Five Ways to Remember: Cousin Georgie

Cousins were just as natural as fleas to me. I seemed to have millions of them and they were all up and down from my level. Somewhere or other, it seemed impossible to find one who added up to my number in the elementary scheme of things in those days. Nowadays, everybody is supposed to be your cousin and the world is full of do-gooders obsessed with piddling and no-one has the entrée to that bunch of cousins, those fabulous characters who seemed to have been born of chimera and who would bust the world apart for a zac which would have bought them a gospel in the times, I speak of. Not that those days were any better than that. Amongst the many cousins, I had – it seemed as if I had collected them, doesn’t it? – I can assure you that they were all foisted upon me before and after that auspicious Thursday in January, 1909, when I joined the galaxy – the Milky Way of cousinhood. The Pluto of my planetary world was of course gargantuan cousin, Bill who was expelled from his mother’s orbit in a 14 1b craft, in the very month in which I, also, was sputnicked into this horrendous space.

Now there was an older cousindom led by relative John, who was always cleaning himself, and could not leave dirt well enough alone. There were girl cousins to kiss and others to tease. And on Sundays at Church, you could find out from the Common Prayer book, if you could marry, the best looking one or not, even if you weren’t allowed to wed your grandmother; not that I had secret thoughts and passions and Freudian longings for that austere Scot who dominated, with a carbon steel rod, the cohorts and regiments under her command. A strong type, my grandmother in recollection; always in black or maroon.

Wep’s maternal grandmother, Isabella Garrick White, nee McRitchie (1853-1924), c.1916

Buttoned up in front, practically from the boots and with a surging pacific swell of a bosom breaking into a stiff-necked white collar of foaming frills which the white bones of the past paraded around the throat and were confronted by the indomitability of a North Head chin. One could hardly call it nestling. There was perhaps, branded, would be better, upon the black and unyielding bosom, my sole idol. A massive gold snake curled and entwined upon itself in convolutions such as only Laocoon himself has witnessed, all bestudded with diamonds and rubies and lights of flashing green and folded scales, like Baal, turning and re-entering upon itself, swallowing, digesting, illuminating and fascinating; a viscera of an emblem; a Europhobus tortured in gold; Heavy too! To top it all, beside the pin attached, it had a chain with a second mooring – I do not know who got it when the old lady died, I would like to see it now – but it doesn’t matter; I can still see it heaving on the waves of that Gaelic breast.

Wep’s uncle Percy Rowett White (1887-1918) and grandmother Isabella, c.1916. Percy played for the Eastern Suburbs Rugby premiership team before enlisting in 1916.

It is funny how you seem to lose your place in this memory story. Here I am choc-a bloc with cousins and I am off on Grandma. Anyway, I did not really need to consult that old Common Prayer, because the girl cousins got away, and I was left with the paragon of all cousins, Georgie. Now, Georgie is to be likened in this day and age to a hydrogen bomb in the ten-megaton range. Not that he was ever dropped whilst in my care by me; I had too great a sense of responsibility towards humankind, ever to have made that unchristian like gesture. Georgie was a dear sweet boy, as harmless and benign as an unfused bomb as long as you kept him in your own bomb bay, all was well with the world – which means in those far off halcyon times, 290 Glenmore Road, Paddington. But if the area door was not thrice bolted and key withdrawn, the back door nailed in and the chimney flue bricked in – well, one had had it!

Percy Rowett White and son, George Edward White (1913-1979), Wep’s cousin Georgie, c.1916

Now Georgie, as a son of Uncle Percy, who often got kicked in the “deaf and dumb” when playing league with Bluey Watkins and who won his corps heavyweight boxing contest on the way to France was a two-man man and an inaccurate ikon to puling little weaklings like myself. He married a robust dark and to my eyes, passionate almost gypsy. Perhaps too much alive, like a femme fatale, for the rest of our somewhat reticent family group. Georgie equaled the equation.

Cousin Georgie’s mother, Miriam Elizabeth White, nee Moyle (1887-1963). Following Percy’s death in the war, Miriam remarried in 1921 to George Henry P. Church and the family lost touch.

Several times Georgie stayed with us and no-one could have foreseen such nuclear reactions as he could make out such an elemental meal as warm sop with pepper and salt. Don’t ask me the recipe for that sop. It is to go into the appendix to these writings. His sop with water added to the milk seemed to grant my cousin a superhuman sense of well-being and omnipotence. In no time at all, (that is if we had left unguarded a door), a bevy of tearful neighbours would be wailing and bemoaning, the scourge that had befallen over the district. Infantile paralysis was a non-sequitur compared to Georgie’s descents upon our precincts. Unbattered, unbloodied and unbruised, Georgie alone was serene. Neighbourly eyes and noses hammering on his inborn bricklayer’s fists had left him unmoved, or to be more precise, only mildly delighted with life as it came.

Georgie lived for the day, and each I suppose was good. One of the best, I guess was the afternoon I took him to West’s Picture Show in Oxford Street. It was probably one of my worst. I could have put up with paying for him in the ice-creams. I could have put up with his throw-downs and crackers during the show, but when he hung his feet up on the ears of the boy in the front of the pictures, I lost their interest. I cannot even dredge out of the past, the name of that picture. Maybe there was no picture at all. All I could see was twenty Darlo kids ready to tear Georgie apart, and not to make much of it, me too. Now that I think hard, nothing seemed to come of it except that I was the first to exit and lay awake that night in fear and trembling and in youthful hope that Georgie’s chemistry would become less fissionable.

 

[W.E. Pidgeon]

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 24 Nov; London – another look in at the Tate

Sat 24-Nov-56:  Bought ticket to Zurich – sent off books to self & S. Rotaru. Tate Gallery in afternoon.

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Sat 24th of Nov 56
London

Sweetheart,

Oh girl, oh girl, oh boy! Is is good is sit down? Have had it again!

Bustled round Oxford St and Piccadilly trying to buy some string, get books all cleared away-went to Thomas Cook’s and got my ticket to Zürich. Pretty near all set-must go through all the bits and pieces of paper etc.-to see what I can clear out to make space and save weight. There seems a lot of fiddly little things I want to arrive back with to save all the filthy delay of surface post. Superficial odds and ends-just to have something to show what’s been doing. Oh-perhaps fell finish up getting posted like the rest of the stuff.

Went to the Tate Gallery after a few Guinness and sandwiches and spent the best part of three hours there, and left completely wrung out. It is very difficult to take all these pictures in-so many one has seen reproductions of. And rarely do the reproductions have the soft and convincing atmosphere, or colour relation, that is inherent in the originals. Somehow they always harden up and become more aggressive, more blatantly colourful than the paintings from which they were taken. Van Gogh’s sunflowers have so much more vitality and tenderness. Saw the original of that painting in our hall too, incidentally. A couple of Gauguin, much more impressive in reality. Dozens and dozens of things you’d recognise, I have seen. It gets tiresome. I’ll get it back stop all very much to the good I think, because you get the feeling you’d like to experiment and get at it a bit yourself. But apart from making some contact with Ampol (if the commission is still available) I want to sit down for a couple of days. I haven’t done so, except in a plane, or a train, all whilst eating, or writing, since I got off at Rome. I warn you, I am only 11 stone with sports coat, jumper, and overcoat on. Anyhow I am sure you will spoil me-and fatten me up for the Xmas killing. I love you.

Talking of Xmas-Regent St and Oxford have now got all Xmas trees, coloured lights, and Father Xmas out, and the place is quite bright, but bloody cold. It makes me glad that Xmas will be at home with my highly specialised family-would be the very end to get stuck here (or anywhere else) alone when all the spirit is building up, and the half crowns are jingling in your pocket. A very great number of 2/6 pieces here-more than florins. Never quite sure whether I am planking down 2/6 or 2/-. In any case they hardly last long enough to notice. Grog is a colossal price over here-Sherry 3/- glass, claret 2/6 small glass, Scotch 2/6 or 2/9, gin and tonic 2/4 or 2/10. 1/3 bottle (they make beer in little bottles like the tiny Guinness Stout you might have seen) beer 1/1 -stout 1/5 – 1/6 equivalent to about 3 glass to bottle. Consequently everybody is very sober over here.

I’m not very verbose tonight but want, very much, for you both to get a letter are day practically up till the day before I arrive-that way you will not be stamping about the unpruned rose bushes wondering what has happened to your errant (hah! hah! That’s a laugh) husband. I should be in bed with you before you finish reading my last note-and you had, very definitely, be prepared to like it.

Enough for now, I’ll see if I can squeeze a number drop out of this pen in the morning, when the alleged daylight arrives. And with that I give you another consignment of good old home spun love. Kiss, kiss, SAOH.

Sunday morning [25 Nov 56]. Woke early, about 4:30-and read till 5:30-thought I’d give Morphens another visit and stayed with him till 8 a.m. when breakfast brought me to. I am about to wash ½ doesn’t handkerchiefs, one day for the way home-have a horrible pile of dirty ones. Roley’s place was the only opportunity I have had to boil them up and iron them. Nevertheless we manage along and I hope to get home reasonably clean. I’ll diagnose my dirty stuff when you are not looking. It has been raining during the night which seems all to the good as it is now warmer and not so foggy. This is my second last letter as after tomorrow nothing can beat me bringing personal tidings of joy and affection for my two very dear people. I send you a great deal of love darling, and for Graham a great anxiety to see how he has grown-and how long, if not taller, young Trellie has grown. Love, love and more love from your very close at hand husband,

Bill.

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 22 Nov; London – a letter for Graham

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London
Thurs 22 Nov 56

Dear Graham,

I should have written you a private letter all to yourself a long time ago. But I have been rushing around so much, and getting too tired to repeat what I said in letters to Dorothy which I knew, anyway, that you would hear all about. However, I think before I leave Europe, you should have one, just for yourself to open and read out to Dorothy, as she has been reading hers to you. I understand you are growing to be very self reliant now that old pa wep is not around to do the odds and ends for you. That is very good-and I now address you alone, as a grown-up looker-after-of, both Dorothy and Trelawney of Norty North. Incidentally, I was looking at the map of London yesterday and I noticed there is a Northwood here too, although it is really north-west of the city. I shall show it to you when I come home.

I have just come home after buying some things in the city. As I came up Oxford Street I thought, well now, how can I describe this to Graham? It’s about as wide as Macquarie St and I would say stretches from as far as Circular Quay to the railway like Pitt St. But busy like Pitt is one between Market and King St, all the way. Hundreds of red double deckers going up and down thousands Greater London’s 9 million people doing their shopping. It is hard to imagine that in this city alone, there are as many people as there are in the whole of Australia. Makes you pull your big fat head in-doesn’t it? I have taken about 200 or more photographs and hope they will turn out well enough for me to show, and tell you, what different countries are like. I haven’t forgotten you, although I have not written you separately. I managed to get you some bad things, which I hope you will like. I really don’t know how I am going to pack everything into the 66 lbs luggage I am allowed free on the plane. I hope very much to see the three of you at Mascot next Sunday morning. So please be careful on your bike till I get home. You had better give old (and she must be looking pretty old and savage now) Trellie a couple of vulgar tickles, one for me, and one for you-the boss boy!

SAOH’s to you

from your fond Dad XXX

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 17-18 Nov; London – Cockneys and Kings

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.

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Sat 17 Nov 56

London

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.

Rex (hidden) and Thea Reinits at Portobello Market, Potobello Road, London; 17 Nov 1956
Rex and Thea Reinits at Portobello Market, Potobello Road, London; 17 Nov 1956

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”.

Unconfirmed location, London; 17 Nov 1956
Portobello Road
Portobello Road [Incorrectly identified as Portobello Road, yet to be confirmed]
Unidentified location, London; 17 Nov 1956 – After Portobello Rd, Wep headed to visit his old artist friend Arthur Horner who had moved threre in 1947 and had married Victoria (a fellow Aussie) in 1948. He had an old address in Kensington for them. but they were no longer there. In 1954, Arthur and Victoria lived at 2 Straford Avenue (Rd) Kensington according to the London, England Eloctoral Registers 1832-1965 on Ancestry.com. The garage shot looks like it could be taken outside 10 Jay Mews where a Pawson and Collins Ltd garage was located in a 1939 Kensington directory

 

Sunday 7 p.m. [18 Nov 1956]

Believed to be Petticoat Lane Market, London; 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.

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Henry VIII greeting visitors at Hampton Court Palace; 28 Feb 2013

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.

Really yours,

Bill.

Holy Trinity Church of England, Roehampton; 18 Nov 1956
Hampton Court Palace; 18 Nov 1956
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Hampton Court Palace; 28 Feb 2013
Hampton Court Palace; 18 Nov 1956
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Hampton Court Palace; 28 Feb 2013

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 13-15 Nov; London-moving hotel

Wed 14-Nov-56: Walked shops & booked in Debenham Court [Granville Place]. British Museum, saw sculptures of Egypt, Greek, Hindu.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0104

Tuesday 9:30 p.m.
13 Nov 56
London

Darling,

I shouldn’t write at all tonight. My mood might affect you who are so sensitive to other’s condition. But seeing as how, this thing of mine will be about a week in the past when you read this, I don’t guess it will matter much. It gets dark so dammed early here-a little later than 4:30 p.m.-and the evening seems so long. I went out for a meal and staggered down to a newsreel for an hour. Place was full of necking couples. Here on the continent people seem to neck anywhere-particularly so in Paris where it’s nothing to see them kissing in the underground trains or in the cafes. Have just ordered a cup of tea-it is something they really make well in this lounge. As a matter of fact it is a much more cheerful drink, than Guinness Stout.

Graham said in his last letter that you weren’t well and you have mentioned seeing Cummins. I do hope you are managing to keep going without too much strain, sweetie. I don’t want you to feel poorly while I’m away. I wish I could help somehow-like being home-I wish I was at that. I should have written you about the Gallery at lunchtime when I was fresher. I went back and it was nearly dark when I came out. It’s got a bit wearing-despite the magnificent early Italian works. I think I’ll read for a while and go to bed.

You needn’t worry about me getting home-things here seem quite normal and placid. In fact, one hears little talk of trouble. A few letters in the papers, appears to be the only manifestation of steam letting off. This ponderous letter will be the death of you. I really must cease. Shall carry on in the murky light of dawn. Lots of love to you my dear little hugging girl. Nothing, absolutely nothing would be better than really to sleep against you, and there somehow, find again a small boy’s peace. I occasionally get quite frantic at the thought that such a pleasure is so far off. Seems, sometimes, I’ll never have it again. But then, that’s nonsense-in fact it is less than three weeks off. But how long those 3 weeks are to become is more than I care to contemplate. I am desperately in need of you. It’s weak of me-but I get relief and comfort in admitting it. And why shouldn’t I open up to you, who are now so much part of me? As I have, it seems, become part of you, and the rest of your life. We are now, inextricably woven of a piece and it gives me happiness to think of it. Good night-other half of my heart. Sleep easily from me.

Wed 9:30 a.m. 14 Nov.

I am a new Willie-stronger in all respects-ready to face the rain of intrepid calm. I have been posting off some small books and catalogues and pamphlets. Getting too heavy to handle. My bag is now swollen and I shall have to get a cheapjack one to take the overflow. Must make a move to organise myself more precisely. Trouble is I don’t know yet what the accommodation will cost by the time I leave tomorrow. I’m moving into a 21/- a day dump. Have to, as I want to buy some things. And feeling much brighter and had best make a move out into the drizzling city. God bless you, you little beaut! I love you brightly this morning. Watch out for a vigourous return of the prodigal boy.

7 p.m. back again from the cold dark city. Am up in my eyrie, back with you, where I belong. Went out to the shops again this morning to have a look around and as there are so many of the flaming things I am little better off now than when I started. Called at Simpsons to get an idea of what they have. Looked in lots of other windows-made arrangements to move up near Oxford Street, behind the fabulous Selfridges store. By the time I leave here (in the morning) this place will have cost me £18.5.2. (8 nights at £2, one dinner 14/6, one ½ bt claret 8/6, 1 coffee 1/-, 3 breakfasts 19/6, 4 phone calls 1/8). The new place looks quite comfortable and I’ll be £1 a day to the good. Wish I had moved earlier. Food is expensive in London and cigs are 4/-a packet. Although I haven’t bought many. Still smoking some I got duty-free on the ship I came across the Channel in. Incidentally I am writing this letter with a pen I picked up in the Rue de L’Opera, Paris France. I feel very fond of you, ducky. Got my air plane ticket and pick the plane up at Zürich. I will be home at 7 a.m. on Sunday 2 Dec.

I’m leaving London on Monday (as far as I can recollect, having lost the folder. Anyway I must buy the ticket tomorrow, to make certain that is paid for) about 7 p.m.-spend about 5 hours aboard ship and arrive in Holland about 7 a.m. where a full day’s journey by train alongside the Rhine gets me into Basle about 10 p.m. Tuesday. As this hour is too late to catch a plane due off at 10.40 I have made these arrangements, and will write Basle for accommodation overnight Tuesday and spend day in Zürich to get plane on Wednesday 28th at 10:25 p.m. And the whole fare is only £8.16.0. To catch the plane here, first class, would cost me £21.12.0. So it’s quite a saving and if it does by some mischance happened to be a nice day I’ll see quite a bit of the Rhine. Wish me God spend, dearest, I am getting closer. Also bought another suitcase-very much like the one I have, only smaller and light grey in colour. Lined, and with two pockets, soft top, etc, practically an albino twin-45/-at Selfridges. Bought a new translation of the New Testament by a Jewish scholar. Should do me good, more soothing than that wicked Henry Miller I’ve been reading. Went up to the British Museum where my legs gave out and I had to totter off to have some tea and toast. Went back feeling better. Saw a lot of Indian sculpture-was disappointed in the relics of Stupas they had. The whole effect was overburdened and maggoty. Very sad reaction to the old enthusiast. Some of the single figures were very fine. Perhaps I was too buggered. This was before I had the tea. The Tibet’s have some very vicious and naughty concepts about their other worldly hierarchy. The principle of the male and female union, as the basis of all things is depicted with extremely vivid realism. Moreover it is a union that is quite normal in its management. They are very naughty ‘Adavayas’ indeed. After the tea I stayed on the ground floor and was delighted with the Greek and Egyptian stuff. Must have another look. If ever I’m fresh enough I should take some notes. The Tate, National, and Museum should just about use up my time. I was going to take a run up to Oxford but don’t know off I can make it. I certainly can’t get up north to see your father’s people. Finances just won’t stand it. I am not wasting money-but must bring something back. Should go out to Windsor though, it’s only an hour in the bus stop and going out to Rex Reinits place tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. so we’ll have a little social life for our secret anniversary. He is an Australian writer I used to work with many years ago. I think I mentioned I bumped into him in the bar here, or rather next-door. He has a radiogram so I’ll be taking my Romanian records and shall hear them myself for the first time. I hope the technical aspect of the recordings is all right. I am sure the musical part was performed in a suitable manner in the first place. I hope your old trotters have not been giving you too much trouble-and that the warm weather is allying the old screws a bit. You poor little thing-I’d only be too happy to mass arguing this moment-I’d willingly put up with your squawks and shrieks for the pleasure of being around on the chance of getting an occasional nip at your earlobes. Hotel rooms are deadly things on an empty stomach-so I’ll take myself off and fossick for a meal someplace handy. I’ll be with you again very shortly. I’m sure to get chips with whatever I have. These Londoners seem to live on nothing else. Chips-chips-chips-they eat such enormous quantities of them you’d reckon on getting some fresh some time. But not yet.

9:45 p.m. Back again in my beloveds arms.

How right I was about the chips. Just had a great reason plate full of them with a little piece of steak. I think it is the fat that clings to the chips which makes them so much of a must in food. Like Eskimos eat walrus fat, or candles, the carbohydrates are very warming. Better than Guinness. Not inspiring though. This letter is becoming very staccato in touch-little has happened to fire me off into a grand, and sustained, broadside of enthusiasm. Still haven’t dreamt about you, although for £2 a sleep one would expect even a modicum of entertainment during the night. I feel as if I am being diddled by someone, out of a free and harmless pleasure. Don’t know whether to get into bed, or go down and have some tea. Perhaps tea, and a last look around the lounge of the Howard Hotel. This letter is becoming a struggle because I have more than half a page to go with nothing to say on it-absolutely nothing. I’ll go down and see if I can find an evening paper to squiz at.

9 a.m. 15 Nov. have been thinking of you since I got up. I wish I could be at home to give you the loving kiss you deserve on such a day as this. Two years during which I think we are becoming better suited and as for me more deeply attached to you. I send you a great deal of love, my darling, and hope the way I feel at the moment will remain always deep in my being. Rows, I suppose, will be inevitable, but I trust they will be nicer and fonder.

Lots of love again-please get Graham to give you a kiss from me-and ask Trellie to give you a horrid great leak in one go from top to toe. Tell Graham I am anxious to hear the triumphal return music. I hope he has it all pat by the time I get home-he has that extra week’s practice.

I have been sweating blood on working out finance-and if I get the things I want all have to starve to death. I don’t know whether to get you to wire me £20 or not. If I just had an extra tenner I would be right. It’s a flaming curse. Oh, I think you had better-it’s mad to get oneself into a jam all this way off for the sake of £20. O skip all this, I have just seen Peter Gladwyn and he tells me not to worry. They will be able to do something for me. I got your loving cable off him too. Thanks so much, sweetie, I sort of thought I might get one. God love you!

I don’t know whether to catch the plane here-Cook’s Travel Agency says it might be cheaper. I am going down to see capital BOAC about it. It’s hard to determine things whether to see the Rhine or not. Will let you know in my next letter.

Much love and happiness to my dearest little wife from her loving fellow, Bill. XXX

Tell Graham S.A.O.H. to him to!

For the 15th Nov 1954.

London 1956

How do I recall-
   Lips parted
   In a crimson pleasure
   Of love?
How do I recall-
   Their pearly packets
   Piercing irregularities into
   My willing limbs?
How do well recall-
   The tiny, ardent breast
   When my lips
   With full of her,
   And love?
How do I recall-
   I, Pygmalion,
   When her limbs
   Came to life
   In warm embrace?
How do I recall-
   The liquid anguish
   Through which we fired
   A smouldering sleep?
How do I recall-
   My Dorothy?

From your husband

Bill

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0110 1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0111

 

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 11-12 Nov; London – Remembrance Day

Sun 11-Nov-56: Went 11am ceremony at the Cenotaph which Queen attended. Hyde Park & Pall Mall in afternoon.
Mon 12-Nov-56: Chelsea by bus – walked to Battersea & to Tate Gallery – got Dorothy’s Rumanian letters.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0094

1 PM, Sunday 11 November 56
London

Dearest girl,

I have only just posted a letter to you, that may as well begin again, who knows when this episode will get finished, and sent off. It is sure to be a serial effort. I have just put some drops in my eyes, so for a hour or so will be useless on the streets, sightseeing. I haven’t been using them during the day as it becomes impossible to see a thing. I didn’t put them in early today as I wanted to walk along the embankment, post some letters and see the doings. Saw great crowds conveying towards Westminster, so I followed on and discovered it was remembrance Sunday when a service is held at the Cenotaph which the Queen attends. Couldn’t get anywhere near the Cenotaph but watched all the preparatory organisation. Military bands leading detachments of various forces towards the Cenotaph. The boys in busbies, looks fine again and they led a small group of really Ruritanian guards dressed in long red capes, shiny helmets with long white plumes all horsehair, I suppose, hanging from the top of the helmet. Some were in black capes with red plumes from their helmets-all marched with drawn swords held squarely in front of them. They marched so well-and the clothes so finely cut-that it did not look at all Hollywood-indeed, they were quite impressive. A wonderful splash of colour against the sombre lined crowd lining the wide cleared stretch of Whitehall which contains the Cenotaph down at one end. It had been drizzling, but a few moments before 11 AM, the sun straggled fitfully out for a moment, to disappear in the grey and impressive silencing of London for two minutes. Then the last post was played-followed by a hymn and prayers. But I was too far off to really appreciate the ceremony. Anyhow, the Londoners turned up in a big way. I came back here to get my coat. It was cool, but sunny, when I left. Quite cold and damp later. Sunny again now-and pleasantly the raise a shining into the room as I write, alongside the hot water heater thingummy in the room. Pleasant enough but not lively. Jolly good for such an afternoon as we tossed off in Narooma nearly 2 years ago. I have on my black suit, yellow tie, and a bright red poppy, the whole ensemble giving the effect of an emaciated, that animated Belgian flag rather appropriate for the day, but perhaps it would be an improvement if I were in some shades of red white and blue. Nothing of consequence to say that find it company to natter up a large and expensive air mail fee. However I suppose I should go out and carry on the good work. No galleries from me on Sunday. Hyde Park probably is the right thing. Yes to Hyde Park, by the end of this page. I still love you.

9 PM. Here’s the old minute writer back on the job.

[Canada Gate, Green Park, London, 1956]
[Canada Gate, Green Park, London, 1956]

Caught a bus down Oxford Street to the corner of Hyde Park and arrived about 2:30 PM. I think any other Sunday would have been all right for a normal Hyde Park session, that Armistice Day has changed the overall pattern. There were not many of the famous park orators in operation. No show worth speaking of. It, the park, is roughly 1½ miles long by ¾ mile wide, about half to ¾ the size of Centennial Park. It is mostly flat and open and has a curved lake known as the Serpentine in which ducks, and scullers, disport themselves. Alongside the lake one promenades up and down, ad nauseum. Completely isolated from the bustle of the traffic, the crowds find something of rest and idleness. The feeble afternoon sun kept up just enough illumination to make things affable. But by 4.30 its rays have had it. Cantered over to Rotten Row to gape at the horseman and women. But they seem to operate mostly on an empty stomach before lunch. Finally found my way round to Buckingham Palace, which it not as imposing as the great royal constructions of Paris or Vienna. Still hundreds and hundreds of English and foreigners walking around the outside hoping for some loyalty to appear-or failing that, crowding round, inspecting the poor wretched young sentinels do their marionette pacing up and down, and foot banging, he’ll stamping formal turns at the end of their allotted stretch. What a life. Walked up the rapidly darkening tree-lined and gas light Pall Mall and watched immediately put upon by cars and pedestrians whilst the myriads of starlings and pigeons search out a perching place along the cornices of the surrounding building. The starlings kicking up a frightful racket. Had a cuppa-and walked round to have a lousy Chinese meal. Came home tired and have been reading the paper for an hour. Tired now, and think I’ll shout myself some tea and toast, or such, in the lounge and so to bed. No pubs open today.

Waterloo Bridge from Victoria Embankment; 11 November 1956
Westminster Bridge from Victoria Embankment; 11 November 1956
Thames River looking towards Waterloo Bridge from Embankment; 11 November 1956
Cleopatra’s Needle from Victoria Embankment, London; 11 November 1956
Looking towards St Martin in the Fields with the National Gallery to the left at Trafalgar Square; London; 11 November 1956
Remembrance Day Parade, marching down Whitehall towards the Cenotaph, just up from Downing Street, London; 11 November 1956
Remembrance Day Parade, marching down Whitehall towards the Cenotaph, just up from Downing Street, London; 11 November 1956
Remembrance Day Parade, marching down Whitehall towards the Cenotaph, just up from Downing Street, London; 11 November 1956
Remembrance Day Parade, marching down Whitehall towards the Cenotaph, just up from Downing Street, London; 11 November 1956
The Horse Guards, Whitehall, London; 11 November 1956
Looking towards Trafalgar Square from Whitehall, just outside the Lord Moon of the Mall Hotel on the left, London; 11 November 1956
Trafalgar Square, London; 11 November 1956
Trafalgar Square, London; 11 November 1956
Trafalgar Square, London; 11 November 1956
Trafalgar Square, London; 11 November 1956

4 o’clock 12 November. Have just called down to Consol Press and they gave me all your letters. I am back at the pub and I am overwhelmed with the light that you should love me so much. I haven’t even had time to read all the notes returned from Bucaresti. I just am of a twit that you should be so sensible as to send them to me. I’ll have them like Spanish sherry-a sip at a time-I’ll extract all your affection slowly. My how the sparks will fly, when we meet! You are a honeydew, and just right for the picking. Sorry we have to hang out that extra flaming week. But I love you very much and a week more into the bargain. I’m tired of pushing around. I adore you so much I am going to run up the road and posters before I read all your early letters. I want you to know I am very happy indeed that you sent them. I am breathless with affection and I think I will celebrate with some Guinness Stout-it’s supposed to build you up no end-and seeing that the beer is crook I like it.

I caught a bus down to Chelsea this morning had a quick walk through and over the Thames to Battersea through Battersea Park and back across the river to the Tate Gallery which contains British paintings, modern European paintings, and modern sculpture. Was too gone in the leaks to stay long but will ride their next time. Called up to office and got the wonderful present. Am very happy. Have been a bit lonely in London. It is a big place-and pretty remote. Lacks the entertainment of the Gallic humanity. It was easier to watch in Paris. You are a very dear girl and I am your very sookie husband.

Bill.

St Mary-le-Strand Church from outside the Courtauld Institute of Art, Strand, London; 12 November 1956
[St Mary-le-Strand Church, London 1956]
[St Mary-le-Strand Church, London 1956]
St Clement Danes from The Strand adjacent to Australia House, London; 12 November 1956
Battersea Park, London; 12 November 1956
Albert Bridge from Battersea Bridge, London; 12 November 1956
Looking north from Grosvenor Road up Westmoreland Terrace, now part of Lupas Street, London; 12 November 1956

 

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 6-8 Nov; Au revoir Paris, ‘Allo London

Tue 6-Nov-56:    Dashed around frantically shopping. Took Margaret to cheap eating house & on to a Spanish turn place
Wed 7-Nov-56:  Caught 11:51am train to London. Couldn’t see any country for fog – arrived Dover at dusk & London 7pm, Howard Hotel
Thu 8-Nov-56:   Collected 4 letters from Consol. Press. Roamed round shops – Piccadilly Strand, etc.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0087

Howard Hotel
[Norfolk St, Strand]
Thurs 8 Nov ‘56
London 2.30pm

To a darling girl Dorothy,

Arrived in London last night & found my room all booked & no troubles at all. Got a cab from Victoria Station & everything was the easiest thing ever. Called at the Consol. Press office this morning & was abundantly rewarded with 4 beautiful loving letters. I gobbled them up with 2 or 3 glass of Younger’s Light Ale. London has done me proud. I am enjoying the first sunny day for more than a fortnight. Paris has been very grey (but still beautiful) & for the last few days almost fog bound. Hardly saw anything of the country from Paris to Calais. Cleared up near the coast & the sun came out. Found the boat trip across the Channel pretty dreary. Although it took but little more than an hour, it made me thankful that I did not have to contemplate 5 weeks or so of water – just to get home. I’d have gone crackers. I am going back to Victoria Station (where we came in from Dover) to contact BOAC & find out what cooks and when. Have been walking around this morning – but now get tired – my knee joints have folded up on me. Not so badly as to prohibit their use, on my return. This London is quite a place. – I haven’t even seen the Thames yet. But the Strand, Piccadilly – Oxford St, etc. where I have been window shopping are jolly well all right. Best shops in Europe. Wonderful things for sale – and all, at least they seem to me, after the Continent – very cheap. Dawdled round the basement of Selfridges – very good & so many things one doesn’t see at home. The shopfronts all spick & span – the building facades bright – All without that air of decay that sits like a veneer over most of Europe. This is just a quick note to give you immediate news of my arrival. I shall get back later into fuller reports – I’ll have more time alone now. I’ll have a few beers & pour me bleeding heart out to you.

The prospect of trying to walk over London daunts me. I shall master the bus services & see it more superficially. Called to see if Reg Ash was in – away in America still. Very much love to you, and to Graham & Trellie.

Will go & find advice on plane trip home.

Things are a bit up in the air about the trip home. I have to wait on advice from Scandinavian Airways – who were originally to take me to Bangkok.

Will let you know as soon as possible. It’s getting very dark and cold with the time only 4.45pm.

Lots of love darling

Your man

Bill

Tell Graham a postcard will get sent off tomorrow and tell him to find a photograph of me to put on the wall of Trellie’s bedroom – Don’t let her forget me.

[The Howard Hotel no longer exists nor does Norfolk Street, which used to run between Temple Place and Strand, directly opposite Australia House.]

View from Pont Saint-Louis which connects Île Saint-Louis to Île de la Cité, looking south east towards Pont de la Tournelle, Paris; 6 November 1956
View from Pont Saint-Louis which connects Île Saint-Louis to Île de la Cité, looking south east towards Pont de la Tournelle, Paris; 6 November 1956
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris; 6 November 1956
Looking north east from the Eiffel Tower, the Passerelle Debilly bridge in background, Paris; 6 November 1956

1956 Cultural Exchange Trip_0007 1956 Cultural Exchange Trip_0008 1956 Cultural Exchange Trip_0009 1956 Cultural Exchange Trip_0010