Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Monday 30th March 1936

Up 6 o’clock: Works 7 o’clock: Bed 12 o’clock.

Sunday 29th March 1936

Nearly eight hours of log-like slumber; then I was called – at 9 o’clock – by Mrs Stephens.

Met Mad Willy at 10.20 on Staines Bridge. It was raining, one of those warm, clammy days. Cycled to Beaconsfield and walked across the fields; through the woods. Rather a different, shorter route than before. Cycling back, we stopped for tea at a filthy little shack. That revived me; I’d been feeling dog-tired.

We were in Staines by 7 o’clock. I’ve had a bath and dinner. Now I’d like to go to bed but guess I’ll meet Gwyn from the 11 o’clock bus, as usual. We nearly quarrelled on Friday. She is so beastly cowardly when things go wrong – self-centred. And I’m beastly superior and sneering!

Saturday 28th March 1936

This was to have been my early-to-bed-night but it wasn’t.

Left the works at 12.30 – tired as usual – with a lot of typing still to be done; early rising for Monday!

Met Father in Ealing and was shown the new home – a flat overlooking (Grange Road) Ealing Common. After tea we went to see a rollicking naval melodrama at the pictures.
Afterwards we parted. I had sausage sandwich and a cup of tea in a snack bar then came down by the 11.40. Staines 12.15. Bed 1.15.

Friday 27th March 1936

Five hours sleep. I was called at a quarter to six.

Met Richard (Hall) in the evening and went to see “Dark Angel”. We felt contented and enjoyed our smoking.

Thursday 26th March 1936

Played truant from the Poly. Wandered in Windsor Forest with Gwyneth Elaine. We discovered a fire burning in the woods. We sat down close together on a log and watched the flames. There was a rude wind-shelter. Very slowly, very lazily, very sleepily, we drifted into kisses. We said we loved. (There are brief moments when we do! Precious moments.)

A strange thing, the physical emotion love. Thought I’d got out of the habit.

Wednesday 25th March 1936

I suggested to Gwyn that we needed stimulation. She agreed so we went by train to Virginia Water and soon found ourselves in the temple ruins. (“Dear, we know only that we sigh, kiss, smile…”) Her face, laughing, in the gloom, she asked if I loved her?

On another occasion she suddenly laughed softly. I asked what it was and she told me.

(1982; I still remember her reply)

Sunday 22nd March 1936

A warm day; am sitting at the table, quite comfortable, dressed in grey bags and grey shirt. (The shirt still has the Lincolnshire emblem sewn on the right breast pocket.) Am smoking a pipe. Unless someone turns up unexpectedly I shall have a lazy day.

To continue my reflections on destiny:-

Our lives must be already written, otherwise why do things happen in such an ordered, systematic way? Dammit, there must be a limit to coincidence. Somehow, when I consider life it reminds me of a square; there’s something mathematical about it all. Straight lines, not a haphazard zig-zag. Of all my adolescent theories this alone remains; it is already written...

Saturday 21st March 1936

First day of spring – and a lovely day!

Cycled across to Slough and met Anne Bridges; that’s not her real Christian name but suits her better. She led me to Stoke Poges to the little “country churchyard”. We sat on the monument as the sun was setting. I kissed her in a little grove of trees near there, rather hastily, just before some people came in sight (philanderer). I did not tell her I’d been to this place about a year before with a girl called Audrey. Strange that Anne should take me to the same place; she is very much like Aud in her ways.

We caught a bus at Slough and had tea at the Cheshire Cheese. Then went to the pictures and managed to get front balcony seats.

Saw her onto the bus about 11 o’clock and cycled home. (Christopher is performing nobly).

If anyone tells me there’s no such thing as fate…

Monday, May 07, 2007

Friday 20th March 1936

I was awake ten minutes before the alarm tinkled. Shaved, had a cup of tea and was at the works by 7.10. Typed fast and cleared up all arrears before dashing back for breakfast at 8.30. Normally, it is difficult to get a spell of straight, uninterrupted work.

Returned at 9 0’clock and helped load the Brighton van. All the day, I was able to cope with my job and help others, too.

Almost Gwyn’s last words at lunchtime were a request to read my diary – yes, this! Did not have time to ask why, or which part she was interested in. Must confess she intrigues me. Have not been so diverted from my smooth course since the first love.
Left the works at 6 o’clock and had a cup of tea and a pow-wow at Koke’s before coming home.

A long day and a short evening.

Thursday 19th March 1936

Each year I’ve kept Vigil, giving myself a spark of ideals to carry through the twelve months beyond. Bradgate; Sudbrooke; Chobham; St, Anne’s.

Devil of a day at the works. I had to leave soon after 4.30, when the chaos was still at it’s height. (Piles of work on my desk. Think I’ll go in early tomorrow.)
Dashed up to town and attended – without much enthusiasm – a lecture on paint.

Just after 9pm now and I shall not go alone to a silent place, as I’ve always done before. My last year’s request was for Sincerity. Well I guess it would be pretty insincere for me to keep Vigil tonight ‘cos I don’t get the slightest emotional stirring from it. It has become sticky, sentimental. I simply don’t believe in that sort of thing any more.

As maudlin as a weeping drunkard who ponders on the agonising tragedy of beauty, of life.

Wednesday 18th March 1936

Went across the eerie Stanwell Resevoir with Gwyneth Elaine. A few weeks ago – February 3rd to be precise – I kissed Gwyn, almost against her will. Ever since then – cunning swine – I’ve refrained, although sometimes longing to have her in my arms.

Tonight, however, I stopped refraining (Dammit, we shall probably be apart in a fortnight’s time!). “Make the most of what we yet may spend…” I heard her say “Stephen” for the first time.

Some time afterwards, cynicism returned, I was able to laugh at the thought of Miss Rowlands and Mr Dawson, making love like a pair of country bumkin sweethearts.
She is nor pretty – ‘cept her hair and eyes. Guess I must be attracted by her strange reserve. That, and the fact that she, too, is crazily irresponsible. Perhaps just as well that our paths will surely separate in the near future. What?

(Page torn from journal.)

Monday 16th March 1936

Went to town by a different route; SR to Richmond and tube to Temple. I was late at the boat. The focsle top was doing rifle drill when I stepped onto the drill deck. I “stood-at-ease” and waited until they paused, then fell in. Complicated movements I did not know – “Change” and “Secure”.

Eventually, three others from Jellicoe arrived – Ayton, Berryman and Eburah. Second hour – elementary semaphore signalling, which was too frightfully easy.

Later the PO stood us drinks in the canteen. Apparently he is not a strict disciplinarian. We certainly did not feel gauche. No “new boy” atmosphere about it.

Sunday 15th March 1936

An all-day hike with Akel and a bloke named John. Delightful. We met at Virginia Water station, about 9.30. Had ruc-sacks – “pukka hikers”. Trespassed along the railway line, then over Callow Hill and into Windsor Park. (I made a risky crossing of the Falls, just below the edge. Stepped across on slimy stones; the splash of the fall soaked my trousers.)

Walked right around the Water and ate our sandwiches sitting on it’s edge. It was such a change of companionship, for me! Through hideous Sunningdale; over Chobham Common to the Sundial for tea. Got back to Virginia Water via Gracious pond.

After John’s train had gone, Akel and I walked back to Staines.

Friday 13th March 1936

An evening with Hall. (I’d just cleaned my pipe; it tasted lovely.) After a talk at the digs we strolled towards Stanwell. Back in Staines, we had hot pie and some decent cheese rolls in a snack bar. Parted about 12 o’clock. An interesting character; not quite good form; how intense! The secret of our friendship perhaps, is that we each provide the other with flint for his steel. Result – a spark of wit, satire or sentiment.

Happy Thought. I don’t often mention money but I think about it. What a delicious thing to feel safe, to know that the weeks budget will balance! And I’ve 18/- in reserve.

Thursday 12th March 1936

One of those happy days, somehow.

I was on the fringe of a row at the works (only on the fringe, thank heavens) and had a long, long interview with Mr. Val, which relieved the tedium of an afternoon’s work. Later, we talked of pleasanter topics, and he wishes me to come in early once or twice a week, to check on the men’s time of arrival. He talked as if he intended to re-organise the works and personnel is one of the few business subjects I have some ideas about.

Later again, he eyed me hard and said that there might be quite a future for me, in the stores. Not a bad job, running the despatch department, you know. And so forth. I tried to look suitably impressed. Then he tried hard to make me take out an insurance policy – one of the firm’s pension schemes. He worked out the benefits: “If you paid in 2/6 a week you’d draw £500 when you were 60.” I pointed out that 2/6 a week would buy two ounces of baccy. “Yes, but what have you got to show for it, afterwards?” “Happy memories, Sir!”

My work was so much in arrears after this that I cut Poly and stayed at the works until 5.45. Carter Paterson’s man said "‘ed seen me with a young lady at the Pictures, last Saturday. ‘E was in the one-and-four penny seats, just behind."
To make life still more pleasant, three ladies smiled on me, at different times between breakfast and lunch.

It is about 8 o’clock. Perhaps the day’s adventures are not over yet!

Wednesday 11th March 1936

Went along to President just in case there was anything “on”. We were to have been “kitted” on the 18th and “rated” on the 25th, but the hustle still continued.
We were kitted and rated tonight!

A most chaotic evening. Our kit was issued from the slop room. Then we had to mark it with stencils; try on our uniform for misfits. The devil of a rush! At last we were rigged out – a furious CPO helped to dress us – and then doubled up to the main deck to be rated. (“Captain’s – and Commander’s – request men and defaulters – fall in on the main deck!”)

Ayton was the first Jellicoe man to be called up and Baxter, I think, the next. (They took us in alphabetical order.) I volunteered for gunnery and was put in the Forecastle Division. A fo’c’s’leman.

Afterwards, a frantic rush to change into “civvies”. Our uniforms seemed remarkably complicated. Decent, comfortable boots, anyhow. I staggered away with a gigantic kit bag on my shoulder, pipe in mouth. Felt rather hot and dusty, but happy.

Admiral of the Fleet, Earl Beatty died this morning. I saw him during the War, when he came to Grimbsy, cheered as the hero of Jutland.

Monday 9th March 1936

Gwyn and I wandered over Callow Hill. Like St Anne’s, it has known me in many moods and various situations. Gwyn is very game, as regards scrambling about sand quarries and so forth.

Few modern young ladies could be so undignified!

Sunday 8th March 1936

John, Dick and I foregathered once more after a two months lapse. Had tea at Winkfield, smoked a lot, laughed and talked loudly and were satirical. Also very rude to each other, (i.e. “Another cup of tea, plug–ugly?” “Thanks, old dog’s body.”)

Saturday 7th March 1936

An afternoon and evening with the lady-of-the-railway-train. Norah Bridges aged 26 (“Anne”). She works in a Slough office, is pleasantly truthful and annoyingly correct. (“Prim and proper.”)

Met her at West Drayton 3.30 and saw her onto the Slough train again at 11.20. Her father is a chauffer or something, and she lives with her sister (whose husband is an ex-leading seaman RN). It was very enjoyable, the process of “discovering” each other.

She asked me what I was and I said I was an Assistant Foreman in a paint works. Later, I asked if she thought it right to mix with common working men but she said she wasn’t snobbish! She told me she had never – ever – made a casual friend of this improper sort and I believed her.

When Norah stepped out of the train at West Drayton she was rather worried about a headline in the afternoon paper, “German Troops enter Rhineland”.

Wednesday 4th March 1936

Christopher makes terrible noises as he toddles along the Causeway each day. Also very temperamental, he runs in first, second or third gear according to his mood of the moment.

Evening; Gwyn and I walked to Penton Hook. The island seemed rather bleak and water rushing through the weir made the deuce of a row.

Later, we sat by the fire (dying) and told stories.

First day of dawn; Tuesday 3rd March 1936

In the afternoon came a letter from Slough. Yes, I am to meet the lady of the railway train again!

Commences – Dawn 1936

"Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend
Before we too into the dust descend…”