Saturday, July 30, 2011

Monday 30 July 1945, Marks Hall

My darling,
                 Your letter of last Friday arrived as expected, this morning. I am extremely sorry to have missed the political shindy in which Uncle Doad took on the rest. The silly talk you mention has even been paralleled here and, I suppose, everywhere that people are talking politics. Of course in a month or two all these scares will die down, but they are illuminating in showing just where fascists would find their support in Britain. It was the bitter prejudice against movement to the Left exhibited by the uninformed middle class wage-earner that gave Hitler his first general support and later caused the paralysis of France. It is a hopeful sign that political power is passing away from the class typified by Hyndland because their ignorance is woeful. Next time I am home I may be staying at Hyndland Road for a little (if you are still in Redlands) and I must do my best to convert your mother to Labour.

Map shows Hillfoot today
                You sounded very spry on the 'phone last night and your letter is very lively in its tone. The future can't be bothering you much when you are absent-mindedly making plans to go to the pictures just about the time you should be "brought to bed of a fine child" as they used to say. A restful period at Hillfoot* should put you in fine battle form for what you  quaintly call D-day.

               From now on I'll telephone from the office, always at the weekend and whenever possible on a  Sunday evening. I don't suppose you'll be out late any night nowadays. Under a new arrangement we can use the office phones for private calls after 5.30pm and the cost is added to your Mess Bill. If you should ever urgently need to get a message to me, the office number is Colchester 4249, Extension 61. The odds are four to one against my being on duty at the time but there is always someone there who could take a message for me - even if the message was only to telephone you as soon as possible.

               I see in today's newspaper the comforting assurance that teachers released under Class B are allowed to go back to their old jobs. But this item is still of only theoretic interest since since I have not yet heard of any lucky pedagogues being set free.

              Bottling your surplus plums is a very good idea as they seem to retain the virtues of fresh fruit in this way. Also, I believe you can make small quantities of jam with bottled plums later, if we manage to scrape together a few grains of sugar.

             I have been back here for a fortnight now so time is going past fairly well. I'll soon be anticipating my next leave even though it will plunge me headlong into paternity. I hope C.M. will have the good sense to grow up exactly like her mother. I'm sure that when she finds out that the exterior is as charming as the interior was comfortable, she'll love you almost as much as I do.

            Look after yourself, my love ....

*This quiet village to the NW of Glasgow was presumably much less built-up than it is now. I don't know what family connection let MF go there for a 'holiday'.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Friday 27 July 1945, Marks Hall

Margaret dearest,
                         I am fortunate enough to have two letters to acknowledge, written last Monday and Wednesday. Both record very high spirits, with heartburn diminuendo which pleases me greatly. Your account of a pleasant walk in the dusk with Irene [MF's sister] made me think for a moment that you could no longer face the open eye of day but I was reassured to hear of Grace's [a friend, already referred to in an earlier letter]  expression of wonder at your continued trimness!

                      The weather here broke last night with a rattling thunderstorm and today is much cooler. I hope you get some decent weather at Hillfoot so that you can find some benefit in the garden. You'll be able to have pleasant walks at the cooler periods of the day and laze about outside when it is warm. If there are any garden chairs, beware of the beastly things and see that they don't deposit you on the ground or nip off your fingers as they collapse.

                     The election result has I think astonished most people and the new P.M. more than anyone. The result will I think be popular in the Forces especially among the ranks. People holding numerous stocks and shares are very gloomy over the falling prices and I'm glad I have no money in coal mines or railways. The Labour Party has a great chance now to make its long-promised onslaught on monopolies and reactionary elements in heavy industry. I expect that the monied interests will try to engineer a financial crisis to discredit the new Govt. and a lot will depend on the speed with which it can get going.

                     The very heavy defeat of the Tories was I think due to Churchill's ridiculously vulgar election tactics and the antics of Beaverbrook. The Daily Express today makes amusing reading and I expect the Mail and other Tory rags are equally lugubrious.

                      For the consolation of your mother, your sisters, Mr Goodall and any other bereaved Tories, you can point out that the Labour members contain a much higher proposition of professional men and minor landed gentry than ever before so I don't suppose the tumbrils will be too busy just yet. Though Jean [another sister], with her ability to knit, talk and watch at the same time would spend many enjoyable hours at the guillotine.

                      Your family's intention of buying the pram is kindly but ridiculous and please don't entertain the idea.

                      I am suffering at the moment from an unpleasant corn due to tramping about in the heat. Do you think you could send me a box of these little oval gummed rings which we used to find rather relieving?

                     David is having an unpleasant time with woolly bears and Welsh nurses prowling about his underwear. I know which will be the most difficult to eradicate. The Stewarts seem to have a weakness for the Principality. How does your mother fancy a daughter-in-law from the Dowlahs? [sic: probably miss-spelling of Dowlais

                    I'm going to tea now so cheerio for the present. I'll try to phone on Sunday and hope I'm successful.


P.S. I enclose a cheque for telephone bill and cornpads. It may also pay for your taxi.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tuesday 24th July 1945, Mark's Hall

Darling Margaret,
                          As I said last night, something appears to have happened to the telephone system in these parts. On Sunday night when I tried to 'phone at the usual time, I was told that there would be two hours' delay, and last night I had to book my call and wait nearly an hour for it to mature. I believe that trouble was caused by a violent electrical storm which they had down here just before I returned. It put several main lines out of action and may still be causing delays.

                         So on future Sundays, don't be disappointed if I can't call you, and don't on any account sit up past eleven o'clock. I'll always try to get my call through before that hour.

                         I'm sorry to hear my letters are taking such a long time to reach you. Yours aren't so bad and your Friday edition arrived here yesterday morning. I'm sorry to hear that your weakness for pickled herring has again mastered you, and sorrier still to see you emasculating Shakespeare in your description of their after-effects. Can you imagine Sir Toby Belch saying 'Fie on those pickled herrings'? Anyone would think you had been brought up on Bowdler.

                       I am sure you can safely leave to your family the buying of a super-sprung, ball-born perambulator. It will save you any more exhausting visits to town. Thanks for fixing Mr Meikle; he is really very obliging and has been extremely useful to us, or rather to me, for I don't suppose you'll dote on the "Social History".

                      I'd like to visit Mary Goodall [school friend of MF] for a few days but I'm rather unwilling to leave the unit just now. There are all sorts of rumours of moves and moreover if anything did happen about Class B, I want to be here to look after my interests. I'll write her a letter explaining my difficulties.

Clement Attlee, the P.M.
                          As you remark, the newspapers are quite unhelpful about demobilisation and it is obvious that they know nothing about it. I should not be surprised if the new Govt. attempted to popularise itself by accelerating releases but meanwhile I am reconciling myself to another six months at least of service life.

                          I have not heard from Annie Jutson [a former pupil who excelled in English] for a long time. A very probable explanation is that I did not reply to her last letter. As a correspondent I get lazier every day and soon I'll have to reply to all my outstanding letters by an announcement in the personal column of the Times. I've nothing to say to anyone but you and that's the God's truth.

                          The demands of personal hygiene compel me now to go for a bath. It is grand to hear that you are keeping so well and I hope you have a very restful time at your Hillfoot residence. You have better take some of the classic with you so that you and your mother don't run out of reading matter. Look after yourself ....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Saturday 21st July 1945, Marks Hall

My darling,
                  It is now ten o'clock at night and in a short time I shall be going off duty. However I hope to have an uninterrupted hour for writing to you before my relief comes.

                  I had some hopes of a letter from you today but none came. Of course I'm now back in the rural wilderness and letters take longer to come than they did when I was in hospital. I can console myself with the prospect of hearing your fruity voice tomorrow evening and with the certainty of getting a letter on Monday.

                  The weather continues fine and I am forcing myself to take a walk every day though I am not sufficiently Wordsworthian to enjoy these solitary wanderings in Essex lanes. My friends marvel at me for tramping around in the heat, but they wisely stay in camp, or go around in cars. This morning I talked with, or rather listened to, a local farmer whose Ayrshire accent was as thick as ever in spite of fifteen years in Essex. I had to listen to a long tirade on the general poverty of farmers and the iniquity of the middlemen who apparently make all the money without any work. From what he says, farmers are extremely pessimistic about the future, when fixed prices and subsidies are removed.

                  To return to the perennial subject of demobilisation I suppose you would notice in today's paper that the Navy hopes to reach Group 25 by the end of the year. This is rather an encouraging portent in the branch of the services which everyone thinks will be the slowest to release its victims. Let's hope the RAF makes an even more hopeful announcement soon.

                  I've just finished reading one of Aldous Huxley's earlier books - Antic Hay. It is ridiculously extravagant and quite crazy. I wonder if there will be a recognisable post-war mentality in literature this time? I don't think there will: there were not many illusions at the beginning of the war so there is no reason for any fantastic reaction after it. My other reading is Lady Hester Stanhope, which is very good indeed. She rather puts to shame the modern intrepid female explorer.

                                                                                                                                        Sunday morning
                   I am continuing in the holy Sabbath calm which is practically indistinguishable from the lay calm of weekdays in this sluggish backwater. It is a beautiful morning with a fresh breeze and I was out before eight o'clock on a very pleasant walk, unmarred by the jangle of church bells or the sight of the godly in their black jackets and striped trousers. I'm all in favour of M. Mitchell's favourite pastor Dr Greenfields and one of the most admirable features of this unit is the unobtrusiveness of the Godly in their weekly exercises and the complete absence of professional God-Botherers.

                   Going off at a tangent, do you think you'll manage to keep your giggles under control when I promise Bloody Mac* to bring our infant up "in the nurture and admonition of the faith", whatever that means? Whoever is carrying the wean will probably drop it in alarm when thunderbolts and forked lightning obliterate me before the congregation's astonished gaze. What are your views on this public ceremony? Whom are you going to nominate as porter and, most important, what are you going to wear? My part in the spectacle is fortunately unobtrusive and no doubt I'll manage  to assume the proper shamefaced expression.

                  My darling I am hoping to hear a good report of your health when I speak to you tonight. Please do everything you should be doing and don't hesitate to let other people do things that are verboten to you. You have a duty to be completely selfish from now on.

                    Give my regards to the family. ....      

*Apparently what DF called the minister who performed the baptism - which he did indeed carry out, on the Sunday next before Christmas, if lore is to be believed.     

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thursday 19th July 1945, Marks Hall

My sweetheart,
                       Your welcome letter of last Tuesday arrived by this evening's post and I hope that by this time you have received my last letter. I'm glad to hear of your freedom from heartburn: it really does look as if my gluttony is indirectly the cause of your sufferings.

                       The weather has been extremely hot since I returned, with none of the relieving showers which the rest of the country seems to be getting. This afternoon I spent a drowsy hour sitting, with a few others equally somnolent, in the shade of the trees while an officer droned on about the history of trade unionism. This is part of the E.V.T. scheme which is now in operation. It is difficult to see the value of this kind of desultory education and the meetings seem to be popular with the airmen only because they are held during working hours. I learned nothing but a new sympathy for the numerous classes that I have bored with the same subject on many a hot summer afternoon.

                        As you remark, the newspapers are once again on the rampage about demobilisation but today's statement today's statement by the Ministry of Labour seems as vague and as complacent as ever. I'm afraid the whole business is a colossal muddle. After 2½ months of peace in Europe the only man who seems to have been demobbed in this place is one old fellow who would probably have died anyway if they hadn't got him out in time. Class B seems to be particularly chaotic and the official unwillingness to reveal the numbers released under this category seems to indicate that they were very few. Of course for a man like a bricklayer who is liable to be sent anywhere in the country, Class B release has nothing to recommend it. I presume that if teachers are taken out they can go back to their old employers: if not, they can put the scheme where the monkey put the nuts as far as I'm concerned. But with superannuation and other difficulties I don't see how the Ministry of Labour could 'direct' teachers to anything but their former jobs.

                        Meanwhile no-one knows anything about it and I'm hoping Mr Barclay can find some information for me.

                        I've got my new issue of service clothing coupons but there is nothing I want to buy at present. A propos of a dressing gown, I doubt if I could buy one even with the "special" coupons; such an article is certainly not listed with the non-military attire for which the special coupons are to be used.

                      Your injunction not to work too hard is funnier than you could possibly imagine. I have plenty of leisure and when the weather is less oppressive I hope to do quite a lot of serious reading. Very few people are busy these days in the services and it is the dreary prospect of lengthy inactivity that dismays most people.

                      Thanks for writing to Mr Meikle about Trevelyan: I am informed by one History teacher that there is doing to be a fairly large reprinting in the autumn, so perhaps I'll get a copy then. Everyone who has seen it says it is very well worth having.

                      I have had one night at Coggeshall and a very temperate one at that. The beer is undrinkable these days since none of the pubs has the means of keeping it down to the proper temperature. So you'll be gratified to know that most of my drinks are of the S.D.I. variety these sweltering days.

                      I am looking forward to hearing you on Sunday evening. Till then, my own darling, I hope you continue to enjoy our placid life. You are certainly looking well on it and I was greatly reassured by your radiant appearance. Take care of your self.