Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday 2nd March 1936

Beastly mouth today; too much smoking yesterday. Damn the winter! It certainly spoiled what should have been a ripping week-end.

So, in bleak winter-time ends, Stillness.

Sunday 1st March 1936

Having had supper at Father’s digs I left him at Acton Station. A cosy carriage – for the first time in several hours, I felt comfortable and warm. An imp of mischief made me start talking to the only other passenger – a girl. Between two stations we became acquainted and as the train slowed down for West Drayton I suggested that this ought not to be our last meeting. Suggested it very bluntly, I think! She smiled straightly and agreed. I got her name and address and got out – just in time, as the train went on.

Wrote a letter the same night, “Dear lady-of-the-railway-train”. Wonder if she will answer? If she doesn’t, can’t blame her. It’s frightfully bad form!

Saturday 29th February 1936

Had the mornings leave today, so got up at 9 o’clock (unusual luxury) and caught the 11.15 from Staines GWR. Waiting for my connection at West Drayton I had the good luck to discover a book by “Bartimeus” – the sequel to “A Tall Ship”; actually
I should have enjoyed this week-end at home but somehow I felt beastly cold most of the time.

We went as far as Grantham by car then to Nottingham by train. Horribly bleak weather.

Wednesday 27th February 1936

I arrived late at the President and found the new entries already fallen-in on the gun deck. Dashed to my place in the line, noticing a certain air of tension. “The Admiral’s here”, whispered the next man. Suddenly came the order, “Men who are passing-out tonight, fall in on the right!” Most of us moved over, but Tong said (sotto voce) “I ‘aint a-going to chance it”.

The reason for the hurried change of plan was that an abnormal number of recruits were coming in. I was in the second half-dozen to be examined. Richmond, Cresswell and Eburah (or some such name, - an amusing, casual bloke) were in the first batch, and passed out. Cooper was absent – first time! Foster, Hempstead, Fowler (the shortest in the class), Berryman, Nutting and myself also got through.

Baxter and Smith (who was nervous) were among the failures. We who have passed-out now have an easy time for a few weeks until the rest are ready. Then we are “kitted” and later, “rated”. The exam was ridiculously easy. It seemed that Lieut. “Steamboat Bill” was anxious to get us out! He told our CPO that we were damn good.

One of the new Acting OD’s gloomily explained the reason to his mates. We were needed as fodder for the guns! (Actually, this apparent pessimist was myself.)

Sunday 23rd February 1936

Kerridge called me at 7 o’clock and we walked two miles along country roads, to a church at Welwyn. Walking back, I had my first pipe of the day. (A lovely smoke, that first one!) We had breakfast in a large bare room, with trestle tables, laid like three sides of a rectangle.

Kerridge introduced me to the “boys”, all ex-tramps, who were in the “rec”, a converted barn with a big fireplace. Whilst talking to one chap, my cigarette end became too small to smoke in comfort. As I looked for an ashtray, my companion politely took the stub from me, having a few luxurious drags before he threw it away!
Some of the “boys” do kitchen work, others farm work, some run a small sawmill – and they’re all new to the job!

At sound of the dinner bell the “rec” was a mass of hurrying figures. The “boys” wasted no time over the meal either. The first man left the room within five minutes and a few seconds later only empty plates and the more leisurely staff people remained. Three of us went into the staff room and sat smoking by the fireside, talking “shop”. Large cups of tea without saucers were bought in. It was very cosy.

Left at half past three and travelled by main roads. Potters Bar, Barnet and the North Circular. The Great West (had a snack at a tough little café), Hounslow and Staines – 8 o’clock.

I had supper in the small kitchen, where the family sat – five of them altogether; one of the children had already been put to bed in the sitting room.

This has been Christopher’s Swan-song. I promised him that before we started. No more long journeys for Christopher, just local runs – to and from the works etc.

Saturday 22nd February 1936

My weekend in the country. It rained, steadily all the morning: I was kept late at the works – uninspiring commencement! However I leisurely ate my lunch, packed my rukker and set forth on Christopher in the midst of a thin drizzle.

My only guide was a list of villages and suburbs, copied from a map at the works. So for some time I wandered through miserable “country” – West Drayton, Hillingdon, Fakenham, Northwood – that foul hill at Northwood! And Christopher not so dashing as he was six months ago!

By the time I was clear of Watford it was dark but I could feel I was in real country at last. No rain. Went through two villages, Alderham and Radlett and at length “coasted” into a place called Colney Heath. Bought some chocolate here and also hot chips from a travelling cook shop.

Got to Welwyn and Hatfield. “Holywell Hyde? – Oh, that’s where those men live” said one woman when I asked the way. I passed through Holywell Hyde – a remote hamlet – and splashed down various muddy lanes. Came at last to a big house with farm buildings around it. I banged on the front door; silence. Walked in the back door – which stood open – and out again. A tall man with long hair and dreamy eyes appeared eventually. I asked, “was this St. Francis?” It was! I was glad and said so.
Didn’t feel very tired after I’d had a wash.

Until 10.30 I sat by the fireside whilst Brother Kerridge talked earnestly, his eyes on the flames. Staines seemed a long way off. I slept in a room which had pictures of St. Christopher on the wall. Slept well.

Thursday 20th February 1936

After a fairly hectic day at the works, I rushed up to town via GWR. Not enough money to travel Southern; but I’d got some tobacco, after a lapse of several days. That first pipe was sweet! However, I got to the Poly too late so I changed my library book and came back again. Reached Staines 9.30.

Nearly four hours of travelling – for nothing! However, a good book and a good smoke is compensation for many things.

Wednesday 19th February 1936

Jellicoe class is now reaching the Passing-out zone. We have never been keener.
CPO Ingram is a good man for stimulating enthusiasm. The original five are still in the show. Cooper has not missed a drill yet. Guess he takes it too seriously; not very popular.

Williams, who lives at Woking has served in the merchant service. Transferred from another class and knows damn all about the present course.
Baxter, a supercilious, self-possed young man, has a faint air of reckless ness.
Tong – he’s a real cockney.
Foster, very neatly dressed and straight standing – they’re all decent men.

I love the way we “number”. Down the line goes the call, seeming to signify our keen alertness, “One – Two – Three”. I reckon I’m in the “first flight” as far as general efficiency is concerned.

Came down by the 9.57 and found John sitting in the same carriage. He beamed and said “Bai gum” I said “Aye”. As we parted near John’s new place he said, “I’ll now go in and drink of watery cocoa, heated on the gas at my own expense!” “Yes” said I, “Whilst I have my cocoa in the kitchen. Doubtless there’s someone asleep in my sitting room already! These digs!” (That’s my only objection to Ferndale.)

Feel happier tonight than I did two days ago. Reason; I’d been struggling to keep five shillings in reserve for the week-end’s expenses. Have now abandoned the attempt and am smoking as much as I like, with the fatalistic thought that, “Tomorrow I may be – myself with yesterday’s seven thousand years”.

Am writing this in bed. Although it must be quite late, I’ll have another cigarette before I settle down!

Sunday 16th February 1936

Have just returned from a walk to Thorpe with Dick Young. We went to the Old Mill House (with it’s quaint candle-lit tea room, just the same). Patches of fog on the way out. Devilish thick as we returned. Only 7 o’clock but Dick has already gone, not wishing to be late in arrival.

I shall now do some homework, writing up notes about linseed oil paints.

Saturday 15th February 1936

Went with Mad Willy and his sister to see “Smilin’ Through” at the village cinema, Egham. I was intensely moved by it when I saw it at Lincoln three years ago. Of course, I was much more imaginative then.

Friday 14th February 1936

John is moving from Cherry Orchard. Tonight I helped him with his kit. Dick Hall came along too. (Can’t imagine him in the Young-Brockwell circle. Too much of a ladies man.) I’m rather doubtful about the wisdom of introducing him to Cherry Orchard really. Might seduce somebody. However, he’s an amusing bloke and very worthy of inclusion in my collection of oddities.

NB Christopher is back again and in good form for the present.

Thursday 13th February 1936

Met Gwyn at the Temple tube station, 8.30. and took her to West India Dock Road. The Pennyfields district was disappointingly quiet and respectable (night before pay night I guess).

Also called at a pub in Three Colt Street (sawdust on the floor, damn good beer, Mann Crossman’s). The regular patrons were friendly and told us all about their darts matches. Back at Staines 11.45.

We were sitting in the kitchen when 12 o’clock came, ie. My birthday over – the beginning of St. Valentines Day.

Wednesday 12th February 1936

Left business late; did not go to town.

Called at TocH, late in the evening. I found the members huddled around the radiator. Withey was reading from the “TocH Journal”, “We shall have one mind, seeking the goodwill of our fellows..”

There they sat in boredom – seeking the goodwill of their fellows!

Tuesday 11th February 1936

Bitterly cold weather. Personally I like it. One feels alert and keen, the blood tingles.

Coming away from “President” on a tram, Levey and I were practicing our seamanship “bends and hitches” with a length of string. Levey put a timber hitch on his fore-arm and I put a round-turn-and two-half-hitches of string on one of the rails. The conductor was profoundly interested in the performance.

Sunday 9th February 1936

Am writing this a day late, that is on Monday evening. (Actually I seldom am able to keep precisely up-to-date, nowadays. However, I don’t forget much that is really worth recording.)

Yesterday afternoon and evening I spent wandering around Limehouse. Dressed in my oldest clothes, no gloves, hands in pockets, a shabby coat buttoned up to the neck, shoulders rounded, I certainly did not look conspicuously aristocratic. One amusing incident proved my “disguise” to be good. I had slunk down an evil-looking lane which eventually proved to be a cul-de-sac. “What do yer want mister?” asked a child swinging on a lamp post. Her playmate looked me up and down, then answered on my behalf, “E want’s the work’ouse”. Delicious! The contempt of Pennyfields!

Later, I tried to find the way to Shadwell. I didn’t. Walked along a succession of dreary streets which seemed straight. I passed a road with a name I’ll remember, -“Glencall Road”. After tramping straight on (as I thought) for twenty minutes, I came again to Glencall Road.

So I went back to Limehouse, to a pub, where a man was spitting on the floor.

Friday 7th February 1936

I was cold and tired and hungry by the time I reached Staines at 6 o’clock. Didn’t settle by fire until I’d performed all my little errands – one the doleful task of taking poor Christopher to a repair shop.

At last I was in again. Had a wash and sat down to a hot dinner in company with a Herries book. After that, I smoked several cigarettes, sitting by the fire. Then I wrote up this my diary. Now, Mrs Stephens has just brought in my night cap of cocoa. (Without milk, as I like it.)

Thursday 6th February 1936

Works: I am to spend the whole spring and summer in the stores. Am now officially confirmed as Assistant Foreman – can hardly be called a student still! The stores is Hell during the “rush” season, which is just beginning.

Strolled along the river bank at lunch time and called at the boat house where Harvey used to “sweep away leaves from the autumnal trees”. Wood Haw, by the way, has been sold and converted into a riding school or something. I asked Franks if he knew where the family had moved. He did not know.

Tuesday 4th February 1936

After several days of suspense, Christopher has now let me down absolutely. Some internal trouble. I walk to and from the works.

Monday 3rd February 1936

Went with Gwyn to Virginia Water and through the woods that border it on the northern side. Brilliant moonlight. Cold, frosty ground. Very quiet. Half frozen leaves underfoot. A gaunt up-rooted tree hanging, caught, at an angle of forty five degrees. Sometimes we seemed to be wandering in the wilderness, sometimes in fairy land.

Saturday 1st February 1936

In the grinding shop I noticed that one “Chertsey Jim” was absent. Davis told me he’d gone to get married. “Abaht time too. ‘Is kids a year old now.” I was amused. Davis said “Well, it’s a good thing to ‘ave a bit of stock in ‘and”.

I called at John’s digs and gave him a generous dose of quinine. He made a manful effort to remain nonchalant; then groaned horribly and rushed for a drink of water!

Friday 31st January 1936

We were both better this morning. A short, sharp attack!

I held my quinine bottle near the fire. A little blue flame came from the neck. No wonder it tastes so ‘orrid!

Thursday 30th January 1936

I had no breakfast, Gwyn had no tea. We both felt vilely ill. A chill. Result of the saturation.
Listened to the wireless on Presidents mess-deck. The National Anthem. We all stood.
First time I’ve heard “God save the King” since we had a new King.

Tuesday 28th January 1936

After breakfast, Gwyn and I cycled away into Buckinghamshire. (My ruc-sack containing a thermos and sandwiches. I felt like a boy playing truant from school.)
We got to Beaconsfield, left the cycles at the station and walked the way I came with Dick and John a few weeks ago. (Fresh views came before us and each time coincided with a picture in my mind, remembered from before.)

At half past one there was to be a great silence over the whole country, in honour of King George. We came to a fence at the edge of a wood and waited there, heard guns and sirens and silence.

Passed through a dark, damp fir-wood some time later. Near the edge, where it was wind sheltered and more dry we sat down on a broken sapling and had lunch. (Very delightful, somehow. Like a Farnol novel. In a field above the wood we sometimes could see a man ploughing.)

Late in the afternoon we reached Penn and Gwyn was suddenly very tired. Eventually, at twilight, we found a cottage where we had tea. A strange old place with a huge chimney; an ancient lady, vivacious, and a middle aged woman, her daughter.

Went by bus to Beaconsfield. Felt quite refreshed as we cycled through the darkness; gentle downhill slopes. At Slough, the rain began. We waited in a pub for some time. It rained steadily. Gwyn refused to end the journey by bus so we went out into it. (Obstinate little devil but an awfully good sport.) We were soon very wet. Oozing water when we reached Staines. Gwyn had a hot bath and went to bed; I had supper and sat by the fireside awhile.

Monday 27th January 1936

Got up early and walked to the works.

Mad Willy came back with me at night and eventually adjusted the wheel – with a certain amount of clumsy help from me. Later I cycled to Chertsey with him (via Haleham). Coming back with a following wind I gave Christopher (the cycle) his head and he dashed along beautifully. Good old Christopher! You’ve served me well, though I’ve used you so badly.

The Kings funeral tomorrow. The works is closed. Don’t think I shall go to Windsor – or Paddington. Morbid… Crowds…

Sunday 26th January 1936

My front cycle wheel makes a mournful groaning noise – result of that escapade in the floods a few weeks ago. This evening I valiantly took it off and cleaned the ball bearings etc. Couldn’t get it on again though!

Friday 24th January 1936

Met Gwyn at Temples in the evening and went to Westminster for the Lying-in-State.
Slowly moving queue half a mile in length. Waited about an hour. We both dislike crowds but this was a special occasion. Wet evening but not too bad.

When we got into Westminster Hall, the Gentlemen-of-the-Kings Bodyguard – grim, aloof veterans – were changing guard. The terribly slow thud of their marching feet as they came up the steps… In the centre of the Hall – the catafalque. Four Guards officers on their swords (could real men be so still?) On the coffin, the Crown…

We did not speak for some time afterwards. Gwyn was tired. Had some coffee then taxi-ed to Waterloo. Saw her off on the Sutton train and then came down by the 11.58.

Wednesday 22nd January 1936

Our seamanship course began with a tour of the ship! Very cold on the after bridge, the focsle and fore super structure, as we stood about, being shown boats falls, fair leads and so on.

Jellicoe class falls in on the gun deck, starboard side. Immediately opposite is the newly formed Blake class. The Blakes (about ten files) shuffle awkwardly to their places and “number off” and “dress” without enthusiasm.

CPO Ingram loves this and puts Jellicoe through the hoops whilst Blake watches with envy. Their CPO say audibly “There y’are! Look ‘ow they do it.” CPO Ingram, more pleased than ever, bawls “Awful! Do it again!” and makes us repeat the movements.

Nearly every man in London has a black tie. The women wear dark clothes; many have mourning armlets on the left arm.

Tuesday 21st January 1936

The King died at five minutes to twelve last night.

A windy, sunny day; flags at half mast. I saw a newspaper placard, “The King flies to London”. The new King – Edward VIII.

RNVR as usual. Jellicoe passed out for field training. We were asked to wear black ties until after the funeral.

Monday 20th January 1936

After some homework – the first this session – I went to the pictures with Gwyn.
Half way through the programme, the National Anthem was played. Rather unusual.
The main film was “Wings of Song” with Grace Moore. A poor story with beautiful singing.

Curtain. The lights on an almost empty house. The manager came onto the stage. “With regret” he read a message received on the wireless that night “The Kings life is drawing peacefully to a close”. “God save the King”. Everyone seemed dazed. Gwyn slowly put on her coat and scarf. Everything was slow. History.

“Grotesque” she said, afterwards. Midnight has just struck.

Sunday 19th January 1936

A look at some Ealing houses with the people. Cold and wintry day.

At Sandringham, the King is lying ill.

Stillness and Dawn 1936

J.S. Dawson. Ferndale, Richmond Road, Staines, Middlesex.

“Courage is but a word..
The muddy watch fire of cold winter days
…Faith – without it – has no sense;
And love to wind of doubt and tremor sways
And life for ever quaking marsh must tread.

…Hope has it not; nor pride of being true;
Tis the mysterious soul which never yields,
But hales us on to breast the rush
Of all the fortunes we shall happen thro…”

Saturday 18th January 1936

Harris had a mornings leave. I reached the works by 8 o’clock. Dark, drear, snowing hard. All went well. One after another, the lorries of Goodall, White and Croucher moved off into the thick snowflakes.

Various little odd jobs in the afternoon; a haircut, bought some razor blades, cleaned my shoes, had a look through my letter clip, wrote up this diary. Tomorrow I’m going up to town to see the people.

A note has just come from Young, to say that he’ll be calling in the afternoon. That means a ride to Windsor for me tonight.

Have just got back from Windsor. Went through the Park, came home via the lower road. In the Park, the snow was almost unspoilt; I struggled along, trying to follow the tracks of a car. The cycle lurched from side to side. It reminded me of a toboggan run. A clear, warm night on the way out; cold and foggy returning.

This is the end of Twilight – much overdue.

Friday 17th January 1936

Another philosophical evening, this time with Hall. After two pubs we sat against my digs fire and talked – but in a rather more sophisticated vein than last night.

Thursday 16th January 1936

Bitterly cold evening.

After supper, everyone else gone, Miss Rowlands and I sat over the kitchen fire, which was nearly extinct. Eventually, stole some wood from the oven and soon had a jolly blaze. I am now allowed to call Miss Rowlands by her first name – a strange Welsh one, Gwyneth, which means “whiteness”.

We discussed various theories; she’s rather good at that sort of conversation. As we talked, she leaned over the fire and prodded it with a poker. This was most soothing and dulled my intellect. We did not leave the fire until half past twelve!

(A filthy, untidy kitchen; remains of supper on the table. “But don’t you think” – tinkle of coal moved by the poker – “that one should follow one’s impulses?” Crunch of red embers. “Why – should we be compelled – to do work – we detest?”)


Wednesday 15th January 1936

Jellicoe class should “pass out for field training” next week. After the drill, I met John and brought him on board. He pretended to be an RNVR man, solemnly saluting the quarter deck and so forth.

Monday 13th January

NB - That lousy cold in the head (etc) is gone. Thanks to quinine. I’ll swear by quinine in future!

Sunday 12th January 1936

Breakfast 8.45. Met John and got away by 9.40. Cycled to Windsor by the lower road (flooded). Got through dry footed by hiking some distance across the Medes. Had difficulty crossing a stream and a stile. Dick Young was waiting for us at Old Windsor. Cycled to Beaconsfield. Sunny day; my mac soon joined my gloves and scarf in the ruc-sack. Left the cycles at a garage and rambled through sweet country, undulating, with many bare trees and skeleton woods and muddy gateways.

Coleshill at lunchtime. Ate our sandwiches with Benskin beer in the snug lounge of the village pub. Later, between Penn and Beaconsfield, twilight found us doubtful of the way. We “crossed contours”; down a steep hill, up another, along a narrow path through an empty orchard. Came to a lane, went down it. Came to a towering railway embankment. John and I climbed over it, Dick went under it, through a long, high bridge.

Beaconsfield.. Cycled easily through the darkness, down into Windsor (John’s bike making the hell of a noise).

John left us; Dick took me to a low-brow café where we had sausage and chips.
Then we washed and went to the Castle Hotel saloon bar. Soon quite a crowd of us.
I got tired of it – beer had lost it’s savour – and excused myself. Felt too lazy to cycle over the hill so took the lower road and kept to it! I paid! Did not dismount but still, water rose nearly to my knees as I struggled along. Rather misty too. I deserved to go in the river! Anyhow, it washed the mud off my shoes.

Saturday 11th January 1936

Nearly supper time. My mouth is rather dry through smoking. Have been reading a new author – Francis Brett Young. A book called “The House under the Water” One of those family narratives, like “Rogue Herries” and “The Old People”. About 700 hundred pages and I’m nearly half way through.

Quite ridiculous to be calling this “Twilight”, as if it were autumn time! Shall entitle the next one “Stillness” and bridge the gap. Rather a pity to drop the custom of these titles, after so long.

Before bedtime I dragged my old ruc-sack out of the junk chest and put in a few odds and ends, ready for tomorrow. Packing odds and ends into a ruc-sack – a task I have always enjoyed. I put in my pipe and pouch, one pipe cleaner, a star book and a few snaps. Tomorrow I shall add; a thermos flask of hot tea, fruit and sandwiches.

Thursday 9th January 1936

The river had been well down again but there was heavy rain all day today. Got back from Poly quite early and sat talking about books with Miss Rowlands. Later, I told her all about Wolfhampcote and she then described Walford, a village in South Wales.

After supper I went out for a packet of cigarettes. At the psychological moment, the Egham bus stopped outside the shop. So I got aboard and soon found myself approaching the works. (Fitful moonlight and a high wind.) I wanted to get to the river bend near the old coffee stall where I used to have lunch snacks, the summer before last. Hoped to see the Thames just brimming it’s banks. Too late, however. It was over and the road under water beyond the works. I got to the bend eventually, by walking across the Medes, which was fairly dry. There was a patch of road uncovered at the bend and I stood there some time watching the swirling river.

Going back along Windsor Road, I realised that the wind was very strong and wondered why it was not keening in the telegraph as it used to. I looked up and there were no wires and no poles! Must have been removed months ago and I have only just noticed it!

Back to the digs 12.15.

Wednesday 8th January 1936

I was right hand man again and tried to put a bit of pep into it. CPO Ingram rewarded me by saying, “Very good” He added, “An ounce of bull shit is worth a pound of brains at this business”.

Tuesday 7th January 1936

My first experience of shooting tonight – on the miniature range. Much harder than one imagines, to get the two sights and “bull” of the target in a dead line. In fact three of my five shots missed altogether. My eyes did not seem able to focus – too much smoking perhaps. No use at all. Berryman shot well and put on some ghastly “side”. Hempstead did even better and said it was a “flash in the pan”

Monday 6th January 1936

John called in the evening; in voluble mood. Told the interested Miss Rowlands all about various forms of bloodshed – Chinese tortures and so forth.

John and I have usually had our salary increases at co-incidental times. He’s lost no time in applying for another now. Apparently, he approached his works manager today and said, “Would it be possible for me to have a small rise?” To his horror, the manager replied without hesitation, “No, I don’t think it would be possible”. John then murmured his regrets and withdrew. Anyhow, he’s able to laugh (loudly) at it!

Sunday 5th January 1936

Walked to the top of Coopers Hill with John Brockwell. Still flooded land around there, but the water is draining away fast and big green patches are re-appearing on the Medes.

Saturday 4th January 1936

I measured the fall of water in the tank room; down two inches.

Friday 3rd January 1936

The water has risen since yesterday but I don’t think it came any higher during today.

Have had plenty of work to do since Christmas. I’m glad of that. Had a drink with Mr Lever at the Victoria during lunch time. Afterwards, I returned to the works across the Medes. Took about 20 minutes.

Received the expected increase in wages – 10/- That makes it £2- 10. Thank God. Safe at last! I can live on this – and gradually get a little in reserve. I’ve had some ghastly times when money troubles oppressed me. Well, with a little care, that should all be over now. This will make quite a difference to my weekly pocket money, which has jumped from 12/- to 22/- Nearly double. I need not be afraid any more. Thank God.

John Brockwell called in the evening. We eventually went to the Pack; played darts and operated a slot machine.

Thursday 2nd January 1936

The water has flooded the drum room and grinding shop. Had to use a punt today, no use trying to walk through. As far as I can see, the Medes is covered altogether. The flood water around the works stretches to within fifty yards of the main flood now. The punt drifts a long with the hedges on either side; it had to make a much longer journey today than yesterday.

Cycled to Chertsey with Mad Willy at night, then returned along the riverside to Halesham. Flooded most of the way. I guess I was the only traveller on that road tonight! Water rose to the hubs – I had to dismount and carry the machine several times – and the current was very strong. Felt quite lonely. Just water, hedges, moonlight and me.

So I lit my pipe. That made a fifth and most comforting part of the universe.

Wednesday 1st January 1936

Lorries cannot get through the flood now! A punt is used for the deepest part of the channel. At lunch time I was out there with several others, unloading from lorry to punt and from punt to other lorries across the water. Was given a ripping pair of thigh boots. Managed to wade through at night with the cycle on my shoulder. The staff were taken off in three boat loads. Remarkable scene, as I stood at the water’s edge. A lorry with it’s red rear lights, deep in the water; dark shapes scrambling into a punt; lights glittering on the water.

RNVR - Began bayonet drill. I happened to be the right hand man. “Fix” – and the right hand man takes three paces forward… “Bayonets!” He takes out his bayonet, fixes it, flings up his left arm at an angle of sixty degrees and watches the class.
When all the bayonets are fixed down comes the arm, back comes the rifle, three paces to the rear, pick up the dressing.

I saw this same thing done once at a Leicester parade. And it thrilled me. Now I’m learning to do it! When I think that I’m in the RNVR, a naval reservist, member of a military body, being trained to fight for England – my hair stands on end. (But actually none of us think in that romantic way.) Now that so many, many boyish dreams are coming true, I merely think – “This is a damn good show”.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tuesday 31st December 1935

The river rose rapidly during the night and Windsor Road is now flooded as before. It is still coming up, too!

Evening cycle ride to Thorpe. Tried Chertsey Lane but water was too deep, so took the other road. Went on by St. Anne’s Hill to Chertsey Bridge. Cycled back along the riverside to Halesham. Big stretches of the road flooded and the river rushing past a few feet away. I saw it by the light of the new moon. Got through, eventually.

Am smoking a cigar as I write – I can taste that! Having had supper; shall soon be going to bed. One New Year’s Eve, I shall have a gay time. But not this year.
I’ve just been trying to write some poetry. (…you and I would not be nearer than this – Our highest heights…) Shall now use it as a spill for my pipe.

Monday 30th December 1935

Je suis revenue – I think that means “I am returned”.

I brought back from the Midlands a beastly cold. Have just dosed myself with ammoniated quinine (lovely stuff) I cough wheezily and my head is waterlogged.

Monday 23rd December 1935

Very thick fog; bitterly cold. More slack than ever, at the works.

I’ve packed my kit, ready for tomorrow night. So the next notes will be written after Christmas.

Sunday 22nd December 1935

After tea I put on my best suit (that is to say, my only suit) and went for a stroll (also wearing RNVR tie!) Just outside Staines, a passing motorist gave me a lift and took me to Chertsey – I hadn’t been going there...

I took a footpath which brought me to Thorpe – the little church, with it’s lighted windows and white frost on the roof. Had a few drinks at the Red Lion and a talk with the News. Back by Anne Boleyn footpath. The ground, hard. Ice and white frost around. Clear, cold, dry night.

Saturdays 21st December 1935

Nowadays, work does not have the same cheering effect as it once did. Just lately. Nowadays, I often leave the works feeling depressed. I suppose we all think sometimes that our life is futile. Lord knows I should be happy enough, with no immediate shortage of money, Christmas a few days ahead and after that a rise – perhaps promotion. Yet I am not!

It must be three months since people first began to talk about Abyssinia and war. The situation is still difficult – and dangerous. There’s hate between Italy and England.

Friday 20th December 1935

Escorted Miss Rowlands to the Kingston bus after tea. Gone home for Christmas.

A band was loudly playing some Christmas hymn as I walked back to digs. Yes, the Jolly Season is nearly here. Met Hall and went to the Anglers Rest. His name is Dick, also! Had quite a happy time (and two Scotch and two ales). A pocket full of money for once. Very foggy night.

Thursday 19th December 1935

Pretty dull at the works. Damn all to do. At night, Mr Val addressed a muster of all hands, in the stores, re. a Provident fund scheme.

I’m to have quite a decent leave at Xmas and a rise in the New Year.

Wednesday 18th December 1935

Miss Rowlands and I, mutually bored, went for a ride. A cold evening with patches of fog. Went through Thorpe and to St. Anne’s Hill – all strange to her.

Up the Old Coach Road and to the Nun’s Grove. Eventually reached the summit and came down past the Well, where we threw stones. I expounded all the local legends and added a few more of my own.

Tuesday 17th December 1935

Last drill this year. Jellicoe did rifle drill with Lea-Enfields. We have now been taught to; take up arms, slope, shoulder, order and present. Also the “trail” with the left hand steadying the nose cap. Have not used bayonets yet.

The choice of a division lies between gunnery and visual signals, I suppose, so far as I’m concerned. VS would suit me better – less of mechanics, less of cleaning and polishing. Also (vanity) it would be easier to obtain the crossed flags of an OS than the gun and star of a SG.
Gunnery is a much rougher branch (these are the people who scrub decks in the RN). The “bunting tossers” are generally a much more intellectual lot. And I’d learn signalling – tactics, codes – more easily than the mechanical side of gunnery.

Against all this, is the fact that gunnery includes seamanship. Gunnery and seamanship is not an off-shoot of naval routine – it is IT. Secondly, gunnery is more exciting – and more dangerous. Well, I’ve got two months to decide. (Wouldn’t it be glorious, up on the signalling bridge when I go to sea? The eyes of the ship.)

Sunday 15th December 1935

Had tea at Forest Park. Dick was incredulous when I told him the way the bet was turning. We hardly know what to talk about nowadays. I am not interested in his social work, amateur concert parties etc. he is not interested in my “militaristic” activities. We go our ways therefore.

Saturday 14th December 1935

Now this is frightfully funny! John called at lunchtime, rather crest fallen. Finding the new digs were going to be expensive he had suddenly got fed up and had fetched all his kit back again. He wasn’t quite sure where he’d spend the night!

Afternoon – a cold, bleak one.I cycled painfully to Richmond, house-hunting. Most of the estate agents were shut; I had thought they’d keep shop hours.Wrote to some, however.

Called on John in the evening. He was comfortably settled in at Cherry Orchard again. Yorkshire John.

Thursday 12th December 1935

Last Poly night. Before Xmas, that is. Left at 10 past 8, ran like hell and just caught the 8.17 down. Have got a lot of back notes to write out. Lectures are very interesting – better than last year as regards their practical helpfulness.

The weather is damn bitterly cold. What one expects at this time of year

Wednesday 11th December 1935

Managed to catch the 5.45 GWR tonight. During the first drill we attended a lecture on Gas; most grisly. Tear gas, toxic smoke, chlorine, phosgene, mustard, lewisite. All nasty things!

The lantern slides were definitely graphic. The blister gases have an unpleasant effect; also those of the choking variety. Toxic smoke causes intense irritation, with the object of making a man remove his mask, thus getting a dose of something worse. Very neat.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tuesday 10th December 1935

Jellicoe class began field training. Marched down to the loader deck, where each man received a rifle, bayonet and belt. Later on we were shown how to put on the belt (with bayonet dangling in sheath) and hold the rifle without looking too foolish. Smith made the classic blunder – dropped his rifle.

Met Father later on. He gave me some beer and five bob. Saved the situation!

I nearly forgot the days work! At 11 o’clock Mr Val said I was to clear out Edgware Road, with Newman, his boy and Bolton. (Boltons first trip since the General Strike.)

Sunday 8th December 1935

At about 3 p.m. Mad Willy, John and Young arrived. After a short discussion, partly in my bedroom, partly in the sitting room, we set forth. Maddison and I broke away from the others near Wentworth, and followed a light railway track down into the woods. It led us to the bottom of a sand-pit and helping each other we managed to scramble out. Found the SR railway and followed this until we came to a bridge, on which the others were waiting.

Tea once again, at the Sundial, Chobham. Afterwards, we sat around the fire. Back by Graciouspond and Flutters Hill. (Frightfully funny when John forgot his stick. I reminded him, whereupon he swung round and disappeared at a gallop into the night.) Had some beer at the Red Lion (even Maddison).

Arrived back at Staines soon after 10 o’clock.

Saturday 7th December 1935

John called this afternoon, hadn’t seen him for a long time. I had a bet with Dick about six weeks ago, that John would not leave his digs before Christmas. He’s been there 14 months; he is leaving next Saturday (Hell!)

Unless something unusual occurs, my budget cannot possibly balance this week.

Don’t hear so much about Abyssinia nowadays, but they are still fighting out there.

Friday 6th December 1935

Delivering calendars in the Whitehall area, with Newman in the small van (his boy crouching uncomfortably in the waist). Office of Works. Architects offices on top floors.

Walking down a passage in Deans Yard, Westminster, I found myself in a very war-like atmosphere. The square was full of many boy-soldiers in various squads, being drilled by other boys. Rifles lying on the pavement… OTC

Back to the works, load delivered, by 5 o’clock. Called for my cycle, at a repair shop in Staines. Reflector, lamp, battery; Repaired chain; Spokes in rear wheel – 4/8d.

Took a book to the library. Wrote home, enclosing a district map and the RNVR handbook; Cleaned my shoes and had a bath. Then it was bedtime.

Thursday 5th December 1935

Went to the Poly tonight. Found the lecture quite interesting. Missed a lot in these last few weeks. Took a book back to the library which was long overdue. Luckily, the girl couldn’t find the date on which it was issued!

Re RNVR. I still have not decided which branch to volunteer for; Guns, Torps, VS or WT? Certainly not the Writer and Supply Branch.

Wednesday 4th December 1935

West-East journey with White. When I got to the Harrow Road depot, the delightful girl said I was to ring Mr Val at once. (“Something exciting is to happen!” I thought.) Mr Val told me to wait until Driver Scott arrived and then give him a hand with the lumber at Edgware Road. So White went and I waited; sometimes helping with the stock, sometimes talking to the D.G. in the basement. (I said she must be a witch and she giggled.)

Scott arrived in mid-afternoon and we loaded his van with remarkably heavy radiators and other junk. Delivered a few west end orders and returned, he talking about his “birds”, most volubly. Left him in Staines.

Dashed up to town for my 25th and 26th drills. Jellicoe class passed out for Discipline. I’m getting to know several of them now. Bell aspired to be a Writer – he looks the type. Levey, public school-boy, and self-contained; typical. Cresswell, always swigging beer; Richmond – he’s 35 but gave his age as 26. Berryman, only 16, entered as a Boy. Smith, friendly, talkative, keen. A bakers boy or something (speaks it but doesn’t look it). His cousin, Cooper, will I think, be the best of us all. A good man, in all ways. Nutting is quite young but shapes pretty well…

Start field training next week. Bell says he knows enough about rifle-drill to be put in charge of Jellicoe.

Tuesday 3rd December 1935

Had a lorry ride today, with Croucher. He is the driver who imagined I was put on lorries to check the men’s intervals and so forth. Don’t think he imagines that any more, though we have not mentioned the subject.

Went to Ponders End, then to Watford. Cross-country run back to Staines.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Friday 29th November 1935

Harris is back now, so I am a sort of superfluous supernumerary. All the better for the experience of responsibility though. Where will they put me next?

Met Diana near the digs, as she was returning from the station. We stood talking for half an hour or more, on the river bank. A remark of hers jerked my mind vividly to the Pageant time. Then – and now. What a difference!

Have just been turned out of the sitting room, which they use as a bedroom at night. So I’m sitting writing in my rather cosy room upstairs. I’ve got an arm chair and am using the German ashtray which Dick gave me. Have got an orange which I shall now eat as my mouth is rather dry. Afterwards I might shave, if the tap water runs hot enough. (Save time in the morning.) Then I shall smoke another cigarette and read “A Tall Ship” story before turning in.

Thursday 28th November 1935

Long time since I went to the Pictures… Went tonight with Miss Rowlands. “Forever England”… The story of AB Brown on Resolution Island. Dashed good! A film of the RN in action.

Tuesday 26th November 1935

Floods abating; can now reach the works dry footed.

RNVR tonight. Have done 20 drills. CPO Ingram showed Jellicoe class how to sling hammocks. Also how to “lash up and stow”.

Monday 25th November 1935

Have to walk to and from the works. Brisk walk; cold mornings.

Met Father in Richmond this evening. Had a look at some houses. Family will probably move to this district next year.

Sunday 24th November 1935

Afternoon; walked to Dick’s place. Hat, gloves, scarf, no coat; stick, old, comfortable shoes.
Stayed there an hour or so, exchanging gossip, then he walked back with me as far as the Green.
Cold, snappy weather, just right for brisk walking..

Saturday 23rd November 1935

Dry, cold, sunny weather. The river had risen a little. The flood waters stretch a bit further. Can’t last long though – thank heavens!

As arranged, I met Helen in Staines and was with her just half an hour. She wanted to tell me about a holiday love affair in Devonshire. Apparently he asked her to marry him and she doesn’t know what to do about it. (Why tell me?) Afterwards she called on Di. I went to “Enleigh” and had a game of ludo with Ted Beach.

Friday 22nd November 1935

Today, I had to pay for yesterday. Mr Val “rowed” me (first time!) and my bicycle dropped to bits – figuratively.

Cycled to the works – only journey the miss-used machine had to make – and found a sinister notice board at the end of Windsor Toad – “Road Closed. Floods” I found Davis helping a driver near the factory. Stalled motor. Beyond - the road was a shallow canal. So the river had come over!
At lunchtime I reached the river bend where the break occurred. Except for the rushing water, there was a strange silence. Had my lunch there, sitting on a fence.

No rain today; I don’t think the river will rise much more. To avoid wet feet, those who haven’t got Wellingtons, were taken to the Mede’s end by lorry. A large pool there covers the path and the road.
Croucher took two office girls in his cabin, whilst Mr Lever, Mad Willy and I sat in the back.

Thursday 21st November 1935

The works is very quiet after the machine departments have finished work, at 4 o’clock. Mr Val and Mr Lever are often away and then I feel that the stores is very much mine and my responsibility. It is; sorting out the journeys, deciding who shall take the various loads. Tomorrow, Goodall starts for the docks at 6 o’clock. Scott goes to Brighton. Croucher is doing odd runs – the “dump” and the stations. Newman goes to Windsor. White should leave for Dagenham soon after 9. Then Croucher loads up for the northern suburbs. Goodall returns and goes to Bromley – a heavy day for him. Newman takes the noonday load for the West end. I’ve had to lighten his load so that he can get his lorry to the Commer place by 4 p.m. for repairs…
This is a typical day… And Newmans’s boy? Shall I deviate from the general rule and give him a run with White?

Left at 5.30, having helped load Goodall’s van for the docks. I stealthily started the Bedford and drove out of the yard and to No.9. First experience of night driving… Took me a long time to back into the garden.

Got into the house with my old key, dragged the last of my kit downstairs – a tea-chest full of junk – and put it in the van. Drove to Richmond Road and back to the works – empty now – without mishap. Or discovery, so far as I know.

No cycle lamp. I got to Staines Bridge along the tow-path. Too deep to pedal in some places. Looked most eerie when, glancing ahead, I saw no path; just water. Had to drag myself along by some very rickety railings near Parsons’ (or Knight’s) Bridge.

My bedroom furnishing is now complete so I turned to and made everything neat and tidy. Arranged all my belongings in their respective places. Looks frightfully cosy.

A stroll towards Penton Hook with Miss R. Pretty drear and sinister down there but flooding is not so bad as on the upper side of Staines. Time I stopped writing; must be midnight – again!

Wednesday 20th November 1935

The river must be at it’s highest now. At the Pack Horse, the causeway is awash; the river makes the hell of a noise as it rushes under the bridge. By the works, the water is just below the bank still. There is a large pool of water gathering at the Mede’s end. On the Wraysbury side, bungalow gardens are flooded.

Tuesday 19th November 1935

Miss Gwyneth Rowland and I cycled along the tow-path to Egham at lunchtime. We both got our feet wet.

Monday 18th November 1935

Have made no fearful blunders yet. Great confusion each morning, which gradually sorts it’s self out as the vans get away. I have to keep the girls working. Felt rather shy of giving orders at first but I’m used to it now. Loyal, Mad Willy told me that the lorry drivers are saying I was put with them as Mr Val’s informer. How I hate sneaking rumours like that!

The river is rising, gradually.

A note was handed to me in the midst of chaotic arranging of the journeys. I opened it later; from Helen, asking if she could see me, with a vague reference to Di. Wonder what the intrigue is?

Hall called a few moments ago, with a “long story”. So I’m going round to his digs to hear it. Had been going for a stroll with Miss Rowland (intellectual school teacher, digs) to see the floods.

Don’t feel depressed today. Still got 9/19d left – and a pair of good shoes!

A stroll along the river bank with Hall, and a yarn and several pipes. (I’m smoking Afrikander. Not bad and only 8d.)

According to this evening’s paper, the Thames floods have got as far down as Old Windsor. Not far away.

Sunday 17th November 1935

Evening; I went for a lone walk along the muddy riverside. The Thames running high and it’s still raining… At Bell Weir I walked over the lock gates and out along the weir bridge. Rather fun; I’d no right to be there. Water was rushing through. The lower side almost level with the upper. Flood!
I saw the lock-keeper come out and turn a flashlight on the water. Measuring depth, perhaps? He didn’t see me.

Friday 15th and Saturday 16th November 1935

Two “poodle-faking” nights. Dinner with King Eric at Ashford, on Friday. Tea with Mad Willy and his people on Saturday. Foreman Harris still away.

One joyful item to record. My feet are no longer continuously damp. A surprise remittance arrived from home and I bought a pair of shoes. I’ve got some cigarettes and a book and have had a supper.
Nevertheless, for some obscure reason, I’m fed up!

….And remained fed up until…

Wednesday 13th November 1935

Strolled into the stores as usual, at 9 o’clock – to find responsibility thrust upon me! Foreman Harris ill. So I have to run the stores and despatch departments in his absence. 9 girls, 1 sprayer, 1 packer, 5 drivers. Most of them know the job better than I!

Tuesday 12th November 1935

North run. Croucher let me take the wheel as we came back along the Great West, just at twilight. Drove right back to the works. Heavy vans rather awkward to control – gear changing especially hard.

After leaving the ship I called at Father’s digs, near Edgware Road. The hostess showed me up to his room and I made myself cosy with a pipe and the paper until he returned. Surprise! There I sat. Back by the 11.58.

Monday 11th November 1935

West-East run, with White. At eleven o’clock we were in Hammersmith. Pulled out of a side street into Goldhawke Road when the stillness came. I saw road workers take off their caps… The lorry stopped, half over the road and we got out. Cars loomed out of a thin fog. Stopped. All except one, which tore past us… Then we all moved again.

Further up the road, I saw a lonely, untidy old woman, wiping her eyes.

Saturday 9th November 1935

Breakfast at Chertsey. Lunch at 55 Richmond Road. Chaotic. Mrs Stephens has just moved in.
My bedroom has a wash basin (h and c!) and is centrally heated. Will be quite nice when it has been furnished.

Had tea at Hall’s digs. We discussed poetry and so forth. Then strolled along to the Anglers Rest. He found a large, delightful room with a decent piano, where we were alone. Hall practised his technique on the waitress. She was just delicately inviting him to take her home when the hostess interrupted. So the waitress gave me a disgusted look – as if to say, “The old bitch” – drained her glass, said, “I’ll be seeing you” and went.

Friday 8th November 1935

Wet feet. Shoes rather worn. Moved my Chertsey kit to Staines; not much of it.

Thursday 7th November 1935

East-West with White. Vicious rain and at firs, a slight fog. Millwall Docks. I watched a ship from Leningrad being unloaded. It flew the Soviet Hammer and Sickle flag. With interest I observed the use of the main mast derrick.

Had lunch in a café near the docks. Kept by a mud-coloured man; perhaps a South American. The place was clean, yet had an unpleasant smell. Other men passing to and fro were also muddy coloured yet with thick Negroid lips. Sickly!

A load of cases for India had to be consigned from Commercial Road Goods Stn. Dozens of vans waiting to be dealt with. Very poor system. Raining hard… After two hours in the cold and wet I went to the railwaymen’s canteen for some hot tea and a few puffs at a cigarette. Then White did the same; after two hours twenty minutes, the checkers suddenly decided to look at our six cases. They were on the platform with sheets signed, in three minutes. When White returned, I was trying to get his two ton van out of the chaos of traffic. Railwaymen and lorry drivers yelling encouragement, “Put er on the left lock nah!”

At a shop in the WC1 area I received a tip – 2d! I gave half of it to White.

Back to the works, 6p.m. A rough day but a jolly one. Hard ride back to Chertsey. Vicious rain. I sang loudly.

Wednesday 6th November 1935

Up to town by the 5.31. Went to the Poly – to change a library book and have a wash! Got to the ship just in time.

A cold evening – and Jellicoe was on deck most of the time, without any coats! Especially cold as we stood on the fore superstructure and fore signalling bridge, making notes. Later we were scrambling on the boats booms, aft, whilst CPO Ingram explained the working of the mainmast derrick.

In a lecture room, abaft the gun deck; CPO Ingram asked if there were any strong men present. One modest youth said he was pretty strong whereupon he was at once told to clean the blackboard! (An old Naval joke.) Jellicoe is nearly complete now. We muster twenty now, with tonight's new entries. I am first on the roll, by some stroke of luck. It might easily have been Bell, Levey, Smith or Cooper.

Tuesday 5th November 1935

West-East run, with White. Slight traces of fog. Lunch snack at Tower Hill. Had a large piece of cake, known as a “Tottenham”.

Later took some cases to the docks, where Grantully Castle was loading. Wapping and Pennyfields – home of melodramatic, fictional crime! Slit eyed chinks. Varied smells from towering warehouses. Scene of an accident in West Ham. Motor cycle under a bus, with a bloody faced man lying nearby. Was he dead or unconscious?

White dropped me in Edgware Rd. I felt tired, rough and dirty. Had a jolly good wash in the Piccadilly subway, then went onto the ship, fresh and clean feeling.

Home by 10.30 Hot stew for supper. No Swedish cargo boats!

Monday 4th November 1935

West end journey with White. Reached Harrow Rd. after lunch. Invited to stay and help sort out the chaos. I did. White picked me up again at 5.30.

Hall, the imaginative railway clerk, called tonight. Quite a decent pow-wow, reminiscent of olden times. He brought with him a book of poetry and bundles of notes.

Saturday 2nd November 1935

No journeys today.

Evening, called on Mrs Stephens. OK Move in there next Saturday.

Friday 1st November 1935

With Goodall today. An unusual lunch. We bought fish and chips and ate them with our fingers, sitting in the van. I bought two cups of tea from a coffee stall and Goodall lent me a sensational magazine (Forced to sing love songs to bandit killer!)

Later, we reported for duty at the Edgware Road depot. Being moved to Harrow Road. We transported three lorry loads of stock and furniture. (“Can’t get it out unless we take the door off!”) At Harrow Rd. until 6.30 (I standing in a trap, head and shoulders emerging from the pavement, passing cans down to the basement).

Head traveller Barber stood a round of drinks to his workers. Happy day.

1935-36 Twilight

Note: If my pay has not been increased by the end of Twilight, I shall ask for a rise. Hope that will not be necessary.

…It is the nonchalant shruggers who succeed…

Thursday 31st October 1935

North, with Croucher. Raining hard. Had an exciting skid near Hampstead Heath – or was it Edgware? (“Come on you bitch” said Croucher, speaking to his lorry.)

Didn’t go to the Poly. Cycled home via Thorpe. I caught the smell of hay and damp autumn leaves.
Bought myself ten Woodbines. Am smoking as I write this, in the chaotic sitting room. (Tea things still on the table.)

Wednesday30th October 1935

Awoke with an unhappy feeling; in other words I was thinking about money.

Five miles from my digs to the works. A pleasant ride, with Mad Willy. In the West end today, riding in the back of Newman’s van. Drear weather.

Didn’t go to the ship. Could not afford train fare.

I sat by the fireside, reading, with two kittens purring on my knee.

Tuesday 29th October 1935

Went up to town by GWR. A crazy little toy train as far as West Drayton, where we changed. The guard opened the door as we thundered along, to ask if there was “Anyone for Runnymede”. There wasn’t, so we hurtled through that station at about ten miles per hour!

On the Brighton run today. Kingston, Epson Downs. Sussex. Grey seas at Brighton; white caps far out.
Back across the South Downs. Saw the Devils Dyke. Scott let me drive a little way, near Guildford. Not so easy as a light van!

Five new men in Jellicoe, now. One is too cocky, the rest seem rather dull. Sitting in the Seamanship lecture room (after end of the main deck), I looked through a scuttle at lights across the river – and saw them swing out of sight! Of course the ship was rocking. Subdued excitement ran through the class. Later, Smith was taken ill. Seasick perhaps?

Sunday 27th 1935

Whilst at Staines GWR, making enquiries about cheap evening tickets, the clerk suddenly asked me if I knew of a decent library in Staines. What did he read? Poetry, chiefly. Whose poetry?… Rupert Brooke…

I went back into the office and sat down! Hall, aged 25. As imaginative and sensitive as I used to be.

Saturday 26th October 1935

Not much to do at the Works. And I saw nothing of Mr Val! Said cheerio to Koke. Had lunch at Chertsey.

Evening; cycled to Dick’s place. Left there at 10.30 and returned through the dark, dark Windsor Park. The red deer… Was I afraid? Well, my heart was thudding rather harder than usual! A few pedal strokes carried me from dangerous wildness into fashionable society. Some sort of party at Bishopsgate. Scores of cars arriving; men in immaculate evening dress; beautiful women.

Two emotions suffused me – discontentment and desire: ambition

Friday 25th October 1935

Just before leaving with the West-East lorry, I saw Mr Val. “Don’t go out tomorrow, Dawson” he said impressively. (Why not, I wondered hopefully?) Back at the Works, 6.30, with two tons of white lead and Brunswick green on board.

In the “Staines and Egham News” was an advert re. digs at Chertsey. Cycled across, after tea. Lewis Cottage, Chertsey Bridge, was a tea house. Ramshackle, untidy building. OK until I move to Staines, anyhow.

Took my essential kit across this same night. Just one suitcase.

Thursday 24th October 1935

West, East and Dagenham again, with White. See very little of the Works nowadays. Collected the hell of a lot of rubbish and stale paint from Edgware Road. (The delightful girl was still there and still delightful.)

Back in the darkness along the Great West. Works 6.30. Life is no longer dull.

Wednesday 23rd October 1935

With White on the East-and-West run (Done in one journey when possible.) My lips are frightfully sore. Fumes from the engine. West-end flats etc and the Paripan office and depot (Delightful girl at the latter place.) Only ten minutes for lunch. (White trying to impress me.) East-end. Voluptuous Jewesses made me shudder. Out beyond, to Dagenham.

White dropped me alongside President: 6p.m. I went on board (and stood to attention as is customary). We spent the evening in learning the parts of the ship – top gallant mast, breakwater, athwart ships bulkhead… Nearby, a lieutenant was questioning a squad of new entries passing out. “What is this?” “Queen Anne’s Mansions, sir” “Christ! Why not make it the Grosvenor? It is the after superstructure. Got that?”

I had supper in the mess room. Sausage and mash. Left some gravy on my plate. This was a faux pas, because the steward thought that “another Swedish cargo boat had gone down”.

It’s ripping! Expense? Despite the fact that I’m now able to smoke all day, I’ve cut down my cigarettes quite a lot.

Tuesday 22nd October 1935

London with Croucher. Frightfully interesting, these journeys. Actual contact with the customer.
Shops, building estates, private houses. Croucher got me back to the Works just at 5 o’clock. So I arrived at President by 6.30.

Five of us in Jellicoe Class. Levy, Bell, Smith, Cooper. We were taught the elementary principles of drill; shown over the ship; lectured on discipline, Naval tradition etc. “When coming aboard you will salute the gangway. If not in uniform… 'Ere we 'ave the torpedo school… At the command, dismiss, new entries turn forrard, pause and break away… Right about turn!”

I bought myself an RNVR tie and felt fearfully proud of it. Wavy red and white stripes, on blue.

Monday 21st October 1935

With Goodall in South London. Chiefly fire brigade stations, this time. The side window could not be raised and there was a north easterly wind.

Saturday 19th October 1935

Cycled across to Windsor; a walk with Young, in the dark; beer in a lovely little pub. Came back through the Park and heard the red deer crying; it is the rutting season.

I am to have some time on the lorry journeys. Although it lengthens my period of poverty, I am glad.

Thursday 17th October 1935

Spoke to Mr Randall about RNVR. He was quiet pleased and readily signed the employers approval form.

Wednesday 16th October 1935

I guess that tonight’s work cancels out an old blot on my private record. (noted, March 31st 1933) It also turns many old dreams into reality. Good work. Tonight I joined the RNVR. (After much hesitation the timid individual, places himself in the power of a machine!)

It needed a certain amount of guts, so I dare not imagine too much. Just stolidly went up. Think that is the best way to get things done. I was marched into the recruiting officers room. A P.O. at once took charge and tested my eyesight almost before I’d closed the door. 10 stones 10. 6 foot 1. Fair, blue, fresh. C of E. Nearest relative… 31 ½ - 39 ½ (Through a chink in the curtains I had a glimpse of swift running water just below.)

The doctor was satisfied. I was measured for my uniform. We signed various papers. We were informed we were the beginning of the Jellicoe class. Half a dozen of us, all fearfully anxious to be smart. We fell in awkwardly on the gun deck and a P.O. told us he was to be our “Sea Daddy” until we were rated O.D. In these first few weeks, he said, we must develop a “seaman-like attitude”.

So it is done – almost.

Tuesday 15th October 1935

Getting slack in the stores now. This morning I went away with the North London lorry, as van-boy. Driver, Croucher.

Brentford, Acton, Ealing, Willesden, Winchmore Hill, Finchley. Lunch – sausage and bubble at a lorry drivers café. Harrow-on-the-Hill, Wembley. (How the thing jolted.)

Swung the handle at Wembley – and the infernal lorry jumped at me. Croucher had left it in gear! Luckily the brake held until he reached the switch.

Back at the works by 5 o’clock. Stood in the dim garage talking to Davis – Engineer-Fitter.
He finished a quiet yarn which he began telling a year ago when I was in the grinding shop.

Curious how history repeats itself – last years history.

Monday 14th October 1935

5o’clock; cycled as far as Norlands Lane with Maddison, then came home through Thorpe. (It’s Autumn, now.)

Evening, hiked across to the Red Lion for a drink and a talk with Mr New. Good old Charley! He told me that two ladies had been enquiring for me, the previous night. Incidentally, Foreman Ellis of all people, was visited by the same “two ladies” later on.

The above remarks are without comment.

Friday 11th October 1935

The League of Nations began to apply economic sanctions to Italy. Abyssinian arms embargo lifted.

Night Adventure Oct. 12-13

Higham, Young and Brockwell met at my digs. 10.30p.m. Moon at the full. By railway, road and path to Chobham Common (Wet heather soon soaked our feet.) Indulged my usual hobby for climbing railway signals. We had supper beneath a wind pump (Yes, I scrambled up!)

Watched a vast amount of cloud gradually envelope the moon. Saw the tree tops os Chobham Clump jutting out of the mist. Sometimes, not sure of the way, we’d wander, seeking; and I’d see stumbling dim shapes and flickering lights. When I stopped to light my pipe, the others were quickly out of sight and a deep, deep silence fell.

Longcross, Lyne Lane, Footpath to Thorpe Green. Not cold; my mac was fastened to my rucksack. Got to my digs at 5 o’clock. They quietly got their bikes and went. I had a wash then tumbled into bed.

Awoke at 11 o’clock, when Sunday had officially begun.

Went to Mrs Stephens’ in the evening. Probably shall reside there for the winter. Returning, I met Diana and Helen (strange combination!) in Vicarage Road. They are close friends apparently. Thank heavens I’m a fatalist and therefore not easily surprised at fates little moves. Chatted to them for some time. Long enough to almost be jolted out of my dull placidity.

Thursday 10th October 1935

Poly: 5.38 up, 9.57 down. Becoming blasé, I read a book in the train.

Wednesday 9th October 1935

Spent the evening searching tentatively, for fresh digs. After looking at a place in Staines I had a mad idea for taking a caravan at St. Anne’s, and living “rough". Marched through the raging wind to Thorpe Mill. A wild night! However, the caravan had been taken. (Perhaps just as well!)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Saturday 5th October 1935

Up at 6.30. Prepared my own breakfast. Works before 8 o’clock. Harris away. We sent the lorries off alright. The last one was Maidenhead’s. Mr Val told me to go along with White. A sunny morning, just right for a spin. I drove from Egham to Datchet, then from Maidenhead to the Works.

Traffic in Slough and Windsor. My first experience. White talked and smoked all the time. I smoked. Arrived back 1 o’clock.

Evening, visited the Beach’s and played Donkey. Came home, felt fed-up, went out and met Harvey at the corner! Walked down to the Spot with him. He’s on sick leave from the Watford Asylum (not an inmate). As theatrical as ever. Pockets full of bandages and text books, which he displayed from time to time, with casual pride.

Left him at the corner again – “Cheerio. See you in Addis Ababa!”

Put my bedroom clock back – to 11.15. Shall now light my pipe and read a little while.

Friday 4th October 1935

At 5.30, feeling reckless, I got into the Bedford, drove out of the yard and into the road. Solo! Strictly against orders. Exultant, I dashed across the Medes, along the river to Old Windsor, then up that steep hill to Bishopsgate. Smoked, did just as I liked in fact. Got back soon after 6. Damn lucky; nobody saw me.

This incident made me feel gay for the rest of the evening!

Sunset and Twilight 1935/6

J.S.Dawson : Vicarage Road, Egham Surrey
Later: Lewis Cottage, Chertsey Bridge, Chertsey, Surrey
Later: 55 Richmond Road, Staines, Middlesex

“Broadly speaking, it is the nonchalant shruggers who succeed in life, and the blanchers who sleep on the Embankment.”

Thursday 3rd October 1935

Caught the 5.38 up, from Egham. (Having borrowed my fare from Koke!)

On the way to the station I saw glaring news headlines. The first was, “War Begun” Beside it I saw, “Adowa Bombed. 1700 Casualties” My hair stood on end for a moment!

At the Poly. I found the Paint Manufacturing class much more in my line. Year three, so rather stiff. Must say I don’t like the place frightfully. However, tis in a good cause (as the platidudians say!) Came down by the 9.57.

The winter’s work has commenced. Hope… No, I don’t hope anything, being a fatalist.
I guess this is the end of a long book. At least, it covers a long period.

Incidentally, I’m in the kitchen at digs, listening to dance music. “Lovely to look at” is being played now. On these last pages, in conclusion, let me write, of the cavalcade of people and places which I saw – July 13th to October 3rd.

Unspoilt English country…a light… “Ah – kay – la!” …High on the crest of breakers… Green, wide, still… land… High country… Diana, Lucy Ashton… Walked about twelve miles… a black felt hat… Moonlit water shattered… Roaring Making house fires… Mr Anderson, a garage proprietor… “A pleasant day in each other’s company”… disconsolate little Lucy… Abyssinia! Thorpe – Egham… Bedtime…
“Straightness pays!”… TocH… Motor car… Rainstorm… Abyssinia?… The Works… The Poly…Joan… Blackness…


NB: Several pages have been removed from this book. Some have been rewritten whilst others remain as blanks. Gaps: August 29th (later) to September 2nd. September 20th

Tuesday 1st October 1935

Bought fifty Craven A. 2/6d.

Have received Mr Randall’s permission to change my class. Therefore I did not travel up to join the noble company of tradesmen tonight.

Life is boring again but I am trying to keep the black moods off.

Monday 30th September 1935

Pleasant day’s work. The telephone is enjoyable when one understands what it’s all about.

Bought ten Players and ten Park Drive. That leaves me with 2/6d.

This evening’s newspapers headline is in the form of a prediction: “War within a Week” That is between Italy and Abyssinia. Diplomatic opinions change daily – according to the papers.

Sunday 29th September 1935

Raining like hell. Caught the 9.14 up from Egham. Met Joan at Liverpool Street 11.30.
Lunch at a little Italian café. Had a look round Tussauds. Many tube journeys. Tea at the popular, Piccadilly. (First piece by the orchestra was “Lovely to look at” the current dance number.)

Joan gave me half a crown, two photographs, and a grey pullover. Dominating young woman! Of course, she is ten days older than myself… Saw her off from Pancras at 5 o’clock. Another day which helped banish vague thoughts of a life of crime.

Still have 3/4d left! Definite liability for next week – 2/6, train fare to the Poly and back.

Saturday 28th September 1935

Things brightened up considerably in the afternoon; and the nagging head ache I’ve had for several days, has disappeared.

Went back to the works after lunch and practiced driving, under the kindly eye of Engineer Davis. Reversed into the garage, out of it; up the yard, down the yard; through the gate; between two bricks (an old test of steering). Turned the thing round in a narrow space. Changed down, - changed up. And smoked to my hearts content!

Friday 27th September 1935

Still apropos of nothing – Life is still very dull. So dull that I see everything through a grey haze.

Tuesday 24th September 1935

First night at Borough Poly. “Art” Dept. Slapping on primer with a gigantic brush, in company with a gang of painters, all “in the trade”.

Sneaked away early and just caught the 9.17 down.

Saturday 21st September 1935

Met Dick in the evening and had some beer in two Windsor pubs.

Then came home, had supper, went to bed. Slept. (Thrilling narrative of adventure!)

P.S. Apropos of nothing: Life is very dull.

Thursday 19th September 1935

I find it difficult to write prose of the vividly descriptive type nowadays.(“Purple Spots”.) Perhaps the ability to think like that is the monopoly of idealistic youths?

This the second anniversary of my coming to Egham. Still without money. When do I actually begin to live? Money. Money. A small word which represents the hell of a lot of fulfilled desires.

A page of vicious and impious scrawling has been removed from here. Dated September 20. Only one sentence is worthy of perpetuating herein – “I guess this waiting is the price I pay for having wasted years before getting down to a job of work.” Confession of the justice of it.

Wednesday 18th September 1935

Went up to town and enrolled at the Borough Poly. A rather ghastly district.
Am doing Application this year. No Chemmy. work at all.

A cup of tea and a cake at Waterloo, whilst waiting for the down train. Followed by a cigarette. Just as usual!

Tuesday 17th September 1935

Supper with the Beach family, Wraysbury Road. Not my people, but they are very nice to me.

Monday 16th September 1935

9.30p.m. Wind is raging against the house and driving gusts of rain. I’m going to ride out into it!

Later: I rode into it! Went to the clump of pines on Chobhan Common. And stood there, with the wind howling at me! Exhilaration. Returning, the wind dropped a little. Came heavy rain. (I could see it drifting across the road.)

Rather damp when I got home, 11 o’clock. A hefty supper and bed. Sat reading awhile before sleeping.

Sunday 15th September 1935

A walk with Koke, across Callow Hill. Many of my favourite paths are closed now but it is still charming. Called at a beer house, “Rose and Olive Branch”, I believe. Played skittles and manipulated an automatic piano. Another beautiful moonlit night.

When I do go into a pub with a woman, I like her to be fairly sophisticated. As Koke, for instance!

Saturday 14th September 1935

Dick and I called on John. Theatrical atmosphere when John rushed downstairs and told his hostess that he’d lost 8d! We walked down riverside to Penton Hook and around the silent island. Delightful moonlight.

Back in Staines, we tried the Pack Horse, first the lounge and then the saloon bar, where I fell through a chair without embarrassment. Were fascinated by some penny in the slot machine. John was very Yorkshire in his treatment of it!

Friday 13th September 1935

Another driving lesson. Chobham Common. Improved starts and stops. Can get into top quite quickly. Practised changing down on hills. Also starting on a hill. One has to accelerate, take off the clutch and the hand brake – all at once. Failed ten times and succeeded the eleventh.

Koke, “fed-up”, went out “on the binge”. George and I waited for her. Eventually he went to bed. She returned about 12.15.

12.30 now. I’m going to read Sapper awhile before sleeping. Have a bedside light.
Yes, George is OK.

Re. the Itals – Abyssinian trouble. The papers are full of military pictures. Italy is steadily preparing for the great moment. Meanwhile, the League of Nations is talking. Surprise in today’s news. France will back up Britain and stand by the League! If they had refused support, we could have gracefully extricated ourselves from the mess – “with all honour” as the pseudo-patriots say. However, France has backed up Britain. Perhaps unfortunate.

Thursday 12th September 1935

In the afternoon, Mr Val took me out in the light Bedford for a driving lesson.
(Conspicuous red “L” ahead and astern!) My first fumbling efforts were at Bishopsgate. Met my first car on a corner – great thrill!

Went back to the Works, in case anything had happened, then out again. Roads around Thorpe. Jolly good fun. I learned how to start and stop. Upward gear changing. Steering.

Wednesday 11th September 1935

Works: I think I like this department (the stores) better than any since the making house. I love the efficient organisation; felt it coming nearer and nearer to my finger tips. Speaking of the finger tips – my hands are not hideously stained now. Wondrous!

TocH in the evening (just once more), Hubbard speaking. Strolled down to the station with him, afterwards.

Tuesday 10th September 1935

Received my driving licence this morning, from Kingston (2/509050). An ordinary licence, gained because I held one two years ago, at Lincoln. Thus I dodge the infamous driving test.

Monday 9th September 1935

Just after tea, Sheila, the Aberdeen terrier here, retired into her cupboard, known as the “Maternity ward”… Exciting moment when a thin squeal announced arrival of the first puppy. Five altogether. George and I witnessed the birth of the last one – on the kitchen mat. George carefully picked up the wriggling bundle and placed it with the others.

Sunday 8th September 1935

A swim in the Anne Boleyn pool, with Koke and Dick. Distinct coolness in the water!
Afterwards, an hour on the river; rowed up to the end of Runnymede.

Saturday 7th September 1935

George returned. I like him – definitely. Dick came over and we had a cheery afternoon, playing cards – Newmarket and Pontoon, with Peter and Koke. Thank heavens, I didn’t lose. Dick stayed quite late. (Hospitable Koke!) She is, to use her own phrase, “a good scout”.

Friday 6th September 1935

Cycled across to Forest Park. Sat beside the fire whilst Dick talked about Germany. A glass of stout, biscuits and many pipes. Back through the Park. Starlight and a yellow half-moon coming over the trees. The fortnight now over.

This is the in-between weather which suits me best. Summer’s heat and winter’s cold both absent.

Wednesday 4th September 1935

Evening: Went to TocH, as promised long ago. Stepped into a room which was dark, except for the glimmer of the Light. (“The psychological moment”, I casually remarked, hanging up my hat.)

Typical meeting. Not in the least different. Enjoyed it. Decent blokes. Walked back along the Causeway with Smith and Withey – just the same! I delight in the conjuring back of old times, situations, scenes.

Tuesday 3rd September 1935

At 6.30 I turned on the wireless, expecting some dance music. But the programme had been cancelled and instead I heard prayers for Divine guidance, from Westminster Abbey. I was surprised. Of course tomorrow may be the crucial day, when the Council of the League of Nations meets to discuss the Italy – Abyssinian dispute.

Personally, I’ve read several papers with different views. I think there will be a war: Britain will not be involved, beyond perhaps sending out a few regulars on guard duty. I think the League of Nations will crumble into nothingness – tomorrow.
See if my expectations are realised!

(The band is playing “Street in old Seville”, the tune I heard that day in Hounslow. First time I’ve heard it since.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday 29th August 1935

Works: Having been a month or so on the packing bench, I casually suggested to Harris (Foreman) that I’d like to move onto the other side. He enthusiastically set me to work at once, with Miss Wakefield. Confounded stock sheets! Pen, ink and typewriter. My instructor goes on holiday next week. Usual luck! Best way to learn, perhaps.

Evening; Cycled to Thorpe and got my slippers (left behind last week). Stayed awhile. Two whiskeys and a light ale. Dear people at the Red Lion.

Wednesday 28th August 1935

Lengthening Shadows 1935

Koke and I went to the Pictures. Noticed the glorious smell of cooking as we came back, along the river side. Inspired, we had bacon and egg for supper!

A post card from Dick Young, in Germany, broke the spell of isolation. Until then, I had seemed in some different world.

Introspection: I am a queer blighter. Not easily hurt, with shallow feelings? Anyhow I soon forget – without regret. And am happy

Monday 26th August 1935

At present I’m sitting near my bedroom window. It is open wide and faces the South. Wind stirring the curtains and softly moaning about the house. I love that sound.

With change in digs, what a change in atmosphere I’ve found! Pages turned…
Koke and I are alone here at present. N’est ce pas!

The wind moans again. With that sighing in my ears, I end Shimmering Haze.

“Cowards die many times before their death;
The valiant never taste of death but once…
Death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come”

Sunday 25th August 1935

Companions for the day; Sam, Bunny and Koke (hostess).

Drinks – Catherine Wheel, Egham
Swimming – Anne Boleyn, Staines
Tea – Mill House, Thorpe
Transport – car

Shall I like No.9? Bohemian? I guess so. Another chapter.

Saturday 24th August 1935

Am now a P.G. at No. 9, Vicarage Road, Egham.

P.G. Definitely, a change in digs.

Friday 23rd August 1935

Farewell drinks (scotch) at the Red Lion. Heavy rain all day. End of the dry spell. Good. Abyssinia! The topic of conversation at the moment. The workmen, especially ex-soldiers, simply revel in Abyssinia!

Thursday 22nd August 1935

Went to the Golden Grove with John, to make preliminary arrangements for a supper for four. We had a hectic ride back, down the old coach road, through the woods.

Tuesday 20th August 1935

Ladies and gentlemen, let us discuss – the weather! Personally, I think this sultry summer weather pretty vile.

(I should read these notes when I’m feeling fed-up with bleak winter, longing for the springtime. I must remember how hot weather makes you sticky all over; inert; untidy; irritable. I must remember how it makes your head ache – and your feet. How sweat trickles down your crimson face…)

“Air seems pretty thick today, doesn’t it? Very oppressive. Gawd, ain’t it hot. Blimy. Hot. Dashed warm today, what?”

Monday 19th August 1935

Mrs Dickens sent a message to the pub. Would I phone? I did. Yes, Diana had capitulated. (I can only pray she will forget about it, damn quickly.) “Good luck”
Anticlimax. I said, “Oh, would you be good enough to send my bathing costume on here? I left it behind, last night. And please tell Uncle Dick I posted his letter alright.”

(Emotional – practical? Dramatic – ordinary? Anyhow, life is just like that!)

Sunday 18th August 1935

Carefully supervised, Diana and I spent “a pleasant day in each others company”. I quote vaguely from the play, “Hassan of Bagdad”. Then, my interview with her mother. For the second time, I’ve had to apologise for not being straight. Perhaps now, I will remember. She was very nice. An understanding woman of the world.
We talked until the room grew dark. Then had dinner. (I liked the suaveness of it. Small talk at the table.)

Afterwards, the others made a discreet withdrawal, leaving me alone with disconsolate little Lucy. What were her first words? “Have we got to finish now?” Something like that… I said it would probably be best. (Everything seemed so rotten)
Uncle Dick and her mother made a very discreet entrance. (They need not have troubled. The nearest approach to love-making was when I once touched Diana’s golden hair as it nestled at her neck.)

End of the party; I came away, whilst they stood at the top of the steps. “Good night Di.” “Good night Stephen.”

Saturday 17th August 1935

I quote Viscount Allenby – “The night before… I walk in a garden, discussing flowers… This detachment gives me a clearer view”.

Cycled to Hounslow (the old secret rendezvous with myself). Went to the slipper baths – an amusing new experience – and had a dashed good tub, followed by a shower.
Then went to the Pictures. (Street musicians were strumming some Spanish tune. “Though she loves me for ever and ever”… Something like that. Probably always bring the memory of this time back… ”My story ends”…)

Returning to the garage, I found it locked. 9.15p.m. My bike inside. Had 5½ d in my pocket. First impulse, to walk home. Eventually discovered the garage man’s name was Anderson; lived somewhere in Sunnycroft Road. Canvassed thoroughly; found his place at last. Lady in nightgown said he’d gone to the “Bell”. Eventually found the “Bell”, to be told that Mr A had just gone. Hasty exit (I think people were becoming interested in the mysterious stranger!) At Sunnycroft Road again, Anderson told me he could do nothing. His son had the keys and possibly would not return before 2 a.m. I waited on the pavement whilst lights were extinguished all down the street. Bedtime. Sat in the porch, on the step. Half asleep, a kitten climbing on my shoulders.

Anderson Junior arrived at 12. Drove me back to the garage; got the cycle out.
By 1 o’clock I was in my bedroom, having a topping supper. Triumph of doggedness!

Friday 16th August 1935

Diana has returned (Je suis revenue). I am going to her place on Sunday…

Lounged beside a road watchman’s fire in Thorpe and talked (Not my old friend; a different man.) Beautiful night; with search lights swinging across the sky. One more week here. Glad to be going – and sorry.

Tuesday onwards –

Very busy in the stores. Definitely.

Monday 12th August 1935

A day in the making-house with Jack – the others being on holiday.

I found myself crooning old songs as I leaned over the roaring fires. “I’ve told every little star” – whistled that tune so often, during my first month at the works!

At 5 o’clock I slipped out for some chocolate and a cup of tea. Eventually got away by 8. No sun, northerly wind. The sort of day I like.

Ponderings 11-8-35

Cigarette in my mouth, I sit in the garden of a pub and read old diaries.

1933. What a dream summer! Out-of-work. Doing nothing. No ambition. But what beauty I discovered! Almost tragical loveliness. Yes, beauty can be supreme enough to hurt. An ecstatic agony. That night I wrote, “Tears are in my eyes as I write…” Even now, (semi-sophisticated pseudo-cynic) the mere reading of these words has the old effect. Tears were in my eyes just now – not caused by cigarette smoke.

When I realised that the summer sweetness could not go on for ever, I wriggled and cried out, impotent against that which must be. “O God, why cannot this go on for ever and ever” (I wonder why not?) The end coming nearer when I wrote; “What shall I do? What games shall we play tomorrow? What is going to happen to me next week?”
How wonderfully significant it all was! The end of boyhood.

So many things, good and bad, which I had not done then and have done now.
I don’t regard myself as some sort of prince of sin now – almost a “hyacinthine boy” indeed! – but how utterly and delightfully youthful I was then. I must pack up and go in. It is almost dark – and the moon coming over the trees. Diana’s letters are beside me, thirty eight dear pages. Came out here to re-read them; instead I’ve been pondering of dead days.

Cigarette in my mouth, I sit in a room just behind the public bar. Half an hour before closing time. Damnation! Out in the garden, I became quite sentimental and dreamy. (Bloody fool!) Must have been the result of the dusk, plus a moon nearly to the full. Seriously, I consider there is a comparison between 1933 and now, and the garden and this room.

Shadows, peace, dreams, innocence, loveliness.
Electric light, bar-room noises, thoughts, rather hard facts; and progress.

Saturday 10th August 1935

Have made no notes since the 5th because there was nothing to write about. Dull days…

With Dick this afternoon. The old understanding returned somehow, and we told each other secrets as before. (See notes opposite page!) Yes, we definitely go our separate ways – but send messages back!

After tea we met Hubbard and at dusk, came to a place called Athens – Riverside.
We plunged in – with the moon glinting on the water. Young saw it shattered as he dived with open eyes. At Hubbards request, I made my first high dive – seven feet or so. I was frightened at first and stood on the bank looking down and said it seemed the hell of a way to drop. But I went in, eventually. Made two more dives afterwards.
Thanks, Hubbard!

Monday 5th August 1935

Bank Holiday; and hot. That beastly cold gone, so I had a river swim. Noisy almost flat dives into coolness. Swish of water as my head went through. C’est delicious!

Forest Park after tea. Pleasant conflab with Dick. Told me all his adventures: I told him little of mine. How obviously, we go our ways!

My room looks clean and light with its Paripan flat cream (two coats). Incidentally, painting is an occupation which does not amuse me in the least!

Sunday 4th August 1935

Peaceful Sunday afternoon. I lounge in a deck chair in the Red Lion garden, and have not energy to write. Perhaps I’ll go to sleep…

After tea I proudly donned my black felt hat and strolled to Callow Hill. Delightful sylvan footpaths all the way. Alone, except for my pipe. Can’t describe the charm of that stroll. Seem to be losing the ability for descriptive prose about beauty. Still able to appreciate though. Perhaps as it should be.

Friday 2nd August 1935

Got home late and Dick arrived before I began dinner! Good old Dick – prince of poseurs!

Soon be leaving Thorpe; then, no more lunch snacks on the Medes or chats with Maddison by the river.

Thursday 1st August 1935

Met Father in town, 7.30. Our talk. Exit RNVR. (Those three personalities…. Click!
The ambitious fighter took possession, submerging the other two.)

So the Dawsons have a streak of dishonesty!

Came down by the 11.58. Bed 1.15.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Wednesday 31st July 1935

Up early. Hurried through the green fields towards Staines. A lift part of the way, along Chertsey Lane, with Maddison’s people. Tired before the day began, but surprisingly, not sleepy.

Left works 5.45, collected my cycle and came home. Nearly ten o’clock. Supper and then sleep. Long day ahead. (No, not “fed-up” at all. But very impatient of success.)

Tuesday 30 July 1935

"Experience, the name men give to their mistakes.” The above phrase comforts as I learn, through the hard medium of mistakes. Thus I don’t even regret them.

A reminder that straightness pays, was forced on me tonight – not for the first time.
I also discovered that punctuality is sometimes advisable…

Dashed up to town and met Diana at Waterloo at 7 p.m. In Regents Park; she told me that Mummie had discovered everything! A row, naturally. (Why the dickens couldn’t we have been open about it all the time? Utterly fatuous!) A chaotic, aimless evening. (Penniless, I loath London!) Eventually arrived at Waterloo two minutes after my train had gone.

Had a cup of coffee and got as far as Twickenham by the 12.25 down. Arrived there 1 a.m. Walked, about 12 miles. Arrived home 4 a.m. Hadn’t rested on the way! Sandwiches in my bedroom; first food since lunchtime.

Saturday 27th July 1935

Zig-zag route to Buckingham, but it was worth it; the delightful rural lands!
Flecknoe, Staverton, Charwelton, Helidon, (high country) Byfield. Woodford and it’s railway men. Morton, Helmdon, Brackley, Buckingham. Winslow. A pot of tea and a long rest under a hedge.

Aylesbury 6.45 Gt. Missenden. Dinner and a wash at the George Inn. On, like a different man! Evening coolth. Amersham, Beaconsfield, Slough, Thorpe. 12.30p.m. to 10.30p.m.

Friday 26th July 1935

Cycled to Wolfhampcote after breakfast. It was sultry weather and I had the deuce of a cold in the head.

My God! How green and wide and still is the land around my old home!

Thursday 25th July 1935

Joan, Richard and I went to Highfields for a swim. I was damn shivery.

Wednesday 24th July 1935

A country walk, led by Joan. Tea at Clifton. Through green and golden fields. Over stiles, below woods. Part of the route taken by the Nottingham Cub master’s ramble, years ago! (27-8-32)

Crossed the Trent by ferry. (Friendly Midland people!) Some strange village – it was Attenloys. Returned by train. About ten minutes run; a carriage to ourselves.

Sunday 21st July 1935

To Sutton with Joan. Into the sea! High on the crest of breakers, deep in the trough beyond. Tried the trudge stroke – a bastard edition.

We walked to the point beyond Sandilands which used to seem worlds-end.

Travelled excursion but in comfort. First-class outwards, carriage to ourselves inwards. Home by taxi.

Friday 19th July 1935

It is a nice idle holiday. Definitely not strenuous.

Thursday 18th July 1935

At Ellis Avenue. The unseen student of “Over the Waves,” still tinkled at the piano. Played a new tune much better. The old places – some of them – faded… small and cramped. But the old faces – unchanged.

Wednesday 17th July 1935

St. Alban’s Pack. Different boys, same atmosphere. Song “Sammy”.

Later, a walk with Jack and Jack’s fiancée.

Monday 15th July 1935

Having left Joan, I was walking home through West Bridgford when a policeman hailed me, “Can’t you sleep?” Suspicious night-walker. It was 12 o’clock!

Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th July 1935

Slough. Beaconsfield. Amersham. Then unspoilt English countryside. A roadside beer house. Night. Aylesbury… Solitude and weariness. Buckingham… Towcester. The main road; no traffic, no life, no coffee shops. Utterly inert. “Daventry 9 ½
I spoke aloud, with nobody to hear, “God blast!” Weedon…a light.

A filthy, glorious, lorrymans hut. Hot tea, bacon and egg. 3.45, the road. Dawnlight! Fast ride to Rugby. Then Lutterworth. The waking world. I, sleepy. Dozing on the handlebars.

Leicester – a bottle of milk.
Mountsorrel – a wash and breakfast.
Then the last stage, in the heat. Journey took 15 ½ hours.

Shimmering Haze Part Two

Lengthening Shadows 1935

J.S. Dawson, Red Lion Inn, Thorpe, Surrey
Later: 9 Vicarage Road, Egham.

“He rides fastest who rides – alone”

Saturday 13th July 1935

Dashed hot still and I’m glad, for holidays lie dead ahead!

I had a swim this afternoon at Penton Hook, with Mad Willy and his brother. We lay in the sun until our costumes dried.

I’ve had tea; now for the journey – by road. Every thing is ready, every petty job done. Therefore my soul is happy! Jim wearing no underclothes except a bathing costume. Shall have to put on a Macintosh for the ride, though. In its pockets are toothbrush, paste and shaving tackle; also a small flashlight. Although it is seven o’clock it is awfully warm and my face is wet even now, as I sit in a comparatively cool room. Have just lighted a cigarette; I’ll be on the way before it is finished!
The eve of the holidays!

Here ends Part One of Shimmering Haze.

Friday 12th July 1935

I’m writing this with a different pen, as the usual one is packed and on the way to Nottingham.

What a hot day – my burning feet! At last, all jobs done, I got to the riverbank near Penton Hook, threw off my stuffy plus fours and plunged into the coolness. What a difference it makes!

“He rides fastest who rides alone”.

I always put some little quotation, some little thought of the moment, on the first page of my diaries. If I were to also do this at the end, I’d perhaps conclude this book with that line of Kipling’s;- “He rides fastest who rides alone”, somehow, it seems to fit my mode of life, my ride through life.

Thursday 11th July 1935

(From midnight to half-past-four in the morning.)

After writing my dull notes on the opposite page, I got into bed. Lay sleepless for some time, then dreamed – a most vivid dream: -

The bedroom was too hot; I took off my pyjamas, got out of bed, put them away in a drawer. As I passed the window, I heard footsteps – looked out – saw a girl below. It was Diana. I leaned from the window and whispered “Ashton.” (Knowing it was a dream, I felt no surprise.)

Clad in white shirt, shoes and bags, with an old tweed jacket, I went down to her.
Twelve o’clock. Click! The lights went out. The world was ours, except for night birds until – Three o’clock. Then a crazy ride into Staines on her old red bike.
I strode back through the fields as it grew lighter. Four o’clock. Morning dew. Daylight. Cocks crowing all around. Stole quietly back to my bed…

A most vivid dream – but it wasn’t a dream; it was real!
I’m sure it all actually happened!

Wednesday 10th July 1935

Hard work in the stores: I’m enjoying it.

A swim at lunchtime and also at five-thirty. Then to Ashford. Painting – usual evening programme.

In the stores, Bolton is supposed to be teaching me packing. The joke is, that he’s seldom with me – so busy with the can spraying which he’s doing in place of Nicholls, (absent, rupture trouble.) So I struggle along as best I can!

Tuesday 9th July 1935

Seven days… Must be a record for uneventfulness – which includes trouble.

Dashed hot today. Thank heavens, I don’t have to wear those unspeakable overalls now!

Monday 8th July 1935

Six days of quietness! Really, a pleasant quietness; one does not expect “kicks” always and the calm periods of life deepen the vividness of the dancing, fighting days.

Sunday 7th July 1935

A few hours with the Beach family in the quietness of St. Anne’s. A few hours with Dick and John in the quietness of Windsor Park. Passed through the hideous turmoil of Egham and Staines to the quietness of lanes around Thorpe. To the chaos of a village pub in the minutes before closing time on a Sunday night. Only a few minutes though!

So the dull doldrums days eventlessly drift by! Five days!

Saturday 6th July 1935

Moved into the stores – on the packing bench. No filth! Decently dressed for once!

Wednesday 3rd Thursday 4th Friday 5th July 1935

Uneventful days, not unhappy.

“Slow on your dials the shadows creep;
So many hours for food and sleep;
So many hours till work doth tire;
So many hours…”

Tuesday 2nd July 1935

Posted my note in Egham on the way to the works. Regret: no beautiful partings – just a scrawled note.

Discussing business with Maddison at lunchtime, said how fed up and impatient I felt.
At five 0’clock, as I was changing, Mr Randall came across and said I was to move into the Stores on Saturday. So no more filth! That is, in comparison! (Incidentally, I now know that I’m destined for the office.)

During dinner, Mr New brought me a letter which had been lying on the bar-room floor. Arrived by the evening mail; from Diana. Our letters had crossed! She wanted me to meet her just inside the “clanking gate” beside the “stinking canal”.

After a swim at Penton Hook I dashed into Staines – met her on the way.
A short talk. We’re going to meet as arranged but later – at 10.30. It is now about 9.45.

I waited for her at 10.30. She came.
There are things that might, in the future, remind me of those five short hours.
Freshly mown hay; isolation and quietness; a clock chiming in the stillness; lovers in each others arms; trains seen from a field at night; cool dawn breezes; “Night must fall.”

Sometimes as I light a pipe, I’ll think of the old, broken one, which Lucy would not allow me to use, because it was foul.

We parted just inside her garden gate; I had the impression of a long passage with rustling, dead leaves. “I mustn’t write any more?” “No… Just silence…” We clung close. I opened the gate. Kissed her gently. Came out of the gate. It closed...

Got back to Thorpe just before four. Weird, unreal half light of early morning. A cigarette. Bed. Deep sleep.

Monday 1st July 1935

Wrote an abrupt good-bye to Diana. Did not post the letter, just in case there was one on the way from her.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sunday 30th June 1935

Alone: Hot pleasant day. I was lazy and carefully kept cool, yet became sunburned.

Saturday 29th June 1935

Di arrived at half past three, as arranged. We undressed on the bank near Penta Hook and swam. Great thrill in a mad whirl around the island, in the grip of a racing current. Lay on the bank until our costumes dried.

Hasty tea at a cottage in Thorpe. Hasty kisses in a field nearby. (The final embrace in a path between stinging nettles.)

Beach, of the Works turned up and we had several drinks, sitting in the yard. Think he’d had one too many – rather careful about his departure. His arrival prevented my writing a sticky, stupid letter of farewell to Diana. Glad it did!

Friday 28th June 1935

A letter from Lucy Ashton. “I love you best in all the world - bis in den Tod” “My Darling for ever and ever and ever”

(In years to come, perhaps I’ll think of this “scented store” and “count and touch and turn them o’er”.)

Coming through Chertsey in the evening I felt remarkably hungry. So to avoid making a beast of myself at the supper table, I bought two pennyworth of chips! Sat on a bench under the trees of St. Annes and feasted. Having relieved the pangs I smoked a cigarette and pondered awhile.

St. Anne’s has seen me many times and in many ways! Alone, with women, with men. (Cynic-dog.)

Midnight is past. Time I turned in.

Thursday 27th June 1935

Lunchtime: Ham sandwiches from the pub in lieu of an evening meal.

Evening: At Ashford. Dinner at eight! ( I was glad of the cigarette and sherry which precede it!) King Eric paid me for his paint – 9/- So I embezzled some and bought twenty Gold Flake. Just smoking the third. OK!

Wednesday 26th June 1935

Lunchtime swim in the warm flood water. Little waves splashed over me; the river was strong and deep. Went in again at 5 o’clock and swam some distance, with the stream. Impossible to swim against it.

Ashford; spattered more u/ct on King Eric’s gate. Eventually, no more paint left so one of his gate posts remains left half done i.e. cream and dirty white. Rather good!

Finance: Have no money, no cigarettes and no tobacco except that which is in my pipe now. I’m not going to starve though! No, by Jove! See what happens.

Sincerely, I thank God that by His kindness, I’m able to laugh at all this.

Tuesday 25th June 1935

An expensive day; I was weak. Have six and a half pennies left.

Swim at lunchtime, off the Medes banks. Then a deluge of rain – forked lightning overhead. Mad Willy and I sheltered at a coffee stall.

Sat at the foot of St. Anne’s, reading, in the late evening. Cycled home – and found Diana outside the pub. So I was with her – a little while; held her in my arms – a little while; - kissed her once on the lips, several times on the throat.

It all reminds me, of my old acquaintance at Richmond Road; the imaginative young man whose fatuous drinking toast was – “To our respective desires! May they never be attained.”

“Bis in den tod” The child! “So new to love, so true to love…”

How long will it last? But Today – damn tomorrow and tomorrows! I’ll “Take things as they come”, (like all the trite platitudians advise).

Monday 24th June 1935

Too hot to wear my slimy overalls so I put them in a bucket of water; also 1/2lb of caustic soda. My shirt is therefore now filthy. Have only two shirts for working in.
Wear them alternate weeks.

After dinner, a splash in the river, at Staines. Then on to Ashford.

I was painting King Eric’s caravan last Saturday. Lord, it is a mess! Flies and runs and patches! Master painter! I was busy putting on u/ct on his gate this evening. Painted and perspired – until it was too dark to see the work.

Undressed on the river bank near Haleham and plunged into the lukewarm water. Washed away the dust. Cycled home; almost cool.

Supper; and now I’m in my hot little bedroom. Twenty three pennies left. Also a cigarette and about three pipes of tobacco. Ah well! Must not grumble, as the conventional folks say. Anyhow, I don’t suffer from hunger nowadays.

Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd June 1935

Damn hot. Too sticky to write about!

I sat in my bedroom until midnight, clad only in pyjamas; writing a letter which began – “Dearest my Lucy”… Did not tell Dick she had written to me. Glad I was sufficiently reserved to keep silent.

Still hard up! I’m bloody well sick of it.

Wednesday 19th June 1935

Only twenty four pennies left! A long cherished ambition of mine should have been fulfilled tonight. It wasn’t. Why? I could not afford it!

Re. Diana. It was wrong of me to be so cynical and distrustful. Can’t apologise to her – defeat it’s end by making her unhappy. So I must record my contrition here – Sorry, Diana; you are a wonderful girl. I was wrong.

Tuesday 18th June 1935

Only thirty three pennies left!

Monday 17th June 1935

On the tinting bench – became spattered with tinting.

Fed up. Have five shillings left. Sixty pennies.

After supper, two of my fellow lodgers returned from Staines. One, dope drunk. Sobbing and spewing on the pavement on the rain. His friend, utterly self controlled.
Eventually, we laid out the unfortunate on the tap-room floor. Poor little devil!

Bed 1 a.m.

Sunday 16th June 1935

Pleasant day, just occasional springtime showers, followed by sunlight.

John, Dick and myself had tea at Chertsey, then strolled along the river bank to Staines. (Crowded and busy, as usual) Quietness in the fields before Thorpe, though.

Going to be remarkably hard up, next week. Oh! Why can’t I write without control, to show my hate of the hideous, continuous worry and frustration! Hundreds of unfulfilled desires. Unfulfilled for one reason – money!