Monday, May 26, 2008

Dawn 1939

"My friends the hills, the sea, the sun,
The winds, the woods, the clouds, the trees –
How feebly, if my youth were done,
Could I, an old man, relish these!
With laughter then, I’ll go to greet
What fate has still in store for me…”

Monday 6th March 1939

Slinky B was not quite ready but had been patched-up so that I could drive her today – with a dented wing. I got into the familiar seat and sank deep. Green carpets. “Legroom”. Familiar gadgets. I pulled out the choke control, switched on the ignition, depressed the clutch and pulled the started button. The engine purred instantly. For the first time, I really appreciated Slinky B! After a weeks absence I was surprised at her power and smooth running. It was lovely to know there was a brake light on the rear and a trafficator at each side.

Returning through Great Baddow in the early evening, before nightfall, I saw a tree in full blossom, in a garden. Lovely pink blossom. They say it is almond. With this sign of spring, seen as I passed by, I end –


Sunday 5th March 1939

Up at 7:45a.m., blast it.

Walked down to the drill hall and went in the lorry to Colchester. Bloody bad discipline in this unit and the blokes are very young. Except for the two Sorrells, Hignall, Embleton and a new bloke, Dean, they are all boys and mostly behave as such. Norrington, who is 17 and joined just before myself, seems decent.

Beat Bisley in three games of chess, after tea; that gives me a lead of one game in our series match. We hope to continue, even when I have left these digs.

Saturday 4th March 1939

Owing to non-delivery of a new wing the car is still in dock and will not be ready until Tuesday at the earliest… I’d hoped all this would prove, at least, helpful for later obtaining cellulose business from Sewell and King Ltd. However, Bisley has told me that their reputation has suddenly become somewhat doubtful…

Oh hell! Typical Stillness thoughts, what?
Yet Stillness is nearly over.

Lois being away this weekend, I was somewhat at a loose end. Eventually went to the “flicks” with Davey, the new digger.

Friday 3rd March 1939

Drove across to my new digs at lunchtime, to take a bundle of books. (Moving again!) It is the Windmill Inn. East Hanningfield. An old pub on a village green, reminiscent of the Red Lion at Thorpe. They seem lovely country folk. I’ll wash in the scullery and have meals with them, in the kitchen.

It will be lovely for the summer, especially after these impersonal, comfortless, strict digs. I shall miss the jolly crowd of blokes who’ve gathered here – but I do like somewhere “easy going” and I guess I’ve found that somewhere at The Windmill.

Thursday 2nd March 1939

Apart from business mail, my morning correspondence consisted of a letter from Lois and two separate (one final!) demands for income tax - £1-9-2. Hiring expenses for this week come to about £2-0-0. All that will have to come out of my bank balance – about £17. On the 16th of the month the usual £4-5-10 hire-purchase sum is due. On the 24th, road tax - £2-3-0.

At times like this I think that chances of marriage are so distant that it was quite futile to become engaged at all. I became engaged realising only the romantic side of the show and eager to “make certain” of someone I loved. Anxious to find someone definite, not a straw “borne on the dark flood”. Now I appreciate, bitterly, that there is a cold £-s-d aspect to all this.

Wednesday 1st March 1939

Five deliveries of U/coat Paste White under short term contracts came due today, and so it was bound to be a good day before I left the house! Took a £5 stock order in Chelmsford, then spent a fruitless day in Harwich and Dovercourt. Gave lifts to two tramps. Glad of their company; it was a 100 mile day. Turnover, with the U/coat Paste White orders - £17.

Defeated Whiley at chess this evening – in a few moves, with the loss of one pawn! Bisley defeated me after a game that lasted two hours. So now he is one up again!

Tuesday 28th February 1939

Felt like death warmed up this morning when I awoke (and then sneezed seven times!)
However, eventually got away in a hired Ford Eight. Seemed a funny little tub after having Slinky B’s magnificence at my command. Wobbly steering, much noise and no trafficators. Rather unfortunate, the latter, as I had to drive with the window open and there was a cold drizzle of rain.

Went to Heybridge. Left the car half-way up a muddy unmade road and saw Kove, a builder with a beard, whom I hadn’t visited for several months. He gave me a small order. Returning to the car I found it hopelessly bogged. Kove quite nonchalantly brought up three of his men and set to work with spades, planks and shoulders. They eventually extricated it (obviously experts at the job) and I reversed madly down that hell track until I came to a real road again. Getting on for midday by now. Only one call made and the car and I both very muddy. I thought grimly of the quotation used as a frontpiece here: -“so stand up son, look gritty…” So I did – stick it.

An order at Howards Dairies, Leigh. Goodeve, Southend decorator, sent me an inquiry for distemper yesterday. I called this afternoon and found he’d just posted off the order to head office! I hadn’t called on him for months – nearly two years. He was one of my earliest customers and an unsatisfactory account. (There is some mention of him in my diary during the early days on the road, I think.) However, he seems more affluent now. We sat snugly in his parlour and talked business. Ultimately he gave a further order – for Piccadilly and Duripan Hard Gloss – and (quite unflinchingly!) a cheque. The total days turnover was £5-15-0.

Monday 27th February 1939

Drove the somewhat shattered Slinky B down to Sewell and Kings and made local calls on foot. (Colour cards in pocket and a stick to help me walk properly.) Arranged to hire a car (at 10/- a day) for the remainder of the week or until Slinky had been repaired. Also instructed them to wash and grease the car and adjust the brakes – at my own expense – whilst they had her there. Made five calls today; obtained one order.

To add to my troubles, I’ve got a hell of a bad cold. Had it for several days now. Can’t rid myself of the blasted pest!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sunday 26th February 1939

Catastrophe. Went to Colchester in Slinky B this morning, with Embleton, Sergeant Quayle and Shead as passengers. Near Kelvedon we caught up the van and a W/T truck. I was about 15 yards behind the truck; then I was 10 yards. Suddenly his red rear light flicked. I stamped on the foot brake and also put the handbrake full on. We slid helplessly forward still. “Blast!” Crash! (Thought followed by sound.)

The front of Slinky B was rather messed up, as the impact occurred above the bumper. Truck undamaged. After several blokes had pulled the outside mud guard away from the wheel we were able to continue on our way. Everyone agreed that I hadn’t had time to pull up but I personally think my brakes weren’t good enough. However I kept that to myself.

99.5% on he buzzer at rates (6 w.p.m.) Did a lot of buggering about in the afternoon. There are some very silly kids in the unit; I feel quite middle-aged sometimes. Had coffee at lunchtime with the Sergeant and Embleton. As we sat there we saw a group of boy signallers swagger past into the town, showing-off their uniforms. Just like Thurmaston Scouts, as I said before!

Arrived back in Chelmsford without further incident. My three passengers were probably a little nervous. Symptoms – intense road-consciousness; they could hardly talk of anything else! The silliness of the other people on the road, the nasty turns, the accident, results and repercussions of the accident and so on.They were so aggressively giving me moral support that I became quite nervous myself! Can’t blame them. It was their first drive with me and I’d had a smash!

Called at Sewell and Kings. The boy mechanic said he couldn’t do anything until tomorrow and by the look of the car, repairs would take at least a week! Went home; wrote letters arising out of the accident. Cancellations etc, and a request for an insurance claim form.

Lois rang at 5:15p.m. just as I was having tea. Oasis! She’d walked there from Danbury, having been on a Club ramble. She, also, was just about to have tea.
So when I’d finished mine and of course changed, I went up to the Oasis. As I’d no headlights left and only one side light, I couldn’t take her home but eventually saw her off on the 7:45 bus to Billericay. (There she would have to change for Eastwood.)

Back to the digs. A warm fire and everyone out. Ignoring (or rather shelving) tomorrows troubles, I copied out a lovely poem recently discovered. “The Hollow Man” by TS Elliot. Modernistic poem in blank verse about those inhibited beings who never do anything, never complete anything; unfulfilled.

“…Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion…
… Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow.
For thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is…”

“The Hollow Man” is now inscribed in my special note book (started eight years ago) with “I am the best thing they did”, “Richard 2” (John of Gaunt’s speech), “When you are old”, “Desertion”, “It’s not true”, “Requiem” and other dear things.

Just as I’d finished writing Wylie came in (the only one of my fellow diggers who has returned from the weekend holiday, so far). He obligingly fetched me a bottle of cider, then played and beat me at chess. It took a long time however! I’m improving, because when we last played, he won in a few moves. On this occasion the balance was on my side until I foolishly lost my Queen through carelessness.

Friday 24th February 1939

Embleton, a decent, quiet bloke in the Battery, received the unofficial news that he is to get a stripe, tonight. We had a coffee at Wainwright’s afterwards. Embleton used to be friendly with a feller who left the unit just before I joined and seems to have been reincarnated in me. (The cloak of Elijah!) (Literally, for I now wear his old tunic. It fits me perfectly) He was said to be “a bit quiet” whilst at camp, “all right though”. “Cor” said one of my colleagues, “What’s that bloody stuff yer smoking? Smell like what old Pryor used to 'ave” Wish I’d met him; he transferred to the Regular Army – Royal Corps of Signals. “He was a lad! Always stuffin 'is guts, Pryor was!”

Been a fairly decent week – over £25. I didn’t get many orders myself but quite a few customers ordered direct, so that I’d have pleasant surprises in my morning mail from the office.

Wednesday 22nd February 1939

A grey, cold wet day. (And Slinky’s windscreen wiper ceased to function.)

Turnover nil – but there was a £6 order (for exterior water paint) in the post, to help matters.
Colchester, Coggeshall and Braintree. Very depressing. I can’t make head way in these districts, which I’ve now made merchant controlled. Can do much better when I’m free to sell any product at practically any price. Furthermore, Wrights (Colchester) Ltd do not seem to be justifying themselves as stockists. They sell a hell of a lot of coal and bricks but that is no use to me! Thank heavens I only tried the merchant experiment in one district! It is not quite 5 p.m. but I am already back at digs, huddled over a not-too-cheery fire. Slinky B is at the nearest garage, having the windscreen wiper examined.

Tuesday 21st February 1939

Southend and Leigh today, again. Nowadays we get cold evenings but warm, sunny noontides. Whilst the sun shines there’s always a better chance of business. Turnover £6-10-0d today – and also a 25/- order in the mail.

Monday 20th February 1939

Sandon, Southend, Leigh and Westcliff. Two cheques, three orders (one a new account). Turnover £5.

Sunday 19th February 1939

Up at 8 a.m. (Oh hell!) A day at Colchester again, on Signals qualification course.

Saturday 18th February 1939

Went over houses at Danbury with Lois. We don’t want one yet – it’s just for practice!

Cleaned Slinky B – and my army uniform in the morning. Both shone and glittered when I’d finished! It’s now becoming warm enough to do jobs like that without feeling bloody cold and miserable.

Friday 17th February 1939

Rather messy day, routine being disorganised. Amusing and diplomatic interview with Mr Burford, buyer for Churchill Johnson Ltd, at Laindon. (How the hell did he know I lived at Chelmsford? Has he spies and informers or something?)

Friday 17th February 1939

Rather messy day, routine being disorganised. Amusing and diplomatic interview with Mr Burford, buyer for Churchill Johnson Ltd, at Laindon. (How the hell did he know I lived at Chelmsford? Has he spies and informers or something?)

Thursday 16th February 1939

What a lucky day! The buyers seemed hypnotised; just couldn’t resist me! And the sun still shone. (Lucky that I changed to vivid ink today!)

First I called for some snaps at the chemists. Eight excellent pictures; Angel standing beside Slinky B, at Ibstone Common, John standing on a bridge by Virginia Water, Slinky B moving down a narrow Buckinghamshire lane…

Called at Chelmsford GPO. All going well; four gallons of OW materials ordered. It was still sunny when I reached Rayleigh. Mr Plumb ordered 7 gallons of gloss paint, u/coat and priming.
After a few hopeful calls I had lunch (hastily, feeling my luck was running high) and called on Ridd, Westcliff. Was only with him a couple of minutes; quite casually he gave me a 20 gallon order! This swift interview allowed me time to dash to Leigh and catch old Mitchell. He proudly showed me his new yard, gratefully accepted a lift to his “job” – and gave a six gallon order. Several afternoon calls, one resulting in an order for 1 cwt. of distemper – Thorby Bros.

I returned to digs jovially after a day whose turnover had been more than half as good as that of the whole of January. To crown it all a letter and 2 x1/2 gallons order awaited me from Mr Sims of ANS Cycles! That brought the days turnover to over £25… In the dining room, Mrs Reedy informed me that “the sales manager” had rung up, asking that I should not leave the house until the mail arrived tomorrow, as there was an important letter in the post. Flavel, sitting beside me, laughed loudly, realising this was the repercussion of my Monday lies. As I actually leave digs about 10 a.m. most mornings and the post is delivered at 7:45, it was somewhat humorous!

There was an unusually large amount of office work and after dinner I tackled it enthusiastically. (clad comfortably in grey bags and a grey polo-necked jersey).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Wednesday 15th February 1939

Maldon, Purleigh, Southminster. No orders; everyone full of depression, although it was a lovely day. Called at a Maldon Agent’s and got a list of houses to let in the Danbury district. Lois and I are to call for the keys on Saturday. Saw one place – the cheapest. Hadn’t realised Danbury, which is so charming, might have slums!

It was a semi-detached villa. Opposite was a row of horrible uniform houses. As my car stopped three faces appeared at the three nearest windows across the road. Two slatternly women and a dirty child. Imagine Lois being left all day, every day, among such surroundings!

As I drove back through Baddow I passed a prosperous building site which I’d never visited. “L.A. Carty and Co, Builders”. Saw a familiar face. Good heavens it was Corporal Carty, late of the Signals! I hesitated, drove on, then returned. Found “Mr Carty” high on some scaffolding. We talked about the Signals, the Searchlights, the Yeomanry, and business. He eventually ordered 5 gallons of Egham Paint. £3! So it wasn’t an empty day, after all!

Tuesday 14th February 1939

Rather messed up my business day by bad zoning. I dashed from Baddow to Ongar, from Ongar to Billericay, from Billericay to Wickford – and sold 1cwt. of Ceiling Distemper, at 11/1d!

Elocution class in the evening. Lois and I are to take part in a Shakespeare play reading, “A Winter’s Tale”. Coincidentally or by design we’ve been cast for the two leads. I’m King L – and she’s the beautiful, dynamic Queen H.

Monday 13th February 1939

26 today! (twenty six).

Left Hawthorn Court at about 9:30 a.m. A happy weekend! North Circular. Epping. Essex. To a contract order for 3 cwt. U/Coat Paste White, at Canvey Island. Several fruitless calls; one other that was rather promising.

Reached Oakdene in the afternoon. Lois drew me into the kitchen. (She looked unusually attractive for some reason. I thought at first that her hair might be done a different way, but it wasn’t) She took the pipe out of my mouth and kissed me. I was later to feel guilty, because she had been apparently expecting me to call at 11 a.m. or so and take her with me on the road. I remembered a vague suggestion then, but did not realise anything definite had been arranged.

I took her with me to Westcliff for fruitless calls (attempts to obtain settlement of debts when there was no money) and had tea at Oakdene and played chess. Later we ostensibly “went to call on Ted Tutton”, but actually drove to Nobles Green…

I reached Chelmsford fairly late with a hell of a lot of things still to be done – unpacking, office work, preparations for the next day and what-not. Among business letters was a communication from the firm instructing me to meet Fred Beach at Chelmsford GPO (my OW contract, previously mentioned) at “9:30 or 10 a.m. on Monday, the 13th inst.” I wrote a cunning note, regretting that as I had not received my mail until the evening I had been unable to meet Mr Beach. (It implied that I’d left the digs damn early, before the post arrived.)

What a blighter!

Sunday 12th February 1939

A cup of tea in bed; a leisurely breakfast and cigarettes. John arrived just as I was backing Slinky B into the road.

We made the traditional call on Dick Young at Windsor. He was at home. He was comfortably attired in grey shorts, jersey and red sandals. We chatted a while; he was vaguely interested to hear that John was going to a new firm in Lancaster, with a commencing salary of £5-5-0 a week. Guess we’ve both left behind old Dick, who was once the wealthiest of the three.

Drinks with the Armstrong girls at “The Pack Horse”. The Armstrong girls seemed terribly so-so and empty – both of them! John (with “L” plates lashed fore and aft) drove the car to Virginia Water. Had lunch at a pleasant café opposite “The Wheatsheaf” We both hurried twice to the lavatory (surplus beer) had a double portion of soup, guffawed loudly at the meagre helping of kidney beans and actually exhausted their supply of roast potatoes.

Leaving the car in the Park we walked right around Virginia Water. Have seldom completely encircled the Water in one walk. Memories! The Falls which Margaret Dering climbed, whilst John and I cheered her on; The path among the bushes, into which a suspicious policeman once pursued me, as I aimlessly wandered; the seat on which Peggy and I sat and discussed cousinly affection (“Then I picked her up and threatened to drop her!”) John and I had marched along here, with Lucien, Pepita and brother Dick.

Now we were on the far side. The Water on our right, almost unexplored parkland on our left. Crossed occasionally. Gwyn, carrying a terrier in her arms… the airfield – weird and desolate – of the Prince of Wales, who had since become King of England, and abdicated and gone away. The fire in the woods, that night… The tall railings, another night; Peggy climbed down again, said, “No, it isn’t the lake and now I’m frightened…” Yes, crossed occasionally but still, mainly unexplored.

Oh! On the airfield was a monument and still further away another – the Copper Horse: I’d climbed that one night, whilst Dick Young stood below… Of course, below there was the road from Bishopsgate to Forest Park. We cycled along that, John, Dick and I. I once came through alone in the rutting season, when the deer were restless…
Oh! Memories! What did John and I talk about as we tramped around the lake – by the ruins where Gwyn laughed suddenly, by the stones where Lois and I watched ducks whilst we imagined bloody War was about to break; the Park through which Edward VIII drove on his way to sign the Deed of Abdication?

We chatted about old times a little; discussed people; swapped filthy yarns; told a few “hot” stories; sat on the rocks at the very end of the lake whilst John expounded Plans for the Expansion of the Blacksheep Club. John drove home to Staines. Did quite well. We parted, vaguely arranging to meet again shortly.

Drove home – still with “L” plates mounted and had a thrilling race along the Great West Road with a V8, a Wolsely and a Hudson. The four of us rushed from group to group of slower moving cars, and by the lack of traffic and traffic blocks, I eventually got in front and held my lead until I turned off. The pursuing big cars must have been furious to see the “learner” get ahead!

Happy evening at home. Nice to be with my own people again. Mother confided that father’s business was pretty grim – in fact worse than mine, refrigeration proving rather a “racket”. She confided also that money was pretty “tight” and that the future did not look too rosy. “He always lives up to it, doesn’t he?”

At teatime, a little refrain was being played, on the wireless. “Nice people – with nice manners, But got no money at all…” I leaned over to mother. “I think we’re “nice people” don’t you? Her eyes laughed. “Yes – and I don’t care a damn!”

Saturday 11th February 1939

The sun shone - in Surrey, by the Thames! Called at John’s, saw his huge array of tea chests and cabin trunks, ready for despatch. Left my kit at Mrs Stephens. (I stood in the bedroom, felt old memories all about me, was suddenly sad. What a thrilling sadness it is, that makes one quickly catch one’s breath!)

Tea and dinner with Jack Hose, at Ashford. He admired the new car, showed me how to play Bridge (Contract), displayed his garden, tools and cars. His sister discussed “the servant problem” with me, advising me when married, to engage an elderly maid, not a flighty young thing. Jack and I talked of the Pageant days – of Runnymede and Langley. He played the familiar old pieces on his piano – Coates “By the Sleepy Lagoon” and “Jealousy”.

Left Dearbrook soon after 8 p.m. and drove to Weybridge. Arrived about 9 o’clock and Win (delightfully unconventional) was ready to come out. Drove some distance along a main road, left Slinky B in a muddy bridle path in a wood, and walked along a country road. A longish walk, sometimes through an avenue of trees, sometimes through dark unseen country fields. Passed two pubs, both closed. Went back to the car – Win told a pleasantly creepy story about a homicidal lunatic as we went. Being curious, dashed back along the lane with Slinky, and discovered that the village or town to whose outskirts we had walked, was called Effingham.

Drove slowly back to Weybridge, singing in unison. The latest songs: “Nice people, with nice manners, but got no money, at all” and “When the cry of “Sweet scented lavender” comes to haunt me so – I recall the scent of the lavender, when we met long ago…”

We approached the turning into Win’s road. “Heigho! I’d like to drive on like this” said I. “Well, let’s” said Win. So we sang through Weybridge, Addlestone and Chertsey. Singing older songs now: “Lazybones”, “Don’t blame me”, “Let’s call it a day”, “Isn’t it lovely” and “The clouds will soon roll by”.

We reached Staines Bridge at 1 o’clock and – glory be! – a snug little café was open. “I say, you’re not on the verge of closing, are you?” I asked uneasily. “We’re never on the verge of closing when there are customers” said the lady nicely. We had quite a decent feed of bacon, egg and chips, followed by coffee. Just below the window, the Thames rippled darkly by.

Having taken Win home, I got into my bedroom just as Staines Town Hall clock made it’s – oh so heavenly familiar! – tinkle and chimed two. I found a couple of Yankee magazines beside the bed and read a fairly blood-curdling story before I reached above my head and switched off the light.

Friday 10th February 1939

No orders on Wednesday at Southend. However, on Thursday I got a £6 order for HMOW materials at Chelmsford GPO (a contract I angled for all the winter) and today a £2-8-0 order at Colchester. It was the last call of the day, after quite hopeless visits in Colchester, Thorpe-le-Soken, Frinton and Clacton. I’d almost begun to expect “no”! “Never say “die” till you’re dead”, what?

A letter from John yesterday, to say that he’d obtained a job in Lancaster and would be leaving next week. It looks like – not the end of a friendship, but the end of a companionship…

Under the circumstances, and as I was going to Surrey in any case, I decided to spend the week-end in Staines – missing a day of Signals training unfortunately.
On returning from the drill hall, I found Wylie alone at the digs. We went up to “The Sunbeam” for supper, music and bar billiards. We had three games of billiards for free, as Wylie had a method of getting the sixpence through into the rejected coins slot! I also won a packet of cigarettes at a pin-table machine. Later Bisley and Bradbury also joined us, so it was quite a pleasant evening.

Returning late through silent Chelmsford, Bradbury, who was on my tail, swung out, accelerated and tried to pass. I also put my foot down. The Morris was coming up, it was level – but not clear enough to pull in to the left again. The gap remained and Slinkys needle swung upwards to fifty. Bradbury dropped to the rear again, permanently!

Tuesday 7th February 1939

I’d determined to “stand up and look gritty” in face of the depressions shadows, this Stillness. I stood up and “hummed a lively ditty” (figuratively!) but the shadows seem to be fading away before me.

Brentwood, Grays and Dagenham, today. There was a £3 order in the post and I took a £2-15-0 order at Brentwood. And the sunshine! From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. it was like an April day. I opened the window by my table, as I sat at lunch, to let a pleasant, cool breeze enter!

“Just like a breath of spring, You came – to make me sing”

I’ve been singing quite a lot today!

Monday 6th February 1939

A bright sunny day – and business improved! Turnover just over £5. The first call was at Great Baddow. “I’ve got no order for you” said the builder, sadly. “H’m. By the way how did you like that distemper last autumn?” “Oh, yes, it was alright”
Pause. “Glad you liked it. Did they allow you the discount I promised?” “Yes, I got the discount.” Pause. “You can send me in a hundredweight, same colours as before” he said suddenly.

Small order at South Benfleet next. Then, the ideal culmination of a series of calls and carefully tried samples at Scott-Hudson and Wilsons, Leigh on Sea. They have been using our coach finishes for baby carriages and are now also making nursery furniture, So, after a long and pleasant discussion, I received a cheque in settlement of account and a stock order for semi-gloss paint for nursery furniture.

A warm day, but it began to get cold again at twilight. Called at Ted Tutton at Rayleigh. He had a semi-conscious dog tied down on the surgery table, and was performing a minor operation. Devil of a lot of blood about. While he deftly cut and sewed and probed he laconically discussed the weather and our next meeting.

Sunday 5th February 1939

Territorial day. I don’t appreciate the glory of being a potential defender of the realm when I have to arise at 7:30 a.m. on Sundays. Hell! I had to do that this morning and must until the end of March. Signallers qualification course. We met – I can’t say “paraded” – at the drill hall at 8:45 in the old “full” uniform (breeches, puttees and spurs). A lorry was in the yard. The Sergeant said “All right, get in” and we scrambled aboard. Not enough discipline, drill or “bullshit”, in this unit!

We spent the day at “school” in Colchester. Lecture on the Don 3 telephone and buzzer exercises. Quite interesting and not very hard. Most of the Signallers in 339 Battery are young and loutish – the Thurmaston Boy Scout type. Ye Gods! I still mix with the class and age I mixed with in 1930! Little progress, on the face of it! At lunchtime most of the fellers wished to amble aimlessly into the town with their nice uniforms but I wasn’t very enthusiastic. Nor was Embleton ( a rather decent feller who, I should imagine, will soon get his stripe) so we went back to the class-room and had our lunch sandwiches in comfort, sitting with Sergeant Quaile near a radiator.

Wylie at the digs (22 but seems younger) has been talking much about a marvellous barmaid named Valerie. So he took me to the pub and showed her. She totally ignored poor Wylie. She was damned attractive and knew it! A knot of young men hung around the bar, striving to outdo each other in wit and gallantry.

We fetched Bisley – who was working at his office – and returned to the “Lion and Lamb”. Presently, Littlefield came in beaming, with a crowd of “jolly fellows”. “Oy!” he cried seeing us. “Hullo, you old so-and-so” he said to me, “Christ, let me strangle you, you sod!” he added as he seized the scarf, wound around my neck, student fashion. I explained that Wylie desired Valerie. “Leave it to me old man,” said Littlefield gaily. “I’ll fix you up!”.

He arrived soon after we had returned to the digs and proudly announced that he’d had a gallon of beer. “Well, old man” he said to the slow and earnest Wylie, “I’m taking the landlady to a dance and Pat’s taking Valerie”. Wylie’s horrified face! Littlefield then, brutally and humorously proceeded to smash any illusions which poor Wylie might have kept regarding women. As Hanson later remarked, you could see Wylie wince!

(Hell! How old I must be getting! Only a few years ago, when at Mrs Stephens for the first time, I was just like Wylie!)

Littlefield concluded his racy theories and experiences by saying, “I’ll poke any woman who is intelligent enough to say she likes it, in a way that pleases me!”
The dejected Wylie retreated to bed whilst Littlefield, Hanson and I rolled with mirth.

Saturday 4th February 1939

Full moon.