Sunday, February 17, 2008

Monday 21st February 1938

On the road soon after 9 o’clock. A fruitless morning (recalls). Bitterly cold again.
Managed to find a tolerably warm café for lunch.

At 2 o’clock I met Wright, the senior traveller for Wrights Ltd, and made calls with him. He introduced me to five clients at Tiptree and Layer Breton. This was another experience for me – selling to new prospects whilst their regular traveller stood by, listening. Well received everywhere however and sold 14lbs and 4 x 28lbs U/coat paste White. Now he can follow up these contacts and should get regular orders from all five people, I think.

We returned to Colchester soon after 6 o’clock. I put the car away immediately and spent the evening indoors. Writing: reports, letters, this journal. Now I shall read the newspaper, or perhaps a book. It is warm here, beside the fire.

End of Stillness.

Sunday 20th February 1938

Packing and moving – again. A heavily loaded Zephyr left Carlton Avenue at 11:30 a.m. Nice people – the Clarkes – but not my sort. Too fussy. More religious than Christian, in my humble opinion. Still they have been very kind to me. And Phillis…We kissed in the hall before I opened the door to come away. It was not the first but must be the last.

Most of my luggage was unloaded at Eastwoodbury; I return there next week. A comfortable chat with Mrs Butler, snug and warm inside Roedean. I enthusiastically showed photographs of Pat, Pat Retallack. “Yes, she looks alright” said Mrs Butler, nodding frankly, “That Miss Bridges isn’t your sort at all, y’know. No 'go' in her. Too quiet. Besides, she’s older than you, isn’t she?”

Rayleigh, Chelmsford, Colchester. (The Zephyr ran beautifully. Whatever afflicted her seems to have gone.) At 2:30 I was having a jolly good lunch in the new digs (temporary) at Butt Road. Afterwards we talked sleepily, had tea. In the evening I went into Town by bus to post my letters.

Special editions of newspapers selling in the streets. A crisis in the Cabinet over the question of friendship with Italy – which involves recognition of Abyssinia’s conquest and a loan of several millions. Crowds of promenading youths and girls thronged the pavements. I walked back to the digs. We listened to wireless bulletins regarding the Cabinet “split”. At 11 o’clock came the news. Antony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, had resigned his position in the Cabinet. “I cannot recommend to Parliament a policy with which I am not in agreement…” Mr Eden disagreed with the Prime Minister’s friendly attitude towards Italy.

Saturday 19th February 1938

Turnover has increased weekly during three consecutive weeks now. This morning I had to work – a good sign! Three calls: Collected a cheque for £20. Took an order worth £7-10-0. Took an order worth £1. Furthermore, the wind was less keen, and drier. No ice or snow about now. Cold, clear sunlight.

Afternoon and evening with Pat. I was happy and contented and yet I wasn’t! This love affair without any love-making is reminiscent somehow, of another love which never reached fulfilment. Perhaps it is a chance to avoid the mistakes I made that other time? (“Oh, I only wrote it out of politeness.”)

Last night at Sway and I’m sitting beside a grey-red fire. 12:45a.m. A cigarette and bed!

Thursday 17th February 1938

Bitterly cold – an ordeal to go out – high wind and driving rain. Mad Willy came to settle a series of small complaints from ANS Cycles – my sole synthetics customers.
Spent a good deal of time here but in the interval slipped out and secured a £7 stock order from one of our merchant clients. At lunchtime we dashed to Pat’s office and she was introduced to Mad Willy – the first of my friends whom she has met.
Then Mad Willy and I went to Garon’s, discussing Winifred Mary Ealey and Pat Retallack, with respective enthusiasm.

“I think” said I to Pat, “That your people’s anxiety concerned myself as well as the traffic or the weather.” “Yes, I think so too” she said ingenuously. “Funny isn’t it, because I feel quite safe with you.”

Wednesday 16th February 1938

Started late, moved some of my things to Eastwoodbury in readiness for the return. It is an ordeal to go out to the car. Slush and the piercing wind. I’ve only got a light mackintosh – no overcoat. Blast the Stillness. Damn and blast.

Arrived at Burnham on Crouch just before lunch. I was luckier than I deserved. Took a stock order for DHG (new account), a repeat order for U/coat Paste from a boat builder, and a repeat order from a builder.

Called at Pat’s this evening, and sat by the fireside. Her mother confessed to having felt worried last Saturday, when we went to Chelmsford. “…and Pat came in joyfully at 1:30 a.m…” (So she was joyful – literally?) Were they worried because of the gale or because of me, I wondered? Both, probably. “Of course, this is a new venture for Pat…”

Later, father inquired the number of my car and the description – “in case anything happens you know. Of course you’ll be careful but someone might bump into you, who knows?” I solemnly produced my insurance policy and he solemnly copied out the details. Even now I laugh as I think of this! Such amazingly candid people and yet tactful. Before departing I made an impressive little speech with a double meaning also, saying that I might be reckless – as a driver – but not when I had precious cargo onboard. Somehow, I explained, I felt peculiarly protective towards Pat and so would look after her. I meant it sincerely, too. They were relieved, I think.

Tuesday 15th February 1938

Bitter, bitter cold. High wind, snow, rain, frost, slush – successively or simultaneously. A pool of water where my feet rested, in the car. Still – I got an order – new account – at Pitsea! Domestic stores; a stock of Duripan Hard Gloss.
Elocution class. I know my lines now and somehow I’m able to act the part. It thrills me! There could hardly be a more suitable role for me.

Sunday 13th February 1938

CHA Ramble. Too late to catch the train at Southend so I drove along icy roads, through Rayleigh, over the Crouch, to Woodham Ferrers. Arrived there half an hour before the train; garaged the Zephyr at the village pub, and met the Club pipe in mouth, rucsack on my back. Bitterly cold but sunny and we tramped many miles.

Tea at Danbury. The Club was returning by bus from Great Baddow but I and three volunteers left the party here and marched back to Woodham Ferrers and the car.
The wind had decreased, our footfalls rang on the road. Bright, cold moon. Ella Dorken was with me, also two lesser known girls – Dorothy and Nellie. Only the women are energetic in this Club! The men always follow meekly – but I don’t!

February 13th 1938

- and my birthday. My twenty-fifth!

Past Battlesbridge (the Crouch seemed to have risen slightly) Beyond the area of whirling snowflakes. I lighted a cigarette as we drove on, and Pat suddenly leaned forward from her seat beside me, and took the wheel. This gives her a thrill, just steering. She was close to me; dark hair and no hat. Face intent on the road. It was bitterly cold and rough outside, but warm in the Zephyr. I leaned back comfortably, foot on the accelerator, and let her drive right through Rayleigh, Southend and up to the door at Victoria Avenue. I had a nice “crinkly” feeling at the back of my head. I used to call it “bread crumbs” when I was very small and Mother stroked my hair.

Saturday 12th February 1938

After Pat and I had been to the Pictures we went (9:30p.m.) out to supper, at The Oasis. Full moon and a gale. The invalid Zephyr staggered into the teeth of the wind. 25-30-25 (flat out). Flood water across the road at Battlesbridge. Near Bicknacre, in a winding downhill lane through woods, we suddenly saw water ahead. I knew the place; it was a rough ford which looked like floods. I slammed on the handbrake, stopped the car at the brink of the water. Pat did not scream or say “Oo-er!” or clutch my arm, or clutch anything. She just said “Hm” – when the car had stopped.

Pat liked The Oasis. (“Like that roadhouse in “Petrified Forest.”) We started back at midnight. It was -

Friday 11th February 1938

Friday is my grey-bags-and-tweed-jacket day on the road. Call on builders and decorators at the sites, feeling very comfortable. A sunny windy morning – very much like last Friday.

Met Pat outside her office at lunchtime. I like the way she walks out, looks straight at me, smiles and says “Hullo Stephen”. No gush or giggle. Drove down to the Esplanade and took three photographs of her, hoping that one, at least, would be satisfactory. “Will you be away at Colchester for a long time?” she inquired as we reached number 218. I said I didn’t know. Would it matter? Well, she hoped I’d be back soon cos of the play. But did she want me to be away a long time or not a long time? “I want you to come back soon.” Thus encouraged, I had a very satisfactory afternoon and evening.

The third order today was obtained in an unusual way. About five months ago I met a saleslady at Hadleigh, when calling on a builder. The fraternity of the road made me offer her a lift back to Leigh. She was charming and certainly a lady, and a plucky one. About two months ago we again met in a builders yard at Thorpe Bay and had another chat. We discussed each other’s jobs – she a first-aid-outfit seller, I a paint seller. About a month ago she stopped me in Westcliff and gave me a “prospect”. People often do but I’d never had a more promising one. She gave me the address – well know timber merchants – said they owned properties and would shortly buy paint for the spring redecorations; gave me the best time for interviews, told me who to see and gave permission for her name to be used. Miss D. Dore.

Well, today at my third visit this prospect became a customer. Opening order for 3x28lbs. U/coat Paste and 12x1/2 gallons Egham Paint. There are dozens of properties to be decorated so this looks like being a good thing. Miss Dore deserves and shall receive, at least 2 1/2%!

Gas exam tonight. First I had to call on Mr Yeldham to collect some money. I received an order too – about £12. Useful! A complicated order but I sorted it out neatly, came home, did the incidental office work. Got to the Anti-Gas Class an hour after the exam had started but full of beans. Hadn’t done any swotting but dashed into it with enthusiasm, and wrote four sheets of foolscap. I guess I’ve passed, anyhow. Afterwards I drove home happily. The Zephyr was not A1 but still she wasn’t quite C3 either.

Money might be hard to find in the future but what matter? There was thirty shillings or more in my pocket right now! Furthermore tomorrow was Saturday and I’d be seeing Pat. So – I drove home happily.

Thursday 10th February 1938

After a period of financial comfort – expenses suddenly increase! Next week £4-10-0 for car instalment.15/10 is now due for income tax. Shirts are getting shabby, shoes need repair. Today I spent 25/- on a new car tyre.

Oh, I’m not “broke” of course. Have £3 in my wallet now and several pounds in the Bank. Ties are getting shabby. The nib of my fountain pen is broken… One damn thing after another! And to crown it – the Battered and Ancient Zephyr is not in good trim!
A certain slowness in acceleration and feebleness in climbing. Change down twice when ascending Pier Hill – with a running start! “Maybe, she wants decarbonising” said the engineer hopefully.

Monday 7th February 1938

Made fruitless calls at Dagenham, Romford, Hornchurch and Upminster. A bitterly cold, winter’s day. Back in Area “A”, I took an order, at South Benfleet.

A fortnight ago was the CHA Social and Dance (not reported herein). Quite a nice show. Two things worth mentioning:-

I did not feel utterly fatuous as I did at a similar HF function – Lincoln 1933. I danced in public for the first time. It was the first dance, a foxtrot and I took the floor with Ella Dorken, a pleasant comfortable person. However – that is past history. As I did not dance with Lois then I did a foxtrot with her this evening, at Oakdene. She dances damn well, just as she does in all things.

Afterwards made my adieux and came out to the Zephyr. Lois and I chatted idly at the gate, whilst I put on my gloves. “Platonic friendship” was idly mentioned (such a silly phrase). “Get in the car” I said suddenly and for once Lois obeyed.
I drove away. “Do you always act on impulse?” she asked with interest. “Always“ I said solemnly. We parked at Eastwoodbury and talked. In talking about platonic friendship – and love – I attempted to be as subtle and tactful as Pa Shervill had been, with regard to a similar matter.

Sunday 6th February 1938

Went out with Pat Retallack. We walked along the Pier – she can walk! – and sat in the Solarium. (Where there was a somewhat unimpressive harmony trio in progress.) We talked and we drank Horlicks and I smoked. (I derive satisfaction from being with a girl – young and easy to look at.) We sat in the open and looked sleepily at Kent, from the depths of deck-chairs. Quite warm for February. We played table tennis and deck tennis – two games each at table tennis.

I don’t know! I’m not awfully in love or anything like that. We have not kissed, or talked of love. Perhaps that is more delightful for being delayed… And yet, I like to be with her. And it is not simply because she is young and attractive to others.

Enjoyable small incident. Lois Rogers came into the class some weeks ago, looking for me, as she wished to return a copy of “Fantastic Flight” which I’d lent her.
“Is that your sister?” asked Pat, the same night. “No, I have no sisters,” I said, horribly withholding further information. Today I mentioned there were two daughters at my digs. “Oh,” she said cautiously, “Was that one of the daughters who came into the class room a few weeks ago?” “No” I replied meanly. “Oh, no!” Then we both laughed. “Well who was it”, she asked definitely. “That was Lois Rogers. She lives at Eastwood and is a friend of mine” At last I ceased to prevaricate!

Saturday 5th February 1938

Office work; calculating the turnover of a fairly satisfactory week.

The road London-wards at 12:30. Lunch at Hawthorn Court then on to Chertsey. Tea and supper at Mad Willy’s. He confirmed an unpleasant rumour I’d already heard about the Works. Four men have been sacked. Foreman Ellis, Jack Searle, Able Seaman Simkins, Bill Hewitt. Only Tinson left, of the old Making House Gang! Some trouble about timesheets. I can visualise it. A technical offence. The system should be blamed, not the men. The Works is different. So many of the familiar faces will be gone…
Driver White, “Dimmock”, Gunner... However, Dodger Jones is still there and Foreman Harris and Beach and Blay and Bolton.

Left Chertsey at 10:15. A snack at “Jack’s Box”, then the drive through London, from West to East. The broad empty roads beyond Dagenham. Sleepily – and dangerously – I set the throttle and let the car run steadily at 45. Home 1 o’clock.

Friday 4th February 1938

A good day for business. Clean, straight interviews. Sold three gallons of S.O., one gallon of Egham and 3 cwts. Of U/coat Paste White.
Rang up Pat at her office. A pleasantly known voice answered the telephone. “Miss Retallack please”. “Oh, is that you Stephen? Your voice sounds just the same.” The inflection of her voice suggested she was pleased to be telephoned. Then I drove to South Benfleet. Two promising interviews then I drove back to Leigh and met Pat outside the office.

A sunny, warm day. Not typical at all typical of winter.

Evening: Anti-Gas Course. We all passed the standard respirator test – 10 seconds from the slung, 8 seconds from the alert.

Thursday 3rd February 1938

Received a “pep” letter today signed by the Managing Director himself – Percy Randall Esq. He enclosed copies of letters which had arrived from various firms thanking the Company for 1938 calendars. He instructed me to follow up these letters…Some of them were from Dagenham, Hornchurch, Romford. London – Essex! May be a mistake but I’ll assume this is another addition to my area. And just when I was feeling depressed about business!

Saw Major Shenstone tonight with regard to my RNVR service and the false statement made in enlistment. He was amazed but quite decent about it. Thinks that a little wangling at “Records” will put matters right.

NB Brother Dick has not received parental consent in the matter of joining-up.

Monday 31st January 1938

Left home 10 o’clock. Bayswater, Oxford Street, High Holborn. The City. (Colossal traffic blocks; one lasted eight minutes) Aldgate, Commercial Road, Poplar.
A “pleasant contact” with one of my Canvey Island customers at his London depot. Then Barking and Dagenham. Once again I found the way!

Lunch at a roadside café in the grey oil-and-petrol country, where Packy and I used to stop sometimes. Fairly satisfactory calls in South Benfleet and Hadleigh. Arrived at Sway 4:30p.m. to find three orders waiting me in the mail. Happy return!

Now (7:30) my luggage is unpacked, office work is done and I’m going out to see Pat.
I spent the evening at Pat’s. We did two foxtrots and attempted a waltz. Her mother (a lady gifted in repartee; delightful) watched us perform the Fantastic Flight scenes. Then we all sat around the fireside and talked… Good Heavens! I am being domesticated!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday 30th January 1938

Spent the afternoon with John, between Greenford, Ealing Common and Westbourne Terrace. At 11p.m. I called for Anne, to continue last week’s conversation. (Having previously arranged this “late date”.) Had intended to take John to Richmond Station (“Treat me as baggage for Carter Paterson” he said), but impulsively turned away onto the Great West Road. After a fast run we reached Staines and delivered John at his digs.

Drove to St. Anne’s Hill and to the exact place I’d been to yesterday – on the Old Coach Road! Sat there comfortably talking and smoking, for some time. Anne had changed her mind and now wishes to continue “on a better understanding”. I was glad; so long as she really understands. This trouble smoothed over, we seemed to know each other much better and were able to talk happily. I had not imagined Anne could be so interesting. We felt friends. “Isn’t it nice when you don’t feel you have to talk?” she said, “When silence is not awkward”. “Lovely”, I agreed sleepily and peacefully, as the car droned gently through London wards. We had supper at a lorryman’s place on the Great West Road (“The Better ‘Ole”).

Drove Anne to Bedford park then returned to Hawthorn Court. Arrived 2:15p.m.

Saturday 29th January 1938

Left Southend (with a weekend's kit) at 11:30. Along the Arterial Road; the warning notices had been altered: “On this road in 1937 – 18 people were killed – 580 people were injured – please drive carefully”. Today there was no chance of speeding! A powerful head wind reduced my maximum speed to 35m.p.h. This soon became monotonous so at Rayleigh I turned off and took the Old Southend Road, through Vange and Pitsea, to Dagenham. Quite a feat of driving which marks a definite stage in my driving experience. I crossed London from East to West, without losing my way and without making any faux-pas. Am becoming fairly confident in traffic. Until recently, driving in Town has been rather a nightmare.

At 8:30p.m. I met Winnie Clow. She had obtained a provisional licence, at my suggestion and I gave her lessons. She first took the wheel, on the riverside road, from Chertsey to Haleham. She gave a damn fine show for the first attempt. In the dark too, and with dipped headlights – to save the battery! She took over again at the Causeway, Staines Bridge and drove right to Bagshot! Then we wandered around talking and eventually reached St. Anne’s Hill. Sat in the car on the Old Coach Road for some time, chatting and smoking. We reached Staines just at midnight and had a supper at Pat’s (Café). Left at 12:30, Winnie again driving, and reached Weybridge at exactly 1a.m.

I drove home fast and alone. Raining hard. Reached Hawthorn Court, 2 o’clock.

Friday 28th January 1938

Tonight the Anti-Gas class had a very interesting experience – the Chamber Test. A Home Office van arrived. We donned our masks. The van was flooded with C.A.P. (Chloracetophenone), a tear gas. In we went and stood there whilst a little glass tube was broken on a hot plate, giving off an “articulate cloud”. We were in gas, alright! In a few seconds my neck, between the collar and the gas mask was tingling. Soon it was burning! However breathing was normal, eyes and nose were unaffected. (“The respirator affords complete protection.”)

We went out into the open again, put our masks away. We were ordered to enter the van, touch the farther wall and return – no masks!
I laughed as, peering through the window, I saw the others enter one by one. How hastily they shambled across the seemingly harmless room. Like some awkward relay race. As I entered something very hot hit me across the eyes. Curious sensation. Rather like the time when I got some alcohol in the eye, at the Works. A masked policeman took my arm as I groped for the door.

Afterwards another fellar and myself volunteered to enter the chamber and put our masks on when inside. Seven seconds? We both had our masks on in three; it seemed an instaneous movement! (The joke is that I’m usually very slow at donning a mask. All thumbs.) The instructor assured us that we had failed, that there were tears in our eyes. Nevertheless we felt alright. I moved to the window where there were several faces and stuck up a triumphant thumb.

Introduction to Stillness 1938

(Written 12:30 a.m. January 28th)

A fitting poem-front piece to Stillness would be:-

“…But there’s so much to see, so much to do…”

Yes, my engagement book is too full, each week. It’s getting me down; bad for business too. One goes on the road, wondering how one will be able to fit in all the things which fill the evening. Very pleasant engagements of course, but too many.

Here are a few examples:-

Thursday 27th January. Stanstead House 5:30 (with Pyhllis Clark) to 6:45. Roedean 7p.m.(to take a sick dog to the vet) to 8p.m. 193rd Battery 8p.m. Did not stay long at the Battery. Put the car away and was home by 9 o’clock. There were visitors at the digs. We played cards and danced until 11:30p.m. I’ve enjoyed all these things, of course, but – it’s too much.

Now the future:-

Friday 28th January. Gas course, 7p.m. to 10p.m.
Saturday 29th January. I could have rambled today but shall not. I should meet Anne in the afternoon but will not. I’ll drive home to Ealing Common. (Haircut 4p.m.) and drive down to Weybridge in the evening. (Winnie, Temple Market 8:30p.m.)
Sunday 30th January. John at Ealing 3p.m. Drive to Greenford for tea. John will go back about 9p.m. Shall meet Anne at 9:30p.m. Sleep the night at Ealing, afterwards.
Monday 31st January. My first call will be in East London, the last in East Southend. There is at least one engagement for every night next week. There are five girls who are my friends. Any one of them could become a sweetheart… All very nice, of course, but too many!

Week-end ahead:

1) A visit to Mad Willy at Chertsey. 2) An all day ramble. 3) Visit to Wolfhampcote. 4) Visit to Akel, at Bury St. Edmunds. 5) Another rendezvous at Weybridge with Winnie. 6) A “foursome” afternoon and evening in Town (John and Co.)

Next month I move to Colchester. Must thereupon cut down some of these contacts.
(She was born on June the First. She will be nineteen on June the First. How delightful! I think I shall call her June!)

Stillness 1938

The only difference between men; the strong and the weak, the powerful and the insignificant… is energy, invincible determination”

Wednesday 26th January 1938

Took Pat to Miss Goddard’s for a foxtrot and waltz lesson. We don’t dance at all well together, any more than we act well together. Incompatible! Yet it will be rather fun to make these discords into harmony.

The friendship with Anne is not ended yet. Five letters have passed between us this week – and four of them crossed in the post. We are to meet again to discuss things at leisure.

Tuesday 25th January 1938

It is only about seven weeks distant – our stage debut. I shiver at the thought. Miss Hollingsworth gave us a lecture, pointing out that some parts were progressing whilst others were not. She praised the Pither – Noah scene. Griffiths and I seem to make a good team. But I’m not satisfied with the Hope Tregoing scenes, or the Stella scene, or the Heatherfield scene – yet.

Pat asked me in to meet the people tonight. Oh, very proper. The parents evidently expected the young man. We had coffee and sandwiches and cigarettes. I was thoroughly cross examined for nearly two hours. Laughing deep down inside me, I obligingly gave evidence as to general character, occupation, religion, politics, home, digs, and all the rest of it. Rather amusing. They must have been rather curious about me cos their daughter could not have given much information! (I told her my Christian name just before we went indoors!)

Nevertheless, I like them. Yes, definitely.

Sunday 23rd January 1938

Drove to Hatfield Broad Oak this afternoon to see Anne. After tea we went for a short run in the Zephyr and Anne informed me that our friendship should now end. We returned to her house, pushed back the kitchen table and tuned the wireless to Radio Normandy. I danced with Anne and her sister Joan.

Anne had to leave for Town by the 7 o’clock bus, so we drove down the road and waited. The conversation continued. I admitted that I had no intention of marriage during the next few years. We both admitted that we were not in love. Anne pointed out that she was nearly 29… The drift of the conversation is apparent. I said I valued her friendship and all that but Anne (perhaps very sensibly) pointed out that friendship between man and woman rarely ends happily for both. The bus suddenly appeared and we hastily parted.

Thursday 20th January 1938

My brother Richard is making efforts to secure Father’s consent in a small matter – enlistment in RNVR, London Division! If he is successful I shall – somehow – leave my beastly little Anti-Aircraft Battery and join RNVR with Richard. Guess I could manage to put in one evening a week now that I’ve settled down here – and can also afford the travelling expenses.

As a preliminary, I tonight revealed my previous service to the 193rd authorities, showing my RNVR discharge papers and casually mentioning the fake statements made on enlistment. “You did that deliberately?” asked the horrified subaltern. “Yes”, I said cheerfully. “Oh, yes, sir!” Am to call back later with regard to this matter.

Wednesday 19th January 1938

My fatal day – the nineteenth! Lucky also this time. Away early and drove to Colchester. In a village I saw a builders office. Jumped out of the car, dashed in: saw the right man at the right moment. Demonstrated Undercoat Paste, sold a hundredweight. Good trade refs. Readily given. If all calls were like that!

Afternoon at Wrights (Colchester) Ltd. The firm where I tried a new “approach”.
After talking to the Secretary and their two travellers (my first experience of group selling) for two hours, I received an opening stock order - £34. That makes my week’s turnover £40 and a record!

Left Colchester at 5 o’clock – twilight. Drove hard. Home 6:10. Pat Retallack and I arrived at the Ritz simultaneously at 7:30, just as the second programme commenced.

Tuesday 18th January 1938

Lady Macbeth – Hope Tregoring – No, I think her own name, Pat Retallack, is the nicest. After the class ended I waited a few seconds before leaving. Pat stood demurely in the passage whilst the others hurried out. Waited, with perfect composure. In four minutes the Zephyr stood outside her gate. Feeling rather as Mad Willy did recently, I said bluntly, “I should like to see more of you. May I?”
She agreed quietly, serenely. I felt amazed, just as Mad Willy did in similar circumstances. We arranged to go to the Pictures tomorrow night. (Together. Not alone.) I drove home, whistling incoherently.

Monday 17th January 1938

Evening: Called at Pa Shervill’s and discussed guns and poetry. We mentioned nothing apropos of the previous conversation but I had received a letter from Pa which mentioned, casually: “I think it only right that you should know that last night, Lois told me she looked up to me as a father, so that’s that. I hope that there will still be a pleasant friendship…” He has courage, Pa. Gallantry!

Apropos of Nothing:-
Blast the winter! Damn and blast!

Monday 17th January 1938

Evening: Called at Pa Shervill’s and discussed guns and poetry. We mentioned nothing apropos of the previous conversation but I had received a letter from Pa which mentioned, casually: “I think it only right that you should know that last night, Lois told me she looked up to me as a father, so that’s that. I hope that there will still be a pleasant friendship…” He has courage, Pa. Gallantry!

Apropos of Nothing:-
Blast the winter! Damn and blast!

Saturday 15th January 1938

Met Mad Willy this afternoon and gossiped at the Old Mill House, Thorpe. He told me all the news of the Works and also confided that he was in love again! Yes, Miss Ealey (Joan Walmsley’s friend) had been moved into the lab. office. Mad Willy had been unable to withstand her charms at such close range. (History repeats! “I expect the men will soon be talking” he said, gloomily.) At last, when they were alone in the office, he asked her to come to the Pictures – “In a terrible dead silence” He then gazed hopelessly and numbly through the window amazed at his own impudence.
Of course, she said “yes” and they had a nice time and are meeting again. Good old Maddison!

Further to an interchange of letters, I met Winnie Clow tonight. She was previously the efficient and attractive maid at the Victoria Inn. Strange sort of girl. Frightfully ingenuous and idealistic. I believe she idealises me, in some queer way! Doesn’t know mw very well, of course. I rang Waybridge 1456 to make the rendezvous. Afterwards we drove aimlessly around in the bright moonlight, walked across St. Anne’s Hill and threw stones in the Well.

Tuesday 11th January 1938

Don’t go to the pictures so often now. Have more things to do! I’m not lonely anymore.

This elocution class is really improving my voice. It has become clearer, deeper, stronger. I’ve always thought that the least possible thing for me was a resonant voice, but now I’m not so sure!

NB. They call her Pat – Pat Retallack, Hope Tregoring.

Monday 10th January 1938

There were few calls to make in the Southend area so I soon decided to seek pastures new, in the shape of Burnham on Crouch. Lunch at a snug little café at Rayleigh.
A winsome, dark-eyed girl served me quietly. Presently, a man entered carefully, leading a terrier. Foreign accent, thick spectacles. Interesting. We soon entered into conversation. Had he been in Essex long? Eight months. He lived at South Woodham. “I shall stay until I have done one certain thing”, he said deliberately. “Perhaps that will be September.” Several times, as we talked, the girl came through. Each time she looked at me, unreadable. Once, as she went out I looked straight at her. I could see and feel her eyes in the shadowy corridor, as the door slowly closed. Weird!

And what was that certain thing? The strangers name was George Sinclair – a very English name! He gave me his address, asked me to call sometime. “And this is not a Chinese invitation,” he added, “I really hope you will come.” We shook hands politely. In the passage, I paid my bill. Without speaking, the quiet girl opened the street door for me.

Outside, it was raining. Soon as I dashed along beyond the river, water was beginning to drip through the roof onto my right ankle. Burnham on Crouch. Forgetting strange fancies, I made four calls. In each case I talked smoothly and confidently, to the right man. Four promising contacts, two orders, both from yacht builders. Then – half past four – the road homewards. The winding, darkling road towards Battlesbridge… Until it was night and the headlights swung.

Sunday 9th January 1938

Early morning pot of tea on the table between our beds. Washed and shaved in the bedroom (h. and c. laid on!) I dressed first. When Ella and Lois rushed playfully in, John was clad in a shirt and nothing else!

A glorious breakfast – and all this involved a charge of only 10/-. Rucsacks loaded we swung along the footpaths. From the summit of Leigh Hill we were able to see the gleam of sunshine on water – the English Channel, far to the south. We tramped through woods, macs strapped outside the ruckers. Lunch at the Stephan Langton, Friday Street. A man with an affected voice at the next table was laughing loudly, so I laughed uproariously at nothing in particular, until he was subdued.

On we went, Mr Hammond carrying his suitcase. 76 year old “Pa” plodded on, chuckling at the boisterousness of John and I. Joan Yeatlee often walked alone, picked gorse, yellow gorse and fastened that, also, outside her rucsack. Ella always leading, finding the way, sometimes consulting John, who also had a map. (So Lois was older than myself; 30 or 31 perhaps…)

Tea at Dorking, then the cars. Lois drove the Zephyr to New Malden. She is very “game” and always has a go at the job in hand. (“You little horror!” she exclaimed as I viciously switched headlights onto the rear of a car which had overtaken and dazzled us.) We left Lois with her relatives at New Malden. Queer people… John disembarked at Staines, obviously intrigued.

“Pa” and I drove homewards through the darkness. He sat in the back and talked; rugs around him. We travelled fast at first, but as the car began to pass around the north of London, my passenger’s conversation became interesting. So interesting, so personal, that I sat still, listening well, whilst the Zephyr’s speed dropped to 30. Whilst that gentle, clear voice flowed subtly, I could have driven indefinitely.
First, he discussed myself. Was I in a position to marry? Of course one had to find the right girl… A rambling club was the right place to find decent, straight girls, wasn’t it? I agreed but made no comment. Still he mentioned no name. (30, 30, 25, 30. Epping Forest.)

Did I realise that perhaps many girls joined rambling clubs etc hoping to find straight, decent men? I pretended amazement. (If only I could describe this infinitely clever conversation word for word!) (What was he aiming at. Lois was his friend. He’d noticed I was attracted… Was he probing? Matchmaking?) (We came to the Southend Arterial Road. Still the Zephyr crawled at 30.) Now, Miss Rogers for instance; did I notice how she took his arm to guide him when the path was rough? She was a nice thoughtful girl. (Ah! I’d guessed correctly!)

But gradually he changed the subject to himself, so delicately that at the last I was not even faintly surprised. Normally I would have been shocked, almost disgusted. (For I’d guessed wrongly!) He wanted to marry again. Although he was 76 he felt like a man of 50. Of course one had to be careful in choosing a wife… He must be in love and so must she. (Suddenly I knew everything! But I had to hear him say it, so I probed… gently…) Oh, yes, he wanted a woman young enough to have a child. Forty? No, about thirty or so. Of course, she must love him, or marriage was a mockery…

(The Zephyr droned along at 30, towards Laindon.) Yes, he thought he had found the right woman – if she loved him. He’d said to Miss Rogers a few weeks ago, “Now, if I were 25 years younger I’d be courting you.” Oh, she had made a non-committal, half serious reply. He had given her presents, which she accepted. Her family liked him. She was always very kind. Miss Rogers. Oh of course, he had to be sure of his ground before he asked her definitely. (The car turned off the main road, into Eastwood. 10 o’clock.) Yes, he had enjoyed talking to me about it. He hoped I would tell him about my love affairs, when I began. Naturally it would be someone younger than myself… that was best, wasn’t it?

He would send me a book of his poems; “Let Nothing You Dismay”

Saturday 8th January 1938

The Rambling Club’s Weekend in Surrey. Droning cars; strange, serious conversations; happy tramping in the Surrey hills; boisterous laughter and tomfoolery… Bizarrerie!…

Called for “Pa” Shervill at 9:45. (He is 76… Poet. Failing eyesight. A good walker. Nervous of traffic – his age shows in little ways like that. Sharp witted – dry repartee. The pathos of age which mixes with youth and tries to keep the same pace…)

After one business call, we left Leigh at 10:30 a.m. Had a snack – I also had a drink – at the Zuyder Zee, a quaint roadhouse near Ashford. A dance floor and a bar (members only) The place has possibilities! Collected John at Staines, 1:15. Packed his things in my ruc-sack; ha acted as the navigator until we reached New Malden and picked up the dominating, energetic Lois. Usually dashed about in an important looking Vauxhall. Not very impressed by the Zephyr (She calls it a “noisy tin”.)

I joined the AA yesterday and so carried a gleaming badge on the stem of Zephyr. I fervently hoped we should meet a Scout, thus regaining prestige. And we did! I returned his salute with calculated nonchalance. “You belong to the AA?” asked the amazed Lois. “Of course” I said solemnly, “Who doesn’t?”. John of course knew all about it. I glanced in the driving mirror and saw his delighted face. We were both silently convulsed for some moments!

At Dorking, we met les autres.

1) Mr Hammond, a quiet, elderly individual.
2)Ella Dorken, the middle aged, placid leader, and
3) Joan Yeatlee (of Yeatlee’s, Hadleigh) Fairly young, not pretty. Nicer, cleverer and more well bred than would be at first apparent.

Seven of us tramped through the rain. Tea at a smelly little café in Westcott. “A cat” I muttered. “Noah” said Yorkshire John, “Ten cats” “Twenty cats!” “One hundred cats!” “Every cat in Surrey!” we bellowed with extreme vulgarity.

In the evening we reached Brackenside Guest House, Peaslake. Our wet coats and ruckers were taken away to be dried; we were shown our rooms. John and I in a double. At 7:30 we descended to a luxurious dinner. (Maid serving from one’s elbow and all that!) Then to the drawing room. A maid arrived with coffee on a silver tray – I had a black. Ping-pong on a ripping large table. John licked everyone with his smashing strokes – allowed me 10 points, too! Everyone beat me except Lois. I was determined to beat her, and did. Two successive games. Curiously, she was a better player than some of the others but somehow I had to win.

Later, sitting by the fire, I discovered a kindred spirit! Lois is practical and yet aesthetic! They played Lexicon but when Lois, John and I returned it was Pontoon. Twelve matches = 1d! Mr Hammond bought at 19 and twisted at 20! Not once but several times! “Aye, you’re bust all right” said John crushingly as he glanced at Mr Hammond’s cards, “Twenty six…”

Bed, midnight or so. John and I discussed poor Mr Hammond with guffaws of mirth. Then we discussed his (John’s) relatives and various soothing and unimportant matters. Finally we (simultaneously, I think) fell asleep.

Tuesday 4th January 1938

Two orders – one a new account. Great Baddow and Colchester.

New Discipline Act 1938: Modified form of last year’s Act comes into force within the next few weeks. This should suit the new conditions. I need something like this. Getting beastly slack again.

New Discipline Act:

a) Swotting. (English) 2 hours per week. Feb. 20th
b) Keeping Fit. Mentally and Physically. Jan. 13th
c) Economy. 30/- per week to be reserved (including £1 for h.p.) except weeks during which major and necessary expense occurs. This does not apply to commission cheques – banked in any case. Jan. 15th
d) Early Rising. 5 days at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 17th
e) Work. A minimum of 6 hours (day) (excluding lunchtime and office work) Jan 17th

Monday 3rd January 1938

Two orders – one a new account. Westcliff and Southend.

Saturday 1st January 1938

"Auld Lang Syne”; people shaking hands with perfect strangers; snatching their caps; dancing in a ring; bursting balloons. A girl seized my hat and bolted. When I caught her she wrenched at my tie whilst her friend tore at my scarf. One in each arm until John and the others came to the rescue. We tied the scarf round one girl, yelling “A captive to Rome!”

After a hectic hour we oozed out of the Circus, located the car and drove homewards.
After leaving Dick and Pepita, John solemnly revealed that he had a bottle of rum in his pocket. But no water! So I took a stiff drink neat and for several minutes Ealing resounded to my coughs and splutters. “God help you, John,” I gasped. “I’m driving you down to Staines!” John, presumably terror-stricken, took a stiff portion himself. More terrible coughs. At Staines he gave me another (diluted this time, thank heavens!). So I arrived home at 3:30 feeling depressed and ready for bed.

Evening: Met Jack and May (Mr and Mrs Garratt!) at St. Pancras, 6:30. Conducted them to the Strand Palace Hotel. Jack nonchalantly signed the register… They were anxious that I should not leave them! So I drove them around Marble Arch, Park Lane and the Royalty district. Everything was a thrill to them. My mind swung back to the evening of January 1st 1930, when Jack and I went to Thurmaston on my bicycle and he introduced me to the Rover Crew. Eight years ago to the day!

Got back to the Strand at 9:30p.m. (“Oh, Steve”, said May fearfully, thinking of the millions of alien people in London, “Do you live far away?”) They wanted me to come in again but I said I had to be getting along. Damn, it’s their honeymoon, not mine!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Friday 31st December 1937

New Year’s Eve!

Opened a new account – my own St. Christopher’s Garage – for cellulose materials; made a few feeble calls and set forth. Drove again through London to the West End and parked Zephyr. Feeling strangely provincial, I then went to Waterloo because that was a familiar place. Had a sandwich; sat in the news theatre; had a wash and brush up.

Met John in the evening. Dined at Schmidt’s. John produced huge cigars. We puffed at these. Defiantly pulled our RA ties out so that they dangled over our waistcoats.
Called at The Fitzroy for a drink, operated various pin tables, visited a Winchester rifle range in the Strand. Met Dick and Pepita at 10:30. We decided this should be our last year on the streets, with the crowds. Next year – The Chelsea Art’s Ball!

Five minutes to twelve: the surging mass at Piccadilly Circus. Good weather. More people than last year. Suddenly everyone cheered. I could see no clock, but it was Midnight!

Tuesday 28th December 1937

Up early, for a long drive. The Zephyr would not start; battery run-down. Back to the flat for breakfast, determined not to be fed-up. At last the garage men got the engine roaring. (“Keep her going” said the mechanic, “or else she’ll give up”.)

I drove home; dashed in for my luggage – the Zephyr still roaring – and eventually left for Leicester at 9:15. Droning northwards, through fog, through rain, through fog and rain. Visibility 200 yards, 100 yards, 400 yards. 40-35-45 miles per hour.
St. Albans, Dunstable, Fenny Stratford, Towcester. I stopped for petrol. By this time the battery had charged and the engine bellowed as soon as I pulled the doings.

“Weedon and Daventry” That signpost made me happy. Remembered names! Down Braunston Hill, by familiar roads, through Dunchurch, Rugby and Lutterworth. Then Leicester. Half past one. Called on the Woods. All just the same, and Mr Wood as unctuous as ever with his irritating little cough, as he held forth. The Garratts. When I called, Jack was wearing his old Scout jersey! The very same one but now with a ten year star on the left breast. We discussed his honeymoon arrangements. I went with Jack and May to their house at Birstall. They proudly showed me around. Furnished and ready for occupation!

Clear of Leicester by 4:30. Near the City boundary a man signalled. “Could you give me a lift to Southend?” Southend! He lived at Southchurch; an out-of-work named Patsy Taylor. He knew Sweeny, (193 Battery) who was mess tent orderly at camp.
So I had company for the night drive! Oadby, Glenn, Kilworth, Kettering, Thrapston.
Recklessly turned on the headlights and increased speed, towards St. Neots. The talkative passenger became quiet, then fell asleep. The road rolled on…
As the headlights swung, I saw a single word on a signpost pointing to the right; “Granchester” - Rupert Brooke’s idyllic village! “But Granchester! Ah, Granchester! There’s peace and holy quiet there…”

Taylor awoke. “Where is it, St. Neots?” “No, Cambridge.” A charming town; wide roads on the outskirts, picturesque little streets at the centre. We stopped for bread and cheese at a lorry driver’s café. Then into Essex. Saffron Walden, Thaxted, Dunmow, Chelmsford. Did the run from Duke Street, Chelmsford in 33 minutes and arrived at St. Christopher’s Garage ½ a minute before closing time.

The Zephyr had done about 240 miles and behaved magnificently, apart from the initial trouble.

Friday 24th December 1937

By eleven o’clock I was on the road home. Everything cleared up! Home for an idle Christmas, with no thoughts of paint or things connected therewith.

Thursday 23rd December 1937

My ninth call was a “promising contact” with the Borough Parks Superintendent. No more selling until after Christmas! I’ll be glad of the change.

This evening I called at Roedean, with a bottle of port. They had a new wireless and Nancy and I were soon dancing. She also is having lessons, so we made a good pair. The band only played fox-trots, so our lack of skill was not too apparent. One of the tunes was, “Afraid to Dream”. I know that will always remind me of this winter. It is one of Margaret Goddard’s favourites and in fact I performed my first clumsy fox-trot to that particular piece.

Mrs Butler plied me with port apparently thinking I had brought the bottle “for consumption on the premises”, so that I drove home in a rather screwy-eyed state. Still feel a bit screwy-eyed now! I sit alone beside the fire. Half past twelve. Christmas Eve!

Tuesday 21st December 1937

Tonight we rehearsed “Fantastic Flight” on the stage. I drove Hope Tregoring to her beastly nearby home. Pursuing my discoveries – She is a shorthand typist, works locally, has lived in Southend about four years. She spent some time abroad in her childhood. Her father was with a cable and wireless company, hence the trips to foreign parts. Alighting (or emerging) from the Zephyr, she went towards the house.
Would she look back at the gate? Would she? Yes! She turned at the gate and smiled demurely!

I then drove home, elated at the smile but gloomy because I should not see her until January eleventh, Nineteen Thirty Eight. This is priceless! After being alone and content for so long, I simultaneously discover two attractive girls!

Monday 20th December 1937

Quarter past eleven of a cold and frosty morning before I was on the road today. Business is slack and so am I. Took one order however, from a synthetics customer – cycle manufacturer and therefore unaffected by the seasonal slump. Also, had a “pleasant interview” with the Southend Borough Surveyor; first time I’ve been admitted to the Presence.

At home I found a cheery but almost pathetic letter from Jack Garratt. He’s getting married on New Year’s Day! Yes, the bride is May! They are spending a three day’s honeymoon in London. Jack wrote to the Royal Hotel, Woburn Place, but May thought it might be a “bit too posh”. So would I find a nice, quiet hotel for them, and also meet or arrange to have them met, at the station? I don’t believe either of them have ever been to Town before. In their eyes London, the Metropolis. (And in mine too, if it came to that.) So in my Christmastide diary is a reminder; - “Arrange for Jack’s Honeymoon Hotel”.

From tea at Sway, to the dancing school. Afterwards, with rhythm in my blood, I went to a gramaphone shop and bought a record of an intoxicating tune – “I’ve got you under my skin”. Have not got an instrument but perhaps Margaret Goddard will let me have it played on the radiogram. I’d love dancing to that music.

Went to the Tudor Teahouse; a sort of Club sub-committee meeting on a ramble in Surrey which is being planned for next month. Present; three girls and myself. Not enough men in the Club! Drove Lois Rogers home to Eastwood afterwards. She seemed somewhat amused at the idea of anyone buying a record without a gramaphone and invited me in, to have the thing played. The gramaphone was somewhat asthmatic but performed bravely. Lois also played some German records. To my surprise, I learnt that she writes poetry as a hobby. Didn’t think she was that type, somehow.

Saturday 18th December 1937

This must be one of the most expensive days on record. Apart from £2-0-0 sent home for family Christmas gifts I spent £1-8-6 on local presents. 3 months tax on the car - £1-13-0. Dancing lessons 5/- Dancing shoes 17/- Pictures and garage 2/- Cigarette stock 7/6.

This afternoon I had my first Tango lesson. Rather ambitious so early perhaps but I’ve always wanted to Tango. Cruising along Western Esplanade I saw members of the CHA Club tramping townwards. So I met them in the evening after they’d had tea and we all went to the Pictures. A full day!

And still bitterly cold.

Midnight 1937-38 and Stillness 1938

S.J.Dawson, Sway, Carlton Avenue, Westcliff on Sea.
Later: 168, Butt Road, Colchester, Essex

“…They fell because their people were not fit!”

Friday 17th December 1937

Anti-gas course. The class donned masks – in 20 seconds from the “slung” position and 12 seconds from the “alert” position. War in Spain! War in China!

I conclude Twilight 1937 with an extract from tonight’s notes:

“System of air attack on civilians. Probable system would be, first, incendiary bombs, second, HE bombs, third, gas bombs…”

Thursday 16th December 1937

Lounged about the house, talking to Mother until 12:30. Then I left hastily and dashed around London to Gidea Park where I had a hasty lunch at a squash bar.
Very cold, but dry and windless.

Starting work at 3 o’clock I made seven rapid calls in Billericay and Wickford. Home 4:15 to find an order for six gallons which only required mailing to the office. Cushy days work!

At 5 o’clock I was at Margaret Goddard’s learning the waltz. At 8 o’clock I was at the drill hall. Collected 15/- Payment for the black-out show and travelling expenses.

Wednesday 15th December 1937

Went to the Office today, making a few calls en route. Collected a keg of distemper (being returned for re mixing) and a cheque. Thus loaded, the Zephyr rumbled westwards along frosty roads between white fields. Wintry landscape. Cautiously found my way through Manor Park, Hampstead, Kilburn to the West End. Left the keg of distemper at Harrow Road (first time I’d been there since my lorry boy days).

Office 4 o’clock. Mr Packman was there; (previously, Packy of Sales Promotions Ltd). A hasty talk to the cashier, Mr Pullen. A discussion with the sales manager, Mr Reddall. Then Packy and I left and went to Fleet Street. Not a bit changed since becoming a Paripan representative – Packy. His future prospects, secretly confided to me, are bright too. (“Don’t tell anyone else, old man”) By Jove! How jealous the other reps would be if they knew! He then told me about the “outfit” which I met at Birmingham and at Soho Square.

Toothless Tom Hammond had gone back to his old job in a West End china shop and was no longer toothless. HF Insoll was still at Soho Square, “staving off the creditors”. Gledhill was dead – fell down an area; I knew that. Marky and Jimmie Rigg had started a sales promotion agency but recently Rigg assumed control and sacked Marky. The irony of it! A few months previously Marky could have sacked Jimmie! We called at Jimmie Riggs office; he seemed fairly prosperous. Looked just the same as when he gave me first lessons in salesmanship – fat little face glistening. “Marky wired me, “Guildford isn’t finished yet”. By this I could only assume that the beer in Guildford wasn’t finished”.

Marky recently tried to get a job as a Post Office Sorter (temporary) and failed. I eventually left Packy and Jimmie Rigg in a Fleet Street pub. Retrieved the Zephyr and drove home to Ealing.

Tuesday 14th December 1937

Business becomes slacker. It’s natural; next week is Christmas Week – and the weather’s vile. Yesterday I sold one half gallon of paint. Today I sold two gallons and also collected £1 “cash towards settlement”… The calls in between were pretty fruitless however.

Each year I decide; “This winter I must learn to dance” Indeed I usually record the determination in my diary. Ever since the winter of 1933 I believe! This year I again make the resolution – but it’s gone a little further this time. I’m taking lessons at Margaret Goddard’s School. The fee is 2/6 for 30 minutes so it ought to be good. Had the first lesson this afternoon. Learnt to fox-trot. The walk, the chassee(?), the turn, the sidestep. Felt rather an awkward worm but not such an awkward worm as I had expected.

“Fantastic Flight” this evening. Am gradually picking up the jolly old drift of the thing. Afterwards, the other half of the class rehearsed their play. The Expert beckoned to me from a corner; I went across. “You know, you’re still not tender enough in that scene with Hope Tregoring” she admonished. I admitted that this was so and promised to improve. The Expert then left me; it was her cue in “Family Comedy”. I took a deep breath, shivered and glanced at Lady Macbeth-Hope Tregoring sitting very demurely in the front row. (She is rather demure.) Walking across to her I whispered, “Come to the back of the class. I want to discuss our scenes”. She came and we talked vaguely. I explained that we must be more affectionate “After all, we’re in love during that first scene y’know” (“Oh no, it’s the Expert that says so, not me, Oh yes!”) She agreed sedately. We discussed the play generally. I arranged our departure for the right moment. We came out simultaneously – I made sure of that too! “May I give you a lift home?” I enquired cautiously. “Yes!” she said gratefully, “If you go up the road”. “Oh I do” I said , truthfully this time.

Dashing out to the Zephyr I wound it up, made the engine roar and warm up. I was cleaning the windows when Lady Macbeth came, wearing a beret and looking amazingly like Margaret Dering, only not so thin and delicate. There was a thick fog; the Zephyr crawled along Victoria Avenue. “You live at 218, don’t you?” I remarked casually and rashly. “Now, how do you know that?” she exclaimed with natural amazement. I hastily became humorous! Number 218 was reached all too soon. I found that she lived at home and that Retallack was a Cornish name. Thought it was rather unusual!

What a fool! What a weed! What a specimen!

Sunday 12th December 1937

Cold – but sunny. A day’s rambling with the CHA Club. Hockley, Hullbridge, Battlesbridge, Rayleigh.

Louis Rogers led the ramble – a tall, fair, not-very-pretty girl. A jolly good route. The keen wind blew but we were soon warm. Beastly muddy; this was good fun.
I came back at 6 o’clock feeling quite fit and not tired. Smoked a few pipes during the day, but very few cigarettes.

Friday 10th December 1937

Rather interested in Gas, so I recently telephoned the Borough Officer for Air Raid Precautions – Colonel Buckland – and subsequently had an interview with him.
Being a Territorial I am, of course ineligible for civilian instruction but he very decently “forgot” this and gave me a vacancy in a Police Anti-Gas Course. Attended this evening, for the first time.

I walked into a long room… At the far end was a raised dais. A Sergeant and a Chief Inspector sat here. Below the dais were three or four rows of desks. I was early. As I approached I noted with satisfaction that each place was provided with foolscap and an ashtray. The other students gradually arrived. Ages ranged from 22-23 to upwards of 50. I later discovered that most of them were Special Constables. During the past few years I’ve taken many courses. (How difficult it seems at first. Success seems impossible; one can never master the subject.) However I’ve never started a course with quite so much interest as now.

During the evening our respirators were fitted. Box type; one draws the air through a charcoal container. Curious sensation, wearing a gas mask. One is conscious of breathing but breathing is not difficult. One looks around at the sinister figures of the others. They look expressionless, have lost their individualities. Then you realise that you are the same! We were given a demonstration of respirator drill by two old hands. From the “slung” position, one should be masked in 10 seconds; from the “alert” in 8 seconds. Most of the fellows in this class do not intend to go overseas. They are learning this to protect themselves as civilians, in case of war.

This year of Grace, 1937!

Wednesday 8th December 1937

"John Davidson” bought some Paripan paint at a Chelmsford ironmongers but alas! Credit for the order did not go to Stephen Dawson the ambitious representative for East Essex (but not, apparently, Chelmsford).

Reported by a polite P.C. in Chelmsford, for causing obstruction. Warned by another polite P.C. in Witham for the same thing. The law is hard on poor travellers, nowadays.

Another cosy port of call on my list now – The Commercial Café, Kelvedon – on the Witham-Colchester Road. A lorry drivers place. Very warm. Very cold on the road today, and very wet. Beastly draughty in the rattling Zephyr.

Peculiar interview with the Secretary of Wrights (Colchester) Ltd, Builders Merchants. One of the three new clients in Colchester recently gave Wrights as a trade reference. I rang them from Southend to confirm this and Mr Fisher (the Sec.) then mentioned the question of sales through merchants. Today’s interview was the result of that long distance call. My “prospect” was very courteous and friendly – yet Wrights is an old firm and not, so far as I know, in financial difficulties! So instead of flourishing colour cards and asking the buyer to “give us a trial”, I stressed the fact that we needed a stockist and one stockist only in Colchester, that we preferred to deal via the merchant, that the Paripan representative would gladly co-operate in obtaining business. And so forth. Will this method work? We shall see!

Tuesday 7th December 1937

I emerged from the class room at the same time as my rather attractive wife, Stella (in the play!) “May I give you a lift home?” I enquired cautiously. “Yes!” she said gratefully, “If you go the same way – Southchurch…” “Oh, I live at Thorpe Bay” I lied. “Have to go through Southchurch in any case.”

On the way I discovered that Stella was 19, was in an insurance office in Town; had to turn out at 6 a.m. each morning; and that her father possessed an SS Jaguar (dashing type of car).

Monday 6th December 1937

If all selling days were like this! Started at 10a.m., was home again by 4p.m and finished my office work by 5:30p.m. Half an hour for lunch. Ten calls – in Leigh, Hadleigh, South Benfleet and Canvey Island. Four orders. That’s 40%! The orders were small but two of them were new accounts – and good accounts! Fielder Estates Ltd, and AH Beaumont, Canvey Casino. Another unusual piece of fortune – at 9 of the calls I saw the right man. 90%! I’ve never been so lucky before. So I felt full of pep all day – a real salesman. I took four orders, heard a complaint and received a cheque for an overdue account. No wonder I whistled wild Scottish airs as I came home!

Evening: 193 Battery for a lecture (all we get nowadays). Very cold and muddy. Demmer and I sat at the back of the class, whilst Captain Bailey talked about “Allowances for abnormal conditions”. At first we took notes and tried to become interested in his calculations – “If the change of temperature is 65 degrees and the barometer at Battery height is 30.18 degrees and the ballistic temperature is 57 degrees then the Normal Ballistic Height Correction of Section is – 2.98%”.

After trying to follow the drift of this for some time, Demmer sat still and looked bored, whilst I played noughts and crosses – my left hand against my right.

When the lecture ended we went to a little café and had tea and cakes, with another dubious disciple – Ward. We talked about the good old days – last summer! – when BHC and other rot was not mentioned.

Saturday 4th December 1937

CHA Ramble from Pitsea through Nevendon to Hovefield. What a district for a winter ramble! We had tea at the Blue Bird Café. First snowfall made the place very “Christmassy”. Outside it was also cold and wet!

One of the members is a Miss Shelton. I gave her a lift from Horndon on the Hill today. Also her sister. I had met her before! On April 21st (What a different season!) – “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”. Looking back to Morning Mists, to that pleasant day in new country, with a car – Macstan! How right the firm was, how wrong I was!

Churchill Johnson. My second attempt to become established here has just failed. There is still hope but I’m not sure that I want a stockist, now. Have adopted a different policy – a policy of selling direct at low prices. In all Area “A” except Hadleigh. Allen. Never done any good there either – yet. Hussey and Crabb. Doesn’t use much paint but Mr Hussey has given me four orders altogether since then. “When he discovered Paripan was not stocked in the district, he kinda lost interest.” All the same, he dealt with us eventually – direct!

Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd December 1937

I gradually became known at certain cafes and so forth. In several localities, have a regular port of call for lunch, tea or a snack. Laindon – “Mansfield”, at Langdon Hills. Southend – Garon’s, Victoria Circus. I always go to the same corner and am served by the same waitress. Now she knows me and gives me a snug table by a radiator. Chelmsford – The Oasis Café.

I discovered the Oasis one cold night in October, as I returned from Anne’s place at Hatfield. Since then I’ve often been there. It is just outside Chelmsford, on the Colchester Road. I now use it as a second accommodation address – in the name of John Davidson. Mr Davidson is going to order a quart of Duripan Hard Gloss from a Chelmsford ironmonger. If Paripan sends a copy of this order to the East Essex representative, Mr Dawson will then know that Chelmsford is his territory. This has been a better week for business. Because: a) I obtained a three month’s contract for U/Coat Paste White at Leigh; b) A dance hall at Southend is being converted into a new employment exchange.

Tuesday 30th November 1937

“Are you in love with Hope Tregoring?” asked the Expert, looking at the script of “Fantastic Flight” as the rehearsal ended. “I’ve been wondering about that”, I said, “I rather think I am, you know. Did you - ?”

“Oh, yes, I think you are” she said confidently. “Well you ought to be a little more tender, in her scenes”. “Yes, rather! That’s a good idea!” I said, with marked enthusiasm.

Saturday 27th November 1937

Evening ticket to Liverpool Street – 2/1d. Up by the 5:30 from Southend. Pleasant change to go by train instead of driving, but these LNER carriages are not very comfortable. However, I had a “thriller” by Philip MacDonald and was happy enough. (Those 6d Crime Club (Pocket Edition) books are very handy for travellers).

Jolly to be in London again – the tubes, the crowds. In Southend, the predominant element of the people is something below middle class. In Surrey and the Thames Valley this is not so; and the same applies to London’s West End. Met John at Piccadilly Circus – “the very breath and heartbeat of the world” – and we had dinner at Schmidt’s once more.

Afterwards, we had decided to see a show at the Duke of York’s. Arrived there rather late, we stood discussing which seats were to be taken. Suddenly I saw a notice which bluntly read; “Dress Circle Full”. Glancing along a line of similar ominous notices we eventually saw the final, “House Full”. So we went to the newly opened Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square, where the premiere of “Prisoner of Zenda” was being shown.

Came back to Liverpool Street and had a cup of tea and a sandwich before catching the 12:20 down. Wished it had been Waterloo – for auld lang syne. And the same difference in type of people is evident at Liverpool Street and Waterloo as at Southend and Staines. No, perhaps not quite so evident. From Liverpool Street also, people journey to Frinton and the better class areas around Chelmsford. Cold carriage on the way down. Then half an hours walk to “Sway” in the crisp coldness.

Bed 2:30.

Thursday 25th November 1937

Good luck in Area “B”. After a miserable, hopeless forenoon I obtained three orders (all new clients!) within an hour at Colchester. All builders. So I faced the long drive homewards, more cheerfully. Over £6 today – and they all gave trade refs. Readily enough.

I am not fit. I must become fit again.

Wednesday 24th November 1937

A grim day – no orders. Evening at 193. Drew annual Bounty - £3-10-0. It was only 30/- last year.

Monday 22nd November 1937

After a long sleep – 11:45p.m. to 8:30 a.m. – I started the day with no set programme. As the winter deepens, my prospects become fewer. (I can’t make the long journey into Area “B” every day.)

This was a cold and miserable day; at this time of the year they always are – climatically. However I prowled around, made eleven calls and took one order. Was able to unearth a few new prospects in Great Wakering of all places. And at lunchtime I took 45 minutes off, parked the car and went to Garron’s. I found a warm corner near a radiator and was served by the same waitress who used to listen to Packy and I, arguing about baked beans and welsh rarebit.

Went to the Ritz cinema in the evening. The organ interlude – old songs bought memories. “Wedding of the Painted Doll” – The Leicester dirt tracks in 1929; “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine” – That very weary ride from Peterborough week-end camp in 1930 – and the camp at Laughton. “Lovely Lady” – Madge, Kapai, a punt drifting on the Colne. “One Night of Love” – It could evoke many memories but quaintly, as the organ played I first remembered St. Anne’s Hill and mud on a February evening, 1935. And Peggy. It all came back – the feeling it could not last, that it must soon be ended and, tragically how it could all never come true!

Next morning in the colour shop, I asked Vic Howard what the tune was that he whistled? “My Old Home”, he replied, after rumination. “No, that’s not the one I’m thinking of.” A little tune, half-known had been haunting me the evening before. For no reason! … “One Night of Love”

Ah! In those days I did not leave a car in the park when I went to the Pictures! And I wasn’t alone.

Sunday 21st November 1937

Thick fog – like a blanket. Anne came to lunch at Hawthorn Court. Mother thought she was “very nice” and “ladylike”. An apt summing up. Took Anne home, called for Mrs Butler and was on the North Circular Road at 7:30p.m. About 5 miles from Ealing I spoilt my hitherto “clean” record as a driver.

We were droning comfortably along a nice, wide, one-way road. We had topped the crest and were running downhill but I did not realise this cos of the blasted fog. The stream of traffic was suddenly held up at an invisible cross-roads by an invisible policeman. The shape of the next car ahead, loomed out of the fog. For a moment, I did not realise that it had stopped. I put on the brake, thought, “It’s not slowing up enough, it won’t pull up in time”, then crash! JN4218 struck GMX330, bending the rear bumper and denting the body. My car was not damaged badly except for a dented and slightly leaking radiator and smashed glass in the offside headlamp. The other driver and I took each other’s particulars, shook hands and parted.

(“I didn’t even cry Oo!” said Mrs Butler proudly. She did though. I heard her!) The rest of the journey was uneventful. There was no fog from Edmonton to Laindon, so we did the whole run in 2 ½ hours. Not too bad.

Saturday 20th November 1937

Gave Mrs Butler and Iris a lift to Town. 1 3/4 hours from Southend to Ealing Common – record time. In the wintry afternoon, at twilight, I reached Deerbrook. Cosy and informal. Mr Hose helped me with “Fantastic Flight”.

First he read the script then we went through the difficult parts again and again. (He is no faker; he does know something about it!) I also had to explain the car and my new address.

Friday 19th November 1937

£14 this week. Business grows slacker. Have opened several new accounts however.

Finished before 5 o’clock and went to the pictures – alone soon after tea. Now the week’s work is over, unless tomorrows mail contains something urgent. A fairly crowded weekend lies ahead. I will enjoy it. Relaxation.

Wednesday 17th November 1937

A bitterly cold day. Set forth into the grey country – Nevendon, Vange, Stanford le Hope. Grey names too!

Billericay. Sold 3 gallons S O Gloss to a new client. Lunch at Chelmsford. (It becomes increasingly difficult to find a warm café. I did not succeed today.) Waited, shivering, half an hour, to see an estate builder in Broomfield Road. And eventually – “Nothing today old man; too busy. See you next week”.

I glance covetously at the large prosperous town of Chelmsford. The only people I can visit there are County Council architects etc and builders who trade from an address in my district. Chelmsford! I’ll have it soon! Already it forms a salient at the boundary of Areas “A” and “B”. Already I have taken certain suburbs – Great Baddow, Sandon, Bicknacre. Next I will make tentative calls in Margaretting, Broomfield, Springfield and Writtle. When the Firm confirms those calls, the circle will be complete. Siege!

It was dusk and raining steadily, and cold. Fed up I drove homewards, but saw some half-built houses near Sandon. This later led me down a rutted lane to Sandon Hall, where I introduced myself to the builder. (In the pig sties, in the muck.) He gave me a small order and then I drove on more happily.

The windscreen wiper clicked, the engine droned, the water swished under the wheels. I smoked. End of the day.

Tuesday 16th November 1937

The play, “Fantastic Flight” is to actually produced, before an audience, at the end of the winter session. Although that is months away I went cold all over at the mere thought!

I desired information regarding Lady Macbeth – ie Hope Tregoring. So I arrived early at School this evening and cunningly (and casually!) mentioned to Miss Hollingsworth that I had a new address. Would she care to make a note of it? Glancing swiftly at the Class Register I saw – “M. Edith. 18. 218 Victoria Ave. S’End”.

Monday 15th November 1937

On the road by 8:30 and into Area “B”. Did not return until late at night, having sold, altogether, two gallons – at Walton on the Naze.

Foul at seaside places in the winter. And, talking about winter, the seasonal slump in business is now beginning, I think.

Sunday 14th November 1937

I have joined a rambling club again. (“Got to keep fit. Nothin’ left but keepin’ fit.”) The CHA Rambling Club. Today we rambled from Billericay to Brentwood. Fields and footpaths nearly all the way. Nice to have a bit of exercise again. Nice to see the plodding figures, hear the intellectual discussions. Nice to feel hungry when meal-time came.

Returning in the train, we sang old camp fire songs.

Saturday 13th November 1937

Moved from Eastwoodbury to Westcliff on Sea, today. Phyllis Clark’s people.
I’ve loved being at quaint, rural little Eastwoodbury but of course, a change does one good.

Thursday 11th November 1937

My Mother gave me an old watch – a quaint little silver piece. The mainspring was broken, so I left it at a Southend jeweller’s for repair. Called this morning at five to eleven. The watch was ready. I put it in my pocket and came out into the High Street. Almost eleven. People were standing about self-consciously, furtively. Waiting… Boom of sirens. The traffic stopped.

At first I heard a motor car engine running, somewhere nearby. “Shut it orf” said an urgent rough voice. The most perfect Silence followed, in Southend High Street.
Shop blinds creaked and I heard birds singing…Curious emotions are roused by those Two Minutes.

…But the English do not recognise emotion – do they?

Tuesday 9th November 1937

£32 was last week’s turnover. Only just short of the record! Damn good for November.
Yesterday I went to Clacton for the first time. Awful calls except for the last two.

Home 8:30. A long run. My tea consisted of: A bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, a Lyon’s blackberry tart, a bag of roasted peanuts. This I ate as the car droned along behind it’s headlights, near Bicknacre.

Today I experienced bafflement, promise and good fortune in the Leigh – Southend district. This week’s turnover is already above £10 so my graph curve will not fall below “fair”.

Evening: Elocution Class. We read “Fantastic Flight”, a modern One Act Play. I was cast as Noah and am to read this again next week. Lady Macbeth was Hope Tregoring and some other girl was Stella. The girls are to be recast so I don’t know who will play opposite me next week. I felt quite bucked, as “Noah and Hope” were called, when I saw Lady Macbeth move forward. Did not know who was playing it until then. It was rather awkward, having to take a part without having time to read the script and get the gist of the thing. However, Noah suits my character well. First, an idealist young ass who talks hot air, secondly (16 years later!) a grim armaments manufacturer who still keeps a streak of idealism.

Quite a dramatic play. An improvement on Shakespeare.

Thursday 4th November 1937

The night of the east coast black-out.

Number One Gun of the 193rd Battery was stationed at Eastern Avenue, Southend. It took us hours to get the gun through the mud and into position. Then we “stood by”, huddled in greatcoats, munching sandwiches, sipping cocoa from our water bottles.
At midnight the lights all went out and the glow in the sky above the town disappeared. Boom of sirens. The mock air-raid was commencing. We heard raiders droning overhead in the thick low clouds. Saw no sign of them – searchlights revealed nothing – but fired our twelve rounds just the same! Blanks, of course.

Then back to the drill hall and the mud. The men all sleepy, weary and dispirited.
Incredible toil, struggling through the mud with our gun. The lorry could not tow it, so we had to man the drag ropes. It was 5 o’clock when the bloody awkward “instrument” wobbled clumsily into the gun shed. And then we heard that the second crew had also had trouble (at Canvey) and were just arriving with their gun.
More toil? “Bugger em!” I thought, and came home with several others of Number One Section who still remained.

Left Number Two to do their own dirty work!