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Monday, 19 July 2010

1946 May, June

May and June. "Moth-eaten lion". Strachey adds variety to food. Victory Day in Henley  drowned out. Russians expect revolution. Appendix - nursing home life. "We are not good enough". Detergents. Bikini atoll.

Thursday, May 16th
              Have neglected the Diary for three weeks, but so much to do. In addition to garden have taken a W.E.A. course in art appreciation at Burnham, not very easy and bad room and a lot of boys in addition to the usual W.E.A. women.
              Dr Cook, an Indian medical missionary, visited us and gave talk to the V and VI forms, then Molly. She had a letter describing the visit of the Admiral and Bruno Brown to Tsingtao [Qingdao, port, Shangdong Province of China]. There they found the foreign representatives going about in Packards, etc, but the British representative had nothing at all, so they offered him a bicycle, which he accepted gratefully. Shortly before their arrival the press had a leader entitled “The moth-eaten lion”! In Egypt we have started negotiations – but with much agitation in Commons as we began by announcing our intention to withdraw all armed forces. Clear anyway that we cannot go on as have done in past; those days have gone forever. Have no longer population or economic resources. Why not start a western bloc with France and smaller powers?

Sunday, June 2nd
              New Food Minister, Strachey, and need one too – food boring to extinction. He says he is going to add some variety. We could do with some. Only fruit we have had lately a few dates on points. I don’t know why things are so tight. There must be fruit, tinned or dried, somewhere in the Empire but we haven’t seen any. As far as food is concerned we are as badly off as in 1942, it seems to me. A bread rationing scheme is being prepared in case we need one. We appear however to have got the Americans to take a more responsible attitude to feeding Germany and India
              Railway fares are to go up. We still don’t seem to be able to get the production of coal up at all. There is talk of inflation starting.
              Been reading a grim book on the Russian government by an ex newspaper correspondent. General drift is that they will not co-operate but use our democratic system to put over their own ideas, but have no intention whatever of permitting any contact between other people and Russia. It is all one way. …. He suggests              
  1. A balance of power USA + GB // USSR.
  2.  A clear definition of spheres of influence and no nonsense from them, no appeasement.
  3. We must remain strong.
  4. The facts about Russian policy should be made known.
  5. Patient and persistent but realist in attitude to secrecy, obscurity, dilatoriness, not expecting goodwill for past help.
  6. Liberal foreign policy so no ground for Russian propaganda.
  7. Abandon idea that Russia has high ideas of human race.
  8. To do what we can to further friendship but recognise that not much can be done until Kremlin changes its policy.
Victory Day, June 8th 1946
Many felt that to celebrate at this point is unnecessary and unreal. The more we hear of the German treatment of occupied countries the more we have to be thankful that we escaped defeat by such narrow margins, but this is not reason for public celebration. Europe is famine stricken, the three allies are at deadlock, which shows no sign of breaking, there is neither peace nor security, nor any unity of purpose among the victors. The Atlantic Charter is dead and the U.N.O. does not look like surviving its infancy.
              In Henley people were asked to hang out flags and decorate their houses. There was no church parade, but in the afternoon the children were to have sports and a free tea and in the evening the church and the bridge were to be floodlit and music was to be amplified from the Town Hall into the market place for people to dance. I started out to the sports on my bicycle in a drizzle which soon became a downpour. A scrum of little boys were engaged in a potato race, but soon everything had to be abandoned. Most went home, but about 300 children crawled round to the hall where the tea was to be held. It was too early for tea. At that point I came home very wet. Very few people indeed had hung out flags and the reluctance to do so was very noticeable. No one was about except two drunk men in the Market Place and the atmosphere was that of a wet Sunday!
              Rather troubled by eye strain and found out by visit to oculist that glasses too strong and need a second pair for reading. Old age creeping on again.

Thursday, June 13th
Negotiations begin again in Paris between the four powers tomorrow and another and probably last attempt to get agreed peace treaties with Italy, Germany and Austria.
           The Russian govt believes that the U.S.A. is in economic confusion, the British Empire impoverished; therefore sooner or later the Marxian revolution must come. The capitalist west must be hostile, therefore why bother to placate it. Their analysis is doctrinaire and academic, it (?)miscarries because it does not understand the liberal and humanist tradition of the West. They were wrong about the war in 1939 and 1940, it was “imperialist” and no business of theirs; a Communist revolution in Germany was counted on. They have thrown away their psychological advantage by their opportunistic and “ends justify means” policies. In 12 months they have completely lost the prestige and influence that was theirs in 1945 by trying to be too clever.

Friday, June 21st.
Last Monday morning I had a bout of indigestion but thought nothing of it; by evening bad stomach ache, which went on all night and was getting worse, some retching and sickness, no sleep. At eight got Nora to call Dr Irvine, though later pain moderated and nearly cancelled call, but luckily did not. At 12.30 he arrived. Had thought of gastritis, flu or even stomach ulcer. Could not understand why he took so long to deliver an opinion. Finally to my surprise he told me I had appendicitis and should go under a surgeon straight away. By 2.30 I was in ambulance with Nora and bumping over to Dunedin Nursing Home (in Reading). The surgeon turned up about 4.30 and confirmed the diagnosis. He proposed to operate at 6.0, so at 5.0 I was being shaved and given a preliminary shot of dope, which made me feel comfortable and slightly drowsy. He refused to give me a local, as I had had for hernia and tonsils, so that I had to have a general anaesthetic, which I have always dreaded since the rough and ready methods of anaesthetists in my childhood, who forced mask over your face until you slowly, very slowly, passed out.
              At six a trolley was rolled in onto which I got and was given an injection of pentothal in a vein in the arm. I remember smiling at the nurse and then nothing. At about 9.30 I woke up in bed and noticed it was dark, my bedside lamp was alight and a nurse was standing at the end of the bed. I did not feel at all sick but a bit thirsty. I slept quite well and woke about seven. Then I did feel a bit sick, but not much, and by breathing deeply it soon went off after a short vomit or two, in the intervals of which I shaved. Altogether they have now got anaesthetics to a very fine pitch indeed.

Sunday, June 23rd
      I am sitting up in bed. Curious comment on our present state compared with Victorian or Edwardian domestic conditions that this is probably the only time that some one will wake me up in the morning, pull up the blind, comment of the weather and bring me a cup of tea and a biscuit for years to come.
With regard to atomic energy the Americans say get an international control scheme in proper working order and we are willing to surrender our monopoly of the bomb; the Russians want all existing bombs and bomb plants destroyed before they will agree to any control. The Russian counter proposals are not for international control at all. They simply want a new kind of Kellogg Pact, which the individual governments will be left to enforce (or not). As the Americans have the bomb at present it is hard to see that the Russians would lose by accepting their offer of international control. However they have clearly decided to reject it, either because they expect a capitalist attack or because they want to follow their own nationalist ambitions. In which case even if the bombs are invested in an international authority we shall still have 2 power groups arming against each other and the world will still be haunted by the fear of destruction. Some still believe in deterrents, “no one will make war with the new weapons” – this has never worked in the past, will it now? The Russian decision (for it is a decision) to refuse to co-operate in any international control opens up the grimmest prospects for the future.
Monday, June 14th
Today heard the great Arturo Toscanini conduct Beethoven 1st and 9th symphonies from La Scala, Milan. For 16 years he has been in exile from fascist Italy in America. Now we can hear him again from his own country, which has become a republic.

Tuesday, June 25th
“Out of suffering comes understanding”, “Rest in God and may he make you a great saint as He very easily can”. St Theresa of Avila.
              Our trouble is not that we have not the power, we have too much; not that we do not know, we are brilliant intellectuals and marvellous technicians; our trouble is that we are not good enough.

Wednesday, June 26th
Soap is to be cut again, but apparently there are alternatives called detergents. It looks as if obstacles have been put in the way of the development by the government, whether to protect the consumer against trash or whether owing to pressure from the soap interests, it would be hard to say.
              Routine in nursing home: 7.20 a.m. called with tea and biscuits. 8.20 washing and shaving. 9.00 matron arrives with papers. 9.10 breakfast tray with letters. Bed pans. Room mopped around. 10.0 Surgeon puts his head round the door for about 5 seconds. 11.0 the drinks queen brings in Horlicks. 12.0 Drink queen removes empty glasses. 1.10 Dinner arrives. 4.0 Tea arrives. 6.30 Washing. 7.15 Supper. 8.0 Matron looks in and day nurse goes off duty leaving bedside lamp. 10.40 Night nurse puts you down for the night. I was very scared of my first visit to Henley Hospital for hernia in 1939, but that gave me confidence in 1942 for tonsils and more again for this trip in 1946.
Dissatisfaction with continuance of petrol rationing. Late minister of fuel said it could be doubled or trebled or abolished altogether. Even a proposal to double it in August and September to reduce congestion on the railways met with no response. Rather think we won’t have bread rationing. Bankers against it and Canadian harvest reported promising.
     Account of an organized holiday camp at Clacton on Sea. Some people think there is a great future for these with chalets for sleeping, communal feeding, organized games and dancing, day nurseries, palm courts, swimming pools etc. On the other hand they sometimes sound like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; loudspeakers wake you with song and thereafter you are organized by cheer leaders into competing groups shouting Hi-ditti Hi-ditto and every 15 minutes the loudspeakers tell you what is going on in your planned day of mass amusement. Not my idea of a holiday!
Soap is to be cut again, but apparently there are alternatives called detergents. It looks as if obstacles have been put in the way of the development by the government, whether to protect the consumer against trash or whether owing to pressure from the soap interests, it would be hard to say.
             Dissatisfaction with continuance of petrol rationing. Late minister of fuel said it could be doubled or trebled or abolished altogether. Even a proposal to double it in August and September to reduce congestion on the railways met with no response. Rather think we won’t have bread rationing. Bankers against it and Canadian harvest reported promising.

Thursday, June 27th
Curious profession a surgeon’s. It certainly cuts you off from your fellows a good deal. You go through this tremendous specialist education getting more and more intensive as you proceed until you finish up as a very skilled technician. You have a very responsible job, the general population regards you with fear and dread, mixed with hope. You make a lot of money, but you have to spend it on expensive motor cars, houses, secretaries etc, and the general cushioning of your daily life. Your hours are irregular and you have to work at high pressure. You need a very sound physique and a very phlegmatic temperament. Like other technicians, by working with the body as a machine you certainly see quick results.
              Have not been able to read very much as glasses need changing and am waiting for reading pair. Mainstay has been a small wireless set (N says next time a television!) and there has been some good music….
              Bread it to be rationed at then end of July. This is a surprise after all. The meat ration is to be increased from 1s 2d to 1s 4d. Bread and points are to be interchangeable. It will not save much more than 10% and does seem rather unnecessary, unless we have decreased stocks and they intend to cut it down further is supplies are short on delivery.

Friday, June 28th
Came home from nursing home in taxi at 10.30, went to bed but got up for supper. Bit tired and very unused to negotiating stairs. As usual in convalescence felt rather depressed, not helped by news that Timothy’s friend Flavia was dying in hospital in London and Nora has lost the whole of our petrol coupons till the end of September. I don’t mean that these are comparable events….
              On Sunday an atom bomb to be exploded over the centre of a group of ships inside a remote Pacific atoll, Bikini…. so that effect of protective measures can be tested.

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