Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday 24th April 1937

For some time I have tried to withstand the temptation to see Anne again. This afternoon, like a fool, I gave way. Called at her house, for some time no one came to the door. Nearly shrugged my shoulders and took this as a sign of fate. Would have done, once. Not now. Her brother-in-law came at last, a ruddy, rough young man, half dressed. Anne was away for the weekend.

He suddenly grinned, looked at my RNVR scarf and said “Well, how are things nowadays? I guess you’re Killick?” I laughed. (Anne had told me of him) The ice was broken. I went in and he talked of his naval days, showed me photographs, cups and medals. Stayed to tea. His wife would perhaps have been prim and proper with a visitor. She certainly laid tea in the front room (the “best” room) instead of the kitchen. Jack and I however, were just a couple of rough, lower deck matlowes.
Leading Seaman Giles, of “Veronica,” “Comet” and “Frobisher”.

Called on Mad Willy at Chertsey and talked shop. Amusing how rumour carries! He had heard the story of my trip to Birmingham and knew of my encounter with the jovial grocer who flourished a knife. Selling! On the road! It is thrilling and I am going to succeed. The last of my boyhood ideals has followed others – fatalism. Of necessity I am no longer a fatalist. I believe – really believe – that nothing – except a lenient Deity – is stronger than the human will and determination.

NB1: Cigarette smoking gets worse. Selling involves nervous strain, so smoking increases. From 15 – 20 to 30 – 40 cigarettes a day. I’m developing a splendid “smokers” cough. Sometimes feel a little sick at bedtime or in the mornings. My lungs and “wind” deteriorates. Enjoyment of the individual cigarette is less than it used to be.

NB2: Money troubles return! Somehow I have to get myself a car – and run it. Hire purchase and running expenses out of 30/- car allowance! Have exactly five shillings in the bank. Perfectly ironical!

NB3: This journal is becoming more lengthy! Symbol that life is more interesting.
I can’t start “Shimmering Haze” in April – that would be fatuous – so I’ll insert another number to follow “Morning Mists”. I’ll call it “High Noon” as I used to before.

Record of change of signature and order of Christian names, March 21st 1937
Old style: J. Stephen Dawson
New style: Stephen J. Dawson

Friday 23 April 1937

This evening I drove from Ealing to see John, at Staines. A very long stretch of utterly straight road… two painted streaks divided this into three traffic lines. I drove along at 50mph, offside wheels just in the middle lane. A car appeared ahead, coming towards me. With terrific suddenness it grew larger in my vision – was near – had passed with a swish! As I drove on I thought; that happens every few minutes on main roads. Two objects controlled by frail mortals rush towards each other at a speed of something over 100 miles per hour. To pass without hesitation, perhaps space about the length of a man’s body between… What precision!

And what an age of Speed!

Wednesday 21st April 1937

One order today – stock for a new shop, just over £11. This was the first call and lasted about an hour.

Feeling light hearted – it was a sunny morning – I drove to the arterial road and dashed along at 60 some distance. (The bounces at every little bump when travelling so fast.) Saw a small country lane which was nor signposted. I turned down here and wandered along haphazard, making calls at likely places. The lane went to Bowers Gifford and later Vange (a squalid, industrial village; the name symbolises it well).

Then more bye roads which led into hilly country. Bread and ham and cider at a pub, then I descended a steep hill into the town of Laindon. Here I had two long conversations. One with a man in a builder’s yard. He was pleasantly crazy although rather deaf. Unrefined yet very learned, he discoursed on Latin, the fatuity of the Monarchy, the uselessness of “parishing” parsons and finally religion. He rapped out a long list of various things Our Lord said – news to me I must admit – and generally threw a searchlight on theology.

The next call was on the buyer of a firm with half a dozen branches. An acquaintance of Mr Reddall’s, he was interested in paint manufacture and wanted to know all about it. I sat there sometime enthusiastically giving some (non-confidential) details of the works. It was not yet four o’clock so I went over the hills, down a long valley and up again to Horndon on the Hill. A bungalow was being decorated. Looking for the painter, I walked round into the garden. A real sunburnt old countryman was there, digging. With him was a girl perhaps 25 or 26 years old. She looked older however; dark, heavily built; the dominant type. Apparently this was to be her bungalow when finished. I mentioned this was my first visit to Horndon on the Hill. The old man grinned. “Why, if it weren’t closing time I’d take you to the pub and make you pay your footin,” he said.

The girl found the decorator for me. She went to the gate. “Brown!” she called, and a small boy dashed up. “Where is Mr Allen?” “At the school, Miss!” I half expected the urchin to salute before he marched away. “I guess you’re connected with the school?” “Yes,” she said, smiling suddenly, “I teach there.” Unnecessary question and answer!

My last call was at Laindon Hills. I opened conversation with a builder here by asking if he was in the market? “Yes!” he said, to my astonishment. “I want some paint next week. Whom do you represent?” “Paripan…” “Alright, I’ll try your stuff then”. Seems too good to be true? It was! When he discovered Paripan was not stocked in the district he kinda lost interest. Although he lost interest I did not lose the chance of an order and I’m calling back.

Saturday 17th April 1937

A long day, this! Had intended to go to the office by tube, but it was a wet morning and I was late and altogether it seemed a bit silly to join the underground throng when I had a car. From Sheperd’s Bush onwards, I felt pretty scared. Grim streams of traffic, bloody big buses, drizzling rain, slippery roads. Had to pull up on traffic lights at Notting Hill and the car skidded badly. Marble Arch, Oxford Street.
I pulled out of the stream and found a garage in Poland Street. Following signs and circling up steep ramps I at last came out high on the roof. About seven floors up!

Left the office about 2 o’clock. Lunch at The Austrian (once again affluent) then met John at Charing Cross. We had arranged to survey the Coronation route but as it was still drizzling and we felt lazy, we went to the Forum, Villiers Street, instead. Afterwards we had tea at an Italian café nearby and tried to pretend we had done a hell of a lot of preliminary surveying.

John left me at 7 o’clock and I then phoned Gwyn and said I wanted to see her. Arranged to meet her at Wimbledon, 8:30. Got the car off the roof park (after I’d had a refreshing wash-and-brush-up) and drove south. Lighting up time. The roads were treacherous, there were delays, and the way was difficult to find. However I reached Wimbledon about 8:45 and eventually found Gwyn. Her astonishment when she saw the car! Did not know whether to get in or run away!

We got clear of Wimbledon and reached Kingston. Then, thank heavens, I was on familiar roads again. Staines. Egham. Past the works I came out of the 30 limit for the first time and was able to touch the accelerator a little. It was strangely thrilling to be driving along with a girl beside me. Rather snug. Somehow snug.
The reason I wanted to see Gwyneth Elaine was to say goodbye. Several months ago, at the end of the summer, Gwyneth and I made a solemn pact that if we ever parted, the parting should be gay. I thought we were reaching the edge of boredom with each other, so I wanted to see Gwyn.

It was still drizzling and the windscreen wiper clicked steadily as the car sped along familiar country roads. Windsor, Virginia Water, headlights throwing a beam ahead. Amazing! Gwyn had the same thought about parting, the same remembrance of our heart – to - heart pledge. She wrote me a letter to say as much, this week. Presumably it is still in the post. (Actually at this time the letter had just reached Hawthorn Court, by the night delivery.)

Memo. for a sales man: If I had been hesitant instead of imperative when telephoning, she would not have come at all tonight, as there was another engagement.
Parked the car on Chobham Common. We made love but – it was too true! – the thrill had vanished. Both realised it. We were just below the clump of pines. I felt the rush of wind against the car; when I opened the door I heard wind booming in the trees above.

Half past eleven; we turned homewards. At 12 o’clock, near Walton-on-Thames, I solemnly moved the hands of the clock forward to 1 a.m. Summer time begun.
Country roads to Epson and Sutton. Gwyn lit cigarettes for me as we went along. At the gate of a house in a silent road, she waved as I backed, then drove away – second, top.

It was all over. A cup of tea; petrol; frustration. Slowly I found my way home. Few people to direct me, few signposts. Click, click, from the windscreen wiper!

Ealing 4 o’clock.

Friday 16th April 1937

Car running expenses this week have – amazingly – brought back my old friend the Financial Crisis. Had to withdraw nearly all money from the bank today in order to pay digs and get a full petrol tank for the journey home.

Not much business this morning so at 12 o’clock I came back to digs and packed my case. After lunch, two calls in Rayleigh. Then – the arterial road. Very soon I reached the outskirts of London – and ran into torrential rain. It drove at the windscreen, which was blurred despite the ticking wiper. Ilford, Edmonton and the North Circular Road. Strangely the sky brightened until wet twilight had become a sunny afternoon with dry roads.

I was at Hawthorn Court by 3:30, having on my seventh day of driving, passed a further stage in road experience – London suburbs.

Thursday 15th April 1937

The most charming girl I saw today was the girl who interviewed me at my last call – a boat builder on Western Esplanade. Gloriously tall, with fair hair and blue eyes. Maturity instead of the usual girlishness. Who was she, the owner’s daughter or his secretary? She wore a ring on the third finger of the left hand but whether it was merely ornamental or donated bondage, I could not guess. Balsman’s report “…Am to call again next month”.

The hell I will!

Wednesday 14th April 1937

A good day’s work in two ways – I worked hard and there were results. Made 13 calls, took three orders. Pretty grim morning; frustration was again the prevailing tone. Took the first order at 2 p.m. – Hadleigh – then had a rapid lunch at a coffee stall. The tenth call was on a Westcliff builder. Have been worrying him for several days regarding U/coat paste. This time he wearily acquiesced when I suggested a demonstration and sent me along to his paint shop. I came back to the office and triumphantly painted the bloody stuff on a black board. He was frightfully busy and did not want any paste, but the sight of me excitedly and enthusiastically splashing paint about the office and on myself ended his resistance. He suddenly grinned and said, “All right then, send 14 lbs.” Like Jimmie Rigg, I immediately shut up and beat it.

Arrived home 6 o’clock to find a letter from a Benfleet decorator. He wanted some Glacier. A hasty tea and then off to Benfleet. 60/- order. Because of the car, it was good fun and not hard work. Got back about 9:15 and just finished my reports in time to catch the post.

Dashed into the Victory Bar just after closing time but Esther very kindly allowed me to have a glass of light ale. Then I decided to relax and go to the sea coast. It was thrilling alone in the darkness. “Wakering” said the sign posts as my head lights swung, or “Foulness”. Impulsively, I took a mysterious road near Wakering Stairs. A red notice said “This road is closed… Superintendent of Experiments… War Department…” I went along a 12 mile limit road – good surface. The road curved, then was straight and flat and deserted. Utterly dark. The mirror above the windscreen was just a black panel. Unusual road signs appeared. 10 mile limit. Then – as if one could go slower! – “Slow. Hump” “Slow. Single line traffic”. There was no other traffic! I crossed a long bridge with a railway track in the middle. Sometimes, dark buildings. Never any lights. “Slow” said the signs. 30 – 40 – 30 swung the needle as the strange road unrolled.Another 10 mile limit sign appeared. “Foulness” I crawled through the village at a silent twenty. A dozen scattered houses. On went the road, narrower and more rough now. A sharp bend, then a farmyard!

On again, until at last a sign sprang out of the darkness ahead as my head lights thrust before me. “Slow. Headway” There was a steep rise beyond. Took the car up cautiously, stopped her on the crest. As I expected, the road became a track which ran across wet sands and out into the sea. The north end of The Broomway.
Drove back recklessly, exultant. 40 – 45 – 40 flickered the needle. Sometimes a sudden swerve as the road swung out of the straight. 45 – 30 – 40.

It was only 11:30p.m. when I reached the lights of Southend! Expected it to be 12:30.

Tuesday 13th April 1937

Packy and I did a country round and had a day of frustration. Reported 11 calls but actually made about 15. In some cases doors were locked and buyers were definitely out. However three reports were lengthy. Why? The first was a complaint from one of our old customers. The second was on a job at an old country house – a rather difficult job, with damp, non-cavity walls. The third was about a builder (cold canvass) who had a wonderful priming for new woodwork – not a Paripan product unfortunately. He was very enthusiastic and went into details. He sure sold us the idea of that priming!

Returning to Southend in the late afternoon, Packy and I laughed ironically. “What a bloody day!”

Sunday 11th April 1937

A days’ driving with Barton. Rayleigh, Chelmsford, Colchester, Manningtree and Clacton. I drove to Clacton, he drove most of the way back. Beer near Colchester at the Hammer and Trowel, lunch by the roadside a little further on. Pot of tea near Clacton at a lonely and rambling country house. Cooks Green Farm Guest House was it’s pretentious title.

Got to the Lobster Smack, Canvey Island, just before 7 p.m. and rushed in when the doors opened. Called for a final drink at the Victory Bar (8 o’clock) but Esther proved so attractive that we stayed there until closing time.

It is now 11:20 and though not drunk, I don’t feel 100% sober so I guess I’ll go to bed.

Saturday 10th April 1937

A letter from Vera – I get a bundle of letters every morning, business or otherwise. She says she has been transferred to Crayford, Kent. “An unheard of place, a dump of dumps and forty miles from Benfleet”.

Called for the car 2:30 p.m. and after stalling her several times outside the garage, managed to drive away to the digs. After lunch I decided to go for a run and get used to the car. Could not start the bloody thing! Most discouraging. I got out and lifted the side of the bonnet. Inside, as I had anticipated, I saw lots of little wires and dark things. As I glared helplessly at this ironware, a voice said “Can I help?” and I turned to see a young man emerge from no. 17. Within 10 minutes he had the engine turning over nicely. I suggested he should come for a run. He did. After many stalls I got her away and drove along the sea front to Thorpe Bay and Shoeburyness (being terrified of traffic!)

My companion, Bob Bunton, proved quiet a decent sort of chap. He had served in the regular Army – Black Watch and Sussex - and is now a Second Lieutenant in the Army Supplementary Reserve. Incidentally, he is out of work at present but has applied for the West Indies Police – the job I desired and funked four years ago! Brought him back for tea then went out again alone. Went beyond Shoebury to the mysterious tract of country near the sea, belonging to the War Department. Eventually, the road I followed reached the seawall and went over it, to become a rough track leading across wet sands. Wakering Stairs. A very quiet place, and still. I backed the car and then wandered along country roads, through Rochford and Rayleigh and many small Essex villages.

In Rochford I feared a traffic policeman would hold me up at a crossroads on a hill! Luckily, as I crawled forward he signalled me on! On the main Southend road past Rayleigh, I put my foot down once or twice, when the road was clear. The needle flickered just below 50. On the outskirts of Southend I had to light up and then face the ordeal of High Street on a Saturday night. However, I got through alright and drove safely into the garage.

Friday 9th April 1937

Up at 8 o’clock today. Tramped the streets wearily until lunch time. Then Packy arrived and later, Mr Insoll. Packy and I sipped tea and coffee respectively, whilst H.I. had lunch. Simultaneously, he discussed the marketing of lemon squash with Packman and the selling of paint with me. Eventually he said I should need a car for next week. “Leave your Ford 10 down here, Packman,” he said casually. “Take it along to a garage for overhauling, then Dawson can use it tomorrow. Send the account to me”. Thus I became the (temporary) owner of a car!

Thursday 8th April 1937

After the third fruitless call this morning I was utterly tired. Simply got on a bus and went to Marine Parade. Cup of tea in a café on the front then strolled along to Garon’s for lunch. Four calls in the afternoon, two promising contacts and one which yielded a £5 order.

Back to the digs for early tea. An evening interview which will result in an order shortly. Report writing.

By 9 o’clock I was free, so went along to the Victory Bar and saw Esther. She smiled like hell as I came in and immediately began to make excuses about the evening when Packy and I saw her in Garon’s. Altogether she was very enthusiastic and spent most of her time at my end of the bar. I thoroughly enjoyed it and flirted for some time across the bar, whilst sipping two brown ales. Eventually I marched out through the swing doors. Outside, I turned and raised my hat. She was watching me. She smiled like hell. So did I.

Wednesday 7th April 1937

Westcliff in the morning. Good class district; nice to see upper class people en masse and to hear the drawling London accent. Bought myself a tartan tie (Argyll colours) as a stimulant. Needed some incentive to gaiety in the afternoon, at Benfleet. Dismal weather.

One interview necessitated waiting half an hour in an undertaker’s showroom – hardly a cheerful place. Brass fittings, coffin linings, illustrated books. There was also a nice six foot coffin on a stand, ready except for decoration. (Later I found the coffin useful for resting my pad on, as I wrote).

After the undertaker had seen me and agreed to use PHG on his next building job, I went into a low snack bar to write reports and have a stand easy. Although it was late afternoon and the place was off the main lorry route the café was crowded with drivers and their mates. It was low tide. Through a window at the back I looked out into a muddy gully with a trickle of water at the bottom. This little ditch was Benfleet Creek. At 5 o’clock I found a café for tea and a wash and brush up. I washed in the scullery (which was full of steam) and put on my new tie.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. I sat on a bench near Benfleet Church, waiting to see a boat builder. He did not turn up, so eventually at 7:15, I decided that the day’s work was done and went to see Vera. We walked across into Canvey, to that quaint inn, The Lobster Smack. Anxious to spend money as recompense for last night, she bought me a double Johnnie Walker. We heard the boom of a siren and (childish like) rushed out and on to the sea wall. A ship with cabin lights aglow was manoeuvring in the Estuary. Eventually, just opposite us, she slowed down and stopped. A prolonged rumbling, she had anchored.

Vera could not walk sedately down all the steps from the seawall. She had to jump the last flight. I caught her as she landed. Strolled along towards the Village Pump. We sat down awhile on a bench and Vera – brave little girl! – sang, at my request, “Sentimental Fool”. It is a silly little song which she often sings in the oddest moments.

Waiting for a bus at the Pump, we got into conversation with one of the natives. I eventually discovered he was in the building trade, a plasterer. “On my own”, he proudly told us. Vera squeezed my arm excitedly. This meeting might be useful for business! I thought how nice it was to be with a girl who took an intelligent interest in business at all.

Tuesday 6th April 1937

On the road – or to be more correct, streets – by 10 o’clock. I wandered aimlessly for some time, wondering where to begin. Eventually found myself on the outskirts of Westcliffe and did some cold canvasses. How I longed for a car! Still stiff, feeling the effects of the weekend outing. Called on a stockist and took a 30/- order, then jumped on a tram and came back to Southend for a coffee. One more call, then I sat on the Esplanade in the sunlight writing up reports. After lunch I got busy and made six calls – the last at six o’clock. Eleven calls altogether. Not bad for a man on foot, especially as I had to call twice for an interview in two cases.

Met Vera 8p.m. Saw some thrilling bouts at the wrestling place (ringside seats). Vera loved it; holding my hand tightly and talking volubly. She looks amazingly like Peggy. Extraordinary resemblance. Almost makes me feel sentimental. Awful, isn’t it?

Missed the last bus to Benfleet and the last train. Chartered a taxi for 10/-. Got home again 1 o’clock. Believe this is my most expensive evening!

Monday 5th April 1937

Feeling very stiff after yesterday’s strenuous outing. (Quite a short stroll across the Epsom Downs, with Gwyn, Margaret and John. I am becoming effete.)

Packy and I reached Southend at 11:30 a.m. After three calls we were joined at 12:30 by Mr Insoll.

After tea they took me – and my piles of kit – to Herbert Grove. “Cheerio, good luck!” The two cars drove away. I lit a cigarette, went indoors and once again arranged my belongings neatly in their respective places. This evening I went to the headquarters of no.3 Company, 54th (East Anglian) Divisional Signals, TA
(I give the full and official designation). I cannot join until I have obtained my RNVR discharge. Atmosphere here was better class and more efficient than at the Canvey TA drill hall. The men all specialists, fairly intelligent. The lowest rank is Signalman, not Private and – great attraction! – they wear spurs. “No marching,” said the SM impressively, “We go about in lorries”.

I saw a Benfleet bus in High Street, went aboard and called on Vera. When I suggested going to see some wrestling, her eyes sparkled and she jumped high in the air. Can hardly realise she is 22. A sweet good night kiss outside her digs.

Saturday 3rd April 1937

Yesterday’s intrigues, of which I officially know nothing, began to show results at the office this morning.

Evening: All-in wrestling at Kilburn, with John. Crowded hall, had to stand in a dense throng. Damned hot.

Back to Ealing 12 o’clock. Had supper and saw John on the road home. Bed 1 a.m.
Oppressively warm even at that hour, like a summer night.

Friday 2nd April 1937

A grey and miserable day. (“Fitting weather for our departure from this bloody place”, I said as we scrambled into the car.) Took my kit to the new digs, then turned westwards. Bt 12:30 we were in Town. Lunch at an Italian café in Charlotte Street – Poggiolo’s.

Afternoon, Soho Square. Packy dictated his report, “Mr Dawson has the ability and sales experience to make a success of the Southend area… I estimate he should make 75 calls a week and have 300 good contacts at the end of five months… Will not get more than 100 contacts from the present territory. It must be increased… Mr Dawson cannot make 75 calls a week on foot and a car is really indispensable…”.

Went to a news theatre. Then met Markham. A pub-crawl followed and much intrigue and dramatic discussion under oaths of secrecy. The Blue Anchor, The Bath House. The Toby Club and The Cairo. Two dark skinned girls did a hot dance here – (“The Chocolate Drops”). Marky left us soon after 11. We then went to the Haymarket Brasserie. One can drink until midnight here – with a sandwich.

Home 1:30

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thursday 1st April 1937

No orders today. A bad start – we did not get on the road until 11o’clock.
This bungalow life is a mistake, shall leave this lunchtime; called on Miss Tredget, Herbert Grove, Southend, and arranged digs for next week. She was recommended to me by Harris, long ago.

Afternoon; frustration.

Evening; called on the Canvey TA drill hall. Ungainly looking youths marching about. This is a new unit and most of the men are still recruits. The Sergeant Major and Captain Fielder (in private life a builder!) seemed surprised I should wish to join in the ranks. “Of course, the RNVR has got a very high standard” said the SM “We get all sorts here you know”. This is a RA (Heavy) Battery. Eventually they will be equipped with guns up to 9.2, for coastal defence work.

After leaving here I phoned the EA Divisional Signals, at Southend. Arranged an interview for Monday. Back at the bungalow (it was bloody cold and cheerless). I packed my kit, ready for yet another move, and carried various cases and packages out to the car. Have paid the weeks rent and given notice of our departure.

Packy is always broke. This week he has borrowed 24/0 from me.
That leaves 3/6d, which will just cover tomorrows petrol expenses.

Wednesday 31st March 1937

Just to prove my nerve, I did a house canvass today. Decent looking house at Leigh. Much more awe inspiring to do this than to call at a business place. Tried to get the lady to specify Paripan for her future decorating but she was a dull sort of person and I could make little impression. However, this puts me ahead of Packy, who has never yet done a cold canvass at a house.

Tuesday 30th March 1937

Met Vera and Anne in the evening and took them to see some all-in wrestling. Filthy fouls and a match where the weaker man took some grim punishment (“lay off, you’ll break my bloody leg!”) and eventually got a locked jaw. Anne was rather disgusted but Vera loved it. Her eyes gleamed with excitement and she convulsively seized my arm.

Back to Canvey afterwards. Rather delicious when, as we lay beneath the eiderdown, on my bed, I pretended to be disgruntled. First Vera sang softly – a favourite song of hers called “Sentimental Fool” – then she called me “Sulky Peter” and tried to make conversation. I still feigned gloom as she said I was stupid - and kissed me.

Morning Mists 1937

Begins with the drone of a car in the morning, taking two paint salesmen to their territory…

“It is good to think of the time when one was young, with a clean sword and the ideals untarnished.”

Monday 29th March 1937

Up 7:30. Shooting on Century Range after breakfast. Damnably cold! The wind whistled across the Common. I fired – 200 and 500. My score is nothing to boast about – 7 and 8 respectively! But nevertheless I enjoyed the sensations.

The terrific concentration as the rifle gets on target – concentration so high that you hardly hear the noise if as you lie there, finger tightening on the trigger, your neighbour fires. The exciting moments of suspense as you wait, relaxed after the shot, watching the target. The moment when the bull is dead in your sights – and you are conscious of nothing else but that black blur. To summarise – I’m a damn bad shot but I love it.

The whine of bullets speeding towards targets ends Dawn 1937 and –

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sunday 28th March 1937

Up 9:30 of a sunny morning. The East Surreys billeted in the next hut had been drilling and counter-marching for an hour.

After breakfast, working parties; getting things straight for the season. I spent most of the day with pots of paint in the proposed new heads i.e. lavatory.

Suppertime: an Indian Army Captain appeared from somewhere and proceeded to concoct a real Indian curry. Among the ingredients were onions, bananas, tomatoes and large quantities of pepper. Jove! It was hot! Everyone began to sweat painfully after a few mouthfuls. One or two who, like myself possessed spicy palates, had a small second helping but several others quailed, even under the eye of the Indian officer and confessed to being “not very hungry”.

A quiet walk alone, through the camp after lashing up. I wanted to feel the atmosphere of the “Home of British army shooting”, for it may not be written that I shall come any more times. But who knows? Club houses, some lighted, some deserted. Occasionally footfalls. Always that click-click, so different from the sound of civilian feet. On the edge of the ranges I caught the flicker of a morse lamp. In the flashes I could see dimly a khaki figure on the hilltop. Pontoon again when I returned.

At half past one, CPO Nutter kindly bought us plates piled high with beef sandwiches from the kitchen. We smoked and smoked. How happy it was! Played until 2 o’clock and then dropped out – slightly adrift again. It is 2:15. I am lying up on my bunk, very comfortable. Just below me, four men are still playing, rather jaded, I think. Ellis is sitting alongside, joining in the arguments which are constantly arising. Two men are in the lower bunks, asleep.

Now I guess I’ll roll my blankets and turn in. There are empty bottles and some beer is spilt on the floor. I slept at once and was not disturbed by the shouts or the light, which shone on my face from above until 4 o’clock.

Saturday 27th March 1937

Morning: to the office, in town clothes, with a salesman’s suitcase in my hand.

Afternoon; to Bisley, wearing old grey bags, tweed jacket, ancient Scout shirt, regulation Navy boots and a dirty old mackintosh. In my suitcase was my no.3 uniform – with a red pair of crossed flags on the jumper sleeve! I think that if ever in the next few years I waver in my love of the defence services, if ever I doubt, the memory of this happy journey to Bisley will bring back my keenness. Took a taxi from Brookwood station and arrived magnificently at the RNVR hut. Only half a dozen ratings there with a torpo. CPO and Commander Nicholson – who was acting as recruiting officer the night I joined. So the quarters were not packed as the usually are, and I leisurely selected a well placed upper bunk, three mattresses and three blankets.

After supper I went for a solitary stroll towards Brookewood, in the moon light.
I met several soldiers returning to Camp, their boots making a metallic clatter on the road. My boots made a similar pleasant noise. Then, as I walked between the woods, I saw an orderly line of glowing cigarette ends ahead, heard an even more rhythmic thud of boots. Presently a platoon of infantry marched by, rifles slung.

I reached a roadside tea kiosk and saw an oilskin clad figure there. It was Davis, one of the RNVR men. We had some tea (at a penny a cup!) and scathingly discussed the Territorials, swaggering about nearby with their rifles.

Back at the hut, seven of us settled down to a game of Pontoon. I started with 1/6 in loose change. At 1 o’clock I had 4/-. At 3 o’clock, when the last three players threw down their cards, I owed 1.1d. The room was a haze of tobacco smoke.

I turned in and wrapped myself in the blankets. Sleep.

Thursday 25th March 1937

I was the first to awake – at 12:30 p.m.!

Made four calls in the afternoon, then returned to Canvey. Packy made a Welsh Rarebit, we tidied the place and packed our Easter luggage. Left for Town 6:30.
Arrived at Patmac’s, Soho, 8p.m.

Drinks with Mr Insoll, Gledhill and Markham (who has left the firm, now). Hard boiled men. I enjoy them! Later Packy took me to the Bath House, Dean Street, where there were two tricky barmaids. More beer in a pub at Ealing Broadway and final drinks for the road at a pub on the edge of the Common. Exchanged wishes for a happy Easter and parted – after closing time.

Wednesday 24th March 1937

Another depressing day until, just before lunch, I called at our new Hadleigh stockist and received an unexpected order. Then Packman decided it was time Mr Stark “got down to brass tacks”. Mr Stark was the very first contact we made in Southend. Went to The Esplanade and there he was, working on his boat. I climbed up the ladder alongside and eventually secured an order, 3 glns. Of Dryfast and ½ gln Boat Varnish. I had the satisfaction of selling at a higher price than he originally required. (D/F is 30/- and he usually pays 22/- for enamel). After this, we chatted a few minutes and I discovered Mr Stark was in the RNVSR!

The last call of the day was at 7 o’clock, at Benfleet. Tom Ware of “Ware-Craft”. (Proudly, he told us he was the fifth boat-building Ware). Mr Ware was pretty canny. Before buying, he is going to test our products by applying them to a board which he will throw in the creek!

Met Anne and Vera 8:45 and dashed to Town. It was Boat Race Night and Oxford had won, after thirteen years of defeat! Vera and I were in the back as the car tore into the darkness. This, I think, is the first time I have made love at 60 miles per hour! Reached the West End at 10 o’clock.

Packy took us on a swift tour of one pub, three clubs and a café, all in Soho. The Purple Pup, The Cairo Club, The Windmill; The Café Bleu – a low place crowded with beastly dago Italians who chattered in their own filthy language. The first two clubs were uncannily quiet. At The Cairo, the band struck up that intoxicating tune “I’ve got you under my skin,” as we entered. Packy and Anne took the floor – there were no other dancers! – and I felt an utter worm. The time has come. I must learn to dance.

After 11 o’clock, we walked in the streets. Piccadilly Circus seemed very quiet for a festival night (I thought of New Year’s Eve!) but the girls did not know London and were very thrilled. One amusing incident: We took them along Glasshouse Street to see the long lines of watchful prostitutes. Vera had never seen a prostitute before and giggled as we passed one woman. “What do you want” snarled the girl, and used a word which I use but do not write.

Left the West End about 12:30; had some difficulty in finding the road out of Town. Vera was asleep when we reached Canvey. I carried her in, put her on my bed and wrapped the eiderdown around her. Then I went back to the car, got the suitcase and began to look through the reports! “This must be very tame for you” said Vera, quite apologetically , when she awoke. Eventually took Anne and Vera back to their digs; returned to Ashburton at 4:30.

Tuesday 23rd March 1937

A bad day on the road with many setbacks. Extracts from reports:- “Hillman (recommended by A. Morris as a good class builder) is a musician, not a builder.”
“Cooper and Son. Called 4p.m. Mrs Cooper said Mr Cooper would be in at 6:30. Called at 6:30. Not in. Calling tomorrow 1p.m.” “W. Rothen, decorator. Not know at this address…"

Evening: We met Packy’s friend Anne and another girl, Vera. Took them to a desolate little place, Hole Haven, to a quaint pub, “The Lobster Smack”. They both seem very keen on canvassing and speak with north-country accents. Vera is a remarkably vivacious little thing. Not quite my type but quite nice. We bought them to the bungalow afterwards. I discovered that Vera was “nice” in more ways than one. She is 22 and of an amazing innocence.

Turned in, 2:30 a.m.

Monday 22nd March 1937

Packy arrived at 9 o’clock and we set off for Canvey. Nearly lunchtime before we arrived in my territory – some difficulty in finding the way. Soon after lunch, at Pitsea, I sold a small quantity of U/ct. paste to a builder, thus starting the weeks business. Reached Benfleet in the late afternoon, having made 12 calls. Packy “established contact” with a canvasser’s supervisor named Anne, whom he had met in Birmingham.

Reached our bungalow at 6 o’clock, having bought groceries en route. Packy, with unexpected resourcefulness, prepared a satisfactory high tea of fried sausages, chips and onions. Afterwards we went for a walk along the Leigh Beck sea wall.
It struck me as romantic – the barren loneliness, the slow swishing waves, lights of ships and an intermittent flash and bell like sound from a lighthouse. But it was bloody cold! We had a glass of beer each in a pub, then dashed across the island by car to The Haystack for another drink before closing time (10p.m.). Then we returned – it was bloody cold in the bungalow too – and decided we were a couple of silly bah-studs to have ever come to this desolate Island.

11:15 - I’ll have a wash then go to bed and hope that bed proves warmer than the kitchen, where I’m sitting now.

Saturday 20th March 1937

Arrived home half past twelve this morning. Smoked a hell of a lot of cigarettes yesterday, also spent a hell of a lot of money. However I can stand the latter now, thank God.

Spent the morning at Soho Square and Piccadilly Circus. Learnt that Mr Markham had left Sales Promotion Ltd. Had a look through the files in Miss Ewing’s office. Quite thrilling to see cards marked “SJD” and to read a typed précis of my reports.

Friday 19th March 1937

Farewell to the Southend digs. The whole family came to the door with us. No. 4 was homely but squalid; I hated to wake up in the mornings, to see dingy furniture, ancient curtains and in the grate the ashes of last nights fire.

Took the kit to Canvey. Very low, marshy land. When nearly at the bungalow, the car got stuck in the mud and it took over half an hours strenuous labour to get her free. Eventually however, we reached “Ashburton”. We chose our respective bedrooms and I stowed my belongings in their appropriate places.

A few ironmongers calls, then the road home. I alighted at Tottenham Court Road, had a good wash and brush up, put my bags in a cloakroom and went to Schmidts. Black Sheep Dinner. Present; Pepita, Gwyn, Lucien and John.

After the meal we went to the Fitzroy to drink John’s health (he was 21 this week).
The Fitzroy was packed and there was a slight air of wickedness this time. (By repute one of the three most immoral pubs in England. The other two are The Running Horse and The White Cross at Richmond.

The party dispersed at Piccadilly. I took Gwyn to Victoria by taxi and kissed her on the way. First time this year!

Thursday 18th March 1937

A good morning. I took one fairly decent order at a Southend builders’ merchant.

Afternoon, rather messy. Interview with an architect. Had to wait a long time for it.

Back to the digs soon after 6 o’clock.

Wednesday 17th March 1937

The third entry on today’s report sheet was “Mr A.L.Page, Hadleigh Builders Supply, Hadleigh, Essex. No. Yes” The word “no” meant he was not a stockist; the word “yes” meant that I obtained an order. My first solo order! What a delicious moment when, after half an hours conversation, Mr Page said, “Well, I think I’ll take some Piccadilly!”

We went across into Canvey Island. Our combined efforts sold a keg of distemper to Johnstone the builder. Wandering in search of prospects, we found a bungalow (furnished) to let and booked it for next week.

Went to Garons for supper this evening and saw Esther with her boy friend. This was supposed to be the night of her mother’s birthday party, in Canvey – and here she was, come in for refreshments during a dance interval. Later Packy joined me and I pointed out the apparition. He showed slight annoyance but no surprise. “I’ll poke her for this”, he said grimly.

Tuesday 16th March 1937

The day started badly and we seemed to make no progress. One sale of mine which had seemed certain was spoilt by the man’s wife (he was an oil and colour man at Leigh) who came in during the discussion and turned down all suggestions. So we had an early lunch at Garons. Afterwards I purchased a very nice shirt and tie (13/-) to cheer myself up.

The afternoon was more cheerful. The first interview was Kind and Co. (builders) at Leigh. We both talked about U/ct paste and eventually booked a trial order for 7lbs at 4/3d. Later I called on a job where a row of houses was being put up, and interviewed the foreman painter. Actually, he was a partner in the sub-contractors firm. Got him quite interested in U/ct paste but just lacked the ability to close the sale. He let me demonstrate the obliteration of paste on a piece of black boarding and eventually said he would consult his partner about it.

Returning, Packy established contact with a girl in Leigh on Sea. She went into her house and smiled inanely from the bedroom window. This evening, we met her, quite by chance, in Southend, and took her with us to see some vicious all-in wresting bouts.

Packman drove her home afterwards “A lovely poke,” he said, when he returned at 12 o’clock. He doesn’t know her name!

Monday 15th March 1937

Packman and I visited the works this morning. Sunny day with a cold wind; the floods were up at the end of Runnymede. A rather chaotic few hours, whilst poor Packy was bewildered by lots of far too technical advice from Mr Lever and Mr Val.

I saw Miss Walmsley – once when we arrived and I went in to inquire…(“Mr Dawson to see Mr Lever”). Just the sight of her upset me again, set me wondering and doubting. What a fool!

We made a hasty tour of the works. I would have liked to stop and talk to them all – just a few words. Dodger Jones, Mr Ellis, Able seaman Simpkins, Mad Willy, Jack Searle. A hasty snatch of conversation with Harris; gave him this address. He might know of some decent digs.

Lunch at Jock’s Box, on the Great West Road. Arrived Southend 4:30 p.m. Since tea, with one break, I’ve been sitting here checking up our calls and planning theis weeks work. The one exception was a “quick one” at the Victory with Packman.
Esther said she was glad we had come as she couldn’t keep tomorrow’s appointment cos it was her mother’s birthday. The rendezvous had been Benfleet station. “If we hadn’t seen her tonight we’d have been waiting at bloody Benfleet ad infinitum,” said I. Packman suddenly realised it too. “The little bitch!” he growled.

Saturday 13th March 1937

Sales Promotion and Paripan offices. Reports and discussions. Mr Insoll, Markham, Mr Randall, Mr Reddall. My self confidence is increasing. I deprive ironical satisfaction from such incidents as this:

Markham said, “I think Dawson’s the right sort for the job. Of course, I suppose you need the well educated type for representatives with this company?”

“Oh yes,” said Mr Reddell, “all our representatives are well educated” Deep inside, I laughed and laughed (like little Audrey) because they did not know I left school at 13 and later sunk to the depths of the dole queue; a slummy little street with children asprawl in the gutter; a house with a bath in the kitchen.

Friday 12th March 1937

Weather not quite so miserable today. Windy but sunny. After lunch we walked along the mile long pier. Boisterous wind! Played table tennis in the pavilion at the end, then strode back. Packman needs more exercise, he says.

Made one call in the afternoon, then hung about waiting for Packman’s money to come through. It arrived at 5 o’clock and we left for Town soon afterwards.

Thursday 11th March 1937

Eleven calls today. 7 of mine, 2 of Packman’s, 2 joint efforts. Benfleet - boat builders, smell of tarred hemp. Interviewed by a nautical type of man. Able to talk and interest him in filler paste. Over the bridge to Canvey Island, flat marshland and saltings. Cheap looking property. Building and road activity. Climbed onto the sea wall and saw waves breaking just below; saw a lighthouse on piles, the Kent coast. And a ship passing down the Estuary. Canvey Island! A little less civilized than Southend; I like it.

Called on two prospects here, Johnstone, a builder and Holmes, a builders merchants.
Summary of the day; I am able to talk easily.

Rainy evening. Packman took me out in the car, crawling along the gutter without success. Went to the Victory Bar, Palace Hotel, as recommended by Harris. Large bar, constructed to represent “the middle deck” of Nelson’s flagship. We wandered between here and the Garden Bar, next door, until closing time. Very little business in the Victory. Got friendly with barmaid Esther. She has interesting eyes and a refined voice. Packman arranged for her to meet us next Tuesday and to bring a friend. The friend is an unknown quality, but who will Esther favour? Psychologically amusing to see. She was very impartial tonight.

Last weeks pay arrived by post this morning. Four crisp £1 notes! £208 per annum.

Wednesday 10th March 1937

10 calls, 7 of them mine. Packman came with me into an ironmongers shop to listen to my sales talk. His presence made me feel an utter fool, so this was definitely my worst show. Had quite a hopeful talk in one shop and got the prospect (an oil and colour man) interested in filler paste. I talk best to technical men. Ironmongers know nothing about paint and want huge discounts. Not much use to us.

Today we travelled between Leigh, Thorpe Bay and Shoeburyness, “prospecting”. Came to the conclusion there was nothing much east of Southend. Driving back to Southend, Packman criticised my general personality. Manner too “upstage”? My accent may be useful but in some places it may arouse enmity. Too hesitant. Speech too quiet and toneless.

We went to the Pictures tonight.
Stayed for a Welsh rarebit afterwards. When I got back to the digs Packman was already in bed. I lit a cigarette, donned pyjamas and dressing gown and sat silent in the fire glow.

Tuesday 9th March 1937

A sunny morning, but later it became hellish cold. Packman and I arrived in Southend at 11 o’clock. Drove down High Street and saw the sea, and ships. In the distance low land, Kent. The job was to find digs. Packman said “theatrical digs” were best so we went to the nearest theatre, the Regal. I went in the stage door and asked a bloke. “Are ye in the Profession?” he asked. Confessed I wasn’t. “No, business.”
The stage manager Mr Grey, at once took us to his house, nearby: 4, Baltic Avenue. It looked rather chaotic and morning-after. However we took a double-bed-sitting room at 5/- a day.

A cup of coffee at Lyons and then the campaign began. We drove along the Esplanade rather aimlessly, wondering where to begin. Saw a man working on a boat on the sea front. Packman stopped the car and entered into conversation with the man on the boat. When the talk became technical I joined in and found myself talking quite easily about Marine Enamels, Matt finishes for cabins, and filler paste.
He was quite interested and wanted samples. This was our first contact and is therefore historical!

We called haphazardly at several builders’ merchants and ironmongers after this. I was amazed at the easy way Packman got people interested in Paripan without knowing anything about the subject himself. I did one “solo” call which was simple – a stockist ironmonger. The manager was away, ill, and I saw the assistant. At all places we explained that we were here on a survey (“getting the low-down”) and not particularly interested in selling.

Back to our bed sitting room 6p.m. High tea and report writing.

We went to a low class hall to see some wrestling matches. Thrilling. A Roman holiday! The vicious Italian. The overhead crucifix hold. Men crying in pain. Fighting outside the ring. Referee joining in – and the promoter, a little Jew.

Monday 8th March 1937

Office. Talking to Miss Ewings and carefully reading the Southend files. At 4 o’clock, a summons to the waiting room. Messrs. Reddall, Markham, and Packman in conference. (Whitehead suddenly appeared to ask if he was wanted. “No, old boy”, said Packman, looking him in the eye.) Packman and I go to Southend tomorrow, to survey the ground and find digs. The adventure begins again!

Was with Mr Reddall from 6 until 8 o’clock listening to final instructions. Then we went out for a coffee and finally parted at 8:45. Told him I was damn hard up and he’s going to arrange for me to be paid each week, until I can afford the monthly pay roll.

Have done my packing and now everything is ready. Having called in all my cash assets I am in a quite satisfactory position. Have got £2-3-0. This is interesting as I now commence a new chapter in the book of my life. I commence it with forty three shillings in my pockets and about 10/- in the bank!

Sunday 7th March 1937

Day’s rambling with John, Margaret, Pepita and my brother Richard. Covered about 18 miles; nearly as far as last Sunday. Nearly as cold too, but no wind and much more muddy. So muddy that we all had wet feet within the first two miles. The district was Ruislip, Denham and Harefield. Quite pretty country but a bit near London.

Anyhow it was a remarkably cheap day! Fares 10d, lunch 4d, tea 9d. Margaret of course is now an official member of the Black Sheep Club. Richard and Pepita, though rather young, are probationers.

Re. the Discipline Act; in case I have not mentioned it before, the changed conditions of life caused it to be repealed some time ago! Such an Act could only be adhered to when one was in a steady routine job.

Saturday 6th March 1937

Piccadilly Circus this morning. Told Mr Percy Randall and Mr Reddell my impression of the outfit – how Whitehead had to remove his beard before joining the firm; how Rigg insisted on clean shoes; how Packman would not push a sale unless there was reasonable hope of the stuff being resold…

Then called at Soho Square. The outfit was sitting in Mr Markham’s office. Tom Holland was absent – car trouble. Packy had written a ruthless report on my possibilities as a salesman. Glancing at it, Markham said “So you think Paripan can invest money in Dawson?” He then rang Mr Reddell. “What? Yes, he’s in the office but not in the room.” I hastened to make his statement literally true. When I came back, Markham said, “I’ve given you an entirely unsolicited – I mean undeserved – testimonial and it’ll cost you drinks each time you meet me”.

Friday 5th March 1937

Up 7:15, The Bell 8:35. Mr Markham was again giving the “low down” to the outfit.
Clementi and Barber, the two Lancashire men, keep rather aloof from the rest. They are Kilverts men, not Sales Promotion.

Went out with “Toothless” Tom Holland today. Quiet but one of the best salesmen – until recently he worked in a West End china shop but nevertheless has not led an exactly cloistered existence. He told me of hectic trips to Leipzig, Dresden and Paris. We went to Walsall, on recalls. Holland’s car will not start without stimulation. Whitehead tried to give him a chance by dragging the car along – with a piece of string as a tow rope. This did not work but, eventually, Holland got under way with Whitehead’s car pushing his, front fender against rear fender.

Jimmy Rigg said I must do my solo today. “Sure to be all sorts of funny little voices going on inside you, but go in and remember, - “I want,” or “I wonder”.

Spent the morning on recalls. Lunch in a low-down café. Tom had to borrow five shillings from me for petrol! He was not able to get any repeat orders but was well received everywhere. Curly Tail was selling slowly. In the midst of a picturesque story of Paris, he drew up outside a grocers shop. “Go in here and see if he wants any more Curly Tail.” I went in, feeling like a perfect fool, and received a grumble about slow sales. The next call was a multiple store. Curly Tail selling well and some more on order.

My next lesson was a “cold canvas”, i.e. an attempt to sell where the prospect has not been approached before. A new shop. Stayed in there about 10 minutes, trying to convince the lady that she could sell Curly Tail if she bought some. Not nervous but I felt too hesitant and without a good “story”.

My forth and last call was a brief one. The shop man was a brusque, jovial individual. He brandished a huge knife as I entered, “Where do you want it?” “Across the throat. I represent Kilverts…” “Yes. Good stuff. Come back on Monday or Tuesday. Don’t see travellers on Fridays!” My high-pressure career was nearly over.

Back to The Bell, to witness the usual breaking-up comedy, with each man trying to borrow some money for petrol. Everyone was very sharp witted as the accounts were settled, hoping to twist someone else.

After tea I caught the 6:20 train for Euston.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thursday 4th March 1937

The “outfit” remained at The Bell until 11 o’clock whilst Production Manager Markham delivered a pep talk. He is a small dark man; lean cheeks, darting brown eyes. He deals with his salesmen and his sales problems in a remorseless and cold blooded way; Nevertheless, a vein of humour runs through these clear-cut statements. Reminds me of an army commander detailing his men. “Clementi and Barber, you get off to Nuneaton. Tom Holland and Whitehead, take Dudley. George Clarke and I will try Coventry.”

I went to Burton on Trent, with Jimmie Rigg and Packman. Went through Lichfield and reached Burton at about 12:30. Lunch at the Ritz Cinema Café. Burton was virgin ground and we made several calls. Rigg booked an order for one case of Curly Tail (1/2 lbs) It was what they call a “crap shop” i.e. Class D. Rigg talked a lot of balls (his bowler tilted back on his head, his fat little face shining, eyes bulging) and suddenly the poor woman said, “All right, I’ll have one box”. Rigg was in the middle of a sentence but he stopped at once, as though the clockwork had run down. Rigg was quite sentimental about Burton. Several years ago, he met a girl in a cinema here. He “sidled up to her” then eventually took her out and “had a nice quiet poke, up against some railway fencing”.

Back to The Bell by 6:30 (at which time I should have been on board “President”, in the ordinary course of events). Went to my digs and prepared for a nice quiet evening, manipulating the radiogram, with a Yorkshire man who also stays there. Suddenly there was a tap on the door. It opened and Whitehead's amazing head peered round. (“Thought the feller was a floppin’ artist” said the Yorkshireman afterwards.)

We went out to supper. Whitehead has an extraordinary car; the number plate kept falling off. A policeman stopped us when we were dashing (the wrong way) along a one-way street. “Where did you find that?” he asked the car owner, curiously. We wandered about Brum’s Mayfair (apology for) until we found somewhere for supper. It was the first place we had seen and passed by. The Royal Exchange. Quite a good class place and a decent supper. Whitehead is the most casual and haphazard bloke I’ve ever met. After supper we got in his beastly tin can of a car and tore dangerously along several streets. “Is this the right way?” I asked, after sometime. “Haven’t the foggiest” he said brightly, “Perhaps we’d better ask!” It took about 20 minutes to reach my digs, and to my deep chagrin the landlady told me the Exchange was only 5 minutes walk!

Sat by the fire until 2 o’clock, talking to the lady of the house, her sister, the Yorkshireman, and a confectionary traveller from London. The latter is frightfully chatty and jolly – and he knows it!

Dawn 1937

"Now, today, has come the time for singing,
Now, today, the good red wine must flow,
You may hear our lifted glasses ringing –
For the hour has struck…”

“There is a tide…
Which taken on the flood…”

Dawn and Morning Mists 1937

JS Dawson: Hawthorn Court, Ealing Common, London
Baltic Avenue, Southend on Sea.
Ashburton, Provost Road, Canvey Island, Essex.
19 Herbert Grove, Southend on Sea.

Wednesday 3rd March 1937

Arrived at “The Bell” 9:15. During the journey I decided that Birmingham was a foul place. The sales gentlemen had a fairly jaundiced outlook on life. Apparently they had boozed the night before and were feeling the effects. Mr Rigg refused his breakfast, saying frankly that he wanted to be sick and couldn’t. Another gentleman, known as Toothless Tom, kept on saying, “Is it mornin’?” George Clarke however, still kept a languid interest – in women. (Last night he apparently took a girl for a car ride in the country. “She wouldn’t play” so he took her shoes off and stood her in the snow. Presumably she thoroughly enjoyed this treatment for she turned up this morning, full of enthusiasm.)

I went out with Packman, the field manager; I had met him previously in Town, with Rigg. We called at various shops in the outlying suburbs. I acting as a silent colleague. Did not sell any lard however. Messrs Kilvert’s lard appears to be a tough proposition. Coming into town again, Packy told me some good yarns about “The outfit”. They’re all worth recording but space does not permit!

Mr Markham, the Soho Square Production Manager, joined us at lunchtime.
He spent the afternoon with us, trying to discover why Kilvert’s did not sell. Apparently Markham goes out for a booze sometimes with the Company Secretary. A set formula occurs when they get tight. Markham says, “Now, Frank, come clean”. The Secretary replies “All right, we’ll get down to brass tacks”. Mr Insoll forbids them to go out together. He “can’t have two drunken buggers talking about his business”
We all met at The Bell soon after 6 o’clock and had a jolly good high tea.

NB. The people of Brum. are a barbarous lot. They spread lard on bread and eat it! Unfortunately, Curly Tail cannot be used for this purpose. Rather a snag, as far as selling is concerned.

Tuesday 2nd March 1937

I was awakened this morning as usual, by Richard, at 8 o’clock. That was at Ealing Common. I am writing this in a commercial hotel in Birmingham, 120 miles away. The scene has changed!

I arrived at the office at 9:30 and looked through correspondence files in Miss Ewings office. At 12:30, when I was thinking about lunch, I was called to Mr Percy Randall’s office. He instructed me to go to Birmingham and learn selling with the high pressure men who are pushing hard there. (I should perhaps say “here”.) He added that my pay was to be increased to £4 a week and that I was to draw expenses in advance. I cannot express the kind, almost fatherly, nature of the interview. He even reminded me that I could phone him if necessary, during the week. It is so essentially a “decent” firm!

Went home for lunch and to pack. There are various social threads to be gathered up. I phoned John and arranged for him to fix the weekends ramble. I also had to phone HMS President and cancel the appointment re RNVSR. The officer to whom I spoke was very decent. Am to communicate again when I have settled in Essex. “Do you feel quite happy about going?” asked Mr Reddall. So careful of me! Must think I am pretty fragile.

5 p.m. called on Mr Markham at the Sales Promotion office. He told me where I was to meet the high pressure men, in Birmingham, and looked up trains etc. Whilst I was in the office Mr Reddall phoned to ask if I was alright and so forth. “By jove!” said the Sales man “Paripan certainly take care of their envoy”.

I caught the 5:50 train from Euston and arrived Birmingham 7:50. Found “The Bell” without difficulty. Mr Rigg and another “high pressure” man were in the smoke room. We had three drinks. Then was introduced to a third salesman, Mr Whitehead. An elegant young man in a velvet jacket and slippers, with a London accent. Strikingly different to his associates and the obvious “Brum” types around. I was rather relieved. Eventually the landlord brought me along here in his car. (This is known as the Smithfield Hotel; so I gather by the stationary on this desk.)

Whitehead also “tooled along” to see that I was alright. Altogether I have had to use a minimum of self reliance and initiative! Nice people here, typical mid-landers. I.E. simple and direct. A terrific change in environment, with two hours in an express train as the link.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Monday 1st March 1937

It will be very difficult to maintain contact with RNVR when I am at Southend. I am therefore making an effort – rather daringly – to join the RNVSR, the Supplementary Reserve for Officers. No drills or training is carried out until the outbreak of war, when these reservists are called up as Prob. Sub. Lieuts.

I wrote to the RNVSR on Saturday and received a phone call at the office today. Am to be interviewed by the Officer Instructor on board “President”, next Thursday. I saw him tonight, whilst doing morse lamp exercise on the drill deck. Ironical!

Sunday 28th February 1937

Wintry and defiant death of February.

We went rambling. It was snowing hard when I left home and crossed Ealing Common but all was still – and white! – when John, Margaret and I reached Hayes (Kent). Did not enjoy the morning tramping along snowy roads near houses.

We ate our sandwiches and had hot tea in a large wooden hut, crowded by Scouts and dubious looking cyclists or hikers. However, we enjoyed our lunch and got warm by indulging in a form of hand wrestling. John and I chatted to the GSM of the Scouts – a very “Scouty” type and a Wood badger – and shook hands (left, not right, in the Scout way).

Then we plunged into the out-of-doors as a diver plunges into cold water. We were climbing steadily towards Westerham and soon began to feel the wind. Somewhere near Biggin Hill we first noticed thick clouds of snow driving from the fields and across the road. We turned to the right along a country lane and now the wind was three quarters ahead. Exhilaration! The wind driven snow stung our eyes and piled in drifts on the road. Desolation. White virgin lanes, black trees, clouds of snow. Humming telegraph wires, wailing towards a crescendo.

We left the ridge, going through fields to the bottom of a valley. Gradually, as we went down, the wind decreased. We wandered through two villages, searching for somewhere to have tea. At dusk we came to The Grasshopper Inn and sat in a snug little room behind the Bar. Hospitable house. Cyclists at another table were talking about Snowdon – the Pyg Track and Llanberis. I joined in and we exchanged stories of Snowdonia and the YHA.

A short walk from here to Westerham station. Our tickets were for Hayes, but John never pays excess fare. We got through the barrier just before the clerk arrived, and sat down in the train. Presently, to my horror, a porter came on and walked towards us. We were lost! But no! John was equal to the occasion. With complete sang froid he asked the man if this train was right for Waterloo, at the same time handing him our tickets. The man assured us it was, and told us where to change. He clipped the tickets without a glance. I told John I should record this incident, as a tribute to his nonchalance.

The rest of the evening was uneventful. I felt much fitter after my day in the winter land.

Saturday 27th February 1937

The method of receiving my salary (i.e. wages) is very impressive here. By telephone I was summoned to Miss Coles office. Baker was with her. He was asked to step outside whilst I was handed an envelope containing a cheque (for £3) on the National Provincial Bank.

This will be my last payment until the end of March. And before that I shall doubtless have gone to Southend and be incurring the usual moving-in expenses plus heavy representatives expenses. Roll on the end of March!

Friday 26th February 1937

Lunch at a café in Soho, near the office. It was called “The Austrian Restaurant”. The most Austrian thing about it was the dress of the waitresses. Nice little place though.

Evening: Met John and went to Schmidt’s, the German café, near Tottenham Court Road. A very good class place, entered through a shop! Menu printed in German but we eventually ordered mushroom soup; beer; roast veal and mysterious but tasty vegetables; and strong cheese. John had a glass of Russian tea. Most of the patrons were of the student type, many obviously German.

Afterwards we called at The Fitzroy – a pub said to be as immoral as The Running Horse. To our surprise it seemed quite ordinary and respectable.

Left John at Piccadilly Circus. We added another feat to our list – ran up an escalator which was going down.

Thursday 25th February 1937

An interview with Miss Coles, the Assistant Secretary. I am to be paid monthly now. Impressive, but apparently after receiving my normal pay this week I shall not be paid again until the end of March – by which time I shall be in Essex.

Does this mean another financial crisis?

Wednesday 24th February 1937

Phoned Egham as soon as I arrived at the office, and thanked Mr Lever for having looked after me so well. Both he and Mr Val have been damn fine people to work for.

At 4 o’clock I went to Soho Square. An interview with Mr Insoll, manging director of Sales Promotion Ltd. I was introduced to three “live wire” gentlemen, one of whom was named Rigg. (I forgot the names of the others.) A very business-like atmosphere; Dictaphone constantly being used and messengers dashing to and fro. Two hours with Rigg and another – the “field manager” – discussing the sales problems of Paripan. They arrived at the conclusion that Paripan was not a “stunt” product. It amused me that such a shocking idea should have been entertained at all!

When I arrived back at Sherwood House I spent two hours with Mr Reddall, discussing shoes and ships and sealing-wax. He wanted to know something of me! What an amazing character, contrasted with Mr Val! He eagerly told me all about himself; quite unreserved.

Tuesday 23rd February 1937

(Please smoke, if you wish,” said Miss Ewings, “I’m quite a heavy smoker myself”) Amazing little lady. I had refrained until then as my surroundings were so essentially feminine.

The Head Office, I find, is a place where one hears skilful conversation and repartee. Whereas at the Works, an intellectual discussion usually dealt with things, here it has to do with people.

Have just written up journal notes for five important days. Haven’t done them justice. Feel impatient, not in the mood for writing.

Monday 22nd February 1937

Mr Reddell placed me in the care of Miss Ewings, an elderly, diminutive, yet brilliant lady. She composes advertisements and rules a dozen typists. I sat with her in a small room warmed by a gas fire. Third floor. Beyond the partition, clatter of typewriters.

I looked at index cards relating to representatives reports.

Sunday 21st February 1937

A jolly good days rambling. John, Margaret, Pep, Richard (Dawson!) and Lucien – Pep’s French friend. Caught a bus from Staines GWR to Virginia Water. We walked far without fatigue; sunny, warm yet a cool wind. All around Virginia Water. Sometimes we marched and counter-marched. Lucien had served in the French Artillery by “artifice”. John proudly drilled his little army. The miles flew.

Lunch from our ruc-sacks, with a pot of tea at a café near The Wheatsheaf. (Incidentally we scrambled around the Falls for some time, and Margaret awoke my surprised admiration by following a “difficile” route taken by John and I). We marched towards Chobham Common, humming songs which kept the feet in step. We left the road and scrambled through a sand quarry onto the railway. We climbed signals (I was standing on a signal platform when a train passed beneath).

Then across the Common to Chobham. Tea at The Sundial. The people at the next table obviously thought we were all foreigners (“Gateaux?” “Oui!”). After tea, along the track to Gracious pond. John jumped the ford twice. So did I. We two always challenge one another and the challenge is always accepted. Flutters Hill in the gathering dusk and again the tramp, tramp, of our feet on the road to Virginia Water.

Back to Staines by bus, where the party began to break up, with the customary “Heil! Heil!"

Margaret was surprisingly vivacious today. Hardly knew her.

Saturday 20th February 1937

My last morning at the Works. Could hardly realise the break which was upon me. Did not seem real. Only a few people at the works knew I was going.

Gave my overalls to AB Simpkins. Mr Ellis (I still call him Mr because he was my first instructor and therefore respected) shook hands and made a little speech.
Harris, also. Curiously, those two men have been my most consistent friends. Val, Mad Willy and I exchanged a few vague phrases – his motor bike engine roaring.
A hard mornings work. Filthy hands. Well, they won’t be so dirty next week.

As I left the works – alone – it was a lovely, sunny morning, but dark clouds rolled up. Hail fell as I waited for the bus. And then the skies cleared again!

Friday 19th February 1937

Mr Val told me to report to the office on Monday. Late in the afternoon he saw me in the yard and delivered a few farewell words. I thanked him.

Wednesday 17th February 1937

Still at the works, waiting for the summons to adventure. Have given Christopher to Howard, the colour shop “boy”. Anyhow I did not barter his honour for filthy cash! It was a gift.

Had intended to spend the evening at HMS President but changed my mind as I was walking down Windsor Road.Called at a few friendly places, to mention in conversation that I was going away soon. Became almost a sentimental evening!

First, Miss Dennis, to buy cigarettes and stationary. This was where I, being taken after “I arrived at dusk”, was given the address of my first digs. An elderly man who shared my carriage from Waterloo, introduced me to Miss Dennis. His name was Greenslade; I never saw him again. A few weeks later I fell in love (and stayed in that condition a long time) with a girl who had loved Mr Greenslade’s mysterious son. I never saw that son’s face though I once passed him close, unknowingly, on the river bank at night… That time Peggy and I quarrelled “in the fading light” with blossom all around… How horribly it hurt when, in parting that night she said “He used to hurt me too, and say cruel things”. “And did he love you too?” “Yes, he did.”
So I was only the second one! And she could think of someone else at such an agonising moment! All these memories arise from a visit to a little stationers shop…

Next I called at no. 9; Koke was in, and glad to see me. Vivacious, original and wicked! I remember one of her neat phrases, “Bunken druggers” (A Spoonerism). I sat in the small, overheated kitchen. How amazingly familiar it was! She told me a good story about a man who had food injected by his arse. He complained there was no sugar in his tea! (I wonder how wrong that affair was and whether I regret it or am glad?) Koke made me promise to write from Southend and insisted that I reside in Westcliffe, the better class suburb.

Had a glass of beer at the Victoria.
Miss Clow appeared (in the usual blue jumper, with sleeves rolled-up) and talked with animation, leaning against the bar. Later, Mrs Towe arrived and talked without much animation, standing straight up, hands folded on the counter.

I had tea at a snack bar in Staines. Baked beans on toast.

Walked to “Enleigh”. Arthur Beach was there and I sat talking in the untidy sitting room. Or rather, he talked – about his sons. How Percy had left his job and was to become an insurance agent; how Ted had gone to Knutsford, to study for Matric. With the object of entering the Ministry. (What a different atmosphere from that at no. 9!) Said goodbye to him near the station and came home by the 8:35.

An almost saccharine evening! Or, just sweet.

(1983: My heart still remembers those Egham years and the Paripan Works, long since destroyed by the tidal rip of ruthless Big Business.)

Wednesday 10th February 1937

At the works; cleaning and filling black and red ball mills in the morning.

Afternoon, routine jobs in the lab. Contrast!

Tuesday 9th February 1937

Yesterday I rose at 6:30 and went to the works, wearing ancient grey bags, old tweed jacket, disreputable mac. Today (contrast!) I rose at 8 o’clock and went to Town by tube, about 9:30 wearing blue suit, RNVR scarf and tie, new mac, white gloves. A very idle day, with London office as my base.

Morning: Met Mr Reddell, our sales manager; Mr Percy Randell and Mr Robinson, our star traveller (aged 80). Mr Robinson took me to Bart’s Hospital, where the Clerk of Works showed me round. Then came home for lunch (two hours).

Afternoon: Visited St. Georges Hospital, conducted by the Steward. Went into a large woman’s ward here. Rather an ordeal – until I began to discuss the paint surface. In all wards, dozens of eyes watched our movements. A curious sensation: the listless eyes moved, but not the heads. Back to the office by 3:30. Sat gossiped and smoked until about 5 o’clock.

Mr Reddell, Baker and the typist...

Mr Reddell is a type I rather like. Heavily built. Ironical humour, clever, sensitive.
Baker: tall, about my own age. Decent, typical town office man. Had met him before.
The typist, also tall, wore ear rings; was chatty, languid and ga-ga.

Ambled along to the ship for tea and two drills. Buzzer exercises. Morse with earphones, a new experience.

Saturday 6th February 1937

Old friends met at the Victoria Inn this evening. Dick Young, Gwyn and John. We played bar billiards and laughed loudly.

10:30 Dick returned to Windsor by bus. Gwyn went by train from Staines. John saw me onto the 11:19 bus for Hounslow.

I felt suddenly disconsolate and “flat”. Lonely. Going away. Another breaking of friendships.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Friday 5th February 1937

At 5 p.m., Mr Val telephoned the lab. “Tell Dawson to come across to my office. And tell him to put his coat on!” So I removed my overalls, washed my hands, put my jacket on, straightened my tie. (“Would you like to use my Coty?” asked Miss Theaker.)

In the office I was introduced to Mr Henderson, director of the aforesaid high-pressure selling firm. A most dynamic individual! He talked rapidly for twenty minutes, large brown eyes always watching me. I managed to insert a few words into this monologue;- “Quite”. “Oh, yes!” “Precisely”.

Wednesday 3rd February 1937

Town in the morning. Lunch at a snack bar in Waterloo Road; reached works soon after 2 p.m. A warm, sticky day. Better than that depressing, bleak weather, anyhow.

From Staines to Egham, I travelled in the same carriage as Audrey. She was exactly the same as in 1934! Vivacious, bubbling, cockney. And still pretty. There was something delightful about this chance meeting. We were both so frightfully pleased about it! A few minutes together; we could have talked for hours! “My dear,” she giggled, leaning forward excitedly, “I’m going to be married! How do you like my ring?” I remembered her greatest wish, which she had once told me, and said, “I hope you’ll be so happy that people will say it can’t last. Yet it will last!” Just like her, to phrase her greatest desire like that. Just like her, to be a fatalist and not expect it to come true. Just like life that it should come true. She believed she was not destined to be married.

However, as previously related, I got to the works soon after 2 p.m. and pleasant memories were soon forgotten again. Mr Val marched me into his office, told me to sit down. (I shut the door first, guessing the interview was not going to be one suitable for discussion in locum publicis.)

The Company is going to try a big sales experiment next month, at Southend-on-Sea. Extensive advertising, with the help of a “pep” and “push” agency. And I am to be the Southend representative. I was in the office for an hour and a half. Never known Mr Val so fatherly. (“It’s your chance, my boy…”) Hell of a responsibility too. The Company is going to run up a bill of £1000 for the scheme. But, how obviously Written the whole thing seems!

I thanked Mr Lever for a rise – at the psychological moment. The fated moment.

Evening: as I had a Waterloo return to use, I went up to the ship. Tea and a wash and V/S instruction until 8 o’clock.

Tuesday 2nd February 1937

Luxury! Got up after 8 o’clock and went to Town by Tube, with the more leisured city workers.

Met Beach 10 o’clock Waterloo. Lunch in Staines; Works 2:20.

Monday 1st February 1937

Rose at 6:30, feeling like potted death. No breakfast. Found I had missed my bus to Hounslow. Suddenly another bus came – one of those which meander to Egham via Feltham and Ashford. I climbed aboard and sat inert, not even smoking. As we cleared the outskirts of Hounslow, a shaft of sunlight shone into the bus. It was not a wintry day!

I had a faint, wonderful feeling that this was the bottom of the down-swing of the pendulum. Perhaps it was. After a pretty lousy morning I had lunch and then felt better.

Evening – RNVR by GWR.

Sunday 31st January 1937

Nostalgia and Nausea – in that sequence.

Saturday 30th January 1937

Thin, vicious veil of snow on the ground. Arrived at Ealing from Town, soon after 12 o’clock. Only one small suitcase. Remainder of kit will be fetched tomorrow.

Friday 29th January 1937

Typical Stillness mood, also. Packing tonight, once again. Bundling my personal treasures into bulging suitcases. Damn cold in the bedroom.

Thursday 28th January 1937

Typical Stillness weather. Bitter, bitter winds.

Wednesday 27th January 1937

At 8:30 we were signalling, on the drill deck when the “pipe” came, “Commander’s request men, fall in on the main deck!” 80% of the signalling class had to answer that “pipe!”

“… JS Dawson!” (Double up, crash!) ..Requests to be rated Ordinary Signalman”
“Recommended” “Rated” “Rated Ordinary Signalman! About turn – double – march!”

(Thud! Double off the deck) Then up top again to carry on with semaphore. What an impostor!

Tuesday 26th January 1937

No rain today. Flood has reached its height, I think. Not so bad as last year and the new causeway enables one to reach the works without the aid of a punt.

Sunday 24th January 1937

When I awakened, I heard sounds of activity below the window. An A.A. Scout was erecting a notice: “A.A. Diversion Floods”.

Later in the day, the familiar barrier and sign appeared at the end of Windsor Road – “Road Closed. Floods.”

Saturday 23rd January 1937

Walking back from Staines this evening, I found the towpath under water at several points. Heavy rains lately. The Thames is in flood. Went to the river bend on Runnymede after supper, hoping to see the water brimming the bank. Just too late! It was already on the road.

Thursday 21st January 1937

Morning: At the works, emptying and filling ball mills as usual.

Afternoon: A sudden dash to Town, with Beach. Went to York House, to inspect the work. Chaos inside. The foreman proudly showed us the Duchess’ bedroom. “And she says to the Duke, she says, “Chase me round ere,” she says”…

The day’s toil was over by 4 o’clock and I strolled to HMS President, being the first arrival on the mess deck. Tea and a wash, and a nice Stand-easy until 6 o’clock, when drills began.

Came down by the 8:44.

Wednesday 20th January 1937

8:01 to Town. National Gallery, Trafalgar Square – paint not a good match to pattern. Called at head office, then went to Morroe’s, Covent Garden and University Coll. Routine inspections. Back to work 2p.m.

Evening; Travelled up early and had tea on board, for a change. Sausage and mash; I enjoyed every mouthful!

The whole of my class was mustered for examination tonight but several men were fallen out, at their own request. Although the most hopeless candidate, I fatalistically stayed where I was, in the ranks. Semaphore and morse test (flag). I got 100% and 76% respectively. Quite dud however, in morse lamp and colours of flags. We were not questioned much on meaning of flags. It was obviously intended that we should pass out…

I passed out! All candidates passed out! Had planned to get my crossed flags at the end of next month. So surprised and disgusted that I almost “stood down”, but eventually (again, fatalistically) filled in the usual request chit for advancement.

Although inclined to be a slacker, I don’t like standards being lowered. It takes the kick out of achievement.

Tuesday 19th January 1937

With Beach, to Reigate Phone Exchange. Ex Egham SR 8:01 a.m. Complaint re. poor covering power. Back to works 2:30.

Monday 18th January 1937

Bought myself a new hat; a nigger brown, convertible to my favourite “pork pie” shape. Price, midway between that of infamous black trilby and my well-beloved late friend.

The days weather. 1) Heavy rain 2) High winds.

Sunday 17th January 1937

Rose late, still feeling not too “enthusiastic”. Dismal, wintry weather.

After lunch, John and I (heroically) walked to Thorpe. Tea, once again, at the Old Mill House. Out into the wind and the rain – but not the exhilarating type of rough weather. Rather cheerless, on the contrary. We went over the shoulder of St. Anne’s Hill and grimly trudged along Chertsey Lane until, near Staines, a welcome bus appeared.

Saturday 16th January 1937

Work from 9 a.m. until 9:50 a.m., when I had to leave hurriedly. Raining; a very dismal morning.

Curious psychological fact; my teeth started aching like hell whilst I stood in the dentist’s waiting room. Had to sit down and take an aspirin! However it had ceased when I sat in the Chair, a few minutes later. A chair which was comfortable for the body but less comfortable for the mind (as I said to the dentist).

Two teeth out – one a mere stump. “The prick” was not painful; I did not feel ill. A few minutes later a steel instrument went into my mouth (Now! I thought, but not very vividly or fearfully). I felt the bits of stump slide easily out; I felt the other tooth wrenched out. There was no excruciating torment of raw nerves, however, and a few seconds later I was washing my mouth and spitting blood into a pink crystal basin.

Back at work by 11 o’clock. Usual shopping etc. and a haircut in the afternoon. Did not feel too enthusiastic, when the effect of the cocaine had worn off a little!

Glum evening indoors.

Friday 15th January 1937

Toothache trouble took a further turn today – attacked me at the works. It’s such agony that I could hardly think! Miss Walmesley gave me some aspirins, thank God!

Soon afterwards, when the pain had subsided, I was summoned to Mr Val’s office and spent an hour there. I am to be a representative. On Monday I transfer to the testing room and am to travel about with Beech, our technical man, when he goes out to jobs. (Don’t quite know what I shall have to do when he does not go out!)

After two or three months of this, learning how paint is used on the job and how to deal with complaints, I shall become a traveller. Area unknown; may be London or some distant, unexplored place. Shall probably have to specialise in “industrial” paints, i.e. paint which is sold to manufacturers. At present, I think Paripan has only two customers for this type of paint. On the strength of these “glorious expectations” I drew a new pair of overalls, my old ones being slimy, like some nauseating reptile.

Lunchtime: I phoned the nearest dentist and made the earliest possible appointment – for tomorrow morning.

Stillness 1937

Four things come not back to man or woman:

"The sped arrow, the spoken word, the past life, the neglected opportunity.”

Thursday 14th January 1937

Monday - RNVR; Tuesday – English swotting; Wednesday – signals swotting. (God how I’ve slacked since the summer!)

Tonight was exercise night. I went by bus to Virginia Water and walked around the lake. Left the track once, to explore a likely-looking path through the wet bushes. Pushing through the undergrowth, a gruff voice challenged me. Halted in a clearing; saw a light coming nearer, searching this way and that. A man stepped out of the bushes. (Damn! His torch was stronger than mine!) “What are you doing here?” he demanded. “Who are you?”, I reciprocated, then saw the helmet of the law on his head.
Eventually satisfied him that I was innocent though possibly eccentric. I must have seemed a suspicious character when I suddenly darted from the track! The P.C. and I parted on friendly terms, however.

I got to Blacknest, then walked to Bishopsgate via the landing ground. Arrived Victoria soon after 9 o’clock.

Six items of the D.A. are now in force and of these four are being carried out satisfactorily. It is only a habit – and soon all nine points shall be under control.

On the eve of a fresh appointment in business (I have reason to believe so) I record a few notes which may be interesting in future years. As a temporary phase my work in the lab is quite suitable. However, I’d hate to think that was my ultimate destiny. Work where my strongest points of character are useless and the virtues not possessed by me are necessary! In short, am utterly out of my element in the analytical atmosphere of test tube, beaker and Bunsen burner.

Pleasant to be a novice again, with no responsibility, though such a state does one’s character little good. Not pleasant to be such a novice that I am under the supervision of Mad Willy, a being far inferior in poise, age (actual and apparent) and general experience. Nevertheless he is far beyond me in education (school) and chemical knowledge – not to mention his skill in synthetics and nitro-cellulose!
By the law of averages, I have surely, some talents. Well, I want to have work where they may be useful. That way happiness lies – and success.

Last week, when I thanked Mr Lever for the rise, he asked me what I really wanted to do. “I want to go on the road. I want to sell.” That revokes my decision of 1934, when Mr Val asked me the same question in similar circumstances. 1934 was too early to decide and anyhow, I was three years younger, then. Now, I think, because of a hint received tonight, that my long cherished secret desire will soon be granted.
I have not tried to force the hand of fate. That would be very bad form!

Thus ends Midnight 1936 – 37

January 12th Amendments to Discipline Act 1937

For “Seriousness” read “Steadiness”.

Standards of Discipline -

Three hours a week until rates OS
Three hours a week - Delete. Read: Sixteen drills a month until rated OS

Ten shillings a week to be put in reserve except those weeks when a major and necessary expenditure occurs.

NB Except for 1 and 3 the Act is to remain in force until April 17th 1937.

Sunday 10th January 1937

Just back from Ealing, 10p.m. Usual route; bus to S. Ealing, tube to Hounslow Central, Green Line to Victoria. A nip of Scotch whilst waiting at Hounslow, to alleviate the misery of dismal High Street.

Comparing home with digs – I know it’s wrong but – there’s much to be said in favour of the latter. The atmosphere of digs is methodical, less haphazard than that of home. The bedroom is mine, and in it my possessions are neatly arranged. Guess I’ve been too long in digs, living independently. Lost the co-operative spirit. In digs – this is beastly selfish! – I can do things and live my own way, without any feeling of interference. When at home, I seem to have no initiative. Can imagine myself becoming, eventually, just a sheep-like hulk.

Saturday 9th January 1937

V/S Dinner, HMS President. Cold night. Travelled from Ealing with mac, scarf and gloves over my uniform. Kept cap in an unobtrusive position. Therefore, not officially in uniform, despite heavy boots and naval trousers! A pow-wow with Easeman, who is also in V/S now.

Home 11:30. Toothache from time of turning in until 2 o’clock when, desperate, I made a pepper and vinegar plaster. It proved effective.

Thursday 7th January 1937

Returning to the digs at lunch time, I found there was a visitor waiting for me in the saloon bar. A sophisticated young London lady, sent by the “Sunday Dispatch” to make enquires about the Blacksheep! (I had tried to get in touch with a “lonely” person residing in Surrey who had been referred to in Viola Tree’s agony column.)

She interrogated me for half an hour. Think she was satisfied regarding the bona fides nature of the Club. After this liaison with Fleet Street, the Blacksheep will surely ignore the recent request of the “Middlesex Chronicle” which wished to put in a column about our activities!

Wednesday 6th January 1937

A lone walk in the windy night. (“Got to keep fit… Nothing left but keeping fit”.) Left digs soon after 6 and was back before 9 o’clock, feeling devilish hungry. Had been through the Great Park, across the Duke of Windsor’s private airfield (especially windy there; I sang) and eventually around the northern side of Virginia Water. Unusual to be alone instead of with some girl. I only smoked one pipe and one cigarette, whilst out!

Monday 4th January 1937

Discipline Act 1937 came into force today and was celebrated by swotting signals. I now commence a correspondence course – in short story writing. A school of repute, The London School of Journalism.

Saturday 2nd January 1937

Met John in Hounslow after lunch and called on a possible Blacksheep named Taylor. (He responded to an advert in the Middlesex Chronicle.) Later John and I had tea at a café and then went to the Pictures (cheap seats).