I was dreaming last night of Grandma Searle, in Fifty-Four Bridge Road, and myself as a child, as I was at that period. This is the first time I remember going so far back in my dreams; also the first time I remember dreaming of Grandma Searle. I have often thought about her, but I’ve never dreamed about her. Grandma died in the spring that I was eleven. When she died she had been living in Number Eight Angel Road for several years, so I was probably about seven or eight or nine, when she was living in Bridge Road. I first remember her in Number Eight. Grandma and Grandpa were in Number Eight, the house from which my mother had been married, when my mother and father moved into Number Six Angel Road. I was about three years old. My mother had lost her second baby, and Number Six falling vacant my parents had taken it, principally so that my mother could live next door to her mother. I can just remember our moving in. I can remember being in Number Eight, with the young aunts there, my mother’s sisters. Later Grandpa took Hamlet House, and I remember being there when Gladys was a baby. I must have been five or six years old. Then Grandpa left Hamlet House and went to live at Fifty-Four Bridge Road; and that is where I was in my dreams last night. Everything was exactly as it used to be, Grandma too. When I think of it I enjoyed many happy days with Grandma Searle. My adult opinion disapproves of her, but as a child I was very fond of her, and certainly she was kind to me.
My dreams are still back in the nineties. Last night I was dreaming of my other grandmother, Grandma Side. I woke happy and full of excitement, for the story I have long meditated over and which I think of as, Goodbye Gillespie, had fallen into its proper shape and sequence and I feel ready to write it. My mind has been dull all winter, but today it is quick alive, flowing with composition. I want, today to jot down some notes, mainly the right sequence, before I lose them again, so I hope we shall have no visitors.
The war news is bad. Last night the Jap’s landed on Singapore, the impregnable Singapore! Privately I think; why shouldn’t the Jap’s hold Singapore? What do the English want it for? It is not a white man’s land. We want it for money, for rich men’s investments. We took it once. The Jap’s want it for the same reason, because of its riches, so they’re trying to take it. Why don’t governments get together and arrange matters peaceably? Why must they make war? Why must the common man die to protect his so-called superiors? Why should we, or anybody else, hold an empire? This, of course, is rank political heresy. Well, I’m a heretic. I hate men, and the way they run the world. Men’s ideas and men’s works infuriate me. War! Hell let loose.
War news is disastrous. Singapore is falling. Naval defeat in the Channel.
Yesterday we lost forty-two aircraft in the Channel. The German battleships left Brest and sailed home to Helgoland and we couldn’t stop them. We lose a little more of the war every day, but the talkers keep on talking. “Britain always muddles through.” Does she? Will she this time? What of all the lives she throws away for nothing? Rommel is advancing in Libya. The Jap’s are penetrating in Singapore, and filling up Malaysia. Each day there is a fresh setback somewhere or other, but we silly English still hold ourselves in our fathead complacency. Oh yes, we are quite sure we will win the war. I think the issue is doubtful. Hitler isn’t licked yet, not by a long chalk. We are all sick of the war. The old men talk, but the young men have had enough of it.
Singapore has fallen. The Jap’s have taken it, and claim that sixty thousand of our troops have surrendered. Churchill spoke over the air at nine o’clock tonight. Yes, more talk! Churchill is a fine talker, but is he a fine statesman? Eric is in Singapore. Somehow I can’t get depressed about Singapore. I think why should we hold it anyhow? It seems to me that geographically all Malaya and the Pacific Islands naturally belong to the yellow races, therefore why should we appropriate those places? White men can’t live properly there. It is for greed, of course. We covet the riches of those places, so we annex them. The Jap’s do not covet Europe. I think, let the Europeans stay at home. This idea of an Empire is a curse. There is one great thing to be said, for America; America has never desired colonies and “possessions.” What is the world fighting for but loot? Oh yes, there is a lot of fine talk about “freedom.” Oh God I am sick of the war!
It is my mother’s birthday. She is seventy-nine today.
It is still very cold. The Prime Minister’s statements in Parliament yesterday depress everybody. The figures he gave of our bombing of the German ships at Brest are downright worrying. He said that whilst the ships were there, for ten months, no less then four-thousand tons of bombs were dropped on them; three thousand two hundred and ninety-nine bomber “sorties were made, with a loss of two hundred and forty-seven air force men and forty-three aircraft. “Sortie” is used by the R.A.F. to indicate an action carried out by a machine; so, if two hundred forty-seven men were lost during these attacks this gives the surprisingly high average of almost six men in a crew, and indicates that most of the aircraft lost were of the bigger four-engine type. Churchill said, “The ships were undoubtedly hit several times and repair work was made very difficult.”
Changes in the cabinet were announced. Sir Stafford Cripps has been appointed Lord Privy Seal and leader of The House of Commons, so he came home from Russia for something. Mr. Eden, Secretary of State for Foreign affairs has been included in the Cabinet, and Sir Kingsley Wood has been dropped and also Lord Cranbourne. Lord Beaverbrook declined. He remains as Minister of Production, but intends to go to Washington, to speed up munitions there. So, it is another shuffle. That awful fool Sir Kingsley Wood has been dropped at last, and Mr. Eden promoted, but will this new set of men win the war for us? I’m afraid not.
Reports of a great naval battle off the Island of Bali were the Jap’s are attempting a landing. The U.S. navy and the Dutch are attacking them. The Jap’s have also landed on the Island of Timor, which is Portuguese, and neutral, but apparently neutrality means no more to the Jap’s than it does to the Germans.
It is a bright sunny morning but still very cold, with occasional flurries of snow, too cold for snowfall however. I have just been out to the gate to investigate a strange noise and I found two workmen cutting the railings. The Government is removing all Romford railings for scrap-iron for munitions factories.
I went to Wykeham Hall this afternoon to a meeting of the Friends of The Prisoners of War. Pretty futile, I think. A sort of mother’s meeting, with a Parson in charge, but the women get together for fun and a social good time rather than anything they can do for prisoners. This afternoon they actually played games, including a romp with oranges and lemons. What good does this do the prisoners? The “do” begins with hymn singing and prayers, pretty awful. Listening to the fool parson, looking at the stupid women, I thought how shoddy they all were. Well, I know people are stupid; but I feel today, Oh God, give me the real thing! If Catholic women had felt called to pray, they would have prayed the liturgical prayers naturally, and there would have been dignity and a sense of rightness and truly felt religion but as things were in that Wykenham Hall meeting today, no, there was no life in that religion; the women were like so many dead leaves rustling, the parson a nincompoop.
It is colder than ever. I feel very depressed, in fact I am in one of those moods so perilously near to dissolution, where I should like to close my eyes and die. I feel I cannot contend with anything any more. “These are the times that try men’s souls” all right, and women’s.
Sunshine today and is slightly warmer, though still freezing. Dorrie Stanforth was here for the evening. I have promised to go to the movies with her next Thursday if nothing happens. War news gets worse and worse. The fall of Rangoon expects to be inevitable and soon. News tonight that last night we dropped parachute troops in Northern France, who successfully destroyed a German radio location unit and plant there. The R.A.F. took them over; the Navy brought them back, the Infantry, Fusiliers and Welch detachment are fighting on the beaches to cover our men’s getaway.