History is never quite as real as when it is told by those who lived it. Ruby Thompson, living during the World War ll London Blitz bombing blasts history out of the realm of dry, dusty names and dates and places the reader in the midst of the terrifying events as they unfold. This is very important documentation and will have tremendous appeal to those who have an avid interest in the effect of the war on ordinary citizens.
March 3, 1940 Artie came home for the weekend, which means
arriving at eight-thirty p.m. on Saturday night, and
returning to the Barracks by eleven p.m. Sunday, which
meant leaving here at seven p.m. Anyhow, we’ve seen
him! He’s very well.
March 4, 1940 We received news from Harold. Kay gave birth to a
nine and a half pound boy, January 17, 1940; baptized
February 4, 1940 Robert Anthony. Mother and child are
both doing well.
March 12, 1940 I just got back from a trip to Boots, to change a book.
It took me one hour. This is serious. I am very tired.
Auntie Mary was buried yesterday, so I had another
day in town, going first to the cemetery, and then on to
Mother’s. When I got back here I was quite exhausted.
It is noticeable that I have lost considerable ground,
physically. It must be because of this long shut in winter
we have just come through. In the late fall I was quite
pleased with myself. I was walking well and much easier
and better than for a long time past. Now, this past week
or so, as the weather moderates, I find I am walking very
badly again, and feeling great fatigue after doing so. This
won’t do, and I am determined to correct it. I will try to
make it a habit to go out for a short walk every possible day. Of course I can’t walk in the wet, any more than I
can walk on the snow or ice, but every day it doesn’t rain
I will try to go at least around the block.
All last night I could hardly sleep for the ache in my
limbs; for even my arms ached, from climbing in and
out of buses, carrying bags, gas mask, etc. My legs ache
today. I suppose they are the winter long, unused muscles
of the thigh now called into action, rebelling. Anyhow, I
am going to do something about it. I don’t intend infirmities to increase on me if I can help it. These damned
family legs are a curse all right, but I’m going to work at
defying the curse.
So, though I only wanted to lie on the sofa, I made
myself go out this afternoon. Every step was an effort,
and it took me one whole hour to go and come, and now
I’m just deadbeat. I went out, and I’ll go out. I will walk.
March 13, 1940 It is the defeat of the Finns. An armistice has been
arranged between the Russians and the Finns, and the
Finns have to accept the Russian peace terms. This is a
major disaster. Both Britain and France were standing
by, ready to send men, but neither Sweden nor Norway
would permit passage of troops through their country so
Finland is obliged to surrender, and to cede to Russia
more than Russia asked for before the war began. Oh
this beautiful world!
March 15, 1940 At dinnertime Ted said he thought he would go and
have an organ practice before coming in to tea, so I took
the opportunity of a long afternoon to go to the movies.
We haven’t been to the pictures since New Year’s, because
of the bad weather and the blackout. So I went to the
Ritz and saw Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins playing in a version of an Edith Wharton story, The Old Maid.
After we had tea Ted said, I’ve a man coming to see
me about something private at half-past seven. You might
leave us alone, will you?
I saw Ted let in a man in a very loud check overcoat
and bright orange scarf. I thought it was someone about
a house, or perhaps a “knight”, and left him to his men’s
talk. The fellow stayed a long time until nearly nine and
then Ted came to fetch me into the parlor, very exhila-
rated. He didn’t tell me the man’s name, but he said,
That’s a funny case for you! There’s a man, born a Jew,
but never brought up as one. In business in this town he
heard me talking somewhere, knew I was a Catholic,
telephoned to ask could he come and have a talk with me
and wants to know whether I think he ought to become a
Catholic. Nice isn’t it?
Very. Is his wife a Jewess?
No. Married to a Protestant. His wife turned Catholic
some time ago and now he feels attracted to the church.
Wonders what he ought to do about it. Got a son up at
Cambridge. Good business. Gosh! The subjects we’ve been
I didn’t say anything more. What would be the use? I
reconsidered the glimpse of the man I had caught in the
hall; a smallish elderly man, loudly dressed, and with a
sheepish apologetic smile on his face. Another romantic
with an inferiority complex I suppose. Having a talk fest
with another little man about his thoughts and his soul.
Grrr. It makes me sick. Only as recently as Wednesday
night I had a dose of missionizing Catholicism. Barbara
Hayes called in, bringing some music for Ted, which she
wants him to play at her wedding, which takes place
on Easter Monday. Naturally we asked questions about
the young man, and whether her family like him, and
so on. She said, oh yes, they liked him, but the great drawback was, he was a Protestant. Drawback. He was
a good Protestant. So they had hopes of him, and if we
all prayed hard enough, no doubt he would see the light,
and come into the church. Wouldn’t we please pray for
her, and for her Jimmie’s conversion? Of course Ted
effusively promised to do so with their monopoly of truth
and righteousness! My God, how they weary me!
March 21, 1940 It is the official first day of spring. I have a sore
throat; also a sore temper. Ted is being most aggravating and silly. He is “playing” Holy Week to the limit,
under eating and over praying, until he’s unbearable. He
is deliberately making himself miserable “for Christ’s
sake.” I don’t know what gratification or benefit Christ
gets out of it. But I know what I get; which is, a boring,
scolding, unendurable fanatic. Throughout the week I
have been listening to Ted talking at Artie, handing him
out the most deadening platitudes and truisms with all
the aplomb of a pope. As I listen to Ted I just think he
is one silly fool. He talks to Artie and me as though we
knew nothing. Artie remains dutifully polite, and I say
Today I am cross. I think Ted is so preposterous.
This is the incident that has enraged me. It occurred
yesterday. As usual Ted got up early and went off to
mass. The day went through as usual. Artie wasn’t here
in the afternoon. He had gone swimming with Pauline
Dunball. At teatime Ted came in very late. The office
closes at five. Tea is supposed to be about five-fifteen
p.m. Well, Ted didn’t come until seven-twenty p.m. and
then he didn’t have his tea. I’ve got to go to the church
and see about the Easter music, he said, and went right
out again, not returning until eight-thirty; when he did
eat his tea.
All right. That didn’t annoy me. I am used to Ted’s
inconsiderateness about the tea meal. He treats the
home like a restaurant and me like a servant, and comes
when he is ready. At ten-thirty p.m. he went upstairs to
bed. I decided to take a plate of cornflakes and hot milk
before retiring. I have been sleeping very badly these
last two weeks, and as I wanted to sleep. I thought the
hot milk might induce sleep. Presently, after I had fixed
the fire for the night, and was putting the scullery tidy
and locking up for the night Ted appeared in the kitchen,
in his pajamas, and in the devil of a temper. I looked
at the clock. It was eleven-ten p.m. So I had remained
downstairs alone for forty minutes. Ted harangued me.
He ordered me to bed. He asked me what I meant by
I said, Don’t talk to me like that. He said, I will. I’ll talk to you just how I please. Go
on upstairs, right away. I won’t have you staying around
like this. I tried to laugh at him. He wouldn’t have it. I said,You went up early tonight. I thought you wanted to sleep.
So I did, he said. But you know I can’t sleep until you
settle down. You’ll come to bed when I do or I’ll sleep in
another room. Do you hear me? Do you hear me? And he
stood behind me, threatening me and herding me off
like a sheep. I was ready to go upstairs, so I went. I took
my time about undressing, and I did not speak to him any more, nor say goodnight when I got into bed.
All the time I was undressing he kept raising his
head from the pillow to look at the clock, and then
dropping it back with a thud. He is so childish, so silly.
I had trouble not to laugh. Well, I fell asleep. This is Ted
Thompson. This is my saint. He gets up very early every
morning, so as to go to mass, because he wants to go.
Then he wants to go to bed early, because he’s tired so I must be tired and go too. I’m not tired. Although the
clock says ten-thirty it's really only nine-thirty because of
“summertime” which has already started and my brain
is not ready for sleep. I expect that is why I have been
so wakeful these past few weeks. I must go to bed; that‘s
his lordships ruling. What about teatime? Doesn’t he
owe me the courtesy of coming to meals at mealtime? As
Johnny says, There ain’t no justice.
Today I’m not exactly angry, nor depressed, either.
I’m just weary; weary of enduring one fool man. I’ve no
hatred against the fellow in my heart, but distaste and
a dislike for his personality strikes deeper and deeper
into my mind and sensibilities; a distaste and a dislike
which is becoming permanent. I think he’s one goddamn
fool, and I long to get away from him, forever. I can’t get
away from him. We’re married, God help us!
March 28, 1940 Easter is safely past. Artie returned to barracks on
Sunday evening. Cuth came home early this morning. He
has leave until April Eighth. I have been very ill, with
the flu, but am on the mend now. I haven’t been so ill
for a very long time. On Easter Sunday I was especially
bad. I felt that even for me death wasn’t very far away.
However, I’m recovering. I am too sick to read, in these
long days and nights of sleeplessness, my mind began its
own composing again. It must be the spring!
Anyhow, I’m all set to start out on the writing of a
book. I can see the whole design of it, and get it down
on the paper. I have already scribbled some notes for it,
but I cannot begin to work at it systematically until after
Cuthie goes back to Yorkshire.
I have an idea to recreate the large back bedroom
as a sitting room, like it was when Charlie was here,
and then I could work at my writing there, undisturbed.
When I try to write in any of the downstairs rooms, I am
always having to clear-away for meals. I was never able to
work in the little room that was too small for my comfort
but if I could dispose myself, as I wished, in that big
back room, I think I could use that as a work room, and
come and go up there, as domestic times suited. Perhaps
I can persuade Cuthie to change the furniture around
for me before he leaves us; but of course, if he doesn’t
want to, I can’t shift it.
Meanwhile, it is Cuthie’s holidays. News this week of
the birth of a son to John and Ruth on March 6. Kay and
Harold had a second son born on January 17, this child
they have named Robert Anthony. Eddie and Chic are
yet to be heard from. We know they are “expecting” in
March, and Cuth tells us their child was expected before