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Friday, 10 December 2010

1955: April - June

April. Churchill resigns. Hotels from Hell. 6d off income tax. Election announced.  The Headmaster fells like Charles II. Roller painter revolution. School Charter framed.

Friday, April 1st
   A fine day to end term! It all went off all right with harmless jokes until just after we stopped when some louts from the fifth and fourth forms broke into the prefects' room and smashed the door off its hinges. Staff on duty were not there, utterly useless, and by the time I arrived the culprits had departed. I was boiling with rage.
Sunday, April 3rd
   Caught the Oxford train. Hilary had gone up with Lise to assist in getting Jimmie and Johnnie to Paddington. They were then going to a concert at the Albert Hall. At Oxford got in a diesel car to Worcester. I was in Droitwich in time to have tea before going to Ayrshire House.

Monday, April 4th
   I asked the hotel if they had a room for Mary on Thursday, but when I found they only had one vacant by the front door, and I on the second floor, decided to book a room for Thursday night at The Crown in Worcester.

Tuesday, April 5th
   Had my first bath. Mr Harris (Bert) was away, so had Mr B, my man in 1942, who is much pleasanter. Went over to Bromsgrove, a lousy place, no centre, one long traffic-jammed street. Eventually found St John's Church, a large grim sandstone building with a spire, but a beastly colour. It contained some good alabaster effigies, rather knocked about, of 1450, knight and wife, he with an "orle", an embroidered circlet, round his helmet [OED: Orle - chaplet or wreath round helmet of a knight, bearing the crest]; of 1490 single lady; of 1550 knight with two wives. Had tea at the less dirty of the cafés and returned quickly to Droitwich.
   Mary's friend Timber, a B.E.A. pilot, was given a new uniform because he was flying Churchill to Sicily after Parliament rose. This indicated his resignation, I thought. Last night he gave a party at No 10 to the Queen and Duke, his secretaries, his military commanders, Alexander and Montgomery, his war time colleagues and friends. This afternoon his resignation was announced and he drove to Buckingham Palace for his last audience with the Queen. He wore his frock coat, top hat, carried a cigar and gave the V sign to the crowds as he used to do in the darkest days of the war.
   The war! Always will he be the Prime Minister of 1940, the man who spoke for England, who faced and defied Hitler when we seemed to have so little left with which to fight him, the man of destiny touring the invasion defences, walking through the bombed areas, Bristol, Coventry, Portsmouth; fighting the Battle of the Atlantic; inspiring, encouraging, planning, never losing heart in spite of every disappointment, the pilot who weathered the storm, the architect of victory.
   One thinks of his humour, his generosity, his magnanimity; the rough, husky, rather thick voice coming from the loud speaker, pausing to bring out some point rather slowly and then building up to a climax - "this was their finest hour", "owed by so many to so few", "we shall never surrender", "blood, tears, toil and sweat".
   15 years on; 15 years since I began to keep a diary in the hope of one day seeing peace and victory; then he was 65 and at the height of his powers, now he is 80, rather slow and deaf, but the centre of all our affection and gratitude - a faithful servant of the English people and of mankind.

Thursday, April 7th
   Bath at 10. To Worcester after tea. At the Crown had a double room over the courtyard next to the one we slept in in 1942. Pretty sordid look out and no net curtain. The only satisfactory furniture in the room was the double bed, which was wide, long and comfortable. Walked to station to meet Mary from train at 9.30. It was an hour late! Fortunately I had ordered a taxi. By 11 we were in bed. By midnight we were nice and sleepy and just going off when the "noises" started!

Good Friday, April 8th
   A loud electric bell rings; heavy footsteps in the yard, bolts and bars withdrawn, conversation with late arrivals; slamming of door, more bolting and locking; heavy footsteps on stairs and in corridor. Between 12 and 4 this happens five times, variegated by the starting up of a car, the horn of which is twice blown. By now we are both very wide awake. As we are gradually sinking back into a coma, lavatory flushes next door. Each individual in late parties follows a chain pulling regime. Somewhere about two o'clock we snatch a little sleep, only to be woken again  by howling of hotel cat, who appears to be confined to hotel courtyard and to desire to mate. He seems to come on heat at intervals of about 20 minutes. At about four o'clock something arouses the night porter. He sneezes, belches, farts, coughs, hawks and finally retches. May he be seized with a double hernia! A little before dawn, as a variation on the feline and subhuman  outcry, we have an avian contribution from Poe's Raven or the Jackdaw of Rheims, which settles on some part of the roof and caws loudly and repeatedly.
   Long before this time I have remarked aloud, "How I hate hotels," and have determined that come what may I will not pass another night at The Crown. Sleeping with Mary is lovely, but what one had to go through to achieve it.

Saturday, April 9th
   Bert at the Baths says thing are very quiet - they obviously are - and the private patients don't come as they used to. "This place has had it", he adds gloomily. It certainly seems to be supported mainly on National Health patients in the last stages of crippledom, poor things.

Easter Monday
   Nora arrived just as I was starting off to meet her from the bus. We strolled round the town after tea, and after dinner were asked into the Dawsons (Dr Dawson and Mrs Dawson and Dr Dawson's father, "the old" Dr Dawson). There were two other guests, a Midlands businessman with a Belgian wife, beautifully turned out but for 20 years a victim of arthritis, yet still full of vitality and courage. Nora got on well with Mrs D. The Midland man did not like school masters and much disapproved of their holidays.

Wednesday, April 13
   In the afternoon Nora embarled on a discussion of "the future". She suggested we had a house with Mary in one part and and N in a flat - a ménage à trois! I can se Mary welcoming that. At any rate I rather gathered that my role was to be financially responsible for Nora, Hilary, Mary and myself on my pension. She did say she wanted me to have a happy old age, which was nice of her, but she obviously has doubts about my happiness with Mary. "You have done all the right things," the psychologiust told her, "but you haven't found anyone for yourself."
   "So many people get mouldy in old age. We mustn't go mouldy!" Mouldy already, I reply. Certainly not full of fresh ideas.
           .....and this place is sacred, to all seeming -
       thick set with laurel, olive, vine; and in its heart
       a feathered choir of nightingales makes music.
       So sit thee here on this unhewn stone.....
                                               Oedipus at Colonus  

Thursday, April 14th
   Had lunch with Molly at the Hop Pole in Tewkesbury. We had shoulder of lamb, two vegetables, a fruit salad with a little ceram, worth at most 4/- or 5/- at the N.B.L., they charged 10/- each. Never again.

Friday, April 15th
   Went out to see Great Witley Hall and Church. A fine Palladian house but gutted by fire.The church was a most surprizing place, a great baroque venetian building of 1725, all cream and gold with a painted ceiling and window of the same date. The April sun was shining in a clear sky and the strong light showed it at its best. I had seen nothing like it before in England or London.

Saturday, April 16th
   A general election  was announced for the end of May on the news last night.
   A letter from Nora in which she said, "I did love having a day or two's peace and quiet with you and hope I did not leave you all churned up with problems - I have quite recovered from the pain and depression and can appreciate all the other more creative elements that lie between us - whether of birth or death - which equally bind us together and enrich us."
   I replied that at the moment my problems appeared to be mainly financial, how to keep myself,  educate Hilary, support Nora and maintain Mary - problems I appear to share with his late Majesty Charles II!

Sunday, April 127th
   Drove to Harrington Hall, recommended by Mary Clayden. A most interesting house. The Elizabethan builder was a recusant and had provided the house with eleven hideouts from ground floor to roof. In one room they had a photostat of the records at Rome in which both the real names and the assumed names of the missionary guests were given. Too modern!

Monday, April 18th
   A letter from Mary today. "If you and I did live together, I would do my best to lake it a success if she wanted to visit us, or if she required nursing and had no one to do it,  but it would not work living in one house."

Tuesday, April 19th
   Budget Day. In  preparation  for the election Mr Butler takes 6d off Income Tax and increases personal and children's allowances.

Thursday, April 21st
   Left by 1.34 train. Nora met me at Reading. Nora and Hilary had done much redecoration to dining room, hall and staircase They had got the dining room too greeny and primrose so it looked as though it was illuminated by strip lighting, but their intentions were good.   

Friday, April 22nd
   Yesterday the papers started up again after a month. Most people seem to have found they could get on very well without them and may now buy even fewer than they did before. 700 electricians put 22,000 people out of work and in the end agreed to go back if "negotiations" could be begun, which they could have been without any strike at all!

Saturday, April 23rd
   Digestion not good, perhaps the result of trying to adjust to life at School House after a life of choreless ease at Ayrshire Hotel.
   In the morning visited Phyllis' flat in the Market Place for the first time. An extraordinary building. When the Three Tuns is open you can go through a narrow passage way to get to it from the front; out of licensing hours you can only get to it from the back up a long and narrow passage from Greys Road, for the front has been sold off to a grocery store. It has a large sitting room just over a bus stop. This morning it was full of chatter from Saturday shoppers. A large kitchen at the back and a range of attic bedrooms approached by a break neck staircase and connected by a kind of ship's bridge.

Sunday, April 24th
   With amazing speed by means of a roller Hilary painted the caravan. I followed with a rag over the panel divisions wiping up. Rollers have certainly revolutionized painting.

Monday, April 25th
   The gents who smashed the door owned up, I was glad to say, and we decided to put the girls who cut on the day before the Paris visit on to scavenging and no tennis. Clem was very enthusiastic about visit. They seem to have seen a lot and went to the Comedie Francaise and the Opera as well as all the usual things.
   The Rev: Pachyderm, who departs for Sussex in June, appeared at Modern School today and said that as it was Anzac Day and his wife was from New Zealand, he proposed to hoist the New Zealand flag. "Funny ideas he has", remarked the H.M., who is an amiable soul.

Tuesday, April 26th
   I took Nora up to the Festival Hall to hear a Brahms concert, Violin Concerto and Symphony No 1. The usual rush to get off accompanied our departure for Reading to catch the 5.28 to Waterloo, for which we paid 7/6 by Southern when we could have got 4/- return to Paddington, but it paid at the other end as we strolled straight onto the South Bank. The conductor was Pierre Monteaux, an aged Frenchman of 79 whom I must have heard conducting the Diaghaleff Ballet as a young man in the my twenties.

Wednesday, April 27th
   Eric Attrill said she was giving up at the end of term. I had Mary C in to tea and to my great surprize she said she wanted the charge of the English, which I had never even considered. The Attrills together earn £1500, so I said when she complained of the work, "Why don't you get a house keeper?"

Friday, April 29th
   Drove over to Oxford and fetched School Charter which had been framed at Rymans in the High, £15.15.0. Also visited the archives at County Hall to enquire about the minutes of 1927 - 28 where to my surprize I was treated with great deference. Got the charter home and lugged it across to the school where Tom is to hang it in the top corridor.
May. "Gone to pieces". Tenth anniversary of peace. Coldest May day. Sports Day (with snow?). Enid Griggs proposes a PTA. Tory majority of 60. Rail strike.

Sunday, May 1st
   A blowy rainy day. Had a rather disturbed night and woke up with discomfort in tummy. Cleared out crates of shallow frames in back room, but of course as usual I have got far more apparatus than I need for six colonies of bees - and sad to say don't feel a bit like bees any longer - suppose I have gone to pieces this last year and men pass through a kind of "change of life" in mid fifties. Wonder, if my digestion cleared up, I should get a second wind and be ready for things again.

Monday, May 2nd
   Cold, rainy and high wind. Tom had let out the boilers promptly on April 30th without even a reference to me, come frost or snow, so we shivered all day, me in  my seaman's jersey and dufflecoat.
   This afternoon Brind was away at a wedding and I was billed to take a broadcast lesson with the fifth form boys. I forgot till near the end, but when I went over to my delight they were singing sea shanties happily while one of their number played the piano. Felt there can't be an awful lot wrong where that happens.
   Conservative and Labour election programmes are out. Vague, but Labour the vaguer! Except on renationalisation of transport by road (Silly) and the comprehensive school, no examination but "secondary education for all" - the old political swindle.

Friday, May 6th
   Hilary has announced he wishes to go camping in France with Lise and Micheline. Nora announced previously that we must get a furnished house so that we could all have a holiday together before Hilary went into the the army. It all seems a muddle. We have let our house but have not found one to replace it.

Saturday, May 7th
   Nora asked me to go to a Graham Greene film, The Heart of the Matter. I declined. I have no wish to see any affair remotely resembling mine and Mary's in her company. 

Sunday, May 8th
   Ten years ago today the surrender of Germany was announced (officially). We have got rid of the shortages and most of the deprivations, but we are not at ease - the Russians are onthe Elbe, the threat of the annihilation of civilization is at the back of our minds all the time. We have hoped for something better so often and always been disappointed.

Monday, May 9th
   Gave a short talk on what we did at school in May 1945. They seemed interested. We flew the flag and I had as far as I could remember the same hymns and collect as ten years ago.

Thursday, May 12th
   Voted in municipal election for three councillors i) the biggest rogue, ii) the youngest candidate, iii) old Buddington, who stood me half a glass of Graves at the Old Boys' dinner,  but can neither read nor write. But only the youngest candidate got in.

Sunday, May 15th
   Heard that at last the Austrian Treaty has been signed. Tito now to be visited by Russian high up. Perhaps they may after all have come to the conclusion that the cold war is not rewarding and our policy of rearmament may be about to pay a dividend..... Is this the great defreeze?

Monday, May 16th
   Closed with Mrs Bland and her cottage on Ashdown Forest near Uckfield. This is not what Nora wanted  but will suit me if we (Mary and I) sail from Newhaven very well.

Tuesday, May 17th
   An extraordinary May day, the coldest since records have been kept. Drove back from Mary's in a blizzard. Picked the hotel we intend to stay at in Normandy.

Wednesday, May 18th
   Very cold and strong wind, showers of sleet at intervals. Fortunately we got through most of Sports Day without a downpour, but it got a bit behind because the jumps were slow and the prize giving not till after five. The cold kept the governors away, which was a blessing!  

Judging by a photograph taken at 3 p.m. on May 18th 
of the school sports, they appear to have taken place
with a very light covering of snow on the ground.

Saturday, May 21st
   Things never turn out as your expect. We had planned an expedition to Stratford for a long time but we had not reckoned with the Arctic weather. I had not thought that this very week I should begin a cracking cold caught on sports day..... The play, All's Well... very poor, can't think why they put it on. But nice to be in the theatre again with Mary after 11 years and we enjoyed just that. Again unexpectedly we had a stinking women sitting in front of us - my cold an advantage.

Sunday, May 22nd
   Cold no worse. We drove out to see Charlecote House. It has a lovely avenue and a beautiful Elizabethan gatehouse. Saw a red squirrel in the park - most unusual.

Wednesday, May 25th
   In the afternoon the governors met. The canon turned up for positively the last time. He made as much mischief as possible and raised the question of why we did not do history in G.C.E. Although he pointed out this was his last meeting, no one made any comment. That damned silly woman, Enid Griggs, who represents the parents, asked why we did not have a parent-teachers association! [Editor: The headmaster believed that the school was best run by himself and his teachers and would have no truck with PTAs

Thursday, May 26th
   To Exeter by 5 o'clock train, got to Maud's about ten but was put in a decidedly second class bed. [Election day,  but Diarist does not mention it]

Friday, May 27th
   By supper time it was clear the Conservatives in by a majority of 60 - this adequate but not too big, so very satisfactory.

Saturday, May 28th
   In the afternoon we had a taxi to Shillingford and took over three big bunches of lily of the valley for the graves of Grandmother, Uncle Sam, Father and Mother. Barked my head on the granite cross, a poor reward for filial piety! A lovely setting, this green valley in the hills, but a dull little church inside. As we drove away it looked an inky purple, far bluer than I remembered it. 

Sunday, May 29th
   The train drivers and firemen go on strike tomorrow.

Monday, May 30th
   Wonder whether to bus or hitch hike tomorrow. Ring up Nora and find she is all set to drive down tomorrow if I will drive back, so agree.

Tuesday, May 31st
   Nora arrives at 12 having started at 6.0. We start home about 1.0. Arrive home after 156 miles at 7.45. We met very few coaches, little road transport, no hitch hikers (to my great surprize).

June. Police battle Teddy boys. Hilary in hospital. Perils of beekeeping. Effective work at interviewing. "Even Cllr Hamilton could understand it." Complications with Mary Clayden.

Saturday, June 4th
    Visit Aunt and take her up to the old people's home to see Rusby. This not a success. Rusby very ill and obviously failing. How pathetic is old age in an  institution in spite of kindness in the "home". "Medicine", says Jaquetta, "has given us an insoluble problem in making it possible.... to
prolong the lives of the very aged and sick to their own misery and the heavy burden of the young."
   Hilary says the 18 Henley policemen were engaged the other night in trying to turn a gang of Teddy boys out of a dance at the Town Hall. According to him the Windsor police very effete and although warned the hooligans intended to damage river craft did nothing about it. Teddy boys much in the news and when some one cut the bell rope last week, Rees said we had them in the school. Nora thinks them pre [military] service age 16 -18, I had supposed them post-service.

Sunday, June 5th
   A lovely day. Worked in my room at the school in the morning on the English appointment, partly to avoid an appearance while the Mayor's service was on. The old Canon had tried to get me to read one lesson while the H.M. of the modern school read the other, but I was not having any truck after the way he has behaved. Thank God he's only got another month. Capt. Pullein- Thompson, another blight, has been chucked off the C.C. by the electors and his self-importance much damaged.
    Tonight the P.M. broadcast from Chequers but he said nothing about the train strike. Firms will begin to lay off men this week. About one sixth of the normal trains are running.
   Yesterday Hilary's gland in neck swelled up and tomorrow N is sending him to see Irvine. This evening he remarked that it might mean the end of national service!

Monday, June 6th
   Hilary went to surgery and was told it was recurrence of T.B. in glands and he should go to Battle Hospital to see a specialist. Very unfortunate, the effect of one drink of tubercular milk unboiled when he went to a tea party 15 years ago.
   Decided to interview candidates ["doubtful" cases for grammar school entry] at 6 minute intervals. This considered indecently rapid by Nora and, query, the Office, but fat old Miss Markham [child psychologist] is not coming this year and we are left to our own devices.

Tuesday, June 7th
   Specialist says not TB, tonsils, and refers Hilary to E.N.T. specialist.

Thursday, June 9th
   Hilary stayed in all day, his throat more swollen, waiting as he put it "for the bloody doctors".

Friday, June 10th
   Hilary very poorly but goes in morning to Henley Hospital. Specialist sends him over to Reading Hospital in p.m. to get a swab.

Saturday, June 11th
   Hilary,  who has now had this throat for a week and has simply been passed from hand to hand but given no treatment whatever, is really ill. Nora rings up doctor he saw last Monday at surgery, who sends round Irvine. At last he has what he should have had three or four days ago, a penicillin injection. I go down and buy a further course of penicillin injections.
   Case of doctor at Wolverhampton who put off an appointment with a striker's wife when her husband asked for one, as he was on strike and could come too. Doctors don't strike, he said, so he would see her when her husband was back at work!

Sunday, June 12th
   A miserable day for Hilary. Throat very sore and swollen, temperature at 6 p.m. 103.5.
   Last night Ioan Vaughn-Jones brought a London taxi he had bought for £63 up to school. It was capacious vehicle and he said it would be possible to sleep in the back. The gears were low but it could do 35 m.p.h. in top.
Monday, June 13th
   Nora knocked on the library door about 3.0 to say Dr Irvine moving Hilary to the isolation hospital in Reading and I was told he was in an ambulance in the playground if I would like to see him before he went off. The first idea was T.B., then Vincent's angina, now they think it may be glandular fever.
   Cleared off 44 borderline cases and set up a new record for interviewing, allowed six minutes for each instead of the 10 allowed by the office. Saved thereby the visiting examiner from Banbury two journeys or a night in Henley. "Effective work"  in the immortal phrase of Nigel Balchin.

Tuesday, June 14th
   Ioan and Marjorie to tea. His last visit before he sets off for France whence he expects to return in the autumn. Little news of Hilary today, no one prepared to say what he is suffering from if, indeed, they know. They seem to think he may be in for a couple of weeks.
   At 6.30 the programme was interrupted to say the railway strike was over and in 24 hours everything would be normal.

Monday, June 20th
   Very pleased as got the staff VIth form allowances settled in half an hour. Capt Pullein-Thompson was in the chair and wanted to be long-winded and informative, but I had the whole thing tabulated so that even Councillor Hamilton could understand it! I felt this a triumph as Tom Luker said he expected it to take hours.

Wednesday, June 22nd
   Visited Hilary 2.30 - 3.30 and found him sitting up in bed and much better though pale as a muffin.
   Heard on Monday that Cousin Gussie in Cape Town had put a pair of steps on a petrol drum, climbed up the steps and taken a header when the drum capsized and killed himself. This from Aunt. I last saw him after the first war in 1921 when i showed him round Oxford. I think that only leaves three, Cyril, Bobby and one in an asylum. 

Thursday, June 23rd
   At  2 o'clock up comes the Wilk. Cambridge had only sent one Biology frog, and the sex of that uncertain! I couldn't go out with a jam jar and catch some more, so said she must cope. In the end had to go over to zoological lab at Reading and get two, male and female, from there.
   Wilk rather disturbed as Mr Ojikutu, from Nigeria, via Oxford Technical College. After meticulous preparations on her part, when presented with a razor to cut sections hadn't a clue and slashed as if more used to killing goats! A funny day all round!

Saturday, June 25th
   Took Mary Clayden to see Compton Wynates. It was a lovely day, sunny but with a cool breeze. We stopped and ate our lunch at Broom Hill not far from the house. In the afternoon we walked round the garden and then came back to the wood and made a fire for tea. It was about 110 miles altogether.
   Heard yesterday my friend Morley Roberts at Houghton died from a heart attack brought on by extracting honey - an awful warning of the perils of beekeeping! 

Sunday, June 26th
Old Boys Match which I watched for a bit with Hilary, Lise and Micheline.

Monday, June 27th
    A difficult day. Mary C and I met at Fingest Church and had a talk about ourselves and our problems in a beech wood, but reached no conclusion.

Tuesday, June 28th
   M.C. and I met again on the Ewelme road and went up the overgrown track to the Downs and tried to sort things out. We arrived at an understanding and felt better after the unhappiness of yesterday.

Wednesday, June 29th
   Mary and I met at Henley bus stop and to Fawley Meadows - our fifth regatta. We did not know a great dump of gravel had been tipped and the level raised a couple of feet. The bushes had been cleared too! Visibility had been improved, but neither comfort nor privacy!

Thursday, June 30th
   We are housing the M/G sports correspondent who gave us a ticket to the Stewards ' Enclosure, into which Hilary, having put on a tie, penetrated this morning. I have never been there! He said he thought he saw Irvine, but he was so disguised he looked ghastly - white cap, blue blazer and Leander tie.

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