March. Dr Fuchs. Fred Hoyle annoys believers. Women: what a curse! Trousers aged 16. On Yalta. Jean Hollis and royalty. Leslie, Irene and Brind. Diary locked away.
Wednesday, March 1st
A white frost last night and a lovely but cold day. Went with Mary to Aldbourne to see the tombs and then walked below the Beacon at Lowbury.
I had read about the church 30 years ago but never been there before. The tombs were interesting rather than beautiful. Some appeared to have been attacked with saws, others with hammers, others again eroded by Niagara! Some were carved in limestone, others in a soft [stone; illegible]. The tombs were heavily restored in the 19th century. Only two retained much of their original beauty and they were both female forms.
Thursday, March 2nd
Went to meeting in Oxford. Addressed by the Director of the new Institute of Education from Reading. He seemed to me to have organized himself a good job out of nothing in a most efficient manner. He handed over a yearbook for the institute which consisted of nothing but the syllabuses of the regional training colleges. I noticed one contained Earth closets, use and maintenance of!
An extraordinary trial of a Dr Fuchs took place yesterday before the Lord Chief Justice at Old Bailey. The accused pleaded guilty to passing atomic secrets to the Russians and was employed at Harwell till the end of last year. He got 14 years imprisonment. Apparently the American counter-espionage discovered there was a leak, which could only come from Harwell, and some security men from the U.S.A. came into help ours. In the end it was narrowed down to Fuchs. The amazing thing is that he should have been employed at all. A German refugee in 1933, naturalized in 1942; a communist on arrival here and made no secret that he remained a communist, took degrees in Bristol and Edinburgh and was then asked for as a helper at Birmingham. Employed in U.S.A. and Canada and then later at Harwell. He was allowed access to our most vital secrets. It is an appaling story of slackness and stupidity. If the Americans had not intervened I suppose he would still be head of a department at Harwell and passing information to Russian agents. The Americans have been very excited over the trial, and well they may be!
Saturday, March 4th
A lovely day. The bees came out in clouds to find another spring and hurried to the hives bulging with pale grey and yellow pollen.
Margaret Gaunt came over to supper and we went to see Noel Coward’s Present Laughter. Most amusing and very well done. The theatre packed. A record for any repertory company in Henley, but I doubt if they can survive on one or two good nights a week.
Sunday, March 5th
Called at 6 o’clock and off at 7 o’clock for Long Dene. Took lunch in rucksack, which weighed a ton. At first it was cold and misty but later the sun broke through like a silver coin and the day was warm. We had our lunch in the edge of the wood and made a fire. After that we lay on our backs near a hazel coppice and I almost went to sleep. I saw an article written by Hilary for the school magazine on birds and I inspected his exercise books, which were untidily written and set out but otherwise quite good. He had had his nails cut against my coming. “They are afraid of you here,” he remarked! He wore a very tight pair of shorts and seemed to have grown.
Read a book by Linklater about giants in Galloway called A Spell of Old Bones. Not as good as Private Angelo but very entertaining, broad and poetical and philosophical by turns. A lovely man, a lovely man!
I started by annual spring cold!
Monday, March 6th
The new parliament opened in state by King. Wonder if the Foreign Office experts and State Department officials were as wrong about Russian policy after the war as the ordinary man, who was repeatedly told that there was no reason why we should not get on excellently and no areas or territories in which our ambitions need clash. This was put out by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs and it was handed out to the troops, heaven forgive us! Nora thinks it due in part to Chamberlain and Munich. It seems to me that suspicion of the west has deep roots in Russian history. Now you have an unsuitable doctrine forced on a backward peasant country by violence and intimidation by a group of merciless fanatics.
Nora can even remember when a school girl parties of Russian visitors being shown round her school [Putney High School for Girls]
Tuesday, March 7th
Old Boys’ annual general meeting, but cold very bad, so a good excuse not to go.
Thursday, March 9th
A film on The Monastery illustrated by the life of the monks of Buckfast Abbey. Ran it over four times and more than half the school saw it. Dignified but not a cheerful lot! It aroused Eric Cunnington's Protestantism, but Mrs Clayden liked it.
Very interesting series of talks on the universe being given by a Cambridge astronomer, Fred Hoyle. Our solar system part of the galaxy of the Milky Way and the millions of other galaxies beyond. Many new discoveries since I, as a boy of 10, I picked over the astronomy articles in the Children’s Encyclopaedia and much more known about the way the our solar system came about [Note added later: Already they speak of the old ideas of the 1920s and 1930s]. Mr Hoyle gave at the end his views on creation and immortality and this has annoyed the religious, but, as The Listener very properly says, this is a free country and the views of all men of intelligence (and he is certainly that) deserve consideration.
On our little speck of dust we, the non-communists, don’t seem to be doing very well. In the first place the Russians now have The Bomb; in the second place we have been turned out of China, and whether or not the new rulers get on well with Russia, they will not like us any better; in the third place we do not seem to have any concerted policy for dealing with the problems of S. E. Asia. We have not got together and we don’t act together, and it is essential that we, France and the U.S.A, should.
Friday, March 10th
Leslie and Irene Bennett appeared at lunch time. They had a virginal in the back of the car and had been giving recitals of Elizabethan songs while also doing the Oxford [Illegible] work – as a sideline! After some talk went over to the music room and before long Irene and Brind [the music master] were playing duets on two pianos. Leslie and Irene a nice pair, he still obviously much in love with her. Had got fatter I thought and presented a continuous curve from neck to thighs.
Nora back about 6.30 tired and cross from Oxford, and then I went over to Mary’s and found her tired and cross because I did not apologize for being late, which was not my fault. What a curse women are! With some you seem to be continually getting bogged down with the personal and the trivial.
Saturday, March 11th
Nora went up to London for a meeting and theatre. The dog I am glad to say is boarded out on these occasions! My cold was in the muck stage of clearing up but there was a match with a team from Ealing, so I was more or less besieged in the house, so I shut myself up in the bedroom and left them to it. H. M. from other school turned up and I did not feel at all inclined to entertain him. They always talk shop of the most professional kind.
Settled down to wireless in the evening and heard Sir John Boyd Orr talking on science and peace, the Nobel Prize lecture. One of these grand old men who seem to grow in disinterested wisdom with age, like Samuel and Beveridge. He took a very sane and not very hopeful view of the Russians, pointed out that young Russians knew nothing of living conditions under capitalism and everything was being done to prevent their knowing, hence they could only compare progress in their own country. Sooner or later they would know (Speriamo!). There was the nucleus of an international government in the Health Services, Food and Agricultural agencies, if we could make them work and give them enough money to function effectively.
After this listened to Shakespeare in original 16th century pronunciation. It sounded me one third Irish and two thirds stage yokel with broad vowels and generally horrible!
Reading Roosevelt and the Russians an account of the Yalta conference by Stettinius. The main points of interest are the negotiations on setting up of U.N.O. and on Poland. Roosevelt has been accused of selling out and appeasing Russia at Yalta. In fact it was the Russians who gave way and Yalta marks the high mark of co-operation. The agreements they signed at Yalta and the undertakings Stalin gave they have from that point steadily gone back on, till to-day no one regards them as likely to respect any undertaking unless forced by circumstances to do so.
Sunday, March 12th
Breakfast in bed got by self. Cold very trying. A lovely day, sunny, but a cold wind. Went over in afternoon to meet Nora in car at Reading, but in some inexplicable way she dived through the barrier without my seeing her, missed the bus and arrived home and hour after I did, very frustrating for all parties.
Seretse Khama, chief of the Bamangwato of Bechuanaland, married a white typist while up at Oxford. His uncle tried to get the tribe to throw him over, but most of them appear to have supported him. He and his wife, who is expecting a baby, returned to Bechuanaland. Last week he was persuaded to come back to discuss the matter with the Colonial Office and has been refused permission to return to his territory. A stink was raised in the House of Commons, but the questioners, including Mr. Churchill, got very little out of the new Colonial Secretary. It looks as though he was given some verbal undertaking before leaving and the minister has in spirit, if not in letter, gone back on this. Seretse believes he has been tricked and thousands of Africans probably think so too. We cannot afford to have our good faith called in question in Bechuanaland, because this may and will affect our good will in Nigeria, the Gold Coast and the Sudan. The minister has denied that any communication has been received from the Union, but it looks as if the policy of the minister has been influenced by the desire to appease the South African supporters of the colour bar. Unless we are very careful we shall be making the present of another propaganda point to the communists. The Africans do not understand communism, but they do know that the communists stand for racial equality.
Monday, March 13th
Woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning, sweating heavily and hardly able to breathe with muck. Had to call Nora to put fire on and give me orange to suck. Felt poorly all morning, pain in head but no temperature. Wondered last night if I was beginning to get pneumonia! I must have got more cold while waiting on Reading station yesterday. Damn!
Stayed in bed all day and had little but lemon and orange juice. Clem and Mary Clayden came over to see me. The police rang up inviting school to go down to see Princess Elizabeth drive through to-morrow afternoon. Felt school should go or considered disloyal, etc, but glad to be in bed.
Tuesday, March 14th
Children went down to see Princess, who drove through in closed car and was on the other side from where they were standing anyway, so they did not see very much. I was taken to see King George V open Chingford Reservoir about 1910, saw him again in 1918, Armistice Day, and again by chance coming from Academy about 1936. That my bag of royalty in 50 years. One “queer”, Jean Hollis, refused to go and locked herself in the girls lavatory!
Felt better to-day and head slowly clearing, but stayed in bed till tea time on milk and orange juice and then got up.
Wednesday, March 15th
Had a vivid and prolonged dream last night. Unusual for me. Mary was to get into a large house belonging to Mrs Clayden, in which I had a bedroom, after dark by the front door and come up to my bedroom, where we were to spend the night together. The windows of this room looked out over lawns to a road. To my horror I saw her coming up the drive in broad daylight and signalled to her to go away until it was dark. She took no notice, came up to the front of the house and climbed in at the window. At the point of getting in at the window she was naked, but afterwards appeared fully clad. To my horror she brought with her two sixth form boys and one sixth form girl. We then had to change round the beds, of which there seemed to be a number, though some very broken down, and allocate them for the night. Mary and I were to have a double bed, though felt some doubt about sleeping with her in the presence of the children. My main worry however to conceal the presence of this crowd in my room from Mrs Clayden! They had brought with them a portable wireless on which they played dance music very loudly. Also to my horror I found that the sixth form girl had gone in the corridor to the lavatory and I knew the rest of the family were moving about the house. At this point I woke up and very relieved to find it was only a dream.
Cold, which it appears is a widespread but particularly vicious strain of virus, shows a tendency to settle on the chest …. But hope it will go in time.
Nora went off to Charlbury about 9 o’clock and I opened my tin box and looked at some of the contents; poems written on various occasions to various persons! from 1931 on; some old letters of mine written when about 13 and some as an undergraduate in 1920; letters from Con at the end of the thirties, letters from Mary in the forties, and some from Nora in both thirties and forties. As I looked I thought of Tom Armstrong’s remark that he missed the ardour of youth, made I think ten years ago! Some ardours of youth are very scarifying, but it would be a sad to think that one had no ardour and no passion left, sunk in an emotional rut, desiccated, dehydrated, incapable of ecstasy.
I used to burn
But now I smoulder.
That’s how I learn
I’m growing older.
Constance: As women grow broader in the beam they grow broader in speech
Mary: Women need to be liked; unfortunately they have no one to be liked by but men.
Friday, March 17th
Oh abominable and insidious virus! Half the population seems to be attacked..… My cough was less troublesome to-day, so went over to school and did office work but no teaching. Repeated breakfasts in bed for a week have made me lazy and invalid-minded, but I made a start by feeding the chickens, which had laid an egg each. At school all seemed to be running smoothly.
A “fair and foul” day, bright sunshine between driving squalls
The last of the house ties was played off and the shouts and cheers of the spectators came up the slope from the field. The jumping pit was being dug out and Dai Rees [sports master] came up to ask for more sand, which seems to be about a pound a cubic yard.
Saturday, March 18th
The girls were playing hockey on the field below the house. They wore navy blue shorts and yellow stockings and from here they looked like plovers when they ran, or perhaps some kind of wader.
Nora’s birthday. A windy spring day with white clouds chasing one another across the sky and hot sun out of the wind. The shadow of the beech trees cast on the plough like reflections in water.
Wilk came up and read us some of Ioan’s poetry about the suburbs, which he hates. Said she had some love poetry, but we headed her off that! She is now writing accounts of her struggles with the Insurance Office and painting in oils, which all goes to show what a man will do.
Monday, March 20th
My elderly aunt in Porthcurno
Kept a series of intimate journaux
When a neighbouring sage
Asked to read just one page
She said, “Read what I’ve wrote? Oh dear no!”
Same here. When I go away I shall have to lock my diary up somewhere as the family, Ken, Rita and children, coming for Easter.
After tea to-day walked up the valley as cold better and had had no exercise, got in a sweat naturally. The white and light blue violets out, some primroses and celandine. The birds swivelling and turning brown and the chestnuts looking very pregnant.
Monday, March 21st
Went over to Mary, very disappointed as she could not do anything next (Easter) weekend…. We took off our clothes and got into bed until the light failed and it was time to get up and cook the joint for supper. After that Mary fell asleep.
Wednesday, March 22nd
To tea at the flat. After tea overcome with desire and to bed again. A long connection ending in a terrific orgasm for both of us.
Thursday, March 23rd
Went up by bus to Hamlet at the New Theatre. Started at 12.30 for 2.30 and it was as well we did as had to stop for a girl to vomit in a paper bag (supplied be me!). Had some fun devising an order of precedence. In the first bus the H.M and the S.M, the VIth Form; in the second bus the Senior Master, etc
A lovely performance with some beautiful grouping; on the ghost’s appearance on the battlements a wild outcry of ? sea birds. The Queen had a red wig, which was taken off in the bedroom scene (and there was no bed). The King retired into a private chapel and left his sword outside, Hamlet took his with him and with it killed Polonius. Michael Redgrave made an athletic and masculine Hamlet. The Queen’s scream in the bedroom chilled the marrow, the tension in that scene terrific. Ophelia adequate but not outstanding. No fighting in grave. Lovely Danish flags in Fortinbras scene and at the end. During the duel drums played, but you were so excited you did not notice them. One break of 15 minutes before play, otherwise a continuous performance of 3 ¼ hours. One girl said she did not notice at the time that she was so exhausted.
Sunday, March 26th
A lovely day. Did some digging in morning. Dog relieved itself under my bed in afternoon and had to take carpet up. Nice animals. Cough still rather a nuisance in the night. Might have been the cat!
Monday, March 27th
Went over to see La femme de boulanger at Reading. The village baker in Provence, whose wife ran away with a shepherd, drank himself silly and the village ran short of bread. The catastrophe reunited ancient enemies, the schoolmaster and the curé etc. The wife was discovered, the shepherd fled, the wife was brought back to her husband, who forgave her, and the villagers once more had their loaves. I last saw it with Con in 1937 or 1938 and still enjoyed it. Rainum, now alas dead, gave a lovely performance as the baker.
Tuesday, March 28th
I went over to have a new tweed jacket tried on and the tailor found they required some trousers, 16 years old. Letting out 3 ½ inches round the waist.
Wednesday, March 29th
The morning was sunny, so I packed tea and we went up to Lowbury Clump. By that time the day had clouded and as we started from Reading there were a few spots of rain. However nothing daunted we drove off and I am glad we did as though the wind was cold the rain held off. Made a fire and boiled kettle for tea. This was our first picnic of 1950 and not bad for March 29th.
Friday, March 31st.
Broke up. One parent wrote to-day to say his boy had lost a pair of gym shoes. He did not intend to allow this “to pass into the limbo of forgotten memories” and if they were not found he would report me to the Director of Education. Another parent had kept her boy away from school because I had shown him a film and the reproduction was too loud!
This week Churchill made one of his “great” speeches on foreign affairs. He advocated a union between England, France and Germany and the association of the Germans in the defence of western Europe, not, he was careful to point out, the rearming of Germany. Bevin is ill and tired and has not the imaginative grasp to lift us out of the rut. It looks as if we shall again be accused of dragging our feet at the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.