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.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0120

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

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 3-5 Nov; Paris – stuck in a Christian Dior parade

Sat 3-Nov-56:    Day at the Daily Express while Roley worked.
Sun 4-Nov-56:   Went to Embassy church & dinner on pig. Went to concert. Roley went to Vienna.
Mon 5-Nov-56: Weary, Odilon Roden exhibition, later to the Louvre – too dark to see the Rembrandts etc.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0081

Paris
Monday
5th Nov ‘56

My darling Dorothy,

I got a letter from you this morning dated 29th Oct. That is a week ago and you called me a big monster because I hadn’t said I hadn’t got a letter from your affectionate heart. Please forgive me if I have not mentioned the joy they gave me. I am sure I must have done so. To tell the truth, it is only since I got to the Paris address that I have been getting anything. I know it is not your fault. I had one letter in Romania. One you had written just after the beautiful letters I picked up at the Hotel Austria. So you will forgive me. I asked them to mail my Romanian mail to Paris – but nothing has arrived so I guess everything is just any old-how in the east. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the beautiful books they were to have forwarded. All the mail goes or did, through Hungary, so you can imagine that the chances of receiving anything at all are pretty hopeless.

Roley Pullen at his apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956

Roley has just been sent to Hungary, much against his wishes. However, he has arrived at Vienna as the border is about to be closed again – So I guess things may be alright for him. I took the liberty of getting him to put me on the phone to Robert Edgley & asking him to see what he could do for him in the way of local information, etc. I am leaving for London at 8am on Wednesday. I was to have gone on Friday but McNulty sent me a cable from New York to say that he will probably be there till the 18th. As I would like to see him, I thought I’d leave a little later for London & fly direct if I can. You have had a couple of pretty mad – but, I assure you, earnest letters from me. If anything in them has distressed you in any way put it down to tired and excited ramblings. I want you not to think I am lurching all over the city. I am not. There is a lot to do, and see, and perhaps I cannot cope with it all without an occasional savage outburst – Giving the theatre of the brain a flutter – if you understand – Not that I didn’t mean a word of my love making – but perhaps then it would have been more obscene – and not so beautifully obvious. Anyway I meant every word of it and you have to like it or lump it. Roley got me into a Christian Dior parade the other afternoon. I went alone & had to flash my passport to get in. Got stuck behind three rows of chairs & without a cigarette the two hours of so called parading became even more murderous than conceivable – because I couldn’t get out. All but one of the models looked like creatures from Buchenwald concentration camp. Pin stick limbs, but interesting faces. Very much like Nefertiti because the wizard profiles were capped by flat top haps like Romanian Astrakhan shepherd hats. All the winter clothes were finished off with these type of hat.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0083

I thought some of the winter type coats very nice. Quite your line. I understand your taste, but I haven’t got the money to risk a failure. I should like to have seen you, with your very forthright walk, modelling one or ten of them. The walk you wear when I first remember you running down the side of the pool at Dee Why the day you took off and sat on my costume, and took the little Dutch monster with you into the pool. Your little eyes were so purposeful and your behind wagged as if you were just about fifteen and it hadn’t sat on a hat or swimming pants or even a box of delights for twenty or thirty six years. I think it was on Feb the two-th of something. But it was a wonderful day, because I met you when you got off the bus and you were wagging it from work. I remember Christine saying you were a nice girl. But I had no idea that should agree so seriously with her. I thought she was right, but didn’t realise that I would be so convinced of it later. In fact I never thought then that I would be in love with you – I suppose I was, but wouldn’t admit it even to myself – because how could I, when I was, oh – well – you know, I loved Jess too. And it’s because I love you I can now say that. You understand now.

Bill Pidgeon (Wep) admiring Roley Pullen’s minitiature carousel at Roley’s appartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956

Roley has a musical merry-go-round that makes everybody who sees it want to cry because it is so wonderfully static & old world. And all the four figures who are seated on alternate donkeys and rabbits have their tails dropped off with age and the mange of neglect. With the inevitability of last year’s newsreels, the dear little clown clothed figures trace their fixed and inevitable course, centrifugally around the music of a tinkling and passé empire of France. They wear pantaloons & red velvet bows – cockades and pointed vermillion shoes. One of them, who wears a little peaked donkey hat with a feather in it is so like Graham, I could weep. Some of the horses they are not horse, but they had almost the privilege of being horses, are without tails and hooves. They are dusty, but are ennobled with age and affection. The base is ancient pink & contains the most sentimental music it is the pleasure of any cavalier to ride to. I have just wound it up. And all the figures go la-de-da-de-la in an inevitable circle with Graham, not the most elegantly dressed, riding on the only horse with a tail, in poised and delicate finality.

You know what the trouble with me is, I am not doing enough work. I’m building up & am near explosion point. The absorption rate is high & I guess, apart from the London galleries, I have seen almost every picture worthy seeing or which has been reproduced. The Louvre gives me the flaming horrors. I have been there four times without decently seeing a picture. It is so dismally dark. So is Paris this time of the year – Gives you the thing. Spent another quid having a look at Odilon Redon exhibition (plus catalogue) this morning. Only vaguely knew of him. Beautiful lovely work. So many of the masters are disappointing in the original. By and large, you could give me the early Italian and or Christian painters for my cup of tea.

This is becoming a long letter, my darling and is like my reactions to all external stimuli. I like getting letters from you but I would rather be home. I find the idea of spring hard to conceive. Really the weather here is the end! I’ve seen the sun twice. They tell me the grey of London is worse.

Please don’t expect much from me from London. I shall write only when I madly need you. Not that, that wouldn’t be every day I could make it. But I have had sending news reports, and would as soon be home. The winter 1956 timetable says my plane will get in at 7.20pm on Nov. 25. I do not want you to meet me. I would really much rather get a cab from the city and walk into my home with my people there. I do very really mean this. I would rather kiss you in Northwood than in Mascot or Sydney. I can take you both together in my arms at home. Please let me come home alone. I don’t want anyone else to help me see you all for the first time after all this much of the world. I don’t mind that vulgar Trellie being there. Will you please get this into your thick head? Also, please don’t write any letters I would miss. I can’t stand it. Save your affection up for my arrival. The letter I got today was dated Mon 29 Oct. That is a week’s delay. So don’t write anything I wouldn’t get by the 18th. I might have to go to Zurich by train. Anyway, I’ll let you know pronto. Seems very sad that the last letter I’ll get from you will just about answer this. Please tell me you love me. Tell Graham I’;; send a post card from London, or Calais, or Folkestone. Tell him I’ll only have about half an hour to nick up the Eiffel Tower. Tomorrow I’ll be awful busy. I love you, and miss you, my dear wife.

Bill

P.S. That letter from Orasul Stalin – Stefanie registered it – I didn’t tell her to – perhaps she had no faith in the post.

P.S.S. No man in his youth would be so dependent on a fickle – unpredictable woman – and what is more – shall not be! XXXXXXX

Margaret Murray at Roley Pullen’s apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956
Margaret Murray at Roley Pullen’s apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at Roley Pullen’s apartment, 31 Quai des Grand Augustins, Paris; 3 November 1956

Wep's notes at the Christian Dior Fashion Parade, Paris, 1956 Wep's notes at the Christian Dior Fashion Parade, Paris, 1956

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 3 Nov; Lonely in Paris

Fri 2-Nov-56:      Louvre, bought chicken. Out with Jon Williams.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0078

Paris
Sat 2am
3 Nov ‘56

 

Darling Dorothy (I can’t build on that).

You cannot be more alone than when you have sat down in a strange city and you wake up and you don’t know where you are. But you still have to find your way out without maps, or anyone to help. What makes it worse is to come across a tram shed full of people who are asleep on the concrete floor & you leave 4 Francs for their grog in morning. I am, at last, up in front of a fire at 31 Quai des Saint Augustins. Give one the pip wouldn’t it? Please take no notice of my terrible state of thing. I am useless till I come home. I have had bloody Europe and all its stinking problems. Poor Roley has to go to Hungary – and a worse revolutionary correspondent you would go far to meet. He hates the idea – but I have introduced him over the phone to Robert Edgley, so perhaps he will not feel completely abandoned.

My very loved girl, I either write as I am or not write at all. I’m sick of gawking at bloody buildings. You can as far as I am concerned shove the whole lot up – for a gum tree. They say there are plenty of eucalyptus in the south of France and may be beautifully true – but since when do you pay £20 to look at a stick from the bush when you know that within 3 weeks you’d never get away from them again in your life? Don’t you dare be upset because I am writing in a screw ball mood. It is the time when I need you & wish so much for a few words. Even if they are all wrongly associated and you are perhaps disappointed. But I am not getting any screwier – or more alcoholic – just that I show it more to you. I think a little more of that slushy guff would be in order. Coming from you – I could take it. To tell the truth, I would like, very much, if I could get a letter on the 20 or 21st Nov asking me to get back to the rest tout suite. Nevertheless, I can assure you that I can get on without letters. (But not much!) (I have had many happy affections – many letters from you – since I have been at Roley’s place. It is the only really place I have had a letter.) You are a bloody dear little girl, and I am just beginning to be very greatly in love with you and even if any villainous opportunities arise I never can take them because my thinking of you and your loyalty makes my fred look like a very cold piece of Graham. And I mean that mug! You are my woman, & women! Trouble is, I keep thinking too keenly about it all & what’s more, I am really not kidding, when I say I’d like to be home. I hope you miss me as much as I miss you. I am fairly simple in my tastes. I hope it is warm enough, when I arrive, for you to be wearing a nice pair of scanties, or none at all! Bold, bad, boy! Don’t take much notice of me. Oh what hypocrisy. You indeed take a fred well[?] If the curse is on I don’t care one damn – And I know you are willing anyway. That lounge gives me the first thing – when out of the blue – you became, my wife.

Later –  This is a love letter and I am sending it to you because I love you and you have to take me as I come! I love you very much, indeed now, And don’t forget, to remind me, when I am your horrid friend, Bill XXXXX your husband man

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 29 Oct-1 Nov; Chartres revisited and the Louvre

Mon 29-Oct-56: Roamed around, quick look at Louvre & saw Picasso film again – dinner alone at St Germain.
Tue 30-Oct-56:   Rose 5am & got 6:30 train to Chartres, cold but enjoyable. Dinner with Bob Close & others.
Wed 31-Oct-56: Went to Louvre. Quiet day.
Thu 1-Nov-56:   All Souls Day here. Everything shut, did nothing much, went to Place de Vosges.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0075

Paris
Mon 29 ‘56

Dearest girl,

Another very grey day, with the significant difference that it looks grey to me, too. I’ve just come back from a scouting trip to the Louvre. And these great galleries can depress one very easily. One is forced to contemplate one’s own inadequacies & other’s noble communications with succeeding generations. It was very dark in the gallery but I managed to locate some beautiful things. Leonardo’s “Virgin with Jesus & St Anne”, so much better than the “Mona Lisa”. Giorgione’s “Le Concert Champetre” Titian “Virgin au Lapin” del Sarto “La Charité” & a superb portrait by Raphael of “Jeanne D’Aragon”. Very beautiful. All this beauty of city & past efforts are saddening. Perhaps I’m tired – and reaction has set in after yesterday’s strong impact. I felt like giving it away, but the more one sees of this fabulous city, the more one realises how little one can accomplish in the time allowed. God, how I’d like a month here with you. We could give back to each other the needed help. I hope you understood why I had to become so direct at the end of my last letter. It was very necessary to combat the upward surge. I know, anyway, that you would have been all you could to me. I think I’ll go out and find myself something to eat. I’ve been roaming around a fair bit & am getting rather hungry. Strange as it may seem I wish I could hear you chatter madly, and not too pontifically about all the things we could have seen together. I’d like to buy you some wine, & to get you slightly high, and be (that is me) all sort of mildly amused & knowledgably superior. Miss you darling. Au revoir.

Have just come in – it’s about 11pm. Went & saw the Picasso picture again but couldn’t manage to keep awake. Went and had a feed alone. Cost about £1 for a very indifferent meal.

Very cold out – and the streets are wet & full of reflections from the lights of the city. The Seine doesn’t look too inviting in this sort of weather. Roley must have been in & out again. No sign of him at the moment. Don’t know whether to go to Chartres on the 6.20am train tomorrow – or not. Just can’t make up my mind at the moment. Don’t fancy it in the rain. Perhaps it would be better for me to see some galleries although the bigger ones are closed on Tuesdays. Good night sweetheart.

Good Heaven! It’s Thursday morning already! [31 Oct 1956]. On Tuesday morning I got up at 5am. Cold & very dark. Took myself off on a train at 6.30am to revisit Chartres Cathedral – arrived Chartres about 8am, not long after daylight. It was bitterly cold & a perhaps a perfect day to get the full impression of the cathedral. Austere & keen. I had slightly expected a letdown in emotional feeling on a second view – but all my first raptures were held. It is the most moving building I have seen. A wonderful work of the human spirit. Seems to completely embody the medieval gothic soul.

Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956

The great and simple southern spire – soaring without any commonplace cake like decorations into the cold grey sky – Everything very silent, save for the squawk of the black birds flying in & around the open chambers the high peaked top.

Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956

Around the main entrance – the typical Gothic carvings – but these so much better than most. Pure Gothic – as moving as can be – quite up to the Indian gift for sculptured embroidery conceived as a grand and united whole. A beautiful church. Went over to the Louvre but find the pictures hard to see – Paris is very dull & grey – cold too now. So dark, little light comes into the gallery. Most disappointing as there were many fine pictures to be seen. I getting too tired to really take them in. It’s a big gallery with plenty of walking to be done, and my legs have just about had it. Am looking forward to getting home for a rest for a few days.

All the world tension & disaster doesn’t add to the gaiety over here. I hope to God I can get home on time. What with the way things are shaping up it’s becoming a bit disturbing – Not knowing just how big the Anglo French war with Egypt will get. I guess you are getting worried about it. However, I think I will get through all right. I’m going to London tomorrow or the day after & will find out better how the flights home are standing. Shouldn’t be any trouble, as apparently plenty of French athletes are getting ready to take off for the Melbourne Olympics.

Here it is Thursday & midday already. Days are getting short here – I was up at 8am & big[?] a fair bit of washing. Managed to boil my handkerchiefs for the first time. Roley’s got a fire going & the flat is all tightly closed up – makes me sleepy – so I suppose I’d better go out & liven up in the grey chill. Very hazy & all – the buildings appearing like photographs with their almost complete lack of colour. Very paintable though.

I must get this letter off – perhaps my last from here. Longing to see you and Graham again. Nothing like having your own family around even if I never realise it when I have got it! Sorry that this is not a more enthusiastic letter, darling. When I am all keyed up to get the details good & hot – some interference takes place – much as you have complained about at home. Give my regards to the DolemansWatsons & Price Jones. I send you very loving thoughts – your Bill. XXX

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Taken from Rue de la Grenouillère, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
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The same view, 19 Dec 2015
Taken near 1 – 3 Rue du Frou looking towards Chartres Cathedral, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
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The same view, 19 Dec 2015
2-10 Rue de la Planche aux Carpes, photographed from Rue du Chêne Doré, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
1957 oil on board 37.0 x 51.0 cm signed on the lower right: pidgeon 57 label attached: Invoice 26244 / $215.2 23.4.90 / $130.00 No.9 Charles Hewitt Frames Invoices #26243/4/5, 23/4/90 17 paintings not fully identified. Framing details per invoices Avg cost $446.86 ($7,596.70) Item 9 - [Bridge walk, Chartres, France, 1956] 26" x 20.5", S8047 moulding and small linen bevel, $215.20, Restoration $130.00
[Bridge walk, Chartres, France, 1956]
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The same view, 19 Dec 2015
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Wep’s son Peter and family outside the house at 2-10 Rue de la Planche aux Carpes, Chartres; 19 Dec 2015
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Wep’s son, Peter Pidgeon and home owner Jean outside 2-10 Rue de la Planche aux Carpes, Chartres; 19 Dec 2015
1 Rue de Bethléem, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Institut de France, Le Parlement des Savants photographed from the right bank looking across the Seine; 31 October 1956
[Institut de France, Le Parlement des Savants, Paris 1956]
[Institut de France, Le Parlement des Savants, Paris 1956]
Pont Neuf, Paris; 31 October 1956
The Louvre museum in the distance from the Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde, adjacent to the Rue de Rivoli, Paris; 31 October 1956
Place de la Concorde, Paris; 31 October 1956
Bassin Octagonal, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris; 31 October 1956
Margaret Murray standing in front of the Bassin Octagonal (camera looking north) in the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris; 31 October 1956
Jardin des Tuileries, Paris; 31 October 1956
Place de Vosges; 1 November 1956

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 26-28 Oct; Paris, Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and Chartres

Fri 26-Oct-56:     Chicken. Walked around generally from [Maurice] Utrillo’s church [Notre-Dame de Clignancourt] all through city. Went back to city (?) later & bought a hot chicken for tea.
Sat 27-Oct-56:   Roley worked at Daily Express office & I saw Musee d’Art Moderne. Went to Joan Harrison’s place for evening meal.
Sun 28-Oct-56:  Walked around Isle near Notre Dame Chartres. Went for drive & dinner at Remy St Chevreuse & went on to see Chartres cathedral – Had dinner at a café in St Germain. Saw Picasso film.
[Paris 1956]
Bois de Boulogne, Paris 1956 – Painted in 1957, this depiction of the Paris landscape is as viewed from the Bois de Boulogne with the Eiffel Tower in the centre distance and the Arc de Triomphe immediately to its left. Whilst Wep does not reference visiting the Bois de Boulogne, he may well have done so on 26 October 1956.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0070

Paris
Saturday night – 27th Oct

Little Sweetie,

I wanted to write to you very much & thought that I was fixed for an evening in which to do it. Roley’s big day in an office is on Saturday and I did not expect to see him until later tonight. But he rang up & said that I was expected as an extra guest for a meal he was going to. We have not long returned and it is pretty late. In any case, there is so much to tell of Paris – that one hardly knows where to begin – even if one has the time. I have covered quite a lot of this city & there is still much more than I can contemplate coping with. It is huge. And with millions of people & cars running madly all over it like ants. The weather has been mostly dull, which I gather is commonplace enough – But the city looks like many pearls against a grey velvet background. A very beautiful place, which is everything that you could expect from it. The number of cars around is fabulous.

Possibly Joan Harrison outside the Musée d’Art Moderne (Museum of Modern Art), Paris; 27 October 1956

The price of culture is high here. On a visit to the Museum of Modern Art [Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris] – I saw a specially collected exhibition of Matisse. About half a dozen of the pictures were superb. The old gentleman seems lately to be doing nothing but cut out bits of coloured paper & stick them down. I cough out money for entrance of Galleries & fork up for expensive catalogues. 2 shows & their catalogues cost me 200 Franc each to enter (i.e. 5/.-) plus 350 francs each for the catalogue. The other exhibition was by a sculptress named Germaine Richier. Fantastic stuff. Some of it most impressive – lots of it screwy. I’ve been walking about 6 hours a day and get really too tired to do justice to my need for you. I got your letter dated 22nd today and was highly delighted to realise your desire for me is as great as is mine for you. I am looking forward to our reunion in the warmth. It is very cold over here at the moment, but I am keeping warm enough – I leave for London next Friday for about a week – and before I know what is what will be on the plane home to you and Graham. I have done my best to make the most out of this trip despite the fact that I am getting heartily tired of buildings & pictures. Roley aims to have a day out in the country tomorrow – which should be a welcome change. I am too sleepy to continue writing so will go to bed with your need alongside me. It is very helpful to be getting some letters from you so quickly. Nothing has turned up from Rumania yet. I guess it is a relief to know that I am out of the Red area. The insurrections in Hungary could have been very disturbing for you had you not known I was already beyond the Iron Curtain. I am closing this part of the draft with very much love. And I mean it my dearest Dorothy wife. Kisses for you & the junior Pidgeons. While Roley goes out to play the organ for the English Embassy service in the morning, I am going over to Notre Dame for a walk with his secretary – a nice Aussie girl [Margaret Murray].

Sunday [28 Oct 1956]. [One paragraph typed] Roley bought this machine in Italy for only 17£ St. Got some sort of journalistic rebate on it. A brand new Olivetti. Can’t quite get used to the feel of it myself as the keyboard seems a little jammed up to me. Still it’s a nice clean typeface. Very expensive in this city, so I shall hold my horses until I get to London, where I will see what is available, and what to get here on the last lap home. I’ll come back for a day or two before I take off for Zurich. Listen darling, you’d better send me again all your measurements in both inches and centimetres. Also glove sizes. Please do it immediately and post to me in London, Aust. Consolidated Press, 107 Fleet St, London EC4.

Darlingest Dorothy – my dear girl. I have had the most wonderful day. I was breathless about it an hour or so ago but have tired off – Nevertheless, I want you to know, & for me to remember, something of it. I hope to write myself into a regained enthusiasm as I go along. I had not long finished playing around with Roley’s typewriter when his secretary came & took me off for a walk to the little island behind the Notre Dame. It is called the Isle St Louis and we wandered through the pearly grey veil of atmosphere which seems to shroud Paris in an intangible net of beauty on the rising of the day. The Seine greyly yellow, sluggish through the black trunks of the trees by the river – the light tones of the retaining walls & the wonderful Japonise lines of the steps and ramps leading to the waters edge. Grey – not a black keyed up – but a viridian & crimson mixed hue of lustre off-white. Luminous – and not substantial. An image on a screen, without a seeming reality, except that one can see the movement of the lime green leaves as they fall before & behind where you stand. To put your hand out and hold one for a second in its suspended and inevitably beautiful pattern in the almost too inviolable harmony. The leaves just acid enough to save the whole from a cloying death. I think I can still see it – I know I will – so many things to remember – So many things remembered – Beautiful grey & lime. Fluid lovely lines of river, trees & bridges. Came back & went into Notre Dame, which was crowded because some special service. Impressive enough church, but somehow disappointed in it.

Margaret Murray with Roley Pullen at one of the best restaurants in the environs of Paris, possibly the Cafe de la Mairie at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Margaret Murray with Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at one of the best restaurants in the environs of Paris, possibly the Cafe de la Mairie at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956

Met Roley at 12 after his church service playing & we three started off to the country to one of the best restaurants in the environs of Paris. I remember Roley writing a story about the Prince of Gourmets, a fellow, named Curnonsky, & eleven others, of which Roley was one, eating a whole pig at one meal. We had a magnificent omelette – a specialty called Omelette du Curé de Mennessiar. Made as far as we could find out – with a filling of cream & tuna & carp & herring sperm. I think with a little mornay sauce – sprinkled with chives & served in a long ramekin with melted butter & a little lemon juice – Boy! – I mean girlie! It was smooth. We made a mistake with the second dish – not that it was not good, but that it was not their extra hot specialty as we found out later. A fine white wine, although a little sweet for me – & tres bon claret. So many of their wines are good. Nevertheless you start paying for them. – A Beaujolais, which is apparently a reasonably good wine costs about 4/6. The vin ordinaire which one can get for 2/3 is quite good but no better than that Murrumbidgee Red we had. Of course you can get the vintage classes & pay what you like. We have not gone to the extent of having really expensive meals. Roley is a bloody goon, & won’t let me pay when we eat out – so sometimes I buy a chicken (cooked) & we heat it u & fix up in the flat. I help out a little by doing bits of plumbing – cleaning his sink out etc. & bits & pieces. He is helpless as a babe. God knows what all this living in Paris would cost. I know the lunch cost 4750 francs which is nearly a £5. Cheap hotel accommodation without meals is 1700 francs a night. £2 Australian. I’ll try & do a painting to send back to him. He insists that Jess & I gave him much hospitality in Australia. You’d like him very much.

Bill Pidgeon (Wep) and Margaret Murray snapped by a street photo
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) and Margaret Murray snapped by a street photographer near the Notre Dame, Paris; 28 October 1956

Had a street photo taken near the Notre Dame & hope to get it soon. I love you. Xxx.

Roley Pullen and Margaret Murray at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Roley Pullen and Margaret Murray at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Margaret Murray at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956
Roley Pullen and Bill Pidgeon (Wep) standing in the Place de la Mairie possibly pointing to the cafe where they and Margaret Murray had dined at Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse; 28 October 1956

This little village St Remy les Chevreuse about 16 miles out of Paris, was very charming & very new to me – different, more intimate, than Paris – little angles on village lanes & doll like houses. Gay with the grape, Roley screams out (he always screams) we’ll take the bloody Boche (that’s me) to Chartres to see the cathedral. Bingo & with hurry to get there before the light is too full to come through the grand illuminated windows.

Approaching Chartres Cathedral and the end of the roll of film; 28 Oct 1956

Lovely little town – medieval – everything in the book – All of us gay & enthusiastic – the beautiful cathedral, Roley reckoned the finest in France & I believe him. Knocks the Notre Dame Paris, into a cocked hat. Perfect Gothic stone figures guarding the entrance to the Lord. 700 years or more since the western soul soared through the immobile stone to seek a mystic union with the things that move us all. The front right & oldest tower embodying a simplicity & perfection of line, not to be recaptured in the rest of the building. – (These things took generations to complete). The setting light – the grey – It must be a French grey – perfectly holding the form without shadow. Inside, so dark, and the last light filtering through the coloured jewels in lead. Windows that shone like neons in a sea of midnight velvet. Behind us, out of the interior murk silhouetted figures & a mother with a pram silently as a photograph passing through the stations of the filtered light. On the right in equal & untouchable gloom – the epiphany of the lighted candles – and the bended devout. High up – high as the seeming sky – in the radiant windows. Jewels – seeable – memorable – and indescribable. All of which had a terrible effect on my high animal spirits. The flesh abased made you realise something – damn it all – It’s hard to describe without getting too precious on paper – I could tell you darling, when I have my head in your lap, and against your breast, and you ask me to ramble on, & you’ll understand, because you’ll feel my heart, and I’ll mean it, even if it is incoherent & sooky, to anyone else. But you, who love me, and know that I want to get it all out before it chokes me & I must get some of it to you tonight even if it is 3 o’clock in the morning. I want you to be me, & have it too. Right inside me – In my heart – I can put you there because, now I know you belong there, and that somehow, no row will ever be bitter again. Because I have learnt I need you. And love you. This has made me quite shaky. And I’m not even high. Chartres Cathedral de Notre Dame shook me. I was just in that uninhabited state to be perfectly timed for it. It’s about 45 miles from Paris, but before I go to London I am going to get the train up there to spend a day. I want you very much indeed.

We had a couple of beers before coming back but Chartres had fixed us. The party was over. After returning we picked up a woman journalist from the Daily Express & had a light meal & went to see a hour long movie [Le mystère Picasso] on Picasso & how he works. This show really did me to a turn. It was completely fascinating. With some new techniques (movie) it showed through the back of his (say canvas) the lines & colours as he put them down – Also later how he composed & decomposed a full time serious picture – Showed all his trials & errors & erasures & final destruction of a painting. It was the most illuminating piece of movie reporting it is possible to imagine. A bloody superb picture – am going to see that again too. Darling, I must finish & get to bed. Even Paris has not been able to support the showing of this picture on Picasso to the extent it deserves – so probably it will never get to Australia. It is highly esoteric & technical & marvellous. So you can see, all in all darling it has been the moistest day I have had since I left home – and it has left me very taut indeed. I am tired, but my mind is going madly like a cretin clock. Forgive me for writing this darling but it will help unwind me and I’d so much like to give you a fuck full with a great deal of love. From your Bill. XXXX

Please translate some of this for Graham. Tell him I know he will understand I can’t write separate letters, more love

Bill xx

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Notre-Dame de Clignancourt, painted by Maurice Utrillo in 1914, Paris; 26 October 1956
Looking north down the stairs at the top of Rue du Mont Cenis towards Rue Saint-Vincent, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Looking up Rue du Chevalier de la Barre towards Sacre Coeur church, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Place du Tertre, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Place du Tertre, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Theatre de Tertre viewed from Rue Lepic, Montmartre, Paris; 26 October 1956
Place Vendôme, Paris; 26 October 1956
Paris; 26 October 1956
Possibly Joan Harrison on the Avenue de la Grande Armée, Paris; 27 October 1956
Paris; 27 October 1956

 

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 24-25 Oct; Paris – pounding the footpath

Wed 24-Oct-56: Wandered all round the shopping areas & saw Sacre-Coeur church in morning – went to Lido night club. Up very late.
Thu 25-Oct-56:  Longchamp – went to Longchamp race course in afternoon & cooked Chinese grub in Roley’s flat in evening.
[Longchamp Race Course, Paris 1956]
Longchamp Race Course, Paris 1956, painted by W.E. Pidgeon in 1957
1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0065
Pullen’s Palace
33 Rue St Augustin [33 Quai des Grands Augustins]
Paris, France
Wed or rather Thursday
The 25th Oct 1956

1956 Cultural Exchange_0062-3

My very dear darling, I have made three attempts to write to you about the Tyrol which I think must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Each time I get started some interruption occurs & the Tyrol is up the spout. I can’t force myself to write about it – I love it too much – I will tell you on the 28th of November when you are in my arms, and there is no tensions anywhere in the world, and for the little while we have some appreciative peace. I want to tell you so much about it. I cannot write much when I am staying with people. Please forgive the aimless scrawl – I have put the drop in the eyes & am not seeing very well. – Plus the feet too [?]. I have been to the Ritzy-est nightclub in Paris which means anywhere. The story is too long. I was where I was, with an English photographer from the Daily Express & it cost plenty just to sit at the bar counter & look over the shoulders of those who paid more than real money. I do not forget my darling girl. You are my wife and I your husband and its very silly, and it’s also very true and there is not much that can be done about it expect think of each other. From the Lido we went down to the Market’s area where we had a couple of beers. For 7 hours I have been pounding the foot path and now, really couldn’t care less about the sight & hide of the dopes who look after them.

At this point your poor dear erring, but loving husband, took the knock. He had a lot to tell you, but was breathless, and too slow on the draw. All I want is for Roley to get his washing away from hanging over the bath, so that I can get some of mine into the same position. Me – I’ve been washing too! I got very loving towards you (not that I am not always in that state when I’m 12,000 miles away) because you are the earth I put my anchor into and you take it & have not to leave it. I think you are quite the nicest girl – and also, the most forgiving little bugger – in the whole of the southern hemisphere – and the northern too, for that matter – And no amount of scolding, or disappointment in me will alter that sad fact. I love you. I wish you were here because I am now very cold & am shivering like a leaf (aspen). Part of this fatal affection for is maybe put down to the fact that I walked around for seven hours yesterday on only a bit of a bun and 1 ½ cups of coffee. You remember Georges Simenon, the Belgian author who wrote those short novels I sometimes got you to read. Novels about the gloomy French & their problems. He often talks about his lousy, unhappy heroes leaning against, or upon, a zinc lined bar, listening to the rain beating on the pavement outside whilst they drown their sorrows in a glass of Calvados. Well, I have never had a glass of Calvados, and didn’t know what the hell anyone could find to drown in it. So I ups and bought a flask of it for only 175 francs which is 4/3. There is still 2/1 worth left in the bottle and it is a very pleasant sort of fire water, made I am told, out of apple juice. Only goes to show, doesn’t it? Look, if you don’t forgive me, I won’t ever be the same. I’ll do a Blunden on you and regret it for ever afterwards [Wep’s friend, journalist Geoff Blunden deserted his wife Micky and married another woman]. I wouldn’t be writing to you if I didn’t think more of you than my actions indicate. Yah!

Yesterday afternoon, I was gloomily looking in a shop window on the Rue des Capucines, when a voice said “Do you think they are nylons or orlons?” I. quick as a flash, replied “I wouldn’t have a clue”. (Smart, eh?) Then he says – “I don’t think I come from too far away from you”. Me – “Could be, Lane Cove, Australia,” Him “Bondi, Sydney, what are you doing?” Me – “Contemplating a beer”. Him – “Oright, we can we go?” Us – “Let’s see”. And so, one of the world’s fleetingest friendships was formed between W. Edwin Pidgeon, late of Northwood, NSW and Ron Watson, not a Sergeant of Detectives, Bondi, NSW. He is over here on some business for Hoyts & has invited me to accompany him to a movie taking, involving the newest French glamour puss, next Monday. He says “come out with me & have a free lunch with the director”. So by the time you read this letter I shall have been irrevocably seduced by the vision splendid – I hope. In any case you are not too bad yourself – much slicker than most of the Frogs I have seen. At your age too, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Remember the nice happy beer we had together at Bulli – the day after we were married. I liked that. Still do. I spent all day looking at the shops which had nothing on Sydney’s. Funny thing is that the shop keepers move great quantities of their stock out on to the foot paths – and you see washing machine demonstrations – cooking exhibitions – bundles of clothing, meat, fish, & God knows what, all displayed halfway across the street. Enough to make the civic fathers of Sydney turn in their graves. I tell you, it’s crazy. Everybody tells me it is nutty to buy goods in Paris. And on looking at the prices I’m inclined to agree. They say wait till you get to London. There is nothing much in the stylish line around. Perhaps because winter is just around the corner. I still love you. I am one of most contented goons, you are ever likely to meet up with. I think you are a bit sappy too. Enough of this love talk. Roley is getting his secretary to take me to a big time fashion parade. I hope I can remember what to tell you – about the details & who’s there & what have you. This Paris is quite a [place – even if it is only the tourists who play. Roley says most of the Parisians have never seen the Folies Bergere [history of], and to prove his point, immediately asked his cleaning up woman (not a bad line of about 40) if she had ever seen the show – she had not.

I don’t need any money – I still have £210 left. I can’t see any point in spending it on shows & things. After all – they fundamentally the same in Sydney – if not as well done. I’m sick of gaping at notable buildings – I find the flavour of a town in its shops & its people. The way they go out – the way they work – The slums & the shops – the devil take the equestrian statues. Just now I wouldn’t mind being home or having you & Graham here with me. Yesterday morning I had a little pleasure in doing a note of the Pont St Michael [Pont Saint Michel], took a photo too, so may be able to get something out of it. The Pont Neuf is the next one up on the river & can be well seen from the windows of Roley’s flat. He & his secretary usually eat out but think it a good idea if I cook them a Chinese meal. I’d like to have a go, & see how the old form is. I still love you.

 

I have suddenly lost my punch – and find it hard to write any more. Although I am too lousy to let this letter go without filling up the back of this page. Looks as if I’ll finish off a bit half cooked. Which reminds me, that I bought some books by a yank named Henry Miller – strictly banned in England & USA – and no wonder too. King would know of him. I bought the extra books Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller (1952)because from what I read in his, which I bought in Rome, “Tropic of Capricorn” he has approached a sort of Indian Tantric, (i.e. sexual union) form of mysticism. Half of this book is straight out surrealist writing – the other, & really vivid half is devoted to an extraordinarily detailed, and enthusiastic account of fucking. It will make your eyes pop out. I can’t quite work out just how much exhibitionism is involved, or whether it is a purposeful contrast between the flight from self & the submergence in self. Seems like a contest between the flesh & the spirit. Tropic of cancer by Henry Miller (1934?)Anyway – in whichever vein he writes, he is equally moving. Needless to say his books are on the banned list but it is possible that I can get them in. You know, by just walking through Customs with them in my hand – or pocket, etc. Funny thing – Every country I have been through, just accepts your word that you have nothing to declare. Not once has my pack been opened. The bag, incidentally is getting a bit of a bulge in it. Packed pretty solid. Have had the jumper on only 3 or 4 times. Extraordinarily warm over here. Dearest, dearest [little love heart illustration with arrow through it]

 

Even if it kills me I’ll finish this page. You would (please say yes) wouldn’t you, rather have a letter of nothing, than wait for some Baedeker description of Paris?

How is Graham? I hope I am more understanding when I get back. Something has been missing. Am finding it hard to know what to get him. The limitations of plane packing have to be considered. I’m glad to hear you are all well. I still haven’t got your measurements – but any letters from Bucarest haven’t been sent here yet. I am very glad you know that I am out of the satellite countries. I think it may have been somewhat worrying if you had thought I was still there whilst the big blue is going on between Poland & Hungary & Russia [Hungarian uprising and the Russian invasion].

Au revoir & auf wiedersehen to you, dear wife, and terribly earnest thoughts for Graham. Am looking forward to seeing Trellie – 2 months difference – I won’t know her, nor she me.

I cannot, without complete collapse of gentlemanly restraint, tell you all how much I miss you.

Am getting to the stage of looking forward to my return home. Not that I’ll be any better, once I settle down. But there it is – Many hugs, restrained & otherwise, ditto for these xxxxxxxxxx

X – this one for the female hound, Nortey Trellie.

If I had the space I’d bring her back a piece of French fence post to sniff at.

(P.S. Our entrance to the Lido cost us 25/- each for 1 Scotch. We sat at the bar & looked on. We only had the 1 Scotch.)

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Rue Muller, Montmartre, Paris; 24 October 1956 (Looking down Rue Muller on the right and Rue Feutrier to the left from the lower steps of Rue Maurice Utrillo. The cafe on the left remains a cafe today)
Rue Maurice Utrillo, Montmartre, Paris; 24 October 1956 (Looking down to Rue Muller from about halfway down the stairs of Rue Maurice Utrillo)
Pont Saint Michel and Notre Dame, Paris; 24 October 1956
Pont Neuf, Paris; 24 October 1956
St Paul Metro Station Rue de Rivoli, Paris; 24 October 1956
Possibly Boulevard Poissonnière, Paris; 24 October 1956
Looking west along Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle at the corner of Rue d’Hauteville, Paris; 24 October 1956
Street art along Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle near the corner of Rue d’Hauteville, Paris; 24 October 1956
Looking southwest from Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle at Porte Saint-Denis, Paris; 24 October 1956
IMG_6208
Junction of Boulevard Saint-Denis and Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle, Paris; 31 December 2013

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 22-23 Oct; Vienna to Paris on the Orient Express

Mon 22-Oct-56: Cashed £15 in French Francs. Got Alberg Express at 9:10 am arrived Innsbruck 5:30pm. Wonderful Tyrol!
Tue 23-Oct-56:   Arrived Paris 8:50am. Very foggy, couldn’t find Roley Pullen. A trying morning but all clear at 2pm.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0060

On the Orient Express – the Arlberg Division
Just past Salzburg – on the way to Innsbruck
2pm on Monday 22nd Oct

Dearest Girl,

I can’t write this too well, the train is jiggling around quite a bit. At the moment we are traveling alongside a mountain stream, with great sharp rocky peaks on either side. There is no snow about but all the trees, save the pines, are in many shades from light yellow to red. Really – very colourful & dramatic. I am drinking a bottle of beer & have just finished two very indifferent frankfurts & a roll. Looks like my last food till I get to France. I shall spend my last money – 20 or so Austrian schillings – about 3/6 on beer – it will make me happier to be without food. I have French francs but can’t do much with them here. Just imagine – we have just passed below a castle perched high up on a great 200-300 ft high rock. How they get there – or built it I don’t know. It is quite warm and the sun is streaming in the carriage window. The beer is making me sleepy and I am missing the scenery. I think my darling, I had better continue this letter tonight when there is nothing to see. We still have 18 hours to go.

My Darling girl – We are just pulling into Basle (or Basel) on the northern corner of Switzerland – it is the border of France & Germany I think. It is midnight and I am missing you like mad. It seems like the near full moon which accompanies us has had many trips since I left Mascot. I do hope you are both alright. Am pretty tired now and would like to be actively in your arms. Then deep sleep – A great curse! I had this compartment to myself for ¼ hour. With doors open & heater off. Now in comes a bloody French couple with a child & shut the door. These flaming Europeans can’t stand a bit of air. Give you the hump – However, I’ll go to sleep and rise above the sordid problems. I’ll tell you about the trip when I get alone in my room. Incidentally, this express is driven by electric motor – from overhead wires – all the way from Vienna to Zurich. Just had my passport stamped by the French control officers. Child now blowing horrible raspberries – in French I presume. May as well give it away. Good night dearest. I know my intimate feelings will be too stale for immediate benefit for either of us, by the time you get this letter. But despair not – they, Phoenix-like, are being continually re-vitalized. I get very loving towards you both when I think of the letters I collected from the Hotel Austria. Selfishly, I loved them. Does the solitary soul good to feel that it is needed somewhere. You are my own dear people. I suppose this parting helps in some way, to make for closer union – for love and dependency from us all. At last we are off again. Paris! Have I come!

Tuesday  [23 Oct 1956] 7.15am. We are only about ¾ hour outside of Paris and a heavy fog practically obscures any vision of the countryside. Had a pretty good night – the French couple must have got out shortly after we left Basle – I was alone from there on. I think I will stay in Paris till the 2nd of November then go on to London for a week & a couple of days. I’ll have to leave London by the 19th November to get to Zurich where I get my plane on the 21st. So any letters you may send after you get this should be sent to Clarrie McNulty, London – get address from Eleanore [Watson]. It is Consolidated Press something or other, Fleet St.

5pm. Am at last resting in Roley Pullen’s flat after a very trying morning. He received your letter in this morning’s mail. That’s very good going, my darling. I had no expectation that I would get a reply to my phone call only 5 days after I made it. Thanks a lot dearest. I arrived in Paris at 8.50am & no familiar faces to behold. I got a taxi to the address I had of Roley’s – No one had heard of him. More than a little dismayed I staggered with the weight of luggage into a nearby coffee shop where I had hopes of mapping out an attack on the city. Could find nothing in the phone book but an entry for Agence Francaise de Press. Hoping to find some clue from the address listed, I began a back breaking search for a bookshop where I could get a map of Paris. Miraculously, I noticed an Agence Francaise name over a doorway. It wasn’t the address but I asked & finally found an English speaking girl who gave me an address of Australian Associated Newspaper Service. I lugged the cases about a mile (with the aid of an uninformative map) till I came to the address. This was an hotel. I could have wept. Anyway, I went in & somehow or other whilst asking if they knew anything about any Press service in the vicinity a girl’s name who is the representative was mentioned & they said she lived there but was out & not back till 1 o’clock. I left a pitiful note & said I would return & would they mind if I left my big case there for the hour & half. Then wandered up the hill towards Montmartre. Came back – girl gone – but note with Roley’s address and Phone no. They told me where it was & how to get there by underground. I got the train (about 6 stations) & when I got out realised I didn’t have the number of the house. Couldn’t ring either. Got train back – retrieved note – and as it was nearly 2 o’clock asked hotel to ring for me. Luckily I got him & hence here I am – buggered but unbowed. He has a fine view of the Seine & Notre Dame. His rooms directly overlook the river. And just opposite is the Palais de Justice & behind it, the Louvre. He is being very kind to me – wouldn’t think of me going to a hotel. (Naturally with my wrong address – he didn’t get the telegram). But was not quite so surprised to hear me on the phone, as he had received your letter. He is working now – so I am writing this to keep out of his way. Paris seems to be a huge place, and very beautiful. I’ll get up early & start my dutiful tour then. Couldn’t dream of it now.

Lots of love darling – I hope Graham’s got some new pieces for me to hear. Ask Graham to give Trellie [Corgi dog] a man’s hug for me and for himself 2 heavy handshakes – bye – bye – Bill

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Austria from aboard the Alberg Express train from Vienna to Paris; 22 October 1956
Possibly alongside the Salzach River, Austria from aboard the Alberg Express train from Vienna to Paris; 22 October 1956
Austria from aboard the Alberg Express train from Vienna to Paris; 22 October 1956
Austria from aboard the Alberg Express train from Vienna to Paris; 22 October 1956
Landhotel – Wirtshaus VORDERGRUB, Bernhard Knollseisen, Walsenbachweg 14. A-6370 Kitzbühel, Austria taken aboard the Alberg Express train from Vienna to Paris; 22 October 1956
View from Roley Pullen’s apartment at 33 Quai des Grands Augustins, Paris; 23 October 1956
Pont St Michel
Pont St Michel painted by W.E. Pidgeon in 1957
View from Roley Pullen’s apartment at 33 Quai des Grands Augustins, Paris; 23 October 1956
View from Roley Pullen’s apartment as evening approaches at 33 Quai des Grands Augustins, Paris; 23 October 1956

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 14-21 Oct; Cluj, Oradea, Bucharest and Vienna

Brasov Sun 14-Oct-56:  Saw the magnificent Biserica Neagu – the Black church – built 800 years ago – Driver of car missing all day – were to go on to Cluj – but didn’t.
Mon 15-Oct-56: Left at 8am for Cluj. Met an ethnologist Nicolae Dunare & went out near Oradea to a peasant potters house
Tue 16-Oct-56:   Met sculptor and two artists, discussed social realism. Returned to Bucharest arriving 1:30am. Got letters from home.
Wed 17-Oct-56: Went to Institute & talked with Baranga. Got presents, bought some records, had dinner with Charles & Victor.
Thu 18-Oct-56:  Cashed £5. Left Bucharest at 8am. Arrived Vienna about 1pm. Changed flight booking to 21 Nov. Phoned dear little Dorothy.
Fri 19-Oct-56:     Just wandered around all day – got pyjamas back from Stephanie Hotel [Hotel Stefanie]. Met Dr & Mrs Edgley & had dinner with Mrs E. at a Russian place. Was invited to stay with them!
Sat 20-Oct-56:   Went to Edgley’s and stayed. Was driven to Vienna Woods. Played Scrabble. Paid hotel, phone, rail fare. Cashed £7 & £10
Sun 21-Oct-56:  Visited art museum & large picnic park where we had lunch. Had dinner at the Balkan Grill.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0057

Romanische [Roemischer] Kaiser Hotel
Annagasse 1 Wien [ Annagasse 16]
Sat 20 Oct 56

My darling girl.

It’s about 7.30am and is a bit on the cool side. I got out of bed ¾ hour ago as I found little comfort there. Now if I was out on the front verandah at 85 I reckon I could show you a thing or two. There’s nothing much to look at here. My old machinery is getting out of practice. But my thoughts are ardent – and, I hope acceptable. As all this doesn’t help one little bit. I suppose I had best carry on with the historical & geographical aspects of this one man caravanserie. But truly, I do miss you so very much. I’m getting a bit tired of gazing at churches, & public monuments, parks, rivers, street names, traffic policemen, food shops, dress shops, German phrase books, city maps, handfuls of all sorts of currency and foreign menus. I am not tired of looking at girls or book shops, although it is my much considered opinion that the latter are of much better quality. It seems surprising how few top line sorts one sees in Europe – so far. However, talking about that is preferable to writing. The book shops here are very good – really go in for art publications with German thoroughness, but I dare say that in Paris & London I shall find them as good – probably better. I have only just realised that my last letter to you was posted from Orasul Stalin in Rumania last Sunday. God, knows when you will receive it – possibly after this one. I have been a bit too busy travelling to give you much of myself. I did get a kick out of ringing you in Sydney and even if the connection was bad, we did manage to make some real contact. It was nice to hear you sweetie, although for the life of me, I can’t remember anything much about it except the important items of date of return – seeing the Edgleys – giving you the tip off to write c/o Roley Pullen, and hearing Graham too. I bet he gave the schoolboys & the neighbours an earbashing about a telephone call from Vienna. I hope you felt I was loving you very much. Because I was. I didn’t get the address of the street too well – so went to a travel agency & with their help found the Australian Commission’s premises. Edgley was away at Linz – and was due back at 6pm Friday. About 6.30 I rang his wife – she was delighted to hear a dirty old Australian accent & insisted I catch a cab straight out, which I did & while trying to find out, with my filthy German, which house they lived in – the doctor arrived home. Only to find his youngest child, a girl of 2 ½ down with pneumonia. Mrs E wanted to dine out, so papa stayed home to look after sick child. They have invited me to stay with them for the day or two before I leave for Paris. Quite a lively couple – she is 6 months gone again – making it her 3rd. They are getting pretty sick of the climate here – but have to stay on another 12 months or so.

The Black Church in Orasul Stalin (Brasov), Romania; 13 October 1956

This rushing around is tiring and confusing – for the life of me I can’t remember where I was up to in my travels. Did I tell you about a beautiful old church in Orasul Stalin. It was over 800 years old. The stone of its exterior quite fretted away like rocks by the sea, so dark grey as to have occasioned its name of Biserica Neagra which means Black Church. It was very big and the interior all around the bottom end where the altar was placed was painted white. The towering shafts of stone appeared to radiate a purity of light – the altar itself nicely proportioned & with just the right amount of gold. It gave me rare pleasure. That white – unbelievably effective. The churches in Vienna, are even blacker in surface appearance – and more huge. But inside is all the original grey aged stone – & the effort is gloomy. The old black church had spirit – plus buoyancy. The maniacal driver managed to bash a mud guard in & that held us up for ½ day at O. Stalin. On the Monday morning we took off for Cluj at 8am. Transylvania! A country in everyone’s imagination – full of werewolves, bats, vampires and horrifying mysteries. Ruritania – with princes on sombre missions. Pine trees – dark recesses of the mountains & snow. And the whole damn place looks more like Australia than anything I have seen since I left home. It is a twin to the Monaro district. Autumnal brown grass rolling slopes, very few trees, and the Alps in the distance. Tell Price Jones to tear the word Transylvania out of his accumulated imaginings. It just ‘aint so. I am afraid I disappointed Mrs Edgley, too, with my account of it. Visited a vineyard on the way up & had a couple of quick snorts. They seem to only make white wines up here & pretty sour Riesling at that. Crumby stuff – which everyone drinks with soda water. Breaks your flaming romantic heart. To save something from the wreck you can tell Bill that the peasants do wear white trousers & white aprons – with great shaggy sheep skins coats to cover. They do carry long sticks & lead the flocks to various pastures. The only thing that was un-Australian was the complete & utter lack of fences anywhere. The peasants all live in clustered houses in the villages & at early morning set out in their carts drawn by horses or oxen for their plot which may be anywhere between one village & the next. Apparently they know their own ground backward & there is no dispute as to where one man’s lot begins & ends. The peasants give their stock (sheep or cattle) to the shepherd & he takes them all out to grass.

Believed to be at a studio for artists and sculptors in Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Unknown artist at work. believed to be at a studio for artists and sculptors in Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956

Met some artists and sculptors in Cluj. They were being very well done by. Storybook studios & apparently adequate money. Also met a director of a folk lore museum who suggested we nick out & see some peasant potters. We did so – found out, was about 35 miles out. Practically on the Hungarian border – near a town named Oradea. Quite interesting. Next day returned to Bucharest – got in about 1.30am.

Possibly taken at Wep’s final meeting with the Director of the Cultural Institute (Institutul Romin Pentru Relatiile Culturale cu Strainatea), Bucharest, Romania; 17 October 1956

Had a meeting with the director of the Institute. All very amiable. Asked what I thought about Rumania, what I didn’t like, etc. Received a present of a little bit of folk art. An old Rumanian custom I gather. Was happy to be able to reciprocate with the books. When I got back to the pub – found that more books & records had arrived. Such was the enormous weight of books – the Institute are sending them out. I hope they all arrive safely. Was explained to me that the early departure was due to the fact that it was the only booking they could get me before the Olympics.

All very pleasant – a great pity the country is so poor. Also wrote a little piece about Australian art & did a short talk for the air, this they took on tape in the hotel room. Heard it played back.

Got to Vienna about 12 noon. Where I thought to let you know immediately. Got the bright idea of ringing – not much more than a cable. To confirm our talk – I catch a BOAC plane at Zurich on 21st Nov. at 10.30pm & should arrive in Sydney on Sunday 25 at 7.20am. You can insure me for the trip if you like. I was shocked to read in a German magazine – I stumbled through it in German – of the unfortunate crash of the Vulcan Bomber as it returned to London. It is now 9am. I better dress & have some rolls & coffee.

Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956
Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956
Picnic with Dr Robert Edgley and family at Franzensburg Castle in the grounds of Schloß Laxenburg, Vienna; 21 October 1956

Sunday [21 Oct 1956]. 3pm. I am sitting in a lovely park out of Vienna. In the middle is the Franzensberg Castle built by Franz Joseph early last century. The castle is set in the middle of a fine artificial lake which has no water in it. The autumn trees are beautiful colours & in the distance a group of school girls are singing. The weather is most indulgent. A mild gentle setting sun. The Edgley girl made a magnificent recovery, playing like mad in the trees behind us. We had a picnic lunch.

Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), Vienna; 21 October 1956
Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), Vienna; 21 October 1956

Went to the Vienna gallery [Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)] this morning & saw many fine paintings including Tintoretto’s Susanna & the Elders, Holbein’s Jane Eyre [Jane Seymour], Vermeer’s famous Painter & model. Wonderful Titians and 14 Brueghels. Pity I am leaving in the morning but I suppose I had better move on. Paris & London will take time. I telegrammed Roley Pullen to ask him to get me some cheap accommodation – I am going in the Arlberg Express from Vienna to Paris – via Zurich. Leaves at 9.10 in the morning & arrives Paris 8am the next day. Fare is about £7-10.0 against £17.10 by plane – also I will see up to the Alps in daylight. I stayed with the Edgleys last night & tonight – they seem to be a very happy coupe with two nice little girls. The Viennese are wandering up and down the lake – Yesterday, Rob took me for a drive through the Vienna Woods.

I shall have to finish now as we are about to return to Vienna, and I want to post this letter before I leave in the morning. Lots of love my darling. Give Graham my love & a pat for Trellie. Tell him I liked receiving his letters. I hope he gets all the different stamps that are coming over. A big thing for you. XXXXX for all. Your old loving roue [?]

Bill

[Apparently Wep’s visit to Romania was cut short as the people in the Institute wanted to get him out before trouble over flowed in Hungary. Five days after leaving Romania, widespread revolt erupted in Hungary against the Soviet backed government leading to its fall from power. On November 4, the Soviets invaded, crushing the revolt, and by November 10, all resistance had ceased.]

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View from the Carpati Hotel overlooking Nicolae Titulescu, Orasul Stalin (Brasov); 14 October 1956
Primaria Brasov (Town Hall), Bulevardul Eroilor 8, Brasov, Romania; 14 October 1956 (Note the possible KGB agent in the light trenchcoat)
Looking southwest towards Biserica Catolica outside 28 Strada Muresenilor, Brasov, Romania; 14 October 1956
Piata Cuza Voda with the Catedrala Ortodoxa (Orthodox Cathedral) in the background, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Cetatea Aiudului, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Piata Cuza Voda with the Catedrala Ortodoxa (Orthodox Cathedral) in the background, Aiud, Romania; 15 October 1956
Piata Unirii, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Orthodox Cathedral, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Orthodox Cathedral, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Strada Regele Ferdinand 8, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Strada Regele Ferdinand 33, Cluj, Romania; 15 October 1956
Votivkirche (Votive Church) viewed from near Schottengasse 9, Vienna; 19 October 1956

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