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Saturday, 18 September 2010

1951 July

July. Attrill and Clem carry the school. Victorian Regatta customs. Headmaster strips on the Downs. Trouble with the Senior Master. Oliviers in "Caesar and Cleopatra".

Sunday, July 1st
              Acted as plongeur, which took to eleven o’clock; while I plunged the plates, Nora made the beds, only seven because three in tents.
              Looks as if there will be truce in Korea; the communists have had enough of the terrible fire power of the West.

Monday, July 2nd
              Another very hot day. The new G.C.E., or the old School Certificate, started. Nearly did a double and gave out the wrong papers again as on June 7th, but saw it just in time.

Tuesday, July 3rd
              Scrambled the school for exams, but as I had a secretary the scrambling was confused and got it all ends up.

Thursday, July 5th
              I spent the afternoon down at the river, riding to Remenham on my bicycle and then along the towpath. I saw the German and Dutch crews, the Germans with long hair, a collection of thug-like types,  the Dutch very young and blond with red jerseys, an excellent crew. The start is not done with a gun, but in a traditional Victorian fashion. “I shall say, Are you ready, Go!” Some of the umpires have developed prominent corporations and make imposing figureheads borne steadily in the wake of the competing crews. There can be seen every variety of shrunk and faded caps and blazers. A clean sport, no betting, no bookies, no cat calling or barracking.
              At 7 o’clock we went over to Oxford to see Cymbeline performed in the Great Quadrangle of All Soul’s!

Friday, July 6th
              I bought 18 kippers for the men and a piece of salmon for our supper and worked hard till lunchtime on chores. Met Mary in Reading and drove down to Remenham, but when I found they were taking 10/6 for parking there, I went back to the 2/6 park opposite the fair, leaving Mary with the tea. It did not take long to walk back along the towpath. We strolled on to the start and had our tea in a clump of trees near Greenlands. Most of the time we sat on the bank opposite the starting points, where we had a good view of the crews. After the last race the police made Remenham Lane one way, so we had to join a queue to White Hill, but we found our supper field soon after seven and ate our salmon and salad. After supper we went back to the flat and lay together with great enjoyment. We both feel very happy, serene and content.

Saturday, July 7th
To Tunbridge Wells by the 9.45. Was supposed to meet Hilary at 1.15, but he did not turn up and there was no sign of him, so I had lunch and later rang up. The school had muddled it (as usual). It was about 3.15 by the time he arrived. After tea we sat in the grass opposite the Pantiles and ate very watery and tasteless strawberries. Told him I was going abroad with Mary. He made no comment.

Sunday, July 8th
              One man remained overnight in the tent, Booth-Stuart, a rather engaging person. He brought a little Irish radiographer from the Radcliffe and we gave her a bed (without sheets) after the fireworks. Went in to Reading to meet Bar and Stuart Westmoreland. Bar married Stuart after the first world war. She was a nurse at St Mary’s, Paddington, and he an intern from the West Indies. The last time I saw him was at Walthamsow about 1919 or 1920. Rum and good living had done their work on him. He was a bad pink colour and his upper lids were so puffy you could hardly see his eyes. He was on a diet, no rum no beer, no cider, but sherry! whisky! or gin! He teased Bar a good deal, calling her “the old lady”, and was obviously used to a rather different social life from ours in England. He had given Molly a good time in Jamaica and had done things he had never done before to entertain her.
              No traffic lights were working in Henley today; presumably the competitors pinched them. I heard the Americans threw all the furniture out of the windows of the Armistice Hotel.

Monday, July 9th
              All the staff back, but seemed very cross. Holiday had done them no good.
              Yesterday our envoys went in a helicopter to arrange a ceasefire with the communists in Korea Everyone more hopeful, though cautious.Truman and Attlee warning us that we must not relax our rearmament effort in Europe.

Tuesday, July 10th
              Gave the first of my annual lectures to second form on  “the facts of life”. They were a good lot and asked any amount of questions, including a rather unusual one on pubic hair and the usual ones on twins etc.
              Last evening went to a W.E.A. quiz at Shiplake between  Maidenhead and Henley branches. The secretary from Maidenhead a fat little woman, most amusing. Was learning Greek and keeps a log book, a private diary and a dream book. The private part is so private she does not know what to do with it when she dies. Thinks she will have to leave it to her executors. A comic.

Friday, July 13th
              Wally Rees and Mrs Clayden had a row about tea for athletics team. End of term always difficult, tempers short and staff full of complaints.

Monday, July 16th
              Rehearsals for school concert in full swing. Working on timetables to try to sort out 5th forms for next term. Struck as usual by the poor quality of the men on the staff; Attrill and Clem carry the school in fact; Roberts useless, Filkin limited and dull as ditchwater, Geoff nice but ineffective, Hirons not anxious to do more than he must; our acquisitions since the war not inspiring.
              Geoff and Pamela Makins to tea with Susan and Jill, but children, 2 and 3, are like a cage of monkeys and make conversation or even eating in comfort difficult – parents should be young; Too old at 50 clearly!
              After supper to coffee with Eric Cunnington. She hard carved two torsos, one male and one female, from the cedar that was blown down in March, 1947, and offered us one. This we received as a permanent loan, though she offered to give it to us. Nora preferred the male; I, a worshipper of the Great Mother, the female. We brought the female back in a brown paper bag and stood it on the stair window where the light illumined the curves and she looked very lovely.

Tuesday, July 17th
              A tiring day, punctuated by attempts to settle a subterranean Celtic row between Wally Rees and Miss Smith about the games teas.

Wednesday, July 18th
              Another very full day. Rehearsals for concert 9 – 10.30, conferences in morning. Had hardly got back from lunch when an inspector arrived to see labs. When finished with him, just time to change before parents and new children arrived, then concert in evening. Many fiddling decisions to be made.
              The concert highly successful. The air was still and the leaves hung motionless, the swallows wheeled high in the sky above us and there was nothing to disturb is, except an aeroplane which stooged over in the middle of the verse speaking. The programme was more varied than last year and there were two orchestral items. There were three groups of dances; second formers in kilts, lower five girls in ballet, lower five boys waltzing solemn and bearlike in their hobnailed boots and turning the girls as though they were mangles!

Thursday, July 19th
              A very hot day indeed. Worked on forms for next year; found Clem Clifford very sensitive because I wanted him to take a lower 5th next term and he suspected the influence of his bête noire, the black eyed Eric Cunnington, who, he declared, was intriguing against him. This he put down to some remarks he had made in a debate about Macbeth. Well really!
              Went on the Downs for supper with Mary. Made shandy of Danish lager and local ginger beer. When we got there the sun was still high but after supper we lay in the grass and watched the day die. First the landscape took on the rich browns and yellows of a Constable, but as the grey tones veiled the hollows, the sky became illumined, first with a vivid blue which almost approached a green, then with the pink and white of a Blake watercolour. To the north west the long narrow clouds swam like huge goldfish in an oyster tinted sea; to the west fantastic cloud trailers arched the horizon like a great hand. After the colours had faded, high at the zenith a passing aeroplane still caught the light and sun which for us had already set.
              We strolled arm in arm along the track. On Lowbury the beacon pole stood on the rounded summit black against a diminishing band of gold like a Rembrandt crucifixion. The sound of sheep came faintly from the hills and high above us a few larks still sang although it was near ten o’clock. The night turned cool and caressing stirred the grasses. I felt an urge to strip and quickly stripped off all my clothes and let the wind play on my naked body and raised my arms to the sky. There was only Mary to see. After the silence of the Downs, Pangbourne seemed a city and Reading the Great Babylon itself.

Friday, July 20th
              The last concert was a great success, 125 people turned up and there were only chairs for 70 deck chairs. We supplied school chairs, but got in a panic about coffee and cakes – we were looking for a lad with five barley loaves and two fishes – however more milk and beakers and were obtained, so it worked out well by the time the singers had finished. The audience did not drift away till 9.30. Altogether we were lucky enough to have three completely fine, still and warm evenings and took about £26. I felt that as headmaster I was at the top of my form!

Sunday, July 22nd
              Last week’s hot weather collapsed in a series of thunder storms, but the real storm broke about midday.

Monday, July 23rd
              Swimming sports proved a very cold function. No sun and sat shivering in a high breeze. The boys in the junior events as slim and long legged as gazelles and some of the girls good to look at as well, but there was one poor dear from the camp in a white bathing dress who looked like a corset advertisement for the outsize woman – “ let Spirella control your figure” – and she is only 15, what a future!
              Trouble with the Senior Master again, finally said he did not want a form at all if he had to have a Lower 5 – mild persecution tendencies – sometime ago refused to take prayers, against his principles as a convinced atheist, now ready to fight Mrs C if she takes one more assembly than he does. Gave in to his queerness and asked Hirons to do it instead. He could hardly refuse as I had just recommended him for £50 special responsibility allowance. These most insidious and bound to cause ill feeling on staff because they grade them financially.

Wednesday, July 25th
              Last day of term very tiring. Lower Sixth in lunch hour hoisted a figure on the flagpole, then rushed outside of building; only excuse they felt “browned off”. The irrepressible Robin Brown threw unbreakable torch through a skylight and I impounded the torch until 15/- paid for the window. This morning he came up with the money and asked if he “might cross my palm with silver”. Wasn’t quick witted enough to reply “may I cross your behind with a stick”.
              Met Miranda at 3.30 and went to West Wycombe. Had tea in grounds of house where a kestrel alighted near us and a stoat rolled over and over in the grass. Later we had supper on a hill where we lay till nearly ten o’clock and watched the light fade.

Friday, July 27th
              Went to Oxford by coach and came back with Nora in car. Saw Sir Maurice Bowra, the Warden of Wadham, an extraordinary sight, his eyes almost lost in layers of blubber and his neck as long as his head, which therefore appears to join straight onto his shoulders. In 1921 he was an undergraduate at New College and stayed at the Crab’s cottage at Bourton on the Water with me. He never left Oxford but went straight after schools to a fellowship at Wadham, where has has been ever since, growing, I imagine, more porcine until he has reached his present astonishing condition.

Monday, July 3th
              Met Hilary at National Book League and had a severe hair trim, then to meal at Marble Halls with Nora and on to see Laurence Olivier in Caesar and Cleopatra. Our seats were on the right at side of upper circle and the heat in the theatre was fearful. Hilary was very tired as he had been up late the night before entertaining Old Denizens. Olivier played Caesar rather too much for the laughs, I thought, compared with Cedric Hardwicke. Vivien Leigh suitably kittenish with a lovely slim figure and Robert Helpmann an excellent Apollodorus. Hilary was taken by the scenes between Caesar and Britannus on the national character of Italians and English and called it a prolonged skit – which was not bad.

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