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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 3-5 October, 1926

page 1

Dear Mummy

Well, I'm very sorry I missed the first
mail from Sydney, but I was relying on a bloke who ought
to have known more about mails than I did, being in the Bank
of NZ
& behind the Inquiry counter at that — I refer to Mr Henry
Knowles Smith
. If I remember accurately, I missed the first
mail to Auckland through lack of acquaintance with the postal
habits of the great City, & was going to post by the Frisco boat
to Auckland when H.K.S. said, Don't do that, there's another mail
direct tomorrow, which will get to W'gton a day sooner; & ex-
at some length the complicated intercolonial mail
system which gave three mails one week & one the next; but
he must have got the weeks mixed up or something. Well, I'm
very sorry — I thought I was being pretty shrewd. I hope you
have got letters pretty regularly since — I th tried to work
things out so as to give you one long letter every week from
the Australian ports, though the fact that I was getting farther &
farther away all the time brought an element of uncertainty
even into the calculations of so keen a mathematician as me.
I think I explained about not writing from Naples or Toulon; but
I think you will get the letters by this post direct as soon if not
sooner than letters posted late on the voyage via Australia.
So much for that. Thanks for the key of the trunk, although it is page 2 not much use to me now. I persist that it was Keithles who
was the [unclear: chump]; he took the key on the Friday morning to jam
some more stuff into the trunk (on your suggestion so it is
partly your fault) & locked it up himself & didn't give me the
key. It's turning out a darned expensive trunk that — I had it
in the baggage room, & they wouldn't land the baggage-room
luggage till the special train had gone; so I had to [unclear: sto] get it sent
through the agents, which cost me 6/-.

You will have gathered from all this that I am in London
& have got your letter, likewise Ern's & a bunch more from various
people. The ship was fogbound down the river all Friday morning,
& by the time we finally got off & through the customs & into the
train it was nearly four. The customs people were very
variable; one or two of them were real [unclear: snags], & as the list
of dutiable articles included every thing from cameras to a pair
of braces I hovered around somewhat anxiously on the outskirts
looking for a decent man. And while I was thus doing
towards the end McGrath got hold of the head [unclear: champ] of the lot,
who roared in jovial tones "Now do you want to go by this train
or not how many packages one! two! (affecting his moniker as
thus he spoke) you haven't any cigars cigarettes or whisky right-
oh; go for your life!" without taking breath. Which made
me wish I had packed a good many more risky articles &
got away with them so cleanly. But then I suppose I should
have struck one of the snags.

The journey from Tilbury to St. Pancras was pretty dirty
on the whole, though at first there were a few fields & haystacks
page 3 & churches that looked like the England of romance. But then
we came to interminable lines of houses all built in the
same way in big blocks or seperately, which were uglier
still. So a t station or so farther on I nearly got out & came
back home; but I decided I would see what St. Pancras
was like anyhow. It was all smoke & uproar but having
got so far I decided I would give London a go. And then having
seen one of WH. Smith's bookstalls with all the new books on,
a booking office covered with theatre bills & a paper with the
front page entirely covered with adverts of concerts mainly or-
I decided that England would do me. The more so
that the coal strike has done London a lot of good & they are
having the clearest weather any of the inhabitants can remember.

So far I have spent the time mainly in dodging taxis and buses.
But I had better get things down chronologically. We got the name
of this joint (ie. Hotel Madrid) from Whinfield & it is a very
decent place & pretty cheap as things go in London — 7/6 for
bed & breakfast, even though Henning & I have to go half-shares
in a bed, as it is the busy season. But the people are cheerful
friendly sorts, the waitresses smile & take us into their trade
secrets (one of them asked us this morning if we would do her a favour; all
my native chivalry coming to the fore I said Delighted; if one
of the other waitresses asked us if one of us let in the first
last night would we say yes; followed by a somewhat involved
explanation of a latchkey only once a week, a duplicate, to make
into later of the existence of which waitress no 2 didn't know & a page 4 homecoming 20 minutes late); they have two diminutive page-
boys clad in buttons & a grin who say sir at the end of
every clause in a sentence & grin industriously every time
you pass them — one is a regular Torchy ; I don't suppose I
shall be here long though, only till I can get a room somewhere.
I wouldn't mind being out this way; it is a rather decent
place, especially in the twilight; — a vista down long streets
of big houses; but I think a bit too expensive. Henning is
going over to Paris in a couple of days, & MacG down to Oxford
although he is starting to [unclear: bemoan] his fate at having to leave
London. From the point of view of getting diggings we were
unlucky to arrive in the weekend; we I couldn't start to
look around till yesterday (Saturday morning) & by the time
I had gone to the High Commis & read my letters ther [sic: there] & called
all the Banks, got £10 & a cheque book & interviewed the
manager & Wyatt, the other bloke to which Major gave me a
letter, the business part of the week was over. They are
pretty cheery souls at Jimmy Parr's though I didn't see him
& don't want to; I ran into that girl what's her name who
bugged along when we had the Yanks to tea, with her
husband who looked so darned conceited with long
hair brushed back that I pretty nearly kicked them. They
invited me to trot along & see them at the first opportunity,
so I said I said I should & shan't. Then coming down
the street to the Bank on the top of a bus I saw the dome
of St. Paul's looming up, which gave me a great thrill; &
this Wyatt in the Bank proved to be a cobber of [unclear: Mrs Han]- page 5[unclear: nah's], & apparently had seen me before at her old flat on
the Terrace. I thought his face seemed a bit familiar when
I first had a look at it. So I had jovial conversation
both with him & the manager; who seemed to think that
being the son of the Sec. to [unclear: Shanland's] was a hall-mark of
great respectability; so what about Daddy applying for a rise.
Then the assist manager turned out to be one Grant, a lean but
genial Scotchman & the brother of Grant the prof who examined
me & is going out to NZ next year to swap with Hight; so
I am going to meet him some time at the beginning of next year.
Thus the morning passed both pleasantly & profitable. Everything
looks extraordinarily familiar; St Paul's, the Royal Exchange,
Admiralty Arch Trafalgar Square,,etc. But my oath! the bookshops! & I've
only seen a very few of the very small one ss yet. And the
outside of Hatchard's which has a stunner f shopfront. The
trouble with the place is, it is so darn big; but if the weather
was always like this I shouldn't growl. Not much sun, but
not very cold, & clear. The landowners think they are in
clover for this time of the year.

Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with Henning & then
bowled along & inspected what of St Paul's you can inspect
now, which isn't much. But the outside is imposing enough,
though hemmed round with other buildings so that you can't
stand off & get a good look. Some of the memorials inside
are fearful duds, & some of the others are so crammed
up that you can hardly see them eg. the [unclear: Gron Dook's].
page 6 They had a service at 4 & as we were roaming round about then
we stayed for it. But not very exciting. The only good
things were an SS Wesley anthem very short & the organ
which is a stunner. Nasal parson of some sort gabbling
away in an awful monotone, in which it was impossible
to distinguish a word; the choir gave recited the Lord's prayer
twice & I didn't know what is [sic: it] was till ¾ through, & knew
no more the second time than the first. Similarly with
the creed which perhaps deserves such treatment however.
Choir-boys have good voices though. I may bowl along to
a full-dress service some day when old [unclear: Inge] is yapping. On
to the Abbey which I haven't seen yet. Last night the three
of us tried to get into a theatre but started too late & found
it hopeless, though we saw a good deal of the theatre quarter
of the city. Everything crammed full, — G. & S., Ibsen,
Noel Coward etc etc etc down to the very pictures. So we
came home on a bus & looked at the lights; being carried
past our own stop not for the first time (or the last I suppose).
Duncan was met by his brother who had got digs for him.

I had notes of welcome from Lorrie Richardson & Jack
largely condemnatory of the country, & am meeting
them today; & if I survive the subsequent carouse, will
post this letter to catch Tuesday's mail out. Thank Ern
for his letter & the tramping news contained therein which
I shall retail to Y. & R. this afternoon. I [unclear: adjourn] for
the present. page 7

Tuesday 5/10/26 I saw the lads [gap — reason: unclear] & had a good long yarn
with much reminiscing. Likewise we walked round
London a good deal & inspected various monuments in-
the Epstein one. It is certainly not boringly con-
in the way of 9/10 of the [unclear: sen] lumps of iron &
stone that disfigure London. I didn't actively like it, but
neither did I dislike it; L.R. said he didn't like it at
first, but is coming to like it now. The general design of the
setting — the drinking pools for the birds, lawn in the middle,
trees & the other surroundings are most beautiful, though.
How any people can run down a thing like this & tolerate
such a hidious abortion like the Albert Memorial beats me.
I'd heard that this was pretty bad, but nothing, no picture,
no description, can come up to the horror of the original. Never
in all my wildest imaginings did anything so nerve- shatter-
bump up against me. Among the war-memorials, apart
from the Cenotaph, about the best I have seen is the Royal
Artillary memorial
. This is a stunner, with tremendously
vigorous panelling all around it, & four big statues in
bronze, one on each side — inscriptions jolly well [unclear: chosen]
too — not like the ghastly complacency of the Machine Gun
corps thing in front. There was something about these
two things in one of Daddy's Adelphis. But the Cenotaph
is the supreme thing of the lot.

We wandered into St. James Park, the water wherein
looked very beautiful into the mist, then into Hyde Park page 8 Still writte write
  c/o [unclear: Pam] for present
to see Epstein & hear the Orators; and there was nothing
there to come up to the straight from the shoulder stuff at
the Domain. By the way that Domain article of mine
may not be published, it wasn't up to much. We then had
a hilarious tea at a joint of Lyons where they are running
a café on the lines of that society (who sponsors the
place) whose pamphlets Keithles brought home with him. I
shall try to snaffle you a menu one of these days. I
think as soon as I get settled I shall be able to feed
pretty cheaply at the joints like this & on my own.

I saw [unclear: Joynt] yesterday & got a cheque for £100 from
him. He seems a nice old gent. I am to interview Sir
Gregory Foster
, the provost of Univ. College this morning &
have inspected the Institute of Hist. Research, which I
found much to my liking.

Also went to my first Prom. last night — this is
the last week of the regular season — mainly Wagner
at this concert. Well, this country will do me for a
while, climate or no climate. I shall be sending
out a bunch of programmes etc later on some time.
All W'gton will be having their mouths watered.

As for what you say about publishing my letters — well
you can publish them now if you can get anything for
them — which please remit. Otherwise nothing doing.

What do you want to go putting my photo in the Free
for? I am extremely annoyed.

With love from