Dated 30.1.69 but more likely 30.12.69 - handwritten over two aerogrammes.
Hullo, hullo, you won’t get this letter for another year, but never mind, any news that’s in it won’t be quite that old. I hope you had a fabulously happy Christmas, surrounded by lots of cheery relations ˗ that makes you sound a bit matriarchal, but I don’t quite mean it that way! I hope the post-Christmas period didn’t quite get you the way it got me ˗ I enjoyed myself thoroughly up until about 10.00 on Christmas night, and then a great feeling of depression crept over me (especially when I found I had to make a great Tube detour in order to get home from Mike’s) and has stayed with me, on and off, since then. I’m beginning to feel that I must be getting to be a neurotic or summat; I keep swinging from fits of bustling energy and effervescence to fits of torpor and turpitude (that is if there are two such words!). There are a great variety of reasons ˗ each counterbalanced by pointing to the fact that I oughtn’t to be depressed!
David’s been away for a fortnight so my usual ‘sounding-board’ is out ˗ but Cathy has been more friendly of late ˗ but Ian has been miserable, and plays the same Joan Baez record till the early hours while he tries to finish not the best painting he’s ever done ˗ and I revised a song the other day and thought it was now much more acceptable and it only seems just as wrong in a different way (oh, the problems of artists!!!) and they’ve brought in a new rule at work that means we have to fight and argue with half the people that go in and yet I’m getting on fabulously well with my co-workers, the boss Trevor, and Mike, his assistant from Jersey (he’s only about 25) ˗ but they are both leaving in a month ˗ and Margaret, one of the other cashiers ˗ the most delightfully crazy person I’ve ever met ˗ we have each other in hysterics within minutes, much to the bemusement of the customers ˗ and one of the ‘perks’ of the place is the ability to get in free at any West End Cinema; and I’ve felt homesick for NZ lately and yet find Londoners the most fascinating bunch of individuals I’ve ever come across ˗ in spite of the fact that 60% of them are very thick, and seem to have no initiative (and are the biggest pack of ‘fiddlers’, though on the most petty scale) ˗ the immense variety inherent in 12,000,000 people has to be seen to be believed. [My apologies to Londoners: this is the typically opinionated viewpoint from someone who likes to generalise!]
Mike and I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve ˗ at the Brompton Oratory ˗ with a Mozart Mass performed (I couldn’t see the altar but we were right beside the singers and orchestra!) and the crowd of South West London trendy types and ‘fashionable’ Catholics (and nons) [non-Catholics, presumably] was out of this world. I then walked home afterwards ˗ London isn’t sufficiently go-ahead in its ideas to have transport after 12.30 [this from someone who’d grown up in a city where such late night transport still doesn’t exist] ˗ and because everyone else was picking off the taxis as I hailed them ˗ well, would you believe...? ˗ I walked about four miles and was within two minutes of home (by taxi) when I finally got one. And my feet were wet through! But Mike and I had spent the evening talking more than usual but about all we got out of it is the fact that we don’t either of us seem to be getting anywhere or
have any particular viewpoint in view. Reg was saying to me that it’s great, he thinks, that people don’t have to settle into a job when they’re young as his generation did, but there is the other side of the coin, in that, because it’s so easy to get work, one tends not to bother to settle into anything, and to waffle around. Life always seems to be too short, at twenty-four!!
Again, I’d like to see a lot of things, in Europe, etc, but I’d also quite happily be married ˗ and unless I find a very accommodating wife, the combination of the two would be difficult. I always seem to be harping on this marriage thing, don’t I, but it seems to be very much on my mind of late. But of course, as you no doubt understand, it’s a hangover from the H. business ˗ one doesn’t value a thing until one loses it. I don’t suppose I need explain this much, to you ˗ that’s another fault of youth ˗ we can’t get it into our thick heads that other people have the same sort of feelings and experiences! So the end result of this long misery, is that I’m just a mixed-up kid!!
And there’s this usual fluctuation about the music angle. Whether it’s worthwhile carrying on with it or whether I’d be better to go off as a hobo for the next few years, and settle down to a nice quiet (ugh! I’m sorry) office job! I’m afraid I’ve got the troublesome spirit in me that seems to have caused Dad all his bother ˗ an unhealthy mixture of adventure and security ingrained in my bones. Not only unhealthy, but fairly irreconcilable. You’ve got it, too, haven’t you ˗ thought the security side of it seems to have got the upper hand ˗ the only present sign of the other is your inclination to manage to live on a much smaller bank account than you ought to have at your age ˗ and to give away any little excess you may have to your next-to-useless son.
I sometimes think it’s better to have no brains at all (I mean me, not you!!) ˗ then you have considerably less worries because all your interest in life is pared down to basic essentials. Want a set of brains? ˗ they don’t seem to be much good to me ˗ what’s the use of a feverish quest for knowledge? You only find a whole new vista of unanswered questions before you and the effort of taking stands upon certain points of view is incredibly wearying. No wonder ‘Humanists’ think Catholics are wrong ˗ to them the Catholic way of living seems to go counter to every type of desire there is, and there’s nothing like a Humanist for giving into the present desire. What the consequence is, is no doubt unimportant...
I had a lovely Christmas day ˗ apart from the fact that Mike gave me Verse and Worse for a present!! (he gave me a book I already had for my birthday too!) ˗ but half a dozen of us went to Mike’s flat, and it was warm and convivial and jovial and quite Dickensian and delightful. And yet of the present too. One of the girls had her two year old son there ˗ the most affectionate child I’ve ever struck (no, I didn’t!) [strike the child, I presume I mean: weak attempt at humour]. The three bachelors there, (self included) all became quite fatherly. The boy’s father is no longer within ken ˗ as far as I could make out ˗ not dead, but no longer with us! It wasn’t necessarily better than last year’s Christmas, just much more relaxed: five New Zealanders, and an Aussie ˗ what could you expect?? Love, Mike.