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World War ll London Blitz:  Buy On Smashwords
I am the great-granddaughter of Ruby Side Thompson. 
Recently I started re-reading the World War ll journals and felt that they were such an important part of a history that will soon be forgotten if not published and shared with the world. These diary excerpts are not the entirety of what is published in print and kindle.
Ruby grew up during a time when education was just beginning to be encouraged for both upper and middle class women. During the late 1890's Ruby explored many radical political ideas of London, England. She met many famous people including the writers George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats. 
5.0 out of 5 stars A choice pick, not to be overlooked, November 6, 2011 By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)

World War ll London Blitz: 5-1-41 to 5-31-41 A most extraordinary and astonishing event has occurred. Rudolf Hess has deserted to England.



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May 1, 1941

Ted just left for his evenings work with the Home Guard.
I met Mr. Pryor this morning, coming out of Ive’s Gardens. He said, I see your old Guv’nor’s gone and joined the Army! My missus and me followed him down the road last Sunday morning. Gave us a jolly good laugh, he did. I didn’t half clank! Can’t even fire a gun, can he?
I went to Stone’s this morning to buy an extra piece of red silk. I have been laying out patterns, and thinking about sewing nearly all week, though I’ve not started to cut out yet. I decided that if I bought an extra yard and a half of the red silk I could get a complete dress of it, which would be better than a contrived one with my red velvet. I’ll let the velvet and lace frock hang in the wardrobe awhile longer and maybe sometime I can cut it into a proper fit. Anyhow, I decided one perfect silk dress was my best make now.
The war news continues badly.

Churchill announced that eighty percent of our troops have been safely evacuated from Greece. We had sixty thousand men there; at least forty-eight thousand have been brought safely away. This is another defeat. News tonight says the enemy has penetrated the outer defenses of Tobruk. There is trouble brewing in Iran, and the Russians are stirring. There is talk that Germany will now “take” the Ukraine. What next? The Germans win everywhere. We thought perhaps the invasion of Britain would really begin today but it didn’t. Perhaps tonight it will. To listen to the political talk disgusts me. To excuse our defeat in Greece, and withdrawal from Greece, the politicians say, Well, of course, we knew we couldn’t defeat the Germans in Greece. Then why did they attempt it? Why did we start the war anyway? We knew we weren’t “prepared” whereas Hitler has done nothing else but prepare, ever since 1933. His numbers and supplies are endless. Except for Turkey and Spain and Portugal the Germans now occupy all of Europe. Except for Poland and Greece and Yugoslavia not one country withstood them, and three have been conquered. If the little countries wouldn’t combine to resist, why should we go and fight for them? We’ll be licked too, I suspect. The talkers insist we shall win in the end, but I can’t see how. Hitler has literally hordes and hordes of men, and with all Europe in his pocket, practically unlimited supplies. We can’t fight all of Europe. Oh the damn fools politicians are! Talk about liberty and democracy and honor and a better new order won’t win the war. Talk, talk, talk, God, it makes me sick.

May 3, 1941

It is a day of excitement. My thirty-sixth wedding anniversary also. Have had two R.A.F. boys billeted on me for two weeks. They came in at teatime. Also Flora, one of the boy’s girlfriends, came to tea. Rita Pullan was also here. Then in the evening, Dorrie Stanford, and Mrs. Thomson came by.

May 10, 1941

It is a year today since Germany invaded Holland and Belgium and Luxembourg. Today, the Duchess of Luxembourg broadcast from America; and M. Pierlot, for Belgium, and Queen Wilhelmina broadcast from London. The war is accelerating. America is debating using her
Navy to convoy armaments and food to Britain, and is practically in the war already.

May 11, 1941

It was a most frightful night. The main attack was on London. Thirty-three bombers were brought down, by thirty-one fighters, two by anti aircraft. This makes a total of one hundred and twenty three since the first of the month. The raids are awful. I do not know yet what happened in Romford. One awful blast rocked the house and blew in our dining room window; it broke through bricks and plaster, and pushed out the frame, but not a pane of glass was cracked.
I am worried about mother. She surprised me last Sunday by walking in during the morning; the first time I have seen her since last July, just before the Blitz began to be heavy. She won’t leave Hammersmith, although her house has been very badly damaged. Perhaps last night it collapsed altogether. Joan has gone to Mrs. Affleck, near Whitby. Mother ought to leave London, but she won’t. God knows what happened in London last night! The planes were over incessantly for hours. Of the two air force boys I have here, one came in at midnight and calmly went to bed; the other was on duty from midnight until eight this morning. He said all night the fires could be seen in London, predominantly in the East. I suppose the devils were after the riverside and the docks.

Now one boy is on duty, the other taking a bath. Ted is Home Guarding, doing drill. It is a lovely day, but very cold. We have had frosts every night this week. I am frightfully tired, and ready to weep. All night I shook, and prayed. I felt I forgave everybody everything, but with daylight and the cessation of the guns, I became peevish. Ted got on my nerves. Of course, he was nervous too, though he had slept! His silly talk rasped me. I wept. Sheer fatigue, of course but Oh God! How hard it is to keep rational in these crazy times! Is there anything more insane, more hellishly insane than war? I think not. Well now I am cooking a dinner, yet one more Sunday dinner. Au-Revoir.

May 12, 1941

Percy Skilton is in the back garden, digging up the drains, which have become blocked these last two days. Both air force boys upstairs abed. Ted out on his Monday rounds. Weather is brighter, and a little warmer. No morning letters yet. Do not know what has happened to Mother, but presume she is all right, or I should have heard to the contrary.

We had three alerts last night, and a fairly noisy night, though nothing as bad as Saturday night. Saturday’s was another terrorizing raid on London. In the nine o’clock news last night we were told of some of the damage. The heart of the attack was at Westminster. Serious damage was done to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, and the Houses of Parliament. Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Hall were all seriously damage by high explosives and incendiaries. The abbey is open to the sky, the Lantern Roof burned. The Little Cloisters were burnt out. Five more hospitals hit, a cinema, a large hotel. In the hotel one hundred and forty guests and employees were sheltering in the basement, but a bomb crashed through, and it is feared all are dead. Frightful. It is the Devil’s work.

About four o’clock yesterday Mary Bernadette came in pale and shaking. She came to bring me news of Doreen Peel. Mary had been in her house alone all night. She had spent the evening at the Peel’s. They asked her to stay the night, but she declined. About noon a boy called in to tell her that the Peel house was destroyed, the family all safe, but Doreen was in the hospital. The Peel’s live or lived on Castellan Avenue, Gidea Park. A land mine came down just outside their house. Doreen heard it landing and went to warn the family. Before she could do so, the front door blew in on her, knocked her unconscious and cut her face open. It is feared she will lose an eye. The house is collapsing. Mary had come from seeing it, and described the fantasticalness of the wreckage to us. The house is beyond all repairs. Further, Mary was shaken about hearing of the death of a man she had been talking to on Saturday evening. He was a musician who lived opposite to the Peel’s. Mary had arranged with him for him to give her violin lessons. She was to have had her first lesson as tonight but the blast had killed him.

So it goes. Several land mines fell in Gidea Park. A block of twelve flats near the station was completely destroyed, and the row of shops at the end of Carlton Road also. Squirrel’s Heath Church is gone, and All Saints, at Gidea. I shall have further details of our local damage when Ted comes in for dinner presently, and when Elizabeth Coppen comes this afternoon. Poor Elizabeth Coppen! They had all their windows blown out by a bomb in Pettit’s Lane, only about two weeks ago, and the Coppen's are as nervous a family as I know anywhere. The Gidea Park section gets an awful proportion of the bombs and mines in our neighborhood. Why? Nobody knows. There is positively nothing of military value up there.

Evening, alone, and I am very tired. I have committed another extravagance. I have bought another silk dress length. One day last week Ted brought me in some pansies from the garden, such a beautiful deep violet shade, and I suddenly remembered I no longer have a violet dress in my wardrobe. I sent my good violet gown to Auntie Daisy last summer. So I thought, Oh, I must have a violet dress! So Artie has sent me some money for my birthday, and as I shall receive some more for billeting the R.A.F. boys, I decided I could afford to buy myself one. So I went off to Stone’s last Thursday morning, intending to buy something in a lightweight purple. However, they had nothing in purple in any kind of material whatsoever.

In the silk department they showed me a beautiful new silk, just in, a paisley pattern. It is a brick-brown ruddy background, picked out in beige's and blues. This would just suit you, said the assistant and I could see it surely would. I succumbed to its beauty and it practicability and bought five and a half yards of it, with three and a half yards of brownish-reddish silk to make a slip for it. Then when I got it home I decided I would have a piece of blue silk, in its violet blue, to work into the bodice somehow! So I telephoned on Saturday and ordered one and a half yards of a blue silk and six yards of a pure black silk, pre-war, which I had seen in the store, still at pre-war price, to make linings for the black wool and black silk lengths I bought last month! So I now have another bill at Stone’s between six and seven pounds. I don’t care. Perhaps it’s a way of escape from the anxieties and sorrows of the war, which I am making for myself.

When any shop, and all its contents, can disappear in a night, I think we all feel we should buy what we want whilst we can get it. Equally, when we all fear we ourselves may be killed any night, I think we feel, let us make sure of today, and let us take what we can whilst we can, whilst we know we are alive to enjoy it. Also, I think, for myself, in thinking and planning about clothes, I can distract my mind form the horrors of the nights, of dreadful news of the world; I can escape out of the ghastly present into daydreams of the future, when I shall be wearing the dresses I am now planning to make; and equally in the actual making I shall be able to get through my immediate days with out dwelling on the immediate evils. So perhaps this is why I have been on this buying jag, and all this material I have gotten for myself is a sort of a lifeline I am throwing out into the future, when ultimately we shall come again into peace. I don’t know. Anyhow I have bought the goods and they’ve got to be paid for, and if Gerry destroys them tonight, they have still got to be paid for. I shall manage it, somehow or other. Meanwhile, and for a little while to come now, if I remain alive, I shall have something to do and something to think about which isn’t the war. The damned war, Oh God, this damned war!

May 13, 1941

A most extraordinary and astonishing event has occurred. Rudolf Hess has deserted to England. In last nights late news we were told that Berlin had broadcast the news that Hess, Hitler’s deputy, who had been forbidden for some time past to fly, because of a progressive disease from which he was suffering, had obtained an airplane at Augsburg on Saturday evening, and nothing had been seen of him since; and because of a “distracted” letter which he had left behind him it must now be assumed by the National Socialist Party that Party member Hess had either jumped out of his plane, or “met with an accident.” Well, the world knows what is meant by Nazi “accidents” and we went to sleep, wondering what has been the split in the Party, and why Hess, who was supposed to be the only man Hitler trusted, had been put out of the way. Then lo, this morning at seven a.m. we were told that Hess landed in Scotland on Saturday night whilst Gerry was bombing London. The sentiment, issued from Downing Street, at eleven-twenty last night reads: Rudolf Hess, the deputy Fuhrer of Germany and Party leader of the National-Socialist Party, has landed in Scotland in the following circumstances. On the night of Saturday, the tenth, a Messerschmidt One Hundred and Ten was reported by our patrols to have crossed the coast of Scotland and to be flying in the direction of Glasgow. Since an ME One Hundred Ten would not have the fuel to return to Germany this report was at first disbelieved. However, later on an ME One Hundred and Ten crashed near Glasgow, with its guns unloaded. Shortly afterwards a German officer who had bailed out was found with his parachute in the neighborhood, suffering from a broken ankle.

He was taken to the hospital in Glasgow, where he at first gave his name as Horn, but later on declared that he was Rudolf Hess. He brought with him various photo- graphs of himself at different ages, apparently in order to establish his identity.

These photographs are deemed to be photographs of Hess by several people who knew him personally. Accordingly an officer of the Foreign office who was closely acquainted with Hess before the war has been sent up by airplane to see him in the hospital. At two o’clock this morning the Ministry of Information stated that the identity of the man who landed from a Messerschmidt in Scotland as Rudolf Hess has now been established beyond all possible doubt.
Only on May fourth, Hess sat beside Hitler at the session of the Reichstag's in Berlin, and on May first he had addressed workers at the Messerschmidt factory in Augsburg. Is the party cracking? Is he just plain crazy?

May 14, 1941

Surprised by the arrival of Artie midday today. He has seven days leave. He looks splendidly well.

May 28, 1941

I have been so busy I have had no time to write here. The air force boys have gone, and so has Artie. Artie left last Wednesday. He is now at camp at New Romney.

Joan has had news from the war office that George died in the hospital, May Twentieth, 1940. Gladys has been bombed out of her house in Plymouth. She writes the estimate for repairing it is four hundred pounds. Plymouth is practically annihilated. We have been quiet in this part of the country for nearly two weeks, but trouble is stirring up again now. Since teatime tonight more than one hundred and fifty of our fighters have gone over, there is probably a battle in the Channel.

I expect we’ll have a bad night tonight. It was a new moon Monday; it will be first quarter June Second. Last night, about midnight the alert went, planes went over, but no gunfire in this neighborhood. What I noticed, was, that my nerves were much worse when this alert came after a spell of quiet nights. I trembled horribly and even after the all clear went, I could not fall asleep.

The war is getting worse and worse. Terrible fighting is going on in Crete. A naval battle has been fought off Greenland. On Sunday the Germans sank the Hood, our biggest battleship; but yesterday we sank their ship, the Bismarck, in quick vengeance. The loss of life is appalling. Where will it end? Last night President Roosevelt broad- cast, declaring the United States to be in a state of great national emergency, and declaring America would fight to defend the Americas, even if the new Bunker Hill should be a thousand miles from Boston, Massachusetts. He declared that they will deliver the goods to
Britain, and that America stands now, as always, for the freedom of the seas.

I have been busy writing letters. I wrote a long letter to Eddie last Sunday. I have also been writing to Artie about Edna Renacre. I sent him a fourth letter today, the fourth since last Friday. Edna came calling on Sunday morning, to borrow his camera. She told me she had gone to town with him on Wednesday and she took two days off from work whilst he was home. This made me very angry. This girl intends to marry Artie, by hook or by crook, and Artie will get dragged into marriage by his own good nature, I am afraid. He is not in love with the girl, and tells her so, but still she pursues him.

A letter from him today, in reply to one I sent him on Sunday, in which I told him I thought he had acted deceitfully in not telling me Edna was accompanying him to town. He told me that he had not asked her to go to town with him, she insisted on going, and bought her own ticket! Nor had he asked her to take a leave of absence, but that he thought her pretending to have a cold and so staying away from her work was “a mean action.” He added, that he promised me that he would break with her completely. I’m glad, for the girl is most unsuited to him. She is a persistent chaser, and intends to net him if she possibly can. It won’t be her fault if she doesn’t land him. So I had to write to Artie again today, to tell him how glad I was to have his word that he hadn’t the slightest intention of marrying the girl, now, or in the future.

This morning, at last, I cut out a dress! It is a flowered silk crepe, on a black background. Originally I bought only three yards of this, intending to use it for a coat lining; but when I examined it, I thought I would make it into a dress instead, so I ordered another two and a half yards of it, which was delivered yesterday. So, there I go, extravagant and silly! I want new clothes, I’m in the mood for sewing and I’ve enough stuff on hand now to keep me busy for months. I must have spent nearly 20 pounds this spring in buying goods, and all the fixings. I don’t care, I simply don’t care. I want new clothes, I need new clothes, and I intend to buy them whilst I can, and wear them, whilst I know I am still alive to wear them. Now I am going to do some preliminary basting, so Au-Revoir.

May 31, 1941

Ted has just gone out to church, to the Dabber’s, and to call on Bertie. Edna Renacre was here this afternoon, returning the camera she borrowed last Sunday. Last night Mary Bernadette was here, until eleven p.m.! All afternoon Mrs. Thomson was here. This slows up my sewing. Tomorrow I expect Mother, who may or may not stay over for Whit Monday.

I have a nice Australian novel to read, Southern Saga, by Roy Connolly. Australia still fascinates my imagination. I have wished to see Australia ever since I first heard of it, when I was a very young schoolgirl; and I still think I may make a trip there someday. All of the books about Australia please me. This one that Ted brought in today looks particularly pleasing.

I have sat down now to note a fact, which pleases me, in a very bad way, pleasing my spitefulness. It is this: Last night the Germans bombed Dublin; they dropped about six bombs have destroyed many shops and houses, and casualties, not yet definitely known, are thought to be about three hundred. Two tenement houses were hit, and wardens are still digging out the bodies.

Well, I can’t be sorry. It is impossible to be sorry for the Irish. Only last weekend our government made De Valera a concession, by not instituting conscription in Nester, which has nothing to do with De Valera. From the very beginning of the war the Irish have refused in any way to cooperate with England. They refused us the use of their Southern ports, thus making difficulties for us in combating the German submarines, and by so much assisting the Germans. It has been reported that the Irish allowed the Germans to use the Irish ports!! It is thought that the Germans will invade Ireland, and then use Ireland as their base to attack England. Quite likely!

If they do, who will ever be sorry for Ireland? Nobody. The damned cantankerous obstructionist Irish! So, when I heard that Dublin was bombed last night, I smiled! Serve ‘em right!! was my most un-Christian reaction to that news. By the way I notice that Ted more and more sticks up for the Irish and the Italians. The longer the war continues the more special pleading he voices for the Irish and the Italians. They are Catholic, so they must be good at bottom: poor leaders only lead them astray. Oh yeah? Oh my! What a fanatic Ted is! He grows more and more fanatical. 




World War ll London Blitz: 4-1-41 to 4-28-41 Yesterday afternoon, Sir Kingsly Wood presented his new budget to the House of Commons. It’s a terror. Income tax has been increased and it will be applied to the small incomes, which hitherto have been exempt from it. Income tax will start on all small per week incomes. This is terrific. This new, taxation of the smaller incomes, will not begin to operate until next January, but from now on people will find fewer goods available in the shops than there were last year.

Purchase Diary Here:


April 1, 1941

Mary Bernadette called in soon after two o’clock. She had been in to see Dr. Keighley. She stayed here for the rest of the day. Danny Hartnett also arrived at teatime, so this has been a day with young people. Ted went off this evening to his Home Guarding.

In the nine o’clock news tonight further accounts were given of last week’s naval battle. Admiral Cunningham has informed the Press that one Italian eight-inch gun cruiser was struck by at least seven fifteen-inch shells simultaneously, and completely disintegrated in one burst of flame. Not a pleasant spectacle, he commented.

Tonight’s news said, that when operations were finished, on all our ships the men assembled on deck, facing the guns, and, standing, prayers were said, giving God thanks for the victory, thanks for their own safety, and prayers for the speedy end of the war. The commentator added that the men were most visibly moved and it was observed that with many of them the tears were rolling down their faces. No wonder. What they must have seen, done, and endured, must have been veritable hell. Sailors are naturally religious men. I think no one can go to sea and not feel God.

This was Ted’s instant comment. All organized, of course! How else could a ships crew pray? Of course they must have been ordered to assemble for prayers. Were they ordered to weep? Ted is ridiculous. I hate it when Ted belittles other men’s feelings, and when he will not allow validity to other men’s religion because it is not his special brand, nor to their prayers, because they are not according to his book. Oh, I am exasperated beyond endurance. He has a report of our sailors praying with tears and giving God thanks for his help in battle; a battle that must have been one of the worst awesome in history, and on the instant Ted has to belittle the moment. He simply cannot believe that anyone else outside the Roman church can have any religion. He is an inveterate bigot, and I can’t stand such bigotry. I say nothing. What would be the good of any words? It is Ted who poisons life with his words. I say nothing, but when he talks as he does against all “Protestant Religion,” as he names it, my heart sinks down and down and down. He is impossible.

April 2, 1941

Tonight T.S. Eliot, the poet, spoke on the radio for twenty minutes: his subject, Towards a Christian Britain. It was a good speech, but a useless one. He is an American, a college professor and a long resident in England, and he is a High Church Anglican, who, if he lives long enough, will no doubt ultimately go over to Rome. So he made a good statement about our three duties, to God, to Righteousness, and to Us. Like most good speakers on the radio, the speech was so condensed and concentrated, that only those listeners who already knew the subject would understand it. On the whole he was remote and most remarkably so towards his ending when he recommended the study of the life of Charles de Foucault to English people. He could say largely that English people have never heard of Charles de Foucault. When Rene Bazin wrote a book about him, that book penetrated to America, and was read by the general public as well as by the American Catholics. I have never heard mention of either Charles de Foucault or Rene Bazin here in England. Quite rightly, I suppose, English publishers knew their business. I can’t imagine the English, or even the Catholic English, ever being interested in Charles de Foucault; he was the type of man they could never understand. So, what help Eliot imagines he could be to us now, I can’t think. I suppose what it is, simply, is, that de Foucault is one of Eliot’s own pets. (Though “pets” is a nasty word. What I mean, is, that de Foucault’s mind and actions are sympathetic to Eliot’s imagination.) 

This talk, and this reminding of the life of Charles de Foucault, came to me oddly tonight. For during the day I had been reading an authorized version of the Bible, Isaiah, Joshua, and I had been most forcibly struck by a comprehension that we English are an Old Testament people. We feed our minds and hearts and souls on the Old Testament rather than the New. I am dumb struck today that these old exhortations and promises of the old Hebrews, in their lives of continued stress and battle and afflictions, are much more opposite to our needs of today, rather than the sweetness’s of the new; also the community sense, a nation united in troubles and in efforts and in repentance's is more to us as a nation than the individualism of the new.

Further it is that tremendous realization of God as the Creator and Judge and upholder which is the base of the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican Ritual; the personality of God and the humanness of Jesus are quite secondary in all this due to what the theologians have made out of the New Testament. Christianity is a very selfish religion. You and God, instead of us and God, like Jesus stressed when he said Our Father which Art in Heaven.

Of course there is much more pride in the Old Testament; meekness and submission and resignation in the new, but effort and struggle, power and pride, men relying on God but also relying on themselves and feeling themselves sons of God, and so making demands on God, as well as relying on his help, protection, power and glory, yes pride. I suppose that is why the Old Testament suits me. There is no resignation in my make up, and nothing can ever make me feel like a worm. I always feel I am a child of God, made in his image and likeness. To my reading there is something so pervading weak in the New Testament, and I despise weakness, men wanting God to save them, whereas in the old, no matter what their sins and their troubles, you get a sense that it is men upholding God. Most definitely as sense of strength. That’s what I crave, strength and dependability.
Somewhere here is the link with those sailors of last week. They went through a mighty battle, relying on God and their own manhood, and after the victory, weeping for the dead, the enemy dead, they could stand to give thanks to God that he gave them victory, and their own lives safe in the end. Glory and Thanks be to God.

April 3, 1941

I woke up late this morning, Ted having not risen in his usual way to go out to church. I had been dreaming of life in Avenue A. I was in the big bedroom there, fixing the windows, and tracing out the wallpaper. I had the pattern of the old wallpaper exactly. Queer what an assortment of oddments memory holds.

As I turned on the eight o’clock news we heard the item that yesterday Mr. Matsuoka called on the Pope, that the interview lasted an hour, but politics were not touched upon. The Pope spoke only of spiritual, religious, and moral matters.

Fine! What a Pope! What a ninny,yea-yea-ing Mussolini so nicely. This presumption of the Jap to call on the Pope! I suppose Hitler will trot along next, and the dear Pope will say, Welcome, dear son!
Yet the Catholic papers are saying that the Pope ought to be invited to attend the Peace Conference when it comes. Had he set his face against this war, and denounced the thugs who brought it about, and forbidden his Italians to join in it, he probably would have been invited in at the end to help frame the peace. As things are, no. He’ll never be given a finger in politics. He has let down the prestige of the papacy to the whole world, before which he stands simply as another yellow Italian.

There are two notables reported as suicides today, one a woman, one a man. The woman is Virginia Woolf. It has to be presumed, says the news, that Mrs. Virginia Woolf, who has been missing since last Friday, has been drowned in the Sussex House, at Rodmell, near Lewis. Suicide is not mentioned, but why is it assumed that she is drowned? Might she not have just disappeared? Surely her friends suspected her of being in a troubled mind, and likely to do away with herself?
The other is Count Teleki, Prime Minister of Hungary. He shot himself with a pistol, and was found dead in bed this morning. According to Reuter, he left behind him a letter saying that he did not feel able to carry on his difficult and unhappy task. This is another Nazi victim.

April 5, 1941

Ted just left, presumably to go to confession. Of course he was out to early mass this morning. Ted’s three great ambitions, which he has achieved:

1. To live in England
2. To go to Mass every morning.
3. To read The Times, daily.


I wonder, Why The Times? This paper is so essen
tially conservative, aristocratic, and Church of England, I am surprised Ted makes it his paper. It certainly is not akin to his mind. Natural inconsistency of man, I suppose.

I was dreaming vividly of the Utard"s last night we were all together in a big house in the country, but the floors of the ground floor rooms were broken! Mr. Utard was boarding over some broken planks with sheets of cardboard, and I was too polite to ask him how we were to avoid stepping on them, and if we did so, falling through into the cellar. This is the second time with in a few days in which I have been dreaming of broken floors, so page Freud. I’m sure I don’t know what such dreams signify, beyond their obviousness of a sense of general insecurity, of having one’s sure foundations knocked away from under one.

April 6, 1941

It is a very cold day; frost in the night. When Ted came into breakfast at nine thirty he looked blue and pinched with the cold.
I said, It’s cold isn’t it? and he replied,Yes my love. Yes my love. I hope you won’t freeze! What a Silly fool. Eleven forty-five now and he is out to his drilling. I bet he will come into his dinner as cranky as the devil.

We had bad news this morning. Germany announced that she was at war with Yugoslavia and with Greece. This expected new aggression has happened. Happily, at three a.m. Turkey signed a non-aggression pact with Yugoslavia, and we hope it can be relied on. After Greece it is supposed that Germany will attack Turkey. Stalin says nothing. Yesterday came news of a Coup d’├ętat in Iraq where the Pro-Axis party has seized power. Marshal Petain was to have broadcast to the world as last night to attack General De Gaulle and the Free French Forces, it is surmised, but then we were told his speech would be postponed until Monday night; orders from Hitler most likely. Now what next?

This week I have been reading Francis Hackett’s book, Queen Anne Boleyn. Though cast in the form of a novel, presumably it is based on real history. Hackett is a creditable historian and his book on Henry VIII was given great praise from reliable critics. That was history. Though an American, he worked for years here in London, getting his authentic data on the period. Presumably the facts in this “novel” are also authentic. This book was first published in October 1939, so it must have been in the press before the outbreak of war. Reading it today the most striking thing about it is how it shows up the machinations and duplicities of all the powerful, the kings and their nobles and their ambassadors: the Popes and their Cardinals; and the disregard of all the powerful for the common man. History what a filthy mess it is! Here we are in a great melee again, and with talk, talks, swirling around us, like a blinding snowstorm to make us lose our way. The entire “pretty” talk, so useless. Just like today, when the romanticists breathe their hot air all over us, while meanwhile the bombs do their work of actual downright physical destruction. All men are liars. Who said that? Is it scripture? Or is it Shakespeare?

My God! What a world, a man made world to live in! At one o’clock we got the news that our Imperial Forces are in Abbis Ababa. They entered last night. Now all that remains to take is the port of Marsawa. Lieutenant has conducted this campaign in Abyssinia. General A.G. Cunningham, who is brother to Admiral Cunningham. Who has just had the victory at Mattapan? One gleam of light has come out of this entry in to Abbis Ababa. The Duke of Aosta, who is in command of the Italians, has verbally sent a message to Lieut. General Cunningham saying, He wishes to express his appreciation of the initiative taken by General Wavell and General Cunningham regarding the protection of women and children in Addis Ababa, demonstrating the strong bonds of humanity and race still existing between the nations. This is the message of a true gentleman, and, subtly and indirectly, is a plain criticism of the barbarism of the Germans, and also of the folly of the Italian dictator, Mussolini.

April 7, 1941

I think I’ve been doing something silly this morning. Anyhow, silly or not, I’ve done it. I went to Stone’s and bought a lot of material. In all, my bill comes to ten pounds. Thirteen shillings and three pence, I got two pieces of silk, and four pieces of woolen goods. Now the problem is how am I going to pay this sum? Of course, the sad fact is, I’m afraid to ask Ted for money. He can afford to give it to me all right, but he hates to give me money. Anyhow, I’ve bought the stuff, and ultimately I’ll pay for it, somehow or other. My total cash assets to date are about forty-five shillings. However, the bill won’t come in, I presume, until after May 1st, so I can squeeze about another two pounds. By then, and as for the rest, I must either outright ask Ted for it, or else I must draw the difference out of the post office which, of course I would rather not do.

I did consider it policy to go out and buy some material whilst there is still some to be had. As it turned out, I have bought the last piece of real silk, (black) which they had, and their last piece of fine black worsted. When such materials will be made again, God knows. I have to have clothes. The two woolen dresses I have been wearing this winter, I have had at least four years, maybe five, and now they are finished. I’ve been wearing them patched all winter. They are completely done. Anyhow, why should I feel so damned guilty about buying some clothes for myself? Ted has bought plenty for himself, why should I feel like a naughty girl? I do. It is this damned dependence on a tightwad. If Ted would give me a regular yearly personal allowance, which a man of his means quite usually does give his wife, I should feel all right, as I ought to feel. Oh dear! Anyhow, I’ve been shopping using my best judgment. I’ll pay the bill without bringing it to his notice if I can, and if I can’t, well, he can’t eat me.

April 8, 1941

Well, my impulsive shopping yesterday was an act of good judgment. My old sub conscious must have had an acute and correct intuition about the coming scarcity of goods. Yesterday afternoon, Sir Kingsly Wood presented his new budget to the House of Commons. It’s a terror. Income tax has been increased and it will be applied to the small incomes, which hitherto have been exempt from it. Income tax will start on all small per week incomes. This is terrific. This new, taxation of the smaller incomes will not begin to operate until next January; but from now on people will find fewer goods available in the shops than there were last year. The idea is, compulsory saving, because thee is going to be nothing to buy. It is some scheme for avoiding inflation. Well, for some time there has been precious little to buy. The wonder is how the small shopkeepers keep going at all. Shop windows are practically empty, and when you get inside the shops, so are their shelves. How there can be much less I’m sure I don’t know. For months there has been no choice in buying; you had to take what the shopkeeper had, or else go without.

I had my difficulties yesterday in Stone’s. I went there primarily to buy some red woolen cloth, to combine with my red-velvet, to make a usable afternoon frock. Well, Stone’s had no red woolen cloth of any kind or any shade! Finally I bought a dress length of “brick” because it was the best tone I could approximate to my red velvet. Luckily I bought enough for a whole dress, thinking I would make up the velvet into a separate short jacket, to wear with it, or not, as I fancied. Later, at the silks counter, I did find a true match, so bought three and a quarter yards of it, sufficient to make a skirt. So I shall get my red “Sunday” dress anyhow, plus the brick wool I hadn’t counted on. That will make up for next winter. The piece of black silk I bought was their last seven yards of pure silk. This I really needed. I hate not to have a black silk dress in my wardrobe, and since I gave my last black silk to Auntie Lizzie, when Harry Hext died, I have never replaced it. Now I shall have a black silk dress again. I suppose that when the stocks of silks already in this country have been exhausted, there will be no more at all until the war is over, and imports begin again; and then, what will the prices be, I wonder?

The other goods I bought were their last piece of black worsted; this is a fine lightweight, to make a summer suit. I have no summer suit, so this also was needed. I also purchased a piece of Angora to make a shirt. This, and the red wool, is what I actually started out to buy. At Christmas time, Edna Renacre gave me a very fine cyclamen cardigan. I have never worn it, because I had nothing right to wear it with; but as I needed a new skirt, I thought if I matched to the cardigan, I should create a complete and pretty spring and summer rig; something fresh and light and pleasant to look at, yet warm to wear around when the fires go out. So I matched it in Angora. This will give me a good lightweight skirt to wear with blouses.

Then finally I bought a piece of lavender silk and cotton mixture, uncrushable weave, to make a summer frock. I suppose I didn’t really need this, for I have two blue silks, which I bought in 1939, besides a couple of left over cotton frocks. It was attractive, and not too expensive. Anyhow I did buy it. Today I am not a bit sorry I bought so much. Probably clothing will be returned soon, as well as food and coal. This might be all right if one started well stocked with clothes, but it just so happens that my wardrobe is in one of its low phases. Anyhow I’m jolly glad I bought all these goods, although I’ll still have my troubles paying for them. I am not going to worry about that. If I have to ask Ted for some private cash, he must scold if he must, but I shan’t worry a button. We are not paupers and I intend to look like a lady, and to feel like one. Let the men pay for the war: that’s their luxury. They wanted it.

April 9, 1941

Ever since the government stated that there would be no Good Friday holiday this year, a great fuss has been made about it. Yesterday the subject was taken up in The Lords. The Marques of Salisbury asked whether the attention of the present government had been called to the anxiety felt by a large section of opinion in the country by the suggested want of observance of Good Friday in the present week. He said that for centuries Good Friday had been set apart as almost the most sacred day in the year, and the practice had been universal that it should have due respect. He recognized that exigencies of the present were such that desirable practices should be intermittent for essential war work. He was sorry that it appeared in the public press that Easter Monday was to be set apart for holiday making in the circumstances. It did seem strange that as between the two days, the modern Easter Monday shall be selected for the holiday and that all religious observance on Good Friday shall be treated as of less account. He was told that even the stock exchange was to be open on Good Friday.

Lord Moyne replied that the government could not possibly approve of the normal and traditional arrangements for the Easter holidays. It was only intended that the government’s advice should be applied to war services. The government was naturally anxious to get as much interruption for purposes of recreation and rest from the normal hard work of war production as was consistent with output, and which would not mean any slackening of the war effect. It was found that both Good Friday and Easter Monday could not be afforded as holidays. There were good reasons for the government, on industrial grounds, choosing Easter Monday, as they could not afford both days. 

It was better to get the longest possible break rather than have two breaks; one on Good Friday and one on Sunday with work in between. There was no objection to any class of retail shop closing partially or completely. It was not unpatriotic to close on Good Friday provided that was not in anyway going to interfere with war output.
This is very practical. What I want to note is, that for as long as I can remember in England, Good Friday has never been observed religiously, except by the few devout Church people. Chapel people never paid the slightest attention to it, and even among the Church people, only the pious. The Easter holidays represented overwhelmingly the first holiday of the New Year, the spring holidays. Everyone who could went away for a long break, and it was a favorite time for weddings for the working classes, just because it gave the longest break in the year. We were Church, but we never bothered to go to church on Good Fridays. Once, when I was a child, staying with Grandma Side at Neasden, Auntie May took me to the Three Hours, but Grandma didn’t bother to go. So, for people to make a fuss about losing the day on religious grounds is hypocritical. After all, everybody can remember the significance of the day if they want to. Nobody is prevented praying at any hour, and it has been pointed out, that even in the factories arrangements can be made for those who wish to go to church.

One factory manager has written to the Times to say:

I have issued the following notice to the factory with which I am concerned: ‘Those who wish to absent themselves for one hour in order to be present at part of the Three Hours Service may do so by arrangement with their foreman and forewomen.

Of course, but not many will. People don’t want Good Friday to go to church, but to go to Blackpool, or South End, or the football game. Ted says people don’t know what Good Friday means. Of course they don’t. Nor did they forty years ago, so why make a fuss about it now?
Last nights raids were again concentrated on Coventry. At the first Coventry assault the Germans boasted that it was the very greatest air attack ever yet launched on any city anywhere. Today’s one o’clock news stated that last nights attack was nearly as heavy as the first attack, and the extent of the casualties is not yet known. Poor Coventry. These last two nights have again been noisy with us. When the raiding began around eleven p.m. on Monday, which was the first night alarm London had for eighteen nights, quite a long spell of comparative peace. It is a full moon on Friday, so for the rest of this week, and all next, we may expect trouble.

The fighting in the Balkans is fierce, and serious, the Germans pressing well in, already broken into the Varda Valley: though the Yugoslav’s have entered Sentari. It will take a few days, they say, before we can tell what is really happening in the Balkans. To me, a mere woman it sounds as though the Germans are the main victors. My God! The Germans! Will the world ever forgive them?

April 10, 1941

I feel sick. I am not ill it is simply the events. I have just been reading through today’s Times, and it is the news that makes me sick. This devilish war. The Germans are in Salonika. We are in Massawa. Belgrade, though declared an open city, has been destroyed from the air, worse than Rotterdam. It is true; the Germans must be vanquished, but Oh, the cost!

Last night was a bad night for me, though nothing fell here in Romford. The first alert went soon after eleven p.m. the first guns were heard just after midnight. Another alert went at two-forty a.m. but the guns sounded further off. Ted seemed to be sleeping most of the time, but I lay in the dark uncontrollably trembling, and with a most awful sick feeling at the pit of my stomach. I could neither weep nor pray; I could only endure through my fear. It is horrible. I have had no real sleep since Sunday so I’m awfully tired. Most of the bombing has been in the Midlands. Last night, they say, we brought down ten bombers, making thirteen altogether during the last twenty-four hours. My God! There goes the alarm again. Just eleven a.m.

April 12, 1941

I am dead tired. This is the ending of Lent, thank goodness. Ted has observed it all though much more than was required of him and with the usual result of crankiness. He is a trial. However, I suppose he could be worse, and certainly I ought to be used to him by this time. I think perhaps what bothers me most is the way he bores me. His silly talk, his devastating repetitiveness, it just wears me out. The older he grows the more like his brother Bert he becomes. The likeness is most marked; and it repeats itself again in Selma but in Selma all the peculiarities are exaggerated, so she is immediately much more obviously a fool. It is the unending repetitiveness that wears hardest on me. I get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again. The same would-be jokes, the same cliche's, the same items of facetiousness, my God, they make me groan. Moreover, I always know exactly what Ted is going to say about anything, all his judgments. It is dreadful. So there is nothing spontaneous in talk, nothing fresh, and nothing careless. Ponderous, my God, it rolls me flat!

He was speaking of old man Wachett just now at dinner. Ted’s grandmothers, and Wachett’s grandmother, were sisters: the Misses Hunt of Barking. This was Ted’s mother’s mother. Well, it was definitely known that she was crazy in old age, and there are reports of the Wachettt grandmother being “odd”. Certainly the Wachett’s are a fine assorted bunch of eccentrics. Now “old Wachett”, who is Bert’s age and who has been ill for a couple of years is reported as “losing his mind” having unaccounted spells of deliriousness, and of forgetfulness, “mind wandering.” I should think that likely that the Misses Hunt of Barking were responsible for setting flow a definite stream of madness, or at least, of mental deficiency. Selma grows madder every year, certainly Bert is “touched” and I’m quite sure of Ted’s unbalance. Oh well, nothing can be changed now.

Both yesterday and this morning we slept late. There are only two mornings in the year there is no early mass to attend. I did not wake this morning until eight o’clock, though Ted went off soon after to play the Holy Saturday mass. He has been at church every day this week. Miss Hale is away on holiday, so Ted has been taking the organ.

All this, of course, Ted gives for nothing. One thing I must note about this Lenten time, this is the first time since we returned to England that Ted hasn’t gone out in the middle of the night of Good Friday to keep watch. Marvelous!

He must have concluded that with his entire organ playing and all his Home Guarding he was doing enough and that he had to sleep. He was sensible for once. Unless, of course, there was no night watching because of the war. Well, I shan’t go to mass tomorrow, Easter or no Easter. Nothing will induce me to sit through a church service until the war is over. Too many churches get bombed. Moreover, I expect Hitler is saving up something special for Easter Sunday. Monday is to be observed as a holiday, though yesterday was not observed as such.

Mary Bernadette came in at teatime. She has been in town working all day. She came to tell me Mrs. Jude is returning home May third. She has had enough of Belfast. Belfast has had a bad bombing recently, so what’s the use of evacuating? Hitler bombs anywhere and everywhere. I’m hoping Ted brings me in a good book for the weekend. I am in the mood for reading and nothing else.

Easter April 13, 1941

Ted is out playing the mass. A quiet night, and a warmer morning, though overcast. I have a small chicken to roast for dinner, with rice custard to follow: vegetables, mashed potatoes, and string less green beans out of a can. It does not feel especially like Easter to me. Anyhow, I never could follow the Liturgical year with enthusiasm. It always seems childish to me, too much in the neighborhood of fairy tale. I cannot do all the pretending; moreover I have always been bored with repetitions.

The book Ted brought in yesterday was Eric Gill’s autobiography, and he began to read it straightaway. Eric Gill, who only died this winter, was one of the more voluble converts to Rome, though God knows all the converts do an awful lot of talking about themselves and their souls and the true church. When I think of G.K. Chesterton, and Dr. Orchard in such a hurry to turn their “spiritual” experiences into prompt cash!

Anyhow, before bed time Ted had to begin commenting on Gill’s book, or rather, not Gill’s book, as book, but about the fact that Gill’s father was a non-conformist “curate” in a chapel of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection. With this fact Ted was well away on his favorite topic of “Protestantism” and deploring all the things “Poor Protestants” don’t know. My God, it’s an awful subject! I get so weary of it, so sick of it. I answer nothing, but I get so filled with disgust and repugnance I have to keep tight hold of myself not to spill over and start screaming. I hate Ted’s bigotry, I hate his ignorance, and I hate his complacency. I’m afraid sometime I shall fly off the handle, and scream and scream. Ted is so impossible, and so unjust, and so censorious, I feel I want to fly at him and beat him. Poor fellow; he can’t help his ignorance and his prejudice, or he won’t and I can’t help him. Oh, how he poisons all religion for me, Catholic and Protestant alike and always has done from the very beginning. I pray for patience. I resolve my will for patience. To keep serene, to keep serene, that is my first desire, my deepest intention. Not only in my personal conflict with Ted, but in my contact with this awful world, this frightful war. From early childhood when I suffered continually from my mother’s violence and vehemence, for me the fairest and dearest virtue has always been serenity. Serenity. The very word itself is beautiful to
me. God, keep me serene!

April 14, 1941

Here I close up this book today’s account in The 
Times of the Pope’s yesterday Easter broadcast. In effect, he has simply said to the axis powers, the German’s, and his own Italians, don’t hurt those you have conquered too much! There is not one word of reproof for the savageries committed daily, not one word against war, not one word. Is the Pope merely a quisling? There have been no big raids during this weekend, but only spasmodic bombings here and there. Rows of small houses have been knocked down, and people killed, but not in the thousands, as expected might happen. Here at home we have had a nice day. We had some young people in: Mary Bernadette and her fiancee, Hugh Storr-Best, and Doris Pell, the little librarian. I had not seen Doris for a couple of years, or perhaps three. She is now twenty-three, but she gave me a disagreeable start to notice how even she was aging. She is no longer the radiant blond child I used to chat with in the library. She has become the tired businesswoman, all her color drained and with definitely a spinsterish air. She is only twenty-three.

I received the same shock of noticing the encroaching age when I was in Stone’s last week. Some of the assistants in Stones have been there as long as I have been going to the store, which, of course, is over thirteen years now. In the silks department the same two are still there, but when I saw them last week I saw them visibly perishing. They have become older and older, naturally. They are alive, and they are still working, but as women they have fallen into decay, they are literally perishing, drying out, desiccating, and dying on their feet, day by day and nobody noticing. How cruel nature is to women. If no man takes her in her first blooming, so quickly she withers away.

April 15, 1941

I want to take issue with one of the statements made by Eric Gill. Speaking of his parents he says:

There was of course the dark cloud of poverty... Eight children and five more to come and a regular salary or stipend of one hundred and fifty pounds a year was, even in the pre-war days, too great a disproportion but somehow they managed. Those were the days before children were regarded as disasters. I suppose the people of today are quite unable to imagine that frame of mind. In those days, boys and girls, young men and women regarded marriage and children as being inseparable things, the one inevitable consequence of the other. We were sad if our parents were sad. It was gloomy and miserable when father was unjustly angry with mother, as it seemed to us he sometimes was. It was gloomy and miserable when mother was fretful and snappy with father, but these things though not infrequent, seemed natural enough even if unnecessary, and they were only passing troubles.

Now Eric Gill was born in 1882, and I was born in 1884, so we were contemporaries, and our parents were contemporaries. He and I lived in the same world at the same time and I say he doesn’t know what he is talking about. I say that in those days children were regarded as disasters, practically the greatest disasters that could befall a woman. I say that when fathers were unjustly angry with the mothers, and the mothers were fretful and snappy with the father, it was mainly and hugely because of the incessant child bearing and child supporting they were involved in, and had brought upon themselves. I say, most deliberately, that the knowledge of birth control has been the greatest boon to women (and to men) since time began.

It is true that when we were children large families were the rule, but it was because nobody knew how not to have large families. Nobody wanted them, I am quite sure of that. The average living number of children in a family seemed to be eight, but many families had nine or ten living children, even more. My mother brought ten children to birth, of which only six of us survived infancy. Ted’s mother gave birth to seventeen children, of whom only six grew to be adult, whilst of those six three died before the age of forty, and one at forty four. Of those seventeen children only two survive today, Bert and Ted. I do not know if Mrs. Thompson had any miscarriages, but I presume she did, as all the women I ever heard of had miscarriages. More often than not these were not miscarriages at all, but direct or induced abortions. They used to call them misses, and would speak openly of them. Oh Yes! I’ve had another miss, Thank God! or, I’ve had nine and five misses. Or, How many children have you? Any misses?

My mother loathed every pregnancy she had to endure, and she told me that Eric and I were the only children she didn’t try to do away with; I, because I was her first child and Eric because he was her last. She said she thought she was too old to have another child, so didn’t take any steps to do away with him until it was too late to try.

All her children were sickly and ailing and delicate. Several of them were premature, and some of her labors nearly killed her, they were so hard. Sometimes she could bring on a miss but when she couldn’t, apparently all she could do was injure both the unborn child and herself. She used to get into the most awful rages. She’d hate Dad of course. She had all the pain, all the work and worry, but never an extra shilling to alleviate at least one side of the business. It was the same with all the Aunts and neighbors. Women’s one aim in life was not to have another child, and they used to be ashamed of being in the family way again and hide it from each other as long as they could, so as to evade the commiseration they bestowed upon each other, but which none of them wanted to receive. Large families were a curse, and openly regarded as such. I know.
I married in the total and blank ignorance of sex, customary at that time. Of course I knew that women carried children inside them but I didn’t know how they got there. I did not know that marriage meant any thing more than sleeping in the same bed with a husband. I did not know there could be anything further between a man and a woman than kisses. All this in spite of the fact that I know women frequently had children, and practically always tried to destroy them, mainly by drinking poisons. In spite of their own revolts, mothers did not enlighten daughters about sex when I was a girl. Girls lived in a romantic fog as far as reality was concerned, and when they married, they did not regard children as inevitable, in spite of what Eric Gill says. They never thought about children at all!! They knew their mothers constantly had children, but it never occurred to them that they would have children themselves. Marriage to them meant getting a house and furniture, getting a home of their own, away from mother. Girls lived in one world, mother in another and I never knew any girl of my time who regarded her mother simply as another woman, another girl! A mother wasn’t an individual like herself, another woman, but a parent, a boss, an old person, a nuisance, a crank to get away from. Yes, that is exactly how it was.

When I went to America I was surprised at the small families. Two children seemed to be the average over there. Four children was a large family, in America. When the women told me, as a matter of course, that of course I didn’t want babies right away, and instructed me in the use of douches, pessaries, etc., well, I was dumbfounded. What a revelation! When I looked at the happy American women, the women who were happily married, the women who weren’t worn out by everlasting babies, who were young and pretty and found life good, who could laugh and have a dollar to spend, and that was another revelation. So women could arrange their lives to suit themselves! Yes, it was a tremendous revelation.

Later of course, after Ted’s conversion, I came up against the talk against birth control. I let it wash over me. It was man’s talk. I have yet to hear a woman talk against birth control. Moreover, most of the talk originated with celibate men, the priests. Is any woman, that is, any married woman, going to pay the slightest attention to that? Of course she isn’t. Moreover, the Catholic married woman doesn’t pay much attention to it, either over there, or over here, as is easy to be seen. It is only the very poor and the very ignorant Catholics who still have big families. They are those who can’t help themselves. The Catholic family is no bigger than the Protestant family nowadays. Not only are children luxuries which can’t be repeatedly afforded, women have decided that children are strictly their own affair, and they will bear a child only when they want to, and never when they don’t want to.

Priests and husbands may fulminate against birth control. Nevertheless. the women practice it and will continue to do so. That is how it should be. A woman should bear a child because she loves her husband and want the child, never because, like a beast, she can’t help herself. Once I got into terrible trouble with Ted about this. It was when Marjorie Mailman was in the thick of her troubles. Mailman was keeping his discarded common-law wife in one New York tenement, and Marjorie in another! Or rather paying the rents, for they all three were half starving, since the older woman followed him around to his work and made rows there, so he kept losing job after job. Well, Marjorie was staying with us on Avenue A, and she confided to me that her courses had stopped and she was afraid she was pregnant, and asked, could I tell her what to do. I made her take a hot mustard bath, and mustard douche, and put her to bed with a strong dose of quinine and whiskey. Unluckily Ted found out, and did he raise Hell! Not with Marjorie, Oh dear no! She was his guest! With me aiding and abetting her to commit mortal sin, he said. He brought me to tears (for I was much younger then) but he couldn’t make me say that I was in the wrong. I had done what I could for the girl at the moment, and if I could have done more I would have done so. Ted was all male righteousness, as per usual. That is what infuriates women in all the blether. Men won’t practice self-control. They insist on satisfying their concupiscence whenever they have the desire to do so, and then demand that women should suffer the consequences. Oh, no thank you dear sirs, we know better today.

April 16, 1941

Last night we were talking about General Simovitch’s Declaration, which appeared in Monday’s Times. In it he said, Without waiting for the final decision of our new government, and without warning, the German’s bombed Belgrade, an undefended town. The enemy gave orders to his air force to leave nothing standing and nobody alive. This had a profound effect on his airmen, according to the declaration of two German airmen.

All day long I have been thinking of this last sentence, and wondering what it exactly it meant. Did it mean that German airmen felt themselves exhilarated into extra wildness’s of savagery and mass murder? Or did it mean that their spirits were shocked and their minds revolted?

Anyhow, they destroyed Belgrade completely, and nearly all its inhabitants. Even supposing they were revolted, they carried out the order. Ted still thinks there are good Germans, and that many German’s inside Germany are against Hitler and his Nazi regime. I say that the German’s are responsible for their leaders and must suffer in the general condemnation. If the German’s refused to carry out Hitler’s orders, what good would the orders be? I am convinced that the German’s approve of Hitler and his methods simply because they make no attempt to overthrow him, but continue to obey him exactly.

Did the German airmen refuse to bomb Belgrade? Not one of them. What puzzles me is how the German people can persuade themselves they are in the right about all their aggressions. I could understand they could believe that France, their hereditary enemy was against them; or that Great Britain was their enemy; but how can they persuade themselves that all the other countries of Europe were their enemies? How those little countries can: Norway, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and the rest are their enemies? How can they believe their little peoples were going to rush in to attack the mighty Germans? Surely if there are any sane people left in Germany they must know their leaders are liars.

If the air force is shocked at their orders, which they receive, why do they carry them out? Why obey the devil when you come to recognize him for what he is?

All this led to a very curious statement by Ted. He said that in these days the question and the jurisdiction of conscience became a very complicated matter. He said that soldiers under arms must obey orders, and that it would be a sin not to obey orders, even though, like Hitler’s orders, they involved treachery, cruelty, and horrible murder. How can allegiance to your command be as allegiance to God, and come before all private considerations. Practically, in war, the private conscience doesn’t exist. You must obey your superiors undeviatingly, and you will be absolved from all guilt. Therefore, the German airmen are not to be held to account for their actions, and they are not sinners. I was flabbergasted. Here was Ted agreeing with Hitler that whoever has the might has the right: that the Government is supreme and must be obeyed unquestioningly; that the top dog is the powerful one and that the underdog doesn’t count. Therefore whatever power prevails that is righteousness. I was speechless.


Then he went on to elaborate the theme, talking about Christian war (Christian war! Christ save us!) and trying to take away all guilt from men in uniform, even the enemy. I consider this absolutely Jesuitical, and disgusting. There is nothing Christian about it. It’s horrible. It’s man’s talk again. My God! What fools men are!
The one o’clock news was definitely bad. Last night Northern Ireland was attacked from the air, practically over the whole area, the announcer said. Hundreds of high explosives were dropped, and in many residential quarters, and the casualties are feared to be very heavy. Well, when the B.B.C. admits casualties are very heavy, you may be damn well sure they are. I had a letter from Gladys yesterday, in which she says that in the center of Plymouth only one building is left standing.

We had two alerts here last night, one soon after eleven, and another at one forty a.m. but nothing was dropped in this district.
The other item concerned Yugoslavia; news from where cannot be regarded as optimistic, said the announcer. It is reported that all united action in Yugoslavia has ceased, though it is thought likely that guerrilla warfare will continue, carried on by isolated groups in the mountains. It is estimated that over twelve thousand civilians were killed in Belgrade on Sunday. In Libya the Germans are advancing, taking back the ground, which we took from the Italians in December. Already they are into Egypt, over the border into Sollum, where fighting is now in progress. To balance this, the Duke of Aosta is expected to surrender; when he does this will finish the campaign in Abyssinia. For how long will this last? Presumably as soon as the Germans decide to enter Abyssinia, the fight will be all to do again. Probably they will concentrate on Egypt first, their intention being to take Suez. My God! Where is this war going to end?

April 17, 1941

Ted has just gone out to his home guarding. Last night was one of the worst we have ever lived through. Airplanes began going over at about eight-thirty p.m. and soon the alert was given and the guns began to bark. Planes went over in droves, by the hundreds. The main attack of the night was on London and the Thames Estuary. It was the heaviest and most sustained raid on London since the war began. It kept us up until five this morning. No bombs were dropped in this immediate neighborhood, though many times the house shook with the explosions.

They tried for Hornchurch Airdrome, but missed it, all the bombs falling in nearby fields. Mercy of God. They got the single-track railway line to Emerson Park, and the station there. I have not so far heard of any damage nearer to us, though of course there may have been some. We have not been told officially what they destroyed in London, but news dribbles in that it was the Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Kensington High Street. They say Maples is totally demolished, and at five tonight Selfridge’s was still burning. We are told casualties are very heavy, so they must be when it is admitted.

Now probably they will come again tonight, since it seems to be German tactics to bomb the same city two nights running. To offset this, we are told that we have defeated the Germans at Tobruk, killing about two thousand Germans, and have sunk a convoy of eight vessels off Tripoli. Those are soldiers. It is this bombing of civilians which is so frightfully devilish. One of the items given us at six p.m. was that Lord Stamp, and Lady Stamp, were two of last night’s victims, the house they were in falling on top of them; their bodies were taken out this morning from the debris. I prayed all night. I thought that from moment to moment our hour had come, but no! In spite of the hellish row of guns and bombs, nothing touched this center or Romford. So, since we endured what we did, what must have it been like in town! My spark of faith rediscovered for me by Eric Gill blazed up, and I was able to pray from the bottom of my heart and soul as I have never prayed before. Lord I believe: Help thou mine unbelief. I did believe. I do believe. Oh God, never let me lose the faith again.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I have arranged to go to early mass, and Father Bishop will hear my confession before it begins. Eric Gill says that just as physical love is the center of our life as men and women, so the Holy Mass is the center of our life as Christians. Yes, I think so too.

Mother sent a card on Monday to say she would come and see me on the eighteenth, but whether she can come or not now remains to be seen. I have not heard of them being hit in Angel Road, so presume they are all right. I have not seen Mother since last August. She is a braver woman than I am if she travels through town tomorrow, as she has proposed to do. Perhaps she won’t come now. However, tomorrow will show.

April 18, 1941

I am fifty-seven today. I have had many flowers and many visitors, but not Mother. About two o’clock today Ella Side (Offard’s wife) telephoned to say Mother could not come, but she was all right and I was not to worry about her. All her ceilings are down, and the side of the house cracked from top to bottom. It was not directly hit, but received a blast from a land mine in King Street. The premises are considered repairable so Mother does not have to evacuate. I wish she would. Ella said there were four land mines in King Street, and it is a shambles.

Joan is very bad with her leg. It is nerves, of course. Early this morning I went out with Ted, and made my Easter duty. In consequence, I feel very happy and serene, and this in spite of all the general disaster.

April 19, 1941

There were two alerts in the night, one at one o’clock and another at three o’clock. The all clear came at five a.m. I have sent Mother a will, offering home with us for her and Joan and Annie.
All quiet today but the news they give as of Wednesday nights raid is truly appalling. The German’s are boasting it is the greatest raid ever yet made in history. I should think it was. Many of London’s famous buildings are destroyed, in part, or completely, including, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Chelsea Old Church, the Chelsea Pensioners Hospital, The Temple “Free” Church, with its neighbor Wren’s St. Andrews, Guy’s Hospital, and seven other hospitals. Oh, terrible! In addition there is news of the sudden death of the Greek Prime Minister, General Koritza. No explanation given. It is barely a week ago that Count Teleki, the Hungarian Prime Minister, committed suicide.

April 20, 1941

Ted is playing mass. I should not be surprised to see Mother or Joan arrive sometime today, for last night London had another very heavy raid. No details have yet been given us, beyond the fact that it was very heavy (which we knew for ourselves) and the casualties are feared to be very heavy. So what has happened in Angel Road? If number six was cracked on Wednesday it probably fell down last night. Here in Romford it was worse then on Wednesday. It began at nine o’clock and from then until midnight was the most terrifying hours of my whole life. The rest of the night was bad, too, but only as bad as Wednesday.

At about ten-thirty I thought a bomb had hit us. The room rocked, and at all four corners smoke and sooty powder streamed in, but no, we weren’t hit, it was a blast from something exploding near by. I heard glass cracking, but it was next-door, number seventy-six.
When Ted returned from early church he said that the worst damage in Romford had been in Pettit’s Lane, Essex Road, and Prince’s Road. No details given yet.

However, we received bad news of Branney’s. They live on Prince’s Road. Mr. Branney has been injured, but Mrs. Branney can’t be found! Apparently, Mr. Branney is unconscious, because nobody knows whether Mrs. Branney was at home, or not. If she was out of town visiting somewhere, she may be quite all right; but if she was at home (which is most likely) she has probably been blown to atoms.

Oh, God help us all! Where is the dreadful war going to end? I pray. I pray without ceasing. In last nights terror everything personal became insignificant. I was set free from all my annoyances, grievances worries, and animosities. The worst hurts of my life became as nothing. I forgave everybody everything. I think I can never hate or dislike anybody or anything again. It is indeed a new world and a new life, which begins for me today, for I never expected to live through until morning. Now unto thee, Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the only God, be glory and honor, thanksgiving and praise now, and forever. Amen.

We heard remarkable news of Mrs. Branney. She has been found, and except for a few bruises, unhurt. She had been upstairs when the bomb fell. The blast carried her out through the wall of the house, across the alley between the houses, and through the wall of the neigh- boring house, dropping her to the ground floor, practi- cally unhurt. Marvelous, isn’t it! Mr. Branney is in the hospital, but not very seriously injured.

April 22, 1941

I’ve forgotten to say that Ted gave me some money for my birthday. I pinched up courage to ask him for some. So today I raked around in all my finances and made up sufficient to pay my Stone’s bill. Went over to the store this afternoon and paid it. So that’s out of the way. Thank Heaven.

April 23, 1941

I have been writing letters and now am very tired. The Weather is dull and cold. We had very bad news at one o’clock. King George of the Hellenes has left Greece, and gone to Crete. The Greeks in the Epirus have made a separate armistice with the Germans, and laid down their arms at ten this morning. Now What?

The Times reports that Colonel Lindbergh has made a speech in Chicago saying the war is now practically over, and Hitler has won it. So far Hitler has won it. Last week he licked the Yugoslavs, now has licked the Greeks. What next? Shall we retreat into Turkey and into Egypt, and have him lick the Turks and the Egyptians? I expect so. The what? Oh what madness is war!

April 24, 1941

I am very tired and very melancholy. The war is frightful. We had a quiet night last night. The enemy concentrated on, “a town in the Southwest,” probably Plymouth again.

I was dreaming about Mrs. Harvey, and the old days in America. I dream of America on most nights. I ought to be there. Ted was writing to Jimmie last night. This struck me so silly. Whilst he was writing Lord Chatfield on the air was speaking about St. George’s Day, and the spirit of England. He was saying, The women of England had born a very full share in the sufferings from air attack. Home to most women was the main interest, often the only one. The loss of it was almost annihilating to her...

Yes... and it struck me as absurd that Ted should be writing to Jimmie. Jimmie was only fifteen and a half when Ted left him to shift for himself. Yes. Annihilation is the word. Ted annihilated the home. He deliberately broke it up, and for no good reason. Such an action was not inevitably imposed upon us by unfortunate and uncontrollable circumstances; it was imposed upon us merely by the whim of one selfish self-loving man who also persisted in carrying out one of his romantic dreams. Ted wanted to live in England. No other reason. I have never gotten over it. I never shall. Ted not only broke up the home, he broke me. So I live a senseless life. There is no reason for my life: no sense in it. That is why I get so tired. I have nothing to live for. Present time is sort of a hiatus for me, in which I hold onto existence waiting to be able to resume my own life, my own true life. I may wait in vain. This may never come about. The war may destroy me first, or in other ways my time may be cut short. I hope. I hope someday to be a free woman, living where I want to live, living where my heart is.

I looked at Ted last night and he seemed to me a stranger. He often seems that. In spite of our years together, the endless intimacies of marriage, I feel he is nothing to do with me, an outsider, and an alien. More often than not I regard him as a fool. I looked at him last night, pottering, fussing about with his silly files of his correspondence, and making something important which isn’t important, being trivial. Oh, I can’t stand it. I’m so weary of it! There he was, saying the same old things about the radio, complacently considering himself smart but only voicing his own pet prejudices. Ted says the same things over and over, a hundred times, yet each time offered as a new and spontaneous remark. I get so bored. When I am tired such repetitions make me want to snap or scream. I don’t. I hold composure, but inwardly I become even more and more tired. Oh God, I’m bored!

Last nights raid was on Plymouth. Poor Gladys! This is a depressing day, cold and senseless, and a wind howling in the chimney, though outside looks still enough. There was no good news at one o’clock. The situation in Greece is terrible. There were further details of our attack on Tripoli, hatefully boastful. An account of an extension for Sea Cadets, to be opened to lads from age fourteen to eighteen. So now we are appealing to children to come in and fight! Last week it was the girls, who had to register, which is conscripting the women, what else? This damn war, this damn fool’s war!

The wireless talks and appeals make me sick. Persuading the people to keep up the fight, that’s all it is, our propaganda. For What? For Glory? For Freedom? For prestige? Or for money? Of course Hitler is a criminal scoundrel; but he’s not the only one. Why did the statesmen of Europe allow him to become so powerful? Why did they not check him at his first aggression? No: there were no statesmen in Europe; only blind bats. The armament makers of course. There is big money in war, for a few. If armaments were never expended, why then they would never be renewed, so dividends would cease. So, I suppose mankind will continue in its org of mutual destruction until the money comes to end. When there is no money in war, war will stop. Until then, mutual destruction, mutual lunacy. Oh my God!
Why should we fight for those that would not fight for themselves? They deserve to lose their countries if they would not stand up for them. Are our boys to continue to die because the Belgians and the French threw down their arms? I can’t see it. Let the Germans have France since the French practically made them a present of it. Why not parley with Hitler? In the end settlements will have to be made, why not make them now before further horrors ensue? Jesus voiced the sense of the matter. He said: God and make peace with your adversary quickly, whilst he is still in the way.

War is the wickedest sin and the greatest lunacy in the world. No matter who the victors are can the dead return to life? Can the bereaved sustain their hearts and minds on the glory of their sacrificed men? What good does it do me if England “wins” if I am dead? If my sons are maimed, or dead before their time? Oh what fools men are, with their wars and their incitements of wars! Oh God! Will they ever have sense?

April 25, 1941

It is a quiet night. Still sharply cold, a stiff wind blowing, but a clearer sky this morning, and then sun shining a little later. No fresh news from Greece. We cannot win a victory there. Reports say the German’s sacrifice their own troops “sickeningly.” It is said their losses in the battle last week were 75,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. Their numbers are endless, and last year in France, Hitler said he was willing to lose a million men to gain the battle.
I am not quite so moody today, but very restless. I was dreaming of Edith Pilcher last night. I was playing her accompaniments for her to sing. She was singing, Bid me Discourse and Come unto these yellow sands. Then all at once we were running away from the Germans. Why was Edith Pilcher in my dreams? She belongs back in my girlhood, before I even met Ted.

Last night Rita Pullan came over. She brought a message from Cuthie. In a card she had received from him he asked her to let us know he had received the books and the chessmen. Whilst she was here an old man came over to collect one of Ted’s old suits. His name was Wizen, and he is the husband of one of old Mrs. Burton’s daughters. Later in the evening Ted got on to the subject of this family, singing their praises.

Mrs. Burton, who died about two years ago, was the scrub woman at the church when we first came to Romford. Later the job was taken over by one of her daughters. Mrs. Burton had been born a gypsy, born in a caravan, but she was a convert to Catholicism. Presum- ably she married a Catholic man and joined the church when she married. She could neither read nor write, but she could drink whenever she got a chance, and she was a great codger in true gypsy style. She had many children. She was very religious. She sucked up to Ted in fine fashion. She knew a good source of supply when she met one. Well, “Mr. Mizen” is one of her son in laws. He looks like a hawker, the type of person who pushes a barrow. No doubt he is a most estimable man, but the coster class. So with all the Burton’s family, they are laborers, peddlers, charwomen, probably honest, but positively low class and illiterate.

Well, last night, Ted got on the subject of the virtues of Mrs. Burton. No doubt she brought up her family well. They are all in church. They stuck to it. Speaks pretty well for her, and for them, I think. 

This left me cold. Those sorts of people are no recommendation for the Church. On the contrary, if they are in it, decent people don’t want to be. Yes, I know, technically they may be “good,” may even be saints, but they are not my kind of people and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. This question of being Catholic or not being Catholic has become Ted’s only criteria of human worth. 

Further, this class of people is the class he likes. In my opinion, it is the class he belongs to. Prior to leaving Tenafly, Ted began to boast how he had been born in Whitechapel, and so he was a Cockney. I used to think it was a pose, one more of his eccentricities. Since we have returned to England I have had to realize, more and more, that it is a literal fact. The Thompson’s were the usual low class East Enders, and that class of people is the sort towards whom Ted just naturally feels affinity. Not the toughs, of course, but the respectable ones. Well, I don’t.
Later, after Ted had settled on his sofa for the night, he read for half an hour, as he occasionally does on quiet nights. His book, The Belief of Catholics, by Ronald Knox. Now behold. First of all it is the book of a convert. Next, it is propaganda and apologia. Why does Ted need to read such a book? He has been an ardent convinced Catholic for over thirty years. Doesn’t he know what the belief of Catholics is? Does his conversion still need corroboration from other converts? Why does Ted still want to talk about the subject so much? Talk, talk, talk, he makes me tired.

I noticed a comment about Alcott in Peddler’s Progress, yesterday. On page 228 the author says; But what ever might be the reason, talking was a thing that Alcott could do. It was a thing he loved to do, perhaps partly because it committed him to nothing. It was like that writing on the snow in his boyhood, beautiful today and gone tomorrow.

I think this could be most exactly and most justly said of Ted. Ted loves to talk. In fact, you can’t stop him talking. What he says is of no lasting account; he harangues, but he does nothing; he never says anything original, and he never convinces; his speech is like his person and his whole life, ineffectual. The only conviction is in him. He thinks he’s a wonder, and he thinks he’s a wise man. Ted looks attractive, sounds appealing, but everyone who comes into lasting contact with him discovers sooner or later that there is no real man behind the facade, he is only some sort of a dummy straw man, made up of live men’s discards, and whistled through by the wind in all the chinks of his nothingness, a sap: one mortal fool.
As for me, well, you can see. I can get over my angers and hatreds, but I cannot get over my boredom's. When I am bored, I am certainly everlastingly bored.

America is very slowly but surely being talked into the war. Talk again! Last night Cordell Hull and Colonel Know were talking about quick aid to Britain, and how to give it, convoys etc., whilst Lindbergh was talking against it.

About Lindbergh, today’s Times reports: The America First Committee, organized to oppose American intervention in the war, staged a mass meeting here (New York) last night. Which was addressed by Colonel Lindbergh, Miss Kathleen Norris, a writer of sentimental novels (they mean Mrs. Kathleen Norris, of course) and Senator David A. Walsh, of Massachusetts, one of the leading non-interventionists in Congress.

About 25,000 persons listened to their speeches, 10,000 in the hall, Manhattan Center, where the meeting was held, and the remainder, with the aid of loud speakers, in another hall and in streets round about.

Some of the wildest cheers came when Colonel Lindbergh repeated his familiar assertion, It is obvious that England is losing the war, and declared with respect to the nations to which she had promised assistance, We know that she has misinformed them, as she has misinformed us, concerning her state of preparation, her military strength, and the progress of the war.

Colonel Lindbergh asserted that he believed that even the British government realized that, England is losing the war and that they hope that they may be able to persuade us to send another expeditionary force to Europe and to share with England militarily as well as financially the fiasco of this war. He asserted, that America had been led towards war by a minority of her people. This minority had power and influence and a loud voice. It did not represent the American people. Most of the people had no influence or power. Up to now they had relied upon their vote to express their feelings, but now they find it is hardly remembered, except in the oratory of a political campaign. These people, the majority of hard working American citizens, are with us.

He made clear that in his mind the only practical course for America was to keep, as far away from as was possible. Senator Walsh, described the “propa- ganda” which he said, had brought to the United States to its present position in respect to war, and he ended his address with an attack on the proposal to convoy supplies to England. Convoys, he shouted, mean war. Do we want war?
No, roared the audience.

This mornings New York Times (April 24) commented under the headline, Colonel Lindbergh’s Realism: At one point and at only one point in his address last night did Colonel Lindbergh have a good word to say for the British people in this hour of their struggle to survive. He believes that ‘it will be a tragedy to the whole world if the British Empire collapses. Therefore, runs the argument of a man who spoke in the name of realism, let us take no risks to help prevent it from collapsing.

So! Lindbergh is not ashamed to keep his head and keep his belief that war is wrong for America, and to say so. The big boys of America have already tied up their finances with Great Britain, and they will maneuver America into the war to save their money, spouting all the time about ideals and liberty, of course! So the war will go on and on, until another million or so common men have been slaughtered.

Churchill’s speeches, Roosevelt’s oratory. We shall pay for all this fine talk. Why don’t they talk, quietly and soberly, with Hitler? Hitler is winning the war. Why not come to terms with him sensibly? Go and be reconciled with your adversary quickly! But no! We must have our fire-works first. Our glory, our honor, our sacrifices etc.
I loathe the men who talk sacrifices. The other man’s sacrifices they usually mean. Like Ted, who told Joan, he would greatly sacrifice the boys, and me, would gladly see us die lingering and cruel deaths, if by doing so we could defeat Hitler. Yes, he’d applaud the sacrifice. We could die the deaths. Oh, men and their wars: men and their talk, I hate men.

The blatant assumptions that Britain and America are wholly virtuous whilst Germany is wholly vile. Oh God, such absurdity makes me sick. Each country trying to corral God in for umpire! How he must laugh! Meanwhile common people everywhere suffer and die. Where will the bombs drop tonight? London, Berlin, Athens, Romford.

Ted has just gone out to his Home Guarding. I want to write about Edith Pilcher. Her memory, and a vision of her, has been with me all day. Now I want to write her down. She was one of the loveliest women I have ever known and if she is still alive I am sure she is lovely still. She was exquisite. If alive she must now be nearing seventy, for she was a good ten years my senior. She belongs to my old St Martin-le-Grand days.

I went into St. Martins in September 1900. I was sixteen and five months old. Edith Pilcher must have been twenty-six or seven. According to my ideas at that time practically an old maid. Definitely she was one of the seniors. I was drafted into the old H Division of T.S, which was the only provincial division run by female staff, and considered very superior and exclusive. Most
of the girls and women in the Post Office were put into the metropolitan section, which was bitchy. I can’t think of a better word. The provincial work was much harder and required more skill, so the men did most of it; all except the H division, which took in Bristol, Exeter, Bath, Swindon, Chippenham, Torquay, Falmouth, Plymouth, and Jersey and Guernsey. I don’t know how many of us worked the H division, perhaps a hundred, or perhaps not so many. Anyhow, we were a separate clique in St. Martins; we never really mingled with the girls in the “Met” on whom we rather looked down. At first I was very shy amongst all those professional women, but after a while I found my feet, and when I made good was accepted as one of them. I liked most of them, and they liked me. In fact, some of them, the older ones, were extraordinarily kind to me. Miss Annie Moore, for instance, one of the supervisors, tart and acid and punctilious, but who took me under her wing from the first, and made allowances for my mistakes which she would not make to any other junior. She frightened me the first time she spoke to me. She said, Why did they call you Ruby? Is it because your hair is red?

Now, all my life I have gone through the world looking for beauty, and for beautiful persons. I still go looking. Every time I ride in a train, or go into a shop, or a church, or a theatre, or walk down a street, I am looking for a beautiful face. Beauty is rare. I do not often see it. So, in the H division I began at once to look around me for the beautiful ones. There were a few, with beauty more or less. It was Edith Pilcher who held my most fascinated attention, though I did not class her as beautiful. This was because she did not have the straight profile, the Grecian features, which I demanded as beauty. Of course she did have beauty, for her appearance gave pleasure, very great pleasure. I never tired of looking at her. I noticed her first when she came in to “sign on.” The way she walked, gliding graceful yet quick, smooth; the way she held her head, the way she smiled, the way she said, Good morning, with a certain matter of fact graciousness. She smiled at me. She took the trouble to acknowledge the presence of the new child, which many of the others didn’t. No fussing, no concession, just a passing including smile. She arrested my attention. It must have been days or weeks before she spoke to me, and then one day when I was “spare” I was sitting beside her at a station, and she began to talk to me, very easily. Her voice was as pleasant as her appearance. I suppose she drew me out. I can’t remember; but presently she said to me,
Did anyone ever tell you, you are the perfect Rossetti type?
I didn’t know what she was talking about. I hadn’t heard of Rossetti. She told me about him. Finally she said,
I shall call you Beata Beatrix, because you look exactly like her. Remember, she was beautiful, and so are you, and don’t you ever forget it!

I was embarrassed. Secretly l had often prayed to be more beautiful, but I should never have thought my prayers had been answered. I could not see myself of course. I was too young and ignorant to know anything about the differing kinds of beauty, and I certainly did not know I was a type, particularly a type I had never heard of. However, Edith Pilcher saw me as such and she made the whole office see it too. All the time I was in T.S. I was reputed a beauty, a Rossetti beauty. Myself I never really believed it, because that wasn’t my ideal of beauty, I suppose. However, you could never after- wards disabuse the minds of the girls of the notion. If Edith Pilcher looked at me with pleasure, and made others take pleasure in my looks also, I also looked at her with pleasure. She had a beautiful skin and a great abundance of hair, which she dressed softly, but without curling. She had beautiful brows. I cannot remember her mouth, but her nose was distinctive, and it was chiefly because of her nose that I did not think she was “beautiful.” I demanded straight noses for beauty, but her nose slightly curved in. Of course she was beautiful, though again it was not my idea of beauty. She was tall, as tall as me, and extraordinarily graceful. She flowed; she had no awkward motions; and though she was quick she expressed repose, which to me is irresistible. In addition, she had charming manners, and a charming mind. I used to love to talk to her. She was cultured. She was a lady.

I remember a talk with her about Plato. She was thrilled with the account of the death of Socrates, and she made me read it. She used to talk to me about poetry and about music. She sang well, and her own ambition was to sing in opera, but she knew she never could. She made a special study of the songs of Bishop, and of Puccini. She also enthused about Pagliacsi. She scoffed at Browning, though she rather liked him. She insisted that I read the Love Letters of the Browning’s. She also made me read the essays of Schopenhauer, and discuss them. She made me read Thoreau, too. She was interested in clothes. Her feeling was all for harmony, and it distressed her when people wore the wrong colors, the wrong styles, the wrong coiffures. Moreover, she experimented herself with dressmaking. This was a very rare thing to do in the early 1900’s. None of us thought we could sew, except “fancy work” which was generally preposterous. Edith never did “fancy work.”

Then one day she came to the office in a dress she had made herself, and it was quite a success too. After that, she must have taken great pains with them and got much pleasure out of the doing, and they were always the right things for Edith. I don’t think she ever missionized about home-dressmaking. She didn’t want everybody to do it and I am quite sure she never suggested any such idea to me. She told us she made her blouse or frock, and she liked to receive our admiration for this work, but she never tried to persuade us to do likewise.

She was interested in travel. One holiday she went to Germany, to visit a girl named Anna Ault, who had gone to live there, a little later she announced her engagement to Anna’s brother. He was an engineer she said, and had gone to Canada. He was going to build her a house there and when the house was ready she would go there and marry him. As a matter of fact she sailed to Canada in 1904, when the St. Lawrence opened, as I went to New York in April 1904. We never corresponded; but the first English letter I read after the birth of my Eddie, gave me the news that someone had heard from Canada of the birth of a son to Edith Pilcher Ault.

I never heard any more about her. I very rarely ever think of her, but I can never forget her. Of all the women I have ever known, she was the most full of grace that I have ever met. Last night she filled my dreams, today my waking thoughts: gracious and lovely. She was the kind of person I like to have in my life... the kind I need... The kind I miss.

April 26, 1941

It is still cold, but sunny. There is a boisterous wind blowing. It is a quiet night. The raiding last night was on a town in the North East, probably Hull or Tyne-Side again.

I have had a very busy morning, full of callers; all of them want to talk about the blitz. The first one was Sainsbury’s van man, who stayed here at least half an hour. He knows Cuthie. He used to be the delivery boy, when both of them were in short pants, so he always wants to talk about Cuthie. Then Mary Bernadette arrived, to tell me about Mrs. Jude, and the blitz in Belfast. Mrs. Jude has gone to a little village in Marne. Then Mr. Skilton came, to see about the ball-in-the-tank, which doesn’t act right; and the roofer to tighten the tiles, which were all, stripped last Saturday in our blitz. Then Danny Hartnet, to bring me a letter, which had been wrongly addressed to Eastern Road; then Mrs. Thomson from next door, to tell me her troubles, besides the usual Saturday morning deliveries, and bills to pay, and an early dinner to cook.

No fresh news from Greece is given us yet, except that we are retreating. The Germans claim the capture of the Pass of Thermopylae, and occupation of the Island of Lemnos. Mr. Skilton is particularly disturbed about Lemnos. He says he was stationed at Lemnos in the last war, and if the German’s have taken that, someone has been asleep.

In Washington, Roosevelt has publicly censured Colonel Lindbergh, and the other “appeasers.” He declared they were, just dumb, and of what they said, I don’t call that good Americanism. Here in London, Churchill is to speak to the nation at nine o’clock tomorrow night.
Another letter arrived from Mother this noon. She says that on Wednesday night she thought Joan was going mad. In the morning Joan said she refused to stay in London any longer. She has gone to Cecily Affleck, in Whitby. Quite sensible of her, I think, I can’t understand why Mother stays in London. She doesn’t have to live there.

Edith Pilcher came into my dreams again last night, and now I’ve found the clue, or clues for her appearing. They are Greece and dressmaking. Edith had two sisters, a younger one who was a home girl, and an elder one who was married to the English Consul in Athens. This sister had twin boy babies and Edith used to tell us little anecdotes about this family. One that has stuck in my memory is how the twins fought each other, and on one occasion had a slinging match, throwing their porridge at each other. So Athens and twin boys are associated in my memory, and I suppose Athens now being so prominently in the news, memory has thrown up the background association of Edith Pilcher. Then, too, I have been thinking of new clothes, and getting the right clothes. At various times this week beginning last Sunday, I have been looking through my assortment of patterns, and laying a few out on my goods, to see whether or not they would cut to advantage. I haven’t cut anything, and finally I ordered a new Vogue pattern when I was in Stone’s the other day. I have been thinking about “style” and want to cut the right style. I want a fitted back, but a flowing skirt: I want a soft bodice, but no collar. I want two styles of sleeves; one a full bishop, the other a tight fitted one.

Well, Edith used to talk about the right kind of clothes. She wanted women to be dressed artistically. At that time clothes were very much trimmed, and Edith was for elimination of the trimmings. She wanted the right lines, and beautiful materials. She wanted elegance, not prettiness. She wanted plainness, instead of fussiness. Above all she wanted people to use their “proper” colors, and then not deviate from them. She wanted everything to be good, and “real.” She wanted “real” lace, “real” velvet, and “real” silk.
She refused to wear jewelry, which was very unusual at that time. We all wore rings and brooches and la-Valier’s and bangles! Occasionally she would wear a brooch, to pin a lace collar, but it was always a “real” brooch. She never wore a ring until she appeared with her engagement ring and here again she was original for the engagement ring used unfailingly to be a half hoop of diamonds but Edith’s ring was one big sapphire, with a small diamond on either side of it, and unheard of departure from the canon. When she was looking at my engagement ring, which was a flower cluster of diamonds instead of the usual half loop, she said, I like to see only one ring on a hand, don’t you? And when I am married I shall wear my wedding ring only, never another with it. I think the plain wedding ring on the hand looks so beautiful, don’t you?
I hadn’t thought anything at all about it, but I could see she was right. She was the first person to enlighten me about colors. Of course you must never wear pink, she said once. Never pink on a Titian blond. I didn’t know. She herself was not a blond neither was she a brunette. She had blue eyes, dark blue, I suppose, like the sapphire she chose for her finger.

Mostly she wore dove-gray, which she would alleviate with touches of turquoise. Sometimes she would wear a dark blue, one just a little lighter than the Oxford blue. Once she made a blouse in this dark blue, in taffeta, with which she wore a beautiful large lace collar. It must have suited the tones of her skin, for in it she looked beautiful. Of course, she was beautiful, though because she wasn’t classically so, or golden so, I didn’t think so. I know she was one of the most beautiful women who have decorated my time. Oh, what a pleasure it was just to look at her, and to watch her more! Gracious, beautiful lady: those are the words to describe Edith Pilcher.

Mary Bernadette was speaking about Selma. She says she thinks Selma is certifiable. I’m sure that woman is quite mad, she said. It seems Selma was at Mary’s house last Saturday, uninvited, of course. She stayed to tea. Doreen was there, for the weekend. As they wanted to get rid of Selma early in the evening, they suggested that they should take a walk, and they could walk home with Selma. So off they started but just as they got to Selma’s lodgings the siren went, so all three of them went in. Of course, the blitz was awful, so Mary and Doreen had to stay at Selma’s all night. Doreen was sick, and had bowel trouble, so they could not leave to run between the shrapnel. Mary said Selma showed outright animosity towards Doreen, and she thought it unsafe to leave Doreen alone in a room with Selma, who fondled a large carving knife, and talked about it, and said how it could kill someone. She asked Mary if she was strong. Yes, very strong, Mary replied.

Selma made not the slightest attempt to make them comfortable, so Mary said they just took the cushions they saw about and made themselves as comfortable as they could. Selma kept shaking at Doreen, and kept hitting her foot, and ankle, when she crossed her knees. Mary’s theory is that because Doreen is so strikingly the “feminine” type, pretty, fair, fragile and dainty, she aroused Selma’s resentment. Selma is growing a beard. I have heard about this for some time. Instead of taking prompt action to eliminate it Selma seems to muse it, and she talks about it! She asked the girls did they notice it. They were evasive, trying to be polite, not to hurt her feelings.

Selma proceeded: When I had tea next door I asked Mrs. So and so did she see my beard. Her little boy said, yes, and he thought it was very ugly, he said. It isn’t ugly, is it? Mary said she had trouble with Selma and little David Heyward. David, who is only twelve, comes up to Mary’s on Saturdays to help her do some gardening. Selma wanted to talk to him about love! She asked him if he had a girlfriend and if not, could she be his girlfriend. The boy was embarrassed: replied he never made friends outside his family.
Oh, but you should! said Selma. Now you could be my friend. You could come and see me. Don’t you think that would be nice? Its time you had a sweetheart.

Mary said she shouted at Selma, Selma! Shut Up! Then she subsided. At teatime she insisted on talking about proposals, and she asked Doreen why a girl couldn’t propose to a man, and so on and so on. This is Selma’s constant strain. The other day in the office she asked Maurice Coppen if it would be all right if she should ask him to marry her. Yes, she’s a bat all right.

Mary was most concerned about the knife incident. I’m sure she wanted to do Doreen an injury. She said. She might do someone an injury. For years she has given way to spasms of rage, when she throws things about, goes berserk. I’ve known her to throw a flat iron, a typewriter, and the parrot in its cage.

Selma has always been sub normal, a mental deficient; now she is suffering from sexual repression into the bargain. I haven’t seen her since last autumn, but I suppose Mary’s judgment is correct, and Selma has got to the point where she is certifiable, and should be put away, for the safety of the community.

April 27, 1941

One o’clock news. The Germans have entered Athens. Six o’clock news, the Germans claim to have captured Corinth, by means of parachute troops.

April 28, 1941

No further news from the Balkans yet, but it is reported that the Germans have crossed the Egyptian frontier at Sollum at several points.

Yesterday General Saints made a speech about the war and last night the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, again spoke on the air. He spoke of the campaigns in Greece and Libya, and of American and the Battle of the Atlantic. He did say that nothing happening now was comparable in gravity with the dangers of last year. Nothing, which could happen in the East, was comparable with what was happening in the West. The Battle of the Atlantic would be long and hard, he said, but he had a strong conviction that it had entered upon a grim but at the same time a far more favorable phase. 

He spoke of our lifeline across the Atlantic. He gave great thanks to America, but a knock to Ireland. Speaking of Hitler’s occupation of the European coastline, he said, Thanks to Hitler’s occupation and use of French and Norwegian harbors, and thanks to the denial to us of the Irish bases, he could attack us with U-boats so far out in the Atlantic.

Of course this is a sore point. Had we had the use of the Irish ports we could have fought Hitler much more effectively even than we have done. Would the Irish cooperate with us? Of course not! Oh, the damned Irish! Have they ever been any good in the world? Have they ever cooperated with anyone? No, they are being “neutral.” Well, if the Germans invade Ireland, nobody will be sorry for the Irish.
Churchill came into my dreams last night. First of all I was having one of my harassing packing dreams. Gladys was helping me, and we were throwing away piles of over flowing junk, especially old photographs and old hats. Then the dream passed to Bayonne, and we were all in the Avenue A house, including Winston Churchill. We were in the long drawing room, and I was showing Winston Ted’s pictures; all those oil paintings. Winston wasn’t a bit impressed; he seemed to think they weren’t very good paintings. I kept trying to get his admiration

for a better and better one, but no, it was no good. He simply thought they were a junky lot and he was only wasting his time being polite about them. Then the alarm went off, 6:30 a.m. and time to get up.