Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 26 Nov; Aboard the S.S. Duke of York for Holland

Mon/Tue 26/27-Nov-56: Got train to Harwich, boat to Holland & down the Rhine by Lorelei Express, arrived Zurich about 9pm

Aboard the train from Liverpool Street Station, London to Harwich; 26 November 1956
Aboard the train from Liverpool Street Station, London to Harwich where Bill then took the S.S. Duke of York to Hook of Holland; 26 November 1956
Aboard the train from Liverpool Street Station, London to Harwich; 26 November 1956
Aboard the train from Liverpool Street Station, London to Harwich where Bill then took the S.S. Duke of York to Hook of Holland; 26 November 1956
On the S.S. Duke of York
Monday night in the bar for the sake of anywhere else to sit
26 Nov 56

Darling Dorothy,

A very filling day – which is much better than sitting around wanting for something to happen. I am at a disadvantage to say what I would like because this place is bedlam & I can’t move or even sit down anywhere else.

I want to tell you that leaving a country in a ship is not what I like – I prefer to leave in a plane with all its possibilities of death – but when off, clean and away – none of the terrible slimy wasling(?) stuff running around the edges – the darkness of the water – and above all no one – because it is so slow away. One half hour & the lights get a bit dimmer – a red light in the middle of nowhere tolls a bell and the sea starts to spray into your face & it is much colder & the stars (believe it or not) are out just like in Australia. And I ask some gink – of course he is a Norwegian or something – & he doesn’t answer the question I ask but points out a star & says “North”. Then I point out an obvious shape & he says “Orion”. So now I know because I have often heard of it.

It is obvious most of the second class travellers are going to spend the 4-5 hours in the bar. Most of them speak Dutch – possibly German. I love you. I would like you down on the very windy deck getting covered in sporay & holding my hand and not even saying much at all. Please excuse this writing – people are falling all over me & I am doing it on my lap because I know it doesn’t matter in the slightest for I will be home with you before this arrives. But still. When you go down to the letter box there will be a reminder of what I was thinking during my passage home to you & Graham. I may as well finish the Odyssey & you can ask me something about the news that arrives after I get home.

This boat rocks plenty. Enough for you to say “pull your imaginative head in”. So what? Here you have a perfectly amenable husband and you’re trying to straighten him up. This boat is rocking like the devil and I get pushed around. Out of the blue a drunken Scotch dame starts singing “Here in my heart” & immediately everything becomes false & phoney. Her companion sings “I walk beside you” in a sort of Londonerry air tune.

There is a certain fascination about this, sweetheart, I wish I could take you out into the biting air, that sharpens your whole existence. If I had you with me it would be purposeful – but now – what is the point? I may as well sit & observe this humanity & their particvular type of unity. I never need you more than when I see the things that should be seeing & I am alone. Not that it is fundamentally different from being in the Lane Cove Hotel when they are giving off. The only difference is that they are strangers & one is more tolerant.

Later (they closed the bar at 11 o’clock).

I haven’t the foggiest what I have written but now, when I had found a quiet little place in a corner, 3 half naked boys come around & ask me where the women are? Wouldn’t it? Apparently you can get one for 3 – 4 – or (hours) or minutes? And yet I see the same types getting brushed off by the score on the open deck.

I have had this ship. It throbs and rattles & is not worth thinking about. I don’t like the sea it sails in. It stinks, the North Sea is horrible grey, has no ozone anywhere within a thousand miles of it. It is the crumbiest end – like the terrible poor red mullet I see in the shops. Like very, very dead nanegai (nannygai). I don’t like any part of Europeans. Stinkers who like all the windows closed. Pommies who are no better than they should be, Cockneys & Liverpool seamen, half-baked second class travellers who have the effrontery to wear striped trousers & black split arsed coats & homburg. Probably messengers acting fine for a day. Open up their suitcase & what is in it but a bloody pillow & another brief case, shit! 3 Germans are installed in the so called cabin. It’s alright I guess – but I want to see what goes on.

Do you really know what I want? I tell you. It is to go up on the ship deck with both of us in a decent coat – to have the harsh salt in our faces & for me to kiss it off your cold lips – and to hold hands – and not say very much at all – just to be there – and together in the North Sea.

I have seen the constellation of Orion and I suppose the Dog Star & Christ knows what (which I didn’t recognise). I still want you with me, because you are one who can be alone and undemonstrative with me. Even if you felt that you needed companionship I would be only too happy to break my own reticence & join with you in some unity of – well put your own words to it. I am apt to get too hypocritically devotional.

This ship is the end – shakes like a Pontiac over the horror stretch of Lane Cove Rd.

You Dorothy, have got me now, I have become adjusted – and that is a silly word. I have become in love with what you have given & still offer me. Irrespective of the knowledge that there are many more violences to come (but do you really think that, after our long separation, that we should be as violent as we have been. Surely if either one of us, should have sense enough to suggest that there was a time when we were both (and I believe this) practically, physically & mentally dying for each other, that we shouldn’t be able to say just the one word that would fix us? (Either of us.) It is still better not to have had a terrible sundering row than to consider its rather anti-climatic finish. I get so buggared up about the relationship at times. Perhaps I like (sadistically) the rows, which ultimately throw you back into my arms.

In some respects I am very much younger than the people of my own age. They seem all so responsible, & in England quickly prone to a sentimental fullness which is suspect in Sydney.

That sea – this broken down old ship, the stinking sea – the cold fresh, air of the North Sea. Perhaps being apt has something to do with it – the badly fixed propeller thrashing beneath us.

Anyway, I still love you. Will you please come back to bed with me? now? after you read this? You said you liked it, and I am sure you do.

I have had another go on the deck but still have a deep seated horror of the slimy sea. I want no part of it – at least alone, in my lifetime.

If you can’t read this letter – which I can forgive – you can ask me what it is all about because I, having written it, am about the only judge & interpreter. But, you old & well established paragon of a wife, forgive me for the need of you. Just come into me wherever I may be, and give me a kiss because, I have needed you so very, very much.

Yours present



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