I am frightfully tired now after cooking and clearing away our dinner. I should like never to have to cook a dinner again as long as I live, and never to have to tend a fire, or dust a room, or be polite to the boring neighbors. I had a conversation with Miss Owlett this morning about her Mother who is seriously ill, and after looking at her plain, plain face; I came back into the house remembering how nice looking Mother was. Mother kept much beauty, right to the very end of her life. She was a beautiful old lady. When I think of the old women on either side of me, Mrs. Thomson with her Medusa grey locks and her wrinkles and her make-up and thus Mrs. Owlett with her almost bald head, and her daughter with her reptilian eyes and neck and her scraggy grey hair, oh, I think of the three witches in Macbeth, Hago, all three of them! I hate the sight of all three. Do women have to become so ugly? There is one think these old hags make me darn sure about, and that is, hair. Hair is a woman’s crowning glory, and I intend to have hair. I’ll never have my hair cut again. I remember Mother’s hair; it was beautiful. So could mine be, and it shall be.
April 2, 1944, Palm Sunday
We had no raiders over last night. This afternoon I managed to do a little writing. Ted took himself to the parlor and I had a couple of free hours. I wrote about ten pages. I think they are passably good. I have no interest right now in any of the countries of Europe, and as soon as the war is over I hope to get right away from it, and never see it nor hear of it again. It is like all the war books. I don’t want to read anything about the war. It is hell enough to endure it so why read about it?
April 3, 1944
It is rainy but warmer. I went to visit Miss Rosenberg this morning and on the way home I went to Craddock’s and bought some files, two singles and two doubles, also some large envelopes and some rough scribbling paper. I went through a package of various writings yesterday and I saw that these oddments could be well knit together into one good whole. It occurred to me if I “sorted” them properly the work would be much easier, especially if I kept portions separated, instead of lumped as now. Also I decided to work in sections, as it were, as my fancy moves me, and then piece the sections together afterwards. I halt myself because I want to work straightforwardly through a story, in historic sequence, and this straightforwardness I can never achieve. If I write out what comes to my mind when it comes, perhaps I could join the pieces together artistically later, and so write a book that way. It would be like knitting a multitude of squares and then sewing them together to make a quilt, or like collecting and preparing assorted ingredients and then mixing them properly together to make a cake. Anyhow I think I’ll see if I can write by that method. I will try.
In the postscript to the nine o’clock news last night a press correspondent, a Mr. Moorhead, just back from Italy, gave a description of occupied Europe, with an admonition that we had better consider the future of Europe after the war! He said that England was an oasis of safety and plenty in comparison with occupied Europe, and that we didn’t sufficiently realize the malignity of the war. He said that Italy was a shambles, and all the Italians wanted was food. Food! I didn’t care a hoot. I don’t care if the Italians are suffering, or the French either. I think, let’em suffer. I think: Europe wanted war, now Europe has war. Very well, pay for it. No, I’ve no tears for the poor Italians; no sob story about them is ever going to stir my stony heart. This war need never have been. It is a sure thing we English didn’t want it. Hitler and Mussolini would have their war, and their Germans and Italians were whole-heartedly behind them, but now they are squealing. All right, let them squeal, but give them a bellyful of war, their glorious war. I don’t care if they starve to death. Hitler and Mussolini inflicted Hell on the world and nobody raised a protest against them; their people followed them like sheep. Well I am not sorry for sheep. I am sick to death of Europe and all Europeans, and I’ll never be sorry for one of them. Let’em suffer and the more the better. They willed this war, now they must endure it, and take the consequences. Devil takes them all.
On Monday Ted received a letter from Artie saying that the Medical Board had passed him grade C, and so it looked as though he would be in uniform until the end of the war, and asking his father to send to him a whole list of his army belongings, which are still here. Bed, shoes, pajamas, books, etc.
This morning Ted got a second letter from him, saying that he couldn’t understand the War Office communication, and he couldn’t say definitely yet whether he was remaining in the army or not, but to please send on the things that he asked for, to Glasgow, in case he had to report for duty. At lunchtime Ted said to me, I didn’t tell you I had written to Artie, did I? I refused to send on his things. (There was a sheet long list, and information where to find everything; how to pack it, and how to forward.) I told him, that when King Louis XIV got tired of his court company he used to say, ‘If I were you gentleman, if I was in your place, I should go home now,’ and that I was saying to him, if I was in your place I should go home now. I told him that I hadn’t got time to attend to all those things, and he had better come and fetch them for himself, and also take a good look around the house and see what else he wanted. I wasn’t going to lug through that lot of work for him. He added, It would be a lot of work. Several things he asked for are in trunks, under the bed, very hard to get at.
In neither of these letters was there any reference to me, not a word. As for the coming child, I can’t be glad. I don’t want any grandchildren from this Scotch-Irish Hilda Kane. I consider her a very inferior and third- rate sort of person who will naturally produce third-rate children. Well, I don’t want that kind, neither her nor hers.
It is now evening. Ted has gone to play the organ for the evening service. At tea-time he told me that he walked up the road with an American soldier who was on his way to visit the Story’s; said he must have been one of the boys who has been here some time, because he addressed him by name, and enquired after me. This is the significant point of the story; the soldier said this was the last night any American soldier was going to get a sleeping out pass. So, it’s the invasion any day now.
Today the Postmaster General announces that the public telephone service between Great Britain and all parts of Ireland will be withdrawn immediately. The telegraph service will be maintained, but subject to strict censorship. This is to prevent any possible leakage of vital information through Ireland.
From America comes news of the defeat of Mr. Wendle Wilkie in the Wisconsin primaries yesterday. He has asked his friends not to present his name at the convention, in view of this defeat. The big vote went for Mr. Dewey.
I received a card from Sket today, dated the Fifth of January 1944. He writes:
Dear Folks, just to say I am o.k. I am glad that Christmas Day and New Years are passed. It was a depressing period. I had hoped to get my glasses by Christmas but I suppose they are still in Switzerland. This year there was no flood of Christmas cards from England and strangely enough we have survived without them. I send my respect, Sket.
Poor old Sket! These are weary years for him.
April 13, 1944
Soon after we got to bed last night we had an alert. The raid lasted from eleven p.m. until nearly midnight. The moon is waning so we expect raids every night until we get moonlight again. At first it was the moonlit nights that brought the raiders, now it is the moonless nights.
April 14, 1944
We had a raid in the night, between one-thirty and two-fifteen a.m. The B.B.C. says we brought down two of the raiders. I want to note this “letter” in this week’s Listener. It is headlined, The Doctrine of Forgiveness. It reads: I am not much good at elegant streamlined phrases, so please forgive my bluntness when I ask just what does Mr. W.R. Childe mean by his ‘Philosophy of Christ? When the Master said, ‘Love your enemies,’ he could not possibly have meant by it a considered policy – when the power of harming others has been taken away? There is no vitality of love in a forgiveness of that sort. It makes me think of a widow placing a nice wreath on her deceased husband’s grave with the sentimental satisfaction of knowing he can no longer torment her as he did when alive. ‘The key to the healing of the nations’ is to be found in Christ himself; not in any ‘Lo, here is Christ’ and ‘there is Christ’ philosophy. Brigg. Mary Watkinson. I note it for its touch about the widow.
April 15, 1944
My dinner is all set. We are having a half shoulder of lamb, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, broccoli tops and a spicy rice pudding. We get one good dinner a week, and this is it. This is our whole weeks ration of meat. I am ravenously meat hungry. I miss meat more than any other food.
We got letters from Artie this afternoon, one to his father, and one to me. This is it:
13th April 1944
I take it that Dad gives you all of my news so you will know how I am doing all I can to get out of the army and plan to come to Romford to settle down, and I expect you also know I will be a “proud papa” in August. In the next few days I am bringing Hilda to Romford and I would like to bring her home but if you think it best that I do not do so I will find somewhere else to go. I will telephone from London, or Romford and then you can tell me. I have also asked Dad. I may travel Saturday or Sunday or even Monday, I don’t know yet. Anyway I look forward to seeing you very soon, even if we don’t stay with you. All my love, at all times. Fred.
For twenty-four years he loved me, and then at the bidding of a stranger he repudiated me. Hilda is jealous of me of course, that is obvious. She wants Artie to be hers alone. She set herself against all his friends, and most of all against me. Well that I can’t bother about. She is an ignorant, ill-bred girl and I can’t change her. That Artie should descend to her level! Artie knows better. Artie knows what is right. He must know he behaved badly to me and to his father. No, it is Artie I cannot forgive. No, I don’t want to see him. Love and friendship between us is dead and he destroyed it. All my love, at all times? I don’t believe it.
I spent most of the day writing letters. I wrote an extra long one to Harold. When Artie and Hilda are here again I shall not be able to do my writing whatsoever. I wanted particularly to write to Harold, and have done so. Happily for me there were no visitors today. I did not go to church. It was a rainy morning so had myself excused.
April 17, 1944
Mrs. Owlett died this morning. Miss Coffen was here this afternoon. The lovebirds have not arrived.
April 18, 1944
My birthday. I am sixty today. Awful. Old Mr. Holloway, the Owlett’s lodger, has spent most of the day in the garden, hacking and coughing a lot. The old lady called him “Ernest” and I always get the suspicion he was one of her old boyfriends. He is seventy-nine, almost eighty, in good shape and active for his years, but ... But! I hate old people. I hate the sight and the sound of them. Ernest in his garden all day has gotten on my nerves. I suppose he can’t stay in the house with the corpse. I can’t be sorry for him, nor Miss Owlett, or for the departed. I hate the sight of Miss Owlett too; she is so ugly. Yes, I know this is hateful of me. I know if I live long enough I too shall be decrepit and revolting looking. All the same, I can’t bear old people. I simply can’t bear them. It isn’t that I want young people either. It is that I can’t tolerate the sight of the human being in decay and a company of old people fills me with disgust. The Resurrection of the Body. Which body? Will Mrs.
I am sixty today. Dreadful thought. I think of Mrs. Muriel down the street. She is seventy-two and one of the most ghastly looking women in this town. She is trying to hang onto the appearance of youth, painted face, dyed hair, youthful clothes, yet all her efforts serve only to emphasize her hideous old age. No, I won’t fake like Mrs. Muriel; on the other hand I won’t allow myself to be so repulsively natural as Mrs. Owlett. There is no beauty in old age. I think the utmost one can do when old, is to keep away from the company of other old people. Two old people together simply accentuate decay. I remember once seeing the three old aunties and mother all together; it was to me a revolting and frightening spectacle. Yes, I hate old age.
It is another day and no lovebirds. I received a telegram from Artie at teatime, handed in at Glasgow at five o’clock, Many happy returns and fondest love, Fred.
April 19, 1944
We had another raid here last night, between one and two a.m. W & H’s office received a bomb, and is completely gutted. Also Allen’s, the Brewery, The Cottons, Hale’s, Cakebreads, Neumann’s, Knightsbridge Road, Waterloo Road. Bert’s office is completely burned out. This is the fourth fire there, once through Ritchie’s fault, once through Dunne’s, and now twice from Gerry. The B.B.C. reported at eight a.m. that we brought down ten of the nights raiders, I should think at least half of them in Romford. No details yet. I shall learn more when Ted comes in for lunch.
It is now evening. Fourteen people were killed in Waterloo Road and four at Seven Kings, where a plane crashed on top of a house and killed the people inside. Mrs. Wallace of Albion Terrace killed. Mrs. Shadforth, wife of the chemist “missing.” A London hospital severely damaged, one hundred and fifty three patients’ hurt, seven of the staff killed. Allen’s is completely destroyed and all the cars in the garage; but across the road in an empty lot where scores of tanks were awaiting repairs, nothing was touched, though several of the surrounding houses are down. The B.B.C. reports we brought down fourteen of the raiders.
A short raid last night before midnight, not bad in this neighborhood, but bad enough to be frightening. Mrs. Owlett was buried today. After the funeral, in the afternoon, Mr. Holloway’s daughter in-law came to tell him of the death of his son in Nairobi. This is a terrible blow for the old fellow. I believe it was his only child. So Miss Owlett and old Mr. Holloway have gone away for a week or two, and Miss Owlett has asked us to keep an eye on the house for them. Or course, I can’t understand this going away so promptly after a funeral, but there you are, different people act differently. If I suffered bereavement I shouldn’t want to leave the house for a long time, because if I did, it would be too hard to return to it. Then, I never care about “going away” at any time. I like best to stay on my own premises.
April 23, 1944
Artie and Hilda arrived at about one a.m. this morning. Artie telephoned just before eleven that they were at Euston. Ted and I went to bed, at eleven, in our usual way, and Ted came down and let them in at about one o’clock. I did not come down.
There was an awkward meeting with Artie after breakfast this morning. (Ted went and called them at ten o’clock.) However, everything is all right. Artie filled up with tears. Hilda did not come down. Artie said she was sick; he wanted her to stay in bed, but he didn’t think she would. He drank some coffee and went off to mass. A little later I went upstairs, and, after tidying our room, took an armful of clean linen, and knocked on their bedroom door. Almost immediately Hilda opened it. She was dressed (Ted had carried her a breakfast tray) but near tears. However, she held out her hand, and said, How do you do Mother. The “mother” was a great effort. So I kissed her and said a few words of welcome, gave her a hug and said, Now, be happy.
I left her, and a little later she came back from church,
and the two of them then went out into the garden to talk to Ted.
So everything has started off well. The weather, too, has been perfect. It has been just like a summers day.
April 24, 1944
Joan arrived at eight o’clock this morning, for the day. Of course she was very surprised to find Artie and Hilda here. Miss Coppen, the same, when she came this after- noon. It is another perfect day. The B.B.C. announces that the Government has decided that beginning next Thursday, nobody may leave Great Britain, and this is for security reasons.
April 25, 1944
The B.B.C. announces that Germany has isolated Denmark; beginning today, nobody may either leave or enter Denmark.
Old Bert has offered Artie a job in W. and H’s. This he will take, if the London Exchange permits, and, of course, if he gets his discharge from the army. He was at the office this morning and saw young Bertie also, who has twenty-four hours leave. This was really fortunate. After all, when old Bert “drops out” it will be Bertie’s business. They warn that Artie must go in at a low wage, and the job may only be temporary, because of all the young men Bert will have to take care of when they are demobilized; young Green, Frank Grimwood, Albert Harwood. Naturally, that’s the law. However, it does look sensible for Artie to go back into the family business, rather than into some other, and that is how the decision stands.
It’s not fair I can’t understand why Maurice gets out of everything! Something funny about Maurice!
He is considered an artful dodger, and his unpopularity increases. The feeling is that he has wangled through the medical exam and obtained an exemption from army service that he is not entitled to, and it is exacerbated by the fact that he will not voluntarily do any war work. He arranges to stay in Bert’s office with the old men and to keep out of danger and discomfort very nicely. Certainly he is not sick. There is nothing the matter with Maurice. He can work very hard on his own affairs, and also on his own pleasures, for he goes to town to a theatre practically one night every week.
I begin to feel I don’t care much for Maurice Coppen,
says Artie. Well, lots of other people have been saying that too. The last one I heard say so was Mr. Skelton, the morning after the raid. I met him on the street, and he said, And of course that young Coppen wasn’t on the fire watching job! No, he wouldn’t be!
Oh well! I don’t think Maurice will continue to feel quite happy in the office, once the other fellows get back to it.
April 30, 1944
Artie and Hilda just left for mass. Ted is out at the Home Guard, the first Sunday since his accident. I have the feeling Mother ought to walk in. The weather is perfect. The week has passed much better than I anticipated. Artie and Hilda are obviously happy to be here, Artie particularly so. I think Artie must have been very unhappy in Glasgow. Twice I have heard Hilda say to him,
You’re happy now; aren’t you? You’re happy here. Once, You were always grumbling in Glasgow. You grumbled about everything.
Well, I think to myself, Good! The boy has had a dose of Glasgow, of the Scotch, of his in-laws, of the harsh northern climate, and of giving in to the whims of his wife. It’s a dose he won’t take again. Hilda has improved in disposition quite a lot too. Ted says, I think those two young people have learnt a lesson.”Yes, I think so too.
I have my “roast” dinner to cook today. Anyhow I shall make no attempt to go to mass whilst Hilda and Artie remain here. They are looking for a flat or a house but accommodations are very scarce and hard to find.