April. Makins family. NHS tales. Arthur Lane. Ernest Bevin dies. Hensley Henson on U.S.A. Miss Millbanke. "Electra" at Oxford. Sir Cyril Ashford: nil nisi bunkum.
Geoffrey and Pamela Makins to tea. Think heir little girl Susan, blue eyes and black hair, lively and intelligent, will be smasher when she grows up.
Tuesday, April 3rd
Had some talk with Hilary about his career. Main conclusion that has horror of working in office and wants out-of-doors job, and farming only out of door job he can think of, might like to travel. Nora had a letter from Con saying his teachers think we under estimate his intelligence. In the afternoon we went to Bradenham and Hughenden as Hilary had been reading Maurois’ Disraeli.
Wednesday, April 4th
Nora and Hilary went to London after clothes at army disposal place at Elephant & Castle. I went to Mary’s, took our tea out into the Yattenden Woods, saw the memorial to Robert Bridges in Yattenden Church, which also contains a monument to Sir John Norreys, whose father was accused of lying with Queen Anne Boleyn and executed.
Made a salad on return of watercress, beetroot, apple, nuts, bananas and grapes. After supper Mary showed me her new foundation garment, which she finds rather uncomfortable even in cool weather. Then we went to be without any garments, foundation or otherwise.
Friday, April 6th
Went over to Oxford with Hilary to see Gondoliers, his first Gilbert & Sullivan. Am not a G & S fan myself and found the first part boring. We went into the Scout Shop to buy some cooking things for the camping season and found that everything was going up and becoming scarce. Hilary had been reading Ariel [biography of Shelley by André Maurois] so took him in to see the Shelley Memorial, then Univ hall, All Soul’s Chapel and Trinity Chapel.
Reading H. Henson’s letters. He had a great command of pompous and heavy prose. Letter to the Bp of Exeter on returning from America: Many thanks for your letter and proof it provides….. that you have got back safely from that degraded, disorderly, murderous and grasping community, which has only the Atlantic between us and its limitless abominations.
Saturday, April 7th
N & H over to see The Mikado. Arthur Lane arrived for tea. Had not seen him since 1947. He seemed rather gloomy and said the museum had got him down. It was like ”wading through glue”! Later it appeared he had suffered a nervous breakdown earlier in the year and lost the use of his legs - whether primarily physical or psychological he did not know. He told of the corruption in Cairo and Alexandria, with the King as Spix in chief. There are armed police round every corner waiting for the masses to rise.
Sunday, April 8th
Filled in the census form for the three of us. Sidelight on National Health Service. Arthur goes to elderly doctor who has given up the N.H.S and takes private patients. He makes out prescription, which Arthur then takes round to struggling foreigner who copies it out on paper form and Arthur gets it dispensed free! Says you cannot now get clear glass for show cases as all arsenic required to make it clear has been earmarked for the N.H.S. medicine bottles – so important that they do not have a green tinge.
Monday, April 9th
A most filthy day, cold, wet, dull and blustery. Went into Reading and bought two pairs of shoes to try to forestall rise in prices. Other people had same idea, so they are getting short.
Joan has given me a book token for my help with James Twining.
Tuesday, April 10th
Hilary and George Arnheim departed at 9 o’clock to enjoy the freedom of the open road and the amenities of youth hostelling for a fortnight. There was much laying out of maps and calculation of distances in on the diningroom carpet last night. I tried to get some idea of their plans, as Nora was very worried now it comes to letting them go, but beyond gathering that they they were aiming for Land’s End via the North Devon and Cornish hostels and a return via Bovey Tracey, where George has friends, I did not glean any detailed route. I am more concerned that they should not attempt any too long daily runs, as George rather fancies himself as a long distance cyclist. It is true that at 14 I should not have been allowed an unsupervised holiday, but youth hostels did not exist then and independence is an excellent thing, also surmounting difficulties and dealing with the unexpected.
Today was budget day. Income tax is to go up again. It seems to me scandalous that of £1 personal expenditure, 3s 6d goes on drink and tobacco, more than on clothing, light and fuel or books and entertainment, and that it shows a tendency to increase. Every boy and girl just left school must acquire the vicious habit to prove how grown up they are. Collins, last term’s head boy, has been seen smoking a pipe !
Wednesday, April 11th
Started school. Two of staff have been got into child by their husbands, which means I shall have to make two new appointments. My God, am I annoyed !
Thursday, April 12th
Post card from Hilary. As I thought possible, 90 miles without any training proved too much for him and his knees ached, so at Devizes had to give up and take train to somewhere near Groscombe.
Friday, April 13th
Staff : « All those children going to the Festival »
Self: ”I shall manage with my usual efficiency”
Staff: (gloomily) ”I should have said sang froid”
Truman has sacked General MacArthur, but hope that does not mean we have him as the next president!
Payment to be made for teeth and spectacles. Bevan [minister of health] rumoured in tears, said knelt at Attlee’s bed! But Attlee not on health service!
Molly arrived tonight and we went to the theatre, an indifferent play.
Saturday, April 14th
Had a late breakfast with Molly and heard about her holiday in Jamaica, which she much enjoyed. Has been up to the Blue Mountain, made an expedition on rafts on the Rio Grande, and stayed with friends on a sugar plantation away from the tourist resorts (where they charge Americans £14 a day). Molly complains much of the fearfully cold winds. The tropics have thinned her blood perhaps and certainly thinned her hair, which has gone white and fallen out in quantities.
Today Ernest Bevin died of heart failure. He was a foreign minister who made his mark on international relations. He stood up to the Russians before the Americans were ready to back him up. He caused much criticism in the Labour Party because of his anti-communist position in Greece, but he was right. He was one of the chief creators of the western Brussels alliance and then the Atlantic Pact (or pak, as he always called it). He was quick to take full advantage of the Marshall Plan despite Molotov ‘s open threats. ”We’ve heard the threats before,” he is reported to have said.
Monday, April 16th
A card arrived from Hilary posted in Plymouth. They found the North Devon route hard going with wind, so had come back to Exeter from Barnstaple and then gone down to Plymouth. They intend to return via Dorchester and Winchester.
Attended the annual meeting of the W.E.A. – not an inspiring occasion and lasted two hours, but re-elected president as considered a learned man (by them if by no one else).
Find I am getting more and more distrait! Go to get things and find I forget what I’ve gone for, and more and more conscious of the cussedness of material objects, which behave in awkward and distressing ways. Suspect it is partly due to laziness, trying to carry more so that I can save a second journey, as well as advancing years. Undoubtedly I am getting lazier: as Shaw said, the weakness of our civilization is that there are so few openings for those who do not want to work ! And this laziness makes me more exasperated with with routine housework, feeding hens and cat, sweeping table of crumbs, putting out empty milk bottles, bringing in full ones, making bed, emptying slops, washing up, getting lunch or tea and so on .
Wednesday, April 18th
Went over to Mary and drove up on the Downs by lane from Streatley, first time this year.
Thursday, April 19th
Electra and The Wedding, Sophocles and Chekhov, at Oxford.
A lovely set by Barbara Hepworth. The Hamlet theme, Clytemnestra has murdered her husband, Agamemnon, and married Aegisthus. She keeps Electra as a servant in the house, but Electra awaits the return of Orestes, her brother, who, she hopes, will avenge her father’s death. He returns as the play opens, but to conceal his presence sends his old servant with a story of his death in a chariot race. The news plunges Electra into even greater despair. Orestes reveals himself to Electra and while Aegisthus is away they enter the palace and kill Clytemnestra. When Aegisthus returns, the bier which he believes bears the body of Orestes contains the corpse of his wife. The avengers, with drawn swords, corner him and drive him into the palace.
I was a little slow into getting into the feeling of the play, but gradually the banked up emotion burst out in a tremendous climax and carried one away in an orgiastic purifying which resembled the tension of thee sexual act, it was so terrific.
After that the Checkov farce, which showed how a marriage celebration was wrecked by a red-faced, white-bearded bore of a sea captain introduced to give tone to the occasion.
Friday, April 20th
The clock arrived and the clockmaker and I spent from 11.15 to 1.30 getting it fitted into the case and generally lined up. They had done the job very well; the wheels shone and the pendulum glittered as it swung, the dial had been mended and re-silvered. It would be all right for another 30 years, said the clock maker - Hilary will have to pay the next bill I fancy.
Saturday, April 21st
Went to tea with Miss Millbanke to see the Assenden spring, which is flowing strongly owing to the wet winter. This is supposed to presage disaster.
Sunday, April 22nd
Hilary rang at 2.30 from Reading to expect him in half an hour. He had sent forward his bicycle from Exeter to Reading and hitch-hiked, visiting Salisbury and Winchester, hitching from Winchester to near Compton and then walking over the Downs to Streatley; from Streatley he walked via the river to Whitchurch and then picked up his bicycle. He seemed pleased with the Y.H.s
[Note, March 2009. It seems extraordinary now that one could send a 14-year-old off on holiday alone like this. One big difference is the colossal increase in road traffic since 1951, when the roads, especially the minor roads, were not crowded and much less dangerous for cyclists. Social controls were also much stronger : access to alcohol was not only more difficult than now, but George and I would not have considered trying to get hold of alcoholic beverages, while our parents almost certainly would never have dreamed that drugs could be a problem, and as social mores, sexual as well as in other respects (crime was much less prolific) were so entirely different then, they would not have worried that we might run into situations that we could not handle in the youth hostels or when hitch hiking.)
Tuesday, April 24th
Reading A Sailors Odyssey, the life of Sir Andrew Cunningham, who commanded the Mediterranean fleet until 1943 and then became First Sea Lord. He was a fighting seaman, not the expert or staff officer. He was a most determined character and not at all afraid of speaking his mind when he disagreed with his superiors or the Prime Minister. He was successful in getting the French at Alexandria to disarm and thinks the bombardment of Mers al Kebir a great blunder. The Japs would have surrendered anyway without the use of the atom bomb, the use of which he would not have approved. He saw Stalin at Teheran and Yalta, but did not think him trustworthy. When he asked him why there was no Russian admiral present, Jo said he commanded the fleet himself, so he did not need one.
Wednesday, April 25th
Bevan and Wilson resigned from Cabinet this week on ground that rearmament cannot be accomplished, owing to American stockpiling, and [their] refusal to cut civil consumption, as that will only produce mass unemployment and inflation and the destruction of the social services that the Labour Party has built up.
Monday, April 30th
Heard that old Ashford was dead, 83. A harsh, rude, overbearing person, so in his case ”nil” since as far as I am concerned, no ”bonum”! Nil nisi bunkum!