Caravanning with Wep – Sat., 14th Aug 1937; Quiet times at Bylong Valley & Wondy Peak

Sat. 14th Aug.

Existence most inordinately quiet down here. Absolute remote hermit-like. Conversation confined between three of us. Me, Jess & Dawnie. An occasional school child falls into my trap. I learn the name of the mountain I have painted from 3 angles. Wondy Peak.

Twice a week I recontact civilization, such as it is, at Rylstone. A dull old town appearing as if made from debris of some old prison. A uniformity of ancient stone and morgue like quiet. Radio, consequently, working overtime. Have had to change batteries. Nothing of any consequence happening. Only excitements are furtively snooping water from school house and chasing canvas blown like paper before the howling gusts that swell down the valley. Returned from Rylstone this morning to find our calico lean-to razed to the ground. Had day off from painting & spend time shooting tins – with indifferent success.

Occasional cars pass towards Ginghi – loud whoops and squeals traverse the night. A mile or so down, the local dance. Complete with piano accordion & violin, cheap plonk, and “King hits,” so our local correspondent informs us.

How hard it has been trying to rain. Day finished with Wondy Peak silhouetted against tufts of salmon cotton wool languidly floating beneath a ceiling of blue grey dappled sky. The definite pearly quality of the landscape here. The incredible subtleties of blue, green, and pinks, & ochre deepen to dusk.

Caravanning with Wep – Saturday, 5th June 1937; Jindabyne and philosophical thoughts about commercial advertising on radio

5th June

Tired, cold and melancholy. Lack concentration to attempt any mental effort. Am more than ever becoming imbued with the country man’s restful release of mental vacuity spawned by daily open air labour. Have just turned radio off – too restlessly impatient to tolerate the fatuous declamations as to why I should buy so & so’s blarsted silk stockings. Who cares anyway & why should I have to listen to someone trying to ram down my ears something I don’t want. It all seems so stupid. The stinking commercialism, its attendant crudities, & garnishnesses. Life’s too unhealthily involved downtown too difficult to maintain a simplicity of outlook and vision. There is such to be said for the slow and leisurely tempo of rustic life. Where the sun rises and sets, and is noticed. Where the quietness of trees and grass leisurely growing breathes something of their quietude into troubled consciousness and the wearied mind may drink its fill of rest. Where the mountains lie motionless, caressed noiselessly and lovingly by the slow drifting clouds bespeaking a repose that is almost beyond life. Where the only noise is that of the chopper clip-clopping a wooden figure into semblance of form. The only noise which fails to irritate – self made noise, a hackneyed, much written about subject, but new to me, at least.

Where one wanders aimlessly, idly watching feet alternating below the eyes, indifferent as to the where and why of their motion. Or where one glimpses the tiny star shaped blood red leaf of some insignificant plant blushing unnoticed and one stops to look. Where one stops to pick up a spent gum leaf and wonders slowly and lazily at the iridescent sheen on hardened opal surface, where one is halted and beckoned by the sinuous wavy figurations on a dead & prostrate tree, and contemplates absently the forms contained within. Where one takes mental time exposures of hoof prints and considers the patterns their jumblings have made. Where one just wanders, and looks and rests. Where there is no immediate objective in life, nagging like an abscessed tooth. Peace.

Caravanning with Wep – Saturday, 22nd May 1937; Collector to Jindabyne via Lake George, Canberra, Bredbo and Cooma

22nd May Sat.

Have been at Jindabyne since Wed. Met Jess’s ex-boss & party at Collector & received warmth per favour Rum. Country incredibly dry – rolling copper earthed hills crust broken exposing tired & dreary patina-ed rocks. Lake George, like all grass & colour “has-been”. Disordered litter of dead and near dead trees all jumbled in second-hand dealer profusion along the slopes resting down towards the flat reclining comfort of waterless, fenced & cattled George.

Drove straight through Canberra with nary an error. Am becoming really hot stuff on direction. Looked eagerly for snow on distance mountains – could still be looking. Bought villainous yellow pies at Queanbeyan and did eat & drink cold tea, the Thermos having departed this vale of tears between Collector & Q.

Once more over the road which I have sworn never to drive again. Still the same rocked, rutted, frozen, chopped river of land threaded through the hills. The same treeless dumpish hills. Hills which seen from the road, rear stark-edged discordantly against the unbelievably blue and hollow sky. Hills whose edges hold no promise of world beyond. Their ochreish scorched bodies stretched in never ending length. And all quite bald.

And out back homes! Cheerless scattered sheds. Rigid raiment cast on the face of the land higgldy-piggldy by the weary pioneer in utter exhaustion. Tired – utterly jaded – wilting houses of cards. Bare necessities – the sullen bitter exacting earth sucking all human substance – leaving him no surcease in which to adorn his body’s shell. Succubus!

Gave lift to a fellow at Bredbo. Wanted transport to Cooma, hating wait for train until 6a.m. following morning. Turned out to be licensee of Cooma Hotel.  Well! Well! Had rums on the house. Called on George Longmuir at Com. B. of Sydney. Had more rums & dinner at Dodd’s – more rum. Went with him and cos. Small a local chemist & erstwhile Kosciusko contemporary & John co-bank worker, to church bop. Met Vicar’s daughter. She was only the Vicar’s daughter but —! Repaired again to Dodd’s, thence to Greek or what have you café & supped. Left, 2:30am & slept on top of hill. Scrapped about a foot of frost off next morning. A bleeding cold morning. Left after thawing out.

Road something terrible. Like riding on one continuous strip of corrugated iron. Shook everything to bits. Wireless hasn’t worked since. The bloody …….!

Surveying a possible campsite

Arrived Jindabyne about 12. Have never realised what a cheerless place it was. Have always seen it through the roseate eyes of holiday merry making. Couldn’t find a blade of grass within a mile of the official centre. Finally wedged way onto only square of grass in district. Alongside Snowy River and amidst countless wild briars, all red-berried and leafless. Designated parking ground seems to be the local football area bordered with shallow creeks full of tins and broken crockery. No grass, colour key of this place is grey, endless and monotonous.

Houses scattered willy nilly on both sides of the river, fenceless, innocent of all grass. Briar strewn and poultry infested. Rubbish, garbage, broken fences, all manner of diverse junk, all however having one thing in common. Cheerless grey, not even gloomy, just a tired dirt tone – dust to dust.

And the romance of Man from Snowy River! Just grey and grey and grey. I’ve gone and made myself god-damned grey. Tired. Long past bed-time. Now 8:45 P.M.  Oho!