“Wep Goes Over the Top”

Wep Goes Over the Top - The Sun 27 Aug 1933 p28
The Sunday Sun and Guardian, Sunday 27 August 1933, page 28

Wep Goes Over the Top

Wep is married. To the un-initiated let it be said that Wep is one of Sy d n e y’ s brilliant young artists of the most modern school, and on Thursday he took unto himself a Mrs. William Edwin Pidgeon, for that is Wep’s real name. The bride, was Miss Jessie Graham, only child of Mr. and Mrs. Ceorge O. [sic – A.] Graham, of Brighton, while Wep is the youngest son of Mrs. Thirza Pidgeon and the late Frederick Pidgeon. The ceremony was performed quietly at St. Stephen’s Church, by the Rev. R. McCowan, the bride wearing a dainty frock of pink angel’s skin, and she added a white hat. Her father gave her away. A reception lunch was held at Farmer’s, after which Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Pidgeon left by car for Kosciusko for a fortnight’s honeymoon.

1933 ‘Wep Goes Over the Top’, The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), 27 August, p. 28. , viewed 20 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231434950

 

St. Stephen's Church, Phillip Street, Sydney. The church was demolished just after Wep's wedding to make way for the Martin Place extension and a new church built in Macquarie St. [Photo - Sydney Architecture Images- "Gone but not forgotten", St Stephen's Church, http://sydneyarchitecture.com/GON/GON126.htm, viewed 20 Aug 2016]
St. Stephen’s Church, Phillip Street, Sydney. The church was demolished just after Wep’s wedding to make way for the Martin Place extension and a new church built in Macquarie St. [Photo – Sydney Architecture Images- “Gone but not forgotten”, St Stephen’s Church, http://sydneyarchitecture.com/GON/GON126.htm, viewed 20 Aug 2016]
Each motor-vehicle for which a registration certificate is taken out in New South Wales from the beginning of December will be required to carry a visible registration label on the windscreen, or, if a windscreen is not fitted, in an approved container. The label will indicate the date to which the vehicle has been registered, so that after the first 12 months of the plan any vehicle not registered will be readily detected. The plan is similar to that already in operation in Victoria. 1932 'Motors and Motoring.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), 22 November, p. 11, viewed 21 August, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4510135 Registration could be paid quarterly with new labels issued explaining why the Chrysler had differing registration months 1932 'Motor Registration Fees.', Singleton Argus (NSW : 1880 - 1954) , 30 November, p. 2, viewed 21 August, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83438816
Bill and Jess set off for a fortnight’s honeymoon at Mt. Kosciusko in Wep’s Chrysler Roadster; 24 Aug 1933
Jessie Pidgeon with Best Man, Geoff Turton (aka Petrov) and his wife Mollie seeing Bill and Jess off on their honeymoon at Kosciusko, 24 Aug 1933.
Jessie Pidgeon with Best Man, Geoff Turton (aka Petrov) and his wife Mollie seeing Bill and Jess off on their honeymoon at Kosciusko, 24 Aug 1933.

Kosciusko – August 1935: Snowed in

Wep's Chrysler 75 Roadster at Rennox Gap

TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE.

Members of the Millions Club party to Kosciusko had a terrifying experience on Saturday morning when they had to abandon their cars and walk through a blinding snowstorm to the hotel. Their cars laden with luggage are now practically buried by the roadside with snow piled up on either side. One of them is covered with a foot or more of snow.

A blizzard is raging around the hotel and the manager (Mr. Speet) stated last night that the conditions are worse than any he had experienced during the past 17 years. A large party of holiday makers who were to have returned to Sydney yesterday are still in the hotel and it is now unlikely that they will reach Sydney before to-morrow.

On the way to Hotel Kosciusko
The convoy from Cooma trapped at Rennox Gap

The Millions Club party left Cooma in the morning for Kosciusko and when the service cars reached Rennox Gap the foremost car broke down. The driver had been warned against attempting the ascent. The snow plough from the hotel, which was immediately behind the car also broke down after attempting to clear the road. Heavy snow was falling at the time and a bitterly cold wind was blowing through the gap.

Some of the cars behind were held up and could neither proceed nor turn back. The passengers, who numbered 115, were told that they were only about a mile and a half from the hotel and about 85 of them set out for the shelter. The other 30 turned back and were driven down to the Creel.

Many of the holiday-makers were dressed in clothing utterly unsuitable for the prevailing conditions and they staggered blindly against the driving snow that was whipped into their faces by the wind. Women with silk stockings and light leather shoes suffered intensely and staggered through snow that covered the road to a depth of two and three feet.

Experienced skiers went ahead and warned the hotel management of the accident. A horse sledge, laden with shoes, skis, rugs and food, was rapidly despatched to the scene and scores of holiday-makers at the hotel left to render assistance.

Many members of the party made for a workman’s hut, where a fire was lit and where they waited for assistance. The others trudged through the clinging snow, keeping together in small parties, bending down to escape the win’s fury and the blinding snow that clung to their faces and covered their shoulders with particles that rapidly turned to ice.

Several women were badly affected by the conditions, and the sledge picked up the most exhausted and carried them on to the hotel.

It was late in the afternoon before the last of the visiting party reached their destination. One woman, who was lightly clad, was badly affected but she quickly responded to treatment. Another, a boy, was frostbitten slightly, and throughout the arduous journey other members rubbed his hands to restore circulation.

Owing to the rigorous conditions it was impossible for people who had been staying at the hotel, and who were to have returned yesterday, to attempt the journey to Cooma, and it is unlikely that any one will be per- mitted to leave to-day.

KOSCIUSKO VISITORS

The Hotel Kosciusko is crowded to capacity as a result of the blizzards which have been sweeping the district since last Thursday. The picture theatre has been turned into a dormitory, and all the lounges and the manager’s private office, are being used as bedrooms.

The luggage of the majority of the Millions Club party members is still on the service cars, and will probably not be rescued until to-day. In the meantime they are being assisted by other residents at the hotel.

All efforts to dig the seven stranded cars from the drift that now encompasses them have failed. Throughout Saturday night three men worked assiduously digging out the snow plough. They cleared it ultimately, but the machine broke down again and as a result of the intense cold, they were forced to abandon their attempt.

The manager of the hotel, Mr Speet, stated last night that never before at Kosciusko had he experienced such conditions. The wind raged about the hotel throughout the week- end at a velocity approaching 70 miles an hour. The road was covered in places with five feet of snow, and until the snow plough was working again the hotel would be cut off from Cooma. The Chalet was entirely covered. At the present time there is a total number of 289 people accommodated at the hotel, Betts Camp and the Chalet.

Yesterday afternoon, Arthur Hill, a member of the Millions Club party, broke one of his legs when his skis crossed while he was coming down the Grand Slam.

 

Jess at the snow covered Kosciusko Chalet
Snow covers the Kosciusko Chalet

REFERENCE

1935 ‘TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 5 August, p. 9, viewed 19 August, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17180149

Kosciusko – August 1932: “Never to my dying day will I forget the skies of the Southern Alps.”

Kosciusko – August 1932

One who has never visited the snow country can have no conception of its solemn beauty.

We leave Cooma in a crowded growling bus, chattering its way over hills and plains, brown as if painted by Rembrandt. Granite rocks dropped in clusters of tombstones squat on the surface of the earth, and great, dark, obsequious trees, like shrouded mourners round the graves. Wind-swept desolation. Our driver says it was once desert country. Scurrying wastes of sand, now tethered by tender roots of grass on which the dunnish sheep browse and merge intermittently with the still cairns. Miles of granite hewed into smooth masses by the powerful hand of the wind, blowing even now.

We reach Berridale, a shy village hidden behind huge rows of gaunt poplars. English trees, naked before the tourists, elms, oaks, beeches. A squat hotel, boasting a 6 x 4 bar wherein one has a thimble of lager for 6d and listens to those great tuning forks, the poplars, shaking in the wind.

Jindabyne, the Snowy River, what romance in the name, mustangs, ringing hoofs, leaping trout – Picturesque, we grant, but the Man from Snowy River lies full length on a bench in the sun, behind him, behind him the white-washed wall of the hotel gleams yellow. A dog lazily scratches fleas. The store, the garage with its mechanical broncho, the blacksmith’s shop, all sprawl lazily like cats too warm to move. His Majesty’s post-office sadly supports its leaning frame on a gentle rise. Slinking in and out between lucky-stones and fresh dark trees the Snowy indifferently finds the sea.

Eight miles we climb, a rising crescendo of grinding gears, relieved by staccato twitterings as we see patches of snow alongside the road, carelessly flung there by the gods. An Olympian paper-chase leading to our goal.

Gears still grind their music, changing at last to a treble and a squeal from the playing brakes. We top the hill and the hotel appears stuck on a quilt of snow. Snow covers the valley and Colin [Wills] and I goo with delight, our eyes popping.

The eight buses pull up and disgorge their passengers into the slush. 260 feet drag mud into the vestibule. We get our rooms, eat, go to the ballroom where the expert tells us how to ski, and how to fall. We are fitted to the skis and trust to them for our safe-keeping. Ill founded trust! They behave like rutting females, dashing hither and thither. We pick our flanks off the snow and half an hour later are asserting masculine powers over the skis.

Snow begins to fall. Feathery foolish stuff, too light to land. Overnight it continues. On Sunday morning it drives into our faces with a bleak blasting howl. My ears feel as they have been chewed beyond pain. They are icy cold and slimy. Jess’s eyebrows and eyelashes support icicles, a handkerchief half out of my pocket is frozen stiff. Colin falls and rolls in the snow, his face rises white and laughing out of a drift. The hairs on my moustache are ice-coated. Our clothes carry a thin layer of frozen-hard snow, which cracks in the folds of the cloth. We are tremendously warm and happy, we fall, we trip, and sprawl, the snow is accommodatingly soft and as glorious to muzzle into as a woman’s breast. We laugh and yodel. Ha-e-e-e! It is easy to ski; the snow is soft, thick and slow. Perfect snow sent to us. We thank the Lord.

Snow fell throughout the day, 6 inches of marvellous clinging purity.

Monday dawned a cloudless day. We experienced fine weather for the rest of the week.

The sky was fit to worship. Never was sky so transparent, nor colour so pure. The far distant mountains are lines with a needle point against the sky. Atmosphere as experienced in the Blue Mountains is unknown. Miles and miles of etched clarity backed by a heaven of marvellous amethyst, now turquoise, now an infinite blue. One wants to be enveloped in the glorious glaring nothing. Never to my dying day will I forget the skies of the Southern Alps. The finest days in the country elsewhere cannot emulate such masterpieces. As we know them the heaven’s colours are neutralised by dust, destroying the limpid purity. There, no dust trammels the scene and the snow reflects the brilliancy of the sun back into the heavens creating a magic dome of unpaintable magnificence.

Forgive the rhapsody, for such beauty is well nigh breath taking. The country is by far more fascinating than the sport it has to offer.

The winds are clean and crisp, filling one’s lungs with superabundant energy and delicious life.

We breast a hill; we are on the Plains of Heaven, God what a view! A blast sweeps off the Main Range forcing our lungs to capacity; we could tear a horse in two.

We turn and descend, gather speed, faster, faster, plonk! We unravel the tangle of skis and limbs. Gurgle with glee.

Would that I had the style of a Stevenson or other to tell of the beauties of leafless trees reaching their stringy fingers to the sky. Fingers clawing, supplicating, for the life that was once theirs and is now gone forever. The scene is Buddha-like in its indifferent serenity, a very god; compelling worship.

I would go alone to these places, Dainer’s Gap and the Plains of Heaven and stand seeking to imbibe the essence of such beauty, to become omniscient and humble, to identify myself with the calm life around, and could only murmur “oh, god.”

Jess and I left for the Chalet on Monday Aug. 22 passing through Dainer’s Gap, Smiggins Holes, Piper’s Gap, Piper’s Plain, about 4 miles of it! The Perishers Gap, the Perisher Plain, about 2 miles to Bett’s Camp arriving at 2.30pm.

This camp was once an accommodation house before the chalet was built, and is now used merely as an emergency hut. It was disgustingly dirty, the beds, a tangled mass of sheets and blankets, jam and butter splodged about the tables, the lavatory chock-a-bloc, and the entrance and bathroom full of snow. The previous Saturday Aug 13, a party were trapped by a blizzard and stayed at Bett’s overnight.

The Chalet is about 23 miles further on. A roaring gale began to blow as we left Bett’s. Across the plain 3 of our party were blown to the ground. At each gust of wind we stood stock still, huddled like horses in blasts of rain. Clouds were racing over Mt. Guthrie licking its summit as they dashed north. We would stop and look, oft times being blown backwards on our skis. Huge black brutes edged with blazing light, fifty miles an hour or more, casting great ugly bruises of shadow across our track through the valley. The Chalet seemed to be on wheels, receding at each step we took. All were just about done in. With feeble hurrahs our skis were undone and we slumped into the dining room at 3.30pm to polish off promptly a bottle of beer each. What if it was 2/6 per! We made a slow trip, 5½ hours but the snow was soft and there was not one run downhill.

The storm brought up hail and sleet. Tuesday saw us kept indoors, fog being so thick as to limit visibility to 5 yards. Unfortunately we had to return the next day, money being scarce.

6.15am Wednesday I was up and climbed Mt. Stilwell which is just behind the Chalet. I took the camera with me to get photos of the Main Range but the clouds were very low and covered everything.

Dawn broke while I was perched on the mountain, and filled the misty valley with a vast veil of light. Mt. Guthrie showed up dimly behind the gossamer on one side, on the other Mt. Twynam squatted with its head wrapped in cotton wool clouds. It was well worth the early rising to see white shining plains and white mountains shrouded in luminous mist, and I dare say I was the highest human in Australia at that hour. A most icy wind blew incessantly from the direction of Mt. Kosciusko, numbing hands to a painful degree, most discomforting when my gloves were off.

The trees were poor stunted shrubs caked with ice blown hard in ridges on the edges of the twigs. These last of trees appear like growths of coral behind which extend long lines of wind swept snow, perfectly streamlined.

Underfoot the snow crunched, packed hard by eternal wind, the sleet had frozen into a solid gravel surface holding here and there patches of soft dust snow fallen overnight. I made my way back and had breakfast. We left for the hotel at 10am. Ruc sac containing the necessities of luggage for Jess and I weighing down my back. The snow across the plain from the chalet was icy and jagged, scraping off in no time all the wax which had been melted on to the bottoms of our skis. Two miles of slithering and scraping, occasionally on foot, for the skis would not hold on the glistening surface, to arrive at Bett’s Camp. More intolerably hard plains to the Perisher Gap, where snow covered mountains glistened in the sunlight – so many huge iced cakes. The icing gathered in rolls, sooth and shiny. Across Spencer’s plain it looks but few steps, but we cover 4 miles before it is behind.

Midday now and excessively hot. The snow is thawing and is soft and slushy. We have to push ourselves down hills, sometimes striking a hard patch over which we shoot at increased speed to pull up dead on more slush – an over! More miles and terrific glare. Sun glasses are donned and with bent heads we struggle across Smiggins Plain to the foot of a climb to Dainer’s Gap. I am just about done-in, the pack feels like a piano, I am dizzy with glare and fatigue, but the bus leaves within an hour and we still have 2½ miles to go.

Jess is in front pace making. I curse and wish I hadn’t climbed round the mountains before breakfast. Twice, no three times, I fall over, while going up hill, too tired to keep my skis apart. I curse Jess for being ahead and with horrible, spiteful effort pass her. I feel like lying down and ignoring bus, time and everything else. Automatically we reach Dainer’s Gap and start the run down hill to the Hotel. Normally the road is icy and fast. Today it is slow mush and calls for effort to descend. Push – push – I push myself over. Dried spittle clucks around my tongue. We lurch into the hotel with half an hour to spare. Have mouthful of food and board the car for Cooma, so worn out as to be actually glad to get away. The snow has rapidly disappeared around the hotel, leaving great bare patches of rock and dank grass. We turn the corner and Kosciusko is lost to view.

More notes on Kosciusko

No doubt you already know that the snow covered mountain down south was so named because of its fancied resemblance to the North Pole, Kosciusko.

Hills are dreadfully bald, due no doubt to the dandruffy like substance which accumulates on the brow of the hills and on the heads of the ranges.

The hotel is a large rambling place built to provide cover for the passage ways which abound. These passage ways serve the dual purpose of allowing Mr. Speet (the manager) to take his “constitutional” within, and for the accommodation of ill-positioned trophies.

One must “keep moving in a blizzard.” Thanks to the practice in dodging Mr. Speet around the corridors, incessant movement becomes second nature.

A bar is discovered conveniently situated near the surgery, and but a few steps from the drying room wherein are placed all the guests who inadvertently get “soaked.” The bar when full resembles a club sandwich. Wood, meat, wood, meat, wood, all tightly packed and garnished with hiccoughs.

The lucky Irish charm must always be carried by a novice else the snow will probably bite him in the back or severely maul his thumbs and ankles.

Most everybody has a snow blind. This handy little invention ensures, when pulled down, such privacy as is indispensable while on the snow.

Solemn information is given that the snow must not be eaten. I take it there is not enough to feed all the guests and is very difficult to import, tariff being high and what not.

Skis are provided free to Govt. tourists, a wise provision which encourages people to crack their necks and thus cause no end of employment in State Hospitals, Funeral parlours, flower shops and the like.

Bett’s Camp was erected to accommodate a tin of baked beans left on the spot by Charles Bett and his partners after a game of strip poker during the winter of ’68. The tin is still untouched, even by the most hungry and blizzard blasted skier who may happen along. Such respect. However, icicles on toast and a lovely cup of warm snow are provided on presentation of one’s dole-ticket to the concierge, if about.

The Chalet was discovered by the Man for Snowy River and respectfully dedicated to the Govt. During the service “Banjo” Patterson played his ukulele as the sun went down on the historic scene.

It is now used exclusively by honey-mooning couples, and known chiefly for the fact that whiskey is 19/6 per. This latter state of affairs has given rise to a thriving industry. St. Bernard dogs are reared in huge numbers and as soon as the pups are born the little barrel of rum which is always round their necks is snatched off and enthusiastically drunk to the accompaniment of rousing sea-chanties by the entire population.

At present the snow fields are sadly underdeveloped. One can blame the under-secretary for land, obviously. With a little expense and enterprise the govt. could have slalom flags growing all over the place, and the snow jazzed up and dyed like a dazzle boat. Safety zones dotted hither and thither around the isobars where one could order anything from Swedish Plonk to gin-titters. Classes of gay Oberland yodellers led by Charlie Lawrence or the local milkman, and shoals of Swiss miss carving bubbles in gruyere. Peanut vendors selling as a side line, hundred and thousands to Millions Club members and service stations for the trading in of old skis on new skies. That’ll be the day!

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!

Caravanning with Wep – Monday, 7th June 1937; Dawn playing at Daner’s Gap, dinner at Hotel Kosciusko & frustrating caricatures

7th June

(Our first wet day)

(Jess very crook – 3 days)

 Went up to Kos. Again yesterday the third time within the week. Visited there on the Thursday & afternoon tead & took Dawnie up to Daner’s Gap. How she revelled in the snow, belly deep and leg embracing. How she scooped and chewed & pranced & SNIFFED. Too bad I didn’t have the camera to get a picture of her eating the blooming stuff. Hear her clicking galloping down the road after me. Seemed to be nowhere but under the points of my skis. Turned much better. Snow, what there was of it, delightful, powdery over a frozen surface. Fool proof. Would run out of petrol 2 miles from home, and of course would leave the tinfull at the camp. OF COURSE!

Three of us tramped drearily in great boots soon to feel like leaden boots of divers. Tramp back. Two cars passed going the wrong way, OF COURSE! Got back after an hours walking. No darn wonder my legs are getting fatter. Friday, another lousy strip. Wednesday, much excitement, PAY DAY, Whoops!

Saturday gave the old girl up in the hills a neck and did feel most disconsolate at night. Sunday, Kos. Did ourselves regally and had dinner at the Hotel. Sat by fire and listened or appeared to listen to Miss Happ telling dirty jokes. God! What a boresome business that all is. Met Arthur Hill who gave me a lift up to Daner’s in his car. Three others. Lent myself to help photograph’s appearance. Crowd from Cooma up there. What a joke the old boy with his sons were. And how he skied like riding a horse and with the bottom of his pyjamas showing beneath the leg of his trousers. A riot. In an old lorry – Christeson or something Swedish like. All swarming on the slope like maggots over a corpse.

Teddy took me into the Speet Holy of Holies where photos were duly inspected. Will I ever forget that old man Speet in his days of early marriage. Ma-Teddy & Pa & someone else. Ma-in-la I suppose. But Pa’s mustachios! Better than anything ever seen in the pictures or in musical comedy. Gendarmerie style – a la Kaiser avec splayed out ends. Classics of their kind. A real loss to posterity that he didn’t clip them off holus-bolus and mount them under glass. I could dream about their rhythm, their poetry, their fire! And I’ll bet he thought he was a wow!

Pretty near wasted a whole day trying to paint Ernst Skadarasy. Having gone wrong on him before I sadly think I’ll never get it right. What evil genius prompts me to tell people I’ll do them a caricature. I never can. A curious form of self flagellation. Just a waste of time & paper to say nothing of the havoc wrought amongst nerves & temper. IDIOT!

Did my own butchery today. Butch has cut his hand.

Been drawing cows this week.

What crazy visions of a life time’s art in 6 months I’ve entertained. How much I thought I’d do and learn and how little I have accomplished. A couple of paltry paintings and a realization of the immensity of the task. A realization of how little can be done in a few weeks – of how short the days are in which to endeavour. And of how hard it is to be resigned, to realise that it all doesn’t matter and that the number of paintings is not so important at the moment as learning to see. The time I spend in seeing. At least I’m learning that. A groundwork, a new outlook, a basis upon which I can build when the tempo of the mind is not so agitated, wanting to do all things, knowing it lacks the time. And yet, I think I’m learning.

Caravanning with Wep – Tuesday, 1st June 1937; Jindabyne and the excitement of first snow fall.

Campsite covered in snow

1st June

Patience rewarded. A biting wind all yesterday. Later, drizzle the noise of which ceased about 8 o’clock and a quiet murmurous warmth pervades the air. Jess goes out into the night for something or other, yells excitedly “Snow”. Instant excitement replaces sleepy boredom of work-doing. The “W. Weekly” strip pushed brusquely aside while I goggle & stare at the fat and sloshy falling snow. Great wet flakes defy expectations by falling noiselessly instead of splodging plunklyly. We run out with the lantern dancing in the whiteness. The alive quietness broken only by the sharp hiss of melting flake against the lamp. A curious velvety warmth replaces the chillness of the day. The heavens cloak the naked earth. We hasten to sleep so as to wake wide eyed upon an accomplished fact. 5 o’clock comes but the snow has been replaced by rain washing off the clinging whiteness. By 6:30 2 inches of snow still covers the land & has within the hours changed all colour. The country is hardly recognisable. Trees and fences are etched sharply against the paper white. Bewildered cattle and sheep nose in the damp seeking the grass that is hidden now from view. Three weeks calves, damp hided and amazed, bawl lustily for their parent’s comfort.

Dawn surveys the morning scene

We try to ski round the confined & grade less vicinity of the caravan. Hopeless endeavour. Dawnie stands in the caravan desolate & shivering. It is beyond her cognisance. We inveigle her out. She scampers & slips and bites the points of our skis. My low feeling disperses and we decide on Kosciusko. An early feed of soup and away. Chains are needed along the road & much to my rising annoyance are too big and flap madly against the mud guards. After two attempts I more or less remedy the trouble and re-enter the car with half the road on my arms and face.

Did a spot of skiing up near the Koscy on a down trodden practice ground. Elsewhere unreliable snow crusted over dangerous softness. Afternoon tea & home to sausages and eggs. The sky surprisingly variegated against the paling whiteness of the snow, blue then salmon then orange, reverting again to blue. Livid clouds smear the horizon. Cold! Return to snow less caravan. Feels like a hearty frost tonight.

George Longmuir came out over the week end & a good time was had by all. Took him up to snow less Kosciusko. Boiled twice on the way. Ate hearty on mixed grill. Billy of milk floated leisurely downstream during our absence.

(Margin note: Carl & Red dressed in everything but the hotel eiderdown.)

Caravanning with Wep – Saturday, 22nd May 1937; Collector to Jindabyne via Lake George, Canberra, Bredbo and Cooma

22nd May Sat.

Have been at Jindabyne since Wed. Met Jess’s ex-boss & party at Collector & received warmth per favour Rum. Country incredibly dry – rolling copper earthed hills crust broken exposing tired & dreary patina-ed rocks. Lake George, like all grass & colour “has-been”. Disordered litter of dead and near dead trees all jumbled in second-hand dealer profusion along the slopes resting down towards the flat reclining comfort of waterless, fenced & cattled George.

Drove straight through Canberra with nary an error. Am becoming really hot stuff on direction. Looked eagerly for snow on distance mountains – could still be looking. Bought villainous yellow pies at Queanbeyan and did eat & drink cold tea, the Thermos having departed this vale of tears between Collector & Q.

Once more over the road which I have sworn never to drive again. Still the same rocked, rutted, frozen, chopped river of land threaded through the hills. The same treeless dumpish hills. Hills which seen from the road, rear stark-edged discordantly against the unbelievably blue and hollow sky. Hills whose edges hold no promise of world beyond. Their ochreish scorched bodies stretched in never ending length. And all quite bald.

And out back homes! Cheerless scattered sheds. Rigid raiment cast on the face of the land higgldy-piggldy by the weary pioneer in utter exhaustion. Tired – utterly jaded – wilting houses of cards. Bare necessities – the sullen bitter exacting earth sucking all human substance – leaving him no surcease in which to adorn his body’s shell. Succubus!

Gave lift to a fellow at Bredbo. Wanted transport to Cooma, hating wait for train until 6a.m. following morning. Turned out to be licensee of Cooma Hotel.  Well! Well! Had rums on the house. Called on George Longmuir at Com. B. of Sydney. Had more rums & dinner at Dodd’s – more rum. Went with him and cos. Small a local chemist & erstwhile Kosciusko contemporary & John co-bank worker, to church bop. Met Vicar’s daughter. She was only the Vicar’s daughter but —! Repaired again to Dodd’s, thence to Greek or what have you café & supped. Left, 2:30am & slept on top of hill. Scrapped about a foot of frost off next morning. A bleeding cold morning. Left after thawing out.

Road something terrible. Like riding on one continuous strip of corrugated iron. Shook everything to bits. Wireless hasn’t worked since. The bloody …….!

Surveying a possible campsite

Arrived Jindabyne about 12. Have never realised what a cheerless place it was. Have always seen it through the roseate eyes of holiday merry making. Couldn’t find a blade of grass within a mile of the official centre. Finally wedged way onto only square of grass in district. Alongside Snowy River and amidst countless wild briars, all red-berried and leafless. Designated parking ground seems to be the local football area bordered with shallow creeks full of tins and broken crockery. No grass, colour key of this place is grey, endless and monotonous.

Houses scattered willy nilly on both sides of the river, fenceless, innocent of all grass. Briar strewn and poultry infested. Rubbish, garbage, broken fences, all manner of diverse junk, all however having one thing in common. Cheerless grey, not even gloomy, just a tired dirt tone – dust to dust.

And the romance of Man from Snowy River! Just grey and grey and grey. I’ve gone and made myself god-damned grey. Tired. Long past bed-time. Now 8:45 P.M.  Oho!