Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 26-28 Oct; Paris, Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and Chartres

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.
[Paris 1956]
Bois de Boulogne, Paris 1956 – Painted in 1957, this depiction of the Paris landscape is as viewed from the Bois de Boulogne with the Eiffel Tower in the centre distance and the Arc de Triomphe immediately to its left. Whilst Wep does not reference visiting the Bois de Boulogne, he may well have done so on 26 October 1956.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0070

Paris
Saturday night – 27th Oct

Little Sweetie,

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.

Possibly Joan Harrison outside the Musée d’Art Moderne (Museum of Modern Art), Paris; 27 October 1956

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.

Margaret Murray with Roley Pullen at one of the best restaurants in the environs of Paris, possibly the Cafe de la Mairie at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Margaret Murray with Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at one of the best restaurants in the environs of Paris, possibly the Cafe de la Mairie at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956

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.

Bill Pidgeon (Wep) and Margaret Murray snapped by a street photo
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) and Margaret Murray snapped by a street photographer near the Notre Dame, Paris; 28 October 1956

Had a street photo taken near the Notre Dame & hope to get it soon. I love you. Xxx.

Roley Pullen and Margaret Murray at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Roley Pullen and Margaret Murray at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Margaret Murray at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Roley Pullen and Bill Pidgeon (Wep) standing in the Place de la Mairie possibly pointing to the cafe where they and Margaret Murray had dined at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956

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.

Approaching Chartres Cathedral and the end of the roll of film; 28 Oct 1956

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

Bill xx

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Notre-Dame de Clignancourt, painted by Maurice Utrillo in 1914, Paris; 26 October 1956
Looking north down the stairs at the top of Rue du Mont Cenis towards Rue Saint-Vincent, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Looking up Rue du Chevalier de la Barre towards Sacre Coeur church, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Place du Tertre, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Place du Tertre, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Theatre de Tertre viewed from Rue Lepic, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Place Vendôme, Paris; 26 October 1956
Paris; 26 October 1956
Possibly Joan Harrison on the Avenue de la Grande Armée, Paris; 27 October 1956
Paris; 27 October 1956

 

2 Replies to “Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 26-28 Oct; Paris, Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and Chartres”

  1. I live in SR lès Chevreuse. (and I cant tell you about the restaurant)
    but 3 pictures in a row are actually taken in Chevreuse, not in SR.
    => “Mairie” is (still) Chevreuse’s townhall :
    =>little river with the bridge, is on the “promenade ponts de Chevreuse”
    the building along the river: http://mairie-de-chevreuse.pagesperso-orange.fr/p_sechoir.htm
    => in the 3rd pic: the couple is pointing at a direction dominated by the http://www.chateau-fort-manoir-chateau.eu/chateau%20de%20la%20madeleine%2004.JPG
    Thx for these great pics 🙂

  2. Merci – I visited Paris for a week over New Year’s Eve 2013/14 with my family but did not get a chance to get to Chartres or Chevreuse. So many tourists 🙁
    Really hope to return in a year’s time and visit them as well. When I first started transcribing the letters I had no idea where the photos were taken but used some deductive analysis along with Google Earth and then I walked around using Google Street View. In most cases I used the locations as advised by Street View but will go back and revisit them. In fact, the painting of the building at 2-10 Rue de la Planche aux Carpes in the post where Wep revisits Chartres was actually labelled Aiuid in Romania for some reason so I was thrilled to come across that building in my ‘walks’. Thanks for the feedback – Peter Pidgeon

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