I am in anything but a state of Splendor! I’m done in, I’m finished, I’m in bed, and I miss you both very much. I’ve walked Rome down to its original foundations and have had no one to whom to speak of it. Haven’t spoken to an Englisher since I arrived on Tues morning at 10.30am with the exception of tonight at dinner when one of the passengers of the plane turned up at the Hotel.
Things have got off to a bad start for the fool Qantas crowd left my baggage behind at Karachi. I hope to get it off the first available plane, which arrives tomorrow morning at 9am or so. I had to change my booking for Venice as that plane leaves at 8.45am. However a plane leaves at 2.55pm and have booked that. God knows what I’ll do if the bloody bag doesn’t arrive, or is half missing. It has been awkward without the gear. I have to walk everywhere because I can’t understand the gabling lingo, am ignorant of the destinations of trams & buses and don’t trust myself on finding a way out of the predicament. I must have cyclometered 20 miles, & the old dogs are killing me.
Had a very smooth trip on the plane but saw little of the land before we got to Singapore, as we were flying at 16,500 ft (i.e. about 3 miles up). After Bangkok we flew over thick cloud all the way to Rome. Ian Hamilton met me at the airport and drove me to Raffles where I had a shower & we had a look at the city on Sunday afternoon. It is a fantastic place with myriads of people milling around like ants of all conceivable shape & color, and in all stages of dress & undress. I haven’t the energy to elaborate much on the curiosities of Singapore but must mention that Ian, his wife, two other wives (not his) and myself went to a fantastic joint called Happy World, which is a collection of everything like the side shows & display stalls of the RAS and then some. But, my dear, the people! Polygot!
We had a Chinese meal there sitting in the open amongst the passers by. The chop shop had all its uncooked wares on display & as we pointed out what we wanted they would chop it up & cook it. Very good & very light. How Bill P Jones’ eyes would have stuck out, etc, etc.
I’m half asleep writing this in bed.
I wouldn’t care much to lose myself in Singapore. Even for the wonderful chinese dolls.
You’d love Rome and I think I could now show you round a bit if you were with me. Sheer exhaustion is taking the edge off it for me. It is full of contrast & movement. Great slabs of it are like very much better done Kings X & Macleay St. Huge open places alternate with old past centuries dwellings flanking narrow streets. The city proper is built in the old area. Streets not much wider than Rowe St, down which busses, cars & motor scooters by the million whiz down with breakneck speed in a truly terrifying way. I really am frightened of the traffic here, it’s unbelievably fast & seemingly chaotic but strangely I haven’t seen an accident or a bent car. Every mobile thing is used, bicycles with box carriers in front, horse drawn phaetons, motor bike trucks, etc, all with practically open exhausts, and horns blowing & blasting ad nauseum. To make matters worse it runs in the opposite way to ours, which is what makes it dangerous for me because I am fixed on looking for oncoming cars where they aint. Only my increasing old womanishness has kept me in tack.
A few tired words couldn’t give you any idea of what the Vatican is like. Stupendous – and not in the Hollywood use of the term although most of the interior is Hollywood. In the conception & execution this general headquarters of the R.C.’s is gigantic.
Sorry I can’t write any more dear.
Ian Hamilton asked to be remembered.
Don’t be too misstressful with the young bloke. Tell him postcard sending will be in abeyance for a while as Airmail fee is pretty high. ¾ for one letter.
Lots & lots of love for you both.
Last page included an illustration “Me exercising in Roma”
Lots of love sweetie. Am feeling stronger. Have dashed this off before breakfast or colazione to you. The whole town reeks of Expresso coffee & no one seems to wear a hat – male or female.
Tell P Jones I’ve heard everything. Tell him to tell Bert Gardiner I came over from Singapore with a young Chinese student who attends the University of Belfast – and talks like Bert Gardiner.
P.S. Just got word to say my bag has turned up. Thank Heavens. I hope nothing is missing/it was not locked.
Sat 22-Sep-56: Left Sydney 10:30pm – slept most of the way to Darwin. Plane very empty.
Sun 23-Sep-56: Took off 8:05am. Arrived at Singapore 3:55pm. Saw Ian Hamilton and had fun at ‘Happy World’. Slept at Raffles Hotel. Cashed £5
[Berrimah, Northern Territory]
[23 September 1956]
Had a magnificently smooth trip up and landed about 5:30am in the blinking dark. They seem to have the clocks too fast up here because it was about 6:30am local time before we had the dawn. It is very hot and the birds make different noises outside in the scrub. They caw and gurgle, and the ensemble has a liquid, gurgling note. Not sharp & gay, as in the antiquary No. 85.
I’m dying for a long cold beer but suppose I’ll have to wait till I get back on the plane. We are at a dump in the never-never called Berrimah. Qantas have a comfortable sort of motel looking establishment here. Bedrooms sprawled in lines round a swimming pool, dining room, etc. Unfortunately we don’t go anywhere near Darwin town. I’d like to have seen it – It was Sep 1945 when I last came through.
A marvellous night, mild and limpid under the moon. Undergrowth tangled & dark, mysterious, protects our quiet privacy.
Dawnie, our infallible thermometer, lies uncurled, a vast improvement (to her dog-mind) on Jindabyne where days and nights were spent in periwinkle curled sloth.
Which reverts us to our farewell to that transitory home. Thursday, I guess it was the 23rd June, so finally sickened and us sunk deep in despair by locals cheerful intimation that it’d be sloppy for a month or so to come.
Packed, sadly, & drove car round Weston’s back gate to Wooden Woman paddock and with spade and axe severed forever her connection with the earth that spawned her life. Slim she was but thunderous weighty. Not all my effects could carry her, so needs must ignominiously drag her, like a leaden drunk to the car onto which after ½ hours strenuous grunting & cursing managed to attach her. Whereupon the springs gracefully inverted themselves. Returned to trailer and in midst of manoeuvres almost followed it into the Snowy.
Boiled our way steadily into Cooma, dined with George & retired to lounge until 1:30pm. Had ham & eggs down the street and pulled off the road 12 miles out of Cooma. Seeing as how, the b—- caravan was full of logs & canvasses we decided to sleep together, which after taking off boots and nether garments did. Woke to the clanging of picks and shovels outside the window and perceived a gang of road men blithely at work. I hope we didn’t look too damn silly on that 2 foot bed.
Got to Brighton about 9 o’clock PM after an unpleasantly wet run from Marulan and a spot of high powered bother with some of Howard Couch’s bright(?) brainwaves attached to darned head light.
Frittered a week away in Sydney. The longest and dullest week I’ve had since leaving work. Sheer boredom. Had a few sad drinks with boys & visited all who should be.
Left again on Monday. Jess must go and lose the filling out of her tooth again. Hence John Brooks, dr. to W.E.Pidgeon. Discovered two broken leaves in trailer spring and had same fixed.
Arrived at Wyong & stayed night with brother John. Slipped the car off bloody bridge over gutter next morning but after 1 hour’s rupturing effort with railway sleeper got out right. Attended meeting of shareholders of my gold company. Didn’t say a word.
Stayed outside Singleton overnight. After pleasant run up the best part of the New England Highway paid visit to the Browns at Currabubula and remained 2 days leaving Sat. morning.
Apart from coming down the mountain on my bum nothing of any consequence happened, except maybe getting 3 or 4 broken down rums out of Alex. Christ, Nance is a tiny squirt! She made us quite at home & farewelled us with loads of home made biscuits and local oranges. For which many thanks offered. Alex now almost as fat as a prize Berkshire & getting more like Uncle Jim in manners, voice, face, etc, than ever. Out does any movie detective in the matter of hats on in the house! Still he’s much bitter company than he used to be. Quite human. The old folks away in Singapore. Jess very upset because deprived of joy of Uncle Jim’s company. Finally got past Guyra for the day. Damn cold too up there. Bad as Jindabyne. 5000 ft up in the heavens. Went to sleep with the angels’ chilly bloodless feet on our faces.
Least said about the trip on Sunday the better! What roads! Seemed as if a major earthquake had overtaken them. Crossed a cattle ramp into Queensland at Wallangarra & had my first northern beer. Better than the Sydney slush anyway. More good (according to the ignorant locals) roads to 8 miles of NSW side of Warwick.
Through the Darling Downs to Toowoomba thence down a Big Dipper Hell towards Ipswich & Brisbane.
Extraordinarily fertile looking country in Qld. Well grassed and cared for. Houses surprisingly neat & tidy after NSW hovels. All curiously stuck on stilts.