March. Mayor's capacity for malt liquor. Leslie Bennett. Underworld of the welfare state. Mr Barclay, International Help for Children. Hare record.
Saturday, March 1st
Old Boys’ Dinner at school. Sat between Walden, the builder, and old Hamilton with the Mayor next to him. Was impressed by the capacity the Mayor showed for absorbing malt liquor in pint glasses.The speeches were slow because the secretary is slow. I cut mine in half, and then old Hamilton went on relating some schoolboy howlers so it dragged on till the A.G.M. I left them to it and only came back to hear the debate on whether the association should be mixed. Had they voted on this then the mixing might have been defeated, but Tom Luker cunningly got it referred back to committee for a scheme of fusion, so it seems likely to go through after all. The Old Boys do not now represent the mixed school at all. There is no lack of interest in the school, but there is a great lack of interest in a single sex association.
For the first time drank the royal toast of the new reign – Gentlemen ! The Queen !
Tuesday, March 4
The Bennets came over to lunch and in the afternoon gave a concert of Elizabethan music to the top of the school. First a group of songs by Leslie accompanied by Irene on the virginals, then a recital on the virginals, followed by recorders accompanied by Leslie on the piano. The piano had been tuned to the organ, which was a higher pitch. However, Irene observed cheerily "I will blow up to it!” – and she did!
Wednesday, March 5th
Parents tea, 56 came, and we showed them round in three groups and then had tea and cakes.
Went with Mary to see a French film called Les visiteurs du soir, slow and boring. Medieval, the two lost souls sent by the Devil to ruin the marriage of the lovers.
Thursday, March 6th
Tackled Eric Cunnington, who had recommended the film, but I think for Eric the attraction was the remoteness from ordinary life. For me one of the great attractions was the legs of the actress, Arletti, I think!
Saturday, March 8th
Went to 5 o’clock matinee with Ioan and the Wilk to see The Tinkers Wedding by Synge and The Respectable Prostitute by Sartre. This well acted by our local star, Barbara New. Prostitute asked to incriminate negro to save young white man from murder charge by signing statement that the negro had raped her by 1) his young friend who has spent the night with her, 2) his father, a senator, and 3) the police. Holds out on 1 and 3, but succumbs to casuistry on 2 and at end of act, when negro has been lynched, sleeps with 1. Young man one of the nastiest characters I have seen on the stage. Sartre has a pretty nose for a really bad smell.
Tuesday, March 11th
Mr Barclay of International Help for Children came down and gave two talks to the school. An interesting man who had been to Greece and the U.S.A. in connection with his work and told the children how the money was being spent on, for instance, Greek children who had been maimed and blinded in the civil war. He was extremely high voltage and drained the energy from you by his constant flow of talk.
Wednesday, March 12th
The budget. Food subsidies cut, petrol to cost 4s 3d; to offset this income tax relief to smaller incomes and pensioners, in course of time largely exempt from full tax rate. At last a radical attack on the problem. Mary says why shouldn’t the working class pay the full cost of their food instead of spending their money on expensive toys. One problem family said they were rather short because little Willy’s cowboy suit cost £2 – 10s ! Most social workers know what a racket family allowances are and how they keep the family in beer and cinema seats. Too many people in our society who demand luxuries – television, pools, sweets, cinemas, beer etc – as rights and look at you in amazement if you have not used up all your sweet coupons. The underworld of the welfare state !
Saturday, March 15th
After supper Nora started up on Mary and I. She had decided she would not divorce me while Hilary was at school. That brings us to 1954, by that time there will probably be another good reason! Regarded opinion in Henley as very important. Damn opinion in Henley, I said. Old gossipy Mrs Moorat was even brought in. And the boys talking about Hilary at school – they are likely to very interested, I should say. Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today seems likely to be our lot!
Sunday, March 16th
Atmosphere distinctly tense. Took some honey over to Browns and ran slap into Miss Hunter – cold reception! Visited Wilk, one of few people in Henley I care deeply about.
Tuesday, March 18th
Over to Mary. Told her about Saturday. Agreed that perhaps quite as well as no news of Nottingham. M not surprized. Wondered if we could get a two-roomed flat and live as "married". At nine o’clock we went to bed. Mine came rather quickly, but to my great joy Mary had hers too, bless her.
Wednesday, March 19th
Cross country, but two boys very sick after finish, which rather nasty.
Thursday, March 20th
Wonder if I am so lazy I should never hold down another job. Don’t want to give up the school because I should miss the independence which a H.M. has and the society of the young, my sixth and first forms, and some of my colleagues! The garden too is lovely, though one gets to take it for granted. Holidays are rarely as long as ours in any other profession.
Another thing I should be sorry to give up would be my religious instruction lessons with 5th, which are beginning to take more shape and go better, I hope. Mary Clayden said today what the sixth wanted were elementary apologetics. What, Paley ? I asked. No, St Thomas Aquinas, she replied. Thought we might have a series of discussions, but think they would probably be too radical for the young. We should be circles that never met.
Friday, March 21st
Went over to Mary but got a shock! On Wednesday she had been up to see Joan, who was in a bad state as her marriage was off and her engagement broken. Mary had apparently thought they would go on an alpine holiday together in August and revert to the status quo of 1949. She tried to put this over to me by saying that I did not understand the difficulty of dealing with her parents. I took a poor view of this as I had come to the rescue when Joan suddenly backed out in 1950 and another girl friend failed in 1951 and did not see why I should be paid off in this fashion except as a work of mercy!
Saturday, March 22nd
Ruminated on this problem all day and, as one generally does on these occasions, the more I ruminated the angrier and more fed up I got. Went in and fetched Mary to see Victoria Regina. On the way back suggested I saw no reason why we should not invite Joan to go with us. All Mary would say was that it needed careful thinking over.
Sunday, March 23rd
Finished Chester Wilmot’s Struggle For Europe, a brilliant effort.
Hilary told me had christened the lorry [in which he was to go to Spain in April] "the mobile bum’s retreat". So sent him the opening lines of the poem
What is it that roareth thus?
Can it be a motor bus ?
Yes! The smell and hideous hum
Indicat motorem bum!
Monday, March 24th
Went to meeting of Foundation governors. Although Major Mackenzie now dead, the deaf clerk still there. He is so deaf that once he gets started nothing can stop him. He had been asked to explain the accounts. To my huge delight told us there was still £600 in the building fund which dated from 1908. This was made up of subscriptions to the Grammar School, which was then at Northfield End. He read out the names of those who had asked for their money back in 1914. Not many, and so there the money still was. He referred to it as dormant. Dormant is the right word, I said to Lady Hambleden who was sitting next to me.
People are very kind. They put up with these senile chairmen, and stone deaf clerks on these committees because they don’t want to hurt their feelings, I suppose.
Nora was attending a lecture on Morale by the A.R.P. and after supper went to a committee meeting of the W.E.A. It is hard to know which of these three comes lowest on the list. A.R.P. and W.E.A. tie, I should think, with governors a little way ahead. The trouble with the W.E.A. is to find a secretary. The staff have given up. Only the two new young women attend, and they have vowed not to go again, and only started because I asked them.
Wednesday, March 26th
Mary and I went to Aldworth. Very cold on Downs. We saw 25 hares in a field, an all time record ! We decided either to go on holiday as a trio for the fortnight or to split it up so that Joan and I each had three days overlap with Mary. Mary thought Joan would be upset if we went as married and lived together, but I don’t know.
Friday, March 28th
Yesterday had a spring hymn about "unlocking the flowers". Result a north east blizzard ! A delightful film on this week, Where No Vultures Fly, about big game in Kenya and their protection. Preceded by three dreadful American trailers, each worse than the last, ending with David and Bathsheba ! What damage they do by the export of their worst tripe; damage to their own reputation, and damage to our own duller inhabitants, who pick up the accent, jargon and false values of this cheap rubbish.
Saturday, March 29th
Had intended to go down to Hilary, but when I woke up it was snowing in addition to a north east gale, so stayed at home warm and snug. A magnificently contested boat race was rowed in conditions more like Siberia than Hammersmith, and won by Oxford by a few feet, so reversing the equally close race in 1949 when we had the same stroke, Chistopher Davidge.
Heard from Nottingham. They were dissatisfied with the applicants and are re-advertising the post for a biologist, so that’s that!
Monday, March 31st
Still cold but snow disappearing. One of the worst March snow storms for 20 years. Hilary starting today for Spain on the Dover-Dunkirk night ferry. Bad weather reported in northern France.