the hawkesbury school
Someone lived here once, a family, otherwise why would there be five bedrooms? – But only the one bathroom and one shower.
The building sat on a small rise overlooking a muddy Hawkesbury beach and every one of the five bedrooms was occupied by those who came before me. Older men, harder men inured to hardship and exposure. Down there, one said upon my arrival, along that dismal track until you reach the building at its end.
The end. A gloomy passage through a forest darkened with vines and unkempt undergrowth, infested with mosquitoes and bush ticks, and there stood this old river home of five bedrooms, none of them mine, and here I stood at the portal of this rotted mansion, case in hand, all youthful eagerness to join this company of men severely diminished by the circumstances of their existence.
I was eighteen. Bondi bred. Lost to the expensive education my parents wished upon me and once banished to this Hawkesbury School where discipline and obedience were valued above all. Not to mention being fit enough to withstand tortures that could only have been devised by the Special Forces.
Now they had given me a job. Me!
You sleep here, he said, this bearded fellow who met me at the wharf and accompanied me to the House, then pointed to a wire camp bed in a large room by the bathroom door. No blankets. No sheets. No mattress. A small two-drawer for what I had brought with me. No bedside light. Not a whisper of welcome from anyone later that first night as they all trooped in from a five-day overland expedition and filed past me, the new boy, on their way to their rooms.
Sleep that night was not possible. By daybreak they had all gone to breakfast. And by the time I trudged back to the main buildings the tables in the mess had been cleared.
Years later while I was being interviewed by a saturnine young accountant for a job in the city I remembered those twelve months spent in the Hawkesbury amongst the adventurers, mountain climbers and Arctic explorers and when he asked what was my future career plan in his corporation I replied if he was going to lodge me in a desk by the toilets we were not likely to spend much time as colleagues.
Because the one thing I remember about the House is that after a month and the the departure to Nepal by one of the senior instructors I was invited to remove my inconsequential self to his corner of the house overlooking the river … wherein I stayed for almost a year.
Careers are one thing, acceptance another.
Header pic is the Blue Peter, a flag that signifies a vessel that is outward bound.