August, Sept. French children at HGS. Salt baths for sciatica. Another crisis. Miners strike. Clouded Yellow year. Milk cuts. Automatic trans-Atlantic flight. Sugar prices.
Friday, August 1st
Term ended. At Assembly I astonished the school by breaking into French: “Nous voyons avec grand plaisir nos amis francaise qui sont ici ce matin.” The French children are a mixed lot, some far older than ours and all rather unhealthy looking compared to ours, I thought. They are being taken to Oxford, London and Windsor.
At 2.0 I made off and caught the 2.30 to Droitwich. Less crowded than in 1942! I did not go to the rather appalling guest house but to the Royal Hotel; this was large and comfortable, but almost completely empty except 5 old ladies. It was once attached to some baths in the grounds, but these have been closed and it was some distance to the main baths. However, anything to avoid sitting at one long table and making polite conversation.
Droitwich itself seemed the same utterly dull little Midland town, though there were fewer ATS than in 1942 and at least one of the hotels had been painted up since their occupation
Saturday, August 2nd
Went to see doctor in the morning and got baths fixed up. Prices doubled.
Sunday, August 3rd
Tried church in the morning. More people than I had expected, but parson awful, a bawling Welshman; preached on the text “Gird up your loins”, not very appropriate, congregation mostly elderly, many with rubber-tipped sticks, and past girding. Put one shilling in the plate – over payment.
Rereading Peter Fleming’s News from Tartary, which always pleases me. Pleasant to do everything slowly and without hurry, and no washing up, a real holiday!
Thursday, August 7th
Papers full of steps to meet crisis. Petrol cuts, ration cuts, foreign travel cuts, film cuts, army cuts, comic cuts. How fed up and utterly sick I am of crises, how nice it would be to live in non-crisis world for a bit.
Took a day off from baths and went to Malvern, but trip rather spoiled by the buses, which crowded, hot and difficult to get onto. They have not much improved since 1942. Nor have the people. I give the Midlanders low marks indeed for appearance, speech and manners. Worcester as a cathedral city is about the bottom, too, dirty, dilapidated, badly planned, congested and slummy. … I had a municipal tea in the winter garden café for 1s 5d and a very small non-municipal lunch for 2/6.
Another sign of the times: visitors doing their smalls; row of stockings in front bedroom window. Washed my own pants and vests and hung them in the window too.
Thursday, August 14th
Life at hotel very much improved by presence of Cambridge history graduate, ex inspector of factories, Letty Player, a very intelligent women with whom one could walk and talk. Some afternoons we went up a hill on the golf course and lay under the pines from 2 to 6.30, talking and reading. We had no tea-making apparatus and no B.U.s [ration points?] to buy buns, so had grapes from Italy and peaches instead. All very capital.
Sunday, August 17th
Another terribly hot day. Nora, Hilda Mount and her husband and Hilary came over from Solihull and took me out to lunch. It was not a very rewarding day as we drove miles in very uninteresting country before we could find a place which satisfied everyone to have lunch. Our drink arrangements not very satisfactory and boiling kettle on a little spirit lamp proved very difficult till Hilary and I lit a fire. Coming back we missed the way! Hilary spent most of the time in spite of the intense heat in a field chasing clouded yellows. He was mostly 25 yards behind, but he got two good specimens. This is a “clouded yellow” year as masses came over from the Continent.
Thursday, Sept 11th
After Droitwich came back to Henley, then next day down to Worthing for a week. Stayed in the same hotel as at Whitsun, but the crowds were excessive, so was the noise, for our bedrooms were on the front with view of the sea, but also cars to after midnight and drunks after that. Went on the Downs several times and to Arundel to see the castle. Here Hilary on seeing a large sized crucifix remarked “That’s Jesus – he was a Christian, wasn’t he?”
Nora and Hilary went back by car. I went with Mary to Rochester, where we went on the Medway Queen to South End. Not crowded and most interesting trip as we passed dockyards, the cruisers and destroyers off Sheerness and the wrecks in the Thames, not to mention threading our way through the traffic stream up and down to Tilbury and London. An American cruiser off the pier at South End flying the Stars and Stripes. Next day we went to Canterbury. I was last there in 1916 or 1917 with Father and had forgotten how magnificent and breathtaking a building the cathedral was with its medieval glass, dramatic levels and its exterior and interior loftiness.
After return worked hard at bees, getting them teed up for the winter and fed. Also to Honey Show at Wimbledon.
Papers full of Yorkshire miners’ strike, which has lost more coal and seems the most insane of strikes, and of illegal Jewish immigrants returned to Hamburg.
Hilary has been down for a fortnight to stay with his cousins (Angela and Myles Atkins) at their grandmother’s house on the Helford River, swimming, sailing, canoeing, rowing, picnicking – boyhood’s glory.
Last night heard a broadcast on the German invasion plans of September 1940. We had great naval supremacy in the Channel. This meant that only a short sea passage was practicable with air cover. This limited the front narrowly to Worthing to Folkestone for the German navy would not agree to a long sea crossing. To secure the straits the defeat of the R.A.F. was essential. Here we not only had better machines, but far better science. German radar was in its infancy, and our radar stations could begin plotting the invaders’ course as soon as they started from Amiens and made interception certain. The Germans did not understand the part our radar stations played and how essential they were to our defence system. After several postponements the invasion was finally called off by Hitler in mid-September.
School started, but some children away as infantile paralysis in one of the villages. Hilary and Alexander making a house on one of the walnut trees.
Thursday, Sept 18th
America has taken initiative at U.N.O. and proposed a permanent session of the Assembly to get round the obstruction by Russia of the Security Council, which has blocked all progress for the last two years. To amend the charter would be a slow process at best. This will mobilize world opinion while this is being done. Both Greece, attacked by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania, and Korea, where Russian obstruction making any settlement impossible, are to be brought up in the Assembly. After the Secretary of State had spoken, Mr Vishinsky decided at present to say nothing.
More Indians have been killed in the last month than in all the previous 50 years and the transfer of populations dwarfs anything caused by the war in Europe. Few people anticipated the speed and scale of what has occurred. The British are now blamed for causing the mess by leaving too soon.
Molly is going to occupy a farmhouse, 2 up, 2 down and earth closet, in the Cotswolds, raising young stock and selling milk to farmer near Cheltenham. One of these upland farms near Notgrove, very cold and bleak, I expect, but hope to go and inspect it later this term.
Sunday, Sept 21st
Milk is being drastically cut and we are now shorter than we have ever been. It seems likely that when Hilary goes back to school we shall end up with four pints a week. The drought has broken, however, and grass is beginning to show green again.
Spent the day with Hilary cutting and sawing logs. He was much pleased with a present of old crystal set for his cubicle [room at Dartington] though it will only get the Light Programme. I tried him out on some old papers of the school entrance exam; he could not do much with the arithmetic, but the English was quite reasonable.
Mr Vishinsky made a vicious attack on USA at U.N.O., beginning, it is thought, a long battle about the veto, which may mend, but is more likely to end the U.N.O., I should think.
The Paris conference has now drawn up the report asked for by Mr Marshall and the President is likely to call in a special meeting of Congress to vote the relief measures. The report states that there are only two courses open to the Americans: to finance the recovery of Europe to the extent of 22,000 million dollars or condemn the continent to catastrophe. “The industries of Europe will grind slowly to a halt and the food supplies will diminish and disappear.” I do not feel any doubt that help will come from the new world, but that does not absolve us from helping ourselves.
Tuesday, Sept 23rd
Yesterday a U.S. army plane completed the first transatlantic automatic flight to be made. The distance was about 2,500 miles and the plane was set before it took off and impulses from the airfield were received by the automatic pilot, put down the wheels, cut the throttle, etc.
Tuesday, Sept 30th
Rather shaken to notice sugar for which I paid 1¾d a pound in 1938 now costs 6¾d, while the domestic ration subsidized costs 3d. Article pointing out that subsidies on necessities has increased expenditure on luxuries, drink, tobacco, pools and dogs etc thereby diverting labour; that what is wrong is not shortage of labour but misdirection and misuse of labour.