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Sunday, 5 September 2010

1950 January

January. Election: Labour to win. The Mighty Wurlitzer. "Eccentric" head. The bee hut. Mock election at HGS. Hydrogen bomb. Miss H's testimonial. World pop 2.3bn.

Sunday, Jan 1st
The new year for me in a West End hotel bedroom with a private bathroom and telephone and a notice on outside door “Resting. Do not disturb”.
Mary suggested that “together” might in most cases be added for accuracy. The rioters were hardly noticeable when we came home about ten o’clock, but we heard them bawling later.
We had breakfast in bed and then to the Marble Halls for lunch. It was poor and I think the first course is clearly going downhill though you can get more variety of sweets and ices. After lunch we walked down to Trafalgar Square to be photographed by one of the itinerant camera men in order to see how much older we looked in a year! The to St Martin’s and the National Gallery. But to-day the weather had taken a turn and an icy blast swept up Whitehall. What a marvellous collection of pictures we possess, fell into an ecstasy looking at them! To the Abbey for evensong. Cold, dirty and poorly lit, but a sensible, simple sermon on No man lives unto himself alone. Then to a serve yourself tea at Charing Cross Corner House, beloved of Father in 1912. Much intrigued by a new electronic organ to which we passed for Bach at the Abbey. Had dinner early at the hotel and then to a programme of music and verse speaking at St Martin’s. Most of the congregation stayed after evensong so we had to wait for some time under the portico in the icy wind and ended up in a pew in the gallery. I saw the vicar, who rowed 6 in the Keble boat, in the distance only!
Slept very badly for second night in spite of Horlicks, for which hotel charged 1/6! Very hot, noises overhead, outside etc, etc, which always seem to start just as you are falling to sleep; finally went off about 3.30 a.m.

Monday, Jan 2nd
Spent morning at Hatchards and at French Exhibition. Early lunch, then to Watford to see Aunt. A grisly business as she has no interest in me or anything to do with me and merely wants to grumble. Got away about 4.40 but did not get home till eight

Wednesday, January 4th
Nora dove Hilary and me to Oxford. We went into the New Bodleian Exhibition Gallery where we say the key the King broke when he opened it and various letters and printed books. Then to the new gallery of Indian art in the Indian Institute. After lunch we went down to Roel Hill on the station bus and Molly met us. Oxford, the Broad especially, out of term was quiet and spacious after London’s struggling crowds and queues. We had Nelson, a one-eyed cockerel, for supper and he ate remarkably well.

Tuesday, Jan 5th
Drove to Cheltenham with Ben’s illegal rabbits in a sack for sale to Macfisheries. Picked up Ruth at her mother’s and then to Slimbridge to see wild geese. This was a bit, more than a bit, awkward, as we were none of us members of the Trust. Molly and Ruth had been welcomed two years ago, but now things were much more ruled and regulated. It was difficult to trade a an acquaintance with Peter Scott for a membership without us paying the subscription. In the end we had to be content with tame wild fowl on the ponds and in the enclosures.

Friday, Jan 6th
Hilary and I taken to Hayles Abbey from which we walked back to Roel via Farmcote. Hayles and Farmcote churches both untouched by the Restorer and much as the men of the 17th century left them. These tiny limestone wold churches always make time stand still for me and seem to keep the spirits of men and controversies and a society long passed away – an England, small as they are, the product of a craft tradition as they are, not dominated by London, but leading their own regional and local life around the great manor house and the small market town.
The atmosphere on our return was somewhat strained as Gill had just given Ruth and Molly notice to quit. She was of course quite entitled to do so, but instead of doing it amicably started off on a long list of complaints and grouses and so reached the point indirectly and with the maximum of friction and feeling.
[Editor: Miss Gill was lesbian and what one might call a master women, who liked to tell others what to do. She seems to have fallen passionately in love with Molly, and Molly, name disguised, played an important role in a privately published autobiography that Gill, as she was always called, wrote later. Whether Miss Gill's passion was requited I do not know, but on reading this entry in the diary I wondered whether Miss Gill's complaints and grouses were her reaction to the end of an affair. I do not know, either, though I surmise, that Molly and Ruth were more than just good friends.]  

Saturday, Jan 7th
Came back by morning bus to Oxford. Visited Ashmolean where Hilary interested in old musical instruments; visited Worcester gardens. “Here” said Hilary, “you start your rigmarole”!!

Monday, Jan 9th
The election is expected on Feb 23rd. Then we shall decide whether to change drivers. The test of freedom is the power to change your government.
Been very conscious lately of old age creeping on. The result of reaching 50, when you realize that most of your life is past anyway and possibly you have not a lot of time left to go, so what do you feel at 60? Definitely old, not middle-aged! And if you reach 70? Old beyond question!
The birds are singing again in the morning and have just been looking up

The lark that tirra-lyra chants,
With heigh, with heigh, the thrush and jay
Are summer songs for me and my aunts
As we lie tumbling in the hay. W.T. iv, iii

Shall have to wait sometime yet for the hay to tumble my particular aunt, but am planning expeditions with her to Burford, Devizes, Fairford and Bibury, but don’t know yet whether we shall bring that off. I calculate that my leg good for five or six miles but no more at present. The lark not yet heard at Roel Hill, but will soon begin.
Hilary interested in the tales of the Cotswold ghosts, especially the coach that drives at night through the Campden Way, the track that leads through Roel Hill Farm. No villagers will come up there at midnight. Molly has not heard the coach, but has shut the gates at night and found them open in the morning, or found one of the cows out and the gate shut, as though it might for a time have been opened. Like the Moor, the Cotswold are an old and lonely part of England where the spirits may still be wont to walk!
Notice in writing how continually one repeats words used in the previous sentence. Is this another sign of mental decay? Certainly I am growing portly and note the presence of a spare tyre around the navel (Mary remarks on this as well), a white side to my moustaches, a disinclination to stoop, a fondness for bed in the morning and a growing interest in food, a resentment of visitors, or indeed of any disturbance of a settled routine, a wish to do things at ones own pace (slowly) by oneself.

Friday, Jan 14th
This parliament has done what the Labour Party promised, but most people are disappointed because the road to recovery is so much slower and harder than we thought it would be. Whether the general disillusionment will take the form of voting against the government I don’t know. Labour will carry the industrial areas, probably lose suburban black-coated areas, but what will the rural districts do? The farmers and agricultural labourers seem contented and it was them that gave the government its big majority in 1945. My guess is that Labour will get home with a majority of about 50.
The old man, the Mighty Wurlitzer (as Low, the cartoonist, calls him), has come back from Madeira. He said on landing that he might be wanted! Poor old Winnie. It’s his last chance and not a very good chance either. Does he wonder if in a few weeks time he will be writing again to cabinet ministers, “Pray let me have your proposals on one sheet of paper”? Trying to find some candidates for a school election, but not easy to get any to stand.
Busy addressing envelopes for testimonial for Miss Hunter. She’s still in hospital, been there since August, poor dear.
Wondering whether I should like a job as a curator at a big house, e.g., under the National Trust, with pictures, furniture, books, and visitors to show round. At any rate I should have a house to live in. It might be rather fun and a more distinguished life than cuffing round adolescents, and, as I said to M, perhaps we should get a four-poster to sleep in as well.

Saturday, Jan 14th
Went out with Hilary bird watching on the river below Shiplake church; gulls, ducks, moorhens, coots, snipe, kingfishers, redwings and a large brown hare.

Sunday, Jan 15th
Hilary went back to Long Dene on the early train at 7.45. Nora has tried out new test [refers personality tests developed by Professor Raymond Catell] on him with interesting results. He did very well indeed on the verbal language, and very badly on the practical non-verbal part.
Last night J. B. Priestley gave an election broadcast for Labour. I thought it was very good and sensible, but he wheezed and blew like an old grampus and I shouldn’t think he is a good “life”. He said it was wrong to think that foreign countries with no controls were better off than we were. We were told we were better off before the war, but that was true of the whole world, but the country we now had was worth ten of pre-war England. He spoke to the middle class parent caught between two different kinds of society and finding it hard going. “It is easy to feel that in this new Britain the greyhound tracks and the football pools flourish while the arts decay.”
I see Australia has abolished petrol rationing and wonder whether it will be an election issue here. We could do with double the miserable 3 gallons a month we get now.
Listened against to the radio programme on the tombs of Tutankhamen, a very fine documentary ending with the blowing of the ceremonial trumpet used in Thebes over 3000 years ago. These ringing, high-pitched notes sound across the millennia and this distant past stretches across Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to touch us with its elfin hour. It makes the ancient medieval churches seem like buildings of yesterday.
An article on French landscape remarks that in Millet’s Gleaners one of the women is turned round so that you can see nothing but her bottom – unfortunately not a bottom you’d be at all tempted to pinch. True enough, but Renoir….!

Thursday, Jan 19th
Up till now have had a very mild winter, but yesterday the cold air began to spread over the south from the continent. Mary and I went up to Lowbury. The sun set in a golden haze and the Downs stood ridge behind ridge fading into the sunset. It was a noble prospect! I have seldom seen them looking so beautiful. A large stack of baled hay was standing in the same field, though not the same place, where we had kissed in 1940. Here we kissed again in 1950.

Friday, Jan 20th
Found that the new ceiling in my room at school is not sound proof, as the old plaster and lath one was, and most of what I say can be heard in the biology lab. “We know”, said the Wilk, “the H. M. is eccentric.” We may do, but it is still very awkward!

Saturday, Jan 21st
Spent the day travelling to the Hospital at Northwood to visit Miss Hunter. She seemed worse. Her back muscles have now become so weak she cannot stand upright and can only crawl with two sticks in a bent position. She is being looked after by a Negro gentleman from West Africa.

Sunday, Jan 22nd
Noticed my hut had the window broken by a stone, so opened it and patched it up as well as I could. Thought how many suppers M and I had cooked there; the crockery, saucepan, candlestick and washing up bowl still standing where we had left them. One blanket, a pillow and a cushion all that remained of the wraps – two mouldy books, some tins and a glass vase, which I used to fill with flowers before she arrived, two egg cups and a little very stale tea. Very far from the luxury and amenities of the flat in Bath Road. Still, as Mary always says, it carried us over a very difficult period and saved us pounds in meals.
[The hut was known as the bee hut. It backed onto the wall of the walled garden, which was adjacent to the south-west face of the Grammar School, and was almost under the branches of a large horse chestnut tree by the lawn that stretched down and round from the south-east face of the school. During the war years and for some years after the bee hives themselves stood on a patch of scrub just to the south of the beehut.]
The Mighty Wurlitzer performed last night and pulled out all his big stops and boomed away in his best manner, but occasionally he stumbled over a word and the whole thing was obviously done with a great effort. He was not the man of 1940.
The Observer had a very fair leader on the Labour programme. They have carried out the welfare measures they promised and won the confidence of the poorer classes. Their plans for further nationalization don’t interest me. I have no particular wish to see sugar, cement or insurance nationalized! No mention is made of the fact that we are still living on American loans. However, no mention is made of reducing taxation, so I suppose the government is satisfied with the present level. In foreign policy, they have done well with their schemes of colonial development, but seem to have lagged behind the opposition leaders in closer European union.
Judging by Mr C’s speech last night, the Conservatives would like to fight the issue on the issue of abolishing wartime controls.
Monday, Jan 23rd
Have found a boy (Labour) and a girl (Conservative) to stand as candidates in a school mock election..
Generally go over to Mary’s twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays, by car if I can, if not by bus, coming back by the last bus at 10.38 from Reading Station and arriving at about 11.20. There are a certain number of regulars on the last bus varying according to the evening. It starts off with a low and boozy lot of pub crawlers who go out to the ex-miners{?} establishment in Caversham, sometimes a British Legion or darts club outing get on en route, sometimes the remnants of a dance at the village hall or ex P.O.W.s from a hop in Reading.
When it draws up at the Town Hall in Henley the time switch is about to turn the town lights off. Sometimes I get part of the way up the hill before they go and I am left to moonlight or starlight, sometimes I get the beams of the bus head lamps if they have already gone.
Talk now of a hydrogen atom bomb many times more powerful than the present bombs and believed to be capable of taking out 100 sq. miles at one go. The U.S. government supposed to be debating whether to start producing it or to make one more approach to the Russians.
Alger Hiss, the U.S. foreign office official, convicted on second trial of spying. Wonder if it is right; don’t like the character of government witness, but the evidence of the typewriter was against him and some one was passing documents from the State Dept.
Reading article by Julian Huxley on increase in population from an estimated 20 million in 5000 B.C. to 2,300 million to-day. If the increase goes on at the present rate for only 400 years, the population would have risen to more like 100,000 million!! Already it is pressing on world resources. As he says, why should the quantity of humanity be considered a good thing apart from the quality and the quality of their life and experience.

Saturday, Jan 28th
Read the life of Rommel that has just been published by a British soldier. Gives the picture of an honourable man devoted to his profession and caring for little outside it. A hard, cunning and ruthless fighter, but one who fought cleanly.Admired by his opponents, with great personal courage, created, like Gordon Pasha, without fear. His great triumph in Africa was followed by disillusion, ending in the offer of a trial by a people’s court or suicide and a military funeral. He chose the latter, but his widow and son had to attend it. A glimpse of the fantastic atmosphere which followed the unsuccessful plot against Hitler. You get it again in Trevor Roper’s The Last Days of Hitler. Coming to the conclusion that “unconditional surrender” a great and tragic mistake. Without that albatross around the neck we should have had something to offer the resistance to Hitler and the war might have ended at the time of the Normandy victory, nearly a year before it did, and without any Russian occupation of eastern Germany. Those who advised us about the intentions of the Russians after the war were very far off the map.
Saw The Third Man twice this week on Wednesday with Mary and to-day with Nora, and shall probably see it again when it comes to Henley! A magnificent film, tension, pace and atmosphere, buy also an inner integrity; nothing sacrificed to a cheap laugh, nothing allowed to interfere with a close-knit and consistent story.
Friday Mary’s birthday. Took her a white silk nightdress with which she was delighted, some {?flowers}, and a pot of hyacinths. We drank her health in some ruby wine (S. African) Port Type! For a fortnight in 1940 we were both in our thirties; now in 1950 we are both in our forties, but not for long unfortunately.
Eric Cunnington, who has been away since November 15th, now must have another fortnight. Two staff away all week and now students coming, so if they are any good (unlikely) things may look up.
The cold has continued all this week and think Hilary may have some skating at Long Dene. Car hard on battery and frequently difficult to start. The gardens at their worst when the parents came around on Wednesday. As usual the police came up on the same day as the parents. Fortunately the former in the morning only. A gang of boys involved in the theft of a pen from Woolworth. I urged the manager to let it go to the juvenile court – rather to his surprize. At the beginning of term I spoke to the school about the amount of petty dishonesty about, so hope this may make some impression, though the delinquents themselves don’t seem to bother much about it.
Nora talking of money for Hilary’s education running out in four terms – where’s the next lot to come from. I don’t know. Never voted Conservative in my life, but think I shall have to this time! I shall be a floating voter!

Sunday, Jan 29th
Last week with much ceremony India was proclaimed a “Republic within the Commonwealth”. George V’s statue in New Delhi was floodlit in pink! and “Royal” was painted out on mail carts. Off our hands in one way but still much on our hands in another; only our flow of goods keeps them going. Burma going rapidly down hill and Chiang Kai Shek living a disillusioned old man on his money bags in Formosa.
India is tied down by her loss of Burmese rice, her lack of capital, and the amount she is spending on her army because of the dispute with Pakistan about Kashmir. The Congress has not grown out of its negative anti-colonial and pacifist attitude – and the herds of sacred cows are still eating, it is estimated, the whole of this year’s food imports!!
I have certainly seen some rapid changes from the ultra cautious “diarchy” in 1919 to Republican status in 1949.
Election speechifying is getting into spate. I notice the following in the papers: Frustrating will of majority, odious and repellent, shameful doctrine, deadly insidious delusion, fraudulent manifesto, recklessly dishonest, predatory sharks, money grabbing fifth columnists, madness, false promises, etc, etc. Eatanswill still with us.
On another page an advertiser with a classical education lists six categories of women:
Juno – (large and well proportioned)
Diana - (tall and slim)
Venus – average (fancy an average Venus!)
Phoebe – (small)
Helena – Bust equal to hips (all balcony!)
Chloe – small bust (flat chested).
Old Queen Mary (definitely Juno) has just completed a carpet. It has taken her eight years and is to be presented to the nation to earn dollars.

Tuesday, Jan 31st
Was keeping a cockerel for Mary, but found it one morning lying on its back with its legs in the air. So ordered one from Molly. Arrived by post this morning already plucked and drawn. Popped it in the school refrigerator as the very hard frost has turned to rain and damp.
Miss Hunter’s testimonial going quite well, now nearing £50.
Went down to the town after tea in the drizzle and bought a bottle of Graves Superieure.

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