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.
January 10, 1940 Mrs. Jude just left; then a chat with Miss Coppen on
the telephone. The twins are twenty-one today. They were
born just after the termination of the Great War; now
they are fighting in this one. Artie was home for a few
hours on Sunday, but did not see Cuth, because he was
spending the weekend with the Spaul’s in Cambridge.
Cuth returned to Driffield on Monday. Mother must have
been the age I am now when the twins were born. If I live
another twenty-one years, I shall be as old as
I was thirty-four when the twins were born, still a
young woman. We were still in Bayonne. My God, I pray
that long before another twenty-one years pass, I shall be
living in Bayonne again! There’s my home, there’s where
I can really rest in this world.
January 12, 1940 It is very cold, but a bright sun shining. I’m awfully
happy. It isn’t often I can say that, but today I’m happy.
I am happy for no reason. Unless it is that the sun is
shining. Anyhow, I have been less unhappy since the war
started, than for years before. I think it is because the
war has given me Ted more to myself. He had to stop
giving two nights a week to his damned Evidence Guild,
because there was no longer a Guild he could devote himself to. With the outbreak of war, and the blackout,
all street meetings and associations, all clubs, etc.
automatically came to an end. Ted has even moderated
his daily mass going this winter, the first break in that
peculiar regularity since we returned to England. This
winter is proving a very severe one, and whether Ted
doesn’t feel too well, or whether laziness is encroaching
on him, or whether at last his religious fervor is cooling,
I don’t know; but quite often in these last three months,
three and even four mornings in the week, he has not
gone out to the seven-thirty mass, but laid abed until
eight o’clock. Marvelous!
It makes me feel good. I hate his religiousness, so
when he forgets a little of it, my spirits lighten; he seems
to me a more normal man, the kind of man I want.
When I woke this morning a refrain from “Elijah”
was singing over and over again in my mind. It was
from the solo, Oh Rest In The Lord and fret not thyself
because of evildoers. It sang itself to me over and over
again, and many times during the morning. I took it as
good counsel, some word of guidance thrown up from my
deep inner woman. I used to hear it at Swallow Street, of
course, so it has lain with me all these years. Apparently
nothing supersedes Swallow Street with me.
Well, yesterday I went to see Miss Coppen, who is
laid up from the effects of a bad fall. It was thought at
first that she had broken her thigh; but it is not broken
only badly wrenched, muscle ligaments torn, and so on.
Well, our talk ran on her sufferings; then on the horrors
of the war. Then on the affair of Selma and old Bert.
There were a lot of condemnations, on which we mutually
All was only with my head. As I observed myself,
sitting there by her bed, I realized first of all that my
sympathy with her was only society talk, and that my thought was that she exaggerated her mishap. Then
that her worry about the war was very personal, mostly
fear for Maurice. And then when I agreed with her as to
what a hateful man Bert was, I found I really didn’t care
any more. I know he is a sensual selfish old beast but I
simply don’t care.
So this morning I feel, I can’t worry about the war. I
don’t care a hoot about Hitler, Goring, Ribbentrop, and
Company. I can’t even care about the invasion of Finland,
or the earthquake in Turkey. I just can’t worry myself,
that’s what I feel.
The war is men’s doing. The earthquake’s natures
and I can’t do anything about either. I’m just happy
unreasonably, unwarrantably happy. And fret not thyself
because of evil doers. It’s not even because I am resting
in The Lord. I’m not.
I think that Mother Nature really intended me to be
a happy person, but events frustrated the plan. Many
years ago Ted once said to me, The trouble with you is,
that you want to be happy, that you expect to be happy,
but there was no happiness promised to us in this world.
This is a veil of tears, and the sooner you realize that, the
better for you. The more you look for happiness, the more
unhappy your bound to be. You must reconcile yourself to
the fact that there is no happiness in this world.
Like a fool, I believed him. That was a young husband
talking! Of course there is happiness in this world and
I might have enjoyed, much more than I have done, if I
had believed in myself, instead of in Ted and the hideous
theology he was always dosing me with. Oh well, that’s
all gone by. I’m happy today anyhow. Happy.
January 13, 1940 Ted left a few minutes ago for his evening of cards.
I am furious with him, feeling downright that I hate him, and my hatred will never be assuaged. Of course
I was too happy yesterday. I might have known it. In
the evening the nitwit Selma came calling, and stayed
as usual until half past ten. A whole evening killed,
scotched by a fool. She is beginning a habit of spending
every Friday evening here. I won’t have it. I’ve had more
than enough of that girl to last me a lifetime. I won’t let
her use up one evening a week of my precious time. Ted,
of course, was sweet to her. I wasn’t rude, of course, but
he was saccharine until he got tired of her clatter when
he took up a book. She’s his niece, therefore, perfect!
This morning trouble arose. We had a downright
quarrel and so far I’ve been feeling full of hatred and
irritation all day, and now I’m tired out with it.
Ted lay abed until half past ten, and when he came
down to breakfast he began asking me a series of
questions about the stopped up waste pipe in the lavatory
basin. We are having a very severe cold spell, and pipes
are freezing. When I went to the bathroom last night I
found the basin full of hot water. Ted’s idea of heating
the bathroom! All it does of course is to steam the walls;
this water then condenses and freezes on the ceiling,
and when a thaw comes, it falls in pools on the floor. This
is one of Ted’s bright ideas! Well, I let the water out of
the basin, and left the plug in, this because the tap drips
and the drips and collects and freezes in the pipe if it
is not plugged. When I went into wash this morning, the
water was running from the tap all right, but the waste
pipe was frozen up again, and I could not let my water
Well, when Ted came downstairs he asked a dozen
questions about it, and when I had answered them all,
he asked them all again. I answered them again, his
usual manner of cross-questioning. I got exasperated
and answered shortly. This huffed him and he read me a lecture on manners, and the faults of my character in
general. I replied that I didn’t mind answering straight-forward questions, but I hated to keep on answering the
same questions over and over. Then he said I interrupted
him, which was very rude, and I shouldn’t do it, not even
to a grocery boy! Then he told me I was like my mother
and went on and on. I said, Shut up! This took him into
a homily about “goodness” and according to him I was
deficient in goodness. I just got bored and more bored.
Upon my word, the more often I have to listen to
Ted, the bigger fool I think him. He has been particularly trying along the holidays. Having the boys at home
seems to set him off. He talks to them and to me as
though we were all children, youngsters in the kindergarten, to whom he must explain a whole lot of things.
He expounded the obvious till we all grew restive. Or he
was humorous in the silly facetious manner of an adolescent. The boys were polite but bored as I’m always bored
by what he thinks are his jokes. Actually Ted has just as
much of an arrested mind as Selma has. The only advantage is, that he got to know a little more before his mind
stopped. It is stopped. He is as much of a dead ender as
she is. Bert, it’s the rotten sop Thompson mind.
At eleven-thirty Ted went out, and I went up to tidy
the bedroom. Then when I came to make the bed I
found that he had been having emissions. The sheet was
soiled in several places, and his pajamas stiff with dried
semen. So that’s why he was so cross, nature denied. I
suppose he had been dreaming of one of his lady friends.
This afternoon he went out to confession. What a fool he
is, what a God damned fool! When he came in at lunch-
time he went straight to the radio and turned it off. It
was playing dance music, naturally he doesn’t approve
of that, there was no by your leave, or any of that, no
inquiry as to did I wish to listen. Oh no, he doesn’t like it, and that was that. After lunch we got the first act of
Madame Butterfly from Saddlers Wells Theater. I stayed
in the kitchen, to hear it in peace, but he sulked alone
in the parlor. Silly fool!
I thought to myself, how we waste life, and our
opportunities of pleasure! Ted and I haven’t been to a
theatre for years. We haven’t been out together anywhere
since New Years, a year ago, when we had to got to the
Consulate. We could have pleasant times together. We
could take in a theater and dinner in town at least once
a month. We could make excursions. We could run a
motorcar. We could take holidays together. But no, none
of this ever happens. All we ever do is go to the movies
together about once a week, never more than one a week,
and some weeks not at all. We meet in the foyer, and
we sit in the shilling seats; and all the way home Ted
talks abut how silly the pictures are. Preposterous, isn’t
it? We never visit anywhere. We never ever take a walk
together. What a life! What a silly, silly life! No sensible person ever comes to the house. All we
get are fool women. No man at all comes here, except
occasionally old Bert. Bert’s no asset. He’s ignorant
and gross. God, my Thompson in-laws! It’s only because
they are in-laws that they ever get in at all; otherwise I
wouldn’t even open the door to them. Ted and Bert and
Selma, they’re all fools together. Ted did have brains
once, but they grow softer and softer. Oh he does bore
me! God! Will marriage ever end? January 14, 1940 It is still very cold, but our dispositions more clement.
This is Charlie’s birthday; he is twenty-six today. I have
been plunged in dreams of Bayonne all day. I think, in
fancy. I have walked every street and every avenue, noted
every house, shop, church, school, theatre, and shack: sat on thirty-fifth Street Station and watched the trains and
the harbor and chatted with every old friend. Bayonne.
It was there the best years of my life were lived; and it
is there I will go back. Thinking about this intention,
alone in the dusk, whilst Ted was at Benediction and
wondering whether I couldn’t coerce it by my will, into
actuality, compel it to realize, suddenly I thought, I will
pray for it! The gospel promises flashed into my mind,
and all at once I found I could believe them! I say that he
that shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that
what he saith cometh to pass: he shall have it. Therefore
I say unto you, all things whatsoever ye pray and ask for,
believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have
So, I do believe that I will get back there, back to
Bayonne. I do see myself living there in peace and thankfulness; and I do pray and ask for it. I will pray for it,
every day. Give me my Bayonne home, dear Jesus, for thy
name’s sake, for the Father’s sake, God, take me home to
Bayonne, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
January 15, 1940 When I wakened this morning my inner woman
was saying, very clearly, I go fishing. I go a-fishing. This
didn’t seem to make sense, yet somehow the phrase was
familiar. During the morning it came to me what it was.
It was what St. Peter said one day to his friends, one
day after the resurrection; and his friend’s said, if you
go, we with go with you, and it was when they returned
from the nights take, that they found Jesus on the shore,
with a fire burning, and a fish broiling, and they all had
What did the phrase mean for me? The same I think
that it meant for Peter; that we must get on with our jobs,
no matter what events shake us, what disappointments cast us down, what hopes are dashed, what glories fade,
we must proceed with our lives according to the necessities laid upon them. Peter was a fisherman, catastrophe
had overtaken him, but he had to go on living, and he
lived by following the calling of a fisherman. I go a-fishing.
So with me, and the job I must do. I go a-fishing.
January 26, 1940
Snow is falling again. This is proving an extraordinarily severe winter. Not only here in England, but all
over Europe and also Northern America. Everybody
suffers from the inclemency of the weather, but actually
it is proving a blessing, because it holds up most war
maneuvers, particularly in Finland, where it definitely
helps the Finns and defeats the Russians. The Russians
are being frozen to death!
January 29, 1940
The weather is abominable. Yesterday London had
twenty-seven degrees of frost. Today must be even colder,
for a gale is blowing from the North. This is the coldest
winter in England, they say, since eighteen ninety-four.
Snow around here is more than a foot deep and much
deeper in places where the wind has piled it. Never-the-less, Ted gets up mornings and goes out to mass. The
funny thing is, he doesn’t catch cold. You can’t tell me
this is piety. I think it is the strength of habit, and the
folly of a fool. In the house he is thoroughly disagreeable;
he finds fault with everything, then returns to the parlor
to read a book entitled, The Love of God. What a man!
Yesterday we had a downright quarrel. As usual, I
spent the morning cooking the dinner. It was roast leg
of pork, applesauce, parsnips, potatoes, and peas, with
pineapple salad and coffee and cakes. When Ted came
to the table, he said I had put too much gravy on his plate, so it had taken away his appetite and he practically ate nothing. Now, nothing annoys a cook so much as
to have her good meal disregarded. She feels she might
have saved her trouble, and wishes she had. This was
the third meal running that Ted had found fault with!
At breakfast he had complained of the bacon, that was
cut too thin, and not fried right. On Saturday night, he
complained of the fried fish I gave him. That was too
dry. Well, I ate my dinner, and said nothing. But I made
up my mind I wouldn’t eat tea with him. He could eat
We sat together in the parlor until three-thirty when
he went out to church again, neither weather nor temper
made any difference to him; to church he would go, so he
went. I listened to the wireless, and continued to listen
to all I wanted to hear, which was until half past six.
Then I came to the back regions, laid the table, made
some tea, cut some sandwiches, and put out a bowl of
cold jellied consommé for him. My intention was to eat
my tea, then retire to the parlor whilst he came to the
table. Before I could begin, there was a knock at the
door, and lo, it was Selma! Ted came to the kitchen to
tell me. In a moment I flared into anger. Another fool
Thompson was more than I could stand. I said, Take her
in the parlor, then, and entertain her, she’s your niece.
No, I see she’s just in time to share a meal. I shall
bring her out here.
I don’t want to see the girl. I am sick of the sight of her.
I shall bring her into tea just the same.
If you do, I’ll walk out of the room! He went away, and the two of them shut themselves
into the parlor. I put my sandwiches on to a plate, ready
to carry them away, if he brought her to table. I drank
a cup of tea. Then I heard footsteps in the passage, a knock at the door. I didn’t reply. Another knock. I didn’t
reply. Then the damn fool girl opened the door and began
piping, Oh, Auntie, I only just wanted ... All beams and
I spilled over. I shouted at her. Selma, don’t you
understand? I don’t want to see you! Your uncle and I are
quarreling like hell, and I don’t want anymore Thompson’s
around. I’m sick of the sight of the whole lot of you. I say,
damn the Thompson’s. Go away. Go away! Goodnight.
Goodnight, Selma! Shut the door. Shut the door and go
So she retreated. Presently the front door banged.
Then Ted came in, and sat down to his cold consommé.
We ate in silence. I was wrong, of course. I know that.
I am sick of Selma. I am sick of the Thompson’s. Old
Bert’s a fool, Selma’s a fool, and Ted’s a fool. I weary to
death of all of them. Selma is one confounded nuisance.
She’s always on the doorstep. She wants to visit, so she
visits. I’ve had enough of her, too much of her. I was glad
enough to help her when her father threw her out, but
I’m not holding her in my lap for the rest of time. She
is one colossal bore and she won’t bore me any longer.
In the future I will save my feelings, not hers, and if
she cant make sense when she isn’t welcome, she’ll be
brutally told when so. If I had a maid to answer my door,
Selma would have been barricaded out years ago. Dear
little Selma, of course, can do no wrong; why, she’s a
Thompson! I say curse the Thompson’s.
January 31, 1940 The thaw. I am expecting Artie in this evening, for a
weeks leave; but whether he can get here is doubtful. For
several days now all transport, rail and road, has been
disorganized or not working at all. Yesterday a train from Glasgow arrived at Euston twenty-eight hours late.
The cold has been intense here in London we were down
to twenty-nine degrees of frost and the snowfall heavy.
On Monday the radio man told me that at Upminster
he couldn’t get through at all. The snow was five feet
deep. Neither milk nor coal get into towns and outlying
villages in Derbyshire, Buxton, and Lanshire have been
completely cut off from the world for over three days, and
are running out of all food supplies.
England hasn’t had a winter like this the weathermen say, since eighteen ninety-four. The Thames at
Surbriton and Teddington is frozen over for eight miles.
The serpentine, of course, where there is gala-skating
going on. The Transport Board report that they have
no such difficulties on record. So it is the worst ever.
Of course with the thaw we shall get floods. The sky
right now looks as though it will let down another heavy
snowfall by night. Anyhow, the temperature has moderated, so tempers have improved quite a bit. So that’s
lucky. Mrs. Shaw should have been here today but didn’t
show up. I’m not surprised. The roads are practically
impassable. I wouldn’t go out either.
I’m sitting down to a re-reading of, Saints, Sinners,
and Beecher’s. I dream persistently of Bayonne, of
America. And now this blizzard weather particularly
sets me to daydreaming of American winters; so I feel
I’ll browse with the Beecher’s for an hour or two