Thursday, Nov 1st
This morning at five o’clock Bernard Shaw died. He was a valiant and courageous fighter, who never sneered, although he laughed at his opponents. Yet most of all he laughed at himself. He was a marvellous platform speaker, and I can vividly recall his long alert stride as he walked onto the stage at the Kingsway Hall and his delightful Irish voice.
His influence was greater perhaps in the years up to the ’14 war, but I first discovered his plays and prefaces as an undergraduate towards the end of 1917 and 1918 and read with delight and fascination The Doctor’s Dilemma, Androcles and the Lion, Fanny’s First Play, Man and Superman, most of which I saw acted between 1923 and 1929 when I was teaching at Leatherhead. But my most vivid memory is of St Joan in that April of 1924. I came back from London drunk with rapture and full of the ecstasy of those two last great questions: “Oh, God, that madest this beautiful earth, when will it be ready to receive Thy saints? How long, O Lord, how long?”
Many years afterwards I saw him walking in Buckingham Palace Road. It was 1939 and he had been suffering from pernicious anaemia. He looked so old and frail that it hardly seemed possible that he would survive for another eleven years. His mind remained unclouded into extreme old age and only a short time ago wrote a long letter to The Times about reformed spelling. When he had his last fall and broke his leg and they took him to hospital he said, “If I survive this I shall be immortal!”
Friday, Nov 3rd
All day staff were coming to push their problems onto me! Clem had found writing in lavatory and wished to put on some patent chemical which would turn the hands of the culprit blue. Said I was a H.M., not a Scotland Yard inspector, besides they might be going about like mandrills with their behinds blue. Another man could not keep order at dinner and Wilk came into say that a boy had disfigured a desk in the lab and so on and so on. Sometimes think no one should deal with children after the age of 40.
Sunday, Nov 5th
Went down to Long Dene by usual 8.45 train. In Kent the wind was strong and cold and the day cloudy. Hilary and I went over to the cattle shelter cut out of the sandstone rock and lit a fire. After lunch we moved it into the cave, this proved impossible because of the smoke, so removed it just outside the door; this was a little better but still I came to the conclusion that early man must have been very bleary eyed indeed. However we were so occupied with our fire that time passed till 3.30 when we went to the Castle Inn for tea and so completely forgot a concert by the Dolmesch Quartet. Very lowbrow. The night was light enough to walk across the fields to the station and not lose my way.
News from Korea bad. A Chinese force of “volunteers” has come in from Manchuria, believed about 20,000, and our forces have had a setback.
In Europe France is in a minority of one. The French want no Germans armed until there is a European army under a European defence minister for them to join, and in any case they want no German formation bigger than a battalion….. This means postponing German rearmament until there is a federal government in Europe. The Americans regard Europe as a bad risk….. The Germans are not anxious to rearm in order to hold off the Russians for a week or two. So we go on, and all the time France, Germany and ourselves are in a situation full of danger for us all.
Going down to Hilary’s yesterday read an article in a Sunday paper about flying saucers. Most peculiar! They have been seen in the U.S. by quite large groups of people, and have been observed from aeroplanes in flight as well from the ground. The paper even had two photographs, one of which showed a kind of central mast. They appear to be large objects moving at great heights and immense speeds. At first people thought they must be some sort of aerial missile being tried out by the U.S. air force, then other people believed the observers were victims of some sort of hallucination, now another explanation is that we are being watched by Martians or other interplanetary visitors. Pity H. G. Wells is not alive to give his advice.
Sunday, Nov 12th
Gunter very interesting on Yalta conference. Roosevelt and Churchill accused of selling out to Russia. He points out that R wanted to make a good peace, one that would stick. He thought (he was always an optimist, luckily for us) that good relations with Russia were attainable. To achieve this ambition he gave too much away. But from the military angle Russian pressure in the east was important to us. He was in a hurry to get agreement on international control of Germany as he doubted whether America would keep an army of occupation there for more than two years. He was gambling, but with his eyes open, on a moral one-world peace. As far as Eastern Europe was concerned the western powers were at a great disadvantage – the Russians armies were already there. No one could push them out. The American generals underestimated their military powers and did not think they would reach the Elbe line. C and R gave Russia more than they need have; Russian policy altered quickly later, but they should have foreseen then the direct and callous breaking of what they had agreed on. Just before his death he was disappointed and angry at the way the Russians were letting him down. He said to one close acquaintance, “All this proves one of two things: either Stalin has been deceiving us all along, or he has not got the power I thought he had.”
Tuesday, Nov 14th
Got up as usual and did my exercises. When getting on my shoes after breakfast began to feel stiff; walking up the slope from the house, just as on June 21st, the lumbago gripped me and by evening I could hardly walk home from school. Very disappointing. At almost same time last year the attack began.
All the papers this week have been full of the Sheffield “Peace” Conference run by the Cominform for the benefit of the gullible in western countries. The government refused to let in various communist leaders, so in the end the thing was called off. Of course the liberals are saying we don’t want to imitate the Russians, refusing access, free speech, etc, but why in the cold war should we provide a sounding board for those who wish to destroy our institutions.
Wednesday, Nov 15th
Stayed in bed most of day with lumbago. A curse because Molly is coming next week, but a blessing in disguise as I shall not have to go to Old Boys’ dinner on Saturday, praise the Lord.
Friday, Nov 17th
Stayed in yesterday and to-day. My little history girl, Joan [?]Moul, came in for a history lesson and Clem and Mary Clayden visited me. Looked though old papers and reading old letters of my university period and after made me realize what a number of good friends I had at this time and how very kind the dons were in trying to find a suitable job for me after I had taken my degree. I expect I was a rather difficult young man.
Saturday, Nov 18th
Old Boys’ dinner and dance so had to keep very low. This not difficult as back still very painful.
Monday, Nov 20th
Went back to school, still stiff. Rather alarmed to feel a few sciatic twinges. Weather appaling.
Thursday, Nov 23rd
Massage. Learnt about inner workings of professional football. Reminds me of cattle. If there is something against a player you’ve paid £12,000 for, sell him quickly. The masseur’s manager has bought a good footballer, but he turns out to be neurotic and is due for sale at the end of the season. Also a crook, who has done time and who pinches money, is due for sale. Meanwhile peculiarities kept dark.
Saturday, Nov 25th
To Reading to buy woolen pants. Hardly any in shops owing to wool shortage, rise in prices and intense cold.
The went to see exhibition of Christian Art (modern) at the museum. Felt that non-Christian visitor would say, “If this is Christianity, the Lord save me from it!” Concentration on torture, misery and terror. Quite the most disgusting crucifixions by Graham Sutherland that I have ever seen. Thought of old Shaw’s will in which he said he did not want any cross or instrument of torture or blood sacrifice put on any monuments to him. Good for him.
Sunday, Nov 26th
This month Herbert Read of Exeter died. He was a great friend and confident of Uncle Sam’s and his father did the restoration of the screen at Dunchideock where Herbert was buried. His father was a carpenter. The son went to the Exeter art school and became a wealthy member of the middle class and married a parson’s daughter. For a time he lived in big house called Crossways at Exton. Father and he were alternately bosom friends and then not on speaking terms. On May 2nd 1942 the Cathedral was filled with debris which the Dean proposed to have shovelled up and dumped in the river. Herbert Reed spent weeks in the quire sorting out the fragments of the 14th century screens. One was in 1,000 pieces, the other in 2,000. As the King said when he visited it, “it was the greatest jigsaw puzzle in the world.”. It took him about seven years to fasten all this together again with oak pins. He also mended the stone sedilia in 800 places.