Took the opportunity to visit the Bylong Valley to day and find Wep and Jess’s camp site near Ginghi. Was successful in my venture but disappointed in the weeds and scrubby growth which prevented me getting photos with the same angle. It has changed in 73 years but still recognisable.
Tuesday 17th Aug.
Parked alongside the road home. Tired & jittery after trying drive over rough & lousy mountain roads. Full of worries concerning cracked connecting bar on caravan. Coupling on car giving up the ghost. Wireless dead. Supplies all exhausted. Me fed up. Guess it is time I went home!
Sat. 14th Aug.
Existence most inordinately quiet down here. Absolute remote hermit-like. Conversation confined between three of us. Me, Jess & Dawnie. An occasional school child falls into my trap. I learn the name of the mountain I have painted from 3 angles. Wondy Peak.
Twice a week I recontact civilization, such as it is, at Rylstone. A dull old town appearing as if made from debris of some old prison. A uniformity of ancient stone and morgue like quiet. Radio, consequently, working overtime. Have had to change batteries. Nothing of any consequence happening. Only excitements are furtively snooping water from school house and chasing canvas blown like paper before the howling gusts that swell down the valley. Returned from Rylstone this morning to find our calico lean-to razed to the ground. Had day off from painting & spend time shooting tins – with indifferent success.
Occasional cars pass towards Ginghi – loud whoops and squeals traverse the night. A mile or so down, the local dance. Complete with piano accordion & violin, cheap plonk, and “King hits,” so our local correspondent informs us.
How hard it has been trying to rain. Day finished with Wondy Peak silhouetted against tufts of salmon cotton wool languidly floating beneath a ceiling of blue grey dappled sky. The definite pearly quality of the landscape here. The incredible subtleties of blue, green, and pinks, & ochre deepen to dusk.
Monday 9th Aug.
Got a letter from Geoff, I mean, Mickey Blunden yesterday. Seem to be enjoying themselves. Hope none of the wicked Frenchmen grabbed a bit of Mickie’s buttocks. South of France – I too would like to see it, the country of Van Gogh & Cézanne. Be interesting to see the actual scenes they had painted. Be very illuminating as regards their conceptions of nature.
Letter dated 30th June. I suppose they’re pretty near back by this. Strange that they should have seen so much of the world while I have been busy prying & poking into odd corners, gullies and old trees. If only one could take such a leisurely trip on such a vast scale.
Had our first guest yesterday. Farm hand from homestead up yonder, on property of which we are camped. Spoke to me whilst doing my ‘masterpiece.’ Treated him to a cup of tea and was rewarded with vision of him balancing said cup on lap and trying to avoid getting crumbs on his lips, all in very best drawing room style.
Did a spot of bush carpentry today. Made a lean-to table against the tree. Have also constructed sunken brick fireplace. Stay here much longer I’d better buy the acre and, so conserve my activities. My! But I’m proud of that table. Jerky writing here the results of most powerful hiccups. Potent rissoles I make!
Have got 4 paintings on the go. Only 1 any good I’m afraid. Still, having great old experiments on others. All mistakes duly covered over with tempura white (home made). How I loathe painting over dried & mistakenly applied colour! Seem to be discovering, after 6 months, the method of painting I prefer to employ. Essentially all a prima, which gives freshness, but unless greatly interested in the subject and it well within one’s capabilities is difficult of execution. However, all mussy paintings can, I suppose, serve as a basis for subsequent, more considered attempt. The difficulties will probably have managed to resolve themselves in the messy soup of paint.
7th August Sat.
Finally rooted after vain seekings for roadside spot further up the road. Laid our foundations cunningly close to tiny local school with water tank attached and windmill well across the road. In desperate plights for water. The creek having dried up in consequence of 7 months drought here. Did blessedly rain on the Monday and granted us 4 gallons of water & hail dutifully drained off the fly erected over front of home. Water for sundries extracted from sleep through. Green, slimy, thick. Ugh!
Milk unobtainable – Nobody here knows where I can get it. Bloody stingy liars!
Tuesday tripped up to Bylong Post Office for cash & stores. 21 miles away! From the G.P.O. to Hornsby for shopping! God, don’t know we’re alive down town! Spent largely at Gertie Wilson’s store & waited upon butcher & baker to appear from Wollar just a bare 17 miles further on. As a reaction to our prison fare of Monday rather overdid the eating of biscuits, lollies, etc & the drinking of lemonade. One needs must, I ‘spose, in times of plenty.
This morning went to Rylstone, a brisk walk of 16 miles, which we did in the car, & repaired damages suffered by our larder. Demand and supply of cakes & pastry was terrific. Dawn causing great neck twisting & eye swivelling amongst locals. Anyone’d think I had a blarsted tame tiger in the car. They make me sick! Kids down here panicky, climb over barb wire to avoid passing here. Poor soul, she made her first kill yesterday. A baby rabbit. Guess it must have been half dead with shock when I got it & broke its neck. Stupid couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t play any more. She’s never been told about the facts of life – and death.
Could only rustle up a quart of milk at Rylstone. “Too late,” they told me at the dairy. “If you’d come about 3:30 a.m. when we start milking……” Told them about “Gentleman” Johnny Weston of Jindabyne who started milking at 9:30. Too much for them – I left.
5th August Thursday
Ginghi, Bylong Valley.
Thank God for a quiet life. A welcome relief after tiresome, tensed up driving. Seem to have a positive genius for picking lonely unfrequented roads. A lonely plugging uninteresting trip from Wauchope up the Oxley highway. Miles and miles of intolerable hill and forest. A worrying run beset with overheating troubles & fears of petrol shortage. Miles and miles of dense sub-tropic forest atop the range, a sudden glimpse of busy human ant like activity in the shape of timber mill, tucked securely in a corner of the hills, manifesting its existence with harsh whine of the saws & the blowing hiss of steam. More miles of dark and darkening green & ever present frost in the gullies. At night fall a petrol pump is discovered, to our eyes, orchid like, aside the road. A lone house attends it. We fill up and enquire the locality. Yarrowitch. And it is on the map!
Time our arrival at Tamworth perfectly to coincide with lunch at the Holes. How delightful after days of dining on sad, aged meat(!) pies, and soggy mullet, & lemonade. Lemonade at 11d a bottle!! Enough to send a man to drink. Had pleasant lunch & even more important, the first decent water for weeks. Water, without weeds, mud and slimy dressings! Sat around till 3 o’clock & were regaled with choice scandal.
Slept on top of Murrurundi that night & wakening waited on 10 o’clock for the bank to rescue us from 1/10½.
Entered the Bylong Valley after lunch. Saw Daddy, Mummy & Baby kangaroo dash startled through the cypress covered slopes. How remote from the world this valley seems cupped by hills and traversed by the near dry Goulburn River. Fenceless & houseless & motionless the senses suggest that even time itself has stopped down here. We turn a corner expecting to emerge upon some great lost Atlantis but grey & still, the grass still mats the earth. Bladeless, red & rocked, the hills. Cypress mournfully aid the pervading melancholic suggestions of desolation & despair. A twenty mile suspension of recollected life. We are in the grave awaiting resurrection or disintegration. We climb around the spine cracking curves of Kerrabee Mountain & descend into the ragged head of Bylong proper. Finally arrive at a 2×4 store. A telegraph and telephone office, not yet dignified with the title Post Office. I get out & buy cigarettes & am beset with daffy looking people. The general excitement over the caravan and Dawn is intense. Their photos are taken and Jess is duly informed of the viciousness & untrustworthiness of the breed. “Tell me the old story.”
Black bushy eyebrows & moustache are cock quizzically as a Scotch terrier beneath my abstracted gaze. A simple youth rolls his head and his face floats silently gaping & guffing at my dissertations on said Alsatian’s food. I wish to send a telegram. Immediately great comings & goings & fumblings & seekings & behold, from beneath a pile of rhubarb & papers a hand emerges triumphantly clutching a dog eared telegraph form. The memory expert has saved the day. 4 of us telephone the wire to Denman. I leave in a daze, my mind remote.
Am settled beneath the shadow of encircling cliff faces. At sun down, gold lit with Rembrandtesque effulgence, glowing orange above the bluing shadowed trees.
27th July Tues.
20 miles north of Kempsey
Touring a much over boomed pastime – i.e. as seen and enjoyed(?) by travelling all day in car. Fed up completely. So much so, as can only manage about 17 miles a day at the most. Get very tired after 60 miles. God knows how I did that 270 from Cooma on that ‘day-after’!
Skyring Creek already buried in past ages and distance. Towns float kaleidoscopicly (some spelling!) past inner vision, all of a pattern, & strange sameness, differentiated by occasional purchases of fish & chips, lemonade, meat, etc. A vast long ribbon of varying texture, mostly poor embroidered indifferently & occasionally with clumped cottages. How dreary to my tired eyes. And yet each spot of it full of intimate enchantment which escapes the swift superficial glance, parsimoniously granted from the exacting road.
The myriad lovely trees of Queensland, the blarsted toll bridges, our lack of money, the sole Good Rescona town, Beerburrum, the fence down the middle of the road dividing the 8 o’clock Queensland pub from the 6 o’clock NSW pubs at Coolangatta, Tweed Heads, the incomparingly better looking NSW girls, the noisy louts down south, the ever present sugar cane, god-damn sleepy Grafton, the interminable scrub forest, the tick gate border & thousand other impressions.
Found two broken wires in the radio tonight. Fixed same and was rewarded.
Feeling low today, wished I was home. Tired, worn out.
23rd July Friday
Still at Skyring, but all ready for marching orders. Have been detained here a week now waiting on news from home. From civilization – which strange to say appears to be getting along quite well without us. Wrote down to Sydney on Monday, begging for information as to amount earned for past year and for official billet douxs on which to mail said remembrance. Expect to hear from city tomorrow or is the wish fother to the thought?
Have, in a way, been quite busy this week, wasting paint. 4 oil sketches on the worst canvasses I had. Choice examples of my manufacturing craft – genuine antique within a fortnight, complete with glue worms, dirt and dents. However think I have the substance for some future painting embodied in said sketches. One turned out quite well, one – bloody awful, & two, fair reference. Have re-experienced my Kurrajong troubles (the scale of greens & blues) but have managed a trifle better. The extraordinary luminosity of the rolling green slopes along the Skyring Creek! A darkish yellow green almost discordant in itself, clashing stridently with the intense yet lighter blue of the sky. The subtleties of golds & pinks that weave their patterns in the shafts of grass! Gorgeous, Gilded! Dark, sombre, & well packed, trees line the waterway, their edges crotched with shimmering light.
Damned if I can paint the totality of impression I receive by setting up my easel before the particular and transcribing it. Nature forces extraneous considerations upon my outlook and I cannot synthesise. Only possibility is to make a mental analysis & vague remembrance in paint from which to synthesise the whole. Away from the sheer immediacy of the scene I may be able to comprehensively combine the sum of impressions within one vision, a paraphrase of nature. Force my design upon the canvas rather than have nature force her riotous fecundity (indifference) upon me.
The light changes – a full moon rises beyond the opalescent ridge & clear cold rays percolate through gaunt yellow grayed limbs of the dead trees marshalled stiffly in great bayonet masses behind the dank rich foliage that lines the creek, a hundred yards across the field. The pale magic lantern of the moon hangs lemony on the bars of pink & blue which stripe the sky.
Visited Pomona about 8 miles off the main road, twice this week and were amazed at the friendliness and cordiality of the people. A pleasant cheerful crowd, spawned of warm and sunny hills.
Have been getting milk free from the folk up the road. The typical bush hospitality we have read about. And lettuce too! Guess I’ve just about earned it all though listening to Miss Mackay & her experiences & views on an art or Edwardian, slag at dawn, vintage. Still, they went out of their way to be decent. Would choose to set my easel up on a main road & so incur the combined amazement & mirth of myriad school children, who daily arrived in two parties. First the bloody plutocrats on bikes and horses, would stare stolidly while their bloody ponies breathed down my neck, second, the proletariat arrive on foot, mostly girls, and twitter like a bunch of sparrows while I lose all concentration & think only of how hot my ears are getting. Finally they all disappear, twinkling colour dots vanishing far up along the pink and dusty road. That painting never did get a chance.
17th July Sat.
Skyring Creek, Qld.
A marvellous night, mild and limpid under the moon. Undergrowth tangled & dark, mysterious, protects our quiet privacy.
Dawnie, our infallible thermometer, lies uncurled, a vast improvement (to her dog-mind) on Jindabyne where days and nights were spent in periwinkle curled sloth.
Which reverts us to our farewell to that transitory home. Thursday, I guess it was the 23rd June, so finally sickened and us sunk deep in despair by locals cheerful intimation that it’d be sloppy for a month or so to come.
Packed, sadly, & drove car round Weston’s back gate to Wooden Woman paddock and with spade and axe severed forever her connection with the earth that spawned her life. Slim she was but thunderous weighty. Not all my effects could carry her, so needs must ignominiously drag her, like a leaden drunk to the car onto which after ½ hours strenuous grunting & cursing managed to attach her. Whereupon the springs gracefully inverted themselves. Returned to trailer and in midst of manoeuvres almost followed it into the Snowy.
Boiled our way steadily into Cooma, dined with George & retired to lounge until 1:30pm. Had ham & eggs down the street and pulled off the road 12 miles out of Cooma. Seeing as how, the b—- caravan was full of logs & canvasses we decided to sleep together, which after taking off boots and nether garments did. Woke to the clanging of picks and shovels outside the window and perceived a gang of road men blithely at work. I hope we didn’t look too damn silly on that 2 foot bed.
Got to Brighton about 9 o’clock PM after an unpleasantly wet run from Marulan and a spot of high powered bother with some of Howard Couch’s bright(?) brainwaves attached to darned head light.
Frittered a week away in Sydney. The longest and dullest week I’ve had since leaving work. Sheer boredom. Had a few sad drinks with boys & visited all who should be.
Left again on Monday. Jess must go and lose the filling out of her tooth again. Hence John Brooks, dr. to W.E.Pidgeon. Discovered two broken leaves in trailer spring and had same fixed.
Arrived at Wyong & stayed night with brother John. Slipped the car off bloody bridge over gutter next morning but after 1 hour’s rupturing effort with railway sleeper got out right. Attended meeting of shareholders of my gold company. Didn’t say a word.
Stayed outside Singleton overnight. After pleasant run up the best part of the New England Highway paid visit to the Browns at Currabubula and remained 2 days leaving Sat. morning.
Apart from coming down the mountain on my bum nothing of any consequence happened, except maybe getting 3 or 4 broken down rums out of Alex. Christ, Nance is a tiny squirt! She made us quite at home & farewelled us with loads of home made biscuits and local oranges. For which many thanks offered. Alex now almost as fat as a prize Berkshire & getting more like Uncle Jim in manners, voice, face, etc, than ever. Out does any movie detective in the matter of hats on in the house! Still he’s much bitter company than he used to be. Quite human. The old folks away in Singapore. Jess very upset because deprived of joy of Uncle Jim’s company. Finally got past Guyra for the day. Damn cold too up there. Bad as Jindabyne. 5000 ft up in the heavens. Went to sleep with the angels’ chilly bloodless feet on our faces.
Least said about the trip on Sunday the better! What roads! Seemed as if a major earthquake had overtaken them. Crossed a cattle ramp into Queensland at Wallangarra & had my first northern beer. Better than the Sydney slush anyway. More good (according to the ignorant locals) roads to 8 miles of NSW side of Warwick.
Through the Darling Downs to Toowoomba thence down a Big Dipper Hell towards Ipswich & Brisbane.
Extraordinarily fertile looking country in Qld. Well grassed and cared for. Houses surprisingly neat & tidy after NSW hovels. All curiously stuck on stilts.
And the toy tram lines.
And PUBS OPEN TILL 8 O’CLOCK!
14th July Maleny
Night on a razor edge saddle of the mountain. Monstrous earth billowing and fading away to the distance. Far to the left lay those jagged tusks of rock blackly stabbing grey sky.
Brisbane burst on us about 11 a.m. Tuesday 13th morning in the guise of a tram & ice cream capped driver. Such trams! Sedans, tourers, town cars of all models antediluvian up – literally swarming to along the tracks. Policemen in white candle-snuffer helmets & ill fitting bum freezer coats, and simple cow like faces. And the smell of the river at night. The dreary looking wenches & general absence of dress style.
Camped at White Swan Camping Ground Upper Mt. Gravatt 8 miles out for night. Found way into city more by good fortune than anything. Finger posts being scarcer than ——. Bought much map in city & with aid of same & Cadbury’s cartes found camp. Infested with caravans. 4 of the b—— things! All from Victoria & such monsters! Fellow next us with a Stutz & a Chev caravan trailing 5 dogs! And a couple of boxes of canaries! Another chap with dog & 3 kids and enormous trailer he had to chock over Murrurundi in easy stages. Left him trying to sell it in Bris. so as to avoid taking it back.
Mild spring weather, – shirt sleeves weather. Balmy!
On way north (per favor map) pulled in to art gallery and looked over local treasures(?). What junk! Worse than Sydney. Nevertheless interesting etched cartoons of Dysons and good reproductions of old masters but some appalling jobs presented by their creators. I don’t suppose anybody else’d have them!
Arrived back to Jess to find her in conversation with buck tooth fellow – rather he was the conversation. Made caravans – took us to see one. Very fine indeed. Oh – balls to this.