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"While still sixteen I am put in charge of a class of forty children who are two, three or four years younger than I. I fall in love with them. They are my possession, my mob whose forty minds, under my flashy and domineering control, are to become one, a mind unsullied by errors, unmarked by blots, contaminated by misplaced originalities outside the curriculum, and as full of facts as a pomegranate seed."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Indeed, so deep is my pleasure in the work of the garden that, if there be a dimension after death in which grieving for the loss of the world of senses is possible, I shall grieve for no person however once agonisingly desired and passionately beloved, for no emotional adventure however uplifting, for no success however warming, no infamy however exhilarating, for nothing half so much as I shall grieve to the loss of the earth itself, the soil, the seeds, the plants, the very weeds... It is a love almost overriding my love the words that could express that love."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"I cannot consider fighting in competitive Manly Fun any more than I can consider pitting my running, swimming or climbing body against other bodies. Nothing, then, or now, arouses me or will ever arouse me from a perfect disinterest in ball games."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"I immediately cotton on to the fact that intelligence thus lightly used, and one-upmanshipishly displayed, is a birthmark giving me a two-coloured face, is a goitre, a hump on the back, webbed toes, and makes me stink like the night-man. Once again I learn what I knew on my very first day at Kensington School, and have carelessly forgotten, that it is more intelligent to appear less intelligent. I henceforth rein myself in, and publicly give back only what I have been given - fifty-six for seven- eights."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Next, suddenly, lightning suddenly, while I am still a child, a branch is lopped from my being, and a portion of my childhood ends forever. I see what poets are."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"It is difficult enough for me, an unmistakable Australian, albeit of the Awstalian rather than the Osstralian variety, to convey in words to other Australians the exact temper of the clan gatherings at Sale, gatherings of no importance, unrecorded because unrecordable, forgotten before begun, proof of nothing that cannot be unproved, and which, allowing for family verve and offhand solidarity, can be nothing else in the world but Australian."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"These are after all, the provinces, with their complex family feuds reeking of long-time bitterness, and constantly refreshed venoms. On every hand matriarchal and patriarchal domination drives ageing spinsters to decorate sponge cakes for skinny vicars, and middle-aged bachelors to gin-tippling or cat-keeping, or the embroidering of supper cloths. Eccentricity is more noticeable because, one supposes, there are fewer people. There is however, much shrugging-of-the-shoulder acceptance, much closed-circuit forbearance. Stones are thrown tribally; an outsider attempting to throw stones would himself be very smartly stoned."

HAL, PORTER - Hal Porter's Australia

"This silent cry is of ecstasy for what has been done, and of despair at being forestalled, and being thus forewarned, that neither This Year nor Next Year am I to have the ability and wisdom to light the lamp on my own. Although one branch of childhood is in this fashion lopped for all time, the rest of it still inhabits the body of a child which occupies itself in childish matters."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"To leave behind a minutely engraved and intricately tinted plan, to be compelled by adult practicality to leave it behind unfingered, seems one of the disadvantages of childhood. How many shadows of broken desires must haunt and flicker among the shadows haunting and flickering in streets and lanes and cul-de-sacs children glimpsed, and yearned to walk to the end of, and never did. To be offhandedly presented with another, a newer, differently embellished plan is one of the advantages."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Time does not alter men. It merely unmasks them."

HAL, PORTER -

"Adolescence, it now seems to me, is a period one gesticulates through largely in secret, and for no-one, least of all for oneself - that is, one's past self and one's future self. If one be, at this period, noisier than ever before in life, the noise, the guttural rages, the bitter bellowings, the beatings of brows and pounding on tables are a surprising and boring to the executant as boring to the listener."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Denying oneself one lesson, one learns another, or many lessons. The constellation of disillusion contains an infinity of planets."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Now, I can smile at the stock quality of these friends, these uniforms. these looking-glasses, these sharers. Each is a character lifted straight from literature and yet, life successfully aping art, they are alive, and fulfil their destinies - or act their parts - flawlessly."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"As my tenth year slides backwards under my happily and slowly opening mind and my happy and wary heart, it bears away much that is ordinarily seasonal and will slide in again after a few more years on the flood-tide of other years... The same tide, too, tugs away, as the flood did the humiliated and dying rooster on the barn-door, things and beings and situations I am never to see or hear or touch or experience ever again, except in recollection. Regret somewhat tenderises recollection of much that is not, really, worthy of regret or recollection or record."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"The heat is searing and superb. The paddocks surrounding the town are bleached blond. The distant ring-barked gums, mile after mile, wriggle in the heat-waves, and seem to melt like the bristles of a melting hairbrush. The hills turn powder-blue and gauzy. Mirages resembling pools of mica and shallows of crystal water appear at the far ends of streets and roads. Punctually at eleven every burning morning, the cicadas begin to drill the air, to drill themselves also, ceaselessly and relentlessly, to death in one short day after seven long years underground."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"The Australian form of self-respect, however rough-and-ready, heart-of-gold, come-and-take-pot-luck-with-us, and matily extrovert it is, essentially, genteel, ingrowing, self-pitying, vanilla-ice-cream hearted, its central fear a fear of intellect."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"The unwritten rules of behaviour are infinite in number, finely shaded, and subtle to the last fraction of a degree. They are not to be broken. If broken, the rules of forgiveness leading to re-establishment are equally of air and iron. I learn these rules with rather less ease than my contemporaries because, in the back streets of my being, a duel is developing and increasing in fervour between my instinct which knows why something is so, and my hen-pecking intelligence which wishes to analyse why something is so."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Anyway, at the age of ten, I am so in love with the hubbub and braggadocio and seeming confidence of the family that I see them as a skylarking herd to whom nothing is ever a problem, to who a problem has never presented itself and never will."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"I am therefore left to my desired and happy condition of obedient son - that is before their faces. Behind their backs I am scarcely less obedient; I run against them - behind their backs - only in matters not fit for adults to know about. Even in these esoteric, and often erotic, performances disobedience is far from specifically so because I am doing not what has been forbidden but what has not been forbidden. The silence and apparent ignorance of my parents is the silence and apparent ignorance I obediently return them in my disobedience to the unexpressed. Behind their backs or before their faces I rarely run against myself."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Adolescence forces me to watch every move and gesture I make physically and socially, to weigh every word, and the accent and intonation of every word I utter. Some new creature is compelling me to make it stronger and sleeker, to get it ready for freedom."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"Nevertheless it is good-bye. Childhood and Chapter One are over, the mantrap is set, the bucket of icy water is balanced above the door of the next room, there is no, 'Be back soon!' for that Hal Porter. When he returns home for luncheon on January the Third, 1927, he will appear the same but already something will be stirring - the Devil in the basement, the Angel in the attic, the two-faced Diplomat in the drawing room, the Clown in all the corridors - who yet knows? Watch him go."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony, on starting work

"It is easier to be obedient to these grown-ups deft in the mechanical tricks of existence, to hold my fork properly, and put it down properly, and to wash my neck, and polish my boots, and say my prayers, than to be disobedient and wrong. I prefer being right."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony