agreement and Nina signed it!
I cannot say it was an unqualified success, because Nina used to spend
most of her time completely on the Astral Plane and more time in me than in
Sharlene. I think she did so right up until the time my two beautiful women
passed away.
We felt we should explain to Berthos and Mary-Anne and expected him
to have difficulty accepting it. Especially the bit about his role in Book One
and our changing the history of Australia as we did.
But we broached the subject gently and although the bit about Sharlene
now being Shar-Nina, as I called her, gave him a little difficulty, he never reg-
istered any disbelief.

240
He had not, in the other reality, known about Arturo’s presence in Nina’s
head. He believed he existed only Astrally. At first we thought he need not
know about Nina’s existence. But Nina also had a huge admiration and love
for this balding, pipe-smoking psychiatrist, and needed to have some way of
expressing it.
So we told him.
He simply asked us for a little time alone to absorb and assimilate what he
had been told, and when we came back to his house in Little Grove the fol-
lowing day, he pointed out the coincidences of our separate realities.
We knew he believed us and had convinced Mary-Anne, herself a very as-
tute woman, of our veracity.
In 1996, Mary-Anne and Berthos collaborated on writing a novel, loosely
based on our story but involving two Americans who wanted to change the
history of British rule in Massachusetts. You know, the Boston Tea Party and
all that?
I read it and was surprised that no publisher accepted it. The reason,
Berthos was lead to believe, was that it could not be turned into a screenplay
as it relied too much on explaining concepts. No publisher wanted a novel he
could not on-sell to a movie or television production house. That was where
the money was!
I thought it was marvellous, well written and their enhancements to the
historical plot and detail made it un-put-downable. But that’s me. Publishers
know what is going to sell and as none of them picked it up, I guess we will
have to bow to their better judgement.
Berthos passed away in 2002. I really miss him. Mary-Anne went back to
the States and we still keep in regular contact by email and Christmas Cards.
I Skype her now and again but she is very frail.
Nina made me promise I would not exercise my rights as a Historian to
publish this astounding piece of the past while she was still with us, but Shar-
lene developed a cancer five years ago and sadly, I lost both of the only two
women I ever loved in one go.
I still live in Albany, I am extraordinarily fit and well, even in my advanc-
ing years. Lucinda’s daughter, Pheobe, lives here too. But as her parents died
in the 90s, she is my nearest living relative.

241
She knows our story and believes it. In fact, she edited it and made some
very clever suggestions and amendments to the narrative which I happily in-
cluded.
I have never figured out if we did the right thing.
Were the aborigines better off under British rule? I believe that under the
Westminster system which Australia uses, they are advancing and, although
they have issues still unresolved, should be able to feel they belong in Western
society very soon. I hope so, as nobody benefits from confrontation and ad-
versity.
We must remember, when lumping good aborigines with the misbehaving
few and regarding them all as the same. This type of thinking is still happening
among Territory politicians, police and farmers, exactly the same as Stirling
and his possese in Pinjarrah, when the whole race sufferes because of the acts
of one or two.
Who can blame the aborigines for lumping Europeans together, then? Not
only back in Tasmania where it all started, but still today, when they refer to
Australia Day as ‘Invasion Day’, the day they attribute to the arrival of Euro-
peans and the start of their problems? Although it all started long before Cap-
tain Cook arrived in Botany Bay, our celebrations remind them of those times
and are very confronting.
I guess proper reconciliation won’t come in my lifetime, but I feel we have
made some inroads into apologising for the injustices they bore from our an-
cestors.
As for the nuclear issue, I rate it an unqualified success. Australia still
relies on coal to generate electricity and is progressing well with other forms
of non-fossil fuel. It has never relied on Uranium.
Other than those disgraceful episodes with the British atomic tests which
happened before this narrative started, the country has never allowed any fur-
ther experimentation on this continent, because Nina and I put a stop to the
corrupt French administration.
All in all, I have had a useful life. And enjoyed both of them!

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