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Thursday, 15 July 2010

1945 December

December. Train strike, dock strike.  Lady Periam. US loan. Conditions in Germany. Fruits of victory. Chicken standard.  Year of deliverance.

Sunday, Dec 2nd
Nora went up to London to stay and then go down to Long Dene. There was a gas strike so no lighting, you were not allowed by the conductors to stand up on the buses, the tea shop refused to take any money which involved change and there were no oranges because of the dock strike! When she arrived the guests were huddled round a gas fire which was only just alight.

Sunday, Dec 9th
Yesterday went to the Dean’s Dinner at Balliol. College and school have the same benefactor, Lady Periam, but the college (unlike school) has called a W.C. after her! Sat next young history fellow. We had a glass of sherry to start with, then sat down in a hollow square round the big hearth in the body of the hall and drank cider out of the college silver flagons, followed by port and coffee. At this point my host enquired, “Can I interest you in a pee?” We went out and on our way back he remarked that at one college dinner when he was unable to leave in the middle of the speeches he took a carafe off the table and used that, leaving it when filled under his chair. One of the married dons said the wives suspected them of holding orgies at the college, but all they got was port once a week now. Dinner was simple but good, pigeon with trimmings and salad, a very nice ice with chocolate sauce and a savoury. About 11.30 I went back to Tom Armstrong’s in the Woodstock Road.
On Friday had tea with the professor of Agriculture at Reading. He took a gloomy view of a farm with Molly, Ruth and myself, and perhaps he was right.

Thursday, Dec 13th
The Commons debating the terms of the American loan. General opinion that they have struck a hard bargain, but what can we do. We put everything in to save ourselves and hold the bridgehead of civilization in 1940 – 41. Now if we refuse we shall have to tighten our belts still more than in the war. Less food of every kind except bread and potatoes, less cotton and therefore less clothing and only a fraction of our present supplies of tobacco (not that that would affect me). There are no reserves of the materials we want except in N. America, or shipping to bring them. Without the loan we should have to concentrate on essential foodstuffs instead of the raw materials and equipment that we need to get our exports going. We might try to organise a group of countries willing to follow us along this path of sacrifice, but by the time things began to improve they would probably have broken away. The countries that were occupied by the Germans have not lost their gold or dollar reserves, nor have the Dominions, so that by this curious paradox there would be a strong temptation for them to make their own arrangements with the U.S.A.
Think we did right to ratify the agreement. It is true the loan carries an interest of 1 5/8 % but we have cancelled out the Lend Lease indebtedness and the lowering of tariff barriers, which is part of the General Agreement, which we all hope will lead to a period of expanding international trade....
Still carrying out the dustbin on Sunday nights – the fruits of victory in the piping, spacious and luxurious times of peace, or dropping fatness, as Nora says! Still we are to have a double ration of fats in Christmas week.

Wednesday, Dec 19th
Heard that Potter is coming back as well as Owens next term so shall have five men at last, but wish I had not lost my interest in education. Hilary arrived back from school on Friday. Train 40 minutes late. He is now engaged in typing a story called The Mystery of the Carrier Pigeon and the Pirate Ship!
The French say their food controller is a minister sans beurre et sans brioche. A bitter jest, for all agree that the black market still has a stranglehold on all food....

Sunday, Dec 23rd
A breeze on the home front! We had negotiated a cockerel with Mrs Hayes, but when it came to paying she asked for one of our pullets in exchange. As we were offering the market price of 25/-. I thought it a bit steep and told her if she wanted a pullet she could buy it with our money. This she appeared to regard as most unreasonable and almost a breach of trust.
Nothing to buy, as usual for the last five years. How I do look forward to an improvement in the next six months. Perhaps a new car battery the first swallow of summer.
Signs of Nazi activity in larger German cities. The Americans are pulling out troops so rapidly that the German co-operators are getting nervous. The anti-Nazi democrats are wondering whether they will be able to establish themselves firmly before the allies are off. Gangs of Hitler Youth lurk in the ruins of bombed cities. Conditions are compared with those of Hitler’s days. He would have run things better is the comment, and many believe he is still alive and biding his time.
At home we have plenty of coal and logs to burn and a warm house, well lit and comfortable, so however much one may complain of the continuous frustrations of the aftermath we are in fact, compared with most of Europe, enjoying the fruits of victory.

Christmas Eve 1945
Nora went up to London to get pantomime tickets for Peter Pan and Treasure Island. Hilary and I cut the quickthorn hedge. To-night the Christmas tree was decorated, but we did not use the paper chains which have adorned it since 1940 and are now very dusty and crumpled. Holly only. Mistletoe very scarce this year.
This year, in spite of all our shortages, frustrations, disappointments and marked shortage, too, of goodwill, we are at peace for the first time since 1938. Every now and then it comes over me and for a short time I realize a little of what it means in freedom from fear and violent death, then I lose the sense of it in the presence of some shortage or restriction. Very poor! How tied up in our small world we are, how narrow our vision of things.

Christmas Day 1945
As usual spent the morning doing chores! Phyllis arrived down from London on the 11.20 train. We, Hilary and I, met her in car and drove along the river front to see the bridge and water in the sunlight of winter. For dinner at about 1.30 we had roast chicken, sprouts, potatoes, bread sauce, onion stuffing, Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Phyllis was to have brought some drink, but remembered it first when she got to Paddington, so we had to consume barley water. The weather was not cold but squally with showers and a few bright patches.
Discussed farm project with Phyllis this p.m. She was all for it as the exponent of living dangerously and was sure money could be made from it.
Been looking back at Diary – a descending and then a rising order. We started off well in 1940 with 2 chickens and tongue, in ’41 one chicken only, in ’42 rabbit and bacon, in ’43 worse still - our ration of topside - in ’44 we pulled up with goose (Diamond) and in ’45 we are back to the chicken standard again! Lucky there, too, for big raids have been carried out by the black market for poultry and everyone advised to lock up at night. There are supposed to have been some imported turkeys but we have not seen any. When shall we be back on the turkey standard again?

Boxing Day
Took the car out to Long Grasses beyond Nettlebed with Hilary and Phyllis and walked in the morning sun getting branches of catkins. We disturbed a little owl on a nest. The sky had that luminous and tender blue of winter and the furrows lay glistening and newly turned.

Saturday, Dec 29th
Went up to London in the afternoon to a Beethoven concert at the Albert Hall – Choral Symphony. Then to The First Gentleman, with M, a very amusing play with Robert Morley about the Regent, Caroline and Leopold.

Sunday Dec 30th
To a Tchaikovsky concert in the afternoon. London very empty of Americans and generally less crowded though still plenty of queues of all kinds. Turned foggy at night.

Monday, Dec 31st
Hilary came up with his mother and I took him on at Paddington. Bitterly cold and train late. First we had a bun and coffee and then we visited the barber in Piccadilly for a haircut, then to a model aeroplane exhibition, lunch and out to Walham Green to a very old theatre to see Treasure Island. Hilary very pleased with it all but a bit frightened when the canon about to be fired from the Hispaniola. We went to Phyllis’s for tea, then to catch the 6.55. This came in about an hour late because of the fog and so we did not arrive until about 9.0. Hilary, who had woken up at four that morning, said ”I don’t think my legs will carry me home” – however we made it.
As I turn over the pages of this year’s Diary I think we are not thankful enough, although we do realize now what horrors were in store for us had we gone down in 1940 and 1941. Anyway it will be a year to place beside 1940 – the year of defeat and decision and the year of deliverance

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