September. Quagmire walking. Weather worst since 1879. Youth hostels. Gleaning barley. Donald Heath to Sheffield. Shopping: either can't get or can't afford. Stalin on co-existence. Third Programme.
Sunday, Sept 1st
Spent an hour on the moor in morning but soggy and wet, heavy showers in afternoon and dreadfully wet.
Monday, Sept 2nd
The great walk! From Brent by moor to Bellever. Started off in sunshine but at one o’clock in the tapioca pudding bog it began to rain – it rained without stopping till Thursday morning. We struggled on over the quaking quagmire, meeting on the top two men going the opposite way. They had taken off their shoes and stockings and were indulging in a kind of beastly paddling. We got off the bog about 2.30 and arrived at Dartmeet about 3.30 where we had tea at Badgers Holt. It was coming down in sheets and we went on to Bellever up the Dart. This was in parts nearly as bad as the high moor, the side streams were flooding the banks, but we arrived very tired and wet about 6.30. Brent House was a private house turned into a hostel which overflowed into the outbuildings. Bellever one large barn converted into a hostel by dormitories. The food at Bellever though less substantial was better cooked.
Wednesday, Sept 4th
Rain all day yesterday and today. Went out along road, but got very wet. The wind howled and the roof in the men’s dormitory dripped.
Monday, Sept 5th
Walked to Gidleigh by the road and by the track over Hamel Down. Got in about 7 very tired and hot. Showers only.
Friday, Sept 6th
Walked to Chagford, bus to Exeter, lunch, train, to Reading and home. Much enjoyed the hostels. At one table you see sitting together men and woman from the Tyneside, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Birmingham, London, Sussex and Cornwall – they are England! Each hostel is so different from the others, you never know what to expect….. The wardens are a weak point, at Bellever two young and not very agreeable women, at Gidleigh a very disgruntled fat woman.
Sunday, Sept 8th
Hilary 10 today. A rather quiet day though Alexander came to tea. Hilary has become interested in Scouts. I gave him a Morse buzzer and Nora a knife in leather sheath. He also had an air-sea rescue kite from R.A.F.
Sunday, Sept 22nd
Since last entry took Hilary to Whipsnade. Much enjoyed it, especially the gibbons.
The weather continues appalling – no sun, rain and last Friday a colossal gale which produced floods in many places and brought down a tree on the field. The weather is the worst since 1879 though on points (number of wet days and inches of rainfall) 1879 wins handsomely, so what must it have been like then. We have been gleaning in the barley field on the other side of the valley, but occasionally have carted off a sodden sheaf which has been blown down in the wind and is already beginning to sprout. Collecting sunflower seeds and acorns, but a long time working and very little to show for it at the end in hen-meals!
Dorothy Wade down for a few days from her criminal girls. Sad story of a foundation garment. Very fat and shapeless girl caught by police on soldiers camp after many attempts to find her in tents. Sent to D who at length persuaded clerk to pay £5 for corsets. Girl greatly set up and told by D if good more corsets forthcoming. Unfortunately girl had a relapse and went off sleeping with hop pickers and when returned by police was without corset, left in some muddy field with the hop pickers. Now D’s name mud with clerk, who goes about muttering, “Spend £5 on corsets, the idea!”
Today Heath to lunch; has at last been accepted by the Medical School at Sheffield, so now set up for medical career
(Ed. The name of Donald Heath – later Sir Donald Heath - recurs throughout these Diaries. He was probably the most distinguished old boy of Henley Grammar School of the Diarist’s time as headmaster. He was a specialist in the blood vessels of the lungs. In 1968 he was appointed Holt Professor of Pathology at Liverpool University, where he continued to work for the rest of his career.)
Saturday, Sept 28th
Weather has become warmer and improved. Went on river today – a meeting of sailing club and river like a Pisano or Monet painting, sails crossing and re-crossing. Hilary gone back to school for nearly as week, said to me one day, “Of course you’re always wonderful.” Beginning of adolescent criticism of parents? He is developing very rapidly now – very adventurous, goes off for long rides on bicycle and anxious to go sailing before he went back, but current too rapid when wind blowing downstream, so had a canoe.
International situation improved by statement by Stalin that he did not believe any signs of war existed, or any reason why communism and capitalism could not live side by side. Proof of pudding in the eating….
Beginning of series of lectures on Russia at Henley W.E.A. Speaker pointed out differences in conventions; ladies bathe naked but gentlemen do not raise their hat to them as did C19th botanist!
Peach over to tea. Told story of a friend at dinner next to a dirty little man who remarked, “I don’t like these long debates, I can’t hold me water”. Found out he was His Majesty’s Principle Secretary of State for War.
During the war we were always telling each other what we would do when peace came – now we find we either can’t get things or can’t afford them. Went out buying hyacinth bulbs as intended to go in for them in a big way, but can’t get many and they cost 8d each for small ones.This week the B.B.C. is starting a Third Programme for “perceptive and intelligent” or “alert and receptive” listeners and then go halfway to meet the former by sustained attention; there will be items of considerable length, great works will be performed in their entirety and “hearing aids” – introductory talks, explanations and the like