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Thursday, 28 October 2010

1953 July -September

July. Prize-giving at Mrs Peach's school in Reading. "New" car's social decline. Makins, McBurnies, Weisses. Anette Griggs.
Sunday, July 5th
    We had very happy week for the regatta. On Wednesday met at Henley Road, Caversham, and took our tea on the Fawley side. Hilary and a friend passed us bicycling furiously as I was waiting for Mary. We found the boys half way up a tree when we got there. The boys ere going to Figaro in Oxford later and had to leave at four, so we had tea early. Nora took a very dim view as Mary was coming, but Hilary was not self conscious and said Goodbye, Mary when he left. She thought him a very nice boy.
    By the time we got back to the flat it was about half past nine. We slipped off our clothes and lay naked on the bed in each others arms and had a very long-lasting and exciting intercourse.
    On Friday we parked the car in Remenham Lane. After the last race we walked down the towpath to opposite Greenlands and by crossing a dyke on an iron fence got into a field of cut hay, one field back from the towpath. I prepared a couch of hay. When we lay down on this we were quite private and in a world of our own. We began to kiss and embrace more and more ardently, but Mary does not use French fashions in underwear and could not lie with me without removing garments, so we didn't.
    The larks which tirra lirra chant
    With heigh, with heigh, the thrush and the jay,
    Are singing songs for me and my aunts
    As we lie tumbling in the hay. 
  It was a happy day, the fourth regatta we had been to together.
  Last night my first let for the caravan arrived, a very up stage lady by herself in a nice Morris 8 packed with luggage. Much charm, but more charm than grip, I felt. Didn't realize how small the caravan was. Husband would be arriving on Monday morning in a large car with all his dress clothes. Offered her two extra coat hangers and a tent! Monsieur did not like tents; he must have space (then why a caravan?). At 9.30 she rang the bell, offered me £2 10s and said she must find a hotel for Monday.
Tuesday, July 7th    
    A QC to enquire into the Evans case where it seems they have hanged an innocent man for strangling his child. The chief witness against him was the strangler Christie. If so Christie may be the cause of the abolition of the capital punishment for a period of years.
Friday, July 10th
    Sat long over supper (with Mary) discussing future. I had really begun to think we might do something, but now among the other numerous snags, Mr Pierce emerges as the supreme snag. His feelings, his reputation, his opinions on co-respondents, divorce, etc, etc, his position as Mason in Oxford and so on are decisive with Mary, who managed by some miracle to get away geographically from Oxford, but as the unmarried daughter, has never succeeded in freeing herself from family emotional ties. He is now 76 and for all I know he may live to 86 [he did, and more].
Saturday, July 11th
    Decided to change the grey Austin 7 we have had since Grandma gave it to us in 1939 for an Austin 10 of 1936. The 10 has a sluggish motor, but more reliable and I hope will tow van more comfortably and be less tiring and noisy for Nora to thrash around the county in next winter.
    Had promised like a fool to give away prizes at Mrs Peach's school for little boys and girls 7 - 11. Found myself being photographed, which in Reading is the last thing I want! Sitting behind a table with cards, cups and a suitcase filled with books from which prizes were extracted and selected as required to a running commentary from Mrs Peach; came to the conclusion that was a damn silly woman.
Sunday, July 12th
    Geoff, Pamela,Susan and Gillian Makins came top tea. and Geoff very kindly presented me with a water colour of the school from the Italian Garden which I had some time ago said I would like to have. Very nice of him, hope he likes Sheffield and manages to cope [water colour still in the family, 2009]
Wednesday, July 15th
    When I got to Mary with the new second-hand car, the Black Maria, intending to go on the Downs for tea, she suggested we went to see the fly-past of the R.A.F. They assembled in the Watford area and flew to Odiham. I picked Finchampstead Ridge and off we went. At the ridge about 200 cars were parked on both sides of the road. We could not have picked a better spot. First the training squadrons with their yellow lines, then the fat insect-like flying boats, then the great four-engined bombers from the last war with their roaring engines. Suddenly the whole pace changed after a short interval when jets appeared flying at 300 m.p.h. and whistling across the sky, squadron after squadron of Meteors, keeping perfect formation, about 200 of them..... and the Vulcan, a flying triangle with a long sharp-pointed nose and neither wings nor tail in the ordinary sense. It flashed across the sky at 677 m. p. h. with the crackling rumble of the supersonic speed - a vision of the future.
Thursday, July 16th
    The car's log book appeared today. It has suffered a social decline, first an estate agent, then an optician, now the H.M. of a grammar school! Went to see Dr Irvine. Said I was having discomfort in tummy with colonic cramps; must have been worrying, a trouble with the intelligent(!) and common among the men of the Administrative Staff College. 
Saturday, July 18th
    Took Bosseyed Smith to Bisham and Wycombe Park. We saw the Baronet in the garden. He was wearing a berry and corduroy trousers and looked like a vendor of filthy poscards in the Place de la Concorde. Lady Dashwood has found some old election posters in the roof bearing the slogans "Prosperity for Buckinghamshire", "Dashwood and Independence", "Dashwood the friend of civil and religious liberty".  
Monday, July 20th
    Nora and Hilary went up to London and he went to the Public Schools Appointments Bureau. They thought he should qualify as a chartered accountant before going into the army and then aim at a managerial career in industry. I wonder in spite of fact that maths apparently not much used by accountants whether this really his line. Still N insists he must have a training and then if he does not want to use it that is his affair.
Sunday, July 26th
    A day of hordes. 13 people including Nora and self to lunch - 6 McBurnies, 5 Weisses - 1 1/2 bottles of Sauterne. Johnnie and Jimmie brought by car with two nannies for Eve to see, and Eve with her three little girls. Roberto and James were somnolent. Jimmie and Johnie had their lunch with the nannies and then were put to bed, but they did not sleep. We had our lunch with the Weiss girls at two separate tables. The wine made the company somewhat comatose, but in a fine interval we went round the grounds. Fortunately the occasional woman came to do the washing up about 5 o'clock - there was a lot - and hordes departed about 4.30.
    Korean armistice about to be signed. The Americans hope that armistice will sober down Singman Rhee and make him more cautious about starting another war. So do I.
Wednesday, July 29th
    The concert in open air on terrace last night. A good crowd. The verse speaking, Henry VIII, Cowper, Scott, Chesterton, Shelley and Queen Elizabeth's speech, excellent; the dancing and singing less good and the orchestra a bit ropey, but better than I expected. Queen Elizabeth (Annette Griggs) spoke and stood beautifully, but was applauded, so we stopped that by ending the speech with God Save the Queen.
    Today Mary and I went on the Downs and made tea, but coming back there was a cloudburst. The car leaked like a sieve and for a time I had to get out and stand under a tree because it was drier! When we reached the flat I was sitting in a pool of water. I put on a blouse and a pair of pink knickers, very tight round the thighs, and we laughed till our eyes streamed and we felt quite exhausted. Luckily I had a pair of old grey flannels for emergencies which I wore over them. Meanwhile the concert was taking place without the H.M. so attired.
Thursday, 30th July
    Showery, a fine evening promised, but rain later. Felt like Eisenhower on D Day, but at 6.15 ordered pianos moved out and deck chairs put up. By eight it was grey and sun had a halo, but by a miracle it held till night fell, for since Brind and the performers wanted it in, my name would have been mud had it turned wet half way through. We had 150 people - more than we could possibly have seated indoors. Eight to supper, for Claydens invited as well as Cooks by Nora.
Friday, July 31st.
    Term ended. Fifth presented me with a rose.
August. Holiday in Dorset. With Mary in France: return to the British way of life.
Saturday, August 1st
    The Ansells, Betty and David and two boys turned up. D, as Wilk said, scratches his bottom continuously behind and in front!
Sunday, Aug 2nd
    David took Nora into Reading, which enabled Hilary and I to make a clean start via Winchester, Romsey, Cadnam, Ringwood, Wimbourne, Poole, Wareham to Bucknowle Farm, Corfe. A site looking over the hills along the coast from the Purbecks, with Corfe standing sentinel in the gap about a mile away. We got the van in corner of field facing west and then went to fetch Nora, who had just arrived in Corfe very hot from the bus journey via Bournemoth. Only 3 other vans in field, but one a converted coach with family of five. Hilary in tent.
Bank Holiday Monday
    A lovely day, sun with cool breeze off the sea. Took lunch over to Kimmeridge. A great number of cars and people, but sat on cliffs most of the time and then  back for tea.
Tuesday, Aug 4th
    Went over to Wareham for shopping, a pleasant compact and rectangular town within the lines of its walls and delimited by the two rivers between which it lies. Went to see St Martin's at the N end. An old derelict church which had escaped the Victorian restorers, with a gabled tower-porch and high beamed roof. Brought back into use in 1936 because T. E. Lawrence had seen its possibilities; his effigy, by Eric Kennington, carved in 1935 - 39, was placed in the north aisle facing the altar like a medieval crusader. I had seen the cast in the Ashmolean, but the figure, the large head, small stature and full lips, is more emphatic and bolder than I remembered. It rests on a base of polished Purbeck with the name of the sculptor and Lawrence in beautifully cut Roman capitals. The right hand clasps an Arab dagger and a camel whip lies by the side, the head rests on a saddle bag. The church is enriched by the effigy and this in turn gains by its medieval setting. To place it here was and act of rare imagination and affection.
    This horizontal block of stone,
    Miraculously not a man,
    Is touched with presence nobler than
    The hollow scaffolding of bone
 Wednesday, August 5th
    After this, Wimbourne utterly dead. In the afternoon Kingston Lacey, a fine specimen of Restoration architecture begun in 1660 to provide Bnkes with a house in place of castle they had lost in 1643. One of the Bankes, a friend of Byron and aide to Wellington in the Peninsula, collected Spanish paintings, Velasquez, Zubaran, Murillo etc. While we sat on a white wooden seat under a lime tree Venus appeared walking over the lawn with an attendant admirer! She wore the briefest of black shorts, which displayed a lovely pair of legs and firm hips and held herself superbly. Her man, who wisely wore trousers for he was getting paunchy, later rode off with her down the drive. The pleasures of the unexpected!
Thursday, August 6th
    One of those days. Had appointment with the best garage I could find in Wareham and got there at 9.30. They did nothing until 11, when for making the brakes definitely dangerous they charged 6/-. In the afternoon the brakes proved so ineffective that I decided to take it to the Austin agent in Swanage. At this point we had a puncture and had to change the wheel. Covered in black grease, we arrived at the agent. Here out luck turned a bit, an efficient mechanic and a charming dark receptionist, who, without being asked, handed us a towel and some grease solvent. We fixed to bring it in at 2 o'clock tomorrow and fetch it on Saturday - only three days wasted!
    The milk had gone sour and we could find no wood, so went to cafe in Worth, but we had been preceded by party of hikers and had to wait for hours. The day ended with the loss of our saw!
Saturday, Aug 8th
    Fetched car from Swanage, £6, but brakes at last safe. Afternoon to Bere Regis, a most interesting church with early C16th roof. After we made tea on the edge of the heath by a curious geological hole called Culpeper's Dish. We took supper in Lulworth Cove. Most of the day trippers had left by 9 o'clock and there were only two courting couples left on the beach. We drove back over the hills by the military road to find that cows had ripped up one side of Hilary's tent. The owner much put out, but propped it up and it lasted!
Sunday, August 9th
    Another very hot and lovely day. Took our lunch to St Adelm's Head. Superb views along the coast, particularly westward, headland beyond headland into the haze, a sea like silk, and the sides of the chalk valleys covered in scabious, clover, thistles, knapweed, coltsfoot, harebells and small ragwort.
Monday, Aug 10th
    To Dorchester, saw Roman amphitheatre, still in use, and then to Maiden Castle, a magnificent hill top camp with the most complete system of defences, the ditches still running steep, deep and true. Hilary and I walked round the inner perimeter which took about half an hour. There were very few people and the figures in the distance gave scale to the mighty dykes and earthworks. We found the swannery at Abbotsbury, also a charabancery. It would have been very pleasant if not so crowded. We came back via Blackdown and stopped at the monument to Admiral Hardy, 789ft, one of the finest views on the south coast, far richer and more beautiful than Beachy Head.
Wednesday, Aug 12th
    To Studland along the hill tops while below us to our right the cars buzzed along the main road. We represented the primitive people of the old downland tracks, below us buzzed and stank the 20th century. Fearful heat, 91° in London. By the time we reached the dip crossed by the Swanage - Studland road a thunderstorm rolled up and it began to rain, so we ceased to be primitive and boarded a bus. We had an expensive tea at a gothical manor house. Two families from Swanage exchange notes: "And though i was there for a fortnight I never saw a bathroom...." Why didn't you send a postcard of it, said Nora sotto voce.
Thursday, Aug 13th
    Today to Milton Abbas. Vastly superior to Nuneham Courtney as example of aristocratic rehousing. The cottages, colour washed cream, boxlike and thatched. We drove up the escarpment to Wooland Hill about 900ft. To the Abbey and Mansion.
Friday, Aug 14th
    Started off with lunch and tea intending to go to Portland but in the range area we saw a road marked "open" to Warbarrow, so drove down it past deserted and derelict farms, the telephone kiosk forlorn and empty, a green and empty countryside. We reached the car park besides a firmly secured white gate marked "Pedestrians only; No cars beyond this point". From there we walked another mile between barbed wire fences marked "Danger! Unexploded shells!" to reach Warbarrow Bay - a lonely curving expanse of red and white cliff, sand and fine shingle, a mass of rusty iron piping had been collected and the concrete anti tank blocks had been uprooted and piled neatly on the beach.
    It was like Weston Gap in the old days of 1931 - no teas, ices, chairs, litter, cartons, car parks, tents, no one trying to make money, but the gentle hiss and swish of the tide on the shingle and the plash and plop of the water in the cliff caves. We were delighted. Portland forgotten, we stayed here all day on the long crescent of the beach, covered with wood and all kinds of flotsam and jetsam, a comber paradise, paddling and pottering contentedly. The War Office had made a wilderness, but had produced peace!
Saturday, Aug 15th
    A low-ridged grey sky, promising rain, so we went to see the Giant at Cerne Abbas. We lunched on a ridge from which we looked down on Cerne encircled by its chalk downs. To find Hardy's birthplace at Upper Bockhampton up a rough lane ending at a small thatched cottage under a few beeches right on the edge of the ferny and furzy expanse of  "Egdon".  
    After supper we walked on the hills. There was a lovely sunset and after this the new moon set over Lulworth. I sat in the van watching the red glow of the fire while Hilary read The Return of the Native and Nora worked on a seat cover. It had been a good holiday.
Sunday, Aug 16th
    We got packed up and off about 10.30. Did well to get in with no tyre or engine trouble by 3.45.  
 Monday, Aug 17th
    An atmosphere of gloom in which I got packed up - suit case and rucksack - as unobtrusively as possible.
Tuesday, Aug 18th
    For some reason Nora insisted on having a family breakfast at 7.0. It was about as cheerful as a funeral. Airport 9.15, plane 10.50, Basle 1.15.     
    [The holiday with Mary was spent at Brunnwald in the Bernese Oberland, with return to earth on August 29]
Saturday, Aug 29
     A very steady flight from Basle, but in cloud from the French coast till we came down to land. The customs was slow, the drive to Waterloo Air Station even slower through some of the worst parts of West London. Cups of tea only, cracked china and indifferent service - we waited 15 minutes - showed us we had returned to the British way of life. We parted at Paddington Station where the floor was so filthy I could not put my rucksack on it.
September. Disillusioned Donald Heath encounters psychoanalysis. 
Whitaker Chambers, Alger Hiss. Miss Wilkinson and Ioan. N. J. Smith.
Sunday, Sept 6th
    To please Nora over to Reigate by train to attend christening of her grand niece [Carol Vaughn]. Not an impressive ceremony. To tea with in-laws upon whom our unexpected appearance did not make an altogether favourable impression!
Monday, Sept 7th
    Got Hilary up at 6.30 and at 7.15 started off for Wilton. Reached Salisbury about 10. Looked in at the Cathedral, cloister and chapter, then had coffee and on to Wilton which we reached soon after 11. A glorious house, one of the finest I have seen, both for the pictures and the colour of the interiors. We came out about 12.30 and took our lunch under a beech avenue. After that we went back and looked down at the extraordinary Italianate basilica, built by Sidney Herbert and decorated with various loot from France, Italy and N. Africa, to the Palladian Bridge and rose garden. Started for home about 3 and reached Henley about 6.15. A most rewarding day day of white, green and gold.
Saturday, Sept 12th
    After a near-fight with a boatman at Goring in Wednesday and a meeting of the old Governors on Friday, I decided to spend the last day of the holidays with an excursion to Hatfield. Wilton was completed about 1653, Hatfield in 1611. The former more civilized and the more lovely, the latter nearer the middle ages - the Elizabethan and the Caroline. We admired the Great Hall, the staircase, the portraits of the great Queen and Robert Cecil, the enormous Long Gallery, but decided we much preferred Wilton to the Tudor brick of Hatfield. As a monument to the Cecils Hatfield was impressive, but without the charm of Herbert's house and it had nothing to approach the glory of the Vandyke Room at Wilton.
Sunday, Sept 20th
    A hectic week beginning school, but over to Long Grasses with M on Wednesday. Donald in to supper. Still suffering from attacks of tension at times. Told me I was the most contented and happy person he had met and that was why I did my job so well! Replied I was a man without ambition! though secretly very pleased! Will soon have to make up his mind whether to go in to G.P. or specialize. All his illusions about the medical profession shattered. A case of a man unable to walk and diagnosed as hysteria, turned out to be a broken neck!
Monday, Sept 21st
    A letter from Mary. "It is so lovely to have a life of our own, things we do and say that no one else knows about. I live in it very much when I am on my own, so that I never feel lonely as I used to do."
Saturday, Sept 26th
    Nora to Oxford and stayed for the matinée of a play. About 6.20 Nora came back and I got the car. M and I started for the Queen's Hotel, Newbury, about 6.50. Like the Queen's for its air of careful management, its rooms with comfortable double beds, and general efficiency. Money made in the bar, where the management on vigilant duty to keep the Americans, thick on the stairs, in order on the bottom deck. 
Wednesday, Sept 30
    Ioan turned up suddenly on Saturday from France and Marjorie said they had a busy 12 hours at the Pod. It was nice to sleep in his arms, but not very restful when he dreamed he was shooting down Germans! 
    [Marjorie Wilkinson wrote a memoir of her love affair with Ioan Vaughn Jones - in the writer's possession - in which she said Ioan suffered from terrible nigtmares about his war time experience as a fighter pilot in defence of Malta]
    Reading up on the new Stone and Bronze Age men, Avebury and Stonehenge,  preparatory to a sixth form expedition next week to the Marlborough Downs and Salisbury Plain. Also only about one jump ahead of Bosseyed Smith [N. J. Smith] on the C18th. Have written to a general (liaison with schools) to find out if Smith, born with a left eye only, is likely to be swept into the army. If not he wants to gain entry to a college. Asked general if he can throw light on "this dark matter".
    Reading Whitaker Chamber's book Witness, an extraordinary document. Communist party member on staff of American Daily Worker, then underground agent, finally breaks with them, later gets on staff of Time, becomes a Quaker and a farmer, the chief witness against Alger Hiss and the centre of two dramatic legal actions against him for perjury, the second of which results in Hiss' conviction and imprisonment. Said by many people at the time to be unbalanced bordering on insanity. Certainly a man who can write. Reading it became convinced that Hiss was a communist although at first very doubtful. Can't see how an innocent man could have failed to recognize Chambers. Must get Alistair Cooke's  book on the trial and go over it again.

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