c/o Mrs. Dench,/25 Kenilworth Gdns/
My dearest Dorrie,
I have just sent you a cable to say ‘Letter delayed all well love writing today’. And this letter will explain why. I left Stockholm at 9 pm on 24/9/46 & woke up in central Sweden. The woods were turning yellow & red among the dark green of the pines. We crossed into Norway, & some of the mountains were covered with snow. Norway is a beautiful country, not so mountainous as I discovered Sweden—or those parts of it where I was—to be. I got to Trondheim at 2.0 pm & stayed at a cheap hotel. An engineer named Jensen asked if I would like to see the cathedral. He was an enthusiast & knew every stone in it. There is a great rose window that defies description, & it is interesting in this Protestant church to find chapels to the Blessed Virgin. It was raining heavily & I returned to my room & began my novel about South Africa. At 7.0 pm I met Jensen & we went to a restaurant where I stood him dinner in return for his kindness. On Tuesday I caught the 8.0 am to Oslo, & we climbed up to the Dovre mountains. Here the autumn colours are unbelievable; the moors are yellow, green, red, orange—such colours as you have never seen. A young girl next to me spoke English, & we had a pleasant journey. We descended from the mountains through the Gudbrandsdal, a lovely valley between the mountains, with flowers & big green rivers that foam their way through the narrow pass. We got to Oslo at 10.0 pm & I went to another hotel, this time very expensive. Next day it was raining & I set out to explore, but turned back. But Oslo is a poor city compared with Stockholm, & the Norwegians suffered much during the war. The trains & trams are dirty, the shops are poor, taxis are scarce. I returned to the hotel & wrote more of the book. At 5.40 pm of that day 27/9/46 I caught my train. You can imagine my horror when I was ordered to get off the train at Halden, on the border, because my visa did not allow more than one journey into Sweden. I pleaded but in vain, so there I was dumped in the dark, not knowing a soul, & having no money, except a traveller’s cheque that could not be cashed in Norway. I rang up the wife of the British Consul, Mrs. Thompson. She was very kind & actually walked down to the station to get me & took me up to her house for tea. There we tried to work out some kind of plan. My idea was still to try & catch the boat at 5.0 pm for Gothenburg, but I first had to go back to Oslo to get a visa, & then take a taxi to a bridge, & Mrs. Thompson would arrange for a Swedish taxi to meet me on the bridge. Total distance about 300 miles, total cost about £20. As there were so few taxis in Oslo, I decided to take a taxi from Halden to Oslo for 130 crowns (£6.10.0). You can imagine I was very depressed, partly because of the money involved, partly because it was a very tight fit as far as time was concerned, partly because I had a tour of northern England due to begin on Thursday Oct. 3. I went back to the station where a young man who could speak a little English was most kind to me, & at 6.30 am set out by taxi for Oslo. We got there at 9.0 am, only to find that the Consulates do not open till 10.0 am, but I got my visa at 9.30 am. Back to the British Consul who lent me 150 crowns, & advised me to cancel my passage by telegram, & give up the taxi idea. Mr. Thompson, the British consul from Halden, was there, & shared my taxi back to Halden. I was determined not to stay at the depressing & expensive hotel. Back at Halden Mr. Thompson got me a nice room at a cheap hotel, & took me home to tea. Then after tea to dinner with people called Refsaas. There we ate & drank from 7.0 pm to about midnight, with breaks for music & singing. I went back to the hotel & wrote some more of the book. After breakfast Mr. Thompson called for me, took me for a drive to his quarry, & back to lunch. There I stayed till the evening train, & believe me, neither customs nor passport official came near me, so to be safe, after getting a passage for Wednesday thro’ the intervention of the S.A. Consul, I reported to the police. My three days in Gothenburg I spent writing, after having been forced to take a double room for the sake of getting somewhere to sleep. I cashed my last cheque for £5, & tho’ I did nothing extravagant except send three cables to England to explain the delay & cancel engagements, I spent it all in 2½ days. I was glad to get on the boat & found myself in a 2-berth cabin with another Johannesburg man, Fletcher from Parkview. He knew the Rouses well & taught John special lessons. At the Customs I got a letter from Jonno & David, which cheered me up. During the night the boat began to heave & roll, & only about six of us (out of 100 2nd class) turned up for breakfast. I enjoyed it. We got to Tilbury yesterday morning (Friday 4/10/46) & was I glad to see England again. I went to draw my money this morning & see that for September you got your £17. But they are still not deducting the new insurance. Please go to see the Insurance people, & ask why the stop-order is not in force, & please pay the back amounts out of Hoffie’s money. You need not worry about the passage on the Queen Elizabeth—I was glad to get it, & have cancelled my other application, & will fill in the form you mention. They were a bit peeved to know that Johannesburg could do it, & they couldn’t. I came back to a big post, two letters from you, one from Mr. Laas, two copies of Common Sense, letter from Ronald, etc. etc. Tomorrow I leave to go to Tubby Eaton at Leicester, & have a very heavy programme of work, visiting. I hope to get in a bit of writing too.
Three months are gone & before you know where you are I shall be back. Hope Jonno is better. Had a letter from Hoffie too, in which he commented on David’s mountaineering! Shall write to you next Monday from here probably, after I return from the North. No more news at the moment. Remember me to Stanley & Beryl, & Oubaas too. Have they started on Stanley’s house? Shall try & write now to Mr. Laas, to David & Jonno, to Ronald & Hoffie, & then I shall be free this evening to play crib with Mrs. Dench.
Much love to you, my dear. I shall be careful of passports in future.