Arrived in London last night & found my room all booked & no troubles at all. Got a cab from Victoria Station & everything was the easiest thing ever. Called at the Consol. Press office this morning & was abundantly rewarded with 4 beautiful loving letters. I gobbled them up with 2 or 3 glass of Younger’s Light Ale. London has done me proud. I am enjoying the first sunny day for more than a fortnight. Paris has been very grey (but still beautiful) & for the last few days almost fog bound. Hardly saw anything of the country from Paris to Calais. Cleared up near the coast & the sun came out. Found the boat trip across the Channel pretty dreary. Although it took but little more than an hour, it made me thankful that I did not have to contemplate 5 weeks or so of water – just to get home. I’d have gone crackers. I am going back to Victoria Station (where we came in from Dover) to contact BOAC & find out what cooks and when. Have been walking around this morning – but now get tired – my knee joints have folded up on me. Not so badly as to prohibit their use, on my return. This London is quite a place. – I haven’t even seen the Thames yet. But the Strand, Piccadilly – Oxford St, etc. where I have been window shopping are jolly well all right. Best shops in Europe. Wonderful things for sale – and all, at least they seem to me, after the Continent – very cheap. Dawdled round the basement of Selfridges – very good & so many things one doesn’t see at home. The shopfronts all spick & span – the building facades bright – All without that air of decay that sits like a veneer over most of Europe. This is just a quick note to give you immediate news of my arrival. I shall get back later into fuller reports – I’ll have more time alone now. I’ll have a few beers & pour me bleeding heart out to you.
The prospect of trying to walk over London daunts me. I shall master the bus services & see it more superficially. Called to see if Reg Ash was in – away in America still. Very much love to you, and to Graham & Trellie.
Will go & find advice on plane trip home.
Things are a bit up in the air about the trip home. I have to wait on advice from Scandinavian Airways – who were originally to take me to Bangkok.
Will let you know as soon as possible. It’s getting very dark and cold with the time only 4.45pm.
Lots of love darling
Tell Graham a postcard will get sent off tomorrow and tell him to find a photograph of me to put on the wall of Trellie’s bedroom – Don’t let her forget me.
[The Howard Hotel no longer exists nor does Norfolk Street, which used to run between Temple Place and Strand, directly opposite Australia House.]
Sat 3-Nov-56: Day at the Daily Express while Roley worked.
Sun 4-Nov-56: Went to Embassy church & dinner on pig. Went to concert. Roley went to Vienna.
Mon 5-Nov-56: Weary, Odilon Roden exhibition, later to the Louvre – too dark to see the Rembrandts etc.
5th Nov ‘56
My darling Dorothy,
I got a letter from you this morning dated 29th Oct. That is a week ago and you called me a big monster because I hadn’t said I hadn’t got a letter from your affectionate heart. Please forgive me if I have not mentioned the joy they gave me. I am sure I must have done so. To tell the truth, it is only since I got to the Paris address that I have been getting anything. I know it is not your fault. I had one letter in Romania. One you had written just after the beautiful letters I picked up at the Hotel Austria. So you will forgive me. I asked them to mail my Romanian mail to Paris – but nothing has arrived so I guess everything is just any old-how in the east. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the beautiful books they were to have forwarded. All the mail goes or did, through Hungary, so you can imagine that the chances of receiving anything at all are pretty hopeless.
Roley has just been sent to Hungary, much against his wishes. However, he has arrived at Vienna as the border is about to be closed again – So I guess things may be alright for him. I took the liberty of getting him to put me on the phone to Robert Edgley & asking him to see what he could do for him in the way of local information, etc. I am leaving for London at 8am on Wednesday. I was to have gone on Friday but McNulty sent me a cable from New York to say that he will probably be there till the 18th. As I would like to see him, I thought I’d leave a little later for London & fly direct if I can. You have had a couple of pretty mad – but, I assure you, earnest letters from me. If anything in them has distressed you in any way put it down to tired and excited ramblings. I want you not to think I am lurching all over the city. I am not. There is a lot to do, and see, and perhaps I cannot cope with it all without an occasional savage outburst – Giving the theatre of the brain a flutter – if you understand – Not that I didn’t mean a word of my love making – but perhaps then it would have been more obscene – and not so beautifully obvious. Anyway I meant every word of it and you have to like it or lump it. Roley got me into a Christian Dior parade the other afternoon. I went alone & had to flash my passport to get in. Got stuck behind three rows of chairs & without a cigarette the two hours of so called parading became even more murderous than conceivable – because I couldn’t get out. All but one of the models looked like creatures from Buchenwald concentration camp. Pin stick limbs, but interesting faces. Very much like Nefertiti because the wizard profiles were capped by flat top haps like Romanian Astrakhan shepherd hats. All the winter clothes were finished off with these type of hat.
I thought some of the winter type coats very nice. Quite your line. I understand your taste, but I haven’t got the money to risk a failure. I should like to have seen you, with your very forthright walk, modelling one or ten of them. The walk you wear when I first remember you running down the side of the pool at Dee Why the day you took off and sat on my costume, and took the little Dutch monster with you into the pool. Your little eyes were so purposeful and your behind wagged as if you were just about fifteen and it hadn’t sat on a hat or swimming pants or even a box of delights for twenty or thirty six years. I think it was on Feb the two-th of something. But it was a wonderful day, because I met you when you got off the bus and you were wagging it from work. I remember Christine saying you were a nice girl. But I had no idea that should agree so seriously with her. I thought she was right, but didn’t realise that I would be so convinced of it later. In fact I never thought then that I would be in love with you – I suppose I was, but wouldn’t admit it even to myself – because how could I, when I was, oh – well – you know, I loved Jess too. And it’s because I love you I can now say that. You understand now.
Roley has a musical merry-go-round that makes everybody who sees it want to cry because it is so wonderfully static & old world. And all the four figures who are seated on alternate donkeys and rabbits have their tails dropped off with age and the mange of neglect. With the inevitability of last year’s newsreels, the dear little clown clothed figures trace their fixed and inevitable course, centrifugally around the music of a tinkling and passé empire of France. They wear pantaloons & red velvet bows – cockades and pointed vermillion shoes. One of them, who wears a little peaked donkey hat with a feather in it is so like Graham, I could weep. Some of the horses they are not horse, but they had almost the privilege of being horses, are without tails and hooves. They are dusty, but are ennobled with age and affection. The base is ancient pink & contains the most sentimental music it is the pleasure of any cavalier to ride to. I have just wound it up. And all the figures go la-de-da-de-la in an inevitable circle with Graham, not the most elegantly dressed, riding on the only horse with a tail, in poised and delicate finality.
You know what the trouble with me is, I am not doing enough work. I’m building up & am near explosion point. The absorption rate is high & I guess, apart from the London galleries, I have seen almost every picture worthy seeing or which has been reproduced. The Louvre gives me the flaming horrors. I have been there four times without decently seeing a picture. It is so dismally dark. So is Paris this time of the year – Gives you the thing. Spent another quid having a look at Odilon Redon exhibition (plus catalogue) this morning. Only vaguely knew of him. Beautiful lovely work. So many of the masters are disappointing in the original. By and large, you could give me the early Italian and or Christian painters for my cup of tea.
This is becoming a long letter, my darling and is like my reactions to all external stimuli. I like getting letters from you but I would rather be home. I find the idea of spring hard to conceive. Really the weather here is the end! I’ve seen the sun twice. They tell me the grey of London is worse.
Please don’t expect much from me from London. I shall write only when I madly need you. Not that, that wouldn’t be every day I could make it. But I have had sending news reports, and would as soon be home. The winter 1956 timetable says my plane will get in at 7.20pm on Nov. 25. I do not want you to meet me. I would really much rather get a cab from the city and walk into my home with my people there. I do very really mean this. I would rather kiss you in Northwood than in Mascot or Sydney. I can take you both together in my arms at home. Please let me come home alone. I don’t want anyone else to help me see you all for the first time after all this much of the world. I don’t mind that vulgar Trellie being there. Will you please get this into your thick head? Also, please don’t write any letters I would miss. I can’t stand it. Save your affection up for my arrival. The letter I got today was dated Mon 29 Oct. That is a week’s delay. So don’t write anything I wouldn’t get by the 18th. I might have to go to Zurich by train. Anyway, I’ll let you know pronto. Seems very sad that the last letter I’ll get from you will just about answer this. Please tell me you love me. Tell Graham I’;; send a post card from London, or Calais, or Folkestone. Tell him I’ll only have about half an hour to nick up the Eiffel Tower. Tomorrow I’ll be awful busy. I love you, and miss you, my dear wife.
P.S. That letter from Orasul Stalin – Stefanie registered it – I didn’t tell her to – perhaps she had no faith in the post.
P.S.S. No man in his youth would be so dependent on a fickle – unpredictable woman – and what is more – shall not be! XXXXXXX
Fri 2-Nov-56: Louvre, bought chicken. Out with Jon Williams.
3 Nov ‘56
Darling Dorothy (I can’t build on that).
You cannot be more alone than when you have sat down in a strange city and you wake up and you don’t know where you are. But you still have to find your way out without maps, or anyone to help. What makes it worse is to come across a tram shed full of people who are asleep on the concrete floor & you leave 4 Francs for their grog in morning. I am, at last, up in front of a fire at 31 Quai des Saint Augustins. Give one the pip wouldn’t it? Please take no notice of my terrible state of thing. I am useless till I come home. I have had bloody Europe and all its stinking problems. Poor Roley has to go to Hungary – and a worse revolutionary correspondent you would go far to meet. He hates the idea – but I have introduced him over the phone to Robert Edgley, so perhaps he will not feel completely abandoned.
My very loved girl, I either write as I am or not write at all. I’m sick of gawking at bloody buildings. You can as far as I am concerned shove the whole lot up – for a gum tree. They say there are plenty of eucalyptus in the south of France and may be beautifully true – but since when do you pay £20 to look at a stick from the bush when you know that within 3 weeks you’d never get away from them again in your life? Don’t you dare be upset because I am writing in a screw ball mood. It is the time when I need you & wish so much for a few words. Even if they are all wrongly associated and you are perhaps disappointed. But I am not getting any screwier – or more alcoholic – just that I show it more to you. I think a little more of that slushy guff would be in order. Coming from you – I could take it. To tell the truth, I would like, very much, if I could get a letter on the 20 or 21st Nov asking me to get back to the rest tout suite. Nevertheless, I can assure you that I can get on without letters. (But not much!) (I have had many happy affections – many letters from you – since I have been at Roley’s place. It is the only really place I have had a letter.) You are a bloody dear little girl, and I am just beginning to be very greatly in love with you and even if any villainous opportunities arise I never can take them because my thinking of you and your loyalty makes my fred look like a very cold piece of Graham. And I mean that mug! You are my woman, & women! Trouble is, I keep thinking too keenly about it all & what’s more, I am really not kidding, when I say I’d like to be home. I hope you miss me as much as I miss you. I am fairly simple in my tastes. I hope it is warm enough, when I arrive, for you to be wearing a nice pair of scanties, or none at all! Bold, bad, boy! Don’t take much notice of me. Oh what hypocrisy. You indeed take a fred well[?] If the curse is on I don’t care one damn – And I know you are willing anyway. That lounge gives me the first thing – when out of the blue – you became, my wife.
Later – This is a love letter and I am sending it to you because I love you and you have to take me as I come! I love you very much, indeed now, And don’t forget, to remind me, when I am your horrid friend, Bill XXXXX your husband man
Mon 29-Oct-56: Roamed around, quick look at Louvre & saw Picasso film again – dinner alone at St Germain.
Tue 30-Oct-56: Rose 5am & got 6:30 train to Chartres, cold but enjoyable. Dinner with Bob Close & others.
Wed 31-Oct-56: Went to Louvre. Quiet day.
Thu 1-Nov-56: All Souls Day here. Everything shut, did nothing much, went to Place de Vosges.
Mon 29 ‘56
Another very grey day, with the significant difference that it looks grey to me, too. I’ve just come back from a scouting trip to the Louvre. And these great galleries can depress one very easily. One is forced to contemplate one’s own inadequacies & other’s noble communications with succeeding generations. It was very dark in the gallery but I managed to locate some beautiful things. Leonardo’s “Virgin with Jesus & St Anne”, so much better than the “Mona Lisa”. Giorgione’s “Le Concert Champetre” Titian “Virgin au Lapin” del Sarto “La Charité” & a superb portrait by Raphael of “Jeanne D’Aragon”. Very beautiful. All this beauty of city & past efforts are saddening. Perhaps I’m tired – and reaction has set in after yesterday’s strong impact. I felt like giving it away, but the more one sees of this fabulous city, the more one realises how little one can accomplish in the time allowed. God, how I’d like a month here with you. We could give back to each other the needed help. I hope you understood why I had to become so direct at the end of my last letter. It was very necessary to combat the upward surge. I know, anyway, that you would have been all you could to me. I think I’ll go out and find myself something to eat. I’ve been roaming around a fair bit & am getting rather hungry. Strange as it may seem I wish I could hear you chatter madly, and not too pontifically about all the things we could have seen together. I’d like to buy you some wine, & to get you slightly high, and be (that is me) all sort of mildly amused & knowledgably superior. Miss you darling. Au revoir.
Have just come in – it’s about 11pm. Went & saw the Picasso picture again but couldn’t manage to keep awake. Went and had a feed alone. Cost about £1 for a very indifferent meal.
Very cold out – and the streets are wet & full of reflections from the lights of the city. The Seine doesn’t look too inviting in this sort of weather. Roley must have been in & out again. No sign of him at the moment. Don’t know whether to go to Chartres on the 6.20am train tomorrow – or not. Just can’t make up my mind at the moment. Don’t fancy it in the rain. Perhaps it would be better for me to see some galleries although the bigger ones are closed on Tuesdays. Good night sweetheart.
Good Heaven! It’s Thursday morning already! [31 Oct 1956]. On Tuesday morning I got up at 5am. Cold & very dark. Took myself off on a train at 6.30am to revisit Chartres Cathedral – arrived Chartres about 8am, not long after daylight. It was bitterly cold & a perhaps a perfect day to get the full impression of the cathedral. Austere & keen. I had slightly expected a letdown in emotional feeling on a second view – but all my first raptures were held. It is the most moving building I have seen. A wonderful work of the human spirit. Seems to completely embody the medieval gothic soul.
The great and simple southern spire – soaring without any commonplace cake like decorations into the cold grey sky – Everything very silent, save for the squawk of the black birds flying in & around the open chambers the high peaked top.
Around the main entrance – the typical Gothic carvings – but these so much better than most. Pure Gothic – as moving as can be – quite up to the Indian gift for sculptured embroidery conceived as a grand and united whole. A beautiful church. Went over to the Louvre but find the pictures hard to see – Paris is very dull & grey – cold too now. So dark, little light comes into the gallery. Most disappointing as there were many fine pictures to be seen. I getting too tired to really take them in. It’s a big gallery with plenty of walking to be done, and my legs have just about had it. Am looking forward to getting home for a rest for a few days.
All the world tension & disaster doesn’t add to the gaiety over here. I hope to God I can get home on time. What with the way things are shaping up it’s becoming a bit disturbing – Not knowing just how big the Anglo French war with Egypt will get. I guess you are getting worried about it. However, I think I will get through all right. I’m going to London tomorrow or the day after & will find out better how the flights home are standing. Shouldn’t be any trouble, as apparently plenty of French athletes are getting ready to take off for the Melbourne Olympics.
Here it is Thursday & midday already. Days are getting short here – I was up at 8am & big[?] a fair bit of washing. Managed to boil my handkerchiefs for the first time. Roley’s got a fire going & the flat is all tightly closed up – makes me sleepy – so I suppose I’d better go out & liven up in the grey chill. Very hazy & all – the buildings appearing like photographs with their almost complete lack of colour. Very paintable though.
I must get this letter off – perhaps my last from here. Longing to see you and Graham again. Nothing like having your own family around even if I never realise it when I have got it! Sorry that this is not a more enthusiastic letter, darling. When I am all keyed up to get the details good & hot – some interference takes place – much as you have complained about at home. Give my regards to the Dolemans – Watsons & Price Jones. I send you very loving thoughts – your Bill. XXX
This cathedral is the most beautiful building I have seen. It is set in the small town of Chartres about 40 miles west of Paris. This church was built about 600 or 700 years ago.
I hope Trellie is getting big enough to go out for walks with you. There must be a lot of Lane Cove for you to show her. The more she knows the less likelihood there is of her getting lost. I hope you are looking after Dorothy all right too. How’s the bike going? I am looking forward to seeing you all soon.
Fri 26-Oct-56: Chicken. Walked around generally from [Maurice] Utrillo’s church [Notre-Dame de Clignancourt] all through city. Went back to city (?) later & bought a hot chicken for tea.
Sat 27-Oct-56: Roley worked at Daily Express office & I saw Musee d’Art Moderne. Went to Joan Harrison’s place for evening meal.
Sun 28-Oct-56: Walked around Isle near Notre Dame Chartres. Went for drive & dinner at Remy St Chevreuse & went on to see Chartres cathedral – Had dinner at a café in St Germain. Saw Picasso film.
Saturday night – 27th Oct
I wanted to write to you very much & thought that I was fixed for an evening in which to do it. Roley’s big day in an office is on Saturday and I did not expect to see him until later tonight. But he rang up & said that I was expected as an extra guest for a meal he was going to. We have not long returned and it is pretty late. In any case, there is so much to tell of Paris – that one hardly knows where to begin – even if one has the time. I have covered quite a lot of this city & there is still much more than I can contemplate coping with. It is huge. And with millions of people & cars running madly all over it like ants. The weather has been mostly dull, which I gather is commonplace enough – But the city looks like many pearls against a grey velvet background. A very beautiful place, which is everything that you could expect from it. The number of cars around is fabulous.
The price of culture is high here. On a visit to the Museum of Modern Art [Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris] – I saw a specially collected exhibition of Matisse. About half a dozen of the pictures were superb. The old gentleman seems lately to be doing nothing but cut out bits of coloured paper & stick them down. I cough out money for entrance of Galleries & fork up for expensive catalogues. 2 shows & their catalogues cost me 200 Franc each to enter (i.e. 5/.-) plus 350 francs each for the catalogue. The other exhibition was by a sculptress named Germaine Richier. Fantastic stuff. Some of it most impressive – lots of it screwy. I’ve been walking about 6 hours a day and get really too tired to do justice to my need for you. I got your letter dated 22nd today and was highly delighted to realise your desire for me is as great as is mine for you. I am looking forward to our reunion in the warmth. It is very cold over here at the moment, but I am keeping warm enough – I leave for London next Friday for about a week – and before I know what is what will be on the plane home to you and Graham. I have done my best to make the most out of this trip despite the fact that I am getting heartily tired of buildings & pictures. Roley aims to have a day out in the country tomorrow – which should be a welcome change. I am too sleepy to continue writing so will go to bed with your need alongside me. It is very helpful to be getting some letters from you so quickly. Nothing has turned up from Rumania yet. I guess it is a relief to know that I am out of the Red area. The insurrections in Hungary could have been very disturbing for you had you not known I was already beyond the Iron Curtain. I am closing this part of the draft with very much love. And I mean it my dearest Dorothy wife. Kisses for you & the junior Pidgeons. While Roley goes out to play the organ for the English Embassy service in the morning, I am going over to Notre Dame for a walk with his secretary – a nice Aussie girl [Margaret Murray].
Sunday [28 Oct 1956]. [One paragraph typed] Roley bought this machine in Italy for only 17£ St. Got some sort of journalistic rebate on it. A brand new Olivetti. Can’t quite get used to the feel of it myself as the keyboard seems a little jammed up to me. Still it’s a nice clean typeface. Very expensive in this city, so I shall hold my horses until I get to London, where I will see what is available, and what to get here on the last lap home. I’ll come back for a day or two before I take off for Zurich. Listen darling, you’d better send me again all your measurements in both inches and centimetres. Also glove sizes. Please do it immediately and post to me in London, Aust. Consolidated Press, 107 Fleet St, London EC4.
Darlingest Dorothy – my dear girl. I have had the most wonderful day. I was breathless about it an hour or so ago but have tired off – Nevertheless, I want you to know, & for me to remember, something of it. I hope to write myself into a regained enthusiasm as I go along. I had not long finished playing around with Roley’s typewriter when his secretary came & took me off for a walk to the little island behind the Notre Dame. It is called the Isle St Louis and we wandered through the pearly grey veil of atmosphere which seems to shroud Paris in an intangible net of beauty on the rising of the day. The Seine greyly yellow, sluggish through the black trunks of the trees by the river – the light tones of the retaining walls & the wonderful Japonise lines of the steps and ramps leading to the waters edge. Grey – not a black keyed up – but a viridian & crimson mixed hue of lustre off-white. Luminous – and not substantial. An image on a screen, without a seeming reality, except that one can see the movement of the lime green leaves as they fall before & behind where you stand. To put your hand out and hold one for a second in its suspended and inevitably beautiful pattern in the almost too inviolable harmony. The leaves just acid enough to save the whole from a cloying death. I think I can still see it – I know I will – so many things to remember – So many things remembered – Beautiful grey & lime. Fluid lovely lines of river, trees & bridges. Came back & went into Notre Dame, which was crowded because some special service. Impressive enough church, but somehow disappointed in it.
Met Roley at 12 after his church service playing & we three started off to the country to one of the best restaurants in the environs of Paris. I remember Roley writing a story about the Prince of Gourmets, a fellow, named Curnonsky, & eleven others, of which Roley was one, eating a whole pig at one meal. We had a magnificent omelette – a specialty called Omelette du Curé de Mennessiar. Made as far as we could find out – with a filling of cream & tuna & carp & herring sperm. I think with a little mornay sauce – sprinkled with chives & served in a long ramekin with melted butter & a little lemon juice – Boy! – I mean girlie! It was smooth. We made a mistake with the second dish – not that it was not good, but that it was not their extra hot specialty as we found out later. A fine white wine, although a little sweet for me – & tres bon claret. So many of their wines are good. Nevertheless you start paying for them. – A Beaujolais, which is apparently a reasonably good wine costs about 4/6. The vin ordinaire which one can get for 2/3 is quite good but no better than that Murrumbidgee Red we had. Of course you can get the vintage classes & pay what you like. We have not gone to the extent of having really expensive meals. Roley is a bloody goon, & won’t let me pay when we eat out – so sometimes I buy a chicken (cooked) & we heat it u & fix up in the flat. I help out a little by doing bits of plumbing – cleaning his sink out etc. & bits & pieces. He is helpless as a babe. God knows what all this living in Paris would cost. I know the lunch cost 4750 francs which is nearly a £5. Cheap hotel accommodation without meals is 1700 francs a night. £2 Australian. I’ll try & do a painting to send back to him. He insists that Jess & I gave him much hospitality in Australia. You’d like him very much.
Had a street photo taken near the Notre Dame & hope to get it soon. I love you. Xxx.
This little village St Remy les Chevreuse about 16 miles out of Paris, was very charming & very new to me – different, more intimate, than Paris – little angles on village lanes & doll like houses. Gay with the grape, Roley screams out (he always screams) we’ll take the bloody Boche (that’s me) to Chartres to see the cathedral. Bingo & with hurry to get there before the light is too full to come through the grand illuminated windows.
Lovely little town – medieval – everything in the book – All of us gay & enthusiastic – the beautiful cathedral, Roley reckoned the finest in France & I believe him. Knocks the Notre Dame Paris, into a cocked hat. Perfect Gothic stone figures guarding the entrance to the Lord. 700 years or more since the western soul soared through the immobile stone to seek a mystic union with the things that move us all. The front right & oldest tower embodying a simplicity & perfection of line, not to be recaptured in the rest of the building. – (These things took generations to complete). The setting light – the grey – It must be a French grey – perfectly holding the form without shadow. Inside, so dark, and the last light filtering through the coloured jewels in lead. Windows that shone like neons in a sea of midnight velvet. Behind us, out of the interior murk silhouetted figures & a mother with a pram silently as a photograph passing through the stations of the filtered light. On the right in equal & untouchable gloom – the epiphany of the lighted candles – and the bended devout. High up – high as the seeming sky – in the radiant windows. Jewels – seeable – memorable – and indescribable. All of which had a terrible effect on my high animal spirits. The flesh abased made you realise something – damn it all – It’s hard to describe without getting too precious on paper – I could tell you darling, when I have my head in your lap, and against your breast, and you ask me to ramble on, & you’ll understand, because you’ll feel my heart, and I’ll mean it, even if it is incoherent & sooky, to anyone else. But you, who love me, and know that I want to get it all out before it chokes me & I must get some of it to you tonight even if it is 3 o’clock in the morning. I want you to be me, & have it too. Right inside me – In my heart – I can put you there because, now I know you belong there, and that somehow, no row will ever be bitter again. Because I have learnt I need you. And love you. This has made me quite shaky. And I’m not even high. Chartres Cathedral de Notre Dame shook me. I was just in that uninhabited state to be perfectly timed for it. It’s about 45 miles from Paris, but before I go to London I am going to get the train up there to spend a day. I want you very much indeed.
We had a couple of beers before coming back but Chartres had fixed us. The party was over. After returning we picked up a woman journalist from the Daily Express & had a light meal & went to see a hour long movie [Le mystère Picasso] on Picasso & how he works. This show really did me to a turn. It was completely fascinating. With some new techniques (movie) it showed through the back of his (say canvas) the lines & colours as he put them down – Also later how he composed & decomposed a full time serious picture – Showed all his trials & errors & erasures & final destruction of a painting. It was the most illuminating piece of movie reporting it is possible to imagine. A bloody superb picture – am going to see that again too. Darling, I must finish & get to bed. Even Paris has not been able to support the showing of this picture on Picasso to the extent it deserves – so probably it will never get to Australia. It is highly esoteric & technical & marvellous. So you can see, all in all darling it has been the moistest day I have had since I left home – and it has left me very taut indeed. I am tired, but my mind is going madly like a cretin clock. Forgive me for writing this darling but it will help unwind me and I’d so much like to give you a fuck full with a great deal of love. From your Bill. XXXX
Please translate some of this for Graham. Tell him I know he will understand I can’t write separate letters, more love
This is the Eiffel Tower with the Seine River behind and in the background is part of the Paris city – an enormous place with over 3,000,000 people living in it. I have not been up the Eiffel Tower yet but hope to and from there see all of Paris. You read about it in Colliers Encyclopedia. As many hugs and kisses for you as there are people in Paris.
Wed 24-Oct-56: Wandered all round the shopping areas & saw Sacre-Coeur church in morning – went to Lido night club. Up very late.
Thu 25-Oct-56: Longchamp – went to Longchamp race course in afternoon & cooked Chinese grub in Roley’s flat in evening.
33 Rue St Augustin [33 Quai des Grands Augustins]
Wed or rather Thursday
The 25th Oct 1956
My very dear darling, I have made three attempts to write to you about the Tyrol which I think must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Each time I get started some interruption occurs & the Tyrol is up the spout. I can’t force myself to write about it – I love it too much – I will tell you on the 28th of November when you are in my arms, and there is no tensions anywhere in the world, and for the little while we have some appreciative peace. I want to tell you so much about it. I cannot write much when I am staying with people. Please forgive the aimless scrawl – I have put the drop in the eyes & am not seeing very well. – Plus the feet too [?]. I have been to the Ritzy-est nightclub in Paris which means anywhere. The story is too long. I was where I was, with an English photographer from the Daily Express & it cost plenty just to sit at the bar counter & look over the shoulders of those who paid more than real money. I do not forget my darling girl. You are my wife and I your husband and its very silly, and it’s also very true and there is not much that can be done about it expect think of each other. From the Lido we went down to the Market’s area where we had a couple of beers. For 7 hours I have been pounding the foot path and now, really couldn’t care less about the sight & hide of the dopes who look after them.
At this point your poor dear erring, but loving husband, took the knock. He had a lot to tell you, but was breathless, and too slow on the draw. All I want is for Roley to get his washing away from hanging over the bath, so that I can get some of mine into the same position. Me – I’ve been washing too! I got very loving towards you (not that I am not always in that state when I’m 12,000 miles away) because you are the earth I put my anchor into and you take it & have not to leave it. I think you are quite the nicest girl – and also, the most forgiving little bugger – in the whole of the southern hemisphere – and the northern too, for that matter – And no amount of scolding, or disappointment in me will alter that sad fact. I love you. I wish you were here because I am now very cold & am shivering like a leaf (aspen). Part of this fatal affection for is maybe put down to the fact that I walked around for seven hours yesterday on only a bit of a bun and 1 ½ cups of coffee. You remember Georges Simenon, the Belgian author who wrote those short novels I sometimes got you to read. Novels about the gloomy French & their problems. He often talks about his lousy, unhappy heroes leaning against, or upon, a zinc lined bar, listening to the rain beating on the pavement outside whilst they drown their sorrows in a glass of Calvados. Well, I have never had a glass of Calvados, and didn’t know what the hell anyone could find to drown in it. So I ups and bought a flask of it for only 175 francs which is 4/3. There is still 2/1 worth left in the bottle and it is a very pleasant sort of fire water, made I am told, out of apple juice. Only goes to show, doesn’t it? Look, if you don’t forgive me, I won’t ever be the same. I’ll do a Blunden on you and regret it for ever afterwards [Wep’s friend, journalist Geoff Blunden deserted his wife Micky and married another woman]. I wouldn’t be writing to you if I didn’t think more of you than my actions indicate. Yah!
Yesterday afternoon, I was gloomily looking in a shop window on the Rue des Capucines, when a voice said “Do you think they are nylons or orlons?” I. quick as a flash, replied “I wouldn’t have a clue”. (Smart, eh?) Then he says – “I don’t think I come from too far away from you”. Me – “Could be, Lane Cove, Australia,” Him “Bondi, Sydney, what are you doing?” Me – “Contemplating a beer”. Him – “Oright, we can we go?” Us – “Let’s see”. And so, one of the world’s fleetingest friendships was formed between W. Edwin Pidgeon, late of Northwood, NSW and Ron Watson, not a Sergeant of Detectives, Bondi, NSW. He is over here on some business for Hoyts & has invited me to accompany him to a movie taking, involving the newest French glamour puss, next Monday. He says “come out with me & have a free lunch with the director”. So by the time you read this letter I shall have been irrevocably seduced by the vision splendid – I hope. In any case you are not too bad yourself – much slicker than most of the Frogs I have seen. At your age too, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Remember the nice happy beer we had together at Bulli – the day after we were married. I liked that. Still do. I spent all day looking at the shops which had nothing on Sydney’s. Funny thing is that the shop keepers move great quantities of their stock out on to the foot paths – and you see washing machine demonstrations – cooking exhibitions – bundles of clothing, meat, fish, & God knows what, all displayed halfway across the street. Enough to make the civic fathers of Sydney turn in their graves. I tell you, it’s crazy. Everybody tells me it is nutty to buy goods in Paris. And on looking at the prices I’m inclined to agree. They say wait till you get to London. There is nothing much in the stylish line around. Perhaps because winter is just around the corner. I still love you. I am one of most contented goons, you are ever likely to meet up with. I think you are a bit sappy too. Enough of this love talk. Roley is getting his secretary to take me to a big time fashion parade. I hope I can remember what to tell you – about the details & who’s there & what have you. This Paris is quite a [place – even if it is only the tourists who play. Roley says most of the Parisians have never seen the Folies Bergere [history of], and to prove his point, immediately asked his cleaning up woman (not a bad line of about 40) if she had ever seen the show – she had not.
I don’t need any money – I still have £210 left. I can’t see any point in spending it on shows & things. After all – they fundamentally the same in Sydney – if not as well done. I’m sick of gaping at notable buildings – I find the flavour of a town in its shops & its people. The way they go out – the way they work – The slums & the shops – the devil take the equestrian statues. Just now I wouldn’t mind being home or having you & Graham here with me. Yesterday morning I had a little pleasure in doing a note of the Pont St Michael [Pont Saint Michel], took a photo too, so may be able to get something out of it. The Pont Neuf is the next one up on the river & can be well seen from the windows of Roley’s flat. He & his secretary usually eat out but think it a good idea if I cook them a Chinese meal. I’d like to have a go, & see how the old form is. I still love you.
I have suddenly lost my punch – and find it hard to write any more. Although I am too lousy to let this letter go without filling up the back of this page. Looks as if I’ll finish off a bit half cooked. Which reminds me, that I bought some books by a yank named Henry Miller – strictly banned in England & USA – and no wonder too. King would know of him. I bought the extra books because from what I read in his, which I bought in Rome, “Tropic of Capricorn” he has approached a sort of Indian Tantric, (i.e. sexual union) form of mysticism. Half of this book is straight out surrealist writing – the other, & really vivid half is devoted to an extraordinarily detailed, and enthusiastic account of fucking. It will make your eyes pop out. I can’t quite work out just how much exhibitionism is involved, or whether it is a purposeful contrast between the flight from self & the submergence in self. Seems like a contest between the flesh & the spirit. Anyway – in whichever vein he writes, he is equally moving. Needless to say his books are on the banned list but it is possible that I can get them in. You know, by just walking through Customs with them in my hand – or pocket, etc. Funny thing – Every country I have been through, just accepts your word that you have nothing to declare. Not once has my pack been opened. The bag, incidentally is getting a bit of a bulge in it. Packed pretty solid. Have had the jumper on only 3 or 4 times. Extraordinarily warm over here. Dearest, dearest [little love heart illustration with arrow through it]
Even if it kills me I’ll finish this page. You would (please say yes) wouldn’t you, rather have a letter of nothing, than wait for some Baedeker description of Paris?
How is Graham? I hope I am more understanding when I get back. Something has been missing. Am finding it hard to know what to get him. The limitations of plane packing have to be considered. I’m glad to hear you are all well. I still haven’t got your measurements – but any letters from Bucarest haven’t been sent here yet. I am very glad you know that I am out of the satellite countries. I think it may have been somewhat worrying if you had thought I was still there whilst the big blue is going on between Poland & Hungary & Russia [Hungarian uprising and the Russian invasion].
Au revoir & auf wiedersehen to you, dear wife, and terribly earnest thoughts for Graham. Am looking forward to seeing Trellie – 2 months difference – I won’t know her, nor she me.
I cannot, without complete collapse of gentlemanly restraint, tell you all how much I miss you.
Am getting to the stage of looking forward to my return home. Not that I’ll be any better, once I settle down. But there it is – Many hugs, restrained & otherwise, ditto for these xxxxxxxxxx
X – this one for the female hound, Nortey Trellie.
If I had the space I’d bring her back a piece of French fence post to sniff at.
(P.S. Our entrance to the Lido cost us 25/- each for 1 Scotch. We sat at the bar & looked on. We only had the 1 Scotch.)
I can’t write this too well, the train is jiggling around quite a bit. At the moment we are traveling alongside a mountain stream, with great sharp rocky peaks on either side. There is no snow about but all the trees, save the pines, are in many shades from light yellow to red. Really – very colourful & dramatic. I am drinking a bottle of beer & have just finished two very indifferent frankfurts & a roll. Looks like my last food till I get to France. I shall spend my last money – 20 or so Austrian schillings – about 3/6 on beer – it will make me happier to be without food. I have French francs but can’t do much with them here. Just imagine – we have just passed below a castle perched high up on a great 200-300 ft high rock. How they get there – or built it I don’t know. It is quite warm and the sun is streaming in the carriage window. The beer is making me sleepy and I am missing the scenery. I think my darling, I had better continue this letter tonight when there is nothing to see. We still have 18 hours to go.
My Darling girl – We are just pulling into Basle (or Basel) on the northern corner of Switzerland – it is the border of France & Germany I think. It is midnight and I am missing you like mad. It seems like the near full moon which accompanies us has had many trips since I left Mascot. I do hope you are both alright. Am pretty tired now and would like to be actively in your arms. Then deep sleep – A great curse! I had this compartment to myself for ¼ hour. With doors open & heater off. Now in comes a bloody French couple with a child & shut the door. These flaming Europeans can’t stand a bit of air. Give you the hump – However, I’ll go to sleep and rise above the sordid problems. I’ll tell you about the trip when I get alone in my room. Incidentally, this express is driven by electric motor – from overhead wires – all the way from Vienna to Zurich. Just had my passport stamped by the French control officers. Child now blowing horrible raspberries – in French I presume. May as well give it away. Good night dearest. I know my intimate feelings will be too stale for immediate benefit for either of us, by the time you get this letter. But despair not – they, Phoenix-like, are being continually re-vitalized. I get very loving towards you both when I think of the letters I collected from the Hotel Austria. Selfishly, I loved them. Does the solitary soul good to feel that it is needed somewhere. You are my own dear people. I suppose this parting helps in some way, to make for closer union – for love and dependency from us all. At last we are off again. Paris! Have I come!
Tuesday [23 Oct 1956] 7.15am. We are only about ¾ hour outside of Paris and a heavy fog practically obscures any vision of the countryside. Had a pretty good night – the French couple must have got out shortly after we left Basle – I was alone from there on. I think I will stay in Paris till the 2nd of November then go on to London for a week & a couple of days. I’ll have to leave London by the 19th November to get to Zurich where I get my plane on the 21st. So any letters you may send after you get this should be sent to Clarrie McNulty, London – get address from Eleanore [Watson]. It is Consolidated Press something or other, Fleet St.
5pm. Am at last resting in Roley Pullen’s flat after a very trying morning. He received your letter in this morning’s mail. That’s very good going, my darling. I had no expectation that I would get a reply to my phone call only 5 days after I made it. Thanks a lot dearest. I arrived in Paris at 8.50am & no familiar faces to behold. I got a taxi to the address I had of Roley’s – No one had heard of him. More than a little dismayed I staggered with the weight of luggage into a nearby coffee shop where I had hopes of mapping out an attack on the city. Could find nothing in the phone book but an entry for Agence Francaise de Press. Hoping to find some clue from the address listed, I began a back breaking search for a bookshop where I could get a map of Paris. Miraculously, I noticed an Agence Francaise name over a doorway. It wasn’t the address but I asked & finally found an English speaking girl who gave me an address of Australian Associated Newspaper Service. I lugged the cases about a mile (with the aid of an uninformative map) till I came to the address. This was an hotel. I could have wept. Anyway, I went in & somehow or other whilst asking if they knew anything about any Press service in the vicinity a girl’s name who is the representative was mentioned & they said she lived there but was out & not back till 1 o’clock. I left a pitiful note & said I would return & would they mind if I left my big case there for the hour & half. Then wandered up the hill towards Montmartre. Came back – girl gone – but note with Roley’s address and Phone no. They told me where it was & how to get there by underground. I got the train (about 6 stations) & when I got out realised I didn’t have the number of the house. Couldn’t ring either. Got train back – retrieved note – and as it was nearly 2 o’clock asked hotel to ring for me. Luckily I got him & hence here I am – buggered but unbowed. He has a fine view of the Seine & Notre Dame. His rooms directly overlook the river. And just opposite is the Palais de Justice & behind it, the Louvre. He is being very kind to me – wouldn’t think of me going to a hotel. (Naturally with my wrong address – he didn’t get the telegram). But was not quite so surprised to hear me on the phone, as he had received your letter. He is working now – so I am writing this to keep out of his way. Paris seems to be a huge place, and very beautiful. I’ll get up early & start my dutiful tour then. Couldn’t dream of it now.
Lots of love darling – I hope Graham’s got some new pieces for me to hear. Ask Graham to give Trellie [Corgi dog] a man’s hug for me and for himself 2 heavy handshakes – bye – bye – Bill