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Thursday, 14 October 2010

1952 December

December. Smelly adjudicator. Fog: Sir Thomas Beecham goes by tube. John Griggs, Harman. Eric Attrill's mask. Snowballing permitted. A good year on the whole.
Monday, Dec 1st
    House Music Competition in morning. A Lancashire man from the Music Department at Reading - a rather coarse man who stank badly, but gave quite a good adjudication.
    Reading Aldous Huxley's new book, The Devils of Loudon. In 1634 there occurred in a convent in Touraine an outbreak of mass hysteria among the nuns. The parish priest was an accomplished seducer,  who had made many enemies, but had no connection  with the convent. The prioress accused him of bewitching the community and with the support of Richelieu, whom he had offended, he was tried, tortured and burnt. The book is a curious mixture, one chapter on mysticism is followed by another on enemas and pills that were popular because you could recover them, wash them and use them again. A queer chap.
    Huxley says the 17th century tried to inflate the person beyond all bounds and were constantly let down by circumstances. "The absurd and pompous spirit was willing, but the flesh was incurably weak." They lacked stage managers, the necessary gadgets, training and discipline. "Even Richelieu and the Sun King were old men of Thermopylae who never did anything properly." Belching and farting in high places, the sweatiness of dukes and marshals, the stink of Henry IV's feet and armpits etc, the explosion of an urn containing viscera at a funeral!!
Tuesday, Dec 2nd
    Heard that children did not much care for smelly adjudicator.
Wednesday, Dec 3rd
    The hard frost continued. Over to Mary and drove over to the bottom of the Streatley lane... walked up to see over Lowbury. Came home to flat. Here we lit a fire but temperature was only just over 40 and the radiator stone cold. In time the fire got going but temperature refused to get beyond 50 and draughts blew through the floorboards and windows, the door and the kitchen. The life which is satisfactory when one is 30 becomes more and more inadequate when one is at 50! Where one once liked contriving, now it becomes a barrier, however skilled practice may have made one - and practice for 20 years has made one skilled.
Friday, Dec 5th
    Read St Joan with Giles and bosseyed Smith. They enjoyed it and so did I!
Saturday, Dec 6th
    The cold weather with extremely high pressure and severe frost has gone on for two or three weeks. This weekend the fog came down on London. To Queen's Head at Newbury with Mary. Madame was most voluble! She had intended to keep a double bed for us but a couple were staying on because of the fog. She had a nice room with a gas fire, but it only had twin beds. Did we mind sleeping in twin beds? It appeared pretty clearly that her weekend clientele did!  We said we could put up with single beds. Madame then departed, leaving Mary rather puzzled as to what she had been trying to convey about our sleeping arrangements avec quelle delicatesse!
Monday, Dec 8th
    Fog persisted in London and conditions reported chaotic. Sir Thomas Beecham went in tube from Ritz to concert for first time since 1902! This winter very severe after last when we had open weather till after Christmas. Thieves working overtime and police handicapped as instead of radio-controlled cars have to use bicycles.
Tuesday, Dec 9th
    Government now admits cannot carry out full rearmament programme. Safety or solvency, but not both.
Sunday, Dec 14th
    Yesterday we had the Prefects' Party. This term I made a clean sweep and had no carry over and a number of traditions were broken. Tea was early at 5.30 (this meant you had to be there near the beginning). and refreshments were served at 9.0 from the library. There was no play by staff or prefects (this only began half way through the war  and was rather a bore). We had carol singing. It was one of the better parties, and the Obliging Man [Mr Atrill] and John Griggs between them ran it. The new head boy, Harman, made an adequate speech, but otherwise took a back seat, wisely. We had charades and I had to imitate a sailing dinghy, for which I used a chair lying on the floor.
    After the party about ten staff came in to tea or coffee. I spent some time watching Eric Attrill's mask-like face. Much more aware since Mary pointed it out that it is a mask, which by a conscious effort of the will is made to register various emotions - interest, laughter, etc, chiefly by movements of the muscles round the mouth. Curious! Certainly not spontaneous. This is what Donald meant when he asked me if I thought her "sincere".
    Heard that Donald has at last after seven years passed his final exam at Sheffield and was now qualified there as well as at London, so train of events I set in motion has worked itself out. 
Monday, Dec 15th
    Snow. Snowballing permitted, snow will be provided, I told the children.  
    John Ounsted, Leighton Park H.M., rang up tonight to ask me to act as one of the judges of the school speech competition, felt rather like a Hottentot asked who his taylor was, but agreed.
Christmas card by Geoff Makins

Saturday, Dec 20th
    The three judges dispersed among a packed audience on hard oak benches. There were four competitors, the last of whom had a very bad cold. The first spoke on he Icelandic fisheries dispute, the second on beauty in the home, the third on history for all. One judge plumped for the fisheries chap, I for the history chap and the third could not make up his mind, so we decided to split the prize. Came home well pleased with the day and liking Mr Ounsted very much.
Tuesday, Dec 23rd
     Hilary's report arrived. Good for English, less good for history.
Christmas Day, Thursday
    The morning turned out mild and sunny with blue sky and big white cloiuds. In the afternoon it clouded over and started to blow and by supper it was pouring with rain. Hilary and I got leaves in the morning and went to look at the new tennis court [at the farm-end of the playing fields]. We had dinner about 1.30. Graves, chicken, Christmas pudding and a glass of ruby wine. Queen at 3, a very light and high pitched girlish voice, a bit tinny to tell the truth. Felt I had eaten much too much and lay down 4 - 6.
After supper listened to Third Programme feature on verbiage and a variety Christmas party on the Light with Ioan's friend Jimmy Edwards and Hermione Gingold etc.
    I gave Nora thermos jug, Hilary ties; Hilary gave me This England; Nora gave me a shaving brush. We had about 70 Christmas cards; doubt if we sent as many between the three of us.
Boxing Day
    Doing fires, bottling honey. Decorated very small Christmas tree. Nora never stopped all morning or most of afternoon.
    At 3.30 Makins girls, Susan and Jill, came to tea. They had not been out in the morning, so very full of energy much screaming and rushing round furniture. Miss Hunter in addition to parents. Susan, aged 4, sang a carol in perfect tune. Pretty good.
Saturday, Dec 27th
    Cyril and Kay Peach to tea. In evening went to Alice Through the Looking Glass at Kenton Theatre. With a cast of only eight they gave an excellent performance. Had last seen Alice when I took Hilary at the end of the war. Now so big he can hardly get his legs into the seats. 
Tuesday, Dec 30th
    A hockey match of sixth form boys and girls with Hilary playing.
 Wednesday, Dec 31st
    On the whole a good year though Korea still drags on and no easy way out and rearmament of West slowing down badly. This was supposed to be the 12 months in which we should pass the danger point, but some now put this in 1954.
    From a personal point of view a very happy year, though not all the things we planned to do we did and some of the things we did do did not turn out quite as planned. But they seldom do!
   Last day of holiday. Spent the morning extracting honey with Hiulary help.

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