Five Ways to Remember: The Shouse

Our old dunny was down the back and built in bricky union with the Chappies. The dividing fence separating our estates ran smack between the two feet that separated our privy doors.  Our cisterns rarely chimed in unison because it was part of the game that one did not hear the grunts of labour of the sighs moanings of ecstasy of the unseen partner.

It was a Chappie Man I liked most to be in residence with his noisome pipes somehow seemed to catharsize the often turgid atmosphere of the backyard villa.  There were always plenty of matches to be lit whilst he went through the Sydney Morning Herald and an ounce of Old Plug.  Sometimes we’d have all been down the back and perhaps even washed-up before the blue smoke from his curly pipe would cease leaking through the roof and the fiscus.  He had to wear his glasses down there for even with a house brick propping the door open there was not overmuch light.  Of course there was always a candle to help out on really dark mornings.  The candle was always an inch long and festooned with drippings which froze the curled and blackened matches in old enamelled holder.  I can’t remember what other type of pipe-side literature Chappies Man indulged in during those secret hours.

The dividing fence could not have been more than twelve feet long.  It stuck out like a row of toothpicks from the gloomy dentures of our wash-house which housed the sadly worn wringer whose perished middle was stop-gapped with an old trouser leg and half a tea towel.  Fifty years ago the handle of this wringer was propelled by a quarter horsepower boy with singularly little grace.

This fence wasn’t much in the way of fences even for those days.  It was very grey and most of the nails which upheld the privacy between 290 and 292 were museum pieces of iron oxide.  The moistest thing about the fence apart from its age and decrepitude was the fiscus which supported it.  This vine had gone berserk and its branches were closing up the lavatory door.  It crept its long cancers through the vents and dropped the obscenity of its figs beneath my feet that could not touch the floor when I was enthroned.

Our W.C. was a somewhat more elegant than the Chappies’. Beautifully shaped cobwebs, neatly cut squares of the “Herald” strung on the door and oleographed reproductions of Sir John Millais’ “Cherry Ripe” and “Bubbles” set off the rest of the furnishings.  Occasionally we’d switch and have squares of the “World’s News” and I was constantly amazed by the odd and scarcely credible information it provided before it met its predestined end.

Despite the artwork our lav was never in the first flight of mod. cons.  It was adequate for the traffic (since we were invariably constipated), and could most aptly be described as a high-up suite with cultural asides.

As I said, one pretended not to be in there at all when the neighbours were puffing and blowing in the semi-detached.  I could hold my peace when the Misses Chapman were in possession, but could not abide the long and wearisome wait for Chappie Man to complete the “Herald” and his movements.  I used to pull the chain and to Hell with it!

Apart from reporting my getting bitten on THE MUST’NT TOUCH IT by a harmless spider, and big brother dropping his fountain pen in to the gurgling depths, I have nothing more to add to on the evacuatory life and habits of 290.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1966]

Bill Pidgeon (Wep) aged 9, in the backyard of 290 Glenmore Rd, Paddington, 1918.

Five Ways to Remember: Card Games

Our family was not one for the world of mystic card games.  I doubt if they had ever heard of the tarot.  If any precognition was expressed, it was in terms of tea leaves clinging to a cup, or of the fortuitous designs of chop bones left on the plate.  We were well up on bridge; auction, not contract – and poker.  Not that there was much money in it.  Even on the wildest night of gambling, hardly more than a half crown would change hands.

Emmy and Otto, who made a reasonable living out of playing at the Sydney Bridge Club, used to observe and abide by the modesty of stake money.

Occasionally when Norman B and mother were fed-up with two handed gambling I was allowed to sit in.

I remember the sitting-in in a traumatic kind of way. Sitting under the silk beaded and dusty lamp shade losing all my message money.  I was suddenly dealt a sting.  It couldn’t have been purposeful on my part because when I shuffled or sprayed the cards they all fell on the floor.

Perhaps Norman jiggled it for me – maybe he wanted a quick end to my company, or had suddenly come into riches.

We were not on brain bridge – just simple poker – and he dealt me a ROYAL ROUTINE FLUSH.

It was his mistake of course.

Something which he should have dealt himself.  Anyway I collected them for a whole ten pence and was sent to bed.

Five Ways to Remember: Dedication

This is dedicated to two small boys and all the terrifying real people who used to live around the Five Ways. If some of the people mentioned are not as real as they should be – it is mostly my fault. I hope I have caused no offence to any one I may have mentioned – through the vapourising of the past they were all helpful in bringing me down to what I am today.

[W.E. Pidgeon c. 1970]

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 22-23 Sep; Berrimah – in need of a cold beer

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

Darwin, 23 Sep 1956

[Berrimah, Northern Territory]
7am Sunday
[23 September 1956]

Dear Mugs,

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.

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: Wep travels behind Iron Curtain on cultural exchange

Orbit Travel Service, Sydney Australia - preferential passenger

In 1956, acclaimed Australian artist, William Edwin Pidgeon (WEP) was issued with a visa for travel behind the “Iron Curtain” to Romania as part of a cultural exchange program.  This series of posts includes extracts from letters he sent back home to his wife, Dorothy and son, Graham, describing his adventures and depicting the places, people and life as he witnessed them. Included with posts will be some of the photos he took and art work inspired from his trip. Earlier that year Wep had been diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes, a secret closely guarded for years to come for the potential impact it could have upon his ability to obtain painting commissions. Within his Romanian papers is a handwritten note; “My eyes are troubling me very much.”

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Invitation to Wep from the Romanian Institute for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries to visit Romania; 17 July 1956

Wep’s travel arrangements came to the attention of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) with a consequence that he was monitored by ASIO for the next three years. Two other Australians were also invited; actor, Peter O’Shaugnessey and author, Frank Hardy.

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Wep left Sydney on September 22, 1956 with stopovers in Darwin, Singapore, Rome, Venice, Munich, and Vienna. He arrived in Budapest, Hungary on October 2nd, travelling to Bucharest in Romania the next day. He spent two weeks in Romania, returning to Vienna on October 18. Five days later a cloud fell over Hungary when widespread revolt erupted 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.

From Vienna, Wep traveled to Paris where he planned to stay with his old friend and journalist, Roley Pullen. It was here that he met Roley’s assistant, another fellow Australian, Margaret Murray, with whom he formed a lifetime friendship. He remained in Paris for for just over two weeks, then a similar amount of time in London, finally arriving back home in Sydney on December 2, 1956.

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Caravanning with Wep – Sunday, 17th July 1937, Skyring Creek, Qld., description of trip from Jindabyne, NSW to Queensland

17th July Sat.

Skyring Creek, Qld.

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.

And the toy tram lines.

And PUBS OPEN TILL 8 O’CLOCK!