Sat 17-Nov-56: Went Portobello Market with Rex & Thea Reinits. Later looked unsuccessfully for Arthur Horner. Went to Victoria & Albert Museum, early night.
Sun 18-Nov-56: Went to Petticoat Lane in morning & to Hampton Court Palace in afternoon. Early night.
Sat 17 Nov 56
My darling small one,
I got a nice warm letter from you this morning while I was in my jolly mood. You very wisely told me to pull my head in-a fine and dandy precept which I hope to adhere to, if possible. For my head hangs out a heck of a long way in the evening-when I’m usually just about “thinged” so perhaps I shall go to bed earlier and get my letter writing done before the birds get up. It’s only a quarter to seven now and it’s been dark for hours not that there has been any light to speak of all flaming day. At 10 a.m. all the fantastic neon advertisements in Piccadilly Circus were going full blast. I went from there down to get your letter and travel by tube up to Notting Hill Gate station where I met the Reinits and we groped our way down to Portobello Road. At noon all the stalls in the streets had lamps and electricity lights going in some small endeavour to brighten up the filmy fog which darkly leaks into every nook and cranny of the town. If the city had been flooded to a depth of 50 feet of dirty soapy water, one could see through it all is well, and would find this fog scarcely less palpable to the touch. Beer is a fascinating diversity of stuff for sale, in the shops lining the road, and on the barrows which are to be found all along the footpaths. There are a great number of fruit barrows, flower stalls and a few cloth offerings. But what everybody seems to go down to pick over is the antique stalls.
9 p.m. Have been up to Lyons to have two cups of tea and a walk in the fresh (sic) air.
Old English and Bohemian glassware, Georgian solid silver, all kinds of brass and copper ware, rings, medallions, cameos, necklaces, lockets, gramophone records, revolvers, turkey sandwiches and Nescafe, in different Indian brasses, punch ladles, carriage lamps, old prints and pictures-fine stuff the dealers know the value of-and real junk, all flowing out of a seemingly endless cornucopia-where it all comes from-God only knows. Saw a fine set of brass poker, tongs and shovel for only 35/-. Rex Reinits snooping round for old English glasses, which he makes a thing of buying. All the activity taking place behind unreal filmy gauze of missed-a pale grey photograph pierced with holes of electric light. Fifty yards away the silhouetted moving shadows. Strange, as I recollect it, sound has disappeared-perhaps there wasn’t any-swallowed up by the fog. All very odd and engaging for a while-tending to become wearing as it continues. From there I caught a bus to Kensington and looked up an address Hotty [Lahm] had given me of an old artist cobber of the boys. Hotty’s book is sadly out of date-the Arthur Horners had been gone the last two years-as Roley’s [Pullen] address in Hotty’s collection was about 4 years old. However, I walked from there to the Victoria and Albert Museum-which has the most superb collection of fine and applied art. As usual, the quantity of exhibits is too great for short-term inspection. These items are all specialists pieces gathered and looted, from all over the world. Beautiful alters, religious carvings-church ornamentation, stained glass, wonderful furniture-the opulence of some of the exhibits is breathtaking. In the Chinese section was a Kuan-yin [Guanyin] very much like that housed in the Melbourne Gallery [National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)] but not so well displayed in the same attitude of Royal ease. A very beautiful and serene work. Many of the Gothic things had too, something of this serenity. A great deal of it spoilt by bloody noisy people and young louts. Weekend gallery sightseeing is not to be recommended for the tired and edgy.
This city is vast beyond our Australian conception. The shops and streets are never ending-you can go round and round in circles and still be always amazed at the new things you have missed. Their galleries are the same-corridors and halls without number. You seem to go on endlessly seeing something fresh. I walked from here across Oxford Street through Mayfair i.e. Grosvenor Square, where the American Embassy is surrounded by dignified 18th century houses-on the way to Berkeley Square was vastly intrigued by the sight of a bell topered commissionaire in ankle length fawn double-breasted 18th-century coat, stolidly sweeping the beastly dirt away from the front steps of the Connaught Hotel. What a place this is for traditional uniforms!
“Good night, sweet Prince and Princess, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”.
Sunday 7 p.m. [18 Nov 1956]
Am settled down again for the night, to a well regulated evening of sinful cigarette smoking, letter writing, and waiting for tomorrow. Today was almost a repetition of yesterday’s behaviour pattern. Got myself down to Petticoat Lane, which is not very far from the Bank of England. The financial centre leads directly into the pretty squalid area of Aldgate-(you could compare it a bit with Newtown). This Petticoat Lane may be quite world-famous-mostly I should imagine, because of the wonderful cockney spiel that accompanies all the ardent sales advances that assaults you from every direction. I found it lacking the charm and line of the Portobello Road market. Everything in this area this morning seemed unspeakably tawdry and commonplace. I doubt whether there really was anything worthwhile on display all the dozens upon dozens of stalls. That years, if you except the “jellied eel and winkles,” emporiums of canvas and wood. And the shocking shyster who was selling a three card trick at 2/6 the packet. But such was his act-he had the crowd with him one dumbfounded and slightly aggressive type in the crowd kept questioning him and demanding to know what had happened to the King in the cards he’d bought. One more mix with the cards and the King appears again. It’d take too long to detail this-it’s not very interesting anyway-what was amusing though was that when I passed them again about an hour later-the same turn was being put on between these two. The bunny part of the act of salesmanship I suppose he was. And this circuitous way many of these Jew cockneys organise a sort of competitive sale for the most awful collection of junk. It was quite beyond me but apparently most popular with the sightseeing mob. Thousands clutter up the two or three streets which really comprise this area and you literally can’t move at times. It’s the machine gun like patter-bawdy-course (bloody this, bloody that) and at times really funny-that, I think is what stacks them in. You have some idea of how these boys can talk, when you conceive a community of stall holders, every second one of whom is like (only bawdy) [Joe (Joseph Sandow)] the gadget man from Nock and Kirbys.
After a crumby lunch (one can’t afford at this stage in the game a decent meal), I took myself off on a long series of 3 buses, way out along the Thames to Hampton Court Palace, which was originally built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and later taken over by Henry the Eighth in 1529.
The old wretch had here as Queens, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. (Pardon me if I seem to be having considerable penned trouble.) Later the Tudor half of this Palace was added to by a whacking great design by Sir Christopher Wren to the order of William and Mary. This was in 1688. This section does not follow the Tudor pattern and is more classical in-line. This part houses the State Apartments which are now open for inspection. No royalty has lived there since 1760 when George II died. The London transport handbook quotes it as “England’s most beautiful and most interesting Royal Palace”. And I believe that may well be. Each section has its own particular grace and the two are harmonised by the use of warm and homely red brickwork will stop it looked very lovely with the blue net of fog softening the contrasts and giving a slight touch of unreality to the whole. Surrounded by beautiful gardens-French and Italian sunken pools-the bare trees disappearing in rows into the final all-embracing curtain of mist. A few great black trunks, still with gold and russet leaves, punctuated artistically with sombre cypresses, and a few avenues of dark and weighty evergreens. Birds too, which seemed to be a change. It was an interesting run out there. Contrasting completely with the mornings crushing monotony of industrial habitations. After leaving a place named Roehampton, which is like a village on the end of the string from London, one goes through the edge of a natural parkland through an area of well-to-do large homes with beautiful gardens-like Pacific Highway, Gordon, Killara, etc. Only more park like.
All of which is very dully told-has effervescent as is room I sit in. If I could find someone to join me I’d get half sprung and talk to you with abandonment and roguery. You will just have to put up with my abiding but unspectacular passion for the next week-and even perhaps until I get home and lift the lid right off the pot. Don’t tell me now that old the arriving at the wrong time. I won’t have it-or will I? Anyway, lots of sweet thoughts, and very very real love for you, my darling darling girl. Another bloody fortnight to go. Although I won’t notice it after Monday when I shall be on the move. I love you Dorothy.