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.
Mon 29 ‘56
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.
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.
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 Dolemans – Watsons & Price Jones. I send you very loving thoughts – your Bill. XXX
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.
Saturday night – 27th Oct
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.
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.
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.
Had a street photo taken near the Notre Dame & hope to get it soon. I love you. Xxx.
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.
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
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