I was going through Ive’s Gardens to the library this morning and I had a chat with the one-legged old Mrs. Thompson who lives in one of the cottages. She was cheerful, as always, but this is what she said: “Where’s this war going to end? That’s what I want to know. The men don’t seem to know what they’re doing just muddling, muddling, if you ask me. This is another paper war, that’s what I say. Lots of fine words about, but what’s going to happen afterwards? That’s what I want to know. You see, it will be like the last time, 'England for ‘eroes!' I don’t think! That’s what they said before, didn’t they? Then what? Men are on the street. Men in gutters, selling matches! Paper promises! I say, that’s what this war is going to be, too: a paper war! Why don’t’ they finish it? We’re all tired of it. We want something to eat. D’you know, I’m always hungry these days, awful, isn’t it? And cold! I’ve never been so cold as this winter and why? No nourishment in the food, our blood is all thinned out. Of course we can’t keep ourselves warm. Stands to reason, doesn’t it! Two eggs in a month! What’s that? Everything is for the children. What happens? The children gorge and throw their food away. Yes, I see it; right here with the school kids, every day. Why doesn’t the government do something for us old people? I suppose they reckon we’re no good any more; we may just as well die. Well, the last war did in my old man, only twenty-eight he was, and now this is going to do in me. Muddle, muddle. It is a paper war. Why don’t they finish it, and let us live proper again?”
“I’m laffing me bloomin ‘ead off” as Vic Oliver says so often. I went out this afternoon to change my Boot’s book, as Ted was going straight to the Home Guards this evening, and I shall be alone until late. I was very surprised to find this road full of buses, going in both directions. I wondered if an invasion had begun. After leaving Boots I continued along South Street towards the market, and ran into the Fire Brigade. There was a jam of people by the co-op, and lo, the fire was at Westgate and Hammonds! The office and the hatters and the bakery adjoining were all burnt out on the top floors. The roofs were gone and all the windows, and though the flames were out the firemen were still hosing.
Last night I was dreaming of my mother and father. It seemed that mother and I were going away on a visit to the Utard’s. Mother had already started and I was left behind to fix up the luggage. It was another version of my beastly “packing” dreams, and hurrying for boats and trains that I nearly miss. We were in Angel Road and I was packing in my old bedroom. Then I went into Mother’s room, to take her nightclothes out of her chest of drawers and Dad was lying there in bed. He did not speak to me, but he threw himself half way out of the bed towards me, and opened his arms to embrace me, and he smiled at me, with tender affection. Dad was glad to see me, welcoming me, completely. It was a beautiful dream, a phantom giving of what I look for in reality. Or rather, I should not say “in realty” but in today’s daylight life; for in reality Dad did give me his love and his comprehension, and in dreamland he still gives it to me.
This gloom inside and out is getting me down. The war news is worse and worse. Java has fallen. Burma is invaded, Rangoon threatened. What next? A beautiful man’s world I must say. Now the women are conscripted! When Maureen Garvan was here yesterday she said she was waiting to be called up. Well, if I had a young daughter conscripted I think I should go stark raving mad. I haven’t a daughter, and I am an old woman, no good to anybody, so the government can’t “use” me. Well Au-revoir.
It is four years today since the Nazi’s marched into Vienna. Douglas Reid says it is four years today since the war really began. Churchill announced in Parliament today that Sir Stafford Cripps will go to India, to consult with all parties about Indian Home-Rule, and to confer with the vice regent and General Wavell about the anticipated attack on India by the Japanese, which is imminent, for the Jap's are at the gates. This is the “next”, fighting in India. Ted is at the Home Guards, and will be late. I want to record something about us. This morning I thought I wouldn’t but something I read this afternoon has made me change my mind.
In the beginning of the war general opinion tended to a hope that the common people of Germany would make another revolution; but as the war goes on, from one disaster to another, and all our fool politicians making the absurdist excuses but never proceeding to do anything sensible, and only annoying the people with endless petty restrictions. I find myself thinking that it is perhaps the people of Britain who will make a revolution. Our politicians are and have been a mass of duds. Ineffectual men get into high places, and do not work for the country, but for themselves, for their own glory, or their own pocket. Parliament is nothing but clack, clack, clack, and the gabble of ducks. Think of the ridiculous debate last week about clothes.
An announcement made by the admiralty has just been read on the nine o’clock news. It is that the allies lost twelve war ships, five cruisers, six destroyers, and a sloop, in the three-day battle of Java. They are listed as British, the Cruiser Exeter, and the destroyers Electra, Jupiter, Encounter, and Stronghold. Australian: The Cruiser Perth, and the sloop Yarra. United States: The cruiser Houston, and the Destroyer Pope. Dutch: The Cruisers Java and DeRuyter and the Destroyer Hortense. In addition the Dutch destroyer Everston was damaged and beached.
I am in low spirits. Artie is home; consequently Ted is at his most disagreeable. Today Artie remarked, “I notice Dad is even more irritable than usual.” Artie naturally wants to have a good time. He has been through a hard winter of rigorous training, and now he has nine days leave. On the thirtieth he must report at Edinburgh, and then what? At night when Artie comes in after we have gone to bed, Ted pulls his watch out from under his pillow and flashes his torch on it, to see what time it is! The Puritanism of Ted’s entire horrible conformist upbringing comes out strong. The self-righteousness of Ted has to be endured to be believed. He seems to have forgotten entirely what it is to be a young man, to want to frivol, to dance, to drink a little, and to go out with the girls. He constantly criticizes Artie to me, the boys thought, manner and speech, till my spirit groans. Oh, let us be happy whilst we can, I think; what do these trifles matter? But no! Ted must nag and nag. It is really awful.
Today the girls of seventeen are registering. In two weeks time the girls of sixteen will have to register. To me this is outrageous. Have the children got to fight this damn war?
I am now going to Boots to exchange my library book. I was wakened in the night by a terrific crash, so probably a bomb fell somewhere near. The B.B.C. news said, “No damage was done by the bombs which fell on the country last night.” Of course they didn’t say where they fell. Perhaps I shall pick up some information on South Street. The tempo of the war is increasing daily, and invasion is expected within two weeks. It’s a crazy world and I am sick of it.