World War ll London Blitz: 2-3-41 to 2- 27-41 I think I’ll note some items about food. It has occurred to me that perhaps we have become more cranky than ordinary because of the food situation. Although we could not say the food situation is bad, it is decidedly tiresome. There are so many restrictions that variety in food is hard to come by, and meals are uninteresting and uninviting. Rationing does give everybody a definite amount of whatever is available.

February 3, 1941

I am feeling very seedy. I have developed a very bad cold, and think it is bronchitis.

It is snowy and cold today. Joan surprised me by knocking at the door about four o’clock on Saturday after- noon. She said she had come to spend the night with me. My letter to Mother, in which I told her Ted would be out fire-spotting all Saturday night, had arrived in Hammer- smith at noon, and Joan said I sounded so miserable in it, she decided to come over at once. So here she is now. I was so pleased to see her, I cried. Ted of course went off about seven-thirty. Joan and I had a good evenings talk, and did not settle down to sleep until after midnight. Ted returned about six-thirty on Sunday morning. Luck was with us and there were no raids.

About eleven in the morning Ted went out again. When he returned he told Joan that he had been to join the Home Guard. After dinner, when he was talking to Joan about the war he said this, I would willingly see Ruby and Cuth and Artie die lingering and painful deaths if it was necessary to win the war. I would gladly sacrifice them if by so doing we could defeat Hitler.

Joan protested. I said nothing. What is there to say to such a fanatic? You notice he would remain alive. You see he does not care for flesh and blood. He loves neither his wife nor his sons: only his ideas, what he calls his ideals.

Ted loves nobody, and it becomes impossible to love him. He is not human. He is a fanatical madman, a ruthless egotist, and a lunatic.
Ever since he said that, I have been unable to speak to him. I have known for years that he had no real affection for me, but for him to so cold bloodily say that he could gladly see me die, and painfully die, if thereby my death could help to win the war, my God, this is too much.

Our marriage is a howling failure God knows. We disappoint each other; we hurt each other. Ted bores me and exasperates me. My patience wears thin, but it wears. I am weary of him, weary to death. I wish to be free of him more than I wish for anything else in the world but I would not “sacrifice” him for my freedom. What I desire is liberation, a liberation that could easily be arranged by sensible people by divorce. Ted is not a sensible person, so there will never be a divorce.

So there’s nothing to do but endure. If I had money I could leave him. If I were young I could work and I could leave him; but I am an old woman, absolutely dependent upon him. So it’s hell. I should have left him twenty years ago, but I didn’t. I’ve always been hoping, I suppose, hoping he’d love me. Well, he does not love me. So that’s that. To be an old wife is to be an absolutely valueless creature. When Ted came in for dinner he was blue with the cold, and he looked very tired and very old. Well, he is old. So am I. Two old crocks, he said. I have a cold and he was tired.

The trouble with me is, I am always looking for the young lover, and of course I can’t find him, for he ceased to exist thirty years ago. This ceaseless craving for love and devotion. Am I a more ardent and passionate woman than ordinary? I don’t know.

Anyhow: I am fifty-six years old. I am sick with a bronchial cold. I am infirm with my bad legs. The weather is wintry. I don’t go out. The war wears on my nerves I’m homesick for America and I long for my children. This is why I am cranky.

I suppose it is only natural Ted wants to fight the enemy. Man’s nature, which I don’t understand. War infuriates my common sense. I tend to think all men fools and old men old fools.

I too am a fool. I expect too much. I expect the impossible.

Turning to my dear St. Francis De Sales just now, trying to find some word of help or comfort, I found this in Henry Bordeaux’s book:
More than once the reader must doubtless have thought that the doctrine of St. Francis De Sales could be adapted to a love marriage only. His teaching did not adapt itself to love; it created love. By his counsel he induces a young girl to prepare herself for love, to think of it, and to give herself to it. His doctrine forces a wife, each day, to revivify her love, to press it tenderly to her heart. What can a woman do, however, if it should happen, as it frequently does, that her husband is mediocre? We are not all, in great measure, impelled by the force of our feelings? Take, for example, Elsie, in the novel by M. Rene Boylesve, who, without the safeguards of matrimony, indulged freely in her irregularly passion. Note with what a care a woman in love makes a sort of religion out of her guilty love, so great is her need for something to worship. Where she perceived that she herself had furnished the fuel for the fire that was consuming her, she found her only solace in the thought of death. God, on the contrary, is the refuge of Philothea, God in the depths of whose fatherly heart she can bury all trials. Are we not surprised when we meet some great hero of a tragic or marvelous adventure, to discover him so ordinary and insignificant? Illusion is certainly not everything in daily life, but we can scarcely do without a little of it. The wife, therefore, whose love for her husband approaches devotion, or whose devotion approximates love, can she not succeed in producing the sacred spark, even if the material she works with is mediocre?

Yes. Perhaps. If she tries without ceasing. Without ceasing: that is the sentence. Marriage is serious, lasting, and unalterable. St. Francis once explained to a young man who sought his advice about the responsibilities of raising a family: Marriage is an Order in which one must take one’s vows before entering upon the novitiate; if there was a year of trial, as there is before one may take the vows in a monastery, very few would go through with it.

To a young girl he said: The married state is one that requires more virtue and constancy than only other; it is a perpetual exercise of mortification; in your case, perhaps, it will be unusually so.
Yes. Vows, constancy, mortification. Mortification.

Glorious St. Francis De Sales, you excelled in ordering with ardor and exactitude your exterior and interior life. Grant to us, your supplicants, the vigor and energy necessary to fill every moment of our lives with a just employment, strength of will to be faithful to it, discernment to solve its problems, and enthusiasm to vivify it.

In spite of the vicissitudes of daily life and the changing moods of human nature, enable us to develop our true personality and attain to perfection in our states of life. You, who feared above all other evils, indifference, luke warmness and sadness, obtain for us a joyful love for the commonplace things, which, for the most part, fill our lives. Teach us to relish the countless inanities, which are so often productive of monotony and disgust. You, dear Saint Francis De Sales, who divined the supreme, potent attraction of love, sweeten and enrich with tenderness, we implore you, all those who are united by the bonds of matrimony. Teach them that the very love they cherish for one another is threatened by monotony, that it can only be preserved at the cost of unceasing vigilance and a constant effort to increase it. Great St Francis De Sales, serene, beneficent, calm, guide us in that delightful use of the world, which can so quickly become criminal. Preserve us from vain anxiety and idle curiosity. Lover of peace, fill our hearts, our homes, our cities, with peace.

February 4, 1941

I preach to myself these preachment's of Saint Francis, but with little effect. He insists that we overcome our sadness, because in the end sadness only creates a new affliction to torment us. True. How are we to overcome our feelings? How? Last night Ted and I had words again, and I laid down in the dark to weep. I was wakeful for hours, trying to get a hold of myself, and trying to pray. All the while, mind and heart and body were crying out to be loved. All the while, If Ted could have made an advance to me, touched me held me awhile, I could have been assuaged. No. In cold rectitude he lay on his own sofa, asleep, or feigning sleep.

The greatest need of my life, now, and always, is affection, and the expression of affection. From the time when I was a young child, suffering perpetually under Mother’s harshness and thrashings, I have prayed for gentleness, tenderness and love. I don’t know what happened to Ted in his childhood, but his constant need seems to be to express opposition, and to break his opponents will. He seems to compel all those whom he safely can. To break them. From our very early days I found the need to hide from him, to protect myself from his senseless and hurting domination. To make any positive statement to him, was to encounter immediate denial, immediate coercion. No matter how casually I might say I wouldn’t do a certain thing, he would make me do it; and if I said I would do something or other, then he would take every trouble to prevent me. I don’t know what it is in the fellow, but it is something very deep, fundamental. 

Perhaps it comes from a sense of his weakness and ineffectiveness. I don’t know. Once, years ago, when we were all in Bayonne together, Ted, Arthur, Grace, and I, had eternal arguments daily, Grace once said, I don’t know what I really believe about anything, and I don’t care either; but when another person says anything, I have to contradict them. I might believe what they believe, it doesn’t matter; if they say it, I have to take the offensive side, even against myself. I can’t let any remark pass. I just have to be different.

So perhaps it’s something fundamental in the Thompson family. Anyhow, it’s a damned disagreeable habit. Why can’t Ted be easy? Why can’t he be different from the way he is? It is a senseless question of course. Why can’t I be different from the way I am? The conflict of personality in matrimony: it’s the very devil.

February 5, 1941

Reconciliation. Serenity. Last night Ted went out for Home Guard duties from seven until nine p.m. He returned home before the news was finished, and then we listened to, There Men Were Free, program, which featured the men of seventeen hundred and ninety-three and the French Revolution, particularly Lazare Carnot, who organized the armies of France to resist the threat to the Revolution from without. Then when that finished Ted came over to my corner, knelt on the floor beside me, turned my face to him, and began kissing me, kissing me straight on the mouth, so that I quivered and melted. I began to cry. My God I am crying now! Well we loved, and then slept in peace.

Today I am at peace, with Ted, with myself. We lose each other. Then we find each other, and we begin again, in love. When the body speaks instead of the head, when instead of listening to the ceaseless silly words we make, we listen instead to the call of our blood, when we surrender to each other in physical union, then we are satisfied, then we are at peace.

I think I’ll note some items about food. It has occurred to me that perhaps we have become more cranky than ordinary because of the food situation. Although we could not say the food situation is bad, it is decidedly tiresome. There are so many restrictions that variety in food is hard to come by, and meals are uninteresting and uninviting. Rationing does give everybody a definite amount of what ever is available. As it stands now this is what one person can get every week:

Sugar: four ounces
Tea: two ounces
Bacon: four ounces
Eggs: two (if you can find any)
Cheese: two ounces (if you can find any) Meat: one shilling and two pence worth Butter: two ounces

Margarine: four ounces
Note: this is per week!

Eggs are practically unobtainable. Lemons and onions

are absolutely unobtainable. Kidneys and liver are not to be found. Fish is so out of sight for all practical purposes. There is no fruit anywhere, either fresh or tinned. No dried fruit. No nuts. No tomatoes. No marmalade. No jam No syrup. Sausages are forty percent bread.

Neither bread nor flour is rationed, yet but only one sort of loaf is obtainable. Cakes and pastries have practically disappeared, certainly all those at popular prices. The last time I was on South Street I saw a chocolate layer cake in one baker’s window priced at eight pence ordinarily it would have been two pence.

We are exhorted to eat plenty of carrots and potatoes and oatmeal. What a diet! The lack of onions for all savory cooking, and also of tomatoes, fresh, tinned or pureed makes very flat dishes; and the lack of sugar and eggs deposes of all sweets.

Try to cook without eggs or onions and see how little you can do! We diet on potatoes without butter; or porridge without sugar or syrup, and with milk at nine pence per quart. Meals have been dreadfully uninteresting. If one cared to sit down to a hearty, variegated, tasty meal one would feel like a new being.

Joan also told us something about shelter life and the effect it was having on people. She spent every night sitting up in a shelter for three months and finally got such excruciating pains in her back she had to go to the hospital to get cured. Shelter strain. Son has had to go to the hospital with neuritis in his right arm. Shelter life. Joan tells me many people are getting what is described as shelter ankles, that is swellings due to always sitting up, never laying in bed for a night anymore. Joan thinks all doctors must be under orders not to say anything against the shelters, or to admit that any aches or pains or illnesses are due to sleeping in shelters. She says it is quite remarkable how they don’t ask patients about where they sleep and how they sleep! Of course the shelters must be bad for the health. I’ve heard of two doctors in this town who have forbidden mothers to take their young children into shelters. I heard that Dr. Levy wept when he lost a baby with pneumonia, contracted, he declared, by sleeping in a shelter. Another doctor told my Lily that she must take a chance on a bomb, but she must keep her bronchial baby out of the shelter.

February 7, 1941

I am serene, thanks to St. Francis. The whole last night Ted was out on fire spotting duties, on top of Lyons: from eight p.m. until six this morning.

I was all right. Happily there were no raids. The weather was too bad I expect. We had deep snow yesterday. Anyhow, I was all right. I sat up until midnight, and then settled down to sleep quite calmly. Today I have been writing. My mind’s in spate again, hurrah! There was news at one o’clock of the fall of Benghazi.

February 15, 1941

I am waiting for Sainsbury’s delivery. Airplanes are buzzing about. No morning alert yet. The last alert was at one twenty a.m. this morning, with all clear after about an hour. Ted heard nothing of it, and even though I got up to get a light, he did not waken. We had raids most of the evening, too. The all clear came about eleven fifteen p.m., so that we could settle down comfortably to sleep.
Through out this week there has been plenty of air activity again, after the January slow up. The weather is improving of course. Things are getting more frightening now. There is constant talk, in public, and on the air, of the prospect of imminent invasion. It is that Hitler must invade us to lick us, and he must do it soon before American aid reaches us. In the first news this morning at seven a.m. instructions were given, as to what to do in case of invasion, to “stay put,” and await direct instructions from the military or the police. It is sickening.

This week Franco went to Italy for a conference with Mussolini: and on his return had a meeting with Petain at Montpelier. What does this portend? So far Franco has kept out of the war, recovering from their civil war, of course. Franco is a minor dictator, and a puppet of the other two. Will he take Nazi orders? Will he copy Mussolini and land a stab in the back to a power he considers to be losing? God knows.

Anyhow the coming slaughter is going to be awful. Again millions of Europe’s young men will be destroyed and for what? For the damned stupidity of political maniacs. Civilians too will perish in multitudes. Oh my God, the stupidity of men!

February 20, 1941

Ted has gone off to his Home Guard stint. The weather is very cold with snow this evening, so we may get another peaceful night. We had a raid this morning in spite of the weather, but it is extremely cold again tonight, so we may have an undisturbed night. I hope so. I have been working at collating my recipes again this week, my form of madness! When I get desperately homesick for America, as I am now, reading and transcribing the standard American menus and recipes gives me some kind of assuagement. Anyhow, it’s the nearest I can get to American terra firma! That, and Mary Baker Eddy! God! How I long to be home in America!

February 21,1941

It is Johnnie’s birthday. He was born in nineteen-ten, so must be thirty-one today. He is the father of four children already.

I went to the hairdressers this afternoon. Ted told me at dinner time, that he would go straight to church from the office, to play for benediction, at six p.m. and would not be in until about six forty. So I decided I had time to get my hair done. It is a problem getting to the hairdressers. I certainly will not go out while the raids are on. No day raiding today, so off I went. There were raids again last night however. We have had them every night since Wednesday, in spite of the cold. On my way back I met Mary Bernadette Jude, so brought her into tea. She has returned to Romford, and is living alone in their house, her mother still staying in Belfast.

February 22, 1941 — Washington’s birthday

It is very cold and frosty. Ted has just gone out to pay the bills, go to church and the barber, etc. Inside I am secretly laughing. An alert! There is trouble again in Romford. So I cannot write now.

It is eleven thirty a.m. and all quiet, though no all clear has been given. We had a very bad night again last night. The evening was quiet, but the guns began soon after mid night. No clearance still from this morning. Oh this senseless war! What I sat down to note was another folly of men. Though perhaps not a “folly” but only a fundamental. Last night when Ted returned from seeing Mary Jude home, he began to kiss me; so we loved. Inside I was intensely amused. First, because I notice that a young girl around excites Ted, not towards them, but towards me. Next, because in the act of love, theology completely vanishes. Men forget God when their lust is upon them. I thought: what married woman, or any woman that lies with a man, can possibly believe in a man’s religion? I don’t mean the religion proposed by the individual man but the great cancers of religious dogmas, which men have invented, and the churches have built up?

Women are realists, true; women can tell fairy tales, but they don’t ever believe them. They can’t. Women don’t “believe” anything. Women deal in facts. I don’t wonder why the early Christians placed such an exaggerated value on continence, talked so much about purity,
because when men love women they stop worrying about heaven. When men and women “know each other” then they are satisfied: completely satisfied. It is churches, institutional religions, which disappear in the state of nature. Natural religion survives of course. One could remember one’s creator when loving a spouse, but one certainly couldn’t remember the priest, nor his preaching’s.

When my eye fell on the Von Hugel books on the shelf this morning, I thought: What’s the use of all those words? Words, words, words! Men trying to convince themselves of the validity of arguments! Actions speak louder than words and in the act of physical loving arguments are non-existent. The loving is, and all religion, or, rather all other religion, is a vapor. Well, Ted’s gone off to confession. Confession is a habit he has established for himself. I laugh. Confession. What is there to confess?

Well, the postman has just been and brought me the delayed volume of St. Francis’s, The Love of God. It’s funny it should come just this morning. I’m glad. I like St. Francis and I certainly love God. St. Francis was a realist. So was Jesus. It is the churchmen who have made such fantasies. Jesus was preaching the love of God. God is a spirit, he said: and God is Light: and those who love God must love him in spirit and in truth. The Christians seem to ignore what Jesus was trying to tell, and instead have insisted on substituting Jesus for God himself, and keeping right on with old pagan rites. No wonder people don’t go to church today; the fashion of the church service is out of date, finished. The Church is dead. It does not know how to make contact with today’s people. With the half-educated, yes perhaps, those who will listen, but the educated normal person of today the church can say nothing.

February 23, 1941

Ted has just gone out to benediction. We were talking at lunch today about it now being twenty years since we went to Tenafly, and talking about the old coons in the cottage. Then Ted spoke of their religion (of course!) and the day when they had their “meeting” down in the cottage, and how our boys created a disturbance. Ted added, It was really wrong of us: interfering with other people’s religion, of course. Us Catholics! I used to feel pretty awful, I can tell you, walking down to the train afterwards, and thinking people were most likely talking about us persecuting. You too, of course. Naturally everybody in Tenafly looked upon you as a Catholic.

When he said that I experienced a mental jolt. I hated him to say it. I realized it was true, but I also realized I had never regarded myself as Catholic, or never thought the neighbors regarded me as such either. Of course they must have done. Was I not visibly a member of the Catholic Church? Of course. I can see that I never regarded myself as Catholic, and moreover that I never have done so. Why? Because I am not a Catholic. I have joined the church: I have studied Catholic theology, I have gone regularly into retreat; I have obeyed the rules, more or less. Occasionally I have responded emotionally to oddments of Catholic belief and practice; but I have never responded in toto to Catholicism. In fact, funda- mentally, I have never responded at all. I have been an individualist all my life, and I shall die such.

February 24, 1941

I am waiting for the water to warm up for a bath. It was a noisy night again last night. Some bombs fell near-by about eight-thirty p.m. Then everything quieted down again until nearly mid night. There were two bad spells of raiding then. All clear not coming until after three this morning. Oh this damned war!

About ten o’clock last night Artie telephoned. He said he got his leave, and was phoning from Victoria. He said he was going down to Hammersmith and would stay at Grandma’s for the night, and would be in Romford in time for dinner today. Good.

I spent most of last night re-reading, The Passionate Pilgrim, G.M. Williams Life of Mrs. Annie Besant. I had a Trubisky novel from the library, which I couldn’t read, so my thoughts turned to Annie Besant. She was about the age I am now when I first met her. She was a truly wonderful woman. I have often wondered lately how the Christian Scientists explain the war or explain it away; but I expect the Theosophist’s could explain it easily. Most likely they say it is general repetition from the past, and a general karma, which we all have to endure.

Well, we have to endure it all right. Theosophy was a fascination to my youth, and Annie Besant was the greatest woman I have ever met. Well I must go and bathe. Artie will be here at noon. So Au-Revoir.

February 26, 1941 Ash Wednesday

Ted is not back from church until eight thirty this morning, and then nicely marked with the holy ashes. He began his lent by eating only half of his bowl of bread and milk, and then today nothing further for breakfast. Actually he does not have to fast at all. For one thing he is over age, and for another, the church has abrogated all fasting for the duration of the war for everybody. A Catholic can now eat meat three times a day on Friday, if he can get it! Ted, of course, is going to fast just the same.

He did do a wonderful thing, for him, tonight. He went to the cinema to see Charlie Chaplin’s latest film, The Dictator, on Ash Wednesday, too, of all days in the year! He did. He telephoned from the office in the late afternoon, to say he would be in late for tea, because he was going to see, Charlie, at the four thirty showing.

Well I’m blessed! Artie is spending the evening with Mary Bernadette, and I’ve a good book to read, The Butlers, by Kylie Tennant, who wrote, Foveaux, a couple of years ago. These are stories of modern Australia, and I enjoy them.

February 27, 1941

I am alone. Ted has gone off to his home guard stint, and Artie is at the movies. I have had Mary Bernadette here nearly all day. She arrived soon after eleven this morning to telephone her office that she wouldn’t be in town. She had slept until nine-ten this morning! Artie did not leave her until after twelve last night. Artie and Mary went out shopping, and then Mary returned here to lunch, and stayed on to tea, when she left for home, as Artie had a date to meet Edna at six o’clock.

Tomorrow Mary is coming to tea and in the evening Artie is going to take her to a dance. Artie is to go up to her house again on Saturday! I think this is all a campaign to defeat Edna Renacre. Nobody wants to see Artie get officially engaged to Edna and Artie doesn’t want to get engaged to the girl either. Edna is the deter- mined pursuing female, and if Artie slips through her fingers it won’t be her fault.

Edna is a nice girl, all right, but not nice enough. If she nags Artie tonight, I’m afraid he’ll drop her with a bump. It is her fault. She courts him assiduously, but now he’s got bored with her devotion.

Mary, of course, doesn’t want Artie otherwise than as a friend. Mary became officially engaged to Hugh Storr-Best in January last. She and Artie have always been friends, and this companionship this week of leave is nothing but friendship. I’m glad. I don’t want Artie to get tied up with Edna. He isn’t in love with her, not in the slightest, but she is in love with him. Girls love! She’ll get over it.

We had bad raids last night and a very heavy raid this morning about twelve-thirty. All quiet since early afternoon, and still quiet. There is much rain today, and now a strong wind howling. 

No comments:

Post a Comment