March. "Iron curtain". "We'll all be dead in a few minutes". Eric C, Phyllis A, Margaret Burton, Vernon Mills. Starving in peacetime. Independence for India.
Friday, March 1st
Papers full of food situation, famine in India and near-famine in British zone of Germany. The Russians have done themselves no good and their behaviour has hardened American opinion. “What a tragedy,” says Nora. “How short sighted,” think I, “for the sake of propaganda points to alienate their allies and go some way to wrecking the chance of co-operation.”
Went down to see Hilary on Sunday last, bus from Victoria took one hour and 50 minutes. He was well but as usual took some time to warm up. Apparently he still cries rather readily, but announced in a junior meeting “You see, I cry very easily”.
Been trying to get Heath into a medical school, but no London school will take him because of all the returning ex-service men.
Thursday, March 7th
Speech made by Churchill in presence of President Truman in Mid-West. A grim speech! He proposed an Anglo-American power coalition to hold Russia in check. This not particularly welcomed by American opinion but sufficiently outspoken to start rumour that demobilization of American forces has been stopped.
“Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do…. Or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive, proselytizing tendencies….. From Stettin to Trieste and iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Sofia. All…. are subject to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow. Police governments are prevailing in almost every case…. There is not true democracy. Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed. What Russia desires is the fruits of war and an indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. This (peace) can only be achieved by reaching now, in 1946, a good understanding with Russia under the general authority of the United Nations.”
The U.S. has sent two notes to Russia on Persia and Manchuria, and perhaps of more significance still they have sent their largest battleship, the Missouri, on a goodwill visit to Turkey.
Nora very depressed about all this. It is depressing that the Russians will not come out into the open, that they are continually breaking their agreements, e.g., in Poland and Persia; that they will continue to use these conspiratorial methods, that they continue to keep up a stream of propaganda against us
What can we do with them? They ended the war with a tremendous popularity in this country and every good feeling towards them. This they have steadily thrown away, culminating in their attacks on London at the Security Council.
Monday, March 11th
A lot of visitors at the weekend. On Saturday Margaret Burton, Timothy (Phyllis) and Eric Cunnington to supper. Evening ended with some one remarking that the next war will have begun before we know it with mysterious outbreaks of disease among animal and human populations. Some one else remarked that we shall not know it because we shall all be dead in a few minutes. “Perhaps we already are” I said. Then Eric, noticing the cat, said “Well it’s nice to think he has come too.”
Observer terribly gloomy about the food situation. Leading article headed “Hunger” and says the immediate crisis will be followed by a further crisis in 1947. We have got through the war reasonably fed to be starved in peace. Everyone more and more disappointed at the prospect of the indefinite continuance of rationing and shortage and dullness of our diet. Dullness is the thing. We want a little variety to break the monotony of our austere existence – a treat! a bust! a beano!
Timothy had tales of escorting the Sassoon family into which her friend Flavia has married. One of them wore a blazer with the Wormwood Scrubs arms on it. He had been forbidden to drive a car, but dressed up in his mother’s fur hat and fur coat had proceeded in a sports car at 70 m.p.h. through the village. The police, however, rumbled him and fur hat and coat and he went to the Scrubs!
Margaret more bitter and disappointed than ever. True she went through the blitz, as this scrap of conversation shows: “That was the night we finally caught alight!” “Yes, I remember that night, I saw you burning.” Now her old flame, George Fasnacht, rapidly doping himself into collapse with cigarettes and black coffee, aided by his wife who is recovering from pneumonia. As they have a pathetic scrap of a two-year-old daughter, this rather tragic for her.
Vernon Mills, now an undergraduate at King’s, came over to lunch on Sunday, refreshing after the savagery of Margaret and the optimism of Phyllis. The students had just removed from a public lavatory “Please adjust your dress before leaving” and screwed it firmly to the principal’s door.
Wednesday, March 13th
Children came over with a rumour this morning that the Russians had invaded Persia, but this proved simply to be report from Washington that there were troop movements going on towards the occupied parts. It only shows to what a state of jumpiness we have reached through the Russian secrecy and conspiratorial tactics.
Read New Statesman at weekend. Its point of view that the Russians finding the U.S.A. and G.B. impossible had just given up trying to co-operate with them..… Churchill said in New York that at Potsdam Conference the western powers offered Russia a revision of the convention regulating the Dardanelles, but the Russians would be content with nothing but less than a fortress commanding Constantinople. Stalin’s reply to Churchill was quite off the point as he assumed that Churchill wanted war with Russia.
This week we have offered independence to India and have said that whether she stays in the Commonwealth or not must be her decision. All we would do is to arrange the machinery by which India is to devise their own constitution. The Moslems are loud in their demand for Pakistan but Congress has welcomed the offer.
In Germany things are not looking good in the political as well as the economic sense. The Russians in their zone are amalgamating the Communists and Social Democrats and some people think that unless we reach an agreement with the French about our western zone and offer them something more akin to their own social democracy we shall sooner or later have a Communist Germany on the Rhine.
Goering having now given evidence is being cross examined at Nuremberg. He says he gave up hope in January 1945 when the Russians reached the Oder and Rundstedt’s offensive in the Ardennes had failed. He has all his wits about him and made a vigorous and cunning speech in his own defence. He is trying to use the witness box as a platform to create a Nazi legend.
Fish is now coming in quantity. Queues are to end outside the empty slabs of the fishmongers.
Tuesday, March 19th
Nora’s birthday but no flowers out in the garden owing to cold winds. Bought a dozen daffodils for 5s 3d! My wireless listening turns now mainly on four points, the two symphony concerts on Wednesday and Saturdays, the Brains Trust on Tuesday and Itma, Tommy Handley, on Thursdays. Tonight on Brains trust had terrific argument on the hardy annual capital punishment.
Monday, March 25th
The Russians announced of their wireless yesterday that they were evacuating their troops from Persia…. The position is still grave. What have the Persian government promised in order to be rid of their awkward neighbours.
The first day of spring today, lovely clear sunny day with a lot of heat in the sun but cool wind, the bees flying strongly, the celandine and white violets out, but the wallflowers rather late I think.
Wednesday, March 27th
Have just finished reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the full privately printed edition of 1928 (this copy printed in Paris had been given to M by an old gentleman who did not want and it found among his papers). Even though one may find D. H. Lawrence’s blood and guts theories a bit trying, it is a fine thing to have attempted to express in writing the miracle and mystery of the fusion of the body and the spirit in the entry of the man into the woman’s body and the ecstasy of their mutual orgasm.
Also been reading Eric Linklater’s last book, Private Angelo, about the Italians and Germans at the time of the invasion of Italy, most witty and entertaining. The weaknesses of the Italians in both carnage and honesty are fine fields for satire – a British Anatole France.