World War ll London Blitz: 10-4-43 to 10-25-43 We have had air raids every night since Sunday. Last night’s was the heaviest yet. Two bombs dropped on the Golf Links. I actually went outside to look at the sky and saw a Gerry caught in the searchlights.
October 4, 1943
It is old Herbert’s birthday, he is seventy-five today. I was talking to Hilda at breakfast about history. She does not know even her own Scottish history. I asked about Mary Queen of Scots, her answers showed that she confused Mary with Elizabeth! She thought they were the same person! She knew nothing at all about Darnley, Rizzio, or Bothwell, all she knew was that Queen Mary was to be regarded as a martyr. She thought the English called her, “Good Queen Bess.” The depth of this girl’s ignorance is in-computable. So I asked her what school did she go to? A Catholic Church school? And she said, yes, then a Catholic High School? She replied, no. In fact, she has been to no high school at all, but she isn’t going to say so.
This girl was born in Glasgow of an Irish father and a Lancashire mother. The mother was a convert after marriage. The father is an ardent Catholic, presumably the usual fanatical ignoramus. The children are made to go to mass, and to the Catholic elementary school. Hilda is one of the expected products. She can read and write and is familiar with elementary arithmetic, but that is apparently the complete sum of her education. She knows neither the geography nor the history of her own country, Scotland, though she has a few hazy notions about it. I suppose she knows Mary was beheaded; but why, she has no idea. Mary was a martyr, that’s all she knows. I suppose the nuns who taught school couldn’t possibly mention Darnley or Rizzio because they were “lovers” or Bothwell because he was a “Protestant.” Perhaps even the nuns themselves were ignorant of these persons and events.
As for Hilda she doesn’t want to know anything. She has no hunger for knowledge, so she will never seek it. She isn’t a natural fool, but simply a colossally ignorant person. Nor has she an accomplishment of any sort at all. She can neither sing nor play, she can’t sew, she doesn’t even knit, or even play cards. What Artie is going to do with her as time goes on, I’m sure I don’t know, but I’m sure when his love-fever burns itself out, he is going to be a very bored husband. I think he is going to be ashamed, too, for her ignorance of all rules of politeness, of etiquette, of good manners, is on a par with her ignorance of the usual school subjects. She isn’t vulgar or rude, she’s just blank. She knows enough to say please and thank-you at the table, but not enough to say goodbye when she goes out, or goodnight when she goes to bed. She treats this house like a hotel. She doesn’t show disrespect to Ted or me, but she certainly doesn’t show respect. She exists only for herself. Courtesy, she has none. That she should have regard for the other person apparently has never dawned on her. She is one of the most unlikable persons we have ever met. Ted feels the same way about her.
October 8, 1943
I was dreaming of my own book. My dream was of Hamlet House, which merged into the Knickerbocker Road House, and of Grandma Searle, who became Mrs. Currie, then Mrs. Cecilia Perry of this road. Oh, how I want to get down to my writing! I am sleeping badly, because my mind is too active for sleep. I want to think and to write, not sleep.
We have had air raids every night since Sunday. Last night’s was the heaviest yet. Two bombs dropped on the Golf Links. I actually went outside to look at the sky and saw a Gerry caught in the searchlights. The moon up, the stars shining, the lights criss-crossing, colored flares dropping, it is a beautiful night, but what a devil’s beauty. During the evening Ted wrote me two checks, one for my hats, the other to cover Jo Tibb’s dressmaking bill. I duly thanked him.
October 12, 1943
The Devil to Pay. Last night there was a hell of a row here over Hilda. I say curse Hilda. This girl behaves towards me absolutely insolently and she goes in and out of the house as nonchalantly as she would go in and out of a cinema or a restaurant. She never says good-by or hello. She comes down to breakfast and never says good morning. She goes up to bed and never says goodnight. She sits up in her room, or in the parlor, until a meal is ready, then comes to the table when she is called. I resent this. She ignores me more than she would ignore a servant. This house is not a hotel, nor do I live for the pleasure of cooking her meals. This is a home, where she is receiving complete free hospitality and I expect her to pay the due courtesies of a home. I expect her to cooperate a trifle in the chores, and I expect her to smile and be pleasant and friendly. She is disagreeable and a dour unlikable person. All she wants is admiration and adulation and to be waited on, and for why? Simply for her pretty face. She is one of the most ignorant girls to be found in the kingdom, she knows nothing, and she does nothing. All she wants is to go to the movies everyday, and presumably, to look like a movie heroine. She is rude to all the people who come into the house, whether they are Artie’s friends or mine. She simply won’t cooperate about anything. She’s sly and underhanded. There is much of the usual deceit of the born Irish Catholic about her.
Well, Sunday night I spilled over. She had done nothing in the house all day except feed her face, and most of the evening she spent in the parlor with Ted and Artie. I stay alone here in the dining room, but quite content to be alone. Ted came in at nine o’clock to hear the news, and then returned again to the parlor. A little later Artie came in, and crossed the room to kiss me goodnight. Hilda stayed out in the hall, awaiting him. She never said a word. She did not even come to the door and smile a goodnight. Well, I boiled over. I waited until the pair of them was upstairs, but then went through to Ted and exploded at her bad manners. She’s not my daughter, and I don’t count it a privilege to work for her, but seeing that she’s living on the premises I think the least she can do is to treat me with ordinary politeness. She doesn’t. So I exploded, and called her a little cat, and a blasted bitch, and meant it too. Unfortunately in my anger I didn’t stop to close the parlor door behind me, so my words carried upstairs and she heard them. I didn’t mean for her to hear them, but there you are!
So yesterday, of course, there was trouble with Artie, and general gloom's all around. Sulks. Well, I hate sulks, so at teatime I spoke out and said, “Hilda, I want a few words with you before you go to bed tonight. I think we need to come to an understanding.”
She looked frightened, but went off upstairs, where she and Artie stayed all evening. Early in the evening Doreen Peel came in, and stayed until after ten. When she had gone Artie came down, in his bathrobe, and said “I have come to say goodnight, and to say goodnight for Hilda.”
I jumped. I said, “Oh, isn’t she going to face me? Or is she too tired? If so we can have our talk tomorrow morning.”
Artie said, “No, I won’t let her. She’s my wife and I won’t have her bothered.”
Then we talked for half an hour, both Ted and I pointing out her faults and annoying actions, and Artie, in true bridegroom fashion, excusing her. Naturally. I’m sorry for Artie, for he’s between two women, his wife and his mother. I don’t want to hurt Artie, on the other hand, I don’t want to be hurt myself, and I’ve had three months of the girl’s barbarities and uncouthness, and I can’t stand any more of her. This girl is poison to me, and if she doesn’t either change or get out, I shall have a nervous breakdown.
Now this morning she is still in the sulks. She wouldn’t come to breakfast, nor let Artie have any either! Then he took her out to lunch. Half an hour ago he suddenly appeared in the room, looking for his writing case. They had both come back into the house noiselessly, something very hard to do, considering Artie’s crutches and sneaked away upstairs. Now, I’m not going to bite the girl! If accepting our hospitality, she doesn’t want to behave with the normal courtesy of a guest, then we no longer wish to extend our hospitality towards her, and she must leave. The same goes for Artie. After all, this is my home, and I will not be treated as less than a servant in it. She acts as though she is here by right divine and it is my natural business to attend to her necessities. No, it’s not good enough, and I can’t stand any more of it.
Of course she nags Artie. Yes, she’s been a very skillful little slum miss, and she’s landed herself a husband, and now she’s going to collect all the benefits, very smart and very nasty. Artie’s made a disastrous pick, but at present, of course, he’s in love. That will wear off, and then he’ll realize the bed he’s made for himself.
I feel sick about Artie. As usual I laid awake a long while after I had gone to bed last night, and I thought, I’ve said goodbye to Artie. I had that queer feeling which I sometimes have about Ted, that he’s a stranger. I feel, Artie isn’t my son, there is nothing of me in him, and we don’t belong together. I remembered something Mrs. Renacre said about him last Friday, “You know, Freddie wasn’t straight, Mrs. Thompson. There was a lot of deception. You wouldn’t know, but there was.”
I have known. In different instances in the past I have known Artie tricky, deceptive, unreliable, not to be trusted. Not an outright liar, too clever for that, but tricky in ways I haven’t liked. Right here about this Hilda Kane he deceived me from the beginning. He knew she had no education, no decent family to show, he knew all that, but very carefully kept the knowledge to himself. He only produced her photograph and said merely, “She was a nice kid.” He knew we wouldn’t approve of her as a wife for him, so he fooled us. Well, he’ll pay for his choice, but he was deceitful about it just the same.
I feel terribly let down about Artie. When I think that this kind of girl satisfies him, I wonder where is his judgment! There is nothing to this girl, except her pretty face, and all of the bloom of that comes out of bottles! I think Artie is an empty head to be pleased with such an empty head, and such a nonentity. This girl doesn’t even want to know anything. All she wants is a man and lovey-dovey. It’s deplorable. Artie is another letdown, a write off. So it is goodbye Artie. Queer how one feels about one’s children, isn’t it? I think, in the long run, those people who never have children at all are the best off.
It is now eleven p.m. and when Artie and Hilda returned from the movies half an hour ago they both came into this room. Ted was here. We spoke this evening, asked if it was a good show, yes, and was it a fine night? Yes. Was the moon shining? “I didn’t notice,” said Artie, then to Hilda: “Was it?”
“I don’t know,” she said very grumpily. Then Artie crossed over to me and kissed me goodnight, and then he kissed his father goodnight. Hilda, still standing only in the doorway, gave a twisted smile to Ted and said, “Goodnight, Mrs. Thompson.”
I said, “Goodnight, Hilda,” and they went upstairs. One inning to me. I had told Artie she never gave me a name, and that it was heathenish to address people with out a name, you should use names occasionally.
October 13, 1943
It is Arthur Thompson’s birthday. Had he lived I suppose he would have been fifty-seven or fifty-eight by now. When Hilda came downstairs she actually addressed me first, and said, “Good morning, Mrs. Thompson.” Good! Maybe she’ll practice manners yet.
A letter from Kay this morning to Ted and me. "Dear Mother and Dad," she addresses us. It is a shocking letter. It is written August 17. She wrote that she came home June 23, and was met by Harold with the request that he would give her a divorce, as he wanted to marry a slut in the office. She adds, "Harold can sleep with a different woman every night if he wants to, but I am married to him for life"
She tells us that whilst she was away, Harold took eleven hundred dollars, which her brother had sent her from New Guinea to help with expenses, and spent it all on women in New York. She says he left Sheila and Dickey alone nights, all night. She also says he brought in a married woman who slept in her bed. She implores us to write to her. She says she is quite recovered, and is determined to stick by her children. She says Harold is heartless.
If all this is true, then Harold is heartless. I think it must be Kay’s delusions. I cannot imagine that Harold would behave like this. He might go off on a bat, yes, to forget his troubles; but he wouldn’t desert his wife and four children for some other woman. I don’t believe it. I think Kay must still be mad. What her original trouble was with Harold of course we don’t know; but something is radically wrong, that’s absolutely certain.
After reading the letter Ted turned on me. It's all my fault, of course. I didn’t bring the boys up right. They’ve lost their religion, so what else can you expect? Ever since we had children whatever they did wrong was my fault. I don’t try to rebut this anymore. If Ted wants to believe this, he must believe it. What I think is, if they all sunk it would be our fault, for leaving them as we did in 1927. Our desertion of them was a criminal action against those young men. That they have turned out good husbands and fathers and good citizens is a fluke. If Harold is a failure, then it is Ted who is to blame rather than me.
Ted went on and on about my religion and lack of religion. “Ours might have been a mixed marriage,” he said. “How could the boys ever know where they were with you in and out of the church, the way you carried on.” So on and so on. I made no replies, but inside I felt sunk. I thought, its no good, I’ll have to stick in the Catholic Church, willy-nilly, so long as ever Ted lives. I can’t break away again. I simply can’t face it. I don’t believe it anymore than I ever did, I’ve simply got to conform to it. Next Sunday I must go back to mass. Sincerity is not for me; the conditions of my life with Ted will not permit it. He compels me to present all the appearances of Catholicity. Damn him! Damn him! Anyhow, I shan't go to confession. I think that is beyond my powers of compliance forevermore.
October 14, 1943
It is a rainy day. I spent it with Joan. She read out to me parts of Aileen’s last letter. Aileen writes, that she judges two out of three of my boys are neurotics, but does not specify which. Charlie, she prefers to the others. She says he is kind, affectionate, sincere, and very Boy Scout. She says Johnnie is the handsomest and cleverest of the boys, but is bogged down in domesticity, and that you feel that inwardly he is very unhappy. She says that Harold has the least brains of any of them, that he is “terribly confused,” that Ted has confused him further with the curse of conscience, but that he is kind and good and very high principled. This contradicts Kay’s accusations, so probably my guess is right, and Kay is still slightly mental. Aileen says that although my boys are good normal Americans, still they are disappointing to her, they have too much of Ted in them and too little of me, that they lack the Side family vividness and aggressiveness and wit, and that Ted has confused all of them with his ideas and his religion, and she says, “Again, say, curse, religion!” She finishes, “To see them makes me sad, they are only dim reflections of Ruby in a receding mirror.”
I feel that too. For long I have felt that my sons are but strangers to me. I lost them when they lost me. When Ted wrenched me away from them it was a living death he imposed upon the family. Ted destroyed the family. Ted destroyed me, but he flourishes. Yes, our family history is a tragedy.
October 18, 1943
There was a very heavy raid again last night. Rockingham Avenue, about a mile or a mile and a half from here, got a direct hit, ten houses down and six people killed outright, several others injured and taken to the hospital.
October 19, 1943
There was a raid again last night. It’s moonlight of course. Nothing fell here, thank God. Yet somewhere else got the bombs. Oh, when will this damn war finish! What frightful times we are living in! What infuriating ones, for none of the world’s troubles need be. Men have made the world the way it is. Men destroy society and civilization. Fool men. Wicked men. Goddamn men! God does damn men. We are all damned.
October 20, 1943
I am very restless and very tired. Another raid last night so we are all losing sleep, and that’s making us all cranky. Ted is on my nerves excessively. I do think him a fool. He fusses about nothing and too pious for words. I loathe his piety. Why oh why can’t he be a normal man? I think he is a maniac, and I am so tired of him I do not know how to go on living with him any longer. He’s good and he means well, but the fact is, I can’t bear him. I’ve had too much of him. Marriage last too long. I hate marriage. One night soon, perhaps tonight, he will want his pleasure, and he’ll take it. Will he say his prayers over that? Of course not. In the morning he’ll be up and off to mass, as per usual. Habit.
October 21, 1943 — Trafalgar Day Salute to Nelson
We had another very bad raid last night, between one and two this morning. I trembled so incessantly that this morning my limbs ache as though I had climbed a mountain and even my arms ache. I retched so much I am feeling my ribs are bruised, as though somebody kicked them. I am so tired from lack of sleep my eyes are smarting. During a raid like last nights it is easy to understand how human beings can die of shock and fear. Once I held my breath thinking the house was surely hit, but it wasn’t, nor anywhere immediately near, so far as I know. War. This fiendish war, the sport of men.
October 22, 1943
There was a raid again last night, between two and three a.m. and another this evening about half past seven until nearly nine. This evening was a very heavy one. The Gerry’s have got through to London every night now for a week, but it was the last quarter of the moon yesterday, so we may hope for quieter nights next week. We are all very tired. Since Gerry came early this evening we hope for an undisturbed night tonight.
October 23, 1943
Tonight’s news is that today David Lloyd George married at a registry office near Guildford, a Miss Stevenson who has been his private secretary for thirty years. The bride is fifty-five, whilst Lloyd-George is something over eighty. His first wife, Dame Margaret Lloyd-George died in nineteen forty-one. Late this afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd-George left Chart for an undisclosed location. The honeymoon couple! My God! What a silly old goat! What a glaring instance this is that men do not love women and they only love themselves. A man must have his pleasure. His pleasure. Oh God, how I hate men!
October 24, 1943
We have now had nine consecutive nights of bombing again. It is most wearing. Oh this damn war, this lunacy.
October 25, 1943
At bedtime last night I said when I opened the window before getting into bed, “The stars are shining, though not very many of them.”
“Is it moonlight?” asked Ted.
“No” I said, “No moon.”
“Not visible, you mean. The moon hasn’t ceased to be. It is not visible. Why can’t you speak properly and say what you mean? Is it against your principals to speak clearly and to tell the truth?”
Now I ask you? Of course I said no more, but as I lay down in bed I smiled to myself and nearly laughed aloud. What a fool of a man I’ve got! Even abed and half asleep he has to correct my errors of speech and reprimand me, and by obliquity condemn my morals and assert his own self-approval. Really, I think he’s a fool, and a most boring garrulous old man. He is a fool, an ignorant boring fool.