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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

1949 December

December. "Obliging Man".  A. G. Rose. "A good deal of laziness". Judy Andrews as Dark Lady. A good father. Henley Theatre.

Saturday, Dec 3rd
Yesterday prize giving, which went off very well. The new chairman audible and to the point. My speech well received with suitable ripples of mirth. Whole thing streamlined to one hour dead.

Went to supper with Margaret Gaunt, domestic science mistress, in her flat. The ”Obliging Man”, Norman Attrill, was there. Wonder if they will marry, but the OM, I fancy, difficult to get to the matrimonial post. Beautiful silver and some Worcester ware, picked up piece by piece from export rejects in Worcester. Ham omelette, crisps, sponge rings, cheese, biscuits and coffee.

Monday, Dec 3rd.
A.D. Rose, headmaster of the Grammar School, Banbury, arrived on Sunday evening to stay night. Felt quite sorry for him because he had so much trouble with senior master and two senior mistresses, but soon reached the conclusion that he was an aggressive man who liked fighting and no need to be sorry for him at all. He judged the music competition well, gave plenty of concise and constructive criticism and took great pains. Am glad when I meet chaps like Rose. I am half Irish and can laugh and take things easily with a good deal of laziness!
Town Hall for governors’ meeting. The old chairman turned up and conducted meeting. Sat with mouth open and breathing heavily. However he surprized me by saying he was resigning in March.

Saturday, Dec 10th
Went to see Love’s Labours Lost at Old Vic. Not often performed so had not seen it before. It was charming and I did enjoy it. Have now seen 23 of his plays. Had a slow journey in an excursion train at 5/- return. This excursion racket is a curse. Instead of packing people into slow and overcrowded excursion trains, and wasting money printing all the extra bills, tickets etc, they should reduce fares to a standard rate and fill the ordinary trains. It has been calculated that the average train carries about 50 people.

Monday, Dec 12th
Went over to Mary. A bottle of Graves – 6/-

Tuesday, Dec 13th
Messiah in Reading Town Hall. This like a Roman Bath in architecture and a Turkish bath in atmosphere. Developed bad headache and wondered if I could stand second half crammed in like sardines. However did so, and much rewarded by the heavenly voice of Isobel Baillee and the trumpet solo. Never heard Messiah except on wireless. Father used to talk about music but bad at educating me in a love of it.

Wednesday, Dec 15th
Carol service with juniors – all done decently and in order.
Nora reading a novel about an Italian prostitute called A Woman of Rome. What Mary’s library subscribers would call “a bit rough”. Odd that a book so occupied with the body and lusts of the flesh should attract her, but so it appears.

Sunday, Dec 18th
Hilary was to have turned up about one but school sent him on a train that left about 11.40 – more frustration. Hilary had with him four ducks, in good form and less tongue tied than usual.

Monday, Dec 19th.
First performance of Dark Lady. Not very good and juniors could make nothing of it and talked and scraped feet.

Tuesday, Dec 20th
Second performance of Dark Lady – this time to sixth and fifth forms which were appreciative and it went well.

Wednesday, Dec 21st
Broke up, not without a spot of trouble with the Christmas dinner in which three boys lost their Christmas pudding. The last performance of Dark Lady for the parents – some three – and the staff, 18 in all. I called it “the intimate theatre”. It went well, and Judy Andrews as the Queen was very good indeed, lovely to look at and pleasant to hear.

Thursday, Dec 22nd
Hilary and I went to Reading to have hair cut. Why should we pay high fees to have Hilary sent home at the end of term 1) With hair in his eyes, 2) Filthy neck and ears, 3) Dirty and claw-like nails, 4) Uncleaned and muddy shoes? Poor advertisement for Long Dene.

Christmas Day, Sunday
A very mild warm Christmas, but misty with a lot of cloud. Parcels opened after breakfast . Nora had more parcels than Hilary ; I had three ! Nora gave me Ivor Brown’s William Shakespeare, Hilary a box of sweets. I gave Hilary a fountain pen, a pair of woolly mits, and we joined in a pair roller skates .
We had dinner about 1.30 ; chicken, celery and potatoes, Christmas pudding and brandy butter, Sauterne and Ruby Wine (Port type) from South Africa. Gave a tablespoon of this to Smoky the cat on whom it had no effect whatever. Just got washed up in time for the King’s speech at 3 o’clock.

Boxing Day, Dec 26th
Hilary and I went down to meet in the Market Place. Got on steps of Town Hall and saw something but there was a big crowd of spectators. Later we heard the horns in the Harpsden direction, but saw nothing.
Very touched that Nora said to-night what a good father I was. Speriamo !

Tuesday, Dec 27th
Reading life of Cosmo Gordon Lang by Lockhart, very interesting but rather depressing. “A strangely unintegrated person, a jumble of warring personalities, which never reached a working agreement among themselves.” Prelate, courtier, priest, actor, near-mystic, lover of society, cynic, ascetic, lover of flowers and scenery. His portrait by Orpen given as a frontispiece : “Proud, prelatical and pompous”. “May I ask your grace to which of these epithets you take exception ?” Hensly Henson enquired. But Lang described it as the portrait of a “very hard working, very well meaning, very lonely and very disappointed man.” The clever, ambitious son of a Scottish minister, he read for the Bar at Balliol and would certainly have become a cabinet minister, but he decided to be ordained. He reached the top of the tree, Archbishop at 44, Archbishop of Cantebury at 63, but it was all dust and ashes in the end. He had been neither great statesman nor a saint. Therefore he felt that he had failed.
Ask myself what I have achieved in the 15 years I have been Headmaster of H.G.S. Given some promising teachers their first start, Phyllis Auty, Marjorie Barnes, David Woosley, Jack Potter; improved the whole status and position of music in the school; started summer concerts; built a stage and curtains for the plays at school and built up a property cupboard; reshelved and extended library with tables and chairs; provided an adequate room for the Headmaster, an advanced biology lab, and more changing rooms, put a few boys and girls on the way to careers they might not have thought of, such as Donald Heath, extended the VIth form work – not a very impressive list when all is said and done, and will soon be 50.

Wednesday, Dec 28th
Took form caste of Dark Lady to Three Czechov One Act Plays at Henley Theatre. Two rows in otherwise empty theatre – Lethargica Henliensis. Curate asked Hilary how he liked the Christmas tree in the church, to which Hilary replied that he had not been to church.

Thursday, Dec 29th
To London to see She Stoops to Conquer done as a Rowlandson come to life with terrific swing and pace. Had never seen it before. Perhaps this ragging the only way to keep it going ; not very enthusiastic, but had headache and eyeful of dust. Crowds very bad. Hilary went on from the theatre to stay with George. He had on his brown Irish tweed overcoat and some grey stockings of mine and really looked quite smart – for once.

Friday, Dec 30th
Nora and I went for walk at Long Grasses. Thousands of hazel catkins and much fresh plough. Ioan and Marjorie came up bringing a bottle of sherry, the wages, I thought, of compliance in sin! so we had a glass all round.

Saturday, Dec 31st
Up to London on 10.20. Problem to know what to wear as in 48 hours climate may veer from Mediterranean to Arctic… Lunch at National Book League, just finished when Mary arrived. To Beaux Stratagem, had not seen it since 1927. The tube to Elephant & Castle, where we hoped to get a meal before the ballet, but stuck in the worst possible type of cinema café and an impossible waitress, so we only got miserable sardines on toast. We ended the year where we began it at the monster Trocadero Cinema. It was packed. Swan Lake. Very good indeed. Back to Green Park. Fortunately I had two bath buns because by this time Mary very hungry. Our bedroom at the back (of Green Park Hotel), but as usual at hotel people went very noisily to bed and got up earlier immediately overhead than one would have believed possible.
The financial crisis the big thing, I suppose, this year, but few take much interest in it. The old country rumbles on and our lives from day to day more touched by such indirect results as the continuance of petrol rationing – for oil is as good as gold. In France it has been abolished. How much I should like to get a bit more than the miserable three gallons a month I am allowed. It makes it impossible to see the countryside and to explore its villages and churches. Nothing would add more to the simple pleasures than more petrol.

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