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.
April 5, 1940 I received important family news today. Ted and
Cuthie have bought a pair of houses, numbers seventy-eight and eighty Western Road. They were auctioned on
Wednesday, as one lot. Walter Wachett bid them in after
they had passed Ted’s set limit of seven hundred and
fifty pounds. However, Ted especially wanted number
seventy-eight for us, and offered Wachett a profit to
split. This Wachett refused. He had bought them as one,
and would only sell as one. The upshot is, that Cuthie
decided he could buy one and have it paid for by the time
he comes out of the R.A.F. So, it has been so arranged.
Ted introduced Cuth to the bank, opened an account for
him at Lloyd's and two deeds are to be drawn up; one for
Cuth on Number eighty and one for us on seventy-eight.
Number seventy-eight is vacant, and in eighty, Mr. and
Mrs. John Thomson reside. (No connection of ours just a
April 7, 1940
Artie managed to get home for dinner. I told him
the news about the Western Road houses. We celebrated
with the last of the Christmas pudding and a little bottle
of champagne Cuthie had smuggled in from France.
April 8, 1940 Cuth ,left for Driffield soon after nine this morning.
He says he’ll probably be over the Rhine tomorrow.
April 9, 1940 The war spreads. Germany invaded both Denmark
and Norway this morning, at six o’clock. She announced
to the world that she had taken these countries under
her protection, to “protect” them from the wicked allies.
Her protection works like this: she bombed Oslo from
the air, from two a.m. to five a.m. this morning. I suppose
she “protected” Poland.
April 12, 1940 I went to the hairdresser’s, to have my hair curled,
the whole head. It should be done about June or July but
with the war intensifying and spreading as it is doing,
I figured I better have a long session with the machine
now whilst things are still quiet in Romford. I don’t
think many women are going to sit around in the beauty
parlors once the bombs begin dropping.
April 14, 1940 Edna Renacre came here for tea. She borrowed some
more Balzac, and in addition I gave her six odd volumes
of fiction, to keep. I suppose we must have at least a
couple of thousand books in this house, and the problem
is, how to move them? The answer is: dispose of as many
as possible. Some we can give to the public library some
send away for the soldiers, and some we can give to our friends. There still will be hundreds we won’t want to
part with. This move is going to be similar to our move
from Avenue A. Bayonne, to Bayside, Long Island. We are
removing to a house, which is only half or less the size
of this one. It’s a good thing. I’ll be glad to get rid of
April 15, 1940 I remain queer. In fact, I seem to have renewed my
cold. Also I’m walking very badly. I went down town this
afternoon, and hardly knew how to walk home.
Ted is very late for tea. He had been to the Western
Road house with Skilton, to get ideas about the plumbing.
Before he had finished eating, callers arrived. They were
the John Thomson family from Eighty Western Road.
They stayed very late, but were agreeable company. In
his youth John Thomson had knocked around Canada
and America, as a free-lance, much as Ted had done in
the nineties, so they had a good time swapping stories.
April 18, 1940 I am fifty-six today, in poor health, and poor spirits.
I heard from Artie this morning, but no word from
Cuthie. He is probably out bombing over Norway. I have
not heard from him in over a week. English troops have
been landed in Norway, but, so far, it seems to me, the
Germans are winning; certainly they are holding their
own, in most of Norway. The allies have taken Karvik,
and mutilated the German navy, but today’s news says
that the Germans are holding the iron-ore railways north
of Karvik, and are fighting well.
As prophesied, the spring slaughter has begun.
Artie is still with battalion in Sussex, but for how long
there now? No news from America. I received her usual
sort of a letter from Mother.
The weather is abominable, very cold, very dull, and
windy, and now commencing to rain. After a very severe
winter, we are having a retarded spring. Frost every
night this week. In Norway snow is still falling, and as
in Finland the troops are fighting on skis. What a war!
What a world!
Well, this is the end of another seven-year period for
me. For nearly a year I had been counting on it, looking
forward to it, and thinking of it as another beginning,
another fresh lap. In a way it will be, because of the
purchase of the new house, the moving into yet another
home. This event was quite unforeseen by me. All though
last fall I felt wonderfully well, and I imagined I was
entering on a new period of fresh vigor, resilience, and
good health. Apparently not, it was not to be. For weeks
now I have been feeling wretchedly ill, and weak, and
I have no zest left for anything. I am completely weary,
in body, mind and soul, and continuously I feel more
ill than I remember feeling for years. Maybe I am only
exhausted by the severity of the winter, and the strain of
the war; but it is not like me to feel like this.
Well anyhow, it is still the end of one seven-year
period, and the beginning of another. My life seems to
fall into these natural periods more than most women’s.
At twenty-one I married. During the next fourteen years
I had my family, finishing with the twins when I was
thirty-five. At forty-two came the end of Ted’s business
life. It was in nineteen twenty-six that he resigned from
office, and in nineteen twenty-seven he brought us back
to England. In nineteen thirty-three, when I was forty-
nine (seven times seven), I made my last trip to America,
and it was then I made my wonderful unforgettable
round tour of the states. Now that I’ve reached fifty-six
(seven eights-or, rather, eight sevens), I find that I have
reached quiescence about the lots of mental troubles: all questions about belief, or beliefs, have left me. I am
not concerned anymore about what I can or can’t believe.
This is a great gain and a great rest, this.
I have attained to an inner peace, and I think it is
a peace I shall never lose. I can recognize what doesn’t
matter, and never again will an argument ever coerce
me. Circumstances may compel me to courses I shall not
like, but they can never again compel my inner woman.
She is free. What will she do with the next seven years?
When I reach to sixty-three, if ever I do nine times
seven, how will the world be, and how shall I be in it?
Will my inner woman still be free and serene? Yes, I
think she will be. What I have learnt I have learnt; what
I have reached into, I have reached into; and my joy no
man can take from me. Absolutely very literally no man
can take this from me. My husband may have become a
bigger fool than ever but my secret self he can never touch.
I am myself, and I own myself, no matter what he thinks.
For now I know the things I know, and do the things I
do and if you do not like me so, to hell my love with you!
Of course I shall not be so outspoken as Dorothy
Parker. Nevertheless, what Ted believes, or what he
wishes to force me to believe, can never again have any
effect upon me. I have outgrown him, passed him by.
So fifty-six is definitely some sort of an ending. What
I am going into now, I do not know but it is a new phase,
I am sure. Perhaps destiny presents me the new house as a concrete symbol of it. April 19, 1940 At tea tonight, speaking of the illness of young Clem
Coppen’s husband, a man of thirty only, with cancer,
hence passing on to speak of mother, and all her various
operations, and her indomitable health and toughness,
I remarked that Mother hadn’t been able to pass her health and vitality to her children, not one of whom had
ever been as strong as she was; to which Ted replied, Of course not. That isn’t surprising at all. Children
naturally take after their fathers, and though your father
was excitable enough, and vehement sometimes, he never
had the energy and activity that your mother had. He was
a slower tempo and less strong altogether. It is the father
who stamps the children, always. It is the father who is
the important one, always. That is why our Lord couldn’t
possibly have had a human father. It couldn’t have been
seemly. You couldn’t imagine Saint Joseph being visited
by a female angel, and begetting a child upon an angel
could you? Of course not! With the Blessed Virgin it was
different. She could be overshadowed by the angel, the
power of God and not be contaminated by human intercourse. She received the seed from heaven, by the power of
the Holy Ghost. It is simply unimaginable that our Lord
could have had a human father! For then he would have
been Joseph, not God, a sinful man.
This threw me into the abyss. I made no reply; not
even the obvious one that the human embryo contains
fifty-fifty of the hormones of its parents. I was simply
stunned and disgusted by this fresh presentation of the
old Christian and Jewish idea of the impurity of the flesh,
the curse of sex, the virtue of chastity, and the eternal
inferiority of women. What is a wife? Still the old chattel;
a concubine by night, and a servant by day; a creature
without a soul; merely one of the creations of God which
exist for the use of man. My God! This Ted Thompson!
April 27, 1940 Ted is at Arden Cottage. I have had a busy week
with visitors every day so am tired. Yesterday the legal
business about the purchase of numbers Seventy-Eight
and Eighty Western Road was completed, and the keys
handed over to us by the lawyers. Ted has been seeing
Skilton about installing plumbing, stoves, etc., and
Harvey, the builder, to get estimates about turning the
house into flats.
The result for me, is, that I view our immediate future
with acute apprehensions of trouble. Ted is going to have
to spend money, real cash, and that will hurt. He will
niggle and haggle and make absurd economies, and just
as absurd splurges, and every time he has to pay out he
will be as disagreeable as hell. He will be on my tracks
about household expenditure. He’ll be after me turning
out lights, fixing the stove, examining the pantry, and
the dustbin. He’ll hound me for a half pence, and he’ll
cry poverty, poverty until he’ll rouse me to fury and I
shall hate him with a singing hatred. I know Ted. I’ve
had some of him before.
With it all, I shan’t get what I want. He bought this
property because he wanted to; he is going to fix it up
the way he wants. Apparently he will consult me about
items but if I don’t agree to what he has already decided,
or if I should make suggestions contrary to his ideas, I
shall be all wrong, and in great disfavor. I want to like
this new house. I want to settle into it comfortably. I
suspect it is going to be the last home Ted and I will
ever have together, and it can be made very nice. Oh the
job of it! We shall both of us lose our tempers over and
over again. I shall be disappointed about what I could
get, and shan’t, and Ted will grizzle about the spending
indefinitely. Well there will be no peace in the Thompson
family. I can see for some long time to come. What a life!
Cuthie is now stationed in the north of Scotland for
quick access to Norway. He has also been over Denmark
this week. The twenty sevens were registering today. So
far, the Germans are holding on in Norway, but their
losses are heavy. Our navy has done well and Sweden reports that around Oslo alone three thousand German
dead have been washed ashore. War. This is more wisdom
April 28, 1940 I was in London during March, about the Aunties, I
made inquiries at Stoneham’s about the books of Annie
C. Bill. They traced two of them for me, and sent them
to me this week. I hadn’t had time to look at them until
today. I was examining one this morning whilst waiting
for Ted to come into breakfast. He left the house before
seven a.m. and did not return until nine-thirty, all this
time for one mass and his private devotions.
I was suddenly surprised at myself by falling into a
panic. When I heard Ted’s key in the door my heart began
to beat like fury and I at once hid the book under the tea
wagon. Why? It is a perfectly harmless book, and I have
a perfect right to read it. Even if it was a rotten bad book,
I’ve still got a perfect right to read it. You see what?
I am afraid of Ted, still afraid of him! When we first
married he began to deride the books I read, and this
hurt me so much that I would never let him know what
I was reading. I continued to read everything I wanted
to read, but what ever the books were I would put them
out of sight before he came home in the evenings; and on
Sundays and holidays, when he was around the house,
I never read anything at all except the newspapers and
magazines. I never spoke to anyone, before him, of what
I was reading.
I kept up this habit until we left the states, and it
is only since we have lived in Romford that I have read
whatever books I wanted to, regardless of whether he
was around or not. So this morning I was considerably
surprised at myself, when in the midst of his approach
I was flooded with feelings of guilt and fear. Naturally my reason doesn’t assent to any of this, but my natural,
physical, animal woman did quake, was afraid. Still, as
of old, she is afraid of this man.
It took me hours to quell my disquiet, and it was not
until afternoon that my heart returned to its normal beat.
Queer, isn’t it? What one person can do to someone?
Evening. It is just as I foresaw. The economies are
beginning at once. This afternoon Ted went round to
Western Road, to do some gardening at Seventy-Eight.
He was very late returning for tea. It seems he had been
visiting the other Thomson’s in number Eighty. Mr.
Thomson showed him their upper floor.
Now, number Seventy-Eight has no bathroom, so Ted
has planned to create a bathroom in the back bedroom.
This is a very long narrow room, and one-third of it could
easily be walled off to make a small bathroom, but by
doing this other portion of the room would be left without
light, so a window would need to be cut on the sidewall.
Now Ted has taken this whole matter up with the
Skilton’s, and the room was to have been made into two,
as I have just outlined. In number Eighty, where a bath
and basin has been installed, everything has been left
exposed. Ted has decided to do without a partition, and
a window, in our house, because that will be cheaper.
Exactly. It is cheap and nasty. He will discover other
and similar economies. Probably he will dispense with
a carpenter altogether, and all the built in fixtures we
need will be put up by his own butchering. This is quite
likely. The furniture he said could be recovered will not
go to the upholsterers. I never answered him when he
told me of this cheaper bathroom plan. What could I
have said? If he won’t spend money, I shall have to make
do, as per usual.
I first saw through this new house on the evening of
Saturday April 13, Ted took me round there on his way to Bert’s, and left me to see through it alone. It was about
half past seven in the evening, between lights. The effect
of the place on me was to depress me. When I got back
here, I began to cry and I think I cried all night. When
Ted got back from Bert’s, I was hysterical. I told him
I couldn’t make the move; I couldn’t live there. Wisely,
he refrained from discussing the matter with me then;
but he assured me later in the week that he did intend
to modernize the place, to install proper plumbing and
stoves, etc. Then when I saw it the second time, going
round there with him Sunday a week ago, the twenty-first on a bright sunny afternoon, the place did look more
attractive, did show possibilities for being made into a
comfortable habitation. I felt reassured then. Now, home
he comes with ideas as to how he needn’t do what he had
planned to do, Gosh! It’s the devil!
April 29, 1940
I had a nice visit from Ethel Coppen today, but
disagreeable words with Ted this evening. He began
badgering me about the removal of our books. So far
I haven’t been able to do any sorting out at all. I had
visitors every day last week and this week is beginning
This is a job that needs thinking about and I must be
in the mood for the thinking, or I can’t do it at all. Ted
wants to drive me to it at once. When? How soon? When
will I know? And so on. When I told him I didn’t know
when I could do it, he became insulting, said I was a fool,
wouldn’t cooperate, and I was more mulish than Selma.
When I protested Don’t talk to me like that! he said he
would talk to me just as he pleased, that I was a fool,
and the he thought less of my sense than ever, I said
that when he talked to me like that he was being deliberately spiteful, and that it would do no good, because such talk only antagonized me. He said, than I was a
bigger fool even than he had thought, and he went off by
himself to the dining room. There he is now, listening to
Shakespeare on the wireless. What a petty fellow! When
he speaks to me so contemptuously, it is the inner man
speaking, and I can see that is how really contemptuously he thinks of me. That doesn’t help at all.
I often think Ted is a fool, but I am very careful never
to tell him so or even give him inkling to guess on. I
dissemble my thoughts. I play up to him all I can. It is
my undeviating policy to live at peace; for I saw enough
of marital quarrels between my parents, and I don’t want
any quarreling in my life. Just the same I have an awful
crushed feeling tonight.
April 30, 1940 I have been putting away all my papers. I simply
cannot write. So now I’ve lost stroke again. Maybe when
the moving is over and we are seated in the new house,
maybe I can begin again. For me, to write a continuous
work without steady hours of reliable leisure is impossable. Ted is still disagreeable. So far today has not
spoken to me yet. Of course he was out to early mass
this morning, just the same.