I am in an awful mood. I am sick with my leg, which gets no better. I am angry and miserable with this loath- some devilish war and I am fed up with Ted. I feel I hate men and all their stupidities. I am sick to death of my particular man. I loathe marriage, and what I long for is not the freedom of Europe, but my freedom. Oh to be free! To have my life, and my body, to myself! Ted is intolerable to me.
Yesterday we had nine warnings! We have had no warning yet this morning, but Mrs. Thomson has been in to see me anyhow.
A week or two back during a raid Selma went to Arden Cottage, and her father wouldn’t let her in the house. He stood in the doorway and prevented her entering. He swore at her, and told her to go back to her own place. That’s Bert Thompson, dirty selfish old beast. I would let anybody into my house if a raid were on, gypsy or tramp, or any friend or stranger that asked shelter but old Bert refuses admittance to his own daughter.
Yes, Selma’s a fool, but she is still his own flesh and blood. He begot her. I say Damn the Thompson’s. I think they are the coldest blooded and self-willed lot I have ever come near. They are Egoists, and without natural affections. Ted is on my nerves most frightfully. As for his religion, he’s worse than ever. Every morning he will go to mass. The all clear does not sound now till half past five or six o’clock. Any sensible person would then go to sleep, safe quiet sound sleep, for an hour or an hour and a half and allow the other members of a house to sleep too. Not Ted. Oh dear no! He must dress and go to church, and he wants his breakfast early please. What sense, what religion, what goodness, is there in that?
Well, he retired to his pillows on the floor, but in the early morning, an hour before the all clear came, he was at me again. I simply couldn’t. I feel I should cry. So then he wanted to argue the situation! This only made me stonier and angrier than ever. Ted and his damned talk! Oh, I am so sick of it! Ted’s superciliousness, his belittling, his sneering, his criticizing are wearing me down. His damned tongue!
So he left me, in a huff, and went and dressed himself, and then he sat and read Sir Walter Scott until it was time to go to church. That’s it, the damned church! If I had given in to him, he would have dressed and gone out to early church just the same. Oh. I knew that quite well.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. Yes, let him. That is not Ted’s way. If he ever kissed me, called me by a pet name, spoke endearingly, fondled me, coaxed me, brought me a tiny gift, showed me even ordinary affection and comradeship, but no. So I freeze. I have even stopped wanting this sort of love and these signs of love. I only want to get away from him, not to have to see him more, not to have to listen to him, not to have to talk to him, because whatever I say is wrong. He will correct my grammar or phrasing if he cannot correct my reason or sentiment: above all to be able to forget him.
What I want is my own life; myself for myself. To be free of him, Oh God, to be free! Marriage lasts too long. I’ve known that for years.
Two Forty-Five p.m. and it is raining heavily, and no warnings today, so far, though I have heard guns several times.
Feeling better for my dinner. We had hot roast loin lamb, potatoes, and vegetable marrow, stewed pears, flapjacks and coffee. Here is again one of my nuisances. I have to cook a mid day dinner every day, and so I never have a clear day to myself. I have no time. Very literally, I have no time. This again is one of the reasons Ted and I are at odds so much. We see too much of each other, and he is around the house entirely too much, considering the sort of man he is. For Ted is a petty man. He is also a bossy man; so he interferes with things which are none of his business; and petty things, like how many slices of bread I cut, or where I place a chair, or open a window, or a stove-draught. He wants to know what is in a bureau drawer, and tells me the kettle is boiling. And so on. I don’t say anything, but I chafe. He keeps tabs on the pantry and watches supplies. This is because he is wasting himself. He is applying to a tiny private home the energies and qualities he should be using on a big business. I find it very trying. He told me lately I was a damned bad housekeeper and I ought to be ashamed of myself. This is because I threw away half a loaf, which had begun to go moldy. He didn’t make me cross. I just thought how silly he was. I never did set up to be a perfect housekeeper, and I have done an awful lot of housekeeping in thirty-five years. Anyhow, I didn’t marry him to be his housekeeper. If he doesn’t like my housekeeping he must lump it.
That’s what I feel about Ted and his “love”. As he takes a smoke or a drink whenever he feels like it, so also he takes a wife. She is to be handy to him, like a bread box or a cold joint or a whiskey bottle, for when he happens to have an appetite. I loathe such love. I loathe such takings. As for his religion I loathe that too. Ted places his religion before everything else in the world, certainly before live flesh and blood. If any man come to hate and me not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters he cannot be my disciple.
October 4, 1940
Yesterday I was interrupted by the noise of large explosions and a sudden warning. Mrs. Thomson came rushing in, in a panic, and was followed soon after by Mrs. Jude, very pale and very frightened. She had been walking on South Street when everything happened in a clap, and she had to run all the way up to this house. It is not safe to be on the streets now after any warning, for the Germans have taken to low diving, and then machine-gunning anyone in sight. They gun trains and buses, people in the streets, workers on the roads and fields, and even the cattle and sheep in the meadows.
So I said,‘Well, what about the crater?
The man said, "Yes, that’s what I’m asking you, what about the crater?"
So I said again,"Well, what about it? You know more about it than I do. I haven’t seen it, you’ve just been there.’ And he got so cross, said Ted, and went out.
Ted laughed. He thought that was funny. I don’t think that funny at all, or the way to do business. It seems as though Ted can’t be polite. If he didn’t know there was a crater before the door, he could surely have civilly told his inquirer he didn’t know anything about it. Ted often tells me tales about how he scores off the people who come down into the office, and when they get cross, he is only amused. When they leave the office, as this man did yesterday, and as I have been told of others doing, Ted thinks they are wrong, not himself. It is a mania with him correcting other people. It seems nobody answers him as he thinks they ought to answer him, and he will accept nobody’s statement about anything. He is really peculiar about this, and he gets worse.
That racket died down, but there was another attack, nearly as bad soon after three o’clock. Finally everything quieted, and at last I fell asleep, and I slept so soundly I did not hear the mornings all clear, nor wake up until Ted turned on the radio for the seven o’clock news. He remarked on my sleeping so soundly, but when I told him of the very bad night Romford had gone through, he said, Are you sure you weren’t dreaming? I said no more. What is the use of talking to him? He went out to church, whistling.
As a matter of fact, last night was one of the worst we have had for over a week. I lay trembling, and could not hold still. I expected the house to be bombed any minute. I prayed without ceasing, but I prayed to God. Only God. NO thought what ever of Jesus, or Mary, or Michael, or Joseph, came to my mind. Only God. Only God.
When the immediate danger receded what I thought about was this book. I thought I might be killed any day or any night now. This book may be destroyed too if these premises are destroyed. Or it may not be destroyed, it may be found and read. What if it is read? These outbursts about Ted, which I pen, aren’t they unkind?
Do I want Ted to find out what I think about him? I feel about him? I wonder. Isn’t he as tired of me as I am tired of him? Isn’t it true we would both be happier apart?
Am I ashamed of what I have written? No, I am not ashamed. I try to state the truth. I try to find the truth of things for myself; that is, as they matter for myself. I am not a happy woman. I could have been a happy woman. I just happened to have married the wrong man, a very common tragedy. Ted is to me as I have described him to be. I am as I am, as this book must disclose and no matter what I try to disclose, or to hide. So, let the record stand.
Five-fifteen p.m. A warning was sounded at one o’clock, and the all clear has not been given yet. Mrs. Thomson has just left, as she must go cook a dinner for her husband. She has been here all afternoon. Ted came in at one-fifteen p.m., said he was going to have his dinner anyhow, and there was not many people in the shelter, as it was dinner hour. I remarked it was St. Francis Day, and he replied,Yes, and our St Francis’s too, old Bert’s birthday today. How old today? Seventy Two.
Not much of a saint in Bert’s makeup. Ted is the saint of the Thompson family. Bert is a gross and sensual old beast. Ted said that benediction was at 6 tonight, so he would work late at the office, and go straight to benediction before coming home. So tea would be late tonight.
At eleven o’clock this morning Hitler and Mussolini met at Brenner Pass. What deviltry have they cooked up for the world today? Men! All Europe is being crucified for the ambitious policies of these tow maniacs. Why do their own people submit to them? For they destroy their own as well as others. Why does the pope say nothing? Because he is an Italian? Or because he is just playing safe, saving his skin and his properties, like the rest of the plutocrats? Anyhow, he says nothing, no more then he did when Italy murdered Abyssinia, or raped Albania. I guess he is just another politician. Well Au-Revoir. I have written enough for a while; too much, most likely.
October 6, 1940
Seven-fifty a.m. I open this book at this hour to cool my anger. We have just passed through a most awful night. The warning was given at seven thirty-five last night and the all clear did not come until six-fifteen this morning. The guns opened up immediately on the warning, and have not ceased all night. It was the worst evening we have ever had. It was pretty bad Friday evening; so bad, that both Mr. and Mrs. Thomson came in here for company. But about one o’clock this morning the raiders were directly overhead, and began dropping bombs. I don’t know yet where they fell, but one was so close that this house tottered. I began to cry. I couldn’t help myself, in fact, I weep now, recording it. Ted was undismayed. There is callousness and cold bloodedness about ted, which I abhor.
Ted is a fool out and out. He didn’t have to go to early church today. There is a mass at nine-thirty and there is another mass at eleven a.m. Wouldn’t any sensible man have taken two or three hours sleep this morning and allowed his household to sleep? Of course he would. Not Ted. This compulsion to go to early mass is maniacal. He is a maniac. Isn’t it because of his craziness that we are here in England at all? That the twins are in the war? That Cuthie is a prisoner? Oh my God how I fret and fret for my children! In nights like this one, which we have just passed through, I fear I shall never see my children again. The bombs strike anywhere. They are just as likely to fall on this house as any other.
That’s all that matters to Ted, the church. He has no affection for anybody. Human beings do not matter to Ted except himself and his will and his own soul. That is all he can “love” his own soul. I say, curse him. He is an intolerable man, impatient with this fool and so angry. Impatience and anger doesn’t help any. Well, let me dress. Here is another day to get through.
Five-thirty p.m. A few minutes ago Ted left the house to go to church; this is for the third time today. He is playing the organ, as Miss Hale is away. A warning is still in progress, and only fifteen minutes ago the big gun was firing. The warning was given at two-twenty p.m. and the barrage has been constant ever since. A whistling bomb fell very near, about four o’clock. Ted has gone out to church all the same. This is already our sixth warning for the day. How many people will be at church?
October 7, 1940
It is eight-forty a.m. and another early writing. Ted left ten minutes ago for his Monday’s round, and a warning is still on. It went at six-forty five a.m. and is the second one for today. After practically continuous raiding all yesterday, there was no warning given after the all clear at eight-forty p.m., so we have had a quiet night, and the B.B.C. says it has been the same all over England.
Ted went upstairs to bed, and remained there till the warning at five-fifty a.m., but I stayed down here on the couch and I was at ease. Not to have Ted in the same room with me, that is a certain sort of bliss. I realized it when I lay down alone in the darkness; I was free from him, free from the constraint of his presence.
For me to be with Ted is always to be under a sense of constraint. It has been that way from the beginning. He oppresses my spirit. From the very first weeks of our marriage it was like that. When he began to deride the things I cared about, when he began to maul at my inner woman, my personality, then I had to begin to protect myself, my secret self. It has always been like that. Everything that is precious to me, and in me, I must hide, must protect. So it is a strain, a long strain. I do not hate him, but I long to be free of him, forever free.
In our American life I did have long free days to myself, business and traveling took him away from the house on twelve hour stretches, but here in England I hardly ever have longer than a four hour period free from him, and in these short periods I have to get through my house jobs, and listen to the neighborhood women, whom I cannot escape. That is why I cannot read or write or study any more. I have no free time; house and husband and neighbors consume it all.
Now the war takes even more time away. It is impossible to do anything while the raids are on. All one can do is sit still in shelter, perhaps knit, perhaps pray, perhaps talk with someone who happens in, and drink tea or smoke a cigarette together. Most of the raids last at least an hour, and we get five or six a day. Last Wednesday we had nine. Then in-between raids we have to do our work.
October 8, 1940
Ten fifteen a.m., and the first all clear of the day has just sounded. The first warning was given at eight-forty. The all clear for the night did not come until seven this morning. Last night was the longest nigh of raids we have yet had. It began at seven-forty p.m. I suppose as the longer nights increase we shall endure ever longer and longer hours of raiding. Sunday night was free of raids, but last night was worse than ever. Yesterday we were raided practically continuously. Saturday night’s bombs fell on Stanley Avenue, the second time, on Lodge Avenue, which is very close to us, and on Gideon Park. On Sunday afternoon they fell on the railway line, at Brentwood, and at Gidea Park, completely demolishing Gidea Park Station.
Today is a beautiful day, and in myself I feel very much better. Last night I was able to surrender to Ted for a little while (love on a sofa!), so my nerves are assuaged. My mind is not altered. My thoughts about we two are the same as ever. I have brought down a Dorothy Richardson to browse in; also Mrs. Eddy. I need these two good feminists to buck me up. When I listen to the drivel that men talk, in the house and on the radio, I scorn the whole darn shooting match of them. When I turned on for the eight o’clock news this morning there was an unctuous parson’s voice saying: In quietness and confidence shall ye possess your peace.
Ten-Forty: second warning sounding, so Au-Revoir.
Two-fifty pm. As I knew it would happen Mrs. Thomson was at my door before I could put this book away, and she stayed here through three warnings, until Ted came home for dinner.
This is what I hate: this loss of my precious time. I want to be writing. I want to put down for my children the story of my life: my life as I see it and interpret it, and this desire is urging me more and more imperatively. When life for all of us in this island is becoming daily more dangerous and more precarious, I feel I must write now, whilst I know I still have time in the land of the living. Not that it would matter if my children never knew the truth of my life. At the back of everything I suppose is my deep desire to state the truth of myself, ready to await the recognition of that female descendant of myself who will be most like me, a repetition of myself. This is great egotism of course, and I know it.
There it is. Fifty or sixty years hence some other woman, some lonesome creature of my blood may be able to find in my old writings the explanations for her own cursed self. All I can manage are these sporadic diaries. What I want to do is to write the whole story from the beginning, in one connected straight forward whole. Because of the daily conditions of existence this I cannot do. It is a pity because I feel my powers failing. If I could have uninterrupted time, no housework, no neighbors, no air raids, no routines, I could write. I could write very well, and I know it. As things are I can do very little; practically nothing. My days are frittered away, and I with them. Henley wrote, I am the master of my Fate.
October 9, 1940
Last night again we had a little love on the sofa. This surprised me and was very pleasant. If only Ted could love me more and the church less we should get along together much better than we do.
When I woke this morning I was full of thoughts of Grandma Side. Perhaps I had been dreaming about her, though I do not recollect a dream. Perhaps it was because she stirs in my memory as a good feminist, the first I ever knew, and most likely the last I shall forget. Anyhow, I loved Grandma Side, and never forget her. If only a grand daughter of mine could know and under- stand and love me, as I know and understand and loved her. I should know content in my old age. Queer, isn’t? That two old people inhabit my mind in abiding affection, for all my life? Grandma Side and Charles Voysey; over and over again through out my years these two come to my mind.
Full of visitors today. Myrtle Arch was here this morning; also Mrs. Thomson, and this afternoon Mrs. Branney. Yesterday afternoon I had a long visit from Dick Brazier. Raids have been very bad all day. Six on London, but only three here in Romford, though the afternoon one lasted a long time: from two forty-two p.m. until four-twenty p.m.
October 10, 1940
Last night was a terrible night. I don’t know how we can keep on enduring these nights. Bombs dropped on North Street, and in the stadium on the London Road. No casualties! I’m beyond praying. I just lay and shake and cry. Churchill makes his famous speeches, but Hitler is winning the war anyhow, no matter what they say. If it lay with women we should call for an armistice tomorrow. What sense is there in this stupid fighting? No! Men talk themselves into a war, and then they talk themselves into going on with it. Men’s talk, how I hate men’s talk, men’s minds! Though I’ll make an exception for the Archbishop of York! He talks on the air once a week now, and most of what he says makes sense.
He talks like a Catholic, Says Ted.
He doesn’t. He talks like a man of sense, and a gentleman. He is the cultured Christian, speaking to sensible people. By the way, here is a delicious tid-bit which I must chronicle. It came over the radio this morning. The early morning parson was talking about the humility of Jesus, and he gave this anecdote.
It is told of Saint Philip Neri, he said (and what’s an Anglican got to do with St. Philip Neri?) That he was sent on a mission by the Pope to inquire into the sanctity and credentials of a certain nun in Rome who was making a stir with the populace with her good deeds and prophecies. The people were saying she was a saint. So Saint Philip Neri was sent to make investigations concerning her. After a long journey he arrived at her convent, all travel stained and weary. With out waiting to tidy himself from his journey he went to the convent as he was and asked for the nun. He was shown into the parlor, and she came to him at once. Thereupon, sitting in his chair, he stretched out his leg and asked the nun to take off his muddy boots for him. The nun indignantly refused to do. So this was enough for St. Phillip. He left the convent at once and went straight to the Pope. He reported to the Pope, ‘You have nothing to fear from that woman. She has true humility.’
This morning’s parson hands it out as an edifying story. Lord! What fools men are!
Eleven-forty a.m. The Sainsbury boy has just been in with the groceries. He tells me that four bombs were dropped in the first raid this morning. One got “The Crown” and near by houses on the London Road. One fell in a field in the Arterial Road, and two fell on Marlborough Road, destroying several houses, and two cars that were on the road. The men in the cars were killed; one had his head blown off. One of the houses was the home of Sainsbury’s porter, who, the boy says, has been released to go home. Two of Sainsbury’s men were killed on the street in that bad raid we had on a mid day in August. Oh God! This fool war!
The war is getting worse and worse. On Wednesday night the Germans bombed forty districts of London. Last night they bombed thirty-six districts. Our fifth warning for today is just sounding. Last night we had an awful fright, soon after eight o’clock. The alarm had been sounded at seven twenty-five. Soon after eight we heard a bomb whistling, descending. We thought surely it was going to hit this house. Ted ducked and got under the table! There were two close following thirds, the house rocked, but we were not hit. Then two more followed, a little further off. Altogether Romford received nine. I sat and cried. I cannot pray anymore. I seem just paralyzed.
The firing went on the rest of the night, but no more hits came in this neighborhood. Today we learnt that the evening’s bombs hit in Victoria Road for the fourth time! Albert Road, and Lodge Avenue, and Westmoreland Avenue. Craters made and houses demolished, including two pubs, but now casualties.
Our first alarm sounded this morning at seven thirty- five whilst Ted was at church. Mrs. Thomson came in at once, and stayed for breakfast. Ted left early for the office, but before Mrs. Thomson left the second warning sounded, at eight-fifty a.m., and the raid lasted for one hour. The third was at ten-forty-five a.m. until twelve- fifty p.m., during which time Mr. Kessey was here and the fourth two-thirty p.m. until three-twenty p.m.
It is impossible to get anything done, and the wear and tear on our nerves is exhausting. If only I had some money I would board The Clipper and fly to New York. I was only saying to Ted last night, just before the bombs fell, how awful these nights were, and I didn’t know how I was going to stand a whole winter of them. A dozen nights like these last two nights and I’m afraid I shall go raving mad. The men are still talking war, war, and war. The politicians infuriate me. Anyhow they don’t fight. They only specify and egg wars on.
October 12, 1940
Today the Thomson’s called in at the office and gave a week’s notice. Mrs. Thomson is going to Devon, and he is going to share a house with a fellow-worker at Plessis whose wife and children have gone to Bradford, and who lives in Ilford. So it is goodbye Mrs. Thomson. Both of them spent the evening in here, and it was as well they did, for in chatting and laughing together we were distracted from the outside noises.
October 13, 1940
After, all, it is not goodbye Mrs. Thomson! She came in here about noon, all tears, to say she had changed her mind. She could see, she said, that John really didn’t want her to go, so she couldn’t leave him. He had gone down to the station, to see could he get his money back on the R-ticket, which he had bought yesterday. All morning they had been packing up, and now, the work was in vein, and everything to be unpacked again. So I invited them to dinner. I knew they had no supplies in their house. After dinner, when they returned next door, to work whilst there was still daylight, I invited them to come back for tea, at blackout time. Of course they came, and in a very happy and united frame of mind together.
After tea we played bridge for a couple of hours. During the evening the uproar picked up again outside, worse then ever. The moon is now coming to the full, as there is plenty of light for the raiders. In the middle of the evening they were right overhead, and we heard bombs dropping very near by. The explosions were terrific. One whistling bomb sounded as though it was going to drop at our very door. I felt we ought to duck under the table. We didn’t. We went right on playing bridge. The men didn’t budge, just winked at each other. This was just as well for us; they steadied us.
It is three-fifty p.m. just back from the doctor’s in time to get under cover from the raiding. Raids have been going on all morning. An all clear did not sound until two-twelve, so I’ve just had time to get my visit in. At last I am on the mend. My leg is healing. I am to keep on with the white ointment for another week, and then when she see the leg next week she will decide whether or not I can put it back into it usual plaster of visco-paste. During this week I have lost three and a quarter pounds, which is very encouraging: nearly a half-pound a day. Last week I didn’t lose an ounce. If I could get done to thirteen stone I would be satisfied. After all, I am a very tall woman.
Mrs. Jude was in to see me this morning. As usual, she gave me the town news. She only just got into the house before the warning sounded, at about half past eleven, and all the time she was here a battle was going on above us. Ten bombs were dropped in Romford last night. The most serious damage was in North Street, where Haysom’s was struck, and completely demolished. Haysom’s is Romford’s largest furniture store, and occupied nearly a block. This morning there is nothing there but rubble and cinders. No lives lost. Sunday, of course, and not a soul is on the premises. Presumably the Jerry’s were trying for the Romford food storage plant, which is just behind Haysom’s. North Street and the Arterial Road frequently get hit. The Arterial Road, of course, is a military road, so a legitimate target. It has trenches all along it, with soldiers cap-a-pie, and big gun emplacements, and tank traps, and so on. The funny thing is, the soldier’s, or the trenches, never get hit, only the neighboring shops and houses.
October 23, 1940
October 25, 1940
Two months today to Xmas, as Ted remarked at breakfast. It is ten-thirty a.m. and a raid on. After several days of cold mist and rain, today is a beautiful day; therefore the raids have begun early. The first warning went at eight-fifty this morning, and there is no clearance. Twice already I’ve had to go into my corner and grab a cushion for my head at the threatening whistles very near and overhead. This makes me furious. I am so angry at this war. The stupidity of it even more than the cruelty and fearfulness, fill me with rage. Men, blasted fool men, creating war. When I listen to all the poppycock that’s spoken on the air I’m simply derisive. For here are men again, exhorting, bragging and begging, diddling with facts, and trickling out sob-stuff about glory and about self-sacrifice. Damn lot of plausible Pharisees, that’s what most of the talking men are. Who are they? The old men. It’s the young ones, the ignorant, innocent, inexperienced boys, who are sent out to die.
Two-fifty p.m. Mrs. Cavus came calling, and stayed until dinnertime. She looked very pretty in a new winter outfit, brown in color, and chic. Of course we talked about the war, and agreed together that if the women could have any say in the matter, it would end tomorrow.
At one o’clock news we heard that Petain had seen Hitler, last night. Hitler also saw Franco yesterday. What are they cooking up for Europe now? Petain is eighty- four, and a pious Catholic. He was the man who surrendered France to Hitler. Now he talks about the salvation of France laying in her return to an agricultural economy, the cessation of the practice of birth control, the destruction of Masonry, and a return to the bosom of the Catholic Church. If only all men would return to the true faith, which, of course, is Roman Catholicism, then everything in the world would be lovely. Silly old fool! Old, that’s what’s the matter with him.
What about the Pope? The Pope says nothing, and keeps on saying nothing. Mussolini makes the Italians behave disgracefully, but the Pope never utters even one little admonition. No. The Pope is an Italian, and a politician, and he plays for safety. The Italians marched into Albania on a Good Friday, and the Pope even said nothing to that. There used to be a question when I was young, What would Jesus do?
October 28, 1940
The Italians have declared war on Greece. An ultimatum was handed to the Greeks at three a.m. this morning, to which a favorable answer was demanded by six a.m. The Greeks refused to accede to the Italian demands, so at six o’clock the Italians began their attack on Greece. At seven o’clock the first air raid warning was sounded over Athens. Last night Hitler and Mussolini met in Florence. I suppose this further aggression was what they then decided upon. The filthy little Italians! What is the Pope going to say to them now? Is he going to say the same old nothing?