Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 3-5 Nov; Paris – stuck in a Christian Dior parade

Sat 3-Nov-56:    Day at the Daily Express while Roley worked.
Sun 4-Nov-56:   Went to Embassy church & dinner on pig. Went to concert. Roley went to Vienna.
Mon 5-Nov-56: Weary, Odilon Roden exhibition, later to the Louvre – too dark to see the Rembrandts etc.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0081

Paris
Monday
5th Nov ‘56

My darling Dorothy,

I got a letter from you this morning dated 29th Oct. That is a week ago and you called me a big monster because I hadn’t said I hadn’t got a letter from your affectionate heart. Please forgive me if I have not mentioned the joy they gave me. I am sure I must have done so. To tell the truth, it is only since I got to the Paris address that I have been getting anything. I know it is not your fault. I had one letter in Romania. One you had written just after the beautiful letters I picked up at the Hotel Austria. So you will forgive me. I asked them to mail my Romanian mail to Paris – but nothing has arrived so I guess everything is just any old-how in the east. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the beautiful books they were to have forwarded. All the mail goes or did, through Hungary, so you can imagine that the chances of receiving anything at all are pretty hopeless.

Roley Pullen at his apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956

Roley has just been sent to Hungary, much against his wishes. However, he has arrived at Vienna as the border is about to be closed again – So I guess things may be alright for him. I took the liberty of getting him to put me on the phone to Robert Edgley & asking him to see what he could do for him in the way of local information, etc. I am leaving for London at 8am on Wednesday. I was to have gone on Friday but McNulty sent me a cable from New York to say that he will probably be there till the 18th. As I would like to see him, I thought I’d leave a little later for London & fly direct if I can. You have had a couple of pretty mad – but, I assure you, earnest letters from me. If anything in them has distressed you in any way put it down to tired and excited ramblings. I want you not to think I am lurching all over the city. I am not. There is a lot to do, and see, and perhaps I cannot cope with it all without an occasional savage outburst – Giving the theatre of the brain a flutter – if you understand – Not that I didn’t mean a word of my love making – but perhaps then it would have been more obscene – and not so beautifully obvious. Anyway I meant every word of it and you have to like it or lump it. Roley got me into a Christian Dior parade the other afternoon. I went alone & had to flash my passport to get in. Got stuck behind three rows of chairs & without a cigarette the two hours of so called parading became even more murderous than conceivable – because I couldn’t get out. All but one of the models looked like creatures from Buchenwald concentration camp. Pin stick limbs, but interesting faces. Very much like Nefertiti because the wizard profiles were capped by flat top haps like Romanian Astrakhan shepherd hats. All the winter clothes were finished off with these type of hat.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0083

I thought some of the winter type coats very nice. Quite your line. I understand your taste, but I haven’t got the money to risk a failure. I should like to have seen you, with your very forthright walk, modelling one or ten of them. The walk you wear when I first remember you running down the side of the pool at Dee Why the day you took off and sat on my costume, and took the little Dutch monster with you into the pool. Your little eyes were so purposeful and your behind wagged as if you were just about fifteen and it hadn’t sat on a hat or swimming pants or even a box of delights for twenty or thirty six years. I think it was on Feb the two-th of something. But it was a wonderful day, because I met you when you got off the bus and you were wagging it from work. I remember Christine saying you were a nice girl. But I had no idea that should agree so seriously with her. I thought she was right, but didn’t realise that I would be so convinced of it later. In fact I never thought then that I would be in love with you – I suppose I was, but wouldn’t admit it even to myself – because how could I, when I was, oh – well – you know, I loved Jess too. And it’s because I love you I can now say that. You understand now.

Bill Pidgeon (Wep) admiring Roley Pullen’s minitiature carousel at Roley’s appartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956

Roley has a musical merry-go-round that makes everybody who sees it want to cry because it is so wonderfully static & old world. And all the four figures who are seated on alternate donkeys and rabbits have their tails dropped off with age and the mange of neglect. With the inevitability of last year’s newsreels, the dear little clown clothed figures trace their fixed and inevitable course, centrifugally around the music of a tinkling and passé empire of France. They wear pantaloons & red velvet bows – cockades and pointed vermillion shoes. One of them, who wears a little peaked donkey hat with a feather in it is so like Graham, I could weep. Some of the horses they are not horse, but they had almost the privilege of being horses, are without tails and hooves. They are dusty, but are ennobled with age and affection. The base is ancient pink & contains the most sentimental music it is the pleasure of any cavalier to ride to. I have just wound it up. And all the figures go la-de-da-de-la in an inevitable circle with Graham, not the most elegantly dressed, riding on the only horse with a tail, in poised and delicate finality.

You know what the trouble with me is, I am not doing enough work. I’m building up & am near explosion point. The absorption rate is high & I guess, apart from the London galleries, I have seen almost every picture worthy seeing or which has been reproduced. The Louvre gives me the flaming horrors. I have been there four times without decently seeing a picture. It is so dismally dark. So is Paris this time of the year – Gives you the thing. Spent another quid having a look at Odilon Redon exhibition (plus catalogue) this morning. Only vaguely knew of him. Beautiful lovely work. So many of the masters are disappointing in the original. By and large, you could give me the early Italian and or Christian painters for my cup of tea.

This is becoming a long letter, my darling and is like my reactions to all external stimuli. I like getting letters from you but I would rather be home. I find the idea of spring hard to conceive. Really the weather here is the end! I’ve seen the sun twice. They tell me the grey of London is worse.

Please don’t expect much from me from London. I shall write only when I madly need you. Not that, that wouldn’t be every day I could make it. But I have had sending news reports, and would as soon be home. The winter 1956 timetable says my plane will get in at 7.20pm on Nov. 25. I do not want you to meet me. I would really much rather get a cab from the city and walk into my home with my people there. I do very really mean this. I would rather kiss you in Northwood than in Mascot or Sydney. I can take you both together in my arms at home. Please let me come home alone. I don’t want anyone else to help me see you all for the first time after all this much of the world. I don’t mind that vulgar Trellie being there. Will you please get this into your thick head? Also, please don’t write any letters I would miss. I can’t stand it. Save your affection up for my arrival. The letter I got today was dated Mon 29 Oct. That is a week’s delay. So don’t write anything I wouldn’t get by the 18th. I might have to go to Zurich by train. Anyway, I’ll let you know pronto. Seems very sad that the last letter I’ll get from you will just about answer this. Please tell me you love me. Tell Graham I’;; send a post card from London, or Calais, or Folkestone. Tell him I’ll only have about half an hour to nick up the Eiffel Tower. Tomorrow I’ll be awful busy. I love you, and miss you, my dear wife.

Bill

P.S. That letter from Orasul Stalin – Stefanie registered it – I didn’t tell her to – perhaps she had no faith in the post.

P.S.S. No man in his youth would be so dependent on a fickle – unpredictable woman – and what is more – shall not be! XXXXXXX

Margaret Murray at Roley Pullen’s apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956
Margaret Murray at Roley Pullen’s apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at Roley Pullen’s apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956

Wep's notes at the Christian Dior Fashion Parade, Paris, 1956 Wep's notes at the Christian Dior Fashion Parade, Paris, 1956

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 3 Nov; Lonely in Paris

Fri 2-Nov-56:      Louvre, bought chicken. Out with Jon Williams.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0078

Paris
Sat 2am
3 Nov ‘56

 

Darling Dorothy (I can’t build on that).

You cannot be more alone than when you have sat down in a strange city and you wake up and you don’t know where you are. But you still have to find your way out without maps, or anyone to help. What makes it worse is to come across a tram shed full of people who are asleep on the concrete floor & you leave 4 Francs for their grog in morning. I am, at last, up in front of a fire at 31 Quai des Saint Augustins. Give one the pip wouldn’t it? Please take no notice of my terrible state of thing. I am useless till I come home. I have had bloody Europe and all its stinking problems. Poor Roley has to go to Hungary – and a worse revolutionary correspondent you would go far to meet. He hates the idea – but I have introduced him over the phone to Robert Edgley, so perhaps he will not feel completely abandoned.

My very loved girl, I either write as I am or not write at all. I’m sick of gawking at bloody buildings. You can as far as I am concerned shove the whole lot up – for a gum tree. They say there are plenty of eucalyptus in the south of France and may be beautifully true – but since when do you pay £20 to look at a stick from the bush when you know that within 3 weeks you’d never get away from them again in your life? Don’t you dare be upset because I am writing in a screw ball mood. It is the time when I need you & wish so much for a few words. Even if they are all wrongly associated and you are perhaps disappointed. But I am not getting any screwier – or more alcoholic – just that I show it more to you. I think a little more of that slushy guff would be in order. Coming from you – I could take it. To tell the truth, I would like, very much, if I could get a letter on the 20 or 21st Nov asking me to get back to the rest tout suite. Nevertheless, I can assure you that I can get on without letters. (But not much!) (I have had many happy affections – many letters from you – since I have been at Roley’s place. It is the only really place I have had a letter.) You are a bloody dear little girl, and I am just beginning to be very greatly in love with you and even if any villainous opportunities arise I never can take them because my thinking of you and your loyalty makes my fred look like a very cold piece of Graham. And I mean that mug! You are my woman, & women! Trouble is, I keep thinking too keenly about it all & what’s more, I am really not kidding, when I say I’d like to be home. I hope you miss me as much as I miss you. I am fairly simple in my tastes. I hope it is warm enough, when I arrive, for you to be wearing a nice pair of scanties, or none at all! Bold, bad, boy! Don’t take much notice of me. Oh what hypocrisy. You indeed take a fred well[?] If the curse is on I don’t care one damn – And I know you are willing anyway. That lounge gives me the first thing – when out of the blue – you became, my wife.

Later –  This is a love letter and I am sending it to you because I love you and you have to take me as I come! I love you very much, indeed now, And don’t forget, to remind me, when I am your horrid friend, Bill XXXXX your husband man

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.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0057

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.]

My location
Get Directions

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

1956 Cultural Exchange Trip_00341956 Cultural Exchange Trip_00351956 Cultural Exchange Trip_00361956 Cultural Exchange Trip_0011