While this train is slowing down I will explain that it is impossible to write legibly when it is going full bat. It rocks around worse than a Northwood Bus so do your best to decipher it all.
The Rhine! Not so impressive as one would want – give away history and its accompanying romance, leave away the towns, and you have only a moderate river finding its own way to its level. But who can leave aside its Romance. That is the Rhine, surely. Not the great bombed out areas for the really dreary German grey flats & dwellings. The inevitable bare trees – ghosts of the past sit by the edge with their feet in the continuity of time. What’s wrong with the Germans! They look docile enough, but some mad concept is behind their being. Gas chambers, mass destruction – Valkyrie & the rest. It is all there – seemingly invisible, but I am sure just waiting for another prototype to emerge.
Here I fall to sleep.
Sweet dreams my sweet one.
Later still on the Rhineland
You ought to think yourself something quite out of the box! Who else gets their man never to rest without worrying about having his missus near him – or wanting her to be as well off as he? I know you are an old dragon, a nagging wretch, a frigid image, a frustrated schoolmarm – but still unique & quite out of the box in all categories. In short, for the practically last time – I am telling the European air – you have a man who loves you – take him as he is.
Still later. It’s dark now, and I have just finished dinner or supper (pork chop & 1/2 bottle very good light claret – midday – had steak & mushrooms & chicken soup & by mistake 1/2 bt. white wine which was very good too. Today, I am eating just what I want & its good for me morally – but not financially.
Outside the rails are slippery wet now & the puddles on the station floor are put like pools of remembrance. I am at Offenbach – and it all gives me a feeling of the Man Who Watched the Trains Go By. There is a more definite feeling of going somewhere into an unknown future when you are on a train & it is dark & wet and you never can tell what will eventuate – like getting into an underground railway system & coming up for air with a completely foreign & new born vision. The sheer immediacy of never having seen moving life in its place – its actually suddenly confronting you as you walk out of the subway is an extraordinary & unique experience. One that I would like to share with you because you would depend on me to know where & why and what – and you could look freely because you know that somehow I would find you your place in that little part of the world and that I would try and look after you. I am writing this better because I am at the eating table – am more comfortable. I might even have some more claret because I feel sentimental – but hope I do not sound too disgustingly so. I need your faith – it is a great help.
Not long ago we passed nearby to Heidelberg. Romantic eh? The Rhineland & its vineyards – but the dull dreary German houses, stodgy – grey – box like & inevitably the same. But the name – and the evocative images (which are always wrong & phoney) – Listen London – Harwick – Hook of Holland – Rotterdam – Kaldenkirchen – Köln – Coblenz – Mainz – Carlsruhe – Baden oos – Freiburg – come off like a string of pearls don’t they? Or a length of Heinz Spaghetti? My darling, I would like you to be with me. Perhaps you would have had greater pleasure than I out of seeing & sensing the different ways of man. I know, fundamentally in my heart that I don’t set a great deal of store on this sightseeing – that everything is really where it is right under your own nose – as it is for the people of Mainz or Brashov – Venizia or Paris – or Brompton & from that matter, Paddington where I first learnt the glories of the visible world. When I used to sit at the top floor bedroom window & watch the sun die in glory over the roofs of the tenements that frinhed the Brougham Rd near the Cross. When the narrow alleys were full of winter smoke from the fireplaces of the poor. And the gas lamp man would round his already completed task of illuminating a tiny corner of the streets. And what of the bamboos, so tall and strong enough for a doyen of monkeys, singing with locusts, & ablaze with the gold & blue of the Christmas & Blue Monday beetles. Yeah? I don’t suppose anything has ever really penetrated me since I was small and in a constant state of wonder. In the castor oil trees, on the fences, smoking bamboo stalks, burrowing tunnels in the school yard banks & reading goggle-eyed the naughty words in the latrines.
Please don’t think I have retrogressed to a second childhood. It is so dark & the train jigs too much for me to read. I find a relief in exploding myself on paper – I have done so little work – none at all – since I left home. I am bottled up & probably need your warm clutch on my creature member.
This really is going too far. If I keep this up, letters will be coming in for a month or two after I get home.
God, when you look out of the window see cars & houses, you wonder how anyone could settle down so far away from Northwood Rd. But I guess it all depends on what is home – your family, I think is home.
I have been thrown out the Spiesenkarten car because the Swiss Customs men are due aboard. I am back now in the rickety carriage with my sole & worldly European possessions.
I look forward to loving you both with spirit and flesh. I don’t think we make a bad pair together.
I can’t write this too well, the train is jiggling around quite a bit. At the moment we are traveling alongside a mountain stream, with great sharp rocky peaks on either side. There is no snow about but all the trees, save the pines, are in many shades from light yellow to red. Really – very colourful & dramatic. I am drinking a bottle of beer & have just finished two very indifferent frankfurts & a roll. Looks like my last food till I get to France. I shall spend my last money – 20 or so Austrian schillings – about 3/6 on beer – it will make me happier to be without food. I have French francs but can’t do much with them here. Just imagine – we have just passed below a castle perched high up on a great 200-300 ft high rock. How they get there – or built it I don’t know. It is quite warm and the sun is streaming in the carriage window. The beer is making me sleepy and I am missing the scenery. I think my darling, I had better continue this letter tonight when there is nothing to see. We still have 18 hours to go.
My Darling girl – We are just pulling into Basle (or Basel) on the northern corner of Switzerland – it is the border of France & Germany I think. It is midnight and I am missing you like mad. It seems like the near full moon which accompanies us has had many trips since I left Mascot. I do hope you are both alright. Am pretty tired now and would like to be actively in your arms. Then deep sleep – A great curse! I had this compartment to myself for ¼ hour. With doors open & heater off. Now in comes a bloody French couple with a child & shut the door. These flaming Europeans can’t stand a bit of air. Give you the hump – However, I’ll go to sleep and rise above the sordid problems. I’ll tell you about the trip when I get alone in my room. Incidentally, this express is driven by electric motor – from overhead wires – all the way from Vienna to Zurich. Just had my passport stamped by the French control officers. Child now blowing horrible raspberries – in French I presume. May as well give it away. Good night dearest. I know my intimate feelings will be too stale for immediate benefit for either of us, by the time you get this letter. But despair not – they, Phoenix-like, are being continually re-vitalized. I get very loving towards you both when I think of the letters I collected from the Hotel Austria. Selfishly, I loved them. Does the solitary soul good to feel that it is needed somewhere. You are my own dear people. I suppose this parting helps in some way, to make for closer union – for love and dependency from us all. At last we are off again. Paris! Have I come!
Tuesday [23 Oct 1956] 7.15am. We are only about ¾ hour outside of Paris and a heavy fog practically obscures any vision of the countryside. Had a pretty good night – the French couple must have got out shortly after we left Basle – I was alone from there on. I think I will stay in Paris till the 2nd of November then go on to London for a week & a couple of days. I’ll have to leave London by the 19th November to get to Zurich where I get my plane on the 21st. So any letters you may send after you get this should be sent to Clarrie McNulty, London – get address from Eleanore [Watson]. It is Consolidated Press something or other, Fleet St.
5pm. Am at last resting in Roley Pullen’s flat after a very trying morning. He received your letter in this morning’s mail. That’s very good going, my darling. I had no expectation that I would get a reply to my phone call only 5 days after I made it. Thanks a lot dearest. I arrived in Paris at 8.50am & no familiar faces to behold. I got a taxi to the address I had of Roley’s – No one had heard of him. More than a little dismayed I staggered with the weight of luggage into a nearby coffee shop where I had hopes of mapping out an attack on the city. Could find nothing in the phone book but an entry for Agence Francaise de Press. Hoping to find some clue from the address listed, I began a back breaking search for a bookshop where I could get a map of Paris. Miraculously, I noticed an Agence Francaise name over a doorway. It wasn’t the address but I asked & finally found an English speaking girl who gave me an address of Australian Associated Newspaper Service. I lugged the cases about a mile (with the aid of an uninformative map) till I came to the address. This was an hotel. I could have wept. Anyway, I went in & somehow or other whilst asking if they knew anything about any Press service in the vicinity a girl’s name who is the representative was mentioned & they said she lived there but was out & not back till 1 o’clock. I left a pitiful note & said I would return & would they mind if I left my big case there for the hour & half. Then wandered up the hill towards Montmartre. Came back – girl gone – but note with Roley’s address and Phone no. They told me where it was & how to get there by underground. I got the train (about 6 stations) & when I got out realised I didn’t have the number of the house. Couldn’t ring either. Got train back – retrieved note – and as it was nearly 2 o’clock asked hotel to ring for me. Luckily I got him & hence here I am – buggered but unbowed. He has a fine view of the Seine & Notre Dame. His rooms directly overlook the river. And just opposite is the Palais de Justice & behind it, the Louvre. He is being very kind to me – wouldn’t think of me going to a hotel. (Naturally with my wrong address – he didn’t get the telegram). But was not quite so surprised to hear me on the phone, as he had received your letter. He is working now – so I am writing this to keep out of his way. Paris seems to be a huge place, and very beautiful. I’ll get up early & start my dutiful tour then. Couldn’t dream of it now.
Lots of love darling – I hope Graham’s got some new pieces for me to hear. Ask Graham to give Trellie [Corgi dog] a man’s hug for me and for himself 2 heavy handshakes – bye – bye – Bill