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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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?