Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday 31st May 1936

Rambling with Brockwell and Young – the old threesome. Met John at Paddington, 10a.m. Dick joined us at High Wycombe. It was good to be out again! We saw lots of hills and hedges and green fields. Lunch in the garden of the “Three Horseshoes” with beer in pint mugs.

Lovely day. Simply had to burst into song occasionally. At a village (Lane End?) we sat on a grassy slope below the church. Could hear sacred music from within as we shamelessly exchanged a few dirty stories. John hacked things about with his sheath knife and expended much energy in digging a hole. (“Just like a dog after a rabbit”, said Dick.)

We covered the last few miles after tea fairly quickly, as Dick’s train left early. “Hell for leather” we swung through woods, over hills. With two minutes to spare, Dick caught his train. John and I should have waited an hour and a half for the excursion train but travelled by an earlier train, arriving at Paddington 10.10.
Exciting exit from the platform. Our green and white excursion tickets seemed dazzling in colour as, outwardly nonchalant, we gave them up. The collector let us through! We solemnly shook hands.

Hot meal ready at the flat. Bed, 12 o’clock.

Thursday 28th May 1936

Gwyn and I took out a punt – neither of us with any previous experience! I punted it up the Colne whilst Gwyn knelt in the bows pushing us out each time I drove into the bank. A strong current but we managed to reach the mill pool below Bell Weir Club. Nearly went too far under the fall!

On the way back, Gwyn took over and at once lost the pole. For five minutes it floated alongside whilst we drifted helplessly down stream, turning in circles. Soon afterwards I was punting very warily down the Thames. A fellow in a rum-tum called for help – his boat was sinking! At the speed of 2 knots we dashed to the rescue and arrived just as the rum-tum went down. The skuller swam ashore. After a good deal of trouble we got alongside the waterlogged craft and struggled with it until the salvage party came from the boat house.

Quite an eventful evening for two novices in a punt!

Tuesday 26th May 1936

With great strength of will, I avoid speaking with la belle dame of the riverside.
The weather is warm again, but not too hot.

In the stores, we aren’t quite so overworked as before Easter but are certainly not slack.

Life is very uneventful or else I’m losing the knack of discovering the unforgettable incidents of everyday. Only twelve diary pages since April the twenty-first!

Monday 25th May 1936

Richard (Dawson) is in search of a job. He had his first interview today, at a Park Royal office.

Father did most of the talking but eventually the interviewer asked Dick the usual question; “So you think you’d like an office career?” Dick replied, too truthfully, “Oh yes, but of course I want to be a policeman really!”

Sunday 24th May 1936

Afternoon at Kew Gardens with Anne. That is the kind of “outing” she likes – something fairly uneventful and not too energetic. Perhaps I shall be the same, when I am 27.

Perhaps not!

Wednesday 20th May 1936

Met Gwyn at Bell Weir, 6 o’clock. We went on the river for a couple of hours. It was cold and windy; a break in the heat wave.

Whilst waiting – in a snack bar – for the 10.30 up, I wrote (to Anne) the most insincere letter of my career – so far. Such a marvel of insincerity that I’m keeping a copy – the original – in my souvenir box. (The original was written partly on a piece of paper and partly on a cigarette packet.) I’ve just copied it out neatly. It is full of white lies; a masterpiece of a few spare moments!

Monday 18th May 1936

With regret, I remember the time when I loved my job. The first eighteen months – work was a joy. I would look forward to Monday mornings! And the future – I looked forward keenly to that, also.

Now –

Saturday 16th May 1936

The beautiful riverside girl and I, have been speaking with our eyes for a fortnight. This morning we met at a point nearer Staines than is usual. I said, “Am I late or is that you are early?” She said in a low, pleasant voice “I am early”
(Blud-dy fool am I).

Missed two trains in the afternoon and reached home 3 o’clock.

Ghastly morning at the works. My typewriter is under a sheet of glass and it’s hellish hot from 11 to 12.30.

After wandering about the wharves in the Tower district, I went to the pictures with Anne. Forum, Charing Cross. There was a good shot of myself in the RNVR Guard. Right hand man of the rear rank. The audience hissed a news scene showing the Duce in Rome and Italians celebrating the Abyssinian victory. Later, they clapped a shot of Soviet troops marching-past in Moscow!

I had half-intended to tell Anne that it was all finished but I couldn’t, she was too sweet. Guess I don’t make a very efficient flirt!

Thursday 14th May 1936

I received a letter at the works – a short note from Gwyn. “I am bored. Shall we be friends again?…” I wrote back, “Yes”.

Feel myself coming under feminine influence again. There’s a most attractive girl whom I meet every morning on the way to Egham, by the riverside…

Evening: John phoned and later came to supper. First of my friends to visit the new home.

There is a heat wave. How my feet burn at the day’s end! At lunchtime I sit on the riverbank, eating sandwiches from a folded napkin.

Saturday 9th May 1936

At 1.30 I was scrambling into no 1’s, amidst the confusion of the crowded loader deck, below the water line. The Guard fell-in on the Embankment – I proudly led my rank ashore “arms at the short trail”.

The Guard marched before the band, led by Lt. Cmdr. Nicholson. Next came PO Heinz (Tubby) and then my section of fours. We swung into Horse Guards Parade, looking very stern and “letting out the bullshit”. There was a lengthy “attention” and “standing at ease” during the service before the order “Stand Easy” relieved us.

Later the Duke of York inspected us. Quite a thrill, I suppose!

Five Days: Monday 4th May to Friday 8th May 1936

The devil of a week. Each night I dashed away from the works to catch the 5.45 up, having a cup of tea and a cake en-route (sometimes). Put in eight drills altogether, which, I think brings the total to 86.

On Tuesday we had the news that Italian troops had reached Addis Ababa. The Emperor had fled and they made “a triumphant entry into a looted and deserted city”. “A cheap victory for the new Caesars”, said an American paper.

Returning from Town about 11.30, I’d have something to eat and a wash. Then to bed – with that awful alarm set for 6.30!

On Friday night we did some marching and drill. (Everyone save myself, in uniform.) Up on the drill deck again at 8.30, then, “Clean equipment, carry on smoking”.

Saturday 2nd May 1936

Awoke just before the alarm howled, at 6.45. After a (light) breakfast at a café near Ealing Broadway, I caught the 7.45 down.

Staines 8.30. Walked by the riverside and arrived at the works 9 o’clock. Cycled back to Ealing in the afternoon, having a (light) luncheon on the way. Changed into no. 3’s and caught the 3.26 from Waterloo to Brookwood. Beyond the village, I walked through wood lanes, towards the sound of distant firing. Rifle shots and sometimes the clatter of a machine gun. At Bisley, I called at the RNVR hut and was told the Focsle men were shooting on Siberia. Now proudly wearing gaiters, I went through a soldier’s camp and behind the firing point of Century Range. Eventually, at the far end of the range in an isolated part, near the machine gun men, I found the others.
(Dark blue and white, a pleasant contrast after so much khaki) The shoot was nearly over but I was allowed to fire a few shots at 500 yards. Only got one outer but it was all a thrill.

Shooting at Bisley; feeling the rifle “kick” against my shoulder as I pressed the trigger; looking through the sights at a target over quarter of a mile away. One outer! But I’ve shot at Bisley.

Came back to Town in a carriage with Bell, Cooper and an AB who is an office porter in private life. I recognised the village of Brookwood having cycled there alone, about 2 1/2 years ago on a day when I smoked many Turkish cigarettes. I little guessed then, lovesick boy, that I’d come again, in this way.

Friday 1st May 1936

On the whole, a pretty awful day. Arrived at digs in the evening, about 7.30, had tea, packed remaining kit and caught the 8.35 up.

Collected another suitcase from Ealing Broadway station. Having unpacked and arranged my things neatly I could rest at last – it was bedtime anyhow.

Thursday 30th April 1936

Travelled up to town (RNVR) by GWR, thus leaving a few pennies for cigarettes but more for hairdressing!

On my return, 11p.m., I met John outside the digs. He wore a green hat. He came in (doffing the hat, of course) and we sat talking in the kitchen until 1 0’clock.

Wednesday 29th April 1936

Prepared kit for the railway van. Nothing to do then (8.30) so I cycled to Ealing with my kit bag. (Heroic effort from Christopher.) Bought ten “Woods” on the road – first smoke of the day.

Astounding transformation at the flat. The chaos of Sunday - gone. Someone (presumably Father and his hired ruffians) had been at work.

Tuesday 28th April 1936

This week’s move, from Staines to Ealing, is going to be a fairly hectic affair.
In my usual “finicky” way, I’m trying to be as methodical as possible about it and have tabulated, on paper, my plans from Wednesday to Saturday inclusive.

Tonight, I arranged for the GWR to collect the heaviest kit : one tea chest containing nearly everything and one suit case (locked) containing diaries, letters and souvenirs. Having paid for this consignment and bought the necessary passenger’s tickets also, I find I’m left with 3/11/2d. With this I have to travel once up to Town (Royal Guard drill) and have one hair cut – I think one should be enough for this week!

I guess smoking is going to be cut down this week, too. Have got plenty of matches, two cigarettes, and a pipe-full of tobacco.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Saturday 25th April 1936

Cycled to the flat. With the aid of various bits of wire (total cost 9d) I managed to rig up the wireless set. What a thrill when I turned the switch – and the set came to life! Father gave me a door key and the flat instantly was “home”.

After leaving Father at the Broadway I came back to Hawthorne Court for Christopher. That wireless tempting me, I went up again. Sat there smoking until 11 o’clock, in the chaotic room which will eventually be the lounge. Reached Staines 12.30.

Friday 24th April 1936

Spent the evening in enquiries regarding methods of travel from Ealing Common to Egham. Called at GW and SR stations and at the Green Line office. GWR seems the best route although that is pretty awful, too.

Tuesday 21st April 1936

I had arranged to meet Anne this evening, for a walk. All day it rained…

Got away from the works soon after 5.30; called at the library for a couple of books; had tea whilst my macintosh dried before the fire. Read “Port O’ Missing Men” awhile, then cycled to Windsor, just in case –

And she came! Still raining, so we went to the Pictures. Not a bad sort, Anne. She is nearly 27 now! She says some frightfully funny things – in all seriousness!

I got back to digs by 11.45. Supper alone in the kitchen. Finished a chapter of my book and discovered I’d only one cigarette left. Always need two before breakfast so I dashed out and got a packet of Woodbines from a machine.

Have about 3/6d left. Enough for one journey to Town and twenty Players. And now, when I’ve finished my present smoke, I’ll turn out the light – and go to sleep.

PS Several days later. Actually my money went a little further than expected. In addition to the above, I bought a box of matches and five “Woods”.

Morning Mist and Shimmering Haze 1936

SJ Dawson, Hawthorn Court, Ealing Common W5

“Today is everything… Let not the eyes grow dim,
Look not back but forward…”

Monday 20th April 1936

RNVR - Bit of a rush to get away on time. Almost the first order tonight was, “Volunteers for the Royal Guard, fall in amidships!”

Two hours rifle drill followed. Guess I’m not doing much of the AB syllabus!
Anyhow, I have not yet become blasé about rifle drill.

Conclusion of Dawn 1936.

Sunday 19th April 1936

Afternoon: The heroic Christopher took me to Town – through all the week-end traffic – to the Victoria Embankment. There I stood and gazed at HMS President. No longer an outsider… I turned to a young man beside me and said “Well, are you going to join?” He said, “I –I was thinking about it…” I showed him over the ship.
(When we stepped through the entry port the ship-keeper demanded abruptly, “Who are you?” “Ordinary Seaman 2906” “All right”.)

Afterwards, the two of us went to the “Flicks”. I left Christopher at Charing Cross. He took me to a queer little place, the Forum, under the Arches in Villiers Street.
Usually foreign pictures. We saw the “Blue Light”. All speech was German or Austrian but the important words were flashed on the screen, making it quite easy to follow.
A delightful picture, so different from the usual junk! (At the full moon, our boys kill themselves, trying to reach the "Blue Light”.) Weird story, about the legend of the Junta.

Over a cup of coffee at Lyons, we discussed one another's names. Easeman. Two years in South Africa, two years in the Tank Corps; now with a wholesale fabric firm in the City.

Easy ride back in the coolth of the night, though Trafalgar Square had seemed a long way from Richmond Road.

Wednesday 16th April 1936

Spent my last penny at 6.30, on my way from the works, in buying an evening paper. (Mussolini presents his peace terms; Abyssinia rejects them. The Abyssinian army is now “almost completely destroyed” says Italy.)

Borrowed 6d from Mrs Stephens and indulged in a packet of cigarettes. (Can’t go without my smokes!) Told her I’d soon be moving to Ealing. A large notice is in the window here, telling that there are “apartments within”.

Does me good to be hard up again. Otherwise I might take for granted my affluent and comfortable state!

Tuesday 14th April 1936

Works – 9a.m to 6p.m.

Sunday 12th April 1936

Easter Sunday. How the NE wind tore at us on the Lincolnshire coast!

Richard, Robin and I walked from Trusthorpe to Saltfleet St. Clements. In the morning it was sunny and quite warm, as we wandered in the wind sheltered sand hills, exploring old trenches.

We looked at targets on the RAF danger zone. Lunch at Theddlethorpe, whilst a snowstorm raged. Found an old wooden house in the hills which Dick called “Wrecker’s Castle”. Further north were the war-time pill-boxes, unchanged.

The snow became a steady rain at Saltfleetby. (18 years since I was here!) We came back by bus. Just enough money for the three of us!

Thursday 9th April 1936

To my surprise a note came with the morning’s post, from Gwyn; sent from Kingston on her way home. That she, the reserved girl, should write!

It was a poem by “AE” carefully written on a sheet of note paper…

“Only in my deep heart I love you, sweetest heart,
Many another vesture hath the soul; I pray
Call me not forth from this…
And oh, my bright companion, you and I must go our ways
Unfolding lonely glories…
If for the heart’s own sake we break the heart, we may
When the last ruby drop dissolves in diamond light
Meet in a deeper vesture in another day
Until that dawn, dear heart, goodnight, goodnight.”

(Two pages torn from journal here.)

Wednesday 8th April 1936

Said goodbye to Gwyneth Elaine at lunchtime. (Well, actually. I only said, “Toodle-Pip, - All the best.” Means the same, doubtless)

Cycled to Egham alone then, and soon forgot all of her, in the rush of the works. Left late, as usual – 6.20.

Tuesday 7th April 1936

Bought myself a jolly good pair of grey bags – 21/- I mention this because of it’s reaction on the financial situation. My assets are again at zero.

Many years ago, as a small boy, I read one instalment of a magazine serial, “Gerald Cranston’s Lady” I remembered the title clearly; also one sentence about a car drive to Cranston’s coal mine, “He crawled through the village at a silent twenty”. Curious trick of memory, how that phrase, noticed as a boy, should come back to me periodically through the years!

Tonight I was reading “Gerald Cranston’s Lady” in book form. At last I came to that same race through the night – “They crawled through the village at a silent twenty” (My memory had made just one slip!)

Ideas have altered. Then “twenty” seemed rather fast! Now, it is indeed “crawling”!

Monday 6th April 1936

Did not go to town because – 1) Too hard up (2) did not leave works until 6.15.

Gwyn’s baggage was packed. We cautiously got out of the digs with a very hefty case and took it to the station. (Along the road on her cycle, over the station steps on me.) Gwyn was very anxious that her destination should be secret, so the label (to Egham!) was put on at the station. Her sensitiveness rather amusing. I guess we looked amusing too!

Saturday 4th April 1936

Returning from Windsor (where I had seen Anne) I called at a coffee stall on Staines Bridge. (10.45 and a cold night.) A young man brought a tramp along and gave him a cup of tea. The tramp drank it via the saucer and shuffled off. Thinking this was the young man’s “good turn” I said, “On the road? Wonder where he’ll sleep?” Quite pleasantly, he answered both my question. “No. He’ll sleep at the same place as myself. He’s my father-in-law.”

What one calls a faux-pas, I believe!

Friday 3rd April 1936

After a summery spell the weather has changed – definitely. On my way home at 6 o’clock I passed a TocH chap. He said “Good evening” and I said “Ruddy cold ‘aint it?”

Having drawn a library book I went to the pictures alone – spur of the moment.
Long time since I went anywhere alone. Getting out of the habit. Had a walking stick, which I left in the lavatory, there being no cloak room. It was still there, after the show!

In the street it was snowing. Yes! Cold driving snow in April!

Thursday 2nd April 1936

Presumably the last time Gwyneth Elaine and I would hold each other close. We went where going was forbidden – onto Bell Weir. (Water rushing just beneath our feet.)

I do not love Miss Rowlands, of the digs, though her intellect and wit make her a pleasant companion. (How we’ve laughed, these last two days!) Gwyneth Elaine of the night, restless, loving woman, loving girl, is a very different person.

Afterwards, we crossed dangerously into Buckinghamshire.
We wandered across a strange field, past houses, into the grounds of Bell Weir Club (notorious night haunt. Might join sometime.) Down a dark lane beside the Colne, across a bridge, we found ourselves at a greyhound racing track. Mingled with the crowd of men going home and went out through the gates – into Wraysbury Road.

Soon, we were back at Ferndale being frightfully sarcastic and amusing as we had our monotonous supper.