Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wednesday December 21st 1932

In trouble again with the windows. Depressing. Every day the same. Worked hard all day, busy with customers. Left for home 9.45pm. Christmas must be dreadful.

Tuesday December 20th 1932

In trouble most of the day. Felt stupid and acted accordingly. 'In trouble again, Dawson.' 'Yes, Mac. The window... ' 'You're not worrying, lad, are you?' But I was.

(NOTE: 1996. I wonder what happened to Mac in the War? He would have made a good Sergeant. A kindly but responsible person.)

At 8.30 PM I was sent for. 'How many blocks of butter have you done this week?' asked Mr
Lanning. 'Thirty seven, sir'. 'Right. Do three more and make it a ton.' Later ‑ 'Ball and I have used up all the buttery trays, sir'. 'Pack up then. Start tying chickens at once. Lots to do'. Left work 9.30 pm.

Monday December 19th 1932

In trouble with Mr Lanning ‑ the windows. I am no good as a window cleaner. Huge quantity of butter today. Left at 8 pm (with permission!) for a haircut. Back to the shop afterwards and worked until 10pm. Nose bleeding when I got home.

Sunday December 18th 1932

Up early‑for a Sunday ‑ and hastened to the shop. Arrived 7.30. The others drifted along ‑Paddy, Lynn, Langley, Ball and Woollerton. It was cold standing on the pavement outside the locked shop, so we were soon pushing and shoving and fooling about until a Policeman arrived and threatened to 'take us along'. The rest of the staff eventually appeared and then, at 10.30am Mr Lanning, so at last we got out of the street and into the shop. An hour of' waiting!

Speedy buttering until 1.30 pm. Lynn and Paddy had a fight. Science against rage; Lynn is a good boxer. Paddy went down once and sustained a black eye.

Wrote letters after dinner. Have a tremendous appetite these days, the despair of the Wood household. My weight is nearly 10 stone 11 lbs. Visited Mrs Greasley after tea, a Toc H job. She is getting very old and feeble now. She is nearly 80, a great age.

Saturday December 17th 1932

Buttering almost alone, with Langley, all day; Ball helped now and then. Langley will not work unless being continually coaxed, urged and threatened... Makes work even harder to get through.

One break from this routine. A huge delivery of cheese, butter, bacon. Agonising to drag the huge bales of bacon about. At one time, the shaft was jammed with them and I, struggling below, was entombed in the cellar for a While, there being no other exit.

Friday December 16th 1932

Bromley, our first hand, has been sacked, and Mactavish has got his job. Ships that pass....

Woollerton is on bacon. Quick changes. Mr Lanning concentrates on bacon. The gammons, sides and collars are gradually spreading throughout the shop.

(Most of the diary at this time concerns the shop. This is because this filled the whole of life. Hardly any time for leisure and the pursuit of happiness.)

Thursday December 15th 1932

Woollerton and Mac both felt tough. Rough games in the cellar. Butter, weights and beaters hurtling in all directions. (When a lump of butter strikes the unpainted cement wall it is scraped off and put into the rest of the 56 lb lump for processing. Hygiene!)

Paddy and Langley submissive under punishment, Ball chased around by Mac's boots. I managed to hit Mac on the nose, so will get a thumping later. The Manager asked if I would work this afternoon, (half day) and Sunday. One could not dare to refuse. Lunch interval until 3.30 pm. Only Lynn and the boss in the shop; it was quiet. Worked at bacon, whilst the manager gave his views on the rest of the staff. Left at 6.15 Pm. It seemed a short evening.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wednesday December 14th 1932

Worked on sides of bacon all the morning with Ball. Operation known as boning. Hard on the fingers, in winter, but a change from butter beating.

Quite a violent atmosphere in the basement since Woollerton came. He is a bully and uses his strength. Most of us are afraid of his fists and boots. The new manager is strict but somehow more likeable than Mr May.

Left work 8.15 pm and dashed to St. Albans ‑ to say good bye. The Parade Circle formed. I walked in and said good-bye. Felt too miserable to say much. Shook hands with each Cub, then I walked out of the Circle and Jack walked in. As I hurried from the room, I heard them saluting their new Akela.

Dashed to Stoneygate by tramcar. Cubmasters meeting at Stoughton Road at 9.10pm. Got there 20 minutes before the end of the meeting. Good to see old friends one last time. Walked home alone from Stoneygate. Silence and starlight. Felt tempted to stride away into the lonely night country. On the way home I met Jack and we walked on together. I am still a Scout.

Tuesday December 13th 1932

Pleasing drama at the shop ! At 8am we heard Mr May on the phone. He then put his coat back on and sat quietly in the office, furtively watched by his workers. The rumour went around that he had been sacked! On the phone ‑ from Head Office!

Things move fast in this shop - by 8.30, 'Get your cards May' had gone and at 9.30am the new manager, Mr Lanning, had commenced work. He is a grim looking young man with a reputation for driving and sacking. Within the hour he had barked at Bromley, our first hand, also at Lynn. Does he bite?!

Monday December 12th 1932

A bit of trouble with Paddy Regan, the tough Irish porter. Lucky that I knew a bit of ju‑jitsu ‑ he'd have destroyed me with fists.

Met Jack Garratt outside the shop. We walked home towards Belgrave, talking all the time. Arrangements for next Wednesday when I shall hand over the Pack to him. Sad that this must be, it seems, the end of Scouting for me; no time or energy left in these conditions.

Saturday December 10th 1932

Dinner at the Cafetaria. Took an hour instead of 3/4 but luckily no one noticed. Otherwise I would have heard the tragic words of Mr. May!

Left early, 9.45pm. Too tired to walk home. had to take a tram. (Distance from Ellis Avenue was about a mile and a half.) Chilblains coming, hands cut ‑ through 'boning' salty sides of bacon. Cold. wet work.

Finances: Bank £1.10.0 Cash £2.8.0.

Friday December 9th 1932

All Fridays are horrible and long. In trouble several times but not sacked. A single phrase by Mr May strikes fear, it is 'Get your cards' i.e. instant dismissal. He has said this several times since I arrived in this hell hole. Woollerton thinks many will be sacked after Christmas, when the staff is reduced. He has survived a couple of after Christmas purges with this firm.

Thursday December 8th 1932

Cold weather, no 4 is a draughty house, the shop too. Half Day! Woollerton asserting himself. Has lowered the dignity of Ball several times.

Afternoon indoors, huddled by the fire, reading. Winter is here.

Wednesday December 7th 1932

34 boxes of butter arrived today and we began at once. Hard as a frozen board ! Woollerton, a big fellow from Cheapside, was sent to help us and may stay some time. Worked until 9.30 pm. Carrying up the last tray ‑ 84 lbs ‑ my strength gave out and I just reached a counter before the load slid off. Head aching. Chilblains coming too...

(Reading these diary extracts of my life nearly 60 years ago ‑ well, it wasn't life it was drudgery and existence. The long hours meant the end of all evening social pleasures. There was only, now, a rare participation in Scouting activities and I had to give up night school studies ‑ shorthand, the Police Class and the psychology course at Vaughan College.)

Tuesday December 6th 1932

Mr May in grim mood today. Langley and I in trouble for incorrect weighing. Working hard, cleaning up and re‑weighing.

Saturday December 3rd 1932

The day in bits: Up 6.30 am. Shredded Wheat, bread & butter and hot cocoa (from a thermos flask). Away 7.15 am.

Walked fast to G.N. Station. Bought copy of 'POLICE REVIEW' reserved for me at the bookstall. Red sky in the East and one bright star.

Late afternoon, Langley and I behind with the butter so the tea interval was postponed. Langley swearing and slacking. Tea was allowed at 6.15 but I had eaten my sandwiches long before. Out
at 10 pm. Put a drunken man in his car for home. (1993 Comment, was this a wise thing to do?!)

Episode in Belgrave Gate, uproar involving a drunken young Irishman and an awful woman watched by an interesting small crowd of people. 'Bring on your fancy man I'll kill the bastid!' and the woman screeching and trying to claw him. hair all matted, like one of those women who used to sit around the guillotine in 'A tale of two cities'. Suddenly a single Policeman arrived, a middle aged man. At once by magic, all ended, the crowd dispersed, the woman slunk off and the young man greeted the Officer politely. All he'd said was 'Come along now! This won't do!' The Officer recognised me from the class and winked as much as to say, 'There you are ! Easy !' I was impressed with his power.

Friday December 2nd 1932

A happier day than usual. Morning tying poultry. Gruesome work but better than 'drawing'. The birds are poor scrawnies, so we tie them in such a way that they appear to have some breast meat. Mac, who comes from Lincolnshire, told me that he hopes to be the charge hand after Christmas.

Weighing butter in the evening; not so tiring as the softening. Hygiene here! When the blocks of butter are just too hard to bash into softness, we put a block on top of the Valor oil stove, which heats this cellar! When there are fights in the cellar (which happens because we are all tired & irritable), lumps of butter are thrown at each other. Huge,'1/2lb chunks are left hanging on the cement walls after one of these squabbles; they are just scraped off and put back in the heap for beating into softness!

Left work 10.30 pm. with a cry from the manager, "'I want you here at 7.30 tomorrow, Dawson!" Have started early three days this week.

Wednesday November 30th 1932

Grim day at work. Carthorse tasks in the morning, cheeses and sides of bacon to be carried to and fro. Afternoon, butter, butter and butter! Left 8.40 pm. Exhausted.

Tuesday November 29th 1932

Nearly killed Mac at work today by letting a heavy case fall prematurely from the roof. He sprang aside just in time ! Busy, clearing up the cellar, heavy carrying work etc.

Lynn ‑ that is his proper name, by the way, and Paddy Regan the Irish Porter, are always quarrelling. They seem to spark each other off. It may end in a fight one day.

Saturday November 26th 1932

Start 7.45 am. Working between shop and cellar. The ladder to the shop should of course be called a step ladder, there being wide steps, not rungs. All the same it is not easy to carry up
the heavy butter trays. One locks ones elbows into the hip bones as the tray must be kept carefully upright.

Had time to clear up the cellar, which gets very dirty and greasy. Barltrop, Langley and I down there; the cellar seems a place of blessed peace after the madness of the shop.

Wednesday November 23rd 1932

Met Jordan of Boots on the way to work. He is getting on well. Felt pretty weary and despondent tonight. Have decided to formally leave the Scouts soon. No great hope of returning to work there; only fair to my assistant, Jack, and to the Cubs.

Sunday November 20th 1932

A cold wintery day. Afternoon, out with the West End Rambling Club pals. From Western Park to Braunstone and over the fields to Whetstone Grange, a big old country house. Gorgeous tea.

Games around the blazing fire. i.e. 'Man and his Object'. Mr Wood & I were 'Dracula and his blood'. Ghost stories in the firelight. Coming down the passage I heard Mr. Wood in the midst of a thriller I had heard him tell before. When he got to the bit, 'At this moment, the door slowly swung open' I walked in. Moment of horror! Some screams from the girls and even Mr Wood said 'Hem ! Rather appropriate, Stephen'.

Walked back along the main road and a talk with Thora's friends. Study and deduction.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Friday November 18th 1932

Beating butter in the cellar. Left at 9.40 pm. My pay is 23/6 minus uniform, laundry and tram fares.

Dinner at Woolworths again. Sausage, chips and cauliflower, Xmas Pudding, Mince Pie and Coffee. 1/6 1/2d. Afternoon butter beating in the cellar with Barltrop and Langley. As soon as the shop rush becomes great, Mr. May bangs on the floor (our ceiling) then we all charge up the ladder! Barltrop only gets 25/‑ after 5 years' service.

Thursday November 17th 1932

Half Day! 7.45 am to 1.30pm. Job seeking in the afternoon. No luck.

Wednesday November 16th 1932

Gradually mastering the job. Worked 82 hours last week ‑ and I mean worked, not slacked! Anyhow this is not a 'pallid pimps' job like the BU. Had six trays to transport today, about 60 lbs. each.

This is my fifth job: Mellor Bromley, the LMS Lailway, Wolsey's, the B.U. and now here.

Tuesday November 15th 1932

Much butter beating today. Spent morning at Cheapside, beating with Langley (who is weak and not to be trusted).

At night, Lin, Mac and I had to carry four trays of butter pats back to our own shop. We carried them on a ladder across the Market Place. Lin, horrified, soon left us with three, carrying the smallest tray. Mac and I marched out, amid ribald remarks from the stall holders. Even Mac felt the weight after a while. Mac an older man is the most decent fellow in the shop. Cool headed too.

Had tea with Langley, in Watt's Tea Rooms, Silver Arcade. A tough little place.

Monday November 14th 1932

Still at Thorogoods, having survived the first week's trial period. Night School and Police Class in arrears....

Evening, Thora came and told a scandalous tale. Then Barry arrived and soon organised a display of robot like drill. Both Mr & Mrs Wood out. (I remember what she told me and I still believe in loyalty to one's friends).

Saturday November 12th 1932

Only 3/4 hour allowed for dinner today, so I went to the new Woolworth's Cafeteria. Sausages, chips and cauliflower and a cup of tea for 1/2d. Novel cafe, where the diners help themselves. Would have spent more but had no money left!

Steady flow of customers but no rush in the afternoon. Left for home 10.10 pm.

Friday November 11 1932

Remembrance Day. Most awful day at work so far. Weekend rush commencing. Serving most of the time with Langley at the butter counter. Only 1/4 hour allowed for tea. Finished 10.10 pm. No night school possible.

When the 11 o'clock Silence came, I was madly scrambling under the counter, in search of some labels. A great peace for two minutes.

Thursday November 10th 1932

Half Day! Morning at busy work as usual, unpacking eggs and butter and serving. Finished 2pm. Stayed at home. Felt lazy.

Wednesday November 9th 1932

Errands between Gallowtree Gate and their other shop in Cheapside.

Butter Counter Langley, introduced me to the 'Shack Hole', a loft, formerly part of a dentist's home and above the shop. We had to stack several bundles of papers there. The room is reached by two ladders ‑ no stairs.

Afternoon, working frantically on the butter counter in the shop. Finished 8.10 pm and went to Cubmasters' Meeting. Nothing much happened.

Tuesday November 8th 1932

Today's work worst. Morning of polishing brass, then butter beating all day. No lavatory on the premises ‑ isn't this against the law? One has to request permission to leave and go to a public lavatory and this favour is granted with impatience and reluctance.

Half an hour for tea, doing shorthand in the library. Sore and fed up. Left 7.30 and dashed to Night School. Home 9.30 How long can I stick this?

Monday November 7th 1932

Thorogoods 8am. Given a jacket and apron. Window cleaning, shelf scrubbing, sweeping and polishing.

Main job is butter beating. The butter is in 56lb squares. This has to be beaten with a wooden paddle and softened until it is malleable and finally made into pretty 1lb rounds. This work goes on in a grubby basement below the shop, with unpainted walls. The ceiling is only 6 foot high, so, being tall I have to work with slightly stooped head. When ready the trays of butter are carried up a ladder to the shop. We take up trays of 60 or 72 or 84 pound lots, as ordered from above.

Dinner ‑1.20 to 2.35.

Lard packing, sweeping and unpacking more butter boxes. Tea time, 5pm to 5.45. Away 7.30pm. What a job! No time for Cubbing, Police Classes, or evening pleasures. Degrading and tiring. Otherwise O.K.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Saturday November 5th 1932

Met Jordan. Told the Boots Manager I had found other work and then sent Jordan in. Went to Mr Cox. He was kind and interested as I expected. If I ever need help, I am to go to him. Saw Jordan later. He got the job. It had been the psychological moment!

(Whilst I had been out of work, Mrs Wood drastically reduced my rent. Much later I learned that Mr Wood had increased her housekeeping allowance by a similar amount. In youth, one never thinks of the sacrifice that other people are quietly making. The Wood household was on a tight budget. Only a few incidents in the life of an out‑of‑work are recorded and there were many more efforts to get a job of any kind. Looking back, I should have taken that Boots job; it might have led to something better, working for such an understanding person. Thorogoods turned out to be a ruthless sweat shop; it would not be allowed in these more enlightened times.)

Friday November 4th 1932

Exchange - 'anything today?' 'No, nothing today'. Saw Jordan, my Silver Arcade rival. Will try to get him that job at Boots.

Thursday November 3rd 1932

Almost a riot at the Exchange today. Men struggling for the chance of being a temporary Christmas postman. Went to Thorogoods and was engaged as a Learner on a week's trial. Awful pay. I accepted but kept looking for something better. Otherwise, start Monday.

Tuesday November 1st 1932

Bitter weather. Many job applications today, making cold calls on possible employers as well as via the Exchange.

One card was in respect of a vacancy for a temporary porter at Boots in Gallowtree Gate. Saw the manager, a gentleman. Pay 22/6. Hours terrible. He sent me to see the District Manager in offices nearby. This was Mr. L Cox, a fine person, an ex Scout and a psychologist. He urged me to find a better job but will keep the place open for me until Saturday. This was the best and most humane manager I have ever met.

Monday October 31st 1932

After a happy weekend, turned up at Barratt's to start work and was told by the manageress that their head office had engaged someone else. Rotten disappointment; anyhow it had given me a carefree couple of days.

In the afternoon, the Exchange sent me to Thorogoods, Gallowtree Gate. Bacon, cheese, butter, chickens etc. Vacancy as porter. Manager seemed a decent fellow, said I was too good for the job and let me make an application for job as Learner instead.

Sunday October 30th 1932

Cub Scouters conference in Stoneygate. Went there on the tram and found myself sitting next to the girl I once called She. No magic now. She is just an ordinary girl; sorry to hear that she may give up cubbing soon, owing to ill health.

Saturday October 29th 1932

Labour Exchange at 9am. At 10.15 1 was given a card for Barratts again. The other man had finally refused the job ! This time I did not hesitate but ran straight there and was engaged at once. Shop hours; this will play havoc with my social and study life....

All girls in the shop, except for the porter. Start on Monday. Home. Bells in the heart! Bought a pair of gloves on the way. Shall call them Porter's Gloves in memory.

Friday October 28th 1932

A bitterly cold day and the rain stung like hail. Not good weather for the unemployed. Haunted the Exchange and Library all day. An old out‑of‑work came up and wished me luck in my search. At least, in my predicament, l am learning of people and their humanity.

The unemployed, I think, fall into three classes. First, the grim, cynical fighters; secondly, the hopeless, lifeless, down‑and‑outers, and thirdly, the extremely gay and cheerful. There are few of the latter.

Thursday October 27th 1932

Scene - the Exchange door. At 9 am it opens and a small knot of men rush in. I am second in the queue. I am given a card for the Gem Company, Silver Arcade. By sprinting, I get there at the same time as my rival, the first man in the queue. We mount the stairs side by side. A dirty looking office on the second floor. We wait and two more men arrive. We toss coins for the chance and I am fourth. The other three enter and leave, unsuccessful. My turn. Shorthand and typing are necessary. I try to bluff. Am shaken when I watch the sleazy boss dictating to his present (girl) secretary.

I called again and had a pleasant talk with the girl, but the vacancy had been filled.

Wednesday October 26th 1932

Reported at the Exchange and was given a vacancy card for Barratt, Market Street. Shop Porter, errands and window cleaning. Before going into the shop, I crossed the road and surveyed it. Seemed to be a women's dress shop. I then entered ‑ too late - another man had hurried in during those minutes and had got the job. A lesson for the future...

Hung about the Exchange all day, hopefully. Later, a clerk told me to come back in themorning, at 9 am.

Friday October 21st 1932

Labour Exchange - 12/6 dole.

Wednesday October 19th 1932


Haunted Central Library but found no suitable vacancies. Nearing 2pm, great excitement in Belgrave Road. Tough men, watching and waiting. 'THE MARCHERS ARE COMING'. Then they came, with drum and cymbals, marching like soldiers, as many had been, no doubt: against my inclinations, I was impressed and moved. They had come from the far north. About 200 men in two companies, each led by a man wearing a red armband with a star on it. They all looked fit and determined. Red flags. Singing and shouting. Speeches by the leaders in Belgrave Gate. Fiery stuff ! 'This little lot will get to London ! They will put barriers in our way! ‑We shall go through them !' (cheers) and 'Down with the Government!', 'Put the Means Test on King George !' and 'Back us up, comrades. Nothing will stop us!' 'We represent the workers of the nation!'

(Standing there in the crowd of unemployed, I enjoyed the drama but never once thought of joining them on the march southwards. Wish I had; it would have been an interesting experience, although of the far left persuasion)

Monday October 16th 1932

A long walk with Cliff Exton yesterday. In the Bradgate and Anstey district avoiding the sewage farm where Barry lost control ! Exton seems more at ease now that the BU storm has passed and left him unscathed.

Friday October 14th 1932

Went to Exchange and drew 4/2d, my share of the 'Dole'.

Outside, a dirty man gave me a leaflet entitled, 'HUNGER MARCH ON LONDON'. Some fools will reach Leicester next Wednesday, on the way to London, to protest against 'The Infamous Means Test' (I still have that pamphlet, somewhere.)

Thursday October 13th 1932

Wrote to Dad explaining that it would be better, despite his wishes, that I stay in Leicester at present and paddle my own canoe. By afternoon post, a letter from Dad ‑ a nice one ‑ saying
that he was not angry or disappointed. Enclosed a letter (he had already sent the original to the BU) demanding an assurance that I was not suspected of any dishonesty or complicity in the fraud. 'My boy is as straight as a gun barrel'.

A warm response from a man who sometimes seems unloving. (He duly received the assurance; I'm glad he did this, though it was not necessary.)

Wednesday October 12th 1932

Dad called at no.4 and was staggered to find that I had left the BU. He had obviously not been advised secretly by the Woods. Dad is not one for subterfuge. Before he left, we had a long and angry argument about my past, present and future.

Tuesday October 11th 1932

Chanced upon Mr Lapraik outside the BU as I walked along Belgrave Road. He said that he had sent my refence to the Labour Exchange, and that 'it contained nothing detrimental in any way'. Thank you Mr. Lapraik.

Police Class. Following careful instruction, I understood some arithmetic for the first time in my life.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Monday October 10th 1932

Letter from Lincoln. Mum had bought me a suit of plus fours­ that would look good in Queue 13! ‑ she says it 'is not worn.' Which means that 'it is not new'! When can I go to Lincoln to be measured, before the suit is altered?

Another seance tonight. Table shook violently! No coherent message, the spirit seemed agitated. Mr Wood announced that Thora must be excluded from any future sessions as she is too scared and disturbs the spirit.

Friday October 8th 1932

In the morning to the 'Hopeless Hut'. It really is more of a hut than a building. It is a shabby, dingy wooden structure with a dirty, dusty floor. A high counter runs across, surmounted by a metal grill, reinforced by metal struts. Safe behind the grill sit the bored clerks. I stood in Queue 13. No work. Nothing.

Thursday, October 7th 1932

Letter from Mr. Paine, B.U. Nothing. Farewell B.U.

Wednesday October 6th 1932

Labour Exchange to report. 'Anything to day?' 'Nothing today'. The clerk does not even look up. Visited Central Library to check for vacancies. Nothing.

Tuesday October 4th 1932

Have not told the Lincoln family yet. Quite useless and it would only worry them.

Afternoon, to the labour Exchange to sign on. Had to queue up. Not as degrading as I had expected.

Police class in the evening. Divided into two groups and of course I am with the younger ones. 46 students altogether. Enjoyed English, got through arithmetic. Wrote to Mr Paine, BU., as urged by Perky.

Monday October 3rd 1932

Up at dawn. Breakfast 6 am then good bye and away along the line. Train to the city 7.30 am. Home, changed then back to City centre. Police HQ, no vacancy now, suggest call again next March.

Called at Gipson Clark's. Perky came out to see me in the reception room. No job offered; Perky had sent for me at the suggestion of Mr. Ruddock who felt it might help if I wrote a personal appeal to one of the B.U. directors, a Mr. Paine. Very kind of him. Against my better judgement I agreed to write the letter.

(Why did Perky get me out to his office ‑ not his home ‑ just to give me this advice ? I think, now, that he did hope to find me a job with his company but this fell through. Anyhow it was a kindliness both from him and the important Mr. Ruddock, whom I had hardly ever met).

Evening at no. 4. They decided to have a seance! Thora a friend of Mrs. Wood's was there. To my surprise, Mr Wood co‑operated and was very serious. Mrs Wood was the medium, 'Are you there, friend?' Barry made dramatic snoring noises and Thora screamed. Otherwise nothing happened except that the table shook and crockery rattled on the sideboard.

Sunday October 2nd 1932

At Wolfhampcote. Plenty of fresh air and exercise. A run before breakfast. Afternoon, a walk along the railway line, nearly as far as the Staverton road. Cold and bleak; winter seems close
at hand. Early to bed, everything ready for tomorrow.

The journal might now be called‑'The odyssey of an Out‑of‑Work'. Finances are good at present ‑Bank 30/‑ Cash 60/‑.

Saturday October lst 1932

The last B.U. morning. Kept cheerful. Many sympathisers, incl. surprisingly, the grey Mr. Turvey from a distant grey office. He was the elderly man who used to collect our rent at no. 9. Everyone thinks it unfair that I should go. A little scapegoat in greater events. Many suggestions and good lucks and goodbyes. Thus, I shook off the dust of British United Shoe Co Ltd. for ever.

Caught the 1.44 train for Braunston & Willoughby; walked along the familiar line to Wolfhampcote, seeing Aunt's house in the distance. Great Uncle Robert and Mrs Peddar staying with Aunt. Wandered around. Visited the old home with Aunt. Empty again. Could not get in. Desolate; gradually decaying; grass growing everywhere. It is still beautiful though. Wolfhampcote. In England.

(I never thought any more about B.U. where I had been clerk no. 1123 for so many years. Who was the embezzler? Did he get a prison term ? I never enquired. B.U. was in my past. As for Exton, who had been swimming and camping with me ‑ he let me down. However, looking back further, I once let down a boy at School, also a friend, and remained timidly silent when I might have saved him from punishment. So perhaps Cliff Exton has evened the score for me in the judgement book.)

Friday September 30th 1932

It is 10.45 am. At 11.45 D. L. Lapraik will tell me the decision.

12.30 pm. I am dismissed and leave tomorrow with a week's wages in hand. The end of an epoch. Everyone sympathetic. Exton hardly spoke. Mr and Mrs Wood, very kind. Had a talk with one my fellow Police students. He suggested that I call at Police HQ on Monday and see if there is any chance of a job with the Force, though I am a bit young. Also a message from Perky of Toc H. had been left with Mr Wood. I phoned as requested. Perky said he had heard about my trouble from Mr Ruddock (a senior representative of the BU). Perky asked me to call at his office on Monday. Offer of a job?

Thursday September 30th 1932

Still working madly. DL very anxious. The truth! Someone ‑an employee ‑has been embezzling. My missing list, that is to say, my list of the missing which I did not keep, would have checked him. Overlook is that my negligence is part of the great whole, a crime. No doubt a prosecution.

At 4.30 pm I presented Mr Cooper with the completed list. DL says that there is little hope for me. Dismissal is almost certain. I shall know tomorrow. SUSPENSE!

Evening, bought a weekend return ticket to Willougby; Aunt Sue had invited me. Went alone to the City Cinema and saw 'Hell Divers' a great naval air picture. Forgot all my troubles.

Wednesday September 28th 1932

British United. I am in trouble! There is a missing list of MOs (completed Leicester Office or local orders). I stopped making out a list a year ago. When Cliff Exton passed the job over to me, he did not say that it was important to check for any missing completed orders before storing away in their numbered bundles. However, I should have asked.

This is a very serious business. DL expects the directors will sack me. Air of suppressed excitement in all the offices, not just ours. What has happened? Working frantically under supervision of DL, looking at old bundles, making note of missing orders. Cliff seems cowardly, white faced. Fears that he might be dismissed. Many orders missing. By night I had examined LC0s from January to March of this year.

In the evening I was in charge of the St. Albans Cubs as usual, and managed to switch off thoughts of the Office.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sunday September 25th 1932

Finances: Bank 30/- Cash 35/‑. Am gradually saving up cash for a new suit!

Evening, Police Class ‑ 38 in class, all hefty men, only 5 of us are 'civilians'. Arithmetic difficult, English easy.

And so the routine of work and leisure activity and study went on;

('Slow on your dials the hours creep,
So many hours for food and sleep,
So many hours til work doth tire,
So many hours for heart's desire.' )

but this was all to change ....

Monday September 19th 1932

Back to work again. DL pleased to see me, as he did not expect me until Wednesday. Several clerks away.

Evening, went to the Alderman Newton School and registered for the Police Educational Course. Most of the students are in the Force. It was six month since March 19th. The evening was pregnant with omens.

(But I did not know or guess, then, that exactly one year later, on September 19th 1933, I should be starting work with Paripan at Egham, in far away, another‑world Surrey.)

Monday 12th September 1932

First day of my holidays. A few visitors including Mr Cooper, who kindly brought my wages and stayed for a talk.

Telegram from Lincoln 'Wilf and self arriving about 1.30. Dawson'. They duly arrived and at about 6pm we left for Lincoln, in Wilfred's car.

(Looking back on these journals I realise that Mr. Cooper was a friendly and kindly man. At the time I saw him as the Ogre of Authority. He was the Asst. Manager of the Office; Mr. D. L. Lapraike, in the office next door, a much grander and important gentleman, was the Manager. I somehow feel, looking back, that Mr. Cooper would never become Manager.)

After a quiet week in Lincoln, the foot getting better and being able to take short walks into town, I was back to work on Monday.

Sunday 11th September 1932

The poisoning became worse until last Thursday night, when the swelling came to a head and burst! Very gradual improvement then. By today, was able to stand without agony.

Wednesday September 7th 1932

Got to work this morning but the ambulance man sent me home again after a talk with Mr.Cooper. Doctor ordered stay at home, plenty of hot fomentations. Next week, I was supposed to be on the long hike in Wales, with Mr. Wood. Is this fate..?

Tuesday September 6th 1932

Foot worse. Now confirmed by B.U. ambulance man as septic poisoning. Took a tram to work and back, and wear a special shoe. Now I know what a real cripple feels like ‑ the sympathetic sidelong glances at my foot.

Monday September 5th 1932

The foot‑foot‑foot. Swelling, swelling! Took ten minutes to walk to work.

Saturday September 3rd 1932

My left foot is badly swollen and painful. Poison? Has been gradually getting worse since Thursday. (Was it a result of that long river swim?)

Monday August 29th 1932

To the river with Cliff Exton. Both swam up river to the Abbey Bridge and back ‑ nearly 1/2 mile. (This is the Bridge I had walked over on the night the family left Leicester ‑ the night I heard 'Blue Heaven').

Plans are being made for a long hike in Wales with Mr Wood, in the September holidays. We may start from Worcester or Gloucester. Today, Dad sent £1 towards the expenses.

Thursday August 25th 1932

Mrs Wood and the children, away in Lincoln for a holiday, so Mr Wood, Barry and I looking after ourselves. Duties well organised!

This is the hottest summer since 1921. Went to the Baths at lunch time, with Barry. Did 24 lengths! Could have done more but it was time to go back to the Office. Evening: Barry decided that No.4 was the House of Dracula and ran in and out of the rooms making excellent wolf howls.

Wednesday August 10th 1932

Cossy Street Baths with Jack at lunchtime. Did seven lengths. The pool is 33 yards long, so I swam 231 yards altogether.

Evening, went for a walk with Barry, across sewage farm, towards Anstey. Wandered off the path; lost in the sewage fields. Black earth and evil little streams. Barry in a state, screaming, "can't stand it". Trying to be like Mr Wood, I said quietly, 'Hem'! Control, Barry, Control !' But I was not Mr. Wood! 'Bugger control!' yelled Barry. Eventually struck the Anstey lane, in the dark." Walked to Anstey by road and then home by footpath ‑ not across the Sewage. Home by 11 pm.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Saturday August 6th 1932

At the end of a happy week's holiday with the family, incl. Wilf, in Lincoln. Good news - Dad has been appointed Sales Supervisor for Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. Salary, commission and expenses. All in the garden is lovely.

Dad turned out with a local cricket team as they were one man short. He is a good bat but only scored one! Run out and not his fault. At the lunch interval, it was raining a bit. Dad and I sat in the pavilion. No one spoke to him and I resented this. Then a man came up and said in a friendly manner 'Are you going into the town for a drink?' Dad thought he was being invited and said, 'No, I hadn't any plans ...' 'Good' said the man, 'In that case, could I borrow your mac ?' Of course, Dad agreed and we sat together watching the rain. Nothing was said. I wish, now, I could have shown my solidarity with my father.... How I hated that man, and all the other unfriendly members of that cricket team who could not show friendship towards a visiting stranger.

Tuesday July 26th 1932

Sent for by Mr.Copper, the Office Manager. Gave me a fatherly talk on the advisability of wearing proper attire... Anyhow, I had two days of comfort!

Monday July 25th 1932

Heat wave. Went to the office in an open‑necked shirt.

Friday July 8th 1932

Family in Lincoln, doing well financially. Today, Mum and the boys motored over from Lincoln, in Wilf's car. Very exuberant. Mum insisted on kissing me, in public, outside the B.U. Enjoyed their visit though.

(Wilfred Barton, a distant cousin and a real character who spent a good deal of his time with us; Alas! that he died, suddenly, in 1957, before he ever met Jill)

Tuesday May 24th 1932

Tuesday May 24th. Received notification from H.Q. Have passed the Wood Badge part one ‑ practical. Jack also passed but Cliff Exton failed.

Thursday 19th May 1932

She is no longer She. I could feel it coming gradually. Now I am normal again. Looking back, my love was from Saturday, 28th November 1931 until about now. All unfulfilled, yet I am glad there once was a Shell.

Today, sixty years later, remember the agony and the happiness and the lightness, but why did I live and keep silent? Also, why did I recover! ‑Was it something that happened at the Ullesthorpe Camp ? I have no memory of anything. It is, and must remain, an eternal mystery.

Friday May 13th to Tuesday May 17th 1932

At the Cub‑Scouters Training Camp at Ullesthorpe. Training & Tests for the first part of the prized Wood Badge. We all came back elated, sunburnt and tired.

Monday May 9th 1932

To the Technical College for Advanced English exam. The college was a huge place; I nearly Got lost. The questions were: 'Character Sketch of a typical Englishman', essay; 'Kent's devotion to Lear'; 'Why Nelson was a great Admiral' (Southey); 'The Bishop and Mrs Proudie' (Trollope); and an analysis of 'The River' (Masefield). I did not get the last finished but feel that I passed, although not highly. I got a second class pass, in fact.

Sunday April 10th 1932

Mr Wood was a believer in physical exercise and hardness, and he was convinced that his regime was good for Barry and me. As he was not our father, we did not feel badgered and generally managed to oblige him in his desire for hardening exercises, 15 to 20 mile ‑walks at a brisk pace and single stick matches. For instance:

Weight 10 stone 91bs. Did 30 full knee bends. Barry did 34. Single stick duel in the yard with Mr. Wood. A chance swipe smashed his glasses, to my horror. Mr. Wood remained in control. He gathered up the fragments and said, 'Hem! Does that count as a hit ?'

One occasion, I became ill at the office, in the late winter of this year. It was the start of a bad cold. When I returned home and told Mr. Wood I felt groggy, he had an immediate remedy. 'Stephen, put on your heavy overcoat, scarf and gloves! Set out immediately for a brisk walk around Thurmaston and Rothley - he gave the exact route. 'That is twelve miles. I want you back here within three hours. Tomorrow you will be as fit as a fiddle'. I accepted the challenge and set off. When I got back, soaked in sweat from my foggy walk, he was ready with a glass of hot whisky and lemon and a hot bath. 'Now go straight to bed. You will be alright in the morning'. Unfortunately this was not correct! I was in bed for a week with a feverish influenza and Mrs Wood had the job of nursing me. Mr Wood gave the impression that he was a little disappointed with my failure.

Saturday April 3rd 1932

Walk to Bradgate Park with a party of Cubbers, including She. Took a snap on the bridge near the Gray Ruins, then back home through Swithland Woods. I still have this snap. Jack is playing the fool. She is standing to attention behind me and in front of the bespectacled Cliff Exton.

The latter was the clerk next senior to me at the office. He had lately become interested in scouting affairs. I went out with him sometimes. He had a negative effect on my life, in that when I took over a job from him, he did not brief me properly. As a result, I was dismissed from the B.U, through an error of negligence. However I did not know this at the time of our walk.

April 1932 Comment

Wages 24/2 per week. Of this I pay Mrs Wood 16/‑. To my credit is a new suit (Mr Wood went with me to the tailors), two new shirts, new pyjamas and a pair of good shoes. To my debit is 1/5 which I owe the Office Tea Club.

Saturday 26th March 1932

Went to Lincoln for a week's holiday with the family. Return rail fare was 9/9d but Mum had sent me 7/­- towards it.