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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

1953 October - December

October. With VIth to megaliths. Mrs Griggs gets uppish. Princess Margaret in Henley: Vera Emmerson's chocolate cake. Mary's father. RAF memorial.
Friday, Oct 9th
    After much preparation and mugging up, took the sixth form on their journey to see the megalithic monuments. We started at 8.15. We reached Marlborough at 9.50 and stopped for coffee. I gave my first talk at Piggledene. They sat round on the Sarsens; then the next at the Sanctuary. The pull up for lorries opposite was in full use and looked worse than ever. We walked round the bank at Avebury and reached the museum and the church by 12.30. It was an excellent museum, beautifully arranged and labelled;
    By 1.10 we were sitting on the top of Silbury in the bright autumn sunlight eating our lunch. The country was devoid of cover for the young women and this made it necessary to stop at Devizes. We reached Stonehenge about 2.50. I gave them the first talk at the distant sight of the stones, the second under the Trilithons. To my amusement I attracted a large fringe of visitors and I was soon lecturing to a crowd.  We started home at four and reached Henley after six. It was a lovely day. I much enjoyed it and it was nice to have Mary Clayden with me - so friendly and sensible.
Sunday, Oct 11th
    Autumn is a time of clearing up! All today busy doing it. The bees have to be fed, the feeders taken off, the extraction stored, the caravan, too, painted against the winter, the allotment dug where empty and covered with grass cuttings, bulbs planted in beds and pots and so on. 
Tuesday, Oct 13th 
    The sixth are listening on Tuesdays to a broadcast series on science and religion. When it began today the set gave out a series of frightful cracklings. I switched off and said, "Who has got an interferer up his trouser leg?" It never occurred again and I could find nothing wrong with  the lead or plug. I suspected a silly arse called Andrew Bruce. I wonder!
Wednesday, Oct 14th
    A long and fatuous governors' meeting. Canon Crosse made as much mischief as he could in the time. Capt. Pullein-Thompson very surprized when my parents' nominee, Mrs Griggs, opened her mouth and remarked that she was "not a village woman". Apparently all parents ought to be V. W. and show proper respect for their betters. My cold, which has been rumbling on for ten days, suddenly flared up. Perhaps I was suffering from "governor frustration" and it came out this way!
Thursday, Oct 15th
    Walked down after school to the Fair Mile to test out timing for dispatching school tomorrow. It took half an hour to get into position and may I should think take longer tomorrow. We are to be there by 2.30, stand in the cold for half an hour and then see nothing of the planting either. What a bore! Only hope it doesn't rain.
Saturday, Oct 17th
    Yesterday I was presented to royalty for the first and last time. A new piece of asphalt path had been laid and a barrier on each side. The school was on the left in a place by itself, but muddy and rather sloping. I left my robes in Wilk's at the Pod and went there in Brind's car, so did not have to walk so far. The head boy and girl, rather reluctantly, went in with the subscribers in the enclosure from which you could see the the planting and the canopy banked with flowers from which the Princess Margaret made her speech. She arrived rather ahead of time and the proceedings were short. The tree was soon done and she began to walk down the path to the car. I stood in gown and rather moulting rabbit skin before the barrier. The party, made up of the mayor, the beadle, town clerk and Princess, advanced slowly towards me. In front a line of camera men bobbed and dodged and gesticulated like a drove of apes. The mayor read my name, and I bowed in what I hoped was the proper manner over the royal hand. The Princess turned her head slowly and gazed at me in a rather glassy manner. She was a tiny woman, as small as the Wilk in spite of her high heels, and thin as a rake. She wore a coppery metallic looking dress, well padded out with flounced coat round the hips, so when she walked her behind seemed to stick out. She was well made up with a large red mouth; her eyes, which were bluish, were greasy round the lids and the lashes were stuck together with mascara. She asked me the numbers in the school,  was it mixed, did it work well, did I like it. After this there was a slightly awkward pause and she turned her head and moved slowly on. The crowd waved and as she motored away for the first time cheered. We extricated ourselves from the crowd and Brind put me down at the Town Hall.

    Here members of the Coronation Committee were having tea and H.R.H. had "graciously consented to be present". A wide blue carpet had been put down the centre of the hall leading to a "high table" with red leather chairs at the further end. Tables with cakes and tea cups ran down each side. The company, about 10O strong, waited for the Princess to arrive. It was a long wait, for although she had left the Fair Mile 40 minutes before, it is necessary for royalty to pay lavatory calls at fixed points and these can only be made at W.C.s of titled persons. The Princess had been visiting Lady Rathcreeden's convenience!
     Soon after four she arrived and walked very slowly up the blue carpet to the accompaniment of decorous bowing, bobbing and clapping, and took her seat between the mayor and the lord lieutenant, a rather moth eaten elderly gentleman in khaki, a lady in waiting, the mayoress, the local M.P. The chairman of the County Council completed the party.
    The guests munched their tea standing and watching the the mayor and the Princess. The former appeared to be making heavy weather! After about 20 minutes the high table rose and processed out. Nora and I left by the back door. A largish crowd was waiting on the Town Hall steps.
    Tonight I stayed in and listened to the opening of the R.A.F. memorial on Cooper's Hill near Windsor by the Queen. It sounds a most imaginative building with its cloister and shrine and a scroll bearing the words of Psalm 139:
    If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell thou art there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and they right hand shall hold me.
Sunday, Oct 18th
    Told Nora very doubtful if Mary and I could do anything while Mary's father was still alive. She said suffering this summer from fearful attacks of depression, so bad she thought she might have to go into a mental hospital, but had been going to an analyst lately and felt better. Apparently not due to Hilary or me, but just comes on unexpectedly.
    Yesterday went through old letters of 1940 onwards and found some written by Con about Hilary at the end of his first term [at Long Dene School, summer 1943]. It was extraordinarily accurate in its estimate of his character. Nora thinks now what Con thought then - he was too young at 7 [six years and eight months to be precise] to be sent away from home, but I don't know whether it will leave a permanent scar. I do hope not.
Tuesday, Oct 20th
    Heard today that Princess actually ate two slices of chocolate cake made by Vera Emmerson, head girl! Just remembered that I was asked to take tea with H.R.H. on Friday because I was on Coronation sports committee, which I never attended!!
Wednesday, Oct 21st
    To Cooper's Hill with Mary to visit R.A.F. memorial. The site still recovering from the ravages of Saturday. It is a noble position on a woody bluff above the Thames with far extending views on a clear day. 20,000 men with no known graves who were lost in the western theatres are here commemorated. It was a bad day to see it and resolved to come again when the lawns are not cluttered with chairs and discarded service papers.
Saturday, Oct 24th
    Went on a church tour. Lewknor, Chinnor, Thame, Great Milton. Parson was in at Chinnor who took me round the church and told me all about the numerous churches he serves and the duodenal ulcers they gave him. Chinnor is really a horror. The mid-Victorians filed, pewed, and plastered and the effect is ghastly. The rector was keeping the church locked because a pyromaniac had lit up St. Michael's in Oxford, when what he really needed more than anything in Chinnor was a good fire.
    At Great Milton suddenly remembered that old Keble man, R. A. Knox, who rowed in the boat, was rector, so called on him. He gave me tea and discoursed at length. Came to conclusion I am a very modest man, as when I go back to see my undergraduate friends I find they have become layers-down-of-the-law, not to say bores! Perhaps however am not modest, merely stupid and lazy.
Monday, Oct 29th
    Always said during the war it would be interesting to read afterwards what really happened! Just been reading a book describing the planting of a corpse, previously kept in cold storage, bearing bogus documents on the Spanish coast by submarine. Object to make the Germans think an attack on Greece and Sardinia, not Sicily, imminent. "Major Martin" bore bills, letters from his father, his fiancee, his bank, stubs of theatre tickets. The creation of a fictitious person most interesting. Think I should have been good at "intelligence", as a task for crookery anyway.
Friday, Oct 30th
    Half term. Drove into Oxford but a cloud burst on the way so by the time we reached the High St there were copious drips. Went down below the main road to Minster Lovel. A C15th church with fine alabaster tomb with C15th haircut of Lord Lovel. To Swinbrook, a beautiful light church with low east window in plane glass because land mine had fallen near in 1942. Many years since I had seen the Fettiplace tombs. How good they are! Walked over fields to Widford. In a state of great decay, dirt and damp.
    Reached Molly for tea. Many improvements to Hollybush Farm, electric light, bathroom and W.C. upstairs and a much improved kitchen with electric cooker and new sink.
Saturday, Oct 31st
    Walked round farm after breakfast, then over to Kilpeck. An aileless Norman church in red sandstone with a magnificent south door and an equally fine chancel arch with figures of saints standing on each others bowler-like halos. A series of corbels running round church, fantastic, naturalistic, obscene. We ate our lunch in the car and then drove on to Abbey Dore, the crossing and chancel only thing left of a magnificent C13th Cistercian abbey church, tall and graceful, now damp, dirty and neglected. Had to get back by three to milk the cows.

November. Trees vandalised. On television. Redgrave, Ashcroft in Antony and Cleopatra. Headmaster as Aunt Sally.
Sunday, Nov 1st
    A wet morning but took Ruth and Molly over to service at Tewkesbury. After lunch climbed May Hill, 969ft, but it was too cold and windy to stay there long.
Tuesday, Nov 3rd
    School again! The first white frost last night. An amazingly warm autumn. Molly has got her house so well arranged and shipshape, everything planned and convenient, feel sometimes I hate this house with its lack of planning, muck and untidiness and constant muddle. Often I go for long periods and don't notice it, then it gets me down - perhaps it's my liver!
Saturday, Nov 7th
    The Princess's trees were not in long before some blighters - hooligans or souvenir hunters - broke the tips off. Not a good prospect for the remainder, as they were most carefully railed in.
Friday, Nov 13th
    Announced this week that an atomic energy corporation to be set up. Query, the beginning of a new industrial revolution. Also the plans for commercial television. Like most people I know, not in favour of commercial television as think likely television will go the way of cinema and cater for the lowest common multiple and the mass audience. The Beer, Polls and Dog interests will be the ones with money to spend. The experience of the U.S.A. not encouraging, especially in view of the effect of sensational films on child audiences. Some of my sixth formers spend far too much time viewing. Besides if I did have a set at some future date I should not want advertisements for patent medicines, foundation garments and Mars Bars in the home.
Saturday, Nov 14th
    Picked up Mary at 3 o'clock and by four thirty were in Winchester where we stayed at the Royal. Had tea in cafe and looked at shops. Returned to hotel. Dinner now 8/6 for three courses only.
Sunday, Nov 15th
    Walked over to the river from King Alfred's statue to Cathedral where we sat in the nave til the end of matins and listened to a very clever sermon on spiritual healing from Roger Lloyd. 
Monday, Nov 16th
    Dorothy Wade over for night, also a dark little woman to give lecture to teachers. Dark woman pressed by Nora to stay, but Dorothy remarked not the kind of woman you would care to share a bed with. Fortunately did not stay. 
Wednesday, Nov 18th
    We got the evening tickets for 4/- for London, had dinner at the National Book League (5/6). Antony and Cleopatra at the Princes Theatre, a large one but difficult to find. Michael Redgrave and Peggy Ashcroft were terrific. Caesar was done by Marius Goring and looked like a particularly nasty sixth form boy  What a play! The heat was frightful and in front of us we had a woman who stank to heaven. You had to hold a handkerchief to your nose at times. Too C16th! With its rapidly changing scenes the play is a masterpiece of technique. Cleopatra was dressed as a Greek in flowing white robes, light and sinuous She rolled on a couch recalling Antony's weight in Act 1, sc 5. Her movements were quick, lithe and she used her arms all the time. Her savagery and the foreign character of her court were emphasized; Mardian was a horrible fat old black eunuch. Antony was a splendid bearded figure in red with golden armour. The qualities which would destroy them both were there from the beginning and marvellously developed as the play proceeded. Dead on the throne with open eyes, crowned and robed, she was indeed "a lass unparallelled". There was an extremely good Enobarbus, who spoke "The barge she sat on like a burnished throne" completely in character - you felt in spite of the poetry of the language it was absolutely right. It was an experience I had long coveted - and I was not disappointed. You were taken right out of yourself; the heat, the crowd, the smell were forgotten!
Wednesday, Nov 25th
    Prize Day! Spent the morning betting the platform arranged in the Town Hall and the prizewinners drilled in handshaking etc. This year G. J. Nash, an old boy of the school, to give prizes. He was a State Scholar and double first in the Maths tripos at Cambridge, now an eminent civil servant in the Ministry of Labour, C.B. and an under secretary. A nice man, odd and untidy, with an Oxfordshire accent and round shouldered. He made a good speech and was tactful all round.  Characteristically he had got a report on the vocational help given from the local employment people. Mr Cook proposed the vote of thanks in which he announced the result of the football match England v Hungary, and then we had Capt. Pullein-Thompson, a military bore, on the cadet corps. He went on so long that we ran 15 minutes over time! We had hardly got into the mayor's parlour when old Denham attacked me. The singing was no good, who was the music master, he was not worth twopence! Fortunately Brind had not come in, but he might well have done. I was very cross with the old man, who ought to have known better. Having the thing in the Town Hall makes it difficult enough anyway and I was very fed up with the whole boiling lot of them, except Tom Luker and Cook. However, as H. M. a kind of Aunt Sally anyway.
Thursday, Nov 26th
    Over to Oxford with Nora by 8.45. Went to see Mrs Lobel at the New Bodleian but she was away and her assistant sent me to the Science Library up Parks Road after Henry Munday's book on food and drink, published 1689. I finally got him at Duke Humphrey. He was in Latin, but easy to read and rather amusing so I pored over him till lunch time. Picked up Nora at six for supper and to Cherry Orchard at Playhouse. had not seen it since 1924 or so. Found it very entertaining - the picture of society in decay.
Saturday, Nov 28th
    Spent morning writing up Henry Munday for magazine. In the evening a garage man came who wanted his diction improved, as he was a lay preacher. Decided to take him on at 5/- a lesson, though don't know if I know enough myself to be of much help.
Sunday, Nov 29th
    Before lunch we managed to trolley over some logs from the clearing from the biology lab - chestnut, for two great horse chestnut trees felled. We shall miss them in the spring.

December. St Joan. Visit to turkish bath. Leighton Park. Miss Hunter on the Americans. 1953: choice, but not plenty.

Tuesday, Dec 1st
    Rehearsing first scene of St Joan. One of dresses still bears the legend "Pig Food" on the back. A short cloak necessary.
Wednesday, Dec 2nd
    Parents do. About 60 came and showed them round in three parties. Clem's got lost, and when told Roberts to get some boys to put the chairs round for tea, they put up tables for lunch. Got rid of them by 4.15. and went over to M. To cinema to see The Man Between, a film by producer of The Third Man, but not nearly as good (that would be difficult), eastern and western zones in Berlin, a picture of misery, suspicion and horror.
Thursday, Dec 3rd
    Wasps still flying round in December and grass still growing. No frost yet. A remarkable autumn, warmer than at the coronation in June. Parent of first former reported yesterday seniors kissing in music room. Must start some time I suppose!
Sunday, Dec 6th
    Hauling logs around by car this morning. Have told staff they can collect any they want so the best have gone.
Friday, Dec 11th
    Took Mary to see Shane, a highly recommended western. This was an excellent film of the clash in Alabama between farmers and ranchers. A killer on the run is befriended by the farmer and his wife and becomes the hero of the farmer's son. He intervenes in the quarrel and shoots the Yankee gunman the ranchers have imported and then goes on his lonely way, leaving the wife, who has fallen in love with him, to her husband and the farmers secure to build up a town in the valley.
    Posted my autobiography, which I started in 1937 and finished this autumn, to be typed by a woman in  Folkestone. Kept back the two chapters on marriage and love affairs, as I think if these are to be typed I shall have to do it myself!
Saturday, Dec 12th
    The Prefects' Party. Sophisticated! Much dancing and fewer games! We did the first scene of St Joan in the middle and it went off very well. Hilary came over in afternoon to play hockey. Wishes to got to conference of Association of World Churches in Christmas holiday and is hoping to act Romeo in one act play for British Drama League Competition. He has come on tremendously since at Leighton Park and hope now is over his adolescence. He has found the higher standards of a public school stimulating  
    Reading Bullock's Hitler, one of the most evil men who has ever lived.
Monday, Dec 14th
    Plays morning and afternoon, then a staff meeting. Our play went well. Staff meeting asked me to ban mistletoe, said I left it to the common sense of form masters (how much have they?).
Wednesday, Dec 16th
    Less misty than last week. Drove to Goring and walked up the road to Little Gatehampton and back by the lane. We met no one and all was quiet and peaceful for Mary after the Christmas crowds in Heelas and Reading. We walked arm in arm and frequently kissed. We got through the wire in the valley and walked up to the hedge where we went on  Feb 11th 1942, to see the huge bushes of spindle with all the berries till on them. To tea in Goring and then to the Oxford Road to see Genevieve. This was a good film, far better than The Titchfield Thunderbolt  because it was less fantastic. The different psychology of the sexes was well brought out and the woman actors were very good. We roared with laughter.
Thursday, Dec 17th
    Went to an "open rehearsal" at Leighton park. Hilary has been made a house prefect and singing in the choir. Afterwards drove round to Reckitt House and saw his study, which he shares with two others, decorated with French and Swedish posters.
Friday, Dec 18th
    Broke up. Staff (Clem) very apprehensive because air had been let out of tyres and petrol caps removed off cars in summer. We certainly don't want a tradition of damage, but I think they were perhaps too anxious. Anyway nothing happened!
Saturday, Dec 19th
    Had a long letter from Con telling me about her work and "the lodger" - so glad she has found some one and she is happy.  This made me happy too. 
Tuesday, Dec 22nd
    Up to London to see Aunt's solicitor, but little to my advantage for discovered that because Father had left everything to Molly his share of Grandmother's estate went to her and I got nothing except half Aunt's house! Solicitor a decent chap, both much amused because will said Trustees might sell timber on the estate - so much for Aunt's slum property in Prospect Place, Chatam.
    After this shock! lunched at the N.B.L. and then went to Turkish bath in Jermyn Street. Father used to go the Hammam, but this was blitzed. A rum place! After depositing all your valuables in a little drawer at the reception desk and being given a key on a leather thong, your shoes were removed and you padded downstairs into a subterranean hall with cubicles. On the way you took a check duster to cover yourself. Undressed hastily because of the heat and then in duster only went down a flight of steps into more infernal regions. Waited for a bit, then went into steam room with tiers of marble shelves so not you took off your duster and sat on it to keep heat from your bottom. Nothing like this even at Droitwich. Then walked up to the end and into a room marked "Calidarium" Here met a knowledgeable man, who told me how to book a masseur, and which of the two to book and how much to tip him, cost of tea etc. Calidarium, he remarked, only 114°! There was a small room still hotter, used, so he said, by jockeys. About a quarter of an hour before time for massage sat in Tepidarium. Some men, I noticed, hardly sweated at all. It was running off me in streams all the time! At 4.0 lay on marble slab, watered, soaped, scraped and showered, then to lie on bed in cubicle and drink tea and toast. Lay there for two hours in semi coma and then home by 6.15. 7/6 for bath, 7/6 for attendant, 1/7 for tea, 1/- for receptionist - 17/7 in all well worth it for the strange experience.
Christmas Eve.
    Hilary went down with a temperature of 102.5 and Nora had a bad cold. I had an outbreak on corner of mouth so fear the worst. The typescript of my autobiography arrived.
Christmas day
    Nora woke early and got herself and Hilary some tea. His temperature was not far above normal, but his head still ached. 
    It was a brilliant day with blue sky, a cold west wind and a low silvery sun casting shadows on the plough. I have never known such a flowery Christmas. It was easy to pick a posy of polyanthnus; the yellow jasmine and iris sylosa have been in flower for other years, but this is the first time there were violets and chimonanthus fragrens for Christmas Day. This morning a number of wasps came into the larder after marmalade.
    For dinner we had roast chicken, Brussels sprouts, bread sauce, stuffing etc, a bottle of Graves, but as Hilary was in bed and could not eat much, no Christmas pudding but fruit salad and mince pies. After this, feeling rather buzzy, I drove to the hospital to see Marjorie Wilkinson, who had been operated on for a varicose vein on Wednesday. She was very cheerful. The local medicos had been round the hospital. She had been kissed by Irvine and the kitchen maid by Hartley - they must have been well oiled the lot of them!
Monday, Dec 28th 
    Miss Hunter came to lunch and cursed the Americans, "who thought they ran everything, building bases in Spain and Pakistan". Did not agree with her. Hilary came down to tea. Read through Diary for 1943, but wish I had more social information in it, as this now seems the most interesting. Noticed I looked forward to cheap and comfortable railway travel after war - what a hope! fare to London now 10/2! 
    Bought Hilary a Lilliput which had three dimensional pictures of nudes which you looked at through coloured spectacles provided. Also some advice on wine and tales of notable soaks, including Charlie Fox, on whose liver, the doctors said after his death, they rang guineas it was so hard! What would Uncle Sam have made of this for a Christmas present?
Tuesday, Dec 29th
    Went over to Reading for lunch with Cyril Peach and his six cats (2 lodgers). Heath came into supper and had a long argument with Nora about the welfare state. Finally gave him a glass of Port and he left about ten o'clock.
Thursday, Dec 31st
    As we sit in the dining room in front of an electric fire with frost outside, Hilary reading Ibsen, the year is coming to an end. In some ways I suppose it has been more like a pre-war year; rationing almost ended, butter is the only thing left, for no one bothers about meat, and there is high octane branded petrol again, not to mention chocolates. In fact you can almost get anything if you can afford it; choice but not plenty!

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