Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 13-15 Nov; London-moving hotel

Wed 14-Nov-56: Walked shops & booked in Debenham Court [Granville Place]. British Museum, saw sculptures of Egypt, Greek, Hindu.

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Tuesday 9:30 p.m.
13 Nov 56
London

Darling,

I shouldn’t write at all tonight. My mood might affect you who are so sensitive to other’s condition. But seeing as how, this thing of mine will be about a week in the past when you read this, I don’t guess it will matter much. It gets dark so dammed early here-a little later than 4:30 p.m.-and the evening seems so long. I went out for a meal and staggered down to a newsreel for an hour. Place was full of necking couples. Here on the continent people seem to neck anywhere-particularly so in Paris where it’s nothing to see them kissing in the underground trains or in the cafes. Have just ordered a cup of tea-it is something they really make well in this lounge. As a matter of fact it is a much more cheerful drink, than Guinness Stout.

Graham said in his last letter that you weren’t well and you have mentioned seeing Cummins. I do hope you are managing to keep going without too much strain, sweetie. I don’t want you to feel poorly while I’m away. I wish I could help somehow-like being home-I wish I was at that. I should have written you about the Gallery at lunchtime when I was fresher. I went back and it was nearly dark when I came out. It’s got a bit wearing-despite the magnificent early Italian works. I think I’ll read for a while and go to bed.

You needn’t worry about me getting home-things here seem quite normal and placid. In fact, one hears little talk of trouble. A few letters in the papers, appears to be the only manifestation of steam letting off. This ponderous letter will be the death of you. I really must cease. Shall carry on in the murky light of dawn. Lots of love to you my dear little hugging girl. Nothing, absolutely nothing would be better than really to sleep against you, and there somehow, find again a small boy’s peace. I occasionally get quite frantic at the thought that such a pleasure is so far off. Seems, sometimes, I’ll never have it again. But then, that’s nonsense-in fact it is less than three weeks off. But how long those 3 weeks are to become is more than I care to contemplate. I am desperately in need of you. It’s weak of me-but I get relief and comfort in admitting it. And why shouldn’t I open up to you, who are now so much part of me? As I have, it seems, become part of you, and the rest of your life. We are now, inextricably woven of a piece and it gives me happiness to think of it. Good night-other half of my heart. Sleep easily from me.

Wed 9:30 a.m. 14 Nov.

I am a new Willie-stronger in all respects-ready to face the rain of intrepid calm. I have been posting off some small books and catalogues and pamphlets. Getting too heavy to handle. My bag is now swollen and I shall have to get a cheapjack one to take the overflow. Must make a move to organise myself more precisely. Trouble is I don’t know yet what the accommodation will cost by the time I leave tomorrow. I’m moving into a 21/- a day dump. Have to, as I want to buy some things. And feeling much brighter and had best make a move out into the drizzling city. God bless you, you little beaut! I love you brightly this morning. Watch out for a vigourous return of the prodigal boy.

7 p.m. back again from the cold dark city. Am up in my eyrie, back with you, where I belong. Went out to the shops again this morning to have a look around and as there are so many of the flaming things I am little better off now than when I started. Called at Simpsons to get an idea of what they have. Looked in lots of other windows-made arrangements to move up near Oxford Street, behind the fabulous Selfridges store. By the time I leave here (in the morning) this place will have cost me £18.5.2. (8 nights at £2, one dinner 14/6, one ½ bt claret 8/6, 1 coffee 1/-, 3 breakfasts 19/6, 4 phone calls 1/8). The new place looks quite comfortable and I’ll be £1 a day to the good. Wish I had moved earlier. Food is expensive in London and cigs are 4/-a packet. Although I haven’t bought many. Still smoking some I got duty-free on the ship I came across the Channel in. Incidentally I am writing this letter with a pen I picked up in the Rue de L’Opera, Paris France. I feel very fond of you, ducky. Got my air plane ticket and pick the plane up at Zürich. I will be home at 7 a.m. on Sunday 2 Dec.

I’m leaving London on Monday (as far as I can recollect, having lost the folder. Anyway I must buy the ticket tomorrow, to make certain that is paid for) about 7 p.m.-spend about 5 hours aboard ship and arrive in Holland about 7 a.m. where a full day’s journey by train alongside the Rhine gets me into Basle about 10 p.m. Tuesday. As this hour is too late to catch a plane due off at 10.40 I have made these arrangements, and will write Basle for accommodation overnight Tuesday and spend day in Zürich to get plane on Wednesday 28th at 10:25 p.m. And the whole fare is only £8.16.0. To catch the plane here, first class, would cost me £21.12.0. So it’s quite a saving and if it does by some mischance happened to be a nice day I’ll see quite a bit of the Rhine. Wish me God spend, dearest, I am getting closer. Also bought another suitcase-very much like the one I have, only smaller and light grey in colour. Lined, and with two pockets, soft top, etc, practically an albino twin-45/-at Selfridges. Bought a new translation of the New Testament by a Jewish scholar. Should do me good, more soothing than that wicked Henry Miller I’ve been reading. Went up to the British Museum where my legs gave out and I had to totter off to have some tea and toast. Went back feeling better. Saw a lot of Indian sculpture-was disappointed in the relics of Stupas they had. The whole effect was overburdened and maggoty. Very sad reaction to the old enthusiast. Some of the single figures were very fine. Perhaps I was too buggered. This was before I had the tea. The Tibet’s have some very vicious and naughty concepts about their other worldly hierarchy. The principle of the male and female union, as the basis of all things is depicted with extremely vivid realism. Moreover it is a union that is quite normal in its management. They are very naughty ‘Adavayas’ indeed. After the tea I stayed on the ground floor and was delighted with the Greek and Egyptian stuff. Must have another look. If ever I’m fresh enough I should take some notes. The Tate, National, and Museum should just about use up my time. I was going to take a run up to Oxford but don’t know off I can make it. I certainly can’t get up north to see your father’s people. Finances just won’t stand it. I am not wasting money-but must bring something back. Should go out to Windsor though, it’s only an hour in the bus stop and going out to Rex Reinits place tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. so we’ll have a little social life for our secret anniversary. He is an Australian writer I used to work with many years ago. I think I mentioned I bumped into him in the bar here, or rather next-door. He has a radiogram so I’ll be taking my Romanian records and shall hear them myself for the first time. I hope the technical aspect of the recordings is all right. I am sure the musical part was performed in a suitable manner in the first place. I hope your old trotters have not been giving you too much trouble-and that the warm weather is allying the old screws a bit. You poor little thing-I’d only be too happy to mass arguing this moment-I’d willingly put up with your squawks and shrieks for the pleasure of being around on the chance of getting an occasional nip at your earlobes. Hotel rooms are deadly things on an empty stomach-so I’ll take myself off and fossick for a meal someplace handy. I’ll be with you again very shortly. I’m sure to get chips with whatever I have. These Londoners seem to live on nothing else. Chips-chips-chips-they eat such enormous quantities of them you’d reckon on getting some fresh some time. But not yet.

9:45 p.m. Back again in my beloveds arms.

How right I was about the chips. Just had a great reason plate full of them with a little piece of steak. I think it is the fat that clings to the chips which makes them so much of a must in food. Like Eskimos eat walrus fat, or candles, the carbohydrates are very warming. Better than Guinness. Not inspiring though. This letter is becoming very staccato in touch-little has happened to fire me off into a grand, and sustained, broadside of enthusiasm. Still haven’t dreamt about you, although for £2 a sleep one would expect even a modicum of entertainment during the night. I feel as if I am being diddled by someone, out of a free and harmless pleasure. Don’t know whether to get into bed, or go down and have some tea. Perhaps tea, and a last look around the lounge of the Howard Hotel. This letter is becoming a struggle because I have more than half a page to go with nothing to say on it-absolutely nothing. I’ll go down and see if I can find an evening paper to squiz at.

9 a.m. 15 Nov. have been thinking of you since I got up. I wish I could be at home to give you the loving kiss you deserve on such a day as this. Two years during which I think we are becoming better suited and as for me more deeply attached to you. I send you a great deal of love, my darling, and hope the way I feel at the moment will remain always deep in my being. Rows, I suppose, will be inevitable, but I trust they will be nicer and fonder.

Lots of love again-please get Graham to give you a kiss from me-and ask Trellie to give you a horrid great leak in one go from top to toe. Tell Graham I am anxious to hear the triumphal return music. I hope he has it all pat by the time I get home-he has that extra week’s practice.

I have been sweating blood on working out finance-and if I get the things I want all have to starve to death. I don’t know whether to get you to wire me £20 or not. If I just had an extra tenner I would be right. It’s a flaming curse. Oh, I think you had better-it’s mad to get oneself into a jam all this way off for the sake of £20. O skip all this, I have just seen Peter Gladwyn and he tells me not to worry. They will be able to do something for me. I got your loving cable off him too. Thanks so much, sweetie, I sort of thought I might get one. God love you!

I don’t know whether to catch the plane here-Cook’s Travel Agency says it might be cheaper. I am going down to see capital BOAC about it. It’s hard to determine things whether to see the Rhine or not. Will let you know in my next letter.

Much love and happiness to my dearest little wife from her loving fellow, Bill. XXX

Tell Graham S.A.O.H. to him to!

For the 15th Nov 1954.

London 1956

How do I recall-
   Lips parted
   In a crimson pleasure
   Of love?
How do I recall-
   Their pearly packets
   Piercing irregularities into
   My willing limbs?
How do well recall-
   The tiny, ardent breast
   When my lips
   With full of her,
   And love?
How do I recall-
   I, Pygmalion,
   When her limbs
   Came to life
   In warm embrace?
How do I recall-
   The liquid anguish
   Through which we fired
   A smouldering sleep?
How do I recall-
   My Dorothy?

From your husband

Bill

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 9-10 Nov; London – the Lord Mayor’s Show

Fri 9-Nov-56:      Saw Lord Mayor’s parade [Lord Mayor’s Show]. Went up Bloomsbury to British museum – had lunch with Peter Gladwynn & co. Went to BOAC looked at more shops.
Sat 10-Nov-56:  Went to Beacontree Heath on bus. Looked round city – Westminster Abbey & Parliament – went Chelsea at night, met Rex Reinits

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0088

Howard Hotel
9 Nov ‘56
London 9.30pm

My dearest and very missed Dorothy,

There is really no way of getting what one feels into the “Heigh yar, Sweetie”, part of a letter – It all has to be inferred from the formal and well-worn adjectives which one has to use to someone with whom they wanted to be so close. To be inside their skin, with the same blood but with different harmonics of the heart. Get me? I’ve had gloomy news – The best the Air Line Co. can do for me is 28th Nov from Zurich. I had a message here at 5.30pm to say so. As no work is done over the weekend, I can’t ask them any further details. On Monday I’ll suggest if there are any cancellations near that date – to let me have them if I get 2 or 3 days’ notice. However, I don’t suppose a week will make that much difference after all this time. But I was looking forward to being with my family on the 25th. (To say nothing of the extra dough needed for accommodation – However let’s skip it, and hope for something better. As it is, I should be very pleased. I had some black moments yesterday – when I thought I might even be marooned till God knows when. Bookings are building up again – because of people wishing to be home by Xmas. So keep your fingers (& your legs) crossed for me till you have me back with you all. But I’m warning you – wear your rosiest glasses. I’m trained down pretty keenly – not an ounce of fat anywhere – even on your personal part of me. I haven’t seen much of London yet apart from the shopping area – really this comprises most of the town proper – that is, excluding the financial quarters which is the city. I’ll start taking bus rides round tomorrow. Tell John Boyce I am living alongside the smell & fust of the bowler hatted & homberged legal fraternity. This hotel is in Norfolk St. just off the Strand & practically opposite Australia House & near the Royal Courts of Justice (which look imposing & very, very established). And tell them too (I mean Mrs Boyce as well) that I had the good fortune to see the Lord Mayor’s procession this morning. It would be practically identical with the procession that took place when Sir Leslie Boyce was elected or appointed Lord Mayor of London. I got quite a kick out of it & entered sympathetically into the English love of pageantry.

Lord Mayor’s Show from opposite T. Marks & Sons, 33 Fleet Street, London; 9 November 1956

What with the bands & mounted police, the sailors & airmen, and soldiers with great black bussils on. It was a drizzling day & the busbied boys wore long grey overcoats & looked extremely striking, without being musical comedy. You really caught the continuity of tradition with them. They were followed later by foot men in red with very anciently patterned costumes & with carried lances. Shiny breast plated guards in red, with white trousers and gloves, mounted on saddles draped with sheep skins. Beautiful horses & the guards in glistening metal helmets floating, with plumes & the crumby looking gilt Lord Mayor’s coach drawn by six liveried horses, each mounted by a rider in equally unworthy dress. Fleet St, all in flags & full of people. All indeed, there is so much about London that typifies the British spirit. That solid annual performance. The spick & span city – paint going on the window frames – the old black bricks being cleaned back to their warm & cheerful originality. A bourgeois stolidity that has yet freedom – because each individual aspect of the geographical city is the home, or castle of those whose desire it is to invest it with their personal pride and dignity. London is greater and more interesting than I ever expected. The British have not the Gallic lightness but by God it is obvious they are freer in concepts than the Germans – and based securely and irrevocably in their land & in their homes. And the shops! Every flaming aspect of commercialism, intonate, aloof, specialised – cheap jack – bazaar – slick – the works! A wonderful sight – nothing quite like it. And above all the myriads of people, the sound of the cockney (or London, I don’t know) voice – obligated by the accent of the avidly buying American tourists. It must be their paradise – because things are cheap. Not the best, lovely, but the next best are cheap. Still, plenty of new Rolls Royces, Bentleys, etc. around. Even the London cabs have really unbelievable English dignity. They are all black Austins, stuffy & box like – but immaculately polished – and all identically the same appearance, like a rather passé but well cared for great aunt of the family. The cabs & big fast, RED, double deckers, absolutely in in a never ending stream, go up & down the streets, which are nevertheless, quite easy to cross. And so, on and on, this description of London could go – and will. But at the moment all I can contemplate with enthusiasm is being with you in midst of a sportive spring night. I go to bed hoping I can dream about it – but I’m too tired to dream at all. It is most frustrating. I’m glad you miss my shoulder – next time you have it you can gnaw it to the bones for all I’ll notice. You shouldn’t have become so ardent during these years – I can hardly regard the nobility of that wonderfully laid out, and magnificently shopped Regent St, for thinking about the pleasures of a Northwood night.

Bedford Square looking down Bloomsbury Street, London; 9 November 1956
Near 82 Regent Street looking east towards Piccadilly Circus, London; 9 November 1956

5:20pm Saturday night [10 Nov 1956]. Even my urge is wilting under the onslaughts of this overwhelming city. It’s vast – huge – beyond any suburban conception. The impact is terrific – must be quite the moistest city in the world. Paris is beautiful – intimate even – but has none of the power London holds. Who’d have thought, or think, even now, to look at them, that the English could create & sustain so vitally, such a tremendous edifice. This morning I took a bus out past the East End, way out to a place called Becontree Heath. Over an hour’s run, through the slummy areas of Stepney Green – Bow Road – Stratford. Gradually opening a little through continuous rows of houses – through other shopping centres like Ilford and East Ham. The whole teaming with people. Districts, flat & dull, with empty bombed out blocks. All being slowly reconstructed under a housing scheme. Back again to wander round what is known as the City (the centre of Banking & Commerce & Finance). Huge stolid fortresses, like the Bank of England – granite like, impervious it seems to time or change. But alongside them, other great empty blasted spaces, being resurrected with huge modern offices in a different architectural style to those which remain. But the life is there, and the rather amazing emergence of the fogged will to power. It is hard to photograph these monolithic masses which so firmly hold to earth. The human seems secondary, whereas in Paris the buildings are lighter & are more for man. Then to walk along the Thames Embankment – the river busy with barges – the apparently inevitable mist – The still massive structures facing the river – and those blown away, being replaced by others equally large. And so on to Westminster, where the Houses of Parliament are being carefully reconstructed in original carving. Into Westminster – Downing St – Whitehall – Trafalgar Square – Many people placing tiny crosses with a red poppy & a deceased warrior’s name, in the grounds of the Abbey. Hundreds upon hundreds of tiny crosses. Further up guards in vermillion & black capes formally hold guard before ancient archways. Christ it is impressive! How could the English be subdued?

Later. Very nice to come in & find your bed turned down & your pyjamas laid out. Very nice, but is it worth it? If this is a cheap pub, the outlook is grim indeed. £2 per night. 6/6 for breakfast – 15/- dinner. I’ve had 3 nights – 3 breakfasts – 1 dinner & am down over a tenner. I’ll have to move. After finishing this letter I went up the road and had a feed at the dagoes. 5/- touch. It was then still early so I caught a bus down to Chelsea & roamed around dropping into various bars to see what they were like. The English beer is terrible (the draught beer I mean) almost makes me vomit. So I have either a small bottle of Guinness Stout – or a small bottle of pale ale. They are not too bad. The pubs are quite unlike anything we know. – More like mid Victorian drawing rooms. Always dark – plenty shiny glass – brown woodwork – lamp shades – people standing around like at cocktail parties. Some quiet – some with a pianist – & cut glass mirrors & sandwiches & snacks. Started home about ten o’clock & when I got outside my pub felt ravenous, so walked about a quarter of a mile to find a chocolate shop. Managed that, but was rebuffed. After a certain hour it is wicked to sell chocolate – was so aghast I nearly fell into the pub next door to the shop – to continue drinking (pubs are open till 11) – But was too hungry and went back to the shop & settled for a dreadful  1/4dth of beef sandwich. Which I finished in the lift coming up to my room. I was all set to tell you about the church up the road. St Clements Dane [Saint Clement Danes] or something – but I am wilting too rapidly.

So goodnight for sure, with this letter.

I still love you most immoderately and would like to sleep with my head snuggled into the armpit side of your right breast – just where I belong and am extremely comfortable, when not too excited to appreciate it. God bless you honey – I hope you got a little thing in a letter from me from Paris.

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Dorothy’s much cherished cat broach which Bill sent her from Paris

I was in such a hurry & so confused because they wouldn’t accept it at letter rate – unless it was in a letter – I forgot to register it. I hope it arrived safely – because I didn’t want you to think that I would forget our second anniversary. I am unhappy that I cannot be with you. But we will have some Minchinbury for dinner the night I get home – I am really very happy and very lucky to have married a sweety adorable little bugger like yourself.

I love you still.  Bill XXX

Looking towards the Royal Exchange from Queen Victoria Street near Poultry, Bank, London; 10 November 1956
The Bank of England viewed from Cornhill, Bank, London; 10 November 1956
St Paul’s Cathedral from Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street at Mansion House, London; 10 November 1956
St Nicholas Cole Abbey, bomb damaged, viewed from Old Change Hill now part of Queen Victoria Street, London; 10 November 1956
College of Arms, 130 Queen Victoria Street, London; 10 November 1956

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 6-8 Nov; Au revoir Paris, ‘Allo London

Tue 6-Nov-56:    Dashed around frantically shopping. Took Margaret to cheap eating house & on to a Spanish turn place
Wed 7-Nov-56:  Caught 11:51am train to London. Couldn’t see any country for fog – arrived Dover at dusk & London 7pm, Howard Hotel
Thu 8-Nov-56:   Collected 4 letters from Consol. Press. Roamed round shops – Piccadilly Strand, etc.

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Howard Hotel
[Norfolk St, Strand]
Thurs 8 Nov ‘56
London 2.30pm

To a darling girl Dorothy,

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

Your man

Bill

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.]

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View from Pont Saint-Louis which connects Île Saint-Louis to Île de la Cité, looking south east towards Pont de la Tournelle, Paris; 6 November 1956
View from Pont Saint-Louis which connects Île Saint-Louis to Île de la Cité, looking south east towards Pont de la Tournelle, Paris; 6 November 1956
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris; 6 November 1956
Looking north east from the Eiffel Tower, the Passerelle Debilly bridge in background, Paris; 6 November 1956

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 14-21 Oct; Cluj, Oradea, Bucharest and Vienna

Brasov Sun 14-Oct-56:  Saw the magnificent Biserica Neagu – the Black church – built 800 years ago – Driver of car missing all day – were to go on to Cluj – but didn’t.
Mon 15-Oct-56: Left at 8am for Cluj. Met an ethnologist Nicolae Dunare & went out near Oradea to a peasant potters house
Tue 16-Oct-56:   Met sculptor and two artists, discussed social realism. Returned to Bucharest arriving 1:30am. Got letters from home.
Wed 17-Oct-56: Went to Institute & talked with Baranga. Got presents, bought some records, had dinner with Charles & Victor.
Thu 18-Oct-56:  Cashed £5. Left Bucharest at 8am. Arrived Vienna about 1pm. Changed flight booking to 21 Nov. Phoned dear little Dorothy.
Fri 19-Oct-56:     Just wandered around all day – got pyjamas back from Stephanie Hotel [Hotel Stefanie]. Met Dr & Mrs Edgley & had dinner with Mrs E. at a Russian place. Was invited to stay with them!
Sat 20-Oct-56:   Went to Edgley’s and stayed. Was driven to Vienna Woods. Played Scrabble. Paid hotel, phone, rail fare. Cashed £7 & £10
Sun 21-Oct-56:  Visited art museum & large picnic park where we had lunch. Had dinner at the Balkan Grill.

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Romanische [Roemischer] Kaiser Hotel
Annagasse 1 Wien [ Annagasse 16]
Sat 20 Oct 56

My darling girl.

It’s about 7.30am and is a bit on the cool side. I got out of bed ¾ hour ago as I found little comfort there. Now if I was out on the front verandah at 85 I reckon I could show you a thing or two. There’s nothing much to look at here. My old machinery is getting out of practice. But my thoughts are ardent – and, I hope acceptable. As all this doesn’t help one little bit. I suppose I had best carry on with the historical & geographical aspects of this one man caravanserie. But truly, I do miss you so very much. I’m getting a bit tired of gazing at churches, & public monuments, parks, rivers, street names, traffic policemen, food shops, dress shops, German phrase books, city maps, handfuls of all sorts of currency and foreign menus. I am not tired of looking at girls or book shops, although it is my much considered opinion that the latter are of much better quality. It seems surprising how few top line sorts one sees in Europe – so far. However, talking about that is preferable to writing. The book shops here are very good – really go in for art publications with German thoroughness, but I dare say that in Paris & London I shall find them as good – probably better. I have only just realised that my last letter to you was posted from Orasul Stalin in Rumania last Sunday. God, knows when you will receive it – possibly after this one. I have been a bit too busy travelling to give you much of myself. I did get a kick out of ringing you in Sydney and even if the connection was bad, we did manage to make some real contact. It was nice to hear you sweetie, although for the life of me, I can’t remember anything much about it except the important items of date of return – seeing the Edgleys – giving you the tip off to write c/o Roley Pullen, and hearing Graham too. I bet he gave the schoolboys & the neighbours an earbashing about a telephone call from Vienna. I hope you felt I was loving you very much. Because I was. I didn’t get the address of the street too well – so went to a travel agency & with their help found the Australian Commission’s premises. Edgley was away at Linz – and was due back at 6pm Friday. About 6.30 I rang his wife – she was delighted to hear a dirty old Australian accent & insisted I catch a cab straight out, which I did & while trying to find out, with my filthy German, which house they lived in – the doctor arrived home. Only to find his youngest child, a girl of 2 ½ down with pneumonia. Mrs E wanted to dine out, so papa stayed home to look after sick child. They have invited me to stay with them for the day or two before I leave for Paris. Quite a lively couple – she is 6 months gone again – making it her 3rd. They are getting pretty sick of the climate here – but have to stay on another 12 months or so.

The Black Church in Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 13 October 1956

This rushing around is tiring and confusing – for the life of me I can’t remember where I was up to in my travels. Did I tell you about a beautiful old church in Orasul Stalin. It was over 800 years old. The stone of its exterior quite fretted away like rocks by the sea, so dark grey as to have occasioned its name of Biserica Neagra which means Black Church. It was very big and the interior all around the bottom end where the altar was placed was painted white. The towering shafts of stone appeared to radiate a purity of light – the altar itself nicely proportioned & with just the right amount of gold. It gave me rare pleasure. That white – unbelievably effective. The churches in Vienna, are even blacker in surface appearance – and more huge. But inside is all the original grey aged stone – & the effort is gloomy. The old black church had spirit – plus buoyancy. The maniacal driver managed to bash a mud guard in & that held us up for ½ day at O. Stalin. On the Monday morning we took off for Cluj at 8am. Transylvania! A country in everyone’s imagination – full of werewolves, bats, vampires and horrifying mysteries. Ruritania – with princes on sombre missions. Pine trees – dark recesses of the mountains & snow. And the whole damn place looks more like Australia than anything I have seen since I left home. It is a twin to the Monaro district. Autumnal brown grass rolling slopes, very few trees, and the Alps in the distance. Tell Price Jones to tear the word Transylvania out of his accumulated imaginings. It just ‘aint so. I am afraid I disappointed Mrs Edgley, too, with my account of it. Visited a vineyard on the way up & had a couple of quick snorts. They seem to only make white wines up here & pretty sour Riesling at that. Crumby stuff – which everyone drinks with soda water. Breaks your flaming romantic heart. To save something from the wreck you can tell Bill that the peasants do wear white trousers & white aprons – with great shaggy sheep skins coats to cover. They do carry long sticks & lead the flocks to various pastures. The only thing that was un-Australian was the complete & utter lack of fences anywhere. The peasants all live in clustered houses in the villages & at early morning set out in their carts drawn by horses or oxen for their plot which may be anywhere between one village & the next. Apparently they know their own ground backward & there is no dispute as to where one man’s lot begins & ends. The peasants give their stock (sheep or cattle) to the shepherd & he takes them all out to grass.

Believed to be at a studio for artists and sculptors in Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Unknown artist at work. believed to be at a studio for artists and sculptors in Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956

Met some artists and sculptors in Cluj. They were being very well done by. Storybook studios & apparently adequate money. Also met a director of a folk lore museum who suggested we nick out & see some peasant potters. We did so – found out, was about 35 miles out. Practically on the Hungarian border – near a town named Oradea. Quite interesting. Next day returned to Bucharest – got in about 1.30am.

Possibly taken at Wep’s final meeting with the Director of the Cultural Institute (Institutul Romin Pentru Relatiile Culturale cu Strainatea), Bucharest, Romania; 17 October 1956

Had a meeting with the director of the Institute. All very amiable. Asked what I thought about Rumania, what I didn’t like, etc. Received a present of a little bit of folk art. An old Rumanian custom I gather. Was happy to be able to reciprocate with the books. When I got back to the pub – found that more books & records had arrived. Such was the enormous weight of books – the Institute are sending them out. I hope they all arrive safely. Was explained to me that the early departure was due to the fact that it was the only booking they could get me before the Olympics.

All very pleasant – a great pity the country is so poor. Also wrote a little piece about Australian art & did a short talk for the air, this they took on tape in the hotel room. Heard it played back.

Got to Vienna about 12 noon. Where I thought to let you know immediately. Got the bright idea of ringing – not much more than a cable. To confirm our talk – I catch a BOAC plane at Zurich on 21st Nov. at 10.30pm & should arrive in Sydney on Sunday 25 at 7.20am. You can insure me for the trip if you like. I was shocked to read in a German magazine – I stumbled through it in German – of the unfortunate crash of the Vulcan Bomber as it returned to London. It is now 9am. I better dress & have some rolls & coffee.

Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956
Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956
Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956

Sunday [21 Oct 1956]. 3pm. I am sitting in a lovely park out of Vienna. In the middle is the Franzensberg Castle built by Franz Joseph early last century. The castle is set in the middle of a fine artificial lake which has no water in it. The autumn trees are beautiful colours & in the distance a group of school girls are singing. The weather is most indulgent. A mild gentle setting sun. The Edgley girl made a magnificent recovery, playing like mad in the trees behind us. We had a picnic lunch.

Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), Vienna; 21 October 1956
Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), Vienna; 21 October 1956

Went to the Vienna gallery [Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)] this morning & saw many fine paintings including Tintoretto’s Susanna & the Elders, Holbein’s Jane Eyre [Jane Seymour], Vermeer’s famous Painter & model. Wonderful Titians and 14 Brueghels. Pity I am leaving in the morning but I suppose I had better move on. Paris & London will take time. I telegrammed Roley Pullen to ask him to get me some cheap accommodation – I am going in the Arlberg Express from Vienna to Paris – via Zurich. Leaves at 9.10 in the morning & arrives Paris 8am the next day. Fare is about £7-10.0 against £17.10 by plane – also I will see up to the Alps in daylight. I stayed with the Edgleys last night & tonight – they seem to be a very happy coupe with two nice little girls. The Viennese are wandering up and down the lake – Yesterday, Rob took me for a drive through the Vienna Woods.

I shall have to finish now as we are about to return to Vienna, and I want to post this letter before I leave in the morning. Lots of love my darling. Give Graham my love & a pat for Trellie. Tell him I liked receiving his letters. I hope he gets all the different stamps that are coming over. A big thing for you. XXXXX for all. Your old loving roue [?]

Bill

[Apparently Wep’s visit to Romania was cut short as the people in the Institute wanted to get him out before trouble over flowed in Hungary. Five days after leaving Romania, widespread revolt erupted in Hungary against the Soviet backed government leading to its fall from power. On November 4, the Soviets invaded, crushing the revolt, and by November 10, all resistance had ceased.]

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View from the Carpati Hotel overlooking Nicolae Titulescu, Orasul Stalin (Brasov); 14 October 1956
Primaria Brasov (Town Hall), Bulevardul Eroilor 8, Brasov, Romania; 14 October 1956 (Note the possible KGB agent in the light trenchcoat)
Looking southwest towards Biserica Catolica outside 28 Strada Muresenilor, Brasov, Romania; 14 October 1956
Piata Cuza Voda with the Catedrala Ortodoxa (Orthodox Cathedral) in the background, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Piata Cuza Voda with the Catedrala Ortodoxa (Orthodox Cathedral) in the background, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Piata Unirii, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Orthodox Cathedral, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Orthodox Cathedral, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Strada Regele Ferdinand 8, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Strada Regele Ferdinand 33, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Votivkirche (Votive Church) viewed from near Schottengasse 9, Vienna; 19 October 1956

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