Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thursday 2nd February 1939

Southend district. Sold 5 gallons white spirit, 1 gallon varnish and 1 cwt. Ceiling White. Total turnover about £1-17-0. Also sold three 1 cwts of Undercoat Paste White, but that was for periodical delivery (March, April and May).

Called for Lois at 4 o’clock. All my vivacity has come back (I deliberately forced it at first) although business is still bad. We drove to Thundersley, left Slinky on the Common and strode gaily into Rayleigh for tea. Lois had planned a surprise for the evening so I did a good deal of speculating but without success. Cunningly I assumed she would take me poodle-faking in the hope that my pseudo-disgruntled remarks would “draw” her. However she just laughed like hell and gave nothing away!

Walked back to Thundersley, found Slinky and drove out to The Royal Oak at Paglesham.
(My inquiries had elicited that we were going to that district!) Played darts, talked to the landlord, picked out tunes on the piano. Then Lois drove, chuckling. Along winding country roads to God-knows-where. The headlights swung… at last only one place remained ahead. I knew the road ended at Fambridge, near the sea wall. We went into the Ferry House. We were expected. Cosy supper table by a wood fire. Electric light and oil lamps. The host, Rowley, was amused at my attempts at detection “You wouldn’t do for an Inspector Hornsleigh on the BBC” he said, impassive but twinkling as I tried to discover what we were to eat. I assumed it was fish and mashed potatoes but Praise be! I was wrong. It was sausages, tomatoes and baked potatoes, followed by coffee. Clever little Angel!

Back to Chelmsford soon after 11 O’clock. Hurried through my office work – hat perched on the back of my head – and caught the midnight mail.

Wednesday 1st February 1939

Beginning of Stillness

I awoke late after a long sleep and vaguely pleasant dreams. Hurried through dressing and breakfast and was on the road by half-past-ten. Cool, but dry and sunny.
No need to be constantly wiping condensation “fog” from the inside of the car windows!

Calls in Saffron Walden, Thaxted, Dunmow and Braintree. Only one really productive: that was my racketeering merchant cum decorator client at Saffron Walden. Gave an order worth about 12/- and settled his account (£3-0-0). Called at a garage in Chelmsford re. minor adjustments to the car door and then raised the question of cellulose materials. May get some business there, later.

Evening: Went to the pictures. Had a middle front row balcony seat for two jolly good films. Cup of tea at a snack bar afterwards.

Back at the digs, Bradbury, Bisley and Flavel (who has retuned for a few days) were lounging around the fire. Had two games of chess, one with Bisley and one with Flavel. I won the game against Flavel – he’d never played before! Have now had five games – four this week and one in 1928 or '29, at Leicester.

Now I’ll go to bed, having made independent arrangements for two blokes to call me tomorrow morning!

Stillness and Dawn 1939

SJ Dawson, 5 Queens Road, Chelmsford.
The Windmill Inn, East Hanningfield, Essex
The Cock Inn, Stock, Near Ingatestone, Essex

“… But my lad, you’ve got to do it,
And your God will see you through it…
So, stand up, son; look gritty,
And just 'um a lively ditty,
And only be afraid to be afraid…”


The warning boards on Southend Arterial Road have been altered and now read –

“On this road in 1938 – 14 people were killed – 474 people were injured – Please drive carefully…”

Quarterly Commission cheque came tonight - £10-11-1. My total bank credit will now be about £21-0-0.

The time is 12:45a.m.. Midnight is passed, January is passed and it is Stillness and February.

Tuesday 31st January 1939

Sandon, Wickford, South Benfleet, Pitsea and Laindon. Cold, dry, sunny day. Made seven call before lunchtime – one order – 8/-.

Lunch at The Cottage Café, Billericay – my “Club”. There were, beside Joyce Layland, all the usual patrons –

Mr Howen, elderly traveller for Young and Marten, Connie Aiken from the UDC offices, Peter Somebody, a poultry foods traveller and Ponting, the tea and coffee traveller.
Connie Aiken and Peter had to go at 2 o’clock but the rest of us settled down for a pleasant afternoon. I helped Joyce wash up. The distempered walls of the kitchen have been made into an amazing autograph book. Scores of inscriptions of all types. I saw, as I dried pots – lines of Kipling, Omar Khayyam, slogans and ribald remarks.

“We give God credit: others pay cash”
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute…”
“Joyce Layland NBG” (“Naughty bad girl” said Mr Howen tactfully)
“Our coffee is as black as hate, as sweet as love and as hot as …”
“The moving finger writes, and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line…”
“Not, “Did you win or lose?” but “Did you play the game?””
“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the dust descend…”

As I looked at these quaint inscriptions I began to think that perhaps I am fey. That may explain this long blackness. Autumn 1933, Autumn 1936 and now - ?

We played darts until half past four. Eventually Ponting and I lost 3d each! We then had cups of tea “It’s on me” said Joyce, “Let me be big!” A pleasant afternoon, did more good than chasing around, fruitlessly using petrol. In any case, through hurrying in the morning I made nine calls altogether; quite a fair total.

Evening at the digs. Games of chess, dirty stories, smokes, beer, yarns.

Monday 30th January 1939

Southend district. One order - £1-17-6.

CHA Committee Meeting in the evening. They always irritate me, black mood or not. Too many women on the Committee, therefore there’s a hell of a lot of purposeless chatter and little business is done. It appears to be a sort of afternoon tea-party.
I have seen so much of Lois at her home lately that I’ve almost forgotten what Angel Milady does and says! At home she is neither the dreaming, womanly woman nor the gay sophisticate. She is a harsh voiced person who rushes to and fro, nerve-wrackingly and unnecessarily. No, not my Loischen.

A letter from Gwyn Rowlands at the digs, when I returned home tonight. After three months teaching in Berlin, she’s got a job in Buenos Aires and sails (for South America!) on Saturday. Lucky Gwyn! She’ll sail southwards into the summer! In my imagination I call her “The-girl-whose-dreams-came-true”.

(So dreams can come true!)

Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th January 1939

Weekend at home. Took Lois to New Malden on Saturday and brought her back on Sunday morning. In the intervals of “gadding about” with John, the family noticed my deep gloom. “Oh, don’t worry” I said eventually, “I get like this every winter. This is the Stillness of the year, you know. Rather like the stillness very early in the morning. Darkest hour before the dawn.”

I’ve had a black mood for a long time now. Very black mood. I cannot laugh – inside – spontaneously. Cannot love Lois, even. Doubtless it will pass – and so will the winter. Hateful winter, when everything becomes lifeless, grey and flaccid! If I could live in a country where there is sunshine now, and white buildings! However the spring will come and –

“The wee birdies sing and sweet flowers spring;
And in sunshine the waters are sleeping…”

When that time comes again!

Friday 27th January 1939

No orders in Maldon or Chelmsford. Not a hope. Not an enquiry. Bloody cold, bloody miserable.

When war comes, I think I’ll go with joy and hatred in my heart.

Thursday 26th January 1939

There’s a new “digger” at no.5 – an architects assistant, named Wylie. We are all eagerly corrupting him. He smokes and drinks but does not, at present, use terrible oaths in ordinary conversation. Last night he was discussing dancing lessons and ended by saying, “Yes, something must be done about it”. we all roared with laughter, for, to our evil minds, that statement meant something quite different from dancing lessons!

Littlefield, our Poona sahib, (seven years in India) is always ranting about the natives and cherishes great hatred for “the niggers”. At the end of a discussion on somewhat milder lines he eventually said, “Well, it takes all sorts – I’ve seen some good niggers…” We were amazed at this relenting spirit until he added with sudden vehemence, “All the buggers were dead!”

Wednesday 25th January 1939

What a loathsome change of weather! Heavy snow falling all day! Ugh! It was hateful!
Skids again; wet feet, cold wet nose; rotten vision for drivers. Snow fell so thickly that every twenty minutes or so one had to stop and brush snow from the choked windscreen wipers.

Calls in Chelmsford, Romford and Upminster. Came home early in the afternoon.
Business impossible. It is nearly tea-time now and gloriously warm by the digs fire.
Bradbury came home just now. I heard his voice in the hall, “Nothing but cold and wet and misery…”

It is hellish. Damn and blast the winter! I always say that. Well, I bloody well mean it! In addition to hating cold weather myself, it plays such buggery with my business!

Tuesday 24th January 1939

Southend district. A clear, cold sunny day!

Worked until 5 o’clock. Had tea and a wash at Garons and read a crime “thriller”.
Then made three evening calls and called for Lois about 7:30. a long days work. Two orders however and a cheque. How I hate it when there are not enough worth-while calls to last the day. I’d rather be too busy than too slack. When I know I have not done a proper day’s work I go home feeling horribly disconsolate inside!

Monday 23rd January 1939

Southend district. No orders. Last week was the worst for turnover since Christmas week, 1937.

Went to Margaret Goddard’s this evening and had an hours tuition in waltz, slow fox-trot, palais glide and the new “Chesnut Tree”. Went straight from there to the CHA Social at Newbery’s. Several party games. Unfortunately all the dances were old ones – i.e. the valeeta and the barn dance, of which I knew nothing. However I was able to take the floor once – and for the first time with Lois – for the final waltz.
Could not remember any of the steps I’d been taught, except the reverse, but scraped through alright.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday 22nd January 1939

Met John at Chelmsford this morning and drove to a disused lane near Sandon. Here we met Peter, Joan and Mick with Mick’s car; and Lois, Joan Baillie and Ted Tutton with Ted’s car. Several introductions were necessary! I had not met Joan Baillie since the treasure hunt at The General Hospital, when she introduced me to her cousin, Ted.

In convoy, we drove to Danbury. Had to pass through a flooded ford. I took it very cautiously but the others, when their turns came, dashed madly through. Left the cars at The Spinney Café, had some coffee and arranged to be back for tea. This being a communistic effort, no one was in charge of the party. I led for a couple of miles then handed over to John. Climbed onto a haystack for our lunch sandwiches (amid much excitement, several people being pushed down again).

A warm, damp wind. Afterwards we tramped alongside a river in flood. Joan P had her toy dog and Joan B a dog that was almost an Alsation. A rabbit ran into a post and fell, stunned, into the river. Peter got it out and tried to kill it. “Let me have it” said Ted the vet, and, holding it at arms length, struck it twice with a stick, on the neck.

Ted, Peter, John and I walked precariously over a wooden rail stretched above a ditch. John, wearing boots, had great difficulty! Mick looked on with faint amusement. Mick and Joan B now led. Lois and I rejoiced to see them so much together as this rather hoisted-with-her-own-petard Joan Pryor, who always likes to desert poor Mick and mildly monopolise any new men she discovers.

A drizzle of rain. We tramped fairly aimlessly through woods. Joan Baillie made realistic horse neighings and Peter his celebrated cow moos. John and I vaulted a five bar gate. John again handicapped by the boots, had a heavy fall. Peter and Ted found some rotten trees in a wood and shook them until the tops fell off. This game ended when Ted got a crack on the head!

We wandered comfortably over common lands and along hilly shrub paths – not at all typical of flat, grey Essex. Tea at The Spinney, with our two tables joined near the fire. Ted, John and I at one table had bacon and egg. Lois, - who sat with us – and the rest had toast etc. As we three finished with bread, butter and marmalade, it seemed just like breakfast!

Drove to Woodham Walter (or maybe Woodham Mortimer!) where there was a cosy pub. Lois – having been in bed with a dose of influenza – was very tired by now. Joan Pryor in her usual impulsive, somewhat theatrical manner, suddenly went off to the nearest Church. Peter and Mick escorted her. Joan Baillie and Ted hovered in puzzlement beside my car. “Aren’t you going too, Ted?” I asked. “Well… er…” His horror and bewilderment was lovely.

John and I carried Lois into the saloon bar. We played darts and had cider and beer. Lois also had an aspirin. When the others returned, we had a darts match and, at a loss for a way of making up “sides” eventually split into “military” and “non-military” teams. Lois, John, Ted and I were “The Guns” whilst the two Joans, Mick and Peter were sneeringly called “The Umbrellas”. Our team cheered itself to victory by cries of “Poona!” “Shoot, Bombardier!” and heckled our opponents to defeat by groans of “Come on the Brollies!” “Try and keep on the board!” Yes! We won the last two games out of three!

(“By Gad, what?” said Ted. “It isn’t playing a straight bat!”)

Summary of Early 1939

I have not been keeping a journal. There has seemed no time…

The cold spell was followed by a wet spell. Three blokes have left the digs – Davies, Bartram and Flavel. Only six of us now. I’ve got a slightly more accessible garage now. And a marvellous wool beret was knitted for me by a friend of Pa Shervills’. Wearing it with a loud tie, given me years ago by Koke, I try to resemble a French onion man.

Have had a few outings with Joan, Mick and Peter. And, of course, my Lois! John has joined us once; Mad Willy has also spent a day here. There have been floods in the valleys. Slinky B has now done over 2200 miles without any trouble.

Business is not too good still. Sometimes there are not enough calls to occupy the day. This tends to make me slack.

Quite an average happy, unhappy nineteen days since New Years Day.

Sunday 1st January 1939

How the crowd cheered! John took flashlight photographs. (“What does this New Year hold for everyone?” I could not help wondering, “Signs of peace, real peace – or bloody hell?”)

John and I were walking fairly decorously by Lois’ side when we suddenly saw a small knot of young men struggling for possession of a sort of stick. Seeing that one – who was hard-pressed – wore an RA tie we dashed to his assistance, bawling, “Up the Artillery! Up the Guns!” The struggle was quite a serious one for the RA man apparently, and when the group broke up, John and I – most unjustly, what? – were warned by a PC and told to “Move along there!”

We were walking along Park Lane. Lois said she would break the top of her bottle of Liebfraumilch on the railings – and by God, she did! We drank the Hock in chemical beakers, standing opposite the Dorchester. Lois clutched the broken bottle until we reached Slinky – ending the journey triumphantly by taxi. John and I fortified ourselves with rum. Lois, holding her precious bottle, feigned drunkenness in the back of the car. We were in Bayswater Road. A reveller in a taxi ahead, had a burst balloon on a stick. As this taxi slowed down to a standstill, John lowered his window; leaned out as I crawled Slinky alongside. “Got it!” Slinky B dashed ahead, whilst furious reveller leaned from taxi window!

I, miraculously had managed to preserve my Scots paper bonnet. It had been torn from my head several times, but we always got it back. I wore it as we drove out of Town, tattered but proud. It had survived a crowd’s onslaughts. Lois drunkenly told John of how it would take she and I half an hour to say goo' night to each other when we got home.

Went into John’s digs for a while. Betty and a bloke were there, looking beastly formal. Lois, (actually far from tight) was not in the least subdued. She staggered into the sitting room, fondling the broken bottle, and was at once the centre of attraction. I played darts just to prove I wasn’t in the least tight. Put in some marvellous shots! Had a glass of whisky “for the road”.

Drove town wards again, more slowly. Gave a bloke a lift along the Great West Road. A shock when he left us; he’d given me half a crown! We got to bed sometime about five o’clock. I kissed Lois as she lay in bed.

And the holiday was over!

Saturday 31st December 1938

We had our morning cups of tea. Arose and washed and dressed; had breakfast, signed the book. (Mr and Mrs Davidson again.) Our adventure was nearly over; we decided that as soon as we left Amersham we’d switch over to our old selves, (“There is no deceiver like the self deceiver”) so that we’d have a chance to get used to the idea.
We went back to our room to finish packing. Suddenly a wireless was turned on. A swift gay tune, popular a few years ago –

“The birds can fly, up in the sky,
Just so high and no more…
There’s a limit to the minutes in an hour,
The raindrops in a shower, the petals in a flower,
But there isn’t any limit to my love for you!…”

We were ready. Angel turned to go. I drew her back for one last wife-kiss. “Oh, don’t” she whispered. “It isn’t good bye. Only auf wiedersehen. We’ll come back.”
Perhaps the dying Davidsons and Chattans said this, through our lips. They were trying, perhaps, to say that they were not dying, only falling asleep.

When Slinky B reached the crest of steep Amersham Hill and headed for Beaconsfield, we were not married, only engaged. No wedding ring in sight. Lois and Stephen again.
We did not feel sad for long. It had been such a grand holiday!

Saturday 31st December – Continued – New Years Eve

It began with John’s arrival at 3 Hawthorn Court. This was announced by a ring on the bell and a wail from some semi-musical instrument. John lounged outside, holding a toy concertina; wearing a red, white and blue rosette in his button-hole. We three drove up to Town. Reached St George’s Hospital at about 7:45p.m. Of course no visitors were admitted but we pushed John forward and in broad north-country tones he blandly explained that he’d just come up from Yorkshire to see his sister, Pepita Dawson. Under these special circumstances he was admitted. So we all trooped into the ward and had a few minutes with Pep – who last year celebrated New Years Eve with us but now lay in bed after weeks and weeks of rheumatic fever. Not looking too fit but quite bright; some people have amazing pluck in illness. (Maybe some day I’ll have the chance to discover my courage in this direction – but I hope not!)

My car had been (illegally) left in Hyde Park but a kind-hearted policeman had assured me he would not look at it for a few minutes. We next drove to Westbourne Terrace and parked Slinky B outside Marjorie’s unoccupied flat. Left my flask of whisky and John’s bottle of awful rum, but brought away Lois’ bottle of Liebfraumilch.

Dinner at the old rendezvous – Schmidt’s. Crowded, we were lucky to get a table. A jolly meal. Eyeing the new, gay and daring Lois, I realised that this “threesome” – sometimes a difficult group – should be quite a success. Lois treated John and I to cigars. We smoked them smugly. To our intense delight they were not charged on the bill! I told her “Damen” meant “Ladies” and gave directions. Later, she asked me for some pennies and went! John’s trick with the tickets – and the aggrieved, unjollified collector, who did not appreciate the humour of the joke, at all. The gramophone recording voices in Coventry Street. John’s excitement. Lois said, eyes laughing, “I’m glad John looks on me as one of the blokes. He shouted, “Oh, the bloody sod!” just now and then said he was sorry!”

11:30p.m. The Circus beginning to get crowded. Lois looked all about her with cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling. She’d never seen this before! We bought paper hats, a whistle and a thing that blew out and squeaked. Coffee in the perfectly sober little Viennese Café in Denman Street.

Five to midnight. Dense crowd in Shaftesbury Avenue suddenly surged away from the Circus. Women began to faint. The crowd thinned. John walked steadily sideways against the tide. It gave way! We reached the centre of the Circus. Past midnight. Lois kissed us both.

Friday 30th December 1938

Sunny morning. Slinky B meandered lazily, purposelessly to Marlowe, to Cookham and back to Marlowe. Milady’s clear voice singing… “Just a song at twilight…” as Slinky crawled through the woods. High Wycombe. We turned vaguely towards Amersham – back into winter wonderland again.

(“We’ll face unafraid,
The plans that we made,
Walking in the winter wonderland”)

I saw a road marked “Speen” so turned that way. I remembered reading – years ago – that there was a public house, about a mile from Speen, which had once been frequented by Rupert Brooke. We visited two or three pubs – there seemed to be several near Speen – fruitlessly. My usual query was, “Do you know of a pub near heree where Rupert Brooke used to be?” The landlord of “The Gate” said he didn’t know of no one of that name and he knew most of the folks in these parts. “But there’s a new man – from Bledlowe way – taken the “Pinkunlily”. I don’t know im. Maybe is name’s Brooke…” At the “King William the Fourth” I interviewed the landlady – Rose Ellis – and two men with clay pipes. One, by name George, was obviously the Village Ancient, whilst the other was probably runner-up for that honour. The landlady asked the Ancient if he knew of any Rupert Brooke? To my horror, he replied that he’d lived in those parts nigh on God-knows-how-many years and he knew “The Gate”, “The Pinkunlily”, “The King George”, “The Plough” and so on and so on but he’d never heard of no house called “The Rupert Brooke”.

Eventually we came to “The Pink and Lily” a small pub on the edge of the woods. “Did Rupert Brooke ever come here?” I asked the landlord briefly, being now desperate. No gape of incomprehension! No puzzlement! No denial! “Yes” said the landlord simply, “He wrote that poem here”. He pointed. On the wall was a photograph of Brooke and a poem I’d never seen before –

“Never came here to the Pink
Two such men as we, I think.
Never came here to the Lily
Two men quite so richly silly;
So broad, so supple and so tall,
So modest and so brave withal
With hearts so clear, such noble eyes,
Filled with such sage philosophies,
Thirsty for Good, secure of Truth,
Fired by a purer flame than youth,
Serene as age but not so dirty,
Old, young, mature, being under thirty.
Were ever two so fierce and strong
Who drank so deep and laughed so long,
So proudly meek, so humbly proud,
Who walked so far, and sang so loud?”

The first four lines had been written by his companion. The rest was typical Brooke.
The pub was just closing but the landlord (the man “from Bledlowe way”) did not hurry us. We drank wood cider, ate bread, cheese and pickles at a wooden trestle table. Played darts.

Meandered slowly to Amersham and to the Swan Inn, an old place in the High Street. A remarkably casual bloke helped us upstairs with the luggage and then – to my joy – proceeded to light a fire which had been laid ready in the bedroom. But first – “Got a match?” he asked me sleepily and a moment later, “Have a cigarette?” I had got a match and I did have a cigarette and the fire was lighted. “D’ye think it’ll go?” he asked Angel, unenthusiastically.

After tea we sat in the lounge. Jeffrey – who turned out to be the licensee’s son – joined us. Angel and I sat on opposite sides of the fireplace. Jeffrey (very tired) took a seat beside Angel. He was apparently rather attracted and she led him on delicately. She was not the person I used to know at all. She had developed delightfully into one of those amusing, light-hearted people – at Egham they were called “the gay set” – who have an atmosphere of slight wickedness about them. Once or twice she nearly led the blighter into saying just a little too much. Meanwhile he shot her some remarkable looks of the type which normally would have made me see red.

He was easily drawn into an account of seaside resorts visited – being a hell of a fellow. Suddenly, “Do you know Southend?” he asked. “Well, I’ve heard of it,” said I vaguely, “In Essex isn’t it?” Then, frightfully impressed by stories of his adventures there, we obtained more details of the place. Oh, it was too marvellous! We must be getting skilled in deception! Went to The Playhouse – Amersham Repertory Theatre – in the evening. The show – “The Enchanted Forest” – turned out to be the pantomime. Grimms Fairy Tales. I’d never been to a pantomime before, and loved it.
Damned funny! The theatre was quite small, with an almost flat floor. Comfortable seats, no balcony. Only a few people there. Owing to many players taking several parts, there seemed more people on the stage than in the audience!

Back at The Swan they served a huge supper, so that we could hardly move afterwards. Later, the innkeeper, Moreton, came into the dining room and gave detailed accounts of family legal battles until we staggered away, half-concious. There was a glorious fire in the bedroom and I’d hoped to watch the flickering glow on the ceiling for a long time. Much to my chagrin, however, I fell asleep almost at once, with Angel snuggled close beside me and her head on my shoulder. When I awoke again, there were only faintly glowing ashes in the fireplace.

Thursday 29th December 1938

Stopped for a haircut at Towcester. The barber told me of his old loves (thirty years ago!) whilst I was in the chair. Original theme, for a barber!

Took Slinky B to a garage for air. She did not need oil or distilled water. She’s given no trouble since the gasket blew. “So early, one morning…” we sang in unison, as Slinky purred southwards. We only knew one verse and the refrain!

Aylesbury. Lunch at “The Folly Inn” How changed from my last visit! (When cycling from Nottingham to Thorpe.) Now it’s a modern cocktails place, blast it! We were going to Amersham but – “Oh, lets go to Ibstone, instead!” So I turned around, drove back a little way and took the Princes Risborough road. We were soon driving back into winter! A drizzle of rain – and the twin windscreen wipers began to swish monotonously to and fro. Patches of snow in the fields. As we climbed into the Chilterns, these patches became wider and more frequent. We drove up to Ibstone Common through snow-clad woods from which a faint white vapour was arising in occasional spirals. Snow vapour?

Left our kit at The Fox Inn – a small beerhouse – and tramped. Through falling rain, fallen snow, and coldness. Through woods, down a steep slope to a valley of virgin snow. I felt sans energy very rapidly! We cautiously circled the precincts of a large house. Silent, lifeless, except for smoke rising into the still air from the chimneys. The rain had stopped, and the silent woods became even quieter. We did not meet a soul during our tramp; no signs of life except for beasts in the fields.
Only the still house brooded, impotent yet dynamic. At nightfall, with some difficulty, we found our way up to the road again. (Hell of a climb for weary limbs.)

Once I leaned against a tree trunk in a wood, relaxed and inert for a moment. I looked upwards. Saw the tree swaying silently, rhythmically, beautifully. The wind here was moving all the trees in the wood. Glorious to be so cold, tired and hungry when, at “The Fox” we could sit in comfortable chairs by a blazing fire and then draw up to the table for a jolly good tea! Cups of steaming tea! Nectar neat! Clothes were drying by the fire. “We seem a comfortable couple” quoted Angel as she sat knitting a jumper, whilst I read a story (pages torn out of the magazine from which she was taking her pattern). The fire was primitive but very warm; it was not on the hearth but suspended just above in a sort of iron basket.

Stella and Martin Chattan, of Colchester.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wednesday 28th December 1938

Angel sang as she gazed out of the window –

“So early one morning,
Just as the sun was rising,
I her a maiden sigh
In the valley below…”

The song had a lovely, lilting rise and fall.

Mr and Mrs Chattan went across to the hotel for breakfast. (Bacon and eggs for the fourth time! Well, I like em!) A refined looking lot in the breakfast room but Angel said I looked the smartest man there – and she certainly looked the most adorable girl!

Up the hill out of Broadway. Lois drove. A signpost said, “Stratford on Avon”. “Where shall we go?” “Oh, lets go and see Aunt!” Leamington Spa, Princethorpe, Dunchurch. Mrs Stuchbury, at “The Castle” waved a welcome as we started across the fields. Aunt’s face, when we suddenly appeared! We quickly changed into rough clothes. We axed and chopped wood for the fires. Drove into Daventry for provisions. I said, “This morning we were gentle people at a quite impressive hotel. Now we’re a couple of rough country folk going into town for the shopping.” “Yes” said Lois, “And that’s the lovely part about it. Contrast!”

We stayed the night at Aunt’s. Fires in our bedrooms.

Tuesday 27th December 1938

Angel wouldn’t get up. Her eyes glittered mischievously and she hung, protesting, onto the bedclothes. I pulled her feet out and tickled the soles with a hairbrush. It was unavailing. When I returned from the bathroom, she was asleep again. I awoke her just before going downstairs. I apologised for my wife’s lateness. Mrs Nixon said, “I heard you both laughing this morning, trying to pull each other out of bed!”
“I was trying to get her out of bed but I couldn’t, although I took the hairbrush to her.” “She’d feel that, if you used the bristles” said Mr Nixon, solemn and twinkling. “Actually, I did use the bristles!”

Left Kinnersley Court about 11 o’clock. A clear, dry, sunny day. “Where shall we go?” we looked around us. Sudden hills loomed to the west. “Let’s go to the Malverns!” We did. Slinky B slunk up through Great Malvern and around the hills – in top gear! Lunch at the British Camp Hotel. I, unconventionally, had bacon and egg.

We climbed to the Camp. Steep green terraces of hill rose far beyond what I, in yesterday’s mist, thought to be the top. Wind roared at us. We went down the slope beyond. Heard hunting cries far off. And then nearer. Saw distant horses and dogs. Began to run towards higher ground. “Look! The fox!” cried Angel. There it was, furtive looking, only twenty paces away! I rushed clumsily to the hill’s crest.
Straggling hounds, noses down, loped by. One pink-coated horseman arrived.
The hunt wound around the base of the hills. Horsemen warily following. We saw dogs, horses and men go carefully down steep hillsides. Horsemen taking a hedge in full flight. And others who went round… The fox got away. He deserved it!

Left the Malverns behind us. Drove on and on. Upton on Severn, Pershore, Evesham, Broadway. Broadway, the famous, fashionable Cotswold village. Search for digs as the light failed. The Broadway Hotel was full, but there was accommodation in the annexe. (“An outhouse or something” I vaguely mis-named it, to the horrified Angel when I returned to her, in the car.) The “Annexe” proved to be a 15th century house across a village green. Delightful blending of old and modern! Central heating. A bedroom at the top of the house, with beams, a quaint port hole window high up, old timber, hot and cold water, a deep soft carpet, a low rail-less bed, carefully shaded electric lights.

Tea at old style St. Patrick’s Tea House, where there were numerous cats. Feeling hungry I had bacon and egg – for the third time today! Angel (sport!) came with me into the games room of a low pub. Only woman there. Bar billiards and rifle shooting.

Back in the warm bedroom and alone. Angel lay stretched out like a cat on the low divan-like bed, looking unfathomably at me whilst I wrote. Lazily she stretched out her hand and signed the postcard I’d written for her. The valet bought a hot water bottle. I went down to post the letters, along the road. She sat in the deep, lower window, curtains drawn behind her. I looked up and waved as I saw her. The bedroom was marvellously warm.

Monday 26th December 1938

Angel wouldn’t let me sit up in bed when the maid brought in our early tea.
Eager to be proper and conventional I began to sit up. When unseen arms suddenly pulled me down again!

To the Malverns. Mist and rain; vision very poor. A sudden cliff-like hill towering out of the mist was my first impression. Left Angel in the car on the road at a sort of hill pass, put on my mac and boots, and climbed a steep, slippery slope, kicking my heels in. Yes! There was still ice and snow here! I ascended sideways, like a crab. An empty platform, flat, white. Could only see twenty yards each way. Stinging rain lashed my face. Exhilaration! Tramped over frozen snow drifts. How warm and quiet it seemed, down by the car again!

Took Angel, Mrs Nixon and her nephew into Worcester to see a rollicking film of Robin Hood. The manager of the cinema had reserved four (free) balcony seats, as it was Mrs Nixon. Returning, Slinky’s radiator boiled strangely and a garage man was only too pleased to help us – as it was Mrs Nixon!

Mr Nixon appeared to have been pondering Pontoon all the evening, from the deliberate way in which he suggested a game as soon as we arrived. Angel and I won.

We awoke some time in the stillness; were awake as the windows became pale with dawn.

Sunday 25th December 1938

Christmas breakfast. And a little packet beside both of our plates. Picked brussel sprouts with Mr Nixon. A walk by the Severn. In mistletoe country. Great bunches in the trees. Christmas dinner. “Are ye beat?” Nixon would say with scathing, amused surprise if one’s eating slowed-down.

Afterwards my wife and I sat in the lounge. It was lovely. Angel sitting close beside me told me stories of famous painters – Rembrandt especially – whilst the darkness came. Warm. Dark, except for the fire’s flickerings. No hurry, nothing to worry or wonder about. Angel with me, talking softly about wonderful people.
Once I fell asleep and missed the middle of a story. Lovely; to gradually fall asleep whilst a loved one’s voice whispered and to awake gently whilst the same voice still whispered! Luxurious. I wanted tea-time because I could do with a cup of tea, yet wanted this peace to go on for ever without interruption.

After tea, in the dining room, Angel obligingly related that part of Rembrandt’s story which I’d missed. We went back to the lounge. I got out a dictionary and looked at it, thinking aloud, deliberately discussing dull and unimportant things. “By centigrade, water boils at 100 degrees but by Fahrenheit at 212 degrees…”
With her head on my shoulder Angel fell asleep!

Saturday 24th December 1938

The icy arterial road to Town. But – only 2¼ hours to Ealing! Left Hawthorn Court after lunch. They were amazed that we should venture forth at all – and with no – apparent – destination! A khaki-greatcoat warmed my back. Lois nursed a hot water bottle. Western Avenue. A steady stream of traffic had made it slushy but there was little ice. We noticed occasionally a couple in a Ford Eight – a cheery looking bloke and a girl with a bright kerchief on her head.

High Wycombe. Up Dashwood Hill at 30, whilst a gold ring went on the third finger of a left hand and we became Mr and Mrs Davidson. 3:15p.m. A multiple car smash. The Ford Eight was next to us. I spoke to the driver. Yes, he had come from Ealing. And wither? “Oh, Shipston on Stour – if we can make it!” A nasty moment, descending a steep hill, when we slid into the slush at the road’s edge and skidded. We passed the Ford Eight. Exchanged signals.

The Oxford by-pass. Ford Eight just behind – but they didn’t turn off at the anticipated roundabout! Road became better. Accelerated to 45 for a while. At dusk however, the Ford Eight appeared again and hung upon our tail. Darkness in the Cotswolds. Awful, occasional, ice ridges transformed the road surface into an iron ploughed field. Quite exciting and (literally) disturbing when one hits a series of these bumps at 35 or 40mph and dare not brake for fear of a skid!

Overtaking intermittent long strings of slow-moving cars. Always the Ford Eight followed just behind! A car had gone into a roadside drift; the road being temporarily blocked, we all stopped, I at the head of a long string. The Ford Eight was just behind and we heard the driver say casually to a bystander, “Oh, we’re going to Wales!” Apparently they’d been a change of plan… Downhill run. The Ford Eight stopped by the roadside – probably at a café. Saw it’s lights fade into the distance as we went on.

A garage. The fierce little bantam of a man, arguing with the mechanic. “He is a twirp” said the man who was serving us. “What is that?” asked my companion with interest. “A parasitic type of insect found on sheep, and known as a tic.” “Happy Christmas!” cried Angel satirically to the disgruntled garage proprietor, as, leaving us, he turned to deal with the “tic” or “twirp”.

Cheltenham at teatime. A fine drizzle of rain. No snow! Tewkesbury. No snow, roads fairly dry. Severn Stoke. Kinnersley Court. We drove into a wet-looking farm yard.
“Will you come straight to your room, Mrs. Davidson?” said the maid. Mr and Mrs Nixon.

Supper. Angel had a bath first. I sat talking to the Nixons. A tousled fair head popped around the door; “The bath is yours, M’Sieu!”

Friday 23rd December 1938

Made my last (and quite fruitless) call at 3 o’clock. Now (evening) I’m doing my packing and this book is the next thing to go in my suitcase!

The Chelmsford water supply failed this afternoon. Can’t have a wash, although we’ll get some rainwater – a limited supply – tomorrow. We eventually decided to spend Christmas at Kinnersley Court – a farm guest house in Worcestershire. Everything is arranged – there. Now for a glorious, haphazard holiday with Angel!

“In the winter-wonderland”

Friday 23rd December 1938

Made my last (and quite fruitless) call at 3 o’clock. Now (evening) I’m doing my packing and this book is the next thing to go in my suitcase!

The Chelmsford water supply failed this afternoon. Can’t have a wash, although we’ll get some rainwater – a limited supply – tomorrow. We eventually decided to spend Christmas at Kinnersley Court – a farm guest house in Worcestershire. Everything is arranged – there. Now for a glorious, haphazard holiday with Angel!

“In the winter-wonderland”

Wednesday 21st December 1938

Still bitter weather. Less wind. Falling snow in the air; frozen snow on the roads.
Brentwood, Romford, Upminster. One (small) order. Laindon. The frost scored once as I was travelling from Langdon Hills to Nevadan. Doing 40 on a slightly falling country road. Suddenly saw the cross-road just ahead – Signpost, hedges, grass “island”, road, all the same colour – white. Slammed her into second gear. She skidded broadside down the road and onto the “island”. (“There’s a telegraph pole: will you hit it?” a small cool voice was saying inside me.) Hell of a bump as we went sideways over the grass verge. Then stopped. The telegraph pole was still three yards away. The engine was still running. I put her in bottom gear and bumped off the “island” and drove on. A bit more slowly!

Swish – swish – went the twin, efficient windscreen wipers, as the snow fell. Tea at The Bluebird Café, beside a wood fire. A white twilit world when I came out. The snow had stopped. The main road ran under the whiteness, unrecognisable except by the wide-apart hedges.

Evening: the thermometer had moved up slightly, to 26 degrees F. My face and hands still felt blasted sore. Planned my holiday route; sent off the final batch of Christmas cards. Drove up to the Sunbeam café with Davies for hot coffee and a game of bar billiards.

Tuesday 20th December 1938

Drove Southendwards. It’s glorious, in the new car, to realise that one has power! With the Austin Seven one had to struggle and strain always. Can I get past before the distant lorry approaches? Now I must gather speed, so that I can climb the hill!
Until I reached Rettendon there was only the driving, biting snow of the last two days. But then I found large flakes falling and deep, frozen snow on the roads. Driving became very slow and cautious.

On the island at Rayleigh Weir stood three Carter Paterson lorries, like wreckage washed up by the tide. I went down into South Benfleet in bottom gear! Took an order (for coffin polish!) from Alden and a short contract for U/coat Paste White. Hellish cold! My feet felt frozen; my hands, lips and neck felt bloody awful!

The radiator boiled at Leigh. I’d been expecting it; saw many cars along the road in a similar plight. I could only pour in half a kettle-full of cold water, which meant that most of the lower radiator was frozen. An enquiry from Scott-Hudson’s and an order from Howards Dairies. I gloomily drove into a garage at Southend – well, more resigned than gloomy! – but to my delight they found that the radiator had more or less thawed again. I bought their last (and expensive) tin of anti-freeze mixture and departed with fewer qualms.

Tea at a snug café in Southend. Slinky stood outside. Started with magnificent ease when I returned. Called at Oakdene. Took off my wet shoes and socks, put on a woolly pair and cowered over the fire. Did my office work and had a jolly good wash. Lois and I went to the Elocution class. Hellish cold there, too.

The cold, slippery drive back to Chelmsford. Frozen snow everywhere now. Finished my reports, did various odd jobs, and caught the midnight mail out.

Monday 19th December 1938

Scant, meagre snow falling. High, bitter wind. Slinky would not start up, as I’d expected. Eventually I had a tow from the nearest garage and, once in the workshop they took the engine to bits. A blown gasket. 10/6. Didn’t get away from there until 3 o’clock so eventually did no work, though I ran over to Southend, fruitlessly, in the afternoon.

Bloody cold! Bartman, Flavel and I huddled around the fire at digs. Gradually the room became warm. We played pontoon. Won 3/-. It’s so cold that it’s agony to undress or even enter one’s bedroom. My face and hands are hellish sore, through the wind. Can’t afford an overcoat and I lost a new pair of gloves recently.

Sunday 18th December 1938

Christmas party at Oakdene. Drove across in Slinky. Broke B and AV’s Baddow-Battlesbridge record by three minutes. Yes! I did it in nine minutes (thus equalling Lois’ record in the Vauxhall). Bitter, bitter weather. Far below freezing point. Quite a happy party at Oakdene, all feuds laid aside. Mr and Mrs Rogers gave me a writing bureau as a present. They presented it in a very graceful way and obviously enjoyed doing it. However I will say little about this day as I never, in ordinary circumstances, mention family matters in this, my journal.

At about 11 o’clock, Slinky B was rushing homewards and thin, bitter snowflakes were driving on the wind. At Baddow something went wrong with Slinky and he limped home sadly at 20mph, engine straining.

Slept uneasily!

Saturday 17th December 1938

Lois knew nothing about the new car until today. She was cleaning the silver when I arrived. Presently I said I’d something to show her outside. I blinded her, tying my green scarf over her eyes (she, looking very pretty!). Led her out and lifted her into Slinky B She knew it was a new car when she sank into the seat; and she knew it was a Ford as we were travelling along the arterial road – 40-45-55-60. Drove to Rayleigh Weir, around the island and back, as on our engagement evening. Had lunch at Oakdene, did our joint Christmas shopping (conclusion of) in Southend. Slinky B has ripping acceleration in traffic.

Went to the flicks again (second time this week) because the weather had suddenly become very wintry. Lois found a pleasant café nearby for tea. I felt hungry so had egg, bacon and fried bread. We drank good coffee, served from a stone jug. We inspected Slinky B thoroughly and introduced him to Nobles Green. Slinky B liked it well enough but was able to leave when the time came.

Back at the digs (we get no late supper there) Bradbury and Bisley sat shivering beside a dying fire. Eventually the three of us went up to The Sunbeam in Bradbury’s car. We found a table near the fire and had supper (including several cups of hot coffee).

Friday 16th December 1938

One answer re. Christmas, a decent sounding place in Worcestershire. The hire purchase company wrote saying they’d take on my new proposal – with the previous guarantor, NC Dawson Esq. To hell with them, then! Rogers, the Kennings manager, agreed to put it through their own HP company, and without a guarantor. So I signed the forms, got my new cover-note from the insurance people, and delivered a hell of a lot of Paripan calendars.

Returned to Kennings. B and AV dashed nobly into the garage. I switched off the lights, put her in neutral, applied the brakes. Revved up, switched off the ignition.
“I feel very sentimental about this” I said, getting out. “There’s no other car like the first, you know.” “Oh don’t cry, sir!” said Burton, twinkling. I transferred all my junk from JN4218 to DEV763. The latter had been cleaned, greased and checked up. They also gave me a fill of petrol.

I had hoped to call my new car “Slinky” and think this can be so named. Actually it shall be “Slinky B” officially and “Slinky Bugger” privately and to my friends. Drove home to Chelmsford. Marvellous acceleration and power! Certainly a more civilized product altogether. It’ll cost £4 and something per month, for a year. Hell of a job to manoeuvre Slinky B into the garage at No.5, which is small and awkwardly placed. Actually, it’s impossible to close the doors when Slinky B is inside!

Thursday 15th December 1938

Lois made the last few calls with me. Later we had tea at the Ritz Cinema Café. After tea, as there was a good “flick” on, we crossed through to the balcony. We’d been – for no reason – aloof, separate individuals. Sitting close by each other, in the dark, fidgety fingers twining about, we came together again, without a word being said.

Hurried back to Chelmsford. Hanson, Bartman and Flavel were playing pontoon in the lounge. I “sat in” for half-an-hour and lost about a shilling. Took my office work up to my bedroom. There was a two-page report regarding a complaint, which involved old references and the consequent searching of old files.

Again I just caught the midnight despatch.

Wednesday 14th December 1938

B and AV’s sandglass was inverted for the last time – metaphorically – when I had a puncture at Leigh on Sea. With air sis-sss-ing steadily I dashed into Kennings.
Burton, the foreman, showed me a dashing black Ford Ten saloon which was for sale. 1936, one owner, five new tyres, only 15,000 miles. Had a trial drive – he let me take the wheel when we were out of sight of the garage. Seemed alright. In any case, being a regular customer, I can trust Kennings. Apparently someone else was considering it however.

Worked fairly late at Southend. Obtained my new “Plumb” pipe from Phyllis (Tobacco shop at Leigh, run by Phyllis Clark) and recalled at Kennings. The Ford hadn’t been sold. I ordered it. £70 B and AV being worth £22, I have to pay £48 plus hire purchase charges. Crawled back to Chelmsford through thick fog. High tea at No.5 (It’s more like dinner, actually; certainly not like the “high teas” we used to be insulted with at Magna Charta, Egham.) Davies, who has the adjoining bedroom was also late.

Afterwards a cosy fire in the lounge and somnolent fellow-diggers, reading.
Lois and I still have nowhere booked for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. So in desperation I swotted an AA farmhouse guide and wrote briefly to five places, inquiring if they had any accommodation for Christmas. I chose places which had several bedrooms and were not too expensive. Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Sussex(2) and Worcestershire. John Davidson requested information… I also wrote to my former HP company, asking if they’d like to handle the business with regard to my new car.

Walked down to the GPO and just caught the midnight mail with all this and my business letter.

Sunday 11th December 1938

B and AV did noble work. On the move practically all day, from 10:45a.m. to 11:30 p.m. I called for Lois, then drove to the Chilterns. We wandered around there - not even stopping for lunch – on the qui vive for likely Christmas digs.

Among other places I discovered an inn called “The Chequers” in a village called Fingest. Two or three years ago, I had tea there with John and Dick Young, after a long walk. My “Plumb” pipe (with red spot, showing pedigree) was newly bought then. Now it is on the verge of retirement and a new “Plumb” is on order.

In the evening we called at Hawthorn Court. Surprise! Mother’s excited cry, as she looked up and saw us standing, arm in arm, in the doorway! I was able to tell them happy news – that Lois’ father and I had (literally) shaken hands upon our differences. All this, yesterday. (He agreed to trust us more, not to watch the clock and most important, to see me when disgruntled, instead of saying bitter things to Lois.)

Reached Oakdene about 10:30. A few hasty kisses, then the lone road to Chelmsford.
B and Av running well, warm under my feet. Battery obviously, colossally charged!

Saturday 10th December 1938

Moving Day. It would have been a hell of a job, but Lois turned up just as I was finishing breakfast, with the Vauxhall. So we stowed all my things aboard that and the B and AV, and left Roedean within half an hour or so.

As easy to snap a link as that. Just – left Roedean and the Butlers. I led the way to Queens Road, Chelmsford. Lois helped me unload and stow the stuff away in my bedroom. Bless her!

Sunday 4th December 1938

The bedroom faced Staverton Clump. Very early in the morning, I stirred in my sleep, opened my eyes and saw a broad band of yellow and red creeping along the hilltops.

“Dreaming when Dawns left hand was in the sky…”

Very cold today. Lois and I got in wood for the fires. In the morning we got quite a decent stack. To my horror, Angel started to roll a great tree trunk, unaided! We eventually tipped it over the fence. (Wind blowing our hair into wild untidiness!)
I made her rest for a bit afterwards but she dashed off for more wood late in the afternoon, whilst I was doing some axe work. As Aunt watched her swinging off into the twilight fields, I knew they were going to like each other…

We left soon after 6p.m. Rain and high wind. Dark. Towcester, Stoney Stratford, Fenny Stratford, Dunstable. A snack at my usual half-way café (“George’s” near Marleyate) at 8 o’clock. St Albans, Barnet; then – a sudden higher note from the engine – eastwards along the North Circular Road. Home 10:30p.m.

Saturday 3rd December 1938

Lois and I went to old Wolfhampcote. Drove cross-country, via Stortford, Bedford and Northampton. Lois relieved me at the wheel for a stretch of twenty miles. We came to Wolfhampcote just after sunset; Flecknoe way. The road became rougher, until it was a grassy track that seemed to lead nowhere. I noticed that, for the first time, when I saw Angel’s eyes sparkling and heard her excited laugh. Wood fires and lamplight, again.

Through the night, trains roared past the house, into and out of the cutting below.
Still, silent Wolfhampcote – until a trains passing fills the night with noise, making the house shudder.

Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd December 1938

Two very cold days at Colchester, on the road with Spurgen, new traveller for Wrights Ltd. No orders. It’s unsatisfactory business, selling through merchants and thus being able only to deal in the higher priced products. Glad I only tried the system in one zone. I’ve got a more or less free hand, everywhere else. Pleasant journeys with Spurgen however (although I felt time was being wasted). A fairly rough and ready sort of feller. Towards the end of the second day he began to recount some very feeble naughty stories (BBC type). After I’d explained that I was a Territorial, he brightened up and we eventually exchanged some sizzling yarns, increasing each others stock of nausea considerably!

On Friday evening, having seen an advert in “The Essex Weekly News” I called at a digs in Chelmsford. It seemed quite a decent place with good-class blokes staying there; and a telephone. Rather expensive terms however. I eventually arranged to move in next Saturday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday 30th November 1938

Three decent orders, three cheques, today. Called in to see Joan (confined to her room with chicken pox of all things!) at midday.

Evening: after some difficulty I eventually took that third cheque. (Account of two decorators who are dissolving partnership.) It needed two signatures; I rushed out to Rochford for the second name. I’d been getting anxious about that account!

When everyone else had gone to bed, whilst I waited for my bath water (in the copper!) to heat, I lit my pipe, spread a map of Essex on the table, and pondered where I would “dig” when I left Eastwoodbury.

Tuesday 29th November 1938

Two small orders. A fairly promising day as regards the future, however.

Monday 28th November 1938

Worked my way to Southend. Four orders – and a big one in the post when I reached Roedean.

Called at Oakdene after tea. Reunion with Lois. She took the pipe out of my mouth, kissed me, and put the pipe back. We sat in the car at Nobles Green. Angel had brought coffee. She had made a list of things needed for the new home. Sounds like being a snug sort of place, when the necessary money has been earned. She also revealed that the new dress she wore was one I should be very fond of. I soon agreed!

Took her back to Oakdene just before 11p.m.

Sunday 27th November 1938

Mrs Stephens called me at 9:30 with a cup of tea. She’d brought me one, although “the others weren’t favoured”. Had the usual jolly good breakfast downstairs in a warm room. Read the paper, found I’d won nothing in Vernon’s Football Pools. Three interesting blokes at breakfast. Mrs Stephens has always collected Types, without ever having known it.

John called just as I was getting the car out. Went to The Golden Grove at St. Annes Hill, with his cousin Betty (a sporty girl) and Betty Armstrong (synthetic little devil and a member of Rookery, the club I contacted through Peggy of Wood Haw). In the public bar of The Golden Grove is a framed record of darts matches during 1937. It was summarised by the brief, proud phrase, - “Played 26 Won 26”.

John and I had a game with the locals – who were obviously scornful and thought we were easy prey. I had an inferiority complex, but after scoring 115 with three darts (a fluke) I became optimistic and we eventually won! The scorer immediately selected a mate and challenged us. Two pints were bought for the victors. We’d hardly sipped the froth before we’d won again! I put in the final “double” in the first game, John in the second. We left them, undefeated, amid a chorus of farewells, “Come in next time you’re passing” cried one of the champions, “Maybe you won’t be so lucky!”

After lunch at “Melville” John and his cousin went with me to Cobham Common. We left the B and AV near the high clump of firs and walked across the rough country. Through the marshes, by Queen Victoria’s monument, through dead heather, over the hills. We walked along the railway line (now, alas, electrified) and John and I, reviving the old custom, climbed a railway signal.

Hurried back to B and AV through squalls of rain. Betty dozed in the back seat, wedged among my baggage, whilst B and AV dodged happily in and out of the evening traffic.

Supper at Hawthorn Court. Father, mother, Robin and I sat comfortably at the table, three of us smoking. Richard came in later, wearing his Sea Scout uniform. He did half his undressing in my bedroom, chatting excitedly.

Saturday 26th November 1938

I drove up to Town, called at Ealing Common, went on to Staines. Arranged digs for the night at Mrs Stephens. She’d heard I was engaged. She’d “always thought” that “Miss Rowlands” and I would “make a match of it”. I told her I’d be in late and was shown where the key was kept. She gossiped a bit, as of old. It was lovely!

Called for Winnie at her place. It was thrilling to have to go to the servants entrance. The maids young man! My only disappointment was that there were no cooks, pantry-boys etc about and that I didn’t see the mistress. (Not that Winnie calls her “the mistress”. In fact I’ve never met anyone who spoke or looked less like a servant. She’s simply changed my whole opinion of domestic service! It’s a career for young ladies!)

We went to the flicks. There was quite a decent place in Weybridge. Later we came back to the kitchen and Winnie made the most luscious curry. She does a meal properly! There was sherry and also a sweet. Glorious hot curry with a kick in it.
Must be decent people. They’d said I should be made welcome. Probably realise they’ve got a jewel of a maid. I’d helped (blunderingly) to prepare the meal and also helped with the washing up. It was God knows how late when we’d finished but (there being no time restrictions here) we went out for a blow of air.

Winnie took me to a pool beside the main road, about five miles away, where the stars were reflected so clearly that there seemed a heaven below as well as above.
It seemed glorious to sit there lazily smoking, lazily talking, without frantically eyeing a watch or worrying about horrible-minded parents.

Left Winnie at “Woodrising” then drove home, through silent towns, to Staines. Put the car cautiously into the garage, found the key and my room. Two o’clock struck as I got into bed. Slept deep.

Midnight 1938 – 1939

SJ Dawson, Roedean, Eastwoodbury Lane, Southend on Sea, Essex
Later: Clifton House, 5 Queens Road, Chelmsford, Essex

“Now! Today! Has come the time for singing;
Now! Today! The good red wine must flow;
You – may hear – our lifted glasses ringing,
For the hour has struck and we must go!”

Friday 25th November 1938

Last week was quite good, on the road. This week –

Monday: Rochford and Grays. One overdue cheque, one order (worth 11/6d)
Tuesday: Locals. One overdue cheque and one order (worth 16/-)
Wednesday: Chelmsford and Colchester. Nothing.
Thursday: Colchester district. One overdue cheque and one order (worth 16/-) handed on to a merchant.

Today, however has been better. Locals. An order from Turnridge, an order and a “bit on account” from Yeldham. And I at last received a 4 1/2 gallon order for heat resistant paint from Coleman and Hosking, the radiator manufacturers. I’ve been trying to “get in“ with them for several months. Had to obtain liquid samples of the colours from the contractors at Rochford Junior School. Was very cautious, saying I’d been sent by the radiator manufacturers, not that I was a paint representative.

Evening: Drill night at the Yeomanry. They’d just received wireless sets and we had our first instruction tonight. To my joy, I was one of the five Signallers taken to have a first lesson. I’d feared that, ignoring my previous service, they would leave me among the lesser lights. Actually, although ignorant I was able to keep my end up easily. For instance, I was the only member of the class to recognise a low tension battery…

Drove back from Chelmsford in a gale of wind and rain. B and AV tore into it manfully. With the windscreen wiper clicking fitfully, rain streaming down the windows, wind roaring – there ended –

Starshine 1938

Sunday 20th November 1938

John and Noelle had a day with Angel and I. Early in the morning it seemed I’d have to meet them alone…

When I reached Oakdene I found an envelope addressed to myself tied to the front gate: “Be like a Boy Scout prepared for Anything!” was the unsigned note inside.
Inside I found an angry, dogmatic parent (oh blast him!) and a timid cowed Lois.
She’d been forbidden to come out today as a punishment for being late last night. And all the time her father and I snarled at each other, she sat at the table, head bowed, like a child in disgrace. Amazing she should be treated like this – a mature woman of thirty! I saw that; I heard my own voice, clear and keen; I saw her father’s glaring eyes; I heard his abrupt, some what uncouth voice. Eventually she was given permission to come out… He accused us of having spent some time in a “booze-house” among other things. Heaven knows why and heaven knows what was wrong if we had entered an inn or hotel! I later learned he’d called her “a dirty cat” last night. Oh! The old bounder!

After all that we had a happy day. Went on the Pier, played some quaint game (Essex versus Surrey – and Surrey won!) and had a decent lunch. Noelle wasn’t as blasé as I’d feared; John was as hearty and booming as ever; and Angel was – just Angel!
We walked back to the shoe with a devil of a wind behind us, then drove out to the May-Phil at Battlesbridge. Played nearly every game possible in the Clubroom and drank a non-intoxicating drink called Cydrax. Played inter-county darts – and Essex won the second two games out of three! So it was honours even. Angel was jubilant when the dart thudded into the final, desired “double”. Had tea at the May-Phil.
Heavy rain.

We drove back to Rochford, B and AV running beautifully – and said good-bye to Noelle and John. Took Angel home soon afterwards – at her request. (I was so fed-up that I suggested getting married, thus condemning ourselves to awful poverty.) Went into Oakdene with her. There didn’t seem to be any particular trouble brewing so I left soon after nine o’clock.

Saturday 19th November 1938

Took B and AV into dock again, for repairs to the silencer and fitting of a new tyre (£1-4-0). This has put the final touch on B and AV’s perfection and she no longer sounds like a racing car. She runs smoothly and almost noiselessly. People can talk without raising their voices whilst she purrs along at 35 or 40 mph. Yes, she purrs now instead of bellowing, howling or roaring!

Lois and I went to the pictures this afternoon, and later dashed out to The Blue Bird Café for a late tea. We sat in B and AV in a lonely lane near Cherry Orchard, quarrelling and kissing alternately. When we looked at my watch it was – horror! – 11:40p.m. Rushed frantically back to Oakdene. Midnight!

Thursday 17th November 1938

A good “local” day on the road. It’s been quite a good week, considering the season:-
Monday, Zone One, Southend, Leigh and Westcliff. A ten gallon order and a cheque from Ridd. Tuesday, Zone Three. A six gallon order from Hedges of Pitsea. Wednesday in Zone Four (Crouch-Blackwater) seemed as though it would be bloody awful, until about 4 o’clock, when I received two orders from agricultural engineers (one a new account). The interviews occurred in places far removed from new buildings – and the building trade depression. Thursday, Zone One, three orders. Spent an exciting hour in the afternoon, tracing my bete noir, one Copeland (in debt to the extent of £20) who had disappeared from his residence. Found him eventually, with the help of a friendly estate agent, whose secretary made systematic telephone calls until the new address was unearthed. Friday, only one order in Zone One but I collected three overdue accounts.

Evening: First night’s drill with my new unit – The Essex Yeomanry, Chelmsford.
They didn’t seem very smart on parade. “Bullshit” noticeably lacking. Learnt a lot the Signals had never taught me about - the Don 3. Their reading speed was quite easy, in the Morse exercises. I rank as a trained Signaller in this unit!

Wednesday 16th November 1938

Rather a blow. The B and AV repair bill comes to nearly £7-0-0…

Tuesday 15th November 1938

Lois wrote a wonderful sonnet about us.

Monday 14th November 1938

Lois read and passed the journal of our weekend.

Sunday 13th November 1938

Mrs Ife brought a tray of tea. To my satisfaction, she left it all outside my door. So I slipped into the bathroom, cleaned my teeth and threw some water over my head to waken myself. Then I tapped on the door of Milady’s room, received no answer, went in with the tray and knelt down by the bed. As I gently moved the coverlet from her head (Yes! She’d burrowed underneath!) her eyes flickered quietly, happily open.
Downstairs, our muddy shoes had been cleaned and polished. We had a jolly good breakfast. We told Mrs Ife how, when we first came, we’d only just started “courting”. The second time we’d just become engaged – Now we were quite a veteran engaged couple, and “Maybe next time we’ll be married!”

Sunshine when we took the road. We tramped along the Pilgrims Way until great trees towered above on a steep hillside. So we climbed up among them. Red copper-beech leaves like a carpet. We stayed there a long time, whilst cyclists and walkers, unobservant, passed just beneath, along a path in a deep cutting. When we went on again, Angel had a great bunch of red spindle berries fastened in her rucksack flap.
We had a pot of tea, with our sandwiches at the little cottage, “Rosedene” where we had tea last night. A quiet voiced young man was there, whom we’d passed earlier, along the Pilgrims Way. Seemed lonely; we discussed ramble routes with him. He was planning a ramble for a London Club.

We became more or less involved in some woods near Cobham. Eventually I climbed to a tree top and called down my vision to Angel below, who had the map. I was the “eyes” Angel was the “brain”! And the humorous thing was that our path was only twenty paces distant!

A good wash and tea, at “The Leather Bottle”, Cobham. Walked to Gravesend then, feeling pleasantly tired – and sleepy! It had been raining since dusk but only a light, wind driven, exhilarating drizzle.

Train to Westcliff. (Back again, damn it!) The B and AV was ready. The weekend had brought us ever so much closer, in the way that husband and wife, or very old friends are close. No shyness between, now.

Saturday 12th November 1938

Baffled through the B and AV’s erratic temperament, Lois and I could not go to Wolfhampcote to celebrate the anniversary of our meeting. However –

A squall of rain as we tramped through stinking Gravesend (a foul place but the gateway to Kent). Afterwards, warm winds. At dusk we came to a little house – in a lane that would fade away into the hills and woods. “Teas and Refreshments. Key of the Dode Chapel” We had tea there. When the room became dark, candles with long twisted sticks were brought in. Two ladies with gentle voices sat at the next table. We lit our cigarettes from the candles flame. It was quite dark now. Far away from Gravesend and yet we sat there unhurried? Oh! But this was different! We hadn’t to go back until tomorrow!

Angel led me through the dark woods, up and down steep hills, along leafy pathways; from Buckland to the edge of Halling. For no particular reason we stood close together and kissed. Then, singing, we swung down the hard road to the Robin Hood Inn. Yes, they could put us up! Mrs Ife showed us over the old barn-like house. “The Lady” could have this inner room and I could have the adjoining one. “That’s if you don’t mind us coming through, Sir.” My room therefore would be a passage through which everyone else had to go! I assured them that I was used to that sort of thing – indeed, I had a similar room at Magna Charta, Egham, years ago.

Away from our people, independent and free, we made ourselves “at home”, sitting by the fire in the little parlour behind the bar. Muddy shoes and rucksacks put away; comfy slippers; we lazily listened to the radio. We were happy. After a jolly good supper we scrambled up the steep hillside near the great quarry in Wingate Wood. We sat down on a pile of wood shavings, where the cutters had been at work. Amazing coincidence! At our feet, Angel found the old hat I threw away in these woods during the all-night ramble, last June!

Back at the pub we listened to the story of Mr Ife’s darts match. (The atmosphere was most reminiscent of the Red Lion.) Then we all went to bed. Mr and Mrs Ife marched through my room and into theirs. Lois glided through my room, paused as she passed me, and whispered, “If you come into my room afterwards, you can have some chocolate”. “Don’t want any chocolate,” I muttered, with pseudo-sulkiness. However I did sit on her bed and have a bite of chocolate before turning in… …at four twenty. Then, Milady came back with me and crept into my bed, cos “It must be so cold”.
It was lovely for her to be there, snuggling close to me, a very golden head on my chest. The head, I knew, must be very golden, although it was too dark for me to see. It was thrilling once, when Mr Ife came through the room, en-route to the bathroom; we lay very still, hardly daring to breathe. Because – what seemed so innocent to ourselves might not appear to be innocent to people who did not know us.

Milady left me at 6:30. Whilst we lay together, I’d made her promise that when we had a few days holiday together, we’d be, - in the eyes of the world! – a married couple. And you, who may someday read this book, remember that that suggestion was, to both of us, as simple, innocent and natural as this night-adventure had been.

Friday 11th November 1938

The mornings mail was cheerful. An order from Bundy – 10 gallons of Piccadilly. A note from the Office stating that my turnover (up to the end of September) had passed the £1000 mark.

At 9 o’clock – just before breakfast – to my amazement, Joan called. She’d heard all about my troubles, last night, from Lois. “Stephen,” she said, “I owe you something. Let me pay my debt and run you round in the car today.” “The car?” I said vaguely.
“Oh, it’s Mick’s” she said brightly. She did take me round! At 11 o’clock we were dashing along High Street. A lorry in front suddenly jammed on it’s brakes. Joan stopped, well out in the road. Everything and everybody stopped. She switched off the engine. Silence fell. Remembrance again, for the men who, we’ve thought lately, may have died quite vainly, after all.

Joan and I had lunch at The Ritz Café and talked like blazes – chiefly about each other; abstract subjects, and Lois. I shall like Joan much better now. She becomes a friend, instead of a barrier between – Lois and I.

Thursday 10th November 1938

I ordered (and paid for) a really decent Harris tweed jacket today. Never had a good tweed jacket before. My Bank balance then stood at £25.

Having made a few calls, I called at St. Helens Garages and eventually obtained an order worth about £2. It was to represent my total days turnover, also…

I asked them to adjust the brakes on the B and AV. They discovered the brake cables were frayed and might part at any moment. I agreed to have new ones fitted; went away for lunch. Came back to find B and AV still jacked-up. It seemed like being a long job, so I went out again. Returned at 4p.m. Something being wrong with the wheels, they’d taken them down to find a nail, a steel splinter from the axle piece, and broken springs in the brake shoes. It would cost at least £3 and take two days…

(My mind whirled. Probably Lois and I would be going to Aunt’s at Wolfhampcote – anniversary of our first meeting! Three pounds… more money trickling out for an old car. Precious money. How long is it going to continue? Months ago I suspected one damn thing after another… My God, I was right! Sell the bloody thing, get rid of it. That means a year or more of hire purchase payments; you couldn’t get married then, could you?) I telephoned Lois. She had a say in the matter anyhow! It did me good to hear her voice. Minutes ticked by. At last she said, “Don’t sell it yet, Stephen. Get it mended.” So I told 'em to go ahead. Walked to Victoria Circus. Made a (fruitless) call. Caught a bus as far as Bentall Estate.

When I reached home two more hurts awaited me. A) Lois had driven across to the garage, got there too late, heard I’d walked home, then driven along the Arterial Road looking for me. B) A letter from Aunt said yes! It would be lovely! She’d expect Lois and I this weekend. I did my work, had tea, wrote to Aunt explaining we couldn’t come after all. Just before I left the house – a bright spot! Lois appeared again.

She’d seen a second hand Morris that seemed decent. Why not have B and AV “bodged-up” and then buy the Morris? The Morris seemed very nice and attractive but it might be simply exchanging one trouble for another. Might as well have a new car when I do buy. “Well, don’t consider me” she said, “Buy a new car as soon as you like. That’s a necessity. I’m a luxury”. Personally, I’m not quite sure that I agree there…

She drove me into Southend, where I met Ted Tutton. Tutton and I went to the pictures and saw two “gripping” melodramas with ample blood and revolver shots. Had supper afterwards, at The Blue Room. He left me at Roedean about 12 o’clock. It is now 1 o’clock. I’ve clarified my mind by writing. Must go to bed now. Must do the “locals” on foot tomorrow. Have taken all superfluous literature out of the suitcase.

Oh hell! How remote and far away Lois becomes when things like this happen. I don’t mean she moves away. I mean that it all makes marriage, and her, seem distant and impossible, economically. Still do not feel sleepy. I’ll go to bed – and read. “Village Wooing”. It seems like being an idyllic village story of a nerve-racked man who found peace…

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sunday 6th November 1938

An outing not so admirably suitable, today. Lois and I met Joan and Mick at Tilbury, 11:15 a.m. for a ramble in … Kent. We were satisfactorily blasé on the way down to Tilbury but whilst we waited there for the others I thought of what we were about to do – and it seemed awful! Brittle and shallow in Kent! At that moment Lois spoke, - “A penny for your thoughts!” I solemnly accepted the penny, lit my pipe and told her – that we might, if she liked, declare a truce whilst we were out of Essex. Just a few hours… Eventually, somewhat awkwardly, we agreed to do this. Joan and Mick arrived soon afterwards.

As the ferry boat neared Gravesend, Lois turned suddenly to me, alive again, vital again. “It was a jolly good idea and worth more than a penny!” (“What a lovely interlude in unpleasantness” I thought then, - in my ignorance.) Soon the four of us were swinging along the now familiar paths over the hills, through the woods.
Mick and I walked together. He discoursed gloomily on his quarrels with Joan.
(“Ironical,” I thought, “They’re at the height of a quarrel. We are in the midst of a temporary truce before we’re deliberately unhappy again”.)

The pipe tastes good.

We all sat on an old tree trunk in the woods, munching sandwiches, then smoking cigarettes. It was fairly warm. I had no tie, but a green scarf tucked into my open necked shirt. None of us wore hats. My rucksack now contained Lois’ mac and mine. Reserve cigarettes; a pack of cards; Lois’ mirror and hair comb; the map. We found a terrified rabbit trapped in the woods. Mick and I released the poor little creature.
I carried it to Lois, who held it gently in her arms. Joan had disappeared; we searched for her. Apparently Mick and she had again quarrelled, just before we discovered the rabbit…

Once I returned and found Lois sitting, just outside the woods, still nursing the rabbit. We kissed gently, above the little animals trembling body. Soon afterwards we released it. At first it remained still, but eventually, recovering, hopped slowly away.

I wandered along the top of a very deep railway cutting. So precipitous that I could not see men walking at the bottom of the embankment So high that I was above the tops of many trees on the other side. Through a gap in these trees, I eventually saw Joan, a long way off, walking back. Went to meet her, and found her coming up a narrow path through the woods. She was still awfully upset, saying she didn’t want to see Mick ever again; tears in her eyes. All I could do was to eventually accede to her passionate demands and lend her some money, so that she could walk back to Gravesend, then travel home. I last saw her walking fast along the road, happy-seeming again.

The others waited at the top of the hill; saw me return alone. There didn’t seem to be anything we could do. After some discussion, the three of us walked back to Cobham. Lois and I managed to keep Mick cheerful. Had quite a jolly tea at “The Little Dorrit”. Mick left us then, climbing aboard the bus (amid laughter) with his arms full of Lois’ wild bracken and leaves. We were alone and the truce still held…

Began the walk back towards Gravesend. But there was a quaintly shaped old tree beside the path. We stood beneath it, tight in each other’s arms. Then we lay down, and laughed, a little bitterly, at all the things we’d been doing to hurt one another. Lois had not been wearing her ring, except in public – for “blah” reasons. I now had to solemnly return it to the little finger where it lived. “Let’s call the pact off! I can’t stand it” said Angel. “Oh, I think it’s quite pleasant” I teased. She ignored this feeble wit. “Will you call it off? Do you want it to go on?”
She put her lips to mine, then took them away just far enough so that I could speak.
“Will you…?” What chance did I have with her mouth so close? And anyhow, I couldn’t have stood it much longer. I would have “called it off” if Angel hadn’t!

Good heavens, it was nearly half past nine! We hurried back to Cobham, hired a taxi and caught the Gravesend ferry. B and AV bellowed exultantly along the Southend Road. 50! 50! Must have been pleased that we’d come to our senses and awakened Love from his very short sleep. Only from the evening of November the fourth to the morning of November the sixth. That was all that Loischen and I could stand, without “tommyrot”.

Saturday 5th November 1938

The Rogers went along to have tea with relatives at Croydon and took their daughters’ young man with them. A pleasant time was had by all. An outing admirably suitable for the new plan of happiness.


Friday 4th November 1938

It seemed like a “no order” day until I returned to Eastwoodbury lat in the afternoon. However, there was a 3 gallon order waiting from Darby’s of Wickford – sent on to me by Gulliver Francis (CHA) who works there. I then heard an extension was being built onto the Eastwood Church Hall and called there. The Vicar was superintending the job himself. I took a 2 gallon order, with the promise of several more to come! So it was a fairly good day and I called for Lois in the evening, feeling quite happy.

Yet – Oh hell! – somehow we were just the opposite of au fait and quarrelled again.
Drove viciously to the old disused road near Chelmsford and there we sat in the car, arguing and trying to make it up at the same time. Eventually we did. The troubles often arise 'cos she’s a sociable sort of person and I’m not (I like to have her to myself instead of being with a crowd of people, making conversation). (That old, mocking tune:- “We talk about - the weather; The moon or the stars above; Just making conversation, When we ought to be making love”.)

Eventually, Lord knows how or why, we made some fatuous arrangement to be frightfully gay and sociable and shallow – both of us – for one month. And “cut out” the “tommyrot” The “tommyrot” to be cut out means, incredibly, such things as Angel, Milady, Mio, love-kisses, dreams, poetry, beautiful music… “Is the tommyrot necessary to you?” she asked. “Yes.” Still, it’s going to be cut out, just for a month. The depths of fatuity have now been reached!

We were in each others arms. She whispered, “In this lane, Love was put to sleep on November the fourth.” Soon after she made some suitable brittle remark, adding loudly, “In case you don’t know, I’ve started!” “Oh have you?” I said, “Well now, hold that damn choke out, whilst I crank up the engine”.

So we drove home. She led the new way, chatting gaily about nothing. I responded.
Our lips met faintly when we parted. A duty kiss.

Thursday 3rd November 1938

Lois went to night school; I went to the “flicks”. I knew she and her friends would go on to the Astoria Café later, for coffee. I saw the picture to the exact point I’d seen when I came in. A few steps from my seat into the café. Lois and her friends were just rising from their table, ready to leave! Beautifully synchronised, without any previous arrangement! (Although Lois said she somehow knew I’d come and meet her that particular night.)

Wednesday 2nd November 1938

Turnover not very large but a satisfactory and promising day, nevertheless. Eight calls: no “unproductives” and only one “contact”. Something to report at all the others. Collected an overdue account at Laindon and received part-payment and another order at Romford. Trial priming order from Kind’s at Upminster. Stock order for a new shop at Upminster (Holden’s) which has a business-like atmosphere and should prosper (taking Paripan products with it on the tide, we hope!) Interesting and promising interview at East Horndon with Rotary Hoes Ltd, an Australian company of agricultural machine manufacturers who are to start production here shortly. I liked the buyer (who is also the rotary hoe inventor). Direct and straightforward, a typical colonial, without any “swagger”. I told him so; he liked that! The Holden stock kept me some time; it was 5:30 p.m and dark before I got away from the shop.

Soon I was rushing down the arterial road. Double track road for cars and a separate cycle path. On, your old car bellows! Unvarying speed, behind the headlights. 40.
A red light ahead. You draw nearer. Click! The offside indicator pops out, you swing over, right foot moves down slightly. 45. You rush past the other vehicle. And on. 40. Traffic indicator in again.

Stopped for coffee and a welsh rarebit at the Bluebird Café. Did some of my office work there, neatly and methodically. Home 7 o’clock. Finished work 9:30.

Introduction to Starshine 1938

Let us think of the more happier things, not of business depression.

Money: Flowing in!

On October 28th I received a surprise gift of £5 from my mother. Presumably for a new suit, I put it in the Bank. On the 31st – 10/- from the TA – travelling allowance. On the 1st, came my quarterly commission cheque (covering the July – September period) of £19-12-7. I now have, instead of almost nothing, over £27 in the Bank.

Possessions: Increased!

During the last few days I’ve bought new pyjamas (lovely, art silk!) new socks, warm, fur lined gloves and a pair of silk stockings for Loischen. (Yet I have still £2 to last until pay day!) When my surplus kit (that not required for my new unit) was taken in by the Signals Quartermaster, he left me my bandolier and RC Signals buttons. Maybe I’ll be able to retain them for myself! Small but satisfying.

Elocution: Improvement!

On November 1st, I had to speak on the motion that “Territorial conscription be made lawful in this country”. I’m still nervous as hell, and wonder if I seem to be visibly trembling, but what an improvement from the agonising speech I made last year! Stumbling, faltering, not able to control my hands or stand up straight, not able to once look at my audience. Then I prayed for the end, now I felt quite regretful when “Madam Chairman” (Lois!) signified that I’d gone over time and must draw to a close.

Business is hellish bad, but when there’s money in the Bank, the chance of marriage seems a little nearer. Yes, there is happiness!

Starshine 1938

"Courage is but a word, and yet, of words,
The only sentinel of permanence;
The ruddy watch fire of cold winter days,
We steal its comfort, lift our weary swords,
And on. For faith – without it – has no sense;
And love to wind of doubt and tremor sways;
And life for ever quaking marsh must tread.”

Saturday 29th October 1938

Business calls, office work, preparing next week’s programme, letter writing, writing up notes for the speech I have to make at school next Tuesday. A debate. I shall enjoy it, if I’m not too nervous. Have to propose the motion that “Territorial conscription be made lawful in this country”. “Madam Chairman” is Lois!

This evening, gloomy funeral of no.3 Company and end of all the friendship born at Camp. Cheese, beef sandwiches, pickles and beer on paper covered tables in the damned cold drill hall. At the end, slightly sentimental speeches from officers and senior NCO’s to an unimaginative and unappreciative audience. “Auld Lang Syne” and “The King.” We drifted towards the door. Someone had filled a pickle-dish with beer. Cigarette stubs and matches floated on top. A broken glass lay on a table. Someone, with a laugh, pushed it over on to the floor, with a crash. Very cold outside, too. Gave Bernard Fayers a lift home. All the men of no. 4 tent except Ginger had sat at the table with us, during the evening. Camper, Woolmer, Upton, Spider Laurence…

Another weary fresh start now!

Friday 28th October 1938

Even in winter, it seems, Angel can give me an idyllic day. I took her with me on the road for the quarterly journey into my “north eastern corner” It was lunchtime when we reached Dovercourt and I’d only made two casual and unproductive calls. Didn’t feel like work! Had lunch at The Cliff, a decent place – with a fire! – on the front. Sat over lunch for a long time but eventually decided to do some work. Made three thoroughly serious calls. Two orders. Turnover £14. More than I deserved!

We found a groin or mole that ran out into Dovercourt Bay. About a furlong in length. On either side the sea surged. We were quite alone out there. We walked back to the land holding hands tightly, the setting sun in our faces. We had watched a large, black sea bird take off, wheel and fly fast across the greyness, outwards.
The B and AV trundled away in the falling light. My right hand steered and worked the gears. Milady held my left hand in both hers.

At a little café adjoining a garage, just beyond Colchester, we had tea. A little room to ourselves, two cosy chairs (we didn’t sit to table!) and a wood fire. I did my office work, Angel read poetry. I smoked my pipe.

We took the road again and now I wrapped the rug around Milady. Sang old songs whilst B and AV crawled slower and slower into the cold night. Beyond Chelmsford, near Sandon, was an unused road. Once it was the direct route between Chelmsford and Southend. Now, however, a new, better road has been made and sweeps past both ends of the old way. We turned off into this old road and backed B and AV into a conveniently open gateway. And were at last alone, together, in each others arms!
How the time fled! It was eleven o’clock. B and AV flew homewards. “Good night Mio.”

Thursday 27th October 1938

Orders yesterday – nil. Today, turnover was £1-14-0. Called also on pleasant Mr Sprent of JC Ingram Ltd. He wrote out a neat little letter to my firm and gave it to me, for delivery to the firm :-

“You have on order 1cwt. P U/Coat Paste White… We shall esteem it a favour if you will hold this over until further advice, as, owing to the political position – we being in a danger zone – we have ceased to build.”

Obtained copies of “The Southend Standard” and “Southend Times” this morning. Both had printed my grumblings, The “Standard” in an obscure corner, the “Times” on the front page.

Tuesday 25th October 1938

Lois and I attended the dynamic Miss Hollingsworth’s Elocution Class. We both felt brave enough to stand up and speak. (It’s more on the lines of a public speaking class this year.) Not many people at school. Terrible fog. One of the worst I’ve known. Took 45 minutes to reach school and 25 minutes to get back to Oakdene. Thrilling moment when, knowing the road you decide to take a chance, accelerate to 15 – 20 mph, swing out and pass the slow moving car ahead! Made good speed along London Road, Westcliff on the way in, by keeping well out and following the tramlines.

Kissed “goodnight” in the drive at Oakdene, then began to discuss Sundays estrangement. She felt rotten too and thought I was far away! We talked our way back to happiness, sitting in the car.

Sunday 23rd October 1938

Lois and her people came today. I was out in the garden when they arrived, cleaning Father’s car “with the other boys”. (Haven’t been allowed to drive it yet!) Lois seemed horribly, ever so much older today. She and all the other “grown ups” sat discussing their Vauxhall cars and the wonderful tours they’d had.

Poor Pepita – who might have proved a leavening influence – was in Hospital at St. Georges. We all went up after lunch. The majority of the old people went with Father whilst Lois thought she might manage “three noisy children” in her car. (I was sent down to clean the car again, whilst the adults had their after-lunch cups of tea. Was soon ordered to return however and gulped down a hasty cup before we set out.) A huge crowd of us, so it seemed, rushed into Pepita’s ward. Rhuematic fever! She’s damn plucky about it. The way Pepita accepts illness always did amaze me.

After tea, back at the flat, they all sat round the fire – Lois not Lois at all, but just another female aunt. How can I describe it? Well, she wasn’t my Lois but just a friend of my parents. Not in my sphere at all. Not young, not a girl. I was nearly as bored as Richard! Robin, of course, did his homework and listened intently to the adults conversation, in his usual quaint way!

I didn’t wish to be given a lift back to Eastwood, when I remembered my return ticket, my book, and my very own (though infra dig) car waiting at Southend Station.
I left before the Rogers. Lois tore herself away from the conversational fray and – very kindly – gave me a lift to Ealing Broadway Station. I came down by the 9:57 from Liverpool Street. When my thoughts weren’t straying, pondering on what a bloody awful day it had been, I read a spy story and smoked.

Southend 11:15. B and AV started easily.

Saturday 22nd of October 1938

Went home this weekend. Utterly fed-up with car driving, so left B and AV at Southend LNER and went up by train. Only minor repairs this week – and a new tyre.
Pleasant, travelling by train and reading a book!

Friday 21st October 1938

Full of rage at the disintegration of the Signals, I called at the offices of “The Southend Times” and “The Southend Standard” this afternoon. In each case an interested reporter took particulars of our woes. The “Standard” reporter said they’d visit the drill hall again in search of further news and that my information would be very helpful. The “Times” man took shorthand notes of everything that I said and stated enthusiastically that they’d “give this publicity!” Of course I pointed out to both that I was not in a position to give official information but that what I said might be useful as a guide to their investigations. If the Army doesn’t manage to divert them, they should obtain a good “story”.

Men being discharged at this time, when there is even talk of Territorial conscription!

Thursday 20th October 1938

Went to the drill hall. Nothing happening, except for men coming in with their kits, to be checked over for returning… “Ah, Dawson!” said the PSI, seeing me. “You haven’t signed anything yet. What are you going to do? The Searchlights or your Discharge?” “Oh, I’m going to Stratford” I said blandly. “No” he said equally blandly, “That’s all washed out. Nobody can go to Stratford, except Post Office employees”. “Well, I’ll transfer to another unit.” “I’m afraid they’re all full. No vacancies” he said, un-encouragingly.

Actually I’d made enquiries at a Chelmsford unit – Field Artillery or something – and had been told I could join, so I disagreed on this point. I didn’t have much time to make up my mind but in due course the application for transfer was filled in, citing 104th (Essex) Yeomanry Brigade RA, Chelmsford. (Another bloody change! Anyhow I shan’t need to buy a new tie. I still have the 193rd Gunner tie.)
The PSI confided to us that this filling in of discharge and transfer papers was one of the most unpleasant he’d had to do. He said that twenty five men had signed for a Discharge so far.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tuesday 18th October 1938

Lois and I played truant from night school and went to the pictures. A musical film and the theme song was – “Love Walked In”! “Love walked right in and drove the shadows away…”

Spent some time at Oakdene afterwards and then it took us half an hour to say “good night” to each other. Rather suburban? Yes, I suppose so! However, perhaps it’s rather nice to be suburban sometimes.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday 17th October 1938

A worrying week, the last. Had to go to the Office on Thursday, in connection with a complaint which has been dragging on for months now. Therefore, no call, no orders, that day! B and AV would not start so I had to go up by train. That, however was a nice change and I had a good book to read.

A garage man came out to Eastwoodbury on Friday and eventually got B and AV mended. About 6/-. Two orders on Friday.

Spent the weekend at Wolfhampcote.

Took two orders today. Only made five calls! One of the calls was on the Philosophical Mann, at Shoeburyness. Always a long talk there. We stood discussing pleasant dreamy subjects whilst the shadows lengthened and the afternoon grew cold.

Bitterness at Signals tonight when we were told that after all, there were no vacancies for men at Stratford. Many men then lined up at a table, having their names put down for the Searchlights. There was also a horribly long list of names at another table, labelled “Discharges”. At least two Sergeants and the Sergt. Major applied for discharges! One of the sergeants said he “felt like howling” at the thought of having to leave. “Cheerio, you fellows” said the other. “Anyone want a bandolier?” The Sergt. Major (with 15 years service) said, “I just aint interested in searchlights. I look up maybe, and think, “They’re pretty” but that’s all. So I’m going to pack it up”.

I didn’t put my name on either list. Maybe they’ll change their minds another bloody time yet!

Tuesday 11th October 1938

Brentwood, Laindon and Rayleigh. Two orders, both new accounts. £4-10-0. The third order, also from a new customer, I passed on to Skinner’s, the merchants.

Back in Southend about 5:30. A little melody has been haunting me for some time. It reminded me of 1938 and Lois, somehow. (Silly, when 1938 and Lois are here, in the present!) I don’t know when I first heard the tune, but about a month ago it was played on the wireless in a little café by Benfleet Creek. Nobody knew the name! Last night at Signals, one of the men thumped it out on the piano in the drill hall.
“What is that?” I asked Fayers, sitting next to me. “Love walked right in” he replied, “I think!” So tonight I bought the gramophone record of “Love Walked In”. They put it on the radiogram first. Yes! That was the tune. Theme song for my 1938!

Sat by the fireside at Roedean and read a stirring story by S Fowler Wright – “Lords Right in Languedoc”. Swords, spears, bows, castle and town, the women of both, gentle knights, sturdy town folk and skilful professional soldiers!

At 9:30 p.m. I went into Southend and to the Municipal College. Pushed open the door of Room 15. There was Miss Hollingsworth, alone, marking the register. Reunion! Yes, some of my old acquaintances were in the class again, and I could transfer from the Dramatic Art class (joined in error last week). We had milk shakes at a bar in High Street, then I drove her to the station for her train to town.

Went to Oakdene afterwards and left my gramophone record with Lois, after we’d played it through. Helped Lois with the Club accounts, then had a coffee. Did not leave until 12!

Monday 10th October 1938

Local calls. Eleven interviews, three orders. £4-10-0.

Company Meeting this evening. Our own Signals Second in Command and a Colonel and Adjutant of Searchlights harangued us, saying that no. 3 Company would cease to exist at the end of this month, that the new local Searchlight unit was hundreds short, and that we could now transfer to Searchlights, transfer to nos. 1 or 2 Companies Signals (in London) or leave TA altogether. They emphasized what a fine show the Searchlights was. Very important work, very interesting, better pay, faster promotion. (I rose and put a cunning question to which I knew the answer; “The uniform will be infantry, I presume?”)

Presently, after several of us had jumped up several times, expressing various views, the Searchlight and Essex Regt. Officers went out, whilst we debated fiercely in little groups. When they returned, there was a show of hands, just so that they could get some idea of the “feeling” of the Company. 23 men wanted to go over to the Searchlight unit. 12 wished to transfer to one of the London Signals units. (I was in this group.) 15 wanted to apply for their discharges and leave TA altogether.
9 men did not vote at all. So, at the end of all their speeches, the disappointed Searchlight (ex The Essex Regt.) officers only gained 23 men. And the TA lost 15 entirely! Thirty four members of the Company were absent. It is difficult to say what course they, approached individually, will adopt.

Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th October 1938

Two happy days! I rid myself of the black devil which has been riding with me for a week or more! Not only has the gloom gone but I feel myself near to Lois again. It was awful to feel far apart and know it was my fault. I used the magic of Kent, where happy memories lay. We were driving aimlessly along the arterial road near Laindon when I suddenly decided to swing southwards to Tilbury. We left the B and AV there, at the station, and crossed by the ferry. It was fun to be going into Kent so late in the day – nearly 4 o’clock. Lois and I strode fast across the fields beyond Gravesend. It rained steadily, but we laughed and kept on. (Gradually, effortlessly, the blackness miraculously left me.)

We wandered along strange woodland ways as dark came; through tunnels of trees sometimes. At the far end of the woods we sat down and saw the lights of Rochester, sprawling across the hill. Angel found a Primrose beside her. A Primrose flowering in early October. We turned our backs on the lights of the town and retraced our way through the woods. Then, in the darkness, across parkland, past a gaunt sinister building; until we came to little Cobham village. We had tea – with Devonshire cream! – at “The Little Dorrit”. Sat a long time there – close comrades again! The rain had almost stopped. We walked back to Gravesend in the night.

Home at eleven o’clock, both a little tired, very muddy and very happy.

Sunday – Lois and I were out in the country again, rambling with the club. At first I thought we’d never reach the rendezvous (Wickford Station) in time; the damned little B and AV refused to start. Eventually, sweating and cursing, I had to push it up and down the lane. She started after about half an hour. It was already time for us to be at the meeting-place, when I called for Lois. However B and AV made amends by clattering heroically to Wickford, (ignoring all the 30 mile limits) and by sheerest luck we eventually overtook Grace, Ellen and the rest about 1 1/2 miles from the station, just before they took to the fields.

Walked all day around the Hanningfields, hardly seeing a road. Heavy going – several ploughed fields – and we were all pretty tired when we reached Galleywood for tea.
Six miles along the road, to Billericay afterwards. Lois and I were there first! We were back at Eastwood about 7:30p.m. Bought some chocolate and “Hippy Buchan”. Sat in the car at Cherry Orchard and read “Hippy”. When the torch began to fail we read – each other.

Lois did not get back to Oakdene until 11:30. Several times now she’s returned after the Curfew Hour – and nothing said. Maybe they’re becoming human.