Saturday, October 27, 2007

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.


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