Caravanning with Wep – Sat., 14th Aug 1937; Quiet times at Bylong Valley & Wondy Peak

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.

Caravanning with Wep – Sat., 7th Aug 1937; camped in Bylong Valley, trying to get water and provisions

Bylong - Caravan 21

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.

Caravanning with Wep – Thurs., 5th Aug 1937; Ginghi, Bylong Valley & adventures at the Telegraph Office

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.

Caravanning with Wep – Sunday, 17th July 1937, Skyring Creek, Qld., description of trip from Jindabyne, NSW to Queensland

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!

Caravanning with Wep – Monday, 21st June 1937, Time to leave Jindabyne

Monday 21st June

Vague stirrings for a return to home. A home which we haven’t got. Having made up our minds to depart at earliest convenience are experience the yearning to achieve the objective. Am missing that vague contentment one enjoys on possession of a settled spot from which all actions radiate and return centreing. Jindabyne has for 5 weeks now been our focal point and accepting such have been resigned. But now its drifting and our petty path will soon be circumscribing a new focal point with its attendant fresh enthusiasm.

If only this b— weather would clear up and grant me just a few more days of placid sunlit warmth I could finish those paintings and depart with well satisfied heart. So little I have accomplished, so little I have still to do. The rain is even now pattering above us, each drop a period halting the rhythm of my painting. I am appalled at the meagreness of my accomplishment. I am so mortally lazy, so dismally lacking in creative force, so blarsted impatient with my inability to achieve quickly, or what? Or just groping in the dark. How can I achieve anything when as yet I have no definite eye to the realities that exist. Or arte the realities I perceive so diverse as to stay my fumbly hand. Each painting I attempt has a different technique, as following upon the different essence of the scene I find before me. My outlook so utterly in confusion, so adolescent, so many faceted! God, but it makes me slow. But has its compensations in the sheer joy of perception of beauty, nature’s prodigality of loveliness which many eyes are untrained to see – and to humbly wonder at. This break of mine, even if it accomplishes in production of paintings, next to nothing shall, I think, have served to have smoothed my corrugated soul and mellowed my mind and outlook with a simpler truer vision than that tortured, jangled outlook with which I left the city. The whisperings of nature and the very silences themselves conspire to heal the mind and have allegiance and yet city-bred, I need the stimulus of heightened tempo. Of congenial and intellectual intercourse so rarely met with among those bound to the earth from whence their living is torn. The land seems so exacting, seems to absorb the luxuriances of mind as it does the rain, leaving but a dried intelligence, shedding the withered intellect.

Capitalistic strife seems remote and foreign intrigue and war the evil machinations of inhuman and predatory maddened beasts. Nature, as above good or evil, inculcates simplicity.

The even tenor of our way has been such as a week has flown smoothly past and nothing has happened neither has it been noted.

Have been to Kos. Twice. Tuesday & Sunday. Made our farewell appearance yesterday and were god-speeded by pa Speet. (Apparently well pleased with the prospect of the Pidgeons with family.)

From 2 till 5 skied without stopping. Gave up only when my legs began to jelly and had almost ploughed my head through a trunk. Douglas at top of hill had to attend to cold and miserable Freddie embroidered with the loviest crisp and auburn locks. Am still jerky in my movements and using only will power in my left handed christs with dire results. Tore my skis to bits. Poor old Dawn a model child – sat without complaint, in car until 10 o’c. Jess tells her to have a good look for she’ll never see it again.

Gloomy word ‘never’, threw me into despondency with visions of death, and shortening life. These sudden panics no amount of philosophising can over ride. Maybe it is the fear of not getting anything done, not fulfilling my life, when there is so much to be done.

Did caricatures of Teddie and Donnie Speet today. Johnny Weston returned on Sat. from 3 day trip after grass, of which he found none. Very sorry for himself. Doesn’t know whether to blame the fall he had off a horse or the gin he drank with Straw last week. I’d say the gin.

Gloomy day. Gloomy me.

Caravanning with Wep – Friday, 11th June 1937, near Jindabyne

11th June

Time passing most uneventfully i.e.superficially. Ah, but I forget. Tuesday acted the good (or not so good) housewife to my poor missus as she lay stricken upon her sick bed waiting for a blessed minor event. Did all the housework with almost feminine skill and busied myself greatly with this and that.

Wednesday the blessed event came off. Jess rose and is looking up.

Porridge now is the order of the day. Rolled oats, sticky like clay, appearance seems to guarantee constipation of the direst severity. I don’t know whether to really lay the blame there or elsewhere, but something’s happened and I was doing so well too! Damn near had filled the Snowy Valley. Went up to Kos. At 12:00 on the strength of dirty weather during Mon & Tues and was b—- well duped. Nearest slushy water snow at Daner’s. Drove car up and mucked about half heartedly. Anyway Dawnie enjoyed it. Returned to Hotel and took it out in front of fire. Afternoon tea in the lap of luxury. Local gossip supplied by Charlie Krist.  Returning were amazed by the extraordinarily vivid cloud colourings during sunset. Such slashing oranges! The Alps afford us an unique collection of skies, both in quality and quantity. Such linear patterns as one’s imagination would scarcely credit. Bold sweeping curves circling the whole of the heavens. Staight lined shafts slicing off great areas of massed colour. Sinuous rhythms, green vaulting heavens, driving lead mists only feet above, vapours from out the valley, snow capped peaks lost in straggling lines. Forms vortexing towards the earth, their heavy lines tracing the wind currents set in motion by the enormous masses of the hills, an eerie suggestion of upside down solid reality. And all ever changing rapidly, assuming new forms in the very moment the eye peers from shape to shape.

Friday occupied in practically finishing painting of leafless forest. The tortured rhythm of tree form having driven me unconsciously into semblance of Van Gogh technique: can’t see how else I could have done it. I don’t suppose it matters much.

Had yarn to Johnny Weston about the poverty of the soil up here, and was informed his old lady had snavelled the sketch I did of him kicking the calf & is having it framed. Quite a decent scout, not like his grouchy brother pub keeper “Straw”.

Big hop on tonight at the Hall. All the girls getting round today in Kirby grips & setting pins. Whoops!

Caravanning with Wep – Monday, 7th June 1937; Dawn playing at Daner’s Gap, dinner at Hotel Kosciusko & frustrating caricatures

7th June

(Our first wet day)

(Jess very crook – 3 days)

 Went up to Kos. Again yesterday the third time within the week. Visited there on the Thursday & afternoon tead & took Dawnie up to Daner’s Gap. How she revelled in the snow, belly deep and leg embracing. How she scooped and chewed & pranced & SNIFFED. Too bad I didn’t have the camera to get a picture of her eating the blooming stuff. Hear her clicking galloping down the road after me. Seemed to be nowhere but under the points of my skis. Turned much better. Snow, what there was of it, delightful, powdery over a frozen surface. Fool proof. Would run out of petrol 2 miles from home, and of course would leave the tinfull at the camp. OF COURSE!

Three of us tramped drearily in great boots soon to feel like leaden boots of divers. Tramp back. Two cars passed going the wrong way, OF COURSE! Got back after an hours walking. No darn wonder my legs are getting fatter. Friday, another lousy strip. Wednesday, much excitement, PAY DAY, Whoops!

Saturday gave the old girl up in the hills a neck and did feel most disconsolate at night. Sunday, Kos. Did ourselves regally and had dinner at the Hotel. Sat by fire and listened or appeared to listen to Miss Happ telling dirty jokes. God! What a boresome business that all is. Met Arthur Hill who gave me a lift up to Daner’s in his car. Three others. Lent myself to help photograph’s appearance. Crowd from Cooma up there. What a joke the old boy with his sons were. And how he skied like riding a horse and with the bottom of his pyjamas showing beneath the leg of his trousers. A riot. In an old lorry – Christeson or something Swedish like. All swarming on the slope like maggots over a corpse.

Teddy took me into the Speet Holy of Holies where photos were duly inspected. Will I ever forget that old man Speet in his days of early marriage. Ma-Teddy & Pa & someone else. Ma-in-la I suppose. But Pa’s mustachios! Better than anything ever seen in the pictures or in musical comedy. Gendarmerie style – a la Kaiser avec splayed out ends. Classics of their kind. A real loss to posterity that he didn’t clip them off holus-bolus and mount them under glass. I could dream about their rhythm, their poetry, their fire! And I’ll bet he thought he was a wow!

Pretty near wasted a whole day trying to paint Ernst Skadarasy. Having gone wrong on him before I sadly think I’ll never get it right. What evil genius prompts me to tell people I’ll do them a caricature. I never can. A curious form of self flagellation. Just a waste of time & paper to say nothing of the havoc wrought amongst nerves & temper. IDIOT!

Did my own butchery today. Butch has cut his hand.

Been drawing cows this week.

What crazy visions of a life time’s art in 6 months I’ve entertained. How much I thought I’d do and learn and how little I have accomplished. A couple of paltry paintings and a realization of the immensity of the task. A realization of how little can be done in a few weeks – of how short the days are in which to endeavour. And of how hard it is to be resigned, to realise that it all doesn’t matter and that the number of paintings is not so important at the moment as learning to see. The time I spend in seeing. At least I’m learning that. A groundwork, a new outlook, a basis upon which I can build when the tempo of the mind is not so agitated, wanting to do all things, knowing it lacks the time. And yet, I think I’m learning.

Caravanning with Wep – Tuesday, 1st June 1937; Jindabyne and the excitement of first snow fall.

Campsite covered in snow

1st June

Patience rewarded. A biting wind all yesterday. Later, drizzle the noise of which ceased about 8 o’clock and a quiet murmurous warmth pervades the air. Jess goes out into the night for something or other, yells excitedly “Snow”. Instant excitement replaces sleepy boredom of work-doing. The “W. Weekly” strip pushed brusquely aside while I goggle & stare at the fat and sloshy falling snow. Great wet flakes defy expectations by falling noiselessly instead of splodging plunklyly. We run out with the lantern dancing in the whiteness. The alive quietness broken only by the sharp hiss of melting flake against the lamp. A curious velvety warmth replaces the chillness of the day. The heavens cloak the naked earth. We hasten to sleep so as to wake wide eyed upon an accomplished fact. 5 o’clock comes but the snow has been replaced by rain washing off the clinging whiteness. By 6:30 2 inches of snow still covers the land & has within the hours changed all colour. The country is hardly recognisable. Trees and fences are etched sharply against the paper white. Bewildered cattle and sheep nose in the damp seeking the grass that is hidden now from view. Three weeks calves, damp hided and amazed, bawl lustily for their parent’s comfort.

Dawn surveys the morning scene

We try to ski round the confined & grade less vicinity of the caravan. Hopeless endeavour. Dawnie stands in the caravan desolate & shivering. It is beyond her cognisance. We inveigle her out. She scampers & slips and bites the points of our skis. My low feeling disperses and we decide on Kosciusko. An early feed of soup and away. Chains are needed along the road & much to my rising annoyance are too big and flap madly against the mud guards. After two attempts I more or less remedy the trouble and re-enter the car with half the road on my arms and face.

Did a spot of skiing up near the Koscy on a down trodden practice ground. Elsewhere unreliable snow crusted over dangerous softness. Afternoon tea & home to sausages and eggs. The sky surprisingly variegated against the paling whiteness of the snow, blue then salmon then orange, reverting again to blue. Livid clouds smear the horizon. Cold! Return to snow less caravan. Feels like a hearty frost tonight.

George Longmuir came out over the week end & a good time was had by all. Took him up to snow less Kosciusko. Boiled twice on the way. Ate hearty on mixed grill. Billy of milk floated leisurely downstream during our absence.

(Margin note: Carl & Red dressed in everything but the hotel eiderdown.)

Caravanning with Wep – Wednesday, 26th May 1937; Settling in at Jindabyne & scouting locations to paint.

 26th May.

Been here a week now. Liking it much better. Fine painting here. Could stay months. Have become acclimatised to the colour so to speak. Personally prefer the washed out hues to those multitudinous greens of Kurrajong. Went wrong over a painting of the River. Guess it’s not nearly what I wanted. Am getting along better with a sketch of a drab road, drab fence and drab rocks – and the persistent intense blue of the sky. Hope it turns out alright.

Paid a visit to Hotel Kosciusko & passed time of day with the Speets. Had afternoon tea of all things! Not a bit of blarsted snow within miles – which is a nice kettle of fish! Can even get to the Chalet per car! How horrible! But, by Heavens, I’ll get some skiing before we go – or else!

Brought firewood back with us. Dawnie got two pieces bless her little heart.

Pretty cold here the first few days but summered up beautifully over the week end when the Cooma crowd paid us a visit. Sunk quite a few empties with gun fire.

Unsuccessfully attempted to wade the river but saw a TROUT.

Knocked the b….. lamp on the floor and smashed it.  Smashed 2 mugs, all the glasses and 1 cup and 2 saucers and 1 plate.  So got rid of that damned Crown piece I was keeping for luck. Haven’t had any since we got it.

What a town!  Can’t get this, can’t get that! Half the time the butcher’s shut. You can’t get eggs, or vegetables. Live on dried peas, potatoes, pumpkin, and Swedes. Fruit 1½d a piece, tomatoes 10d lb! Beans happened once at 9d lb.

Get raffle tickets though for a fat sheep & supper cloth. But then what the heck’s the good of a fat sheep to me? As for getting milk! May as well ask for Manna! However found out at Koscy that could get milk over the road from where we are staying. At Johnny Weston’s. Simple. Just trudge a mile or so up hills, through a creek, etc. But get about ½ gallon for 6d. And drink the bloody lot!

Am getting quite blubbery. Have never seen a place with so many bones and gizzards splodged about. Huge belly bags full of grass, dismembered cattle feet, decapitated heads skin tripped and closed-eyed. Cow bones, sheep bones, skulls, hooves, horns, & bowels. And buckets of blood for the geese & things.  All garnished with the rusted up sided skeletons of two cars. A veritable Golgotha. Motherly cows attending two weeks calves. Poor Johnny, to keep his beef cows milk up to scratch bought 5 jerseys & all are lousy teated. Too this & too that. No can milk much.

Cold enough to freeze the —— off a brass monkey this morning. Be better off sleeping in a Frigidaire. And the make shift double bed would collapse – of course! And we shiver and shake at 4am fixing it. UGH!

Have morning tea with 1 lump of sugar and 2 lumps of milk. Everything in the caravan frozen. Ice in the billy & solid milk in the jug. The roof and windows inside hoary with frost. Nose, near frozen off. Kept the bald spot warm though, by cripes. Outside all was white as though snow covered. The edges & pools alongside the river iced over. Briars icy –stubbed. Dawnie frozen, shivers. Much action, excitement eating, drinking & yodelling from me.

But I’m dressing up to go to bed tonight. No more half-sleep from 2:30am onwards. Me for warmth even if I have to put the over coat, long underpants & skiing socks on.

Days are too short for work here. By the time I thaw out its 11 o’clock. Get in 2 hours & it’s lunch. Supplied with food until 2:30. Thence till sundown – 5 o’clock. & the wind gives us the works. Marrow-freezing. BR-R-R!

Went back to Weston’s today. Struck the best gloom spot yet. A dull raw day. An aged wood fence surrounds a tired grey sheep shed whose stone foundations drip tiredly away from buttered joists. Great gaps show desolate as a front toothless mouth. Close packed, winter wind tortured trees, long since bereft of life twist their melancholy limbs into shapes now sinuous, now harshly jagged, speaking both of living pain and aching death. Throughout the grey and blackened twig lacery crows craa harshly and incessantly and wing blackly against the liquid tear eyed sun.

Uplifting limbs protest their doom and the scavengers flap dismally through the dropping bones. Harsh and discordant they sing a requiem CRAA – CRAA – CRAA.

But beauty yet transcends their death and frames for us a pattern of their once proud vitality and rhythm. Their bones, patterned individually upon their life reveals them us and leaves a fading concretisation of a will to live.

A fine spot and the day to meet it, cold, blue, pregnant with negation & death.

Found a standing trunk 6’ high from out of which an incipient adolescent human form spring. I returned with axe & chisel and with endeavour to help it escape the bonds of surplus wood. This place of frozen souls. Reincarnations. Every tree a mirror of some human soul. No dead place this but a spot full of hope – full of supplication for release. Ground tied awaiting the artist to seek their inner being, their essential themselves, and free them of their own redundancies. The life that’s in those bones! I have found a temple.

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)

Ethel

Myrtle  Dorothy

Pat         Geoff

Doug     Mickey

Joe         Bill Walk

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