Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Henley Headmaster’s Diary 1964 - New Home at Nether Westcote
Thursday, Jan 2, Hilary writes to say he is thinking of staying on a year in Denmark, moving to a country school where rent will be lowe and domestic help cheaper.
[See index at end of this post]
Monday, Jan 6th - Write to Hilary to say England is the only place where they can both earn, better to return sooner than later.
Tuesday, Jan 7th - Mary horrified me by saying I must ask architect to put bars on front bedroom and her bedroom at Long View because window were too low and people could climb in. Rang up architect who thought it barmy and said why not have jewellers’ mesh all round!
Saturday, Jan 11th - In to Moreton to decide on G.E.C. fridge. Up to site with coal in afternoon in dickey. Crisis! Found fridge too wide for recess. Opened back door to take in coal, NE gale blew through and jammed kitchen door. Hell! After much trial and error got it open.
Sunday, Jan 12th - Peggy left two brooms in the bath. Mrs Woods said it reminded her of her father’s legs sticking up under a macintosh when he got home drunk and got drowned! But can you believe anything that women says?
Monday, Jan 13th - Find now man at electrician’s gave wrong dimensions and fridge will go in! Miss Birch says all Mrs M’s salary cheques have been returned to drawer - no balance.
Tuesday, Jan 14th - The nice Welsh postmistress at Stow took a cheque for £189 for insurance stamps from Pymonie, the cheque cannot be met and the Post Office is holding her responsible. People keep on ringing up to know when Mrs M will be back. No one knows. The milkman, the butcher, grocer, ironmonger and all are owed substantial sums.
Thursday, Jan 16th - Reported Mrs M returning tomorrow night after the children have returned. Some L.E.A. cheques have come but Jeremy has not sent them in, so I expect the money’s there after all.
Friday, Jan 17th - Postmistress in Stow asked if school had started and when I said ‘Yes, but I had not’, enquired in her Welsh lilt, “How does it feel to be a gentleman of leisure?” Replied that I rather liked it!
After reports on the reorganization of the railways, schools, universities and urban traffic, it is now the turn of the Anglican clergy. It is proposed to turn the parson’s freehold, a legacy of the middle ages, into a 10-year lease after which the cleric could be moved on. The report says you can’t ask for more clergy until the existing numbers are properly deployed. In the country there may be one parson to 500, in the towns one to 1,500. The country areas benefit because of the medieval system and has never been more than very partially modified to cope with the population changes of the industrial revolution. I bet Uncle Sam would have had a lot to say about this and what my grandfather at Hatford would have had to say I cannot imagine.
Sunday, Jan 19th - Last night from 8 till midnight the beginning of term staff meeting. It took place in the kitchen by candlelight as Mrs M herself had blown a fuse and she presided with ice at her head and water running down her cheeks. It was left after some time to the W.O.G. to raise the question of staff cheques. This morning everyone received a typewritten slip. Their appointments will terminate on March 20th, paid till March 31st. If they wished to reapply they could do so by February 1st. One gathers that the new terms of appointment will be that staff will only be paid when there is money to pay them!!
Wednesday, Jan 22nd - Another link with the past gone. Joliffe, my tutor 1917-21, has died in Portugal where he retired 10 years ago. He left school early and went to sea. By the time he came up as an undergraduate in 1910 [aged 19] he had visited many of the great ports. In 1914 he got one of the best firsts of the year in history. During the war he taught at St Bees school and came back as college tutor in 1919. He was a very nice man, vague and difficult to pin down, but very nice indeed.
Sunday, Jan 25th - The hounds met late at Adlestrop House for there was thick white frost. Mary and I went down and stood by the park fence quizzing ‘the nobility and gentry’. We seemed to be numbered among the elect for Col. Reeves’ groom offered us a glass of claret cup.
No one crossed Pymonie’s preserves. Soon however she came bursting out in a white sweater looking angry and bottled. I took the opportunity of speaking to her and let her known indirectly that the Woods were trying to finish the school by persuading everyone to leave. She said no one was indispensible - ?not even staff. The overdraft was £4000. She seemed in fine fighting form and disposed to go through Hell and High Water!
Wednesday, Jan 29th - Drove over to see Molly at Longhope. I found her pretty poorly. She’d lost a lot of weight and had only been out of doors that morning for the first time for weeks. She was breathless and looked really ill. She should have given up the farm some years ago.
Saturday, Feb 1st - To the college for memorial service to Joliffe. To my surprise the choir contained six women undergraduates, five as ugly as sin, but they sang well. The decor does not improve much with age.
The undergraduates compared with my day are odd creatures who wear drainpipe trousers, cultivate large beards and habitually go round holding hands with lady friends, a good many of whom wear dark tights.
[There are diary entries for every day in January and February and every day but one in March. Nearly all of them concern the process and frustrations of getting the new house at Nether Westcote completed, the final windows put in, locks put on doors, the bath tub tried and tested to make sure handles to assist an elderly person to get out of the bath again were correctly placed, moving things from Adlestrop to Long View, laying out the garden, and so on. In the diarist’s view Mary was always raising new problems, most of them quite unnecessary, and was permanently pessimistic and gloomy about everything to do with the move, which he put down in one entry to the fact that she was a woman and he was a man. The entry for February 11th: We are making friends at Westcote! On Sunday we had a cup of tea with Colonel and Mrs Shelmerdine. Miss Leopold opposite asked us to supper on the night of the move. A woman who passes on horseback, Mrs Morse Stephens, always enquires how we are getting on.” They also received a lot of help from Miss Worgan, who ran the local primary schoolat Idbury and lived two doors away.]
Monday, Feb 24 - R -1. We took up what seemed to be an immense array of geraniums etc in pots this morning. The afternoon was unscrewing day - the wardrobe in 55 minutes flat, but I guess it will be a bigger and longer problem to assemble it again.
Tuesday, Feb 25th - R Day - Cloudy and mild. The warm air condensed as fog earlier. The Burford road was thick when I went up at 9 o’clock to light the fire. I got back at 11 and found the sitting room already cleared and Mary cheerful and amused, perched on top of the stove, the only place. There were four men, a young man who worked in the van, a short stocky bald man, the foreman, and a pair of comics who exchanged cracks all the time. The first, leathery with a fine set of teeth and boot button eyes, the second rather feeble and rambling who did the packing. By one o’clock everything was packed in, even a large bundle of bean sticks and several boxes of plants. We had lunch at Deborah’s Kitchen in Stow and were there to receive them when they came rolling up at 2.15. At half past four they had finished and were given a cup of tea and 10s each and drove off waving - a cheerful and friendly gang. We sat by the fire and had a cup of tea ourselves. I don’t know whether the physical or the mental strain is worse in moving house.
The day started off shortly after breakfast by the arrival of Pymonie to say goodbye. To my amazement she said she was such a lonely woman and would miss us so much and burst into tears. Mary squeezed her hands and I felt what she needed was a good hug and my shoulder to cry on.
Terribly pleased with my gay bedroom after the rather miserable one at the cottage and went to bed well content.
Thursday, Feb 27th - Mary in Oxford. Began sorting books and shifting furniture in sitting room; screwing and fixing.
Friday, Feb 28th - A lovely morning. As I sat drinking my coffee at eleven and looking through the picture window at the landscape and the clouds I thought one might have called the house ‘Bridal’ - ‘the bridal of the earth and sky’ [George Herbert, 1633]
Monday, March 2nd - Took washing to launderette in Cheltenham. Mary to hairdressers, myself to library. When we got back at 6 planes flying. Clearly the ‘night flying’ that the colonel had spoken of as such a nuisance. It was! They went, usually three at a time, round and round the aerodrome like horses in a circus. This went on til 1.30 a.m. Went to sleep at 12, woke about 1, but found them still circling and took a pink pill and knew no more until 7 o’clock.
[The planes were R.A.F jet fighters used for training at the Little Rissington airfield, which was about the same height above sea level as Long View and only about a mile away across a deep valley as the crow flies. The pilots did “bumps”, landing and taking off again without stopping.]
Tuesday, March 3rd - The damned aeroplanes have been circling since about 6 [p.m.] and have been doing since to time of writing, 9.50. But did not really bother me much. Took a pink pill and heard no more.
Friday, March 6th - My God! How sick I am of Mary complaining of draughts. I wish sometimes she would praise something connected with the place for a change. After all it is very nice and cheerful and gay with this magnificent view. Admittedly the planes are a bad snag. Fortunately yesterday there was no night flying.
Sunday, March 8th - Bedroom fearfully cold. Had an electric fire at night. When we were getting up, Mary dropped her electric fire and blew the main switch. She then tried to warm her back against the fire in the sitting room and burnt her skirt. At breakfast she wept and said she could not cope, the kitchen was dreadful (with cold). Spent most of day trying to bung up windows for draughts, which were icy, and kept fire in all night.
Tuesday, March 10th - Planes started flying at 8.30 a.m. and will never stop, I guess, till the small hours. At present 9 p.m., circling house at three minute intervals! Very depressed, tired with hard work, standing about, hernia, etc, Mary hating this place, and on top of all the bloody aeroplanes at night as well as day. Better sell up when Mr P dies and find somewhere else quiet!
Saturday, March 14th - We went down to see Molly Birch. She was in her room in bed and has to go to the Radcliffe (which she rightly regards with horror) to see a heart specialist. Mrs M told her that she had no money either in the school account or her personal account to pay the staff on May 31st. I cannot see how she can carry on without a matron, no teachers and only one house father.
Easter Day, March 24th - This is the coldest Easter for 80 years. Have not been out except to feed the birds. Only 2 species of tit, hedge sparrows, robins, sparrows and starlings up here. The Pope, in the kindness of his heart, sent blessings to all non-believers.
Thursday, April 2nd - When I was a young teacher I was always giving lessons on the Commonwealth and had my classroom at Leatherhead decorated with posters of the Empire Marketing Board, tea, jute, sisal, teak, timber, rubber, fruit, etc, etc. To-day with all the Afro-Asian members, not to mention Malta, Cyprus, S. Rhodesia and S. Africa, the Commonwealth has become a gigantic political humbug which is sometimes a profit to characters such as Makarios or NKrumah or Nehru - or, before the Commonwealth Immigration Act, to the inhabitants of the West Indies, but not to us! Why not admit that we ceased to be a power in the Far East during and after the war and we are not now a power in the Middle East either.
Monday, April 13 - Mary was having a bath when to her surprize I walked in naked and got in the other end, though with some danger of displacement for the bath was very full. I thought this 5ft 6in bath would be suitable for mixed bathing and it was most commodious and amusing.
Saturday, April 18th - Yesterday in Stow shopping met Mr Dellar and had a long talk with him. I gave him my view of the Woods and Townsend. He agreed with me that Pymonie’s chief characteristic was arrogance and said he had formed a very poor view of Jeremy the first time he met him five years ago. ‘Mrs M was a mystery woman. Was there a Mr M?’ I said he had given up the unequal struggle in 1940 and retired to the Irish Free State. Later she had divorced him and he had raised another family.
April 28th - After tea started for Henry IV, I. Rather disapproved. Both Prince and Hotspur unsatisfactory. Falstaff very good indeed and Glendower quite the best I have ever seen.
Friday, May 1st - Went for drinks to Miss Leopold for drinks - sherry and cheese fingers - an odd woman. Had been a housemistress at girls’ school, Burgess Hill, in Sussex, but gave it up as killing her and took this house in Westcote, which she has opened as a kindergarten. Thought her at first very affected, but this was nerves. In her own home she improved a lot, and a keen gardener.
Friday, May 8th - The blow appears to have fallen at last. A letter from Michael to say he had heard from Miss Birch that to forestall a closure of the school by the Ministry, Pymonie has decided to close it herself and turn it into a hostel. Am sorry in a way, but Pymonie is her own worst enemy. Arrogant, evasive, extravagant and erratic, by good luck she has got away with an organization that might at any time have led to a scandal. I have never met a woman quite like Pymonie and it is very unlikely that I shall again.
Tuesday, May 12th - Alas! Flying started at 9 o’clock. Mary took a sleeping pill. Flying continued round and round the aerodrome at about roof height today between two and three when Mary was lying down. She got a bit hysterical and wept.
Sometimes feel very discouraged for I have had nearly two years of complaints. First it was the purchase of the plot, then the delays of the architect followed by errors of the builder; then it was the cold and draughts, next the unmade garden, finally the aeroplanes!
Wednesday, May 13th - Had the day to myself so took my tea to Roel and made a fire in the shelter of a wood. On the way I saw a peewit get up from brooding two chicks in a large grass field. I could see their heads moving through the glasses, but when I walked to where I thought they were I could not find them. I took a bearing on a tree and walked along this line. No good! I then made a mark with some wool and tried again. Failure! Sat quiet on road and presently they started moving again. This time I tried following them up with glasses but it was very difficult judge distance along the line. Finally just as I was giving up I found one and then the second. They let me pick them up and lay perfectly quiet in my hand. To track them took at least 45 minutes!
Sunday, May 17th - Gwynne and Winnie Meara and the twin boys came to lunch and tea. The boys were charming and had brought all their brass rubbings to show me.
Wednesday, May 20th - No flying since last Friday. Made up for it by circling the house 2 to 5 about every three minutes. Our neighbour Miss Leopold to tea. A fashionable lady. Been to Greece and islands, Spain this summer. But lord! Her affected way of talking would drive you to drink, Littlemore or Broadmoor.
Night flying again tonight, circling at about 3 minute intervals over the house. Went on to 1.30.
Monday, May 25th - A letter from Marples asking if they could come and see us provoked one of Mary’s nervous crises. Why did I want to send them out address? Mrs M was a snob who was rude to her. She would have to make scones and cakes for tea. It would mean more work for her. She could not cope and so on. To make matters jollier, night flying started at 9.30. Worked out from diary that that of the 91 nights we have been here, there have been eight of night flying.
Thursday, May 28th - To Henry IV, 2. Stratford very crowded.
Monday, June 1st - A great citizen of the world died last Wednesday, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. I have always admired him since I first read his autobiography ‘Towards Freedom’ in 1936. He was a man of ranging mind who looked beyond the struggle of Congress to free India to consider the policy in the world afterwards and to ask what kind of a society India should become. He succeeded in making the Congress accept his vision of an India democratic, socialist and secular. Religion, he said, had become an old man of the sea and had not only broken their backs but almost killed originality of mind. His scientific education at Trinity, Cambridge, and his sceptical outlook led him to underestimate communal differences and these mistakes contributed to partition. His aversion to dictatorship and violence made him critical of communism and led to his policy of non-alignment with either bloc, which in turn affected all the afro-asian nations. He had spent 14 years in prison, the last stretch 1942-45, but when India “kept her tryst with destiny” in August 1947 she remained a republic in the Commonwealth. He seemed to embody the dignity and pride of the ex-colonial countries and he was gloriously free of bitterness and recrimination. He wanted no bad relations with his British ex-masters. He was in his way of thinking a man more of the West than the East.
Saturday, June 6th - Molly has bought The Old Bake House, Cherrington Fitzpaine, between Crediton and Tiverton. She will be able to move in in August.
Monday, June 8th - Talking to Miss Worgan tonight, says a rumour that now the Americans are packing up at Brize Norton the Rissington training school might move there and the aerodrome here be used to develop light industry in the North Cotswolds. This would please us, but does not sound very likely. [Later entry: Something like it will occur this summer, 1976!]
Sunday, June 14th - Took Mary to Stow Church for a united service for the rural deanery. A woman read the first lesson. The second was from the New English Bible, but even this could not make St Paul sound anything but crabbed and tortuous. Old Potter, of Adlestrop, was the rural dean and so preached - fluent but uninspiring. The rector of Stow, who looks like a large melancholy ape, said the prayers.
Sunday, June 21st - Mary went to church and said it was awful - no one sings or even says the responses. Another black mark against Westcote compared with Adlestrop.
Monday, June 22nd - Mr Bubb, the rector, came to tea. He lives alone and likes a good gossip. He has been in Persia and India. I guessed correctly at the end of the first world war. Now 75, he still walks alone in the mountains of North Wales carrying a powerful whistle. His main interests are archeology and photography. We talked a good deal about historic sites and records. I liked him very much.
Thursday, July 2nd - Visited Mr Bubb, the rector, to discuss Mary’s wish to become a communicant again. When he heard that we were “the guilty parties” and she had been cited as correspondent, he said he could if we liked write to the Bishop, but he did not think there was much hope of her being admitted. I said it was a bit difficult if “penitence” was required as she could hardly be expected to admit she regretted marrying me. He is such a nice old boy I hardly liked to say the church’s position owes more to Roman legalism than to the Christian ethic.
Saturday, July 4th - Doreen Cook rang up to say Marjorie Hunter had died. Poor dear, the end of 15 years struggle with steadily increasing loss of power to move, a matyrdom, if you like.
Tuesday, July 7th - A charming letter from Con about Hilary, Lise and Hilary.
Wednesday, July 8th - Reading by train, then up to the cemetery by bus. Elsie Jenkins arrived from Wales and Joy Batte and the Captain, a tough, short seafaring man, from Yamouth. We were joined by the Attrills and Wilk, Tom and Len, Doreen Cook, Margaret Day and Bob Brackston (who had just ceased being mayor of Henley). We could not escape the C of E service (Marjorie being an agnostic this was not particularly suitable but I did not see what I could do about it). The curate, who was acting as chaplain, chose Revelations, so we avoided St Paul, whom Marjorie particularly disliked. Then we went outside and it became a social occasion. As Eric said, Marjorie would have been pleased to have brought so many friends together.
[From a note by the diarist in The Periam Henley Grammar School magazine, autumn, 1964: Miss Hunter was Senior Mistress at H.G.S from 1930 to 1949, when she was forced by arthritis to retire. “She became senior mistress shortly after the school became co-educational and played her part in seeing that in the affairs of the school they were not second class citizens and made their own special contribution to its life and future....(Her pupils) will recall the standards she set them of duty, efficiency and accuracy in speech and writing, not always an image welcome to the young. The women will recall her taste in dress, her forthrightness in assembly.”]
Saturday, July 11 - I drove up Sheep Street, Burford, on time to find the bus had arrived early. Hilary and Lise were waiting with the luggage. Nicholas was standing by himself. He seemed blonder that last year and was very solemn with wide blue eyes. He had been rehearsed with a speech of greeting for Grandpa, but refused at first to utter. However he got into Grandpa’s “brum-brum” and sat on Hilary’s knee. The cot proved essential. Tonight it was left in the bedroom but later it was moved into the hall when Hilary and Lise went to bed. Even if he woke up in the morning he played quite happily until they got up.
Tuesday, July 21st. This morning we took Nicholas to the Bird Zoo at Bourton. He thoroughly enjoyed himself and was especially fascinated by the penguins.
Monday, July 27th - Hilary and I took Nicholas to the Bird Zoo at Bourton again. Unluckily he ran across a lawn after a golden pheasant and was attacked by two macaws who were lurking round a tree. Hilary grabbed him pretty quickly, but not before one had given him a nip on the calf. The penguins soon diverted his attention.
Thursday, July 30th - Hilary, Lise and Nicholas left from Burford for London. Although it is nice to have our privacy again and be able to relax, we were sad to see them go. Nicholas has learnt so much since last summer and seems skilful in the use and handling of many things. We imagined we could see him grow in the three weeks he was with us. He has great determination, a considerable temper and is very vocal. His repetitions, particularly at meal times, where he became the centre of attention and knew it, were like a grammophone needle stuck in a groove. Hilary made a good father - very patient and not easily ruffled. I found it difficult to interpret. Nicholas used hardly any Danish words but had a language of his own, of which this is a specimen:
Brum-brum - car, aeroplane. Bunga - water. Banga - bread. By - fly. Uma - drink. Puka - pussy cat. Buka - cow. Gunga - sugar. Elt - help. Pe Munny - please, Mummy. Burril - pencil. Peepa - bird. Pua - nasty, dirty. Brog - frog. Mu - mouse. Ba - flowers. Ni - knife. Buak - meat. Tish - fish. My - white. Me - red. Bu - blue. Dinner - finished, gone. Ninnie - Nicholas. Mia - Mary. Mia garner - Mary’s garden.
Wednesday, Aug 5th - To see Mr Bubb. He had dug out the Archbishop’s views on admitting divorcees to communion. More liberal than I expected. Then on to Guiting to supper with Molly. She told me owner of most of the village, Cochrane, had changed his sex from female to male (how?) and seduced wife of man who lives opposite them. As this chap refused to divorce her she changed her name to Cochrane by deed poll and settled down with him at the other end of the village!
Tuesday, Aug 11 - Mary’s parents married in 1904. Their diamond wedding day. Mr Pierce too old to have a dinner, but flowers, telegrams, letters, presents, etc.
Friday, Aug 14th - To see Mr Bubb and give him particulars of divorce, previous living-in-sin, etc, so that he can write to the Bishop about admitting Mary to communion.
Saturday, Aug 15th - Capt. Wood of BEA (Timber) brought Mary’s old friend Jane, his wife, here. Jane was a smart little woman with a very determined chin. She had met Timber at a dance when he was drunk and held out firmly for marriage for a number of years. Timber came up the hard way - aircraft apprentice, corporal, sergeant, commissioned in the war, BEA pilot, captain, citation by Air Ministry, now flying Comets to Athens in the morning, back home at night.
Wednesday, Aug 19th - Drove to Stratford to see the exhibition commemorating the centenary of Shakespeare’s birth, 1564 - 1964. Admission 5/- and good value.
Wednesday, Aug 26th - Hottest day for 11 years, 90° in some places. Opened Times and saw Father’s old friend Treharne, had died, aged 96. He used to bicycle over to Walthamstow from Winchmore Hill before the Kaiser’s war and once when Father and Mother were out I had to entertain him by showing him my ‘museum’. Before 1914 he liked to argue with Mother about the wealth of the Church of England. I think he was a Baptist - an unusual fish in our family circle. Mother quoted the catechism and considered him ignorant and ill informed. I was interested because he drank no milk and ate no butter yet he was very fat and quite bald.
Saturday, Aug 29th - Rissington Air Display, prelude to the Farnborough Air Show. The site fen-like, all sky, a vast expanse of tarmac and grass, cleared and empty. This side of the crowd barrier aircraft on display; some famous like the Shackleton and the Spitfire; some contemporary, the Gnat, which whistles over our house, the huge Beverly troop carrier, a flying pantechnicon, the Provost jet and others. In the cathedral-like hangars more aircraft and engines were to be seen.
The two most beautiful aircraft were the Britannia and the Comet, wide winged silver dragon flies. There were sinister black aircraft flying over at tremendous speeds and display ended with our own six Red Pelicans and five yellow Gnats in footnote formation.
The perfect organisation and the meticulously accurate timing were fascinating. It was difficult not to contrast the tremendous co-operative effort, the skill and technique put into the aircraft, the training and the airfield itself, with the long drawn out and partly frustrated struggle to provide a decent standard of housing for every family, the almost medieval techniques used in building a house compared with those of building an aircraft.
Friday, Sept 11th - Bought a money box to collect money for the hungry at meals. Idea is to put 1d instead of grace.
Tuesday, Sept 29th - A queer tea party at the Roberts family in the tiny cottage by the church. Old Mrs Roberts, the matriarch, 82, mother of the new Bishop of Ely and another parson, also of two daughters, one with a male haircut, expostulant in a convent, the other rather childish who helps Miss Worgan at the school. As well there lives there the matriarch’s sister, Miss Butterfield, who is now almost blind. I found later she was a church moral welfare worker. The old ladies were a grim and formidable pair. Superficially the family were very devout, Christian, devoted and ‘sweet’, but I felt this might conceal all sorts of emotional volcanoes.
Wednesday, Sept 30th - Mary in bad shape. Nights disturbed by planes. This morning wind in north-east so taking off over house. M said if they went on much longer she would start screaming
Thursday, Oct 1st - Bubb came in this evening. Said he used to have a Miss Harding from Icomb Place a few years ago who was mad. She rang him up once late at night to say she had just thought while having a bath that they were rather hard on Judas Icariot! Used to have her up to the convent and anoint her but did not do much permanent good.
Sunday, Oct 4th - Planted two small trees at ends of vegetable plots. Later found cows had got heads under wire and eaten top. When I told Mary this she became hysterical, burst into tears and said nothing was right here and she hated the whole place.
Thursday, Oct 8th - Asked Mary how much she hated this place. Replied it was so exposed you could not work outside with any pleasure or wear light dresses in summer even, and the house was never warm. I told her how much the view meant to me and how I should hate to live in a little closed in house with surrounding wall. She is an agoraphobe, I am a claustrophobe.
Friday, Oct 9th - To see Edward IV* at Stratford, crueler and bloodier and more brutal than Henry VI, a much better play than Henry V with all the French war padding.
[* Presumably by Thomas Heyworth, contemporary of Shakespeare]
Tuesday, Oct 13th - The architect came with final account. Cost of Long View £3118, more than a hundred pounds below estimate. Add £375 for land, £3493, to which one has to add various sums such as garage, turfing, fencing and so on, and architect’s fees £300.
Thursday, Oct 15th - To Oddington School where we both voted Liberal, then to lunch with Cherry at Bay Tree. Told me my history lessons in first year still remembered by old boys and girls she meets in Henley. Pleasant to know I am not quite forgotten.
Friday, Oct 16th - It was clear at breakfast that Labour would get home, but only just. Harold Wilson new prime minister. The excitement of the poll took attention away from another very significant piece of news - the fall of Krushchev at 70. Said to be ‘old and ill’.
Thursday, Oct 22nd - The contraceptive pill is being used by 150,000 in Britain and many more in the U.S.A.. Family planning clinics have used it for three years and it has been available for eight. ….We should soon be within sight of controlling the population problem.
Thursday, Oct 29th - Tea with Vera Legett (née Russel) in Cadena. Asked her what she remembered of my dicta at school, she replied: ‘Stop me and ask one’.
Saturday, Nov 21st - This weekend a big conference is being held at Chequers on defence and foreign affairs. New P.M. recognises that we cannot occupy an intermediary position between Europe and U.S. and wants to try to knit the sections of the alliance together, but de Gaulle is determined that Europe shall have its own voice backed by a nuclear force. Can France be persuaded to scale down her demands? Can we go on without her? If we do, will de Gaulle leave NATO or the Common Market?
Wednesday, Nov 25th - In the morning we drove over to Gloucester to see the Bishop. He was very nice and agreed to Mary becoming a communicant again.
Friday, Nov 27th - Left for Exeter.....The ward was pleasant and modern. Molly’s bed was screened off. Molly seemed to me to be dying. Her face was a ghastly yellow, she had great black pits round her eyes, which she did not seem to focus. After a time she recognised me and said ‘Nora’, then ‘I shall never see them all again,’ and later ‘Take care of Ruth.’ Presently to my great joy Wilfrid Westall came and sat for a bit with Molly. Before he left he said several prayers.
Wednesday, Dec 9th - The phone rang at 10 a.m. to tell me Molly had died at 4 a.m. Poor dear, she was never to enjoy her new home in Devon. She stayed on the farm too long. We were very close together when we were young. I took her to Paris and Provence. When I was 21 and she was 15 we stayed at Burford and cycled round the Cotswolds. Later we shared our holidays in Cornwall and Ireland. I remember we climbed High Tor near Belstone in the late ‘20s. When we reached the top and and looked across the moor at the marvellous view, Molly said, “How awful it must be to be old.” We continued to be close until I began to have love affairs. Molly felt that no one cared what happened to her, but she refused a proposal from a man who worked in Kenya. In this period Ruth appeared. This was the beginning of a very close and, from my point of view, exclusive friendship. I could make little contact with Ruth, and Molly was more and more absorbed by her family and her interests. Ruth’s schoolgirl sentimentality revolted me and I am afraid I was not good at concealing what I felt from my sister. Ruth did no doubt supply a very deep emotional need in Molly and anyone who was accepted by her had to take on Ruth as well.
Molly went to the Walthamstow High School Junior School but Mother then used some of the small amount she had inherited from her mother to send Molly to St Katherine’s, Wantage, run by the sisters. Academically I don’t think it can have been up to much. Molly left without a school certificate and the food seemed poor, but it gave a very thorough religious education which influenced Molly for the rest of her life.
She took her Board of Education Teacher’s Art Certificate at the Exeter School of Art and worked at Bishop Blackall’s School for Girls in the city until she left to join the WRENS in 1941. In 1937 Ruth Brown appeared on the staff as physical training mistress, and Molly, who had to act as her part time assistant, formed this intense friendship with her.
Ruth was very dissatisfied with teaching and, largely through her influence, they determined not to return to it after the war but become farmers.They obtained some experience with the Coakers on Dartmoor and then at Roel Hill Farm in Gloucestershire. In the autumn of 1951 she bought Holly Bush Farm, Longhope, where she and Ruth remained till 1963. In 1956 farmer’s lung was diagnosed by the Gloucester consultant and it never cleared up. Selling up the farm and looking for a new house in Devon used much of her remaining strength. When she reached the chest hospital on Dartmoor after her pneumonia at Honiton, they could do little but give her massive doses of cortisone. This made her “too disturbed”, they said, to be nursed in a general hospital. She lived for a fortnight after being moved to the mental hospital. In all she was in bed in hospital for over two months.
Monday, Dec 14th - Breakfast at 8.15. Ordered flowers for Nora in square at Exmouth, then off to Shillingford in Mr Pierce’s borrowed great coat, Hilary’s dark blue scarf and my almost unused Anthony Eden hat. We waited about and people began arriving, Bar and Bernard Wilson, Mrs Coaker from Dartmoor, Margaret Wilson, Stephen (the colonel) and Pat. He seemed to have gone to seed. Then Tom Armstrong and Hester. The clergy: Wilfrid in purple cassock, my old master Woodward from Cheriton Fitzpaine, and the very nervous young rector of Shillingford, propping up the church gate with stones. The hearse arrived promptly at 10.45. We walked up behind, and Wilfrid, now fully robed in in lawn sleeves and black silk chimere, met us at the porch.
The church was full. Tom played the harmonium, watching Wilfrid over his glasses for the cues. We had two hymns, ‘The King of Love’ and ‘Jesus Lives’. Wilfrid took the service with great clarity and feeling. Woodward, rather shaky, read the lesson from Revelations.
No one wanted to come with Mary and me to the crematorium, so we did not wait outside to talk. The crematorium on the Exmouth road had only been opened a year and was a dignified building in brick set in a part of an old estate with lawns and cedars. Very pleasant. The coffin was not placed on a conveyor behind the altar to disappear through a trap, but on a beer at the side. At the end transparent white curtains were slowly drawn round it and you left it thus.
No clergy attended. I had brought with me The Oxford Book of Verse from which I read Fidele’s Song from Cymbeline and one verse from de la Mare’s Farewell. Mary told me afterwards that the bearers, unused to this kind of thing, fell on their knees!
We walked by the sea at Orcombe and I took a few shells to put on the grave, thinking of what pleasure Molly had from swimming.
After lunch I collected Nora’s posy and we set off again for Shillingford. A small square hole a couple of feet deep had been dug. The undertaker appeared with the small box of ashes. Woodward said a few prayers and they were placed by the undertaker. By the time we had looked at the flowers which were arranged around, the earth had been put back and the turf replaced.
We drove back to tea with Ruth, Hester and Connie. Ruth showed me the will. I was glad to see Hilary had been left £5000 of the Barnes money. Ruth had got the rest. I was not mentioned; by this time I can be philosophic about testamentary snubs
Monday, Dec 21st - Bought a holly wreath in Stow and drove over to Hatford and put it on Grandpa Atkins’ grave. Could not see to the Shillingford graves. I did this instead.
Tuesday, Dec 22nd - Hanging abolished by 185 votes at last. We must now see whether this does lead to more criminals carrying arms and shooting at the police, as the anti-abolitionists say.
Christmas Day - Frost and very cold but got in to Bainton Road to Mary’s parents easily enough. A large and delicious turkey. No Christmas pudding this year. Mr Pierce now very shaky. Sitting watching Billy Smart’s circus on television all afternoon and more turkey for supper produced the usual indigestion. We drove home through a black frost with the constellations brilliant over the silent wolds.
At nine o’clock a.m. Hilary and Lise rang up from Tjaereby. Nora also spoke. Very pleased indeed.
Dec 31. - What shall I say about 1964? We finished up with a huge balance of payments debt and a run on the pound. The new Labour government with a small majority showed drive and initiative - Wilson a good exchange for Home. Krushchev disappeared in Russia, Johnson was re-elected President. Civil war continued in the Congo, China exploded a bomb, UNO could not get its payments from members in, de Gaulle continued to veto the Anglo-Saxons in Europe.
Christmas card count: 48. Books read in 1964: 53.
Adlestrop House - Jan 25. Aeroplanes - March 2, 3, 10, May 12, May 25, Armstrong, Tom, Dec 14. Barnes, Molly - Jan 29, June 6, Nov 27, (death of) Dec 9, 15 Birch, Molly, Mar 14, May 8, Bubb, Rector - June 22, July 2, Aug 5, 14, Oct 1, Contraceptive pill - Oct 22. Croaker, Mrs - Dec 14. Death penalty - Dec 22. de Gaulle - Oct 21. Election - Oct 15, 16. Hilary - Jan 2, July 7, July 11. Hunter, Marjorie - July 4, July 8. Joliffe - Jan 22, Feb 1. Leopold, Miss - Feb 1, May 1, 20. Long View - Oct 13. Mary - Jan 7, Mar 6, 8, Apr 13, May 12, May 25, June 22, July 2, Aug 11, Sep 30, Oct 4, Oct 25. Meara family - May 17. Moeran, Pymonie - Jan 13, 14, 19, 25, Apr 18, May 8. Nehru - June 1. Nicholas - July 21, 27. 30. Nether Westcote - Feb 1, Peewits - May 13. Pierce, Mr & Mrs - Dec 25. Removal - Feb 24-25. Rissington - Aug 29. Russel, Vera - Oct 29. Roberts family - Sep 29, Stratford - April 28, May 28, Aug 19, Oct 9. Westall, Wilfrid, Nov 27, Dec 14,
Woods, Mr & Mrs - Jan 12. Worgan, Miss - Feb 1, June 8,