Despite the assurances of Conan Doyle that he had made it all up, a number of serious expeditions were mounted to try and find his lost world, even one by the Royal Society. Decades later, they were still trying. One such adventurer was American Colonel Fawcett who might have been the most eccentric of all. The man truly believed he was Allan Quartermain or Lord John Roxton and tried hard to live up to his fiction equivalents. But try as he might, and despite the wonderfully illustrated edition of Exploration Fawcett in which he tells of his exploits, this man upon whom great heroes of fiction were modelled looks a little foolish and somewhat dull compared to the fiction versions of himself created by others. To try and bolster his book, he declared that he had actually discovered the plateau that Conan Doyle referred to in The Lost World. There’s even a photo of the unattainable plateau with the pinnacle beside—but no dinosaurs. No one was ever quite so completely misunderstood as the person who said Fact is stranger than Fiction—it’s the people who think that who are strange. And all fiction, no matter how apparently imaginary, is derived from fact anyway. Good fiction is an improvement on the facts, which is why it is always more interesting and definitely stranger. Fiction less so is simply poor fiction.
At the time I discovered these things in the minimal school library, I was somewhat lost in a jungle of my own, for it was by those most primal of laws that the schoolyard at Moorabbin Tech conducted itself. Fights were continual—the chant would arise fight, fight, fight, and the boys would rush to form a throbbing circle about the combatants until some teacher fought their way through the rabid throng to break them up. Usually, the patrolling teachers wore grid-iron padding and carried cricket bats or other waddies, to try and impose their presence on the brawlers. They didn’t—usually within minutes, there would be another outbreak on the other side of the yard.
There was one basic difference between the pupils and the teachers. The pupils—the bodgies—could hit you any way they liked with anything they liked and needed no particular reason for doing so. The teachers however were somewhat restricted, always requiring some sort of pretext which would have to be explained to the student before they could commit their acts of violence upon them, and they were confined to the standard Education Department approved methods—the use of a thick heavy leather strap on the hands or about the calves of the legs should a boy be so unfortunate as to be placed in shorts by a well-meaning mother, or other lesser accepted variations—ear-twisting, knuckle rapping, or standing on the subject’s toes only if accompanied by the teacher’s pretence of being quite unaware of the painful position of their foot. And it was my English classes that were most significant, if only for the rather revolutionary instructional methods of a certain Mr Demetre.