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Monday, 21 June 2010

1942 December

December. Beveridge report. "Soon nothing to buy". Deja vu: drabness of war. Rabbit standard for Christmas dinner. Conscientious objector to tea.

Thursday, Dec 3rd
A Ministry of Food "austerity" Christmas pudding containing gravy browning mixed with cold tea or coffee! Sir William Beveridge's report of Social Security out. meeting on the whole with favourable reception.

Tuesday, Dec 8th
     At the weekend the terrible damage done by the Japs to the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbour was revealed. All the eight battleships were either sunk or damaged, but all except one have been repaired or salvaged. It was a frightful catastrophe. A good thing we did not know the truth at the time. No wonder the Japs had it all their own way in the Pacific in the first half of 1942.
              Was up in London at the weekend..... Had lunch with Ginger Lane from Air Ministry. Was discussing failure of naval shells in last war; says early bombs a pretty good failure in this. Very difficult to get reliable information about the effect of blast. Swiss inclined to magnify effect of bombs accidentally dropped there in order to get compensation! One night a bomber set off from Lincolnshire with very heavy bombs to attack Calais. Returned and reported bomb dropped on middle of target. Intelligence officer pointed out they had been away for a very short time! Soon a report from Home Security that a very large bomb had fallen in a field near Southend! Experts no end pleased as now they could study effects on cottage near by. Fortunately no one killed.

Saturday, Dec 19th
              The Prefects’ Party to-night, but didn’t feel much like it, bad tempered and out of sorts. Lashings of food, more even than last year, but very loud and ear-splitting canned music. Was in Reading last night trying to buy a brooch but the jewellers practically empty. Stocks seems to have come quite to an end and showcases with nothing in them. Soon there will be nothing to buy. Even carnations 1/6 each. Very depressing, but effect partly of weather. Buses not cleaned now, so you cannot see out of windows, and trains in darkness between Reading and Henley, so you cannot read.

Sunday, Dec 20th
Women in the retail trades are to be combed out up to 35. This will include M, who worried about it but will not say so. Then I should say we have reached the limit.  Already we have stopped the Arts courses for men at the universities, which is probably bad on any long term view as will hold up educational reforms after the war.             
              Sometimes wonder where I am, in which war, 1914 – 1918 or 1939 – 19?? The same symptoms are appearing, the same drabness, the same shortages, the same inefficiencies, the same frustrations. The unfinished task – a boy in one, growing up to the realization that one’s chances of survival were not very good; a middle-aged man in the other, trying to cope with Father’s staffing difficulties etc etc. Queer period in which to live. However, with all the horrors and waste, these years of war are better than the years in which one had to watch and stand impotently while the peace was lost and future bartered away by those vain, cowardly and futile old men of 1929 - 1939. One can hope; then one could not.

Friday, Dec 25th, Christmas Day
              We had breakfast about nine and then did some chores. Hilary woke at six and had his presents in a pillowcase in his bedroom. Very difficult to get any toys. In the morning went out and got some yellow winter jasmine, but for some reason there was practically no iris sylosa this year. The farmer was keeping a cockerel for us, but it died. Chickens were very expensive and difficult to get, turkeys were unobtainable, so we were reduced to rabbit and bacon. Fortunately it was a young and tender rabbit. Nora had obtained a little suet, enough to make one Christmas pudding, and a little brandy, in the precious bottle I bought in September, 1939, in anticipation of air raids, was used in it. There was no drink of any kind to be obtained in the shops and all we had was a bottle of lemon barley water from the grocer, and lucky to get that! However we had a good dinner really and plenty to eat compared with a great part of Europe. After washing up we had coffee. By that time it was getting near three o’clock, the King’s broadcast. Listened to some of this. He was better this year on the whole. Then we walked with Hilary to Greys and back. Got home about five and had tea. Miss the fruits as well as the drink at Christmas – one fruit this year, some Blenheim oranges
              Spent 5 – 9 in the control room at the Town Hall yesterday. Rang up on Wednesday and did not like to refuse as had not been for over a year. To-night we shall have to sleep at the school.
               Some people growing optimistic and think the war will be over by next Christmas. Can’t say I do, but as am in a very depressed and pessimistic mood not inclined to think it will end before 1945.
              The weather up to now has been very open and we have had some beautiful sunny days. ”Winter,” said the Coal Controller, ”has not yet begun.” Hope it won’t.

Sunday, December 27th
              Feel more optimistic to-day. Sciatica definitely improved in past three months. Suffer a good deal at intervals from an annoying indigestion. Put it down to the masses of starch we have to eat and the bread, which has developed streaks lately and is a nasty grey colour. Can get rye crispbread, but have to give five points for it. Great efforts by Food Ministry to get us to eat more potatoes, but potatoes more starch. Added to the superfluity of starch, two main meals a week have to be cheese, and this rather difficult to digest. Never see fish now at all. Fishmongers either shut or vast marble slabs with nothing on them. No fruit either, except apples, consequently much miss (?dried) peaches, pears, apricots, figs, not to mention all the canned varieties of them we used to enjoy, mixed with raisins, sultanas, dates and dried walnuts. I suppose that all things considered anyone with a weak or tricky digestion ought to be glad it is no worse.
                Railway engines in future to be painted all black. G.W. R. [Great Western Railway] long since given up painting its coaches cream; now all choc. Col. ”Britton”, the man who invented the V-sign.. . . . and undoubtedly helped keep alive resistance in Europe in 1941, has bobbed up again: "25 years ago this same war was raging and in 1918 the enemy could fight no more. Let us remind the enemy of 1918. We painted the V for Victory on the walls in the dark days. In these brighter days the figures 1918 are beginning to appear on the walls!”
              Betty and David Ansell in to tea to-day. Conscientious objectors, but David at beginning of war in Mines Dept. Gave that up because more cheese added to miners’ ration. More cheese, more coal; more coal, more war effort, so David resigned! He has had various humanitarian jobs since, now working in Reading Hospital, taking round bottles of medicine to the wards and collecting empties.  Been reading Parson Woodford’s Diary to-day. Good eating in those days, and how they did eat!

Monday, Dec 28th
              Rommel says the German soldier has astounded the world and the Italian soldier has astounded the Germans!....Germans describe their retreat in Africa as ”a methodical disengagement westwards.” ”The Axis won this war a long time ago. The only difficulty is getting it finished,” they said in a broadcast in Denmark....They seem to be on brink of a colossal disaster in Ukraine...
              Saw a picture of Negro soldiers looking at the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square. Two or three hundred years ago their ancestors were brought across the Atlantic as slaves; eighty years ago through Lincoln their grandfathers were were freed. to-day they return as citizen soldiers to fight on African soil for the liberation of mankind!

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