March. St Joan with school. Parcel to German schoolmaster. £35 travel allowance. Five-power European council. Reading nursing home. No baths for hernias.
Thursday, March 4th
Went to see the surgeon yesterday and decided to have my side (hernia) operated on at the end of term. To my great relief I heard that they allow you to get up earlier than they did in 1939, when I had the left side done just before the war broke out.
Today went up to St Joan with a party of children. I had only seen it twice before, but the first time was in 1924 with Sybil Thorndike as Joan. Today Celia Johnson took the part, a less powerful but very moving actress – the dresses and setting very different, but, especially in the trial scene, very effective. I hope the boys and girls found it as marvellous an experience as I did 24 years ago. The worst of growing old is that you can never quite recapture the raptures of earlier years.
In Palestine things are going from bad to worse. In two months when our troops have gone, if U.N.O. still hesitates, civil war will break out….
Tuesday March 9th
Had a good weekend at Roel Hill with Molly. Saturday was a lovely day after an early frost and fog. As the sun got warmer, the ice fell off the beech trees like a shower of lump sugar. We walked up to Belas Knap, a long barrow….
Heard today that my German school master got his small parcel all right.
Wednesday, March 17th
Today a 50 year treaty signed between France, Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg and ourselves – 100 million group – political, economic and military and a permanent council of five powers to be set up. Hope this the beginning of a really effective European federation.
Foreign travel to France, Holland, Switzerland, Italy – 8 countries all told, to be permitted and £35 of foreign currency.
Saturday, March 20th
Nora’s birthday yesterday. Got her a birch broom and trug and two photos of Hilary and today we went up to London. Saw a small exhibition of Modigliani, then to ballet at Sadlers Wells, where saw The Haunted Ballroom. Looked in to the Wallace Collection, but was almost overcome by the heat and came out in a great sweat so got very apprehensive of a cold and took a taxi! When we got to Twyford, told the line between Shiplake and Henley closed. Very inadequate bus, so had to have a taxi with Dr Scott, a beetle expert.
Monday, March 22nd, 9.50 pm
Waiting for an operation very tedious. Came in at 6.15. Leg and stomach shaved at 8.30, took a long time as man this time very thorough and rather stupid. A great thing to have been in before and know the people, but by now begin to fell a bit lonely and cut off from your roots.
Thursday, March 23rd, 7.40 am
Free as the air! But not for long now. Given two allonal tablets last night and slept well, except woken in night by an old lady knocking over a bedpan with a thump. Operation to be at 9.
Wednesday, March 24th, 11.30
Everything went off very well. I got on the barrow just before nine and was given the pentothal injection. The morphine injection was about an hour earlier, so I was nice and boozy….. They took a long sliver of muscle from left leg, making a cut just above left knee, pushing a long clipper down about 10 inches to cut it off and pulling out a piece of stuff about the thickness of an electric wire which they proceeded to use to sew up the hernia. New method since 1939, aren't they clever! I was in no pain and no sickness.
Last time I was here I divided the nurses into the girls and the grandmothers. The girls have all changed but the grandmothers are still here, especially a large, dark, ample lady of Welsh extraction who delights in telling dignified gentlemen “Roll over while I see to your bottom” and recounting the high-ups to whom she has administered in this way. A vital person. A number of the grandmothers are married and live out, including the Yorshire night nurse, who is a real comic. I wonder when she sleeps with her husband.
Thursday, March 25th
Dr Irvine wandered in this morning, which was very nice of him…. Part of my mail consisted of Hilary’s school report. On the academic side it was hardly glowing, “incredibly careless, dirty and untidy”! He was keen and observant in Biology, but never had his book or pencil, so he is always behind. He was well in with his group and liked his music and had a pleasant singing voice. In spite of his carelessness etc he was a nice person. He is certainly a blighter about writing letters. He neither wrote to Molly in reply to an invitation to Roel Hill or to his mother on her birthday though in both cases I warned him to do so. Nora said she would not let him go to Roel Hill, but I do not now if she will keep up her resolution…..
Nora and Hilary came in this afternoon, but it was not one of Nora’s good days as she had had difficulty with the buses, had forgotten my pyjama trousers, brought me this week’s Listener instead of next’s! Hilary had been told he was not going to Molly’s but displayed little emotion about it …
I feel like saying to the night nurse when she arrives, “Well, time has sold us another shop-soiled day”, but I think she would think me barmy.
Good Friday, March 26th
Spent most of the morning and afternoon reading Thomas Sharp’s Oxford Replanned…. “It is a plan to preserve old beauty and make new beauty possible.”
Saturday, March 27th
Had two visitors today, Clem in the morning and Donald Heath in the afternoon. In between listened to the Boat Race, which Cambridge won. The start was exciting, but after that it was a procession. Hilary and Nora have gone up to see it….. Heath as usual discussing the meaning and purpose of life, or rather asking me what it was. He is enjoying himself enormously with his anatomy and physiology. Nurse came in to night and told me about a patient, an old gentleman, who said, “I want the commode, and I ‘d do the same for you”.
Easter Sunday, March 28th
A lovely sunny day. Nora and Hilary bicycled over arriving about 11.30 and going back about lunch time. The expedition to Hammersmith had been a great success. They saw the race well and Hilary shouted for the right university!
In the afternoon there was a programme of Holy Week music from St Paul’s, Westminster Cathedral, Durham, St George’s Windsor, Utrecht, Paris, Prague, Rome, Budapest, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Malines. … One felt the spiritual unity of this ancient Europe in the Easter music from so many different centres and the Christian story of death and resurrection. Europe has given so much to the world. Must she sink into decay and dissolution? Can she too not rise again?
Easter Monday, March 29th
Weather turned dull, windy and cold….. Nurse told me that the surgeon had a boy with a brain tumour who could not lead a normal life, and though he was a very wealthy man, clever and could do so much to help other people, he could do nothing for his own son. His partner had three daughters; when a boy was born he went blind and died. Nurse’s view was that doctors seldom had normal families because they were so clever.
Reading André Maurois’ biography of Byron, an excellent biography, but what a man and what an age! Lay Melbourne, Caroline Lamb, Augusta Leigh, and so on. Fascinating reading.
When the night nurse came up about 10 she was smelling of peppermint. My comment produced the answer that I had told her in the morning not to get too tiddly, but she and the other night nurse had just indulged in a little warm whiskey and water.
A visit from Cyril Peach. He spent most of his time denouncing a) Russia, b) the government, c) the civil service d) the income tax and e) psychological tests. Gathered he finds running a prep school of his own no picnic.
As my window looks across the road Mary can wave to me in bed and has just done so, 6.15, going round to see her old lady.
Wednesday, March 31.
The great man (surgeon) came in, said I cold have stitches out today and home Sunday or Monday – hurrah. This much quicker than I had expected…. In 1939 I said to Dr Irvine I wanted to be out in time for the war. Just about in time for the next one too! Asked if I could have a bath before I returned home, but was told haemorrhoids had baths but not hernias as there was a water shortage. The stitches were taken out by the experienced and voluble Mrs Target.