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
9 Nov ‘56
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.
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.
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.
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