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 – 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!