World War ll London Blitz Diary's: 11-2-1939 to 11-30-1939: I forgot to note that our ration books arrived yesterday, though rationing is not to begin until next month.

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AUDIO 10-30-39 to 11-30-39

November 2, 1939

It is all souls day. I went to town, especially to see Mother and nearly broke my back carrying a basketful of our fine pears. I was home again before dark, after a good visit.

November 4, 1939

Old Herbert in, and brought us some enlargements of the snapshots of our boys, which had been taken on his terrace the other Sunday. They’re very good photos. When he arrived I was upstairs working on the bed for Cuthie, who had just phoned me about five p.m. that he would be home tonight, about midnight, and to leave the back door unbolted for him. I have had a very busy day, and no time to even look at my parcel of books, which Smith delivered at eight-thirty this morning.

I forgot to note that our ration books have arrived yesterday though rationing is not to begin until next month.

November 11, 1939 Armistice Day

There is fresh trouble here in the Thompson family concerning the Arden Cottage group. Selma has quarreled with Mrs. Webb the housekeeper, and her father has ordered her, Selma, to leave the house. The whole affair is sordid, and Bert’s an imbecile. I think he’s in his dotage.

November 15, 1939

The Selma trouble is getting worse, so I went out early this morning, to see what I could do to mend matters, and to prevent worse happening.

I called first on Mrs. How. My idea is to work up a campaign of talk to old Bert, from his friends, to get it into his head that he cannot act in the melodrama father manner, and put Selma on the street. Next I called in Dr. Donald. He told me that Selma goes to see him every Thursday, and she is quite friendly and rational towards him; that she has told him of her troubles regarding Mrs. Webb and that her hands are now practically well. Her father and Mrs. Webb have accused her of poisoning them! She has had a touch of eczema on the backs of her hands so Bert and Mrs. Webb declared she poisoned everything she touched and made a great to-do about this. Donald simply laughs at their fears. Next I called Peake’s office, but did not see him. The office boy said he is away ill. So next I called the police station. I recognize that it is urgent to find out exactly what old Bert can do. There I received this advice: to see the doctor who knows this girl and to get a certificate that she is incapable of earning her own living, and with this to show Herbert cannot throw the girl out, The law will compel him to support her.

Also, to advise the girl not to leave her home, not to look for flats, not to take lodgings, not to move into a boarding house, but continue living her life at home in the normal way; and with this advice added, that the father does not dare lay a hand on the girl to forcibly evict her, but in that case she could give him charge for assault.

Bert has suggested that Selma goes and lives in a bungalow at Chase Cross, in which Mrs. Webb’s sister and brother-in-law now reside and that this couple go to live with him in Arden Cottage! When old Bert put Selma out when he married Dorothy it was a town scandal; but if he should put her out now because the house keeper doesn’t like her and take the housekeepers relations into his house, in Selma’s place, the scandal would be even greater; moreover, I think the town would judge that he was the nit-wit of the family.

November 16, 1939

Old Bert was here to see me this afternoon. Ted has been talking to him, and now he came to me for my view on the situation. Naturally I have not told anybody of my Monday calls. Bert says Selma annoys him! What of it? Selma gets on everybody’s nerves, sooner or later. He says he won’t have her around, he abhors the sight of her, and he will have Mrs. Webb. We talked the whole afternoon, but I think all I have affected is a delay in his plans.

Watching Bert’s conduct ever since Tillie died, and listening to his talk, I am filled with a complete disgust of the man. He has an idea he can do as he likes, and money will buy anything, and entitles him to whatever he fancies. As I see it, Mrs. Webb is the usual common adventuress who sees in Bert easy money. I should say she has been deliberately stirring up trouble against Selma ever since she went into the house with the direct aim of getting the girl out, and the man to herself.

Bert is the usual old fool, the usual lascivious old sensualist. He is going into his dotage. He’s lost his wits, and the natural beast in him is clearly asserting itself. He’s scared to death of the war, of illness, of dying, even of any inconvenience. Mrs. Webb consoles him! Moreover she is a good cook, a great virtue in his eyes, the greedy old fool! The fact that Selma is his daughter doesn’t seem to register at all. As Ted pointed out, if he doesn’t like his house keeper he can dismiss her and go out into the open market and hire another, and keep on hiring and firing housekeepers until he does find a suitable one but he can’t send a daughter, back for exchange. Bert is inhuman, and his absolute selfishness and egotism is past believing. He fills me with horror.

November 17, 1939

So tired and fed up with the family squabbles, I went off by myself to the movies this afternoon, to find a distraction. The picture was an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, and I expected to enjoy it; instead, it bored me tremendously. The unreality of the whole story was fantastic; human beings, even in the wild Yorkshire moors, never, behaved like these creatures of the mind, of course it is not fair to judge a book by the movie made of it, and it is at least thirty years since I read the book. Nonetheless, if literature, as writing, evaporates on the screen, at least the plot, the situations, the characters of a book remain: the pure story. Well, this story of Wuthering Heights is nonsense. Considering it as it is represented in its bare bones on the screen it is obviously the absurd imaginations of a spinster, an uninitiated. No real men and women ever behaved as Emily Bronte imagined this group doing. Not one of them is alive, or ever was; they are palpably the ghouls evolved from the nostalgia and frustrations of a passionate and imaginative early Victorian spinster.

Probably the book isn’t even literature in spite of the critics and the schools lauding it as such all these years. Query: Can there be good writing about silly subjects? Can even a genius write convincingly about anything they do not know?

November 19, 1939

The twins home for the weekend, on the same occasion again, which is surely unusual. They arrived for tea last night. Cuthie left soon after dinner today, to go to the Newton’s; Artie arrived at seven o’clock this evening.

Artie expects to get his transfer into the Air Force about Christmas time; the proper officials have duly signed his papers, but he has to finish his eight weeks training course with the London Scottish before he will be transferred. He looks very well, but Cuthie is showing signs of nervousness, little facial twitches, reminiscent of Eddie.

November 20, 1939

A beautiful day; the best one we have had in six weeks. I went out walking most of the morning, and feet fine. Had some money to put in the bank for Cuth, and then walked up to Craig’s and bought a two-drawer table I had seen there recently. It is of polished oak, fourteen inches by 30 inches with two deep drawers, and a handmade piece from Stones of Banbury. This is a gift from Cuth.

November 21, 1939

I got a telephone call from Miss Coppen before nine o’clock this morning, asking me to go to tea this after- noon, and meet Mrs. Stanley Coppen. So called a taxi at three o’clock and went there. Talk fell upon a book all three of us had read within the last week. It is entitled The Debate Continues. An autobiography of Margaret Campbell, by Marjorie Bowen.

Marjorie Bowen is a prolific authoress. Her first book, The Viper of Milan, was published when she was only seventeen years old. I remember when it came out. It was whilst I was in St. Martins-le-grand long before I was married so I suppose I was still in my teens. I never read it. It was an historical novel and I seldom read historical novels, which are not to my taste. Naturally I never followed up her work, but she established herself as a popular author. These later years she has turned to more serious work, a life and times of Hogarth, a life of

John Wesley and, under the name of George Preedy, a Life of Mary Wollstonecraft and some other books which I have not seen. I read, Wrestling Jacob, her life of John Wesley, when it first came out, a year or more ago, when there was a spate of books about the Wesley’s, and I liked it immensely.

It was a good book. Now comes her autobiography, and for the first time we learn “Marjorie Bowen” is only a pen name and the real woman is named very differently, Margaret Campbell. Impossible to think of Marjorie Bowen as such, of course, but there’s the fact.

Well, this “Life” is morbid. It begins with the black unhappiness of the child, and ends with the accepted dull unhappiness of the elderly woman. It is some inherent defect in the woman, I think; for other children have been poor and had unsatisfactory relatives yet managed to extract happiness somewhere out of their lives; and other women have made mistaken marriages and lost an infant, and yet managed to be happy sometimes. In addition, Marjorie Bowen had a remunerative talent, which apparently never deserted her, once she had commercialized it, and yet she wasn’t happy in her work. How extraordinary! If I could sell every book I could write, I don’t think any catastrophe in the world could throw me into a pit of despair. I conclude that Marjorie Bowen is one of those unfortunate people who can only be happy at being miserable.

November 22, 1939

Two new items added to the household today, Cuthie’s table, and a cat. Ted brought in a half Persian kitten today. I wonder if I am going to be able to tolerate it. Selma came in immediately after lunch, and stayed until nine thirty tonight. Now I’m a rag; she completely devitalizes me. I am sorry for the girl all right, but I wish she wouldn’t fasten on me so much.

November 24, 1939

Old Bert and young Bertie came to see me this morning, and thoroughly depressed me. Not that they have anything against me; but to listen to they’re crassly materialistic conversation makes me feel absolutely ill. Not that young Bertie is so bad he just naturally sides with his father. Old Bert is colossally selfish, and in his attitude towards all those people he doesn’t like, he is downright inhuman. His attitude towards Selma is a positive disgrace. Ted says he is a pagan, but I think such a verdict maligns the pagans. Bert is selfish, gross, ill bred, irreligious, and ignorant. Of course Selma is a fool; but she is his daughter all the same.

November 26, 1939

No, Not to mass! I can’t go. I’m beyond all that. I can see that the church has true doctrine and right philosophy, that it teaches men and women how to behave correctly, and even some few how to become saints but I can’t go out mornings and sit in a congregation, just can’t do it.

November 30, 1939

At noon we had news that at eight o’clock this morning Russia invaded Finland, attacking simultaneously from land, air, and water. She had to protect herself from a lion. So now Finland is another victim of the Bolshevists and the Nazis. War spreads and spreads. During the last week our losses at sea have been very heavy, but serious fighting on the Western Front hasn’t really begun yet. Where the end will be, God alone knows.

This morning I ordered about two pounds worth of books from Boots sale catalogue. I don’t suppose I shall get all I asked for, but I’m bound to get a few bargains. Yes, I keep on buying books. I know it’s a silly habit, but I still keep on doing it. Anyhow, I thank God that I can still read. If I couldn’t escape somewhere from the agonies of this crazy world, how could I go on living in it? 

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