February. Shirts in ruins. Fox hunting. One millions tons for Berlin. The daily "woman". Shepherd. Herr Meisner from Bremen on Hitler's Germany.
Wednesday, Feb, 2nd
Governors meeting - much fuss and dust and in the end a new motor mower. The Reverend Pachyderm [aka Canon Crosse] attacked cricket in the interests of rowing and said for some reason best known to himself that I had forbidden boys to row!
Thursday, Feb 3rd
Had what I called ”the shirt hymn” this morning. ”Let holy charity / My outward vesture be / And loneliness become / My inner clothing.” It has a long time become mine. All my shirts except one are in ruins.
I have lost five hives and this was because they had too little stores of their own and from lack of experience of such a summer I did not give them enough sugar. Have put a pot of honey in each hive in lieu of sugar and hope this will bring them through February.
Hoping to organise a debate on fox hunting and have written to opposing societies, but only the anti-fox hunting have replied to date.
Friday, Feb 4
Electricity cut before prayers, owing presumably to the intense cold which caused the populace to switch on their electric fires. Had to have a hymn they all knew and could hardly read the lesson.
The pro-hunting posters have arrived.
Saturday, Feb 12th 1949
49! Molly gave me a tie, handwoven, Ruth some peas, Nora a book token, Mary 10/- towards a wallet, aunt £1, Wilk a parkin cake. Went over the bees in the morning. Found I had lost seven out of 18 to date.
The woman did not come to clean on Friday: “Only the daily women came”, I said to Nora. ”What daily women? ” she asked. ”Me,” I replied.
The debate on hunting went well. The four speakers were good and the voting quite close. The anti-hunting majority 16 out of 150.
Thursday, Feb 17th
Reading an excellent if rather long novel of convent life 1350 – 1381, The Corner that Held Them [by Sylvia Townsend Warner], grim, too grim for the school library. Several quiet little murders. What an uncomfortable century, the Black Death, the Peasants’ Revolt !
Went to see our shepherd. He was not very good himself, said the lambs were slow in coming and some nights had been up every hour and nothing had happened. Not many doubles.
Am getting rather apprehensive about the visit from Thursday to Friday next week of Herr Kurt Meissner from Bremen. Nora busy fixing up visits etc, but even so will be hard work I guess. He teaches English and geography and is open-minded and elderly.
Saturday, Feb 19th
Used my Easidigger [spade with leverage fixture to save lifting] to great effect and dug about quarter of allotment without any strain on back and much faster than ordinary spade. The news has spread. I took Len [Len Hayes, school groundsman] down to demonstrate it. He said it did not bury the weeds deep enough but admitted it worked quite well.
A lovely early spring following a mild winter, as mild as 1947 was horrible.
Came home from Mary’s last night and was bitten in the thumb by Smoky, the cat, when I attempted to prevent him entering the kitchen – literally biting the hand that feeds him.
The millionth ton for Berlin’s 2 ¼m people has just been flown in – the millionth since June 26 last. We don’t want to keep it up longer than we need, for though we have kept the Berliners reasonably fed and warm there is unemployment, but it has given us time to show the Russians that we cannot be forced to negotiate.
Latest obstruction of Russians is refusal to join the international health organisation.
Last night Mary had a streaming cold. About 10 she decided to go to bed and undressed by the fire. After she’d put her trousers on, pulling the rest over her head, she reminded me of the Pietro Baptism. When she was in bed I made a hot lemon drink with thin peel and plenty of sugar. I got intense and pleasant satisfaction from this simple chore.
Sunday, Feb 20th
Actually finished half my allotment this morning.
Economic target for 1948 quite wide of mark. More people were to be employed in coal mining, textiles, and agriculture – they only expanded a little. Fewer people in building, food distribution – they expanded when they should have contracted. Local and national government chased each other in their own private spiral of inflation ! How can a target be beside the mark ?
Miss Hunter back from Italy. Wish she had stayed there. She says she has turned a new leaf, but doubt it at her age!
Monday, Feb 21th
At 5.15 went down to the station to meet Herr Meissner from Bremen and wondered what I should find. I saw a tall thin man with a stoop wearing a shabby grey oilskin and a cloth hat. He looked very thin, not very well shaved, with dark hair, bald in front, with a reddish complexion, rather small, deep-set eyes and prominent ears. His hands were well kept with long pointed fingernails, rather like a woman’s, and he wore two rings, one of plain heavy gold. He was very nervous and when he got into the car I noticed that his hands trembled. His English was good and his vocabulary very large, though he only pronounced the English th when he specially remembered.
He was about 55, he taught English, geography and German at a boys’ school of 500. Had fought in the 1914-18 war, but been evacuated to Bavaria near Berchtesgarten in 1942 with the younger boys and got back to Bremen in 1945. He had two sons, the elder missing in Russia in 1942, the younger at his school and about 18. The first evening we talked about the school and conditions in Bremen.
Tuesday, Feb 22nd
I took Herr Meissner into junior pryers, had the pilgrim hymn, the best reader, Jean Wickens, on the lesson, and he was most impressed, “Never have I seen such devotion”. Later he went into some English and geography lessons.
After we came home I raised the question of Hitler. He spoke of his immense prestige as the savour of Germany from unemployment and his hypnotic power. He said it was a kind of illness through which the German people passed. He went on talking to midnight.
Wednesday, Feb 23rd
He came to prayers when I read a passage from Pilgrim’s Progress. Then he disappeared shopping in Henley. He came into school lunch. He was very impressed by the cheapness and quality, but it was rather a squash. In the evening we had a discussion about the war. He said in 1939 for geographical and economic reasons he did not believe in a German victory, how very ignorant of the Commonwealth resources the ordinary German was. When Hitler invaded Russia in 1941, he said to a colleague : “The man must be mad !”
Thursday, Feb 24th
Herr M gave a talk on the North German plain to 6th (form). It lasted two periods. In the evening I asked him when he heard about the extermination camps. He said in 1943 he heard a rumour from a woman friend whose father was an officer in the east. He himself had seen nothing, but he told his daughter of the rumours that were spreading among the officers in the east. There were “party” trains and officers’ trains, and the officers would not have party officials, “in fancy dress”, on their trains. Germany was full of rumours that passed from mouth to mouth. It just became impossible to know what to believe. When the plot on Hitler’s life was announced, he assumed it was a stunt by Goebbels, but was later assured by a journalist that it had actually taken place.
We found our views on politics were very similar and soon realized we spoke the same language
Friday, Feb 25th
Herr Meissner departed to Oxford with Nora. I think we have done a piece of good work for Anglo-German relations. When he left I gave him a copy of ”Go to father, he said, when he asked her to wed”!! The work of entertaining fell mainly in Nora. I did most of the listening and discussion, which was easier, but still quite tiring, I found. Nora washed his shirt and underwear and darned his socks, which were almost one large mend.
Saturday, Feb 26th
Left for Winchester at four o’clock with Mary, arrived about six and stayed at the Royal Hotel, very old fashioned and rambling C18th building, but comfortable, warm and well lit. Our bedroom was large and had plenty of space for pacing and plenty of wall space for the mice, who came out with a great scurry to work at night and back to sleep in the early morning.
Sat in one of the rooms with a stinking Pekingese and two old ladies. Read to my great delight of the large bright-eyed women of Wessex in a guide we had bought. These large bright eyes Mary has inherited from her Potterne ancestors and seem to be a characteristic of this part of England – the bright-eyed folk. How much more interesting than the Beaker Folk!
Sunday, Feb 27th
At 7.15 a forbidding and peculiar crone rushed in with tea. Unlike more modern establishments the doors had no locks. After breakfast we went to mass in the cathedral (which I think I first visited when I was about 15)…. It was not a very intelligible or inspiring sermon and the congregation consisted almost entirely of middle-aged and elderly women and a few elderly gentlemen. Made one wonder what future has for Church of England when this generation has gone.
In the afternoon as I had some petrol from Miss H, we drove to Romsey. Mary was delighted with the abbey, a very dignified and spacious interior which did not seem so grim and of the Dark Ages as the Norman transepts of Winchester.
A party of cyclists was behaving very badly in the church, interfering with the service books and going into the pulpit. When I told them they were not allowed in they said ”they did not know”. I suppose they left school at 14 and no one had told them there.