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Thursday, 9 September 2010

1950 August

August. Aunt Alice: A life of things she can't do. In France: "Only English make fires".

Tuesday, Aug 1st
Off we started for Aunt’s with a camp bed and blankets in the back of the car. It took Aunt a long time to tell me what was the matter with Rusby. I feared a stroke. But looking after Aunt single handed had knocked her up and the doctor had ordered a fortnight in hospital. Aunt seemed very good, considering, and insisted on being taken for a ride in the afternoon.
Meanwhile I borrowed a mower from next door and cut the grass. Spent the afternoon trailing round Watford trying to find out about women to come in, but no good. Came back to Henley, leaving Nora with camp bed in Watford.

Wednesday, Aug 2nd
Mary came over to supper. Nora rang up, she had had no luck with the women, but hoped Molly might relieve her at the weekend. Molly rang up while I was taking Mary home to Reading.

Thursday, Aug 3rd
At 9 o’clock Molly rang up. My explanation that I might have been out with the bees (at 11 p.m.) poorly received. Did letters, timetable (which finished) and allotment.
The North Koreans attacking furiously in attempt to reach Pusan. The Americans counter attacking but not having much success so far.

Friday, Aug 4th
Nora rang up at 8.30 to say she would have to stay till to-morrow. Had an early lunch and then over to Reading and found I was running out of money. Got French francs and at same time a bigger suitcase. Have now to cross fingers and hope that Aunt does not get ill or die before to-morrow week.
Saturday, Aug 5th
To Aunt’s. Left Molly on duty and came back home with Nora.

Sunday, Aug 6th
Had breakfast on terrace, but hot even then. N regards Aunt and Rusby as cases and so retains sanity. Her training has given her the technique of dealing with them. Remarked at breakfast wasps a useless branch of insect life, to which Nora replied that difficult from that point of view to regard Aunt and Schweitzer as the same species. Aunt as far as one can see has never taken the initiative. Her whole life is full of things she can’t do – she can’t use a gas lighter because the gas pops, she must have some one in the house when she lies down in case the doorbell rings and she can’t be left alone after dark, she must have the blinds drawn in case a passer-by saw her china and was compelled to break in and steal it, etc, etc.
The communists still pressing hard on the shrinking American perimeter. The campaign has shown the failure of air power against infantry who remain light, scrounge as they go and have little impedimenta. At that rate there is not much to stop the Chinese anywhere in S. E. Asia. For every American soldier in the frontline there are eight behind; for every Korean two, it has been calculated.

Monday, Aug 7th, Bank Holiday
A lovely day, hot with threat of thunder. A long letter from Hilary describing Elsinore and places he had visited in Denmark. He seems to have had some tough sightseeing and is now back from the sea in Copenhagen.

Tuesday, Aug 8th
To Aunt’s in morning to see what cooking. After bursting myself to cut her beastly grass, told how nicely Molly had done it and how hot she got! One elderly party, a Miss Sansum, in prospect, but 64, so will she stand the winter? (The elderly party stayed with Aunt till her death in 1958).
Went to see a 2 up, 2 down house that Nora thought of buying. They want £1,400 for it, but no garden and back against bank, so very damp. Don’t think worth more than £900.

Thursday, Aug 10th
Local counter attacks by Americans. Enough stuff they say to hold S.E. corner until they are ready to break north. Members of Security Council meeting without chairman to see what can be done about his obstruction, otherwise he will continue to stall until the end of August.

Saturday, Aug 12th
Left Henley at 2.28 and met Hilary and Nora for tea at GWR Hotel. Hilary back from Copenhagen, Nora from staying with Aunt. Then to Victoria, found Mary already in train. At Newhaven found 3rd class very crowded so switched to 1st, missed Mary at Dieppe as she did not realize boat had stopped.

Sunday, Aug 13th
Paris 8.30, crossed in taxi, for which we paid 10/-, to Gare du Lyon, left at 7.40, lunch at Dijon. Two Belgians in carriage very surprized by wholemeal loaf. Got out at Chambery, then on by local train to Montiers. Went to hotel near station where embarrassing situation as Mary insisted on my asking for two separate rooms, which they had not got unless we paid for two double rooms. M’s Scots carefulness overcame her doubts about the separate passport and we slept soundly in a double bed after our first dinner in France, a lovely carrot soup and veal cutlets.

Monday, Aug 14th
Banks all shut, as I should have remembered. Saw cathedral and took bus to Prolagnan Vanoise, which very full and met with no success but ended up at Hotel de Glaciers in double room on top floor at 1100 francs all found. At dinner we found ourselves next to two French people, very nice pair; a terrific slab of underdone meat, query horse?

Tuesday, Aug 15th
National holiday. On balcony to see crowd in front, police, the town band, collections of local dress and various crowd of locals and visitors full of colours and interest. Mr and Mrs D, known to Mary, arrived from Oxford and Mrs D came and stood on the balcony next to me – you can’t get away from the English even in Savoy! However we gave them no openings. In afternoon went to see a demonstration by the guides on a local cliff face.
Filled in police forms in different names, but in spite of M’s fears and worries, no notice taken and passports not verified.

Wednesday, Aug 16th
Picnic lunch and started walking to Col de la Vanoise through pinewoods. We went as far as the Chalets de la Glieve, in a cirque with waterfall and tethered cows and a herd of pigs. Told at dinner that la princesse had a daughter.

Thursday, Aug 17th
Cold and rainy so went down to Montier to change travellers cheques.

Friday, Aug 18th
Clouds on mountains but breaks and sun. Walked up towards Col de Chariere. Lunch and tea in wild part of valley. Plenty of wood from chips used for bridge over torrent, but burnt badly. However made tea with buttered toast!

Saturday, Aug 19th
A lovely sunny day, up Mont Bocher by paths through pinewood forest. Made tea on Mt Bocher summit.

Sunday, Aug 20th
Went up south side of valley to alp opposite Mt Bocher. Wore trousers because of sunburn. Made tea against rock but had to be very careful as wood burnt like tinder.

Monday, Aug 21st
Up at 7.0 and off at 8.10 but not nearly early enough for Col de la Vanoise, brilliant sun and cloudless sky. Crossed Lac de Vache and had lunch at great terminal moraine, heat terrific. Went up moraine to the col and Felix France hut, built in 1897 - 8,291 ft. Back at 7.30 very tired and stiff but happy with achievement.

Tuesday, Aug 22nd
Shopped in morning, jam and brioche for tea, gloves, socks and stockings, boots £4. Tried them out in walk along river. Made tea below camp and later noticed that latrines ran into river, so good thing I boiled water for two or three minutes. Tasted very good!

Wednesday, Aug 23rd
Up at 6.0, off at 7.0 by bus for Val d’Isere. In front a man like Peach with a woman I christened “the tow headed tart”…… Val d’Isere full of fashionable hotels, but a nice alp, then up the road to the col, a grand piece of engineering with lovely view of Grande Motte, 12,000 ft, the highest road in Europe only recently completed. The French, who had sat in he charabanc equipped in mountain boots etc, promptly dived into restaurant for dejeuner. We ate ours out when suddenly noticed a vast herd of cows moving across distant alp like fleas on a counterpane. Interesting chapel with a white stone figure of the patron saint of Alpinists, Notre Dame de Bonne Prudence. Then down to Borneval sur Arc, tired and all very jolted about….. Did not reach the hotel till 7.0 A twelve hour chara trip too long by far.

Friday, Aug 25th
Set out for Petit Mt Blanc, but late to-day as had to queue at grocers for ham and fruit. Syrop at 12 at Les Prioux, where a large party with guides and fancy shirts. Particularly noticed baggy eyed and debauched-looking man. Passed two people making fire and rightly guessed they must be English. “Only the English make fires.” A lovely path climbing steadily up in long slope without zigzags and marvellous views across valley. To our great amusement discovered large party from Les Prioux panting up below us; when they passed, baggy eyed man pale and gasping like a stranded fish. Passed them again. Did not go quite to the top of col. On way down b. e. man enquired anxiously if we had reached the top; much disappointed when we said we had not. He was now not pale but purple!

Saturday, Aug 26th
Dinner at Montiers, then on night train to Paris. Two English women next to us so shared a taxi to St Lazare. Here met two checks: 1) no sharing accommodation, 2) a bastard in the ticket bureau who refused to let me have a reservation because I had a letter from British Railways. Felt completely stumped and speechless with rage, till came to me that Mary had not been in with me, so sent her in and she got them, to my great relief. Long wait at Dieppe, same thing at New Haven. Got to Victoria about 7.30, home about 9.30 after travelling 27 hours. Did so much enjoy the mountain walks and views and being for a fortnight in open all day long, also living for two weeks with Mary and sharing the same room and bed – la vie intime avec mon amie [sic]

Wednesday, Aug 30th
Spent morning extracting honey with Hilary. Not a very heavy crop and very dark in colour. Weather wet, cloudy.

Thursday, Aug 31st
Took Hilary to Cliveden, but had hardly finished our lunch when it began to rain and thunder. Coming back the road between Marlow and Medmenham was covered in tar and the car stalled. Spent a jolly evening removing the wheels and scraping them, then scraping ourselves.

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