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Sunday, 5 September 2010

1950 February

February.  Frying pan to fridge? Miss Perkins. At 50. Radio Doctor. HGS election: Audrey Arlott, Mickey Scott, J. Barnett, A Giles. Labour, just. Michael Plint.

Wednesday, Feb 1st
Ate the chicken and drank half the Graves, but did not have plum pudding - fortunately.

Friday, Feb 4th
Hilary Daniels came down. Took the sixth form to The Importance of Being Ernest at the local theatre, 20 of them at 1/- each. Well done and the dresses excellent, but Lord how it dates, remote as The Rivals or the Beaux Stratagem. A world where there were butlers and valets and “lower orders” whose business it was to set a good example (joke!). Much of the wit the audience in 1950 did not see, or think funny if they did.

Saturday, Feb 4th
To a Beethoven concert at the university with Mary, then to the Red Lion at Wycombe where we occupied a pleasant room, just behind the Lion himself, with a double bed. An enormous dining-room-cum-ballroom had been built out behind the old 18th century front and we ate our meals in its vastness. Upstairs there was a large, warm empty lounge, but the enormous staff must have been maintained on the sale of drinks. There was a lot of through traffic thundering by in the night, so we did not sleep much. Mary wore her beautiful silk nightdress, tight fitting round the bust, but billowing like ballet dress lower down. We lay together three times and were very happy. M said nightdress made her feel like a bride.

Sunday, Feb 15th
No breakfast in bed, and no garage, and the car, which had to stand out in the yard, was difficult to start. We drove over to West Wycombe and walked up to the church and the mausoleum. We had our meal at The Swan, which was warm and homely, a place to stay in the summer, but no room to sit in in the winter. Then we went to Bradenham, where we explored the church and saw the manor house where Isaac Disraeli lived and the young Benjamin was brought up. Then across the hills to Hughenden. The house is now open as a museum. I had been up to it before, though first in the park in 1917.We drove up the hill and round the gravel sweep to the front door, which had a notice “Museum closed.” I was disgusted, but presently a commissionaire appeared and let us in. We had the whole place to ourselves for the afternoon and wandered round looking at pictures, furniture, documents, photographs in the study, library and drawing room. The latter had Angeli’s fearful portrait of the Queen but a very good one of the great man….. We chatted to the commissionaire who had a flat at the top of the building. I said I would suit me, but Mary teased me and said I would have to have a number on my collar like a policeman.
We went back to tea at the hotel and to bed early after dinner. We slept together twice in the night and I was pleased that my etceteras stood up to it better than expected.

Tuesday, Feb 7th
Election broadcast by Samuel. He hit the nail on the head in saying that plenty of people were dissatisfied with Labour, but did not want the Tories – out of the frying pan into the refrigerator.
The new chairman of the governors came up to discuss to-morrows meeting. He is a man who believes in getting things settled out of court, so to speak. Very nice to have a rational man one can talk to after the old Blimp MacKenzie.

Saturday, Feb 11th
A bad shock this morning. Apparently staff in revolt about appointment permanently of Miss Perkins. Wilk spilt the beans and she certainly sounds awful, much worse than I suspected, religiosity, sentimentality and just plan silliness. Committees have their uses and I think I shall have to use one to get round an awkward situation. What a curse. Never had a woman like this on the staff before and hope never will again. Probably conventional girls’ high school more in her line.
Been reading The Naked and the Dead, a novel of American soldiers in he Pacific war – a transatlantic All Quiet – some good descriptions of the jungle warfare, but interspersed with fantasies of their sex life, which as Mary’s library subscribers would say are “a bit rough” and rather detailed. Nevertheless, as I said to Miss Hunter when she asked me if men ever thought of anything but sexual intercourse, “not much!” It caused a success de scandale and was banned from some libraries, but in my opinion not pornography, just rough – none of the elegance and style of the French but crude and too like a case history, all navels, triangles and the frustrations of sexual adjustment, but the fighting well described and the characters of the men well worked out.

Sunday, Feb 12th
My fiftieth birthday! Fell much the same as I did yesterday! Nora brought up my breakfast in bed and I wore Molly’s hand-spun pullover. Ioan and Marjorie up for coffee and much argument about the election as he is going to vote Conservative. His war experience, or something else, has made him a cynic and a “nothing butter”.
Father said I began to come about teatime on February 11th, 1900, and he went out to tell the doctor. In those days the middle class had children in their own bedrooms. Mother was 36. About two o'clock the following night the doctor called in his partner and they delivered me with an instrument. After that they both came down to the kitchen and had tea. My birthday was therefore on a Sunday as to-day. Father told me this in 1936, the year Hilary was born.

Tuesday, Feb 14th
Received a valentine from May and sent one to her which I composed myself. A talk by a district officer from Nigeria to the Sixth in the afternoon. Nigeria poor and agricultural, inhabitants reluctant to do one hour’s work a day if they can survive on half an hour. Our gentle methods will hardly force them to do much., Even with the soldiers back from the Army demand poor, no salesman’s paradise. However agricultural machinery for tropical agriculture now being made in this country thanks to the groundnut scheme. Nigerians do not think of themselves as Nigerians, let alone Africans, but as Ibos, Yorubas or Hansas and difficult to get them to co-operate at a higher level. Thinks social intercourse in England difficult as they are all the time suspicious of patronage.
Have listened to several election broadcasts, but to-night had the Radio Doctor. He called himself a Liberal-Conservative-Unionist, but I thought he was a good plain rogue and much enjoyed listening to him. He seemed to me bogus through and through with plummy voice, phoney synthetic “manner” and his assumed heartiness.

Thursday, Feb 15th
Yesterday morning had film, Public Opinion, very appropriate to election. In afternoon went over to Mary, who took me in evening to a Conservative political meeting at Town Hall. Packed and lively but very hot. Peculiar looking people whom you never see anywhere else turn up to these meetings. There were some Labour groups who shouted, but unlike the meetings in 1919 the microphone and amplifiers give the platform the final word for they can always drown the opposition unless very numerous. Vernon Mills wearing a large blue rosette was on the platform. Two Conservative candidates in Reading, Lord Llewellyn, who succeeded Woolton as Food Minister, as chief speaker. One candidate large and beefy with a powerful voice, other tall and stooping. Lord L rather a dear and mood was good tempered. Asked why the government had lost no bye-election, replied that they always had the oldest trade unionists in the safest seats and they were the first to die!
This afternoon had school election speeches. Liberal spoke first and was quite good, Labour next, attractive but soon got out of his depth on questions, lastly the Conservative, Audrey Arlott, made a very grown up speech and answered questions excellently. Was well backed up by Mickey Scott, the head boy, who dealt with questioners and hecklers very firmly. Asked why the miners of Glamorgan had never had a Conservative candidate, replied that she did know Glamorgan and would stand there herself later. She certainly deserved to win. I think on the whole better than the 1945 meeting.

Friday, Feb 17th
Went over to Reading and tried to get into a political meeting on “moral issues” presided over by a bishop. A silly thing to do as followers of all parties and the Christians turned up and the result was a queue stretching round the Town Hall and no chance of getting in to the meeting at all.
Polling at the school went off efficiently and quietly. Most forms polled 100%.

Saturday, Feb 18th
Milder weather. Took our lunch over to Long Grasses and had it under a straw stack. The hedges were hung with lambs tail catkins and the larks were singing, the first I have heard. By the pond near the lonely barn we saw some pussy willows. Saw the end of the Old Boys’ match and had conversation with a parent of whose identity I was quite ignorant.
The mild weather has brought the bees out, though one hive has removed a lot of dead.
Churchill has said he thinks another attempt should be made at the highest level to talk to the Russians. His broadcast speech last night a much better effort and parts of it moving enough.
While standing in queue last night young women came round distributing pamphlets “Ban the hydrogen bomb”. Don’t know if they were communists or pacifists. The Americans have decided to make the H-bomb, which can apparently wipe out a city. Getting nearer and nearer the Wells film The Shape of Things to Come and the mass suicide of our civilization.
“I cannot end my message and appeal to you as you sit in your homes, searching your hearts and minds, wondering who is telling you the truth and what it is best to do for our dear land without etc, etc.” WSC
“All the day dreams of my youth have been accomplished. I have no personal advantage to gain by undertaking once more the hard and grim duty of leading Britain and the Empire through and out of a new and formidable crisis. But while God gives me strength and the people show me their goodwill, it is my duty to try, and try I will.”

Saturday, Feb 19th
Just rung up by Vernon Mills. He says canvassing returns show a large number of undecided. The electorate are engaged in thought, we hope!
At school counted the votes this morning. A. Arlott (Cons) 101, J. Barnett (Lab) 104, A. Giles (Lib) 44. A surprisingly close result as I thought the girl would win easily.
Dug a little in the allotment this afternoon
Doubts about bringing atomic policy into the election campaign. Attacking and embarrassing Attlee and Bevin is also attacking Truman and Acheson as British and U.S. policy have been closely coordinated. Besides the implication is if you return me I could talk to Stalin. There is no evidence for this. Stalin has never been made to change his policy by either Roosevelt or Churchill in the past. Why now?

Tuesday, Feb 21st
Went to a Conservative meeting at the Corn Exchange {Reading} to hear Quintin Hogg, Tory candidate in Oxford. He began quietly enough but soon shouted himself in till the microphone rang and you felt that even if the hall emptied completely he would still go on hollering. A clever and well thought out speech, but very long. After standing in the gallery for one hour and ten minutes we fought our way out through the crowd standing at the back of the hall and left him still in full spate. The audience seemed mostly businessmen in horn-rimmed spectacles and their well-dressed wives, but downstairs there were some interrupters who shouted occasionally. It was impossible to hear what they said, but the contrast between the polished and cultivated bellowing of the speaker and the inarticulate cries of the hecklers moved some of the audience to mirth.
Election can hardly be popular with the police force. The enormous Reading constables stood on their huge feet on the stone staircase to prevent people sitting on the steps. The oratory broke over their impassive and ham-like countenances with as much effect as water on granite rock.
Nora went to the Labour meeting and was favourably impressed by the candidate, a farmer from Essex. When he mentioned the nationalization of water, a man shouted, “And have a minister tell me when to pull the chain?” “If your mother did not teach you that we can’t help you,” replied the candidate.

Wednesday, Feb 22nd
Went down to the Town Hall for the Conservative eve of poll meeting. There had been a dog show there in the afternoon as I went up the steps I thought I could smell them, but it was a mass of people who could not get into the hall. We were promised an overflow meeting in the council chamber, but as it had no chairs, so we came away and started up the hill again. I have attended a part of one Labour meeting and no less than two Conservative and one Liberal, but I shall vote Labour! Three meetings I have been unable to get in, such are the frustrations of elections. Why vote Labour? I distrust the Conservatives and their camp followers, partly because I cannot forget such things in their record as Ireland, India, the budget of 1909, Abyssynia, the means test, Baldwin, Chamberlain, Munich etc etc. another five years in the cooler will not do them any harm, just as their defeat in 1945 did them a lot of good.
This Labour government has on the whole acted sensibly and carried through the social legislation that it promised; its colonial record is good and it has handled its Asiatic problem well. It has been over cautious perhaps in removing controls, but it has increased production, and has rationed by fair share and not by high prices as in the “free enterprise” countries. The Liberal programme is an attractive one, and contains such things as the abolition of conscription, but the Liberals cannot get a majority. All they can hope for is a situation in which they are the king makers, as in Ramsay McDonald’s first government, and this will be a bad thing because it will mean a weak government acting of sufferance, and we need a strong government with a reasonable majority of, say 50, in the House of Commons.
The Conservative meeting last night very different from the others. The passage full of Henley’s big shots in their best Sunday suits and pearl tie pins, fashionably dressed ladies, and the chairman of the governors in his blue go-to-meeting suit, aldermen, councillors, and the county in their smart cars.

Thursday, Feb 23rd
The day of decision! The fateful day. As Mr Gladstone said, “Think well, think widely, think not for the moment but for the years that are to come, before you make your choice.” Nora set off at 8.30 intending to vote on her way to Oxford. I went down at 12.15. There was no one much about and I was the only person in the room. At lunch time I rang up Molly, who said she had just voted Conservative.
The party men are still radiating confidence, but most independent observers plump for a narrow majority. The Liberals have at last come off the fence and answered the question I put to the Liberal candidate on Monday. She refused to answer, rather crossly; they say they are prepared to form a minority government or put Labour in if they will drop the [nationalization of] Steel Bill
Results will comee in till about 3 a.m. and then begin again at about 11 a.m. on Friday. Cinemas are staying open till 2 a.m. Less than half the results will be declared to-night, but the M/G has provided 98 what it calls marginal constituencies where the poll will be indicative of the general trend. You can also go to dances to celebrate the declaration.
Rain spread eastwards across the country and it began to drizzle by lunchtime.
Nora came back from Banbury rather frustrated by broken appointments, but tells me she voted Labour after all, on grounds that that in this constituency it is best to keep out the Conservatives.
One o’clock. Looks as if Labour will get home all right. Their majorities very steady in the boroughs.

Friday, Feb 24th
Nora went off at 8.30 and I got up at 10. The state of the parties was then Labour 163, Conservatives 102, Lib 1. Len came at 11.15 with the papers. He had sat up till after one and heard Radio News Reel, which he said was most amusing. They ran out of voting papers in Coventry and about 300 people could not poll. Both Labour candidates got in at Reading, which was another marginal borough. Aunt, 90, taken to poll at Watford in a car, but all in vain; Labour kept the seat, I see.
At nine o’clock this evening 15 seats were still to come but Labour had an overall majority; 313 Lab, 289 Cons, 7 Lib.
It has bee a most exciting day, the Labour majority in the morning at 60 fell to 30, then to 19, 9, 6, 5, 3 and for a short period 1; in the afternoon it began to climb again and now stands at 24.
The result in Henley was as expected. The Conservative got in with 20,000; Labour polled 14,000.

Saturday, Feb 25th
Went over to Mary’s for tea. Found her very upset as a small rise she had been given very heavily taxed and she had hoped for tax relief as result of election. After tea set off to Hungerford. Stayed at an old fashioned fishing inn, The Three Swans. Outside it looked nothing but inside it was very comfortable and a surprisingly large dining room with hideous strip lighting. Gave us a good dinner, however, and comfortable double bed, though no eau courante, but a marble topped what not, basin, ewer and utensil! Had misgivings as a railway line crosses the main street by a Victorian iron bridge near the inn and opposite is the Corn Exchange with a loud clock chiming the quarters. This to my relief is turned off at 10 and does not come on again till 5.15. The trains were few and far between and did not disturb us in the night.

Sunday, Feb 26th
To-day was full of the pleasures of the unexpected! I can hardly count the discovery that one of my governors had a season ticket to the hotel fishing among the unexpected pleasures. We set off for Avington, which was full of surprises! We had some difficulty in discovering the small aisle-less Norman church, which was built near the Kennet and lay hidden by large trees down a grass grown track. We went into the church. All the lamps were lit and it smelt strongly of oil. The lay reader who was preparing the service rushed up and shook hands. We had a look round and went to examine the empty house on the other side of the lane. What had once been the garden was now completely overgrown with turf and some of the trees had fallen. As we crossed the lane suddenly the congregation appeared from nowhere – a crowd of small boys in coats and caps and with a bearded usher. We returned to the church for the bell was now ringing to find that the last pew by the door was waiting for us. Matins followed by three hymns accompanied on the harmonium. The bearded and epicene usher read the first lesson, the lay reader the second and he preached to the little boys on Backbones and Wishbones. After that the boys filed out and disappeared up the lane. After the service we heard the explanation. There lived at the Rectory an old canon and his daughter. She was his only congregation. From the prep school in a big house nearby came a carol party one Christmas and sang in the church. Shortly afterwards the old man died and as the church would otherwise have been closed the bishop agreed to allow the school to use it as a chapel.

Monday, Feb 27th
Breakfast at 8.30. Started back at 9.0 and deposited Mary outside Heelas’ shop after 10 o’clock. One world to another. Came home, read newspapers, got lunch, lay down in afternoon. Nora had gone to see Aunt Alice, who seemed much better again.
Mr Attlee has decided to carry on in this unusually balanced parliament. There is not much evidence that another election would necessarily give a very different result…..
Mr Churchill’s views of Russia are not acceptable to Mr Truman. The former wants to attempt to reach a comprehensive agreement that would end the cold war. The American view is that Russia is a present unlikely to commit military aggression. Her policy is to turn the balance of world power in her favour by extending the influence over the non-communist governments of Asia and Europe by means short of war. We cannot have an “agreement” with Russia because words do not mean what they mean to us; the only thing to do is to accept danger and tension as a normal condition for years to come while we are arranging international co-operation. It is not a pleasant prospect. However Bertie Russel is reasonably hopeful. He thinks that the nations not in the Soviet bloc might establish international institutions and he regards as one of the most encouraging things that has happened is the decicion of India, Pakistan and Ceylon to co-operate as partners with the West now we no longer regard them as subjects. It is curious that the Russians have established the rule of the white man in China now more successfully than the opium wars did. The Chinese have become enslaved by Russia under the impression that they are achieving emancipation. Very odd indeed.

Tuesday, Feb 28th
Michael Plint came up to talk to the Sixth Form on his recent visit to the U.S.A. He was one of a party in the I.C. Engine industry who went over to study American production methods and was pleased to have been chosen. He visited New York, Washington, Milwaukee, Detroit. I did not gather that the Americans were much ahead of us in technique, but they work harder. Effective work was the point, said Michael! Hear, hear. He also pointed out that pushing bits of paper from the In to the Out trays was not really satisfying and he said he hoped the Sixth would choose something more constructive.
Gave him tea afterwards and he talked gravely of the future education of his son, aged 3 ½! When I came here Michael was in the Vth form himself.

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