Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday 25th May 1937

I had promised to send Mother the copies of any orders taken today – her birthday.
Was able to send her four copies! The third day of a blazing heat wave.

After securing two orders in the morning, I left Thundersley at about 3 o’clock. Decided to have a rest until teatime, then make an evening call. Bought a newspaper. Too hot to make any more calls. I’d cycle to Canvey and lie on the beach, reading!
My lazy plans were upset in a most satisfactory way. Passing through Benfleet, I saluted one of my smaller customers. He shouted, “Oi!” I went back. Got a 10/- order, urgent, to be passed through our Hadleigh stockist. Up the hill into Hadleigh, three miles away, frightfully pleased to be taking an order to Mr Page.
A Salvation Army officer was in the shop. As soon as he’d gone Mr page dashed across. A devilish urgent order for 2 cwt. water paint and 3 gals. Petrifying liquid. (My turnover rose 82/-!)

Apparently 150 Basque children – refugees from Spain – are coming to the SA Colony on Monday. The place must be ready by then. I immediately telephoned both orders to the office. Took a further stock order from Mr Page afterwards, bringing the days total to £9-11-0. By this time it was about 5:30 so I forgot Canvey Island – and the evening call – and cycled home singing in strict rotation – “Not a care in the world, not a cloud in the skies” and “Will you hear a Spanish lady, how she loved an English man?”

Felt so full of joie de vivre that I ignored Palace Hill – cycled straight up!

PS I’m becoming sunburnt. Feel more fit since the car has been denied me.

Wednesday 19th May 1937

Eastwood, Rayleigh and Benfleet by cycle. Drizzled when I set forth; it was soon raining heavily. “Blast” I thought, “It shall not be another bloody flop!” It wasn’t altogether. I took one small order and there were many promising calls – the first since May 7th. I’ve been a fool to plod around the beaten track lately, making recalls on people who were stalling.

Today I tried a different method – cold canvassing – and got more hopeful results.
At lunchtime, the rain stopped. Found Underwood, the boat builder, pretty savage (“Hostile reception here…”). After having given two trade refs. With his recent order he received a pro-forma invoice. Furthermore, he had toothache! However I smoothed things and was able to conclude the report – “Contact still pleasant. Am to call next week”. This order may still be saved.

Tuesday 18th May 1937

John left by the 8:30 train. It began raining soon afterwards. I tramped the streets. How desirous a snug little car seemed! Tiredness. Bad luck. Bad weather. Depression.

Evening: “This’ll make you whistle”. My usual antidote for depression – song and music. Good Heavens! I’ve just realised the truth of that Tibetan saying I picked up years ago – “Men in pain and men in anger are diverted from either sensation by a song –and very easily”.The picture was 8 months old. So the memories invoked were of last autumn and early winter. “I’m in a dancing mood” and “There isn’t any limit”.

Monday 17th May 1937

Whit Monday. A sea trip; Channel crossing! Hasty breakfast then dashed to the end of the Pier and went aboard “Queen of the Channel” bound for Calais. Although it was a day trip there were only a small number of passengers. Just right, actually. Early in the season and rather cold.

Out in the Estuary towards Margate. We had tea in the lounge, shivered in the wind of the foredeck, leaned over the quarterdeck rail, watching the foaming wake.
After calling at Margate, we rounded the North Foreland and turned southwards.
The ship began to roll, pitch and heave. Went down below for lunch. Through the windows, I saw the sky and the sea alternately. A child at the next table was messily sick and I nervously hoped I should keep on feeling alright. I did.
When we went on deck again, there was no land in sight astern but ahead we could see the coast of France.

We felt like two bloody fools in Calais, people turning to stare at the English day-trippers. So this was France! My impression was of a dirty town with quaint and decaying buildings. Had a ride on a crazy little train. There was some difficulty about fares. John explained to the amused conductor that we were “Anglais. Pour le jour”. Had tea at an estaminet. Bought French cigarettes, “Celtique Caporal Ordinaire” 20 for 3 francs. Rougher voyage back. In navalese, the sea was “choppy”
John and I spent some time on the sun deck, forward. Every few minutes we had to duck suddenly, as sheets of water flew upwards. Sometimes we did not duck in time…
The wind tore at us; there was no sun. People began to spew (again using lower deckese language!)

When we were approaching Margate I lit one of the Celtique cigarettes. It was pretty rank. The smoke went in John’s face. I said, “We are a supercilious pair of buggers. What we both deserve is a good spew!” John responded, but not with his usual enthusiasm. He became rather quieter from then onwards. No unfortunate incident occurred however. When I went below for a snack, John bravely came, had a cup of tea and smoked a cigarette.

“Queen of the Channel” was late in reaching Southend, John missed his train so stayed the night at my digs.

Sunday 16th May 1937

Whit Sunday. Not a lonely weekend. John came, so Southend lay at our feet!
Actually, the lousy town of Southend itself, did not see much of us.

Afternoon: Took a bus to Wakering then marched along the mysterious War Department road to Foulness. After tramping two or three miles we met an interested W.D. Police Inspector, who chatted about us for some time and asked many pertinent questions in a friendly way, ie. – “Where are you going?” “Foulness” “Why are you going there? I don’t think you’ll find it very interesting” “Oh, we’re trying to get fit. Must get fit you know!” “You both look quite healthy. Do you live in this district?…”

We explained we were both utter strangers and hoped to return along The Broomway. Military secrets were vaguely discussed. John bluntly asked the purpose of some strange apparatus we had just seen. “Ah, Sir,” said the inspector, still very friendly, “It’s my job to ask questions, and yours to answer them!” Eventually, satisfied, the inspector saluted and went on his way.

Beyond Foulness we found a decrepit pub, The Kings Head. The inn keeper, I noticed, had an Artillery tie. He gave us a very nice tea. About half past five we reached the headway, Fisherman’s Head. We were expected! A soldierly man in plain clothes met us and said “You are the young fellows who want to walk to The Broomway? You mustn’t do it tonight. When the tide goes down it will be dark.” Sure enough, the line of broom ran into the sea just beyond the sea wall. Apparently the coast beyond Fisherman’s Head is not kept secret, so we turned north along the sea wall until we came to Foulness Point. One cannot go further north than this – without wings or a boat.

A desolate spot! No sound but the crying of birds! Scrambled across the saltings and reached a bank of shells, running out to sea. Along this we tramped. The tide was falling rapidly and fresh banks appeared ahead as we went forward. Whilst we stood on the furthest spit of mud bank, watching the water drop lower in the channel beyond, John suddenly remembered the time. 8:15. We had 45 minutes to reach the Kings Head before the last bus went! Foulness Point seemed miles away! We hiked it. We made Foulness Point and hiked onto the pub. 48 minutes. The bus was three minutes late.

Wednesday 12th May and Thursday 13th May

I left for Town soon after lunch. Fell asleep near Laindon and awoke when someone in the carriage cried, “Oh, look at the flags!” We were passing through Stepney I looked down into rain washed slum streets, gaily decorated.

Reached Charing Cross soon after 6 p.m. The streets were wet but the rain had stopped. Margaret, Anne, Dick, John, Pep, Lucien and Matt Lisle. The latter four all saw the procession and seemed quite OK except Lucien who had a head ache. Strange to see Anne with the Blacksheep. Seemed quite happy. Margaret looked after her when I did not.

Dinner at Schmidt’s. After the soup course we all rushed down into the shop, to hear a broadcast of the King’s speech. We stood among German cooked meats and sausages. There was probably a majority of foreigners in the group. A taxi load of shouting young men drove along Charlotte Street as we came out of Schmidt’s. We cheered. “See you in the Circus!” they yelled. (“By jove!” I thought, “It is going to be gay!”)

We reached Piccadilly Circus soon afterwards. Rain had started again. A thin grey drizzle. Arms linked, we marched up Regent Street. Sometimes we met people coming down; a Rugby scrum usually ensued. Once, a huge crowd pushed us back 20 yards and finally scattered us but usually we sent our opponents back or went through them.
At Bond Street we were joined by a friend of John’s – Tony Turnbull. Stout laddie, seems the right type.
Anne and Margaret forgot their usual reserve, bought red-white-and-blue noise makers and were as gay as the rest. At Marble Arch, where we struggled into a pub packed tight with hot, wet people, they both drank beer!

Through Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace, where there was a dense crowd. The steady rain began to damp our spirits. Our feet were wet, we were mud splashed to the knees.
Dye from their paper hats had given red streaked foreheads to Lucien and Lisle.
An intoxicated girl outside the Palace seemed attracted to Tony. Her attentions however, left him unmoved.

Walked to Charing Cross. Saw les autres on the train. John, Tony and I stayed. First we had a stand-easy and some tea at a low café in Villiers Street. Then we strolled around Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus among the cheering crowds. Turnbull observed that most of the “what-have-you?” was “already collared”. Saw some priceless sights. At the Circus for instance, was a young gentleman without any trousers. Suspenders and socks stark on his skinny legs!

Tony left us about 1:30. John and I went to a news theatre. He dozed a little, but I didn’t feel sleepy. We sat there for some time. After seeing the show twice, the third time became kinda monotonous. We began to guess what was coming next.
Came out. My feet were getting warm, but soon became cold and wet again. Still raining. Went to Lyons for a jolly good breakfast. Tomato soup, sausages and chips, tea.

When we came out into the streets again, we found not darkness but twilight. Parted at Charing Cross, 6 a.m. had to change trains twice on the way to Southend, so I dare not sleep much. Dozed between each station and awoke with a start as the train stopped.

Southend 8 o’clock. Had breakfast, washed and changed, and went on the road. Fell asleep during one bus journey but was otherwise OK. Felt kinda lazy in the afternoon and business was bad, so I went to the pictures at 3 o’clock. Tea at 6 o’clock. Report writing. Bed 8:30 Deep slumber.

Wednesday 12th May 1937

As I write, it is noontide of Coronation Day. And it’s raining! What a damn shame. Rotten bad luck. In Westminster Abbey, the Coronation ceremony is actually taking place now. I can hear snatches of the service from the wireless set in the kitchen.

Tuesday 11th May 1937

An agonising country journey, suitcase strapped to the carrier. Wearing mackintosh and hat I sweated and shivered alternately. Rain began at Benfleet. I was soon very wet. Dreary Canvey island. Lunch here, and fruitless sales calls, then a weary ride to Vange and Laindon Hills. No orders at all. A Laindon Hills customer, after complaining about our method of financial enquires, asked me indoors for a cup of tea. It had stopped raining. My clothes gradually dried.

Reached digs about 8 o’clock, tired and stiff. Two telegrams awaited me: “Shall join 6:30 party – Dick” and “OK at 6:30 – Anne” Thank heavens for that, anyhow!

Monday 10th May 1937

Did not travel to Southend last night. It was foolish. One of the periodical scenes between Mr NC Dawson and his useless son occurred this morning. Angry words until Mother was in tears. It is not my custom to mention home affairs but it was necessary to write of this.

Travelled to Southend by the 9:35 from Ealing Common. Spent the time reading, smoking and writing. Reached digs about noon, had lunch, wrote to Anne and my brother Richard, regarding Coronation Day. I warned Anne not to ring Hawthorn Court as I should not be there. I told Dick that if he insisted on seeing the procession I would turn out also. These letters should be answered by two telegrams. Time is short.

In the afternoon I did not get an order or even an encouraging interview. Returning despondent to the digs, I glanced out to sea – and saw grim, dark shapes looming in the mist. The Fleet was in the Estuary!

Went to the Pictures after tea. Musical, so I soon felt better. Guess I’ll be OK tomorrow – last day before Coronation. I’ll push bike over the country round.

Sunday 9th May 1937

Blacksheep meeting at Hawthorn Court, re. the Coronation. Margaret, Pepita, John, Richard, Lucien, Dick Young and myself. Also two newcomers, friends of Lucien’s – Lisle and Johanen ( a rather bewildered Dane). Dick Young and I were against the plan to stand for hours in the streets, with object of seeing the Procession.

At length, Margaret decided to turn up for the evening only but we could not shake the others – including Richard and Pepita, the silly asses. So we’ve divided into two parties, meeting in the late afternoon of Coronation Day. Dick Young won’t come at all. I’d like to record here that the idea of a 12 hours stand in crowds is fatuous and if not definitely injurious is sure to spoil the evenings gaiety.
Only wish I could have dissuaded some of the others.

Saturday 8th May 1937

The Sales Promotion contract has now expired and is not to be renewed. Called on HFJ for a pleasant chat and mutual felicitations. Tact was necessary as there is a certain amount of antagonism between HFJ and FCR. Left Sherwood House about 12:30. No more visits except when necessary. I’m glad! Some of them have been a waste of time.

Afternoon: Went to Town with Anne. Tea at the Austrian. I reminded her, we had parted because I was broke. Now I’d come back, cos I wasn’t broke. She blushed charmingly. We strolled through Soho, saw a German film at Studio One. Arm in arm amid the dense crowds in Oxford Street, looking at Coronation decorations. Very near now and there are already signs of the return of that thrilling Jubilee spirit. Home 1 o’clock. Had supper and read a book in bed by flashlight. It was one of Dick’s old school stories. I read until I was ready to fall asleep.

Friday 7th May 1937

Mr Mackness of Macston, gave a cheque for £10-15-11, advance settlement of the whole of their account.

Rather a rush to pack, have lunch and catch the 12:50 to Town. Satisfactory afternoon at the office. Everything going smoothly. Bus strike still on. There have been awful overcrowding on the Tubes but I got away early and travelled District. Had a seat most of the way to Ealing.

Thursday 6th May 1937

Today’s two orders bring the total weeks turnover to over £24. Apart from any further orders, this makes my record turnover – and without a car!

Wednesday 5th May 1937

There was a letter from Anne this morning – as far as I’m concerned, absence has made the heart grow fonder, so I was quite pleased when the letter opened; - “Yes! I’ll allow you to collect me on Sat. as early as you like”.

There was also a bulky envelope from Sherwood House, containing memos, copies of letters, orders and so forth. For the first time I was definitely encouraged. Having glanced through the mail I could see that my enquiries were being followed up and my reports noted. So after breakfast I called on Macstans in a happy mood. Both the partners were damned annoyed when they realised Paripan did not intend to give then an account! The discussion went on for half an hour and at last – Lord knows how! – I got both partners to agree to settle half the account before delivery. Immediately telephoned London – and after a rapid consultation with a cashier, Mr Reddall accepted the order!

Telephoned Gilbert at Benfleet and took an order for £1-1-0 Then came back to the digs to do some office work! Visited Goodeve at lunchtime. This is a very different case to Macstan. Goodeve has probably no capital at all. The name Paripan was obviously beginning to stink in his nostrils but I eventually got him placated and then suggested he settle the whole account before delivery. Rather unusual in the case of a stock for a shop! However, I’m to call back. If he does not accept the proposition it’s because he’s broke.

In the afternoon I visited West Road, Westcliff – without success. West Road, Westcliff irritates me. In this road, besides several builders and an ironmonger, are three good-class merchants – all close together. One of those three buggers is bloody well going to stock Paripan before I’m satisfied.

Tuesday 4th May 1937

I called for the cycle. The girl in the shop is named apparently, Dora O’Connell. Irish of course, and has a delightful turn of speech and sense of humour. Bought an “attaché case” at Woolworths. I fixed it on the carrier, put in necessities such as colour cards and price lists, and set forth. Unaccustomed exercise! Had forgotten that a head wind made any difference.

One order at Leigh, one at Westcliff. Total £1-0-3 – but I put the second order through our stockists, Hadleigh Builders Supply. Hurried through my evening work, finished 7:45 and went to the Pictures.

Monday 3rd May 1937

A hot day. I discarded my waistcoat; went on the road with a suitcase in one hand and a walking stick in the other. The first “call” was at a cycle shop, I arranged to buy one for 4/- down and 4/- a week.

One order at Leigh,, one at South Benfleet. Total £6-10-0 (Luckily the Southend bus men have not struck yet). Made appointments with Macstan and Goodeve. May still save them. Who knows? There may be a way. Tragical to lose these two orders. I feel both would become steady buyers when established.

Finished reports and expenses estimates 11 o’clock tonight.

Saturday 1st May 1937

London is getting ready for the Coronation of King George the Sixth. Flags and bunting and many foreign visitors. All London busmen went on strike today.

When I arrived at Sales Promotions office I was told that they needed the car. Some obscure connection with the strike. I had put the car in the Poland Street roof-park. I brought it down, parked in Soho Square, gave the switch key to Mr Insoll.

A fairly gloomy morning at Sherwood House. Macstan and Goodeve orders turned down as references were not satisfactory. One of my memos had been misunderstood. The Modern Hanes display order had not been put through at all. There was quibbling about my expenses!

Eventually decided I shall not have a car yet. Am to work the area on foot. Well, it will not bloody well stop me making a success of the job!

Friday 30th April 1937

A day at the works, Egham. Among people I know and understand.
Mr Val Randall, Mr Lever, Harris, Daley, Driver White, Jelleyman, Mad Willy, Ellis, Ted Davis, Bill Davis…

Called on a few old acquaintances afterwards. “Pleasant reception” (to use a sales report phrase) but I thought, secretly, that this sentimental visiting was perhaps fatuous. Once two people have lost touch, the interest is gone.

Returned to Town about 10 o’clock. Near Brentford, a fast moving car passed me then stopped with a jerk as signal lights turned red. A girl in the rear seat was jolted forward. Then she turned and looked back through the window (headlights of the next car switched full on). Surely it was Anne! Perhaps I was wrong. That car got away first when the lights turned to green. I was third. The needle of the speedometer swung to sixty five as I followed but I could not overtake and soon afterwards I turned off the main road, towards Ealing.

Wednesday 28th April 1937

16 cigarettes was the limit! It has been awful; no smokes since 7 o’clock. That was five hours ago, but I’m now going to bed, so it’s nearly over. How I desire one now!
I always smoke while getting ready for bed… But I won’t tonight; a matter of principle.

Tuesday 27th April 1937

Started rather late this morning – bad self-discipline.

Country journey. A delightful day of spring. Now, lunch time, I am at Langdon Hills. I am sitting on an old tree- trunk by the roadside, on the slope of a hill with green hedges. Nearby is a quaint red roofed church with a little wooden steeple. The sun is very warm. I can hear the song of many birds; wood being chopped, a dog barking in the distance; vague voices from a cottage garden. The country at noon time!

10 o’clock by the time I had finished reports and posted them. Late start – late finish! My smoking is getting worse. About 30 today, as usual. My church yard cough is hellish. Must now start to cut down smoking. 16 cigarettes shall be the limit tomorrow!

Glad to say I took an order from the builder at Laindon Hills whom I saw last week. He “lost interest” then, when he discovered we had not got a local stockist. Today he gave an order - £1-2-9.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday 26th April 1937

One of those hellish cold, bleak days. My first interview was at the Palace Hotel. The foreman painter was on the roof – it was pretty draughty up there!

Fifth call: a builder at Leigh named Greenbaum. Report; - “Mr. Greenbaum has never heard of Paripan, is not interested in paint and will not discuss the matter”. Actually, this gentleman was distinctly rude and surly. Probably a Jew. I’ll see the blighter again – on a sunny day.

Seventh call: An open stock order for £4. Unfortunately Mr Goodeve could not give usual trade refs. But only private ones, as hitherto he has paid cash. Hope the order will be accepted.

Came home early for tea and later made two evening calls. George Smith (builder) was in his paddock sawing timber. A middle aged man, weather beaten like a gypsy. Looked very fit. Impulsive! After a pleasant conversation he refused to give an order for U/coat Paste. As I was getting in the car he suddenly put his tools down again and strode rapidly towards me. He re-opened the discussion and within a few minutes I took an order for 1cwt. U/coat Paste.The usual trial order is 14lbs!

High Noon 1937

19 Herbert Grove
Southend on Sea.

“Fear and be slain;
No worse can come to fight,
And fight and die is death defying death, Where fearing dying pays death servile breath”