Our home in space

Guy Ottewell

Local release

In Libya I found out that I could apply for “local release.” The army, instead of flying me home, could let me make my own way. The authorities hadn't heard of this and got the idea that I had to be back in London by my release date, so they let me go a month early. I had been giving English lessons to a Turkish businessman, and through him I got a passage to Greece on a cement ship that had been lying in Derna's harbor. The voyage took four days; I slept on the tarpaulin hatch over the hold. The ship docked at Eleusis, the city of the ancient Mysteries and now the site of a large cement works. From the port of Piraeus I got on a Yugoslav ship. After passing through the Corinth Canal it touched at little Itea so that we could go up and see Delphi. The others all being Yugoslavs, I explored the ruins by myself, discovered that they had all left, had to get a ride down the mountainside on the running-board of a truck, from which I could see our ship steaming out of the bay below. They had left my passport in the post office, and I had to get a long ride through the mountains in which the Muses lived, and across the gulf at Naupactus to catch up with the ship at Patrai. Thus on via such places as Corfu and Dubrovnik and Split to Rijeka and Trieste, from which I hitchhiked to Venice, the Brenner Pass, Liechtenstein, some friends at Eglisau near the falls of the Rhine, and Basel. South of Basel, at Dornach, was the Goetheanum, a building like an irregular concrete mountain, headquarters of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical movement. I went there because in Athens I had met a gentle Danish teacher on holiday from a course there, and as a result I came back some months later and worked for a while as a kulissenschieber, “flat-pusher” — that is, a stage hand helping to operate the scenery in the Goetheanum's theatre, which was said to be the second largest in Europe after the Bolshoi in Moscow. I had to be quick about learning some rough-and-ready German so as to know when to haul on a flat or when the stage was about to open up into the vast storage space below.