Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thursday 30th August 1945, Marks Hall

Margaret darling,
                        The Griffiths pre-release celebrations which arouse so much apprehension in you are pursuing quite an orderly course. Yesterday we all went to a Colchester cinema in the afternoon, had dinner in his hotel at halstead afterwards and then spent the remainder of the night in a pub near Braintree. The presence of Mrs Griffiths prevented any excessive alcoholism.

                       The picture was To Have & Have Not with Humphrey Bogart and the Bacall woman. This lady is very skinny and her face is really extremely ugly but she certainly puts across the rather limited range of emotions demanded of a Hemingway heroine. She moves with a kind of slouching grace, contrives to look very smouldering and suggestive, and sings in a rather fetching low voice. Humphrey Bogart gave as usual a very good representation of H. Bogart.

                     It has just been announced that cypher officers in groups 21 and 22 are to be released during October so the RAF is still a little bit ahead of the Govt. schedule. Unfortunately the Groups get much larger above 22, and even if they manage to release one group per month in our trade, I won't be out till February. It is all very tiresome as you say: it would be so nice to start off together right from the beginning of our new life.

                     I got your Tuesday letter last night. It's strange you should be re-reading John Macnab as I aslo found it in the library here and decided to have another go at it. I find that Buchan seems more and more dated every time I read him nowadays. His five representatives of the ruling and officer class and his intelligent, humorous and yet extremely respectful members of the lower orders all belong to a vanished age. I like him best now in these novels like Salute to Adventurers where he gets away from modern times.

                  With regard to your exhortations to use my coupons, I won't be in London before I go on leave but when I am in Glasgow I'll buy whatever you suggest. I need some more light underwear but apart from that I seem to be quite well stocked. This winter is going to be rather grim in many ways - chiefly in the matter of fuel - and I hope we don't get much frost and snow. I still think that before the end of autumn we should fill our green box with coal. When I'm on leave I'll pack it with lumps from the bunker which can then be refilled.

                  I'm glad to hear that you are still feeling so fit. Four weeks today I hope to be travelling north and I'm looking forward very much to seeing you again. I'll be very pleased to stay at 155* if it is convenient. Give my regards to the family. ......

*155 Hyndland Road; home of his in-laws.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tuesday 28th August 1945, Marks Hall

Finchingfield. (Watercolour borrowed from linked page.)

My darling,
                I ought to have written yesterday but it was such a glorious day that I was persuaded to go touring with the Griffiths family. We have been doing quite a bit of exploring recently and have discovered some very interesting and pretty villages miles away from main roads. Essex is intersected by hundreds of miles of narrow lanes and it is interesting, if a trifle baffling, to nose along them in a car. Yesterday we got completely lost and made three circuits of a kind of rural maze, passing and repassing the same group of rustics, before we managed to find the way out. Later in the day we discovered that the Americans, who used to infest this area, had uprooted all the signposts and pointed them the wrong way; and, since it evidently delights the local folk to watch the frantic efforts of tourists to get away from the neighbourhood, the signposts have been allowed to remain in their mendacious condition.

            We had tea at a village called Finchingfield which is so perfectly picturesque with its duck pond, village green, thatched houses and old windmill that it just didn't look real. But what an awful existence to live in such a village! No wonder such hamlets are full of pubs. The merciful anaesthesia of booze must be the only alternative to complete insanity.

            Your Friday's letter came yesterday morning and I was delighted to read that Kate is still thoroughly satisfied with your condition. If I remember my baby lore, it should bring considerable relief to you wen the infant finally decides to take up its position opposite the exit and I expect you'll know when that takes place without needing Kate to tell you. I'm sure everything will go swimmingly.

             I don't suppose that there has been a pregnant woman so interested in theology as you are since the Virgin Mary, but I don't propose to continue our discussion by letter. It can be done orally and at a more propitious time. After all, think of pre-natal influences. Wouldn't it be awful if our offspring decided to be a parson!

            I think Christine Margaret is a very nice name indeed and we'll just close for that if sex should permit.

            If the hot weather has returned to Scotland as it has here, you have had a remarkably fine month at your country residence. I am sure it must have done you good, and your mother will be delighted to be away from the town in hot weather. As you will be leaving at the end of the week, I'll send my next letter to Hyndland Road and I'm eagerly looking forward to the time, four weeks hence, when I'll be there myself.

           Take care of yourself darling and keep well ...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Friday 24th August 1945, Marks Hall

Margaret darling,
                         This morning's newspapers have thrown a great gloom over Marks Hall and I should think over all service establishments. After all the encouraging 'semi-official' forecasts of last week, we are now told that there is to be no acceleration in release and the scheme in fact will work at the same rate as was originally planned months ago.

                          I can see the Govt's policy: they intend to resettle all the munition workers before releasing large numbers of of servicemen and from the point of view of avoiding unemployment, it is probably a wise plan. But this alternate raising and shattering of hopes is having rather a wearing effect on men's nerves.

                          The RAF have been putting on quite a spurt in the last few weeks and Griffiths, who is group 19, has been ordered to report at the demob-centre on Sept. 1st. I'll be very surprised if they release only three or four groups in the C.& C. branch between Sept. and the end of the year, and yet that is what is implied in today's Ministry of Labour announcement. We can only await the event, and for myself I am not going to worry about it. I'll fill in my time as well as I can with reading and study and I know that very soon you'll have plenty to keep you fully occupied.

                          Your letter of Wednesday came by yesterday evening's post. I pass over in offended silence your remarks about my shaky writing and pass on to the important matter of my leave. What do you think of making my leave period from 29th Sept. to 9th Oct? And of course as usual, I would try to travel north two days before the official start of my leave. I'd be in Glasgow for the 28th and as you're more likely to be late than early*, I think that is the best arrangement. Please confirm, or make alternative suggestions.

                          Five weeks today I should be on leave - and may be pacing the floor of Redlands, an object of sympathy or derision to all around. Actually I am quite confident that you will cope with the situation in your usual competent manner and though you may fittingly retort that I am being amazingly philosophic about your strenuous exertions, I can't help feeling that you have everything in your favour including a remarkably good set of  nerves. And dear heart, you'll be supported by most intense prayers to my own particular God, who is none the less potent because he is impersonal.

                         From the tone of your letters, you don't seem to be at all bored by your curtailed activity and I hope you are still keeping well and free from heartburn. It will soon be Sunday night again, and another week will be shoved into the Limbo. Till then, sweetheart, cheerio, and all my love ...

*The baby was in fact born on Sunday 30th September.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wednesday 22nd August 1945, Marks Hall

My dear,
              I am sorry to have my fears confirmed about the slowness of my letters to you. But things seem to be back to normal now as your letter of Sunday evening arrived here yesterday. One is grateful for the telephone as it helps to bridge these awkward gaps.

              Your theological outburst has my full sympathy and I am very pleased that we have been spared any official thanksgiving in this unit. Your various question are answered very cleverly by Prof. Whitehead in his 'Adventures of Ideas'. If I understand correctly his rather difficult arguments, the fault with Christian theology is that while the world needs God, God does not need the world since he is conceived as being aloof and omnipotent. Logically it follows from this concept that God is completely responsible for all that happens in the world and, with the world as we see it now, that does not give us any high opinion of God. Whitehead obviously favours a very different notion of a Deity which needs the world for self expression and who is represented as the persuasive force behind all great ideals. Whitehead maintains that such an idea has been completely set out by Plato for whom he has an enormous respect. God for Plato was manifest in Ideas which were continually struggling for expression in the material world - "torturing the unwilling dross" as Shelley puts it. And Whitehead thinks that this notion of God as a persuasive force only and not as an omnipotent compulsion is the only one feasible from a philosophical viewpoint.  Such a theory of course gives man full liberty to destroy himself if he is sufficiently pig-headed, and that is obviously the way Man is tending.

                 So there you are. It's not as exhilarating as escaping from fowler's snares and not as comforting as the thought that God is always on the side of the Anglo-Saxons, but it seems more likely to be nearer the truth.

                The above reminds me of the stuff I used to write to you from Lochranza in our strenuously intellectual days. Our life has been strangely divided into different periods but I am certain that the period which we shall be entering on soon will be the happiest and most carefree of them all. I am longing for it to begin.

                 Griffiths has just called to invite me to go with him and his wife and family to Colchester for the afternoon. So that will pass another few hours. The Griffiths family are established at an inn in Halstead for a few weeks and Griff is travelling to and from duty in his car.

              It's grand to hear that you are feeling so well and less troubled by heartburn. As you say, you should be well for, thanks to your fortunate position with your family, you are enjoying every advantage. It must be rather a dismal business for a woman to have to live alone at this trying time and I'm glad to hear you are having so much to keep you interested. I only wish I was there also to do my share in looking after you.

             In a few weeks now I'll be getting ready for leave. And after that I hope I'll soon be taking  a single railway warrant to Glasgow. And then to a delightful saturnalia of moving furniture, throwing out rubbish, whitewashing, rubbing down walls, washing nappies and walking the floor at nights. Fie on this quiet life, I want work!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunday 19th August 1945, Marks Hall

My own darling,
                  Griffiths and I have just returned from a melancholy afternoon walk round the camp. Every weekend now there is a 'stand-down' for all but a few personnel, and an Sat. and Sunday this place looks like a dead city. Today has been completely overcast and one has the feeling that autumn is just around the corner.

               To my great delight I got a letter from you yesterday after having had nothing since Thursday. I expect that my letters to you will have been similarly delayed by VJ holidays. You threw me into some confusion by dating it "Wed. 13th Aug" but according to all the almanacks I have consulted, last Wednesday was really the 15th.

                To answer your query first of all, I can hardly imagine a name I detest more than 'Victoria'. Apart from its horrible associations and domineering sound, to bestow such a name on a female child is like branding a birth certificate on its brow. The name is going to be Christine Emma or Margaret, so you had better make a decision soon.

               Congratulations on attaining the weight of 11/4 cwt. [12 stones or 76.2 kilos] I am sure you carry it all with great dignity and composure. I am sorry to hear that the infant chooses to be so active in the middle of the night but I don't suppose you can begin to subject it to disciplinary measures just yet! Relief is not so very far away now.

               I am afraid you are rather optimistic in hoping I'll get out in October. Groups 20-27 are the largest in number as far as the RAF is concerned and I can't reasonably hope that they'll be able to release six groups of cypher officers in the next batch. November is a safer bet and at the worst, I should assuredly be released by Christmas.

             Your proposed orgy of domestic activity suits me admirably. I ask for nothing better. I'd like to get you away from that beastly set of stairs as soon as possible, and if the new Govt's energetic approach to the housing problem should bring down prices, we may manage to pick up the kind of place we want at a reasonable figure.* The problem is not nearly as acute in Glasgow as it is in the South and I think our district should be the first to feel any improvement.

             Dearest, you don't mention your old enemy, heartburn, in you last letter and I hope that means it is less troublesome. I'll hear from you this evening. I hope you are still diligently coddling yourself and being unnaturally selfish. Please be very careful ...

*In fact it was 1955 before they left the top flat in Novar Drive for the terrace house in Broomhill where Margaret still lived at the age of 92.            

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thursday 16 August 1945, Marks Hall

My darling Margaret,
                             If my writing is a little wobbly, it's because the pad is resting on my knee and not on a table. It is such a marvellous morning that I am sitting outside the shack and have been enjoying the prospect. I don't think I ever saw a countryside looking so rich: all the grain is cut now and the stooks are very pleasant in form and colour, even to one who odes not usually indulge in rural rhapsodies.

                             Your letter of Sunday/Monday reached me on Tuesday morning. I am very sorry to hear that your heartburn is increasing. Have you mentioned it again to Kate or do you think it is the natural result of the ever-increasing demands on your internal accommodation? Anyway, as you say, the time of your relief is not too far away now but I'm sorry you have had this affliction for so long. I had it one day last week after a particularly devastating dinner of roast pork and stuffing, and the pain made me realise just what you have endured.

                            I was on duty when the P.M. announced the surrender of Japan so I saw the beginning of the celebrations which have been going on in this place ever since. People have gone mad here, chiefly I suppose because the threat of an overseas posting is now removed from most of them. Griffiths and I had rather a strenuous night of celebrations which took us from the Officers' Mess to the Sergeants', and thence to the Airmen's Dining Hall where a kind of mass dance was in progress. It was 3am when I got to bed and I think most people are feeling rather glad this morning that a was does not finish every day.

                           I don't think I told you in my last letter how much I enjoyed Blithe Spirit. I'm afraid the brilliant dialogue was wasted on the audience who seemed to be concentrating almost entirely on the beauty of the technicolour. Some of the interiors were excellent in this respect and Constance Cummings photographs better in colour than anyone I've seen on the screen. Kay Hammond was brilliant as the ghostly Elvira: I don't know if she could act in anything else but Coward's female parts are simply made for her. But as I said before, many of her most beautiful remarks simply did not register. Cinema audiences are so accustomed to putting their rapt souls into their eyes that they can spare little attention for any dialogue more complicated than the normal American stuff.

                        The part of the medium was played with terrific bravura by Margt. Rutherford who was in the original play but has never been in films before. In her spasmodic and quite irrelevant intensity she reminded me of that old infant mistress you had in Wellfield.

                       I'll be able to get the VJ days added to my next leave which will bring it up to almost a fortnight. Roughly what dates do you think I should try for? If you intend to be punctual I should like to be present for the event and walk up and down outside the door in the recognised fashion. I might even faint if your nurses are sufficiently attractive!

                      Sweetheart, I'm longing to be with you for always and it shouldn't be too long now before we are finished with this business of separation. Our life together fills all my thoughts of the future, even though I'll no longer be able to claim all your attention!


Note: Some of these links are fascinating: there's a trailer for Blithe Spirit on YouTube and photos of schools in the north of Glasgow at various times in their history.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Monday 13 August 1945, Marks Hall

My darling,
                I must apologise more fully for being so late with my phone call last night. I had gone out with Griffiths intending to be back before ten o'clock but the car broke down and I had to do a great deal of pushing before we managed to get back at 10.40. On top of that, I had some difficulty in getting my call through, and was told twice that there was no reply from Bearsden 0909. I refused to accept this and after another few minutes I heard what I think was your father's voice saying "Hallo". He was immediately cut off, and another few minutes passed before I heard you. I'm sorry I got you out of bed darling, but with my normal luck I would have completed my call before eleven o'clock.

             Your Thursday's letter arrived on Saturday evening and I was pleased to hear that you had bought a satisfactory pram. Are you sure our joint account will stand the strain of such a purchase? If it seems to be getting rather low, please let me know and I'll transfer some money to it.

            The Japanese armistice seems to be pursuing the same uncertain course as the German one and everyone is irritated by the delay and exhausted by abortive or premature rejoicings. As I said before, I don't expect any announcement on general demobilisation for a month or two. The whole situation is bound to be chaotic. But meanwhile, the old scheme has been accelerated and as you can see from today's papers, they intend demobbing up to group 20 in our trade by the end of September. Griffiths, who is group 19, hopes to be out in a few weeks time. I'm not entertaining any extravagant hopes but even at the worst, I should be out by the end of the year.

              I'm very pleased that you are still enjoying marvellous weather and hope that the fresh air and sunshine have done you good. It's a great pity that your distressing heartburn still bothers you: does Milk of Mag. continue to relieve it or have you changed to some other alkali?

Defence Medal
            I have just finished completing a form of application for my ribbons, and though I don't relish the idea of such a garish display on my breast I am quite glad to have more than the humble Defence Medal to put up. I can't qualify for the latter at all since I never spent any length of time in a non-operational area. This is the 'line' I use on Griffiths who gets the Defence Medal because he was more than a year in Egypt after all operations had ceased there.

              I am glad I did not consider the idea of visiting Mary when I hear that her parents are there just now. She'll have her hands full and, for my own part, I would have found Mr. G. rather trying company.

              My darling, I must apologise for a most disjointed letter. I've been writing in the office while on nominal duty and have been subjected to innumerable unusual interruptions and phone calls. This is a better place for correspondence than our dull hut with its unsteady table, and normally we get a quiet spell in the afternoon. But not today.

             Sweetheart, I wish I was beside you these days - not to cheer you up (for I don't suppose you need that for one minute), but to gratify myself by dancing attendance on you both. However I hope to get plenty of opportunity of doing that very soon after you two are leading a separate existence. Meanwhile, all my love ....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Friday 10 August 1945, Marks Hall

Darling Margaret,
                         I normally would not write till this afternoon when I might have another letter of yours to acknowledge. But after lunch today, if Griffiths can persuade his car to start, we are intending to go to Colchester for pictures and dinner. I am told that Blithe Spirit is showing just now and I should like to see it.

                     We are still having wild weather here with frequent showers and strong, cold winds. It is in fact the kind of weather we ought to have had last April when instead we had an unseasonable heat-wave. Jean's pilgrimage with Monty around London should be much less exhausting this week than it would have been before.

                   Russia's entry into the Far East war, coming on top of the new bomb, has raised hopes that Japan may give in any day. Such an event would be welcomed by the general public but it would confront the Government with a nasty problem. Instead of having to deal only with the clamour raised by men of the lower demob. groups, the Ministry of Labour will be faced with the task of demobilising most of the armed forces as quickly as possible. The threat of the Far East has been a powerful incentive towards the exercise of patience and its sudden removal will have disquieting effects.

                  In fact, I find the attitude of many people awaiting demobilisation slightly ridiculous. God knows, I am as keen as anyone to get out, but to count the days and at the same time to fret at the routine jobs which after all help to make the time pass, seem to me a bit childish. It is pitiful to see the eagerness with which some of the younger men with no jobs to go to are awaiting the beginning of a new and much more difficult life. If the last war is anything to go by, in five years time most men will be looking back to their Service life with nostalgic affection.

                Don't let the above remarks give you wrong ideas. I loathe service life as much as anyone but I learned overseas that the technique of passing time is not to think of it, and I've been bored recently by the moans of men who will be out in a few months at the most.

               Demobilisation is beginning to make a noticeable difference here and practically every night some officer is to be found at the bar celebrating his last night in uniform. Most of them turn maudlin before they have finished and are heartbroken at leaving the pals whose faces have been boring them to distraction for months past. Alcohol produces a spurt of goodwill and toleration which is almost Christian in its effects.

              your letter of last Monday arrived on Wednesday just after I had posted one to you. I am sorry to hear of the unavailing pram-hunt and hope that Pettigrews* can supply one soon. At any rate I don't think you should do any more shopping expeditions to town. It is fine to hear of your continued good health and I hope you are coddling yourself in a suitable way. ....  I'm looking forward to hearing you on Sunday and to getting a letter today or tomorrow.....

*This link is to a fascinating site looking at the history of Sauchiehall Street through old postcards, several of which show Pettigrews department store.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wednesday morning 8 August 1945, Marks Hall

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, 6 August, 1945

Darling Margaret,
                           Your extremely exuberant letter arrived on Monday, to gladden me with its tidings of new dressing gowns, sweetly functioning kidneys, superannuation cheques and vacated coal cellars. I am very glad indeed to hear that Kate is so pleased with you: you seem to be in every way a model of expectant motherhood. I suppose that on your next visit she'll be giving you a thorough examination and I'm sure she will find everything quite satisfactory.

                         After our Sunday evening storm the weather turned distinctly cool here and in fact yesterday was rather a bleak day. I hope your good weather is continuing so that you may continue to enjoy the garden rather than be cooped up with your 'wally dugs' and highland cattle.

                        When you mentioned on Sunday the name of the teacher who is expected back to school, I am afraid I was very dumb not to recognise it. When I was visiting H.Q. Middle East in Feb. of last year, I found Alec Keith sustaining the dignity of a Squadron Leader in Signals and from him I got several whiskies and the information that our wing was on its way to Corsica. He is a very pleasant fellow. I don't quite understand why he is going back to Albert, as he had left us before the war to go to Jordanhill college.

                       Some of the papers this morning are forecasting a big acceleration in demobilisation. If this turns out to be true, I'll begin to have some doubts about the wisdom of coming out under Class B. If I received an offer within the next few weeks, I would accept. But the longer they delay, and the nearer my ordinary release comes, the more do I think on the financial advantages of coming out in the normal way. In fact I should not be surprised to see the Govt. scrubbing the whole class "B" scheme, as it has not been a great success.

                       The Bomb has thrown everyone into a Wellsian frenzy and the "Express" today obliges its readers with a diagram showing the "probable construction of the new bomb" - the last word in journalistic fatuousness. I find the discovery extremely depressing, even though it will undoubtedly shorten the Japanese War. If mankind can't avoid future wars, the only survivors will be a few Arabs in the centre of the desert or a happy dweller near the north pole.

                       Such a diabolical discovery will I think be another sad blow to conventional religion. The old "God moves in a mysterious way" gag has already been stretched to breaking point and I don't see how the doctrine of an external, omniscient, guiding presence can be made to include a man-made weapon of destruction which promises to make earthquakes, fires, floods and other "acts of God" look simply childish. The parsons will have to go back to Plato to learn how to see God in the recesses of Matter. Whitehead is very good on the necessity for a new theology and I think you should recommend his book to Jack Shelly.

                    Time is passing quite quickly these days and it will soon be a month since I left you. And in less than two months I should be seeing you and the offspring. You have always been a reasonably punctual person and I am expecting you to deliver the goods right on time. I suppose that the child gets increasingly active as the days pass, and by 27th Sept. it will probably be shouting at the pitch of its infant voice "Don't Fence me In".

                  My regards to the family ...

This blog has several fascinating entries on the demobilisation process and the bombing of Japan.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sunday 5 August 1945, Marks Hall

My own,
              I have been rather longer in writing than usual since I discovered that there was no postal lift here on Saturday or today. The reason is Bank Holiday, which has half-emptied the unit of all those lucky enough to be fairly near home. I expect that this weekend, the frenzy at the railway stations will rise to a climax.

1948 Rover - gives an idea ...
              The last few days have been extremely warm but as I write (evening), a terrific thunderstorm is in progress which my bring some relief. I only hope it does not damage telephonic communication before I put through my call. Our tin huts have been most unpleasant during the heat. Fortunately, I have been able to escape most afternoons and go for a run with Griffiths in his car. It's a fine large Rover and suits my taste for expensive motoring. Yesterday we visited western Suffolk passing through Sudbury and having tea at a pretty little place called Bures. The whole landscape is rather burnt-looking after the great heat, and there are numerous indications of a very good harvest. This rich landscape dotted with villages, market towns, picturesque old churches, and timbered pubs, is attractive in a sleepy complacent way which is well matched by the characteristics of the easy-going natives. But it does not appeal greatly to me and most of the time I am travelling mainly to keep cool.

             One laudable fact is that casual meals are cheap and good at the countless cafes, small restaurants and pubs which seem to exist for no clear reason, since very little tourist traffic ever ventures into the network of narrow twisting lanes which provide the communications in these parts. Yesterday three of us had an excellent meal with eggs and unlimited tea, bread, butter and home-made jam for four shillings.

           I received your letter last Wednesday on Friday evening. Your description of the house is rather surprising: one does not expect to find a museum of Victorian internal decoration housed in a modern bungalow. However I am glad the garden is satisfactory and if your heatwave has continued, you'll have found it very useful. I wish I could join you in a pilgrimage to Boclair Road. We had some very pleasant walks and serious conversations there, and we also consumed a good deal of Barker and Dobson's grapefruit chocolate which we used to get in a shop opposite the station.

           The station library has been revivified by some new books, among them Long Range Desert Group, which I am now enjoying. I wonder if the flood of painstaking historical books about Desert Warfare will militate against the appearance of an imaginative work on the same subject? I expect it will, because people are now tiresomely familiar with the whole story. But one can't help feeling that in the completeness of the various actions and in the psychological intensity which men develop there, the Desert offers plenty of material for a great story.

          I wrote to Mary yesterday thanking her for the invitations transmitted via you but saying that I want to look after my interests here at present. I also touched gracefully on the things that she has sent you.

        I am hoping to hear you tonight and to get a letter from you some time tomorrow. I am glad to hear you are keeping well and looking after yourself. Continue to do so ...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wednesday 1 August 1945, Marks Hall

My darling girl,
                        Your plethora of corn plasters arrived today to my great and immediate relief. I had forgotten about the medicated variety which should enable me to get rid of the painful excrescence in a few days. Thanks very much for your promptness in actioning my request.

                         Your Sunday's letter, written after the phone call, got here yesterday morning which is quite speedy work. I am puzzled to know what you mean exactly by dismissing a brand of religion as being "too full of sweetness and light". Am I to understand that you dote on Calvinistic gloom or the wrathful mutterings of an Old Testament Jehovah? Or was the Welsh professor simply regarding the world through the usual ecclesiastical blinkers?

                       Yesterday I spent an afternoon at the coast - at Clacton and at a little place to the North of it called Holland-on-Sea. Our intention had been to bathe but though my two companions braved it, the leaden grey sea and the cold wind daunted me completely. For the past three years, bathing has been a pleasure that required no Spartan initiation and I just can't face the prospect of the icy paralysis and chattering teeth which are associated with the pastime in this country. I'll wait till I have you to shame me into it.

              What a dismal coast it is. Prestwick, Troon, Helensburgh and all our less esteemed resorts are queenly in comparison: of course the relics of coastal fortifications, the dilapidated entertainment buildings and the large gap in Clacton pier don't increase the impression of jollity. It was a real East coast day with very feeble sunshine and altogether I never saw a more miserable collection of holidaymakers. And it was for this that they stood in all night queues in London stations and paid the exorbitant boarding house charges.

              On our way back we stopped at a tearoom run by an old dame with sentimental leanings to the R.A.F. who gave three of us a magnificent tea in the garden at an all-in charge of 4/2d. It was a pleasant outing and I take any opportunity that's going of getting out of Marks Hall for a few hours.

             I am filling my days with routine work at my own job, occasional dull E.V.T*. lectures, reading history, and summarising bits of Whitehead's book Adventures of Ideas. This is very heavy going but it has some very useful stuff in it. And of course we all do daily speculation drill on the probable date of our release.

            I had a composite dream last night in which some sequences showed me back at school again and other featured you dandling a very respectable infant (a boy as far as I could see!), so future time seems to be pressing heavily on my spacio-temporal subconsciousness. Let us hope such bliss is just around the next fourth-dimensional corner.

            It is to be hoped the weather at HIllfoot is warmer than we are having now or you won't do much lounging out of doors. Judging by your list of intending visitors you are not going to be lonely at all events. I wish I was one of them, but I am better to wait until I can see what you have been hiding sub-smock. As a result of my dream, I think you had better sound the family on their reactions to the use of Stewart as a Christian name! [Stewart was M.F.'s maiden name]

          Look after yourself darling and take a big hug from me - with no unkindly emphasis on the big ...

* The only explanation that I can find of the acronym E.V.T. is that it stands for the Finnish phrase meaning "How am I supposed to know...?"