Caravanning with Wep – Saturday, 22nd May 1937; Collector to Jindabyne via Lake George, Canberra, Bredbo and Cooma

22nd May Sat.

Have been at Jindabyne since Wed. Met Jess’s ex-boss & party at Collector & received warmth per favour Rum. Country incredibly dry – rolling copper earthed hills crust broken exposing tired & dreary patina-ed rocks. Lake George, like all grass & colour “has-been”. Disordered litter of dead and near dead trees all jumbled in second-hand dealer profusion along the slopes resting down towards the flat reclining comfort of waterless, fenced & cattled George.

Drove straight through Canberra with nary an error. Am becoming really hot stuff on direction. Looked eagerly for snow on distance mountains – could still be looking. Bought villainous yellow pies at Queanbeyan and did eat & drink cold tea, the Thermos having departed this vale of tears between Collector & Q.

Once more over the road which I have sworn never to drive again. Still the same rocked, rutted, frozen, chopped river of land threaded through the hills. The same treeless dumpish hills. Hills which seen from the road, rear stark-edged discordantly against the unbelievably blue and hollow sky. Hills whose edges hold no promise of world beyond. Their ochreish scorched bodies stretched in never ending length. And all quite bald.

And out back homes! Cheerless scattered sheds. Rigid raiment cast on the face of the land higgldy-piggldy by the weary pioneer in utter exhaustion. Tired – utterly jaded – wilting houses of cards. Bare necessities – the sullen bitter exacting earth sucking all human substance – leaving him no surcease in which to adorn his body’s shell. Succubus!

Gave lift to a fellow at Bredbo. Wanted transport to Cooma, hating wait for train until 6a.m. following morning. Turned out to be licensee of Cooma Hotel.  Well! Well! Had rums on the house. Called on George Longmuir at Com. B. of Sydney. Had more rums & dinner at Dodd’s – more rum. Went with him and cos. Small a local chemist & erstwhile Kosciusko contemporary & John co-bank worker, to church bop. Met Vicar’s daughter. She was only the Vicar’s daughter but —! Repaired again to Dodd’s, thence to Greek or what have you café & supped. Left, 2:30am & slept on top of hill. Scrapped about a foot of frost off next morning. A bleeding cold morning. Left after thawing out.

Road something terrible. Like riding on one continuous strip of corrugated iron. Shook everything to bits. Wireless hasn’t worked since. The bloody …….!

Surveying a possible campsite

Arrived Jindabyne about 12. Have never realised what a cheerless place it was. Have always seen it through the roseate eyes of holiday merry making. Couldn’t find a blade of grass within a mile of the official centre. Finally wedged way onto only square of grass in district. Alongside Snowy River and amidst countless wild briars, all red-berried and leafless. Designated parking ground seems to be the local football area bordered with shallow creeks full of tins and broken crockery. No grass, colour key of this place is grey, endless and monotonous.

Houses scattered willy nilly on both sides of the river, fenceless, innocent of all grass. Briar strewn and poultry infested. Rubbish, garbage, broken fences, all manner of diverse junk, all however having one thing in common. Cheerless grey, not even gloomy, just a tired dirt tone – dust to dust.

And the romance of Man from Snowy River! Just grey and grey and grey. I’ve gone and made myself god-damned grey. Tired. Long past bed-time. Now 8:45 P.M.  Oho!

Caravanning with Wep – Monday, 17th May 1937; Kurrajong to Collector

17th May Monday

Somewhere in the Arctic Circle north of Collector.

Left Kurrajong on Coronation Day May 12. (Wed) after ‘orrid Tuesday at pub. Spent time conversing with two hot-water engineers, one named Fitch, and disputing bosomy woman’s dissertation on the modern girl, her manifold sins and wickedness. Later alleged her to be a ‘bloody old fowl’ – not to her of course. Frank drove me home. Had a shaky trip home – fortified by two orange drinks. Struck Hassel & Co – caravan at spot opposite P.O. Kurrajong. He had a long talk at me and Jess. Couldn’t stand another prospect of public holiday peeping. – of bovine staring stupid eye dull-boring through the door & walls of Jenny. Myriad blunted gimlets drilling holes throughout our privacy. In the PUBLIC EYE!, came home.

Stayed at Brighton till Monday. Made fresh start – it had better be! What lousy painting I did at Kurrajong. Maybe I wanted something hotter, more acrid than those cool harmonies of blues & green. I’ve seen more of what I’m after today. Pungent bilious orange once-green, desiccated leaf colours, grey, symphonies of lilies, & spewed landscapes. And the dullest red I’ve ever seen hung to the bottoms of leaden clouds. Acid.

Gave lift to young fellow with huge Gladstone bag. Was walking to Sydney, but didn’t care which way he went. So returned with us to Goulburn whence he came 12 miles ago. Said he was aiming to get to the Tamworth Cup meeting tomorrow. God knows what for, I didn’t ask. Looked cold & had a red nose my shape but longer. Gave him good luck & 2/-. Said he could do with a feed. Believe him.

Am parked alongside the road, north of Collector, and boy, is it cold!

Caravanning with Wep – 5th May 1937; Kurrajong – musing about owning a piece of land and frustration in general with painting

What is the blarsted day & date?!

5th May

And what does one write about?

About stamping yards all over the countryside, about striking compass bearings, and trespassing on property that one day may become my own?

Must have measured off miles of fence lines, due N & S, due E & W, by this.  Powel’s, Walk’s, Peck’s, Culvers’ & Charlie’s. Would like a bit of ground, a little fecund dirt to do with as willed. To grow willy-nilly anything, to bask naked & sensuous. In short to live on and in, to become part and parcel of the ego.

Lena beat it from the pub today. What’s up with Frank? Don resigned last week.

Damn & blarst my eyes! – as a painter. How hard is it to see PROPERLY. To know what one sees, to know where the it one sees is different from the it others see. They must be different, as the whole make up of the one and the other is dissimilar. That is what takes the time, to see, to know and understand what one sees. To learn one’s own seeing. I feel as though a babe, just eye-opened, but without its lack of sophistication. A tired prostituted eye. Sight sold for self.

And blarst my stupid brain that won’t state itself.

And generally blarst everything! Blarst! BLARST! BLARST!

P.S. AND blarst those blarsted moths, big as blarsted fowls.

Caravanning with Wep – 2nd May 1937; Kurrajong to Mt. Victoria, Cox Valley & Lithgow then unplanned return to Sydney and back to Kurrajong

2nd May.

What a chronicle! A month gone and nothing entered.

Left Kurrajong after a hectic Saturday. Doug & Don (the chef) threw a party in our honour at Pumpkin Cottage on the Friday. The 5 gallon keg dethroned after a few hours hard at it. Met the behind scenes life of pub. Myrtle the fertile waitress lusty built, generous flesh, man-knowing painted face, possessing look of lewd pictures. Ethel, Don’s wife, crudity, not his class. Dirty jokes, two girl corpses. Vision of housekeeper appearing clad in irate dressing gown demanding cessation of activities. Needn’t have bothered herself the 5 was empty anyway.

Got away from the Hotel at 4:30 am (4th April) Sunday. Woke to find ourselves in bed in the caravan outside the bar. Blissfully unconscious where Lena had laid us to rest in a dim hiatus of alcoholic past. Woke to impervious demand by Jess that we should get going.  Stagger with sleep and angrily start off after god-damned strenuous cranking of engine. Jess stays in bed in the caravan and travels in sick comfort. She is not well. Dawn breaks somewhere near Bilpin. Drearily drive through a dank and dampish no-man’s land to Mt. Victoria. Jess getting hell from the old trouble. Passes out with strain in the corridor of hotel whilst on way to bath. 4/- for cleanliness; no wonder it’s next to Godliness!

Got to Cox’s river both feeling mighty low. Ate disinterestedly on re-fried pork chops surreptitiously parcelled out to us by Don the previous day. Scraps of chicken gnawed at on way to Mt. Vic. Sad, grey, sat-on, oyster patties, past all human aid unceremoniously consigned to garbage.  Slept fitfully the afternoon. Good painting here. Brown burnt rolling foot hills, lean silent ghosts of once trees stubbed on unshaven ridged earth. She-oak trimmed river gurgles on round rocked ford. Jess restlessly ill wants to go. Get to upper reaches of Cox valley between Rydal & Bowenfells. Am entranced with delicious cool mountain water. Gulp gallons & run with glass for Jess to taste – Curiously kick over fallen notice much faded injunction that “This water is unfit for human consumption.” Speeding vision of all the arses & privates of Lithgow emptying hurriedly into my glass. Ugh! But it did taste good. Jess very bad next morning. Pack up and leave trailer at Lithgow & come on to Sydney. 5 hours slow run. Took her over to Paddy. Left town on Thursday with Dawn and returned to Kurrajong with caravan. Arrived pub at 7:30pm after tiring trip along Bells Line Road. (Thursday 8th April.) Ran from blue water clarity beyond Hartley into great dark battlements belching shot of ice. Past Bell look backward under arch of dark, glimpsing reddened sun. Mists rising out of the blue depthless valley swirl flame like licking cliffs – Red lit. Am amidst a heatless mighty fire, the sky behind a blazing strip squeezed beneath a great warm bottomed rolling vapour dark. Sharp shafts of orange-lit trunks waving myriad bronze green flashing drip-dropping fingers against death purple-blue shadow depth. A great Ziegfield flashy stage lit by crazy aimless spot lights. Lights and darks where they have no damn right to be. Isolated, staring patches of highlight, serpent wiggling lines of coloured mist. All the colours of the mind in one mad finale before the curtain of night. Awesome in its colour psychology, its extravagance. In some vague way, terrifying. Filling the timid alien who has burst willy-nilly upon such recklessness with something akin to fear, relegating him in a great cold Hell! The car leaves hurriedly, the man, furtive, back-looking. Interloper! 30 miles of aloneness-fear, bad grades, slippery road, hail, mud, and unutterable dark. 30 times 30 miles. Cold wet.

They dropped a log on Toby. Dead as dead. Have got to know the Culvers. Often wondered what fearsome predatory brute lurked behind bunches of “No Trespassers.” Called over and made himself known to us, inviting us to bridge at “Fernmount” that night, Sunday. A florid pleasant chappy with rather inquiring habit of looking at you. Sometimes the rigid immobility of staring doll eyes. Cultured, first I’ve struck on the travels interested in art, not as a connoisseur but with curiosity as to the flap doodle of art, its jargon. English ex-navigator & curio up in these parts. Wife also English mannered. David, the son, a 9 year old adult. Father’s face and eyes. Eyes that seem as if expecting you to burst into a song-and-dance or turn into a pillar of salt, or something curious, or just something. A great big lovely chocolate cake for supper.

Invited over again after a few days to Bridge & Bottle party. Turned out no bridge, but much bottle & talk about ground here – abouts and possibilities thereof. Finally offered use of a portion of his ground up from Geoff’s. Quite keen on the prospect of us building a shack on it we could use for week-ends. J.D. has appointed himself official angler to play my enthusiasms re house erecting. A past master of the art.

The more I see of nature the more incredible I find it. Give me mountains for variety. Convinced that an artist could paint anything his errant fancy could devise and nature would not only duplicate it for him but show him as a feeble scribbling child mind.

Saw, during evening, the foothills below as billowing foam crested sea. Crest-capped long waves of earth breaking. Angry waters of land. Is there no end to the possibilities of this scene?

Went to the boat race with Frank Peck. Arrived as it was in progress. Heard it all most comfortably seated behind a pint of beer in the Nepean Hotel. Parked and made way towards river as the crowd broke and flung itself city wards in our teeth.

Getting to know pretty well everyone up here now.

Frank     Jack P.   Queen Anne (Miss Quinnan)

Daddy   Aub        Mr Simpson

Nana     Charlie  Lee Wilson

Lena      Jack H.  Don Donaldson

Bill          Bill Brown            Ede

Don        John D.                 Una

George Van Tright

Ken        David

Dick (skull phantom of the opera)


Myrtle  Dorothy

Pat         Geoff

Doug     Mickey

Joe         Bill Walk

Jess has just finished knitting a bootie. Well! Well! How things do ’appen!

Caravanning with Wep – Friday, 2nd April 1937; Life around Kurrajong with the locals.

Good Friday – a pretty sight. Both of us. Started 2 finished 8:30. Gather from the wreckage that we had tea and broke the lamp globe. Have been trailing around since today with piece of glass in foot. Met couple camped next to us on Good Friday morning. G.F.S. Donaldson, Duntroon Rd Roseville and wife Ede. A pleasant sporty couple & most matey with them. Saturday blew a snow less dusty blizzard. (Wind howling beautifully in minor key through pines tonight. Real Movie stuff.) Saturday, a dead as-well-forgotten day. Sunday, pub day – What again! And Tuesday! But a most pleasant hostelry. A country heart beating beneath a suit by Sydney architects. The Pecks, Daddy Nana, Frank and Jack. A family offshoot of John Haig, Peter Dawson & who or what have you. Daddy 73 his hand, handily heavy with age and whiskey. Jack, bird faced, fruit eye. Frank a ‘shouting’, bar-sitting mine host with marine life lips pouting figures of eight, he turns & the evolutions of the dance. Mobile & statically frozen forms, gum showing. Taken a frenzied fancy to Dawn, rechristened Tiny. Our daughter now most popular young lady in Kurrajong. Her home from home licensed by Frank Carl Peck. They’ve been here 100 years, his great great grandmother settled on the timbered slopes, earning a life and generations of country souls out of the air, water, dust and sun. Have I the pleasant soul or merely the tortured city nerve sensuously wooed by country beautide?? ? The wonder of the bean; growing green with life out of the linear earth. The whole macrocosm within the microcosm. The back yard lacking the magnitude & the fitness of natural growth. The wonder of the pattern of the ferns, the life, the art. The peasant as the artist, nurturing the whole, i.e. life in general, within the part, the bean, the orange. The elegance of the pattern, the utilitarian beauty of efficiency both in machine and scientific cultivation. PATTERN! Staccato stops of orange green on undulating rhythm of the hills. The music of it. Brown red passages counter point to scherzando theme of orange groves against background of tenuous tawny blue. Enough!

Caravanning with Wep – Wednesday, 31st March 1937; Kurrajong – “Have decided this is no diary. More a record of impressions..”

Wed. March 31st

April Fool’s Day tomorrow. Don’t forget it. Jess is after you my boy. Stick it in the old cerebellum! Have decided this is no diary. More a record of impressions, lacking the orderliness of day to day entries. Why anyway? What happens every day? Sum total that counts.

 Have been giving it rather a thrashing over Easter. Long standing habits plus novel interest in country outlook of country family pub proprietors.

Caravanning with Wep – Thursday, 25th March 1937; Exploring around Kurrajong.

25th Thursday

A lazy man’s diary. Another day’s entry missed. Woke yesterday to still another view of the country below us. Vague indeterminate washes of landscape highlighted by sun edged vaporous blanket whose swift moving tatters slink between the trees about us. Dispersed by sun; revealing once more unending edgeless distance.  The mind desiring to assimilate the man-indifferent vista soars out and above, returning to the fleetingness of insistence and the immutability of nature to recapture that largeness, to reflect it in our small effort is our job of art. Lacking the humility before nature. The impression of vastness, denies man the possibility of creating art.

Jess and I walked down the gullies yesterday. Shooting, killed many rocks. Accompanied by the crazy fox terrier pup Toby, whose strenuous running on stilt-like legs amused us greatly. Dawn & he spend their entire time in frivolity, food and sleep. Dawn, a seven years old puppy, a dizzy old blonde wanting to go the pace, yet lacking knowledge, not knowing, is stiff and a trifle baffled, taking the lead from Toby. Easy life, experienced through smell & belly. Took Dawn again for a long walk to the village and around exhausting her fat city arse.

This afternoon gathered rock lilies in the gully for Dorothy & killed 2 more rocks. Had a decent wash on our return & were thereby greatly improved. Heard N.Z. Premier Savage on radio last night. Extremely good reception.

Caravanning with Wep – Tuesday, 23rd March 1937; Arrival in Kurrajong

Tuesday, 23rd March 1937

The first day of the diary but not of the trip. Had been out since Saturday. (Left 2 o’clock & after a pleasant but stinking up Kurrajong drive – boiled up ½ gall. Water arrived here more or less sober at 7:30 pm.)  Entertained Mollie & Petrov over Sunday. They left about 6. Monday most uneventful. Did a job for WW & moved camp to a pleasant grassy spot overlooking the world as we knew it (i.e. in sight and imagination). Yesterday made friends with Dorothy Hobbs daughter of the philosophic proprietor. Have been pestered with her ever since. A lonely nice spoken child who brings us oranges and a companionless heart. A good little girl who gets on the women’s nerves. Excess of attachment. Not shy – about 12, fine eyes, can’t remember colour – walks 2 miles to school & then comes up to take me shooting – means well. Met her brother Jack – gangling gaunt hill-billy with gum boots & gap between incisors – dog took violent dislike to him. Must be his Khaki shirt & watch stuck in leather pouch on rear of belt (with chain). Got blind tonight – returned home to find gifts laid before our doorstep. Oranges from lonely child. Shall eat two now. (11 pm). Shall write as thoughts strike me – bugger style – what we want is recreation of holiday and reactions (3rd orange.) Saw the sun rise this morning. A sat-on luminous orange all squat blood red and impossible to look upon. Dominating what (for the 1st time in my life) a materialised but incredibly ethereal Chinese scroll painting. What bloody beauty & mastery these people possessed.

Woke to find the low lands filled as with water. Mists licking the shoes of Kurrajong as though great tidal wave of vapour inundated the whole of stinking city noise smothered so far as Richmond. Sun bleeding upon incredible unbelievable pearly greys – towards Broken Bay a series of phantom hills lacking substance lacking in reality so skilfully planted by the Oriental hand & heart, bred ???? & loving mist – us sun-worshippers considering such as inconvenience to early milking. Spoke with son of the soil tonight in pub recapturing wondrous pearly pattern & was appreciated. They see but do not see. Could not bear so much for long and needs must kill or murder a rabbit. My soul too stepped in pettiness to contemplate such large scale grandeur. An overdose I can’t take. Grandeur is the wrong word association with the fulfilment of art – in actuality a false painted scene – flat but colourful – reading what I have seen into it.  The sublimity of immobility. Hills solidity vaporised to nothingness but re-concretised in my mind by Oriental calligraphy. I couldn’t stand it long. Am I still ill? – unstable?

We are beneath pines – the floor is strewn with oranges, set squares, canvas & dreams & talk. Remember yesterday near Geoff Blundens a running live stream of silver-lit bracken burnished blue against sharp red tipped green; deep lined black trunks & lush green covered scars of last October fire – couldn’t see that withered flame blackened wallaby. That poor rabbit! I killed its rhythm.

Caravanning with Wep: Mar – Aug 1937, a 6 month painting sabbatical travelling via caravan around New South Wales and south east Queensland.

Wep & Jess take a break on the way to the Snowy Mountains

In 1937 Wep took off on a 6 month painting sabbatical to travel with his wife Jess in their caravan around the New South Wales and south east Queensland countryside .  He kept a journal of sorts of that trip; a record of his impressions of people he met, the landscape – it’s colour and light and his struggle in developing his own painting style. As I transcribe this work I will be posting the entries to this blog. Later, I hope to include some of his photos and links to works which I have identified.

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