Chapter 11: Work and play in London – Summer 1960

London. May 1960.

looking up old friends

looking up old friends whom I encountered when I arrived from Australia in late ’58

Dear Mummy,

Here I am back at home base in London needing to get back to work to fill the coffers. That way I can still have my final fling in Europe  in a few months time before finding the right ship to carry me home to Australia by the end of the year.

Hard to believe sometimes that it will then be almost two and a half years since I left home!

My first letter to write now that I am finally back in England is a special one to you to wish you a very happy birthday.  I am sorry that I missed Mother’s Day– my excuse is that I was still in Holland –  a country  that just doesn’t celebrate it!

There is so much to tell.  I intended to write just as soon as I got back to London from Amsterdam after being on the road for weeks, but I fell asleep just as I was about to start. I was at the King George 6th Memorial youth hostel, – the best hostel in the city! – and in bed by nine o’clock, with people still dashing around and lights blazing, but I was so exhausted by all the travelling that I just passed out, and had a great sleep.

Just now I am visiting old friends and writing this at Coleen Taylor’s flat (she studied pharmacy with me – ( was Coleen Nader then).   Her husband Frank studied medicine and lived at St John’s College when I was .studying  next door at Sancta Sophia College. He is here to specialise in ophthalmic surgery, and Coleen is still working as a pharmacist and dislikes it about as much as I do!

The stay at Amsterdam was really very pleasant.    I had just a quick stop at Rotterdam.It is a massive, bustling port city but has very few attractions from the past to explore.It is a major international commercial centre built along a Delta on the North Sea and is a key gateway to Europe, having a great network of rail, road, air and inland waterways to serve the international traffic.

In 1940 it was almost all destroyed by the Luftwaffe in what became known as the Rotterdam Blitz, forcing the capitulation of Holland to the Germans unless they wanted the same thing to happen to the rest of their major cities as well. There were thousands of civilians killed.

The only remnant of the mediaeval city of Rotterdam left standing was the church of St Laurence, whose tower can be seen on the city skyline, and which is still under repair.           (It had been a Protestant church since the reformation).   In 1952 Queen Juliana laid the new foundation stone, dedicated to the resilience and courage of the Dutch people.

I had an uneventful ferry crossing from there to Harwich, which is on the east coast of England, and then on to London for my third sojourn there! I arrived back on Tuesday night, and spent Wednesday and Thursday haphazardly looking for a bed-sit and a job.

A great view of Trafalgar SQuare

A great view of Trafalgar Square with the splendid National Gallery to the left,then the National Portrait Gallery ,and the famous Church of St. Martin in the Fields centre right. Towering on high is Lord Nelson, famed for his defeat of the French at Trafalgar.

After a few hours of that, I decided that it was time to pay my respects to my beloved  National Art Gallery on the first afternoon and I made straight for the wonderful Rembrant room – just the thing to do after visiting Holland!. It was feeling so good to be back.

By the second afternoon, I felt it was time for a little dose of theatre.

I found I had chosen a very peculiar modern play – mainly because Laurence Olivier was acting in it. He is as brilliant as ever, specially on the stage. It must be challenging for the other actors to work with him, as he seems to outshine them even though they were all up to standard.

The play was called The Entertainer, by John Osborne, one of the so-called angry young men whose writings seem to be all the rage these days. The leading lady was Joan Plowright, an English actress. Together she and Laurence seem to be attracting some gossip at the moment as they are being seen out together, and there are whispers about that his marriage to Vivian Leigh may be over.

You can see that I keep my finger on the pulse even though I have only been back in the country for a couple of days!

Princess Margarets Wedding

The Royal coach carrying Princess Margaret and husband- to- be along the Mall to her Wedding at Westminster Abbey

Then by Friday it was time to gear up for the Big Wedding! I was up at 630 and had found my watching place by 8 AM. Many people, mainly Aussies and Americans, had slept out all night to make sure they had a good spot along the route.

The carriages went by very quickly so we only caught a quick glimpse of everyone, but it was fun and quite exciting to be a part of it all.

Princess Margaret looked really beautiful, and the spectacle of the cavalry with their shining breastplates and bright uniforms and the magnificent black horses was quite something to see. I returned in the afternoon and caught my best view of Margaret when she was leaving to board the yacht for their honeymoon.

She and Anthony came by in an open Jaguar and were driven along very, very slowly.   I had time to see Anthony give a nervous twitch to his tie, then turning to say something to Margaret.   She looked really radiant, and he appeared nicer than his photos.

In any case, they seem to suit each other — they both like the gay life, and despite all the gossip and grim predictions, the wedding was a wonderful success, as I’m sure you read in all the papers. The Women’s Weekly would have had a field day.

The street decorations were delightful and the wedding ceremony was relayed through loudspeakers along the Mall as we listened in. We could actually hear them say ” I do”, which was more than the people present in Westminster Abbey would have heard.

I landed my first locum job today at a pharmacy out in the East side of London amidst the Cockneys  It is a working-class area,  generally referred to as the East End. and it should provide an interesting change.The chemist didn’t blink when I suggested £25 per week for the next three weeks, and I begin work on Monday morning.  It is miles from the hostel, so I looked for closer accommodation and I was lucky to get a room at the Goodenough Hostel — a well-known students home.

I do hope your birthday presents arrive soon – nothing too exciting as I bought them when the bank balance was very low, but I hope you like them all the same.

Much love to everybody and a big kiss and a hug to you for your birthday, Mummy.

Have a wonderful day and celebrate well!


 

London. May 1960.

Dear Mum and Dad,

This letter looks like being one of those ‘ bread and butter’ ones! – Only fairly mundane things to report! The last week seemed to go very slowly, particularly the first day back at work — I found myself clock watching most of the day. It didn’t take long for me to forget that I had not been inside a pharmacy dispensary for 14 months.  No real complaints though, as doing temporary locum work means that there is always a change of scene after a couple of weeks.

The routine is even duller than in Australia, largely because of the beastly national health scheme. It and the big chemical companies combined, seem to have sucked any professional initiative and creative dispensing by chemists and doctors right out of the system.

Because visits to the doctor are now free, the downside is that people are becoming more dependent on the doctors and the pills, while many of the GPs are overworked and are restricted in the amount of time that they can spend with their patients.

At the same time, I am really aware of how much help it has been to all those on low incomes or unemployed.

The good news is that the crowd at work are a young lot and are good company and very easy to get on with. I find that lots of the counter girls have married young and, on average have one child about 7 to 10 years old.

I am also enjoying having money in my pocket again. It transpires that £25 Sterling a week is what most chemists filling in while the owner/pharmacists are away  are able to earn in the city in summertime — much better than their wintertime wages – and I only had to pay a five pound fee to the pharmacy board here, not £12.

The highlight of this week was receiving my birthday parcel — very punctual and uncomplicated this time. The panties are very sweet and the stretch stockings are excellent. Auntie Bet sent me a pair for Christmas and they lasted very well. The blouse is perfect. When you said terylene, I somehow imagined that it was that Terylene and wool blend that they are now selling so much of, but this fabric is much nicer. It fits very well and looks pretty on. Thank you all very much.

My French family

My French family whose children I helped to car for –  – Isabelle, Charlotte, little Aimee, and  father Pierre (a Baron ,no less) holding baby Marie, born in spring while I was with them in Bois-de -Colombe in Paris

 

Two letters have just arrived in the post from you, mummy, at the same time — one had been back and forward to Paris twice from the de Castelbaljac family where I had worked as an ‘au pair’ and Charlotte had finally sent it on  to me with a newsy   covering note about the little girls I helped care for.   I loved hearing  that Aimee — the 18 month old little one that I was particularly fond of — heads for the stairs leading up to my room looking for me whenever my name is mentioned. That brought a tear to my eye!

I was happy to hear that Claire now has an opportunity for a modelling career in Sydney.  She is certainly beautiful and graceful enough to do it well. Wish her good luck from me, but tell her that big sister warns her against accepting dinner dates from the wholesalers in the clothes trade! And I’m not joking!

At the moment I am staying at William Goodenough house – a residence for postgraduate students of Great Britain, the Commonwealth and America. I declared that I am studying languages, and in fact I have bought a Spanish book to begin my studies, and I have already started delving into it at work when things get a little quiet.

It is a lovely place to stay. I have a very nice room and even a phone on my desk!It is bed-and-breakfast for £4.10 a week and a cafeteria where I can buy dinner  I have booked in for another week and am hoping desperately to have the time extended.

I caught up with Mavis Fishburne on Wednesday night. We went out to dinner together with Patricia, the Duke of Kent’s secretary whose room I stayed in when I was last in London. I also visited St Thomas Hospital to see cousin Patty Crennan who has just had major surgery and seems to be recovering well.

The Venus Fountain in Sloane Square

The Venus Fountain in Sloane Square

On Sunday, I had lunch after mass with Colleen and Frank again. Colleen’s brother arrives from Australia at the end of next week, so she has asked me to do a locum for her for a week or two at the pharmacy where she is currently working in Sloan’s St. – It should be quite interesting as this  area around Sloan Square is where a lot of the celebrities live.

Last night I shouted myself to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to hear Igor 0istrach, the 29-year-old son of David Oistrach, the wonderful Russian violinist who was in Australia last year, I believe. The amazing thing is that he is just about as good as his father and that they should be on top of their profession at much the same time. It was wonderful hearing him play Brahms violin concerto — the one that we have the record of played by his father David.

They both come from the Ukraine. David gave his first concert at the age of six!He has had a very strong influence as you can imagine on his son’s career. They have even played together, most famously Bach’s double concerto, which they recorded in 1951.

Igor made his concert début at the Royal Albert Hall in 1953, and David has launched into a conducting career last year.

Royal Albert Hall and the memorial

Royal Albert Hall and the grand memorial  to Prince Albert built across the road from it after he died unexpectedly

This is the first time that I have been to the Albert Hall — it is a tremendous round rather ugly building, but with an amazing capacity — it holds up to 7000 people, if you can imagine it, and it was fairly full last night. It was quite exciting to be part of such a large crowd at an indoor event. The idea to create a very large and versatile centre came to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, after the Great Exhibition was held in London in the 19th century.

It was to be for the use of the public for big events of every kind including a number of different sports. Before it really got started he died unexpectedly in 1861.

The idea was taken up later. Some of its design features were inspired by the idea of the ancient amphitheatres. It is built in red brick and has an enormous glazed dome supported by a wrought iron framework, which was very experimental and apparently caused various problems over the years. One of these is the acoustics, which still haven’t been quite sorted out.

The outside of the building is encircled with a great mosaic frieze displaying many scenes and the words Triumph of Arts and Science – though it is more affectionately known as the Nation’s Village Hall!

The story goes that Queen Victoria came out of mourning to open it, but she was too upset to make a speech. There is also a rather elaborate memorial to her beloved Albert standing in the park opposite. It looks a bit like a miniature church spire mounted on top of some steps!

The most widely known regular event held at the Royal Albert Hall is the BBC London Proms; they consist of a variety of concerts held over a six-week period every summer since the war, though they originated at the beginning of the 20th century – very popular with all classes of people.          ( In Australia we dont talk very much about class, but I soon learned that class distinctions play a very important part in British society!)

I have just heard that my bid to stay on at Goodenough house wasn’t successful, so I’m out on the street again! Well, not entirely!   I am back at my five-star George 6th youth hostel, which I always enjoy. There are lots of young people coming and going. The main disadvantage is that I am living out of an overnight bag again. People are going to be jolly sick of seeing the clothes that I’ll be wearing by the end of the week, including me!

.Mavis may be rescuing me again. A friend of hers who works in the foreign office is off to South Africa for six weeks and I may be able to rent her bed-sit in St John’s Wood.

It is in a really classy area and I’m going to check it out tonight after work.

I have quite enjoyed the last few weeks working in the East End. I love listening to the Cockney accent and the bits of their dialect that mix with ‘proper’ English – and of course the rhyming slang!  I sometimes found time to wander down through Soho and surrounds in my lunch breaks. I also bought a book of Spanish lessons,so I could slip in some study when things got quiet – all in preparation for my visit to Spain before I return home!

The staff has been great to work with and make things very easy for me. They are more down-to-earth and a bit tougher than the more middle-class Londoners and usually have a mischievous sense of humour that is easy for an Aussie to relate to.

I think they also appreciate that I am a more relaxed ‘ boss’ than they are used to.

We have had some interesting discussions about the petty corruption in the hospitals and elsewhere that is the result of a free medical service. There is quite a bit of black-marketing such as bandages, dressings and other useful items. Again the explanation that they offer is based on the exceptionally low wages that many of the working class has to survive on.

They also have interesting things to tell about the education system and some of the inequalities that exist in the poorest areas.

I got the low-down the other day from a five-year-old. I asked him what he learnt at school and he told me that it was how to do the football pools!

Someone asked me the other day what was the name of that town in Australia which is opposite the island. It turned out to be Melbourne across the water from Tasmania!

Wouldn’t the Melbournians be pleased!

I have become accustomed to people not knowing anything much about us, both here and on the continent. Quite a few think that we speak Spanish rather than English — I don’t quite know why.

I’m glad that you too had read the Time magazine article about Australia. I too felt rather affronted about the ‘steak and eggs and tomato sauce’ description of our food habits. Whoever wrote it obviously ate out at our Greek cafes, which have it as the main menu because they also think that this is what Australians always like to eat!

Enough chatter for now or else somebody might give me the sack for letter writing at work.

Much love to everybody


 

84 St John’s Wood, High Street. London

31st of May 1960

Dear Daddy,

This letter is especially to wish you a very happy birthday for the 7th.   I hope  your pressie arrives in time as well.

As you will notice, I at last have a fixed abode. I was able to rent it from a friend of Mavis for two months while she is in South Africa, which is just the time I expect to be in London,

I am very happy here, even if it is a bit expensive, as it is right in the heart of things. It is an enormous room with three windows looking on to its smart little street of shops — I am just above the cake shop! It is one of the chic areas of London.

The room is beautifully furnished and is more like a living room than a bedroom, with a carved table and chairs, a sideboard, armchairs and even a wireless! The bed is in one corner and a little cooker in another.

I moved in on Sunday morning in a very rushed fashion, and haven’t yet had time to savour having a little place all to myself

Last Wednesday I received a most unexpected phone call from my Mexican friend, Guillermo

A great View across the Thames of the Houses of Parliament Big Gen

A great View across the Thames of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Talavera, whom  I met just before I left Paris, remember?

He had tracked me down through the bank of NSW– the result is that I have spent the last five days outside of working hours introducing him to the delights of London.

I enjoyed being a guide and watching his responses to seeing some of my favourite places.

Guillermo can only speak a few words of English, and I have very little Spanish, so I had the chance to talk more French in the last few days than I would have during a couple of weeks in Paris.

Thursday was my afternoon off, so we took a boat trip up the Thames to visit Greenwich.

First we visited the Royal Observatory, a very fine building set in the park on the edge of the river, where they measure Greenwich Mean Time, the global time standard that we all set our clocks to when the Sun crosses the Greenwich Meridian at its highest point in the sky directly above!

Its history started in the middle of the 19th century when its measurements were used to keep the British trains running on time, and by 1880 its role was broadened to where it is today. serving an important role both astronomically and to navigation.

The National Maritime Museum is there too. It was once Greenwich Castle, built by the Tudors. Henry VIII was born there and later on it was apparently his favourite hideaway to bring his mistresses!

The Cutty Sark is just nearby in its own specially built museum dry-dock. It was one of the last of the Clippers, a really beautiful ship with massive white sails and it had a reputation for being one of the fastest cargo sailing ships travelling around the globe before the

The Cuttysark, a magnificent Clipper at Greenwich

The Cuttysark, a magnificent Clipper on display at Greenwich. Just imagine what it would  look like with its huge billowing sails out on the high seas!

steamers took over. It was an advanced construction at the time, built-in timber on a steel frame, which apparently contributed to its speed. Because it was able to sail from Australia to Britain in record time, its last few crossings were used to carry our wool clips to England in time for the annual wool sales – no doubt some of it coming from the Riverina! Sorry that I forgot to bring the camera so that I could show you! I was having enough trouble translating all this for Guillermo (Spanish for William). It was a happy coincidence, too, that I had just begun teaching myself some Spanish when things were quiet at work in preparation for the long hoped for visit to Spain!

On Thursday night, we went to the Drury Lane Theatre just a quarter of an hour before My Fair Lady started, and miracle of miracles, we were able to get seats. It is still booked up for the whole of 1960 and part of 1961. I really enjoyed seeing it again, and I translated bits of it as we went along, trying to keep to just a whisper so as not to annoy those sitting nearby.

When everybody burst out laughing while Stanley Holloway was singing about lifting your bloomen arse, my friend insisted on knowing what the joke was about. I settled for telling him that the English have a very vulgar word for derriere and he told him to lift it!!

The Grand Staircase in the Windsor Palace

The Grand Staircase in the Windsor Palace

On Saturday afternoon we went up to Windsor to see the peak of all of the Tudor castles, which is still very much in use today, and is the Queen’s favourite place to spend the weekend. It is a magnificent composite of buildings, which stands out on the horizon as you approach it, looking like something from a fairytale romance. The countryside surrounding it is quite beautiful.

I did visit there in winter when I first arrived, but it was closed – fortunately it has been very sunny the last few days – ideal for sightseeing.

Queen Elizabeth keeps it very well maintained and encourages the thousands of tourists who love to visit there, ensuring a steady income towards the maintenance costs.

We had a fine time exploring some of the lavish state

The famous Throne Room

The famous Throne Room

apartments, and also the royal art collection. Guillermo was very impressed — a very different type of architecture to the splendid Aztec temples near Mexico City!

Up to a staff of 500 people work and live there to keep things ticking over! The Royal Ascot procession sets out from there at the beginning of the Royal Ascot racing week.

On Sunday morning, Guillermo helped me move my luggage after Mass to St. John’s Wood, and in the afternoon we visited the Wallace

A view of the Queen's Prescence Chamber taken after World War 2

A view of the Queen’s Presence Chamber in Windsor Castle. These picture postcards  are from Aunt Linda’s photo and postcard album.

Museum, which I hadn’t seen before, but which now ranks number two among my favourite galleries and museums in London.

It is a splendid collection of great variety — paintings, sculptures, superb furniture, arms and armour, and a beautiful array of the decorative arts, including the largest known assembly of Sevres porcelain. There are top examples of all of Europe’s great master painters.

I especially liked one that Rembrandt had painted of his son. The most recognisable painting there was the Laughing Cavalier by Franz Hals in 1624. It looked a 100 times more impressive hanging there than seeing it on the top of the customary  chocolate box!   He seems to be looking right at you, making you feel as if perhaps it’s you that he’s laughing about!

The collection is in Hertford House, and was gradually assembled by a succession of four marquises of Hertford, and was inherited by Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the

The Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace

The Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace

fourth Marquis, and on his death, was given by his wife to the City, on the condition that it was kept completely intact and preserved for posterity.

From there we went on to Hyde Park to see the famous Speakers corner, where fellows get up on soapboxes and preach politics or religion or any other cause or grievance that they want to tell us about.   There was a red-faced Irishman decrying British repression, a black man from Africa wanting justice for Kenyatta and his struggles. Another sprucker was telling naughty stories in between religious tracts. It was really quite amusing and also had its serious moments, and I thought it was quite a solid example of English democracy in practice.

From there we strolled down past Marble Arch to Buckingham Palace and then up the Mall to Trafalgar Square, where it’s traditional to hang about and feed the pigeons,

Feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square with Lord Nelson looking on from on high!

We had a happy time feeding the pigeons and watching there crowds go by in Trafalgar Square with Lord Nelson looking on from on high!

At the end of the day we tried to get tickets for a Tchaikovsky concert at the Royal Albert Hall, having had such luck with My fair Lady, but to my amazement, even all the standing room only tickets had been sold, so that meant that the hall had its full component of 7000 people there that night. It was a bit disappointing, but it had been quite a full and happy day, so we were content to complete it with a large Chinese meal and a relatively early night.

The next day it was time for me to return to work and my friend to return to Paris to his studies.

I was sorry to see him go,  he was very good company and loved London  but I’m going to need time out now to get my breath back again.

My job this week is quite a pleasant one. It is in one of those very old pharmacies in complete disorder, with the dispensary tucked away out the back, miles away from the main counter. There are still plenty of the old coloured flasks and jars of exotic brews and powders, some still in use.

I have only one assistant — she is a dear old soul called Fanny and we get on very well, though we both have far too much to do. So I am footsore and weary by the time I get home at the end of the day. Which reminds me — when I finished work at the East End pharmacy, the staff presented me with a very attractively worked leather belt. It was the first time I can remember receiving a gift on leaving a job!

I do hope you enjoy your birthday, daddy. I thought of you quite often lately when I kept coming across so much war damage, and remembering the years when you were stuck up in Darwin in the loneliness and heat and tension when you were in the air force.

Your letters used to arrive cut to pieces by the censors and left us worried about what they didn’t want us to know about what was happening up there.

It made me aware of how little we knew about what you went through, — I can’t remember you ever talking about it, and perhaps when I get back home, you might be willing to let me know a little of what it was like for you.

A big birthday hug for you and lots of love


 

London June 1960.

Dear Mum and dad,

Not very much news to relate at the moment, as it has been mainly work and and no play. I’m very sorry to hear that both of you have been in the wars, health wise, so I will try and cheer you up a little with some bits of gossip and not wait till something more exciting turns up to talk about.

I started my third locum on Tuesday — Monday was a bank holiday, which I spent just lazing around and getting a few odd jobs done. I am working in a tiny little pharmacy in Sloane Street in a trendy part of the city. The pharmacist is a Scot, and there is one assistant.

He is very meticulous and saving, in the tradition of his countrymen, but also very ethical about his dispensing, so it is a refreshing change in that respect to be working here.

There have been some interesting customers from the art world dropping in.

Coral Browne, who was originally from Melbourne, came in to the pharmacy this morning. She is a very attractive woman and is quite a famous actress here. Look out for her playing in the film Auntie Mame staring Rosalind Russell. It’s a lot of fun.

At lunchtime I saw a chap that I have seen in dozens of English films, but I’ve forgotten his name and he was out the door before I had a chance to ask somebody. After all, I do have to keep my attention on pill-counting a little ahead of stargazing!

I had dinner last night with Mrs. Roma Flynn, Thea’s aunt, – such a nice person. She is a good friend of auntie Linda’s who had suggested that I contact her.

I have promised myself to get to the theatre once a week while I am here this time, but somehow I’m slipping a bit. I’m usually so tired by the end of the day that I am glad to get back to my little flatette. I am lucky that Rosemary has left me her radio, which keeps me company in the evenings. I am able to pick up France on it quite well, and so keep ahead with my French.

A memento of my Theatrical Adventures in London

A memento of my Theatrical Adventures in London

I did however go to the theatre the other night with Mavis to see a stage adaptation of EM Forster’s novel ‘A passage to India” It was really such a treat, wonderfully produced and acted. Enid Lorimer is outstanding in the part of Mrs. Moore. I’m sure I remember her in a number of the Lux radio plays in Australia — is that right?

She is now quite an elderly, beautiful woman, who commands attention in an effortless way. She has apparently had a lot to do with the development of theatre and radio over the years while living in Australia, which included setting up radio station 2GB. I am looking out for a copy of a Passage to India to read when I get a chance.

The weather is quite good at the moment, in fact very good for England!

I find the long days unusual — it is still light at about 9.30, and when I come out of work at 6 PM, the sun is still quite high in the sky. It’s a pity to be indoors at all, and it must be lovely in the country here in Midsummer. I must try for a locum out-of-town. I’m not too sure why I haven’t thought of that before, though I do love living in London — so no complaints!

Lots of love to you all


 

London. 19th of June 1960

Dear Mum and dad,

It cheered me up to receive your letter a couple of days ago with Jan’s note on the end promising to write and send the family photos. She certainly seems to be having a very gay time. The balls and picnic races always brighten up the winter months. I almost envy her, as it seems ages since I have put on my glad rags and tripped the light fantastic! — An extraordinary expression, that! — I wonder where it comes from?

I’m probably complaining a little because this last week’s work has proved a bit tougher than usual. Colleen’s assurances that it was a great place to work don’t quite allow for her boss’s personality. He proved to be one of those people who try too hard to come over as broad-minded tolerant, patient and amusing, — hardly a fault, but we were working in such a confined space, and were constantly busy, so I must admit I did let it get to me.

I had the privilege of making up Robert Helpmann’s eye drops yesterday. He announced himself over the phone to order his prescription in a rich baritone voice, which didn’t quite fit my image of a graceful ballet dancer;  of course it is appropriate for a very fine actor — which he certainly is.

I enjoyed meeting him when he came in to pick up his drops, and we talked a little bit about Mt Gambier, where both our families have come from.

Last weekend I had another roam around the Tate Gallery, which is down at Millbank on the south side of the Thames. I did go there once when I first arrived in London, but did not appreciate it as much as I was able to this time, having been able to develop a better eye for a greater variety of art since travelling through Europe. I was now ready to really appreciate the magnificence of the Turner landscapes and seascapes — so full of vast, wild, swirling colours. His greatest masterpiece is considered to be a scene of a train speeding towards the viewer, emerging from a great, swirling mistiness of smoke and rain. It is one of the first great landscapes expressing the power of the emerging industrial age.

The collection is not just all about William Turner, though he is the artist that people most associate with the Tate. There is a very good range of British art particularly ranging from the 15th century to the present day, so there was a lot to appreciate.

Afterwards, I went to see a film called the Chaplin Review — you might have seen it – it consists of three of Charlie’s old silent shorts, featuring that wonderful character TheTramp, and I found it wonderfully amusing.

I don’t think I have ever seen a complete Chaplin film before, so I was very curious to see why he is so famous — and now I am just another fan. He himself introduced each of the three short films and has created a fresh soundtrack to go with them.

Jan Peyton came to dinner one night during the week — she is a good friend who was also living at Sancta Sophia College when we were both studying pharmacy — she too is back in London after a lot of tripping around. She had lots to tell about going to the Ascot races the other day, and was very excited about seeing the Royal family and all the film stars and other big noises.            I hadn’t realised that Ascot lasts about a week.

Thinking of horses, dad, I don’t remember telling you that on my way, I had the chance to see lots of very beautiful horses  in Normandy in northern France, in the fields and stabling yards outside of Deauville, a famous horse racing city. I was on my way to Bayeux, where the famous mediaeval  tapestry is, which was close by.

Yesterday evening I saw a wonderful production of William Shakespeare’s ” The Tempest”.   It was presented at an open-air theatre in a special theatre garden in the centre of Regents Park.

It was performed by the new Shakespeare Company as one of their summer plays, and it was a perfect choice to be performed out of doors (as long as the weather is fine – they always caution you to bring an umbrella when you book a ticket).

It is a permanent theatre consisting of a covered in stage, with a backstage building behind it. It has been a well-known feature of fine entertainment in London for many years.

You might remember a bit of the story of Prospero, the sorcerer who is really the Duke of Milan, who was shipwrecked with his daughter Miranda on a remote island during a violent storm. There is of course a hero, Prince Ferdinand, and the mischievous sprite, Ariel, and the baddy, Caliban, the evil son of a witch. –   All with many deceptions and machinations to get through before it is all untangled and de-masked and brought to a happy conclusion.

The setting was perfect, being completely surrounded by parkland with a soft sky above and birds twittering and flying in and out of the trees that form a backdrop.

It was a fine evening and the story came to an end accompanied by much applause just as the light was beginning to fade at about a 9:45. It was such a treat!

Tonight I had dinner at the home of the Foleys — the other friends of Linda’s whom I had already visited a couple of times when I was here before. I really enjoyed having a real family evening, and they all seemed interested to hear details of some of my latest adventures.

The people I have been introduced to and who have made me welcome have enriched so much of my time over here.

I have just received a note from Sue Alden — you will remember that she is the English lass who shared a room with me at Earl’s Court. She has been in America for a year, and is just home for a couple of weeks holiday. She has written to ask me down for a weekend at her parents  home in Hampshire. I have been there once before when I was recovering from the flu during my first winter here. It will be delightful to go bush again, even if it’s only for a couple of days.

I have finally also received a letter from my pharmacist friend Jeanette, who was originally planning to come to England too. Since then she has acquired a pharmacy of her own, and is doing so well that she has been able to buy a home unit as well, and is busy furnishing it.

I don’t expect to be seeing her over here any time soon.  You might remember that in 1956 there were four of us who had studied pharmacy together who drove all the way up from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef for a holiday after we all graduated.

Once the trip was over, we promised one another that we would work hard, save our money, and as soon as possible set off overseas together. Jeanette was one of them, Colleen did come later after she had married, and I have lost track of the fourth one. So much for the best-laid plans and all that!

I can honestly say that I haven’t regretted travelling on my own. It was the right time to come when I did, and has provided me with endless opportunities to connect with people more readily than if I had had travelling companions, and it has also allowed me to gradually discover where my greatest interests lie and to follow them.

I don’t know yet where I will be heading off to next. I wouldn’t mind getting out of London for a week or two, away from all the noise and traffic, I do admit that I tend to leave it till the last minute to book up some work, and it usually works out for me — I think I thrive on not knowing!

But be sure, you will be the first to know as soon as I do.

Meantime, lots and lots of love to everybody


 

London. 27th of June 1960.

Dear family,

I have had another change of scene, work wise, this week — I am up in North East London, miles from home, but in a very nice pharmacy this time. It is large and airy and I’m working with a very pleasant staff.

This is only a week’s run, and tomorrow I hope to find a letter in the post saying that there is work for me in a little pharmacy in Devon. I answered an ad. which had been placed a month ago, and they wrote back saying that they did want someone for July, but it was a matter of finding accommodation. I replied that I would love to come, and it was only a matter of them being prepared to pay for that accommodation!

I am keeping my fingers crossed that that little proviso doesn’t put them off.

Sue and her Mum and Dad

Sue and her Mum and Dad outside their country home in Hampshire

The visit to Sue’s home in the country was very pleasant. I went down by bus on Saturday afternoon after work,.

It was so good to see Sue and her mum and dad again. Living in the USA seems to agree with her. I had just begun to settle in for a quiet weekend when local friends started arriving for a cocktail party — no young ones, but a very good cross-section of rural gentility.

I soon found myself carrying around trays of savouries and trying to fit in by making appropriate small talk — not my forte! This exercise was becoming a bit monotonous as they were only taking one little nibble at a time, so I resorted to advising a group of very proper country matrons to just dig In, as  this could be the last round!

I also found it necessary to point out gently that Australians didn’t appreciate being referred to as colonials!   Altogether I felt that I made a great social hit!

Sue’s father who is in his 70s has now been confined to a wheelchair since my last visit because of his gouty knees. He is a dear old soul, but he can be a bit of a problem when it comes to recounting his war experiences — he was a general during the First World War.

He insisted on regaling me yet again about the terrific Aussie fellows that he had met in Cairo on their way back from Gallipoli. — Really wild chappies they were! One of them had been stabbed in the back in a street in Cairo — so what did they do? — They just set fire to the whole jolly street where it happened, they did!   But then of course, the fire engines turned up! Those boys weren’t going to take that lying down — they were not going to let anyone spoil the blaze, so what did they do next? They simply cut the hoses, they did! A terrific lot of chaps, they were — really wild boys!

A country home in Hampshire

A country home in Hampshire in autumn

This time I had to hold my tongue, or I probably would have gone too far! I wasn’t ready to start finding excuses for our brave Aussie boys!!

Actually I quite enjoyed the novelty of the evening, and also the next morning helping Sue and her mother clear up after the party. When that was over we had a very pleasant time strolling through the countryside for an hour or two, swapping 12 months worth of stories and by evening, I was back again in the big smoke!

I have started to tidy up the flat in case I get good news from Devon. Right now I am attempting to wind up this letter during my lunch hour, but the 16-year-old counter girl has other plans for me. She wants me to tell her all about Australia and what our men are like. She has decided that English males are ‘real squares’! – they won’t even take their coats off no matter how hot the weather is — says “it is just stupid pride – that’s all it amounts to! And as for those pathetic bowler hats!! ”  And on it goes.

I am hoping to be able to tell you to direct your next letters to me at the seaside.

Till then – Look after yourselves. Very much love to you all.