December. Dr Hartley, Guy Nichols in "Regatta Day". Prize Day with Lady Hambleden. Vladimir Petrov. Emlyn Williams as Charles Dickens. 1951 a good year taken all round.
Saturday, Dec 1st
Henley produced Regatta Day, an Edwardian frolic, at Kenton Theatre, which we went to see with Norman Attrill. Our seats had been sold twice; however, after some trouble, we landed in the second row of the stalls. It was very good. Dresses Edwardian, book by Guy Nichols, a rowing celebrity and regatta umpire. Scenery under direction of John Piper – Henley Church Tower (the top of), the Bridge, Temple Island and a marquee by the river.The four comedians appeared successfully as programme sellers, as bearded oarsmen, regatta stewards, nigger minstrels; one of them, Dr Hartley, had a good heavy Georgian face and Nichols, the author, pure pothouse. The French count promises £5,000 to the first bearded oarsman to win the Diamond Skulls. This enables the hero, wearing a false beard, to marry the heroine.
Wednesday, Dec 5th
Prize Day. Went off very well. Had much more lively and alert audience who were prepared to laugh, so was able to to make a much better speech. Lady Hambleden, tall, dignified and gracious, “near”, as the chairman said, “the dear King and Queen” - as a matter of fact was “in waiting” (curious expression), but had been let off to prize give. One hour dead!
Sunday, Dec 9th
Reading Private Wheeler’s letters of Peninsular War and Waterloo and book of Russian slave camps. How fortunate we are to live on an island. The Anglo Saxons and Normans etc did well for themselves when they landed here. This chap, Vladimir Petrov, was a student in Leningrad. Reported by a girl to the secret police, after months in prison he was sent to labour camp in the Siberian gold mines for seven years. By a miracle he managed to survive these and got back via Turkestan to the Caucasus. His city was overrun by the Germans and he collaborated with them. When the Germans were defeated he moved down to the Crimea and then on to Odessa (then Russian) and via Bucharest and Belgrade to Vienna, then to Salzburg and Italy. Today he is a lecturer at Yale, aged 36. In some ways the book resembles I Married a German and gives somewhat similar account of the end of the war in central Europe and the collapse of the Reich.
Been looking for a ghost story to read on the night of the Prefects’ Party. Finally, with Mary’s help, I picked on The Handless Helper from Blackwood’s.
Wednesday, Dec 12th
Heard on Monday from W.E.A. lecturer, who had been working on Churchill’s papers, you could trace the gradual deterioration in his handwriting as the days went on and he became more exhausted.
Saturday, Dec 15th
Prefects Party, a rather small number but almost everyone danced. The staff (eight of them) played on bells, I read a ghost story, which went down well, Eric did a Stephen Leacock funny story about a savage, dressed in naval cap, jersey and bell bottoms; the Norman Attrill as the great Detective in dark glasses and black moustaches – she the more amusing of the two. The prefects’ play was a Welsh peasant comedy; unfortunately they did not know their parts.
Sunday, Dec 16th
Hilary returned, taller than me! Gave him his first shave yesterday p.m.
Tuesday, Dec 18th
Carol service. The day’s effort rather marred by noises off as Eric Cunnington had left her form alone. Felt very angry. After break had form plays.
Wednesday, Dec 19th
Broke up. Took Hilary over to interview with H.M. of Leighton Park and he agreed to take him. School Christmas dinner with pudding, took it in Dining Room and Mrs C in Hall – all peaceful, but Geoff Makins, who was down to take it, peeing in his pants.
Saturday, Dec 22nd
Up to London with Nora and Hilary to see Emlyn Williams give “reading” as Charles Dickens. He did six readings in three groups, one funny and one serious. Our Mutual Friend and Dombey & Son, Bob Sanger’s party and a ghost story, Mr Chops and The Tale of Two Cities. It was a magnificent performance. The books were used as properties, but never referred to. He had the whole two hour performance in his head. The passage with which he ended on the French revolution was terrific. At the end Emlyn Williams bowed with great dignity to the audience, then, coming forward, he turned his back on the audience and bowed low to the empty reading desk and the books which lay piled on it. It was a worthy gesture.
Sunday, Dec 23rd
A beastly cold and windy day. Had Donald Heath and his mother to tea. She had nothing to say and obviously felt very awkward, but it went off fairly well.
It was a dull day and when we got up the fog was drifting up the valley from the river. We had breakfast about 9 and opened presents. Nora gave me some string gloves to replace those I lost, Molly a book on clocks, Hilary a book token. We went out getting moss and picking spouts, but it rained. Later, while we were having dinner, the sun shone a little. Chicken, sprouts, potatoes, bread sauce and stuffing; Christmas pudding, which was excellent, and brandy butter. No wine this Christmas. This year the King’s voice was recorded, and I don’t wonder, for his voice sounded harsh, rough and quite altered in resonance. After lunch we went for a walk with the dog up the valley, the two men rather reluctantly I fear; After supper I was prevailed upon to read an extract from the Pickwick Papers, Mr Pickwick’s trip with Mr Winckle, senior, at Birmingham, accompanied by Bob Sanger and Benjamin Allen. I remember Mother reading this to me when I was in bed with ‘flu in 1909 or 10. It was a quiet Christmas, but Hilary seemed much less bored than last year. He spent a good deal of time reading Tschiffely’s Ride across America.
A sunny day but coldish wind. Got Nora her breakfast in bed and did chores. Then got Hilary, after Chaucer lesson, help me clear out Augean fowl houses. Under one found a rat but failed to catch it. After dinner Nora had backache and – query flu – and went to bed.
Thursday, Dec 27th
Nora stayed in bed till teatime and seemed better. No temperature.
Friday, Dec 29th
Up to London by early train and left case at new hotel, Abbey Court, in Sussex Gardens near Paddington, as we wanted to stay two nights and the Green Park at 30/- a night has become too much for us.
Sunday, Dec 30th
To St Paul’s, and just got there before before the Dean’s sermon. They had put in a loudspeaker system, but the echo was worse than ever and only by the greatest concentration could you understand what the little man said. We stayed for the Communion service, and here noticed the number of black men about in London today. They have taken the place of the Indians.
Monday, Dec 31st
1951 was a good year taken all round. Perhaps 1951 marks the turning of the tide which has been running against us for six years. It looked at the beginning as if the Korean war was being lost short of a full scale war with China, which might have led in turn to a war in the West also. Had that happened, we might have had the Russians at the Channel coast. By the end of the year the armies in Korea stand mainly north of the parallel and the Chinese are negotiating after their fashion. The rest of the year saw the rebuilding of our defences, the Germans and the Japanese were brought back and in the East as well as the West the rot has stopped. War is still possible in Europe in 1952, but much less likely.