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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

1950 April

April. Droitwich cure. Lettie Player. Gielgud in Measure for Measure. Walked out of Bergman in St Joan. 9d on petrol.

Sunday, April 2nd
Came down to Droitwich by evening train. Bitter north east wind and train late at Reading, but arrived on time at Droitwich. As Royal Hotel closed had to go to St Andrew’s House.
Unlike Royal, which was generally empty, full to bursting, but nothing under 70 and no Letties! And fearfully inquisitive and boring. Hardly got my breakfast down my neck this morning (Monday) when was asked, “Are you rheumatic?” Proper reply, “No, syphilitic!” but merely feigned deafness.
Got a new worry, my increasing paunch! Must try to cut down on starch and take more exercise, most disfiguring!

Tuesday, April 4th
Letter from Nora this morning in which she said, “It was nice of you go off full of jokes and cheerfulness”. Mary’s reaction was that I was going off to have a good time free from household chores!

Wednesday, April 5th
Went over to that great wen, Birmingham, and met Lettie Player. Had lunch with her at a library of what was once of the ancient Philosophical and Literary Societies, hake and chips and prunes and custard, then a bus to Clent Hills and a pleasant walk. Tea at her cottage, then walked to Hagley where we saw a monstrous hideous house of Lyttletons and then back to Bromsgrove and bus where we parted.

Thursday, April 6th
Did a pen drawing of William and Mary tomb in church which I managed very satisfactorily, I thought.

Good Friday, April 7th
In the afternoon went on a coach trip to Ludlow. Ludlow a nice place with some charming Georgian brick houses in two streets, a church like a young cathedral and castle with its green swards and walks above the river. Rather wasted 40 minutes waiting for tea at The Feathers, so had no time to go down to the bridge, where I heard later there was an excellent speedy tea place. But, of course, as always in this country, being a public holiday everything is shut up and no attempt to cater for the numerous visitors – the times long between religious prejudice and present social customs so characteristic of England.
On the way home we went by Burford where I stayed with Martin McLaughlin as an undergraduate, now probably killed himself with drink, a bit like Brideshead Revisited. I suppose he bore the seeds within him, though he was certainly not a heavy drinker at Oxford. It was while staying with him in 1920 that I first went to Ludlow.

Saturday, April 8th
In the morning walked over to Hazdor, where a fine early 19th century house used as an RC school. It was blustery and inclined to rain, so I could not sketch outside. A bubbly bath at 2.30, which I found tiring as usual, then laid down to 6 and read Old Mortality. After dinner tried my hand at life drawing from memory, but my pen became rather indecent and I had to tear my work up into very small fragments.

Easter Sunday
Went to sung communion at 9.30. Then came back and wrote to Mary. After lunch walked to Hampton Lovett and drew a white marble Walpolean gentleman. On my way back was asked by a B.B.C. investigator my opinion of programme – never met one before and had not heard yesterday’s programme anyway. At 6.30 went to evensong. The Deacon-curate preached a sermon on the Supper at Emmaus. Thought of Rembrandt’s immortal sketch and wondered if the curate had seen it.

Easter Monday
A cold blustery day with driving rain – pity the poor campers! The buses were not crowded under these conditions so went out along the Bromsgrove road to Upton Warren where I found a delightful 18th century church with whitewashed walls, clear glass, except for the east widow, plain deal pews, oak panelling and an oak panelled gallery. I sat up in this and made a sketch. All was light and airy, simple and, except for the altar and pulpit, free of Gothic knick-knackery. The pleasures of the unexpected again!

Easter Tuesday
Still perishing cold. Lettie came over and we had lunch at Chateau Impey built in 1869 by a salt king. No vulgarity spared, the prototype of the suburban house with a turret room. Now turned into hotel and creeping with obsequious waiters and believed to be a haunt of film stars. We saw none of them, but a few over-fed, drunk, red-faced business types.

Wednesday, April 12th
Bubble bath at 9.30, which was rather hard going, followed by Horlicks and a rest for two hours. Bitterly cold and occasional hail showers. Started off at 2 o’clock for Ross on Wye, a 36-seat chara with 9 people on it. We went via Malvern and the Wye cutting and then turned off along the road that runs below the ridge of the British Camp. My heart was full of Mary as we had walked along to the Singing Kettle for tea in 1942 after I had read Plato with her sitting among the bracken. Never like Malvern much, but the view westwards to the Welsh mountains, blue in the distance, was superb.
Coming home, the sun was setting behind the mountains which lay in deep blue shadow crowned with gold and glorified by mighty towering cumulus clouds. In front the Malverns rose wall-like against the sky. A noble and moving sight. This was a lovely piece of country with the green pastures and orchards in blossom; its small towns seem little spoilt and clean and quietly prosperous.

Thursday, April 13th
Went to Stratford with local Soc. for Appreciation of Music and the Arts to see Measure for Measure. The sides of the proscenium draped in black velvet with a blood red scarlet curtain. Sinister prologue. The set in battleship grey and many of the scenes played with torches flaring against wavering shadows of the background, in which anything might have lurked, or in shafts and funnels of light cutting through the surrounding darkness. Angelo superbly played by John Gielgud, spare, thin, dyspeptic looking, in long grey gown with red hands, which looked clammy and cold. Isabella perhaps rather matronly and ample for the part, the Duke good, but, as the Friar, perhaps hard to hear, whereas when Angelo spoke, though he never raised his voice, everyone in the audience was tense; a fine fat Escalus, and elegant and naughty Lucio with a long waving feather in his hat, red hair and green dress; a frightful fat old crop-haired Pompey the Pimp, always distributing his cards, and Mistress Overdone with a harsh and rusty voice; the Provost very, very tall with a long Italian 15th century gown with full sleeves.
The Hand of Glory to be heard from time to time and the riff-raff all from life, but Shakespeare meditating on the effects of Power does not bother to carry the play through, it is spoilt by improbabilities; even Angelo would hardly lie with one woman and mistake her for another; Isabella, rather a shock anyway, is handed over to the Duke at the end without any explanation. The company did the best that could be done with the last scene and indeed the whole play, which held you all right, fascinated by its conception.
Coming back, S.A.M.A. let itself go and insisted on singing songs led by “the life and soul of the party”. Pity!

Friday, April 14th
To Tewkesbury to meet Molly. Got there about 11.15 and went straight to the Abbey where I started sketching the Lady Chapel at which Mary and I had knelt in the summer. Molly found me at this and we went back to the town and examined the menus at the various hotels with which Tewkesbury is well supplied. Finally decided on roast chicken at the Hop Pole, and very good it was too. A nice atmosphere at the hotel and the head waiter of appropriately Pickwickian rotundity. Much black panelling with gold edging. Molly told me she had decided to go to Jamaica next winter if possible and as Gill was buying a reaper and binder did not think she cared face up to harvesting.
Had a letter from Hilary to say he had bought bicycle. It was “most expensive” because it had a dynamo – but he did not reveal what it actually cost! (£21).
Saturday, April 15th
This morning had a bubble bath which was very tiring. In the afternoon saw the doctor, then was massaged. The masseur a young chap, first rate, but has trouble with his H’s, though of no importance in pursuing fibrositis.
Tried Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc in glorious technicolour, but out-Hollied Hollywood and after the coronation in a Californian Rheims I gave up the unequal struggle and came out, my 2s 3d partly unexpended.

Sunday, April 16th
Two old ladies appeared at the next table. One thin, upright and desiccated, with a rather thin and penetrating voice and precise well bred accent, the other stooping, deaf and white haired. Everything number one says to number two, whom she addresses as Snowball, can be heard all around the room and meals are one long monologue as Snowball says little but yes and no or what did you say my dear.
Nora arrived at two o’clock and I took her to see the town and then the big swim. After this we sat and cooled off and then went to the hotel for tea.

Monday, April 17th
Took Nora to see Dr Dawson. Just as we were starting off we met Lettie and Thyra, her P.T. friend, so we invited them to lunch at the hotel. It was a success
Tuesday, April 18th
Had a haircut and did not give the man a tip, for once, to his great disgust. Saw what I thought was a charming summer dress in a shop and contemplated buying it for Mary; hope, if so, its fits and she likes it
One old gentleman here is a misogynist. His method is to deny all knowledge of the subject of conversation. The other day one of the old ladies said her niece had gone to New Zealand. “New Zealand. Never heard of it!” he replied.
Snowball turns out to be a cunning bridge player and I can see her at it from my bedroom to a late hour.

Wednesday, April 19th
Bought Mary’s dress – I do hope she likes it – whitish with bands of red and green across shoulders and hem of skirt.
Went to B’ham on 3.24 bus, met Lettie. After a walk we came back to a pub, had chops, and then went our several ways. Noticed that Selly Oak, a B’ham suburb, has a Hubert Street. Lettie said she would now view it with different eyes.

Saturday, April 22nd
Home from Droitwich about 1.45. Nora met me in Reading.

Sunday, April 23rd
Began to do some gardening and grass cutting. Sunny, but a cold wind which my back did not like at all. Hilary gone over to Molly’s on his new racing bicycle.

Monday, April 24th
Colder than ever. Hilary arrived back about four o’clock. Went over to Mary. She was very pleased with the dress which fitted beautifully. I was much relieved both that it fitted and that it suited her.

Tuesday, April 25th
I thought it was very cold in the night, but when I got up I found the field covered in snow and all the trees showing green through the white incrustation. Hilary hastened to toboggan and the boys on the first day of term were snowballing. It melted in the sun, but the wind remained icy and the sky grey, lowering and depressing; perhaps this was partly my mood as leg, which had seemed so much better, seemed worse again through the cold.

Thursday, April 27th
Hilary arrived at breakfast with the news that a fox had been up in the night and killed four of our seven fowls. The dog unfortunately was indoors that night as it was so cold.

Saturday, April 29th
The government have survived the budget debates by five votes and have carried the 9d tax on petrol bringing the price up to 3/- a gallon. Everyone is saying this can’t go on indefinitely, must have another election and so on. The thought of another election fills me with horror.
The cuckoo seems very late this year and only heard it yesterday for the first time.

Sunday, April 30th
I took Hilary with his new bicycle on the back of the car to Reading to catch the 7.45 [back to school]. The went round to the flat for a cup of tea and up to Ealing on the 9.43. There we got a taxi to Kew. The tulips were out, a few early rhododendrons, some lovely camellias, but the frost had damaged the magnolias and the spring bulbs, daffodils and narcissi, were nearly all gone. Tea at about 3 and marvelled at the types – I had forgotten how varied the Londoners were! Back to Ealing for the 5.24, supper at the flat. A very happy and successful day. It was a long time since we had been to Kew.

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