Sunday, December 30, 2007

Monday 19th July 1937

Awoke 5:30 (Mist on a great hill to the east!)

Dressed, (slacks) washed, cleaned buttons. Breakfast 7:30. Amusing how we are trained to behave like automata. We even march, like convicts, when going to the dining tent. After breakfast more polishing and arranging of kit for inspection. Dress of the day, slacks, tunics and boots.

The three Batteries marched to the top of the field and stood easy. After a lengthy wait the OC arrived and delivered a speech on camp discipline and sport. Half an hour passed slowly. At last a man in the front rank of the 161st fainted, just against the OC! As a result we were ordered to close-up, sit down and “carry on smoking”. The speech continued much more pleasantly!

Afterwards, “B” and “C” sections (in overalls) marched across the hill, through fields, to a small camp by the sea. The Gun Position. Some guns had to be moved but a rainstorm ensued and gave us a “cushy” in the tent. I smoked four cigarettes before we fell in again. We worked laboriously for an hour or two. Marched back to the main camp.

During dinner, Sergeant Dunster came through the tent, calling my name. I was instructed to move my kit down to the gun position immediately to look after the Battery instruments. I assured my tent mates that I’d be back the next day and they promised to prevent anyone else from taking my place. I did not like going, but suddenly realised the advantages of my new job when the word was passed, “Parade in five minutes!” I automatically began to scramble for my kit. “It’s alright,” grinned Sid Demmer. “That doesn’t mean you!”Topping the hill on the path that led to the cliffs, I paused and looked back, shifting the unwieldy bundles which I carried. “That’s the end of that!” I thought, looking at the camp.

At the gun position I found Allan (a cocky blighter, in private life a window cleaner) of the 193rd. One of us must be at the marquee containing the Battery instruments, all day. At night, we sleep in the marquee. Now it is half past nine. I’m lounging on my kit as I write. Allan has gone out, wearing his beastly irregular spurs. I’m quite lonely! In the Army, where there is no privacy! The tent measures twelve paces by six and there are not many instruments stored there. Plenty of room for our kit! I hear the tramp of the sentry, and the whisper of the sea below the cliffs. The wind flaps the marquee. Through the doorway I can see the guns; beyond the sea. Beyond to the west, a red sunset sky; to the north, a dim coastline – Wales. The 164th store man, who is in a marquee further back, assures me this is “cushy”. It’s a twelve our day but the duties are certainly not arduous!

Maine (of the 164th) has just been to the camp, to get a quick supper at the NAAFI (Meanwhile I watched both tents.) He brought back bread and butter, and tea. I’ll have a snack now and then make my bed.

Sunday 18th July 1937

Up 6 o’clock. Put on my big boots and tight pantaloons and puttees. (The puttees took a hell of a lot of adjusting, whilst precious minutes were slipping away.) A meagre and hasty breakfast. Cycled to the drill hall, scrambled aboard the waiting bus.

At 7:50, the 193rd marched onto the platform at Southend LNER station and entrained. I found myself in a carriage with four others, none of whom I knew. Demmer, Howell, Brailey and Trigg. By the time we reached Stratford, the five of us had decided to “stick together” and try to get in the same tent at camp. Accordingly, when the Brigade troop train arrived, we all got in the same compartment. A quiet, grizzled Lance Bombardier named MacRae agreed to be our NCO. “Ye look a richt,” he said, regarding us solemnly.

With many halts, the train crawled around north London. We removed our belts, water bottles, haversacks and tunics but retained puttees, boots and pantaloons. Bloody uncomfortable! Some slept, some talked, some played cards. Beyond the outskirts of London, the train began to gather speed. We passed through the Vale of the White Horse ("What’s a Vale?” asked Trigg, anxious to learn.) At Taunton there was a wait of 30 minutes. We bought tea and ham sandwiches on the platform.

Watchet at 4 o’clock. The 59th Brigade fell in outside the station, then marched off in sections of fours. The band led, followed by the 161st Battery. Second came the 164th and third the 193rd. We marched out of the town, up a winding road into the hills. The unfortunate 193rd, far in the rear, could not hear the band at all. Those hobbledehoy boots and tight puttees!
A two mile march was as exhausting as a twenty mile hike.

At last we reached the camp, and found our tent. At last our kit bags arrived, so we could change into shoes and slacks. At last we had supper. Before turning in, four of us had a run around the camp. I finished second, beaten in the last ten yards by a fine sprint by Howell.

Saturday 17th July 1937

Extensive shopping. Shirt, swimming costume, “Brasso”, brushes, gym shoes, running shorts.

Wrote my final reports and memos. Learned that Gower had obtained the contract for decorating at the Hospital and tactfully phoned him the news, saying I hoped to see him next month – at the Hospital.

Packed kit, got my uniform ready. The eve of camp.

Friday 16th July 1937

This mornings mail contained a memo. Re. a strange enquiry from Williams and Howard – a Southend paint firm. This led to a day of detective work. Had the enquiry “some bearing on a specified contract, the Southend General Hospital for instance?”

Called on the architect; then on his holidays. The assistant gave me the names of eight contractors. Called on Williams and Howard. Fruitless interview. One of the contractors was working at the police station. Whilst wandering about here, I was seized upon for an identification parade. Interesting experience. Earned a shilling too!

At the sixth call I found the guilty man – Pavey – and cleared things up, after a final visit to the architects office. Eastern Star seemed OK also. And Macston. The elder Mr Smith is acting very decently about the Eastern Star business and says he looks upon the introduction purely as a good turn. Wished me good luck for my holidays.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thursday 15th July 1937

Am writing this at “Mansfield”, Langdon Hills, my accommodation address. Outside – rain, a storm of thunder.

Today I have made calls in Hadleigh, Benfleet and on Canvey Island. Blazing sun, sultry heat. I was very glad to get here an hour ago, have a wash, and tea, and write reports. There was a letter for me, also, which makes me feel at home.

About 10 minutes ago, the sky darkened and the storm began. Already it is much cooler and I’ve stopped perspiring for the first time since leaving Roedean this morning. Must have lost several fluid ounces of sweat, in the last few days!

Wednesday 14th July 1937

The girl in the sweet shop who sold me the idea of digs, is named Phyllis May. Called at her place in Westcliff this morning. A nice semi-detached house in a fairly good class district. Mrs Clarke suggests 27/6 a week as a P.G. (paying guest). Might go there in the winter, but just now I’m very happy where I am. East-wood-bury. The name in itself is delightful. Called on the Vicar of Eastwood today. After half a dozen calls on various people in various places, it is now certain that Paripan products will be specified for the new vicarage, at Eastwoodbury. This may lead to other things…

The Vicar, who is more business-like than parsonic, is a member of the C. of E. Building Committee. He has been appointed to Eastwood to liven-up church building activities in S.E. Essex.

Tuesday 13th July 1937

Sultry heat wave. Worked until 9:45p.m.

The Company sent some dummy cans but were not enthusiastic about dressing Goodeve’s window. So I did it. Quite an interesting experience. The display did not look too bad when I had finished.

Sunday 11th July 1937

I thought my day was over but it was only just beginning. At Shenfield the train was split in half; I did not know this and did not bother to enquire. Being in the rear portion I presently arrived at Chelmsford. Could have jumped out at Shenfield but – fatalistically – and foolishly – stayed where I was. No chance of supper at Chelmsford but I managed to get some cigarettes from a machine. Dozed in the waiting room, awoke, caught the 2:18 to Brentwood. Walked from Brentwood back to Shenfield – about two miles. I felt weak, and longed for a cup of tea! Hot tea! (I saw the Great Bear sprawling in the northern sky. Eastwards I saw a lightness creep into the dark sky.)

Shenfield station was closed. I climbed the embankment, went on the platform and found a porter. Yes, there was a chance that the guard of the newspaper train might let me travel in the van. The train arrived about 4 o’clock. The porters unloaded many parcels of Sunday newspapers. The guard nodded towards the van. I went aboard and sat down. We rattled on our way. At Billericay and Rayleigh I helped with the unloading. Twilight. I saw a bird flying. “Most people don’t know when it gets light” said the guard, looking out at the morning fields. The newspapers were all gone now. The van swayed. At Rochford the train stopped. I got out. The train went on. It was broad daylight. I walked across the fields, wet with dew. Behind me the sun, just clear of the horizon, was like a blazing orange.

Reached Roedean 5 o’clock. My supper was on the table. Habit is strong! Whilst I ate ravenously, I read a book and afterwards I smoked. Bed. Three hours of deepest sleep.

I had breakfast and was at the drill hall by 11 o’clock. Again I was number four, on the fuse dial. Hope I keep the job.

Saturday 10th July 1937

To London – the office and to Staines – the river. The trip cost something over 20/- but what of it?

My journey began with a walk across fields in the morning. Struck the road near Rochford station and travelled up by the 9:53. Liverpool Street. The Tubes. Sherwood House. Long conversation with Mr Reddall, he argues a good deal and is difficult to talk with. He gave me a piece of news which though pleasant and interesting is not, in the light of past events, surprising. Packy is now a Paripan representative attached to the London staff. Mr Reddall “understands that Sales Promotion has gone into liquidation”. There was also cheering news as regards myself. I am to receive commission – 2 1/2% on old accounts and 5% on new accounts. As I have been granted back-commission there is about £7 already due. The car becomes a possibility!

Left the office 2:15. No time for lunch; hurried to Waterloo and Staines. Called for John. There was a letter from Anne, giving a rendezvous. We had 5 minutes! Dashed to Beddell’s and took a punt. Near Staines Bridge we met Anne and a surprisingly lively friend of hers, Nicky. Punted laboriously to Egham. Heavy stream running and the wind against us.

Along the backwater at Witchery Island. Under Gwyn’s Bridge. From Witchery upstream to the Mill Pool was damn hard work. As we drifted downstream again, I eyed my companions. John was at his worst; I’ve never seen such garb! Haircut in the “Hindenburg” style. Mauve-brown trousers; ancient tweed jacket with leather padding at the elbows; red shirt, yellow tie and purple pullover.

Nicky, a daring little devil, astonishing that she should be the friend of Anne, who is so placid and correct.
Typical incident: Nicky suggested that Anne might lose her poise if we rowed her clothes. Anne said nothing, just smiled vaguely…

Tea at the Pack Horse, then went to the pictures. Left at10:30. They saw me off on the 10:49 up. Dashed across London – no time for supper – and reached Liverpool Street just before the last train pulled out. Midnight: the train rolled out of the station and the date was –

Thursday 8th July 1937

By the path across the fields to Cherry Orchard Lane, in the sunshine. At Hawkwell I met Mad Willy and Jellyman in the baby van; the van with which I used to sneak drives, at Egham. Mad Willy was soon working a gun at Eastern Star factory, showing the sprayer how to use our paint.

I went to Taylor and Moores with the van and delivered some U/ct. Paste. The dour Mr Taylor smiled happily when we arrived. So did his secretary. In fact everyone seemed full of beans!

Back to the Eastern Star: at lunchtime I drove the van into Rayleigh, Mad Willy beside me, Jellyman squatting heroically in the back. I think Jones and I make a good team for this sort of thing. We understand each other. We shook hands solemnly when they left – and I did have an early night!

Home before 5p.m., I found an official envelope awaiting me. My RNVR discharge. It showed 20 months service with “Sat” and “V.G.”

Leigh. 13 drills. As previously warned, I was put on the fuse dial. Number 4 of the gun. Staccato commands…! "Test dials!” “QE dial working!” "Fuse dial working!” “Go to first test point!” “Read!” “…Fuse 5 point!” “Fire!” orders the officer. “Fuse one-oh!” I shout and then, “Fire!” “Fire!” repeats number one of the gun.

Second hour, whilst the rest of my section did rifle drill, I was sent across to another gun to watch their number 4. Being in a gun crew one learns team-work. That is useful.

Wednesday 7th July 1937

Benfleet and Hadleigh. £2-17-0. There were two promising cold canvasses. Lunch time slackness. “Symposium” (“It means a musical poem”, said a bus driver.) Asked a tea shop girl who had no conversation, what it meant. To my surprise, she had read Scott, Galsworthy, Dickens and other masters. Called at the local library, discussed “symposium” and borrowed a book called “Common Fodder”. The librarian was one of those charming “brilliant” ladies, - like Mrs Srase-Dickins.

Left Benfleet 3 o’clock. I’d be home early! However, en route, one of the previously mentioned promising calls occurred, and later I spent an hour with Mr Page of Hadleigh Builders Supply. My first client, he is now my best client. “I think I’ll eventually build up quite a sound connection for your stuff”. he said cautiously this afternoon. During the War, Mr Page was in the Secret Service. He told me of an extraordinary incident which happened behind the German lines. One hears interesting stories on the road.

Just finished reports in time to dash to Leigh a 8 o’clock. 11 drills now. No 870844, no. 92 in the battery, posted to “B” sub-section. “Dawson? You’re in my section, I think”, said Porter, the leader of “B”, when I went into the store to sign for canvas. To my horror he added, “I’ll probably put you on the fuse dial. Nobody in the section can do it yet”. Mathematical job, they say. Anyhow, I’m glad I’m on a gun. The U.B.S. men particularly, seem a weedy, affected crowd. Rifle drill: more cunning now, I went in the elementary squad. Learnt to order, present and port arms. Learnt it thoroughly too.

Tuesday 6th July 1937

Fairly promising calls and a £2-11-0 sale. Decided I’d have an early day. Back to the digs by 2:30 with only one local call to be made. Telegram awaited me. Called at Macstan and took a small order for U/ct. Paste. A delicate situation may arise re. the Eastern Star. Macstan introduced me to the latter firm, having received an inquiry. They naturally expect a % of the orders taken. They will not get it. Mr Marston of Eastern Star wished to deal direct and in any case, our price was cut too fine to allow of any discount to merchants.

Rang office as requested. Jones is coming to Hawkwell to demonstrate! (Mad Willy!) Made arrangements. Phoned from Timewells. Query arose re. recent order for Marine Enamel. Slight overcharge.. Promised to clear this up and gave Mr Timewell a brief sales talk.

Hasty tea; report writing. Southend, to look up timetables. Finished work at 7:30 and called on Travers, at Herbert Grove. We went to the “pictures”. Cycled home, to the quiet country. Arrived 11 o’clock.

Monday 5th July 1937

Useless though pleasant half hour with the lady in the Southchurch Road shop. She is 32, she is understanding and vivacious.
And she is engaged. Curious, after two conversations, we already seem to know each other.

Afterwards I cycled out to Hawkwell and called on Eastern Star Products.
My first Synthetics sale! A trial order worth about £10. The Firm is very keen on Synthetics. Once established they lead to steady, non-seasonal business. Telephoned the order to Mr Reddall. “By jove!” he suddenly cried, as I laconically read out the list of materials, “I bet you’re bucked about this!”

Sunday 4th July 1937

Up at 8:30. Did three drills at Leigh. Took about an hour to be fitted with uniform. “Fitted”! I’m being ironical. Puttees, greatcoat, awful cap and tunic, big boots. Khaki! I’m a bleu, a private soldier; a gunner.

After receiving my kit, the sergeant borrowed a pipeful of baccy as he liked the smell. Gunner Coleman, his assistant, also had a pipeful. Coleman, incidentally is a paint salesman – Williams and Howard. Gun drill. I was no. 6, pushing home the shell and firing.

Last half hour, a lecture on sentry-go, with the sergeant instructor demonstrating. (“'Alt! Oo goes there?")

With my little black kit bag I cycled home. An easy ride, downhill with a following wind. Across the main road, then along the little winding lane that leads to Eastwoodbury. I cycled later to Great Stanbridge, to the trout streams. Had lunch, then paddled around in a canoe. A crowd of yah-hoos arrived (from Southend?) and tried to make the place hideous. Had tea; went on the stream again. Three young gentlemen came (from Southend?) took three canoes and upset them. They looked priceless when the canoes rolled over; they also struck me as being amusing when they scrambled ashore afterwards.

Saturday 3rd July 1937

Not much trouble about moving this time. I came into no. 19 at 11:30, packed a few things, stacked the rest around the rooms.
The driver came at 12 o’clock. We loaded the car; I said goodbye to Miss Tredget and left. By 12:30 I was in the new digs, stowing my kit.

Away from Southend into peace and silence.

Friday 2nd July 1937

A bad day for business, although I eventually settled Mr Brockbanks queries about the hospital specification. Had to be somewhat firm with the old boy! Before leaving I offered him a pipeful of Balkan Sobrani, which he accepted, thus making “contact still pleasant”.

At lunchtime I felt utterly fed-up and went into a shop in Southend Road for an ice-cream. A good looking girl owned the place and fortunately for me she was in a cheerful mood. We discussed Southend and its foul inhabitants, Eastwoodbury and its church, her home and my digs. She sold me the idea of staying with her people as a P.G. in the winter. Perhaps I will!
She lives at Westcliff, is about 28 and rather resembles my cousin Marjorie.

Went to the pictures with Travers in the evening. He shook hands with me after supper and asked for my new address. I gave him Dry Street. (I have a feeling that the Dry Street address may someday prove useful. Seems silly!) “Don’t come to Dry Street”, I said. “Why?” “Because I shall not be there”. He did not understand but anyhow, he’s been warned!

This is the last night at No 19 and I feel reminiscent. Although it will be lovely to get into the country I feel rather as though it is not worth the effort. All my possessions around… No undignified journeys by bicycle with the luggage this time. I’ve hired a car. The time is midnight. I’m writing this in my bedroom. Have just done something which pleases my secret self. Wrote to a firm of printers in Town asking for their prices for visiting cards. It is only a small firm. I met the owner-salesman in the King’s Head saloon bar one lunchtime – March 18th 1935 actually. (A diary can be useful sometimes!) Mr Mitchell can congratulate himself on his personality selling!

Glancing at that old diary – Dawn 1935 – I came to an agonised entry regarding Peggy – “If only I could have met her in 1937 not 1933…! And if I had? But then it would not have been first love." “…But perhaps I shall. Who dare guess at the future?”

It is 1937, but I do not think Peggy and I will meet. We’ve gone different ways from Egham and she’s married now. I wonder who it is? Not Arthur. Strange how one looks back on old love affairs. Some do not fail to stir the imagination, even when all is surely over. Perhaps the unhappy loves remain keenest in the memory. Bitter-sweetness.

Again I turn the leaves of old diaries. April of Dawn 1935. “The six great loves!” That used to be a toast of mine in pubs! Of these six I have experienced two… (The “Six great” came after Peggy). Those two were-

“…Trains seen from a field at night; cool dawn breezes; “Night must fall…” I had the impression of a long passage with rustling dead leaves…Came out of the gate. It closed…”

And the second –

“…Slowly put on her coat and scarf. Everything was slow. History. “Grotesque” she said, afterwards… We had fantastic dreams as we sat there, looking at the red heart of the fire (and the dark river just below)… If she were here she would tell me some word which explained, illustrated…However I must think alone now… Response! Perhaps that is the word she would have chosen…”

Dear memories! If I live to be old, will they make me happy?

Thursday 1st July 1937

Still tired after yesterday’s strenuous journey. Business slumped. Turnover 5/9d!

Most of the day was spent at Leigh. In the afternoon I went to Eastwoodbury, having heard that a new vicarage was to be built. Unfortunately the Vicar was away. In the church yard was an old man, cleaning a tombstone. I squatted down beside him and chewed grass. He was lean and sunburnt. The verger. He explained in his slow country accent, that he received 2/6 a quarter for cleaning certain tombstones. Obviously a man who had never been to London, probably never left the district?… I was wrong! It takes more than a minute to sum up any man!

Georg – that was his name – spent 20 years in “the States”. Slowly he narrated how he first got a job as handyman at a hospital in New Jersey. An hour slipped drowsily past as he talked gently and I squatted, chewing grass, beside him (Court was the name on the tombstone. Court aged 23). “ …So I went round towards the back. When I turned the corner there was David, coming round the front. So he says, “Are you the new man?” He must have heard I was a-coming, see? So I says to him, I says, “Maybe I’m the new man and maybe I’m not”, I says…”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday 30th June 1937

Half pleasant – half unpleasant. The day started with a hectic interview with Mr Brockbank, architect for the General Hospital contract. (Secretly, I feel too inexperienced to deal efficiently with this job; however I’m learning fast.) Caught the 10:40 to Billericay (with bicycle). My most promising prospect failed me: he was away. Having had an introduction to a firm of speculative builders at Great Baddow I then cycled northwards – right out of Area A – and found my prospect within two miles of Chelmsford. (It was a pleasant seven mile ride along country roads with honeysuckle in the hedges; through woodlands and farmlands. “Country eyes, and quiet faces…”)

Took a trial order from my speculative client. Only 20/- but it was definitely a trial order. They usually buy in 5 gln. consignments. Should prove a useful contact. 14 houses built, 170 to build. I was joyful about the poaching aspect, - “Deliver to … Great Baddow, Chelmsford.”

A weary ride back to Billericay. The wind was dead against me; I felt cold and dirty. Tea and cakes at the café of the fair-haired girl. Did not seem so attractive this time. I heard her use the expression “ain’t”. She reads a periodical called “Secrets”. According to the “Writer’s Year Book” this contains stories, “with strong dramatic action and love interest, to appeal to working-class young women.”

Reached Laindon about 6 o’clock feeling even more dirty and now tired as well. Langdon Hills. Tea at a café. Arranged to use it as an accommodation address for 6d per week, calling for letters from time to time. “Mansfield”, Dry Street, Langdon Hills. Rather a sinister place, kept by a tall dark woman with a moustache and an uncouth child. Possible the latter is afflicted in some way; she has a malignant face.

Afterwards the wind was behind me again. Pitsea, Thundersley. Hadleigh… Arrived home 9 o’clock, feeling beastly stiff.

Shimmering Haze 1937

SJ Dawson
Eastwood Essex

“…Broadly speaking, it is the nonchalant shruggers who succeed in life and the blanchers who sleep on the Embankment.”

Cavalcade of my three months

Coldness - work - sunshine in the countryside - motor car - traffic of London - walking the streets - a cycle - work - end of Sales Promotion - Blacksheep - trouble at home - a bad week - a bad day - Coronation! - night - mysterious Foulness - cross-channel to Calais - business improves - Billericay - Hospital contract - summer crowds - Anne at Southend - “Hills of Jerusalem” - Bad streak of business - 193rdAA - New flannel suit - trippers - Income tax - business static - reunion with the family - the office - John - Kit to “President” - a wonderful picture - business suddenly improves - A record week?

“- In Our Time -”

On Thursday June 3rd – a sequel to stirring events at the close of 1936 – a marriage took place in France. The Duke of Windsor, ex-king of England, married Bessie Simpson, American divorcee. There was a religious service, performed by an obscure north-country parson named Jardine. He acted alone, in defiance of the attitude of his Church. Salute Jardine! He had pluck!

…The Duke and Duchess of Windsor arrived at Noetsche (Austria) this morning…

Spain: After days of suspense and rumours, the definite news came through on Sunday, June 20th. Bilbas had fallen. The victorious “Spanish Nationalists” – mostly Italians and Germans if the truth were known – entered the town. The incessant weeks of bombing must have reduced Bilbas to ruins. Hysterical scenes in the Basque children’s camp at Southampton… The poor little devils nearly went crazy.

A crushing defeat for the Basques. A glorious victory for Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. But the Basques had no planes.

Tuesday 29th June 1937

Turnover £10-0-0. If all these orders are accepted – I know today’s will be – this last week of June will be a record! And the “week” – commencing June 25th – is only a five day week, three actually, because I did not try to sell on Friday or Saturday.

This morning – a triumphant moment! – I finally closed a £2 opening stock order from Goodeve. He paid cash against pro forma. Macston’s and Goodeve’s orders were turned down by the firm in April. Both are OK now.

Monday 28th June 1937

A good day. 12 calls. Collected a cheque £4-7-9 from a doubtful client. Admittedly, the cheque was post-dated but still… it’s only a week. Took three orders (one new account) totalling £15-0-0. Admittedly, one was from a doubtful client, but I think the Company will accept.

The third order was blind luck. I cycled to Rodean from Bentall Estate – just a social call. Adjoining Eastwoodbury Church was a charming old house, obviously the Vicarage. I went in to see if the parson would care to specify Paripan for his wooden church steeple sometime. But it was not the Vicarage! A roughly dressed, roughly spoken man (a war profiteer!) lived at Bury Priory, as the place was called. My visit was at the psychological moment however. His son had just built a twelve foot dinghy. It required painting. Took an order for Paripan Marine Enamel.
Gave it to Timewell, who keeps the stores just opposite. He is a small paint stockist and I owed him a good turn. His son found digs for me. That small order means 4/6 to him – and put my turnover up by 21/-.

Home before 5 o’clock. Hasty cups of tea, cigarettes and “office work” Straightened chaos into orderliness by 7 o’clock. A pleasant task.

Friday 25th June 1937

This was a happy day – different, un-lonely.

Written the day afterwards, near the Cliffs Bandstand. The Welsh Guards Band is playing. All deck chairs appear to be occupied so I am sitting on a somewhat uncomfortable green wooden seat (at 3d for 3 hours!) The time is about 8:30 p.m.

Wearing the cool grey suit, white shirt and RA tie, I travelled up to Fenchurch Street by the 9 o’clock. Arrived Ealing Common about 11 a.m. Went to Hawthorn Court. A dismal task; I overhauled my RNVR kit – those white no. 5 bags! – and removed the crossed flags of which I’d been so proud. Father came at lunch time. We chatted awkwardly about the weather, my new suit and his new shoes. Quite friendly. They wanted me to spend the night at Ealing but I still felt uneasy, somehow, so I lied, saying business compelled me to go straight back to Southend from the office. Kit bag on my shoulder I came away. Saw Mother and Father leaning from a window. Left the kit bag at Charing Cross. Reached the office soon after 2 p.m.

Have just discovered a deck chair; much more comfortable than the wooden seat and quite near the band stand.

Long discussion at the office with FCR. Cups of tea were bought in. We smoked many cigarettes. I was congratulated on looking fit and sunburnt. Guess it’s a matter of standards. The Londoners all looked beastly pallid, compared with the people of the coast. The usual impressive yet informal interview with Mr Percy Randall. Heard pleasant news. Mr Branford has recovered from his illness and is returning to the works.

There is some ritual about an interview with Mr Percy Randall. He shakes hands, asks you to sit down, pushes over a box of cigarettes (three-fives). The old aristocrat laughed like hell when I described how I had once offered to eat Undercoat Paste in order to prove it was non-poisonous. (This story was quite true.) Re. the order I took last month, for decorations at the Basque refugee colony, FCR made a neat pun. “Doubtless,” he said, “Infant Basques are known as Baskets?” Modestly proud, he assured me this effort was quite original.

The band is playing a selection from “Swing Time” – “A Fine Romance” There are pretty artificial lights around the bandstand now, for the natural light is failing.

Left the office about 6:20 – everything being settled – and met John under Piccadilly Circus.
He wore a shocking straw hat with a red, white and blue band! High tea at a place in Villiers Street. Bought a birthday tie for Father. Collected the kit bag and took it to HMS President. John waited on the Embankment above (the tide was at a low ebb) whilst I walked down the gang plank. Heels together as I stepped through the entry port onto the main deck! Gave my kit to the shipkeeper, bought an RNVR tie. A P.O. was instructing new entries in anchors and cables. In the familiar, jerky voice he said, “ This – is known as a – stockless anchor. It is known as a stockless anchor – because – it has no stock…”

John grinned sheepishly when I rejoined him. We went to the Tivoli Cinema, Strand. First coffee in the lounge. Strange to be giving tips again, spending money! An extraordinary picture,
“Lost Horizon”. If I attempted description it would seem trite. As great as “Cavalcade” but the two films cannot be compared. This was utterly different. No need to write about it. I’ll remember without that.

The band has finished playing, they are packing up; the people are going or gone.
It grows cold. I’ll finish this at home.

Reached Charing Cross about 3 minutes before the 11:16 Southend through-train.

Am writing now in my bedroom, midnight. The window is open wide. The gas burns noisily. The clock ticks. (I bought that clock when I left Mrs Stephens’ to live at Hawthorn Court.) Between my lips is the inevitable cigarette. Must be nearly the thirtieth today. I know it is the tenth since tea time.

The train arrived at loathsome Southend about 12:45 No, it was not loathsome this time, actually. Too deserted and silent. From the end of the High Street I saw the lights of the pier reaching out to sea. I saw the moonlight on the water and a fishing boat in silhouette, black against the silver. Did not feel tired. Supper. Filed letters and orders, sorted out the contents of my suitcase. My naval belt was in the case. Kept it as a souvenir.

Bed 2 o’clock. Lay reading “Deluge” (Fowler Wright) by the light of my torch until I felt ready to sleep.

Wednesday 23rd June 1937

Morning surprise; a letter from Mr NC Dawson anticipating that I should spend the weekend there – at Ealing. Tactfully there was no allusion to our last meeting – May 10th. The letter was quite friendly and assumed I had been too busy to go home lately.

Business: Yesterday I sold half a pint of Dryfast (and had to telephone the order through). Today I made 14 reported calls, collected a cheque and sold a tin of U/coat Paste. This order was passed through a Southend merchant to be supplied from his stock so my turnover was nil. Monday 2/6 Tuesday 1/8 Wednesday Nil.

193rd Battery tonight. Gun drill. Learnt some complicated movements first, ie. changing rounds. They number off in a peculiar way – 1,3,5,7 and 9 in the front rank, 2,4,6 and 8 in the rear rank.
Afterwards we did “action” drill and hell! I was number 1 of the gun first time! The very first time I do gun drill I’m picked to be number 1. It was good sport rapping out commands (prompted sotto voce by the sergeant major):

“Detachment – ‘Shun!”
“Detachment – Rear!”

Felt a bit of a silly sod though. Each man of the detachment has to be efficient in nine jobs:

a) Examine the bore and be responsible for the whole
b) Traversing gear and dials
c) Elevating gear and dials
d) Fuse dials
e) ?
f) Breech mechanism
g) Ammunition, covers and so forth

Loading drill. I started as no. 7 (opening and closing the breech) then became no. 6 (loading and firing). The shells (dummies of course) weigh 16lbs. When no. 7, one of the ejected shells fell on my foot. I noticed it.

Monday 21st June 1937

A letter from John: “Hope you’re recovered from the financial slump, you sod” etc. etc. A letter from Anne explaining she had been ill. Apologies and “Please write” and so forth. I’ll never love Anne. She is not imperious enough.

Seventeen calls today. Turnover: Two shillings and six pence! The solitary small order was a new account which may lead to something but all the same it was a “dummy”. So the results of my day’s work can be considered nil.

Sunday 20th June 1937

Had arranged to meet Anne at 3:10p.m. today – Upminster Station. I arrived at the appointed time, waited until 4:15 like a silly sod, watching the trains come in. Went away, had tea at a café, despatched a laconic post card: “Upminster, Sunday. What happened? Hope there hasn’t been an accident or what not? SJD"

The second sentence was superfluous politeness. Staggered back to the station and foul Southend. Went to the pictures with Travers, my co-digger. Fourth visit to the ruddy “Pictures” since last Monday.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday 19th June 1937

Cold day, not June-like at all. Having received my salary and the two weeks expenses this morning I put the latter in the bank untouched, bringing my account to 30/-. From my salary I paid digs, laundry bills; purchased 110 cigarettes and 50 matches. There still remains £2-5-9 so I’ll be able to meet Anne tomorrow.

In my change at the bank I received one of the new threepenny pieces. A curious coin; bronze alloy, it is not round but twelve sided and extremely thick. It will stand on edge. Contrast to those silly little “bits” we had before!

Sent off my first income tax return today. Not very thrilled about it. A check up on the past year showed how my salary has risen: July 1936 - £2-15-0. January 1937 - £3-0-0. March 1937 - £4-0-0. Now it stands at £208 per annum! Up to April my total years income was £150-15-0. I carefully examined the clauses on the return which dealt with “reliefs” and “deductions” but found nothing applicable. I calculate that I’ll have to pay about £14 in tax but my arithmetic is very bad. Perhaps I made a mistake. Hope so!

Friday 18th June 1937

Until today, the week’s turnover totalled £6-18-0. None of these were new accounts and one was a doubtful account, requiring a pro-forma invoice.

This morning I started late and did a country round. Eastwood, Rochford. Nearly lunchtime when I left Rochford, after a lengthy gossip with a Starline salesman and the manager of a shop which was closing down. At the very small village of Stanbridge I found a pleasant café with a car park and the trout streams adjoining. One can take a boat along the stream for 6d an hour! Surprising to find such a place in the desolate parts of Essex.

Reached Canewdon. Had to wait a long time for my interview. No sale. Cycled to Hockley. Bought an ice-cream on the way. This left me with a few matches, a few cigarettes and four pence. I got an order at Hockley. A trial order for U/coat paste. New client! Cycled to Rayleigh, called on a builder. Took an order for four gallons of Glacier. New client!

Then dashed to Hall’s, the merchant’s, and proudly handed in the two orders, which they of course, gave a covering order for. £2-18-0 to add to the weeks list. It was a lucky hour really, cos if those two customers give repeat orders, Hall’s will undoubtedly take a stock.

Bought 10 Woodbines at 4d. After tea I withdrew £3 from my little reserve and called at Squier’s for my new grey suit. Had £2-19-6 still to pay. That left 6d. I bought another packet of Woodbines and a stamp for mailing my reports to the office.

The budget balanced – just!

Wednesday 16th June 1937

Recruits night at the 193rd. Impression is of a show that I’m going to like. The men are “chummy”, there is no snobbery shown by the senior members towards raw “rookies” like myself; the NCO’s do not do any “hazing” – in this respect, they are not near my idea of Army NCO’s. Typical incident. I leaned against the bar during stand-easy, talking to a bank clerk who is in the special NCO training class. A Regular Army Sergeant Instructor joined in and stood us drinks!

First hour we did rifle drill. Fell in two deep, wearing “canvas” (similar to RN no.5’s)
The Sgt.major ordered those who had done rifle drill before to fall in separately. Nearly everyone moved away and out of these three were picked (two ex-servicemen) who had done all rifle movements. My squad looked a bit weedy and of low intellect so I slunk forward into the large squad amidships. (“You?” said the Sergeant Major suspiciously. “Yes sir”, I said meekly.)
He then ordered all who could slope, present and order arms to come forward. Like a mug I obliged and found myself, with two other mugs in the select squad, now numbering six. We drew rifles. One of the six then drilled us and I learnt a new movement “Part arms for inspection”.
I was forth in efficiency, and when the fifth man was “sent down” became the most raw member of the advanced squad.

Second hour, a lecture on the arrangement of an anti aircraft unit. Apparently a unit in action consists of:-

The Spotter, who (or which) sights the aircraft; The Height Finder, which gives their height; The Predictor, which gives their location; and The Gun, which gives ‘em hell. Actually, we were reminded , the purpose of an AA unit is not to bring down enemy aircraft but to break up their formation, thus making easy prey for our aeroplanes, lurking in the background. “Gunnery,” said the Sergeant whimsically, “Is the practical application of the science of ballistics”.

Monday 14th June 1937

South Benfleet and Canvey Island. My old friend Mr Gilbert changed a spell of bad luck with an order for £4-11-6. Also took two smaller orders to be passed through Hadleigh Builders Supply.

Finished my reports in a café at Leigh then went to the doctor’s for a medical examination. He tested my eyesight (6/6 each eye, quite good), felt my pulse, ran a tape round my chest and said “You have not got a rupture or anything, have you?” Actually “sold me a negative!” (The Territorial Army must be bloody short of men!) On this flimsy evidence, the doctor signed a form stating my heart and lungs were in good condition etc and that I was fit for general service.

A cup of tea and a sandwich before going on to the drill hall. Mentioned my “medical exam” to the café proprietor. He, being an ex-service man, became reminiscent and said he joined up in 1878 as a trumpeter and served under Roberts of Khandelar.“Good luck!" he cried as I left, “Come again and tell me how you get on. I’m very interested.” I glanced back. He was saluting! (They fight their battles o’er again.)

The battery clerk who had filled in my form saw me again. Apparently he always tells his wife about new recruits and apparently his wife thinks we may be distant relations, cos her grandmother was a Dawson and came from Grimsby. Five minutes later, after a brief and unimpressive ceremony, I was a member of the Battery. Attestation consisted of making an Oath (with a bible in my right hand), repeating the words after a Second-Lieut. “…King George the Sixth and his lawful heirs and successors…”

Rather a chaotic evening of drill – for everyone, not just me. I stood around like a lemon, whilst the gun crews made a balls up. Later I discovered an intriguing instrument something like a telescope, which several men languidly turned on a tripod. Apparently a height-finder. “What’s your eyesight like?” asked one of the languid men. “6/6” “Oh, in that case they’ll doubtless put you on this confounded thing” he said gloomily.

Sunday 13th June 1937

Raining heavily when I arrived at the 193rd drill hall this morning. My reception was most nearly approximate to that of the RNVR; perhaps a little less impersonal. I was interviewed by an officer – could not guess his rank because he wore a macintosh over his uniform.
He asked me why I wished to join? “Oh, must defend England, you know,” I said facetiously, thinking of the recruiting posters. He took me quite seriously and looked with approval.

A tall bloke, this officer. I’m glad. Get on better with tall men.The battery clerk filled in a recruit form and the old questions cropped up. I answered pretty swiftly, having seen so many of these forms before. “Where were you born?” “Parish not known, Grimsby, Lincolnshire.” “Have you ever served before in any branch of His Majesty’s Army, The Royal Navy, The Royal…?” “No” I answered readily. “What was your age last birthday?” (What the devil was it?) “Eh – twenty three.”

And to see the doctor on Monday (tomorrow). Rather fast, these gunners! They would not be so rapid if they knew I was still tied to “The Royal Navy or a reserve thereof”.

Friday 11th June 1937

This evening, still in search of a suitable TA unit, I called at the headquarters of a new ack-ack battery at Eastwood. Full title: 193rd Anti Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery (Territorial Army).
The drill hall was closed but the Sergeant Major showed me around. This is the forth unit I have visited and I think I shall join. Have said nothing about my previous training and do not intend to. Less fuss. Except for that, I reckon I’ll join the Essex unit.

Advantages of Eastwood:

Training includes foot drill, marching and rifle drill!

The Colonel is an architect. There are one or two builders in the ranks.

Having passed out of the recruit course there are several specialist subjects for one to choose from - doubtless one of these is not “essentially mechanical”.

Have heard about this unit before. It has a pretty high standard of education etc. This is not altogether an advantage. I like a tough outfit!

The Sergeant-major held out no glittering offer of a stripe within six months, as at Rochford. Maybe the 193rd is all the better for that. Not so hard up for recruits!

Damn it! I do like the Rochford show! If only I’d kept secret my previous service! If only they did a bit of rifle drill and so forth!

Thursday 10th June 1937

A sultry day ending with a storm at night.

On the road from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Started too late – finished too late. Hadleigh, Rayleigh, Thundersley, South Benfleet. No orders.

Tired and sticky and despondent.But not hopeless!

Wednesday 9th June 1937

After a late start I cycled through Rochford to Canewdon, under a bright blue sky. Canewdon stands on a hill. Two miles to the north I saw a broad river in a valley. Beyond it, green hills. The river was the Crouch and the country beyond was not my territory.

“The hills of Jerusalem!” I thought romantically. “Area B!” As I cycled along I imagined fantastically that someday when Chelmsford was mine, I’d enter the town with drums beating, like a conqueror. When Chelmsford, Burnham and Maldon are annexed, I’ll cross the Crouch impressively – by boat! 51 degrees 40’ North. Dreams!

Monday 7th June 1937

No orders today, no queries. Twelve reported calls. Curious, the psychology of a day without orders. One feels like a neurotic deprived of drugs, kinda feverish, jaded and nervy. Orders act as a stimulant. If you take one early in the day you’ll feel so full of enthusiasm that you’ll probably get another – perhaps two more or three.

Evening: Rochford drill hall. Sat like a bugger for some time, watching two sergeants instructing eight privates. Saw the Sergeant Major and Major Ditton at stand easy. Cannot be attested until my RNVR discharge comes through. To obtain that I must send in my kit – (“complete and in good order”) which is at Hawthorn Court. In the meantime I can join in the activities of the drill hall. Sat around a gun for the second drill and had a practical lecture on breakdowns. All beastly mechanical and not my line at all, really. After we’d dismissed (they don’t fall in very smartly, by the way) a tall, slow speaking feller named Flood came up to me and arranged to “bring me along” if I eventually joined. That means that I pretend to be introduced to the Company by him. He gets 10/- for bringing a recruit and – very fairly under the circumstances – gives me 50%. Flood is a farm hand but he’s also a good business man!

Damned if I know whether to join or not! Will set out the points for and against:-


Comradeship. They seem a chummy lot and being a small, new unit it would be quite a happy family.

Infantry is about the lowest form of military life and the roughest.

Machine gunnery – in time of war, dangerous and honourable.

Most of the men being lower class, educated fellers stand a good chance of promotion. Very rapid promotion compared to the RNVR, for instance, where the most brilliant man would not get a confirmed killick until his re-enrolment. At Rochford there is a four months recruit now doing advanced training for his stripe!

I have dilly-dallied and given the impression I would eventually join. Feel rather under an obligation, therefore.


Machine guns are essentially mechanical and I never am very interested in mechanical things.

Not much drill, very little rifle shooting, no signalling, not much “bullshit” – all the things I’m keen on!

The platoon commander is Sales Manager of a competitive paint firm.

Rapid promotion – yes! But a knowledge of English and good manners won’t get me a stripe if I’m not mechanically intelligent.

Being specialist, the Company does nothing except machine gunnery. Surely this one subject would become boring within four years!

Five points “for” and five points “against” Oh! Bugger it! I’ll go to bed!

Sunday 6th June 1937

Blazing June! A lazy day, basking in the sunshine.

Anne came to Southend so I wasn’t lonely. We lunched at Shoeburyness. Lay talking in the grass above Western Esplanade until the crowd became too thick and proletarian. Drowsily lounged in deck chairs at the pier head, still talking. Had tea in a quiet café in Alexandra Street and Welsh rarebits at Garon’s. The crowds became more and more loathsome. But it was a good day.

Saturday 5th June 1937

Have found new digs in a cottage at Eastwoodbury (charming name!) in the country just outside Southend. It was lovely there this afternoon, so quiet… sunlight and the greenery of grass and hedges and trees… Then I cycled back to Southend – and the High Street. What can I say about High Street? Only mutter terrible oaths!

This evening I sat listening to a band on the Cliffs. A Czardas band – Younkmans. That strangely delightful gypsy music… it can best be described by a much used word – “haunting”. Sitting silent, watching the movement of the violins, hearing the throbbing refrains, one dreams most fantastically. (But all dreams are fantastic!) If dreams came true! They sometimes do…
One is half intoxicated by melody - then the girl in the next deck chair says loudly to her companion, “Oo! Look! Look there! Doesn’t the sky look a funny colour there!”And one wakes up.

Wednesday 2nd June 1937

Called at the Prittlewell drill hall tonight – HQ of “D” Company. Discipline here was very different – every whit as strict as that of the RNVR. Anyhow – I’m joining the Rochford platoon if I join at all. The matter is out of my hands, literally in the lap of the gods.

Major Ditton, the CO of “D” Co. (these complicated military titles!) has got all information necessary and is going to instruct the Adjutant (still a mysterious figure) to get in touch with HMS President re. my discharge. He also holds two letters from HMS President stating that a rating cannot transfer to the Territorial Army but that I may be discharged for business reasons etc, etc.

In the meantime, apparently, I can carry out drills so apparently Fate ordains that I become a Private in the 4th Batt. The Essex Regt. “D” Company (S) (The Rochford Platoon) Territorial Army. I do not intend to write the full title of my unit very often. Takes too much ink. In any case, I think I’ve mixed the title up!

Monday 31st May 1937

Cycled to Rochford this evening. (“Ah! This is better!” I thought, as I got clear of Southend and began to smell the country.)

I certainly like the men of the 4th Batt. The Essex Regt. “D” (S) Company – Machine Gun Platoon, Rochford. Essentially friendly and not too harsh. (“Good evening” said a sergeant. “So you’d like to join us? I’ll introduce you to the officer.” Imagine an RNVR P.O. making that speech to a New Entry!)

Lieutenant Feast (of Williams and Howard) considered the question of my previous service and admitted it was “rather awkward”. Am to call at the Prittlewell drill hall on Wednesday, to hear what has happened. I guess I’ll be allowed to join or that suitable arrangements will be made.
The Lieutenant called me “old man”! A RNVR Sub. Would not do that! Altogether my reception was amazingly different to that I received on board HMS President. Reason – RNVR was over strength. TA is under strength.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sunday 30th May 1937

Lonely sort of day among crowds! Of course one does not feel really lonely when one is alone.
On impulse, I went to Clacton by steamer. Perhaps rather extravagant under the circumstances but I wanted to get away from Southend. I got away from Southend but not from it’s trippers 'cos scores of them came with me. “Crested Eagle” – a bloody paddle steamer – was packed with them. The sea was dead calm, hardly a ripple. The ship was constantly on an even keel. The motion was less noticeable than that of a train.

At Clacton I wasted more money in various machines and then went into the pool for a swim – my first this season. It seemed cold and the water was blasted salt of course. I considered everything with a jaundiced eye! It would have been the same whatever I had done!

Saturday 29th May 1937

Called at the headquarters of “D” Company, 4th Batt. The Essex Regiment. Made enquiries re. the new platoon at Rochford. Two things against joining this unit –

1) The platoon commander is manager of Williams and Howard – local paint firm and our competitors.

2) It is an infantry unit – worse still, it specialises in machine guns only; there are no signallers, no riflemen. Nevertheless, the Sergeant Major kind of sold me the idea so I’ll leave it in the lap of the Gods. If they accept me without discharge papers, I’ll join next Monday.

I have somewhat rashly ordered a grey flannel suit at Squiers. Cost will be about 80/- so meanwhile I’m living as quietly as possible. Have told Squiers that I’ve been called away from the district on business and therefore the fitting (and paying!) will be delayed a week or two.

The attractions of a low class seaside resort in the summer are not obvious to me. Hordes of uneducated throng High Street – litter High Street with their ugly bodies. Trippers, blast them.
A large percentage of Jews and loudly dressed, loud mouthed tykes. And the sweating families straggling along – “Oo our Mam, I wanna ice, I wanna ice” What a holiday for Mam!

Friday 28th May 1937

After a period of apparently fruitless work for the Hospital contract, I suddenly felt resistance giving way this morning. First, an optimistic letter from head office. Secondly, a visit to Hayward the architect. A bloody junior clerk informed me there was “nothing today” but when Mr Hayward heard I was in the waiting room I was taken into his office at once. He said he’d recommended Paripan to Mr Constable, Secretary of the Hospital – by now the recommendation would have been passed on to the Committee, which met yesterday.

Before long I was at the hospital. The Assistant Secretary was out. I asked his typist if there was any news. She proved less obstructive than the architect’s clerk. After I’d explained the situation she went in to the great man himself. Mr Constable came out to me.“I’ve never known such a persistent firm as yours” he said whimsically. “You certainly deserve something for that alone. So I recommended Paripan at yesterday’s meeting and the Committee have decided to take it up” I was flabbergasted at such luck! Rather sudden – what? “Well, aren’t you pleased about it?” asked the girl in surprise.

About six weeks ago Mr Taylor, of Taylor and Moore, gave an order for 14lbs. U/coat Paste White – principally because I amused him. Since then I’ve called many times but the U/coat had not been tested. Mr Taylor kept on forgetting until at last, thoroughly ashamed of himself no doubt, he had the can sent to their building site, Somerset Garden Estate. Went to the Estate this afternoon. A workman pointed out the house where the foreman painter was at work. In the house was an architect named Cheasley. Explained I’d come from Mr Taylor to hear how they liked the U/coat Paste. “Oh, from Taylors are you?” said the architect without any enthusiasm. “We don’t like that U/coat. In fact, I phoned the office yesterday to say we would not have any more.” (“Hell,” I thought, “Not very encouraging!”) “Go and see Evans” added Mr C, “He’ll tell you more about it than I can.”

Over rough unmade roads to another building site, the sun was very warm… I found Evans the foreman painter; he knew nothing about Paripan and did not work for Taylor and Moore anyhow! A horrible thought struck me. That bloody architect was fooling me! Toiled back to the other house. Mr Cheasley had gone but I saw the general foreman and daylight. He did not work for Taylor and Moore either! By strange coincidence Taylor’s of Leigh had sent an U/coat to be tested and it had proved a failure. But it wasn’t ours!

In short, I was in the wrong house talking to the wrong firm altogether. I found the right house then, and the right foreman painter. He’d tried U/coat Paste against Dense White and found in favour of our product. After he told me his opinion of U/coat Paste and made me full of pep, I rang up Mr Taylor and closed an order for 8 by 14 lbs. West Road Westcliff! Then, seizing the golden opportunity, I called on Mr Cheasley at his office, explained the mistake, assumed he was interested in U/coat Paste and arranged for literature and a sample to be sent.

Thursday 27th May 1937

Pinned on my bedroom wall is a map of Essex. A boundary line is marked in the south east. It is the boundary of what I call “Area A”, ie. My present business territory. The line runs along the wrong side of the River Crouch, beyond Wickford in the north and Laindon, Horndon and Stanford in the west. South and east the line follows the coast. According to an order copy which arrived this week, I also have Billericay, which actually lies just across the “A” border, beyond Laindon. Went to Billericay today, to give the place the “once over”. Took a summer return ticket and a cycle ticket. In this way I can work the same district in the reverse direction anytime within a month.

Sunny day. The train puffed slowly through green fields speckled with yellow buttercups; through green woods with carpets of bluebells. Green – yellow – blue patches of real countryside; not many houses. “A lovely district to travel”, thought one part of me. “Not a very good territory” thought the other part. “Too thinly populated and rural.” It was a pleasant moment when I walked out of Billericay station into sunshine and enquired the way to the main street. Starting at zero, with possibilities ahead!

Made some rapid introductory calls. Seemed a promising town, fairly good class. Cup of tea and report writing at lunchtime, in a small shop. A golden haired girl served there and later gave me the low down of the district with the aid of my ordnance survey map. A Scots builder gave an order for U/coat Paste soon afterwards. Doubtless my tartan tie was an asset. Yes, I like Billericay. The people seemed helpful and friendly; passers by sometimes turned to call, “Good day!”

Cycled happily along the easy down grade to Laindon, little knowing I was destined to take no more orders that day. At Hayden’s yard I again met a quaint, untidy individual named Phillips. We had a cup of tea together (he mashed it in a cup and used some ancient condensed milk which he addressed by its Latin name – feminine gender I believe). Next an enjoyable, stormy interview with Carey, the principle Laindon merchant. Managed to placate him eventually – after showing him my report sheets and being carefully indiscreet.

Then a haircut. The barber was a soothing man, with a pleasant flow of conversation. Must go there again! Climbed into Laindon Hills for two fruitless calls. 4:30p.m. Tea for 9d at a typical hikers café. Afterwards, to Horndon. I took a short cut over the brow of Langdon Hills – a track thro’ some woods. Saw a baby snake writhing on the path, like an oversized worm. Calls at Fobbing, Gun Hill, Horndon and Thundersley. After the last call I had a second tea – bacon, egg and tea at a café on Bread and Cheese Hill. Home 9 o’clock. Seventeen reported calls in a twelve hour day.