Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friday 1st January 1937

We shuffled to and fro in the crowd. I asked a policeman if I could “just climb up Eros” but he refused permission. Girl screamed at John, “Look, he’s King Kong!” He kissed her horribly with the ghastly mask. The crowd surged about. Some bloody swine took my hat. Impossible to see where it had gone; no hope of seeing it again in that crowd.

Needed some refreshments. Everywhere packed. Got a snack in a bar on the Embankment. An awful hag was singing and eating at the same time. Many rowdy scenes. As we entered Lyon’s Strand Corner House a woman was shouting at one of the under managers, “ Yer bloody sod! Yer shit…” Comparative peace and a table to ourselves, inside. Cool lemonade in tall glasses, ice cream.

Reached Waterloo 3 o’clock. John went to sleep on a bench but I did not feel tired yet. Bought a paper at a coffee stall in Waterloo Road. Seemed strange to read about, “Scenes in the West End last night”. John’s train left soon after 5 a.m. I walked through the streets, now much quieter, and got a tube from Marble Arch to Ealing.

Home about 7 o’clock. Had some cheese and biscuits, heard Richard’s alarm ring, took him a cup of tea. Did a few jobs for Mother then went to bed and had three hours sleep.

Quiet afternoon. Had a haircut, posted a registered letter – envelope which contained £1 note. Bed, about 11:30. Awake until 1a.m. Toothache.

Thursday 31st December 1936

Leave from the works until Monday. Received pay tonight, including a rise, which brings my salary to £156 a year - £3 a week. So I set out to celebrate New Year with a fairly light heart!

Called for John at his digs and had an amusing encounter. He introduced me to a friend of the family – Arthur Biddlecombe. We had met before! He was the leader of Peggy’s entourage, a member of Rookery and the young man who was her escort at Staines Station one night in April 1935. “My presence was, therefore, superfluous”. Arthur informed me that she was now married and lived in Reading. I had imagined that he was the one who won but guess I must have been wrong. “Do you remember Peggy Hoar?” “I haven’t forgotten her yet!” Damned interesting encounter.

John and I met Winnie in the Regent Palace foyer about 9:30. London’s West End crowded and a gay atmosphere in evidence. We had an a la carte dinner at an Italian restaurant in Soho – including a half bottle of real old Port. John and I left Winnie at Charing Cross and went to Westminster. A drizzly evening and the streets deserted. 10 minutes to 12 by Big Ben. Hastily boarded a taxi and dashed to Piccadilly Circus. Traffic began to thicken. We donned hideous masks and leered through the windows. At a minute to 12 we left the taxi about 150 yards short of the Circus and ran like hell (John howling and waving a balloon). People scattered at our macabre appearance. Hooters of scores of cars unable to move set up a rhythmic din. The Circus was packed with yelling people. Apparently it was –

Wednesday 30th December 1936

Further notes re Discipline Act 1937:
Principle purpose of the Act is to divert wasted energy into more useful channels. Only hope that sufficient energy is being wasted!
Otherwise, where will all the extra power come from?

Standards of Discipline
Ten drills a month
Five shillings a week
Definition pending

Discipline Act 1937 (Not applicable to one essential safety valve – Blacksheep)

Dynamic Discipline
Signals swotting - From January 2nd
English swotting - January 11th
RNVR training - February 1st

Passive Discipline
Cigarettes From - January 11th
Emotional restraint - January 2nd
Seriousness environment - January 2nd
Superfluous swearing - January 18th
Financial carelessness - January 2nd

*See amendments, January 12th 1937

Monday 28th December 1936

Now Christmas – it was a jolly holiday – is over but not New Year. I intend to celebrate this time, with the Blacksheep. However, when that is over I must settle down. Discipline! There will be a lot of studying to do – signalling and English. I have slacked for far too long but it is not too late. Must tighten up self-discipline in many ways, and be more serious.

Actually self-discipline has been almost non-existent recently but I think a few months of it will do me good and make me happier, really. I have the will to be strict and cut out slackness now; I hadn’t before.

Christmas 1936

At Hawthorn Court. It is not my custom to write about things connected with the family but I’d like to remember the scene in the flat when it was near midnight of Christmas Day. Dance music on the wireless, Pat and Lizbeth joined in. Father and mother doing the Valeta and doing it well. Pep and father fox-trotting. Richard and I attempting to. And Robin (in long trousers now, of course). Later Richard and myself tried the Rumba!

Boxing Day: Went to a meet of the fox hounds, at Windsor. (I used to pass through there on my London – Midlands cycle runs.) After moving off the hunt was cancelled – fog. Father drove on to Wolfhampcote! Went by way of Flecknoe and returned by Sawbridge. The familiar fields and places! Aunt’s face when we all rushed into the Hall! Patches of thick fog on the Great North Road and so we averaged something less than 30 mph.

Wednesday 23rd December 1936

Met John and we did our shopping. He came to the pub for supper. Afterwards gave an exhibition demonstration of kissing Miss Clow beneath the mistletoe. His approach and actual embrace were both ghastly. John explained the latter fault by saying that his false tooth was becoming dislodged and threatened to fall out at any moment!

Tuesday 22nd December 1936

Bounty night. My well-earned reward for 14 months devotion to the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. Received 30/-. Anyhow, it got me over the immediate crisis. I at once began to squander it on: Christmas cards, tobacco, ticket for the V/S Dinner and cigarettes.

Monday 21st December 1936

Christmas approaching! Tomorrow is bounty night – lucky for me as I am almost broke. Just enough money for my train fare to Town and a small packet of cigarettes!
The Christmas decorations went up in the pub tonight – holly, mistletoe, ferns and so forth. A riotous Slate Club meeting in the lounge. Most of the merry makers were people from the works.

I was wrong about the financial crisis! Blay (blast him) has just sold me a sweep ticket (1/-) It would have been infra dig to refuse. I now have 2/3 1/2d left. Train fare is 2/3 Tube 1d. Cycle storage 2d. However I shall have to walk from Waterloo to HMS President and luckily do not have to pay for the storage until I return!

Sunday 20th December 1936

Gwyn. Staines SR Station 3:30

(Above are extracts from my engagement book)

Saturday 19th December 1936

RNVR Ship’s Company Supper.
HMS President 2015

Saturday 12th December 1936

Weekend at Ealing. As I entered the flat I heard The National Anthem, (on radio) followed by a salute of forty one guns fired in Hyde Park. Salute to King George the Sixth! An emotional, impulsive, brilliant and erratic King has gone. A quiet, reserved, staid and reliable King has taken his place. Now the sensation of the year is over.

Met Anne in the evening for what was to be our last outing. We had exchanged letters on the subject already. Went to the pictures – a typical, conventional affair. I put my arm round her as we sat in the balcony and she snuggled her head on my shoulder.

Had never “made love” in the Pictures in this suburban way. Wanted to do it once, for the experience! Quite nice – amusing too when the lights suddenly went up for the interval, revealing us! Well, I must be getting blasé. We did not mention the subject of parting until we arrived at Anne’s porch; midnight. Then we had to stroll around again, discussing the matter. I told a white lie about there being no one else. To be quite frank, I wished it was not our last night! Especially when we discussed the expeditions of the last few months. Neglected opportunities, due to my obstinacy and her gaucherie! Dammit though! Vacillation is senseless.

I kissed her twice, very correctly; she is charming to kiss. Kisses in a porch, two yards from the open street. Well, I love contrast. It has been ripping to know an ordinary, normal girl. But – must I again remind myself?

“Four things come not back to man or woman. The sped arrow; the spoken word; the past life; the neglected opportunity”

Friday 11th December 1936

27.5F at 9 o’clock.

Evening: John came to supper at The Victoria. We sat listening for the final item – 10p.m.- on the radio set. The announcer; “Windsor Castle. His Royal Highness Prince Edward.” A moments pause, then we heard the strong, clear voice of the man who was King yesterday. The moving, dramatic speech ended with “God bless you all. God save the King!”

Immediately after the broadcast, Edward P. left Windsor for the Fort and thence motored at high speed to Portsmouth. At 1a.m. he left his native land, aboard the destroyer Fury. (“It may be some time before I return…”)

John, Miss Clow and I solemnly clinked glasses to the toast, “The Two Kings”.

Thursday 10th December 1936

Daily Mirror, at breakfast: “The King Decides” “Abdication Plans” Daily Express: “Abdication Fears” “Definite decision to be Announced Today” All day there was speculation, criticism and wild rumours. One very strong rumour was that the Duke of York had refused to succeed his brother, and that Princess Elizabeth (aged about 9) would become Queen with Queen Mary as Regent.

A dull, grey sort of day. About 4 o’clock one of the drivers came in with a paper. He showed me the stop press. “The King abdicates announced in House of Commons this afternoon.” Mr Val came into the lab with the news that the abdication was in favour of the Duke of York. If the Duke had refused, my faith in the Royal Family would have been utterly shattered! But, dammit, I never dreamed Edward 8th would let us down like this. I, Like many others, thought he was going to be a fine King and something much more than a figurehead. Nevertheless I admire him for being stubborn and keeping to his decision.

Mr Val, works manager: “I blame the bottle more than the woman.” Mr Brandford, chemist: “I’m sorry, I thought he was going to be different.” Gladys Perkins, stores girl: “Oh, isn’t it a shame! It’s all her fault.” Blay, cellulose foreman: “Yes, I admire his stubbornness alright but still, he’s a shit-bag.” Harris, stores foreman: “It just shows what a bit of skirt can do.” Mr Nimo, cellulose manager: “He wants bloody well shooting.” Crancher, lorry driver: “This sort of thing won’t do the Monarchy any good.”

Wednesday 9th December 1936

29.5F at 9 o’clock. As the temperature rose, fog came. Not very thick, however.

My present chief at the works, Mr Nimo, seems a beastly autocratic type of man. Moody. Sometimes very decent, sometimes very irritating. Makes superfluous and hectoring remarks, i.e. “Clean this beaker. Don’t smash it.” Dammit, I haven’t smashed anything yet! Why should he expect me to bungle such a simple matter as the cleaning of a beaker?

Mad Willy and I, alone in the lab, 5:15, washing our hands (I with a cigarette), discuss our manager in an insubordinate way.

Monday 7th December 1936

Cold. A clean unwindy cold. Incidentally, whilst on the subject of cold weather – I am pretty “sniffy”. Doubtless the reason why I felt so sickly this weekend!

Sunday 6th December 1936

Was not called until 9:45. Pleasant to wake up, warm in bed, with drawn curtains hiding the bleak landscape. The weather, when I did rise, was even more unpleasing than that of yesterday.

Have just been reading old diaries.

1933 Saving up for an outing with Pegs and denying myself cigarettes (what fortitude!) Funds – 7/- 1/2d.
1934 Saving up for an outing with Joan but my efforts to abstain from smoke failed. Funds 8/10d.
1935 RNVR filled my mind. Funds rather low; did not expect my weeks budget to balance.
1936 Cancelled an outing arranged with Gwyn, because of the foul weather and also because I did not want to infect her with my cold or whatever the hell it is. Funds: A distinct improvement! Bank 10/- Cash 17/-.

Extract from a paper:

“It seems apparent that the King’s decision will have to be one of three. His Majesty may reject his Ministers advice and adhere to his desire to marry Mrs Simpson, in which case there would be an immediate resignation of the Government.
Or he may decide to bow to their wishes and renounce his intention to marry the lady. The only other alternative is abdication in favour of his brother, the Duke of York”.

Courageously went out in the evening. Cycled to Ye Old Mill House and sat close to the log fire in the candlelit tea room. “Devonshire tea for one… Indian please”. Rather unusual to be there alone!

When I came out into the night, the wind had definitely fallen. Which was lucky, as it had been a following wind on the outward journey and I naturally expected a bitter struggle, returning.

Saturday 5th December 1936

Nothing definite has yet emerged from the crisis: -

“Premier at Fort Belvedere.” “God Save the King!” “Tell us the facts, Mr Baldwin!” “The Nation insists on knowing the King’s full demands and conditions.”

For once, the wireless weather forecasts have proved correct. A zone of rough weather has gradually covered the British Isles and now, as predicted, has reached “South Eastern England”. A bitter NW wind, occasional showers of rain and sleet. These digs are central-heated. Alright in a way, but fires are more cheerful.

I guess I have got a cold coming. Feel as though there is something bloody well wrong, anyhow. Saturday afternoon shopping and haircut excursion. Called At Miss Donald’s for a cup of tea. Sat snugly, in her kitchen, by the fire. Candlelight.

Went to a party at the Beach's in the evening. Left there soon after 12 and trudged dismally home. Damn that vicious wind!

Friday 4th December 1936

Yesterday was an interesting day for a psychologist. The people suddenly faced with a new problem. How would each individual react?

Today they are all recovering from the shock (many people had known nothing of the rumours which I heard nearly a year ago) and are getting definite opinions. Sorry to say that most of these opinions are against the King. Government shares dropping. Statement to the House: “No morganatic marriage in English law. The lady the King married would necessarily become Queen”. Rumours of; “Abdication of the King” “Resignation of the Cabinet”.

Mrs Simpson is now known to have left this country for France, last night.
The men at the works are telling many dirty stories in connection with the situation. Tonight John and I walked through the black country around Stanwell Moor. At Poyle we bought a half-penny King-Kong each, at a sweet shop. John used a phone box to ask the operator if he could see Mrs Simpson. We walked back along the line from Poyle Halt, not omitting to climb a signal near Yeoveney. We swore horribly and conversationally.

Thursday 3rd December 1936

National sensation! The morning papers told of “a crisis, not connected with European affairs”. Urgent conference between the Premier and the King. One paper bluntly stated, “The King has signified his desire to marry. The Cabinet does not approve of this marriage”.

The Spanish war is forgotten, also the latest record breaking flight, now in progress. Evening papers reveal all. Many pictures of Mrs Simpson. Her history, mentioning two divorces, the last decree not yet absolute. The Royal Family in conference with the Ministers. Duke of York, heir-presumptive, returned by express from Edinburgh…

Wednesday 2nd December 1936

Called at the bank and withdrew 15/-. Spent some of it on a new pair of bags and some on beer, with Hall, in the evening. My bank balance is now reduced to 10/-!

Happy evening in the lounge. Plenty of talk, chiefly about love, and some music.

Tuesday 1st December 1936

Left the works feeling harassed, fed up and hard up. A small tea, on my feet, whilst I changed.

Caught the 6:28 up, with John. Gay atmosphere at once. We each impressively bought a packet of five Woodbines. Met Gwyn and Winnie (the forth Sheep) in the Regents Palace foyer. Found a corner table in the Rotunda Court and sat long over coffee, thoroughly comfortable. We drew up the Black Sheep rules, formulated a psychological test for intending members and made ourselves the Club Committee.

Enthusiastically travelled to “President” by decrepit old four wheeler coach (I had to go on board with a note and became sedate just for a few minutes whilst on the main deck.)

Walked to the Running Horse, said to be one of the three most immoral pubs in the country. Somewhere in Mayfair I enquired the way of a man selling flowers. “East Chapel Street? Do you mean the Running Horse?” So famous! I looked my astonishment, whereupon the man said loudly and cheerily, glancing at the girls, “It’s alright, sir, we know what you all want!” There was only one bar in the pub, which was packed. The women looked pretty wicked and most of the men appeared to be of the homosexual type.

Haymarket Brasserie for supper. Tables around a dance floor. The cloakroom attendant was astonished by my hand when I doffed the gloves. (They are dark green today.) Spitting noises in the bus. Raucous laughter. Amusement in the tube during a standing-up competition whilst there were many vacant seats. Nice to be funny. Nice to see a girlish smile appearing on the faces of strangers.

Down by 11:58. Settled accounts in usual way. I owe John 2/2 ½ Liquid assets nil.
But it was worth it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Midnight 1936 – 1937

My life’s becoming a gay one;
I used to think it a grey one…”

Midnight and Stillness 1936 – 1937

J.S. Dawson
Victoria Inn
Egham Surrey

Black Sheep Club

Rendezvous: Anywhere, at irregular intervals.
Age of members: 19 to 30
Subscription: 2/6 per annum (payable on joining and at end of year)

Object: To recruit unconventional people with ultimate object of making England a more gay, adventurous and courageous country. Preliminary activities: Play producing, Rambles, Boating, Swimming, Skating excursions, Darts in pubs.

Notes on the end of Twilight

The world seems horribly restless. I really think that an awful war will come within the next few years. Personally, assuming it to inevitable, I hope it will come soon. Let's get over it quickly. If civilisation is not destroyed – many people even talk glibly of that possibility! – the aftermath will surely be awful. Poverty, depression, strikes again. High prices.

Conscription! For the first occasion in our peacetime history, there is talk of conscription for the Army. In the powerful countries around the men are trained in arms as part of their normal life’s routine. In England – a volunteer regular and territorial army, both amazingly under strength.

Spain: A civil war of amazing ferocity rages between fascists and communists. Many foreign volunteers are fighting there, on both sideS. The world is being divided into two sections – Communism and Fascism. Japan and Germany have just made a pact against Soviet Russia. Where does England stand?

Royalty: Gossip and scandal about the King and his secret mistress. Very discreet, veiled statements in the press. “Mrs Simpson the well known society hostess”. “Mrs Simpson was among those present…” “American society woman’s life threatened.”

Scandal daring to touch the British Throne!

Monday 30th November 1936

Grisly sequel to a long weekend at home. Arose at 6:30 in utter darkness. Tube to Hounslow, where I missed my bus. Arrived works 9:20.

Sunday 29th November 1936

A hellish, bloody day. Arranged to meet Gwyn at Richmond but she did not turn up. Cause, the vile weather. Didn’t blame her.

Saturday 28th November 1936

Met Anne. Went through the west-end by bus and to Clapham Common. I kissed her – for the first time since the early stages of our friendship. Her technique has improved considerably since then.

Friday 27th November 1936

Walked to Windsor with John. Through Great Park; called at Dick’s but he was out. Reason for the hike – we had Green Line return tickets with the Windsor – Staines part not used. Two north countrymen, anxious to get their money’s worth!

We discussed The Black Sheep Club. The idea was mine and came from our crazy boating expeditions at the end of this summer. A club for unconventional young people. Actually I wanted a society – The Colne Club – of unusual people, interested in boating. The qualification for membership would be a trip up the Colne as an efficient member of a crew. John elaborated this idea and has planned a permanent club of adventurous and gay people.

One of it’s secret objects is to smash Rookery, a well known social club of the conventional type. (Peggy was a Rook, by the way.) This intrigue is shown by the fact that John suggested naming the club “Crookery” with it’s members as “Crooks”. Eventually we decided on The Black Sheep (ie. Black sheep within the flock – a little different from the average sheep). The name is slightly satirical because the typical Sheep will not be at all sheep-like in character.

Tonight we discussed our club at length. (John is the president. It was at first designed as a dual position but I shall be unable to spare the time necessary to take such a responsible post.)

More of The Black Sheep Club, which is in it’s pre-natal stage yet.

Thursday 26th November 1936

Ten days since my last diary entry. Not particularly dull days. Cold of course.

Surprising, after my dismal first reactions, that I am enjoying the new job. So many stores annoyances no longer exist and it is pleasant to work among educated people. Furthermore, I prefer doing things with my hands instead of tapping typewriter keys and writing consignment notes.

Hall came to see me on the 19th and played the piano. I licked him at the hockey machine.

On the 21st, John and I went to the Pictures (Windsor Playhouse) and later had supper at an eating house. Amusing, the film projector kept breaking down periodically. Certain of the audience had thoughts of fire, I guess.

Borrowed an extremely lewd and filthy book (private, uncensored edition) from Blay and lent it to John. He roared loudly. It was pretty hot!

On the 25th I went for a lone walk after supper and found my old friend the night watchman, down Chertsey Lane. Stayed by his fire until nearly midnight then dashed home, had another supper and did some reading.

Mr Branford, the works chemist, is leaving soon – ill health. We are all very sorry. The new chemist, Pollard is quite a young man. He started this week as a sort of understudy. A new face in the lab – breaks the monotony.

7:30p.m. I guess I’ll go to the Pictures. Rub some cold cream on my hands first! Devilish.

N.B. Later: It was a front row (balcony) seat at the Majestic.

Sunday 15th November 1936

Called for John at Melville and caught the 9.33 up. Arrived Dorking North 11 o’clock, met Gwyn and Margaret. A ripping day in the brown countryside. Blustering wind. Saw many jolly ramblers, but few parties as noisy as ours.

Lunch, ale and a darts match at a pub (Friday Street). John and I had a singlestick duel outside.

Up the tower on Leith Hill. Tea in a rather funereal large room at a pub. Afterwards we sat around the fire a long time, talking of the possibility of War. It was a long walk back to Dorking and we wandered along unknown, winding lanes. Amazing we did not lose our way.

John and I adjourned to the refreshment room at Clapham Junction whilst waiting for the Staines train. We waited just a minute too long. We swore horribly when we realised it was gone. Reached the Victoria again, 11 o’clock.

Saturday 14th November 1936

Ready for the journey home with an hour or so to spare, I went down to Frank’s and asked for a skiff. He thought I was a bit mad but let me have one. How the flood whirled me downstream when I pulled out from the bank! The Witchery backwater was swollen to the former size of the river. Everything seemed different, with the trees and bushes bare; the water brown instead of green. Desertion!

An arduous pull upstream. Then I tackled the Colne, which was comparatively easy.
Bell Weir pool was a boiling saucepan. The little islet of reeds was submerged.
I paddled about here sometime, the boat rocking, cross currents twisting me to and fro. Eventually an eddy took me towards the spouting, turbulent falls. Suddenly realised it was too rough to adopt my usual plan of cutting across into the downstream current just below the falls. I went into some bushes with the upstream current on my beam. I smoked three cigarettes whilst struggling to get out of that position! No space to swing my sculls and I dare not approach the falls with sculls shipped. It would have been a space of seconds between pushing off and going upstream into the falls. Yes, I was afraid.

Eventually, (twilight) I managed to turn and reach the lower end of the pool. Then I drifted downstream, steering with a scull over the stern.

(1982 : That was the last voyage!)

Arrived at the digs about 5:15. Left for Ealing within 10 minutes. Nice that I did not have to do a weekend’s packing. Had time for a cup of tea at the station and travelled cosily (GWR), reading a naval thriller.

Returned by the 10:10 down. Supper, and bed about 12 o’clock. Within about 5 minutes of getting into bed, toothache began and lasted until daylight – about 6:30. Hell!
When I was called, soon before eight o’clock, the tooth ache was gone!

Thank Heavens!

Friday 13th November 1936

John came and we manipulated a hockey machine in the saloon bar. I won; 3 games to 1.

Afterwards we strolled onto Bell Weir to enjoy the power and ruthlessness of the river in flood, rushing below.

Wednesday 11th November 1936

Eleven o’clock of a dismal day.

Ethyl Glycol, 1 ½ gallons, then silence. Drip of taps in the cellulose solvents store. A siren. “There she goes” said Foreman Blay. I drew another gallon of ethyl glycol.

Cold wind. Incessant rain. Went to the Pictures (Empire) to see a dashing Foreign Legion film. Sitting snugly at the front of the balcony, I forgot my sore and dirty hands, forgot the cheerless rain outside.

An unreal Remembrance Day – for me. I saw no poppy seller in the streets; no half-mast flags. No Armistice film shown in the news programme. Continuous, windblown, soaking rain.

Monday 9th November 1936

I now wear gloves at meal times, unless I am alone. Hands are grey in colour and “chapped”. The reek of solvents has made my mouth sore and rather spoils smoking. The work is interesting.

RNVR this evening. The V/S candidates sat at a table, studying flags, under distracting conditions. On the deck above, the Cenotaph guards were drilling. On the deck below a gun’s crew were apparently doing breech loader drill. Hoarse commands and thuds from above; hoarse commands, incoherent shouting and crashes from below.

Met Gwyn, Charing Cross, and had a drink and a chat. Left her at Ada Lewis, 10:30 and met John (accidentally) at Waterloo. Left him at his digs, 12 o’clock.

Home, supper, a little reading, then bed.

Sunday 8th November 1936

Met John at Marylebone but we caught a train from Paddington to Beaconsfield. Consumed our sandwiches in the train.

A lovely day. We hiked along the old, circle route and reached Coleshill just before closing time. Played with a hockey machine at the Red Lion. John won. When we climbed over the fence at the edge of the wood where, last winter, Gwyn and I heard the guns of the Kings funeral, John was at the climax of a dirty story. We were both laughing.

Later, a sudden rainstorm. After sheltering miserably under a hedge, we caught a providential bus. Alighted at Penn Street and took refuge in a telephone box. John asked the operator to ring an impossible number (an empty house in Staines) and when for the second time she reported failure, said naively, “ Alright, what about coming out tonight?”

The rain then ceased and we walked on to Penn. Tea at a cosy place. We sat long at table, discussing neurosis, psychology and dreams. The housekeeper joined in and told us about the Irish “banshee”. A mile down the road, I remembered my stick. We ran back.

Travelled up from Beaconsfield by the 7:29. Frumpish occupants of the carriage did not greet our noisy humour with any enthusiasm. Left John at Ealing. Tube to Hounslow. Waited for bus in chilly wind. Green line, stopped opposite The Victoria, 11o’clock.

Supper again, then bed.

Thursday 5th November

The Egham bonfire was in Wood Haws field, just opposite the Victoria. I looked at the scene from the dining room windows. The white Magna Charta was conspicuous, nearby. I mentioned that was my first digs, three years ago. Mrs Towe’s mother turned and said, “Yes, I saw you that night. You stopped at my house to enquire the way”. How quaint – and what a memory!

This brought vividly to my mind that other self, of 1933, who walked down Egham High Street, tense, on the threshold of a new phase. He hadn’t loved, or at least had never expressed love. He did not drink – or swear. A cigarette was an event, not an automatic habit. He spoke a Midland dialect. He wanted to be a gentleman. A great unknown adventure stretched before, in a strange district.

“A charming boy…”

Tuesday 3rd November 1936

A drizzling, grey morning. The lab. Overalls again. Stood at the bench beside Mad Willy, with strange dirty cans, some metal panels and a palette knife. Took a deliberate look at my clean, white hands and started work. Painting crystalline lacquer and storing it. What it is and why it crystallises, I don’t know.

Maddison looked after me very well. Nice to be with him and nice to have decent people around instead of working men. (Although I was becoming quite friendly with the fanatic Harris.) That pleasantness is, I think, the sum total of the benefits I receive from being in the lab.

Monday 2nd November 1936

The works: without comment.

Mid afternoon, Mad Willy met me in the stores and said “Is it true you’re coming into the lab?” “First I’ve heard of it” It was! At 4:45 Mr Val sent for me. He was in his office, preparing to go home. “Oh, Dawson, we’ve got a new job for you. You’re to start in the lab tomorrow, with Mr Nimo. A lot to learn… formulation…synthetics…” By that time he was in the doorway.

Mad Willy is puzzled (and something else).

Page cut from journal here.

RNVR 109 Drills. Hard work in the V/S lecture room, on colours and meaning of flags.
“S…green and white diagonal bars… six short blasts… submarine sighted starboard side… addresses ship holding those pendants… close up…”

Glad I transferred, anyhow. One is doing some good, something definite, in signals.
To console myself for the sadness of this strange human life, I bought myself a dazzling RNVR scarf.

Sunday 1st November 1936

Not surprising that last night’s adventure seemed eerie. It was All Hallows Eve, when spirits roam the countryside!

Awoke 8:45 and was called a few minutes later. Cup of tea outside the bedroom door. Went along to the bathroom (snug in a dressing gown) and found a large jug of hot water, with clean towel and new bar of soap. Breakfast in the dining room. Bacon and sausages, toast and marmalade. A napkin. And the morning paper! From one window I could see Magna Charta, my first digs and in the other direction, Kapai, my last digs!

A days rambling with Richard. His first “hike”, I think. Showed him many of my old haunts – Callow Hill, Rusham Copse, Thorpe, St Anne’s Hill. Tea at the Old Mill House, with it’s log fire and candlelight. He got quite a “kick” out of it and also enjoyed a wicked trip out onto Bell Weir.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Saturday 31st October 1936

Felt fairly dismal on the journey home. The cold, rainy weather perhaps.

John arrived at Ealing soon after me. A quiet afternoon; we talked, I went to the library with Majorie and John; packed my kit. Then, one of the interesting evenings I love to write about.

Wilf, suffering from “nerves”, has been working at a farm near High Wycombe. A phone message arrived that he was ill. Father and John and I went by car (the moon one night past full). Through Beaconsfield, then off the main road into a narrow, winding lane. John and I, following Father’s directions, found the cottage and Wilf’s bedroom window. All silent under the moon (They retire early in the country).
Fortunately there was a ladder nearby. I climbed to the closed, heavily curtained window and tapped.

A voice – Wilf’s voice – held conversation with me. It showed no surprise and the speaker did not seem to be moving at all. Eerie. I had a sudden, uncanny feeling as I hung there, urging him to get up and come with us. When we returned he was ready; the lady of the cottage, roused from bed, held an oil lamp.

We reached the Victoria 15 minutes before closing time. Had three quick ones and played with the machines. John helped up to room no. 3 with the kit and was impressed. “Atmosphere of luxury”.

I don’t know anything about the place yet, having arrived so late, but all my personel belongings are neatly arranged about the room.

Thursday 29th October 1936

Walked to work by the river and met Hall on the way. A hellish beautiful morning. The mists and the leaves.

Wednesday 28th October 1936

John met me in Town – wearing dark glasses. “Remember the guy” said a mournful urchin in a parrot-like way. I searched for some brilliant satirical words but realised that my subject’s intellect was low. John begged his pardon and on the statement being twice repeated, I said “Oh yes, I haven’t forgotten it”. Luckily our bus arrived just then.

We called on Gwyn and Margaret, at Ada Lewis House. Amazing moment when we walked into the lounge. A small room, in which there were a score of unknown women and two men – ourselves.

Tuesday 27th October 1936

Definite end of the warm spell.

The train moments are precious when travelling down, in the mornings. Having arrived at Staines I sit in the waiting room rolling cigarettes for ten minutes. There is a fire there and it’s my last few minutes of pleasure before the day’s work.

Rolling cigarettes – a temporary economy measure.

Sunday 25th October 1936

An autumns days rambling with Gwyn. Windy in the Surrey hills.

Lovely colours in the trees; many of the leaves already lay underfoot. (Shuffle, shuffle through dead leaves!)

Leith Hill, just a thousand feet up when one climbs the tower at the summit. Tea at a pub on Westcott. Arrived at Dorking station at the psychological moment and stepped on the Sutton – Victoria express as it was beginning to move. Such luck is compensation for missed trains and dreary waitings on other occasions.

Wednesday 21st October 1936

The Medes at dusk. The ex-soldier tramp, Dehay. Took him to the Runnymede kiosk. Poor blighter! A warning? (“This time last year”, he said whimsically, “I was at Malta, training for the Olympic Games”.)

I missed my train up. Too late for drills but got to the Embankment soon after 9 o’clock and met Gwyn. Went to Lyons Brasserie. Damn London! A foul place. What can one do there, at half past nine in the evening?

Left Gwyn at Ada Lewis, 11:30. A long wait then, for my train to Charing Cross. I dozed all the way to Ealing. Arrived home, nearly 1 o’clock. Which meant five hours sleep before the alarm was due to scream again.

Monday 19th October 1936

Two fragments:

The arising at 6:30 a.m.
The warm railway carriages in the evening.

Saturday 17th October 1936

Left the works 12:30. Lunch at Magna Charta Café. Packed my final possessions – shaving kit, blanket, hair brushes etc – and delivered up the key to Kapai. I walked out of that little white gate with regret!

A pull on the river. Quite a warm day. Around Whitchery Island, up the Colne (the same dear, familiar way!)

(1982 : Was that the last Egham water voyage ever? There are no boats (punts or skiffs) now at Bell Weir. No bungalows. No boathouse. A giant concrete motorway bridge spans the Thames there. Where “Kapai” and the other riverside bungalows nestled, is now a tangled wood.)

The trees are changing colour and there are many dead leaves drifting on the water…

Evening: a Londoner, then. Met Anne and went to the Hammersmith Commodore. Back about 12 0’clock. Wilf staying the night. I went into his bedroom and we talked until half past one. Then supper and bed.

Friday 16th October 1936

Father collected most of my kit from the bungalow this afternoon, whilst I was at the works. No stove tonight and no friendly books on the dressing table.

Went to the “flicks” – second time this week, came back 11 o’clock to find a second load of stuff had gone. Nearly everything – even my walking stick and ash tray. Feel quite lonely!

Thursday 15th October 1936

A sweet morning and a warm day.

Happy evening too. Dick Y. came along (before he arrived, I cleaned and swept, until Kapai was a temple of the gods). Took him to my new digs but we remained on the paying side of the saloon bar.

Beer makes the world more pleasant – psychologically. Gives me a happier outlook on circumstances which are precisely the same. Beer enhances the taste of cigarettes – another of it’s great virtues.

Baked beans for supper, cooked at Kapai. Then I rigged up an airing line and hung my pyjamas (“dobied” yesterday) on it with the stove just below.
Delicious to put on warm pyjamas, then read in bed just a few minutes with a last cigarette. Then, switch out the light, turn on your side – sleep.

Twilight 1936

What is there to strive for, love or keep alive for?

…Twentieth century blues!

Wednesday 14th October 1936

At the works, slack; not enough to do.

I have lunch every day now, at the Magna Charta Café. (Prop. Miss Donald), just outside the works. Breakfast, either at “Nobby” Clarkes’ snack bar or at the Kosy Nook Café. Bacon and eggs at the latter, steak and kidney pie at the former.
Clarkes is warm however and full of friendly, working class men. Kosy Nook is empty and cold – in fact, not at all “kosy”, at this time of year.

Evening: As this is my last week at Kapai I am going to do a little housework. Have arranged digs for next month – at the Victoria Inn. Palatial sort of pub.

The last page of Lengthening Shadow, 1936.
Lengthening Shadows, that began with agonising, deathless sense of magic, end dully.

(In other words, Lengthening Shadows ends in just another black mood)

Tuesday 13 October 1936

After an absence of nearly two months, I went up for RNVR drills. Ah! It was good to feel the old environment around, once more! “V/S Division – Shun!” Morse and semaphore reading, (flags). To my amazement I got 68% in morse and 94% in semaphore.

Afterwards, I met Gwyn at Charing Cross to arrange a weekend outing. Astounding; the arranging took an hour and a half. She left me at Waterloo and I came down by the 11:18. And I could write two or three pages of silliness and self- accusation. But I won’t.

Three Days

Loneliness. Discontentment – with my future, with my present environment, with myself. A black mood, without any obvious cause or origin.

Three cheerful states of mind for me to experience simultaneously!

Friday 9th October 1936

Two letters were pushed under the door at 7:30. I had made my bed in the old Scout way, and was kind of swathed in blankets, for the sake of warmth. I managed to drag the two letters to the bedside by brushing around them (several minutes of exciting suspense) with a sweeping broom.

5:20 of a cold afternoon. The suddenly familiar smell of the works lab when I came in and lit a cigarette! Dick Young called. Both felt lazy and sat talking idly. Eventually went out – to the Bells of Ouzeley.

Back by 11 o’clock. Cold weather, but dry. I light the stove every night now, at half past five or whenever I return from the works and keep it burning until bedtime.
Winter; although the leaves are only just beginning to fall.

Tuesday 6th October 1936

7:30. A fresh, clean morning. The postman said a letter had arrived yesterday afternoon and was mistakenly put in the empty bungalow next door. I managed to climb in. It was cold and bare: the small white envelope near the door seemed very desolate. When I read that letter I felt more than ever, a nasty piece of work. It was from Gwyn.

It began; “ I am writing this so that you won’t be too lonely tomorrow evening…”

Monday 5th October 1936

The oil lamp was burning all the evening, trying to keep Kapai warm enough to live in. Frost tonight.

Did an hours punting, alone. Weird, in the darkness. Almost “felt” my way up to the Mill Pool. Afterwards, went into the village to look at some prospective digs. An awful, working man’s abode it was! Told the woman I’d think it over.

Got back to Kapai. Difficult to unlock the door in the dark. I struck a match to examine the padlock and heard someone on a push bike coming along the tow-path. Felt lonely; thought, “if only somebody would come and see me!” The cycle stopped. Turning, I saw the glow of its lamp against the gate.

Feeling suspicious and feeling that I too, must look a queer customer, I walked towards the gate, glad of any diversion. A feminine voice said anxiously, “Is it you?” A voice I remembered! “Is it you?” Diana! She came in; she was not the least bit changed. Within a few minutes – kisses. Beastly disloyal for me, so soon. Almost indecent, especially as neither of us care a bit. Diana and I could act well together in an emotional play.

We acted very skilfully tonight.

Sunday 4th October 1936

Dick Young came to Ealing in the morning and we called on the unfortunate John. Rather quieter today. The poor blighter is not allowed to read, or sit up.

Coming out into Whitechapel Road at 5 o’clock, Dick and I saw a huge procession of tough looking men and women approaching. They were the victorious Communists returning from a battle with Fascists. As they marched past us they were shouting in unison, “They did not pass!”. Was delighted when the blighters began performing the Red salute, with a clenched fist! Followed them to Bethnal Green where the crowds thickened and fire engines and mounted police arrived, with obvious intentions.
“Let’s get out of this!” said Dick, clutching my arm, and eventually we did, much to my disgust.

Saturday 3rd October 1936

Visited John in the London Hospital Ophthalmic Ward. Found Margaret sitting beside his bed! John was heavily bandaged and had many half healed cuts on his face and right wrist. He could still laugh however, and gave us a dramatic account of the explosion and his subsequent sufferings. (H2SO4 + KmnO4)

Came back with Margaret as far as Piccadilly Circus. Then I walked to Sloane Square (across Hyde Park) and took the tube to Hawthorn Court.

Friday 2nd October 1936

Dick and John were to come for another card party. Dick turned up but John sent a card, apologising. He was in hospital, result of an accident in the lab. Dick and I spent a solemn evening: called at his digs for news and had a few furtive drinks at The Cock.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wednesday 30th September 1936

Our last punting expedition this summer. The weather relented; it was a warm night.
I wore my white canvas ducks and a white shirt. Doggy! I made cocoa on my stove, whilst we were moored in the Witchery Backwater. Had lots of cream with it! Then I washed the utensils in the river water.

Gwyneth knelt, gazing with fascinated eyes at the little glow of light from the stove. (She loves flame and fire.) “Do you think I could kiss you?” I asked with interest. Her exquisite look, half shy, half smiling! “I don’t know.”

Am writing this six days later. How lonely it seems without Gwyneth Elaine, the Witch!

No one had quite such a darling softness as she… If she were here, she would tell me some word which explained, illustrated, the whole attraction we have for each other. However, I must think alone now… Response! Perhaps that is the word she would have chosen.

I think Gwyneth left Egham on Friday morning, about lunchtime. We shall meet again.

September 28th and 29th 1936

Gwyns’ last few days here. We met every night, including the last – Thursday. That evening we had a quite prosaic walk.

Tuesday. Bus to Sunningdale. Walked back across Chobham Common to Virginia Water station. Cold, bright night. Both got our feet hideously, clammily wet in the bogs. Went to The Spot Café, where there was a cosy little room with a fire, and had buck rarebit and Horlicks! Very snug. There was even wireless music! How cold it seemed when we stepped out into the brilliant blue- lighted Causeway!

Bed 1 o’clock.

Sunday 26th September 1936

Striking difference between life at Kapai and at Hawthorn Court. More lazy at home; at least very prone to lounge in a chair and smoke. Don’t sit down much at Kapai. Always something to do – and I like it! Quite energetic. Therefore, I treasure the few slack moments more. A lazy half-hour becomes quite an event! These Sunday afternoons at home, which end with tea – sacred to the somnolent.

Father brought me back to Kapai, 8 o’clock. Beastly damp, dark and lonely. However the stove is alight and am going to heat some milk for supper. Then shall read in bed – it is now 10 o’clock.

Friday 25th September 1936

A swim tonight, in the swollen river. Not too inviting. Cheery evening with John, Dick and a pack of cards. Filled in a Littlewood football coupon for me. John gave a lesson on Auction. Heavy rain: some came through the roof!

Strolled along to the Anglers’ (very handy) for a drink. Then began Banker.
Excitement and “terrible oaths”. The alarm rang – a signal for the last round – they trebled. I was banker, turned up an ace and won 1/6 Cut again, they doubled: I turned up a low card and lost 3/-.

Thursday 24th September 1936

Cycle ride through Windsor Park with Gwyn. Wickedly around the Water, by footpath. Occasional rain. Near the spot where I first tried to kiss her, we sat on a fence under a tree, with a noisy streamlet just below. (Also just here, a bit less than 18 months ago, I sat with Peggy, smoking cigarettes and discussing our cousinly affection for each other.)

Tonight, Witch and I made a solemn pact, heart against heart, to remain friends until parted by two very different things – death or love. The parting shall be no miserable one. No cowardly letter writing.

“…At the present moment” Delicious! Only 18 months ago! I had to refer to old journals, to be sure. It seems so much longer. The experiences that I’ve met since then…

Wednesday 23rd September 1936

Mad Willy at Kapai: punting and supper. Cycled to Chertsey with him, through patches of fog.

Came back; wrote a letter to my “Dearest Witch”. Too late for the post so I took it to The Venture and cautiously pushed it under the door (12 o’clock). The envelope was addressed “Miss G.E. Rowlands”.

Tuesday 22nd September 1936

Foggy morning. The summer is past, dead. “There is a tide.. which taken on the flood…” Suspense. Every individual has three main “circles” – environments. Suspense and doubt in every one… love, society and work. Hell! All these three environments may be different within a month – who knows?

Lunchtime: The Runnymede kiosk. Mr Smith disconsolate. Our voices sounded very loud in the silence. Desolate, uncanny Runnymede. Reaction, after summers’ end.

Monday 21st September 1936

Up at 7 o’clock and had fried bacon for breakfast, at Kapai. Left works before 9 with White, to finish the Norland changeover. Edmonton, Enfield, Hendon… The engine kept stalling and delays and repairs made us late.

Reached the bungalow about 7:30. After a small tea I started writing a letter to Gwyn. Had just written the first sentence when I heard a footfall on the path in the darkness beyond the window light. Gwyneth! (I love the way she lounges un-sedately on the bed, instead of sitting primly in a chair.)

The island where we had our camp fire is to be called “Witchery Island”.

Sunday 20th September 1936

Did not awaken until 11:45. Sticky, damp, sultry weather. Tea at The Old Mill House with John.

Saturday 19th September 1936

Anniversary of the third year at Egham! Very busy at the works; busiest Saturday forenoon I can remember. Hectic times altogether, since I came to Kapai. “No time to stand and stare…”

Afternoon, dobying, with John to talk to. Went to Slough and met Anne 6p.m. A nice conventional evening at the pictures. Or boring? Left Slough 11:7. Fish and chips at West Drayton. Staines 12:15 Bed 1:30.

Friday 18th September 1936

Punted to Staines with John and Dick Young. Up the Colne. Broadside – on at Church Street and a crash in the tunnel. Dick not too enthusiastic. Near the spot where Gwyn kissed me, last night, John tumbled overboard! Had been poling in his usual vicious style, and overbalanced.

He dried at Kapai and borrowed some of my togs. Dick gave him a glass of whisky.
Yarns at Kapai. Bed 12:30 (John thought the whole affair frightfully funny; a good sport.)

Thursday 17th September 1936

In the stores until 12 o’clock. Then – pleasant surprise - a trip around south London, with Scott. Had lunch first at Kapai, then Scott picked me up near the roundabout. Lewisham, Sutton etc. Tea at a snack bar on Kingston Road, where we were joined by Goodhall.

River expedition with Gwyn. Punt to Kapai, 8 o’clock. Took aboard rug, mac, flashlight (new one, damn good), bacon, tomatoes, bread, potatoes and a Dixie containing cocoa, milk and sugar. Punted across to the island and lit a fire. Blazed at once! (The flickering glow on the trees.) Supper sitting back to back beside it. We baked the potatoes in the ashes. A warm night, no fog. We had fantastic dreams as we sat there, looking at the red heart of the fire (and the dark river just below us).

Arrived at the boathouse 2:30. Took Gwyn home – with arms full of flowers from the garden. Returned, cleared the punt, had a cup of cocoa and washed the utensils. Bed 3:25 a.m. Felt the rough touch of the blankets; then, oblivion.

Wednesday 16th September 1936

Norland shops with Newman again. Frantic atmosphere in the stores. What a relief when the Commer rolled out of the yard and I lit a cigarette!

Lunch in a Finchley snack bar. Read the paper. Bankruptcy… Thorogoods, provision merchants…

Tuesday 15 September 1936

Works: The Norland light shades have been altered to lead. There are dozens of Norland shops: each one must be visited, the old cans collected and the new ones delivered. Others will presumably have to be credited. Have been given the job, to my delight.

Up at 6:45. Works by 8:10. Left with Newman almost at once. Did three “change overs” in north London, had lunch at Jock’s Bar and got back to Egham at 1:30. Left at 2 o’clock with a fresh load for Golders Green, Hendon, Wealdstone and Wembley. I assembled the old stocks of the four light shades then gave them can-for-can of the new lead base stuff. There are invariably some short; which must be noted for credit.
A glorious change from the blasted stores routine! After we’d finished and got back to Egham, it was 6:30. RNVR out of the question so I had a solitary evening.
Groceries, tea (with a book propped against the biscuit tin – safe of course), then at dusk I took out a punt.

Had been raining heavily and everything was wet, including the punt, which had no un-necessary equipment such as cushions or paddles. A sad evening, with mist gathering and every tree weeping. Sadness and beauty are very near one another. I drifted in and out of every little inlet; beneath wet trees; by silent backwaters; sometimes poling vigorously; sometimes going ashore on the island. The only craft on the river. Up the Colne, straining my eyes, almost feeling the way. Came down singing – nobody to hear me. Mist thickening. I punted up towards Bell Weir itself – in the middle of a wide stretch of drear, swift water – until the boat was rocked by the current-force.

Clothes damp; back to Kapai for two cups of piping hot cocoa. It is now nearly midnight. As I lie her in bed I can hear the roar of Bell Weir, although the windows are closed. A lonely, dreamy, charming evening.

Thursday 10th September 1936

John and I met Gwyn and her (temporary) friend, Miss Underwood, at the boathouse 7:30.

Got down to Staines and attacked the Colne again – John punting, I bowman, with the two girls amidships. Went under Church Street, when a terrible ten minutes struggle ensued. The river curved sharply to the left here and a crowd gathered on the pavement above whilst I struggled to turn her into the stream which was then of course coming broadside on. At last, leaving the puzzled crowd we got clear and went on. The stream forked and we turned right up a narrow brook with low overhanging trees.

Those trees! We had to lie flat most of the time. When I called back to John, the voices sounded curiously muffled. Gwyn was useful as a flashlight operator. Eventually, the way was barred by an iron drain pipe just above the water. Unable to turn, so we drifted downstream, stern first. Hell of course, but John got the worst of it this time!

Shipped some water at the Church Street Bridge then hurtled down into the Thames.
Harvey (of Magna Charta) was at the boat house when we returned. Staying on holiday a few days. He smiled in a way which I can only describe as leering.

Wednesday 9th September 1936

Make and Mend” evening. Must have one sometimes! I burnt rubbish in the dustbin, cleaned shoes, wrote to Aunt and Wolfhampcote, got a clean set of linen from Wood Haw – and so forth. Incidentally, diary arrears took nearly an hour of the time!

Tuesday 8th September 1936

Walked beside Virginia Water and around the Falls. Not often I have a lone walk!

Near the ruins I met Gwyn, with a girl from her digs. The visitor lives at Loughborough, of all places! She knew Old John, Barden Hill…

Monday 7th September 1936

A walk in Windsor Park, with Gwyn. We took the terrier from her digs with us. This time, she led the way and at dusk we found a tall white statue – the Obelisk – and a white stone bridge over a pool – the Obelisk Pond. Then darkness – and we were lost. The dog had to be carried. When Gwyn was carrying it she looked most frightfully sweet.

At last we came to a big lake and yes! It was Virginia Water. Back to the Venture 11 o’clock. As she was going into the gateway, Gwyn paused and tilted back her head. Our lips touched gently.

Sunday 6th September 1936

Slept in rough wooden bunks. Awoke about 7:30. There was no panic about getting up and I lay luxuriously for some time, watching the earlier risers washing and shaving. (The sole wash basin was near the foot of my bunk.)

After breakfast, went to Century Range for some shooting at 250 yards. Only one target available, so it was slow work. With my eight rounds I got several “outers” and a “magpie”; one “miss”.

Came up by the 3:11 from Brookwood. A noisy party at first; but near Wimbledon I had a short doze. Waking up suddenly, I looked around… Every man was asleep! “Carriage load of corpses!” said someone, a few minutes later.

Went to Ealing. Had a glorious hot bath. Reached Kapai about 10 o’clock.

Saturday 5 September 1936

Leave from business this morning. So I arose late; did a little dobying and went to Ealing for breakfast.

Waterloo 1:30 p.m. Joined an RNVR party for Bisley. Travelled in “civvies”, my uniform in a suitcase. (Those who use uniform extensively are mostly “rookies”.)About 30 of us. Berryman (ex Jellicoe class) was the only one I knew well.

Afternoon: Into Brookwood with Ellis to order the groceries. Picked blackberries; helped in the galley.

Supper: and coarse conversation about “shitting” and “spewing”. Lord knows why they must discuss such un-appetizing things during a meal! (Must admit I contributed my full share of nausea, however.) There has been a big increase in recruiting this year, with the result that, far from being raw I found myself senior in experience to two-thirds of the week-end crowd.

After “lashing-up” supper, a rather unimaginative outing with Eburah, Berryman and another man who was with me in the Royal Guard. We walked along the road to Brookwood, went in the first pub that appeared; had a few drinks, played with a penny-in-the-slot ball machine and came back again. Eburah and I had another drink and a game of darts at the Club hut, then turned in. 12 o’clock.

Friday 4th September 1936

Hall’s mistress passed by, came in and inspected Kapai. She hardly knew me but soon began calling me “Peter”, “It suits you better (giggle)” She was disgusted with the state of the place and set about cleaning. Within 15 minutes she had swept it, dusted, shaken the mats and rearranged the furniture whilst I sat on the table, feeling superfluous and amazed.

John arrived (to my relief) and we took out a punt when the girlish lady had gone.
After the usual strenuous push up the Colne to the Mill Pool, we drifed very idly down the Thames. Darkness; a good pipe. I steered almost automatically sitting at the stern with the pole between my knees. We told stories until Staines Bridge drifted past.

Suddenly ambitious, I struggled up the River Colne into the heart of Staines. A branch of the Bell Weir Colne but wider, shallower, much more rapid. We reached High Street, John working in the bows with a paddle! Laughing, gasping; inch by inch.
We ran into a tree; went aground; drifted down; crawled up again and reached Church Street! “A grand feat!” cried John, exultant and swaggered ashore up the steps.
Certainly, I’ve never seen a boat near Church Street before.

Swift run down, exciting in the dark. Paddled upstream to the hammes fields then John punted. I lay amidships with a flashlight; it was beastly late. In a backwater we passed within inches of a grey bird which sat upon a branch gazing stupidly at the light. Reached the boathouse, 11:20. John went home.

I, ravenous, went to The Spot café for a Welsh rarebit. Sat talking to the manager (re War) until 1 o’clock. And now it is 2 a.m.

Thursday 3rd September 1936

River evening with Gwyneth Elaine. (How that river holds me, being so near!) After a lovely punting expedition in the twilight, we quarrelled – almost- and then became friends again. We wandered to and fro, she talking about Germany, little knowing I hated it. Very soon it was cold midnight!

In parting, we discovered each other to be upset and unhappy and left ourselves feeling depressed. Why? What a strange pair we are!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wednesday 2nd September 1936

A dashing, rather baffling evening in Town. The tubes, the trains, Hawthorn Court, the ship. And sweat!

At 10:45, reached Staines G.W.R. Cycled along the towpath. Reached Kapai, changed from town clothes into bathing costume and went into the river. The moon is just past the full and the light was so strong that I could see my arms as I swam, head under the water. On the surface it was dark; except for a silver circle of troubled water around me. Now it is 11:45 and I’m sitting in bed, smoking the last cigarette but one. I feel clean and aglow. Whilst I smoke that final cigarette (which will be a Russian) I shall read a chapter of Galworthy’s “Forsytes”.

Tuesday 1st September 1936

My God! Writing those simple words – “Till day be done…” made my eyes wet!
Perhaps – If this should be like the lengthening shadows of 1933! Who knows?

Sometimes the hellish bustle of life pauses just a moment and Beauty, tragical beauty, pours in like a flood. Just a sense of loveliness. In a few moments it is gone and I who have felt it – I sniff, then put away my handkerchief and light a cigarette. I am smoking a cigarette now. That moment of sweet bitterness is gone. Too late for me to express what it was!
What was that half fear, half hope that I felt, that I almost saw?
A little ending before a new beginning?

Someday, these lines may be read, perhaps by another. Probably when I am long since dead and unable to explain… If you cannot understand everything in this diary, please be lenient, unknown reader. Don’t say “Damn not!” at once! The writer was a very ordinary, normal person who – like all of us, surely? – had his intervals of madness. Unlike all of us, I have put just a little of the sense of those moods on paper. On paper it remains and is read – by you.

Lengthening Shadows and Twilight 1936

J.S. Dawson. Kapai, Riverside, Egham, Surrey.
Later: The Victoria Inn, Egham.

“…Till day be done,
And the shadows gather, falling
Light, and white with dew,
Whisper and weep; and creep to
you. Good sleep to you!”

1982: Ref. The remarks following – the sense of sadness, of something lovely coming to an end. How could I have known – yet I somehow did know – that this was the “lengthening shadows” of my idyllic Egham years?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Monday 31st August 1936

This shall be the last day of Shimmering Haze.

John came along this evening again. We took out a punt. I was wearing my no. 5 bags (white canvas) and felt frightfully comfortable. (I knew that Gwyn was back. Why wait till the time of the rendezvous, when the summer would be past?).

On impulse, I got rid of John and rang “The Venture”. Gwyn met me at Bell Weir, half past ten. The riverside belonged to us alone. I showed her Kapai. Guess she was the only one who got a “kick” out of the idea. At the end of the month she leaves Egham. Going to University Coll., London. Wandered back to her digs. I sat on the riverbank; she stood beside me. We looked at the river, moonlit. Talked dreamily of ideals and realities and the past and the future. Reminiscent of the fireside of our beastly old digs!

I got up suddenly and kissed Gwyneth Elaine… (There is a little gap between us – Germany, where Gwyn has been and I have not. Ahead is a huge crevasse – University Coll. We shall not reach across that gap; it will widen, inevitably. She will be different soon. But what the hell does it matter, because I shall not know!) The little devil again wanted to read my diary – yes, this! She offered to let me kiss her as a reward. “You will let me see it – won’t you?” I kissed her - good-night.

When I reached Kapai, midnight was just past. August had become September and Shimmering Haze had become Lengthening Shadows.

Sunday 30th August 1936

After an hour’s aimless wandering in Staines, John and I boarded a river steamer near the Bridge, soon after midday. We went aboard from a ferry boat in midstream. This was the most eventful thing about the trip. Otherwise, we sat among rows of morose passengers, mostly rather elderly. Reached Windsor 2 o’clock. The Captain, who from time to time, gloomily intoned, “Gangway, please!” as he passed to and fro, told one passenger to sit down, adding “Don’t get panicky”. I noticed that the gentleman so addressed, carried a suit-case labelled, “N.Y.K Line. Stateroom”, so he’d probably seen more seafaring than the worthy river Captain!

We had lunch at a cheap place near “The Ship”. Sausage, chips and a sweet. Also coffee. Afterwards, (Windsor was crowded and it was damn hot) went on the river. Had a swim, were nearly run-down and were overcharged badly. Had a pot of tea (becoming economical) and came back by train.

Both returned to Kapai and sat talking in the garden until dark; then went inside and talked.

Saturday 29th August 1936

Afternoon, “dobying” and lounging about.

Evening; to Ealing by GWR. Nobody at home, soon got bored and it seemed frightfully suburban in comparison with the riverside.

The return journey, Hawthorn Court to Ealing Common took two hours. I walked along the tow-path to Staines, carrying a suitcase which contained my no. 3’s.

Friday 28th August 1936

Wilf spent the day here; John came in the evening. Went up the Colne. Great excitement as we neared the Pool, John struggling with the pole like a madman whilst Wilf shouted and thrust at the banks with a paddle. Drifted down in silence. I lay in the bows, my eyes almost level with the water. The moon rose dead ahead and made golden spots and streaks on the water.

John stayed at Kapai until midnight. He had a huge bundle of railway pamphlets. We discussed half-day trips to Seaton, Clacton, Brighton, but eventually decided nothing! Occasionally John laughed, fell on the bed and rolled helplessly.

Thursday 27th August 1936

A free evening. No engagements, no visitors. Each day it is a little cooler in the evenings and early mornings are cold. But – summer is not passed yet!
As I write these lines, it is 8.30 and nearly dusk. Shall switch on the light soon –
I was wrong about “no visitors”, Pep, Richard, Wilf and Father have just arrived!

Wednesday 26th August 1936

Met my railway-kiosk lady tonight. We had tea at Pat’s then took out a punt.

Madge: Quite unrefined of course but very refreshing. I don’t think we can converse about anything but love. (She said another boy had said she would make a good lover. The “boy” must have had a eye for a fine wench.)

I punted up the Colne then moored alongside the bank. It was a comfortable punt with soft cushions and all that. As we lay there we heard romantic music from the Fair, softened by distance. Saw the stars come out one by one…

Then glided downstream in the darkness…

Tuesday 25th August 1936

Richard left 7.30 a.m. and Wilf came – until 9 p.m.

Evening – a fairly peaceful one – we went on the river and discussed neurosis, psycho-analysis, insomnia and all that. The weather is still – grand.

Into the river as soon as I leave the works in the evenings.
The first plunge makes me forget the stickiness of the day – when the stores thermometer has been hovering near 80 degrees. Guess this summer was wasted until the middle of last month. I was becoming a smug suburbanite!

Monday 24th August 1936

Visitors to Kapai – Father, Mother, Wilf, Mad Willy and Richard. M.W. - supper. Richard slept here.

Sunday 23rd August 1936

Up 9 o’clock. Into the river before breakfast. By the time we dried, the kettle was boiling; hot tea. Went upstream in a dingy and after a long pull, reached Old Windsor Locks. First time I’d seen them! Hot, but not too hot on the water.

After lunch – tea, did “dobying” ie. Washed my linen in a bucket. Strung it across the bungalow ceiling, to dry.

Up the Colne by canoe, for a change. I felt pretty picturesque as I towed the canoe along, wading, clad in a sports shirt and bathing costume and pipe. That particular pipe was a lovely one. After reaching the Mill Pool we went on by a rapid, shallow stream. Having struggled fifty yards or so we tied up and I lay down in the canoe while Dick explored further. Lay there with the sound of the water rushing against the side, watching clouds of tobacco smoke drift away. Dick came, we tried to get in the canoe – and upset it. Took out our soaking trousers, a towel, Dick’s pullover, the mat. Dragged the canoe onto the bank and emptied the water away. Luckily, my cigarettes, matches and tobacco were unspoilt.

Eventually went downstream again, landed the drenched clothing and returned. Dick left the canoe for a bathe and I paddled (sometimes punted) up to the Mill Pool.
Then I drifted down, singing. I told the boatman “she had shipped a bit of water” and he said “yes, there is a leak somewhere”

Dick and went to bed (being minus trousers). I went to a snack bar and had bacon and eggs. Brought Dick some chips (specially prepared) which he ate luxuriously in bed. Telephoned Hawthorn Court and arranged for Father to bring Richard’s suit, shirt, collar and tie etc. early in the morning. When I returned to Kapai Richard was asleep. Guess I’ll turn in now, also. Nearly eleven o’clock.

Saturday 22nd August 1936

Strange foursome this afternoon, Anne, Richard and Father! Took Anne out in a punt (she was beastly windy).

Went up the tumultuous Colne. There were two other boats there; Father sat in one, a canoe with Dick swimming alongside. Near the Mill Pool we found a dingy containing two girls, one of whom was Diana. She grimaced horribly and put her fingers to her nose.

Later Richard told me of a strange creature who had passed upstream, dragging a dingy and swearing at the mud. After tea, went in the car to Chobham Common and gathered heather. Back via Thorpe and the Red Lion. Parted at the station. Richard and I strolled back along the tow-path.

Friday 21st August 1936

Reunion with Brockwell and Young, at Kapai.

Later Father came with Dick. The former stood us a drink at the “Anglers” and the latter stayed the night, sleeping on a mattress.

Thursday 20th August 1936

It is glorious at Kapai. “Everything is coming my way” – This evening, in navalese, has been a “make and mend”. Letter writing, tidying-up (everything in my home is “just-so”, of course). Have just made some tea and washed the pots. Time is 9.30. When I’ve finished this, shall sweep and dust, then “stand easy” until bedtime.

A fair has opened in the next field; I have musical accompaniment at the moment. The latest jazz is being ground out from some machine. The tunes seem to repeat every 80 minutes so it is not too bad. Shall probably loathe it eventually and long for silence but am enjoying it now.

The first financial week is nearly over and I think I shall be alright. Naturally, there is less money to spare than before but I don’t think I shall go broke or be having any other experiences similarly reminiscent of past days.

Wednesday 19th August 1936

104th RNVR drill and 4th V/S drill. First hour, morse alphabet (receiving) by flash. Not so awful as last night. Second hour, a lecture on PT1, PT2 etc.

Came down by the 10 o’clock ex Paddington, platform 3. The attractive girl blushed charmingly as she drew my cup of tea. Romantic setting! Her name is Madge.

Staines 10.50 Cycled fast along the dark tow-path. Muddy, pools of water. (Raining most of the day).

Tuesday 18th August 1936

First drill as a V/S rating. On the signal bridge; dashing signallers; coloured masses of strange bunting whirling aloft. Semaphore and morse by flag – receiving. Lucky I had a smattering of both!

Sunday 16th August 1936

At Kapai.

Yesterday was chaotic – moving-in, last minute difficulties and minor troubles, noisy trippers late at night. Today has been better. Went up to Ealing by the 10.48, the sun already hot.

Had some lunch – the family, absent, had left instructions for me to help myself – and had a look at Christopher. He was in a sorry state. The rear cone broken, or something. Had to get to Forest Park, nevertheless. Desperate, I came away at half past one sur Christopher. Damn hot! Sweated and sweated.

Stopped at Hounslow to raise the saddle. More sweat. Christopher and I were both exhausted by the time we reached Egham. So I left Chris at Kapai and hurried into Egham in search of a bus. The luck changed. A Green Line came in a few seconds – 3.25. At 3.40 I was in Windsor and by 4 o’clock was at Dicks.

After tea and a stroll in the gardens, Dick came back through the Park with me. On the way he told me all about the King’s mistress. Sat down for final cigarettes near The Copper Horse. Dusk, darkness. “Perfect peace”, said he. “Quite like old times – this”, said I (Platitudianns!).

He disappeared at a trot, homeward bound, whilst I marched on towards Bishopsgate. Caught a bus. Had bacon, egg and tomatoes at the old Forge House snack-bar. Walked down to the riverside. 11o’clock. All quiet. Weekenders gone. Unlocked the door, switched on the light and was in my castle.

Minus jacket and socks, wearing ancient shoes, hands in pockets, I strolled onto the riverbank and looked at Kapai. The light shone through curtains and fell on dewy grass and the flagged path. Left and right, the dark, empty river.

Sweet! Sweet.

Wednesday 12th August 1936

Devil of a day at the works. Harris pretty awful, lately. As Mr Nimo (cellulose manager) said at lunchtime, he is “an extraordinary fellow. Seems to have a grudge against humanity”.

However, the evening made amends for the rest of the day. I left the (bloody) stores at 5.15. Just caught a bus, which gave me the luxury of a cup of tea before catching my train. Got to “President” just in time to get my chit signed by the VS officer and put in the request box before it was cleared. Then I had an idle time in the canteen until 8.30. Had a cup of tea; used the heads; gave advice to new hands and received same from old hands, smoked.

“Request men” on the quarterdeck. The transfer went through and I doubled off in the wake of Foulkes (ex-Broke) who had just been rated AB. More talk. Got away about 9.10 and just missed the 9.30 down to Paddington. This was a stroke of luck as it happened. I had a banana and a cup of tea on the platform, whilst waiting and got into conversation with the attractive girl who served me. We began by discussing bananas and ended by fixing a “date”. Incredible! I suggested it whilst receiving the change from the purchase of a packet of Players and she wrote her address on a paper bag. (Romance of railway snack-bar; poem of Paddington.) She is 19 – I’d thought her somewhat older than myself. Came down by the 10 o’clock.

In spare moments of my train journeys this week, have been practising morse; can now transcribe, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, without reference to the signalling book.

Monday 10th August 1936

Left the works 5.20, feeling dirty, sticky and tired. Just caught the 5.45. First time since Bank Holiday. Had a cup of tea, washed, put a clean pair of bags on.

RNVR 8 o’clock. Made out a request form for transfer to VS and got it ok’d by the focsle officer, Lieunt. Sketch. Sat in the canteen (luxuriously) with a cheese roll and a glass of beer. The only thing I shall miss by transfer to VS will be rifle drill. Found the actual “Seamanship” rather disappointing. Footling about with tarry ropes. However, jolly glad I went to sea as a seaman, thus getting a taste of the roughest side!

Thursday 6th August 1936

Warm, wet, drizzling rain. Incredible summer altogether!

After feeling dull and robot-like for so long I once again have felt vivid and sensitive. The time is nearly 11.30 – too late, considering I must be up at 6.30 tomorrow.

As I was leaving the works this evening I passed Joan – Miss Walmsley. We smiled. This is a very rare thing, since the row, 18 months ago. Wonder what would happen if we spoke? Perhaps she wonders also.

Heard there was a furnished bungalow to let at Wood Haw. Gave way to temptation and called to enquire. It was a rough, wooden, one-roomed place on the riverside. I took it. Back at Wood Haw; paid the first weeks rent (10/-) Strange to be in that familiar hall again! I remember a Saturday afternoon in November nearly three years ago, when Harvey and I sat in that hall and saw Peggy coming slowly down the stairs.
Hell! She looked adorable just then! But Harvey was gone and instead of Peggy, there was the pretty, business-like Miss Williamson, to give me a receipt and make a list of the furniture I required.

Drizzling, warm rain! Waited in Staines for the 7.43. Had a cup of tea and bought a book by Galsworthy. Felt excited all the evening.

Had three letters for the post; one for Young, one for Welsh and one for Killick Baker of the Broke. A girl came along as I stood by the stamp machine, pushing coppers in. I asked if she could change sixpence, wondering if her voice were as heavenly as her face. It was a perfectly sweet voice! She offered to lend me 1 1/2d It was a devil of a struggle not to agree and make that an excuse for meeting again! She looked so young and innocent.

I’m writing I such detail because it is seldom that I feel anything but blasé nowadays. Sometimes the writing of this journal requires quite an effort. But not tonight, so I have taken advantage of the mood. (A dancing mood which is doubtless, dancing swiftly away.)

Wednesday 5th August 1936

Last week I bought a damn good hat, a damn good shirt and a damn good pair of shoes.
Today I did a remarkable thing indicative of prosperity. I re-opened an account at the Bank and started by putting in £2. So I’m back for the first time at the stage I held when leaving Leicester. A reserve. Not at the last penny.

Thank God. Thank God.

Tuesday 4th August 1936

Of the 300 cigarettes brought home from Devonport, only 50 remain. Guess I smoke far too much. Guess I’ll light another one now, from the stub of the last.

On the whitewashed wall of the making house I saw this, scribbled in pencil; -
"Mr Dawson
St Helier
20 July
HMS Broke"

Monday 3rd August 1936

Richard and I kept vigil tonight for Peltier’s Comet, some sort of meteor which appears once in 1500 years. Every 15 centuries! I may be dead before it comes again. We watched from a bedroom window for nearly an hour but saw nothing; nothing, except the full moon and stars and clouds and the night.

Thursday 30th July 1936

Had arranged to see Gwyn tonight, before she left for Germany. In charge of the stores, Harris being on holiday. Not finished until 6 o’clock, I gave up hope. Scott gave me a lift to Staines from where I phoned Gwyn, to apologise. When I heard she’d changed her mind about turning up, I changed mine too.

We eventually met at Charing Cross at 10 to 9. I obligingly produced her untruthful letter, which she tore up and impressively scattered into the Thames. Wandered along the Embankment; went from Westminster to Tower Bridge in one of them there river launches. Coming upstream, we sat right in the bows, away from the gormless sightseers aft.

Said goodbye in a taxi between Waterloo and Charing Cross, 11o’clock. At the head of the escalator where we were to part, we decided to make a provisional, rather romantic, rendezvous for September 1936 or 1937. The arrangement was this: September 23rd between 8.30 and 9, in the middle of Piccadilly Circus (beneath Eros). Neither of us is actually under any obligation to turn up, either this year or next year. A pleasantly platonic arrangement!

Monday 27th July 1936

At 7.30 a.m. I was walking through a street of suburban London, suitcase in hand; on the way to the station and business.

Saturday 25th July 1936

Left Broke 8.30 Pay 31/-

Dinner; soup, ham, green salad, bananas. Left barracks 12 o’clock. Years since I felt so fit!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday 24th July 1936

“Wakee, wakee!” at 5 o’clock this morning, and ship under weigh for Devonport by 6. A nasty swell when we’d cleared the land. Fell in standing sideways, on the iron deck.

At breakfast our dixies of tea slid off the table rather messily. McLaughlen came in with the appetizing news that, “McDougall, was in the heads, spewing his heart out”.

Washing oars by the break of the focsle. A sudden lurch threw me against the guard rail, still clutching an armful of boat’s stretchers. “Don’t go overboard my handsome; we mustn’t lose that boat’s gear”. McDougall began to vomit, “Over the side, Jock. Don’t make a mess on the guard rail”.

Dinner time. The joint of beef rolled off the table just as the tea had done. I took a plateful of spuds and some bread and took it on deck to eat! Sands, alone of Mess 9, had dinner in the awful focsle. Climbed onto Q gun platform for a doze with McIntee and some others. 30 minutes, but I felt beastly cold. Felt much better by, “Out pipes!”.

Afternoon; a lecture by the Killick. Presently, McLaughlan, with gastly face, said politely, “May I go to the heads, Killick?”.
“Want to spew?”
“Alright. Don’t be long about it”.

The Navy, though not unsympathetic is eminently practical in these delicate matters.
Looking over my shoulder, I saw land ahead. It was Devon. Plymouth Hoe. Dock again. After tea, my first wash of the day. Then supper, and work until 10p.m. Turned in – for the last time, blast it!

This “holiday” has been rough and delightful too. Realism and romance.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thursday 23rd July 1936

To sea with the Governor of Jersey aboard. Seemed pretty rough; one of the old AB’s told me it was “choppy.”

Spent the morning washing and polishing on the iron deck (with spray flying over us).
Anchored in a rocky inlet somewhere on the Jersey coast. Felt damn tired. After dinner I had 20 minutes sleep on a bench 12 inches wide – the lockers being occupied by other slumberers. Dirty overalls for a pillow.

Oblivion… The pipe, “Clear lower deck! Hands muster on the focsle!” Manned the capstan to weigh by hand. Left, right, left, round and round. Three shackles of cables, I think.

Returned to this bay again about six bell of the afternoon watch. Raining hard. Got the starboard accommodation ladder out. Anchored again and landed the Governor.

Teatime. The mess deck began rolling in the same way – we were off again! Put my no. 3’s in the engine room to dry (damn hot down there!)

Mist, rain, slow ahead, hooting siren. Standing at the break of the focsle I saw rocks, cliffs and a lighthouse loom out of the mist on the port bow.

Had a wash after tea. I shaved, washed face, hands, and teeth – all in the same bucket. Burcombe did the same when I was finished.

Duty part this evening, which meant work until we turned in. (10.15) Finished (and turned in) at last. That bloody, decrepit hand pump!

Wednesday 22nd July 1936

“Make and mend.” At sea until noon. Spent the morning 1) scrubbing woodwork, 2)polishing the iron deck.

I was interested in McBride’s account of his liberty flirtation. “So after I kissed her I said, “Can you stand for me?” and she said “Yes”, so I showed her my Dreadnaught (anti-conceptative) and said, “What about this?” but she cried, “Oh no! Not that!” That’s the most damn funny thing I’ve heard here!

Afternoon, cleaned and shaved at my leisure and changed into no. 1’s. What a difference this makes!

Went ashore after tea by the tug. Wandered around St. Helier with a WT Killicke. He was fed-up and left me with the deliberate intention of getting drunk.

Fish and chip supper at a café, where I met an ex-Tiffy.
Back by the 7.45 tug. Several snotties on board but I was the only libertyman. The skipper let me take the wheel, a great thrill.

Killick Baker greeted me on the mess deck with “Your supper’s on the shelf, Lofty.” Sausages and tomatoes which I warmed in the galley. Later, Rounds and then “Cover guns.” Another supper for the RNVR watch on; margarine, bread, cheese and tea. (Bought the cheese on shore.)

Went into the focsle head before turning in (10.30) Saw six light buoys flashing and heard the weird bell of hes fours.

Tuesday 21st July 1936

To sea; round the islands all day.

Forenoon – scraping the guard rails, splashed with spray.
Afternoon – polishing the iron deck.
Back to St. Helier 4p.m. Starboard watch on.
Had tea, a wash and shave (4.30 to 6p.m.)
Then Quartermaster’s messenger from 6 to 8. 8 to 8.45, supper. Afterwards, “Cover guns!” and filling all the fresh water tanks.
Finished 10 o’clock. A long day’s work.
Ship rolling at anchor.

Went to the heads, for the usual reason. Sitting comfortably there, I heard sounds of action through the port and saw a tug trying to get alongside. On board her were the enthusiastic port watch men. When they eventually reached the mess deck, 30 minutes later, they awoke us to explain what a lovely time they’d had on shore!

Monday 20th July 1936

A sunny day. Out of harbour and to sea by 8.30.

Foulkes and I were in the lurching, oil-smelling focsle until 10 o’clock, being cooks. Spent the rest of the day on the iron deck – polishing it.

Land sighted in mid afternoon. Guernsey. Smaller islands in the distance beyond. Then the rocks of Jersey. Anchorage off St. Helier, 5.30. Rush to get clean and have tea and put on no. 1’s. Liberty boat for starboard watch.

A whaler, towed by the motor boat bounced ¾ mile to the jetty. Went into St. Helier with Burcombe and Sands. Friendliness of islanders; they touch a sailors collar for luck. Cheap baccy. 2 oz. Of Waverly only 1/3d. The beer was called Mary Anne. Some Lancashire tourists stood us a round.

10.30 liberty boat. Gay sailors, several tight. Gruff coxwain, “Get in quick. Put that fag out,” soon let us know we were not gods any longer but just a tough crowd of matlowes.

Over the dark sea. Ahead, from the motor boat was a light with the sihouette of a man against it. Singing men in the sternsheets of the whaler, around me. Spray flew out from the high bows. A dark, rocky headland, a red, flashing light.

As I soaked in all this romance I heard a queer sound. The man who shared my thwart began to vomit. “Ave you spewed in the boat?” asked the coxwain viciously. Romance and realism delightfully blended.

Sunday 19th July 1936

Sunday routine; an extra half hour in hammocks. Fall in 6.30, Brekker (and clean) 7. Carry on 7.45 Polishing on quarterdeck until 9.35. Changed into no.1’s – a rush – then divisions were marched onto the quarterdeck for a very short service.

Saturday 18th July 1936

That infernal “pipe” at 5.30 and “Heave ho my hearties, lash up and stow!”
Rainy, squally, cold, high SW wind. Worked in the focsle flat and later on the windward side of the iron deck. Keeping busy, not really doing anything useful.
After dinner “make and mend” piped.

(Originally written) Am in my hammock at forrad end of focsle. Foulkes left, Sands right. The focsle is quiet.

Friday 17th July 1936

Minor sensation in the mess this morning, when we heard of the attempted assassination of the King.

Libertymen after tea, with Foulkes, Burcombe and Sands. 13 men from Broke. Only one, (Prentice) was “frisked” at the dockyard gates. I sent home 75 Duty Free Cigarettes from the nearest post office.

Luxurious meal at YMCA. (I had sausage and beans), then Burcombe, Sands and I went to the Pictures. The assassination attempt was shown in the news reel. Fervent audience, National Anthem. Visited the Fun-Fair and the Dodgems.

Royal Sailors’ Club for supper. No beds available so reached Broke eventually, about midnight.

Thursday 16th July 1936

Ship under way by 9 o’clock. Facing outboard, lining the rails, as we went downstream. The ship began to roll on the swell as we cleared the harbour.
Instructions for RNVR rating in the sea boat, slung on davits. Out of the corner of an eye I saw main mast swaying wildly against the sky. Cleaning out the boat. Staggering backwards and forwards with buckets of rain water. Difficult to walk straight!

3inch A.A. shooting going on whilst we had dinner in the heaving focsle.
And cigarettes. Amazingly, I did not feel sick! Had expected to be sick as hell.

Back to docks 3 o’clock. Libertymen 7.15, with Foulkes and McDougall. Shopping; sat in a park overlooking the harbour; Cider in a pub crowded with naval men. “Volunteers! Chuck em out!”